I live in New Hampshire, the “Live Free or Die” state, but I never knew how precious that sentiment was until I got my first handgun. Here is the story:
One pleasant April day my wife got a phone call from a neighbor down the street; they found our dog running around the streets and took him in for us until either my wife or I could leave work to collect him. The question however, was that since we left the dog locked up in the house when we left in the morning how did he get out? Since my wife worked closer to home than I, she left work and went to the house to find out how the dog got out, and upon arrival at home she discovered our backdoor kicked in . . .
She made a frantic call to me and we agreed that she should not enter the house but get back into the car, lock the door, and call the police. While she contacted the PD, I called a friend who worked in town and asked him if he could get to the house (with his Ruger .45) and stay with my wife until the police arrived, which he did. I then rushed home.
It turns out nothing was taken; the police believe the person(s) who kicked in my door were looking for the woman who was recently evicted from the other apartment unit of our building, as she had a history of hanging with unsavory people and owing those unsavory people money and drugs. Despite the fact that we lost neither our dog (who evidently ran out the now open door) nor any of our possessions the whole affair was very unsettling and highlighted how vulnerable we really were.
For days, maybe even weeks, I would startle in the night thinking that I may have heard “something” downstairs. I would check and re-check the locks three or four times before going to bed and no longer did we leave the door open for the breeze. The anxiety this event produced was troubling and unforeseen. I simply didn’t anticipate how emotionally wrenching is could be to have your home violated like that (and they didn’t even take anything). I can’t imagine how difficult it could be when someone actually takes your stuff or harms your family. But I did recognize that if this had happened while either of us were home, we would not have had any reasonable means of defending ourselves. Subsequently, I vowed that I would never allow another criminal to violate our sense of safety or security. The next week we bought our first handgun.
As a kid I had hunted deer and upland birds, so all of my gun experience revolved around shotguns. Since handguns were a new experience for me and my wife we made sure to learn as much as possible about their safe use; we took the NRA Basic Pistol class, followed by Personal Protection in the Home and then Personal Protection Outside of the Home. We also joined a local shooting range so we could practice using our new tools safely. I also did a lot of research online (which is where I stumbled across a new site called “The Truth About Guns”) and began to appreciate the gun not just as a tool for protection, but also as a finely crafted device worthy of the kind of regard and respect usually reserved for art.
But more than anything, delving into the world of guns and gun owners revealed to me an America that I didn’t know existed. An America of modern-day patriots who were striving to maintain the freedoms and liberties that I had heretofore taken for granted. But also an America of people and organizations dedicated to reducing the liberties of America’s citizens.
Prior to becoming a “gun guy” I was one of those “low information voters” who floated along the stream of civic responsibility and was deluded into believing that the government really was looking out for our collective best interests. I was forty-two years old and I voted regularly but I did so armed the information the various candidates supplied via the inescapable political ads that we are always inundated with here in NH. I meant well and thought I was doing my part and things were peachy, but I was soon to learn how deluded and naïve I really was.
The Sandy Hook tragedy occurred and people all over the country were now in an uproar that something needed to be done about so-called “gun violence”. There was talk about restriction and registries and confiscation and all manner of other absurd suggestions to curb the supposed growing tide of death. All suggestions, I might add, that previously I probably would have felt were appropriate and reasonable. However, in light of my recent experience with the criminal element of my city and the soul searching I had done about safety and security I couldn’t help but get a little nervous and a little offended:
- Do they want my gun? But I use that to protect my family!
- Do they mean me when they talk of restricting access to certain types of guns or magazines? But I’m an honest and lawful person! Why are they trying to restrict me?
- Why do they suggest I can’t be trusted? I have never harmed another person!
- Do they really think that will help? Criminals, by definition, don’t care what laws are passed.
And so it went. But now that I had a gun to protect myself and my family from the bad guys I knew were out there (they did kick in my door after all), I was surely not about to give it up without a fight. In fact I wanted to do more; I wanted to feel safe not just at home, but everywhere. Most troubling was the idea of a gun-free zone; my wife worked at a school and I became conscious for the first time how ridiculously inadequate a lock-down is at keeping people safe. And the more I looked into the issue of gun control the more alarmed I became.
And soon my concern grew from being about MY gun to being about MY government. Did the people I elected really represent me in Washington? Could I count on my elected officials to reasonable protect my rights and liberties? I was shocked when I realized that I couldn’t depend on the government or my elected officials to do the right thing by me.
And that is when my road to awareness and greater civic activity really began, when I realized that the safety and security I sought after my door was kicked in rested with a bunch of clowns in Washington who had no real desire to the right thing nor were they particularly concerned about my safety.
I joined the NRA; something I never would have done just a few years before. I donated to gun rights organizations and I wrote letters, lots of letters, to my Senators, Representatives, local officials, etc. Prior to buying my handgun and having that right threatened I had never contacted any of my members of Congress, but now I was doing it several times a month. I now have read the US Constitution and the NH State Constitution, and not just read it but studied it and learned it; appreciated its meaning and importance (I also began reading TTAG daily).
I have now recognized that in order to truly be a good citizen it requires more from me than simple blind obedience to the law, it requires me to actively participate in the process; to debate with others, to question my government, to share my thoughts. I sincerely believe that the US is the greatest country in the world, but we are not perfect and I now know that it is MY responsibility to address our flaws and not to leave it in the hands of lawmakers and political leaders of questionable motivation.
I don’t know where the gun debate will end, but I do know that I now question everything my government does or says. My concern is no longer just about gun rights, but through guns I have come to recognize just how much all of our rights and liberties are threatened. My interest in my family’s safety and security led me to guns, and guns fostered my new-found civic participation. Consequently, I can honestly say that guns made me a better American.