Help them out…

It is hard to not get incredibly annoyed when someone asks the same dumb gun question yet AGAIN in an online forum.  (Or Facebook group.)

Even when it isn’t a dumb question, we’ve just seen that question 3000000000 times already.

…and yet, we shouldn’t get annoyed, because we’ve been there ourselves.  We’ve all been that guy who didn’t know something, who really wanted to find out so we asked all the questions we could.  And just because the question has been asked before doesn’t mean that THIS guy has magically heard the answer–after all, we WANT to turn new people onto the fun of shooting, so shouldn’t we actually we SUPPORTIVE of new folks asking questions?

XKCD awhile back had a great comic on this, actually:

(If you go there, make sure to mouse-over the comic to get his extra comment.)

And yet—sometimes, it gets really hard to answer the same question time and time again…

So here’s some suggested guidelines for asking gun questions on internet forums and groups, that will get you better (and less annoyed) answers:

1) If you are asking a question of common fact, start by trying to look it up yourself.  (Examples:  What Glock models are 9mm?  What’s the thing on an AR called that you pull on to jack the round into the chamber? What’s the fee for a State of Nebraska handgun purchase permit?)  Google is your friend, and you should take the 30 seconds it’ll require to simply type that in and get your answer.  Questions of common fact are ones that you can answer for yourself.

2) If you already have made your choice on something and are looking for validation of that choice, don’t ask for other people’s opinions of that choice and then tell them they are all incorrect when they don’t agree with you.  (Example: Person asked the following question:  “Which gun should I get, a j-frame revolver or a hi-point 9mm?”  When people gave answers saying the j-frame or suggested other possibilities, the original poster argued with them about their suggestions mostly by saying he didn’t like their choices, and ended by mentioning that he had already bought the hi-point.)  If you are asking for people’s opinions, expect them to be given to you, whether you like them or not.  If you aren’t someone who takes advice, don’t ask for it.

2A) If you are asking for someone’s opinion on something, make sure to include enough details so that people can actually give relevant suggestions.  (Example:  Person posts asking for a good .40 caliber handgun.  That’s it.  No reason why, no details about how it will be used, its purpose–nothing.  It wasn’t until later that it was found that the person wanted to both CCW it and hunt with it, which rather makes a difference in terms of suggestions.)  If no one knows the reasons that you are asking the question, they probably won’t be giving good answers unless it is a question of fact.

3) Make sure you understand the topic well enough to ask a coherent question.  Seeing a question that is effectively similar to “What smell does blue make when it sings?” doesn’t really make anyone want to help–because the person asking the question would have to learn more just to ask an intelligent question in the first place.  (Example:  Person asked if piston ARs could be turned into direct blowback actions like regular ARs. Wait, what?)  Again, Google is your friend for obtaining a basic understanding of objects and processes.

4) Accept what you get.  If you ask for a comparison between two particular things, and everyone suggests a completely different thing–well, that’s sometimes what you get when you ask a community of people to take some of their time and answer your question even though they don’t know you.  If you don’t like the answer, YOU were the one that asked for free advice.  No one is obligated to help you just because you’ve asked.  Many people WILL attempt to do so, and many online communities are incredibly welcoming and helpful for all types of questions.  But maybe…..the choices you came up with AREN’T the best ones possible, and their suggestion might be a better choice…?

In the same vein, perhaps there should be a couple of things that the people ANSWERING the questions should bear in mind…

1) You aren’t the All-Knowing God of the Gun.  So don’t act like it.  You may have knowledge and experience (perhaps even a LOT of it)–that doesn’t make you better, it just means you have more opportunity to be helpful.

2) You might be wrong.  Especially if it is an opinion-based question.  Offer an answer, add some supporting commentary, research citations, or a list of facts.  But….don’t take it personally if people disagree with you.

3) If you have to start your post with “I’m not expert but…” then you probably shouldn’t post it.  Similarly, if you start with “What I’ve heard is…” probably you should just stop and wait for someone who knows directly or has already done the research.

4) Give ’em a break.  Maybe they asked a stupid question.  Maybe they don’t know it is a stupid question.  No matter what, if you react in a calm, helpful fashion, it’ll be more likely to keep someone turned ON to the gun culture, as opposed to turning them OFF.

I know that for me, #4 is often the hardest thing to remember.  But—-we want people to enjoy shooting just as much as we do.  Sure, maybe in our mind we are thinking “this guy has gone full timmie, and they REALLY need to put away that Tapco-ed AK with the $30 red dot” —so what?  How about we instead give them some useful things to think about, and maybe over time they’ll get better?  If they are having fun, hey, let ’em go for it.

More importantly, we can remember to act as politely as we would if we were having the discussion in person.

And we can try to remember “today’s 10,000.”

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