The Choices We Make

2013-11-26 07.34.18“What about a gym? I’m not sure I’d want people to concealed carry in a gym!”

I looked curiously at my friend. We’d been discussing gun stuff, and he offered the thought that there are some places that should be off-limits for law-abiding citizens to carry a concealed weapon. When I asked him for an example of such a place, that was the one he came up with.

“Why a gym?” I asked him.

“Maybe this isn’t a problem for women,” he replied, “but I know the testosterone gets pretty thick in a gym, and I’d hate for someone to see a gun under my shirt and make a grab for it. It’s just not worth the risk. I mean, what would you do?”

I thought about it for a second. “If I felt that having someone make a grab for my gun in a gym was a serious risk,” I answered, “I’d probably choose someplace else to work out.”

His next question threw me for a loop. “Don’t you feel like your focus on safety and self-defense is limiting your life too much? Where’s the point at which you say it’s not worth it?”

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A Hard-Won Victory

ccwWell, it’s official – today, I finally joined the ranks of lawfully armed citizens. Which is to say, today I pulled off what is a minor miracle in my area (coastal California). I’ve been carrying firearms in places where carry without a permit was permitted, of course – at home, when camping, at friends’ houses, and so forth. But today, I went over to my local sheriff’s department and picked up a small white piece of paper, across the top of which is printed these words: License to Carry Concealed Pistol, Revolver or Other Firearm Within the State of California.

Today’s almost anti-climactic moment came at the end of a long and difficult journey, and it’s a journey I’d like to talk about briefly to harvest a few lessons from. Some are lessons we all, as lawfully armed citizens, should know. Some are observations on the maze of California gun laws which, if given their way, the anti-gun folks would love to export to your state. Here’s what I learned along my journey.

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Magical Thinking and Newtown

It’s hard for me to believe it’s been less than a year since the terrible, tragic actions of a disturbed young man took 27 lives in the State of Connecticut. I believe in armed self-defense precisely because I value the lives of myself, my loved ones, and the innocents of our society, and precisely because when the predators and the madmen come for me and mine, I’m prepared to stand between them and their prey.

Yesterday, the Connecticut State Attorney’s office released their preliminary report on the Sandy Hook massacre, and it’s interesting, if unsurprising, reading. It contains more detail about what happened, but not even speculation about why it happened. But it did include a couple of interesting facts which make what I think is an important point that people often overlook: “Crazy” is about motive, not method. And this is why Gun Free Zones and other gun control laws that only control the law-abiding are doomed to fail to prevent future tragedies.

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Umm, Vice President Biden…?

shotgun_tlcI already knew that Vice President Joe Biden’s recent comments on the relative suitability of Modern Sporting Rifles and double-barreled shotguns were a bit silly. An AR-15 (something around 5.5 foot-pounds of recoil energy) is harder for a woman to shoot than a 12-gauge shotgun (17 up to a staggering 54 foot-pounds of recoil energy, depending on load and gun weight)? Hate to break the bad news, Mr. Biden, but in a contest between politics and physics, Newton’s Second Law wins every time.

But now, I don’t have to fall back on nebulous little trivialities like science. I’ve experienced the difference myself firsthand.

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A Conversation About School Violence

20130110-125219.jpgIn recent days the politicians have been calling for a “conversation” on school violence and gun control. Apart from the fact that a one-sided lecture isn’t the same as a conversation, I personally find it a little odd that the people most affected by the issue of school violence and mass killings in schools don’t have a voice in the conversation.

So, I decided to have a conversation about school violence with my nearest subject matter expert. I’ve talked before about my daughter, “Nutmeg”, but for the newcomers, she’s seventeen years old and attends a special school program that provides her extra supports with emotional and behavioral challenges caused by past trauma in her birth family. (Before you start screaming about her privacy, she read this post before I made it and doesn’t object to what I’ve said here.)

We talked while out running errands today, and the conversation went something like this – I’ve tried to reproduce the flavor of how she talks as faithfully as I can:

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Make Your Voice Heard

20121222-101435.jpgI try not to get too political on this blog, but today I’m going to break that rule and make a personal request of my readers.

GET INVOLVED.

