Gun control. It’s one of those polarizing issues where people on either side of the debate have little tolerance for the other side’s opinions or arguments. I’ve discovered that this is mostly due to a lack of understanding of the motivations behind the stance taken. Many assumptions are made and little listening is done. I often equate the reason I carry to the same reason I have fire extinguishers in my home, car, and camper. A gun, like a fire extinguisher, is a safety tool. It’s a tool I have and hope to never use. I don’t go around starting fires just so I can deploy my fire extinguisher. Likewise, I don’t create situations where using my sidearm is necessary.
One of my Facebook friends, and a man I know IRL, explained it this way: “I carry for my and my daughter’s protection only. I’m not John Wayne. I also carry medical for the same reason. I’m no Dr but I can save a life with the items I carry. Both are tools and I am very proficient with them all.” This is how most gun owners think. The gun is a tool that we hope to never use. Even the most stanch anti-gun person has a first-aid kit in their home or car. They don’t go around injuring people just so they can whip out their kit and say, “Finally, I get to use this thing!”
Unfortunately, many anti-gun people assume gun owners are just itching to use their guns. Another one of my Facebook friends made that assumption with this comment “The self-importance of gun-totting potential ‘saviors’ of lives is on an ego level I simply can’t fathom….” He really thinks that gun owners are all some sort of egotistical Rambo looking for any excuse to draw their gun in a crowd.
This is not the way most gun owners think. Nothing I signed when I bought my guns said anything about being a hero or protecting everyone in a 500 meter radius. I’m not a sheepdog protecting the sheep. The sheepdog mentality is reserved for cops (though they rarely protect and mostly show up after the fact). My gun protects me and my loved ones. My practical philosophy is that if you want protection, get your own gun. My gun is not there for you to use. It is under my control and these are the rules under which I operate.
My rules for carrying a gun (aka real gun control):
- Carry your gun. A loaded gun in your nightstand does nothing for you when you’re 10 miles away from home.
- Carry your gun loaded. An unloaded gun is nothing more than a club.
- Corollary: A gun is not a bluff. Though showing a gun may deter an attack, never draw the weapon unless firing the weapon is necessary and you are willing to do it.
- Carry your gun in a holster with a trigger guard. Holsterless carry is done only in the movies. Even pocket carry requires a holster.
- Know your gun. Be familiar with the manual of arms for your weapon and practice not only shooting, but loading, unloading, safetying, etc.
- Know the law. Be familiar with the laws of your state and states you visit. Handgunlaws.us is a good resource.
- Maintain control of your weapon. Know where your gun is and the state of the gun at all times (e.g. loaded, safety, etc.)
- Corollary: Treat a gun as loaded until your can personally verify it is not.
- Corollary: Do not fidget with your gun in public. There is no need to constantly touch your gun. This is just a signal to others that you are wearing a gun and it’s none of their business.
- Alcohol and guns don’t mix. Guns make terrible stir-sticks and the gun oil spoils a good bourbon.
- Corollary: Don’t buy gun-shaped novelty items. Nothing says, “Idiot!” like grabbing a real gun when you think it’s a novelty cigarette lighter.
- Draw your weapon for a purpose. The only reason a gun comes out of its holster is to protect life. Period.
The responsibility for owning and carrying a firearm goes beyond being able to point the barrel and pull the trigger. It requires a level of situational awareness that most people are unwilling to maintain. It requires keeping your head up and your eyes and ears open. If you stumble into a deadly situation due to your own inattentiveness, you have failed as a responsible gun owner. So before you can apply Rule #8, you have to constantly assess the following:
- Can this situation be avoided? If yes, avoid it. Drive/walk/run the other way.
- Can I remove myself (and others if possible/necessary) from this situation? If so, get out. Make it unnecessary to use your weapon.
- Can this situation be de-escalated? Can you talk your way out? Words are better than bullets and cost less, too. Have you priced ammo lately? Only cops are stupid enough to escalate the violence of a situation where it is unnecessary.
- Is the target clear? Know what is beyond/behind the target. Harming the innocent does nothing to stop the threat. If you don’t have a clear shot, don’t take it.
- Is deadly force necessary or does the threat level require deadly force? If a life isn’t in immediate danger, leave your weapon holstered.
- Are you ready and willing for the consequences of your actions? A shooting will involve police, paperwork, investigation, interrogation, and possibly your arrest, a lawyer, legal fees, and a lengthy legal entanglement. Beyond the willingness to protect a life by using your weapon, you must be ready for what follows. Many anti-gun people say all gun owners should be required to carry liability insurance and that’s not a bad idea. Consider getting insurance that would cover bail, legal fees, and liability.
This was my attempt to codify how I (and others) view their responsibilities of gun ownership and carry. Why we carry is the core of our belief that real gun control is self-control. A view inside the mind of a responsible gun owner is worth more than all the memes and jingoism either side can spew out. Trading jabs in some internet forum does nothing to change anyone’s mind, but an honest assessment of one’s reasons and logic will give the other side something substantive to consider.
Regardless of your side of the argument, I’d like to know your thoughts. If they go beyond the rote “Guns don’t kill people, people do,” or “Your gun is just compensation for your small penis,” (which in my case is only partially true), I’d like to discuss them in the comments below. In the meantime, keep chasing the odd, little happy, but don’t shoot it if you find it.