Gun ownership in the United States is often the cause of a fractious debate between proponents and opponents of ownership. The question for a gentleman is, how should he approach gun ownership. Like many other contentious debates, the answers are not always readily apparent, and often depend on ones perspective.
As gun owners, it is always imperative that we start by balancing our beliefs and needs with those of the society around us. None of us lives on an island; our actions do have an impact on others. Even if our actions have no direct impact on others, there may be an indirect impact on society.
Let me start with the simplest scenario; I purchase a firearm for personal defense, a perfectly rational act when seen in isolation. I need to understand that I am bringing an implement into my home that is the proximate cause of 1,000 non-conflict related deaths every day around the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2013 in the United States, more firearms were used in homicides (11,208) and suicides (21,175) than were used in justifiable deaths (467). This means that handguns are far more likely to be used to commit murder and suicide than used in self-defense.
As gentlemen, we should take every precaution to ensure that our weapons do not become another statistic. How we go about this will determine whether we are acting in a manner that is friendly to the rights of others, or shows a callous disregard for those rights.
Our first task is to ensure that our firearms will be used solely for self-defense, and that the firearm we purchase is sufficient only for that task and no more. The United States is not being invaded and is not occupied by a malevolent force. This negates any reason for the possession of assault weapons of any kind. These weapons are far more than is needed by considerate gun owners and are thus unnecessary.
Next, ordinance should be sufficient to prevent an attack and no more. If the bullets that we use are able to stop an attacker, that should be considered sufficient. We have no need for metal-jacketed bullets, armor piercing projectiles or other extreme ordinance. The considerate gun owner also has no need to end a life unnecessarily, even in the case of physical attack.
Learning to use the firearm we purchase is imperative for any owner. The gentleman gun owner ought to fight for laws to ensure that gun owners are fully aware of the dangers of gun ownership, and of the responsibility that an owner assumes when he purchases a firearm. These laws should insist on proper licensing through accredited training programs.
The considerate gun owner should also lobby for registration of firearms. Society has a right to know who may be a threat to unarmed members of society, and to law enforcement. Given the lack of these laws, unarmed citizens or residents are at increased risk of loss of life from law enforcement because of the understandable belief that anyone may be armed. Unarmed members of society are also at risk from those who have arms, regardless of their intent.
Bringing a firearm into the home dramatically increases the risk of death and injury to members of the household. This risk is far higher for women, children and the elderly, most of whom are least likely to have firearms. This risk is introduced by men, more of whom are killed and injured outside the home.
As responsible and considerate gun owners, we have to ensure that all the members of our household are safe. This means that firearms are adequately secured and not available to children. Many parents don’t realize just how resourceful children can be in gaining access to locked doors, drawers and safes. We may also believe that our children will not touch a firearm, but this is not borne out by the facts. Children are not little adults; their mental faculties are not fully developed, especially in teenagers.
An article in the Scientific American (June 2015, “The Amazing Teen Brain”), argued, “the limbic system driving emotions intensifies at puberty, whereas the prefrontal cortex, which controls impulses, only matures in the 20s”. Teenagers are particularly at risk from firearms because of their emotional intensity and lack of self-control. For this reason, teenagers and children should never have access to firearms – they do not yet fully understand the ramifications of their actions and are far more likely than adults to be careless around firearms. Responsible gentlemen never allow their children access to firearms in the home under any circumstance.
In the home, a responsible gentleman secures firearms in a safe to which children cannot get the combination. Firearm and ammunition should be stored separately. To further decrease risk to members of the household, trigger locks ought to be used to prevent the weapon being fired. This also prevents the weapon from being fired accidentally.
The responsible gun owner also understands that many people in society are afraid of firearms. I spent more than two years in the military and I carried a firearm for fourteen years, yet I am always nervous around firearms. States that advocate open carry laws are imposing fear on many people in society. When I see a person openly carrying a firearm into a public space, my instinct is to leave, or to get management to ask the carrier to leave. A responsible gentleman is considerate of those around him and aware that openly carrying a firearm is a source of fear and concern for many people, especially in the wake of the many gun tragedies around the country. For this reason, a truly responsible gun owner would never openly carry firearms. A gentleman is never a bully.
Gentlemen also realize that firearms are not the solution to social problems. Firearms should never be used to resolve an argument over a parking space, over road rage incidents or loud music. The mere fact that a gentleman might be involved in a physical confrontation, even a violent one, is no reason to resort to a firearm solution. Even when he is losing a fight, the resort to armed intervention is unwarranted, unless he has overwhelming evidence that his life is truly at risk. Even then, retreating is the most ethical and prudent course of action. If he feels that he has been assaulted unlawfully, an appeal to law enforcement and the courts is by far the better solution than resorting to taking a life.
The approach for a gentleman is always to use the minimum force necessary to resolve a confrontation. This includes retreating from a confrontation, even if this means a loss of face. It is always better for a considerate person to walk away rather than risk taking life. As with so many things in life, consideration for others ought to be a gentleman’s watchword.
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