The news over the last few weeks has been more tragic than normal - or the tragedies have been closer to home at least. These situations have spurred many conversations, all with the same question: "Why?"
Some truly are trying to piece together an answer that makes sense. Some are trying to find a way to twist the events to fit, and further, their narrative. A large majority of them turn into questions on firearms - questions on both the laws regulating them and the right (or lack thereof) to owning them. I avoid most of these discussions as they tend to be an echo chamber for whichever side is held by the person.
However, some of them have gotten personal - questioning why I - a white, almost middle-aged, male in a relatively safe suburb of a relatively safe city - would need/want/deserve to own and carry a firearm. Especially a semi-automatic pistol.
The most direct was simply "WHY? Why do you carry a gun?" The question was simple and straightforward and, though it was loaded with unspoken negative assumptions, I could tell the person truly was interested in an honest answer.
That's a question with many answers - some of them loaded with experienced, defensive sarcasm, some with a shrug of "not again", and some just wanting to deflect attention - all of them true, all of them with a good time and place, none of them capable of bridging the gap of understanding of someone who has not been exposed to firearms outside of the idiot box or big screen. Here was my answer to this person, this time:
I like to cover my bases.
I do this in all aspects of my life.
- I'm a computer programmer so I back up my code to multiple places. Not because I WANT my hard drive to crash but I know it's possible and this will help me resolve the problem. Hasn't happened yet.
- I work in an office building without an onsite medical staff so I carry a decent first aid kit that, in addition to the normal cuts and scrapes, can handle most minor traumas - at least until EMS arrives. I don't WANT anyone to be injured but I know that if they are, help is a minimum of 5 to 10 minutes away. This kit HAS been used for serious injuries twice now.
- I drive a car to work and I keep a much more extensive first aid kit, jumper cables, and a fire extinguisher in the car. I don't WANT to have a need for those, but I have them in case I do. I have needed the jumper cables both for my car and for strangers - but not the hefty first aid kit or the fire extinguisher. I'm keeping them anyway.
- When I was a firefighter, I kept a lot of equipment in my gear - rope and webbing in case I had to bail out of a window or drag another to safety, wire cutters to free myself from entanglement, an axe and halligan in case I had to breach a door or wall. I didn't WANT to need those, but knew there was a chance I would. They added several pounds to the already heavy gear. I carried them anyway.
- I'm a father of two with a third on the way. I have a healthy (scarily healthy) life insurance policy. I certainly don't WANT to need it, but I want my family to be supported if needed.
- I often carry a firearm and for the same reason as I have a life insurance policy. I don't WANT to use it but I want to have as many options available should I ever need to defend myself.
After hearing about carrying a firearm in context of all of the other steps I take to cover my bases, she seemed to at least acknowledge that there was a logical reason for it that she hadn't previously allowed herself to consider. I think she had expected something like "Because I can" or "Haven't you heard of the Second Amendment?" - all of which are true and acceptable reasons and may be why I OWN firearms. But I only carry them because I think they're another valuable tool in the toolbox.
I don't think she's sold on the concept (at least not yet - going to try to get her to the range soon) but her position has moderated significantly now that she can put actual logic behind it.