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.