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!

Gun Rights Under President-Elect Trump

This article was originally posted on OpsLens.com on Nov 21st, 2016.

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By Chris Wagoner:

As the country begins to breathe again after the election night sweats, from a very close, yet definite win by now President Elect Donald Trump, what does it mean for all of us that voted based on the loss of our rights over the last several presidencies and our fear of sanctions and laws banning our Second Amendment rights in some form or fashion?

During his campaign, President Elect Trump, at various times, voiced differing opinions on what he thought about our Second Amendment rights. He did, however, always stick by the fact that he was in support of the Second Amendment and the right of the people to defend themselves. Well he should, since he is a concealed firearms license holder. I wonder if he will be carrying during the next 4 years at all. I highly doubt it, why bother when you have some of the best personal protection professionals in the world (the Secret Service) protecting you and your family. But will that make him change his views on the 2nd Amendment? I doubt that as well it.

What I do know is during the weeks and months leading up to the inauguration President Elect Trump said that he was interested in pushing for a National Concealed Carry Reciprocity in all states. It’s easy to do. See cops around the nation enjoy the privilege of the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) which allows police officers or retired police officers to carry concealed firearms in any state anywhere that the law allows officers in that same state. Which is pretty much everywhere not prohibited by federal law. You have to requalify yearly, and have an ID or letter from your retired agency stating you are in good standing. But nothing else is required and the qualification course is not standard throughout the US. It depends on the state you are in.

In Florida, it’s a very easy course of fire (meaning qualification test) and you get issued a card that is maintained by the FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) Instructor that qualified you, and it’s good for one year from the date issued. But it’s not the same as a Concealed Carry License in Florida which requires minimal training, and is good for seven years from issue. So the Florida Concealed Carry License is actually better than a LEOSA carry card for cops in Florida.

So, what about this national reciprocity and how easy would it be to do? Just fashion it after the LEOSA as far as rules and details go, and you could institute it in your first 100 days as President Mr. Trump! Require that the person have a state-issued valid concealed firearms license and that by doing so they are entitled to carry in all 50 states where not prohibited by federal law. Simple.

If President Elect Trump wanted to make things even simpler, he could ask Congress to pass a pre-emption law that bans states from regulating firearms at all based on the Constitution guarantee of “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” meaning that States may pass no laws regulating the possession of firearms and that Federal Laws must be within that simple framing of the Second Amendment. This could then guarantee that any adult has the right to own and possess a firearm and carry either openly or concealed if they so choose.

But wait! Oh the horror that would ensue if he did that! Think of all the shootouts and the blood in the streets that would follow “constitutional carry”! Well in reality that is not what would happen. No shoot outs, no blood in the streets, none of the other dire predictions would come true. How do I know? Simple, look at history and the states that already have it. Ten of our fifty states already have “constitutional carry” including: Vermont (since 1791!), Montana, Alaska, Arizona, Wyoming, Arkansas, Kansas, West Virginia, Idaho, and Mississippi all have it. With another twenty-two states planning on introducing the bills in the coming year according to gunlaws.com. So, why not just make it the law of the land?

It’s very hard to understand how we got so far off track. What other right do we have to buy back from the government to exercise? None.

So, as President Elect Trump meets with President Obama he should begin to formulate his plan for the first 100 days of his presidency. And in doing so he could make a huge leap in the right direction by giving the American people back something that they lost some time ago in many states, the constitutional right to “keep and bear arms” as promised and made into the supreme law of the land by our founding fathers! Let’s make America great again and give us our freedoms back!!

Is it Too Easy to Buy a Firearm in the U.S.?

This article was originally published on OpsLens.com on Nov 10th, 2016.

By Chris Wagoner:

Well, I have to tell you what inspired me to write this Op-ed was how blatant the misinformation and fear of an inanimate object can drastically alter perception versus reality.  In many cases, out of such fear, people do, say, and write extremely uneducated things about topics they know very little about.

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I read a story written by Helen Ubinas, a journalist (@Notesfromhel), who, the day after the Pulse Night Club shooting, wanted to see how easy it was to buy an AR-15 rifle. What she failed to realize, if that she should have educated herself about firearms and how to purchase them before trying to write a story, is that law abiding citizens can purchase them in an efficient manner. The title of her article kind of gives you an idea of the slant that it takes, “I bought an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in Philly in 7 minutes.”

My first response to that title was that is pretty good customer service for most gun stores! My problem I have is I know all the guys and girls in my local stores and I always spend an hour or two or three just shooting the breeze and talking about guns and training. So, to be able to buy an AR-15 in 7 minutes speaks highly of the shop and the system as a whole. First let’s be clear; she is not a prohibited person. She is not a wanted or convicted felon. She is not addicted to drugs or alcohol (at least she swore to that on the ATF form) and she has not been diagnosed as mentally incompetent. So why should she not be able to buy an AR-15? Did she have evil intentions? No, she thought she was proving a point. And she did, but maybe not the one she meant to. More on that later.

