I was reading an opinion post the other day asking why people on either side of the US gun control argument can’t talk to each other. I think there are multiple reasons, but one that stands out to me is fear of guns and lack of knowledge about their safe use and handling.
I’m a gun owner and enjoy shooting at the range. I grew up with brothers who were expert marksmen, and there were always guns in the house, so maybe I just can’t relate. But I am surprised at the frequency with which I hear people say they would be terrified to have a gun in their house.
Here was my reply to the original post; in particular this sentence by the author, which I thought highlighted the problem nicely:
"The gun owner is confident in his ability to control his weapon and the other person who is backing off, knowing the gun can accidentally go off."
This comment reminded me of several dog bites I've suffered from dogs whose owners thought they had control of their pet. I think people often overestimate the amount of control they have over their surroundings, be it their dog, their gun, or their car, with the result that someone else gets hurt.
So I'll suggest that some laws requiring formal training before a gun can be purchased, and a minimum number of hours of practice per year to keep it -- as we do with our cars -- might be worth considering for all US states. Maybe it would increase the comfort level between the sides the OP defines here.
When my brothers started teaching me to shoot, they told me that anyone owning a gun for self-defense needs to practice with it frequently, because it's not as easy to shoot another human being as you think, and it's not unusual for a home invader to get a gun away from the homeowner.
I know people who've bought a gun, never shot it, and tucked it away in case of an intruder. Common sense goes a long way toward safety in general, but it won't get you familiar with what a 9 mm can do in your hands.
That was the end of my original comment; then someone replied to me suggesting that a training period was a bad idea, because it would keep guns out of the hands of people like battered women, who could use them in self-defense if they could obtain one in a more timely manner than my idea suggested.
I thought that comment illustrated my point perfectly. A battered woman who is untrained in handling guns would be one of the most high-risk people I can think of to arm. Typically she is already in a pattern of behavior with her abuser in which she yields to him in an attempt to pacify his anger and minimize the harm he’ll do to her.
I'd argue that this is not someone we want holding a gun she’s never fired. He’ll get it away from her like the proverbial candy from a baby, and then things are going to get worse for her, because he’ll make her pay for her audacity in thinking she could stand up to him and – worse yet – cause him harm. The harm goes in only one direction, and he’ll have to teach her that lesson more effectively now.