Last summer, I enjoyed a wonderful “girl’s vacation” with several long-time friends at a beach community on the southeastern coast. We decided to take a van tour of the area and enjoyed learning the history and inside stories about the various landmarks, homes, and plantations in the area. Our tour guide was a young woman from the area who was very knowledgeable and entertaining, but I was disconcerted by a comment she made. Somehow, the topic of concealed carry permits came up, and she said she was against concealed carry because, “It would be awful for everyone to be carrying, because every time people got angry they would be pulling out their guns and shooting at each other!”
Well, out of the five of us in our little group, two have concealed carry permits. I carry, and my friend who also has a permit looked at me and we rolled our eyes. It is hard to believe the level of ignorance some people have when it comes to the legal possession and use of firearms. I wonder what this young woman would have thought if she knew that two of her passengers were armed, legally, and – shock of all shocks – no one got angry, and no one got shot!
This incident came to mind last week when I read about the latest lame-brained response to the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy. Florida State Senator Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville has authored and filed Senate Bill 1678, which, among other things, will require anyone who is purchasing ammunition to complete a two-hour anger management course and renew it every ten years. Now I am sure she means well, and I understand that she is reacting to a recent shooting in her district, but I find it insulting that she, and apparently many other gun control advocates, see gun owners as people just waiting for an excuse to whip out the guns and start shooting.
History has proven that point of view wrong. When Florida first passed its shall-issue concealed carry permit law in 1987, gun control advocates predicted blood in the streets. Instead, what happened was the opposite. Crime went down in Florida, as John Lott documents in his book, More Guns, Less Crime. Florida recently went over the 1,000,000 mark in the number of active concealed carry permit holders, and we still are not having shootouts in the streets, at least not among people who are carrying legally. The folks who are acting illegally are the ones we need to be concerned about, and nothing they do has convinced me that a new law will help prevent them from shooting someone if that is what they want to do.
Personally, I know that I am much more conscious of my own behavior out in public since I got my CCW. I can’t afford to incite someone else to anger and put myself in a position where I would have to defend myself. I consider carrying a firearm to be a huge responsibility to my fellow human beings, and I never, ever want to have to use my weapon for self-defense or to protect someone else. I think most CCW permit holders think the same way. “An armed society is a polite society,” is an aphorism that is popular with gun owners. I think it is true; we are a polite and careful bunch.
That brings me back to Senator Gibson and her bill, as well as to our tour guide at the beach. Why do anti-gun folks picture gun owners as angry people who are ready to fly off the handle and start shooting places up? Is that how they fear they would act with a gun? Do they believe that most of the people they know cannot be trusted with a firearm? Perhaps, or perhaps not. It could be that they just need a little education. I know that I was afraid of firearms before I came into possession of my father’s handgun (another story for another time!). I supported the Second Amendment, but I was afraid of guns. A few trips to the range with an NRA trainer friend fixed that and I discovered that I loved shooting and that I really enjoyed the people at the range.
So, I have a bill to propose, Senator Gibson. I think that before any elected or appointed official can propose, vote for, or enforce any law that restricts our Second Amendment rights, he or she must complete a gun training course, complete with several visits to the range to fire several different types of weapons. This course must include opportunities to talk with the regular, everyday people who like to shoot for fun and who feel obligated to provide for their own protection by owning and carrying weapons. And we, the average gun owners can contribute to the effort to educate the fearful as well. Gun owning friends, the next time you go to the range, invite your liberal or anti-gun relative or friend to join you. They might just be surprised as I was, that shooting is fun and gun owners really aren’t fanatics just waiting for an opportunity to go off.