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Gun culture

Mark Easley | Wednesday, January 25, 2012

“Don’t get that Red Ryder BB gun. You’ll shoot your eye out.” Everyone remembers the famous line from “A Christmas Story.”

However, there are two interpretations of this sage advice: Avoid the gun altogether and you won’t run the risk of hurting yourself or others. But another alternative is to teach Ralphie to be responsible and safe with his BB gun, so that he can still have fun. Enter the gun culture.

Like the previous example, there are always two camps: the ones that neglect to use a tool because the perceived risks outweigh the benefits and the ones who use a tool because the benefits outweigh the risk.

Gun culture is a strange thing to most folks here in the United States, which is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because in day-to-day life many of us don’t need to use them to defend ourselves, and it can be argued that the ignorance can lead to an overall safer society. However, it is a curse because in America, citizens with good track records have the right to own a firearm, yet many of us do not.

Now why would one want to own a gun anyway? Well, for all the reasons you would expect. 1) It is totally hardcore. 2) It is fun to shoot things recreationally. 3) It is an effective tool for defending an individual or community against outside threats. 4) It is an effective tool for hunting animals for sustenance. The forefathers most likely granted us the right because of the third reason, but don’t discount the power of the others on the list.

Now, gun culture is a lot like gym culture. It is difficult to get into and figure out what is going on. There are those that are really into it and those that vehemently oppose it. While working out your muscles may not be a good parallel to using firearms, it does illustrate that it can be tough to educate people about the benefits if you can’t even get them through the door because they are intimidated. Yes, guns can be scary, and you must always be aware of the dangers they impose, but that doesn’t mean they serve no good purpose. They protect good people as much as they empower bad people.

Owning a gun is a simple process. One must only be a U.S. citizen with no felonies. For handguns, you must be 21 years of age and depending on your state, you may have to get a permit. For shotguns and rifles you must be 18 years of age, but a permit is not typically required. Laws vary by state and are subject to change. You can only legally purchase a firearm from a Federal Firearms Licensed dealer who will confirm with the Department of Justice on your legal right to purchase after you fill out some simple paperwork. Typically guns can be purchased at gun stores and shows, but they can also be found at pawnshops, sporting goods stores and online (shipped to an FFL in your area).

Guns, defined by their most fundamental function, are tools of personal protection. One typically buys a firearm to defend his life from those that might wish to rob him of it. They also provide other applications that make them useful in a survival situation. While owning a gun does not guarantee you will be able to save your own life, it does give you more options when a conflict arises.

Choosing the right gun can be a complicated process. There are many different types for different applications.

For personal defense of your home, a shotgun is excellent because of its bullet spread and power. Handguns are also good because they are smaller and easy to carry and use. Rifles are best for hunting or being able to engage multiple targets from a distance. They come in all sorts of styles and calibers.

Like any major purchase, you should research online or with professionals about what you are looking for and which guns have a proven track record of reliability and functionality. There are plenty of resources available to give you the best information on firearm reviews and safe gun handling.

Once you have a firearm you need to find a place to shoot with it. There are usually ranges, both indoor and outdoor, in most areas that give you a safe place to practice. Your local gun store or Google are good resources to find these places. There are also gun clubs and private land that allow for shooting. Like any activity, it is good to get plugged into the local community to share tips and make your shooting experience more fun.

Take advantage of your freedom and exercise your right to bear arms. Whether for recreation or the feeling of self-reliance, gun ownership will give you a good feeling inside. Don’t knock it until you try it.

Mark Easley is a senior computer science major. He can be contacted at measley@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.