I have wanted to share my thoughts about guns for some time now, but something always jumped in my way and drew my attention elsewhere. Sometimes I write out articles, and never share them. Other times, I just mull over my thoughts and consider writing something for the blog. Mostly, I think I didn’t want to slog through the mired atmosphere of the “guns”, and gut stuck debating something silly.
I wanted this time to be different, so I filled a glass with coffee, put on some good music, and planted myself in my chair for a long and brutal writing session.
The “gun debate” is a terrifying and vast ocean filled with both nonsensical and logical arguments. In the immersive and chilly depths of this sea, there are numerous arenas of debate. I want to discuss concealed carry (or “carrying”) and self-defense. Also, up front, I will state this essay is not about people carrying firearms or using firearms illegally. I tried to keep my arguments focused on situations in which it would be legal to use a gun, or “carry”.
A Little Background
I will start by stating I am a gun owner. I own several firearms. I am not a hunter, though I do not dislike hunting, or think it should be abolished. I just do not enjoy hunting. I do not carry a handgun on my person when I venture into the world, nor do I have loaded guns stashed around my apartment, ready for action. I like target shooting. I enjoy honing my skills as a marksman.
I did not purchase any of my firearms because I felt the need to protect myself, or those close to me. I do not own any of my guns for the purpose of protection. However, defense is clearly one possible function a gun can perform. I look at this as an accidental property of firearms that happens to have beneficial tendencies. I don’t think the possibility of defending myself with a gun is wrong, or bad; I simply do not own them for this purpose, even though I would use them for defense, if I found myself in a situation that required violent force. Furthermore, even if it were impossible to use my firearms to defend my apartment, I would still own them for target shooting purposes.
So, what about “Carrying”?
The thought of carrying a loaded gun on my hip in public is an intensely independent notion that conjures heroic images. If I started “carrying”, I would no longer have a need to immediately call for the police if someone attempted to harm me or my party. I would also not have any need to ask my peers for help, as I would be able to shoot down any threat that arose. However, I am hesitant to believe that carrying a firearm on my hip, over my shoulder or in my car would enhance my chances of living a full, productive and uninfringed life.
I have considered obtaining a Concealed Pistol License (CPL), in order to carry a handgun in public, many times; however, I have yet to go through the process. Certainly, it seems like carrying my Glock should add some mystical layer of protection to my person. Being able to whip out a pistol and dispatch a would-be-murderer in the middle of the grocery store, movie theater or library sounds heroic. Having the ability to fight my way out of an “active shooter” or terrorist attack seems preferable to becoming another victim highlighted on the news.
Additionally, police agencies use weapons to enforce law and haul away criminals. Military forces use firearms and various weapons to defend themselves, and our national interests. Whether they are simply using the presence of their weapons as a deterrent, or they are leveling them with a hostile person, both police and military forces employ their firearms in self-defense. Similarly, CPL holders (or gun owners at home) practice self-defense when they engage an intruder or draw their pistol on someone trying to take their wallet.
Self-defense seems to be firmly accepted as a reason to “carry”, or own firearms. Defending another person seems be as acceptable as well. Why might someone still resist these arguments, and the primal urge to stay alive? What would cause someone to reject these straight forward reasons? I feel there are some issues with the notion of “self-defense” in the context of a CPL holder.
I believe the primary reason people have CPLs is for self-defense. Also, this is one of the top reasons people purchase guns. As I mentioned, Police officers, though required by their job, even carry firearms for self-defense.
I think traversing this planet with a firearm pressed against my body, cocked and loaded, would not (necessarily) increase my safety, nor do I think such actions would grant me peace-of-mind. If I were to “carry”, I would always have to be searching for threats, and judging how I would react to possible threats. Endlessly, I would have to watch for people who wish to inflict harm upon my body, or steal from me. Another, rather blunt, way of writing this might be I would have to always be looking for people to shoot, and potentially, looking for people to kill.
For the impending explanation, this argument is best split in half. Both parts sound identical, however, there is something special in each section that I will focus on. The first part is focused on “scanning the environment for threats”. Here, the emphasis is on being alert at all times. The second part deals with “looking for threats, or people, to shoot”. The part highlighted here is the notion of seeking people to shoot, or kill.
