Talking with family members about defensive firearm ownership
With the COVID scare and the unrest associated with the authoritarian abuse of power around the George Floyd murder, Americans who were once in the “opposed to” or the “neutral about” firearms rights have decided that a defensive firearm is an option to protect themselves and their family.
Unfortunately, most of the people in this belief group have had years of reinforcement that guns are bad, and that evil will invariably ensue should they decide to bring one into their home. Their quandary lies in the general assessment “does the added dangers of firearm ownership outweigh the dangers of being defenseless”? It is a very rational question; but the ‘quandary’ part comes far more from media misinformation being a seed in the decision making process about ownership, fogging all their data.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the things you should consider when determining if a firearm for home defense as right for you, and how to talk about it with your family. These items, in turn, help to demonstrate to loved ones that you have taken their safety into account in this decision.
For most people attempting to discuss bringing a defensive firearm into the home, the issue will be managing their fear, and like was mentioned before, penetrating the wall of misinformation.
At its core, you must demonstrate you have an understanding of the risks of owning a firearm. You must show that these risks can be mitigated, and that the mitigated risk of ownership is less than the risk of remaining defenseless. To get this balance, we need education.
Education is the antithesis of fear. When the HIV scare of the late 80’s hit, it was education that quelled the fear of getting AIDS from a mosquito bite or a public toilet. More recently, education has suppressed the Karens and their fear projection of public spaces and sans-mask interaction when facing the coronavirus scare. We now take educated precautions based on facts rather than listening to a bunch of Facebook posts about how walking in a park will end humanity.
When we are unfamiliar with a thing, we fear the thing. When we become familiar, that fear is replaced with understanding and respect.
For firearm ownership and usage, that understanding instilled through education allows the owner to pick up the firearm and operate its controls (actions, reloading operations, safeties, and trigger). We know how the device works and all the buttons and levers are not mysterious any more.
That respect instilled through education allows all this to be done knowing the firearm is potentially dangerous machine, and to perform all of its actions and operations in a manner that does not introduce additional risk due to ignorance or negligence.
Education, followed with repetitive training, instills the rules of firearm safety upon owners and users.
Take a class. Bring the adults. Our Essential Handgun course is set up specifically to take those first steps of ownership with you.
When we are properly educated on firearm handling, the risks of ownership are mitigated to a level lower than the risk of outside threats. But what about the uneducated members of the household? We must control access.
The simple truth is you are considering a firearm because you have people to protect. Yourself, spouse, children, Aunt Martha, whoever. They mean something to you. The biggest risk is the firearm hurting someone other than bad guy. To mitigate that risk, we control access to the firearm.
Controlling access to the firearm is simply this: Those authorized to use the firearm have access to it. Those who are not authorized to to use the firearm do not have access to it.
The gun safe may be an inexpensive handgun safe with a biometric sensor to open it, or it may be a massive 40+ rifle safe able to store a respectable collection. How you intend to store or stage the firearm will take some consideration, and the safe that is proposed should support that method.
The talking point here is clear: Adults will have access to the gun via the safe, and the children will not. The gun will be in the safe unless it’s being used.
An interesting aside here is the safe’s ability to protect from fire. Full rifle safes are often fire rated, which means your important papers, jewelry, silver dollars, grandma’s keepsake necklace, and your nice watch collection can all benefit from this purchase. We all have things we would prefer to put in a safe if we give it some thought. Here’s one opportunity to do so.
Any discussion about what firearm to purchase should also include what gun safe to purchase. Make it a part of the ‘total proposal’.
This goes beyond mere education. Education is ultimately the gathering of knowledge. Training is the ability to put knowledge into practice. Training is the commitment to continued safety, and increasing education.
Training is available before you even buy your first firearm. All decent schools will grant their students access to firearms to use, and responsible instructors will respect a student’s decision to acquire training before a gun purchase is made. If you, or you and spouse take training together, have a talk about the shared experience, and get the concerns in the open, training becomes an excellent way to bring familiarity to a topic to make it approachable.
The major takeaway from training is to acquire wisdom-based safe practices.
Develop safe practices
If your circle is unfamiliar with the sight of a firearm, bringing it out of the safe may be a cause for alarm. Cleaning it at the kitchen table may be a source of nervousness. Do not introduce these stressors.
If the firearm isn’t being used, ensure it stays in the safe, ready to be used. (As an aside, the NRA safety rules state to keep a firearm unloaded until it is being used. The Keep and Bear, LLC position on this practice is that a firearm in a safe ready for home defense is “staged”, not “stored”, and that it is indeed being used, just not actively wielded.)
Before the purchase, you can demonstrate your intentions to develop safe practices by setting up an area on the workbench for gun cleaning. Put a “No Ammunition” sign up in that location to demonstrate there will be no negligence involving gun cleaning. If asked about it, use it as an opportunity to show that you are addressing fears.
You know why mom is reluctant to get another pet? Because she’s the one that feeds the current pets. When the new puppy goes from being new and exciting to watch his every move to a known and accepted member of the household, his care must continue.
So too with firearm ownership. Do not let all the above demonstrations of responsibility be temporary. Maintain an ongoing vigilance to safety, education, storing/staging, and training. If you’ve reached this stage, you might have already been given the green light to get the gun. Show you were worthy of that concession. Keep your circle’s concerns and safety in the forefront.
This is truly a family decision. The adults must be on the same page. If Cousin Larry is a scumbag and will probably hock the gun, and you leave it out one Tuesday when he’s over… It’s up to you both to ensure that he doesn’t know about the gun, cannot get access to the gun, and you’ve agreed giving him the combination to the safe just isn’t happening.
You must be brutally honest about your situation, and you must accept if the risks cannot be mitigated. An adult child with mental issues prone to anger at home may preclude firearm ownership to ensure he/she does not harm. A son/daughter with lots of friends over all the time may prevent firearm ownership due to the transient nature of guests in the home. Your own issues, such as depression, anger, etc may mean it isn’t the best choice. Be honest with yourself, and be honest that you may not be able to address every fear or concern brought up.
Similarly, going back to fears, what are each person’s fears around firearm ownership. Address them. Don’t call the concerns stupid or unjustified. Fear is an emotion and could quite well be unjustified. The end game is addressing the fears, which , for a rational person, means reducing the perceived risks. Show you can reduce them, you will reduce them, and they will stay reduced.