The Place With No Name



I wrote this as a response to a friend on a Yahoo! Group.  I thought that I would refine it a little and turn it into a web page for those times when people are going to ask me why I carry a gun.  I found Tracy's question very reasonable, and I have highlighted his comments in red.  I figured that I'd have to answer this question over and over again, so I may as well have a good answer when asked.  This page is an attempt to provide that answer.

If anyone has any comment, please use the form at the bottom of this page.


I'm just wondering why you feel so drawn to pack?  (That's a good way to ask that question, actually.)

I'm not an ageing liberal hippy (...). I'm your run-of-the-mill Idahoan who has hunted and even spent a summer in the high Colorado Rockies with a sidearm strapped to my belt (I don't hate guns) so I could plunk at rock chucks, yet I don't get it. 

Maybe that's it... maybe in Idaho where I rarely bother to lock my cars or my house for that matter, I don't understand your dangerous life. I do know, I wouldn't want to live somewhere that I thought the likelihood was high enough to have to shoot someone, that it was worth the bother to pack around a sidearm. If I were to pack, I'd likely carry it every day for the next 19,345 days of my life and it would just be dead weight putting a curve in my back and pulling my pants down. 

You see, though, here you've made an invalid assumption. Where I live and work is probably every bit as safe as where you live and work. In all reasonableness, it's just dead weight on my belt too. Statistically, I will never need it. In some ways, statistically, my life is very slightly more dangerous individually because of the firearm, and not less. That's an operator thing, though, and not a machine thing. In some ways, you are less safe because you carry a pocket knife. I mean, you can't accidentally cut yourself if you don't have a knife, now can you?  You're also a little more safe because you can do things like cut yourself out of your seat belt if your car flips over and catches fire - among other things that a knife is good for.

You're also the guy who carries a half dozen cutting instruments. I like tools... no I LOVE tools, any kind of tools (knives and Leatherman-type tools included). I don't go walkin' around with a Porter Cable router in my pants though. 

LOL! Well, me either. I wouldn't mind having a cordless drill... Hmmm... I actually use everything on my belt almost every day.  Well, except for the gun...  If I fall in deep water, I'm in I guess I'm at a greater risk of drowning too...

I keep all kinds of tools close by, my car always has a respectable assortment but I don't carry much more than a pocket knife on my person anymore... too much bother to carry stuff I don't use. 

A reasonable philosophy. 

Not meant to scoff or offend, I just don't understand. 

That's because we are different in our natures. I don't know if I can explain it in a way that will make sense to a man of your nature, but I'll have a shot if you will be patient with me.  (When I say 'man of your nature' as it relates to Tracy, that isn't a negative statement.  It's a neutral statement.  I am pleased to call Tracy my friend.)

From the top: I'm just wondering why you feel so drawn to pack? 

I could give you all kinds of answers, and the truth is that the real answer is some alloy of many reasons. First, though, let's cover the non-reasons. The things that do NOT apply. 

I don't, for instance, live a dangerous life. I don't have some strange 'burden of fear'. I'm not overly paranoid. I don't have any mortal enemies. Nobody is out to get me.  I'm not a gun nut.  I don't think that guns have any more intrinsic value than any other tool.  I don't think that guns are some kind of magic wand.  I don't have delusions of gun slinging it out with bandits. I don't expect an attack of ninja hordes.  I'm not an aggressive person, and I'm not having a 'power trip'.  I don't have fantasies about gunning down bank robbers, going toe to toe with terrorists, or single handedly repelling an alien invasion.  I don't think I'm superman.  A gun is not a security blanket.

So, those are some of the non-reasons, so on to the reasons. 

One reason comes down to simple nature. It's my nature, and it's the natural progression of what I am.  I've been training in martial arts for over 20 years now. It's about time I keep up with history and move into a serious study of firearms.  Just like I walked around full time with a sword when I was studying the sword, walking around full time with a firearm is a study in mindfulness.  It makes the study real, and not just a mental exercise. 

Reason 2: Because I can. "A man who does not read books has no advantage over a man who cannot read them." - Mark Twain. I sincerely believe that natural rights should be exercised whenever possible so as to create an actual rather than theoretical appreciation of those rights.  To transform Sam's statement, "A man who does not exercise his rights has no advantage over a man who has no rights."

This isn't some kind of foaming at the mouth over the Second Amendment.  I don't have a, "They can have my gun when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers" bumper sticker.  To my mind the folks who want to ban guns are no different than folks who want to ban books - and I'm not about to give up my books.

Reason 3: Various ideological philosophies. 

3.a: Pacifism is a privilege of the protected. 

3.b: Will Dougan: "I carry a gun because it is my responsibility alone - not that of the police, nor the government, nor the community - to defend the precious lives that God has entrusted to me." 

The boogeyman is real. I've seen him, dealt with him, and met a lot of other people who have met him and dealt with him too. It's always telling that at least 80% of the people - both men and women - who attend my rape prevention and personal safety classes have recently been the victim of a violent crime. Other more visible personal safety advocates (like Paxton Quigley of 'Armed and Female' fame - note the same thing - people don't even think about personal safety until after they become a victim. 

