The Fear of Guns


Dan Wos of the Defining Success in America blog writes:

When I was a kid, my Dad took me out hunting and target shooting. He loved it. Me, not so much. It just wasn’t my thing. I tried, but I just wasn’t interested. I mean, I didn’t dislike guns and I wasn’t scared of them. I just wasn’t all that interested. When he would buy a new pistol, he would show it to me and I could tell he loved these things. Of course I showed interest and they were actually kinda’ cool, but I was more interested in my guitar so I never really jumped on board with the whole “gun thing” . . .

My Dad would even build his own rifles. I remember going down to the basement where he would be assembling old muzzle loader replicas, oiling the wood, staining and just working on these things with such passion. I would later recognize and understand that passion. For me, cars would bring out the same thing.

I was always aware of sort of an “anti-gun” niche of people and they never really mattered to me because I never had a vested interest in guns throughout most of my life. I just thought, “Some people like guns and some don’t. So what?” It wasn’t until later in life that I started to see the importance and value in firearms.

One night my wife and I were coming out of a late movie at the mall theater in Albany, New York. We were walking down the dark sidewalk to the back parking lot. Sue was walking down the center of the sidewalk and I was to her right (closest to the curb). A guy was walking directly toward her, also in the center of the sidewalk. He was about six foot five, maybe two hundred and fifty pounds. He wearing a hoodie, so I could barely see his face. But I could tell he was not happy and he was not moving to the side.

When you’re in a situation like this, it’s hard to rationalize it away. The “Fight or Flight” mechanism kicks in. As much as some people will tell you not to judge people or assume they are bad and looking for trouble, I challenge you to calm your internal reactions when your mind and body are reacting to  perceived danger. I don’t care who you are, you get scared. Fear creates a visceral response, whether we like it or not.

As this creep gets closer to Sue, walking straight toward her, I’m boiling over with adrenaline and trying to keep calm. “He is not moving to the side,” I thought. “He’s gonna run right into her.” When he got about three feet away from her, she quickly moved to her right. He bumped her so hard in the shoulder that she bumped into me and knocked me off the curb. We both almost fell over. The hoodie-wearing guy kept walking down the center of the sidewalk like he owned it. This was no accident. He was clearly looking for trouble and trying to get a reaction out of me.

I turned around still holding her hand and started to lay into this a$$hole. Before the words came out, visions of my wife, my son, my beautiful life and everything I’ve worked so hard to build flashed before my eyes. I had a moment of reality in a time of sheer anger and fear. To be honest, I didn’t want to get hurt. Most importantly, I didn’t want my wife to get hurt. And if something extreme were to happen, I didn’t want my son to be alone. Back in the time when I didn’t have the responsibilities, I would have given that thug a piece of my mind. But somehow I had this moment of clarity. We slowly walked to the car as I bit my lip.

Sue and I got into the car. We were silent for a few minutes. I slowly put the key in the ignition, turned to look at her – feeling the most shameful, irresponsible and incapable I have ever felt. I told her I was sorry. I was sorry I’d put her in danger. I was sorry I could not have defended her against this monster if a life-threatening attack had ensued. I was sorry I was unable to protect and defend one of the two most important people in my life. I realized in that moment that life is vulnerable and as a man it is my responsibility to take care of and protect my family. That night I did not and I was ashamed.

Throughout my life, I’ve seen some wild things, done some wild things and been in some situations that…well, let’s just say it’s a miracle I’m here. But I’m a bit older now. I’d like to think I’m wiser and beyond the point in my life that I want to be rolling around on the ground exchanging punches with anyone. I told Sue in the car that night, that as long as she was with me I would never let her be  defenseless again. I told her I was getting a gun. I was driven by fear.

As I discuss in my book Defining Success in America [autoplay audio at the link] fear increases or decreases in direct proportion to the amount and quality of available information you have relevant to your needs. Without a gun, my fear of an attack is greater; I don’t have enough information on how to survive. With a gun, I have a great deal of information about how to prevail. It doesn’t mean I will. But I have enough to keep my fear in [relative] check. Carrying a gun reduces my fear of violent attack and makes it easier to defend innocent life.

To make this leap, first you have to get over your fear of guns.

