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G&A’s Keys to Being a Responsible Gun Owner

by B. Gil Horman   |  February 11th, 2013 25

Responsible-shootingAfter enjoying steady growth during the last decade in public acceptance, popularity and positive media presence, gun ownership in the United States is once again being vilified in the news and on Capitol Hill.

There’s no need to dig into the specifics of this latest swing of the political pendulum because it’s the same story as before. A criminal has harmed and killed innocent people with firearms. Therefore, those in power must “do something” about it right now. And, as in the past, rather than pursuing criminal prosecutions and enforcing existing laws, politicians and lobbyists are blaming the Average Joes and the types of guns they choose to own.

One of the best ways of combating this misguided activism is to adhere to (and preach)  best practices when it comes to the guns in your home. Here’s our rundown of the keys to the responsible approach:

Know Where You Stand
A common argument against civilian gun ownership is based on what could be called a Sheep vs. Wolves model. Basically the argument goes, there are two kinds of people who live in this country: the peace-loving, guileless and socially well-adjusted individuals who do no harm (Sheep) and the evil, heartless, twisted predators that ruthlessly maim and murder innocent people (Wolves). How do we go about sorting the safe Sheep from the dangerous Wolves? According to some, the answer is neat and simple: The Wolves have guns!

This kind of bi-polar political argument is popular—and seemingly effective—because it boils a multi-faceted social issue down to just two choices; either you’re a “good guy” or a “bad guy,” a victim or the victimizer. But now is the right time for us to talk about and promote the third category of citizen, one that’s purposefully ignored. If we’re going to continue with the Sheep vs. Wolves model, then the overlooked third player is the Shepherd. The Shepherds in our society are those who consciously take a stand against the Wolves in defense of the Sheep, willingly placing themselves in danger to protect those who cannot defend themselves. They are motivated by patriotism, a sense of duty, and devotion to their family and friends. Some Shepherds choose to wear a uniform and others carry a badge. But most of them in this country are honest, hard-working people who exercise their Second Amendment right to legally carry a concealed firearm or to have personal protection and sporting firearms in their homes. In other words, their motives for owning firearms are both pure and noble.

But is it enough to know in your heart that you’re a good, responsible gun owner? It’s time to do more than just feel good about ourselves. We need to be the kind of gun owners that cannot be easily impugned and who do not simply stand by and allow this political fiasco to continue unchallenged. The first step to being a responsible gun owner is to declare yourself a Shepherd.

Be Informed
How many of us rely on someone else to give us the skinny on the current gun debate? Are all of those handy, condensed-information resources reliable? Some news outlets are presenting eight news reports in favor of gun bans for every single report that shows gun ownership in a positive light.  A few taps on the screen or keys of an electronic device will display the full text of bills and even play the videos of congressional hearings. There is no reason to settle for being told what to believe when it’s so easy to access and evaluate the information for ourselves. Take the time to understand the issues, develop your own set of talking points, and be ready to hold a calm, clear discussion with those who ask you about your opinion. You may not convert others to your way of thinking, but they are more likely to respect you if your thoughts are well presented.

Practice Safe Gun Storage
Even though some of us grew up in a time and place when gun storage consisted of leaning rifles up in the corner of a closet or dropping a handgun into a nightstand drawer, those days are long past. Every gun owner needs to explore and implement a strategy for preventing unauthorized access to his or her firearms. Today, a wide variety of safe gun storage systems are available. Many devices now offer an excellent balance of secure storage with quick access for self-defense. There’s something out there for everyone, priced to fit any budget and designed to fit every need.

Seek Out the Proper Training
Whether you just bought your first firearm or you have been shooting since you were knee-high to a grasshopper, there is a single rule every gun owner must follow: Learn safe gun handling practices. It’s not possible to over-emphasize the importance of gun safety. Once a bullet leaves the barrel of a gun, it cannot be un-fired. Therefore, we are each wholly and completely, morally and legally responsible for each and every round we fire. The good news is gun accidents have enjoyed a steady decline—27-percent reduction over the last decade—even though the number of guns in circulation has increased. Firearms currently account for only 0.5 percent of accidental deaths in this country, a direct result of owners learning and following sound gun safety techniques. But until that number reaches zero, there will be room for improvement. Excellent resources for gun safety are provided by the NRA’s training programs, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and Kalkomey Enterprises’ teaching materials.

