Over the past few days, a letter to the editors of the Boston Globe has been going around.
TO THE man I sat next to on my way in to Boston:
When I boarded the commuter rail, you were already in the midst of a spirited phone conversation and didn’t seem to care about how loud you were talking. You were talking with someone about the Paris train attack and the growing epidemic of gun violence in America.
You spoke about the “murderous NRA” and “bloodthirsty gun nuts” who were causing our schools to “run red with blood.” You spoke profanely of the Republicans who opposed President Obama’s call for “sensible gun control,” and you lamented the number of “inbred redneck politicians” who have “infiltrated Capitol Hill.”
I found myself amazed at the irony of the situation. While you were spewing your venom, I sat quietly next to you with my National Rifle Association membership card in my wallet and my 9mm pistol in its holster.
I see where this letter is going, and frankly I do understand and agree with the general tone and sentiment of the letter.
However, there’s one thing I strongly disagree with. The letter poetically ended with (emphasis added):
Your liberal self-righteousness and ignorance may have made you feel superior and comfortable, but during that 40-minute train ride to Boston, my gun kept you safe.
No it didn’t.
Your gun didn’t keep you safe. It didn’t keep the other guy safe either.
“Our side” likes to parrot how “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. That guns are inanimate objects and they (alone, in and of themselves) can’t kill.
Well then, by the same token, guns can’t keep people safe. It’s the same inanimate object.
But then by the same token, what keeps people safe are people willing to keep people safe, be that keeping yourself safe, or keeping others safe.
The author of the Globe piece does tacitly admit this, and I grant the prose is constructed and presented for artistic impact. However, let us not blindly parrot the phrase lest we suffer from the sting of our own words used against us.
When I first sat down to write this piece, this second part was to go in one direction. However a couple days after I started writing, respected firearms trainer Grant Cunningham wrote an article Do you carry religiously? You may not be as safe as you believe which actually dovetails perfectly.
The firearm is a very limited-application device in the totality of self defense situations and, being a reactive tool of restricted application, doesn’t keep you safe because it doesn’t prevent an incident from unfolding. It simply gives you a tool to defend yourself once a very specific type of event has occurred.
This is apparently a new concept for a lot of people, even (maybe especially) for those who have been in this field for a while! With such limited application there is no way the gun can really keep you safe — it’s all the other stuff you do that keeps you safe; the gun simply gives you a way out when things go horrendously bad. The gun has often been compared to a fire extinguisher: does a fire extinguisher prevent fires? Of course not. It’s just a tool to allow immediate response in case one breaks out.
Grant’s article was nourishing food for thought, and so I opted to change the rest of my article because of what he wrote.
I submit that if you find yourself acting differently, more cautious or fearful, when you can’t carry a gun you have a problem that results in you not being truly prepared for violence. The gun has blinded you to both its proper use and what actually keeps violence from being visited upon you.
And he’s right.
And I know a lot of people believe they are tuned in and “get it”, but this is NOT a place for ego. If any life-context requires humility, it’s the context of personal safety. You need to be humble, you need to be honest, even if it bruises or destroys your ego. Put it in check, step back and truly examine yourself within the context of Grant’s assertion; you probably suffer from it to some degree. Better to be hurt now and have a chance to correct the problem, than to be hurt later and forever denied the chance to correct.
Grant suggests “an unorthodox drill”. I think it’s a good one. I get some degree of practice in it when I do things like go to concerts. But I tend to only do this when I’m put into such specific contexts. Why not other contexts? So I’m going to do that from time to time. I know learning will occur, and I know I’ll be overall better for it.
Put it this way:
If, however, you feel completely confident and change nothing about your routine or your habits, then you probably have a good understanding of your concealed gun’s real place in your personal security planning. That’s how you know you’re at a point of balance, which means you’re safer overall than someone who isn’t.
Strive for balance.
If we can say anyone is a master of balance, it’d be an Olympic gymnast. Even an Olympic gymnast stumbles, even an Olympic gymnast can improve – that awareness of self is part of what brought them to the Olympic level. Have that awareness about yourself. Work to improve.