Recently, I came across this opinion piece on the New York Times website while doing a little Facebook surfing and it made me shake my head. Although, I doubt my head shake was the type of head shake the author of the opinion was looking for. The author was trying to make a case against campus carry laws in Texas by pointing out that the system for getting a license to carry a handgun is flawed since he was able to obtain a license and carry gun while admittedly lacking proficiency. My head shake was not aimed at the law and licensing scheme the author was talking about but rather the lack of responsibility the author displayed in making his argument.
In my mind, being a responsible gun owner has nothing to do with government mandated training or licensing. I will concede that the licensing training and proficiency requirements are not difficult and do not require advanced gun handling skills. But then again, neither do the requirements to become a licensed driver. Given legal age, both license programs require the individual to demonstrate basic knowledge of the laws and a basic level of operational proficiency. But this post isn’t intended to talk about licensing requirements, it’s about being responsible.
A responsible gun owner has a moral obligation to use their firearms in a legal manner that safe and respectful to themselves and everyone around them as they are and should be held accountable for every single projectile he or she intentionally or negligently discharges.
Gun owners talk a lot about following the rules of gun safety:
- Assume the firearm is loaded and treat it as such
- Keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot
- You’re only ready to shoot when your target is in your sights and you know what lies behind your target
While that’s great start, it’s not enough in claim responsible usage.
Whether a gun owner is planing on going plinking (shooting for recreation), hunting, participating in a competition, training, or carrying a firearm self-defense, the gun owner should make sure the firearm is properly maintained, transported safely, and have basic operational knowledge. This can be accomplished in one’s own home by reading the instruction manual or using the internet to find videos and tutorials covering these topics. In some cases, a responsible gun owner will seek advice from the manufacturer, a gun smith, or a firearms trainer to ensure these basic needs are met.
In fact, this is one of the reasons I had a problem with the opinion piece I mentioned above – the author demonstrated a lack of responsibility when he decided begin the licensing process. In my experience, most firearms trainers and training courses who conduct licensing mandated training and proficiency examinations will inform prospective students they should have a basic level of firearms knowledge before taking the course and prior to beginning the licensing process. Even if that wasn’t present a responsible person would have let the instructor know they were unfamiliar with basic firearm operation before loading it and attempting to take a proficiency examination.
A responsible gun owner will constantly evaluate their ability to maintain, transport, and operate a firearm in their intended usage context and make a decision to participate in the intended context knowing they are accountable for it. If they are uncertain or lack confidence in their ability to participate in the intended context, a responsible gun owner will forego the activity and work on increasing their proficiency so they may participate in the intended context in the future if they still wish to. In the case of the author, the responsible thing to do is not carry a firearm until he is confident in his ability to do so in a manner that is safe for them and those around them.
I believe that most mature adults strive to be responsible in things they do. Whether that’s their job, operating a motor vehicle, or carrying a firearm for self defense. I also think some people are not mature enough be responsible and even those who are mature enough to be responsible aren’t so all of the time.
The author of the opinion piece closes with the question, “Given that the system allows me — lacking firearm experience — to get a license, would you be comfortable if we sat with each other in class, upon learning I’m secretly carrying a gun?” To that, I would say no. I wouldn’t be comfortable with that knowledge. However, I don’t think the fault lies with the system. The fault lies with the individual’s lack of responsibility (or perhaps lack of maturity) to carry a firearm when you knowingly lack the experience and ability to do so safely and confidently. And then, I would extend an offer to assist in improving proficiency and ability with that firearm because I believe in the right to carry it.