This is the final part in a series. Be sure to check out parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
While tackling issues of poverty, homelessness, unemployment, mental health, bigotry, and police brutality definitely goes a long way towards alleviating gun violence at the root, it still doesn’t account for the violence caused from ignorance and a general lack of gun safety. Arming marginalized people is only a useful solution to combating hate crimes if the person knows how to properly handle their chosen weapon. In this final part, we will the importance of learning gun safety and where to find resources to learn more.
Proper Gun Control
First thing’s first, know your gun. If you’re going to own a gun, do your research and learn as much as you can about how it works, what the safety features are, how to take it apart, how to clean it, etc. If you do not know about a certain type of gun that crosses your path, do your research or ask someone more knowledgeable for help before handling it for the first time. Guns are not something to just pick up and hope you can figure out. One wrong move could easily lead to injury or death of you or those around you.
Learning how your gun works and how it is assembled also makes it easier to perform regular cleaning and upkeep for your firearm. Every time you fire, the bullet leaves residue in the barrel of the gun. Given enough time to build up, this could lead to misfiring and other annoying and sometimes very dangerous malfunctions. Remember, the average gun fight only last about 6 seconds so misfiring could literally be a matter of life and death.
Storage is also a very important factor. When carrying be sure your gun holster is properly in place and that your gun fits correctly in the holster. Avoid cheap holsters that can slide or break. Your firearm can more easily slip out of sleeve style holsters while running or moving. For best results search for high quality holsters designed for your specific firearm or consult others in the concealed carry community for tips. Kydex holsters come highly recommended by many gun owners due to the fact that they are easy to clean, do not have the “break in” period that leather holsters have, and they maintain their desired shape over a lifetime meaning your firearm won’t have room to wiggle loose. For home storage, be conscious of children, those with dementia, those who are a suicide risk or a risk to others, potential thieves, or any other dangers present in your situation. For most, a gun safe is the best option but sometimes a simple locked drawer can suffice. Some gun owners who do not need to keep their guns away from others in the household may wish to keep their firearms more accessible for home or personal protection but it is always good to be aware of your surroundings and the safety standards that best fit your situation. For gun owners who have kids, the NRA’s Eddie Eagle series, while being unabashedly pro-cop, is still a rather decent crash course for children on what to do if they find a gun: ”Stop! Don’t touch! Run away! Tell a grown up!”
When actually carrying and/or shooting, it is important to remember the following rules, as laid out in Piece Now, Peace Later: An Anarchist Introduction to Firearms:
- ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. This is the primary rule of gun safety. A safe direction means that the gun is pointed so that even if it were to go off it would not cause injury or damage. Don’t point a gun at another person even if it is unloaded. A gun pointed at the ground is safer than one pointed in the air; better to shoot your own foot than for the barrel to drop and shoot your friend in the head.
This is commonly known as muzzle or barrel discipline and is one of the first and most important things taught in any quality safety course.
- ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. When holding a gun, rest your finger on the trigger guard or along the side of the gun. Until you are actually ready to fire, do not touch the trigger.
This is also known as trigger discipline. This is one of the first rules taught alongside muzzle discipline in any quality firearms training. Place your finger in the side of the barrel or on the trigger guard until you are aimed at your target and ready to fire. Get these two rule down first and foremost and the rest will follow from there.
- ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. Whenever you pick up a gun, immediately engage the safety device if possible, and, if the gun has a magazine, remove it before opening the action and looking into the chamber(s) which should be clear of ammunition. If you do not know how to open the action or inspect the chamber(s), leave the gun alone and get help from someone who does.
“Ready to use” may be defined differently to every gun user. Those who mainly use their firearms for hunting or sport shooting may keep their firearms unloaded until they plan to use it for a hunting trip or shooting event. However, those that use their firearms for self-defense may wish to leave one in the chamber at all times, not knowing when they will need to be ready to use their gun in self-defense. Just make sure, if you choose to carry with one in the chamber, that the safety is on and your holster is secure. Regardless, it is essential to treat all guns as if they are loaded.
- NEVER train with firearms while intoxicated in any way. This is just common sense, but is worth making explicit.
