Gun ownership brings safety responsibilities

There are more people in our country today who have firearms and ammunition than ever before in the history of our nation, and most do not have a clue on how to use either safely. Never before have citizens hoarded guns and bullets in their homes at current levels. Their reasons are many. Fear that guns and bullets will be abolished, someone might break into their homes for prescription drugs or items to steal, facing violence in public with no means of defense for self or family – the list goes on and the number of concealed carry permit holders has increased to record levels.

The foremost political rhetoric we hear is to ban firearms, eliminate assault weapons, prohibit high-capacity magazines or change the Second Amendment rights. Whenever we face a horrific shooting of innocents by unstable shooters the drums beat on, fear increases, and the number of gun and ammunition owners increases. In my opinion, when it comes to firearm ownership we should spend less time on the futile effort to reduce gun owners’ rights and increase emphasis on safety and proper use.

Firearm ownership comes with the ethical and legal responsibilities of safety for the owner and those who might come in contact with the firearm. Anyone owning, using, or even in proximity to a firearm, should be trained in firearm safety. A vast majority of people seeking a basic handgun safety course are taking it to meet the educational requirements for a concealed carry permit. However, anyone owning a firearm or ammunition should take these courses to learn proper usage and storage.

Whatever your opinion of the National Rifle Association, it is the foremost authority on firearm safety and promoter of training programs for instructors and public safety. In West Virginia the NRA basic pistol course is eight hours in length – six hours classroom and two hours range time. In Ohio the basic course is 12 hours. There are individual instructors in our community who will conduct courses that do not meet these NRA minimums. This leaves the student and instructor at great risk. These instructors should be reported to local sheriffs. If you have not received the appropriate hours of instruction, you should not obtain a concealed carry permit.

Many times instructors hear the excuse from firearm owners that they do not want to take a course and obtain a concealed carry permit because the local newspaper might print their name and address. Then everyone will know they have firearms and ammunition in their homes. First, you do not have to apply for a permit after completing the course; however, you are not permitted to carry a concealed weapon without it. In addition, The Parkersburg News and Sentinel publisher and executive editor have stated they will not print a list of names of concealed permit carriers in the newspaper unless that information is vital to the story.

Whatever the reason, if you own guns or ammo you will not learn safe use and storage by osmosis. Get trained, be safe – no excuses.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Greg Smith spent 22 years in the Air Force. He is an NRA certified concealed carry instructor, rifle instructor, shotgun instructor, inside and outside the home safety instructor, chief range safety officer and shooting range operations and maintenance graduate.