Rules of Responsible Gun Ownership


Photo credit: JMR_Photography

The recent school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and the rush to address the gun issue in the aftermath of the shootings, has once again put the issues of gun violence, gun control, and the second amendment into our living rooms.  People are asking: Do we need stronger gun laws or do we arm school officials?  I’m not claiming to have the definitive answer, but the one thing I’m sure about is that more guns is not it.

For many of the children who survived the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, it will become their first memory of a story about gun violence.  My first memory of hearing about a tragedy related to guns was in the fourth grade. Our class took a trip to the court house to learn about our justice system. During the visit, one of my classmates asked the court officer, who was giving us the tour, about his firearm.  He told us about the danger of guns through the story of a fellow court officer whose young son (age 4, if my memory serves me) had been killed with his father’s gun. The child had taken the gun from a locked box with a combination and apparently unable to pull the trigger with his index finger, turned the gun around so that he could use his strongest finger, his thumb, to pull the trigger, fatally shooting himself.  This story has stuck with me for over 30 years and will always affect my view of guns.

When tens of thousands of people lose their lives each year to gun violence in the United States, more than 30,000 in 2011 alone, it may be time for us to take a new look at the second amendment and at the issue of “responsible gun ownership.”  I probably first learned about the Bill of Rights and the second amendment around the time that I heard the story of the court officer’s son. The two seemed unrelated to me because we learned in school that the second amendment was to allow the former colonists to defend themselves and their land should their new government take on the tyranny of their former government.  What is the relevance of that second amendment today, and should it be used to defend the rights of anyone to own guns? Isn’t it time that we seriously explore what laws are needed today to address issues facing us today?

In today’s debate, I repeatedly hear those who are defending their right to bear arms, justifiably want to separate themselves from people who have committed heinous mass shootings, by calling themselves “responsible gun owners.”  I did an Internet search to see what it meant to be a responsible gun owner. What I found surprised me. Regardless of the search engine I used, the top 20 sites were about people defending their right to bear arms, but with no mention of what it means to be a responsible gun owner.

When I searched for the term “gun safety,” I finally found the fundamental NRA rules for safe gun handling.  These three rules that have been used by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and adopted by various groups:

  1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

While they do go on to cover the safe use and storage of a gun, I find these rules to be unsatisfactory, because they don’t address being a responsible gun owner.  I’ve decided to create my own rules.  Here are my top three rules for being a responsible gun owner:

  1. BE CLEAR ON YOUR PURPOSE FOR OWNING A GUN and select a gun that is appropriate to your purpose. If you are a hunter, you need a hunting rifle, not a semi-automatic weapon. If your gun is for protection, be clear on what you believe you need protection from.  Get an appropriate gun for the situation.  You probably don’t need an assault rifle to protect your home from potential burglary. You definitely don’t need an extended magazine with the ability to fire 30 shots in a few seconds. Store your weapon in a secure location accessible only to you; a metal box with a three digit combination is not secure enough as my court officer story indicates.
  2. SUPPORT RESPONSIBLE GUN LAWS that prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands, being sold or resold without background checks, and prevent  military weaponry from being sold to average citizens and being stockpiled by these citizens, who aren’t “dangerous,” until something goes wrong.
  3. Recognize that for some people, the most responsible thing you can do is DON’ T BUY A GUN. This is especially true if you have vulnerable populations in your home including children or people with mental health concerns.

What rules would you add? Do you think it’s time to relook at the second amendment and its purpose? Share your thoughts with us.


Arthurine Walker

Vice President

Campaign Consultation, Inc.

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Andrea Perri

I came to Campaign Consultation with a strong background in social work and community organizing. I am also a former Peace Corps health volunteer who served in The Gambia working on maternal and child health care projects.In my role as Project Specialist, I assist with project research, content development and other support for the Social Innovation Fund, George Washington University Freshman Day of Service and other projects.Read more.

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