With the most recent spate of mass shootings the issue of gun control has come back to the forefront of American media, public consciousness, and the political process. I have much to contribute concerning this topic. As a lifelong firearms enthusiast and casual hunter I know more than a little bit about guns. I also sold guns at a Gander Mountain for a goodly spell hence I have seen a balanced cross section of Americans who buy guns, why, and how much they know about them.
A prefatory note to all that is to follow in this entry, people have been killing people since people became a thing. All one person needs to kill another is motivation; we are born with all other required equipment. Weapons are merely combat multipliers. The Shooter at Newtown could likely have replicated his horrific actions with a sword. Not long after the Newtown shooting a man in china injured several people with a knife. Records show a recent trend in knife perpetrated mass killings in China over the past few years, proving my point. Bottom line limiting gun ownership due to isolated incidents is merely punishing an overwhelmingly compliant and law abiding body of American gun owners.
That being said, I do not look on with approval at all facets of gun ownership in America. I am willing to make concessions if they are intelligent and effective. Limiting magazine capacity, or arbitrarily designating some guns as more dangerous than others is neither.
Selling guns at Gander Mountain the most notable trend among gun purchasers is one of consumer ignorance. Anyone with a clean background can buy a gun in my home state of Pennsylvania, whether they have any idea how to operate and maintain it or not. Also, training is in no way required, even to get a concealed carry permit. This fact maddens me to end. I was obligated to sell a gun to man who couldn’t spell Andrew, his own middle name. I have trained extensively both in general, and specifically with every gun I own. I feel that is my duty to society in exchange for the privilege of owning firearms. Don’t start with the “right to bear arms” NRA mantra, the bottom line is that it was written when militias were relevant and not composed of crazy people, only by a fluke in interpretation did it get carried over to today.
Working at Gander Mountain allowed me to pass on an extremely limited portion of my knowledge to those in need of it. The two biggest problems I see, lack of coherent and mandatory training for gun owners, which creates a huge body of unsafe and armed individuals. The saying in medieval Europe was “never give a sword to a man that can’t dance.” Though this phrase carries innate elitist connotations, I gladly say never give a gun to a man that hasn't trained. My friend Brendan hit the nail on the head in his blog entry on gun control which largely pointed to training as a remedial factor in gun ownership. http://occupiedmariner.blogspot.com/. I agree one hundred percent and support the spirit of his ideas. I have dealt with gun owners so untrained, and unsafe they produced firearms from under their jackets, secured Mexican style (colloquial term for carrying a gun in ones belt) and pointed the muzzle of the weapon at me as they handed it across the counter to have it appraised. On two of many such occasion, upon checking the gun, I found a round in the chamber. My response both times, “that is your one freebie, do that again and we are gonna have trouble.” Over and over I found myself selling guns to people legally permitted to own them who I felt should not be. Alongside general lack of training and knowledge is what I feel to be a lax standard for concealed carry permits in my state. In Pennsylvania, anyone with a clean background can trundle down to a county sheriff’s office, fill out a form, pay thirty six dollars, and be legally permitted to carry a weapon in public about a week later. Some would call this a great degree of freedom, I call it gross irresponsibility. Carrying a firearm is potentially dangerous even done correctly, this danger is massively multiplied when the carrier knows nothing at all about either his weapon or the mechanics of carrying properly. Concealed carry holsters must fit your weapon perfectly and cover the trigger, and hammer if the firearm has one. This is because exposed triggers and hammers pose a significant risk for accidental or premature discharge, should either be caught on a garment or other object. The reason this is an issue is due to personal defense dogma. A firearm carried for personal defense is useless to you if it is not loaded, with a round in the pipe. Say what you like but it is a matter of practicality. The vast majority of recorded gun fights throughout history occurred inside seven yards distance. At that range, an attacker armed with a knife or bludgeon type weapon can close with you before you can chamber a round, or, if armed with a gun, already be firing at you before you can get a shot off. Statistically speaking, getting the first shot usually makes the difference between winning and losing. If you disagree with me about any of this I respect that but you are wrong. I have put in the years, done the research, and taken the courses to know these things and you have not.
Overall, gun safety at its very core boils down to three key principles which will never steer you wrong.
1. Never point any firearm at anything you do not wish to destroy. No exceptions.
2. Learn how to properly operate your firearm in any circumstance. If you can’t do anything and everything you need to with the gun in the dark you haven’t trained well enough.
3. “Hold it so no one can take it from you.” This is a quote from an old frontier movie I saw once. A fathers words to a son as he hands him the family flintlock rifle, this is still relevant today. Whether on your person, on the nightstand, or stored in your home, never put yourself in a position where your gun can be parted from you, or is not secured properly in its holster. Doing so constitutes gross negligence of an epic caliber. (Haha, get it, gun pun.)
