As I wrote in my journal the next day: “The gun society is a no-nonsense social dualism, precisely divided between good guys and bad guys.”
And despite the “love in the room,” despite the respect and patience the instructors showed to everyone present, despite the wisdom and clarity of their words—shooting is a “Zen process,” one of them said—the weekend’s essence was the reduction of life to that one reptilian option: fight or flight.
In the NRA’s words: “Using firearms responsibly and ethically for personal protection involves: Mental preparation for an encounter (what will I do before, during and after?), a willingness to use deadly force (can I do this?) and recognizing use of a firearm as a last resort.”
In other words, to join the camaraderie of the good guys, you have to declare a willingness to use deadly force. Only when absolutely necessary, of course—whatever that means. It’s an individual determination. But once that willingness is officially declared . . . what? The need to be armed is ever-present. The need to be on the lookout is ever-present. You are now armed and scared. You are a good guy with a gun.
What weekends like this do, I decided afterwards, is spread the willingness—and the presumed right—to use deadly force, not to mention the false belief that being unarmed means being unempowered. That was a decade ago. Look how much safer we are now.
— Robert Koehler in My Weekend With the ‘Good Guys With Guns’