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Robbed at Gunpoint #8: The Price of Carrying a Weapon

A man at a social event, after hearing of my “incident,” launched into a speech about how I should have carried a Smith & Wesson gun precisely for this reason.

What an idiot, I remember thinking. The man was liberal and reasonably educated; frankly, I was surprised to hear him express such an attitude. Doing so might contribute to my sense of security, but also my sense of paranoia. For this suggestion to work, you’d have to carry the damn gun with you at all times, wherever you go. And you’d need to be ready to use it at a split second. The grim sociological fact is that if you make an attempt to reach for a weapon, the assailant has no choice but to shoot you preemptively. And that makes a scary situation even scarier.

On the other hand, legalizing concealed weapons has been shown to have a deterrant effect on crime. Criminals may not really fear going to jail (they know about the slow-moving and often incompetent nature of the justice system). On the other hand, the thought that the victim has a handgun and knows how to use one is a genuinely frightening thought for them (Of course, the assailents have the advantage of surprise and choosing the context). Handguns actually would make sense in public settings (like schools and banks and parks) where the gun-wielder is a bystander instead of the primary victim. 100 people may be in a park, and the assailants have no way of knowing which witness would carry a concealed weapon. But in a one-on-one assault, the victim is the sole focus of the assailant’s attention; it just isn’t a realistic option.

On the other hand, each person has his own standard of security. Women for example may have fears of being raped. (Interesting fact: did you know that sexual assault dramatically increases the likelihood of divorce for the couple? So there are two victims here, not just one). And there may be contexts where the potential victim has a few seconds to become prepared. Even though I don’t necessarily approve of it, keeping a handgun in your house might be an effective defense. That is, as long as you are trained well enough to have a rapid response time while still able to avoid firing at the wrong intruder (neighbor, child, etc). The problem is, most breakins don’t occur at night; they occur during the day in which you wouldn’t be at home anyway. That means you’re providing another valuable good for the criminals to steal, another untraceable firearm for the intruder to use in future assaults.

Possessing a gun poses other domestic risks. Household members could use it for suicide or crimes of passion; a child could play with it and accidentally fire it at someone. Guns are means to be used, and so they will be used sometime, somehow.