I think the first part is easy to comprehend, and an understandable annoyance, as it would be very tedious and tiring. Continually scanning for threats is not conducive to relaxing, or enjoying my time out and about. In fact, I think this would make each outing seem more dangerous, because I would be actively seeking out threats. I may not engage all of them, but I would have to be prepared to fend off all of them. This means I would always have to be ready to pounce, and smite a threat appears. Moreover, this act would be tiring, as I would have to evaluate every individual and keep tabs on the sketchy folks I happen upon.
Another reason a CPL holder must be alert all of the time is that they are carrying a loaded weapon, and they don’t want it to be taken from them by a criminal. This very different from the type of alertness I discussed above. This one deals more with your person, where the above deals more with the environment.
The second half of this argument sounds extreme, and very biased, as it suggests people with CPLs are looking to kill people. However, once the purpose behind a CPL is factored in, this claim seems less harsh. As I mentioned, self-defense is one of the primary reasons for acquiring a CPL, and one of the top reasons for purchasing a gun. The idea of using firearms for defense is very acceptable, as discussed above. Perhaps, one could go a step further and say self-defense is even an expected use of firearms. If someone is “carrying” a weapon in public, the primary reason they would do so is for defense; which at times, includes killing.
The act of self-defense sometimes includes the shooting, and killing, of people. If the act of self-defense sometimes includes killing, and the act of self-defense is included with having a CPL, then having a CPL sometimes includes killing. To some extent, CPL ownership enables killing, insofar as it makes a tool to kill readily available.
As I mentioned above, it is possible to use the presence of a weapon as a deterrent. I believe that firearms are a powerful deterrent, especially if the gun owner is not comfortable with firing on their attacker. However, if everyone were to possess firearms, then it would benefit me to avoid angering everyone, for example, since everyone would possess a grand tool of death. Perhaps it would benefit me to avoid stating my opinion to someone, as they might wholeheartedly disagree, become upset and draw their gun, creating a tense and potentially deadly situation.
The idea of toting around a weapon, as a deterrent, brings to mind a phrase often employed by people trying to further the rights of gun owners; an armed society is a polite society. I think there is some truth to this statement, however, such a society would be rendered polite out fear of death and bodily harm, rather than out of respect or some sense of community. This type of “politeness” or “peace” is considered negative, because it is derived from something. In this case, “not-getting-shot-or-killed” is achieved by not interacting with people a certain way.
The interesting thing about the case of this mythical and polite society is that people would be encouraged to not have regular conversation with people, because they don’t want to be drawn into a gun fight. Imagine during election season, if everyone were armed, how many less conversations would be had about the candidates, the state of the country and the issues plaguing everyone’s mind.
I feel that CPLs increase the potential of making a dangerous situation more dangerous. However, I don’t feel that simply adding guns to the equation makes a situation inherently more dangerous. Confusing, right? Like many trendy issues that pop up in my news feed, I do not take a traditional route when I sketch out an answer.
Guns are tools that make killing and maiming people very easy. I am not suggesting that guns ooze some bizarre foam that urges people to kill, nor am I suggesting that guns are inherently evil. Rather, I feel the presence of this tool increases the chances of its use.
Some people would argue that more guns equate to more gun related fatalities, and the problem lies within the firearms themselves. As I have mentioned, I disagree with this idea. I believe that the presence of guns merely increases the likelihood of their use. Imagine you’re watching TV after dinner, and you know your favorite candy bar is resting on your kitchen counter. In this situation, you want to leap off the couch and devour the little treat. The presence of the candy bar increases the chances of its consumption.
It works the same way with “carrying”. Imagine a CPL holder walking through a park, when someone rushes them, thrusts a knife in their face and demands their purse. The CPL holder, who feels in danger, fires their revolver through the pocket of their hoodie, striking the would-be thief in the torso. A situation arose in which it was desirable (and completely acceptable) to shoot someone, and given the presence of the pistol, the CPL owner fired.
The biggest difference between the candy bar example and the robbery in the park, is that the CPL (probably) didn’t want to kill the person trying to steal their purse, while the you really wanted to eat that candy bar. However, I think the analogy works because it shows that firearms are likely to be used when certain types of situations develop.
I enjoy target shooting, and owning firearms. I like loading up my Kimber and obliterating clay pigeons. I like popping off heavy loads with my shotgun and hitting targets at the far end of the range with one of my rifles. I liked teaching Michelle the fundamentals of shooting, and now, I am enjoying teaching these same skills to my niece and sister. However, my use (and enjoyment) of firearms ends when I lock them up before I leave the range.
Please, I love debate and discussion, comment your thoughts so there can be some lively internet banter about this dense, hot-button topic.