Concealed carry, the second amendment, and gun rights have been featured quite prominently in the news lately. Many on both sides are nearly apoplectic with anger over the issue, causing responsible gun owners to be forced to join allegiance with a group that they, perhaps, do not fully agree with. This is a discussion that’s based on reality, not based in politics. Feel free to disagree with me, but please, lets avoid knee jerk reactions and idiotic labels.
First let me be clear, I am, and always will be, an advocate of responsible gun ownership. Part of that responsibility is to understand real problems that are affected by guns, and that guns in turn affect. Consider the following;
- If you could take away all guns, particularly handguns, the violent crime rate would plunge
- Mentally Ill people are no more likely to be violent than anyone else
- Taking all guns away may not be a sacrifice we could or should make
- The way “assault weapons” appear, does not actually affect crime, no matter what pundits say
- America does have the highest violent crime rate of any developed country
These statements, while painful to many, are absolutely true. The real question, the painful question we are avoiding is: Would we be willing to give up our guns to save peoples lives? Currently, the answer is no, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Gun ownership is embedded in the American DNA, but let your child be a victim of gun violence and I bet no matter what your stance currently is, you would probably change your mind.
I don’t say that in the abstract. For those of you who have children imagine this:
You hear on the news that there is an incident at a school that your children go to. Frantically, you attempt to gather more information, looking online, calling the police, only to find out that there has been a shooting at the school. You jump in your car and drive to the school, screaming at traffic the whole way. You cannot pull into the parking lot because there are dozens of police cars and fire units blocking the way. By the time you get there, you see EMS personnel carrying out stretchers with sheets over them, attempting to cover up what is underneath. Unfortunately, and monstrously so, you see a white sheet sticking to a body, spreading red stains where they touch a child, whose arm hangs off the side of a stretcher, wearing a bracelet that is achingly familiar.
That’s tough to read, and even tougher to write, but that is the reality for some parents in our country. That was someone’s day at Sandy Hook Elementary. It wasn’t abstract to them and it shouldn’t be to us, the reasonable gun owners. The good news is there are several steps we can do to remedy this situation.
First, no one should ever be able to purchase a gun without a background check and mental health check, both a part of the current checks conducted by licensed gun dealers.
Secondly, I believe we should move to a licensing system similar to the driver’s license system. Let me explain. There would be a basic nationwide requirement to own guns, with a written and practical test covering the very basics of gun usage, the equivalent of a driver’s test. If you wish to own what is currently a short-barreled rifle, shotgun, or an automatic weapon, there would be requisite fees that cover enhanced background checks. Likewise, there would be a physical license with your name, photo, etc. and what class of weapon you were allowed to own, carry, or use based on your license and training. There would also be mandatory recertification periods, depending on the level you desire. Such a system would obviate the need for firearms registries or other constitutionally objectionable requirements.
It’s probably more easily explained using an example. I am shopping for an AR-15 because of the sweet review I read on Tier Three Tactical. I am licensed to purchase said types of weapons and my license is current. I go to the store, find my dream rifle, hand the dealer my license where they call an ATF hotline with my info. They verify it is valid and I purchase the gun, walking out of the store.
While on the way to the range to shoot my new gun, I drive too fast due to the excitement to show off some of this sweet black metal to my friends. I look in my rearview mirror and see the dreaded blue lights. I pull over to the side of the road and when the officer approaches I roll down the window keeping my hands on the steering wheel. He informs me I was speeding and asks if I have any weapons on me. Hint he knows when he ran your plate that you have a weapons license. You answer you have a rifle in the back seat. You show him the receipt and your driver’s license and weapons license. He comes back after a few minutes with a warning and you head to the range.
Now I don’t know about you, but nothing in that scenario seemed to me to be infringing on anyone’s rights. In fact, it seems to be a lot more streamlined and reasonable. It never made sense to me why the purchase and registration of a car should be more tightly controlled than a firearm. What does that say about our society? These types of reforms are a while in the making, if ever, but what can we do now as responsible owners?
First, we must understand that by carrying a gun, you have just taken responsibility for the safety of everyone, in your immediate area, in your hands. You should take that seriously and be conscious of your limitations and abilities. It is up to all of us who carry weapons to be as proficient with them as possible, as those who do not carry them will be relying on this. Next, we must know when to use a weapon and when not to (which on the surface is much harder than it sounds).
A good rule is this: you don’t pull your gun unless you are willing to kill someone. You don’t pull your gun unless there is nothing else you can do, including retreat. Yeah, yeah stand your ground etc. Trust me sometimes the best thing you can do is be a great witness, even if you do have a gun. Let me give you a little scenario to highlight this fact.
You enter Burger King and you head to the bathroom first thing. As you exit you see two individuals enter the store pulling scarves up over their faces, brandishing black semi auto pistols. They start to empty the register, not paying you any attention; you shoot one from behind cover and manage to hit him in the stomach. He and his accomplice panic and run out of the store, firing a few wild shots in your general direction. Luckily you aren’t hit, but the toddler behind you is and you see froth coming out the hole in his chest. Your CPR class doesn’t cover what to do now, does it?
This scenario highlights that just because you are justified to do something, and you aren’t injured, doesn’t mean that it will result in a successful outcome. It also shows that you can’t control everything in this type of situation, regardless of what you’ve seen in movies.
These past couple of scenarios are kind of rough, but they are realistic. I think it’s very important for responsible gun enthusiasts to see clearly what they have chosen to do. Remember, every time you strap that gun on your hip, you have doubled your chances of being in a gunfight. That being said, a gunfight should never be your goal. A gun is a tool of last resort. Its effects are irreversible, both on the shooter and the person shot.
I’ll leave you with a more likely scenario, handled correctly. Its 1:00am and you are suddenly awaked by the sound of breaking glass downstairs. You immediately wake your wife and inform her of the situation. You tell her to call 911 and report the intruder downstairs. As she calls, you retrieve your pistol from the safe in your room, move to the bedroom door and listen. You can hear the sound of people ransacking the kitchen area. You and your wife quickly move down to your kid’s rooms and you secure everyone behind cover. As your family moves around the room, you hear the intruders coming up the stairs. You yell, “The police are on the way, leave the house or you will be shot.” They hear you and they run out the front door.
Now this scenario is never something you’d see in a movie. ‘What!?!’, you say to yourself, ‘No shootout? No action?’ Well that’s tough Hollywood, this is real life and what should happen, if we handle the situation appropriately. We always have to keep in mind our goal is the safety and wellbeing of our families and ourselves, not killing people. Plus, if you shoot them in the house they’ll ruin your carpet and your wife might hurt you. Overall, not good for you well-being, best to stick with the responsible option.
All kidding aside, in the last scenario, had they continued upstairs and you shot them, you would have been legally justified in most states. (Disclaimer, consult a lawyer in your area for legal advice not a cop from out of state.) The law generally takes breaking and entering into an occupied dwelling very seriously. Even if they are not armed, and you kill them, it’s often justified, as anyone would feel fear for their safety in that situation.
In summary, I would like to see a whole host of changes to our system of gun ownership in the US, but that is years away. We, as responsible owners, can become as proficient as possible with our firearms and understand what the goal of carrying them should be. We aren’t seeking a confrontation, but we are ready to do what is necessary to keep our loved ones and ourselves safe, in any situation