the ethics of going armed.

Kit is a police officer in Montana. Kit has written a blog post you should read.

I have a few notes of my own on the subject of self-defense and mindset, as some of you might imagine. Kit has the practical aspects covered, so I’ll try to tackle the philosophical angle, as I’m known to do on occasion.

I have sort of a split social personality. Half of my circle of friends and acquaintances are gun-toting libertarians or conservatives. The other half are writers, editors, and publishers, most of which are liberals. There’s some overlap between the two groups–a lot of my conservative friends are socially quite liberal, and a lot of my liberal-leaning friends either own guns or are interested in them. Some of them, however, don’t own guns, don’t care to own guns, and don’t think anyone else has a valid reason to own one either.  They think that carrying a firearm is a sign of uneducated, retrograde proclivity for violence, and that even the desire to own one is something that marks a person as mentally unhealthy.

In the last few years, as I have gained a few levels for the Writer class I seem to have rolled in Life:The Role-Playing Game, I’ve been around more people of the second mindset than ever before. I’ve been to conventions and workshops, and due to the strong liberal bent of the publishing world I’ve usually self-censored myself and kept my opinions on the subject under wraps until I was reasonably sure I was with a group of people who were fairly like-minded on the subject–or at least not completely appalled at the notion of armed self-defense. (In contrast, I’ve done the same social dance in reverse whenever I’ve been around the gun blogger community–I generally keep my yap shut about the fact that I’m a pro-choice atheist with very strong small-l libertarian leanings unless someone asks me directly.)

Outing yourself as a gun owner (and worse, a gun toter) to a liberal friend can be very much like coming out of the closet or identifying yourself as an atheist to a strongly religious conservative friend. I can’t believe it! And he seems like such a nice guy! What the hell is wrong with him? Well, I always sort of knew there was something just a little off about him. When I was hanging out with one of my Viable Paradise pals at the end of VP XII, she was visibly shocked when we were talking about the subject, she asked me if I usually carried a gun, and I answered in the affirmative. To be fair, she’s from Canada, where carry permits are about as rare as televangelists on food stamps, so it wasn’t too surprised at her shock of having to mentally sort me into the “violent redneck yahoo” drawer she had reserved in her brain for people who carry firearms. I’ve learned to tread softly on the issue because publishing is really not a very big playground, you see the same faces at cons and workshops all the time, and you really don’t want to push strong opinions on something that can have a negative effect on your career prospects in the future.

Those who know me can tell you that I am not a violent person. I abhor conflict and will go out of my way to avoid it. I was abused by a parent when I was a kid, and frequently bullied in high school, so I have a special dislike for abusers and bullies. Even so, I believe that most of the people I meet are decent and good. I live in a small town, I don’t hang out with people who do stupid shit, and if I keep living the way I do, there’s a 99.99% chance that I’ll never have need for a firearm for self-defense.

That said, while I believe that most people are decent and good, I know–without the shadow of a doubt–that some people aren’t. And here’s the thing about those that aren’t: they are not good to a degree that most of my liberal friends who dislike guns and write off armed people as paranoid hicks can’t comprehend. We’re not talking about “swiping the cash box from girl scouts” bad. Some people have decided to abandon the social contract so entirely that you are not a real person to them. You’re just the thing they need to get rid of to get at the wallet and the car keys in your pocket, like a wrapper around a candy bar that needs to be ripped off and discarded before you can get to the nougat. (My former mother-in-law was one of those people who were aghast at the notion of someone arming themselves for self-defense. When I asked her what her plan was if she ever get mugged, she said, “Reason with them. Everyone wants to be respected.”) Well, some people don’t care about reasoning with you because you’re not a person to them. They don’t give a shit about being respected, at least not in the way you understand the word. You’re a food animal. All they care about is the thing they want from you–your wallet, your car, your body, whatever–and they want it now and with the least amount of fuss. And if they feel that the transaction is taking too long, puts them at risk in any way, they have no compunction about hurting you badly or killing you on the spot. This is not paranoid hyperbole, or some sort of effort to dehumanize muggers and rapists. It’s observed reality, and if you doubt that, all you have to do is to open the “Crime” section of any newspaper. (Better yet, talk to a beat cop.)

Now, some of my liberal friends and acquaintances will take the stance that going armed will not be of use most of the time against people with that kind of mindset. You won’t get to it in time, they’ll take it away from you, you’ll miss them and hit an innocent bystander, the gun in the home is more likely to hurt a family member by accident…the list of counterpoints is long, and I can recite it by rote. We can argue any or all of the points above for hours, but there’s one thing that, on a philosophical level, you will never be able to make me concede:

That intentionally making yourself weaker in the face of danger and aggression is somehow more civilized, moral, intelligent, or enlightened. 

You’re not the better human by not fighting back. You’re not the better human for choosing to have no claws or teeth. You’re not the better human for delegating responsibility your personal safety to some underpaid guy or girl with a tin badge. And you damn sure don’t get to claim a halo for your attitude.

Look, threatening to end someone else’s life for the contents of their wallet or access to their body is the worst kind of social contract violation. Responding to that kind of violation with passivity and compliance only enables and propagates the act. If enough people meekly hand over their possessions, the violator not only has no reason to stop doing what he’s doing, he has a strong incentive to keep doing it. If you could have stopped him but didn’t, then you’re at least partially responsible when he finishes with you and then goes down the street to do the same thing to someone who would have stopped him but couldn’t.

