Accept responsibility for the safety of your families, yourself, and others you meet

In the wake of the terrible events following the massacre in Connecticut, I’ve heard lots of arguments of the issues at hand and how this all could’ve been avoided. Among the most ludicrous were the suggestions of banning so called “assault weapons.” This is not intended as a political statement for or against any group or party. This is, as I see it, a clear cut case for right to carry and national reciprocity regarding concealed carry.

Let’s begin with the basics. Throughout the country, with the exception of Illinois, every single state has some version of a “concealed carry” law, or, in layman’s terms, a legal way for you to go about your day armed. Some states are more restrictive than others- “may-issue,” meaning if you meet strict criteria, and can come up with a good reason why you should be allowed to carry, if the sheriff’s office or local jurisdiction decides to, they “may” issue you a permit to carry. Most of the country has “shall-issue” laws meaning if you meet the right criteria, unless the local jurisdiction comes up with a valid reason why you shouldn’t be allowed to carry, you will be issued a permit. You will need to look up your own state’s laws to learn how you personally can go about doing this, a quick and easy way is by visiting http://www.handgunlaw.us and looking at your own state laws.

Now let’s evaluate why an “assault weapon” ban is not only ludicrous, but frivolous, ignorant, and dangerous. I would personally begin with the term itself, “assault” weapon. Certainly, any firearm could be used to assault someone, why are only certain guns classified this way? The main reason is their appearance. An AR-15 very much resembles a military M-16. Just do a Google Image search of them and see if you can tell the difference. While they appear identical, they actually perform quite differently. An AR-15 is what’s called a “semi-automatic” or “semi-auto” rifle, whereas the M-16 is an automatic weapon. This means that the AR-15 only shoots one bullet per pull of the trigger, while the M-16 will continue to fire while the trigger is depressed, or will fire three rounds per pull of the trigger. As such, an M-16 has a notably higher rate of fire than an AR-15.

So they look alike but behave differently. Why all the hype? Only those with at least a moderate working knowledge of firearms could give you real valid reasons on problems with an AR-15 other than “it looks scary.” Here’s one: The most common form of the rifle accepts a detachable magazine. The argument is that this feature makes it too easy to go through a large amount of ammunition in a short amount of time, and this is true. Standard size magazines for an AR rifle are 5, 10, and 30 rounds- that’s 30 rounds that could potentially be shot off without stopping to reload. The other real argument is that an AR-15 is a semi-automatic firearm. The bolt automatically extracts the spent shell casing upon firing, and in the same action, loads a new round into the chamber. This is different from more traditional rifles, such as a bolt action, lever action, or break action that requires the shooter to manually extract the spent shell casing and load a new round in.

The argument is there. These are valid points. However, there are numerous other guns, that shoot significantly more powerful rounds that also operate semi-automatic, or have detachable magazines. Are you going to ban those too? They do not necessarily look as “scary” as an “assault” rifle, but function identically. Why push a ban on only cosmetic features? The standard .223 caliber round most ARs shoot is notably smaller and less powerful than a .308. Where is the line drawn? The answer is there is no line. Where will they stop banning guns? When every gun is collected and the American population is unarmed? If the honest, decent Americans are unarmed, who will protect them when a criminal is around?

Some states already have very strict gun laws. Illinois, for example, is the only state left in America where you can’t get a carry permit at all. How safe is Chicago? Washington D.C. passed a handgun ban in 1976, making it illegal to even have a handgun. Did criminals say “Oh, now I’m no longer allowed to use a gun to rob, murder and rape, I’ll have to go find a place that allows guns to commit these crimes”? No, in fact, until the ban was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court as unconstitutional in 2008, the national murder rate went down 11%, while in D.C. it rose 73% higher than it was before they introduced the ban.

