Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Gun owner responsibilities

In the national gun debate, the biggest focus is on the rights of the individual to keep and bear arms.  While I certainly appreciate the individuals and organizations who remain constantly on guard and fight for our rights against those who preach "common sense" restrictions and other such blather, I wonder many times if we as gun owners are our own worst enemy.  Have gun owners on the whole become so caught up in the right to own a gun that we forget the responsibilities that come with that right?

1. We have the responsibility to know and apply the safety rules.  I don't really care which version of the safety rules you follow, whether the military's, Cooper's, or the NRA's.  All cover the basics: every gun is loaded, don't point it at anything you are not willing to destroy.  If you have guns in your house and you have kids in your house, your kids need to know the rules by heart as well.  Everyone in a house with a gun needs to know the rules.

2. We have the responsibility to properly secure our guns and ammo when not in use.  This is a good idea for a number of reasons.  First, properly securing a gun reduces the likelihood of a child gaining control of the gun, especially younger children.  Second, properly securing a gun reduces the likelihood of it being stolen and a criminal gaining control of the gun.  Separating ammo from the gun further reduces the chances of an accident.  Having a gun out in the open increases chances of a fatality (whether intentional or mistaken).  If you keep a gun loaded in your home for self-defense, excellent, they make safes and lockboxes that fit your needs as well.  Simply throwing a gun on the top shelf of the closet is not enough, you need a physical means of securing it.

3. We have the responsibility to know how to use our guns.  Owning a gun and knowing how to use a gun are two entirely separate things.  While your particular use for the gun may dictate different training requirements, you need training and constant practice to retain the skills you learn.  If you carry a gun for self-defense, your training needs are far higher than someone who hunts for recreation.  In a worst case scenario, you will be expected to engage a moving target while discriminating between the threat and the non-threats around you while shielding a family member while you are moving while being shot at.  A trip to the range every couple of months isn't going to cut it.

4. We have the responsibility to be aware of any legal restrictions.  I'm not saying you have to agree with the legal restrictions, but you do need to be aware of the legal framework surrounding owning, carrying, and using a gun.  This is especially important if you carry for defense.  Every state has different rules, so just because an internet forum lawyer says you are good to go doesn't mean you actually are.  Consult a lawyer or seek out a class designed in consultation with a lawyer, preferably a pro-gun lawyer.

5. We have the responsibility to be involved in the political process.  I preach this regardless, but if you are a gun owner, you especially need to be involved in the political process.  Contributing to the NRA or other pro-gun organizations is good, but taking the time to actually contact your representatives is better.  Both pro and anti-gun organizations spend a lot of time influencing politicians.  If an anti-gun group is bending your representative's ear, what could be better than a groundswell of calls from their constituents to push back that group's influence?  Will it always work? No, but if you decide to sit out the debate, you might as well be helping the other team.

I realize that I may be preaching to the choir right now.  After all, you probably got to this blog from a pro-gun page or Google group, which means you are already taking ownership of your gun ownership.  For that, I thank you, I truly do.  Nothing makes me more hopeful for the preservation of our rights than when I see ordinary citizens taking their rights seriously.  But there are many others out there that do not take this right seriously.  They buy a gun and some ammo, load it up, maybe take a trip to the range, then put the gun in their nightstand, and there it stays.  In this day and age, that attitude simply won't cut it any longer.

X Echo 1 is a 10 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team.  He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer.  He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US.