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Why do I Carry a Gun?

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Over the years I have been asked numerous times, sometimes casually, sometimes confrontationally, "why do you carry a gun?"  Obviously, my answer has varied somewhat based on the tone of the person asking the question and the conversational history with that person.  The reality though is that the answer to this question is complex and has a number of varying factors.  Additionally, I find that, upon reflection, the answer to the question of why I carry a gun has evolved over the years.

Because my past plays no small role in my reasons for carrying a gun on a daily basis, I should discuss my history a little bit. 

I grew up here in San Antonio and graduated high school in 1988.   I went directly into the United States Marine Corps on a guaranteed infantry contract.  During my first enlistment in the Corps, I deployed to two different conflicts -Panama and the 1st Gulf War.  I returned to San Antonio and started college as most young veterans do. 

During the first 6 months I was back in San Antonio, I was rudely awakened to the fact that this city had changed during my absence.  Twice, while minding my own business and hanging out with friends, groups of complete strangers tried to instigate conflicts with my friends and me, and in each case, I ended up looking down the barrel of a gun held by a boy who was barely old enough to drive.  While both of these situations ended without anyone actually being shot, I decided at that time to start carrying a handgun.  It simply did not sit well with me that I was alive just because some kid didn't feel like pulling a trigger.

While my decision to carry had been in reaction to specific situations, I found when I started to carry, I became a better citizen than would have been.  The possession of a firearm allows a level of confidence in my ability to at least deal with whatever unforeseen situation may arise.  It permits one to make a decision less based on a fear of possible consequences and more on the desire to be a good person.  I was more likely to stop to help the stranded motorist or to step in to help the person in trouble.  Don't misunderstand, I'm not talking about an arrogance or looking for trouble, or an inappropriate feeling of authority but simply the confidence of having an acceptable tool for dealing with whatever situation may arise.

In 1998 I returned to service in the Marine Corps.  During the next eight years that I was there, I deployed overseas a number of times.  When I returned again to San Antonio, I found that the act of carrying a gun on a daily basis actually helped to ease my transition from the constantly armed combat zone mentality back to civilian life.  The gun was a tangible familiar object which bridged the gap between the two worlds.

As I mentioned before, my reasons for carry have evolved over the years.  As the spree shooter has come into the national consciousness, the daily carry of the firearm is even more relevant.  No longer is it enough to say that we don't live in a bad neighborhood, don't engage in high risk behavior, or don't have anyone out to get us. With the proliferation of the spree shooter, simply being in a public place can be enough to get one shot. 

The current evolution of my reason for carrying a handgun is my family.  My job as a husband and a father, first and foremost, is the protection of my family.  My children and my wife should feel secure in their knowledge that they are safe in my presence and that our home and our belongings are safe as well.  Their knowledge that I am armed, and reasonably competent with my handgun allows them a level of security that would not exist without a firearm.

Yes, there are other means of self defense, but even children are very aware that all of those other means are inadequate when faced with someone who is armed and intent on doing harm.  When my son was four years old, while I was putting him to bed, he asked me:

"Dad, what if a bad man broke in to hurt us?"

I replied to him "I would shoot him?"

He thought for a moment and asked "What if you didn't have a gun?"

"I would beat him up."

Another short pause and then "What if he had a gun?"

"We would call the police."

Another thoughtful pause.  My four year old son's conclusion "But before they got here he would shoot us."

"That is why daddy has a gun and I practice with it."

A shorter pause.  "OK."

Even at four years old, my son had reached the logical conclusion that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, and that calling good guys with a gun would not be a realistic way to stop the bad guy with a gun.  Faced with this basic logic, with which I wholeheartedly agree, I have made the decision that the consequences of needing the gun and not having it far outweigh the inconvenience of having a gun and not needing it.

A further reason that I carry a gun on a daily basis is that I care about my fellow man.  I care enough to put my own life in jeopardy in order to prevent the deaths of others.  I have heard Travis Haley, a nationally renowned firearms instructor, refer to this as "a higher standard of social caring", and I find this to be an appropriate label for the concept.  Whether it comes from a background of military service or not, I believe that those of us who feel this way do have a higher standard of caring for our fellow citizens than those whose only concern is their own safety.  I find this sense of caring to be both noble and honorable and in keeping with the best traditions of citizenship in a free society.

From the philosophical point of view, I feel that the over-reliance on others to protect us has resulted in a growth in government that has been detrimental to the freedom of the average citizen.  Our country was designed with the idea that people would, for the most part, take care of themselves.  The current almost complete reliance on a government-employed police force to protect the majority of Americans has resulted in a steady increase of police power over the history of our country.  As police forces are asked to do more, they must be given more tools to work with.  This is not to say anything derogatory about our police, but merely an acknowledgement of the fact that, unfortunately, it is impossible to grant more power to the government without taking that power, in the form of freedom, from its citizens.

Make no mistake, the gun is not the answer to every problem or even every violent problem.  The availability of the gun gives us options.  Options that we would not have were we unarmed.  The daily carry of the firearm goes hand in hand with an elevated level of situational awareness as well as with the responsibility to train with the gun to both increase our capability with it as well as to know our limitations with it.  The gun on my hip during an armed robbery does not mean that I must use it, but simply that I have that option if the need arises.  I am still completely capable of handing my wallet to a robber and walking away if that is the most prudent course of action at the moment, but I have the additional option of employing the handgun if I feel that it is necessary to ensure the safety of myself or others.

The fact is that despite the nightly news reports of murders and assaults we live in a very safe society.  Generally, our metropolitan area of two million plus people sees well under an average of one murder per day.  This means that the odds of being killed (especially if you are not engaged in high risk behavior) in San Antonio are actually miniscule.  I choose to carry a gun because the results of needing a gun to protect my wife or children and not having it are so dire that it outweighs the minor inconvenience of carrying a gun despite the low likelihood that I will ever need it.  I will not ever voluntarily be put in the situation of burying a child because I chose not to carry my gun.

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