Get Involved
Recently, the membership of the NRA—one of the most well recognized gun advocacy groups in the nation—jumped from about 4.1 million to 4.5 million. That’s an impressive number, until we look at a few other relevant statistics.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reported 13.7 million hunting licenses were issued in 2011, while the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported about 8 million active concealed carry permits during that same year. Add to that 157.7 million gun-related FBI NICS background checks from 1998 through 2012.

Let’s be clear: None of these statistics provide an exact count of gun owners. Not every NICS check results in a gun purchase, and it’s common for one person to own more than one gun. Many gun owners both hunt and carry concealed, creating a number-reducing overlap. Folks who obtain carry and hunting permits can and do pay for multiple licenses, reducing the numbers even more. But then we have the gun owners who don’t participate in license-required activities at all, and this is the number of gun owners for whom we have no meaningful count.

The point is, somewhere between the number of active NRA members and the millions of guns sold over the last 14 years is a massive group of gun owners who are currently choosing to remain silent about their Second Amendment rights. The anti-gunners complain about what a big bully the NRA is with its 4.5 million members. What would happen in a gun ban hearing if the NRA strolled in with the backing of 10 million, 15 million or even more members? An annual membership costs about the same as one dinner in a nice restaurant or a single trip to the shooting range, so the claim of it being unaffordable is not a reasonable excuse.

What’s that you say? The NRA is not your cup of tea? Then consider joining the National Association for Gun Rights, the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), Gun Owners of America (GOA), the NSSF or a local grassroots movement.

As important as gun rights advocacy groups are, the most powerful pro-gun tool every American has can be purchased for the price of a postage stamp. Write to your representatives and let them know how you want them to vote on gun-related legislation. Their positions are only as secure as their approval ratings. You’re paying for them to go to work every day, so go ahead and tell them how to do their jobs.

  • Scott

    I would like to know how much money G&A contributes to political campaigns, lobbying causes and other methods to effect the political process. Or does G&A simply stand on the sidelines and write about the issues?

    • Bob Weeks

      I do not believe that by law G&A could donate to political campaigns, the individuals that work for them can but not G&A itself……………..

  • Scott

    Nobody thinks that wolves are wolves just because they we guns. People think that wolves are wolves because they feed off the sheep.

  • Dennis Jensen

    We all need to store are guns safely.
    Lets make an effort to lock them up.
    How many times have we read about
    the guy who did not.Then the media
    blames all of us.

    • Barry

      I disagree with the "storage" facet of gun ownership. As I have said many times before, what good does it do to have a gun for home protection and it is locked up in a safe where the owner can't even get to it. Do people think a robber is going to wait for me to unlock my safe and get my gun out? Why it is always that the responsible gun owner has to be put at a disadvantage? Why isn't passing a background check, having no criminal record, being honorably discharged and holding a security clearance enough to insulate me from prosecution if someone steals a gun from my house and uses it in the commission of a crime?

      • Barry

        Just being behind closed doors in MY HOME, DOMICILE, RESIDENCE should be all I have to do to secure my firearms. I have used other analogies before – if I am away on vacation and someone breaks into my home takes my keys and steals my other car and in the process runs someone over and kills them, should I be liable because my keys were not locked up? If someone steals one of my butcher knive and murders someone with it, should I be held liable? How about someone breaking into my shed, stealing my gas can and then using the gas to set someone else's house on fire – should I be held accountable if someone in that house dies?

        • Ken

          There is a difference between liability and responsibility. I choose to do as much as I reasonably can be responsible for the safe storage of my guns so people can't take or touch them.

