The U.S. has the best-armed civilian population in the world, with an estimated total of 270 million guns.

Growing up in Florida, I always believed there was something irresponsible about the way we created our gun laws. In my mind, a perfect world would consist of strictly enforced Gun Control, and Public Safety would be left up to professionally qualified police officers. After all, criminals are more likely to carry a gun if they suspect their victims might be carrying one too, right? And carrying a weapon increases the chances of any confrontation becoming lethal, right?

The Sunshine State will permit any legal resident who can provide a 21+ ID, and that can pass a background check, to own a firearm. To me, this was the scariest thought in the world. The idea that anyone could purchase a lethal machine (and even carry it concealed) was hard for me to live with. But had I ever taken a deeper look at the gun laws and why they were placed? Let’s be honest, I had never even held a gun.

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While studying in Florida I found myself looking for a job with more responsibility and a better salary. Eventually I landed a position working at Miami’s most prestigious gun range/club. Elite members from all around the world would come in to shoot off a couple rounds on their down-time and escape those dodgy, unfriendly ranges. But the largest attraction and the wildest part of my job was the other half of the range, where international guests could visit us and shoot fully automatic machine guns with the guidance of military and law enforcement personnel. It was at this point in my life where I got to see the inner workings of a concept that was so foreign and scary to me.

My first day working at the range, I shot 3 Fully Automatic Machine Guns: A Glock 18, a Colt M4 Commando, and a Colt Commando 9mm.

I had never even shot a pistol before, and here I was tackling the bull by its horns! But the Firearm Specialists, who were also my co-workers, were extremely knowledgeable and all very skillful shooters. They had great etiquette and well-formed technique. They always made me feel comfortable and totally relaxed while I was working at the range. Most of them were young men fresh out of several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Others were members of the Coast Guard and also the Police Department. And apart from some of the rich douchebags that came in from time to time, the range consisted of individuals with the utmost respect for all firearms. I once witnessed one of our members yell at his son at the top of his lungs for pointing an airsoft replica at his younger brother. ”NEVER, EVER POINT A GUN AT SOMEONE! EVEN IF IT’S FAKE!” he said. That always stuck to me.

From then on I spent my days learning about gun safety, gun laws, and even some gun mechanics! My opinions slowly morphed and developed into new principles. I realized that taking away American’s right to own a firearm and protect themselves, would leave them unarmed and defenseless against their own government. Which also happens to own the most powerful and most impressive militia in the world. In the words of George Mason, father of our Bill of Rights: “To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.”

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So what changed in me? How did my views change so drastically? Was I brainwashed by the evil gun people?

No. I just learned one very valuable lesson in life: The only way to form your own opinions about something, is to go and experience it for yourself. Don’t take other people’s word for anything. Always educate yourself on the subjects you find strange or disagreeable, and you may find that your hesitance only manifested itself through fear.