Failing to take proactive personal safety measures - whether that be learning self defense, carrying pepper spray and knowing how to use it, having smoke alarms in your house, practicing campfire safety, or wearing a seat belt - really means failing to take personal responsibility for your own personal safety. If nobody takes responsibility for their own personal safety, then nobody will be safe. If you do nothing - if you take no responsibility for your own safety - then other people are less safe as well.  If you don't have smoke alarms, it isn't just your house or family that doesn't get an early warning, but the people living in the apartment above yours too.  If you don't practice campfire safety, forests burn.  If you do nothing when the boogey man wants to hurt you, then the boogey man is empowered and moves on to the next victim. If you take charge, get informed, get educated, get prepared, and get empowered, then boogeymen of all kinds will be much less successful. 

None of that is to say that the world is a terribly dangerous place where everyone and everything is out to get you, but we would all be safer if everyone took safety seriously. If everybody wore seatbelts, lives would be saved. If everybody had smoke alarms, lives would be saved. If everybody carried pepper spray and knew how to use it, lives would be saved. If everyone were armed, we'd all be collectively and individually safer. 

Since I actually believe that, then the next logical step is to actually provide as best I can for my personal safety and the safety of those around me.  I have smoke alarms with fresh batteries, fire extinguishers, seat belts, and a lot of other things that I hope I never actually need.  If I need them, though, I'll be glad that they're in place.

Reason 4: The extension of personal safety at a distance is easier with a firearm. 

Most 'gunfights' happen within 7 feet. Within 7 feet, I'm never going to reach for the gun, even in a lethal force scenario. I can get both knives out faster than I could ever get the gun, and I can kill somebody with my hands a LOT faster than I can get the knives out. Seven feet just isn't any distance at all - even if they other guy has a gun.  (Which isn't to say that I wouldn't get shot or that I think I'm superman...)

Outside of 21 feet, though, the gun makes it possible to draw a much larger 'circle of death' as we say in the martial arts.  Most people will better understand 'umbrella of safety' when I say 'circle of death'. 

Reason 5: Today might be my turn. 

Read this:

In brief, James Huberty had a bad day, and on July 18, 1984, walked into a California McDonald's restaurant, killed 20 people and wounded 16 others before a police sharpshooter shot him dead.

Never going to happen to you right? Never going to happen to me either. Truth is, though, that was just any McDonalds. Jimmy just happened to walk into that one, but he could have walked into anyplace. He could have walked into the place where you take your family. He could have walked into the place where I take mine. The folks in that one just had really bad luck that day. Their last meal was a coke in a wax paper cup, a few fries, and a poor excuse for a hamburger. 

Fortunately, boogeymen like Jimmy don't come along too often.

Wouldn't it have been nice if somebody would have had the ability to challenge Jimmy? At least shoot back a little? At least take the chance? But nobody had the ability at the time because nobody had taken any personal responsibility for their safety or the safety of the people around them. Everybody laid down on the floor, and even when he started shooting folks, they all believed, "Well, maybe he won't shoot me."  Nobody took any personal responsibility whatsoever. If everybody would have stood up and charged him, fewer people would have been hurt. Most people don't live in that mindset, though. Most people are content to lay on the floor and wait for their turn for some reason that I haven't quite worked out yet.  I guess that in those situations most people fail to appreciate that they have nothing left to lose.

I'm not going to tell you that I'm some kind of ace gunfighter.  I'm not going to tell you that I'd have stood up and capped the bad guy right between the eyes and went back to my McFlurry.   I'd at least have given him a go, though, which is better than what anybody else in the restaurant at the time could do.  I wouldn't be laying on the floor - with or without a firearm.

Today might be my turn. It would be a damn shame if it got to be my turn and I had to say, "Sorry. Can't play. I left my tools at home." 

5.b: It's about keeping promises.  I leave home every day on a promise that I'll be 'safe and good'. It's the common ritual in the morning.  We all say, "Be safe and good today."  I wear my seat belt. I don't speed. I don't blow yellow lights.  I am aware of my surroundings. I don't want to come face to face with something that I'm not equipped to handle and have to think that today I broke my promise to my wife and my daughter and didn't go home.  One day I might have to make the choice never to go home again, but I want that to be my choice, and not because I wasn't equipped to keep the promise.

Reason 6: Ethics.  I teach law enforcement and military personnel defensive tactics.  Since I preach all of this stuff about personal responsibility to law enforcement and military personnel, I ought to set a decent example. It's ethically bankrupt for me to tell people that they need to run TO the danger if I'm not willing to assume the same responsibility.  That doesn't mean that I have some kind of idea that I'm equivalent to a police officer, because I don't actually have any police powers.  It does mean that I'm at least willing to try to hold the fort until real police arrive.

Reason 6a: I want to extend my teaching to include firearms.  I can't reasonably teach something that I have no practical experience with. I can't teach people who walk around with guns if I don't understand the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional burdens that carrying a deadly weapon entails. 

Reason 7: Reason 7 should probably have been reason 1, since it was what finally got me to go ahead and take the step into firearms.  It was my friend Col. Grossman, who said, "If you are authorized to carry a weapon, and you walk outside without it, just take a deep breath, and say this to yourself... 'Baa.'"  For some reason it just made sense to me after that to get authorized.

In largest part, the gun represents a great sadness to me.  I'd much rather live in a world without bogeymen.  I'd much rather not have so much personal responsibility.  Philosophically, though, I have always followed Saigo Takamori (1827-1877) who said, “However seriously systems and measures may be discussed, they cannot be put into practice unless there is the right man to do it. There is no deed without a doer. To have the right man is the greatest blessing! One must aim at being that man.”

I hope I don't let Saigo down in any walk of life...



And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling in terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?

The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt!

-- Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, "The Gulag Archipelago"





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