Growing up in New Jersey, the only time I ever saw a gun was attached to a police officer. It wasnt even until I started working in my twenties, in a store, that I noticed cash logistics companies (eg Garda, Loomis, etc) were allowed to open carry. Even then, one of the employees was complaining about all the months of training and licensing he has to go thru. While training is likely in any state for insurance purposes, at least in some states, he does not need a license. Thus, I never had much experience around guns until a summer not too long ago, when I shot a Ruger 1022 rifle on my cousins multiacre forest spread. It was an experience, for certain.
Two years later was my second PorcFest and it was there that I first noticed I was around a lot of armed civilians. It was weird and freaky. It didnt bother me so much during the day, but at night, I was terrified of an accident or an on purpose. Of someone shooting their gun and it whizzing thru tents, potentially hurting or killing me. It did not help that it was cold and rainy and hard to sleep to begin with.
Statistically speaking, this is a ridiculous fear. There has never been a gun incident within PorcFest and at such gatherings, incidents are exceedingly rare. Occasionally, at a gun show, some moron will forget a gun is loaded. Even so, its unnerving to be around guns, altho it has gotten better. I slept comfortably (in this one respect) at this years PorcFest, altho it was still a bit offputting to see guns on many hips, especially with some of the crazy kooks that walk around. Yet nothing happened.
Sometimes I wish they would all go away and I can understand how someone might think banning guns is the solution. But I know better. I know that only an armed population can resist crime, private or public sector. Despite this, I still have those feelings and I have not really been in a rush to go buy my own firearm and practice with it, notwithstanding many offers from friends to take me to a range. This is, of course, what many think is the solution to hoplophobia. Take the fearful to a range, get them to experience firearms and how they work, the safety practices, etc, and they will be more at ease. It seems to have worked for me, the more Ive been around open carriers, the less Ive been nervous around them.
While its important to support and advocate gun rights, I think I have a unique perspective and ability to connect to those who oppose them. Building connections is one of the best ways to change minds. There is some evidence that such opposition is mostly related to fear of guns, and that when people have more experience, and even a vested interest in the issue, they will be more likely to support gun rights. Therefore, it is incumbent upon all of us gun rights proponents to appeal to the emotions of opponents and sympathize with their concerns. There is such a divide that most opponents dont even know one of the main activities of the NRA is gun safety courses. We need to help these people become more accustomed to and educated about firearms. When that happens, there will be little questioning of a fundamental right.