Wharton: He defines 'responsible gun owner'
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Farmington • When politicians and the public debate changes in gun laws, much of the discussion involves not wanting to hurt "responsible gun owners."

Just who is a responsible gun owner?

I would put veteran Utah concealed carry instructor and retired Davis County Sheriff sergeant Bob Bredsguard of Farmington at the top of that list.

A strong advocate of the Second Amendment, he feels that anyone making the decision to own and use a gun needs to take personal responsibility for it. He has no problem with an improved background check system but does not think banning assault rifles or high-capacity magazines will deter criminals.

"Most police officers don't have a problem with the public having handguns as long as they are responsible and follow the laws," he said. "I have seen situations that have escalated when guns became involved. Most of the time, that involved people engaged in activities that are not conducive to carrying a gun. They brought their gun with them, visited a bar and started drinking. Something was said and the gun was pulled. But that was rare."

Bredsguard recalls incidents where gun owners used their self-defense skills to help themselves out of potentially dangerous situations.

"I know of several people that had home invasions while they were asleep, and when they confronted the person coming into the house and told them they had a gun, the person left their house," he said. "I have seen several incidents where having a gun with them probably kept things from escalating or getting worse."

That said, the instructor worries about Utahns being able to get a concealed weapon permit without needing to fire a gun.

"I personally don't think that is a good thing unless a person has a pretty strong background in firearms," he said. "They need to know how to handle them safely and how to be responsible before they actually put it on their hip, in their car or carry it around…There is a lot of liability if things go wrong."

Bredsguard said that gun safety comes down to responsible training. A gun owner who doesn't train and shoot regularly can be dangerous, especially to themselves.

"The first thing I teach my students — after I have made sure there are no loaded firearms — is that it is better to have never been in a gun fight than to have survived one," he explained. "It is better to be a good witness than the one who pulled out a gun and tried to diffuse a situation that is beyond their capacity and abilities to handle. It all comes down to responsible training."

To get a concealed weapon permit in Utah, a person needs to take a four-hour concealed firearms familiarization class from a qualified instructor. The instructor must sign a form on the application, which then goes to the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification that does a background check. The law says that those who clear that background check must be given a permit. There is no shooting requirement.

Bredsguard emphasizes safety, which is part of the class curriculum. He works on getting students to get a lock box or trigger lock. Guns need to be secured in a way that kids cannot get to them.

"I have personally not given certificates to people in the class because of comments they make and they way they interact with the class," he said. "I tell them to get it somewhere else. I say at the beginning of the class that I reserve the right not to give a completion certificate."

Having taken hunter safety classes as a kid, I think taking gun education and classes such as the ones Bredsguard teaches are a good idea for anyone, even those who don't plan to carry a concealed weapon. It simply makes sense that it is likely that sometime in our lives we will encounter a gun. Being educated about basic safety and operation prevents accidents from happening.

wharton@sltrib.com

Twitter @tribtomwharton