No, carrying a gun is not a guarantee that you’ll be free from harm. But I carry one because it gives me options that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I can use it or leave it in its holster, but the choice is mine. We all take a path every day that’s occasionally frequented by mountain lions, and I choose to walk that path with my own set of teeth and claws just in case. There’s nothing noble or moral about walking that path unarmed and making yourself easier prey. You may respect the mountain lion’s right to live more than you do your own, but he will have forgotten you as soon as you’ve passed through his digestive tract. I’ll still have friendly words for anyone I meet along the road, and I’ll be a happy man if I take all my walks on that path without ever having to use my gun, but I won’t be an easy meal, and I don’t think it’s morally superior to intentionally make yourself one. And I’m amused by people telling me that I am paranoid, because don’t you know how rare mountain lion attacks really are? It’s all just statistics and stuff that happens to other people…until you’re the one that ends up on the menu by chance.

If you don’t like guns, and you don’t want to carry one, that is your choice, and I respect it. If you don’t like the fact that I carry one, it’s your prerogative to judge me according to your system of ethics. But if your dislike extends to supporting laws that would make it illegal for me to carry that gun, understand this: if I mean you harm, trying to disarm me is pointless…and if I don’t mean you harm, disarming me won’t make you any safer.


72 thoughts on “the ethics of going armed.

  1. Well put as always, Marko. I look forward to shooting with you some day.

    All I can add to this is that the day I met someone who was a) a gun owner, b) gay with a capital G and c) married to someone undergoing a female to male sexual reassignment was an eye opening day indeed.

  2. Rick R says:

    My Goodness you write well.

  3. Rob Reed says:

    “Outing yourself as a gun owner (and worse, a gun toter) to a liberal friend can be very much like coming out of the closet or identifying yourself as an atheist to a strongly religious conservative friend.”

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who has had both those experiences.

    I understand the balancing act completely. I swear, except of the “published SF author” part, you could be talking about me.

    I have lost friends over both the guns issue and the religion issue.

    • Patrick Barry says:

      Looks like we read the same blogs 🙂
      I too have lost friends over carrying. Pretty much everyone where I work would would be horrified if I outed myself. And that’s okay, let them be, I’m okay with being a savage 🙂 However, surprisingly enough, a few that know support it. It’s just that they feel they can’t carry due to social pressure.


    • tacgirl2000 says:

      Me too! I live in a very nice neiborhood in SoCal where I recently found out that all but two people on our street aren’t democrats (I don’t know at what level but I sense they’re pretty devout). I’m the one they don’t know anything about except that I’m friendly and courteous. I’ve recently had a GF convince a mutual friend of ours not to allow her daughter to my place because I’m a gunowner. Sad.

  4. BobG says:

    Excellent post; it goes well with your essay on Why the Gun is Civilization.

  5. Rob Reed says:


    Yeah, we should expect Maj Caudill to start getting credit for this one soon…

  6. Weer'd Beard says:

    I will say that also “Outing” yourself can have a VERY positive effect as well. Many of the people who are anti-gun or hoplophobic do it out of pure ignorance.

    A comparison was I dated a women (one who was quite Liberal I might add) who was very homophobic. She simply believed that all gays were gross perverts, and the sex lives of gays must be drastically different than those of straight people.

    Then I introduced her to a few of my gay friends. Suddenly “The Gays” weren’t just the old men with their asses hanging out of their leather chaps at the pride parade, or the dude pushing his junk through the glory hole at a public bathroom.

    Gun owners aren’t just the Michigan Militia, or drunk Jethro in his deer stand. That bright author with the funny accent just so happens to also be a wizard with that S&W wheel gun concealed on his hip.

    I’ve frequently heard anti-gun people in debates saying “I don’t want to take YOUR guns away, I just think that there are OTHER people who can’t be trusted.”

    I’m a specific, “Other” is always intentionally vague. The more specific people they can think of who they’re fine with packing a pistol the less of a battle we have.

  7. aczarnowski says:

    Well said Marko. Again.

    I saw US version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo at a late showing this past weekend. While I know evil people exist and, therefore, carry a gun for the same reasons you so eloquently put, that movie made be squirm in ways I’ll be working through for a while. How does somebody come out of a story like that continuing to think everybody can be reasoned with?

    I also try to walk softly around non-gun owners. But right now I’d like to jam a gun and a copy of de Becker’s Gift of Fear into the hands of every person I care about.

  8. Mad Jack says:

    Giving credit where it’s due, I stumbled across this post via DaddyBear’s Den: Quote of the Day.

    This is an excellent essay and I recommend it to anyone, gun toting Wingnut and freedom hating Moonbat alike. You’re quite right about packing your gat and the assurance of safety. There is none.

    The crime that never gets reported happens when a group of unsupervised economically disadvantaged youth attempts to redistribute your wealth while on their way to choir practice, and you, the owner of the aforementioned undistributed wealth have the unmitigated gall to obstruct their attempt by providing convincing evidence that you are armed. In short, when they try to rob you, you show them your gat.

    They run.

    Are you really going to report this one to the police? I wouldn’t. Not even to the police that I like (personally). I’d holster my piece and go get a shot or two of bourbon to steady my nerves a little.

    If you want further reading, check out two essays by law enforcement officers who are very familiar with the aftermath of unsolicited wealth redistribution and effective methods of prevention: Officer “Smith”: Thoughts From Behind the Badge: HELP! POLICE! and Older School at The P.O.P. Factor: The Magic of 911. Mind you, these men are working as police officers as of this writing, and this is what the voice of experience has to say about armed civilians.

