FOR GUN OWNERS
If you own a gun and consider yourself to be an upstanding, law-abiding citizen, you probably haven’t given much thought to being targeted or profiled because you own firearms. After all, as long as they’re legal and you don’t use them inappropriately, you have nothing to fear, right?
Wrong. Gun owners especially need to be aware of the fact that they might be falsely accused simply because they possess firearms. No, it’s not fair. And yes, that event is unlikely, and I sincerely hope it never happens to you. But the fact is, you need to be prepared for the possibility.
Read on for five things gun owners can do to protect themselves as much as possible in the event that they are ever falsely accused:
Make sure your i’s are dotted and your t’s are crossed. While many places in the United States require relatively little in the way of gun ownership documentation, it’s always smart to make sure that your i’s are dotted and that your t’s are crossed. In addition to the obvious rule—don’t buy illegal firearms—it’s a good idea to keep any receipts or licenses you may have, as well as a list of your firearms’ serial numbers. Also, be vigilant about having any guns you don’t own in your house. For instance, if you have inherited your grandfather’s rifle, check your local laws to make sure you have filled out any required documentation.
Be a stickler for gun safety. This is a rule of thumb that most gun owners take very seriously, but it bears repeating: Don’t joke or play around with guns, even if you are “only” with family or friends. Build a reputation for yourself as someone who always puts safety first. If you haven’t already, you may even want to consider taking a gun safety or concealed carry course (if available) so that you can demonstrate your commitment to being a responsible gun owner. And never, ever take guns out when alcohol is present, whether you’re on your first beer or your fourth.
Watch your mouth. In much the same vein, watch what you say about guns as well as to whom you say it. Except for perhaps your most trusted family members and friends, don’t make jokes or comments about owning and/or using your guns, such as: I’d like to shoot him, She’d better watch out, Don’t mess with me—I have a [insert gun type here], I’m not worried about anything as long as I have my gun within arm’s reach, Protected by Smith & Wesson, etc.
Focus on proper storage. Even if your household includes only adults (as ours did), it’s critical to store your guns properly. Invest in a gun safe or gun cabinet that you can lock, and think about keeping your guns unloaded with the safety on or using a trigger lock. If it’s provable and/or common knowledge that your firearms are easily accessible and not protected, this information could be used against you.
Be prepared for false accusations. Yes, it’s unlikely that you will be falsely accused of a crime because you are a gun owner. But lightning does strike sometimes. It happened to us, and it could happen to you, too. If you own a firearm, you need to have a plan in place and know what to do before the crap hits the fan and you are struggling to stay afloat in the confusing criminal justice system.
Anyone can be falsely accused of a crime. And the reality is that any accusation in which the accuser claims to have been threatened by a gun will be taken very seriously by the police or sheriff’s department. Such an accusation will almost always result in an arrest and prosecution—regardless of how unfounded it might be. Gun owners are therefore at more risk to be prosecuted for a crime they didn’t commit than others simply because they possess a firearm. Preparedness—in other words, knowing what to do if this horrible situation ever happens to you—is therefore especially critical for gun owners.