I’ve been teaching and instructing, on and off, for more than 20 years now. Two of my degrees are in education. I have multiple certifications from several organizations as a firearms instructor. And I love to learn new things just as much as I love to share information with others. So you would think that I’d be 100 percent on board for mandatory training for those who want to own and use firearms. But I’m not.
Having firearms is a serious responsibility, and I think gun owners would benefit from a course in the safe, proficient and legal uses of a gun. In that respect, firearms classes would certainly be useful and likely very helpful. But although I completely and wholeheartedly support firearms safety and education for everyone, it’s the “mandatory” part with which I have serious issues.
Who’s in Charge?
Aside from the fact that required training infringes on the Second Amendment (and our natural, inalienable right), my concerns are with the training program itself. Who would be in charge of said program? Who gets to create the classes or decide what curriculum is taught? Would there be specific time requirements to complete the course? Would there be a passing grade?
I’m pretty sure that at first, the courses would be pretty basic … and probably pretty fair. (After all, many states currently require classes before you can get your CCW permit.) But what happens when someone in charge (who doesn’t like guns) decides that the requirements to own firearms are too lax? Or what if “the powers that be” determine that certain makes or models of guns are too dangerous and no longer allowed? If mandatory training were in place, these anti-gun people would simply have to tweak the training (maybe even a little at a time) and incorporate rules, regulations and requirements that could possibly weed out almost everyone who owned — or wanted to own — a firearm.
What About Japan?
What if these people decided to operate like they do in Japan? Without a license, a person in Japan cannot even hold a gun in his or her hands! And to legally own a gun (as detailed in David Kopel’s 1993 study on Japanese gun control), you first have to attend an all-day class (held up to three times a year) and pass a written test. Then you must successfully complete a shooting class (with a score of 95 percent or above).
After that, would-be gun owners must go to a hospital for a “simple mental test” and a drug test. These must be filed with the police, attesting that you are mentally stable and not addicted to drugs. In addition, you will also have to pass a rigorous background check for any criminal record or association with criminal or extremist groups. (They will also check your relatives!)
Only then will you be allowed to purchase a shotgun or an air rifle (no handguns allowed!) — oh yeah, so long as you provide police with a map of your home, showing the specific locations of the gun and the ammunition, which must be locked and stored separately. And lest we forget: The police will need to inspect the gun and storage areas once per year, and you will need to re-take the class and the exam every three years.
Why Do We Care?
I’m very glad I don’t have to go through all the hoops required for gun owners in Japan. But it amazes me that people in America would not want to seek out information on how to be physically, legally, financially and morally safe with firearms. According to a study from the University of Washington School of Public Health, only three out of five American gun owners have had formal firearms training. While this study only surveyed roughly 4,000 gun owners, it still produced some lackluster numbers. In fact, the results seem to show that people who own guns for self-defense and home protection (57 percent for handgun owners and 47 percent for long gun owners) were less likely to have received training than those who own guns for hunting and shooting sports (approximately 68 percent).
For gun owners, training should be taken very seriously. We should definitely support it, promote it and do it ourselves. But we must also walk carefully. Pushing for mandatory classes can easily backfire. And with those requirements, we could one day end up with classes so difficult and so rigorous (and possibly also so expensive and so time-consuming) that none of us would be legally allowed to have firearms anymore.
All in all, it’s definitely important to be armed. But it’s just as important to be armed with knowledge — knowledge of how to be safe and responsible with firearms and knowledge of how to keep that right intact.
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About Beth Alcazar
Author of Women’s Handgun & Self-Defense Fundamentals, associate editor of Concealed Carry Magazine and creator of the Pacifiers & Peacemakers blog, Beth Alcazar has enjoyed nearly two decades of teaching and working in the firearms industry. She holds degrees in language arts, education and communication management and uses her experience and enthusiasm to share safe and responsible firearms ownership and usage with others. Beth is certified through the NRA as a Training Counselor, Chief Range Safety Officer and Certified Instructor for multiple disciplines. She is also a Certified Instructor through SIG Sauer Academy, ALICE Institute, DRAW School, TWAW and I.C.E. Training and is a USCCA Certified Instructor and Senior Training Counselor.