In the comments section on the last entry here, regular commentator Liberal Dave posits the question of whether there should be mandatory safety training for those who own firearms.

If you had asked me enough decades ago, I would have said, “Makes sense to me.”  Of course, back then I was a young cop with a lot of ego invested in the gun I wore, and in the fact that firearms responsibility had been an understood ritual in my own homes since I was a little boy. I had grown up in an armed household where shooting was recreation for my dad and my sister and me (and tolerated by an understanding, if anti-gun, mom).  At age twelve, working in the family jewelry store, I legally carried a gun (an anomaly of the time and the place, or at least the place). This led me to talk to lawyers, cops, and at least one judge, which led me into legal libraries at pubescent age, and in turn led me into a career I did not expect at the time. When we get proud of something we have or do, we seem to instinctively resent anyone “getting it cheap” when we’ve worked for it.

Later, I matured more.

I was a twenty-something patrolman when I responded to a home invasion that the man of the house fought off with a .32 pistol and a 12 gauge shotgun.  I was damn glad he had succeeded and no good guys got hurt. And, ya know, it never did occur to me to ask what his training was, because he had handled things just fine.  (He asked me anxiously if he was in trouble.  I reassured him that he wasn’t, and told him where he could get a good deal on a larger caliber pistol.)

I was in my early thirties when I spoke as an expert witness for a female senior citizen who was charged with criminal homicide after killing her abusive common law husband in self-defense when he tried to murder her for the second time in a matter of a few days.  Attorney Mark Seiden won her acquittal, and I was proud to have been a part of that.  The lady in question lived in a trailer and could not have afforded training. She couldn’t even afford her own gun. After the first murder attempt, she had borrowed a cheap .22 from her son. The three shots she fired in the self-defense incident – all center mass hits – were the second, third, and fourth shots she had ever discharged from a firearm in her life.

If she’d had to pay for a firearms safety course she couldn’t afford, she would have been helplessly murdered.

Here’s how I see it.  We live in a free country that cherishes its independence, and whose citizens have historically lived up to the responsibilities which accompany their liberty.  We don’t require people to pay tuition to go to a Home Safety Class where they learn to keep

Drano out of reach of children and put safety plugs in electrical outlets when their rug rats are crawling across their floors. People are expected to know that.  We don’t require a safety course to buy a chain saw; it is understood that people who need chain saws either have friends or relatives who can teach them how to safely use them, or will ask the dealer to show them that before they lay down their money.  Historically, the same has worked remarkably well with gun purchases.

We have more guns in private hands in America than ever before. Yet, accidental firearms deaths seem to trend proportionally downward, not upward. This reaffirms my faith in the innate responsibility of my fellow Americans.

Liberal Dave makes the point that we are required to have Hunter Safety classes before we can hunt animals, but not before we buy a home defense gun we might have to use against a homicidal member of our own species.  My response is this: The hunter goes into the woods intending to humanely kill the animals he or she wishes to legally harvest.  The responsible armed citizen has his or her gun in the hope they will never need to fire it at a living target, and self-assured that they will do so only in a life-threatening emergency.  It’s a state of mind issue.

Do I recommend training? Of course: for decades, teaching the gun has been my primary livelihood.  There are few people who would reap more financial rewards than I would if mandatory training for firearms ownership became the law.  But I can’t support mandatory training, because Life and Reality have taught me that the good people who need firearms for defense of themselves and their families often can’t afford professional training, and security and self-defense should never become the sole province of the rich and privileged.

But, hey, that’s just my view, presented here since it has been asked for.

What’s YOUR take on the issue?


  1. Mas; People buy handguns for self protection. Florida law allows a copy of your DD-214 to get a carry permit. How many military people ever qualified to handle a handgun? This law should be revoked. The law also says you must fire the gun. Some scrupulous instructors, using a lightly reloaded .38 sp. round have their students fire one round into a barrel half filled with sand, that qualifies them to get a carry permit. This law should also be revoked. We keep trying to do it right.

  2. Mas, not even “liberal Dave” can – or should, take exception to anything you’ve written, although I’ve a feeling he’ll try. Your words have always rung true – never more so than now.