    Again, you’re written a good essay.

  9. Sigivald says:

    I almost managed to believe they were invented, but via Facebook I actually ran into a “Guns are Always Wrong and just perpetuate the Cycle Of Violence(tm)” person.

    I was too polite (as they were a friend-of-a-friend and it was pointless anyway) to ask them if they had a moral problem with calling the police to perpetuate the Cycle Of Violence(tm) on their behalf, or if that was somehow different.

    (Let alone the issue of what exactly they think a sociopath cares about their conception of a Cycle Of Violence, or how simply being a victim is somehow not encouraging such behavior, but as stated, I’ve learned it’s useless to attempt debate with people who don’t share certain core assumptions about the universe.)

    Baffling. Where such people manage to get ideas like that that don’t stand the slightest test against observed reality, that is.

    I can understand someone wanting The People disarmed because they think arms in general ownership are more dangerous than beneficial; I utterly disagree, but I understand their reasoning, and it at least doesn’t involve thinking the sky is orange, so to speak.

    This person, though? Baffling.

  10. joated says:

    Excellent post Marko. Never fully understand the people who are ready and willing to become sheep.

  11. Tam says:

    Beautifully written, bro. A lot to chew over…

    The initial response I had is crystallizing around this:

    At some point in becoming an adult human, most everybody discovers that the world is a dangerous place.
    Most people’s response is to spit into the wind in an attempt to try to make the world less dangerous.
    I decided to make myself dangerous right back.

  12. Tam says:

    Incidentally, I am predicting that Major Caudill will have outdone himself with this one. 😉

  13. lexy3587 says:

    Well put. Though I’m Canadian, so the idea of anyone carrying a sidearm in a grocery store or office seems very strange to me. I hope you never have to use your gun for more than target practice.

  14. Lyford says:

    “….and a lot of my liberal-leaning friends either own guns or are interested in them.”

    Thank you for saying that. We do exist. My political views are all over the map, including liberal on some social issues. I’ve enjoyed shooting for most of my life and have had a carry permit for years. It’s irritating to have people hang a label on me and make a host of assumptions based on my position on a single issue.

  15. […] Be sure to read the whole thing. Tweet This Post Posted by Ambulance Driver on March 14, 2012 • Filed under: 2nd Amendment /* […]

  16. SgtStu says:

    Awesome! If only the rest of my family, and, perhaps, most of the far coastal US population (and NE Illinois) could ‘get’ this…oh, to dream…

  17. Matthew Carberry says:

    Don’t overlook the foundation of their position.

    “When I asked her what her plan was if she ever get mugged, she said, ‘Reason with them. Everyone wants to be respected.'”

    Remember, the criminal -is- the victim; of a white, patriarchal, capitalist society that by definition and necessity exploits and oppresses some of the citizenry (the poor and minorities) to support the ruling elite.

    The idea of “reasoning” with the criminal stems from that belief, that all that is needed is to identify yourself as being “on their side”, a fellow-traveler (albeit of the ruling class) who understands that “they have to respond with violence, it’s the only thing they know (from society’s treatment of them).” (the inherent infantilization of other autonomous human beings in that statement they ignore)

    However, when you choose to be prepared to respond to that ‘understandable if not actually justifiable’ violence with violence you show yourself to be, at best, manipulated, wittingly or unwittingly, by the structure of the “system” and perpetuate the cycle of oppression rather than rising above it as they, in their enlightened state, have done. Their solution isn’t to “fight back”, the solution is to change society so that all needs are fulfilled and all people can be free of the deprivation that is the only cause of crime and violence.

    Of course, since they, being of the elites, are usually segregated from the oppressed masses, their cherished worldview doesn’t have to face reality. When it does, they are put in the situation of denying their cherished enlightened identity or finding some outside factor that explains why that identity didn’t save them from harm.

    Thus irrational controls on things like guns and access to, which are lumped in with the other “tools of the oppressors” to maintain their privileged status quo and thus must be opposed as well by “right-thinking” people.

  18. Tony Muhlenkamp says:

    “(In contrast, I’ve done the same social dance in reverse whenever I’ve been around the gun blogger community–I generally keep my yap shut about the fact that I’m a pro-choice atheist with very strong small-l libertarian leanings unless someone asks me directly.)”

    So, I’ll ask directly for a post about the philosophical angle behind being a pro-choice atheist.

  19. Bing says:

    A thought for the day: Never piss off seven guys when all you are carrying is a six-shooter!

  20. Matt Donnell says:

    Brilliant! A very well-reasoned, elegant statement that should be read by everyone, no matter how they feel about “Guns”. Once again, I salute you, Sir!

    • B Dubya says:

      The answer to that is to carry a bowie knife as well.
      There was a rather famous gunfight between a rather elderly gentleman armed with a Colt revolver and a large knife who was attacked by 10 claim jumpers at his digs, (I think Califormia in the 1850s). With bullets flying at him from every direction, he calmly shot and killed six, then closed with the survivors with the knife and dispatched them as well.
      The only successful example of bringing a knife to a gun fight I have ever heard. Truth is, as long as you are willing to fight, you are always armed.

  21. Nicely put, Marko. I’d offer two thoughts:

    First, a useful quip to share with anyone who can’t grok the risk v. reward conundrum, and who falls into the “but it’s safe here” trap. We’ve all heard the “rather be judged by twelve than carried by six” line, but I like this one much better:

    Q: Why do you think you need to carry that thing? How often do you think people get killed around here anyway?
    A: Same as everywhere. Just once.

