A few weeks ago, when the autumn temperatures in Alabama finally dropped below 50 degrees, I threw on a hooded sweatshirt that reads, “I plead the 2nd.” Those four words are big and bold and impossible to miss. And across the top is a large image of an AR-15. The hoodie was a Christmas present from my late father-in-law. I wear the second amendment shirt mostly out of comfort but also out of remembrance of him. It was a thoughtful and perfect gift that he chose for me (and for my husband Sean, who has the exact same sweatshirt).
Wear Second Amendment Clothing With Caution
Of course, with such a powerful statement emblazoned across my chest, I do try to think about where I might be going before I put on said Second Amendment shirt. I don’t want to show up at a school meeting for my 6th grader or at women’s cookie-decorating class sporting this potentially “controversial” and “divisive” garment. There are specific times and specific places I don’t want the gawking stares, the rude questions or the snide remarks.
That particular morning, however, I’d only planned to take my husband to the airport and then return straight home. So, I figured: no people, no worries. But since I was driving right by a host of places where I really needed to stop to complete some errands I’d put off for weeks, I decided to forego my usual, cautious routine. I figured no one would notice or care about my hoodie.
Boy, was I wrong! And in the very best of ways.
Wear 2A Shirts With Intention
While I’m sure several people read and contemplated the pro-2A phrase that day, two folks actually decided to strike up a conversation about it. The first was a woman, a cashier at a home goods store. She glanced at my hoodie several times and finally asked, “So … what do you do?” I noticed she was looking at the image of the AR-15 as she inquired.
Smiling on the outside but cringing a little internally, I carefully explained that I write and teach in the firearms industry, and that I am especially involved with helping women and new shooters learn how to be safe with guns.
In an instant, her face lit up. “Really!?” she exclaimed. “See… I’ve been telling everyone here at work that we need to learn about guns, but they thought I was crazy. I’m not crazy, but the crazy people are. And I told my coworkers that we need to learn to protect ourselves. I just didn’t know there were people like you out there who teach. That’s so awesome! I really want to learn!”
I gave her my card and wrote down a few websites for her to check out. Then I left, confident and emboldened, with a heart full of warm fuzzies! In fact, I might have actually been skipping a little bit when I next popped into a local bookstore. I quickly found what I was looking for and got in line to pay for my items. That’s when the second interaction regarding my Second Amendment shirt occurred.
The cashier frowned, slowly and loudly read “I plead the 2nd,” and looked at me strangely for several uncomfortable moments as he scanned my purchase. After what seemed like an eternity, he huffed and asked why I was wearing such a statement.
Thinking carefully about my answer — since I felt like the gentleman was starting an argument rather than a conversation — I replied that the Second Amendment is important to everyone. But it has a special place for me personally and professionally since I am a firearms safety instructor. As he took in my reply, his whole countenance changed.
He breathed a big sigh of relief, looked me straight in the eyes and gave me one of the most sincere and heartfelt thank yous I have ever heard. “Thank you for what you do,” he said. “We need more people like you who can train others to be safe. I, myself, am a big supporter of the 2nd Amendment, but I do not have the courage or the training to carry a gun. I wish I did. And I wish there were more people who would responsibly carry guns because you make a big difference in our society and within our communities.”
I was so taken aback, I stared blankly at the guy for two minutes straight before I finally replied! After I thanked him for sharing his sentiments, I encouraged him to get training. I told him about the USCCA and invited him to look us up! He asked for my name, gave me his, firmly shook my hand and gave me one more big “Thank you!” before I left.
Wearing My Second Amendment Shirt With Gratification
Who would’ve ever guessed that such a “controversial” topic could bring so much agreement and accord? And who could have known that such a “divisive” garment could encourage so much unity? I’m pretty pleased that my hoodie sparked some spontaneous (and meaningful) pro-2A conversations that day. And I guarantee that my father-in-law would be too.