gavelThis month, we took a break from our usual discussion topics into a more general question, yet one on which every experienced armed citizen has an opinion. We thought it would be interesting to explore our affiliated attorneys’ opinion on the following:

The current political unrest regarding gun control is causing many people to purchase their first handgun. If you were to give one piece of advice to the brand new gun owner, what would that piece of advice be?

Lynne Torgerson, Esq.
222 South Ninth St., Ste. 1600, Minneapolis, MN 55402
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My recommendation is to obtain training and practice regularly.

Nabil Samaan
Law Office of Nabil Samaan
4324 “A” Illinois Ave., Fair Oaks, CA 95628

Get training.

Paul E. Bucher
Bucher Law Group, LLC
355 Austin Circle, Ste. 110, Delafield, WI 53018

Know what you need and don’t over purchase. Then, train, train and train. Live fire and classroom. You may not need a .357 Magnum when a 9mm or .40 caliber is appropriate. Check your insurance coverage and if needed, purchase the insurance you need.

Penny S. Dean
Attorney and Counselor at Law
59 Warren St., Concord, NH 03301

Seek legal counsel in your area. First, the Internet is NOT a source of legal advice unless you really believe orange is the new black. You have no clue what you don’t know and the price you might pay for that ignorance could be your life savings and your freedom.

John Chapman
Kelly & Chapman
PO Box 168, Portland, ME 04112-0168
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View a handgun as one part of a system, the other parts of which are at least as important. The other parts, which should predate purchase of the handgun, are:

  • education
  • training
  • a storage system and strategy
  • a carry system and strategy

Joel A. Brodsky
Attorney at Law
8 S Michigan Ave, Fl. 32nd, Chicago, IL 60603
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If you’re purchasing your first firearm, the best advice that I can give is not as an attorney, but as a person who has been a gun owner for over fifty (50) years.

That advice is in two (2) parts:

First, go to your local firing range and take shooting and gun safety lessons from a certified firearm instructor (hint: the way firearms operate in real life is not like they do in the movies or on TV).

Secondly, go to a place where you can shoot (a range if you live in an urban area or out in the country) and train for different scenarios. If you can’t get to where you can fire the weapon, then train with an unloaded gun. Unless you’re a hunter, firearms are for self defense, and if you’re not trained and ready, you are likely to do more harm than good should you need to use the weapon. And there is no such thing as too much training. Like the Navy Seals say, “We train, then we train, and then we do some more training, and then we train some more, and after that we train some more.”

Lastly, no matter how well trained you are, buy insurance to cover your liability and legal fees if you have to shoot someone in self defense. There will be legal ramifications no matter how much you are in the right, even after you are vindicated. I am currently representing a police officer who shot and killed a man who was attacking him with a baseball bat, and was only five (5) feet away and advancing when he was shot. This is probably the most justified shooting I have ever seen or heard of, but the legal system is putting my client through hell.

First, we had to convince the State’s Attorney not to file charges. Then we had to, and still are, fighting to stop any disciplinary actions. Finally, we are defending a civil suit from the family of the deceased, which is being strenuously prosecuted (and I hate to say it, but the truth is that if the family had put as much time and energy into the offender as they are the lawsuit, he probably wouldn’t have been trying to kill a police officer with a baseball bat). The municipality has to pay the officer’s legal fees and any settlement (which I will agree to pay after hell freezes over), but I can’t imagine how an individual could afford all this. Getting the right (post-incident coverage) is as important as buying the right firearm and proper training.

Now go out and train.

John R. Monroe
John Monroe Law, PC
9640 Coleman Road, Roswell, GA 30075
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Become familiar with the operation of your gun, including how to field strip it, clean it, and fire it proficiently. For first time gun owners, that probably means seek some kind of training.

Gary True
Summers Compton Wells LLC
8909 Ladue Rd., St. Louis, MO 63124

Get all of the education, training, and practice your budget and schedule will allow. Never stop learning and training. In addition to finding a good trainer to teach the safe and effective use of a handgun for self defense, to a much greater extent than any concealed carry class can teach, attempt to learn and understand avoidance and de-escalation benefits and techniques, the legal justification for use of deadly force, and the physiological and the psychological effects of a deadly force incident. Straight Talk on Armed Defense: What the Experts Want You to Know and Deadly Force - Understanding Your Right to Self Defense by Massad Ayoob, On Combat by Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman, and The Law of Self Defense: The Indispensable Guide for the Armed Citizen by Andrew Branca would be good places to start.