    (I first heard the line from John Farnam, but have no evidence that it’s his creation.) Oddly enough, I’ve had a lot of people set that one right up for ace, and it’s usually quite effective on either the speaker…or the person standing next to him.

    My second thought centers around the hoplophobe’s “reason with them” evasion (for that is what it is). You state the conventional response (which is certainly valid) as well as anyone, and even add your own excellent personal stamp with the “give them nothing” moral argument, but why leave it at that? Hear me out here: how is it that presenting a pistol to a potentially lethal threat is not, in fact, “reasoning with them”?

    I long ago lost count of the stories I’ve read which feature the basic sequence: thug accosts individual, individual presents weapon, thug reconsiders at the speed of adrenaline, attack is broken off, everyone goes home. These stories usually have good endings. This would seem to be demonstrable evidence of the armed individual presenting a rational alternative to the attack’s initial proposal, offering the attacker a clear and voluntary choice. You’ve already covered the moral point that this counter-proposal would certainly be less rude than the original attack was…so why shouldn’t we respond with something along the lines of “but see, I fully intend to reason with an attacker…by making it abundantly clear that if he proceeds, his violence may beget a whole lot more in return than he is prepared to enjoy*.” The effectiveness of this reasoning technique is even pretty well documented, and should satisfy most anyone who is actually impressed by statistics. (Personally, I’m not: my argument is, like yours, the moral one.)

    Have you tried that one? Because that would seem to be a very logical extension of the excellent case you’ve already made.

    * There’s a paraphrase from Jeff Cooper mixed up in there, and yes, that was intentional.

  22. Thomas Smith says:

    “That intentionally making yourself weaker in the face of danger and aggression is somehow more civilized, moral, intelligent, or enlightened. ”

    I spent 6 years learning that the hard way in grade school and middle school as my peers mercilessly abused me for it. All because I took seriously the instruction never to get into fights. So they knew I was a safe target.

  23. Kit Lear says:

    I love listening to NPR’s “This American Life” when I’m on road trips. Last week I listened to Act V, which was about a group who went into a high security prison to teach prisoners to put on the last act of Hamlet. Throughout the episode i could tell the reporters were struggling, really struggling, because they wanted so badly to grok the underlying reason why these convicts had done the horrible things they’d done. They seemed to believe there was some deep dark reason that, if they could only draw it out of these guys through the dramatic arts, would help them understand the motivation of a killer. I did not get the sense that the reporters ever got the satisfaction they were seeking. And I don’t think they realized it’s not *possible* for them to understand the motivation… because sometimes the motivation is just, “I felt like it.” You can’t un-do years of sociopathy and learned dehumanization out of a human predator by teaching him to memorize Shakespeare. You have to speak to him in a language he understands, and often the only shared language is force.

    Thanks for the link, Marko. I am really excited to be getting back to blogging!

  24. cj says:

    Great writeup, and based on your description of yourself, looks like I need to follow your blog more closely. Sounds like an echo of myself, and I was feeling pretty unique and lonely!

  25. Patrick Barry says:

    Thank you Marko for being able to put down in words how so many of us feel and believe. What an awesome post!

  26. Thomas Pluck says:

    I highly recommend reading – the site of Marc “Animal” MacYoung, and suggesting it to folks who live in a nonviolent fantasy world. He shares anecdotal evidence of men and women who have tried “respecting the criminal” or “shaming them” and winding up dead. Most famously, the actress who asked a gun-toting mugger in NYC “What are you gonna do? Shoot us?” And that’s exactly what he did, when she shamed him in front of his woman.

    I used to carry, I don’t anymore as I’m in a state that thinks only cops, their close friends, and criminals should be armed. My only weapons are a good set of eyes and a pair of running shoes.

  27. Old NFO says:

    Well said as always Marko! We all make choices, and “I” choose to be able to defend myself, rather than be a victim. If I lose acquaintances over that stance, so be it. and no great loss as far as I’m concerned…

  28. Tom Foster says:

    I don’t care much either way. But two words: twenty feet. If I am twenty feet from you, I can disarm you before you can get a shot off. Or I can be forty feet away and it’s unlikely you’ll hit me. Don’t get me wrong, I own ten guns, including an AK-47 with ten 30 rounds clips. I’m armed to the teeth. But I don’t carry. It just seems like a hassle. In the end, I think knowing martial arts is the better way to defend yourself. No matter what, that’s always legal. So have I been a victim of crime? Absolutely, but they have all been ambushes. No way I can pull a gun out, flip the safety, and get a shot off in the tenth of a second I have to react. Even martial arts won’t help you then. I described one of my muggings on a martial arts discussion page. And everyone agreed on two things. There was nothing I could have done, and if I had a gun, it would have been stolen with my wallet. I would say this though, the muggers were kind enough to give me my passport back. Broke my thumbs though. Turns out, thumbs are really useful and not being able to use them really sucks.

    • Marko Kloos says:

      As a former martial arts practitioner, I know that martial arts take years of dedicated training to achieve useful proficiency, and they still favor the bigger and stronger. (That’s why we have weight classes in just about every contact sport.) A firearm is a force equalizer and requires considerably less training to be effective.

