Gun Ownership and Idiots

For the record, I really, really, really hate being lumped in with people like this. When ‘gun rights’ issues come up, people who oppose the right to bear arms (or are simply ignorant of firearms issues) invariably point to people like this and say, “See, guns are dangerous.”

Whether it’s a Starbucks barista shooting himself in the leg, or a New York Giants receiver doing the same, or a child being hurt or killed from playing with a gun, these incidents serve to embolden those who want to limit gun rights . . . and, while we might not admit it, they do embarrass those of us who strongly support the Second Amendment. Speaking as a gun owner, I join with my gun-grabbing opposition in wanting to prevent these things from happening. We disagree, however, on the ‘how’.

The issue, once again, comes back to the American doctrine of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Our society must always err on the side of too many freedoms and too much liberty, and then step-in on an individual basis to limit those rights when necessary. I wrote before about how innocent sufferers of colds and allergies are treated like methamphetamine dealers just because they want to buy some cold medicine, which is insane. You shouldn’t punish everybody for the indiscretions of a few. If you want to crack down on meth dealers, crack down on the meth dealers. Punish them, not me.

I advocate law-abiding, responsible gun ownership. The Starbucks barista who shot himself in the leg was, clearly, not a law-abiding, responsible gun owner, so his screw-up is no reason to limit my gun rights. Carrying a concealed weapon in Washington, D.C. is illegal, so the barista wasn’t law-abiding (and he is being charged with ‘unlawful possession of a firearm’). More fundamentally, a responsible gun owner will never shoot himself in the leg because guns don’t go off ‘accidentally’ unless you are being irresponsible. Guns don’t leap up on their own and fire; the trigger must be pulled for it to fire. If a gun is stored or carried properly the trigger cannot be pulled ‘accidentally’.

Here is some reality about responsible gun ownership, based on my own training and experience, that might be valuable information to put your mind at ease if you are uncomfortable with guns and people around you ‘packing’:

  • There are three simple gun safety rules that responsible gun owners follow at all times. If you follow all three, you’ll never have an accident. Even if you screw up though, the only way to seriously hurt anybody is by breaking all three simultaneously. If you ever do that (or can even imagine yourself doing it) then you’re clearly irresponsible and shouldn’t own a gun.
    1. Don’t load the gun until you’re ready to use it. (Note: ‘use it’ doesn’t mean ‘shoot it’; carrying a loaded gun for self defense is ‘using it’).
    2. ALWAYS keep guns (even unloaded ones) pointed in a safe direction.
    3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire.
  • When carrying a gun for defensive purposes, responsible gun owners carry them safely! A gun in a proper holster has its trigger completely protected, and thus cannot be discharged ‘accidentally’. There are thousands of safe holster options: traditional waistband, ‘inside’ waistband, ankle, belly bands, pocket holsters, and more. Even a loaded gun in ‘ready to fire’ condition will not fire unless you 1) remove it from its holster and 2) pull its trigger. The Starbucks barista and NFL receiver mentioned above were apparently carrying ‘ready to fire’ guns stuffed in their waistbands or pockets un-holstered, which is just asking for an ‘accidental’ (read: negligent) discharge. If you aren’t using one of these myriad options when you carry, then you’re clearly irresponsible and shouldn’t own a gun.
  • A child cannot shoot himself or others with a gun he can’t access. Melissa and I, like most other responsible gun owners, always keep our guns properly secured. And we don’t even have kids! If a child somehow broke into our apartment while we were away, they would still be unable to gain access to any of our four firearms. When we aren’t carrying them, all our guns are locked in one of three safes. Even our ‘ready’ defensive gun is stored in a quick-access ‘GunVault‘ safe so that only we can access it.

The reality is simple: you cannot legislate against irresponsibility without unduly impacting the responsible. Every ‘gun control’ law and limitation on our fundamental human right to bear arms might help prevent morons from shooting themselves and others, but it also takes away one of my liberties. You legislate against the accidental discharges, not against the guns themselves.

Think about driving. Cars are inherently dangerous if misused, but serve an important purpose. When drivers behave irresponsibly—driving 95 miles-per-hour down residential streets, cutting across four lanes of traffic without a signal, drinking and driving, etc.—nobody starts yelling and screaming about outlawing cars to ‘protect’ everybody from them. Cars aren’t the enemy; irresponsible drivers are.

Likewise, guns serve an important purpose—they are tools that allow people to exercise their fundamental human right of self defense. Like the old saying goes, “When seconds count, the police are only a few minutes away.” You and I must protect ourselves, since there is usually nobody else willing or able to do it when things go bad. When gun owners behave irresponsibly, you don’t outlaw guns to ‘protect’ people from them. You take the irresponsible owner’s guns away and limit his rights, like you take a driver’s license away from a consistently dangerous driver, and leave everybody else alone.

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.