What we have here is a “failure of civility.

Looters in Ferguson, Mo., were met with little police resistance Friday night and store owners say they were forced to protect their businesses with their own guns, Fox2Now.com reported.

“I think the first message is to remind all law enforcement that they are hired to serve and protect and if they’re going to sit back and watch looting, they’re not serving us; they’re not protecting us,” Pastor Robert White told the station.

A reporter from the station tweeted that police cars were seen driving past some of the stores being looted and did not respond. It rained in Ferguson Friday night and protesters could be seen outside until 6 a.m.

Two store owners, standing outside their business holding guns, told Fox2Now.com that when they called 911, they were sent from one police agency to another, and got no response.

One of the owners, with a large black gun resting on his shoulder, told the station that police were lined up blocks from the looting, and did not engage looters making off with large boxes from these stores.

“There’s no police,” he said. “We trusted the police to keep it peaceful; they didn’t do their job.”

No one needs a gun… until they do.

Citizens around Ferguson, Missouri are learning that lesson. Many people who have never considered owning a firearm before are now rushing to area gun stores.

Guns and ammo are selling at a feverish pace in and around St. Louis as violent clashes continue between protesters and police in nearby Ferguson, Missouri.

“People are coming in with fear in their eyes and they’re saying they need something to protect their house,” said Steven King, owner of Metro Shooting Supplies, a gun shop in the St. Louis suburb of Bridgeton. “They’re scared to death.”

It’s too late.  At this point, these panicked citizens can obtain a firearm, and may be able learn its basic features.

It’s too late for them to learn how to use a firearm competently, quickly, and under stress.  They are now gambling their lives—and the lives of their families—that they’ll be able to hit aggressors with murder on their minds at distances measured in feet and inches in precious seconds, with no training.

It stuns me to think that these individuals think they’ve somehow protected their families. They haven’t.

Merely buying a firearm does not make you a shooter, any more than buying set of wrenches makes you a mechanic, or buying a computer makes you a programmer, or buying a first aid kit makes you a medic. A firearm is merely a tool. Its proper use is entirely dependent on the skill of the person wielding it.

Sadly, many of the people panic-buying firearms in the Ferguson area will receive competent training in the use of firearms before this present failure of civility ends. Quite a few will end up putting handguns on shelves or in drawers, and shotguns and rifles in closets or under beds.

These weapons will largely be neglected, until…

… a curious child finds them.

… an experienced burglar finds and steals them to keep and use or sell to other criminals

… a panicked homeowner grabs them in a moment of terror, becoming a threat to everyone within range of the weapon system not behind cover.

… an emotionally disturbed person decides to seek a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

The riots may or many not be winding down in Ferguson, Missouri.

The deaths are only beginning, because some citizens have purchased tools that they do not know how to operate, which many find distasteful, and which they will not store safely.

We need to find a way to turn these panic-purchasers into responsible gun owners.

We need to convince them to take classes to learn how to use their firearms safely, and if they bought their firearms for self-defense, how to fight with their firearms. We need to teach them safe storage and use of their firearms.

If we’re lucky, we’ll convert many of these new gun owners into responsible gun owners, and a few may even go on to become instructors and self-defense experts in their own right, and share their knowledge with others.

Firearms ownership has skyrocketed in Ferguson as a result of these riots. Whether that becomes a blessing or a curse depends entirely on what people choose to do with their firearms.