Sean Stephenson, Motivational Speaker, Moves to Arizona and Promptly Buys a Gun
Image: Jamie Peachey Sean Stephenson moved to the Valley from Chicago in January and immediately took up shooting, an activity he believes dovetails with his views on self-responsibility.
Sean Stephenson was born with a rare disease that makes bones brittle and confines him to a wheelchair. He wasn't expected to survive after birth and suffered more than 200 broken bones by age 18.
But he survived -- and thrived. He's a therapist, author and motivational speaker from Chicago who challenges crowds to "overcome their excuses, fears and insecurities." He believes strongly in self-responsibility.
Which is why, he says, one of the very first things he did after moving to Arizona in January was buy a gun.
Image: seantimes.com Stephenson and the Dalai Lama -- both supporters of the right to shoot in self-defense.
With his purchase, Stephenson became one of many Arizonans who give this Wild West State its reputation as especially gun-friendly.
Arizona was pro-gun since before statehood and has become even more so in the early 21st century. Yet, as we noted in this week's cover story on Arizona's love of guns, about half of the state's residents are relative newcomers, having moved here since 1990.
How did the state retain and even bolster its interest in preserving firearms rights during this period of explosive growth? Heck if we know.
But we'll speculate that many new residents feel the way Stephenson does on the subject.
That is, gung-ho for gun rights.
We'll be frank: It was a surprise to see Stephenson plugging away with his gun when we met him a few weeks ago at a local gun range while reporting the above-mentioned cover story. His condition, osteogenesis imperfecta, limits the use of his limbs and he needs a custom wheelchair for his small frame. True to his personality, he overcomes his challenges while shooting and manages the weapon fairly well, for a beginner. But at first glance, we were fascinating by the visual juxtaposition of this small, seemingly frail man unleashing holy hell on a paper target with his semi-auto.
Stephenson told us in an interview a few days later that he moved here "for the weather, mostly."
But one thing he'd found on previous visits, and another reason he likes living here, is the fact that people, in general, share his conservative views more often than those in the hometown he left behind.
"It's easier to talk openly about people's frustration with big government than it ever was in Chicago," Stephenson says. "The people I meet around town, at coffeehouses -- the culture, the conversations are different."
Don't get the impression that Stephenson is a cheerleader for Glenn Beck and Alex Jones. He's more complex than that. He voted against Obama in November, he admits -- but voted for him in 2008. He respects former President Bill Clinton, under whom he once worked as an intern. And he's "shared the stage" with the Dalai Lama, a peacenik who himself is an unlikely supporter of shooting in self-defense.
"I worked for both Republicans and Democrats," he says. "I don't look at this as a party issue. It bothers me when people try to make it that."
Still, the glowing way he talks about the gun culture of Arizona would probably make some left-wingers want to run for cover.