Based on what I read this past week, I am not alone in my decision to purchase a firearm. American Public Media’s radio program Marketplace reported on an increase in sales and profits for gun makers. And formerly anti-gun editorialist Joline Gutierrez Krueger of the Albuquerque Journal wrote about her decision her to buy a gun and she says “I want a gun because I live in a crazy world that suddenly got crazier. Because I am one of the good guys with a bunch of good people and things to protect.” If Krueger and I are any indication of the trend . . .
It’s not mass-shootings, fear of political leaders or catch phrase attempts for more gun control that prompts our decisions. For me, it was realizing that I’ve been living in a state of denial I’ll call ‘band-aid violence.’
As I share my decision to concealed carry with a small number of close friends, most find it easy to accept the decision to have a firearm on a farm. “Sure, you have predators,” they say. For some, though, making the need-for-protection leap from four-legged predators to two-legged predators was difficult. “I remain unconvinced,” was a common theme.
I understand their denial mindset. The mindset that thinks “I don’t need a gun because the violence I know doesn’t require a response with a gun.” I lived in that space for a long time and I know how deceptively comfortable it is.
I am not sure if the world “got crazier,” to quote Kruger, but I do know my awareness changed this year. Somewhere in my 20s I began denying the reality of violence and replacing it’s mental image with a lesser form of aggression.
My work made it easy. I’m not a LEO, I’m a college professor. I work in a classroom, not an emergency room. And I haven’t been in a bar where the the fights spill over to the parking lot in 30 years. So it was easy in this deceptively comfortable space to think of all violence as something minor. That if I ever faced it, I could talk my way out, or reason with the person.
In a worst-case scenario, maybe we each get in a punch or two, but it would never lead to anything serious. My mental image of violence was something that could be fixed with a band-aid. If I read news stories about, rape, gang beatings, car jackings, and assaults, I let my mind soften it into something more like mild aggression.
If I had truly thought about it, though, I would have remembered that violence is repulsive. But it was just easier not to think about it.
What you and I see on video and drama shows is make believe violence: a mock gun fight, a few punches thrown, even a grotesque blood-and-guts action film is still — at its core — artful. It’s carefully lighted, expertly colored to look disgusting, but not repulsive. After all, a film maker wants the audience to be shocked, not puking in the aisles. And in dramas, by the next scene, the wounds are suture free. All is made well with a minor dressing: band-aid violence.
I was prompted to reconsider my mental image of violence while reading Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear at the recommendation of a colleague. She mentioned his name once as a possible career option. De Becker,who runs a 300-member firm that “protects people who are at risk, including eight of the ten Americans currently considered most at-risk, and 60 of the Nation’s most prominent families” takes his reader into the world of threats and risk assessment through victim stories and his own expertise.
The stories caused me to think about my how I picture violence in the news stories I read. Unlike the artful, well lighted make-up-and-special-effects violence of screen dramas, this violence is raw and repulsive. The brutality of being 16 years old and shoved from your car and pistol whipped or being beaten and stabbed near campus or tortured with a blowtorch and locked in the trunk of a car.
People who do these things can not be reasoned with, can not be covered with a band-aid and will not be resolved by the end of the next scene. While all three are lucky to be alive, I am guessing that each of them would like to have had another option to avoid their injuries. If I can’t generalize for them, I’ll speak only for myself: I want every possible option. Unfortunately on an professor’s salary, hiring Gavin de Becker is not an affordable option, so I need to self protect.
And my unconvinced friends will say, “but it wont happen to me or you. We don’t go into bad areas.” In that context, I think about the FBI crime statistics of 1.2 million violent crimes reported in 2010. The low tech math figures out to 403 out of 100,000 people, or 1 out of every 248.
On my campus, we can have 248 people in a single lecture hall. Yes, statistics is a broad estimation model that is not reality. However, the visual image of that lecture hall filled with 247 students and me, knowing that “statistically” one of us will be a victim of violent crime is disturbing.
There’s no question in my mind that everyone needs to have a plan to escape in the event of violence, and for me, a firearm is a part of my plan when all other means fail. That is, it’s part of my plan off campus. If I ever write about my every day carry system, I will share what this means.
The final shift in my denial has to do with that “we don’t go into bad areas” rationalization. My new understanding came from a very odd source: YouTube. During one of my visits, YouTube suggested a video of a California Highway Patrol car chase. If you’ve seen one, you’ve essentially seen them all. The bad guy in the car drives recklessly through intersections, around or through the stop sticks, and usually hits one or two other cars before being stopped in a PIT maneuver.
In these videos, we see the chase from beginning to end. From our point of view, we know the intersection is coming up, we know the car is stopping and the driver is going to bail out. What changed my mind was I began thinking about that situation from the point of view of the driver who gets hit at the intersection and the family in the front yard when the car chase becomes a foot pursuit and the bad guy busts through the bushes and dashes across the side walk.
Like those people, my good day in my quiet coffee shop in my nice campus neighborhood can instantly be overrun with violence that began somewhere else. And it’s not just car chases in Los Angeles. In Chicago this summer, the police have resurrected a term called “wilding” to describe the wave of violence done by mobs of young thugs on the Magnificent Mile.
What the Chicago Magnificent Mile and car chases demonstrate is that in our highly mobile society, violence is mobile too. It doesn’t mater if we don’t go where it usually is, it can and does come to us. And a band-aid wont make it go away.