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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.

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  1. The gun debate will never end. However Tank03, you are now firmly on the correct side of the debate. It’s a large and diverse crowd. And as I like to say, the best people in the world are the gun people.

  2. Great piece! Personal story, universal message. If I didn’t want that FNS-9 so much, I’d nominate you as the winner right now. 🙂

  3. Well said! Its too bad the Government can’t figure out that by taking OUR guns away and restricting US the BAD guys will and always have guns to kill and injure US. I guess its because we are an easy target (sadly). Mr. Zimmerman is correct we do need to fight for our rights and always question Government.

    • Our government has definitely figured out that disarming civilians empowers criminals. That makes civilians “helpless” and depend even more on government — exactly what all governments want.

      Civilian disarmament efforts are no accident.

    • Why do you think they haven’t figured it out?

      I’d guess that many of them have.

      But – they – just – don’t – care.

      And why should they, if they have armed bodyguards, live in secure houses and neighborhoods, and are often in office for decades on end?

  4. I do know that I now question everything my government does or says.

    I had to go to Law School and study very hard to learn a critical lesson that you discovered because of a minor break-in.

    It’s a funky old world, ain’t it?

  5. The author of the article above wrote, “… 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.”

    This is the real reason why the elite want to disarm civilians. The last thing that the ruling elite want are informed peasants participating in civic matters, much less having the means to enforce those civic matters.

    • Also why there are so many “single issue voters” on 2nd Amendment grounds. It really isn’t because that’s all we care about or that it’s more important than the sum of every other issue, but that a politician’s or person’s stance on the 2nd Amendment is SUCH an accurate indicator of how they really think and feel and where they stand on a massive range of other issues. It really does just boil the person right down to whether they are pro-individual rights and liberty or anti-. Down to power in the individual, probably small government or nanny state large government hands in everything dictating what you can or cannot do.

      That’s why I am usually a “single issue voter.” It’s not because the 2A is all I care about, it’s because I have come to learn that a candidate who’s very strong on 2A is almost always aligned with my other views and a candidate who’s weak or anti 2A is not. Without vetting a candidate by looking at their entire history of every vote they’ve ever made, I think 2A is one of the best indicators there is of where they stand on just about anything.

    • Absolutely. I came to guns recently myself. Like Tank I was always a 2A supporter, but it wasn’t my highest priority. Living in MA getting permits and what not take time and more importantly money. Finally through a friend I got into shooting, got my license and got VERY involved quickly. I had my wife get her license as well as I believed, as did she, if there’s going to be guns around the adults in the house should all be able to safely handle them. She’s also gone from being kinda anti-gun to posting pro-gun messages and getting into arguments with friends over gun rights. It’s really eye opening when you see all you have to do to excercise one right, the 2nd, while “progressives” say its a hardship to ask people to simply show ID to vote. Tehn you learn about the form 4473 which reall IS a registry, since it links gun to buyer. More importantly even you learn what guns are and what they aren’t. For example it’d be really nice not to have to have my AR’s stock pinned so that my wife and I could comfortable shoot the same gun, and doing so would make it no more or less deadly than it is with a pinned stock.

      So in short, yes, being a gun owner does make you much more politically aware. I believe it certainly is a primary reason the collectivists want to take that right away.

      Thank you Tank for a great article! BTW: Did you take those classes at Sig Academy or somewhere else?

      • We took the classes at Wilson Hill Pistol Club in Manchester. At the time the Sig Academy prices were a bit out of our reach.

  6. Very well stated. Every word. A lot of it strikes home, especially the don’t trust a word the government says or does part. I congratulate you on not giving a dam that your PRISM algorithm score just doubled with this article.

  7. I’m always thrilled to hear tales of a newcomers’ migration to the world of firearms freedom. These transformations, howsoever spurred, are even more enlightening and useful than DGU accounts (and I’m ALWAYS down for a good DGU story.)

    In light of the anti-civil rights crowd’s stated strategy of turning household firearms into something stigmatized and socially unacceptable, a la tobacco, I’m reminded of some very successful public perception campaigns of the past, which turned something supposedly sordid into something generally wholesome.

