Need for Knowledge

As some of you know, I am one of the moderators on a large gun forum with over ten thousand members. ( elsiepeaforum.com ) Most of the members do not post, which is pretty much the norm for internet forums in my experience. But, from the ones who do post it is possible to discern some trends in people's attitudes and knowledge about carrying handguns for self defense - legally, of course.

The main thing I am seeing is that there are many more people getting their concealed carry permits, buying guns, strapping them on and carrying without enough basic knowledge about guns in general, gun safety and correct and safe use of their weapons in particular. I would feel better if those who were carrying legally were well versed in the law and their responsibilities, and solid in their knowledge of how and when to resort to their weapons.

For me this breaks down into two main areas: the legal and moral responsibilities one has accepted in order to carry a gun, and the minimum level of training in safety and shooting skills needed. As I have noted in a prior post here about the "Aftermath" class, the former can be acquired by attending a good class, reading many of the excellent books on that subject and engaging experienced members of a good gun forum in questions and discussions. The second is more complicated.

While books and videos can teach basic gun safety, they are only the starting point. Safety involves you and those around you, especially if you have children in the house, or likely to visit. Think grandparents, for example. The first impulse is to lock everything up in the safe when kids are around. This is obviously a good idea, but beyond that, what can you teach youngsters about gun safety when you are not around? Like, they are playing at Jane's or Jimmy's house and Jane or Jimmy comes up with dad's gun. This happens more often that we would like to think.

I believe it is imperative to teach young people about guns from the safety perspective. What they are, how they operate. That they are inherently dangerous and should be respected but not feared. And, most importantly, all guns are to be considered loaded. For my kids, I taught that and the basic rule, not to be trifled with, that if one of their friends comes up with a gun, to ask them firmly to put it down, and then leave immediately, encouraging any other child present to leave also, and report this to the nearest adult. If no adults are around, get out of the house and call 911.

Adults who carry with minimal knowledge and with preconceived ideas garnered by conversations, movies, the internet, etc. are potentially dangerous to themselves and to others. One example that comes up frequently in the forums are people who buy steel clips to attach to their carry guns so that they can be clipped to the waistband of their garment. No holster. Trigger not covered. This, as we always point out is a very bad idea and can get them and innocent bystanders shot. Even after a significant number of experienced forum members have pointed out the serious safety flaw in this type of carry, there are still those who think they know better and blow off any warnings.

We also see people who are basically afraid of their guns. Some will buy a readily concealable pistol like Ruger's LCP .380 and when they finally get around to firing it, the noise and recoil shocks them. Some learn to use it properly. Some shoot a few rounds and then stick it into their carry holster and go on about their daily business. Some sell it and get something bigger that doesn't have the perceived recoil. They don't shoot that one much either, but still rely on it as a carry weapon.

I could go on with other types of stories but the essential thing is that in order to carry effectively and safely, one must learn basic gun safety, preferably from an instructor who knows what she is doing and, better, is certified by the NRA or other recognized organization to be a firearms instructor. Then, one should practice regularly - not just shooting, but gun handling, loading and unloading properly, holstering and storing the weapon away safely. And, frequent cleaning and inspection, looking for anything out of the ordinary that might impede the safe operation of the gun. Often impending problems can be spotted and recified early if you practice regular inspections of your firearms.

All this makes sense, but can it be required of concealed permit holders? Probably not. There is little uniformity in state law that regulates how proficient a person has to be with shooting and gun safety before a permit can be acquired. In Colorado, you merely have to take a concealed handgun permit class, and present proof of that along with some other minor documentation in order to obtain your permit. You do not have to demonstrate you could hit a wall if you were shooting inside your house.

This is likely not going to change in the near future. Or distant future for that matter. One good reason is that, constitutionally, nothing of this sort is required as part of our right to keep and bear arms. I am sure that when that was written, most children were intimately acquainted with guns from an early age, learning from their parents and relatives how to use them and not act like a damn fool. I was taught very early on by my father and grandfather, and later by the US Navy and Marine Corps. All-in-all, excellent and unforgiving teachers. I thank them for it.

While the idea of mandatory firearms training in safety and shooting skills as prerequisties for a conceal carry license is, at first, an attractive idea, I don't like the idea of a bureaucratic mandate, controlled by government officials. That, to me, strikes at the foundation of a free people with second amendment rights. I think it is up to us to encourage and help those who need it in this area, not another government body.

If you are not as familiar as you should be with gun safety and your shooting skills, not target shooting, but self-defense shooting, please work on getting the necessary skills and knowledge. Take some classes. Find some good firearms instructors who can teach you these basic skills and practice and train with them so they are second nature. We all make mistakes, but it is good to make little mistakes, not big ones when people's safety or freedom are at stake.