On a fairly regular basis, I am asked by various folks for recommendations on what gun to buy for their partner or adult child to use for concealed carry or home defense. Sometimes, it’s because the recipient isn’t terribly interested but the giver wants to get them a gun anyway. Other times, it’s because the recipient doesn’t know where to get started so the giver is trying to help them out. Either way, it’s a well-intentioned question, often rooted in a genuine desire to provide the recipient with an effective means of self-defense. It’s a lovely motivation, wanting the people in your life to be safe, but I’d like to suggest that there are better and worse ways to go down this particular path of assistance. Whether you’re the giver in this scenario, or you’re a potential recipient who isn’t so sure about this whole gun thing, here are some things to keep in mind to make it all work out a little better for everyone.
Start by making sure that the recipient does, in fact, want a gun and that they are willing to take on the responsibility that entails. Safe storage is a non-negotiable part of gun ownership, and a minimum level of competency enables both safer handling to prevent accidents and the ability to use the gun effectively. The intended recipient might not feel comfortable with the safe storage options they have available or with how to operate a gun. They might want to learn before they buy, to get familiar with the entire idea before agreeing to the investment made by actually buying one and all of the needed accessories. Beyond that, not everybody thinks about the potentially lethal consequences of using a gun for defensive purposes. If and when they do, they may decide that they would rather not own a gun, or not own a gun yet, and that’s okay. Nobody should be forced into gun ownership before they are ready. Before you go out and just buy one for them, following all relevant laws of course, it might be better to have a frank conversation about whether they want to own a gun at all.
When you and they are certain that a gun is the right decision, then it’s a matter of buying the right one. Selecting a gun is a personal decision, like buying any other tool that a user will spend significant amounts of time with. Fit matters, and aesthetics too, not to mention the positives of having a psychological investment created by picking out exactly the one that you want. If the recipient hasn’t expressed a specific preference, then you might be better off taking them shopping first – preferably with an opportunity to handle and test fire a variety of options. As the gift giver and guide, you can also do some preliminary research and make some initial suggestions to help narrow down the pool for an overwhelmed recipient entirely new to the world of guns, but be careful about presenting your choices so that the ultimate decision is driven by the recipient and not you. Even if the recipient’s final decision isn’t exactly what you would have chosen, go with what they want anyway (though you might set some broad boundaries around acceptable quality and reliability). The best option really, especially when it comes to legal compliance, is to give the recipient a gift card so that they can personally purchase the individual gun they pick.
Some of you are going to ignore everything I just said, because you really really want to buy or be given a concrete gift of self-defense. In those cases, I have a few suggestions that might be more palatable. Depending on the applicable laws, lending a gun may be possible. That can prevent wasted money in purchasing a gun that is ultimately unwanted, and give the recipient a trial period of ownership before making a permanent commitment. Instead of providing a gun at all, or even a gift card for a local shop, sending the recipient to a class or to some private sessions with a qualified instructor can still be a tangible gift, with the end result of a recipient who is more prepared and knowledgeable about defending themselves, and who can have more educated input on whether or which gun might be an appropriate gift for them. Finally, if the giver really wants to give and the recipient really wants to get a gun, but isn’t sure which one, then pick a high-quality manufacturer and model with a reputation for reliability and that is broadly supported in the aftermarket. In addition to being the best possible generic experience, that option will at least have a strong resale value if it turns out that owning that specific gun or any gun at all is a mistake.
It’s not that taking actions to help someone be safer is a bad thing, not at all. It’s more that your efforts will be better appreciated, and more likely to make real positive change towards a safer existence, if the person you are helping is engaged throughout the process. As the giver, your most productive role is to enable what the recipient has already decided they are ready and willing to include as part of their self-defense strategy. Rather than imposing your vision of the best way to stay safe, empower your loved one to take the steps they want to but for the resources you are able to provide. And if you are the recipient, remember that these gifts are well-meant but that you have the right to accept them on only your terms or reject them entirely. A gun might be the right choice, or it might not. A specific gun might be the right choice, or it might not. But the person who is going to live with that gun is the one who should own that final decision.