Guns are dangerous. This is how I start my discussion of firearm safety in our Free Concealed Carry Classes. It seems like an obvious statement, and it should be. It’s the reason I carry the gun in the first place, this dangerous item has the capacity to cause death or serious injury with minimal effort. It’s part of the reason why guns are the ‘great equalizer’, it allows an under sized, under skilled or otherwise under capable person to defend themselves from someone who wants to inflict their will upon them physically.

While it would seem obvious to say that guns are dangerous, a lot of gun owners do not treat them that way. We see gun owners buy guns for important benefits like preserving their lives but without any understanding what it takes to control a gun to manage the inherit risk of owning the gun. Today I want to talk about why learning to control your gun is so important.

Most of us learned how to drive in our teenage years, and have continued driving in the years and decades after. Like guns, cars are inherently dangerous. The focus when we teach teenagers how to drive is to learn the basic functions of the car and how to CONTROL the car in all situations. We don’t teach our kids a set of 4 rules about the car, then leave them alone with the keys. We spend weeks working with them to develop the skills of controlling the speed and direction of the car, as well as cautioning them about the dangers inherent in any situation they encounter. We stress that if they make bad decisions or do not pay attention they will hurt someone and will lose their ability to drive. I’m sure some of you readers learned the hard way what happens when you don’t take the responsibility of the car seriously. I did.

When it comes to guns, a great many gun owners will focus on their rights to have and carry guns. They are not wrong. As human beings, we possess the natural right to arm ourselves however we can manage, provided you don’t hurt the wrong person. But in that strict focus on our rights, many of us forget to also respect the responsibilities that come with those rights. Since no one is sitting over our shoulder to ensure that we are learning to properly control the gun, laziness or ignorance drives us to not take those responsibilities seriously. As a result I see an astonishing number of gun owners who do not possess the simple set of skills to control their guns. Control may mean controlling the muzzle of the gun in EVERY situation, or maintaining a safe position of the trigger finger when handling the gun. Control also means keeping the gun in a safe place when not in use.

Guns left unsupervised pose a very serious risk. You may not believe that your unsupervised gun is dangerous but nobody volunteers to be victimized in a burglary. Guns represent risks for children, people dealing with mental health problems or for a criminal who would gladly liberate your gun from your possession given the right opportunity. Just like a car in the hands of someone with ill will or lack of good judgement is dangerous, guns in the wrong hands are extremely dangerous. Part of the right of owning the gun is the responsibility to keep it safe. If we don’t, eventually we shift that responsibility to someone else. In our modern society, that ‘someone else’ will end up being the government.

Colorado passed a safe storage law last year and now under Colorado law, gun owners are required to lock up their guns under certain circumstances. The government has no business telling me how to keep my guns in my house. But thanks to too many concrete examples of kids getting a hold of an unsecured gun, the law made enough sense to the legislators to get it passed and signed. That was in part because enough gun owners decided to ignore their responsibilities.

If we don’t take our responsibilities seriously, someone else will. Gun ownership is not just about your rights. For the sake of everyone, make controlling your guns a way of life. It matters.