At a recent gathering of gun enthusiasts, a vendor approached me with the finest compliment I have yet to receive — and it was all about you, the readers of this column. This vendor, who sells his firearms-related products all over the world, told me this: “The people who attended the USCCA Concealed Carry Expo were the smartest and best consumers I have ever met. No one walked up and just grabbed the guns; they asked permission first. No one put their fingers on the trigger when they weren’t supposed to, and everyone asked very intelligent questions about the product. You have wonderful members and very smart consumers at your show.”

What an amazing feeling. Getting an unsolicited comment like that from a person who has seen this industry from every angle and watched it closely for decades really made me smile. It reinforced the idea that we here at the USCCA are doing things correctly.

We have been telling people for years that the mission of our organization is to provide self-defense education and training to responsible gun owners. Notice that education comes first on that list. There is a reason for that. Self-defense is for the thinking person. It is not, as many anti-gunners would have people believe, a matter of 12 million lunkheads strapping pistols on and walking around looking for a fight. The vast majority of those of us on the pro-gun side of the ledger do things correctly. Not only that, we actively seek information on how to always do things correctly. We follow the laws. More importantly, we follow the safety rules, and we consider the ethics and the morality of our actions.

My guess is that no one reading this column really wants to be involved in a gunfight. If you really, honestly want that, get psychological help. It is not our mission in life to be looking for a fight. Situational awareness and conflict avoidance are the keys to survival. Remember, to fight is to risk death. As my grandfather always told me when he saw me doing something stupid, “It’s a long time dead.”

But lest you think I am advocating for cowardice, know that I am not. I am advocating for personal restraint used in conjunction with what I consider the most important elements of a person’s character: knowledge, wisdom and bravery. It is not cowardice to avoid a fight. That, my friend, is wisdom.

If, however, you cannot avoid a fight, you must win that fight. That itself takes knowledge and bravery.

All of this makes me rightfully proud of the work I do with the USCCA and rightfully proud of the people who have chosen to become members of this great organization. Each of you is here because you really want to learn more about the correct way to protect yourself and your loved ones. That makes you great people in my book. So, when I say, “How can I help you?” I really mean it.