Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Thirty Days With A Gun Thing

So, Heidi Yewman, an anti gun activist, spent a month carrying a gun. I will give her full credit for trying it, because it's something not many would try.

She set out, near as I can tell, to prove that it's a bad idea for someone with no training and no idea of what they're doing with a pistol to carry a gun. I think everyone agrees on that. The conflict comes in with this simple idea: Gun owners in general do not want to force anyone else to own and carry a gun. Anti-gun activists want to force people not to own and carry a gun. I'm gonna excerpt from her article (you can read the whole thing here if you haven't already)

"I thought the gun would make me feel more powerful, more confident, and less fearful. I was wrong. All I felt was fear. Physically taking the gun out of the safe and putting it in a holster on my hip literally reminded me that I was going out into a big bad scary unsafe world. There were days when I put the gun back in the safe and stayed home because it simply took too much energy to be scared. It was easier to be at home without the worry and responsibility of being “the good guy with the gun.” My awareness of looming tragedy was abundant. If I had to pull the trigger, my life, the person I shot, both of our families, and all who witnessed it would be changed forever."

Ok, I can agree with Heidi that putting a gun on is a pretty physical reminder of the fact that you're going into a society in which someone might decide to hurt you. It is a scary, unsafe world, but it doesn't get any less unsafe if you aren't reminded of it and don't think about it. People call that "condition white" meaning you're completely unaware of your surroundings and reality. It's that kind of blissful ignorance that leads people with their iPod earbuds in to walk into the middle of a gunfight between law enforcement and criminals. You're not any safer, when you don't acknowledge danger, no matter how many Coyote vs Roadrunner cartoons you cite for proof that if you just don't look down, you won't fall.

"I felt a huge sense of relief the day I got rid of the gun. I no longer had to worry that my teenagers or their friends would use my gun when I wasn’t home. I didn’t have to worry that I would be in a situation where I would make a choice about taking another life. I didn’t have to worry that my gun would be stolen out of my car and then used to murder someone. And I didn’t have to worry that one day I would get a diagnosis or have a personal crisis and have a gun on hand to turn on myself."

Now, a few times in the article she mentions being responsible about the gun. I have a bit of a problem with that phraseology. If she were responsible, she would have gotten training. If she were responsible, she would have had a safety discussion with her teenagers, not hidden the gun away and prayed they wouldn't find it, or figure out how to get into the safe. If she were responsible, she would have done more than put the gun in the glove box to protect it when she had to leave it in her vehicle. The point of her experiment was to do the absolute minimum, I get that, but you don't get to set out to do the minimum and then call yourself "responsible" when you do no more than that. 

Sure, a lot of places it's easy to get a concealed carry permit and a gun. It's also easy to get a driver's license and a car. You don't even have to have a driver's license to own a car, just the money to pay for it. There are no background checks, and if you can see over the steering wheel and see the pedals, and aren't obviously somewhere around the age of ten, no one thinks twice about you driving your car down the street. And yet. 

Thousands of pounds of steel and flammable fuel, in the hands of anyone with the money to lay down. It's even a lot easier to kill someone with a car than with a bullet, when it comes down to it. You have to practice being accurate with a gun. We routinely hand sixteen year olds these dangerous, fastmoving devices, with a bare minimum of training. If we're lucky, they have Driver's Ed in one form or another, but they're not required to do so. If we're not, they pass a written exam that they forget the questions and answers to the second they don't need them, and spend fifteen minutes with a tester in the car, and then they get a piece of plastic that says they're "safe" to drive. No background checks, no waiting period, nothing.

Why don't we hear more about people going berserk and running someone down with their car? Why don't stories of teenagers being stupid and wrecking cars and killing people get more attention? Because nobody wants to ban cars. In my county, there have been more people killed in car accidents than with guns.... well I don't have the statistics to hand, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say "ever." 

That's not to say it doesn't happen here. It does, but I can remember two incidents of gun violence off the top of my head, one of which no one died in. I can name seven teenagers off the top of my head who lost their lives to vehicular stupidity. And that's only in my county. 

And as for having that gun there to kill yourself with... if you really want to kill yourself? You're going to find a way. The gun may make a simple tool for it, but it's not the gun that causes it. Out of three suicides (again off the top of my head) only one used a gun, and it wasn't an ease-of-access issue since he took himself, and the gun, to a remote location and made a couple of phone calls before he did it. If it were a matter of "I'm sad, there's a gun in the house, therefore I'm going to kill myself now," he wouldn't have gone elsewhere. If he hadn't had access to a gun he'd have made a different choice. 

For myself, I've thought about the realities of owning and carrying a gun. I consider the gun a tool, like any other. And a tool is useless if it's sitting at home when you need it. I carry a pocket knife and keep a jack, spare tire, tire iron, and even jumper cables in my car. I don't expect to have a flat or a dead battery every day. I don't expect to need to cut something every ten minutes (though being a farm and ranch girl, sometimes it seems like I actually do.) 

I don't expect to injure myself all the time (though, being me, sometimes it seems like I actually do...) but I keep first aid kits handy. What does this have to do with carrying a gun, you may ask?

Simple. Every single one of them is a tool or set of tools that I might need, or just might save my life, that are only used when something happens to require them.

I don't go into every day thinking that someone is going to attack me and force me to shoot them (yes, force me, I do not ever want to have to make the decision to end another life... I have however come to the conclusion for myself and by myself that given the choice between my life and theirs, when attacked, I can and will do so) but I have that tool there in case I need it. 

I don't bash people's heads in with my tire iron or stab them with my pocket knife or electrocute them with my car battery and jumper cables or strangle them with the gauze from a first aid kit. I also don't stab them in the eye with a pencil, run them over with my car, hit them with hammers, poison them with bleach or a dozen other household chemicals that are easily deadly or disfiguring, punch them in the temple or snap their necks.

I don't go into dangerous situations just because I'm armed. If I get into a situation that makes me uncomfortable I still try to get out of it first. I walk away, drive to a different part of town, or find a more populated area. I stick with the people I know in unfamiliar surroundings and I don't go off with strangers. But if the odds beat me, and statistics says they certainly can, and all else fails, I have a recourse to defend my life and my person. 

Heidi, you carried a gun for thirty days, and you were terrified of it. You had no idea what you were doing with it and you made some dumb mistakes because you didn't know any better. And yet, you still managed to go thirty days without shooting anyone, getting shot, having your kids get shot, or really anything dire happening. And you were reminded that the world is not a safe place, and paid more attention to your surroundings, realized that a situation could have been dangerous when you might not have paid any attention to it before. I call that a good thing. Not that you were scared, but that you were paying attention. The next step is to learn to pay attention and assess the situation, and then decide whether or not to be scared. 

Because that man you talked about on the stairs behind you? He didn't know you were carrying a gun. He happened to be just a guy walking down the stairs. But if he hadn't been, if he'd actually intended to attack you, and you hadn't been more alert because of the gun, would you have even noticed him? Would you have had a chance to remove yourself from that situation before it got to the point where he had you on the ground, or would you have ignored him until he grabbed you?

Because there is a happy medium between "condition white" and terror-stricken paranoia. It consists of knowing that the world is not safe, and taking each set of conditions and each encounter as an individual thing, and deciding how safe or unsafe it is. It involves a lot of skull sweat until you get into the habit, and it's really easy to fall out of that habit, so you have to remind yourself a lot, but for myself, I'd rather see the danger coming and have a chance of getting myself out of it than pretend that it's all sunshine and rainbows and get blindsided. 

But, that's my choice, and everyone else is free to make their own.