Anti-gunners constantly work to make people afraid of guns. They manipulate stats, wave the bloody shirt of victims of firearms-related crime and portray gun owners as trigger-happy emotionally unstable racist rednecks. They want people to think guns “go off” all by themselves. That guns are dangerous just sitting there. They use fear to manipulate people to support their agenda. They do their best to keep information about the positive side of gun ownership out of the mainstream media and fight against genuine gun safety education. They don’t want people to have any positive information about guns.

Many people don’t know how ignorant they are about guns – until they suddenly discover that they need some hands-on information right now. Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky as I am. Not everyone lives to acknowledge and correct that ignorance. To see the importance of armed defense. To embrace its value, master its practice and promote it to others so they, too, can protect themselves. Those who don’t find out the truth about guns until it’s too late die in fear. And that’s no way to go.

To your Success,
Dan Wos


  1. avatar JasonM says:

    I’m confused?
    Is the author saying he would have acted differently, had he been armed when the guy bumped his wife? That he would have had the courage to yell at the guy?

    It sounds like they did the right thing. Starting an argument after the fact would not have benefited either of them and still could have resulted in serious injury, if the guy was truly looking to start a fight.

    1. avatar Rokurota says:

      He realized the next time, it could be more than a bump.

      1. avatar TheBear says:

        This was my takeaway too but the author could have been more clear.

        I know that in the past when I was armed, I was more willing to let things go and suck up my pride.

        Carrying a weapon imparts a great deal of responsibility that most CC’ers take very seriously.

        1. avatar Matt Richardson says:

          Carrying a weapon imparts a great deal of responsibility that most gun owners take very seriously.

          Fixed that for you.

    2. avatar Mike in OK says:

      If you read the whole thing over at his blog he makes it clear that he would not have done anything differently, but decided that he needed to be prepared in case next time the angry giant wanted to do more than bump into somebody. It’s a good read. You should check it out.

      1. avatar JasonM says:

        That makes more sense.
        If I have time this afternoon, I’ll read the whole thing.

      2. avatar Dan Wos says:

        Thank you Mike!

      3. avatar MarkPA says:

        This is an interesting case study. What to do if you are armed vs. un-armed.

        As an un-armed couple, they could have stepped off the sidewalk and into the street thereby giving the thug the right-of-way. They could have walked across the street; run across the street. Perhaps the thug would have just kept walking and not altered his course at all. Conversely, he could have caught the scent of escaping prey and gone after them and done some real damage. Arguably, making no change in course was the safest thing for this unarmed couple to do.

        As an armed couple, they could have stepped off the sidewalk or walked across the street. In such a case, they would have offended the thug (I imagine). He might have pursued them. Under such circumstances, the armed couple could have defended themselves.

        I assume I’m missing some other considerations and alternate courses of action. I’d welcome comment.

    3. avatar Mark N. says:

      My take as well, but as the other comments state, this may not have been his intent. But I agree with you: A battle avoided is never lost. Carrying a gun does not give you the right to start a battle, only the ability fight one more effectively should another do so.

    4. avatar tfunk says:

      He’s not saying he would have acted differently. He’s saying he realized that the guy he encountered that night could have done anything he wanted to, and the author would have been powerless to stop him had things turned violent.

    5. avatar Lone Ranger says:

      He seems to be (to me anyway) clearly stating that the concern he had is that the punk might not have stopped with simply knocking a woman over on the sidewalk. What would he have done to protect his family if this guy had decided to start swinging at them, if for example he made eye contact and it was perceived as a challenge?

      Having a gun does not mean challenging someone immediately in a situation like this, it means that you have an equalizer if the shit really hits the fan.

  2. avatar Owen says:

    Dark sidewalk? Back parking lot? You’re doing it wrong.

    1. avatar Dustin says:

      How dare he not live in fear…

      1. avatar Owen says:

        Not so much that, just the self defense standard of avoid dangerous places.

  3. avatar gsnyder says:

    Dan, your article spoke to me. In my case it was my Grandfather who introduced me to firearms. To keep brief, your experiences are similar to my own. The fear the anti-firearm groups create does no one a favor. They promote hate and are indeed a hate group.

    1. avatar Dan Wos says:

      Totally agree. Thank you.

  4. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    Mr. Wos did the right thing by walking away, and if he had been armed, it still would have been the right thing. Maybe Mr. Wos knows this, but I wish he had made it more clear in his article.

    It’s easy to lecture about dark sidewalks and back parking lots. But the truth is, we all encounter potentially dangerous environments from time to time. When it happens to me, being armed doesn’t make me feel safe. But it makes me feel safer.