    • old vet

      There is absolutely nothing you can do to totally protect your guns. If someone wants them bad enough, they will get them. There have been cases of thieves wrapping chains around a safe and pulling it through a wall to get at the "goodies" inside. A lawyer would still say you were to blame for how they were used.

  • Hank

    M ontana Hank –
    Gun owners are really sheep dogs looking after the sheep. The wolf recognizes and avoid the sheperd (the law) but the sheep dog looks too much like Mr. Wolf so he just goes ahead and charges right in. That's why studies show that the average citizen uses a firearm about 2.5m times a year for self-defense (successfulkly). If your not a gun owner buy a gun and get trained. Then although you might look like a sheep to the wolf you'll really be a sheep dog!

  • Tracy Thorleifson

    Since the advent of widespread CHL laws, the wolves have been learning that some sheep have sharp teeth. I'm one of 'em. The problem for the wolves is that it's tough to figure out which sheep have sharp teeth, and which don't, until it's too late. So more and more wolves are reconsidering their lifestyle choices. Hence, the drop in crime rates over the past couple of decades.

    Obama and his gun control cronies are apparently too stupid figure this out (or too mendacious about their real motives to admit it). Should Obama persist in trying to defang us sheep, he's likely to find out the hard way just how nasty sheep can be. If Obama really wants to be king, he'd do well to consider left-leaning comedian George Carlin's commentary concerning representative democracy vs. monarchy: "I don't think we should be governing ourselves. What we need is a king, and every now and then if the king’s not doing a good job, we kill him." Q.E.D.

  • Roy

    I actually used to be an NRA member. I won't give them another penny until they quit having that crazed bigot Wayne LaPierre as their spokesperson, claiming to represent gun owners in this country. We don't need that kind of advocacy.

    • Stonewall

      Roy, which would you rather have as an advocate, Wayne LaPierre or Barick Obama? The choice is yours.

    • Tracy Thorleifson

      So, Roy, I am an active NRA member, although I also donate to NAGR and SAF. (I presume you do, too. Unless, of course, you also think Dudley Brown and Alan Gottlieb are "crazed bigots.") I was unaware Wayne LaPierre was a "crazed bigot." Could you please provide a few specific examples of his crazed bigotry? You know, just to help us gun owners out. Thanks in advance.

    • Tim

      Roy-
      You are a perfect example of the problem we face as gun owners.
      Is every organization or group that you belong to or participate in perfect in every way? Of course not.
      The NRA is far and away the best hope that we have to back down the gun grabbers. Gun owners like you who refuse to do your part are only fueling the anti-gun fires.
      You and every other gun owner with some sorry excuse why they don't belong to the NRA are a bigger part of the problem than the anti-gunners themselves, because you idiots actually outnumber them!
      Your blind and petty reasons for doing nothing is helping them in their efforts to destroy the constitution and our freedom!
      Tim
      NRA Benefactor Life Member

    • old vet

      Actually met Wayne at a show. A Very friendly and happy guy. He went out of his way to introduce himself and even gave me one of his cards, said if I had any issues to contact him personally. I was just another guy at the show. He was admiring a .45 auto that had belonged to a General Bradly. Had an expression of pure delight. Just saying, didn't detect even a hint of anything other than just being another gun fan.

  • nate

    I was an NRA member as well untill I found out they contributed to harry reids campain

  • Mo-Ron

    Join the N.R.A.? All that will do is add your name to another list.that idendifies you as a gun owner. I prefer to stay in the shadows.

    • BJC

      Be a shadow and when Obama turns the light out you will no longer exist.

  • BJC

    I have to disagree with the guy's who think they should not have to protect their firearms from being stolen by criminals. First, criminals steel guns with the intent to use them to commit crimes, stolen car's and such are for profit. Second there are many ways to safeguard your gun from theft and still be readily available if you need them for defense. Leaving your gun collection unprotected from theft is just fueling the gun grabber's agenda to disarm American citizens. Being a gun owner is an American right but it also carries responsibility's to insure safety for all.

