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Graphic by Bill Cawthon

This was a question posed on Quora. What follows is my response with some minor editing.

Is it wise to own a handgun? That’s a question only you can answer. If you have never owned a firearm, it is definitely a question worth serious consideration.

Assuming that you are legally able to own a handgun, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

First and foremost, do you want a handgun? Don’t buy a handgun (or any firearm) if you don’t really want it. Always remember to include your spouse, partner or significant other in your considerations before heading to the gun shop. They’re going to be a big part of the gun-owning experience.

As for children, if there are any in your household, they’re not part of the decision to own or not own a firearm. I can hear the shrieks of indignation already, but what I am saying is true. Some authorities, including the NRA, say it’s actually best not to tell small children that you are thinking about getting a gun or to tell them if you do. With teenagers, there may well be discussion after purchasing a gun, but even they don’t get a vote. You and your partner have the only opinions that count for the simple reason that you are the ones that must bear all of the responsibility.

Next, why do you want a handgun? There are lots of perfectly acceptable reasons but this is an important question. If you are concerned about personal safety, there are alternative strategies you can learn to minimize your risk of being a victim of an attack; things you can do to make your residence more secure and there are alternative personal defensive devices. Many of these are good to know and do even if you do decide to own a gun because they can significantly reduce the possibility you might need to use it.

On the other hand, if you like handguns or have always wanted to learn to shoot one, that’s a dandy reason to own one.

Third, can you afford a handgun? A new, high-quality, entry-level .22 caliber rimfire pistol from a reputable manufacturer retailed for somewhere between $330 and -$450. This will get you a Beretta, Browning, Ruger, Smith & Wesson or Walther pistol. Larger, centerfire pistols and revolvers usually cost quite a bit more. There are less expensive guns but I have experience with all of these brands. Beretta has been around for nearly 500 years, Browning and Smith and Wesson passed the century mark years ago and even Sturm, Ruger & Co., the relative newcomer, celebrates 70 years in business in 2019.

There is also the additional cost of a secure storage device. All new handguns come with a cable-type lock but a lock box or safe offers much more security.

Add in the cost of a cleaning kit, hearing protectors and shooting glasses and you are probably looking at about $450-$550 more for the total package, not including ammunition and separate secure storage for it.

Keep in mind that the gun and storage device are one-time expenses. Buying quality from the start will get you a gun you can hand down to your children.

Are you willing to commit to safe gun handling and storage? In 2017, 486 people, including 57 children under the age of 12, were fatally injured by accidental gunshots and thousands more were injured. Accidental discharges caused by a mechanical failure of the firearm itself are very, very rare. Virtually all of the deaths and injuries were caused by stupidity and were completely avoidable. “I didn’t know it was loaded” is never an acceptable excuse. Never.

Every new firearm comes with an owner’s manual that includes all of the safety basics along with the instructions for proper maintenance and disassembly procedures. Remember RTFM (“Read The F***ing Manual”); it can save your life or the life of someone you care about.

Every gun is always loaded — even in the store. You are the only person in the entire world who can check and verify that there is no ammunition anywhere in the gun. I can always tell when a clerk needs some extra training: if they hand me a gun without opening the cylinder or jacking back the slide, they need to be shown the error of their ways. There is no such thing as checking a gun too often.

You are always responsible for any gun you own. If you have children or teenagers, you cannot be careless, even for a moment. They can’t hurt themselves or anyone else with a gun they can’t access.

The only place for a loaded gun in the home is on your person. Not in a drawer, not under the bed, not in a purse or briefcase. In the first place, it’s the obvious place to keep it for defense because it’s immediately accessible. Second, if it’s on your person, you can be sure it is safe from curious hands.

If it’s not on your person, spend the money to get a biometric safe.

Are you willing to devote the time and money (ammunition, range fees, etc.) to learning how to shoot well enough to hit what you are aiming at? Of all the types of firearms, the handgun is the most difficult to master. (Always remember to wear eye and ear protection when you are shooting.)

Among the most dangerous people in the world are the ones that buy a handgun and a box of ammunition, load one into the other and consider themselves prepared. As Jeff Cooper once said, “Having a gun doesn’t make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician.”

A bit of advice: If you are buying your first handgun, do not buy one of the small centerfire models, such as a Smith Wesson J-Frame revolver or one of the “mouse guns” in .380 ACP or 9mm caliber. The virtues that make them so good for concealed carry also make them very unpleasant, even painful, to shoot. If they are unpleasant to shoot, you won’t shoot them, which means you won’t become proficient with them.

This is the last one, but it is important. Are you willing to comply with your state laws and local ordinances pertaining to firearms? Violating some of these could strip you of your rights to own a gun for the rest of your life. Depending on where you live, it can be very challenging to become a handgun owner. It can even be challenging to remain a handgun owner as restrictions become more ridiculous. It is your responsibility to comply with all of the laws.

Of course, you could always move to a state that hasn’t quite gone off the deep end. There are plenty from which to choose.

If, after carefully considering them, you can answer these questions to your own satisfaction, then it’s probably wise for you to own a handgun. Just remember and honor all the commitments you will be making.

Incidentally, shooting a .22 pistol at a shooting range is lots of fun. It’s even more fun if your spouse or partner joins you. For less than the price of a couple of first-run movie tickets, some popcorn and a couple of drinks, the two of you can spend an entire afternoon at most ranges.

Professional writer. Passionately interested in facts. Founder of

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