As one of Chris Collins’ 27th District constituents, I have no objection to the congressman being armed the next time I attend a rally to tell him what a great job he’s doing – at least in theory, I don’t object.
As they continually remind us at one of my gun clubs, cops don’t prevent crimes. They solve them. The stark reality is this: You are your own first defender. The latest reminder of that came at last week’s congressional baseball practice, where Capitol Hill police were on hand to prevent further tragedy only because a House leader was there.
So I have no problem with Collins’ plan to use his New York concealed-carry permit to protect himself and his constituents at events in his district.
But I do have some questions – because shooting is not as easy as it looks on TV, and having a gun and a license to carry it is no guarantee you know when and how to use it.
The National Rifle Association itself, despite some of its outlandish bluster, does a good job of promoting responsible self-defense. As its Basics of Personal Protection Outside the Home guide makes clear: "The ability to draw a firearm from concealment and shoot accurately is not something you are born with; it must be developed through the mastery of a series of interlocking skills, and then must be reinforced through frequent practice."
Or as you learn in Second Amendment Foundation training courses, using a gun for self-defense requires "structured practice and correct repetitions until it becomes unconscious."
With that in mind, I have just a few questions for the congressman who promises to pack:
• Has he taken a defensive firearms training course? If so, when and from whom?
• What type of concealed handgun will he be carrying? How often does he practice with that weapon? Where?
• When were the last three times he was at the range with that weapon before last week’s incident?
• In a Washington Post column explaining his decision to start carrying, he used the phrase "responsible gun ownership." What does that mean to him, beyond merely being law-abiding?
I put these questions to Collins’ office, but have yet to get a response.
Let’s hope that instead of grandstanding he comes up with the right answers, and not just because we need to know if he’s been properly trained to prevent a public shootout from becoming an error-prone bloodbath.
As a congressional leader constantly in the news, Collins’ decision also may influence other gun owners with carry permits. Some who bought a self-defense handgun and tossed it in the drawer will be emboldened by the congressman’s actions, and also may start carrying without giving a second thought to the extra training and practice needed to do so responsibly.
Just as Thomas Jefferson’s famous defense of a free press and his preference for newspapers over government hinged on every man being "capable of reading" the papers, so too does the exercise of Second Amendment rights depend on gun owners being capable of using the weapon responsibly.
And let’s face it, some of his past statements make clear that impulse control has never been a Collins strength. I’m not sure I want someone like that with his finger on the trigger.
That’s why I may skip Collins’ events until I get answers to my questions.
After all, the description "armed and dangerous" doesn’t always apply just to criminals.