Responsible gun owners have a shared mission to end violence in our communities. Many of us take an active crucial step by holstering and carrying our firearms every day. But another equally important step to tackle is addressing our bias. Exploring this psychological frontier can build the skills necessary to accomplish our mission.

What Is Bias?

Simply put, bias is an inclination for a particular person or group. Bias is natural, and we all have it; however, it closes our minds. It prevents us from learning and adapting in important ways. Bias is most commonly displayed as the degradation of a particular group. One unmistakable way we show our bias is through the use of labels. Although some terms and phrases come to mind for a person who intends harm, it’s important to challenge this mindset.

Labeling a person oversimplifies him or her (and the situation), making who or what we’re witnessing easier to understand. This is precisely why we do it. We say, “those people are criminals,” to describe something complex, such as a violent attack, in a simplified way. The label also works to separate us from the other person and their actions. We may say “that person is just bad” or call someone a “crook.” It is comforting to differentiate ourselves from a person who commits a violent act. We are different after all; so what’s the harm, right?

Why Should Gun Owners Address Bias?

The intentional or unintentional use of a label makes it easier to hold negative thoughts and feelings toward someone in the “outgroup.” But that closes our minds to the wisdom and opportunity that lies between us. Now I’m certainly not defending violent behavior, but our prejudice gets in the way of our mission to end violence and death.

However, removing bias can encourage us to seek personal factors that contribute to an individual’s desire to inflict violence and death on others or themselves. Some of these factors may include life experiences, situations and/or choices with which they are faced. Our approach looks and sounds different when we are seeking to understand. We lead with questions and curiosity rather than using labels or oversimplifications. The knowledge gained through research and open listening will position us to further reduce violence in our communities. Oftentimes, offenders and violent situations are too nuanced for generalizations.

This paradoxical shift will help keep our minds open, allowing us a deeper understanding of tragic situations. Those who carry a concealed weapon must assess situations and people objectively or we risk a disastrous mistake. Therefore, a non-bias attitude is a crucial skill in safely carrying a firearm. This approach will also empower social and cultural changes that could curb the frequency of violent attacks in the outset. Acknowledging and addressing our bias will permit progress that could not happen with our minds partitioned and prejudiced.

Mental health, our emotional, psychological and social well-being, can affect how we think, feel and act. Addressing how we handle stress and relate to others is important in every community. What questions do you have about how it can impact your firearms training and self-defense education? Share in the comments!