As I follow the on-going gun debate in this country, one unspoken assumption seems to be that anyone can buy a gun anywhere at any time. Although the recent mass shootings show that bad people can get guns legally, as part of finding the middle ground, I want to explain what I had to do to get my license.
We all have rights, but those rights need to be earned. “Freedom isn’t free” is a popular catch phrase, and I think that is true when it comes to responsible gun ownership. State law says that the chief of police in each town grants the license. While this certainly has the potential for abuse, I think that the rules here are a good starting point.
First, I had to have no criminal record, be over 21, and not have been treated for mental illness, drug addiction, or alcoholism. I also must not have any protection orders or outstanding arrest warrants. This is common sense stuff, and I agree with it.
Second, I needed to submit a letter detailing the reasons I wanted a gun license. That’s pretty reasonable. I was advised to use that language that I wanted a license ‘for all lawful purposes’ so as not to exclude anything, but I also detailed the reasons in my earlier post. That was reasonable both to me and the police department. I highly doubt that the shooters from Tucson and Aurora ever submitted a letter like this. It is also a way to open a line of communication to demonstrate that you know your rights, and understand your responsibilities.
Third, I had to prove my citizenship and residency. Again, these are both reasonable requirements as I am exercising the rights of a citizen in a particular place.
Four, I needed to prove that I completed an approved firearms safety course taught by a certified instructor, approved by the Colonel of the State Police. An approved safety course should be mandatory for everyone wanting to own a gun. If anyone thinks this is unreasonable, then I doubt we will ever find common ground. If you want to drive a car, then you take a driving course. It should be the same with guns. My course covered safety rules, loading and unloading guns, cleaning them, gun laws, and we even talked about teaching children what to do if they see a gun. Having it approved by the Colonel of the State Police means that standards are in place. The Nation Rifle Association’s course meets those standards.
If I wanted a ‘target shooting only’ license, then I needed to belong to a gun club. I joined a gun club anyway because I wanted a place to practice. To join the gun club, I had to attend another safety class and then demonstrate safe gun handling on a firing range.
Five, I had to submit two letters of reference from people saying I would be a safe and responsible gun owner. I think that if this requirement had been in place where the mass shooters bought their guns, then the United States might have had three or four fewer massacres. Really, if you cannot find two people to say you aren’t crazy, then you probably should not have access to guns.
Six, we had to go through background checks and interviews with detectives at the police department. Again, this was another way to check people out to ensure they are okay to own guns. The detectives that interviewed me were professional, friendly, and most importantly struck me as fair people. You need to pass a driver’s test with a qualified instructor, so an interview is not a hassle.
What I hope to show by this is that even though the process was a little long, it was not impossible or unreasonable. It makes sense to have a safety class, a background check, and letters of reference. I think these things could have helped prevent tragedies. Note that in Colorado, there was one gun club that did not grant a shooter membership. Unfortunately, he already had his guns.
At the same time, I had two safety classes, a range test, a background check, and multiple interviews. I have earned my right to own firearms. I should keep that right unless I abuse it or do something wrong. The idea that it is all or nothing is unacceptable to me and should be to any reasonable person.