by Chad D. Baus, Buckeye Firearms Association
“I’m unfamiliar with guns. I want to change that. Where should I go?”
National Rifle Association (NRA) -certified instructors offer a variety of classes focused on the safe handling, operation and storage of firearms and ammunition. A great beginning class is NRA FIRST Steps. Offered for pistol, rifle or shotgun, these three hour courses provide a hands-on introduction to the safe handling and proper orientation to one specific firearm type for four or fewer students. This course is at least three hours long and includes classroom and range time learning to shoot a specific pistol action type. Students learn the NRA’s rules for safe gun handling; the particular firearm model parts and operation; ammunition; shooting fundamentals; cleaning the firearm; and continued opportunities for skill development. Students also receive the Basics of Pistol Shooting handbook, NRA Gun Safety Rules brochure, Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification booklet, FIRST Steps Course completion certificate. To find a course near you, go to www.NRAInstructors.org and click on “Find a Course.”
For a more comprehensive course, the Ohio Concealed Handgun course mandated by state law is designed to offer a beginner all of the basics of safe handling of a handgun, and also provides a solid primer on the laws for transporting a firearm, self-defense laws, etc. Not everyone who takes a concealed handgun course starts out planning to carry a handgun with them daily, or even at all. They simply recognize the class is a great way to gain a good deal of knowledge in a relatively short amount of time. To find an Ohio concealed handgun license course, go to www.BuckeyeFirearms.org, select “CCW” in the menu bar at the top, and click on “Find a CCW Instructor.”
“I’m considering purchasing a firearm. What should I buy?”
The reason so many different firearms are manufactured is because there are so many different applications for them to be used. A firearm that is purchased to use for hunting can vary greatly from one intended for use as a home-defense weapon. Likewise, the type of firearm you choose for your home-defense needs should very necessarily vary depend on two main concerns.
First, any firearm you purchase must be one that you can safely operate effectively. A firearm is not going to be useful to you if you are unable to operate it correctly and effectively. To find out what you are comfortable with, classes such as NRA FIRST Steps (mentioned above) can be a big help. Many firearm retailers also offer guns for rent, which can give you an opportunity to try something on, so to speak, before you buy it. (A side note regarding firearm retailers: if a salesperson makes you feel uncomfortable, pressured, silly, or the like, LEAVE! There are great salespeople out there who do what they do because they believe in it, and because they legitimately enjoy teaching people and helping them get the right firearm to fit their needs, as opposed to which one they can make the most on. Keep shopping until you find such a person.)
In the case of home-defense, another concern to bear in mind should be the physical characteristics of your home. A person who lives alone in a house in the country has different set of circumstances (and potential threats) to consider than a person who lives with five other people in a multi-level urban apartment complex. While a rifle or shotgun may work well in a rural environment where threats may as easily have four legs as two, a person living in closer quarters with other family members might find a handgun to be more practical.
Even after you’ve chosen the right firearm, the choice of ammunition for your firearm can also vary depending on its intended use. An NRA-certified firearms instructor or competent firearms retailer (again, someone who cares about helping you more than s/he cares about making a sale) can help you make an informed choice.
“Why should I consider including a firearm as part of my home/ family protection plans?”
The choice to include a firearm as a part of your home protection strategy is, at its core, no different than the choice to have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen, wearing your seat belt when driving, or buying life insurance. We aren’t planning on having a grease fire, we aren’t planning on being involved in a collision, and we hope not to contract a terminal illness. But because we know they can happen, we prepare. The same can be said for carjackings, sexual assaults, home invasions, etc. We don’t want ourselves or a loved one to become the victim of an act of violence, but because we know it can happen, we prepare. We either prepare to do nothing, or we prepare to defend ourselves and our loved ones.
“I have children in my home. What can I do to prevent an accident?”
An important responsibility that comes with firearms owners is to take steps to prevent unauthorized access to your firearm. Just as we take steps to protect little fingers from electrical outlets, or little mouths from household chemicals, it is important to take steps to ensure that firearms are stored in a manner that prevents access to anyone but those with permission. There are a variety of reasonably-priced (less than $100) locking containers with electronic keypads that allow rapid access to those who know the combination, but which prevent access to anyone else.
In addition to practicing safe storage, it is equally important to educate children on what to do if they find a gun. Whether or not you are a gun owner, and while you as a parent may take the appropriate steps to guarantee your children can’t gain access to firearms in your home, you have no such ability to control the actions of others, such as the adults at the homes of your kids’ friends. As such, it is extremely important to teach your children what they should do if they find a gun. The NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program is a highly effective program designed for children Pre-K – 3rd grade. The award-winning program teaches young people who find a gun to “Stop, Don’t Touch, Leave the Area, Tell an Adult.” Program materials are available from the NRA’s website – http://www.nrahq.org/safety/eddie/.
It is also wise to introduce youngsters to the shooting sports when you decide that they are of an appropriate age. What age is appropriate can vary by the maturity of the child, but, for example, both of my boys were shooting BB guns at age 5 and small caliber firearms by age 7. A child who knows that an adult is happy to help them serve their curiosity by allowing them to handle an unloaded firearm in a safe setting, and to teach them to shoot, is much less likely to be tempted to attempt to handle a firearm when they are unsupervised.
Beyond the practical, there is also the political. George Washington once said that “Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples’ liberty’s teeth.”
Becoming a gun owner, and becoming familiar with the ongoing fight to preserve and restore our Second Amendment rights, is an important way to ensure that our descendants have the same protections afforded by the right to bear arms that we enjoy.
Patrick Henry once advised that we should “Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined…. The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have a gun.”
To help guard the public liberty, you need to be informed. Buckeye Firearms Association sends a free e-news letter to tens of thousands of readers each week. As a subscriber, you can stay informed about what your elected representatives are doing and saying about your gun rights, receive urgent alerts about pending firearm legislation, read what anti-gun activists and the media are saying in order to strip you of your Constitutionally protected rights, and be among the first to hear about fundraisers and special events around Ohio that support the pro-gun cause. To subscribe, go to www.buckeyefirearms.org and click on “Subscribe.”
Chad D. Baus is the Vice Chairman of Buckeye Firearms Association (www.buckeyefirearms.org), and an NRA-certified firearms instructor. He and his wife are the parents of two boys, aged 12 and 10.