By Don Robison
Suarez International Tier1 Staff Instructor
I’ve been surfing the web and various gun forums this week and I don’t know if it’s a new phenomenon or just something I recently picked up on. Lately it seems that every time someone does something with a gun someone else disagrees with I hear the cry “You’re not a responsible gun owner!”, “A responsible gun owner wouldn’t do that!” I recently was involved in a discussion about a guy who had some guns stolen from inside his house. They weren’t locked in a safe and it was decreed by these self-appointed responsible gun owners that he was an irresponsible gun owner and it was his fault someone stole his guns out of his house because he didn’t have them in a safe. Really, I mean REALLY, is this what we’ve come to; blaming someone for their house being robbed? On a different forum I was in another discussion that involved the use of the word firearm or gun versus using the word weapon. Once again the self-appointed responsible gun owners decreed that a responsible gun owner wouldn’t use the word weapon because it might make some people uncomfortable. Really, politically correct much? Firearms were designed as weapons; punching pretty little groups of holes in paper was a secondary use. No scratch that; it was a tertiary use right after killing people and killing animals. Punching holes in paper came about as a way to practice for killing people and animals; not the other way around.
What is a responsible gun owner? If you ask thirty different people you will likely get thirty different answers. From what I’ve noticed recently are the answers will generally be divided among two camps; those who go along with the thinking of the antigun movement, and those who go with a more traditional view point. One side of the fence will tell you that all of your weapons need to be locked in a safe and should never be outside the safe unless you are using them. Doing anything less makes you an irresponsible gun owner and you deserve to have your house burgled. The other side will tell you that locking them in a safe is a smart practice, but if you have some outside the safe on display or for other purposes it’s acceptable. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that glass front wooden gun cabinets were the norm in many people’s homes. I fall into the second camp; I blame criminals for their actions and not crime victims for the actions of criminals. I asked the question; what is a responsible gun owner? Here is my answer. A responsible gun owner is a person who responsibly handles their weapons and takes reasonable care in securing them. What is responsible handling to me? It’s handling them in a manner that isn’t reckless i.e. they follow the four rules for safe gun handling as appropriate to the situation. Why do I say appropriate to the situation? Contrary to the beliefs of some there are times when at least one of those rules will be broken because of the situation. We at Suarez International teach point shooting which wouldn’t be possible without breaking Cooper’s rule number 3; Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target. Instead we say keep your finger off the trigger until you’ve made a conscience decision to shoot. This is because you may be firing from half hip, ¾ hip or indexing off the slide and never see the sights. What makes Fairbairn, Sykes, and Applegate wrong and Cooper right? Ever holstered your gun? Every time you holster your gun in a traditional type concealed carry holster you’re are pointing your muzzle at something you don’t want to destroy (rule 2 violation); typically your hip, thigh or calf. If this weren’t true people wouldn’t be injured when they have an accidental discharge in their holster. What is reasonable care in securing a weapon? To me as well as the legal beagles it is defined as “the degree of caution and concern for the safety of himself/herself and others an ordinarily prudent and rational person would use in the circumstances.” Just because locking them in a safe is the most cautious doesn’t mean not having them in a safe isn’t reasonable care. If you have your TV stolen or other valuables stolen from your home should you be blamed for not taking reasonable care by not locking them in a vault? The same goes if your car is stolen from your garage. For most of us other than our home our vehicle is the most valuable thing we own and they are routinely the target of theft. A reasonable person would consider a locked home or garage reasonable care for securing their other valuables; why does a home suddenly become fair game for robbery just because someone owns weapons.
I’m often told that words mean something; the next time you are told or are telling someone what it means to be a “responsible gun owner” stop and think about what that means to you. Also stop and remember that just because it means one thing to you it doesn’t mean you are right and everyone else who disagrees with you is wrong, stupid or irresponsible.
For the record I think it’s a sound practice to secure weapons in a safe that aren’t being used, but admit to having weapons that aren’t in my safe. Some of them are out for home protection in addition to my every day carry gun, some are used to dispatch varmints around our property and some of them are used to plink a few times a week on my small home range.