So, she walks into a Philly gun store and tells the sales person she wants to buy an AR-15, but is on a budget. She goes onto say how “insanely easy” it was to buy the gun, fill out some paperwork, undergo a background check, and once passed pay for the rifle and out the door she went. Now, at this point is where she went terribly wrong with her whole premise. She says that the easy access to guns is why we have all the problems, murders and various other ailments in the US (even though Murder is at an all-time low over the last 25 years or so, according to the FBI UCR Reports on Violent Crime). She states in here article “If it wasn’t so appallingly easy to get a gun in this country, it wouldn’t be easy for the next gunman to deliver the kind of carnage that’s as much a part of this country as the American flag.” She goes onto mention the Newtown, Conn shooting and says “If it wasn’t so easy to get a gun in this country, another gunman who came before him wouldn’t have been able to use the same kind of firearm to kill elementary-school children in Newtown, Conn.” REALLY!?! Did she not research her story at all? The Newtown, Conn mass murderer shot his own mother to death to gain access to guns. He didn’t go buy them at a store.

Many people do not understand firearms because they fear them and don’t think rationally or try to understand something they are afraid of. I was always taught that if you face your fear and try to understand it, you will no longer fear it. I had a simple experiment that she could have done that would have helped her understand how it’s the person not the firearm that is the problem. Load that new rifle, place it in an obvious place in your home and watch it very carefully! It will not shoot and kill anyone, it will not go out and commit a mass murder, and in fact it will not even go off, not once! You see it’s the person behind the trigger that is the issue, not the firearm itself.

Ms. Ubinas took her firearm to a local police department and turned it over to them. Well at least law enforcement got a new firearm to use. And now in the hands of one of the officers, that same firearm she was so afraid of could be used to cause death and mayhem, could actually save a life. She proved her own premise was nothing more than just plain lack of education on firearms and fear, unreasonable, unwarranted fear of firearms.

Over the years, I have told more people than I can count that firearms are not evil. They are not mass murderers, and they do not kill people. It’s the person behind the trigger that is the issue. I carried a firearm for more than 36 years now, and had to use mine three times to defend my life or the lives of others. The firearm I used had nothing to do with the shootings, other than being the tool I had to use at the time to protect myself and others. Firearms are NOT ALIVE and DO NOT DECIDE TO KILL. I get so tired of trying to explain to people who have this irrational fear of firearms for some reason that they are not bad, evil things. They are tools that are used by many people for good and righteous things. Protecting lives, hunting for food (I only hunt what I eat), and for sport.

I invite Ms. Ubinas to join me for an afternoon at the gun range for some instruction and shooting time. I think that after actually seeing how safe firearms can be, when handled correctly and by people that are not intent on mass murder, she might have more information to base her writing on. You see firearms availability is not the issue. Firearms with 30 round magazines are not the issue, and the looks or design of the firearm is not the problem. Evil in the hearts of some people is the problem. After all of my years as a cop, I have seen the evil that one person can do to another. Pure unadulterated evil, and it has nothing to do with the tool used. I have seen humans use knives, bats, ice picks, pipes, boards, swords, and all manner of other weapon used to kill and mutilate other humans. It would not have mattered what was used, the person that committed those acts would have done so regardless of the availability of firearms. Education is the key to understanding the issues as they exist in reality.

Ask yourself these questions and if you can answer them, then you are way more informed than the supposedly professional journalist. What percentage of firearms deaths is done with a rifle vs. handgun? What percentage of all murders is done with a firearm? What weapons are used more than firearms? You can find the answer to these and other questions you may have in the FBI’s Report on Violent Crime in America. What you may find, may (or may not) surprise you. Firearms are not the issue that they are made out to be. Millions of firearms are in the hands of law abiding citizens and never have caused, and never will cause, any injuries or deaths. It’s not the firearm that is the issue, it’s the person behind the trigger. Make guns illegal and only criminals will have guns, since they don’t follow the laws anyway. Don’t let fear run your life and blind your intellect.

As I said before Ms. Ubinas was trying to prove a point, that it is easy to buy a firearm in the US. She is partially correct. For a person who is not a felon, not addicted to drugs or alcohol, not deemed mentally incompetent and is otherwise known as a law-abiding citizen in most circles, it should not be difficult to buy a firearm. Again, she simply proved the store she chose for her “experiment” followed the rules, did the background check, and had impeccable customer service!