The talking points for gun control and “common-sense gun laws” are all the rage these days, especially with the new administration in Washington. For those of you who are lucky enough to live in what I call “free states,” what’s being proposed by the government seems ludicrous. But I don’t live in a free state, I live in New York State (Not New York City, but “Upstate” New York).
While the majority of the anti-gun folks are from the New York City area and the other larger cities, there are plenty in my suburban neck of the woods. Navigating daily life as a gun owner in an anti-gun state is … different. We’re very much in the minority. Still, many of the same rules that apply to how we live in an anti-gun state actually apply to responsible gun owners across the country.
I’ve put together seven tips that we should all follow, especially if you’re a gun owner in an anti-gun state.
1. Know the Law & Follow It
I have my unrestricted pistol permit and can carry – where legal – but never in New York City. Why? Because New York City, while located in New York State, does not recognize my permit or my right to carry. Current processing time in my area of New York to obtain your pistol permit can take close to a year. That’s right, a year! But if you’re looking to carry, you have to follow the law. Gun laws vary not only from state to state but from county to county within each state. They are also constantly changing, and new attacks on gun rights are always around the corner.
Each state has its own pistol permit process that you’ll need to know and follow in order to be granted your pistol permit. Plan ahead and know the rules where you live. Despite the misnomer that the Second Amendment is the only permit you need, be aware that carrying in a state that does not recognize Constitutional Carry can send you on a one-way trip to the slammer. It’s not worth it, so follow the laws and the process in your area and get your permit the right way. Getting caught once will ensure that you’ll never be allowed to carry in your state again.
2. Be Patient
Going through the application process will vary by state, and it may take a long time. A quick web search of your state will help define the process. Be prepared to have to jump through hoops and wait, sometimes for several months. State requirements differ. Some require special training, while others just have a safety class given by an authorized instructor or law enforcement agency. Know what you have to do and be prepared to put in the time (and money) to do it.
Once you have your permit, you’ll need to be patient with processing times for you to purchase a new gun. In New York, each pistol I own gets physically printed out on my pistol permit, serial number, and all. To do this, I need to fill out a form to “amend” my permit. Then I have to submit it to the county Pistol Clerk, who sends it to the judge in charge of my permit. Only after he/she has approved the amendment (and they usually do, it’s just a process), can the gun be placed on my pistol permit. Once it’s on my permit, and only then, am I allowed to pick it up from my FFL. It goes back to knowing your laws.
3. Remember That You’re Likely in the Minority
There’s no secret handshake for gun owners, so you pretty much have to assume most people you know are either ambivalent or anti-gun if you live in an anti-gun state. Sometimes the gun debate comes up in social situations. If you know the folks well, you can bring up your points and gently start to educate them.
If they’re strangers who seem to be rabid anti-gunners, you may be better off walking away before it goes too far. They’re never going to agree with you, and you’ll never change their mind even when you flood them with facts. Generally, misinformation is the reason for their point of view. If you can gently reeducate them or at least make them see your point, you may be surprised how well the new information is received. You may also discover someone else you’ve known for a while is actually on our side.
4. Be a Model Armed Citizen
Screaming they can “rip your guns from your cold, dead hands” doesn’t help any of us. It’s probably more likely to leave your fellow gun owners with a black eye in the court of public opinion. We need to be better than the anti-gunners. We need to be the face of concealed carry and responsible gun ownership.
We are law-abiding citizens who believe that protecting ourselves and our families is our right. We’re willing to pull that trigger in self-defense even knowing that most people don’t share our opinion. I’m not out to convert people. Being a responsible gun owner isn’t for everyone, but I am the face of responsible gun ownership every time I leave the house armed.
5. Join Your State’s Gun-Rights Organization
There’s power in numbers. Gun-rights organizations, especially those in anti-gun states, fight on the front lines to ensure state leaders don’t strip you of your rights with legislation passed in the thick of the night. Don’t believe it can happen? Read up on the New York State Safe-Act and how it was literally passed in the dead of the night.
To fight the good fight, these organizations need both volunteers and financial support. Lawsuits don’t come cheap, especially when you’re fighting to protect the rights of the people from the very government that the anti-gunners in your state elected.
6. Train Often With Like-Minded People
I always say, “It’s good to know who’s on the team.” Joining a local sportsman’s association is a great way to meet like-minded gun owners in your area. Local clubs often have programs for beginners if you’re new to gun ownership. Clubs always have folks willing to mentor new shooters as well.
Having a private range to train in will ensure you’ll have a safe place to train with your gun because most clubs have strict safety standards (mine requires every member to become a Certified Range Safety Officer). Their monthly meetings usually have a speaker or some sort of educational component to ensure you never stop learning as well. Never. Stop. Training.
7. Educate Others but Choose Your Battles
Advocate, educate, and lead by example. Sometimes it is just a matter of misperception. Having a civil, intelligent conversation with an anti-gunner, explaining that you realize guns are not their thing, doesn’t give them the right to deny YOUR rights. It’s also sometimes wise to just agree to disagree. Some anti-gunners will try to rattle you. Don’t allow them to live in your head. Make your point and simply walk away.
Our goal as responsible gun owners is to educate the public that firearms are not evil. It’s not to try to convert everyone to our way of thinking.