August 17, 2021
By Mark Chesnut
A new initiative by the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) to help the millions of new gun owners and further promote firearms ownership is one of the most unique—and inclusive—I’ve seen in my 20-plus years of covering Second Amendment issues.
Called Reality Check, the program wants everyone it comes into contact with to know the incredible story of how guns are used for self-defense many times each day, and how by getting appropriate training they, too, can use a firearm to successfully protect themselves and their families.
Beth Alcazar is a journalist, firearms trainer and spokesperson for the new Reality Check program. A self-described “Just a Mom with a Gun,” Alcazar is very excited about the new program and what it has to offer both new gun owners and Americans who might not have chosen to purchase a firearm yet.
“At USCCA, one of our top priorities or missions is to train 1.3 million-gun owners by 2025,” Alcazar said in an exclusive interview with Firearms News. “So, this program definitely is part of our commitment to training and education, and to making sure we empower people to do more than just buy a gun. We want them to also get the training and education that they need to protect themselves and their families.”
Part of the impetus for development of the new program was the millions of Americans who purchased a firearm for the first time during 2020, when the Covid pandemic and social unrest spurred many to take that leap.
“Reality Check was born out of really kind of a necessity because we’ve seen more than five million first-time gun owners in 2020, and I’ve heard as high as eight million,” Alcazar said. "We just wanted to do something a little bit different, a little bit more unique and definitely honest with just creating these conversations for people of all walks of life, no matter what their skill level is. We want to make sure they really understand the realities of what it takes to own firearms and, more importantly, to have the right mindset to protect themselves and their loved ones.”
Alcazar stressed that while firearms ownership is important to their message, the training aspect is also critical, noting that many are still alive today because they owned a gun and were adequately trained on how to use it.
“The campaign overall is trying to shed light on how trained firearms owners can avoid danger and save lives,” she said. “So, we want to make sure that message is very clear. You can’t just have the gun, you have to have the knowledge. We know from statistics that responsibly trained gun owners are preventing nearly 7,000 crimes a day. We’ve even seen statistics of upwards of two million defensive gun uses annually in the United States.
“With Reality Check, we want to support that message, we want to enhance that message and we want to be here as real, average, everyday people from different walks of life who can answer questions about that messaging, as well.”
When Alcazar says, “people from different walks of life,” she’s not exaggerating. In fact, that aspect of the program’s speaking panel is likely one of the most to ever get together and stress the importance of how responsible gun ownership is the right of all law-abiding Americans.
Panelists include Chris Cheng, Top Shot winner and LGBT activist; Aaargo Jay, a civil rights activist dedicated to sharing firearms safety and training; Kendra Geronimo, known on social media as “HustleQueen,” who survived sex trafficking and now teaches firearms and self-defense; Jennifer Morton, a domestic abuse survivor and women's advocate; and, of course, Alcazar, just a mom with a gun—and a unique ability to connect with others.
“Chris is very well known in the firearms community, but also well-known in the LGBTQ community,” Alcazar said. “Kendra Geronimo is an amazing powerhouse of a woman who has survived sex trafficking and human trafficking in her life so she has a very unique and powerful message coming from that background and is using that and her struggles to create new strengths.
“Jennifer is a domestic violence abuse survivor,” Alcazar continued. “She has four children and has an amazing message of hope and one also of timeliness, because I think her abuser will be let out of prison in six years.”
The Reality Check program is, in fact, trying to bring to the forefront that one of the most inaccurate and overused cliches about American gun owners by anti-gun advocate is, indeed, not true—that all gun owners are aging white men.
“We have always believed that sometimes the message falls on deaf ears unless there’s relatability or someone people feel is like them or has empathy and sympathy for them and what they’re going through,” Alcazar explained. “It is very prominent in our industry that there are still a lot of ‘older white guys,’ but we’ve definitely over the decades, and especially the last couple of years, seen a dynamic increase in the amount of women and the amount of minorities that are entering into this conversation. I think in 2020 alone, 40 percent of all the new gun owners were women. And I think that speaks to the fact that we need women out there who are sharing their voice with their perspective on some of these all-important facts.
“Sometimes it just hits differently. ‘Just a Mom with a Gun’ is sometimes laughingly the way I describe myself, but the amazing power of that statement is that others like me go, ‘Well, if she can do it, I can do it.’ That’s the hope of our panel as well, is those checking us out will look at someone and go, ‘Hey, he’s kind of like me,’ or, ‘She has a similar background,’ and they’ll find someone they can relate to, and they’ll listen more closely and hopefully take action.”
So how does USCCA intend to take the Reality Check message to the masses? That’s another interesting—and quite unique—story that is being brought to life by the diverse panel. The first big activity was held on Aug. 7 in Milwaukee.
“It’s reaching out in a different way than what we’ve mostly become accustomed to, especially in our industry,” Alcazar said. “We literally reached out to the media and set up a panel for them to ask the questions. We went out to the streets of downtown Milwaukee—that’s not necessarily the most gun-friendly area where people are just going to be smiling and shaking our hands, and excited for us to be there. It was a different methodology I think, and that’s super important. Because with all this influx of newcomers, they might not pick up the typical gun magazine or look to the NRA or even USCCA. They don’t know those names, or maybe they have a bad impression or a stereotype in their mind, so taking a completely different route to get to these folks is a must right now.”
Of course, such a grassroots movement is a tremendous undertaking. But with enough dedicated people willing to share their message with anyone who will listen, I think it is destined for success. After all, promoting gun ownership doesn’t have to be done a million at a time. A single heart changed can make a big difference.
“A lot of eyeballs were on us as we walked around downtown Milwaukee and shared our messaging,” Alcazar said. “Even though we did come into contact with people who definitely weren’t happy we were there and made very vocal, or maybe physical, gestures to say that we were not wanted or not welcome, I think breaking that stereotype and kind of shocking people was a huge win. To be such a diverse group of people with very obvious differences physically, and then very unique difference in our stories, I think really impressed people or surprised people, or made people kind of think.
“We will have several more months of continuing this program and growing this program. It was a successful launch. Maybe it didn’t hit every mark we were hoping for, but I think we are doing the right thing and are moving in the right direction. And I think this is a program that is definitely needed right now.”
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for the past 20 years.