The Wuhan virus inspired lots of new people to buy guns. That is both unusual and common. Many people didn’t expect to be gun owners until they suddenly found out they needed a firearm. The good news is that we’ve lived with firearms for hundreds of years. We’ve learned how to live with them safely and use them reliably. That body of best-practice is called the gun culture. The first thing a new gun owner needs to learn is that you can learn from others. Yes, a firearm can be dangerous if you mishandle it. Welcome to the gun culture, and the more you learn the safer you’ll be.
How do I talk about gun ownership with my family and colleagues?
Our discussion needs to start with people. You might plan to use a gun to protect your family, protect your business, or protect yourself as you travel in public. In each case, I hope you included your family and co-workers in your safety plans. Yes, you want to keep your kids safe, but no, you don’t want your children showing their playmates where you put your new gun. You want your colleagues at work to be able to help you in an emergency. That takes instruction, planning, and practice.
At home, you must child-proof your guns and gun-proof your children. That is important because yours isn’t the only home with new firearms. Your children have to know what to do when they see a gun. Please go a step further, so your children are a role model who can guide other children in what to do when they see an unsecured firearm. Your education program may be the Eddie Eagle program for youngsters, or enroling your teenagers in a firearms safety class. That safety class is also a great place for adults to enter the gun culture.
Now that I brought the gun home, how do I store it?
Welcome to one of the great compromises in the firearms culture. The perfect solution means that your firearm is both secure from unauthorized users while ready for immediate use. We’re still looking for that perfect solution. Keeping your unloaded firearm in the factory cardboard box under your bed isn’t a great idea. An unloaded firearm kept separate from your ammunition isn’t very useful. A loaded firearm in your bedroom closet isn’t secure. Many of us put our loaded handguns into small locked boxes like this one. The rest of the time, we keep the loaded firearm on our body in a holster. It is an imperfect solution.
How do I use a gun to protect my family?
That is the key question for many of us. Who do you want to protect? Where do you want to protect them, and how does your firearm fit with your other layers of protection? The answer depends on your particular situation. The best solution is the one that avoids armed conflict. That is why you need a plan. Many firearms instructors will come to your home or office and help build your personal protection plans. Talk to the instructor about applying for your concealed carry permit. You must learn the gun laws in your state before you travel with your firearm.
For a start, you’ll want to lock your doors and windows. You won’t open your door to strangers at night. You also need some range time with an instructor to learn how to manipulate your firearm. Ask the local gun store, the local shooting range, and search the web to find an instructor near you. You also need to find a place to practice with your firearm. The other adults and teenagers in your family need to practice too.
When should I use a gun to defend my family?
That topic is formally called the legal use of lethal force. The particular answers vary from state to state. The broad answer is that you use a firearm when you’ve run out of better options and have to use it. You may use lethal force to defend an innocent person when they face an immediate, lethal, and unavoidable threat. Your response also has to be proportional to the threat. That is why you can shoot an armed intruder who kicks down your door at night, but you can’t shoot your neighbor’s three year old who grabs a steak knife off the kitchen table and waves it around.
Retreat if you can so so safely. Don’t use deadly force to protect property. Most criminals run away to find easier victims when they see you’re armed. Don’t trade shots with criminals. Shoot until the threat stops, and then call the police.
Because of the way our brain works in an emergency, you can only use the plans you’ve rehearsed ahead of time.
What else do I need to know?
A few bullet points don’t make you a competent and informed gun owner. I’ve given you the crudest map so you can orient yourself in a new world of armed defense. The key point is that other people have learned to live with a gun and you can learn from them. Most gun owners want you to be a responsible and informed firearms owner. The more you learn the safer you’ll be, and there is so much to learn.
I gave you 900 words. Please share them with the new gun owners who needs them. RM
Rob Morse writes about gun rights at Ammoland, at Clash Daily, and here on his SlowFacts blog. He hosts the Self Defense Gun Stories Podcast and co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast. Rob was an NRA pistol instructor and combat handgun competitor. He has taken over 400 hours of instruction on self-defense, the legal use of force, and emergency medicine/trauma care.