By Finn Aagaard
I carry my pistol always, whenever the law permits, inside or outside the house; at night it goes under my pillow, where I have slept with one on and off for 45 years. Am I utterly paranoid, do I feel that evil out to get me is lurking everywhere, am I so ruled by fear that I must have my security blanket at all times?
No. To think so would be to completely misunderstand the role of the personal gun in my life. My pistol, combined with some competence in its use, has indeed been a wonderful comfort in a few potentially unpleasant circumstances, and the knowledge I can retain command of my immediate environment does tend to encourage a calm self-confidence in everyday life, while precluding panic in an emergency.
The chief virtue of the pistol is that I wear it; you do not have to go and fetch it when criminal violence threatens with shocking suddenness ‘out of the blue,’ as can happen even in peaceful Llano County, Texas, where I live. If you have time to fetch a gun, you would do better to grab a shotgun, probably. Wear your pistol, keep all other firearms locked away. On you, it is safe from kids and other unauthorized persons, you do not have to remember where you stashed it or fumble with the combination lock of a pistol safe. It is there, instantly ready to protect you and your family. On the street concealed carry is usually required either by law or social usage and has the advantage of protecting everyone, even antigun liberals, because criminals cannot tell which of their potential victims might be armed.
Yet my pistol is more than just security. Like an Orthodox Jew’s yarmulke or a Christian cross, it is a symbol of who I am, what I believe and the moral standards by which I live. It symbolizes the Social Contract between myself and society and declares that I am no mere subject but a free and independent citizen of the Republic who holds inalienable rights while honoring the responsibilities that accompany those rights. My pistol states that I will defend the common weal, that I will uphold what is right and decent and that I am willing and able to protect myself and mine. (The police cannot and are not required to protect the individual person or family. They are spread too thin for that. When called they will do their best, but all too often they can get there only in time to clean up the aftermath. You are responsible for your own safety.)
My pistol is my family's shield, my guarantee that upon my life I will let no evil touch them. When a malefactor demands, Your dignity and your money, or your life!" my pistol introduces a very sobering third alternative: No - if you persist in this criminal endeavor, it is your life that will be at hazard."
Many people will suggest that the contents of your wallet are not worth jeopardizing your life for, just hand it over to the thug and move on. By doing so you are encouraging crime - success ensures the robber will seek another victim. I consider it to be a citizen's duty (a hard word to the me generation) to resist attempted violent crime by all means at his disposal, even at considerable risk to himself. Remember, action is always faster than reaction (unless your assailant has the reaction time of a Bill Jordan). Dissemble, pretend to go along. 'I don't w-w-want any trouble, you can have my wallet, I'm getting it out of my hip pocket now.' As your hand closes on your gun, yell: "Look out, behind you!" Side-step as you present the pistol , and when he turns back your front sight rests squarely on his chest. With variations to suit the particular circumstances, this sort of ploy will work far more often than most victims would believe. Statistics suggest that an intended victim who resists with a firearm is by a good margin less likely to be injured than one who does not resist at all. On the other hand, the surest way to survive a gunfight is not to get into one. Stay alert and avoid potentially bad situations if you possibly can.
Research by Professor John Lott, Gary Kleck and others into the effects of concealed carry laws prove beyond quibbling that they reduce violent crime quite considerably. Since it began to license responsible citizens to carry arms, Florida's murder rate has sunk from 36 percent above the national average to well below it, and overall the decline in violent crime in states with concealed carry laws (compared to the others) runs at east 15 percent for murder, 11 percent for robberies and 9 percent for rape, according to Professor Lott. Private citizens are said to use firearms in self-defense as often as a million times a year. In the vast majority of these incidents no blood is shed; the thug flees or surrenders. Nevertheless, it is claimed that private citizens justifiably in twice as many criminals as the entire law enforcement establishment in any given year.
Obviously, an armed and responsible citizenry is a very potent force in keeping crime in check. In many nations where private citizens are denied firearms - as most recently in Australia - violent crime is on the upswing, whereas in the U.S. the rate is declining.
However, the right to be armed does not depend on these facts; it goes way back to our very beginnings. Long before the Second Amendment and the rights acknowledged by English Common Law traditions, the right of a free man to bear arms was recognized by almost every culture or civilization that comes to mind. Until well into this sorry century, free men were armed, and like the yeomen of England and our own militia, they constituted the backbone of their societies.
Every right includes commitments, not least the right to bear arms. Anyone who carries a pistol in public has an obligation to society to be reasonably competent with it, able to hit his target - under stress - rather than uninvolved bystanders; he must know and abide by the laws limiting the use of lethal force; he must avoid quarrels and altercations and understand that he will be held to higher standards of restraint and responsibility than an unarmed person. The course of instruction that is rightly required (in addition to background checks) in order to earn a Texas Concealed Handgun License teaches all this, and more, including conflict resolution. Passing a shooting test is mandatory, but the class does not include shooting instruction; you are expected to have arranged for adequate training beforehand. It is a fine course; anybody who intends to go armed ought to take a similar one.
My pistol has aided no evil, it has added not a tittle of gratuitous violence to the world. On the contrary, its presence on my hip or on the Land Rover seat very definitely defused a couple of dangerous situations in the old days in Kenya. More recently, on a dark street, I am convinced the mere suspicion of its presence, engendered by my alert, confident demeanor, averted what could otherwise have been a nasty incident. Colt got it right; a pistol in the hands of a decent, courageous citizen is a convincing peacemaker. My pistol is a positive influence for stability, for decency, for righteousness, for freedom from fear and violence, for all that is right and proper. (If anyone can present a rational argument that factually disproves this statement, I will discard the gun and never carry it again.)
One's self-image matters a great deal; it is what charts one's course through life. If I refuse to compromise my integrity, my self-respect and what the Founding Fathers referred to as their sacred honor, it is because ray image of myself will not permit it. Self-images are complex, of course. Basically I see myself as a sound and responsible citizen, a scrupulously law-abiding, friendly, reasonable, middle-class, normally intelligent and fairly well educated paterfamilias with some understanding of true values who has been blessed beyond his deserts in this life and is truly grateful.
At the very root and foundation of my being, though, I am a warrior - a very mild one, but a warrior nevertheless - as any man must be to some degree. My pistol symbolizes that as such I will not be coerced by fear or by any political, social or physical threats whatsoever into doing anything I consider dishonorable or unworthy of my self-respect. You can push me only so far, but no farther. It symbolizes the positive side of the warrior spirit, which is the one force that can maintain respect for the law, stability, freedom, peace and decency in this world. Without it we are done.
Warriors and hunters tend to be fascinated by fine personal arms and will often cherish one above all others, far beyond its utility as a tool. That is why embellished firearms are commonplace, while engraved carpenter's hammers are not. I dote on my Colt Officer's ACP carry gun, and delight in its presence on my hip. Now do you begin to understand what my pistol means to me?
Be that as it may, our body of armed citizens has always been a potent force for law and order, liberty and all that is good in the land. If we allow the hoplophobic left to destroy it on an emotional whim, to make themselves 'feel good,' or in accordance with their unrealistic and failed political philosophy, we will come to rue the day.