From Travis Pike
For the last few months I’ve been playing a the game Ghost Recon Wildlands in the little down time I’ve had. The game is an absolute blast and has an amazing multiplayer aspect that lets me kick cartel ass with three friends. What it also features is a huge catalog of real world, completely configurable firearms. As a gun nut and a nerd, this combines the two things I love the most. I’ve flown across the entire map locating weapons, optics, grips, sights, lasers, and more to customize my arsenal.
There is something extremely satisfying to drifting around digital Bolivia armed with weapons I own in real life. Not only that but I can configure these weapons into customized variants topped with the optics and accessories I have used or use in real life. I can add Eotechs, Aimpoints, Magpul Pmags, and a lot more to the guns I use in the game.
The effects of this didn’t really hit me until a friend and I were playing and he said something to the degree, “Man it’d be cool to shoot these guns for real.”
To which I replied, “We can, well at least a few of them.” My friend and I are nerd friends, not gun friends. He knew I owned guns and had an interest but had no idea to what extent because it never really came up. I told him to come over one day and he could try a variety of weapons from the game in real life, albeit without a giggle switch.
After a range day with an AK, a few ARs, a CZ Scorpion, a SIG 556R, and a wide variety of handguns he was hooked. Now almost two months later he’s purchased an AR 15 and AK clone from PSA, a CZ P07, a Glock 22, a Ruger LCP, and has gotten his concealed carry license. We’ve gone to the range almost every week, and he’s become a safe and passionate shooter.
We are the same age but have very different backgrounds. He wasn’t anti-gun but wasn’t pro-gun either. He went from could care less about gun laws to filing a form 4 for a suppressor and championing the Hearing Protection act in under two months. All it took was a little spark to ignite his interest. This reminds me of a particular quote.
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. – Ronald Reagan.
Reagan is a controversial figure, but without a doubt the above quote is true. In the firearms industry, this is something we should seriously consider. All too often the gun industry seems to have a “Get off my lawn,” approach to younger generations of shooters. The stereotype of the grumpy gun store guy had to originate from somewhere right? The fact of the matter is we need new gun owners to keep gun rights alive. Depending on the idea that families will pass down a generational respect for firearms and gun rights is a bubble waiting to burst.
Video games are a very effective and safe way to introduce new people to guns. In the past, the gun community hasn’t been very friendly to video games. The NRA has often used them to scapegoat violence, and let’s face it video games don’t get any love from grumpy gun store guy. To me, looking down on people with an interest in guns caused by video games is a wasted opportunity.
If you can take that interest, and give it an opportunity, you can create new shooters. This isn’t about converting someone from party A to party B because party B is friendlier on gun rights. It’s about getting enough people from party A to like gun rights that it changes the entire party. If politically all I have in common with a person is we both fight for gun rights I’m happy to know them.
I know I’m not the only one that thinks video games can be a solid method to obtain new shooters for the community. I won’t name names, but plenty of anti-gun journalists have pointed out that these video games cause an interest in guns and gun culture. Even journalists in the video game realm who share the anti-gun sentiment seem to take issue with real life guns in games.
The Bad News
The downside to videogames and guns is that you can’t learn really learn anything functional about firearms. You learn a little about how a gun works like which way the magazine goes in, but not a whole lot more. The biggest thing video games don’t teach is firearms safety. The same goes for marksmanship, recoil control, and proper stance, grip, etc.
This is where we, as gun owners and rights advocates, can step up and help. Looking down on new shooters because they mention Ghost Recon or Call of Duty is a good way to guarantee they won’t care what you say about gun safety or technique. If you’re that grumpy gun store guy, maybe lighten up a bit. Never sacrifice safety for being polite, but have an open mind. If you take your nerd friends shooting for the first time, make it a positive experience.
Video games are the match that ignites interest. Don’t be the guy who blows the match out. Just be excellent to each other.