Despite Piece Now claiming this is common sense, you still see a few drunken target practices when you live in the country. Just remember that firearms can be deadly, so be careful when engaging with them.
- Know the range of your weapon and the kinds of barriers the bullet will penetrate. Some rifles can fire shots that travel over two miles; don’t underestimate the range only to end up shooting in an unsafe location. Knowing what kind of barrier a bullet from a certain kind of gun will pierce is worthwhile for both safety and self-defense reasons. The next time you have to hide from some angry dude with an AK, you’ll know not to duck behind some dry wall or a wooden pallet (‘cus they won’t help you).
This is useful knowledge whether you’re setting up a home range or engaged in a gunfight. The last thing you want when you’re engaged in target practice is for a stray bullet to pierce through your target and go flying through your neighbor’s yard or into a public area where someone could get injured or die. Know your target as well as what is around and behind it. Remember that you can miss and bullets do sometimes ricochet. Knowing what types of bullets can pierce what also helps you know the difference between cover and concealment. Cover will stop bullets and provides safety when being shot at while concealment provides little to no actual stopping power but rather conceals your actions, giving you some advantage over the other shooter. Cover can always double as concealment but concealment can’t always double for cover.
Safety courses and tactical trainings are also always a good idea. You cannot learn to properly shoot or safely handle a firearm just by reading ‘zines, books, and online articles. Most gun stores provide or know individual instructors or groups who provide safety trainings, concealed permit classes, and more advanced tactical trainings. Unfortunately the NRA and local police departments tend to hold a near monopoly on professional licensed firearms training in certain areas. So even though many marginalized gun owners rightly have reservations about the NRA, due to their history of fighting to disarm the Black Panthers, their near endless right-wing pandering, their failure in directly addressing Philando Castile’s murder, and their pseudo-fascistic ads which encourage arm resistance against the left, they are still more desirable than the police. Besides, the NRA is not a monolith of belief and also has a history that includes the Black Armed Guard, Deacons for Defense, Colion Noir, and support for organizations such as the Pink Pistols and Black Guns Matter so we can’t be quick to assume every NRA member is right-winged or a bigot of some sort, as some folks like to paint the picture. The NRA also offers online training videos such as their YouTube series, Firearm Science which provide useful tips and information. Operation Blazing Sword also has a map of LGBTQ friendly firearms instructors and ranges, some of which offer free or discounted training for queer folks looking to learn self-defense.
In addition to officially licensed trainings, there are many gun clubs, militias, and shooting organizations which train together. There are LGBTQ groups like the Pink Pistols and Trigger Warning, POC groups such as Black Guns Matter, Black Women’s Defense League, the National African American Gun Association, and the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, anti-fascist groups like Redneck Revolt/John Brown Gun Club and the John Brown Militia, or more general leftist groups such as the Liberal Gun Club and the Socialist Rifle Association. These groups offer a safe space for marginalized people and their allies to learn and train together within or outside of traditional gun communities.
The final piece of safety information I can offer is to know your local laws wherever you plan to have a firearm. The NRA-ILA website is a fantastic resource in that respect. Be sure to know the laws in your area surrounding purchasing, carrying, transporting, and using your gun. Figure out what your legal rights are in case you wind up in a situation where you have to defend yourself so that you don’t get kidnapped by the state authorities for an act of self-defense like Marissa Alexander and countless others. Given the corruption in our “justice” system however, it is recommended to have a lawyer on hand if at all possible just in case a self-defense situation arises. There are also some legal aid plans out there such as U.S. Law Shield or the NRA’s Carry Guard program which provide legal representation and other resources for a small monthly fee but always do your research to be sure you are receiving quality services.
It is my hope that none of your reading this ever have to use a firearm in self-defense but I also hope that you understand why the right to self-defense is an absolute necessity in the fight against bigotry. We cannot allow hate crimes to go unchallenged and we cannot rely on the police and prison systems which target marginalized communities and amplify the violence they already face. Gun rights are civil rights and civil rights are necessary for the freedom of the oppressed to be a reality.
Piece Now, Peace Later: An Anarchist Introduction to Firearms
Negroes With Guns by Robert F. Williams
Politicians Love Gun Control by Sweet Tea
Desire Armed! by Kansas Mutual Aid