Gun ownership among all age groups is still a big debate let alone among elders. But whether it is okay or not to own a gun at this sensitive age, it is evident that a large number of seniors do own a firearm. It is reported by the Pew Research Center that like last year, nearly a third of Americans over the age of 65 owned a gun while another 12% lived in households where someone owns a gun.
Seniors owning guns buy them for different uses although the biggest percentage (67%) say they bought their guns solely for their protection. Other uses cited by senior gun owners include:
- Sport shooting
- Gun collection as a hobby
- Part of their jobs
If you are considering owning a gun for either of the above reasons, this guide will open up your mind on critical things you must know about gun ownership at your age. As the debate about gun ownership in the U.S. is not about to come to an end soon but getting more and more controversial, let’s look at the pros and cons of an elderly owning a gun.
Pros and cons of gun ownership for the elderly
The major reason for not only a senior owning a gun is obviously self-protection. As they age, they tend to develop some fear of living alone and owning a gun gives them some sort of “safe companionship”. Another possible reason for seniors wanting to protect themselves is living in an unsafe environment. Also if they have unstable health and they live alone, they might consider owning a gun for when they are attacked and can’t wrestle the attacker or run to save their life. Whatever the reason is, the bottom line is that they too need to feel safe and having a firearm in their presence gives them some sense of security.
Of course, the downside to seniors owning a gun is that it can quickly become a danger to themselves and those around them especially when dementia sets in. Firearms are deadlier in the hands of seniors than any other group. A story was published, by The New York Times of one Ms. Barbara Herrington, a geriatric care manager who was on her usual routine of checking up on her patient, a 72 years old in Polk County. As usual, she knocked and opened the door of the patient’s house, the door was never locked to make it easy for her caregivers to pop in.
Unfortunately, that morning her patient was very angry as her car had been taken away by her daughter on grounds that she was driving unsupervised in the middle of the night to buy liquor. She was an alcoholic and a dementia patient, Barbara Herrinton disclosed. So on opening the door, Herrington was met by her patient standing with a gun on her hands.
The old woman had the gun aimed at her caregiver demanding to have her car back, were it not for Herrington’s quick response, the story would be different that day. These are just some of the many incidences that occur with seniors owning guns when they are mentally or physically impaired. And since seniors have a hard time giving up their firearms (their attachment hardly dies), it becomes more dangerous for those with dementia and mental defects.
What to consider before buying a gun?
If you are convinced that owning a gun is still the best decision for you after assessing your safety needs and physical health, ask yourself the following questions. Many times we think something is best for us but after careful consideration, we realize that we are better off without.
Q1 – Are you in the right state of mind?
If you have been declared mentally ill or unstable, it is rather obvious that you cannot hold a gun let alone own one. The federal law is very clear on this. It states that it is unlawful for anyone to sell a firearm to a person with any sort of mental defect.
Q2 – How then is one declared a mentally unfit to own a gun?
One is through a court declaration and the other is if one has been admitted to a mental health hospital involuntarily. But being a senior, you may not have been in either of the two scenarios but suffer from Dementia which is still a reason not to own a gun according to medical experts.
Being a senior it is only natural that you may be hit with mental and cognitive decline. The most common mental defect being dementia which is the main concern for most firearm experts since dementia is a progressive condition. At the start of dementia, a senior may be still be mentally fit to own a firearm, however as the condition progresses, it becomes more of a hazard than a safety measure. Dementia can be so bad that it can be hard for one to differentiate between a family member and an intruder.
Aside from dementia, other mental conditions such as depression and schizophrenia can compromise a senior’s ability to effectively and safely use a gun. And since these two conditions are difficult to spot in their earlier stages, the damage could be done way before it is discovered that the senior had either of these conditions. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly half of the suicides are committed with a gun.
Q3 – What does your state say about gun ownership?
It is very important that you know what your state says about gun ownership and what laws are in place so that you don’t find yourself on the wrong side of the law. If your state allows individuals to own guns, then you know you obviously need to get a license and permit to own and carry one. If you intend to travel with your gun, also find what is stated about moving around with your gun.