      Also, some of us are handicapped or small of stature, and don’t have the option to fight off attackers in hand-to-hand combat. Lastly, martial arts require physical contact with the opponent, and they carry no psychological deterrent value that may stop a confrontation before it begins. Most criminals are opportunists who will be deterred by indicators that their intended prey is armed. They may find out that you’re a black belt, but by the time they do, the confrontation is already underway.

      So, martial arts may be the best option for you, but you probably shouldn’t make blanket statement about them being the better option for everyone.

      • Tom Foster says:

        Fair enough. I was talking of me, not everyone. For me, I choose not to carry. But I can see how some people might want to. And I have no problem with that. And I live in Colorado. It’s in our Constitution that anyone can openly carry a gun. You only need a permit to conceal it. And that’s the thing about deterrence. If I conceal my weapon, it’s not really a deterrent. If I carry it openly, then you know damn well I’m packing heat.

      • Tom Foster says:

        So my favorite gun story? My dad died and I inherited two shotguns. So I went to the gun store to have them checked out. I knew they were fine, but it’s always good to get a professional opinion. Parking in Boulder is a bitch, so I have to walk ten blocks. And I’m walking down the sidewalk with a shotgun over each shoulder. Perfectly legal to do that Colorado. But a cop stops me. That’s the Remington semi-auto isn’t it? Yes it is. And is that a Parker? Yes it is. It’s their 1910 double barrel 12 gauge version. Can I hold it? Of course, you’re a cop, you know weapons. Wow! That’s a beautiful gun. Grandpa only bought the best. So my issue with the cops was not with the law, only that he just wanted to check out the guns. The way it should be.

        • Will says:

          …”you’re a cop, you know weapons.”
          That statement shows you to not be very knowledgeable about cops. Granted, the fact that he could identify them at a glance indicates HE was, but for the most part, these days most cops are ignorant of guns except what they are issued for duty use. In fact, since most cops only go to the range when they are required to, I wouldn’t trust them to safely handle their own issue weapons, let alone something they’ve never seen before.

    • Tom: in the spirit of discussion, a couple of thoughts to this comment.

      I don’t know about you, but I know a lot of people who can indeed get a shot or two into you before you cover the “Tueller distance”–provided their mindset is right. (If the mindset is not right, there’s a bigger question of whether it’s appropriate to be carrying in the first place. 🙂 And much modern training is specifically geared toward acquiring proficiency both to beat that drop with raw speed, and also by adaptive tactics (e.g., moving off the line of force, etc.). Several schools can bring an attentive student to this level in one intensive week, and their graduates (spanning the complete spectrum of society) have repeatedly proven that it can be done when the chips are down. This is not a skill reserved only for superhuman abilities.

      The precision shot is not out of the question either. Again, with a modicum of good training, you can be effective at forty feet, or at well over a hundred. Will that be what happens every time? Of course not–it would be a pretty special case to have to hit someone that far out, rather than it being a better choice to take cover yourself. But I’ve watched little old ladies hit reliably, and quickly, at fifty yards’ distance, with J-frame revolvers. Under pressure.

      And here’s the thing: the biggest point of acquiring both of these skills (the 1.0 – 1.5 second presentation and the long shot) is mental. Once you know you can do it, you know you can do it, and you may be freed up psychologically to focus on the much larger issue, which is situational awareness; that is, avoiding the fight in the first place.

      You mentioned multiple victimizations by ambush. The specific characterization of “by ambush” rather sticks out (It looks like Marko already hit that point directly with you, and I’ll grant that I wasn’t there, but the same thing jumped out at me); shouldn’t we all expect that most attacks would be “by ambush”?

      What I would contribute there, though, is that the best “shooting training” available also includes a heavy dose of mindset and situational awareness, which is often more valuable to the student than anything regarding skill-at-arms. For literally decades, Jeff Cooper consistently reported that when one of his students had to use what Cooper had taught him to save his life, it was almost invariably the mindset that was the most critical element in the report, and only secondarily any skill-at-arms. There are a lot of “beat-the-ambush” stories in there.

      Mindset works with or without a specialized weapon, and I know a whole lot of folks who will tell you that it improves your life, too.

      Either way, here’s hoping you never see another ambush. 🙂

  29. Tom Foster says:

    I wonder though, is there some rule with thieves that they are supposed to give your passport back? I’ve been mugged five times in foreign countries, and every time, they gave me my passport back. It’s not like they can use it, and it’s a real hassle to get a new one, but that’s a courtesy I wouldn’t expect. But maybe should. One time, I was mugged by a group of cops, so I can see how they would offer that courtesy, but random thugs? And that mugging? Nothing you can do about. They GHB’d my beer. Think about that. How good a shot are you going to be when you are unconscious and laying face down in a gutter?

    • Marko Kloos says:

      If you have gotten mugged five times, then I think there’s something wrong with your choice of destination, your situational awareness, or both.

      • Tom Foster says:

        I’d say choice of destination. But situational awareness goes out the window when cops slip GHB in your beer. You kind of hope you can trust them.

  30. chiba joe says:

    I think it would be more apropos to say “if I mean you harm, trying to disarm me won’t make you any safer…and if I don’t mean you harm, disarming me is pointless.”

  31. theysabet says:

    Thank you for writing this. I’ve been dithering about purchasing a gun for self-defense for some time now, but I think I’ve made up my mind.

