There are a lot of groups and organizations that require you to be sponsored by a member in order for you to join. They introduce you to the group, actively support you becoming a part of the body and share in responsibility when it comes to your actions. You are their patron. Joining the gun world isn’t as official as some organizations, there’s still an obligation on your part to ensure a safe, smooth entry into gun ownership.
Your responsibilities begin the moment a friend or family member asks about “getting a pistol.” For example at dinner with some friends last week, the husband asked me about what handgun he should buy. “What are you wanting to do with it,” I asked? Application should always be first when advising someone else – or your own acquisitions. “I need it,” he responded, “to kill someone breaking into my house.” And so it begins.
“First,” I replied, “if it’s necessary to shoot someone, you shoot to stop the threat, not kill.” This was followed by a lengthy explanation on the difference between shooting the stop the attacker – who may die as a result of your actions – as opposed to premeditated homicide. Next was a short explanation on how avoidance and escaping are at the top of the list of response options, and shooting is actually the last choice.
I carefully explained that training is mandatory for anyone acquiring a firearm, regardless of how they intend on using the weapon. Most of you reading this might be surprised how few firearm owners know, or practice the four firearm safety rules. The actions necessary to employ a firearm safely and efficiently are not instinctual – the majority of them are completely counter to our intuition – training is mandatory. I work this requirement into the conversation as early as possible, stressing that without training one would be much better off not buying a dangerous weapon. For those interested in defensive use of a firearm there’s even more training required.
Your task as “sponsor” is to not only offer advice, but assistance too. Strongly suggest they join you for a session on the range, an introduction to firearms. Offer to visit the gun shop with them to handle and if possible test fire prospective weapons. Guide them to the proper instruction they need, unless you’re a certified, qualified instructor yourself. It’s a good idea to even join them in their first official class.
Remember, part of your job as a sponsor is accountability. It’s your job to ensure the new convert stays on path. This includes additional gear they’ll be purchasing. “Before you buy anything,” I tell prospects, “ask me first.” Not only does this save them mental anguish, but also keeps them in budget. There’s nothing like having to buy something two times due to not getting it right at first.
Helping newbies achieve their goal means prompting them to practice. After training comes practice – repetition – which is when the real learning occurs. Encourage them to join you for regular range sessions to hone their developing skills.
Recent events have resulted in a gun buying frenzy. As representatives of the “gun owner” club, it’s our job to ensure new members are well prepared. The best way to do this is through sponsorship. Just keep in mind this is a serious undertaking, and should be approached accordingly.
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, which is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary. He is the author of The Book of Two Guns, AR-15 Skills and Drills, has a regular column in American Handgunner and makes some cool knives and custom revolvers. Visit Shootrite’s Facebook page for other details.