Last Thursday, a family milestone was reached. It wasn’t really significant in and of itself but it was pretty neat.
On June 13, 2019, our younger son, and my namesake, took delivery of his first handgun.
The gun was purchased over the Internet from a dealer out of state. In accordance with federal law, the gun was shipped to a federally licensed dealer with whom I have done business for a while.
I went with went to the dealer with my son. He filled out the Form 4473 Firearms Transaction Record required since 1968 by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; handed the dealer his driver’s license to be recorded on the form; and waited while the dealer requested a background check from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
In about 15 minutes, the NICS operator sent back a “Proceed” decision; the paperwork was completed; we paid the transfer fee; and we went home.
My son was now the owner of a new Colt Series 80 Government Model pistol in .45 ACP caliber. It’s essentially the same handgun as the M1911 and M1911A1 that were the standard sidearms of the U.S. Army for more than seven decades and is still in limited use today, more than a century after its adoption. It’s also a favorite among many gun owners and is carried by a large number of law enforcement officers, including more than a few Texas Rangers.
My son has been interested in the .45 caliber for a few years. He has fired semi-automatic pistols in some other calibers but he has never fired a .45 pistol. While I like Colt revolvers, I haven’t owned a Colt pistol since long before I met his mother.
He has been shooting for several years and is very good about safe gun handling and proper range etiquette. He also has a safe in which to store the pistol.
It wasn’t until later that I remembered my first handgun. It was also a Colt: a Trooper MK. III in .357 Magnum that I bought on my 21st birthday 48 years ago.
It is actually kind of cool: My son and I chose the same brand for our first handgun.
It wasn’t planned. Will wanted a .45 pistol but the caliber was the only definite. Pistols from SIG Sauer, FN Herstal, and Springfield were also considered. They are all fine, high-quality handguns that would last more than a lifetime but Will liked the 1911 pattern. I told him that I had always had good luck with the Colt pistols, but they were kind of pricey these days. 1911-style handgun prices can go well beyond $2,000.
Fortunately, an online brokerage had a listing for a new Colt Government Model with a small blemish and the price was right. I have used this brokerage several times and I like the fact that their policy requires that all firearm transactions be processed through a federally licensed dealer, even if the buyer and seller are in the same state.
We took the gun home and I showed him how to disassemble, clean and lubricate the pistol. Then it was locked in its safe.
So why am I sharing this with Medium readers?
Because it’s normal. It’s not deviant behavior; it’s not a threat to public safety; it’s nothing like it is all too often portrayed.
It’s something that happens millions of times every year: a person buys a new gun and the world goes on. In fact, according to Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting, an estimated 36 million new guns were sold during the three years from 2016 to 2018.
I am sure that some will be aghast and accuse us of being part of the problem of the epidemic of gun violence.
To which I reply, “What epidemic?”
My wife and I have four children. I looked at U.S. homicide rates reported by the FBI dating back to 1950 and calculated the average rate over the first 18 years of each person’s life.
Me (1950*): 5.44 per 100,000 population
Wife (1958): 6.84 per 100,000 population
Child #1(1982): 8.05 per 100,000 population
Child #2 (1984): 7.78 per 100,000 population
Child #3 (1990): 6.79 per 100,000 population
Child #4 (1997): 5.42 per 100,000 population
Over the 18 years from 2000 to 2017, the average rate was down to 5.23 per 100,000 population.
If there was what would count as an epidemic of violence, it ended a while back.
The CDC has data of firearm-related homicides going back to 1981. Since the latest data is for 2017, that means there are three 10-year periods we can compare to get the truth about gun violence.
1988 to 1997: 5.87 murders with guns per 100,000 population
1998 to 2007: 4.05 murders with guns per 100,000 population
2008 to 2017: 3.92 murders with guns per 100,000 population
Looks to me like real gun violence plunged 33% from the bad old days.
I know, I know, I am not including suicide. Why? First, because suicide is not a threat to public safety. Second, the percentage of suicides using a gun has declined while the percentage of suicides by suffocation has jumped. Third, because the so-called remedies, including red flag laws, don’t seem to be reducing the total number of suicides and they are all equally tragic, no matter how they are committed.
How about accidents? In 2017, the estimated population of the United States was more than 325 million. There were an estimated 350 million guns. In that year a total of 486 fatal injuries as a result of accidental firearm discharges were reported to the CDC.
By sharing the news about my son’s first handgun I wanted readers to get some idea of how it works; why it’s routine — because it happens all the time and has happened for centuries.
*I had to adjust my average because I was born before 1950, so I just used the first 18 years after 1950.