FNS-9 Contest Entry: A Personal Defense Colloquy

By Charlie F.

The following is an exchange via social media between the author and an inquisitive, gun-skeptical friend who found out that the author owns a gun.

Friend: Why do you have it?

Me: I carry it in order to take personal responsibility for the safety of myself and my family. I understand the role that the police play in safety, but they can only respond once a crime occurs or by their happenstance presence at the right moment deter or delay a crime from being committed. I do not carry in order to be a vigilante or respond to crime as a first responder. I carry to deter and/or prevent violent actions against me and my family, and in certain situations those in my immediate vicinity . . .

I carry a gun for the same reason you might have a first aid kit or fire extinguisher in your home. When bad things happen to you, the person closest to the problem is YOU. If you have the tools and training to respond, the outcome is much more likely to be positive, or at least the negative outcome will be limited.

Friend: I see that you are making a presumption that people can be dangerous and threats can come at any moment or place, which may be true. I can really relate to wanting to protect my family from these people or threats. I wonder if there are effective and less harmful “weapons” or tactics that could be good alternatives to prevent any accidental or unjustified injury or death. Perhaps pepper spray? Perhaps some self defense tactics, such as using your keys to temporarily debilitate the perpetrator to give you enough time to leave the scene?

Fighting violence with a violent weapon seems counter productive to me. What role can words and prayer play? I’m curious what biblical/theological support you have for your stance? I hope you receive my tone correctly as I know this is a heated subject and I can tell you are quite passionate. I don’t want to argue; I am genuinely curious to know the justification for your stance.

Me: I understand where you’re coming from. It is actually quite refreshing to have these questions posed so thoughtfully, many people tend to come at this with a certain cognitive dissonance (for AND against) that does not allow rational, reasoned discussion.

First of all, let me make myself clear on one point: I’m not making a presumption that people can be dangerous and threats can come at any moment or place, I’m making an observation.  It is clear that there are elements in any society that seek to take advantage of others for their own personal gain, and there are elements in society that are simply unbalanced, misguided, or “evil” (however you choose to define that) and commit acts of violence for any number of reasons.  This is not debatable, and I think the need for your services as a humanitarian in poverty-stricken, often war-torn lands only serves as an example of this. We could argue for hours WHY this is the case, but we cannot disagree that it is in fact a reality of life. So again, not a presumption, an observation.

You wonder if there are effective and less harmful weapons or tactics that could be employed, and the answer is a resounding kind of.  There is a continuum of responses to violent encounters, and generally the effectiveness increases with the lethality. I’m going to assume from this point forward that the option to retreat is not viable in the immediate time frame of the encounter. Personally I’d always choose retreat over conflict, or better yet avoid the chance of a conflict all together through heightened situational awareness or refusing to engage in behavior that may lead to escalation of a potential violent encounter.

So now we delve into this continuum of responses. Pepper spray is an option, but it has very low range and if you don’t hit in just the right spot it will be very ineffective.  Physical self-defense tactics are an option, but require a very long learning curve and extensive training to be reasonably effective, and can be nullified by even moderate differences in size between the attacker and the defender. Using your keys as a weapon (and I’m not trying to be rude) is laughably unreasonable unless you’re an expert in martial arts of some type, which brings us back around to the learning curve problem.

A kuboton or other device attached to your key ring is more effective than actual keys, but once again the advantage of such a weapon can be nullified by a larger attacker and is contingent on extensive training. Knives are an option, but once again, outside of slashing and stabbing wildly it takes extensive training to wield properly. The common theme among these options is the need for extensive training, and another common theme of these scenarios require arms-length engagement, which is very risky and something I’d rather avoid.

Then you get to the presumption that any encounter you end up in will allow the use of these less-lethal or non-lethal responses. To sum it up in very simple terms, you find yourself bringing a key ring to a boxing or wrestling match with an oversized opponent, bringing pepper spray to a knife fight, bringing a knife to a gun fight…you get the point.

There is a reason why police officers carry a range of weapons, which is so they can choose the best tool to respond to a violent encounter based on their read of the situation. Police officers generally carry mace, a baton, a Taser, and a gun, often with some more serious firepower in the cruiser such as a shotgun or rifle.  I imagine they also have a multi-tool or some other kind of blade.  I don’t have the luxury of carrying all of these items around.  I can choose one, maybe two tools for self-defense.  Given this personal limitation, I’d much rather carry the most effective tool for the job.

Enter the firearm. The firearm is an equalizer. It allows a feeble man of 90 to stop a home invasion by multiple thugs or a young college girl alone in a parking lot to defend herself against a young man in his 20s intent on murder or rape. It has the capability to stop someone intent on harming you from ever getting close enough to have a reasonable chance of doing so. It has more room for error than trying to pepper spray someone right in the eyes or strike with a blunt object (kuboton, etc.) into a specific area of weakness.