It’s time for firearms owners to take a lesson from the gay rights movement and come out of the closet. Those that would ban firearms need to see and hear from us right now. We need to be respectful, intelligent, and informed, but we need to be visible. We need to say, “We are your daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers and neighbors and friends. We sit next to you at the PTA meeting, worship with you in your church/synagogue/mosque/etc. You KNOW us, you KNOW we aren’t criminals or murderers. Forget the stereotypes you see in the media; WE are the faces of America’s gun owners.”

Write your elected officials. (You can find your Congressperson here, and your Senators here). Tell them why people like you are not the problem. Encourage them to take real action on the real problems (public safety funding, mental health services, ineffective and dangerous gun-free zone laws etc.) rather than demonizing the vast numbers of law abiding American gun owners.

Support the Second Amendment Foundation. Or the NRA. Or your state and local gun rights organizations. Better yet, support all of them. They need your money, but they also need your time and energy and passion.

When Great Britain enacted a ban on most firearms, they declared open season on law-abiding citizens. The crime rate soared, and now the UK is the most dangerous country in Europe, with a per capita violent crime rate that exceeds the United States. The same thing has happened in other countries that have banned guns.

Don’t think it can’t happen here.

Make your voices heard, now and often. We’ve had historic gains in gun rights in recent years, but the war hasn’t been won yet. Get involved, get active, get visible.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Deciding When to Carry

20121220-214104.jpgIf you’re new to firearms, shooting, and the consciousness of self-reliance and self-sufficiency about personal safety, you’ll probably need to make a decision at some point about whether, when, and how you want to carry a firearm for self-defense. Close to 40 states are “shall-issue” jurisdictions for concealed carry permits; that is, their laws mandate that the authorities MUST issue a permit to any law-abiding citizen who applies and meets their requirements. The lone holdout state with no provision for permitting at all (Illinois) has just been ordered by a court to create a permitting process.

This post isn’t going to be about the “how” of carrying a concealed weapon. Rather, it’s going to be about one of the decisions we make when we decide to carry. When, we have to decide, will we carry our firearm? I’m going to advocate a simple answer, and then explain why I feel that way: Once you have a concealed weapons permit, you should carry your firearm everywhere you legally can do so.

Why do I advocate such a blanket rule? Here are some reasons:

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Lessons from the Clackamas Mall Shooting

585836_31371578The mainstream media is whipping itself into a frenzy this morning after a shooting at a mall in Oregon yesterday. Although the details are fuzzy, current media reports suggest a killer with body armor and a semiautomatic rifle killed two people and wounded a third before taking his own life. Law enforcement response was gratifyingly fast — by some accounts, the first officers on scene arrived in less than two minutes — but by then the incident was already over and the killer lay dead of what sounds to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

I think there are some good lessons that can be learned from this incident, and I’d like to talk about a few of them. As tragic as yesterday’s events were for the victims and their families (and for the family of the killer, a victim of his crime and yet often overlooked), they’d be even more tragic if we didn’t learn anything from them.
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For the Good of the Children

20121125-220322.jpgWhen they’re pushed for a justification for the latest proposed restriction on the right to keep and bear arms, gun control advocates often dredge up the rationale that it’s “for the children”. They assume that the public will support any measure that claims to make society safer for our kids, and unfortunately, too often in the past the public’s fallen for it.

I had a couple of teaching and shooting things going on this past weekend, and one of them was a Ladies Night at the range I frequent. I took the almost-16-year-old daughter of a close friend of mine who enjoys shooting (and has quite a bit of natural aptitude), and enjoyed watching her score hits on her target. While we were shooting and afterward, we talked quite a bit, and so I’d like to share a few things that I think are good for our our kids.

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Betting Our Lives on Pieces of Paper

Let’s face the unfortunate reality: Restraining orders are not printed on sheets of kevlar. They won’t stop a knife or a gun. You can’t use one as body armor, and legal paper isn’t even absorbent enough to make a really decent bandage. Restraining orders also don’t magically disarm the violent ex or unbalanced stalker.

And if restraining orders do nothing to protect the innocent would-be targets, they do even less to protect the innocent bystanders — her co-workers, the customers in her workplace, the guy behind her in the line at Starbucks when the angry, hate-filled, predatory monster comes calling. At least the woman who took out the restraining order knows that trouble is gunning for her, but the collateral victims don’t even have that edge.

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