Why I feel I need a gun

By Russ Davis

In March of this year, Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, stood up in the Colorado legislative chambers and gave his reason for why he supported a bill banning concealed carry on college campuses: “[Y]ou don’t know if you feel like you’re gonna be raped… you feel like you’re in trouble when you may actually not be.” Salazar recommended that women who feel threatened on campus rely on call boxes and rape whistles instead. After all, those will really deter potential attackers.

Then, in August, Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that, unless someone is threatening you with a gun, you have no right to defend yourself with your own gun. This means that if a guy comes after someone with an ax, they should “talk or fight with their fists… You fight. You run away. You deescalate the situation.” I wonder what Mr. Glaze could tell people about “deescalating” a violent person with an ax.

Salazar and Glaze’s sentiments are abstract in this country, but they’re reality elsewhere. In the United Kingdom and Australia, it is illegal to own a gun for self-defense. Consent is given for target shooting and hunting, but for self-defense, you’re supposed to pray that the police arrive in time. Credible studies have rejected the idea that strict gun laws have curbed crime in these countries. In 2008, researchers at the University of Melbourne studied the Australia’s gun regulations and found that they had no effect on reducing firearm homicides or suicides.

Why ban firearms for self-defense? Maybe it’s the worry that those who are armed may react out of proportion to the danger they face (as Joe Salazar said). But what I hear the most is that, if guns are simply banned across the board, you won’t need to worry about someone else being armed—therefore, you won’t need to be armed, either.

First, let’s get something straight: Criminals don’t obey gun laws. They’re criminals, after all. This is the case at home and overseas. At home, the FBI reported that the District of Columbia, despite its controversially strict gun laws, has a violent crime rate three times the national average.  Overseas, the British Home Office reported that, despite the UK’s tough firearms restrictions, over 11,000 firearms offenses took place in the UK between April 2010 and March 2011, including 60 murders.

On top of that, as Mark Glaze admitted, someone doesn’t need a gun to be dangerous. He said someone could come after me with an ax. That’s more than enough for me to fear for my safety (and life).

To me, this is more than just a matter of general policy. There’s a reason I feel I should own a gun—a reason that is possibly shared by millions of gun owners across the country: I don’t think there’s another way to make myself safe.

Organizations like the YMCA offer training in self-defense—how to use your hands, feet, and words to scare off attackers. Let me stress that I’m certain these methods work for some people. To those people, I say—sincerely—congratulations. I say that because these courses wouldn’t work for me. I’m not athletic. My upper-body strength isn’t as great as that of most men. I’m not coordinated enough to use martial arts or other body-based self-defense practices.

These concerns are institutionalized in me: I’ve tried for years to make myself more coordinated and athletic. It doesn’t work. My body wasn’t built for it. And, please forgive me for being blunt, I don’t think this congenital misfortune should doom me to hiding in the shadows of an alley, anxiously praying the police will show up and stop the maniac nearby trying to hurt me.

Gun rights supporters have used the term “great equalizer” to describe guns: If you have one when you’re threatened, you can change the balance of power so the odds are no longer against you. This will certainly work better for me than a rape whistle or an attempt at a “deescalating” conversation.