The use of a firearm in the hands of a citizen to prevent or respond to a crime each year numbers in the millions using liberal estimates, and even the most conservative estimates by groups who seek to disarm civilians put defensive gun uses (DGUs) in the tens of thousands each year. So once again, it isn’t a presumption that guns in the hands of responsible citizens have an impact on crime; it is an observation that cannot be reasonably denied.

I think the real substance of your question hinges on the moral aspect, i.e., meeting violence with violence, and how I square my outlook with my faith and moral reasoning.  I’ll start with another observation, one of those sad truths that none the less we deny at our own peril. Once someone intent on harming others enters into the commission of a violent act, the most effective response is immediate, swift, violent action to stop it. My responding to an armed attacker with a weapon of my own isn’t escalating anything, the person on the receiving end has already taken the situation to a point at which people are going to be hurt or killed, and at that point the only question is how many innocent people will be injured or lose their lives before someone or something puts a stop to the act of violence.

Sometimes we get lucky and a lull in the act allows negotiation or some other peaceful resolution, or perhaps a less than lethal response by the trained authorities. But in the moment, when seconds count, one cannot sit back and presume that the chance will present itself. When a police officer is fired upon, they don’t hunker down and try to talk it out. They shoot back, and call in backup so that they get more guns pointing away from them than they have pointed at them. Sometimes the perpetrators live long enough to see the firepower arrayed against them, take up negotiation, and give up. Sometimes they don’t. But the initial response to malicious violence nearly always needs to be violent.  I say this with a heavy heart, but it is true.

Now regarding my faith. As a Christian I have absolute trust in God to carry me through any circumstance and to protect me against all enemies. But just as I recognize that God routinely uses the skills of doctors and the technology of modern medical facilities to heal people (though he does do the miraculous, I have witnessed this myself), he also allows us to participate in our protection. He may step in and miraculously deliver us from evil, as He does numerous times in the Bible, or He may intervene through us, as He also does in the Bible.

My decision to carry a weapon followed serious moral reasoning and, more importantly, much prayer. If I felt that God was telling me that I am not to carry a weapon, I would obey. But I have not felt that call, and so I trust that God will give me the strength and reasoning to make the correct choice in the use of my firearm if ever I find myself in such a situation.

I’ve also explained above that I find all life precious, and I know that God’s arm is never shortened that he cannot save. The young man who robs a liquor store to feed his heroin addiction may very well find himself in a place down the road to accept Christ. But I am not a sage; I cannot discern the future unless God reveals it to me. Should that day come when I’ll need to use my gun to save myself or someone else, I do not relish the thought of potentially ending someone’s life who has potentially (and in this case, likely) not received Jesus. I would need to live with that for the rest of my life.

But perhaps that person, without my intervention, would go on to end the lives of countless other people who likewise did not have salvation.  Perhaps God will spare his life, and use the experience to change him in the correctional system. There are a lot of “perhaps” conditions to armed response, but I’ve made the decision that God can handle eternity, I’ll live in the present and respond as I feel led.

I believe that, if I’m walking as I should and I’m receptive to the will of God, that even split-second decisions of the life or death variety can be impacted by His hand, even if in the moment I don’t consciously feel it. I trust God that he’ll help me in such an event to do the right thing.

 When I die, I will be held accountable for my actions. All will be made clear to me, and in that moment I will understand in an instant all the times I let God down, all the times I failed to live to His standard, to follow His plan.  I believe, in that moment, I’ll see far more people I failed to impact spiritually who exit their life on the wrong side of eternity, than the unfortunate one who was lost because I ended his life physically.

OK, so that’s that. Long winded, but you had some deep questions. I look forward to your responses.

comments

  1. avatar BLAMMO says:

    Fighting violence with a violent weapon seems counter productive to me.

    Productivity is not a priority when I am threatened or assailed. Avoiding serious injury or death is my only priority.

    1. avatar ErrantVenture11 says:

      Yes, I’m much more concerned about efficiency than productivity in such a situation 🙂

    2. avatar Sammy says:

      Fighting violence with a violent weapon……….

      Ah, sorry, but that’s my best first choice. I’ll pray later if I’m the one left alive. (right after I call my attorney)

    3. avatar DaveL says:

      I had to laugh at that one. My immediate response was “It does? Have you ever been in a fight?”

  2. avatar james says:

    I would like to point out that pepper spray, stun guns, tasers etc are not “nonlethal” weapons. They are less lethal weapons. Example if you use a taser on someone who has a heart condition it may cause a heart attack therefore any use of force need to be defendable in court.

    1. avatar C says:

      That’s why the guards aren’t allowed tasers at the nearby prison. Some asshole knowingly tasered and killed an inmate with a pacemaker

    2. avatar S.CROCK says:

      pepper spray is non lethal. except for maybe that rare case that i haven’t hear about where someone dies from being sprayed.

      1. avatar james says:

        http://gothamist.com/2011/07/29/fatal_police_pepper-sprayasthma_att.php http://thestir.cafemom.com/healthy_living/129238/pepper_spray_is_more_dangerous I am a Prison Guard. Any time we use pepper spray or cs in a non-emergance use we have to clear it though medical because people with asthma can die if exposed to pepper spray

  3. avatar Chris says:

    Bravo, Charlie F.

  4. avatar cbpelto says:

    TO: All
    RE: Heh

    So, if this character saw a naked man running after a woman with a knife and a hard-on….he’d ignore it, because he’s only watching out for himself and his own.

    ‘Sweet’….

    ….the character is a bane on society.

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)
    [The Truth will out….]

    1. avatar JMS says:

      Don’t be a jacka$$. He said right in the beginning, “I carry to deter and/or prevent violent actions against me and my family, and in certain situations those in my immediate vicinity . . .”

      I’m sure you just totally missed that.

  5. avatar William Burke says:

    “Friend: I see that you are making a presumption that people can be dangerous and threats can come at any moment or place, which may be true. I can really relate to wanting to protect my family from these people or threats. I wonder if there are effective and less harmful “weapons” or tactics that could be good alternatives to prevent any accidental or unjustified injury or death. Perhaps pepper spray? Perhaps some self defense tactics, such as using your keys to temporarily debilitate the perpetrator to give you enough time to leave the scene?

    Fighting violence with a violent weapon seems counter productive to me. What role can words and prayer play? I’m curious what biblical/theological support you have for your stance? I hope you receive my tone correctly as I know this is a heated subject and I can tell you are quite passionate. I don’t want to argue; I am genuinely curious to know the justification for your stance.

    Me: I understand where you’re coming from”

    Terminally stupid person, or else just an agitprop for the Dark Side.

    I realize that nothing bad ever happens to hapless doinks like this person. Have you ever wondered WHY?

    I guess the answer is “life’s often unfair”. I don’t see an obvious conspiracy, but it is one, of sorts: play the same record over and over again, until the two-legged parakeets can recite chapter or verse.

    It’s one of the most cruel things that could ever be perpetrated upon the public. And obviously it’s been immensely successful.

    But things are ripe for change. NOW.

  6. avatar JustLeaveLawfulGunOwnersAlone says:

    This is probably going to be an unpopular post but if you have to rely so heavily on your religion to justify the use of, and owning the means of deadly force, maybe you are not quite as “up to it” as you think.

    Self preservation and defense is a natural instinct and should not require “approval” by your religious believes.
    There is certainly nothing wrong with wanting to square it away with your faith but seeking justification in ones religion makes me very uncomfortable. Religions do not have a very good track record when it comes to that. Too many innocent people died in the name of some religion.

    The decision to be willing to execute deadly force can certainly be reconciled with more than the natural will to live, if you feel you have to do that.

    The actual decision to administer deadly force however, should not be based on that. It should only be based on your survival or your families survival.

    1. avatar JustLeaveLawfulGunOwnersAlone says:

      I missed the edit window: A slightly different way to put my first paragraph:

      “If you have to rely so heavily on your religion to justify the use of, and owning the means of deadly force, maybe you are not as comfortable with the possibility as you consider yourself to be.”

    2. avatar ErrantVenture11 says:

      As the author, I have to say that you may be misunderstanding to a degree. I’m not seeking permission from my religion, Christianity isn’t so specific as to decree that “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not” act in defense of yourself.

      Christianity isn’t about what rules to follow and how to live a good life, it is about a personal relationship with Christ. As part of your own personal relationships, do you not bounce ideas off one another and discuss important topics in order to receive feedback? Are your opinions on the important topics of our time not to some degree impacted by the revelations and perspectives of others that you might not have considered in the vacuum of your own internal musings?

      This is what I’m talking about. Anyone will tell you that the decision to carry a weapon has to be made AFTER you’ve decided that you are capable of using that weapon to possibly kill someone. If you draw a weapon, and are unable to use it because you’ve waited until that point to realize that you cannot take a life, you’ve opened up a whole new can of awful on yourself. As someone who believes in life after death and the concept of salvation, part of this decision was “Can I end someone’s life, and deal with the possibility that they’ll spend an eternity separated from God because I put a bullet in them?” My decision, as I outlined above, was yes.