    1. avatar Evan in Dallas says:

      The male ego is a hard hurdle to clear in the ability to walk away. I’ve been out with my girlfriend when big drunk guys start talking trash about various things. It’s hard to keep walking and just take it when someone might deserve a beating, but unless they physically come after me, I’m not gonna be the one to give it to them and put me or her at risk. I’m curious how women see this though. Do they realize it’s a calculated decision to walk away? I know some don’t because they mouth off right back. I think the feeling of being young and invincible is still alive and well.

    2. avatar tfunk says:

      Dude, did you read the same article I did? He did not want a gun so he could give that dude a piece of his mind. He wants a gun so that if this situation occurs again and the other guy doesn’t just want to bump someone, but decides to attack, that he can defend himself and his family.

  5. avatar Former Water Walker says:

    I too was introduced to guns by my dad…and just did a big meh. No hunting just shooting at the NRA range near Kankakee,Il. Didn’t really have the same sidewalk encounter but had a lunatic wife who liked to yell at people and carried a gun-I was a big strong guy for many years and this was more embarrassing than something to get in a fight over. NOW I would kill an azzwhole who ran into my wife or sons on purpose…part of the freedom of being an OFWG…but I give no advice or opinion on what anyone reading this SHOULD do.

    1. avatar Stinkeye says:

      I hope that’s hyperbole, and you don’t really think it would be okay to kill someone just for bumping into you (on purpose or otherwise).

      1. avatar Former Water Walker says:

        Nope-you assault my wife I’ll will fight to the death-sorry you don’t feel the same…

        1. avatar Stinkeye says:

          I guess I don’t consider someone being a dick and bumping into you “assault”. If it escalates beyond that, then hell yeah, I’m prepared to do whatever I have to to put an end to it. But I’m probably not going to shoot the shoulder-bumping asshole in this story just for the bump, since I would consider that a wildly out-of-proportion response.

          Then again, my wife has enough sense to get out of the way of aggressive assholes who are looking for a fight. And would probably beat me to the draw if it were actually necessary.

  6. avatar TT says:

    As soon as Wos sensed trouble from the approaching man, he probably should have taken his wife’s hand and moved off the sidewalk and crossed the street. If the approaching man starts to follow, you know you’ve likely got serious trouble coming. If he stays his course, you’re like OK. Doing this gives you both distance and useful information.

    1. avatar Evan in Dallas says:

      A lot of people are afraid of “offending someone” by crossing the street. It’s stupid, but it’s an issue. I’ve also had “talks” with women that I’ve been in relationships with about situational awareness. Eventually they get it, but most people aren’t used to that idea.

    2. avatar Don Prather says:

      Yes, distance. Discretion is the better part of valor.

    3. avatar Ned says:

      +1 …I am with my wife in this situation. I am armed. I am a tough guy who has gone around a few times and see this guy …really see him, I still move off the side walk before he gets near me, my head seemingly looking down or away, but I am looking, I look for anyone else… a couple of others standing near by, a car parked with someone in it, I look for his hands. Like my apparent gaze, my hands seemed buried and unaware, but they are hidden and on my weapon. My movement forces him to change course and reveal if he has intentions with regard to me…and I am ready… and we just all keep walking.

  7. avatar Grindstone says:

    Many people don’t know how ignorant they are about guns – until they suddenly discover that they need some hands-on information right now.

    This is why I say “invite somebody to the range this month”. Instead of focusing on “the gays” or all these distracting side issues that have NOTHING to do with guns, we, the People of the Gun, need to open up to those around us and show them the truth about guns is not the falsehoods that are portrayed by the anti-gun left.

    1. avatar Stinkeye says:

      Abso-f*cking-lutely. This is our greatest tool. Those arrayed against us can use fear and ignorance to shape people’s opinions, but we have a huge advantage: guns are a lot of fun. Take someone to the range, put a .22 in their hand and point them at some steel targets, or spinners, or even tin cans – something reactive. Then let the gun do the rest of the work. Once they’ve seen that guns aren’t complicated, terrifying killing machines, they’ll start to wonder what all the fuss is about.

