Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Can you help me understand how gun ownership helps?

I recently spoke with a woman who lives in New Jersey. She had some great questions about gun ownership. Her questions were so good that I decided that the answers should be shared with others who might be in a similar situation. Please let me know if this helps you and if you have comments on anything else that I should have mentioned.

Before I answer her specific questions, I want to make a general argument about how gun ownership can help people.

Gun ownership is like wrestling in water - it levels the playing field. A 110 lb woman who pulls a gun out of her purse can instantly stop two 250 lb drug crazed rapists. Gun ownership allows citizens the ability to protect their life and property from criminals. Police will rarely be in a position to stop a rape, a mugging, or a car-jacking. In these situations, only an armed female stands a good chance of surviving unharmed.
Even a grown man is no match for a group of hardened hoodlums intent on hurting him or taking his property. However, a single gun in the hands of someone who is not afraid to use it can quickly quiet the most obnoxious hoodlums.

Today's criminal is a parasite. They prey on the weak. They will attack in garages, on quiet streets, in school parking lots, in empty homes, while you are carrying groceries, and while you are pushing a stroller. They are looking for the quickest "score" where they will meet with the least amount of resistance. Simply having a gun on you may raise your awareness and confidence to a degree that a criminal will sense that you may offer too much resistance. Whose walk do you think would be faster and appear more nervous; The girl walking down a deserted street alone, or the girl with her hand in her backpack holding her gun and looking around for danger?

On a national level, gun ownership helps by presenting an unspoken warning to government. The second amendment was written so that citizens would have the means to confront a tyrannical government and so that the non-military people (the militia)could quickly assemble as a standing army in the event of a foreign attack. It has been shown that states that grant their citizens a permit to carry concealed weapons see a sudden drop in violent crime. This is because the criminals are unsure who is armed and who will offer resistance. I contend that governments harbor that same fear. If every person in America was armed, we would have a more polite society and we would have a government that was not so quick to take away our rights.

I believe in personal responsibility. Making a decision to carry a gun is the first and most important step in taking personal responsibility for your self-defense. If you are not willing to make an effort to protect yourself, why should anyone else be willing to protect you?

Now here are the questions -

Q - When my friend and I started inquiring about gun ownership, it seems as if there are so many restrictions that I can't see the practical value. Maybe that's only because of the laws in NJ.

A - It is not just NJ. There are many states that absolutely do not want their citizens armed and put up as many restrictions as possible. Reasonable people understand that this will not prevent criminals from getting and using guns. In fact, over regulation of gun laws almost guarantees safety for criminals. Remember this; the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Any law that contradicts the constitution is invalid. It was not written to prohibit the freedom of the people but to keep the government from abusing the power granted them by the people. The bill of rights is not a list of privileges; it is a list of natural rights that the government is forbidden from infringing upon. No government has the right to prevent you from the means of self-defense.

Q - For example, if I got a permit to buy a gun, what would I have to do to be able to carry it?

A - First of all, I urge you NOT to get a permit - EVER. Not because I suggest operating outside of the law, but because the law has no authority to grant that permission. It is your right to keep and bear arms. The permit is a way of allowing local NJ law enforcement officers to play God and decide who should and shouldn't be able to have a gun. It is also the main way of creating a local database of gun owners. Simply applying for a permit will add your name to that list. If you do not believe me, I can send you proof. They are now using these databases to confiscate legally purchased guns in Chicago, and CA. But, to answer your question, once you have obtained a NJ permit to buy a gun, you must buy a gun within 72 hours (maybe it is a week?) or you have to go through the whole process again. This is not about safety, it is about control. When you go to buy the gun - only from a licensed dealer (FFL)in NJ, they will then make you fill out another set of forms for a background check. This now puts your name into a national database. Then, after you "own" the gun, you must keep it in your home or in a locked box. If you then want to carry it (good luck in NJ) you will need to get permission to take a concealed carry class. Upon passing that class, your name will be put into another database, and the state will make you get a new drivers license which indicates that you are a concealed weapons carrier. In addition, you will have to get a CCW permit that is required to be on your person any time you have the gun with you. Of course, this is all moot, because unless you are personal friends with a politician in NJ, there is almost NO CHANCE that you will get a NJ CCW. I will make my recommendation at the end of this message.

Q - If I couldn't carry it, what use is it to me?

A - Absolutely none when you are most likely to need it. However, you could still have it on your property and when traveling. More on this later.

Q - Even in my house, if I can't keep it easily accessible and loaded, how will it help me protect myself?

A - It won't. As anyone can see, these laws aren't made for your protection, they were made to control you, increase revenue, and protect government employees. It also becomes a shopping list to break into your home and steal your weapons. Knowing NJ, if your stolen gun were then used in a crime, it would be your fault and you would be charged with failure to carefully secure a dangerous weapon, or some such nonsense. I don't know if this would happen, but I wouldn't put it past them.

Q - I guess an unloaded but real gun pointed at certain potential criminals would scare them off, but can I carry it even unloaded?

A - No. In NJ, it doesn't matter if it is loaded or not - you can not carry it or brandish it without permission. Besides, are you willing to gamble and point an unloaded gun at a criminal? What if he calls your bluff?

Now, here is another option. If you are like most people, with the exception of a courthouse and an airport, your bag has never been searched and you have never been "frisked". With that in mind, how great a risk are you really taking if you start carrying a weapon? The only reason you would ever use it would be for self-defense in a life-threatening situation. Chances are that in that situation, there would be no one there to see you use it anyway. Even if there were, a ticket for carrying a gun without a permit is much better than being dead. Besides, most juries will find you not guilty if the gun were used for self-defense.