    I’m a short, non-threatening-looking woman of 50 years, and I geocache. If you’re not familiar with it, check out; what it boils down to is that I go to a lot of extremely varied places (open desert, alleys, stacked carparks, side-roads, residential neighborhoods, dry riverbeds, city parks, college campuses, etc.) to look for hidden containers whose coordinates are posted online. It’s a game, and I enjoy it thoroughly. But way out here in the Sonoran Desert so close to the border of Mexico, it can be very dangerous– you could be 6’7″ and weigh 350 lbs and still die an ugly death if set upon by border-crossers or drug-smugglers. It has nothing to do with my feelings on U.S. politics and the Mexican border; it has to do with people who want what you have and want you out of the way.

    I’ve never been attacked while caching, but I’ve only been at it for a short time. I *have* heard shots, I *have* seen signs of illegal passage, and I *have* gotten the hell out of Dodge when things felt off-kilter. Add that to what I just read of your words, and I think it’s time to find myself a small handgun and take some classes. I was a decent shot with a rifle as a kid; let’s see what I can do.

    So… thanks. My life may have been saved by what you wrote, or alternately I may never have to fire a single shot. But, you know, I do like the idea of improving the odds for my survival. I’ll sleep better. 😀

    • Kit Lear says:

      Theysabet, I just wanted to say how happy I am you’ve decided to take this step! I’m a geocacher too and you can definitely end up in some unsavory places without knowing in advance that’s where the trail leads.

  32. Jeff Smith says:

    Outstanding post/essay/manifesto, Marko. You illustrated the lengths to which predators “other” their victim pool very well indeed with your candy bar/wrapper metaphor.

    Fair warning: I’m giving a by-request class on situational awareness, street encounters and basic handgun manipulation to some friends and neighbors here in a couple of weeks, and I may just steal that imagery.

  33. says:

    Well said.

    However, I think the phrase “delegating responsibility your personal safety” needs a “for” in the middle of it.

  34. paul in Mordor says:

    I’m sending the link to this to my entire e-mail list.

    …disarming me won’t make you any safer. Truth!

  35. […] Ethics of Going Armed", by Marko Kloos Another great essay by Marko: […]

  36. Bucko says:

    I was moaning about British gun control on my blog and this post was linked to me by a fellow English blogger.
    I have to tell you how jealous I am that you even have the freedom to carry a gun for self defence, regardless of what other people think.
    In England we are banned from carrying defensive weapons of any kind. According to the British police, the only legal self defence item is a rape alarm, and they even conceed that those are useless.
    I own two licenced shotguns for clay pigeon shooting, but if I defended myself with one of them in the event of a home invasion I would certainly be arrested on suspicion of murder and most likely be convicted for it.
    We are not allowed to defend ourselves in England. Please don’t ever let it come to that over there.
    I have done a lot of martial arts over my years. The first thing they teach you is that if you can avoid a scrap, do it. The second is that if you can’t, strike hard and fast then get the hell out of there. We don’t want guns to attack people, we just want to be safe from the inevitable attackers who are out there. Our government wont let that happen though.

  37. julie says:

    Well written Marko and well said!

    Like Bucko commented the ability to carry is a freedom you should fight to keep!

  38. First off, let me say that I am not anti-gun. I have owned a gun, don’t happen to now, but I grew up in a house with rifles and shotguns and know how to handle them. I’m not anti-gun, what I am anti is the ease with which they are available to the people who use them to do harm, and the size and scope of the guns available to those people. If the person you speak of comes up to you with their gun out, cocked and ready to fire, and yours is in your holster or pocket, what happens when you reach to draw it? Unless the gun is in your hand, loaded, with one in the chamber, cocked and safety off – it’s kind of like tits on a boar hog. And can you 100% guarantee that the person accosting you won’t take the gun away and use it themselves to continue their crimes? Maybe you’d have enough warning with the mountain lion, but if it jumps from the tree you’re walking under onto your back, that’s gonna be quite a contest, for you to draw it while keeping the big cat from chewing your face/hand/arm/leg off.
    Yeah, you can name call me whatever political/social label you want. But I think something needs to happen to keep so many wrong people from having weapons of destruction. You may not agree, but I think people who lost loved ones at Virginia Tech, Columbine, Chardon, in Binghamton, NY, Omaha, NE, Brookfield, WI, Santa Clara, CA, and on down the list would.
    And as far as the vigilante justice you promote, I bet the farm that the parents of Trayvon Martin, the boy gunned down in Sanford, FL would disagree with it. He was killed by a ‘Neighborhood Watch’ captain, who was advised by police to not follow the ‘suspicious stranger in the neighborhood’, but who followed the 17 year old boy anyway, and shot and killed him. In a gated community, while the boy was walking home to his father’s house from going to the store. Mr. Quick On The Trigger claims that he was defending himself, and so police have not charged him with any crime. This, despite the fact that the boy was armed with nothing more than a bag of Skittles and an iced tea. Pretty threatening, huh? No charges, despite the fact that witnesses in the area heard no altercation, nothing until they heard a young person crying and then shots. Yes, I sure do bet that Trayvon’s parents disagree with everyone owning a gun and being allowed to shoot whoever they deem threatening. I know I do.
    I wonder how many actual criminals, who actually mean harm to the people they go after, are stopped by someone using a gun? As opposed to the innocent people, like Trayvon, like those in all the places listed above. And yes, I know, if you are the one who stops them from harming you or yours, that’s the important thing. But what if, just what if, you’re like George Zimmerman, the man not charged with killing an innocent young man – oh, and you do get charged with it? What then? Oh, right, in jail nobody has guns, so you don’t need yours for protection there.
    I guess I’ll be dead if those hard-asses you talk about come after me, because I don’t have a pistol, and even if I did, I wouldn’t have it in the ready to fire mode at every moment-and that’s what’s needed to be as prepared as you claim we should be. But I kind of think maybe I’d almost rather that than use my gun to kill a 17 year old boy, whose only crime seems to have been WWB (Walking While Black) because I imagined a threat, or created one so that I could have the excuse to gun down an innocent person.
    I respect your choice to carry a gun, as I do everyone else’s choices. I do not respect the choices and laws that make it so easy for those that should not have them to do so. That’s what needs fixing, so there are no more Virginia Tech’s or Binghamton, NY’s – and no more Trayvon Martin’s.

