(Reprinted from Guns & Patriots, 9/20/11)
Carrying A Gun Responsibly Isn't Simple
Don't be stupid
You hear many clichés in the gun community. For example: An armed society is a polite society; Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six; A gun should be comforting not comfortable; Don’t draw your gun unless you are going to, or intend to, use it; Keep it simple and you’re not stupid; etc. However, here is a fact: A cliché is just a generalization and generalizations are oversimplications. Reality is seldom simple and if you carry a gun, it could be hazardous to your health and your freedom to be simple minded or stupid. Nevertheless, we all have our moments.
The gun is analogous to the fire extinguisher. It is an emergency rescue tool. If you really need one, you really need it badly because it is a violent life threatening emergency. Since even Carnac the Magnificent wasn’t able to really predict the future, it makes sense to play it safe and purchase insurance. Carrying a defensive handgun is one form of insurance. Even if your life insurance policy is paid up, if you believe that it is really possible for your home to be invaded, or for you to be selected to be someone’s meal, do you want to gamble that it won’t happen to you today?
With that said, how many of us fully read our insurance policies? How many of us understand the language therein? Not being a glutton for punishment, I have fallen asleep more than once after reading beyond my homeowner’s insurance declarations page.
It is essential to recognize that having a license to carry firearms does not make you a cop or a lawyer. However, it is wise to know something about the law as it pertains to self defense. Carrying the great power of deadly force on you, gives you great responsibility, but it is not the same degree of responsibility as that of a police officer who is sworn to preserve and protect. The responsibility I am talking about is the responsibility to stay away from trouble as best as you can, and to avoid instigating or escalating social conflicts that can turn bad on a dime.
Sworn police officers are mandated to employ necessary force to fulfill their duties under the Law. As a private citizen, you are limited to using equal force; that is, the same or a little more force than that employed by your opponent. However, real life just isn’t simple. If another adult physically attacks you, how can you be certain that he or she doesn’t have a deadly weapon, and if so, doesn’t intend to use it on you? The fact is that you cannot. Therefore, if you value your life and limb, you must be prepared to escalate your level of force up the force continuum if it is necessary to do so to counter the bad guy’s actions. The problem is that, as the good guys and gals, we must react to the bad guy’s actions—and action is slower than reaction.
Clearly, when you carry a gun, the power of potential deadly force goes with you into every social conflict you encounter, whatever the degree of conflict. With greater power, comes greater responsibility. This calls for different rules of conduct than when you go unarmed.
Since we all have our moments, including yours truly, reminding ourselves that we are carrying can serve as a sobering thought. I am reminded of recent embarrassing moments when I lost control of my tongue. I was, at least from my point of view, being treated rudely. In one situation, it was one minute after last call to the register at a bookstore that was going out of business and selling everything at twenty-five cents on the dollar. I had been there for over an hour accumulating a stack of books to purchase. The sales clerk refused to ring me out and told me to just leave. I protested politely at first. She smirked and said “LEAVE NOW!” I became angry and called her a bastard. She called her manager. The manager told me to leave. I protested that I just wanted to purchase the books I had spent over an hour finding. She threatened to call the police. I was carrying, so I left without the books I wanted to buy.
Do you think it would have gone downhill fast if I persisted in insisting that she ring my order out? She already rang me out! Was there any way to know what a police officer would do if the manager had called the police and I waited around to protest? The irate store manager would have claimed I was harassing her employee, and I would have tried to explain my side of the story. However, I had let my tongue slip, and I was armed! It was too bad for me. I had not remained polite. I did not want to wait around to find out what some young police officer’s position was on the license to carry!
When we carry, we need to keep a low profile and avoid social conflicts. If a social conflict finds you, and you are carrying, it is wise to avoid saying or doing anything that might be construed as escalating the conflict. Name calling and the display of the social finger are certainly out. If you are challenged by a testosterone charged antagonist, the best course of action if you are carrying is to back off. Nothing good can come from continuing the argument.
This is the “sacrifice” we make when we go armed because as I said earlier, when we carry a gun, the power of potential deadly force goes with us into every social conflict we encounter. Carrying a gun is a sobering reminder that we must be responsible for all of our actions at all times. We must leave our pent up anger, hyper-sensitivities, and resentments in the safe at home. Perhaps the old saying should be re-phrased as, a society with responsibly armed citizens is a polite society.