The statistics clearly find that states with stricter gun laws produce higher crime rates. How can this be? For the run of the mill criminal, perhaps looking to mug you, or carjack you, or invade your home, they feel safer doing so in places where their victims have less of a chance of being armed. A predator, by definition, preys upon those which it sees as weak. Which is the easier target- an individual, in a state where it is extremely difficult to legally carry a pistol (low chance of being armed)? Or individual in a state where you can carry a pistol without a permit (moderate to high chance of being armed)?

We as a people have a duty to protect our children. You’d be hard pressed to find someone in America who, ultimately, doesn’t want to raise their family in a safe place, work a steady job to earn a comfortable salary, and sleep well at night knowing they are living the American dream. If there’s one thing that we can agree on this day and age, I’d think it would be that this is the goal of most Americans. How can we protect our children when we have been legislated out of the right to legally carry firearms on school grounds? Or on airplanes? Or in any other number of so called “Gun Free Zones” where it is actually illegal to legally carry a firearm for defensive purposes? Is a criminal going to see a sign that says “Gun Free Zone” and say, “Oh, I’m not allowed to commit a crime using a gun here,” or does the criminal see “Your can commit your crime here and meet no resistance”?

We can no longer bury our heads in the sand, and pretend that it’s “paranoid” to carry. These massacres are happening far too often. We need to realize that we cannot rely on the police to be everywhere, always. The old adage goes, “when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.” We need to accept responsibility for our own safety, and for the safety of our families.

Now there are people out there, maybe you are one of them, who are completely and irrevocably opposed to any and all firearms. They’re reading this now saying “I’ll never need a gun.” Maybe so, I definitely hope that I’ll never need a gun either. I hope that my house never catches fire, but I still have a fire extinguisher. I hope to never be in a serious car accident, but I still wear my seatbelt, drive defensively, and carry car insurance. I hope I never die prematurely, but I still have life insurance so, if I do die prematurely, my wife will be able to continue paying bills. The bottom line is, aside from hunting and sport shooting, all a gun is is a special use emergency tool, much like a fire extinguisher. I hope I never need to use either, but in that instant when you do need it, there is nothing else that will do.

Here’s the part where I probably won’t make too many friends in the gun community: I believe, in right to carry states, it is maybe too easy to get a permit to carry a pistol. In Minnesota, where I live, the process I went through was as follows:

a) Take an approved training course. For me this consisted of about 4 hours of going over some of the legal ramifications of an armed encounter, carry laws specific to Minnesota, and some relevant stories. After this, you had to qualify with a pistol, and I’m pretty sure Helen Keller would’ve done just fine.

b) Submit your application to the sheriff’s office. They look over your paperwork from the training course and run a background check on you. If there is no reason not to issue you a permit, you get your permit to carry.

Now, this is a good start. Don’t get me wrong, in most cases, having a gun, even with very little training is better than having no gun. You certainly don’t want it to be so difficult to get a permit that very few people will, that would defeat the whole argument I’m making. In many books I’ve read regarding concealed carry, the authors stress the importance of training, training, training. This can range from any number of things, including but not limited to- use of cover, reloading techniques, defensive maneuvers not involving a firearm at close range, tactics, shooting from different positions, shooting off-handed, the list goes on. The fact of the matter is, if you ever knew when you needed to use your gun to defend yourself or others, more likely than not, you would avoid that place or situation all together. Carrying a firearm isn’t about “getting the bad guys,” it’s about being ready. You don’t know if you’ll have time to draw from your holster in a fashion you’re used to, or if you’ll have to shoot laying down, and the more training you have, the more prepared you are for whatever encounter you may come across.

I could go on and on at length about this, but the key in my eyes is, if you choose to accept responsibility for you own safety, then you better be damn sure what that might mean for you legally, physically, morally and financially. The key is education. Get your permit and take training courses. Read books on the subject (Massad Ayoob is one author that any concealed carry permit holder should be able to know). It’s a very real responsibility not to be taken lightly.