  3. If each county in America still had a citizen militia, that militia could MAYBE be trusted to ensure everyone in the county received some firearms training. Since about the time of WWI the citizen militia has become the National Guard. Truth is, we really can’t rely on government at any level, to do the right thing. So, as Mas said, we don’t want training to be out of reach of the poor. Also, we can’t trust the government to do the right thing. So, firearms training is left up to the individual citizen, with the understanding that if he acts unwisely, he could pay dearly for it. This ought to be enough motivation for most citizens to get plenty of training. Nevertheless, our world is imperfect, and will continue to be so.

  4. My dad is 83 years old. He has passed the CCW requirements for the state in which he lives. He use a cane sometimes. He likes going to the range and shoot. He won’t be taking any training classes that require him to shoot on time, kneel, squat, run, or the like. But, he carries a snubbie in case he an mom cannot get away from a bad situation.

  5. I just did my annual LEOSA qual. Course of fire was 30 rounds from 3-15 yards. Shot the “off duty” course. Fortunately, the local PD conducts free LEOSA shoots to any LE retired that live in the area. Total time was about 15 minutes. I could get the state issued CCW permit, but then would lose out on 50 state carry.

    • Last people I want next to me with a gun are LEO’s. I know there are exception, maybe a lot, but for the most part one can almost always spot a cop from his poor gun skills.

  6. Many of our inherent rights are becoming regulated. So, one wonders if they’re still rights or merely gifts from the state. Media focus notwithstanding, firearms injuries and deaths are down. So, there appears to be little reason to trade more inalienable rights over to bureaucratic control.

    Would Liberal Dave accept “mandatory training” for women considering abortions? Minorities or lowly educated people registering to vote? Here’s a headline: Texas legislates mandatory training for first time voters.

    • Joel,

      You make some good points. Of course, I would suspect Liberal Dave would argue that the right to vote doesn’t endanger innocent lives. Tell that to the folks in Venezuela who voted in socialism, due, at least in part, to ignorance of the deadly history and failures of that form of governance. He would probably argue that the death of a “fetus” doesn’t count as it’s not fully human, much like how democrats refused to acknowledge Africans as fully human years ago, and even now insist they need assistance and guidance of “smarter” people to thrive in modern society. Yes, indeed, all of us lesser souls would be so much better off if we just had enough intelligence to recognize our need to submit to their enlightened dictates.

  7. Perhaps mandatory training as defined by government becomes the slippery slope, i.e., requiring accuracy to the point of snipers, speed tests with the owner’s firearm approaching professional standards. Point is,anti-gun people use many deceptions in their quest, a little truth placed in plain sight wth the hidden agenda is one. Thanks for you always reasoned comments Mas.

  8. Interesting conundrum balancing public safety, personal income and self-protection, and a Constitutional right.

    Most reasonable citizens, I think, would agree that gun owners should undergo voluntary basic firearms safety training but might balk at passing a law to enforce more compliance. Taking gun ownership a little further is legal concealed carry, which in my mind involves much greater gun owner responsibility and risk to the public if the gun toter is ignorant, inept or reckless. And from my personal experience many CCW folks are.

    Thus, I see a middle ground here: no law requiring training merely to own and keep a firearm in one’s abode, but mandatory testing and certification (i.e., basic firearms safety knowledge, understanding deadly force situations, being able to hit a target at 10 yards, etc.) for concealed carry.

  9. Training/instruction is a damn fine idea. Formal training from a certified instructor is even better.

    Mandating either as a condition for eligibility to own a firearm is a terrible idea.

    Any law being proposed, I ask myself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” (Alternatively, “What would California, New York, or New Jersey politicians do with this?” It amounts to the same thing, most of the time.)

    Here’s what I envision happening over time: Any mandate for firearms training as a condition of eligibility, will be amended to require an arbitrary, progressively-increasing number of hours of training, and a progressively-increasing number and type of certifications for whomever would teach, leading to an exponentially-increasing cost of such training. The costs are reflected both in the tuition for the classes, and lost wages as requiring more hours inevitably bleeds over into taking days off work to attend.

    The end result is that training — and by extension, firearms ownership itself — becomes a hobby only for the rich and well-connected; it becomes too expensive for the American Everyman.

