Millions of Americans are exercising their right to keep and bear arms for self-defense by buying a gun to keep and (let’s hope) bear. It’s not an easy transition. Newbies face a farrago of firearms choices: type of gun, caliber, storage, holsters and more. Like any journey, there are some natural steps in the progression from non-gun owner to gun owner. Here are three practical questions all 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 in front of you and someone was just about to attack you or your loves ones – really attack you – would you use the gun to defend yourself or your loved ones?” Believe it or not, some people 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 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 shows you that you can control your actions when loading, handling, holding and firing a gun. That you don’t “have” to shoot until you’re ready. That guns don’t “go off” on their own (a fear shared by many people who’ve never shot a gun). 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 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 a gun.
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 inherently dangerous items (e.g., chainsaws) safely? Most people consider themselves safe – it’s the other guy who causes car accidents! But be honest. Are you ready for this responsibility? If you’re unsure, spend time practicing and becoming comfortable with gun safety at the range – before purchasing a gun.
3. Am I willing to practice getting my gun?
The vast majority of DGUs end without a shot 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 on you at all times. If you are bearing arms, you must practice bringing you gun to bear. That requires a carry system or systems (gun + holster) that suits you; a system that allows you to quickly and efficiently draw your firearm. When selecting a gun for carry, ease of presentation is your primary concern. Not make, model or caliber. The gun and holster that enable a rapid, efficient draw.
If you’re 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 you can get to it lickety-split? Combination, biometric or key safe? Where will you store it?
In all cases, practice retrieving your gun. (Unload the firearm first and put the ammunition away from the gun.) The first rule for winning a gunfight: have a gun. Any gun.