Getting the Language Right: Responsible means more than just "I haven't shot anybody on accident."

Most members of the gun community talk about the four rules of gun safety a lot.  Most of my pro-gun readers can rattle them off from memory.

1. Treat every gun as if it is loaded.
2. Never point a gun at anything you are unwilling to destroy.
3. Finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
4. Always be aware of what is beyond your target.
One part of responsible gun ownership is following these rules.  Teaching them early and often to every person who will ever interact with a gun is vital--whether it's your spouse or your 10 year old that you want to take to an Appleseed mother/daughter shoot.

But there's more to it than that.

Responsible Means You Lock Up Your Shit

A buddy of mine had his house broken into a few years ago, while he was on vacation.

They stole his gun collection.

Actually, that's not true.  They stole most of his gun collection, except the newest gun he had purchased.

"Why" you might wonder "would they leave one random handgun while stealing two other handguns and a couple of rifles?"

Because it was still in the box, and they didn't notice it while they were carting everything else out quickly to the car.

Where were the others?

They were scattered around his home office in plain view, like a college student's maybe-still-clean-enough-to-wear laundry.

In case you're wondering what a responsible gun owner looks like: that ain't it.

He had chosen to purchase that last handgun instead of a gun safe, but was pricing gun safes and intended to pick one up "soon."

I'm not saying every human being who owns a gun needs a giant thousand-dollar gun safe.

That's a bit of a stretch.

But if you think you're a responsible gun owner, and your guns are laying around on random surfaces in your home like lethargic cats while you're away all day?  You're part of the problem.

Eat some ramen, mow a couple yards, or (heaven help us!) skip your next range day, and start saving up a little money for a gun locker.  A stack-on that will at-least inconvenience a casual burglar is $90.  That's less than the cost of three date nights at Applebee's and the Amstar 16.

And when you leave the house in the morning?  USE THE LOCKER.  Don't forget to lock it because you're running late, don't leave one of your guns leaned up against it because you're going to clean it "later this week."

Lock up your shit.

Responsible Means You Don't Rely On Fate

Go ahead, watch a few cute videos of babies.

Now, next time you hear someone say "well, I keep my gun in the top of my closet, so it's safe from my toddler" I want you to visualize punching that person right in their big fat stupid mouth.

Children can't swim.  They drown when left unattended around pools, and pools claim the lives of a lot of children every year.  And so we talk about: hey, maybe don't ever let your kid near a pool unattended before they learn to swim, and maybe do something to deny unattended children access to your pool when you aren't watching it.
Children climb things, and are (shockingly!) not immune to bullets.

Think your kid isn't strong enough to rack your semi-automatic pistol, or pull the trigger on your revolver?

Guess what?

1) you're wrong.
2) fuck you.
3) If you've spent more than 10 seconds with a first time parent, you know that every. single. one. of. them. has a story about how their child surprised them by being so far ahead of a physical development curve that they were just shocked!  Shocked! by how strong their little bouncing bundle of joy was.  If you're a first time parent, you've told a story about how surprised and pleased you are, I guarantee it.

So, considering you clearly have no idea how strong your child is, maybe don't rely on their lack of strength as part of your safety plan.

Responsible Means You Know the Law

Or at least, knowing that you don't know.

I have lived in Georgia since 2006.  I have been a gun owner in Georgia since 2008.

Throughout the last ten years I have heard, many times, that open carry of a loaded pistol is legal in Georgia without a license.

This has not been true at all during this period. has existed for at least as long as I've been carrying, as I used it when I first researched getting a carry license in 2008.

You go there, you click on your state, and the server tosses you an easy-to-read pdf with all of the state gun laws for your state in it, a map of where you can use a Georgia permit to carry, and a list of all the restrictions on carrying.

And the entire time I've lived here, it has been available, and it has reported, correctly, that open carry is illegal in Georgia without a permit.

And I have heard intelligent, educated gun owners--guys with engineering degrees and families and security clearances--volunteer the information that open carry is legal in Georgia without a permit.

Which they clearly were told by somebody, and never fact-checked for themselves.

That's not responsible.

If you don't know the law, don't speak up about the law.  Instead of sharing your ignorance, spend that energy reading.  Then speak from a position of awareness about the laws that you've personally fact-checked.

Responsible Means You're Willing to Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.

90% of Americans--give or take about 3 percentage points--support background checks on all gun sales.

Even if you check just in Texas, that number is north of 75%.

About a third of all Americans either own a gun, or live in a household with someone who does, so even if you imagine that every single person that doesn't support the checks owns a gun, that still means the majority of all gun owners support them, in addition to every single non-gun-owner.

And yet, gun owners consistently turn out to show their disapproval of poorly worded, poorly funded, overly grasping laws aimed at mandating background checks.


Well, there's a lot of reasons that I'll be getting into in a future essay specifically about that issue.

Basically, Gun owners might support the ideal, but they want it executed elegantly and carefully.  They'd like it to enhance public safety without unnecessarily besmirching individual liberty.  And none of the recent proposals have been the least bit elegant, or careful.

But if you support the ideal, then there are places we can work within the law to improve the existing background check database (NICS) as I mentioned in my previous essay.

And actively working to sabotage those systems so that you can avoid supporting new laws is not in our best interests as a nation and puts us at odds with our own admissions about what we believe should be true.

So let's cut the bullshit and stop pretending that the fact that the other team is horrible is justification for being horrible ourselves.

Let's start actively pulling for a well written, liberty-respecting solution to the background check problem.  If we don't want to do that, then we should at least stop lying when people ask us about background checks.


So what does "responsible" mean?  It is more than just knowing gun safety and giving lip service to stronger background checks.

If you want to claim that you are a responsible gun owner and the government shouldn't take our guns away, first ask yourself how you're doing with the list above.
Maybe, just maybe, we "responsible gun owners" should see to the logs in our own eyes before we gripe about the splinters in Bloomberg's.
End note:

Patrick! Where is your

Responsible Means You Don't Freak Out

I could lecture you about staying calm when you carry and not shooting the wrong person, but I won't.  Why?
1) everybody likes to harp on this point, and gun owners and carriers are already browbeaten about it constantly.
2) it's a red herring.  There are millions of Americans that carry guns every day, and plenty of demonstrated cases of concealed carry permit holders stopping crimes, shooting the right guy, and refusing to draw or retreating when they didn't have good intel.

The idea that there is some trigger-happy jerk citizen out there that is constantly ready to shoot the wrong person and is doing so on the regular is not supported by either anecdotal evidence or statistical data.

So I won't bother chiding responsible gun owners about that because, on the whole, they're doing fine on that front.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016