Millions of Americans exercise their right to keep and bear arms every day. And millions more are making the decision to start each year. It’s not always an easy transition. Newbies face a flurry of firearms choices: type of gun, caliber, storage, carry method, holster(s) and more.
Like any journey, the path to self-defense gun ownership begins with a single step. Or in this case, three. Here are a few practical questions first-time gun buyers should ask themselves . . .
1. Am I willing to shoot another human being?
When I debate gun control, I ask antis a simple question. “If you had a gun and someone was about to attack you or your loved ones – really attack you – would you use the gun to defend yourself or your loved ones?” Believe it or not, some of them say “no” or “I don’t know.” If that’s you, don’t buy a gun. Chances are a bad guy will disarm you and bad things will happen.
One way to explore this issue: Google and read your state’s laws on the legal use of deadly force. While that won’t fully address any moral qualms you may have surrounding a defensive gun use (DGU), it’s reassuring to know there are accepted rules for shooting another person in self-defense. Generally, you can shoot someone only if they pose an imminent, credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm.
Range time will also reduce the natural anxiety about that possibility. Hands-on experience with a gun (or better, guns) shows that you that you can control your actions when loading, handling, holding and shooting a firearm.
You can demonstrate to yourself that you don’t have to shoot until you’re ready. That guns don’t just “go off” on their own (a fear shared by many people who’ve never shot one). That you can shoot when you want to.
2. Can I keep my gun pointed in a safe direction?
There are four rules of gun safety: treat all firearms as if they are loaded, don’t point a gun at anything you’re not willing to destroy, keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire, and be sure of your target and of what’s beyond it.
The second rule is the Mother of All Gun Safety Rules. It should never be violated. If you’re not confident in your own ability to keep your gun pointed in a safe direction, don’t buy one.
How do you know if you’re capable? Ask yourself a simple question: how safe am I? Do you always wear a seatbelt when driving? Do you store chemicals, medicines and other potentially dangerous items safely?
Most people consider themselves to be safe and responsible – it’s the other guy who causes car accidents! But be honest. Are you ready for this responsibility? If you’re unsure, spend some time practicing and becoming comfortable with gun safety at the range – before you purchase a gun.
3. Am I willing to practice getting my gun?
The vast majority of defensive gun uses end without a shot being fired. The bad guy (or guys) see the gun and think better of attacking the gun owner. That’s how you want it to be. That calculus depends on how quickly you can show the perp your pistol (or rifle or shotgun).
The best case: carry a handgun with you at all times. If you are bearing arms, you must practice bringing your gun to bear. That requires a carry system (gun + holster) that suits you.
You need a system that allows you to quickly and efficiently draw your firearm if and when you need it. When selecting a gun for carry, ease of presentation should be one of your primary concerns. It’s more important than make, model or caliber.
If you’ll be depending on a stored handgun, rifle or shotgun for self-defense, the same need for quick access applies. Before you buy a gun, think about how you’re going to store it. If you’re locking it up, are you confident that you can get to it quickly? Combination, biometric or key safe? Where will you store it?
In all cases, practice retrieving your gun. (Unload the firearm first and keep the ammunition away from the gun when you do.)
The first rule for winning a gunfight: have a gun. Any gun.