This has to stop. Now.

This past weekend brought more news of so-called accidental shootings with firearms. Without researching exactly how many, I know this puts just the state of Arkansas at more than one fatality and more than 10 injuries in the past six months from unintended firearms use.

People, this has to stop. Now.

As a preface, though, this is not an anti-gun rant. In truth, this is an in-house rant directed at my fellow gun owners, with that fear of being hoist on my own petard later.

Hoist on my own petard? You know, that’s about gunpowder, too, come to think of it.

Coming back to the point at hand: those of us who own firearms, we are responsible for the usage of those firearms. You own it, you own the responsibility for it.

Leave it loaded? You are responsible to keep it out of a child’s hands.

Taking it to the store? Or gun show? You are responsible for making sure you don’t shoot someone there.

Carrying it in the car? On your person? You are responsible for what happens with that weapon.

Now, a firearm that was reasonably stored and was still stolen, that’s on the thief…but if you left it laying on your car seat in midtown at mid-day, and it got filched? You did that.

You are responsible.

The decision to own a firearm is the decision to behave responsibly with it. This is not rocket science. Keep in mind what you own: a firearm. What is it?

Simply put, as we have taught our children, a firearm is a tool for making living things dead.

That’s it. A tool for making living things dead. Like a hammer is a tool for hitting stuff really hard, a firearm is a tool with a purpose inherent in its design. Drop a hammer on your toe, and it’s painful. Because it’s a tool for hitting stuff really hard, it’s not really the hammer’s fault, either, is it?

Likewise with a firearm. It’s a tool for making living things dead. That’s the inherent design of guns.

For example: I have a rifle that has been used to make living deer dead. They then process onward into my freezer. It’s a happy exchange. I have friends who use shotguns to do the same with ducks.

However, those firearms are just as capable of making living people dead as they are game animals. Who is responsible for that?

The person who pulls the trigger. When I shoot a deer, I am responsible if another hunter is standing behind the deer and I shoot him, too. I may not be guilty, but I am responsible.

I also own a handgun. I have a permit that legally clears me to have it with me in multiple states. When I do have it with me, it weighs more heavily than the One Ring on Bilbo at his eleventy-first birthday. Why? Because I am responsible for walking or driving about with a tool that is designed to make living things dead.

What if I choose wrongly? What if I am just careless?

My fellow gun owners, we need to wake up. We need to take responsibility for the tools that we own. We cannot prevent every firearm crime—there are too many illegal guns on the streets. Neither can we carelessly and unilaterally disarm ourselves—there are too many illegal guns on the streets.

Yet we need to evaluate our own behaviors. Are we storing safely? Are we teaching our children safely? For the record, assuming your kids won’t be curious what’s in Daddy’s sock drawer is foolish. Take the mystery away, don’t build it.

Teach. Proactively, smartly.

Then consider visitors. We had dear, dear friends with us last weekend. They have my four favorite children in the world after my own. These kids are well-behaved, polite, and because of their family situation, pretty unfamiliar with firearms.

So I shifted storage locations to make sure that everything was secure, rather than risking a child walking in with a gun and asking “What’s this?” with her finger on the trigger.

We have to think.

Think. Consider the worst possible thing that could happen, and strive to prevent it.

We are responsible for what happens with our firearms. If you plan on using one for self-defense, whether carried or home-based, you need to practice and prepare. You need to consider your shooting lines, your reasons for doing so, and how you are going to avoid confrontations rather than shoot your way out.

We have to train.

Train. Train your temper under control. Train your macho down.

Train.

The life you save by having a firearm may be your own. The life you save by teaching, thinking, and training may be someone else’s.

A quick observation: I firmly believe that responsible, personal firearm ownership is right on the verge of being a civic duty as much as a basic right. Look at Syria, Egypt, the Thirteen Colonies and recognize that being outgunned by the government does not work well. It has been necessary before, and it will be necessary again.

If you look at the history of empires, there is often this loop. First, independent people with arms carve out a new nation. Sometimes by conquest, sometimes by finding mostly vacant land. Their arms protect and provide.

Then, it is necessary for this fledgling nation to take up arms against a greater nation. Perhaps the Mother Country of a colony, perhaps the neighbor who wants to rule. Either way, arms are necessary, and are matched with organization.

Down the line, the nation establishes enough prosperity and security that the possession of arms becomes the profession of arms, and internal and external security is maintained by a select group. Either by rule or practice, the average citizen gives up being proficient in arms.

Then the whole thing falls apart. Either a corrupt group takes power—sometimes through legal manipulation, sometimes by force, or an outside power conquers. Either way, the existing security forces no longer protect the people.

After some time, either the tyranny fails of its own, or the invaders leave with the loot, or the people tire of living that way. And what do the people need? Arms. Either to form their own security due to the vacuum of power or to drive out those who tyrannize them.

The stop in this cycle, which ebbs and flows across history, is when the people retain their arms. An armed populace slows down the slide and discourages the invader. An armed populace can function to hold on to societal structures.

However, the arms are not the only thing necessary. Hearts and brains are crucial.

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