In times like these, with increasing uncertainty over economic, political and social issues, people react in a number of ways. As people become apprehensive about such problems and how they might be affected, they also seem to become more concerned about their physical safety, as well. Currently I am seeing a renewed interest in personal protection by citizens of our community, and this is by no means unique to any one area. Local seminars about personal safety and self defense, whether sponsored by local law enforcement agencies or private training providers, are well attended and generate some very enthusiastic discussion. Inevitably, even at seminars where firearms are not specifically discussed, someone will ask about buying a gun for protection. The same questions are being asked directly to police officers, often by their friends, family members or other people in the community, who see law enforcement professionals as experts on firearms.
Often they are not, of course, but the public sees them carrying a gun every day, so the assumption is made accordingly. Regardless of how the questions are presented, and whatever the level of your expertise, it is a good idea to have a reasonable answer ready. In many communities the police are supportive of people owning guns for self protection. But, I say reasonable answer because in some areas, the police don't think that ordinary citizens should be allowed to own guns. If someone is seriously asking the question, they aren't looking for a dismissive answer or condescending response that says, in so many words, We don't think you can handle it. I'd like to make a few suggestions that should be useful, regardless of where you stand on the possession and use of firearms by the citizens of your community.
Realistic Need Assessment
One of the first things you should address is whether there is a realistic need for someone to own a gun for personal protection. I'll tell you up front that there are many instances where there is a definite need. I'll also tell you that there are cases where someone has exaggerated their situation, overreacted to some limited situation or became alarmed listening to rumors or gossip. As a professional who has the responsibility to protect and serve, you need to be able to realistically evaluate the factors that are influencing the person, or people, and help them decide if their concerns are valid. If they are, your advice should be appropriate to the circumstances.
Too often police agencies don't want to recommend that people buy guns because they don't want to be seen as endorsing the use of deadly force. By the same token, how can we morally and ethically advise someone that what they want to do, exercising a constitutionally recognized right, is the wrong thing to do? While I don't advocate that police tell everyone who asks to get a gun, I also think that if the circumstances might call for the use of deadly force, it is irresponsible to discourage a person from being adequately protected. I realize that it is easier to just say no when someone asks. But if no is the wrong answer, you need to be honest and guide the person accordingly.
You often hear the advice to never say never or never say always, but here is one always for you: Whenever someone asks me about ANY self defense tool, whether it is a firearm, OC spray, Tasers, other weapons or unarmed defensive tactics, my first advice is ALWAYS: Make sure you have received training in the use of whatever tool you have selected! Every self defense tool or technique has its proper uses and improper uses. The most responsible advice you can give starts with this admonition. It is also good advice if you are concerned about liability. Always recommend that a person understand the choice they have made and how to properly apply that choice. For example, one of the most basic considerations about owning a gun for self protection is: can you make the decision to use it if you are faced with deadly peril? Can you take the life of another human being, if necessary, and cope with the consequences? Can you safely and responsibly handle and use a firearm? Will you participate in proper training? If you can't, or won't, then don't buy a gun. Seek alternatives and be prepared to protect yourself in other ways. What other ways?