      Obviously, this won’t work on hardcore anti-gunners (mostly because you won’t be able to get them to go shooting with you, because they won’t take the risk that their assumptions and prejudices might be challenged), but anyone who’s “on the fence” or just ignorant of guns in general is about 90% likely to come away from a positive range experience on our side of the fence. They’ll also be very likely to pester the hell out of you for another range trip. 🙂

  8. avatar neiowa says:

    I told her I was getting a gun. A gun, singular?

    I don’t understand this at all. How is that an adult male does not possess the various firearms necessary for the variety of jobs which may face him? Same as a well equipped tool box. And what father does not equip the son (and daughter) with the starter set of each? And train in the basics of the use of each.

    And how is there a consultation with a wife, or anyone else, on the subject? “Can I go to the bathroom? Man up fella. A gun, singular? Even if you have to buy ’em do so but get a pair not just one.

    1. avatar Dan Wos says:

      Have plenty now. No consultation, but courtesy of notification. Point taken. Thank you.

  9. avatar Joe R. says:



    When forming interactive societies one maxim maintains the balance of individuals when commingled pairs form larger groups.
    That maxim is simply:

    1. avatar Joe R. says:

      Fear the “Programme for International Student Assessment’s (PISA) 2015”

      Why have common core when you can pay the world to examine your kids through ubiquitous common core.



      1. avatar Stinkeye says:

        What the heck does any of that have to do with this article?

        1. avatar Matt Richardson says:

          Nothing at all

          This dude rants like this and quotes some book, written by himself, that I haven’t been able to find published anywhere.

          He’s the resident “bag lady” that wanders up and down the street randomly screaming at passing cars.

        2. avatar Marcus (Aurelius) Payne says:

          “…have the birds got jobs? They don’t and they’re doing alright, so what are you worried about?”

        3. avatar Joe R. says:

          You obviously don’t, but I often wonder if recent events have us looking for the next right-cross, and we duck our chin right into a left-hook. My post is timely, the release was today, and my link worked, it’s a little more concerning than the anecdotal topic at hand (in the OP). It IS all the same problem. It’s blue state a-holes infringing and encroaching.

          Richardson thinks he’s not one side short of a 12-sided dice material because he’s coopted a threeper logo, but I don’t know if they claim him.

        4. avatar Joe R. says:

          You didn’t read Wos entire post. And don’t pretend like you didn’t read mine anywhere but here first.

  10. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

    Suppressing one’s anger and fear is a difficult thing to do, especially when you feel your woman is being attacked or agressed towards.

    There’s actual science behind it.

    Men’s testosterone increases and their “alpha male” behaviors are more prevalent when a female, mostly their female, is present.

    Studies have put men in situations where they were agressed towards by someone larger, both alone and in the company of women. And in most cases the male was more likely to agressive back with a female present. Even the mostly “beta” acting males in the studies returned the agression more consistently.

    That’s not to say fighting that loser on the street was the right thing to do. It’s to highlight how diffcult it can be to supress one’s hard wired, biological response to your woman being agressed towards.

    We are not wild animals, so we must not behave like wild animals.

    1. avatar Dustin says:

      Intellect is often presented as doing nothing…

  11. avatar John says:

    The anti-gunner’s agenda of instilling fear of guns into people has worked. When people find out I carry and shoot on the weekends most of their faces turn white and they clearly start looking for an exit to get away from me. Their fear of firearms is ridiculous especially yet they have apathy toward the criminals behind guns. The mere mention of a firearm gives them visible panic but put them in a room of criminals and they view them as misguided souls that can miraculously be cured with a little love and a second chance. Thank you Hollywood, Bloomburg, Brady, etc for making the public feel safe while putting them in more danger.

  12. avatar Ralph says:

    I carry every day, everywhere. Yet, when I see someone walking in my direction who sets off my radar — like the big dude in this post — I cross the street. Even if I had my significant other on my arm, I would cross the street. Even if it meant that I was lengthening my trip by a few paces, I would cross the street.

    I think it’s better to avoid a bad situation than have to shoot my way out of one. For walking, all we need is shoes. For shooting, we need a gun. I think most of us would rather walk than shoot, but we need to be prepared to do either one.

  13. avatar Tokamak says:

    For this alpha male it’s much easier to walk away from the confrontation when I’m armed. I know I can prevail. I’ve got nothing to prove. I also realize just how serious it’s going to be if the gun comes out. When you are not afraid it’s easier to think clearly. Adrenaline is really hard to control. Being armed for me at least, minimizes the fearful excitement of being threatened. Probably would have just crossed the street before we got very close. My wife would understand. She doesn’t want to watch me blast anybody either.