    That’s my vision, and why I oppose mandatory “firearms safety” training as a condition of legal gun ownership.

  10. If we are required to have training before we can exercise a right, then it is no longer a right, but a privilege allowed us contingent upon us meeting the State’s standards. No thanks.
    Limiting freedoms because some people might or do abuse them is a path to
    eliminating freedoms entirely.
    But then I’m a radical, I believe that a citizen should be able to own and freely use whatever he can afford.
    But the first time he uses it to harm another, hammer him like a pinewood tentpeg.

  11. Hello, just notice from central Europe (Czech Republic). We have to pass exam to get gun license to own firearm of specific class (for historical guns all you need is age over 18). There is no specific training required, but different ranges offer it and there are people attending it. Exam consists of test (choosing A/B/C/D from offered answers) from law, first aid and some gun-related terminology and practical exam consisting of safe manipulation and shooting to stationary target.
    It works, because written part filters out most of careless people – they just don’t prepare, and practical exam just ensure you know how to not shoot yourself. Questions for test are (random) subset of 500 questions known beforehand and there are relatively strict rules what is requested/acceptable during practical part. For CC permit there are higher score in exam requested than for hunters and sport shooters. Also we need to be examined by doctor – there is list of illnesses that prevents you to get gun license i.e. paranoia.
    That is current state, problem is same as Mas pointed out. It is not cheap (but not too expensive) and in my opinion worse – it takes about 3 months to get it.
    But what I really dislike – there is central registry of gun license owners and their guns. Although I understand it saves work to police and so in past it was great source of information for Gestapo. So you should never allow your government to build something like it. Because now when Europe Union comes with more and more regulations of firearms in name of “fight against terrorism” authorities have exact list of gun owners and their guns – easy to confiscate etc.

  12. Why is everyone on the defensive? Training requirements to get a permit or own a firearm? Why not go on the offensive? Firearms safety training as part of the education system, add in required First Aid as well. No requirement to own or even fire a gun, but every child should be trained taught the 4 rules of safety and progress to safely handle and check and clear a firearm at some level in the education system. A kindergartner or first grader doesn’t know how to do a press check, but they should know the 4 rules and to tell and adult. A HS senior shouldn’t be able to graduate without knowing the 4 rules and being able to check a revolver or semiauto handgun, shotgun or most semiauto rifles are loaded, on safe etc. You know, it’s about the children.
    Let the anti gun folks worry about the slow escalation of training requirements to turning into being able to safely and accurately fire 10 rounds at a target at 25 yds, under time.

  13. Differentiate between legal and moral responsibilities. Should the state impose a pre-requirement on the exercise of a fundamental right? No. That was answered when SCOTUS banned poll tests more than half-a-century ago. Do we have a moral responsibility to exercise those rights responsibly? Yes. To the extent training, to whatever degree, assists us in that moral exercise is up to the individual.

  14. If it were more accessible and affordable, not 100-500 bucks a session because the NRA says so.. them more people would be able to get it.. Here where I live the local sheriff’s dept gives a 12 hour class for 10 bucks. YEP 10.
    So yes it is not affordable for the average person, neither is gun ownership IMO.. Sure there are cheap guns, but you get what you pay for..
    Mandatory training for purchase? No. To carry, Yes. I would love to know that if the SHTF the person next to me has the same level of base knowledge I do, and we know what to do.
    Solution, Lower the cost of the training and make it affordable to all persons… instead of holding onto it like its some merit badge for your range bag. Thanks

    • So you, as most lefties do, expect the person(s) doing the training to not be paid what they are worth to train people? How else do you lower the cost of training? Do you expect the government to pay for it? WHere does the government get its money? From taking it from us. You get what you pay for so if the cost is so low so everyone can afford it then the training won’t be worth the paper the completion certificate is printed on.

