ABC News(NEW YORK) — Two of the biggest mass shootings in modern American history have taken place within just the past 50 days.
And in the aftermath, there seems to be no real, reasoned gun debate face-to-face or online — just a deepening division between Americans on the left and on the right.
But there is a growing group of people doing the unexpected. They’re called the Liberal Gun Club, just one of a number of left-leaning gun clubs now in operation, who seem to support less gun restrictions and agree with the NRA on some points.
“I’m Lara. I’m a liberal. I voted for Hilary Clinton. But I’m a strong Second Amendment supporter,” Lara Smith, a lawyer and the president of the California chapter of the Liberal Gun Club, told ABC News’ “Nightline.”
The club was founded in 2008, and they hold conventions, advise politicians, stage so-called “Meet in the Middle” events, educate and train.
“The mission of the Liberal Gun Club is education,” said Smith.
Smith said she was anti-gun and started shooting only four years ago. After giving it a try, researching the issue and having too many arguments with her gun-loving, former Marine husband, Ed Smith, she changed her views.
Lara Smith is an instructor to Shemira Fermon, a veterinarian nurse and new member of the Liberal Gun Club.
“I’ve always been into guns but I’ve never found anyone that made me feel comfortable learning how to use them as tools not toys,” Shemira Fermon told “Nightline.”
“I see everybody else’s views as inconsistent. Abortion and gun rights are the flip side of the same issue. If you’re for banning one and not the other there’s a real inherent inconsistency in there. My view is that neither of them should be banned,” said Lara Smith. “I’m arguing that I’m more liberal than even my liberal friends. The liberal view on most things is, I might not like it, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to ban it.”
Smith said she’s experienced mixed reactions from people with different political views at the gun range. “Some places the reaction is, ‘The Liberal Gun Club, what’s that? That’s great!’ Some places it’s like, ‘Are you one of those libtards?’” Smith said.
Members of the Liberal Gun Club say they also face some flak from liberal friends and coworkers.
“Who to talk to about it and who not to,” Ed Smith told “Nightline.” “There are definitely people you can tell you don’t want to bring up the topic.”
The Liberal Gun Club says it now has 7,500 members nationwide. They agree with their more right-wing brothers and sisters on some points.
“The government says, ‘Hey we’re going to change this so everybody has to give up their guns.’ What else is going to be next?” said Fermon.
However, there are some points they disagree with.
“Particularly under this administration, I don’t want to give up any of my constitutional rights,” said Lara Smith.
“I have an issue, and trust issues in general with law enforcement,” Fermon said. “Now you’re telling me what little slim chance of protection I had is now gone, and is given to people that I don’t trust at all. How is that fair?”
The NRA has a reported 5 million members, but only a reported 19 percent of gun owners in America are actually NRA members too.
According to the Pew Research Center, 44 percent of Republicans and right-leaning independents own guns. And 20 percent of Democrats or left-leaning independents own guns.
“I think a lot more people have guns here that are liberal than we know about,” said Ed Smith.
When it comes to mass shootings, Lara Smith says she doesn’t think banning guns is the answer.
“The only suggestions we’re getting are, ‘Out of my cold, dead hands. We’re doing nothing’ or, ‘Ban this kind of gun!’ Those aren’t solutions,” Lara Smith said. “I don’t think bans are the answer. I think there are these huge societal issues that we have to look at.”
Lara Smith said she agrees with President Donald Trump, who, after the Sutherland Springs church shooting, said, “This is a mental health issue at the highest level.”
She also said she believes people shouldn’t have a gun if they’re not trained to use it: “Oh my god, you should not be carrying a gun in public unless you are trained.”
Lara and Ed Smith said they think it makes sense to have background checks when you purchase your first firearm.
“These guns existed way before this increase in mass shooting,” Lara Smith said.
She added, “Everybody wants this to stop. Everybody wants to stop these mass shootings, right? I think we just disagree on….”
“… How to do it right,” said Fermon.
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