Why gun training matters

Everyone is weighing in on the killing spree indulged in by an emotionally disturbed young man who was seething at the fact that women were rejecting him and choosing others. Since he was good-looking (at least from the photos) one can only surmise that his personality gave clues to women that they should steer clear of him.

What again is at issue is that he was able to obtain guns so easily. It is not clear that a background check would have prohibited him from getting one since he seems to have led a normal life but what bothers me, as I have said time and time again, is that people can get guns without having to undergo any training in their safe use.

Tbogg comes from a family of hunters and he describes what he had to go through before he was allowed to use one.

When I was eight, I attended gun safety courses put on by the NRA at the local community center where thick-necked men with serious faces and butch haircuts promised us hell and worse if we mishandled a rifle or a shotgun. There was no Eddie Eagle cartoon character who spent his time talking about the 2nd amendment because the important thing was to learn not to shoot yourself or someone else. It was serious people teaching the next generation how to safely hunt and not just how to shoot.

I waited another year before I was actually allowed to carry a shotgun, serving instead an apprenticeship in the field, walking and watching and learning and carrying the kill in the back of my new hunting vest

When the time came, I was given a .410 single-barreled shotgun by my uncle and spent days at a shooting range learning how to lead and squeeze.

But then the old-time hunters noticed a new breed of people joining them.

As I grew older I began to notice a different breed of hunter; men who showed up with multiple shotguns as if they were golf clubs needed for specific shots. While most of us wore jeans, t-shirts and hunting vests, these newcomers dressed like they were going on safari, wearing bush hats, shooting jackets (in the 100 degree heat), and cargo pants with more pockets than there existed implements to fill them. You would see them walking the fields; shotgun draped over one arm, can of beer in the other hand. We learned to stay away from them.

For these men hunting was a manhood thing, a way to get in touch with their alpha male, a way to prove they weren’t soft city dwellers and what better way to do that than to get together with some buddies and shoot some guns at whatever moved.

It was no coincidence that, at this same time (this being early seventies), the NRA changed their focus from hunting programs to promoting gun ownership and defending the 2nd Amendment from imaginary enemies.

He said hunting became more and more dangerous because of these people wandering around and the last straw came when one of these newbies fired a gun at a bird on the ground (violating a major rule that you only shoot at birds that are flying) almost killing their family dog Candy.

It was deathly quiet afterwards as everyone looked at him, stunned by what he had done.

My father quickly walked over to him, cursing all the way, grabbed the shotgun out of his hands by grabbing it by the barrel — no doubt burning his hands — and broke it open ejecting the spent shells. He then threw it end over end into the field. As my father berated him, using words I wasn’t well acquainted with at the time with but have learned to love since then, the hunter (known in family lore now as “The Great White Hunter”). His friends looked away and shuffled their feet, no one daring to come to his defense. I have no doubt, even to his day, had the man shot and killed Candy my father would have shot him if he’d had a loaded shotgun in his hand.

The point of training people how to use a lethal weapon before they are allowed to possess one is more than just safety. It is that training instills a sense of discipline and separates serious gun users from the dilettantes, people who want to own guns to somehow convince themselves that they are tough or defend themselves from imaginary enemies. The latter are often just waiting for a chance to use their guns to prove they were right to get them. They are unlikely to have the patience to go through rigorous training..

Such training will not eliminate these kinds of random killings altogether, as we witness from the occasional rampages by military people. But it may save us from the disturbed people who seek violent revenge for the kinds of real and perceived slights all of us experience as part of our normal lives. I don’t know what it will take to counter the NRA’s currently crazy policies but I suspect it will have to start with a revolt against their current leadership from within the gun-owning community.



  1. countryboy says

    My grandfather taught me about using firearms (he’d slap you for calling them guns). A mistake got me a smack on the back of the head. This was 54 years ago and going hunting with Dad and Grandpa was an honor that had to be earned by proving I was competent. I quit when the woods started filling up with would-be Daniel Boones from the big cities that never made sure of their targets and shot at every twig that moved.

  2. hyphenman says

    Good morning Mano,

    I too attended an NRA gun safety course as a member of my Boy Scout Troop. We also had a rifle range next to the archery range and both were run by adults who were every bit as strict as any range officer in the military.

    Given my druthers, however, I would not require a gun safety course, I would instead require that anyone who wished to fully exercise their Second Amendment right granted by our Constitution to actually be a member in good standing of “a well organized militia.” The 21st century model for that is what is known as the inactive reserves.

    The inactive reserves are made up of adult citizens who have completed basic training (six-to-nine weeks) and been declared fully fit for military service. At the completion of their training they do not attend monthly drills and annual stints of active duty the way the National Guard and members of the active reserve do, but stand ready to be called up for additional training and active duty if necessary.

    Only those adult citizens who are members of this “well regulated militia” ought to be qualified for bearing arms under our Constitution.