So, there is stuff that bugs me, and an ultra abbreviated list of safety rules. Brendan’s piece inspired me to whip up a training regimen gun control solution of my own, similar to his but with a gun owners knowledge brought to bear. What I have posted here is an abbreviation, like a truncated outline for public inspection which will hopefully yield bountiful and useful feedback and suggestions. I envision a system that works like this. At age eight all American schools will conduct a mandatory firearms safety and training program included as part of preexisting physical education requirements. In this portion of physical education class all children will be trained to safely fire air rifles and pistols. The curriculum will be primarily safety oriented but basic shooting technique, ie achieving a clean trigger break, proper breathing patterns, and multiple shooting stances should about cover it at this level. After this initial introduction all further involvement will be optional and pursued at the discretion of parents and their children. I know some dumbass is reading this and getting indignant about the idea of shooting programs based in schools. Just stop your internal monologue right now Hoss, schools used to commonly have shooting teams in a better, less stupid age, and I see no reason why my idea presents any problem. Using what they learn on the Wrestling team, kids could more easily strangle the life out of a another human, we didn't ban high school wrestling, just guns, the scapegoat for a few nut jobs that use them to kill people, also if parents followed my third principle of gun safety kids wouldn't be swiping mom and dad’s arsenal to go on a rampage. Some may question the wisdom of starting at age eight. I say earlier is better. Children absorb information better than adults, and, like anything else, safely and effectively operating a firearm takes practice and education.
After the familiarization course at age eight children and parents shall be offered a similar course but with .22 caliber rifles and pistols in lieu of air guns. Same drill, safety and firing technique would be the core of this class. As an addition and enhancement dis-assembly, cleaning, re-assembly, and weapon maintenance will be covered thoroughly as well. At the end of the course children, or first time adult gun enthusiasts will be required to take an exam with a minimum passing score of say eighty five percent, and must also demonstrate a measure of proficiency with the weapons and all aspects of their use as well. This classroom and practical exam will be required as the prerequisite for any and all gun ownership.
After this phase course will move out of schools entirely. Many American Sportsman’s clubs offer a hunters safety course which covers many field related safety issues intrinsic to hunting. Some such courses are better than others. I propose these type of programs be standardized, funded, and maintained by the government and include more marksmanship training. This is the point at which centerfire rifles and shotguns , as the most common hunting weapons, will become incorporated in training and certification courses. These weapons are much more powerful than airguns and rimfire weapons and hence must be accorded the respect due them.
Past this point training and certification courses will become highly specialized. I take no issue with the current age limits on weapon purchases, eighteen to buy a long gun, twenty one for a handgun. I propose however, that the purchase of any gun must be preceded by the completion of a specific course custom fit to the type of gun in question. Bolt action and lever action rifles, pump shotguns, double barreled shotguns, semi automatic shotguns, revolvers, semi automatic handguns and tactical type semi auto rifles and carbines will all have some variation of the curriculum I outlined attached to them as a prerequisite for purchase. Based on the multitude of configurations available in for each of the preceding categories of firearms there will doubtless be need for many variations in training and safety course. In addition to this, defensive shooting and practical concealed carry courses will be required for the purchase of all handguns. The final piece of the outline, and something I gleaned from Brendan’s piece is the incorporation of psychological evaluations for any of these upper weapon tiers. The evaluations must also be performed annually on owners of upper tier weapons, if not more often. If any of you out there are curious about what one of these training courses would look like, and cover I recommend the Clint Smith Thunder Ranch instructional dvds. They cover the basic firearm food groups, are thorough, and the man is one of the most highly qualified and competent weapons instructors in the nation.
I will make one final point before I start wrapping this up. Much of what I hear about Obama’s new gun control proposals centers around weapons types and magazine capacity, ie how many rounds a gun can hold. The proposed ten round limit on pistol magazines will solve nothing. A motivated shooter can carry dozens of magazines with him. The issue is not a matter of bullets, it is a matter of individual people without coping skills or with mental disorders obtaining (usually from parents or friends who have not followed principle three) firearms then using them violently. This is why I included psych evaluations in the upper tier of my system. It is never a guns fault that a person attached their hatred, malice, or troubled psyche to it. People kill people not guns. I feel that phrase is over-used and a tad simplistic but it is a matter of simple truth. All of history is people killing people, killing people.
Concerning weapon designations the term “assault weapon” drives me irate with anger. Much as our government attaches the term “terrorist” to any person or group whose politics they do not approve of, the also attach the term “assault weapon” to certain firearms as a fear mongering catch all. “Assault weapons”, are any military type automatic rifle, carbine, or sub-machine gun, primarily, M-16, and M-4 variants, AK-47’s, SKS’s and a plethora of submachine guns (small automatic carbines chambered in calibers primarily used for military and police situations where room clearing is necessary) to numerous to even begin to shake a stick at. Now sit down and strap in folks, I am about to drop an amazing truth bomb (truth bombs are non lethal, only assault bombs can hurt you) all over you. Any firearm, loaded, aimed at people, and fired is an “assault weapon.” A sword is an assault weapon, my hands can be assault weapons. The Newtown shooter could have entered that school with six flint lock dueling pistols and a black powder stage coach shotgun and still killed people. It is not the weapon, it is the person. I will repeat this ad nauseum and the politicians and gun control activists will never listen. Apparently this concept is too difficult for them to master.
Despite the fact that the "assault weapon" designation drives me crazy I would be willing to make a concession. I would gladly accept a ban on “assault weapons” in exchange for no limitations on magazine capacity of handguns, and some practicality about the designations specified. As I understand it, under Obama’s proposed changes, any rifle even bolt action hunting rifles, with a capacity over three rounds will be considered an “assault weapon”. The same goes for shotguns, sporting model pumps and semi autos are almost all capable of holding more than three rounds, making them “assault weapons” also. The stupidity fairly boggles the mind. Anyway, there it is, a bit of my thought on the issue, and a demonstration that we gun owners are capable of compromise. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions please seek me out.
I hope everyone has enjoyed their Christmas, safe travels and a happy New Year. Longarms McPunchington out.