Gun culture in and around Cleveland can be summarized as abundant, but guarded. Embracing, yet exiling. Familial, although suspicious. When you talk about guns with the people of this state, they are either educated sages or blusterous students. The middle ground of gun owner is not entirely absent, but it is one of those unique hobbies where either you’re studied or a student.
Of those who are the hardest of the hardcore gun enthusiasts, they are, perhaps unsuprisingly, not very open to communicating with the media. The National Rifle Association actually has “guidelines” for its members on how to communicate with the press. Asking questions at gun shows here in Northeast Ohio leads to many a side glance, an unease of suspicion, and a refusal of personal information for quotes.
That unease doesn’t mean there was a refusal to help educate on the topic of guns.
“Gun sales are down across the board – many sellers have had to consolidate or auction off their inventory,” states Robert Senczylo, a former scout sniper who now runs Bear Tactical Firearms.
“When Obama was president, everyone was afraid of the government taking the guns, but with Trump in office that fear has subsided,” explains Tyler Adams of Sherwin Shooting Sports.
Many of those willing to speak are ex-military – they would be the experts after all, one would expect.
“There has been a lot of vilification of guns, a lot of which can be remedied by education,” as Adams, a former marine, states. He also stresses, “A gun is not a cureall.”
It’s not difficult to educate yourself on guns in Ohio; it is an open carry state, concealed carry classes are abundant, and there are 173,405 registered guns in Ohio, so plenty of owners to help with preschool for pistols or reading with rifles.
Those willing to help teach others are likely a part of your family if you’re from Ohio. Just about everyone who was asked, “how did you get into guns?” responded with a combination of some family members; fathers, grandfathers, uncles, or sometimes their maternal equivalents. The family taught them responsibility and respect for guns, cementing the mantra, “guns are not toys.” However, these same people also learned that guns can be fun within these lessons. Target competitions, hunting expeditions, or showing off your hardware is a bonding experience.
The gun owner who has inherited World War II pistols from grandfathers or shot those high caliber rifles at once in a lifetime moments when a cousin comes to town. The fear of firearms is nonexistent for casual Ohio gun owners because they grew up around them. This is “‘Merica,” after all.
According to the Ohio Violent Death Reporting System 2014 Annual report, there were a total of 3,695 violent deaths by firearm in Ohio between 2012 and 2014. Ohio trends right along the national average when it comes to these violent crime and death statistics. A majority of these violent crimes were suicides by firearms. This statistic speaks to a deeper mental health aspect of the state that can’t be fully covered in this article. Although, one aspect certainly worth citing is the abundant access to firearms, particularly handguns.
In short, this is America. There are ironies that abound in gun culture around the country and the same holds for Ohio. There is a deep distrust of governmental control (assault rifle bans, gun confiscation fears, big brother), but a lot of invested gun enthusiasts are ex-military. There is a heavy focus on personal protection, but a good deal of “blue lives matter” vibes in the gun owning community.
You can open carry in Ohio, but that’s a tricky line to maneuver if you’re of a minority persuasion. However, if we can educate ourselves without becoming obsessive and appreciate our constitutional freedoms with our fellow Americans when exercising our second amendment rights, then perhaps there can be universal background respect for everyone’s safety and well being.