Heidi Yewman, a Brady Board member, decides to try carrying a gun for a month, deliberately wallowing in ignorance. Some of you may have already seen this article, because I’ve seen it circulating around some other blogs. I’ve been sitting on it trying to figure out what to say about it, since I think what Heidi Yewman is doing here is extraordinary enough to be worthy of more lengthy commentary. I commend her for taking something like this on. It’s pretty apparent that guns make her very uncomfortable, and I’ll commend anyone who’s attempting to push their comfort zone and maybe try to learn something, and develop some understanding. But suspect her point is more that licenses to carry are too easy to get, to which I say, “So what?”
If we treated carrying a gun like we treated driving a car, all you’d have to do is show up to a police range near you and demonstrate some basic competence in handling a gun. In most states I know of, all that’s required for a license is to pass a basic driving skill test. I never took Drivers’ Ed. My parents taught me to drive. Driving, which I would point out the state regards as a privilege rather than a right, is something most of us learned via informal instruction from other drivers rather than through formal training. Most state law is fine with that. Not the case for guns, which the state recognizes (in theory) as a right. Yet for all the anti-gun machinations that we ought to treat guns like cars, if we really did, I doubt they’d find the regulations stringent enough.
I did not grow up in a gun household. I was introduced to shooting by an uncle as a kid. As an adult, I informally learned how to handle a firearm safely from a friend, who had learned from his father. I bought a Ruger Mk.II and went to the range a lot. The four rules are and a little initial supervision to make sure you practice them are honestly all the instruction you need to start training safely on your own. The rest is just buying advice and legal issues. After getting comfortable with a .22, I got a Glock 19 and shot the hell out of that too. When I started carrying a firearm, I had no formal training (Pennsylvania doesn’t require any), but I could have easily passed a police qualifier, and I understood the basic law of self-defense.
The thing Heidi Yewman needs to understand is that my story is pretty typical, whereas hers is not. Most people have the sense to know when they need help, and are in over their heads. Without a friend available who was familiar with guns, I probably would not have taken the plunge on my own. Even she was smart enough to track down a police officer for help, rather than fumbling around trying to clear her pistol with dangerous ignorance. This is what anyone with half a lick of sense would do.
But I don’t particularly approve of how she’s going about all this. “Look, I am an untrained person who is dangerously ignorant of how to safely handle a firearm,” is basically her argument. I would strongly advise her to take a training course, regardless of what the laws from her state demand.Â But if it’s a good idea, why not mandate it? That’s the next place she wants to bring the audience. That’s her point. The answer is going to be a very hard pill for those like her to swallow: the kind of person who isn’t bright enough, or self-aware, or responsible enough to know when they should seek help and advice is going to present a problem no matter much training you mandate. Heidi Yewman knows running around in public, openly carrying a gun she does not know how to operate (let along safely operate) is unwise and hazardous. Her instincts are that of a responsible person. Training will, at best, produce an irresponsible person with a training certificate. They will always be irresponsible and foolhardy, because it is their fundamental nature. It would be nice if we could prevent these people from voluntarily taking on any weighty responsibility, like carrying a gun, driving or reproducing, but in a free society we don’t prejudge people and deny them rights based on gut instincts and hunches.
Also, the high cost of training (300-600 dollars, in many cases) is going to ensure the poor can never exercise their rights. At most the state should only test for competence, and it ought to pick up the tab for citizens to qualify. Likewise, It would be less of a constitutional insult, for states which require training, to provide it gratis. Someone truly concerned about what Heidi Yewman is concerned about would push for that, rather than pushing to simply increase the cost of exercising a right. I wouldn’t hold my breath, however. The real complaint is that anyone can do this at all. Given that, I’m going to keep pushing to lower the costs of exercise of the right by removing as many barriers as I can get away with.