Richard H. Seaton, Jr.
Seaton, Seaton & Dierks, LLP
410 Humboldt St., Manhattan, KS 66502

Don’t listen to the person at the gun shop about which gun is best for you. Find a friend who has a handgun collection and go to the range with your friend and shoot a variety of guns. Alternatively, find a range that rents handguns and try a variety that way. You are simply not likely to find the right gun for you on your first time at the gun shop. And it can be a very expensive endeavor to find the right gun this way.

I used to advocate that the gun totter should carry a gun in the largest caliber they were comfortable shooting. This is less true today with modern bullet technology and design. I like 9mm. More bullets and less recoil.

You wouldn’t buy a car without driving it first. Don’t buy a handgun that way either.

Graham Kistler
Law Office of Graham W. Kistler
114 Old Country Rd., Ste. 200, Mineola, NY 11501

Obtain sufficient (post-incident coverage)!

Rinky S. Parwani
Parwani Law, P.A.
9905 Alambra Ave., Tampa, Florida 33619
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Just like anything else in life, when you own your own handgun–training and safety are the two key components. 

Jerold E. Levine
Law Offices of Jerold E. Levine
5 Sunrise Plaza, Ste. 102, Valley Stream, NY 11580

Legal Advice: Join a local gun organization that has a gun law training course, or contact a local gun lawyer, to learn about (1) when a person lawfully can shoot someone, and (2) about any special local laws that may apply (e.g.; storage and transportation laws).

Gun Advice: Buy a double-action revolver as a first handgun; whichever fits the hand most comfortably.

Joshua S. Reed
Law Office of Joshua S. Reed
5915 Casey Dr., Knoxville, TN 37909

My advice is simple: get training. Once you have purchased a firearm from a quality manufacturer, consider taking training classes to develop competency to be more important than gear selection.

Mark D. Biller
Attorney at Law
P.O. Box 159, Balsam Lake, WI 54810
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Unfortunately, one won’t do.

1) Training, training, training. Hopefully you had a thorough concealed carry course to get your permit, but understand that one course, good though it may be, is not the Holy Writ Genesis to Revelations. Expand your knowledge. Read everything you can get your hands on. The best literature is heavy on how to avoid trouble in the first place and not feel like a wimp about it.

If you can afford it, a good practical pistol course is important. Standing at the mark and knocking holes in targets only gets you so far. Go the extra buck and get a Co2 pistol of similar weight and action to the gun you will carry so you can expend hundreds of rounds in the back yard without going broke. Also, this will help you learn to deploy your weapon without shooting your foot off.

2) Have a “Plan B.” You can’t go blowing holes in everybody’s idiot brother-in-law who gets pugnacious when he drinks. Carry pepper spray. Learn to box. If Asian martial arts is your thing, get good at it. As John Kennedy said in support of the Special Forces “every nation needs something between diplomacy and sending in the Marines.” Find something non-lethal that you are comfortable with and get proficient at it. A gun is a last resort and you’ll have to justify why intermediate steps were imprudent.

3) Seek out a good lawyer who has actually tried self-defense shooting cases. Not so much for the black letter law that you can read yourself, but rather so you can develop a realistic idea of just how much the aftermath will suck if you have to shoot someone. A prosecutor with a bullet-ridden body to justify will probably charge just because it is the line of least resistance. (Having spent half a career as elected District Attorney I can tell you that underestimating the politics because you feel justified in your shoot is a mistake.)

Whichever way the jury goes on your continued liberty, the civil case will go on forever. Plan to be broke for a long time. Plan to eat stress for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A win on both fronts is still a very bad beast to invite into your life. Marc MacYoung said it best (as he often does) “Someone will always be displeased with your use of force decision.”

None of this is intended to scare off the new gun owner, but if you don’t feel the weight, it is likely to fall on you.

A big “Thank You!” to our affiliated attorneys for the many contributions to this interesting discussion. Please return next month for the second half of the opinions sent in by our affiliated attorneys.

To read more of this month's journal, please click here.