Show Don’t Tell – Preaching the Gospel of Gun Owner Normality

My life is so much better when I don’t have to engage the gun issue in America; I don’t know why I continue doing this to myself. Some days I think it is just the sunk costs of having spent 12 years of my life trying to bring light to an issue that seems more overheated every day. On other days, I am inspired by people I meet to press on trying to tell the story of American gun culture accurately and fairly. Last weekend I had such a day.

Since classes ended this spring, I have been in Northern California helping my newly-widowed mother and celebrating a landmark birthday for my oldest sister. I haven’t had too many free days in my schedule, but as luck has it, one of them coincided with a very interesting shooting event presented by a new organization, Open Source Shooting Sports (OS3).

“APA [Asian Pacific American] Heritage Month x Mother’s Day Weekend Celebration” was OS3’s inaugural event, held on the Saturday before Mother’s Day at the United Sportsmen Inc. range in Concord, California.

The group’s abbreviation, OS3, is a play on computer “operating systems.” This and the “open source” idea that comes from computer programming is reflective of its founder, Trish (Resplendor) Sargentini. An automation engineer in the biotech industry, she is just a bit nerdy.

I will have more to say about the APA x Mother’s Day event on my Gun Curious blog later. Today I want to focus on what I learned at the event about representing responsible gun owners and gun ownership.

As we were chatting near the end of the event, one of the attendees commented, “There’s a stigma that you have to overcome.” She was referring in particular to the stigma she felt as an African American woman and Democrat who enjoys shooting. “There’s so much that’s put onto shooting,” she continued. “We’re shooting targets. We’re not shooting people.”

A special guest attendee at the event was Chris Cheng, winner of Season 4 of The History Channel’s show “Top Shot.” I’ve written about the importance of Top Shot to my development, about the importance of Chris Cheng to gun culture, and my previous experience having a beer and empanadas with him.

So I was excited to see him again and took the opportunity to follow up on the stigma issue raised by the other attendee. How does Chris Cheng — San Francisco resident, Silicon Valley professional, LGBT and diversity advocate — manage the stigma of being a high-profile shooter in those communities?

His response was succinct and scalable.

Chris Cheng’s bottom line:

“Show don’t tell.”

As someone who tells for a living, this approach really struck me.

It immediately took me back to my days studying the Catholic Church and a phrase often (and apparently incorrectly) attributed to St. Francis of Assisi:

“Preach the Gospel always! When necessary, use words.”

Chris Cheng is a role model in the gun culture not just for his shooting skills, but for his embodying the ethic of responsible gun ownership. Not telling people why guns are normal but showing people that normal people use guns.

Especially for a new shooter coming to the range, Chris Cheng’s demeanor is much more welcoming than many of the crusty old shooters, gun store clerks, and range officers I encountered in my early days as a shooter. (And still do, though they don’t bother me as much anymore.)

Trish Sargentini has many of these same qualities. Her enthusiasm for destigmatizing guns and gun ownership by highlighting the fact that “shooting is fun” is infectious.

It was a great reminder to me as I slog through the ugly politics of guns in America.

Thanks for reading beyond the headline. If you appreciate this or some of the other 900+ posts on this blog, please consider supporting my research and writing on American gun culture by liking and sharing my work.


  1. Chris is a class act as far as everything I’ve heard.
    “Shooting is fun and normal” shouldn’t be a loaded statement.


  2. David, I hope you weather the storm and keep doing what you’re doing, since Lord knows we need more sane and rational voices in the too often acrimonious discussions about guns and their place in American society.

    One of the reasons that the “crusty old shooters, gun store clerks, and range officers ” have a less than positive attitude is the attitude they often encounter from the people they meet. Dunning-Kruger is very much alive and well in the gun community, and it is all too easy for a truly knowledgeable person to be put off by all the folks who are never in doubt but often wrong about their opinions and what they think they know. Don’t get me wrong, I am not condoning that reactive attitude, but I can understand why some folks feel that way, especially after working at a public gun range as safety officer and instructor for several years. Then there are the people who think all guns are evil and that anyone who likes and own guns should be locked up for simply possessing them. That attitude is pretty much assured to cause people in the gun community to be a bit suspicious and stand-offish.

    Again, keep up your good work, please!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. David, I do believe you are making a huge effort but think you need a wider spread of dissemination of what you have to offer. As you have found out, most media outlets for whatever reasons have a bias and do not want that bias contradicted thus they select their sources who are in agreement. I’m not certain how but certainly social media is a possibility. Perhaps you could do a training session with Elon Musk and blow the minds of Twitter followers.

    Wider spread might be beneficial to the cause, perhaps even having your phone ring a lot more often.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow. They actually let you handle a gun in California as a NC resident? Only sorta kidding.

    As I said the other day on a local chat group in the Santa Fe New Mexican (the local fish-wrapper here), with the constant drumbeat of shootings, we gun owners are being tarred with the same brush of abnormality or worse. Given that the loudest voices on social media are usually reacting to each other (pro and anti-gun) it deepens the emotional chasms. Some of the Twitter cosplaying don’t help.

    We just had a mass shooting in Farmington, which is in the NW corner of New Mexico, a couple days ago. So the emotional and political S is hitting the F again. Sigh.


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