‘A gun is always loaded’
VAIL – Love ’em or hate ’em, when it comes to guns, a little knowledge goes a long way toward being safe in their presence.That’s the message local firearms and martial arts instructor Matt Bayley has for Vail Valley residents who’d like to either own a gun or simply become more familiar with them. A self-proclaimed “gun nut,” Bayley is a certified National Rifle Association and S.W.A.T. instructor who also understands not everyone shares his enthusiasm for shooting pistols and rifles. “But I think everyone can and should learn something,” Bayley says, slapping a clip into a .45 pistol one recent morning at the Forest Service shooting range in Minturn. “There are a lot of common mistakes that can be avoided by a little training.”Bayley cites the example of a Vail couple who traveled out of town to settle the estate of a deceased family member. Coming across a pistol, the wife held it up with the barrel pointing at her husband.”It was loaded,” Bayley says, shaking his head. The couple then contacted the airline to ensure the gun could be sent safely home with them, but they didn’t unload it properly, leaving one bullet in the chamber.
“So they sent a loaded gun through the airlines,” he said. It’s these kinds of situations that convince Bayley that everyone should learn about guns in a country where they’re quite common.”I respect people who don’t want guns in their homes, but you should know enough that if you find one, you know what to do,” Bayley says.That’s of particular importance among teenage boys, he says, who are more likely to bring out a gun to impress friends. “Teenagers get status by being risk takers,” he says, speaking to my two boys Austin, 13 and Max, 11. “They think to be real men they have to use manly things dangerously. But real men don’t take chances. That makes no sense whatsoever.”Holding up a .38 revolver, Bayley asks Max if it’s loaded. “I don’t know,” Max says.
“A gun is always loaded,” Bayley says. Family safetyWhile acknowledging that, statistically, people trying to protect their homes are more likely to shoot themselves or a family member than shoot a criminal, Bayley says the numbers become impressive when coupled with training.”If you’re trained properly, you’ll win a confrontation 97 percent of the time,” he says.It all comes down to personal preference, he says, but for those comfortable with a weapon, Bayley points to many kinds of situations where a gun can be a lifesaver. In Colorado, mountain lions and bears are genuine threats to hikers, campers, bikers and joggers. One warning shot, he says, is often enough to scare away an animal. For threatening humans, simply displaying a gun can defuse a situation.
“The first rule of an armed confrontation is be armed,” he says. “You either carry or you don’t. But the reality is that if you need a gun, you really need it – you don’t kind of need it.”But if you’re going to have a gun in the house, everyone should be trained in handling them, he says. To that end, Bayley often trains whole families, spending a day with them at the range to ensure everyone is familiar with gun safety.”The fear of having a family member shoot themselves is not a good reason to not own a gun,” he says. “But if you own one, the whole family takes the course, then gets recertified every few years.”That, he says, can make all the difference between safe gun ownership and tragedy. And that’s a philosophy that extends to any dangerous tool – from power saws to motorcycles – he says.While Bayley teaches private classes for families or individuals, he also offers teen safety and respect for firearms programs through the Vail Recreation District, as well as family firearms safety classes. Bayley, who runs the Vail Academy of Martial Arts and has a 5th degree black belt in American Kenpo Karate, stresses that the training he offers isn’t about picking fights or encouraging aggressive behavior.
“I’m a pacifist,” he says. Of the gun training, he says it’s all about removing the fear factor behind firearms.”I try to give people who are uncomfortable with guns the information they need to handle a gun situation comfortably,” he says.Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 615, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado