You may know me. I’m one of those liberal academics you read about as you roll your eyes. You know the type — working in a private university, safe behind the ivy-covered walls of academia. I support Obama. I eat healthy foods. I listen to NPR. And I carry a gun, every day. You may see that as a contradiction. I know many who see my choices as contradictory. And I say to them, and perhaps you, life is filled with contradictions . . .
This is my first year of concealed carry. I received my permit on June 1. I’m not a stranger to guns: in my teens I had a .22 and my dad and I would drive down to the river and shoot clay pigeons from a spare-tire mounted thrower. Dad gave me a Winchester Model 12 shotgun he got from a relative and when we wrote Winchester a letter, we received a postcard in the mail saying it was probably made in the 1920s. I remember being in a gun store and finding a Remington 870 “Ducks Unlimited” 12 gauge that I convinced Dad to buy for himself.
He also had a Smith and Wesson .38 wheel gun. When Dad died, the guns came to me and when I had my first of three children, I sold the guns and kept the house gun free as my kids grew up. It made sense at the time. But this is 2012 and contemporary thinking about gun ownership has changed. And so has my own.
Gun ownership means different things to different people. Taking an unloaded gun to a range in a locked case, opening it on the firing line, and putting holes in paper under the supervision of a safety officer is one thing.
Loading a semi automatic pistol magazine, placing the magazine in the well, racking the slide and holstering the weapon in my bedroom every morning is a paradigm shift. It’s a life changer. It now says that every encounter I have with another human being, I will have a loaded firearm in easy reach. It’s a decision that says in a life-threatening situation, lethal intervention is seconds away. That option was not part of my reality before. It is now.
Many of my acquaintances carry — either concealed or in their truck — and have for many years. A few boast about it, but most keep it quietly to themselves. My intent was to keep it quietly to myself as well. But what I read on line and see on line is a very extroverted “look-how-cool-my-gun-stuff is” perspective. I’m not against that at all, a lot of the videos and gear are cool. It seems to me that TTAG is a space with room for a quieter voice that includes reflection and appreciation of an introverted approach to concealed carry. After all, what else would you expect from a liberal professor?
When I left the city for a rural life, I soon joked that if you were pulled over by law enforcement in our county and you did NOT have a weapon in the truck, the officer would issue a citation on the spot. I think it’s safe to say rural culture embraces weapons more than an urban one does. Four-legged nefarious predators are a constant threat to a farm herd. Once you’ve seen what coyotes can do to a young colt and raccoons can do to a chicken house, you understand the need for a gun.
What’s changed is my awareness of the two-legged nefarious predators around us, too.
I’m a strong supporter of the dedicated law enforcement officers who protect and serve, but they will tell you their help can be 20 minutes or more away from my home. In the last year, within a few miles of me, there have been two armed home invasions. My son was robbed near his college and the teenage thug told him he had a gun. The man who lived next door to my young children growing up is a registered sex offender.
Author Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman and YouTube personality NutNFancy use the phrase “Sheepdog” to describe civilian concealed weapon permit holders who are willing to step up and intervene in their own defense or in the defense of others. They share the idea that the world is made up of “wolves”, “sheep” and “sheep dogs.” They also warn that the sheep don’t like sheepdogs because, to them, they look a lot like wolves.
Nowhere is this idea truer than on a college campus. Many states, including my own, forbid the carry of concealed weapons on a public school campus or institution of higher learning. Most private schools, including my own, adopt a policy that reads remarkably like state code.
So to be honest, I stretched the truth with you in my opening. While I carry every day, during my workday my weapon is stored in a locked safe and chained to the seat post in my locked truck. I’m not happy about that, but as a concealed permit holder I play by the rules and I’m accountable to a higher standard. In and of itself, the gun, locked in a safe in my locked truck, may get me fired.
And I’m not alone. Many TTAG readers also work where they are forbidden to carry, or need to go places frequently where they may not carry legally. It’s a contradiction we live with, we adapt to and we work with as best we can. I’m quietly working to amend our policy to allow legally permitted carriers to carry on campus. It’s a slow process at best and no one’s likely to get whiplash watching change on campus.
My path to this blog requires a balance of risk and courage. My risk includes a disclosure of enough information to make the theft of my firearm a possibility. Disclosing where I work and where I live would also expose me to the risk of losing my job. And presenting a firearm to defend others or myself in a crisis makes me the likely first target of the wolves.
My courage, if I may call it that, is creating a voice for similar-minded, quiet, introverted sheepdogs. I’m convinced that other first-time concealed carriers weigh similar or even more difficult choices than mine. Gun ownership and concealed carry, while a Second Amendment right, is also an informed choice. It’s not for everyone. I’m choosing the role of anonymous sheepdog and I invite you to follow my path this first year.
To be true to my academic background, I should probably quote some famous dead author. So I’ve chosen G.K. Chesterton who wrote: “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.”
Welcome to my contradiction.