“You wouldn’t believe what happened at the airport the other day,” said a friend of mine in low, confidential tones. “I was flying out to a match and went to TSA to check my competition revolver. I showed it to the agent and went to lock it back up when she asked me if she could pick it up. I thought that she merely wanted to inspect it further, so I opened the cylinder so she could see it was unloaded, closed it again, and handed it to her.”
My friend took a deep breath. “Then she picked it up in both hands, pointed it right at a woman walking by, and sighted down the barrel at her. With her finger on the trigger. My heart dropped into my shoes so fast I thought I was going to pass out.”
If you don’t own guns (or even like them), you may not know why what that agent did was such a terrible breach of gun safety. But you should—whatever your personal position on firearms and their place in society. Here’s why. 1. They’re everywhere. Guns are a fact of life here in America. Estimates vary, but anywhere from one-third to one-half of Americans own firearms. Statistically, what that means is that many (if not most) gun owners don’t match the popular stereotype that may come to mind when you think “gun owner.” We are represented across all social and economic strata, gender and race lines. This means that chances are quite good that you know someone who owns guns.
2. Yes, you might see one. This is true even if it doesn’t seem that anyone in your social circle would own a firearm. Many gun owners are hesitant to reveal to friends and family that they have guns. Perhaps there is a stigma against it where you live; perhaps they don’t want to casually reveal that they are in possession of these valuables; perhaps it simply hasn’t ever occurred to them to tell you about it. All of the above means that it is entirely possible that you or someone in your care may see or discover a firearm at some point in your lifetime.
3. You prepare for other unlikely events, don’t you? You don’t ever plan on choking on your food, but you probably know how to give the Heimlich Maneuver. You don’t intend to ever have a grease fire in your kitchen, but chances are you know how to put one out if you have to. You paid for roadside assistance, but you still know how to change a tire. Why shouldn’t you and your children know what to do if you find Granddad’s old Ithaca shotgun while you’re helping him clear out his basement?
4. The NRA has been teaching Americans about guns longer than anyone else. The NRA was founded almost 145 years ago, in 1871, by two Union Army veterans who were dismayed at the lack of marksmanship their troops displayed. In all that time since, our mission has been to teach people the safe and effective use of firearms. The NRA has more experience than any other organization in offering the practical, real-world advice you need.