You Just Bought a Firearm for the First Time, Now What?

With all the craziness going on right now I bought a firearm for self-defense, now what?

OK, you have decided to take that big step and buy a self-defense firearm for home or carry. Or you may have gotten one for Christmas or went out and bought one for yourself as a present to yourself. No matter if you already have one, or are thinking of getting one, you need to be a responsible firearm owner. What does that entail? Well, take it from someone that has owned and used firearms for more than 40 years and as part of my daily life, both as a police officer and firearms instructor, GET TRAINED!

The very first thing you should learn if you are thinking of or have a firearm are the four cardinal rules of gun safety. These rules apply anywhere in the world and recognized as being the basis for all gun safety and gun training. Memorize them, follow them and make others who are near you follow them also and you will never be harmed or harm anyone else with a firearm unintentionally. Here they are, they are simple and easy to remember and to understand:

  1. Treat all firearms as they are loaded, regardless if they are or not!
  2. Never point a firearm at anything unless you are willing to kill or destroy it!
  3. Always identify your target, and what is beyond it!
  4. Keep your finger off of the trigger until you are on target and ready to shoot!

I make my police recruits memorize and repeat these rules before they ever are allowed to touch a real firearm in the police academy. And then we enforce these rules with no exceptions! That is why we have never had anyone injured in the 20+ years I have been teaching firearms at my academy. If a police recruit violates one of these rules, they can, and we have, remove them from the academy. Firearm safety is that important. So as a citizen learning to handle and use firearms for the first time, or even some that have been handling them but never bothered to know these rules, you MUST FOLLOW THEM!

Every case of unintentional discharge of a firearm, except mechanical failure which is exceptionally rare, can be traced back to someone violating one or more of these simple rules. SO as a new firearms owner you MUST know these and follow them all of the time. Even when you are alone or are sure a firearm is unloaded and safe, treat it like it’s loaded, never point it at anything that you don’t want to destroy, and you will never harm anyone you do not intend too!

The next important act you take as a responsible firearm owner is to secure your firearms and ammunition when it’s not in use. Especially when you have kids around the house. If you have kids in the house, you need to teach them the four rules above. If you teach those rules at a young age and they follow them, you will never be in the news as a tragedy of a child shooting themselves or a friend with a firearm. Securing them can be done one of several ways. A gun safe is probably the best (and most expensive), but not everyone can afford them. If you bought a firearm for home defense, it’s kind of defeats the purpose of locking it in a large slow to open safe. You can have a firearm secured and yet quickly available if you buy a rapid access safe. I have a Hornady Rapid Safe myself on my nightstand that has my home defense firearm in it. It opens with a RFI wristband I wear or a quick finger combination. Either way its fast and yet secures the firearm from prying eyes. I also carry a firearm on me at home most of the time. Some people wonder why and think this is over the top. Well as a former police officer and having gone to more than my share of home invasions, home invasions do not happen elsewhere. They happen in the home and carrying a firearm while in the home is one way to help protect against that. No, I am not paranoid, I am a realist. No place is completely safe these days. No neighborhood is immune to crime. So being armed while home is something that is an individual decision, but imagine if you do become the victim of a home invasion and you could have protected yourself and your family, but choose not too. You have to live with that decision; I choose to be ready even if it is a little inconvenient. I would not be able to live with myself if something happened to my family and I would have been able to prevent it but decided not to bother.

So you have memorized the rules and follow them. You have secured your firearm when not using it or carrying it. And now you are thinking of carrying it one you when you leave your home. Becoming one of the millions of citizens that have decided to carry a firearm on them while out away from home. Either openly or concealed (depending on what state you live in) is a personal choice and sometimes is decided by what activity you are doing, but regardless you have decided to take that next step and protect yourself and your family from becoming just another victim of the criminal element that is out there these days and has no regard for your life or the life of those you love. You should try to remember that it is much more tactically sound to try and fight an armed criminal with a firearm than it is with harsh words, or worse, on your knees begging for your life and that of your family!

Take a firearms course from a reliable instructor in your area. Check around and ask others that you know have been trained who they recommend. Make sure you do not take one of those hour long, gun show courses that are nothing more than a way for them to make money. You need to remember that your life and the life of your family may rely on the training you get. And are they not worth a few more hours of your time and a bit more money if needed? Check out the instructors. Google them, ask around or ask for references. Make sure you are completely satisfied with your instructor’s credentials and what they teach. There is a huge difference between a good firearms course and one that is put on by instructors looking just to make a buck. Remember just because an instructor has this or that certification does not make them a great instructor. So check them out, do your due diligence and be satisfied you have checked them out. There are outstanding instructors out there. I still take courses from other instructors when I can. You are never too old to learn, and never will learn everything there is. Training is a lifelong endeavor.

So now you have learned the rules of firearm safety. You have gotten a firearm and taken some good instruction on how to use it and do so legally and safely. Now you need to know, study and follow your state’s laws on carrying firearms. You do not want to be arrested for something you did not know about.

If you follow those simple steps to responsible firearm ownership, you are one of the citizens that can truthfully say they are ready to defend themselves and their family.  Good for you! I know full well that cops cannot be everywhere and sometimes take minutes to respond to life and death situation, and more often than not arrive after it’s over. Let’s hope that when they arrive you are the one still standing and you have protected your life or the life of your loved ones legally and successfully!

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