Not for everyone

There are things in this life that are not for everyone: escargot, bungee jumping, watching French movies, eating raw tomatoes. There are a million things that could go on a list of things not everyone should participate in. Some of those items are most certainly funny, but some are very serious.

I add gun ownership to the list of things that not everyone should do. However the city council of Nucla, CO, disagrees with me. The small town of less than 1,000 people, 50 miles south of Grand Junction, CO, recently voted 5 to 1 to require the head of every household to own a gun and the appropriate ammunition.

Nucla leaders did write in exceptions for people barred from owning guns or those that choose not to own guns.

The Pro Tem Mayor of Nucla, Richard Craig told local TV station KREX: “Criminals have been put on notice, period. We are armed.”

The one council member voting against the ordinance, Bill Long, told the Associated Press the law is no more invasive than banning guns.

“Ideologically, it’s no different than saying, ‘You can’t own guns. If you want less government in our lives, this isn’t that. It’s a symbolic gesture.”

Nucla does have the unfortunate problem of being so small their police force is small, and depending on scheduling, non-existent, and that is the problem Craig is pointing to. Having so many exceptions for people that want to opt out of gun ownership does make the law symbolic like Long points out.

Nucla is not the first town in America to require gun ownership. Nelson, GA, also passed a law requiring citizens to own guns.

I worry about just saying everyone must own guns. There are people that should not own, handle, or even think about guns.

Guns are tools that can be very dangerous, just like an angle grinder or circular saw. Anyone using a dangerous tool must know what they are doing and have a healthy fear of the tool in their hand. Not having that respect makes the operator more of a danger to themselves than anyone else.

It is interesting to me that laws like the one passed in Nucla, and others that have failed across the nation to force gun ownership never include language requiring training or practice requirements.

There are varying degrees of skills that these laws just don’t account for. I am a fairly good shot with a rifle and a shotgun, but I just don’t have a lot of experience with handguns. Is ordering me to carry a Walther P .38 in James Bond style a really good idea? Let me answer my own question by saying there are a lot of people like me out there. I classify myself as the middle of the road gun user. Some experience in a wide range of weapons with a better proficiency in some than others. If you accept my scale of gun experience, there are a lot of people below me with no experience with firearms.

I also have a concern that people will use the wrong tool for the wrong job. I would bet there are a lot of you that, again, like me and have used a butter knife as a screwdriver, or stood on the top step of a ladder despite the sticker that warns against such practices. Such is the same with guns. How many, if forced to own a gun, are going to make the most utilitarian choice they can? Does this mean the number of shotguns in homes will go up because it is a short range defense weapon and a hunting weapon all in one, or try and hunt with a Smith and Wesson .38 special? Just because a spatula looks like a shovel doesn’t mean you should till your garden with it.

If these laws are really meant to augment a small police force shouldn’t the training requirements be higher than just personal ownership licensing requirements? This is asking the average Joe to be in a situation where mental preparedness is paramount. Hunter’s safety courses stress the need for calm, rational decision making in the field. Learning how to identify the animal you are looking to harvest as the proper animal for what you are licensed for is very important for staying within the bounds of the law. Nucla’s council is now asking regular citizens with limited training to use their best judgment against another human being. The heightened stakes of enforcing laws means the need for heightened training, but the Nucla council didn’t bother to address the issue.

There are a myriad of things we shouldn’t do as individuals and making a blanket law that requires everyone to own a dangerous tool is borrowing trouble.

Granted Nucla left enough exceptions to the rule that the gesture of passing the ordinance was purely a symbolic move, but the town of Nelson did not make those exceptions. That is why the Nelson ordinance was struck down in court.

At the end of the day the real reason for Nucla, CO, to pass the law was a local attempt to oppose a number of gun control measures passed by the Colorado state legislature. I believe this “end-run” around those laws lacks transparency and puts humans at unnecessary risk.

Why is there never a law requiring citizens to carry a Taser?

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