Why We Make the Choice

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s funny, sometimes, how the most ordinary of moments can remind you of the most profound truths. It was New Year’s Eve, early in the afternoon, and I’d been invited to a friend’s house for a potluck. When I arrived, my friend had gone to the store and her teenage daughter, “T.”, was home washing dishes and watching her young brothers.

T. is a sweet young lady and someone who, like her mother, matters very much to me. Although I know this is so, I don’t spend a lot of time consciously thinking about it. Both T. and her mom go shooting with me sometimes, and when we’re together we have an easy, comfortable relationship. They’re definitely people I consider family, despite not being blood relations.

When I arrived, T. greeted me with a broad smile and a hug. I stowed my contribution to the potluck in an overfull fridge and grabbed a dishtowel. T. washed and I dried, and then she tidied up the living room while I grated a block of cheese for enchiladas. I made a bowl of ravioli for her brother, she tidied up a stack of videos and XBox games. We didn’t talk much, merely enjoyed each other’s company while we worked.

And then, it seemed as though the zoom lens of life shifted focus, and I experienced the strangest sense of crystal clarity, almost vertigo-like in its presence. It felt like looking up at an IMAX theater screen, somehow impossibly large and disorienting.

I was standing near the refrigerator, and I remember looking at T.’s back as she stood by the sink. I turned my head and saw one of her brothers walking down the hall, saw the closed bedroom door where the baby slept. And into that moment, a single thought flashed through my consciousness: The people I love are worth fighting for. They’re worth killing for, if that’s what it takes to keep them safe. And, if God forbid everything else went badly, they’re worth dying for.

I think that anyone who chooses to carry a weapon and train to use it, anyone who chooses to step up and own their own safety rather than taking the “easy way out” of denial and make-believe, knows this truth. It certainly wasn’t a thought that I was thinking for the first time. I doubt T.’s mom would be surprised by it, when she reads this post. But that sudden tangible moment of clarity shone a light on both the responsibility we assume when we choose to own our own safety and the safety of our loved ones, and the freedom that comes from knowing we aren’t helpless.

I think this is one of the things those who are afraid of guns, and who don’t make the choices we do, might not understand. Because, you see, the truth is that we’d fight and kill (and die) for their kids too.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a vigilante or a “mall ninja”, itching to yank gun from holster and rush into any conflict. I’m very clear that my mission is to get myself and my loved ones to safety if I can, and to engage the threat only if I can’t avoid or escape it. But I can think of at least two ways that armed citizens make us all safer.

First of all, although my goal is to get myself and my loved ones to safety if at all possible, there might in fact be circumstances where I do have to engage a violent predator. Or where someone else with a gun has to make that choice, if it’s a public location. Obviously, if someone intercedes in a violent encounter and stops the threat, that predator won’t go on to hurt anyone else that day, and hopefully won’t ever be free in society to hurt or rape or kill again.

The sheep, and the sheepdogs, are all safer when there’s one less wolf running around, and wolves tend not to stop after just one attack. When we measure lives saved by a defensive use of lethal force, all of that predator’s future victims should be counted in the tally. There’s no way to measure them, of course, but they are surely safer for the armed citizen’s actions.

Moreover, society as a whole would be safer if the bad guys knew there was no place they could go and not face the threat of armed resistance. This is the part of the equation the anti-gun crowd doesn’t want to acknowledge: The presence of armed citizens makes all of us safer, in much the same way parents who choose not to vaccinate their children nevertheless benefit from the “herd immunity” that the vaccinated kids create.

Personally, I don’t think that having every law-abiding citizen armed is a necessary, or even a desirable, goal. Not everyone has the mindset, the willingness, the emotional makeup to be a sheepdog, and that’s okay. But even those who choose not to arm themselves need to recognize that they are made safer by the presence of cops, military service members, and armed citizens to stand between them and the bad guys. After all, the most dangerous place to be is one where all the bad guys are armed and none of the good guys are.

This is what my moment of clarity reminded me: I have chosen to step up, to say to the predators of the world, “not me, and not mine, not while I can help it.” Not every person in society can, or has to, make that choice. But those of us that have need to be clear and conscious about it, ready to back up our choice with action if that awful day should come when we’re called upon to stand between our loved ones and the monster. We need to be clear in our intention, and in our dedication to backing up that intention with skills, equipment, and training. And even though it might hurt our hearts to imagine tragedy, we need to be absolutely clear who and what is at stake.

We all pray the wolf will never come knocking on our door. But if it does, we must be ready.

Photo credit: stock.xchng (by dezma)

Comments

  1. Yes, ma’am. You got that right – all of it.

    Thank you for this piece.

    Blessings.

  2. Susan says:

    Tammy,
    Thank you for writing this. As a female police officer way back in the 1970s, I have had several moments of clarity in my life. You described it better than I ever could. Not everyone is born to be a sheepdog. If only the sheep could have a better understanding of who we really are they would ‘bleat’ less and thank us for standing between them and the wolves.

    • Thanks so much for this, Susan! I totally agree with you – I find it ironic and sad how few people seem to recognize the reality that the sheepdogs are what makes society safe enough for the sheep to have the luxury of criticizing the sheepdogs.

      And thank you so much for your service to your community – I know enough cops to know what a demanding, thankless job it can be.

  3. Jaimie says:

    Well written. I think the quote that most people need to understand is what you phrase as, “Not everyone has the mindset, the willingness, the emotional makeup to be a sheepdog, and that’s okay.” It really is okay, as long as the sheep understand that the sheepdogs make them safer. Your whole post is just beautifully eloquent.

    • Thank you so much, Jaimie. I’m so glad my post struck a chord for you. I’ve said before that there’s no value judgment attached to being a sheep. But we can’t pretend we don’t live in a world of wolves, and we can’t pretend we don’t need sheepdogs.

  4. XD9 Mom says:

    And its important that we not fool ourselves that the wolf will never come to our door!

    • You betcha. I’ve said before that one good thing which came of my experiences with violence is that they permanently cured me of the delusion that it couldn’t happen to me.

      Thanks for your comment!

  5. Great post, as always.

    “But that sudden tangible moment of clarity shone a light on both the responsibility we assume when we choose to own our own safety and the safety of our loved ones, and the freedom that comes from knowing we aren’t helpless.”

    Exactly! Freedom can only be realized by accepting responsibility.

    And, as you said, the lives lost are easy to count, but the number of lives saved can never be known. It’s impossible to prove a negative, especially to someone who won’t even see the positive.

    • “And, as you said, the lives lost are easy to count, but the number of lives saved can never be known. It’s impossible to prove a negative, especially to someone who won’t even see the positive.”

      Yes, indeed. And that’s one of the things that frustrates me so about the current political debate about guns: the anti-gun folks want to discuss the societal costs of armed citizens, but they want to ignore the societal benefits. You can’t do a meaningful cost/benefit analysis when you look only at the costs.

      • Given the almost hysterical refusal of the “controllers” to even look at any facts or analysis of benefits, it seems clear that they are not in the least interested in the truth… only in control.

        This is not simply a discussion where some of the people “ignore” things like this. It is a serious and deadly effort to make sure YOU and ME are as helpless as possible, in every way they can imagine.

        Think about the “war” for control of everything else going on right now and you see the same pattern. The controllers have zero interest in ordinary people being responsible for themselves, thinking for themselves, or providing for themselves. Control – ownership of others – is their only goal.

  6. Elaine says:

    Very informative! Thanks for sharing your thoughts

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