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There’s a lot of information about what not to do with a gun. The list starts with safety rules (don’t point your gun at anything you’re not ready to destroy), includes storage (don’t leave a gun hanging around) and surrounds self-defense (don’t shoot an attacker unless you or your loved ones are in imminent danger of death or grievous bodily harm). There are also a lot of firearms “do’s.” Do treat your gun as if it’s loaded (no matter what). Do keep your gun pointed in a safe direction. Hardly anyone ever highlights what you shouldn’t not do with your gun. After some deep meditation (i.e. a shower), I decided I couldn’t not not rectify that deficiency. Here are three things you should never not do with a gun . . .

1. Use it

There’s nothing that says you can’t buy a gun, stick it in a safe and get on with your life, safe in the knowledge that you’ve got a ballistic equivalent of a parachute should push come to shove. Millions of people do it. “It” being nothing.

Only a gun is more like a high performance nine-cell elliptical parachute than that fluffy billowing circular job from Toy Story. Not only do you need to know how to deploy your ‘chute, you need to know how to fly the damn thing. In a wide variety of conditions. And you need to know how to land.

Non-metaphorically, we’re talking about a gun: a hand-held weapon that creates a controlled explosion to eject a projectile at extremely high velocities (even compared to, say, Usain St. Leo Bolt). Mastering a gun—any gun—is a lifelong pursuit. Each type of gun has its own particular challenges.

Handguns are notoriously inaccurate. All long guns are hard to store and maneuver. And various firearms have various safeties which seem designed to prove the old adage “the best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley” (i.e. shit happens). Put it all together and it’s damn hard to put it all together.

In fact, if you’ve got to thinking you’ve got this gun thing wired, spend a little quality time with someone who does it for a living. Pride goeth before a trip to the morgue; humility thy name is training.

There’s only one way to really know what any given gun can and cannot do, and remain capable of making it do what you want it to do consistently and repeatedly. Practice.

When it comes to shooting skills, it’s use it or lose it. I don’t know about you, but my firearm-related abilities start to degrade after one week. And that’s just “run the gun, stand still and make like a target” marksmanship. If I don’t play Starsky and Hutch with my blue gun every other day, I quickly slip back into condition white.

Range trips, home practice, competitions, training—all this trigger time means that A) you better learn to shut your blinds or prepare yourself for some serious flash bang action and B) your ammo cost will exceed your gun’s price tag in very short order. The only other option is incompetence, and that’s an extremely high price to pay when a pistol-packing piper comes a calling.

2. Talk about it

I live in a state filled with secret shooters and undercover gun rights guys. No one EVER mentions firearms—until I do. Then, more than half the time, they reveal a long suppressed (metaphorically speaking) firearms history. Also more often than not, this leads me to lead them to shot some lead. Occasionally, they get back, get back, get back to where they once belonged.

And that’s a good thing. If we’re going to protect our gun rights, we need to enlist the folks in the middle. A surprisingly number of them are familiar with firearms, but couldn’t give a shit about laws that we, as enthusiasts, see as a serious abridgment of our Second Amendment rights. Ten round magazine capacity? Assault weapons ban? What’s that got to do with me? I haven’t fired a gun in years.

Of course, many of you live in gun-friendly states and hang with gun-friendly folk. And you still don’t talk about their guns to non-gun people in polite conversation. Again, that’s something you should never not do. Out of conversation, out of mind. And if firearms are not in mind, then the issue of firearms freedom’s not going to get the attention it needs to keep pro-gun pols in power.

It’s also true that there are people within your social sphere who’ve never thought about guns. Get them thinking. Raise the subject any way you can. How do you protect yourself at home? On the street? You ever go shooting? Did your Dad used to hunt?

Keep firearms on the public radar by sharing your personal experiences and beliefs. Don’t be a prick about it, obviously. But don’t be shy about coming forward about your firearm either. The gun rights you’ll save will definitely be your own.

3. Buy it a friend

Whenever enthusiasts start worrying about their gun rights, they look to gun rights groups for protection. Hence the endless series of Chicken Little email alerts and related fund-raising drives. While sending the NRA, GOA and your state gun rights group a bit of cash is a fine idea, don’t forget where the real engine of democracy lives: down at the gun dealer.

I don’t know of a single American firearms manufacturer that doesn’t dedicate a small but healthy percentage of its profits to defending and extending gun rights. Sometimes it comes in the form of political contributions (e.g. Ronnie Barrett). Other times it’s a big ass check to law enforcement groups (e.g. Glock). The NRA and National Shooting Sports Federation gets plenty o’ cash too.

Gunmakers know how to make donated money work for them and, thus, you. But even without gunmakers’ self-serving philanthropy, a healthy U.S. firearms market works its own magic on your behalf.