    (Those under 18 could be granted the equivalent of a learners’ permit requiring constant supervision by a qualified adult and allowed to hunt or target shoot with single shot rifles, shotguns or pistols (in the case of competitive shooting) only.

    Do all you can to make today a good day,

    Jeff Hess
    Have Coffee Will Write

    p.s. is this troll baitish enough do you think?

  3. Mano Singham says


    That makes sense too. Whatever separates those who are serious about gun ownership and use from the dilettantes is fine by me.

  4. dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!" says

    So gun ownership should be limited to those who are willing to murder foreigners (or student protestors) with them? What ever could go wrong with that?

  5. says

    people can get guns without having to undergo any training in their safe use

    A possible downside of that is that the next spree killer might be better trained in their use.

    Only those adult citizens who are members of this “well regulated militia” ought to be qualified for bearing arms

    I think it’d make perfectly reasonable sense that you can join the national guard if you want to have access to guns for 2 weeks a year, one weekend a month. Like a well regulated militia. And the guns are checked in and checked out, serial numbered and audited, no live ammo lying about.

  6. hyphenman says


    How about: those willing to accept the responsibilities of citizenship and not just enjoy the privileges?


    You might be able to amend our Constitution and make that case, but as the document stands today, I would think any Supreme Court (Warren or Roberts) would quickly toss such legislation.

  7. smrnda says

    Could large purchases of guns and ammo be flagged in the same way that large cash transactions at banks can be flagged for review by the IRS or other agencies? It seems many of these types , having no real previous interest in firearms, go on a huge gun and ammo buying spree.


    I must give you credit for actually creating a definition of a well regulated militia that would exclude the nutty fringe anti-government groups, though I would also add that there are people who might wish to own a firearm who would be unable to pass any kind of basic training owing to disabilities. There are some cases (like myself, legally blind) where a firearm is not a good idea – I cannot drive, so if I cannot see well enough to drive, but I would not want to exclude everybody with a physical disability who can’t pass basic, partly since if we’re talking self-defense, some of these people have greater need than others.

    Now, overall I’m not that enthusiastic about firearm ownership and don’t think ‘armed citizens willing to use firearms to defend themselves’ is a sensible policy on crime, but if we are going to permit people to own them, I don’t think it would be right to discriminate against those with disabilities that would prevent them from serving in inactive reserves.

  8. M can help you with that. says

    @hyphenman —

    So I’m medically unfit to be considered a full citizen now?

    Good to know.

  9. hyphenman says


    You raise a great point. Since I’m unaware of what your particular medical issues might be, I can’t address those directly, but I think a good starting point might be to consider in what capacity you might serve in “a well regulated militia.”

    In the past, citizens have served and served well (perhaps in non-combat support roles) with a variety of disabilities including exceeding poor eyesight and amputated limbs to name just two. Without revealing the particulars of your case, would you be able to serve as say, an intelligence analyst, a transport pilot or medical professional in a field hospital?

    Since the 2nd Amendment clearly links “the right to keep and bear arms” with “a well regulated militia,” I think that we ought to fully embrace that linkage.


  10. hyphenman says


    I explore this more in my reply to M, but I think that our Constitution already places limits on what citizens might do or not do based upon physical attributes. See Article I, sections 2 and 3; Article II, section 1 and the 26th Amendment as just four examples.

    Only the 2nd Amendment links a right to a qualifier, in this case “a well formed militia.” Citizens, such as yourself, and millions of others, are not impeded, at least by our Constitution, from otherwise enjoying their full rights –voting, serving in office, protection from unlawful police interference, &c.– and privileges under this document.

    I also don’t believe that a blind person could be rightly kept from serving in such “a well formed militia.” There are jobs, sonar analyst comes to mind but I have no doubt hundreds of other position could be thought of, where they might serve their country with distinction.


  11. M can help you with that. says

    @hyphenman —

    Medically it’s mostly ADHD (which is no secret — and controlled acceptably with meds, though that’s still unacceptable to the military). There’s also the fact, though, that the military considers me politically objectionable. Which is part of another set of concerns — the military can reject people for political or religious reasons, which, under your “must be willing to support politically- and economically-motivated slaughter for full citizenship” rubric, means that citizenship is restricted to people who are sufficiently compatible with a certain militarist and anti-democratic ideology.

  12. hyphenman says


    I have to disagree with you there. I served in the U.S. Military for 11 years (1974-1986) and while I’ll accept that today’s military is not precisely the same as the one I served in, I have to think, based on my experience and second-hand knowledge of those who came after me, that other factors are in play.

    May I infer from your comment that you attempted to enlist and were denied entrance? While I think you can make a compelling case for your experience in an all-volunteer force, what I propose is a universal draft that requires, at a minimum, basic training. Of course accommodations would be required, but we already do so for personnel, such as myself, who need glasses or for females unable to pass certain strength and endurance tests.

    I do not suggest the transition to a constant and universal “well formed militia” would be simple, but I see no compelling reasons why such a force should not be possible.