  • Scotty

    Join together with like-minded incividuals who will act on their convictions and make their voices heard, or sit back in the corner and say nothing. Those who risk nothing never gain anything on their own. Those who risk some will gain some. Those who risk much will always gain the most. I am a liberal democrat, union activist, ACLU admiring, National Public Radio listening NRA member. No, I don't agree with everything some of the leaders of the NRA say, but I know why they take the positions they do: It is for us, the greater part of our society who know what freedom is and that there are things we MUST do to maintain our freedoms. The Second Amendment isn't just for a few Americans, it is for the vast majority of us who are responsible and law abiding.

    In the "sheep/wolf/shepherd" scenario I am a shepherd! As a shepherd I also revel in the First Amendment to speak out freely to our elected representatives about a great number of issues, and I stand with and by the NRA on the issues that matter to us all in regard to our freedom. I don't need to belong to the NRA to benefit from all they do for us. As a member I am grateful for all they do for us and willingly give them money so they can continue what they've started. As a member I am part of the NRA, an active part.

    I don't always agree with the NRA and many of our fellow NRA members on some of the politics involved, but I can't think of a better, most able group to be with when the poop hits the fan.

  • Ken

    I hate to break it to all of those who are saying "I'm not going to join the NRA/ Write my congress/ Stand up for my rights because I'll be "put on a list" and they'll come and get me!", but you are already on a "list". Did you buy a gun in the last 20 years? There is a record of it. Buy ammo online? There is a record of it. Purchase a gun related item with a credit card? Surf the internet looking at gun articles? Ta Da! Welcome to the electronic age! Just a bit of key taping and a tyrannical ruler/ secret agency/ corrupt law enforcement can claim you are a threat and kick you door in and take your guns.

    The only thing keeping evil people from violating citizen's rights is the rule of law. If the law is corrupted or overturned, then we are in trouble. Buying thousands of rounds and magazines and hiding in a bomb shelter will only allow the problem to grow until it's too late. If the owners of the 157 million + guns mentioned here would publicly stand up and say NO!, then the gun banners would have to back off. We have to push back, we have to take a stand, we have to vote, and put our money where our mouth is. Stopping a political catastrophe from going forward is the ounce of prevention to the hundreds of pounds of cure turning this country back into a democracy would require.

    "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately" ~Benjamin Franklin

  • Dan

    I can't help but point out in the end of the wolf, sheep, shepherd, analogy that the shepherd eats the sheep as well.

  • Ken

    The only reason evil people are not already taking guns away by force is because the rule of law prevents them from doing so. It's much easier to prevent the corruption of the system then to have to rebuild it. Therefore, we need to stand up together and tell the gun banners NO! We have to push back, vote, make our voices heard. If millions of gun owners make it clear that they will not tolerate more pointless legislation, then they will have to back off. The other choice? Hide in the basement with thousands of rounds and magazines until they get their way, then try to clean up the mess…

    "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately" ~ Benjamin Franklin

  • opar5

    Israel and Thailand have safe schools, but their approach is neither "gun free" nor overly expensive Was the federal “Gun-Free School Zone Act” of 1995 really designed to create safe atmosphers for our citizenry – or to intentionally provide killers with safe hunting grounds where no lawful armed response is immediately possible? Predictable killings in these “zones” are being used as emotional tools by established anti-gun zealots to restrict and deny law abiding citizens their constitutional right that “shall not be infringed.” Recent videos of these zealots being offered “Gun-Free Zone” signs for their own front lawn or front door leaves no doubt that these people recognize such “zones” as being invitations to criminals. Do a majority of those zealot's children attend "gu-free" schools? I think not. Check it!

  • Jimbo

    When are law abiding gun owners going to GET MAD and demand an end to the insinuation that we are all monsters, teetering on the brink of madness, ready to commit mass murder. Stand up for yourselves and your fellow gun owners, even if they don't have the same kind of gun as you. Think you won't be affected, because you don't have one of those "evil" black guns? Think again. Gun control advocates know we are divided, and they will keep pick, pick, picking away until ALL guns are banned.

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