Gun sales create manufacturing and marketing jobs that deliver prosperity to communities—a boon that even the most virulent gun grabbing pol can’t ignore (e.g. Charles Schumer cozying-up to Remington). Gun sales also generates copious amounts of cash in sales tax and other state, local and federal revenues. That’s a siren song to bureaucrats of every political persuasion.

In short, don’t not buy a gun every six months to a year. If you really like your current firearm and can’t think of anything else you’d like to acquire, buy another identical gun and put it in a separate safe. A twin spare is ideal for a backup, in case yours goes in for repairs or you need another weapon with which you’re intimately familiar to fend off the zombie hordes.

If you really can’t see yourself with another gun, if your safe is full and your SO’s not authorizing an addition to your collection, buy a firearm for someone else. [For legal reasons, it’s best to provide the funds and let the lucky recipient of your largesse do all the paperwork.]

Remember: rights come with responsibilities. Use your gun, talk about your gun and buy another one. And another. And another. It’s the only way we can keep ourselves safe from those who would abridge our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

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  1. I follow all three of these rules on a regular basis, and I’m glad you pointed them out to all your readers. I’m at the range at least three times a week, so my guns get plenty of use. I love to talk to others about guns and I’ll even invite them to shoot at the range for free, and all my guns have plenty of lil friends to keep them company.

  2. I may be a friendly sort – mostly. I’ve found that I tend to talk about guns a lot around my friends. I also talk about them to people I work with. I work with new people every week. I’ve thought about this a lot. When is this friendliness going to cause issues with my personal safety because I talk too much? What is the line here? Any suggestions?

    One good way to protect myself from robbers would be to not talk about my guns? Not that I could actually do this…..

    • You don’t have to talk about YOUR guns.

      Just gun stuff in general.

      “Don’t you think X is cool.”
      “What are your thoughs on .”

  3. 3 of the best (non typical) rules I’ve ever seen. I try to follow all to the best of my ability, but #1 is one of the greatest tenets IMHO. I don’t own safe queens; if I don’t shoot it, or want to practice with it, then it’s gone. I have never really seen the point of hanging onto a gun I don’t want to fire on a regular basis.

  4. Good stuff, personally I like to combine all 3 rules and invite people out to shoot. I probably donate as much ammo to that cause as I shoot myself in a year. Its money very well spent IMHO.

  5. I paid $1600 for the gun I got for my dad in the spring of ’09 (i.e. right after the inauguration of the the Chicago outfit). The vendor’s catalog now lists it for $1100. Best $500 I ever spent. I also spent around $3k on other “modern sporting arms” at roughly the same time. Of course, the designs of those modern sporting arms were over 50 years old, so that’s not really modern. In fact, they should qualify as C&R if it wasn’t for the BATFE&RBFs&GHs.

  6. Can’t stress enough the importance of regular practice and I don’t do enough of it. It can go like yesterday where I put a 3″ circular void in the center of the target with my final 20 rounds to an unintentional uniform distribution on the target.

    I will also be making an contribution to a robust gun market this year with a new Remington 700/308.

    Talking about weapons? I work in the Pentagon. We talk everything from pocket pistols to the W88.

  7. I do shy away from talking about my guns or the fact that I like shooting, cause I live in a gun-shy community. I think I have to stop that behaviour and substitute it for all out open disclosure concerning my firearm fancy.

    • Just be careful not to disclose too many specifics about your firearms. Otherwise you could become a target for a burglary or worse. I always discuss in general terms the politics of gun laws, why it is your responsibility to protect yourself, how it is not logical to think that the police will show up in time to prevent a crime or harm to your family and so on. If the conversation goes to my collection I politely steer it in another direction unless it is with another pro-gun person that I know well and has guns of their own. And that kind of conversation is not done where a bystander can eavesdrop.

  8. “don’t shoot an attacker unless you or your loved ones are in imminent danger of death or grievous bodily harm”

    That’s a pretty stupid rule for self defense. Who comes up with such things? I mean, someone is attacking me… What is he going to do? Hug me? Hardly. He’ll try to kill or at least harm me. Otherwise he wouldn’t attack me.

    • Yeah, “don’t shoot an attacker” sounds like an oxymoron, though I think that the caveat “unless you or your loved ones are in imminent danger of death or grievous bodily harm,” might be a tautology .

    • I think if you read between the line there you would realize he was saying… if you shoot an attacker the ONLY statement you should make, to any and everybody, is” I was afraid for my life.” Get it? You don’t say ” I thought he might hit me so I put 3 in the “X” ring!”

  9. Great post. Thank you. I’ll be “stealing it” and passing it on to fellow like minded individuals. Like the old commercials…..He’ll tell two friends, than he’ll tell two friends,,,,and so on, and so on….

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