Now no one is suggesting that what happened at Sandy Hook is anything short of a national disaster. Failure upon failure cost the community twenty-six lives, the majority of them children under the age of ten. America has seen too many mindless massacres to ignore the issue any more. However, if there was a simple fix, like banning “assault” weapons, it would already be in effect. What’s that you say? They had an “assault” weapon ban in effect from 1994 – 2004? It expired after it had no effect on crime? Yes, that’s correct. The data showed the ban had no impact on crime during this period, according to the US Department of Justice. You may also remember that during this time frame, the tragedy at Columbine happened, using weapons included in the ban. A ban such as this one only removes the ability for a law abiding citizen to legally purchase that specific weapon from a legitimate dealer. If banning things was such an effective tool, wouldn’t we have banned illicit drugs, drunk driving, murder, theft, extortion, rape, arson.. Oh wait, we did. Criminals disregard the law, period. We need to work towards a real solution, namely identifying the warning signs early on, and having better ways of treating mental illness, an issue I won’t touch on anymore, because this essay is a plea to law abiding citizens to decide they want to actually, really do something to take back this country from the plague of violence that infects it today.

I’m not a spokesperson for the firearms industry, I’m not affiliated with any particular political party. I am an everyday American, just like you. I work as an electrician to pay my bills, I’m married with a wonderful wife and a beautiful baby girl who will be two in March. I want to make it through the day to come home to both of them. I’m calling on you, as a regular American, to decide the violence needs to stop. You can be a part of the solution. This is an actual, achievable, tangible step that normal Americans like us can take towards bettering our society. Think of it like you’re a sleeper agent, along with every other American who carries for protection. You just go about your daily business, hopefully for your whole life without incident. Should an incident ever arise, the greater the number of sleeper agents around, the greater the chances of the bad guy’s rampage won’t last long, if at all. Many violent encounters are ended simply by the good guy having a gun as well.

If one in ten Americans carried, could a criminal determine which one it was simply by looking at them? I am a small frame man. I stand 5’ 10” and weigh in at about 140. Wearing only jeans and a t-shirt I can effectively conceal a full sized 1911 (5” barrel) .45 ACP and two extra magazines on my person and no one is the wiser. If that criminal thought I was a weak target, he would be in for a surprise. Now, what if one in every five Americans carried? One in every three, or two? A criminal is less likely to attack another if they’re known to be armed, but if a good percentage of Americans are armed, their potential targets would become fewer and fewer, and at a point where they can’t even determine who may or may not be armed.

Ultimately the choice is yours. If you’ve seen this tragedy play out too many times, if you can accept the responsibility involved with becoming a “sleeper agent,” if you can educate yourself on effective ways to carry legally and responsibly, I applaud you and thank you. If you’re sympathetic to my views but unable to accept this, no one is judging you. No one will know you’re response to this essay except for you. You can repost this and spread my opinions throughout the internet as fast as Antoine Dodson. You can stomp it out and extinguish it and very few Americans will hear my pleas for responsible citizens to act responsibly. I challenge any major news organization to publish this article. I challenge anyone who’s anti-gun to prove that guns, in the hand of decent, honest, law abiding citizens causes more crime. Who’s committing crimes? Honest Americans, or criminals? Fact is, the hype around “assault” weapons is propagated by your anti-gun politicians to take away your second amendment, one step at a time.

If a good guy has a gun, that is good. If a bad guy has a gun, that is bad. If the good guys aren’t allowed to have their guns, who is going to be able to stop the bad guys who have guns? Pick up “The Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry” by Massad Ayoob. Take a firearms safety course. Take your concealed carry course. If your state doesn’t have “shall-issue” carry laws, call you Congressman and demand them. Buy a gun safe and lock your guns up so your children will not have access to them. Teach your children to respect firearms. Lock your ammunition up separately from your firearms. The criminals aren’t going to stop committing crimes. The police cannot always be everywhere. Good guys with guns, spread all over the country in high numbers, will diminish the chances of massacres happening. Be one of them.

If you have facebook or some other means of social internet media, repost this message. More laws aren’t the answer, more decent citizens sick of all the violence is.

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