I have a fire extinguisher in my truck at home. Do you know how many times I've used it? Zero times. And why do you suppose that is? I've never needed to. Of course, I look at the little dial every so often to make sure it still has a charge in it, but that's about it. It sits under the seat. It's dusty, it gets scuffed every so often, and overall, it is there "just in case." Will I ever use it? I don't know. I own a Dodge, so I might have to someday. But until that day comes, I don't see a need to use my fire extinguisher at all.
Guns, on the other hand, are not fire extinguishers. They are complex tools that require training to operate proficiently. The instructions aren't generally labeled on guns. On my fire extinguisher, the label says: remove pin, squeeze handle, and sweep at the base of the fire. Not a whole lot there. Guns aren't something you just sweep around pulling the trigger, hoping that something will come out of them. They require practice, discipline, and responsibility.
There are three key things that any gun owner worth his or her salt should address regularly:
This goes back to the opening statement of this blog. All too often, people buy guns and never use them. They will carry a concealed weapon they've never fired, they will store a gun and not touch it for years, they will go shooting but once a year or every blue moon, and they will not invest in some formalized or structured training. To make yourself an asset to the community, you must take your gun out and practice often. Unless you can hit your target without use of sights, under stress, or in darkness, then you are a liability to the community. If you cannot unload and reload quickly and efficiently, then you aren't much help to anyone. My father taught me that with every gun I own, I must be able to unload and reload it in the dark or with my eyes closed. Additionally, if you've never been taught to shoot by an expert or someone with solid knowledge, then you should take the time and invest in real training. As with all things, training does you no good unless you practice practice practice! You WILL lose your ability if you do not keep up on it.
Again, this comes back to the first line in this post. Don't just lock your gun up and never shoot it. Guns are made to shoot. They will actually deteriorate in storage. They need to be periodically fired, inspected, maintained, cleaned and sometimes you have to repair it. To be safe, and not be a liability, this is just another responsibility in a long list of responsibilities of the gun owner.
Before you even think about buying or carrying a gun, you need to bone up on your legalese regarding state law, local codes, right to carry, and qualifications. The rules aren't hard to understand, but there are a lot of them. To be in compliance with the law, you need to be sure to follow them to the letter. All too often, people who are otherwise law-abiding citizens have had the book thrown at them because they made honest mistakes regarding firearms and the laws that surround them. Don't become a legal statistic. Learn the laws and follow them!
A good resource for Washington State Laws is the book, Washington State Gun Rights and Responsibilities, by Dave Workman. Workman has gone through the steps to get all the laws, responsibilities, legal interpretations, and all the pertinent RCW's for Washington in one book that is easy for the lay person to understand and implement. Buy it! It is a $10 investment that pays dividends every time you are within the confines of the law.