Okay. You’re considering getting a gun. What does that mean?

Not much, really. somewhere between 55 million and 100 million Americans (depending on whose numbers you like) have already made the decision to own a gun. However many there are, we know that 17.25 million of them have made the decision to get a concealed-carry permit. We know that number because the states keep records that are accessible to researchers.

You want to get a gun because pepper spray isn’t enough. I note that one previous comments mentions Tasers and other electrical weapons. They don’t always work either: in order for a Taser to be effective, both darts must make good contact with the skin. A Taser can be defeated by a heavy coat.

You should be considering a gun because the CDC found that those who used a gun in self-defense had better outcomes than people who relied on any other method of resistance or even compliance. Moreover, Tasers and similar devices are illegal for citizens to possess in some states.

It appears that you are a resident of Los Angeles County. This will throw something of a monkey wrench into your plans to carry. The sheriff of Los Angeles County issues virtually no carry permits. In California, carry permits are issued at the discretion of the county sheriff and issuance rates vary wildly. You would be more likely to be able to get a carry permit if you moved to either Kern or San Bernardino county. A permit from either one of those counties is valid anywhere in the state, including Los Angeles.

Incidentally, I should warn you that self-defense is not considered a valid reason for a carry permit in California.

On the good news side, your perceptions notwithstanding, Los Angeles has one of the lowest violent crime rates of any major city in the United States. In fact, it is second only to New York City.

Before you go bragging about the gun laws in California, I should point something out: New York City has the lowest homicide rate of any major city. Los Angeles is second. Yay, gun laws, right? Well, third is San Antonio, Texas, which has hardly any gun laws beyond the federal requirements. No permit needed to carry a rifle or shotgun; a state carry permit for handguns that is issued to all who qualify; no background checks other than the ones required for purchases through a federally licensed dealer; no registration; no bans on assault weapons; frequent gun shows; no permit to purchase and gun shops galore. Phoenix, Arizona also has a low violent crime rate and Arizona doesn’t even require a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

Next we come to your inner demons. Are they so real that they seriously impede your daily life? There’s certainly nothing wrong with seeking professional help but if your issues predispose you to rash action, I would probably advise you to avoid firearms.

But let’s say that you are in command of your psyche and you’re now looking at various guns.

I bought my first gun more than 48 years ago. I have been in the business and have been writing about guns for a long time. In my time, I have owned and fired more than a hundred different guns. And my advice is worth every penny you’re paying for it.

Take the California-required handgun safety course. Get the free Project Childsafe gun safety kit from your local police department or sheriff’s office. Read and absorb the suggestions offered. They’re not just for folks with kids.

When you have done all this, head on down to a convenient gun shop and buy four things: a .22-caliber pistol or revolver, a safe or lock box, a package of snap caps and a cleaning kit.

You’ll notice I left something out. Ammunition is for another day. You’re going to learn about your new gun. The snap caps will allow you to dry fire the handgun without damaging the firing pin. They will also allow you to learn to load unload and, most importantly, how to check to make sure the gun is completely unloaded. You will also learn how to disassemble and clean the gun. I am not talking about being able to field-strip it blindfolded or anything, just how to do it. If you want to protect a tabletop, add a gun cleaning mat.

As for the exact model of gun, that’s up to you. Get one that feels comfortable in your hand. Don’t get a “mouse gun” because you’re not worried about concealing it. Browning, Ruger, Smith & Wesson and Walther all make solid .22-caliber handguns that will last for years with proper maintenance.

Always lock the gun in the safe or lockbox when you’re not using it. Never leave it unattended. Get in the habit of developing good gun safety habits; it’s a lot easier than unlearning bad ones.

Get used to having a gun. It is not “black death” or a demon; it’s a mechanism that won’t do anything you don’t make it do. You’re in charge; don’t be afraid. Most of all, don’t obsess about it.

Once you have gotten comfortable with having the gun in your home, then it’s time to find a range that offers instruction and arrange to take a class.

Now it’s time for some additional purchases. First and foremost, buy good eye and ear protection.

Still no ammo, though. That’s for when you get to the range for your first lesson. Most ranges that offer instruction also sell ammunition and .22 Long Rifle is one of the most common calibers out there.

Incidentally, there are an increasing number of female instructors. They are every bit as good as the male instructors. If it is important to you, try to find a female instructor.

By the way, when you go to the range, wear a high-neck T-shirt or a blouse that buttons all the way to the top. For some reason, hot ejected shell casings have an instinct for low-cut tops and V-necks.

When you start to shoot, you will understand why I recommended a .22 handgun. There is very little recoil and it’s cheap. It’s the ideal caliber for the beginning shooter.

Once you have mastered the .22 and your concerns about owning a handgun, it’s time to look into a larger caliber better-suited to defense. Find a range that rents handguns and try some on for size. One caveat: never buy a gun that is uncomfortable to shoot. There are some that can actually be painful, even for an experience shooter. If you get a gun that you are uncomfortable shooting, you won’t shoot it. This means you won’t practice and practice is vital.

As Col. Jeff Cooper said, “Having a gun doesn’t make you armed any more than having a guitar makes you a musician.”

There are great courses that you can take that will help you be more prepared for a bad situation. There are also courses that you can take that can help you avoid a bad situation, which is the best possible outcome.

Finally, if you do nothing else, learn situational awareness. Learn to avoid becoming a victim. As I said, a gun is just a mechanism: it’s not magic; it’s not a shield of invincibility; it can only do what you do. The brain is still the best self-defense weapon of all.

Good luck. Be careful out there.

Professional writer. Passionately interested in facts. Founder of onewordtexas.org

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