There are a few things that I recommend if you intend to carry a gun.
Get shooting lessons. Try shooting several different guns and pick the one that you like the best, are most comfortable with, is easy to conceal and use, and offers the greatest protection. The cost is the least important factor. A gun carried properly, is a good form of life-insurance and will outlast anyone you know. This insurance can be passed down for generations or sold later at a profit.

The following suggestions are answers to hypothetical questions that I offer as suggestions.

1. How to get a gun if not from a local dealer? - From another state. Many states still allow for the private sale of firearms to residents of that same state. The legal definition of a resident is someone who lives in that state or intends to live there and is in the process of moving to that state. You also may be given a gun from a friend or family member. Do not register it, do not tell anyone about it. Through a private sale is the only way I would ever suggest getting a gun. It is the only way that you can be sure you and your gun will not be on any government databases. - By the way, when congress approved background checks, they did it with one condition. The condition was that there would be NO NATIONAL DATABASE of gun owners. The FBI, SBI, and BATF have violated that condition from day one. They have refused to destroy these records that congress insisted be destroyed "immediately".

2. What about Gun Safety?- Again, I suggest taking lessons outside of the nanny state or from a competent person in the privacy of your own home. As a certified NRA instructor, I am certified to give firearms instruction and would gladly do so in someone's home. If that person did not want a certificate or any record of that training, I would have NO problem at all with that and would even reduce my training fee. For close friends or family, I might even waive my fee.

3. How do I Carry the Gun?- You can carry either on your body, in your bag, or in your vehicle. If on your body, find at least one comfortable holster that can be worn everyday. If this is your plan, it is important to get a gun that is easy to conceal. If in your bag, weight and size are also an issue. You might consider sewing an extra pocket in your bag to allow easier access in the event of an emergency. In your car - This is important. If you carry on your body or in your car, I suggest a combo-locking briefcase. If you are in the car alone, lay the gun in the briefcase on the seat next to you - but leave it unlocked. It will be within reach if needed. If for any reason you get stopped by police, close the briefcase and lock it before the police come up to your car. Next, get out of the car and lock the car behind you. Current law allows Law Enforcement Officers (LEO) to search your reachable area. If your car is locked behind you, it no longer poses a threat to the LEO. Even if you can not get out of your car and the police DO search your vehicle, they can not search the briefcase without a warrant. REFUSE to open the case regardless of any threats that the LEO makes. Tell him you don't have the combination. In order to "legally" get into your briefcase, the LEO will need probable cause. See that your car in neat order and that there is nothing in view that will give them probable cause to get a warrant. The book "You and the Police" by Boston T. Party offers great suggestions and more information on this.

4. What about Practice? - I suggest lots of practice. Practice indoors with NO AMMO. Practice handling, loading, putting the safety on and off, pointing, getting it in and out of the bag or holster. Practice dry-firing to improve your skill, practice sighting and "point shooting", and develop confidence with your guns. Practice as often as you can. When you are ready to practice shooting at targets, find a quiet private range away from your local area. The idea is so that you want no one you know to see you there. Remember, you don't want anyone to know that you have a gun. There are lots of places in PA or upstate NY where you can practice and not be bothered. I may even be able to help you find some places.

5. What if I Need to Use My Gun?- Chances are very small that you will ever need to use it, but the idea is to always be prepared for that chance. If you feel that your life is threatened or that you may be in for severe bodily harm, you can legally use the gun to stop that threat. If raising the gun and shouting "STOP NOW!" ends that threat - and it usually does, then you can be on your way. If it does not, then shoot to kill. This is important. The law says that you can use it to stop an imminent threat to life or limb. Therefore, if you only shoot to wound, it can be argued (and is argued) that the threat was not that great. However, if you shoot to kill (even if you only wound them) you are within the law and will be acquitted. Because of the legal ramifications, I would strongly suggest that you never use your gun to protect those that you do not know. In the event that you do use it in self-defense, what you do next will be a big decision. What happened? Did someone rescue you? Did you shoot? Do you stay or go? Do you call the police? These are tough questions that only you can answer. I believe the answer depends on the situation. Either way, it will be stressful. Although statistics are tough to find on this, I believe that the ratio of shooting the perp to ending the conflict by just pointing a gun is around 20:1 - In other words, in only 5 out of 100 cases do people actually have to shoot to stop the treat. These are great odds. Plus, if the odds of survival are 0% without shooting, the decision to pull the trigger should be an easy one. I would rather be alive to argue about it than dead.
Consider the following:

• Chance of being searched by LEO and them finding a gun - almost none.
• Chance of you ever having to kill with your gun - almost none
• Chance of survival with gun if attacked - significantly greater.(especially for women)
• Penalty for having un-permitted gun in your possession - insignificant, maybe confiscation of gun and upto $150 fine.
• Cost of following the letter of the law - Permit $250, additional cost of buying a new gun from dealer $200, Background check $75, CCW permit $75 (if even possible), cost of being on databases - almost certain confiscation of gun, probable insurance increases, future license renewals and fees, and potential increase of break-ins.

In my mind, there is ample reason to purchase and carry a gun without jumping through legal hoops and making a target of yourself. If this is your decision, I will help you in any way that I can.

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