Q4 – Are you willing to take a life?
If shit hits the fan, are you mentally and emotionally prepared and willing to kill someone? Well. there can only be two answers to this. YES or NO. If your answer is no, then you are better off staying without a gun because it will not be of any help to you. A gun is a protection tool and so if it won’t protect you then why own it in the first place?
If your answer is YES, well then be prepared for the two implications of taking away a life – legal and emotional.
Legally, you will be required to call the police immediately you pull the trigger. Several events will then follow from there. You will be required to record a statement, you will be interviewed to give an account of what happened and depending on whether or not you did it out of defense, the police will conduct an investigation. Lucky for you if you have any witnesses. There is also the possibility that the incident will catch the media’s attention and they will camp outside your home for days digging all sorts of info on you.
You should also be prepared for the possibility of being locked away if you are not able to satisfactorily convince the police that the shooting was out of self-defense. Months and years of legal battles and attorney’s fees will follow suit. There are 3 instances where you are allowed to take one’s life which we will talk about later in this article. Aside from the legal implications, there are emotional implications of taking away someone’s life. Just because it was out of self-defense doesn’t make it any less emotionally torturing. Expect to encounter the following:
- Disrupted sleep as a result of nightmares
- Feelings of withdrawal and self-doubt
- Suddenly becoming aggressive emotionally
- Substance use or abuse
Knowing the consequences of taking away life will help you decide whether owning a gun is after all the best decisions.
Guidelines for responsible gun ownership for senior gun owners
If you are convinced that owning a gun is the best decision for you, then you must equip yourself with knowledge of proper and responsible ownership of a gun. The first responsibility you have is proper storage, which we will cover extensively in the next section. Let’s look at other key guidelines for responsible gun ownership.
Choosing the right gun
Guns vary in sizes, types, operation, ease of use among others and finding your best match may take a lot of research on your part before you finally try out a couple of them. You need a gun you can easily pull the trigger without struggling and has recoil that your body can handle as well.
These factors should be your guide when choosing a firearm for self-defense:
Ease of maintenance. This may come as a shock to you if you are a first-timer but guns need regular care and maintenance. A gun that is well-cleaned and oiled, fires much better than a neglected one. Also, note that different firearms require a different type of care and maintenance, be sure to ask your seller.
Size. The size matters especially if you intend to walk around with it, a semi-automatic gun or a double-action revolver are easy to store, operate and carry around. Basically, buy a size that you can comfortably hold securely. Too small a gun and your hands won’t fit well.
Range. You need a firearm for very close quarters however not one that will spray all over your house, leaving a nasty mess afterward.
Safety mechanism. You need to choose a gun with a safety mechanism that you can operate. This can be grip, trigger or thumb safety mechanism, whichever is easy for you is what you should get. If you are a beginner, a thumb safety would be a great start.
Recoil and caliber. These two go hand in hand, a gun with a higher caliber will give a greater amount of recoil when fired and this requires you to be strong enough. The question is, how much recoil can your body handle given your age? When recoil is not properly managed, it can easily lead to self-injuries and accidental discharge. Also, ammunition for high caliber firearms cost an arm and a leg, unless your budget allows, it isn’t a good idea to get one.
It’s important that you choose the right gun for a number of two key reasons. 1) For your own safety and the safety of others. Guns are lethal weapons and as such you must choose a gun you can control and handle. 2) Choosing the right gun allows you to get a good aim at the very instance you pull a trigger.
Learn how to handle it
Once you have made your selection, you now have to learn how to safely handle your new gun and especially if this is your first gun experience. You will need to take a safety course, this will help you learn all the basics of owning a gun as well as safety measures required. If you have someone close to you who is a gun owner, you could also ask them to teach you how to handle your own. Ask them as many questions as possible so that you are certain you have learned the basics.
