As gun folk, we love to use the title, “Law Abiding Gun Owner”. We use it often. For instance, “Prohibiting guns only disarms Law Abiding Gun Owners, criminals dont follow laws”. Sound Familiar?
This term is a decent term, I definitely like the way it sounds, and those lobbyist and advocates we have fighting for our rights really enjoy using it as well. But what if I told you this term is a double edged sword? That it’s assertion, paired with other exclamations and statements, can be self defeated?
Let’s start off by defining what a law abiding gun owner really is and what they are not. Not unlike the “Reasonable Person” we discussed previously, a “law abiding gun owner” is a fictional character. The most extreme definition is a gun owner that obeys and abides by all laws, they don’t speed, they secure their firearm before dropping off a package at the post office, they don’t jay walk, they never break the law. Now let’s sprinkle some reality into this. No person, gun owner or not, is purely law abiding in every aspect. There are far too many laws, regulations, and rules to memorize and avoid breaking at all times. We all speed sometimes, we all have likely jay walked, or had a broken tail light. We are humans, and cannot possibly keep the law in the purest sense.
So, let’s assume that a “Law Abiding Gun Owner” is simply a gun owner who does their best to abide by the laws they are aware of, to the best of their ability. That sounds fair, eh?
Now, how is this a double edged sword?
Let’s consider how we act online for instance. Let’s say we talking about gun free zones, and someone comments “I don’t care what the law says, concealed is concealed!”. Let’s take that a step further and say some stupid occured and now they are on trial for using their firearm, for self defense, inside the said gun free zone. all kinds of questions are being asked, the jury is listening, the prosecutor and defense attorney are going back and forth questioning witnesses, submitting evidence, etc. The Defense Attorney tells the jury that the defendant is just a law abiding gun owner who had to use his gun in self defence. Oh no, the Prosecutor has submitted a screenshot of the previous comment made and asserts, “He’s not law abiding, he doesn’t even care what the law is!”. Bad news here. That’s gonna be more work for the attorney, more cost for the defendant, and it could sway the whole jury and loose the case.
So that is a potential issue on a personal level, which is why we should watch what we say and do on social media. But gun owners as a whole can be harmed by what individuals do as well. We are a group, and though we are a largely unorganized and not centralized group, we are made up up of individuals. Those individuals, whether they like it or not, are the image of gun owners as whole to their neighbors. How they act, how they treat others, what they say, is often applied to gun owners as a whole. In the world of gun rights, the individual gun owner is the ambassador to the non gun owners in their life. Comments like the one above only serve to support the idea that gun owners as whole are a bunch of ignorant, borderline criminal, rednecks. and that’s just not the truth.
This is why, while many people may choose to ignore a no gun sign, or a speed limit sign, when discussing things in a public venue like social media, we prefer to take a more conservative approach to appear as close to being purely law abiding as one reasonably could. For legal reasons, and to continue to be effective and positive ambassadors for gun rights. After all, nobody is gonna take us seriously when we discuss firearms laws and policy if we seemingly don’t even abide by the laws we already have, right?
A step further, is to use the term, “Responsible Gun Owner” as it is actually much more representative of reality and doesn’t paint us into a corner.