The recent shooting in Arizona made quite a few people suggest that congressmen, and others, should run out and buy a gun for protection. If you have been considering buying a firearm for personal defense, here’s 20 questions you should ask yourself first:
1. Is everyone in relative agreement about having a firearm in the house for protection? If one spouse wants a firearm and the other is adamantly opposed to it, these issues should be worked out before you make your purchase.
2. Are there any situations in the home which would preclude safely having a firearm? If there is domestic violence, mental illness, alcoholism, or someone who is suicidal living in the home, having a firearm in the mix is probably not a good idea.
3. Are there any convicted felons in the home? Legal issues regarding a felon in possession of a firearm, even if it is registered to another member of the household, should be addressed before purchasing the firearm.
4. Are you aware of the laws and local sentiment regarding having and using a firearm for protection in your locale? Laws vary widely and so does the sentiment of the prosecutor/DA should you actually end up killing someone on your property. Know these things ahead of time.
5. Do you have a safe location in which to store your firearm? Hidden behind the clothes on the top shelf of the closet is not a good answer. With firearms ownership comes the responsibility to keep it away from those who shouldn’t have access to it (your kids, your kid’s friends, guests in your home, burglars, etc).
6. Are you willing to take a “firearms for personal defense class”? Even if you went shooting every day as a kid or frequently used a firearm in the military, personal defense classes cover many topics that are specific to the kind of use you are thinking about.
7. Are you willing to make the investment of time and money to practice regularly? I’m talking about at least 50 rounds per week at the nearest firing range. This is a big commitment of time as well as money but it is imperative if you intend to use your firearm as a means of protection.
8. Are you aware of any registration/licensing you may need to do if you buy a firearm? Again, laws vary by jurisdiction and you may also want to carry your firearm concealed off of your property which could necessitate a concealed carry license.
9. Are you aware of how owning a firearm will impact how others react to you? This could include everything from other parents not letting their kids play at your house because they know you have a firearm to making you a target for burglary if your kids brag about the “arsenal” you keep in your home.
10. Are you willing to take someone’s life? Hopefully and most likely this will never happen but owning a firearm for personal defense means you are willing to use it to kill someone. There is no “I’ll just use my gun to scare someone or “wing” a burglar”. When it comes to the point that you are pulling out a weapon to defend yourself, the probable outcome is someone will end up dead and while the movies make using a weapon to defend yourself look glamorous, it is actually anything but.
11. Do you know what kind of firearm(s) you want to purchase? Each type of firearm/weapon caliber has a purpose in self defense from close quarters pistol combat to shotguns and rifles for particular purposes. It is a good idea to go to a firing range and try a variety of firearms as well as seek the advice of experts before you make your purchase.
12. Are you willing to take care of the nitty gritty details of firearms ownership? Including but not limited to keeping your firearm clean and in good working order, education yourself about the differences in the ammo that is available for your weapon, maybe taking a foray into reloading, etc?
13. Are you willing to continue your education in personal defense? A basic personal protection class is just that, pretty basic. You usually get an overview of firearms, an overview of local laws, a bunch of safety tips, and some range time. This in no way covers everything you need to know about using a firearm for defense which is why continued, advanced training is a necessity.
14. Would you consider participating in other types of gun owner activities? There is no better way to expand your knowledge of firearms and related firearm topics than going to gun shows, reading firearms magazines and websites, joining a shooting club, hanging around other shooters, making friends at the local gun shop, etc.
15. Have you considered a number of “worst case scenarios” and thought of ways to address them? There’s too many to list here but just look up “gun accidents” and you will find not accidents but lapses in safety, education, supervision, and skill. How would you address these in your household?
16. Do you know the limit of your firearms knowledge and skill? There’s no shame in being a newbie, that’s how everyone starts out, but it’s a wise person who realizes they can’t teach their own kids or spouse about shooting until they have improved their skills. It’s a wise gun owner who isn’t ashamed to admit they don’t know something instead of just guessing at an answer that could have catastrophic consequences.
17. Would you be a responsible gun owner? Some people just aren’t. The ones I am speaking of get drunk then haul out their firearms to show their friends, they have anger management issues that haven’t been addressed, they “brag” about their guns to anyone who will listen, they think they are safe shooters even as they sweep their friends while finding their target during practice. You get the idea.
18. Are you willing to publicly support firearm ownership? No longer are we secure in our right to own firearms. It takes everyone who is supportive of firearms rights to “support the cause” whether you join the NRA, volunteer to teach a hunter safety course, or discuss your views with your politicians and vote accordingly. If our rights aren’t protected and defended, pretty soon we won’t have these rights.
19. Will you completely disregard anything you have seen in the movies or on TV in regards to firearms use? The shooting you see on TV or on the movie screen is generally a stylized version of what people, who have often never even held a real firearm, think shooting should look like. It’s hardly realistic and copying some of the crap you see on TV could get you killed. Seek out knowledgeable firearms trainers as your life could depend on it.
20. Are you willing to review/enforce participation in all of the above points for everyone in the home? Even if you know and faithfully follow all of the advice above, if you aren’t the only one living in your house you need to ensure that everyone has considered and practiced the above points from attending classes and practicing to having safety uppermost in their minds when handling a firearm.
That’s a pretty comprehensive list of things to consider. A few decades ago these things weren’t even thought about as it was pretty much a given, at least where I lived, that every house had a shotgun behind the door, a pistol next to the bed, and a rifle hanging in the back window of their truck. These days, especially with fewer and fewer people growing up around firearms, a lot of thought needs to be put into the whole firearms for personal defense question followed, of course, by a lot of education, training, and many considerations for safety.