You can also lookup for a firearm instructor in your area and ask to take up some safety courses with them. There is also plenty of gun safety info online that you can learn from, although it’s always best to learn from an expert or an experienced person. It wouldn’t hurt to get equipped with knowledge before you can take up safety courses.
Learn when and when not to use a gun
Knowing when to use your gun and when not to is more than mandatory knowledge for any gun owner. Of course, if you attended a gun safety course, you will have been taken through the safety steps and best advice on when to use your gun and when not to. We will, however, look at the scenarios where one is allowed to pull the trigger in the case of self-defense:
- The threat must be imminent meaning in that instance there was nothing else you would have done to protect yourself other than pulling the trigger.
- Would any else have pulled the trigger if they were in your position?
- The threat must be capable of causing serious harm or death.
Any of these instances is considered self-defense and you can argue yourself out in court. Keep yourself well informed before you start using your gun to avoid landing yourself in jail.
Practice how to use your gun regularly
I know you are probably asking where and why.
Why? For the simple reason that you will have perfected the skill of pulling the trigger when you get attacked. Imagine an intruder showing up in your bedroom door in the middle of the night, you manage to pull out your gun but are fumbling to pull the trigger? We all know, the intruder won’t walk away after encountering such and chances of him coming back are high.
Where? Head over to the local range quite often and practice shooting. Your goal should be to have the speed and accuracy that is way above average.
Finally, let your family know you own a gun
It may be tempting to keep your ownership a secret, but safety dictates that you need to alert your closest people that you own one. This is to let them be aware that there is a gun in your premises in case they are staying over so that they don’t get surprised when they either come across it or when they see you using when the need arises. The other reason is so that they can monitor your cognitive and mental ability to use it. When conditions like dementia set in, your family will be able to withdraw the gun for your safety and their safety as well. Also letting them know that you own a gun will give them peace of mind knowing that you are safer.
Guidelines for safe storage of guns for senior gun owners
According to a new study, many of the firearms in households where seniors live are not stored in a safe way: locked and unloaded. Firearms should not be stored in the open where anyone can access them, especially If you have grandkids around, it can pose such a danger. Yet they shouldn’t be stored so far away that they cannot be accessed when they are needed. Secure firearm storage is a balance between firearm safety and its accessibility.
For most seniors who stay alone, a nightstand would be a perfect place to store your gun but if your home has some significant traffic of people, here are a couple of safe ways to store your firearm:
Gun locks prevent accidental shooting by blocking the trigger from firing or by preventing ammunition from being loaded. The locks can be tampered with or fail to lock so it’s advisable to still put the firearm away from anyone’s sight.
Gun safes are the safest as they are difficult to tamper with or break into. A gun safe can be accessed either through biometrics lock, keypad locks or a combination lock. The only challenge with these unlocking systems is you have to have very good motor skills and good memory.
If you have a collection of guns, a gun cabinet is the safest way to store them. You can either buy one or construct one yourself. However, you will need to store the cabinet in a disguised way.
You can also store your gun unloaded until when there is a need to use it. Very ideal if you have your grandkids over. Also, store your bullets as far away as possible from the gun. This will help to prevent accidents and injuries
If your firearm is more of a recreational gun than a safety one and you spend a lot of time outdoors with it, then a gun case is the most ideal way to store it. Gun cases are portable and offer maximum protection to your gun. They come in different sizes and are made of different materials. There are even waterproof cases as well. Whichever way you chose to store your gun: unloaded, gun locks, safes, cases or cabinets, the bottom line is that it is safely stored and can be easily accessed when the need arises.
Well, while the debate between the pro-gun and anti-gun continues, one thing is for sure, gun owners are increasing by the day and subsequently, gun crimes are dropping. This is a consolation that gun ownership isn’t a bad thing after all. So go ahead and get one for yourself. Be sure to follow all the tips and advises in this guide so that you don’t find yourself on the wrong side of the law. Attend gun safety courses, connect with gun experts and strive to learn as much as possible about gun use. And don’t forget to inform your family of your gun ownership, there will come a time you will need them to intervene for your own safety.