Think of it as planting seeds.
One of the greatest things an individual can do to counter the irrational hatred of guns in this country is to take someone new to the gun range. Most of the anti-gun sentiment is rooted in ignorance. We have been conditioned by TV, movies, and the mainstream media to believe a gun is an object of evil which somehow turns an ordinary person into a killer. We are subjected to a constant barrage of this propaganda, reaffirming a fact that we only know because it is something we have been told over and over again.
The only way to effectively counter this brainwashing is with an ample dose of reality. As with anything else, a gun is only a tool. What is done with that tool is up to the individual, not the gun itself.
As an example, take the automobile - a device much more readily employed as a lethal weapon than a gun. Incredible numbers of people are killed each year by cars in this country. A car is easily purchased at a moment's notice and can be used to mow down large crowds of people at once by a determined killer. Given the potential for incredible destruction and loss of life, why is there no uproar calling for car control and "smart" vehicles that require some sort of biometric pairing so that only the owner of the vehicle can operate it? After all, cars are used as tools of robbery, burglary, murder, kidnapping, and just about any other crime you can think of.
The difference is that most people own one and can see its usefulness in everyday life. And this is where the ignorance about guns must be fought. It is easy to ban or legislate crippling restrictions on an object that you've never used and see no use for.
To make this more personal, I'll use myself as an example. Roughly two and a half years ago, I saw no practical purpose in owning a gun. My only exposure to them was during my childhood, when I went bird hunting with relatives. I saw no reason to own a gun, and when asked if I ever thought about owning one, I'd answer that maybe I'd one day get a shotgun for hunting, but didn't see a reason to get anything else. Look at that statement for a minute. I saw shotguns as reasonable because I'd had personal experience that showed me that they were useful.
Around this time, I was interested in taking a backbacking trip through the Alaskan wilderness. I'd been doing my research on what I would need for such a trip, and found that everyone with knowledge on the subject said you need a gun for bear defense, should the need arise. I was completely ignorant on the subject, so I started looking for something suitable. Because this was a backpacking trip, I looked for something light and powerful, and landed on the Taurus 444 Ultralite .44 Magnum Revolver.
I was at my usual coffee shop hangout, browsing the Taurus site and looking at the details page for this particular handgun, when a friend asked what I was looking at. I mentioned my plans and that I was looking at getting one of these guns in connection with my trip. I knew well enough that i'd need to practice and become proficient enough with my firearm of choice and told him so. He immediately said "that's not what you want". It just so happened that my friend was a shooter and used to own a gun shop and range. He explained to me that a gun that light and powerful is going to be terrible to shoot and practice with, and told me what I really needed was a rifle. I wasn't terribly rich at the time, so he suggested that I start out with some sort of milsurp rifle - as they were cheap and a good way to get started at developing shooting skills without spending a lot of money. He suggested I take a look at the AIM Surplus website, as they had a pretty large selection at the time.
I got to researching, and asked all sorts of newby questions of my friend. Sometime during all of this, he invited me to the range. We set a range date and met up at his place. He reintroduced me to the 4 rules of gun safety (I had learned them from my family during my childhood hunting days, but had long since forgotten them) and proper range etiquette and made sure I knew them. We headed out to the range and started out with a Ruger MkII and some close-range targets. We shot a couple more revolvers after this, and then moved on to rifles. We'd brought a couple of different rifles - a Marlin 60 and a Swiss K31. He'd let me know what we were bringing beforehand, and I'd gone to a gun shop and bought a couple of boxes of 7.5 Swiss for the occasion. By the time we'd made our range trip plans, I'd already decided on ordering a Mosin-Nagant rifle, so I was excited to shoot something similar on our range trip. I'm proud to say that the first rifle I ever shot was that Swiss K31. What a beautiful piece of precision engineering it was. I went through all the ammo I'd bought and absolutely loved it. I also learned something new and quite unexpected that day - shooting is an incredibly relaxing and therapeutic activity.
As can be surmised, I'd found a love for guns and shooting - all because a friend took the time and effort to take me to the range once. That was all that was required to show me that guns have a number of useful purposes, and cure me of my ignorance on the subject. I've taken new shooters to the range from time to time myself, and it's always a rewarding experience. There's always the universal Grin That Cannot Be Removed (see the photo to your left) on the face of my new shooter - something that no amount of propaganda or fear-mongering can subdue. Even the self-described anti-gunner Anthony Bourdain took pause on his position when the venerable Ted Nugent made the effort to take him shooting. Even Mr. Bourdain couldn't stifle the big grin on his face.