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What every new gun owner should know

Know safety, what type of firearm is comfortable

Zach DeJesus fires at targets at Prescott Gun Club. (Jason Wheeler/Courier)

Zach DeJesus fires at targets at Prescott Gun Club. (Jason Wheeler/Courier)

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Ivy Jones, at Insight Firearms in Prescott Valley, takes shots at a target. (Jason Wheeler/Courier)

When he was just starting out as a gun owner, Prescott resident Chris Keltz said he wishes someone had told him more about ear protection as well as that he should shoot as many different types of guns as possible.

“Find one that fits you and don’t worry about the caliber. Whether it’s a .22 or a .38 or a .45, whatever you take to right away, try and stick with that,” he said. “If you like it, keep working with it, consider buying one. If you don’t like it, even though you’re doing well with it, still stick with it, see if you can get to liking it. if you just can’t stand that gun, just move on to something else.”

Similarly, it would be beneficial to find someone to help you out, said Zach DeJesus, a Tempe resident who is moving to Prescott. That way, you can get all the details as there’s just so much to know, he said, mentioning it would have been nice to have a guide or a mentor when he was starting out as a gun owner.

KNOWING WHAT YOU DON’T

There are a multitude of things someone should know when they’re a new gun owner, said Matt Seibert, president and co-owner of Insight Firearms Training Development in Prescott Valley. The first thing would be they should know what it is they don’t know, his wife and co-owner Sherrie Seibert said.

“Learning starts at a point of unconscious incompetence, we’re not aware of what we don’t know and then we reach a point where we become aware of what it is that we don’t know,” Sherrie said, noting it goes from unconscious incompetence to conscious competence. “We become aware of what we don’t know and then we get to the point of conscious competence where we start to be able to do things with thinking about it.”

The key to firearms ownership is it has to get to a point of unconscious competence, which is not having to think about something in order to do it, Matt said. Once that’s taken care of, the next thing to do is make sure the new firearm owner knows how to handle the weapon safely, how to properly store and handle it safely and how to utilize it properly, he said, stating that if it’s meant for self-defense, then that person needs to know Arizona’s laws.

Arizona may be a gun friendly state, but the penalties for gun crimes are harsh and prosecuters are aggressive, Matt said.

Gun owners have to protect themselves criminally as well as civilly along with protecting themselves from perpetrators looking to do them harm, Sherrie said. Many starting out don’t have any understanding of how important that responsibility is and the two of them see it all the time with people coming into the store to buy guns.

Not everyone should own a firearm as many people aren’t willing to take the responsibility to get the training to know the laws to know how to safely handle a firearm, Matt said.

“We try to get people to make that decision, whether they’re willing to invest in the firearm and themselves so they know how to handle it safely and responsibly,” he said.

When she was just starting out as a gun owner in 2016, Prescott resident Carol Hamersley said that while there were a lot of aspects to gun ownership that she would never have thought she would have had to learn, she did know that she needed to learn the law.

“I wanted to know where I stood with the law with having a gun and also I wanted to really be safe with a gun, never having shot a gun,” she said. “It was just something I knew I needed to learn.”

GET PROFESSIONAL TRAINING

“All new gun owners should get professional training to learn the legal aspects of owning a gun and the responsibility of using one in self-defense,” said Rik Danielsen, a certified pistol instructor, who added that more training is better than less. Only 2 percent of the people who are gun owners have any training at all, said Paul Ferriera, another certified pistol instructor.

A lot of people get their training off of television and movies, but so much of what is done on those shows and films are completely wrong, Danielsen said.

“Guns do run out of bullets, people don’t know how to hold their guns,” he said. “All the time in cop shows, these cops show up at a crime scene and they rack their gun. They don’t know what they’re doing. Whoever’s the consultant on that TV show has no idea what’s going on.”

Even after that professional training, it continues to be a never-ending learning experience, Ferriera said, commenting that even instructors are learning by the people they’re instructing.

FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU

After knowing the law, the safety rules and how to properly use the gun, that’s when the new gun owner should start thinking about what type of gun to get, said Don Grier, co-owner of Prescott Gun Club. A lot of that depends on what the gun is going to be used for, he said. That takes a personal interaction with the customer to understand what their intended purpose is and then working with them to determine their proficiency and abilities, Grier said, remarking that when working with a new customer, it takes more listening than talking and spending between 20 and 30 minutes giving them all the different types of options.

“Here’s what we really don’t like to see: ‘My friend said that I should get this gun’ or ‘I know a guy that’s in law enforcement and they carry this, I want to get that,’” he said. “That might not be the right gun for somebody, so they shouldn’t be influenced by what people tell them, they should be influenced by what works best for them.”

If the person is going to carry the gun, they need to get a good Carrying a Concealed Weapon (CCW) class and with that, you get what you pay for, Grier said, adding that a good class will teach holster draw and have the person put a lot of rounds in on the range.

And again, it all comes back to knowing the law, Grier said.

“You can get in a lot of trouble carrying a gun and using at a time when you’re not permitted or brandishing,” he said. “A lot of people don’t understand that using a firearm and carrying it really is incumbent upon them to get to know the laws of the state in which they’re carrying.”

A tactical safe, which gives instant access to the firearm in a matter of seconds, is also a good idea, Matt said, adding that it protects the gun owner from civil liability. He cited a Kansas Supreme Court decision that states the homeowner must use a high standard of care for a firearm because if someone breaks into the home and steals the firearm, that homeowner can be civilly liable if it is used in a crime.