Gun advocates – before you lock, load and acquire a center mass sight picture on my avatar, let me say that I’m also a gun owner and a strong advocate of 2nd Amendment rights. But I’m finding that those wanting to learn more about the value of guns in home and personal defense are sometimes confused by language used on both sides of the 2nd Amendment debate. We can’t do anything about what anti-gun people say, but we can certainly be clear regarding our position on gun rights and the role of guns in self-defense situations.
In the title of this essay I’m referring specifically to what guns and people can and cannot do. We often hear anti-gun people say after a murder, “that gun killed Bobby.” That Bobby died a tragic death due to a gunshot wound is undeniable. But we’ll usually point out that it was Fred, the thrice-convicted felon on parole for armed robbery, who killed Bobby. Fred illegally acquired a gun, sought out a victim, and then committed this awful crime. The gun was merely an instrument of Fred’s desire to murder and Fred bears complete responsibility for Bobby’s death.
Let’s modify our scenario and say that Fred illegally acquired a firearm and took to the streets seeking a victim to rob and murder. Fred kicks in the front door of Bobby’s house, gun in hand. Bobby, his wife, and daughter are in the kitchen cooking dinner. Hearing the crash that could only mean an intruder has entered the house, he instructs his wife and child to lay on the floor behind the kitchen counter and opens the door to the pantry, where he unlocks a hidden gun safe and takes out a pistol and two loaded magazines. He drops one magazine into his shirt pocket and locks the other into the pistol. He pulls the slide to the rear and releases it, loading a round into the chamber, then engages the safety. Bobby takes a position in the kitchen between the intruder and his family, hoping the intruder will take what he wants from the living room and leave the way he came in. But Fred can smell dinner cooking and sees lights on in the kitchen and moves in that direction, seeking out victims as well as a wallet and maybe some jewelry. Bobby crouches behind the kitchen counter. Fred rushes into the kitchen. Seeing Bobby, he aims his revolver to shoot. Bobby watches as Fred’s barrel is raised towards him just a few feet away. As Fred pulls his trigger, Bobby can see the cylinder of the revolver begin to rotate to line up a round to fire. In this moment Bobby knows that if he goes down there is nothing to stop Fred from killing his wife next, then his daughter. In one motion Bobby’s thumb releases his pistol’s safety as his finger pulls the trigger. Three quick shots and Fred falls backward onto the floor, his revolver firing once harmlessly into the wall. Bobby rushes around the counter and steps on Fred’s wrist with one foot and kicks the revolver away with the other. Bobby’s wife dials 9-1-1 on the kitchen phone.
What saved the lives of Bobby and his family? Was it the pistol that he kept locked in the pantry? Some gun advocates would say it was certainly that pistol. Without it Bobby would have been virtually defenseless against an armed intruder intent on committing murder.
Just as gun rights advocates hold that a gun used in a crime is blameless and the guilt belongs to the criminal who uses it, we can apply the same logic to Bobby’s home defense scenario. Fred became a criminal based upon many influences and decisions that guided him to Bobby’s house that night. What saved Bobby’s family was that another set of influences and decisions guided Bobby to prepare for such a scenario.
Bobby read the papers and understood that a threat to his family’s safety existed. Acting on that understanding, Bobby took action to secure his home with strong locks, safety windows, and an alarm system. Knowing that a criminal could still make it through these safeguards, he purchased a handgun and obtained training from a certified instructor. He spent many hours at the range becoming comfortable with the weapon, learning how to fire it with either hand and from different positions. His instructor taught him about home defense ammunition and what would work best for his situation. Bobby learned about the legal aspects of gun ownership, including how to properly transport his pistol to and from the practice range and how to securely store it out of the reach of his little daughter. Most importantly, Bobby made a decision to accept his role as defender of his household, mentally prepared to do whatever he could to protect his family.
In neither of these scenarios would I direct blame or credit to the gun, but to the man who used it.