    Do you know what White Castle, for example, is called “white” in the first place? It’s to convey purity. Hamburgers originally were associated with street vendors and street people, with even fixed establishments being regarded as less than hygienic facilities. White Castle and other clean-sounding enterprises gradually changed the perception of hamburgers in general from ugly to healthy(ish); helped along by fictional pop culture icons like Wimpy and Jughead.

    My favorite, though, is Honda, who successfully transformed motorcycles’ image from transportation for criminals, bandits and, well, bikers, into something cool and fun for the whole family, even women, WOMEN!, with their “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” campaign from the 1960’s. Stroll, or ride, down memory lane here:

    So I like these stories of new firearms owners, as I did the “I am a gun owner” series, because I believe they evolve public perceptions by replacing menacing, maniacal visages of the latest spree killer, with more friendly and familiar faces of typical firearms owners who use these tools for various lawful, legitimate and sometimes life-saving purposes.

    (Note: I’ve added my city “Houston” to my name to differentiate myself from a new “Jonathan” whom I’ve noticed posting recently. No sense in him catching the static for whatever I write)

  8. The Punctuation Genie must be on vacation. Too many errors to note here; please learn how to offset dependent clauses with commas, only don’t overdo it.

    There are too many errors here to make it a serious contender, but I enjoyed the story a lot.

    Keep writing; that way you will inevitably get better at it!

    • William, please learn how and when to use a semi-colon. Under no circumstances should two semi-colons be required within four sentences. But keep trying. You’ll inevitably get better unless you treat Strunk & White like a bible.

      And I vote for the writer to win based on content and his ability to convey his thoughts clearly to his audience, which is the ultimate gauge of any writing.

  9. It has made you a better American, and by owning a gun, you have made America better, as well.

    What makes America great is that the power of physical force is distributed to the lowest possible level. That makes America inherently stable, because nobody and no group of people can force unwanted changes on the population. This stability has permitted the creation of great wealth and progress, because the people are both free to pursue their own interests and protected from tyranny.

  10. I recommend this for the winners circle on the pistol giveaway. (I’d hoped to pen the winning article myself but this one deserves it more than my stilted prose.)

    Hallelujah and say thankee!
    The gun it’s self reaches people without rhetoric. They are what they are, simple or fine, loved or ignored, embellished or plain; They defend our lives and allow us the peace of actual, physical security. They enrich our lives with the sports we engage in with them, the time honored tradition of showing them off to friends, and their symbolism; with this, I am never a slave.
    I’m uplifted to hear that a concern for all rights has arisen from a closer appreciation of firearms and the 2A. Thank you for this message and the good tidings it brings. Good luck to you in your endeavors. Long days and pleasant nights.

  11. A lot of people are now having this same epiphany, and once you experience it,you will never trust your government again. Don’t worry, it’s good. Our Constitution was written based on the ideal that government should never be trusted.

  12. Great essay.Glad to have you with the rest of us,I believe that a lot more people are waking up to what the government is doing,and that is to turn our country into a leftist socialist state,where the state runs everything everyday.Gun control will always come up in the Senate or the House,due to these elitist’s that want the control over our lives.What other way to gain control but to try to take away our only means to stop them,which was meant to be the last ditch effort in retaining our freedom,which at this day and time appears to be getting here quick,with all of the scandals,and our basic rights being taken.Oh yes they will try to bring gun control back up before the end of this year,and we have to let our Senators and Representatives know how we feel,call them,write them or e-mail them,I e-mail them every day when gun control legislation is being debated,you have to keep the pressure up,or they will forget who votes for them.Be prepared and ready.Keep your powder dry.

  13. This story strikes a chord with me, mainly because it’s so much a parallel to my own. Minus the break-in; that’s pretty alarming.

    Keep up the good fight, Tank.

  14. Always nice to have a fellow NHer around… Never had a break in or anything but having lost my mother before her time, and seeing my father lose his wife, I now am paranoid about my wife’s safety. I have numerous locks on every door in my house and a weapon in every single room. Luckily NH is still free(unless we rid ourselves of this infection of Massachusetts liberal transplants we have…)


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