By David Cole
USA – -(Ammoland.com)- Everybody should be properly trained if they intend to use a gun for self-defense, right? No argument here. But should it be mandated by the government?
I say no. Emphatically!
“But Dave,” you might point out, “You are a firearms trainer. Clearly you believe in the importance of training.” And you'd be right. Proper and continued training enhances safety, physical skill and mindset, and mitigates legal risk. These are all good things.
So why would I be opposed to making minimal firearms training the law of the land?
For starters, I could point out that there is no empirical evidence which shows that mandatory firearms training actually guarantees any of those things. I spent several hours scouring the internet for some data which would at least show some correlation between mandatory training and firearms accident rates in different states. The data I did find was frankly all over the place…so scattered I won't even bother including it here. I found states with strict training requirements, low training requirements, and no training requirements. I looked at states with constitutional carry (requiring no permit) and “may issue” states which, even with stringent training requirements…issued almost no concealed carry licenses at all. Some had relatively low firearms accident rates, some had higher rates…some didn't even report that type of data. I found no apparent pattern to tie firearms training (or lack of it) to firearms accidents (or lack of them).
The only substantial data I could find was from the Centers for Disease Control, and it shows that on a national level, firearms accidents have been on a steady downward trend for decades. Also, the National Shooting Sports Foundation has data showing that accidents have been trending downward since these types of records began being kept in 1903…and is currently at its lowest point ever.
But data connecting training and accident rates? It isn't there. Never mind proof of causation, I couldn't even correlate the two. If you can, share it with me.
But you still might ask, “So what? Even without data, we know training is good. You say so yourself. What's the harm in mandating it?”
The harm is in the potential to disenfranchise citizens from a civil right which the Constitution guarantees “shall not be infringed.” To mandate training in order to exercise that right is to require that citizens spend money and time…which they may not have…in order to exercise a right.
Would you approve of a law requiring a 12-hour, $100* reading comprehension class prior to being permitted to read a book? To write one? The pen is mightier than the sword, of course…ensuring the responsible exercise of speech would be a reasonable thing to do, right? Millions of people have been killed over words, you know.
What about requiring a similar class in civics and current events before being licensed to vote? Surely such a class would result in people making better choices in the voting booth…what possible objection could there be? Poor voting choices have resulted in a multitude of woes, so what's the problem with requiring people to be a little smarter before pulling that lever?
The problem comes when you don't have the $100, or you don't have the 12 hours to spend on the class. Then suddenly that right to free speech or that right to vote is getting infringed a bit, isn't it?
Does that bother you a little? It bothers me a lot. Putting a price tag and a license on the exercise of those rights would be intolerable, yet we tolerate it when it comes to the right to keep and bear arms. We can't even prove that it makes a difference, yet we force citizens to pony up money…sometimes exorbitant amounts...and spend their time getting training before they can legally defend themselves with a gun.
So training is good, but we don't want to make it mandatory? Then how do we get people to willingly spend that money and that time to make themselves better with a gun?
- Let's begin with dropping the negative, elitist attitude that “ordinary people” simply cannot handle the responsibility. They can and have since before the founding of this nation…even before the writing of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
- How about we stop “othering” gun owners, and stop stigmatizing the concept that taking responsibility for our own self-defense is a good thing? It is a human right…a civil right…and there is nothing wrong with wanting to exercise it.
- And if the government really wants to help (yeah, I know), then how about taking more positive steps? Give a tax credit for taking a firearms class…instead of taxing a civil right.
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