      1. avatar Jake L. says:

        Very well said Errant. I think it should also be noted that many societies without religion have also committed heinous crimes: namely Nazi Germany and the Soviets. One can see religion as a natural reaction to how random and unfair life is, but even without religion one will go to a complex belief system, for better or worse. Blaming crimes on religion is unfair to those responsible religious people, similar to blaming guns for murder is unfair to guns.

        It’s also with dubious logic to say that many who use religion as a justification for crime/evil actually believe in whatever religion they claim. It probably has more to do with power dynamics and our ancestry as hairless angry monkeys 😛 There’s not really a living example of a true anarchist or nihilist, and people can be very easy to sway. Religion just happens to be one of the ways of swaying some people.

        Just my 2 cents though.

  7. avatar joleolsen says:

    This could have been written by me, except that I would have added that I am more interested in preventing the death of innocent people than protecting myself.

  8. avatar gloomhound says:

    It’s always interesting to see someone try and turn your religion against you. You handled that well.

    1. avatar ErrantVenture11 says:

      Let me be clear, this is truly a “friend” and not a “social media friend.” I went to high school with this person and I value her opinions, and I definitely applaud her service to the less fortunate and hold that up as an example of her kind heart and caring spirit. She was not trying to turn my religion against me, she did what I wish more people would do when faced with an unfamiliar or troubling juxtaposition of ideas: She asked questions instead of jumping to conclusions.

      So please, I’d rather not see anyone else flame my friend. She isn’t a gun grabber or a bloody shirt waver, she was genuinely seeking a more informed opinion on the matter.

      Gloomhound, I know you didn’t flame her, but your characterization of her intent is what led me to post this. Someone above was much more harsh.

      1. avatar neiowa says:

        If so you were extraordinarily patient. I can’t think of anyone I spend more than about 3 sentences with on this subject to “explain myself”.

        So have you taken her to a range yet to at least educate on how to defend herself with firearms?

        1. avatar ErrantVenture11 says:

          Well right now she is in Africa on a humanitarian mission of some kind, so I’m not really in a position to enlighten her with some range time. But putting that aside, I haven’t even had a chance to take myself to the range in months thanks to the busyness of life and that whole ammo shortage thing.

          At any rate, the first female in line to go shooting with me for the first time is my wife. In pursuit of this, last week for our copper anniversary (7th, if you’re keeping track) I bought her a box of copper-jacketed .38 special target rounds 🙂

  9. avatar Ed Rogers says:

    I enjoyed the response, very well done.

  10. avatar S.CROCK says:

    good article. im glad you used Christianity to somewhat justify your choice to carry. i like how you showed that the “non lethal” options really suck. well for the most part they suck.

    1. avatar neiowa says:

      Christ, and Christianity, does not preach or require suicide. Some denominations even frown on it.

  11. avatar ST says:

    I don’t have the patience to debate the ignorant.Just reading the anti’s responses cost me 12 brain points.The last time I discussed the RKBA with an anti I felt a NASA emoloyee at the Flat Earth Society.

    1. avatar Bob4 says:

      I can relate. I live near PDX, one of the most liberal cities on earth. I learned to avoid these kinds of debates, for the anti-2nd amendment crowd tends to be rather confrontational and sometimes prone to violence. Even if you come to a spontaneous debate with the facts that contradict their argument, you cannot change them and they will escalate the debate. In Oregon, they are the minority, which is why we haven’t gone the way of Colorado yet, but unfortunately, these people are fanatical in their push to control everyone around them.

  12. avatar Merits says:

    Good thoughts. Thanks for sharing. For those so inclined, Chuck Baldwin has a new book out that examines the topic of why Christians should not give up their weapons.

  13. avatar JMS says:

    Who’s anti gun?

    Not the Dalai Lama: http://www.snopes.com/politics/guns/dalailama.asp <<< this is a reasonable thing to point out when asked how you can reconcile God and religion and responding to violence w/ violence.

    Not Gandhi: http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote/mohandas_gandhi_quote_0639

    Not MLK: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/adam-winkler/mlk-and-his-guns_b_810132.html

    1. avatar Mister Fleas says:

      Not Christ either: “And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.” Luke 22:36

      1. avatar ErrantVenture11 says:

        You really need to read the whole passage for context on that one. But I won’t disagree that he is literally encouraging his disciples to bring what they see fit on their travels once he has gone. So be it a sword for protection, a purse to carry money, etc., Jesus was saying to take what is necessary.

  14. avatar Billy Wardlaw says:

    If I had room on my belt for a loaded firearm and Jesus, I’d drop Jesus and take an extra mag. I’m sure he would understand.

    1. avatar ErrantVenture11 says:

      That’s fine, I carry Jesus in my heart!

      *waits for the eye rolls and thrown produce*

  15. avatar Ron says:

    I like your article very well thought out.

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