  39. Marko Kloos says:

    Before I discuss your last point with you–the choices and laws that make it so easy for people to get guns–I have a request:

    Tell me right now what’s necessary to walk into a gun shop in your home state and walk out with a pistol and a box of ammo for it.

    Also, you’re laboring under a lot of assumptions there. Read my post again and point out where I advocate “vigilante justice”. (Before you do, look up the definition of the term.)

    Lastly, on the case you mention:

    If the D.A. did not file charges, then there are two possible scenarios here. One is that the D.A. and the police have evidence that support self-defense. (One account I’ve read mentions that the shooter was in fact attacked and injured by the now-deceased when he asked for identification.) The other is that the D.A. and the police are engaged in a racist conspiracy. If the first case is true, then you have to acknowledge that your assessment of the situation is premature and quite possibly profoundly incorrect. If the second case is true–if you’re so distrustful of the criminal justice system and law enforcement that you accuse them of covering up a murder–then why would you trust them with guns?

    (Also, feel free to fill me in on why we have cops carry handguns if they’re so useless for defense against armed criminals.)

  40. Here’s what I found on Wikipedia on NY gun laws:
    Main article: Gun laws in New York
    Subject/Law Long guns Handguns Relevant statutes Notes
    State Permit to Purchase? No Yes
    Firearm registration? Yes Yes Long guns only in NYC.
    “Assault weapon” law? Yes Yes More restrictive NYC version of the expired Federal law.
    Owner license required? Varies Yes Licensing is required for long guns in
    Carry permits issued? Yes Yes In some localities a carry permit is de facto “No-issue”
    State Preemption of local restrictions? Yes[citation needed] Yes[citation needed]
    Peaceable Journey laws? Yes Yes
    My apologies for wrongly translating your comments about carrying a gun to defend yourself as ‘vigilante justice’, I will rescind the phrase; and don’t know what i would replace it with. You do, however advocate having a gun to shoot ‘them’ before ‘they’ shoot you; I was using the term in that regard.
    I will keep the term in the case of the man in Florida. The things I have read on that case make it appear to me that he did not have cause to use deadly force; i.e. the witnesses who heard nothing prior to the gunshots. Yes, my assessment might be incorrect, that remains to be seen. I think there is much in that case to still be revealed, and just as much that will never be, as the person with the other side of the story is dead.
    And as far as not having faith in the criminal justice system – it is not infallible, as has frequently been shown. Why would I trust them (law enforcement) with guns – some of them I’m not sure I do. There are cases of law enforcement shooting innocent people. For the most part it is a necessary and useful part of their job.
    As far as guns being useless to defend against armed criminals, if you read my post again you will see I did not say that. What I said was guns are only good if ready to be used. When the guy facing you has his out and yours is in your holster, yours is not ready to be used. When police go into a situation with guns drawn and ready to be used, the guns are not useless. But, how many police officers have been shot when their gun is in the holster and the criminal’s was not? That, sir was my point.
    Again I say, I’m not anti-gun. I’m anti-killing innocent people. And I think that the laws we have are not doing a good enough job of it. If stronger ones make it harder to have and hold guns, sorry to piss you off even further, but if that saves an innocent life, so be it.

  41. Marko Kloos says:

    Your Wikipedia info dump tells me that you do not know what it takes to buy a gun in your home state. If you go to a gun store in your state right now to buy a gun, how does it work? Who can or cannot buy a gun legally?

    How can you debate the strictness or lack thereof of gun laws when you don’t even know what they are?

    I’m anti-killing innocent people too. That’s why I carry a gun. I don’t want to be the innocent person who ends up getting killed because someone else decides that my life isn’t worth as much as their next fix or their cell phone bill.

    Look: there are 100 million firearms in private hands in this country. Anyone who wants a gun can get a hold of one. Any laws you can pass to restrict guns are only going to restrict the law-abiding, not the criminals. But you’re not worried about those, are you? You’re just worried about people like me.

    Just be aware that you are, as they say, pissing into the wind on the gun control issue. Gun ownership is at an all-time high, yet crime rates have been dropping for years. State after state has passed liberalized concealed carry laws in the last two decades, and the blood is not flowing in the streets. Even the hardcore gun control fans in Congress have realized that gun control is an incumbent killer. More people are legally carrying than ever before. Your side has lost, and you’re wasting your time.

    “If it only saves one life”–have you ever considered that your little slogan cuts both ways? What if you push a law that will take the gun out of the purse of a woman that then gets killed by her vindictive ex because she couldn’t match physical force with him? If gun control can be shown to have cost a life, does your slogan still apply?