    As I have written elsewhere, such an organization would not only be a positive step toward curtailing violence in our country, but we would also benefit from a citizenry with real skin in the game balking at the economic adventurism we’ve experienced of late.


  13. kyoseki says

    There are plenty of countries out there (most of Europe, with the notable exception of the UK, which is the only one ever mentioned by gun control advocates) with relatively widespread availability of firearms that do not suffer anything like the murder rate the US suffers.

    Almost none of them (with the notable exception of Switzerland, which is the only one ever mentioned by gun rights advocates) require military service in order to own a firearm, so clearly that is not required, but all of them DO require extensive levels of training.

    Why bother reinventing the wheel with laws about smart guns, microstamping, or mandatory conscription in order to own firearms? Why don’t we just look at the countries that allow gun ownership but maintain low murder rates and simply do what they’re doing?

  14. hyphenman says


    That would make great sense, Kyoseki, if the United States were France or Spain or Norway or even Canada, but we’re not.

    I say that not make an excuse, but to suggest–as Michael Moore attempted to do in “Bowling For Columbine”–that there is some deeper, societal psychology at work that is imperfectly understood.

    No single change, including my own suggestion for universal subscription, will fix the United States. We remain a relatively young nation that perhaps got too big too fast without any serious barriers. We’re in for a long hard slog as we attempt to grow up in the 21st century.


  15. smrnda says


    Well, I think you can probably find many ways in which the US differs from these other nations with low crime but prevalent gun ownership – we have a culture of paranoid, idiotic macho posturing (described in the article above quite well in fact) higher levels of poverty and lower levels of education. These aren’t problems where we can easily imitate other nations, since something simple like 1. living wages for everyone and 2. access to health care and 3. education would be fought extremely hard.

    On the whole rights, I have come to believe that the ‘rights’ we are said to enjoy are frequently infringed and are more like suggestions. Unlawful search and seizure would perhaps be the easiest one to see where this ‘right’ is nearly universally violated.

  16. sailor1031 says

    Since the 2nd Amendment clearly links “the right to keep and bear arms” with “a well regulated militia,” I think that we ought to fully embrace that linkage.

    Well a lot of people seem to think there is that linkage and maybe that was the framers intent but that isn’t what the amendment says. There really isn’t a linkage between the two clauses. Imagine if it said “the price of tea in China being too high, the right etc, etc……” – would that forever link gun ownership and use to tea prices?

    What is needed is a complete rewrite of the amendment to make the intent clear – or better yet repeal.

  17. hyphenman says


    It would if it had any actual relevance, but clearly the founders thought “a well regulated militia” to be an important precursor to their inclusion of the right to keep and bear arms.

    I am curious, do you think the phrase was just a throwaway that they failed to edit our as irrelevant?


  18. Nick Gotts says

    There are plenty of countries out there (most of Europe, with the notable exception of the UK, which is the only one ever mentioned by gun control advocates) with relatively widespread availability of firearms that do not suffer anything like the murder rate the US suffers. – kyoseki@13

    That may be true – economic inequality correlates well with homicide rates and the USA is highly unequal for a rich country, but per capita ownership of guns correlates well with gun deaths* – for example, Switzerland has one of the highest rates of both in Europe, Serbia has the highest rate of both in Europe. The amazing fact is that guns, which are designed to kill, do in fact kill people, and in general, the more guns are around, the more people they kill.

    We remain a relatively young nation – hyphenman@14

    An amusingly prevalent misapprehension: of just under 200 currently existing sovereign states, more than 80% have a later date of foundation than the USA.

    *These include homicides, suicides and accidents

  19. Nick Gotts says

    On another point, I’m not actually that impressed by the stern patriarchs cited in the OP and some of the comments: Tbogg’s father would have shot the man who nearly shot his dog if the latter had actually done so, while cpuntryboy’s father was prone to slap him round the head.

    As I have written elsewhere, such an organization would not only be a positive step toward curtailing violence in our country, but we would also benefit from a citizenry with real skin in the game balking at the economic adventurism we’ve experienced of late. – hyphenman@12

    On what grounds do you believe this? I followed your link, and you don’t give any support for your belief there either.

  20. hyphenman says

    @Nick Gotts

    That’s true, you’re absolutely correct. There is more to consider, however, than simply the starting point of a current regime. While we are certainly older than the French Republic, for instance, I would assert that French society is far older than our own.

    Other examples — Russia, Germany, Italy, &c. abound.


  21. hyphenman says

    @Nick Gotts,

    When families of the oligarchs must send their sons and daughters (the Kennedys ‘s and Bushes are two examples) into harms way (as they did in The Great War, parts one and two) there is less rush to war and a tighter demand to win and end the conflict.

    One of Bobby Kennedy’s lesser know political position in 1968 was that he would end the Vietnam War by eliminating the draft exception for college students, thus exposing the middle class to the conscription that it has so far, mostly avoided.



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