On not being armed: the discussion continues.

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Monday’s post precipitated a number of comments; here, on Facebook, and in my email box. Some of them were complimentary, some weren’t, while others were in the middle somewhere.

Many, I think, missed the point of the discussion. Allow me to illustrate with a question.

If there is a place where you cannot have your gun (because the law says you can’t), do you avoid that place altogether? I’m not talking out of principle – that’s another discussion entirely – but simply because you feel you can’t adequatelyprotect yourself if not allowed to carry your gun.

If your answer is yes, does that mean that you’re never going to Hawaii? Does it mean you’ll never travel out of the country? In neither of those cases (with less than a handful of exceptions, none of them common or popular) can you be armed at your destination. Do you forego the pleasure of visiting new places just because you can’t carry your sidearm?

I hope the answer to that question would be “no”. It shouldn’t be a matter of whether you’ll go, but simply how you’re going to protect yourself while there. Remember I said it’s not so much about efficacy, it’s about efficiency; you can be safe without the gun, but only if you understand that the gun is not the only tool you have – it’s simply the most efficient one for dealing with a very small percentage of incidents.

The point is that there is more than one way to stay safe and they all start with an assessment of the dangers you face, the risks to you from those dangers, and alternative ways to reduce those risks. That statement would require a whole book to explore, but I hope you get the idea that it starts with thought.

Until now we’ve considered two rather discrete situations: those where you can have your gun and those where you can’t. What about the stuff in the middle – the situations where you could carry a gun, but doing so entails a great deal of effort or risk on your part?

For instance, let’s say you’re taking a flight to a place where your concealed carry license is recognized through reciprocity. Do you go through the trouble of packing your gun up, going through the security theater, dealing with the poorly trained airline and TSA agents, take the very real risk of having your gun stolen from your luggage (it happens, probably more frequently than your needing it to defend yourself), and then take the risk that the police officer on the other end doesn’t understand that his state recognizes your funny-looking carry license? (I haven’t even touched on the possibility of being re-routed through a city where your gun is illegal and getting arrested for having it there. It’s happened.)

At what point do the problems/risks outweigh the perceived benefits? If you take the absolutist view, you’ll put up with any and all problems and risks to have your gun with you even if the chance of needing it is extremely small. That’s a valid choice, in the sense that you’re well within your rights to make it.

But now factor responsibility into your answer: what if your gun is stolen out of your luggage and ends up on the street, where it’s used against another innocent person? Letting a gun out of your hands is always risky, especially in an environment where possessions (including guns) are known to regularly come up missing. Does your desire to be armed outweigh that very real risk?

Now zoom out to a wider view. Let’s say that where you’re going is a four-hour flight or a sixteen-hour drive. You’ve decided that you’ll drive because you can take your gun with you and be armed the entire way. That’s fair, but if your overall goal is to keep yourself safe, have you made the right decision?

The reality is that you are far more likely to be killed on the highway than in the air. By choosing to be armed over every other consideration, and therefore driving, you’ve actually dramatically increased your net risk of death. The belief in the necessity of being armed to be safe caused you to pick a transport mode that increased your risk well beyond that of the murderous mugger. How is increasing your chances of dying a good safety choice?

There are no easy answers to these questions, and anyone who tells you otherwise is simply not very insightful. For my part, I make such decisions based on a realistic consideration of the need and all of the compensating risks. Most of the time that means I’m armed with a gun, but occasionally it’s going to mean that I’m not. I’m comfortable in either case because I understand that the gun is just a tool; I comprehend its place in the panoply of self defense and don’t allow it to unduly dictate my decisions.

As Greg Ellifritz said in response to Monday’s article: “Preparedness is important, but so is avoiding paranoia.” I think he hit the nail on the head.

-=[ Grant ]=-


About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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