  15. If the public really thinks “Mandatory Training” is a good thing, they should want to see more of it, not just among gun owners, but for everyone who might encounter a gun (which means “everyone“).
    So, teach it to everyone, in public schools, for free. Or at least OFFER it for free or for a reduced (publicity subsidized) charge. I’m not saying “don’t pay the instructors,” I’m saying do it on the public dime. Why? Because it’s in the public interest, and facilitates the exercise of a Constitutionally protected right.
    But that’s not why most people seem to demand “Mandatory Training.” Instead, it’s seen as a potential barrier to gun ownership they might exploit. In the wake of the Heller decision, the City of Chicago tried to mandate some (absurdly long and expensive) training regimen to be held at a gun range within city limits, while simultaneously CLOSING all such facilities with zoning and the like, so that the requirement would be impossible to meet. That rule was thankfully struck down by the courts as soon as it was challenged.
    The severity of that example notwithstanding, “Mandatory Training” threatens to function the same way Literacy Tests and Poll Taxes worked in the Jim Crow era: as an artificial obstacle to important civil liberties. That’s the only problem I have with it. If Training is such a great and necessary thing, it should be Mandatory for the State to encourage and facilitate it.

  16. Cheers Mas,

    Dr. John Lott has proven that ‘mandatory’ fees, licenses, permits & training schemes intentionally harm low income citizens.

    The left continues to push for agenda items like mandatory “insurance” for the same reason. (Incidentally, just what would this “insurance” cover?) They want to make gun ownership so expensive, burdensome and onerous than it reduces gun owners to a minority that can later be crushed when they repeal the “misunderstood” second amendment as Ginsberg said. (How wonderful will it be for President TRUMP to nominate the replacement for her seat? Tick. Tock.)

    I think training should be mandatory as the MAG classes have tremendously increased my skill and knowledge.

    However, since it is the political left’s idea and they insist it benefits all of society, then society should pay for it. (i.e. background checks, insurance, and training tuition, say a $2,500 annual Armed Income Tax Credit?)

    See you at MAG180!


  17. When I saw the title I thought “yes!” but not in the way the article developed. I was thinking “it should be mandatory for schools to give firearms training to students.” Eddie Eagle safety training for the little ones, carefully supervised .22LR for middle school and service pistols and battle rifles in high school. That would be awesome.

  18. I don’t presume to have the creds that Mr. Ayoob, and other professional trainers do. But I have 6 NRA instructor ratings, worked in LE, been to Gunsite, and am a Chief RSO. I also run an Action Shooting program and offer instruction to those who want it. I don’t advocate mandatory training, but would suggest a basic test, like the driving test. If a person can get the training they need, like the young driver and his dad, then take the test, we’re done. Like the new driver who fails the test, we mandate that they get the training in order to participate in the privilege of driving on public roads. The poor to horrendous gun handling and safety practices I see everyday make me feel lucky not to have been shot already. We require driving tests because we understand that a person is not only likely to hurt themselves, but more importantly, others, if they don’t have minimum driving skills. I think the same reasoning applies to gun operation. If a person wants to drive his car into the side of his own barn, I’m fine with that until he wants to share public roads. Same with a gun. Keep it at home, plink on his property, fine. But once he wants to share public spaces with me, I want some assurance that, like with his car, he is minimally safe. As an NRA instructor I would offer that test free. The failures would bring me more business, just like vehicle inspections stations do the check in the expectation of more business to fix what’s wrong with vehicles. Just because we are born in America does not mean we have safe gun skills in our genes. Just the opposite is true. Because we feel like we ought to know the drill we don’t bother to learn what we don’t know.

  19. Mas, you reflected exactly my position on the issue. Everyone (not a criminal or incompetent) has a RIGHT to self defense, without government-required anything. It is up to US to decide if/how much training (and if/which guns) we need. We have a right to fight back and not get dead, even if we aren’t very good at it. For years I discussed this with a friend who owns a training facility, and he eventually told me I had changed his mind about mandatory training, because he could see that if it was his wife or daughter being attacked, he wanted them to be able to fight back, period, without conditions.

  20. If firearm training ever became mandatory, I, as a firearms and CHL instructor, would offer free introductory classes to those who cannot afford to pay for a course and then follow up with reduced cost next level courses. This would be aimed particularly at senior citizens who are on a fixed income where making a choice between a meal and a basic course would have to be made.

    I like the idea of a tax credit for certain mandatory firearm trainings if there ever is a federal rule out law where the trainings become a requirement to even own a firearm. This should also be applied to state’s that would make a mandatory requirement where there is a state income tax (sorry Florida).

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