Excluding criminals, the percentage of Americans who carry a gun is a small percentage of the small percentage of Americans who have a license to carry a concealed weapon. Here’s a 2004 table ranking the states by the percentage of residents who have concealed carry permits. South Dakota leads with . . . 7.45 percent. While there’s been plenty of gun rights action since then, I doubt any of the states have cracked 10 percent. Even if half of those permitted residents carry—a generous number—you’re still looking at five percent of the total population. So round it to zero. There are more than 150 million guns in America, but zero percent of Americans carry a gun . . .
And how many of those who carry a concealed weapon in public carry one at home? You know: that place where they spend at least half their day. Hardly any, I’d imagine. So even the ones who do carry, don’t. Not all the time. At the risk make that certainty of being called paranoid, I believe all Americans who own a handgun for self-defense should carry a gun all the time, from the moment they wake up in the morning to the moment they go to sleep at night.
To that end, let’s set aside the first rule of a gunfight (have a gun). For our purposes, the more important question: when might you need a gun for self-defense? For most people, the answer seems obvious: when they’re all alone, late at night, walking to their car in a dingy parking garage (with echoing footsteps). Either that or in the middle of the night, when they’re rudely awakened from a deep sleep by a loud crashing noise.
Seriously. Check out the ads for guns. Watch the self-defense TV shows. Read the blogs. Those are the prototypical perhaps even archetypal scenarios for defensive gun use (DGU). I’m not saying they don’t happen. I’m saying that focusing on them is a “can’t-see-the-forest-from-the-trees” deal.
I reckon the majority of gun owners (and thus advertisers) dwell on this type of threat because they’ve pretty much eliminated other high risk situations. They don’t hang out in crack dens or biker bars or walk down lonely streets in a bad part of town. They follow the rabbi’s advice: avoid stupid people doing stupid things in stupid places. (If we’re talking about home carry, they lock their doors and treat strangers with suspicion.)
The success of this approach—nothing bad has happened (yet)—leads them to believe they’ve managed the risk well enough to let their guard down. Taking the kids to lacrosse practice? Hakuna mutata. Chilling at home? The gun’s in the safe if I need it. Statistically, they’re absolutely correct. The average DGU doesn’t happen at work or in the middle of a school play or walking down a busy city street in the bright summer sun or when you’re watching American Idol.
Except when it does.
As the old saying goes, if you have one foot in freezing water and one foot in boiling water, on average you’re comfortable. Averages tend to blind us to “extreme” possibilities; they’re dismissed as statistical anomalies. “You have a better chance of being struck by lightning than robbed on Main Street.” Yes, well, people do get struck by lightning and it’s usually lethal.
And people do get robbed on Main Street. And raped in their office. And shot in shopping malls. And killed in class. And assassinated in diners. A deadly threat can happen anywhere at any time.
A gun may not solve the problem. It should not be your first line of defense. But if you have a gun you’ll have self-defense options that you wouldn’t have without one. You can respond to the most serious threats to your life and/or the lives of your loved ones with a serious solution.
Let me put it this way: how often do you wear your seat belt? If I proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the chances of needing a seat belt on a given highway were statistically insignificant, would you take off your seatbelt when you hit that stretch of road?
Just yesterday, I was watching my daughter play lacrosse. Beautiful afternoon. Dozens of happy healthy children playing on a private school field. Parents. Coaches. All’s right with the world.
A man started to walk by the field outside the gate. Single guy. Mid-50’s. Unshaven. He stopped and watched, shifting his weight from side to side. No briefcase, shopping bag, backpack, car, nothing.
What are the odds that he posed any threat to the children? A million to one? Ten million to one? A hundred million to one? If I dared suggest danger to one of my fellow parents, if I even pointed out the guy, they’d think I was a psycho. And yet I wonder how many of them buy a lottery ticket. Or know that there are seven sex offenders living within a mile of that spot.
Bottom line: if you have a license to carry a gun or live in a state where no license is required, carry a gun all the time. Do it for two reasons. First, it protects my right to keep and bear arms. Second, you might need it. It’s as simple as that.