President’s Column | The Groundwork Is Done — Now It’s Up To Us

posted on February 21, 2023
Charles L. Cotton

Before I get into the subject matter of this article, let me note that I have been a lifelong gun collector, competitive shooter and hunter. I love informal shooting—what many of us call “plinking.” I’ve also been a firearms instructor for more than 40 years, and I enjoy introducing others to the shooting sports. I hope I’m able to use firearms for sporting purposes for many years to come. That said, the highest and best use of a firearm is the preservation of innocent life. That is the focus of this article.

In January, I wrote an article titled “Bruen: A Sea-Change Moment.” That article discussed the impact that the Supreme Court case titled NYSRPA v. Bruen (decided in June 2022) had on Americans’ right to carry self-defense firearms outside their homes. The article also included a brief, high-level discussion of just some of the long-term work that went into making Bruen possible.

The NRA has worked for decades to get us back to what the Founding Fathers intended when they drafted the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Bruen decision has taken us very close to that position with its requirement that all gun laws be evaluated in light of what Congress considered appropriate and widespread in 1791. And numerous laws and regulations have already been struck down by state and federal courts since the Bruen decision was handed down! Many more cases have been filed and are working their way through the courts. Some states, however, are trying to ignore Bruen, just as they did Heller and McDonald for more than a decade, but the SCOTUS has changed since 2008. No longer can states thumb their noses at the highest court in the land, as they are now learning.

However, while firearm laws are changing, this will not immediately change the threats of crime and violence that Americans are facing, and it is now up to us to do our part. Law-abiding Americans must make use of the Second Amendment and prepare for the day we all pray will never come. Otherwise, all that has been accomplished in the courts and in our legislatures will be relegated to little more than an academic discussion. The NRA’s efforts—your efforts—were never intended to be just a legal/legislative chess game for our intellectual amusement.

Violent crime in the United States is escalating due in large part to left-leaning judges and prosecutors being unwilling to do their jobs and put criminals behind bars. Personal-recognizance bonds once unheard of in crimes of violence are now commonplace. People charged with murder, rape, armed robbery and other heinous crimes are released on these “PR bonds” without paying a dime. Not surprisingly, many commit further crimes of violence before the courts get around to finally bringing them to trial.

All of us must take every reasonable step to avoid becoming a victim. One very helpful course is the NRA’s Refuse to Be a Victim program. This is a non-shooting class that gives practical and useful suggestions that help us avoid being a target for violent criminals. Even without taking this course, we all know many common-sense efforts that can reduce the likelihood of us becoming a victim.

Despite our best efforts, however, it’s not always possible to avoid violent criminals. That’s where the Second Amendment has a direct impact on the daily lives of Americans. Every person who can legally carry a self-defense handgun should do so. Obviously, you need to comply with the laws of your state, which means getting a license to carry a handgun if required. Whether or not a license is required, be sure to learn your state’s laws concerning: 1) where you are not permitted to carry your handgun; 2) use of force in self-defense, defense of others and defense of property; and 3) how to interact with law enforcement, etc. If you are not familiar with firearms, then get training from an NRA Certified Instructor! Training certainly includes the safe and efficient handling of firearms, but it’s much more. For example, you should also learn how to secure your self-defense handgun from people who should not have access. With Second Amendment freedom comes a duty to be a safe and responsible firearm owner.

Let me suggest an easy analysis you can conduct that, hopefully, will encourage you to take action to protect yourself and your loved ones. Every time you watch the news or hear of someone being killed or brutalized by a violent criminal, ask yourself this question: “Would the victim be alive today if he/she had a self-defense handgun, had it readily available and was proficient in its use?” In many cases, the answer is yes. At the very minimum, they would have had a fighting chance. Bruen did the groundwork—now it’s up to us to act.


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