“More than 6.5 million gun-sale background checks were conducted from January 1 through April 30, according to the latest NSSF research, which showed a 48% year-over-year rise from the same period in 2019,” the report elaborates. “Firearms retailers … estimated that 40% of their sales came from first-time gun buyers.”
So it’s not just “gun nuts” adding to their “arsenals,” as the gun-grabber groups would have us believe. A significant percentage are women or are from restrictive states like California, where, feeling threatened by what they see on the news, have started discovering just what they’ve been missing.
The thing is, with all these new gun owners, the chances for negligent discharges and other bad things happening through ignorance go up. Like “Gunners’ Guru” Jeff Cooper famously observed, “Owning a handgun doesn’t make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician.”
That’s actually a maxim quoted by author John Petrolino in Decoding Firearms – An Easy to Read Guide on General Gun Safety and Use. Petrolino, a Merchant Marine Engineering Officer, writer, and NRA certified instructor, has written a gem of a book that more than lives up to the promise of its subtitle – it’s also pretty comprehensive.
‘In no way is this book to be a substitute for actual hands-on training and education…we are all in this world of learning together,” Petrolino admits. Humility from authorities can go a long way toward establishing authenticity, and that recalled nothing so much for me as an attitude conveyed to me years ago by a weapons and tactics trainer of elite military fighting personnel and civilian law enforcement tactical specialists:
“Our staff does not know it all, nor have we ‘arrived.’ We are in a constant state of learning and consider ourselves perpetual students.”
The first chapter of Decoding Firearms, unsurprisingly enough, deals with gun safety, and while Jeff Cooper’s rules are hardwired into many of us, Petrolino takes things a step further with what he terms “Always Rules” and then “Storage and Use Rules,” something those of us who have taken new shooters to the range might not think to bring up in a limited purpose setting focused on safe gun handling basics.
Skipping ahead several chapters, Petrolino relates the story of a woman who bristled at his recommendation to take a class as disparaging of her capability. Perhaps it’s conditioning after watching countless gun deployments in the movies and on TV, but shooting really does involve so much more than the simplistic “point and click interface” meme. Compare the indignant attitude of someone with an affronted ego who knows nothing to the examples set by authorities like Petrolino or by the experienced military trainer I consulted. Then consider another association of dangerous know-nothings, the gun-grab groups that have reimaged themselves as “commonsense gun safety advocates,” who are in reality presumptuous, senseless and ignorant frauds.
Noting the significant number of women now buying a gun for the first time, you don’t even have to ask yourself what makes more sense: Training where they are treated like adults making adult decisions with adult consequences and responsibilities, or the insulting disparagement of women’s capabilities exhibited by District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, one of 25 women in Congress who sent a letter to the National Rifle Association protesting its then-new “Refuse to be a Victim” program (from the January 1994 issue of Women & Guns magazine):
“Women are virgins when it comes to guns. It should stay that way.”
The same can be said for the danger-increasing way the antis approach children and guns: The “tools” the propagandists use are ignorance, avoidance, demonization, fearmongering, ostracism, and punishment, as opposed to development-appropriate information [I never say “age-appropriate”], guidance and hands-on training. Petrolino’s book made me recall how I introduced my sons to firearms when they were young, from having them sit with me while I cleaned them and explained what I was doing, why I had them and how they worked, to taking them to the range to watch me shoot, to teaching them to shoot for themselves, first with their own BB guns and then moving up to firearms when I deemed they were ready.
“[Y]ou can keep…firearms completely secret and hope that your child never stumbles on them,” Petrolino notes, “or you can educate your child about firearms and remove the mystery of them.”
Ignorance or knowledge: Which approach seems more like “commonsense gun safety” to you?
And there’s so much more than that, which is why it’s a good thing Decoding Firearms keeps its “easy to read” promise. The other very real safety issues the grabbers never seem to get around addressing – because they’re ignorant and unqualified – include all the various ways firearms function and operate, the different kinds of projectiles they fire, and the types of safeties and magazines. The section on loading and unloading firearms alone ought to be thrown in the face of every ass braying for “buybacks,” in essence expecting people who know nothing about guns to understand how to safely handle, unload and transport whatever kind of gun someone like a widow might have found in her husband's closet.
As for the rest, you can see for yourself other topics covered by using the Amazon “Look inside” feature. I didn’t intend for this review to be a regurgitation of the table of contents, but will note here you’ll find plenty of practical information on safely dealing with the various types of misfires, on shooting fundamentals, on personal protective equipment, on conduct at the range and understanding the types of commands you’ll encounter, and on sanitation, to ensure lead and chemical exposure are properly addressed (including a reminder if, like me, you indulge in the occasional cigar after handling guns). You'll find legal considerations. And of, yeah, Petrolino doesn’t neglect to address the one topic that's most important of all: The Second Amendment.
So: Who should buy this book? New gun owners, for sure.
And you should. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a beginner. Not all of us put the same amount of emphasis on every type of gun or every type of shooting, and it never hurts to have an extra resource. As such, it’s a valuable addition for every gun owner’s library and is a particularly useful tool to have if you occasionally take friends or family members shooting. Perhaps you’d find it helpful to loan them your copy before you take them, or perhaps you’ll want to encourage a new gun-owning friend or relative by buying them a copy of their own.
I’m actually surprised I liked it this much—I’m not a hardware guy and focus almost exclusively on rights through the lens of current cultural and legal events. I hope this review helps in getting the word out within the gun owner community and especially in generating enough interest so people will check it out for themselves.
About David Codrea:
David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating/defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. He blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” is a regularly featured contributor to Firearms News, and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.