  42. I am very aware that I am pissing into the wind on the issue. No, I don’t know what it takes to buy a gun in my state, nor in most others because I have never tried to do it. I am very aware that I am also pissing into the wind to try to continue a discussion on this, it has gotten far away from some of my original points, as it has from some of yours. Thought one could voice an opinion, apparently not. However, your last paragraph shows that you still have not gotten my original point: what good is the woman’s gun in defending her against her vindictive husband, if it is in her purse? And, if looked at closely a great many laws cut both ways. Speaking of pissing, I’m sorry to have pissed you off and won’t do it again.

    • Marko Kloos says:

      I could dig up dozens or hundreds of real-life examples where a gun saved someone from getting hurt or killed. But let’s not kid ourselves that any of them would have any effect on your opinion regarding guns.

      You haven’t pissed me off, by the way. I don’t care enough about your opinion to get that emotionally invested.

      “Apparently not”? I must have missed where I either edited or deleted your comments. You came to my blog to seek me out, not the other way around. You can’t expect to “voice an opinion” in my virtual living room and then expect to not have me make a counterpoint.

      • farmist says:

        Marko, have you been over to MattG’s place lately? Same troll is posting the same arguments under a different name.

        • Same one posted at my blog, under the name of an occasional commenter on my blog.

          Either the Brady Bunch has hijacked a few email addresses, or we all have the same troll, posting under different names.

          Which just means I’m going to ban someone who I once thought was a benign commenter.

    • Barbara, here is my simple question to you: why is it that your imagination is so actively engaged when looking for reasons to forcibly limit the choices of peaceable others, but so switched off when considering the idea that armed individuals may save more lives than they take?

    • Lyford says:

      Barbara –

      You’re right in that purse carry is a poor option for a reliable draw. Carrying on the body is a better choice.

      If you want to learn more about the practical aspects of being an armed female, and some different ethical viewpoints, is a good resource.

  43. […] Excellent Reading Elsewhere – The Ethics of Going Armed by Marko Kloos. This is wonderful. – Are You As Busy As You Think by Laura Vanderkam. I am not […]

  44. jimbob86 says:

    I saw another article today in the local cat box liner, saying using a gun for bear defense results in the user getting attacked 50% of the time, because the user panicks and does not get shots off soon enough, and that success rate is no better than bear spray ….. they did mention that about 75% of the time, when the bear attacks someone with a gun, it ends up dead……. I submit that in that statistic there is a good argument for using a gun: about 75% of the bears that attack an armed human will never, ever, ever do it again.

    If it looks like a rabbit, and acts like a rabbit, it will be treated as such: prey for all predators……. but if it looks like a rabbit, and bites like a rattlesnake, rabbits everywhere will be safer, and all predators more reticent.

    • Matthew Carberry says:

      That’s not exactly what that article says. It says that, if attacked, a gun is, statistically, useful in -stopping- the attack only about half the time.

      At the ranges and speeds most bear attacks occur, unless you get a CNS shot the bear is likely going to be on you before you can do enough actual damage to stop it DRT. Given that even the most powerful handguns aren’t 100% reliable stoppers against mere people it makes sense they’d be even less so against something the size and toughness of a bear.

      Also remember that the vast majority of brown bear attacks are not actually predatory, they want to beat you like you were another bear out of fear, frustration, or anger, not eat you (which is why playing dead works most of the time). Given that, causing any fear or pain at all, via gunshot or pepper spray, has the possibility of causing them to readjust their plan and break off the attack, depending on the bear’s personality and feelings that day.

      Which is what folks like Barbara don’t realize about human predators, most of the time they aren’t looking for a fight to the death. All you have to do is give them a reason to reevaluate their plan for you in particular at that particular time, which the right mindset, confidence, and demonstrated ability to do damage provides, even without having to fire a shot.

  45. Able says:


    Here’s an argument for those, in a country with sensible self-defence laws (ie the US), who wish to remove that right (by removing the tools to do so effectively).

    Here in What-Was-Once_Great-Britain we’ve long had any semblance of that right removed from us. The result? Here’s an article demonstrating, and whilst it’s focus is mostly on the destruction of family, morals, etc. It does illustrate the result.

    I wonder if any of the anti-gun lobby would like to live here in gun-free Britain? No? I didn’t think so!

  46. tacgirl2000 says:

    Fantastic article – sharing! btw, you aren’t JG’s husband are you? 🙂

  47. pat downs says:

    re “But if your dislike extends to supporting laws that would make it illegal for me to carry that gun, understand this: if I mean you harm, trying to disarm me is pointless…and if I don’t mean you harm, disarming me won’t make you any safer.”

    BINGO! This “illusion of safety” people (sheeple?) are obsessed with is baffling and aggravating. They are afraid of the wrong people for the wrong reasons, and underestimate the risk from the real human predators in our midst. Good job Kit.

  48. tacgirl2000 says:

    p.s. we have a similar set of experiences and feelings too!

  49. tacgirl2000 says:

    Another popular belief for many people is that folk who get a CCW want to be vigilantes or administer vigilante justice. Most people are sane and realize that they not only have a privilege which can be lost, but even in an absolutely clear imminent danger situation there will be a lot of legal problems and most know or are taught that each bullet which goes downrange has a boomerang attorney attached to it. Not only that, but the mostly anti-gun media will portray you as a crazy survivalist/vigilante/extreme-reactionary with little regard for human life!

  50. Tom Cooper says:

    I’m a strongly religious conservative who has atheist friends. It does happen.

    All the best.


  51. […] Article the ethics of going armed. | the munchkin wrangler. Tapatalk wasn't been working until recently so I've been branching out. It gets good after the […]

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