  14. avatar Marcus (Aurelius) Payne says:

    Unfortunately the propaganda is everywhere. Recently I saw a article claiming that gun ownersI “actually think that a home invasion is imminent.”

    *sigh* So many people are trying so hard to deliberately misunderstand the issue.

    I’ve had that conversation to many times.
    “Why do you think people are out to get you?”
    “I don’t”
    “Then what do you need to defend yourself from?”
    “Right now? Nothing.”
    “Then why do you need a gun?”
    “Right now, I don’t.”
    “Then why do you have a gun?”
    “Because if I ever do need it there will be no time to go get one.”

    This is when they get angry. They always get angry when you make a point they can’t refute. When they have no response they accuse you of ignoring their arguments, as if you could ignore their arguments while directly addressing every last word they say.

    1. avatar Jim Bullock says:

      ““Because if I ever do need it there will be no time to go get one.”

      This is when they get angry….”

      That’s exactly right. And the nub of the problem. Preparing or things that might go wrong in the world messes with their world view. It’s like flood insurance. People don’t wanna buy it, not just for the cost, but because it reminds them that floods happen sometimes.

      There’s the same root in mockery of storm cellars, or generators, or, yes, carrying or having a first aid kit. Some folks are way more comfortable having a fire extinguisher in their home because “the insurance guy said I have to” than thinking it through themselves.

      I had a crazy conversation about generators and water wells with a lifelong urban/suburban-dweller the other week. You get further out than that, and the power goes out from time to time, so just be OK with that. Have a generator. Or a way to stash a little water. Or a pantry, for when it takes a while to clear the roads after a big snow storm.

      Stuff happens. A lot of stuff, when you need it, there won’t be time to get it.

      But, acting this way will annoy people who insist on living in the eternal timeless now.

  15. avatar Dustin says:

    I’m torn on concepts like this…

    Let it go… So it can happen to someone else? Is that the way to be your brother’s keeper?

    This is one of few concepts that I struggle with… If I have the ability to teach this thug a lesson, shouldn’t I? Is it right to push it off on someone else? Someone perhaps smaller, weaker, dumber? What would happen to someone who is an easier target than I? I’m not just letting it slide, I’m making sure it will happen…

    As long as it happens to someone else’s kid, someone else’s wife, I shouldn’t care? Is this what good men do? Nothing? When good men do nothing… They cease to be good men.

    I never look for trouble, but if it finds me, I do my best to beat the leaving hell out of it. Damage. Permanent, disfiguring, debilitating damage. Savage, unrelenting brutality. Those looking for trouble should be given what they seek, in copious volumes beyond their comprehension. My life is merely a conduit, a pre-requisite, a mere platform upon which pain is delivered to those who earn it. It is not good enough to merely stroll through the valley all care-free simply because I am afforded protection there…

    I don’t think I’m invincible. But, I refuse to live in fear of evil.

    Tho it be fragile, does the arrow fear it’s target?

    1. avatar Alan Livingston says:

      Spot on! This is the attitude all concealed carriers should share. Losers who prey upon others need to be brought to their proverbial knees by armed or otherwise able citizens and neutralized. Anyone who supports thug behavior by neutering those who are willing to prevent it are worse than the perpetrators.

  16. avatar Alan Livingston says:

    Author is “dead on”. No duty to retreat. I would have stepped aside for the guy though out of general respect as I would for most anyone. This would have averted getting bumped in the first place but beyond that, I would have stood my ground. Some of the crap they teach in these concealed handgun courses is tantamount to cowardice but I understand the need to protect licensees from liberal law. Of course, since I am on blood thinners, ANY confrontation is potentially deadly and I get a pass on using deadly force since even a fistfight could kill me.

  17. avatar AllAmerican says:

    Great article. I always chuckle at dudes who say things like, “instead of getting a gun, hit the gym.” Like somehow bulking up will make you better at fighting. It’s not a bad idea to do, but there’s always someone tougher, meaner, and more brutal than you are. Also, those types have obviously never been in or seen a real hand to hand fight. They’re very and ugly and brutal affairs, regardless of how strong one is. People bite off fingers and gouge out eyeballs.

    1. avatar Art out West says:

      I carry a gun, and hit the gym. The more the merrier, knife, pepper spray, etc.

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