''Why would an average citizen WANT to own a handgun...''

"...in this modern day and age?"

By Bob Harsanje

“Are you kidding ?!?” my longtime business acquaintance inquired mid-bite during lunch. His incredulous look spoke volumes.

“No, I’m not kidding,” I matter-of-factly replied. “What would make you think I’m kidding?

He laid his fork on the plate and cleared his throat. “Well,” he measured carefully, “you just don’t seem like the type.”

“The type?” I queried.

“Well, uh, you know. You’ve always struck me as a real easy-going, friendly, very moral, ‘big-teddy-bear’ kind of guy. Sort of a ‘Clark Kent.’”

“Yeah, I know you’ve always been a hunter,” he continued, “but you just don’t strike me as the type of guy that would want to carry a handgun.”

“And just what ‘type’ of guy do you visualize?” I quizzed.

“Well, you know…when I think of someone carrying a handgun, I think of sort of a, well, ‘redneck,’ ‘back hills’ type of person who isn’t all that educated and kind of lives on the fringe of society. I mean, come on, in this modern day and age, why would anyone want to carry a handgun if they didn’t have some sort of ‘attitude’ and would just be looking for the opportunity to use it. You know, in a vigilante sort of way.”

“Let me ask you a question. Just exactly how did you come up with that image, that stereotype? Have you thought about that?” I asked calmly.

“No, not really. It’s just the first thing that comes to mind. Carrying a handgun seems so unnecessary, unless you’re the type just looking for trouble, or you’re the type that is some sort of ‘wannabe’ cop. And you don’t fit that profile,” he responded a bit defensively.

“Neither does my doctor. Or [a well-respected contractor we mutually knew]. Or Judge [name omitted].” I challenged. “But they all have gone through the training and have their concealed carry license and carry a handgun on them. Does that put them on the ‘fringe of society’? Does that mean they’re some sort of blood-thirsty, kuckle-dragging Neanderthals just waiting for the chance to blast someone into chunks?”

He was clearly puzzled and a bit embarrassed.

“Well no,” he replied. “But…”

“Let me see if I can help you. Stop and think for a minute – do you actually know any of those stereotyped people you described?”

“No, can’t say I do.”

“So stop and really think,” I continued. “How then, was that image, that stereotype, formed in your thinking?”

His brow furled in deep thought. Lunch was now too cold to eat, but it didn’t matter. He’s not the type to leave an issue unchallenged.

A few moments passed, and following a deep sigh, he said, “It has to be from the media. From things I’ve read, from things I’ve seen on TV. I guess you got me.”

“No,” I smiled, “I don’t ‘got’ you – THEY did. Don’t feel too bad because you’re not alone. I think it would be fair to say that the majority of our society has been seduced by the same type of stereotyping you described. Those people and groups who wildly oppose the notion that a private citizen indeed DOES have the right and privilege to own and carry a handgun should they choose expend a great deal of time, effort and money carefully crafting media messages to implant negative connotations deep within the public psyche. They’re pretty good at it, aren’t they?”

“I guess so. But – in fairness, they raise some valid questions and make some pretty strong points,” he argued.

“Like what, exactly?” I responded.

“Well, come on – you have to admit that some of the pro-gun people ARE from the South and they come across pretty darned defiant sometimes.”

“Sure, I’ll give you that. Maybe some folks seem too aggressive in defending their view, and yes, some are not as well educated as you are, but you’re missing the ‘rest of the story’ as Mr. Harvey says. People who believe in the right to own a handgun and carry it if they choose represent ALL elements of the social strata, from blue collar to white collar to yes, even well-known political and business leaders. AND, despite what some would lead you to believe, a number of ‘Hollywood types’ not only ‘carry’ themselves, they are in very vocal opposition to their Liberal ‘Hollywood types.’

“So, in light of just the people you and I mutually know – and how well you know me – do you still we’re a bunch of bloodthirsty, knuckle-dragging, Neanderthals who’ve been born a 150 years too late for the Old West ‘shoot ‘em out at high noon’ times?

“No,” he replied. “I guess I’ve never really thought about it. But, some of the pro-gun control points make sense to me. And, it does appear that if you eliminate the sale of handguns, crime would go down, and a lot of innocent people wouldn’t be harmed or killed by handguns.”
“Hold on a minute,” I interrupted. “Another ‘Liberal Lie’ just popped out of your mouth.”

“What?!?” he shot back a little indignantly.

“You just quoted the concept that Adolf Hitler espoused in 1935 – take guns out of the hands of the people and you will have ‘peace.’ That concept blows right past common sense and lands on sheer stupidity and utter deception. AND, you’ve been lured into forming that opinion without even recognizing it.”

“What do you mean? How so?” My friend was getting a little defensive.

“I mean this – think about it. Do you think it’s even close to reasonable to believe that IF the government COULD confiscate each and every firearm out of each and every household in America, do you REALLY think that the bad guys STILL won’t have access to guns? Do you REALLY think that eliminating guns would eliminate them from the hands of those who want, and intend to commit crimes?” I challenged.

He was quiet for a moment. His brow was furled and eyes wrinkled in thought.

“I guess you got me again,” he sighed. “When you think about it, it really doesn’t make sense.”

“No,” I smiled, “I didn’t GET you, it’s just another example of how clever and consistent the anti-gun crowd has been in pounding that message into people’s minds. You will never, ever hear them say, ‘It’s not the THING that’s bad, it’s the WRONG USE of the thing that’s bad.’”

“Ok,” he agreed. “That’s right. And that principle applies to a lot of ‘things’ but…” he paused.

“’But’ what?”

He hesitantly continued, “I can agree with what we’ve discussed, makes sense if you think about it. BUT – I’m still stumbling on the issue of carrying a handgun. When you told me you were going to take that course and get your license, it seemed a little incredulous and out of character for you.”

My friend took a bite of cold chicken, then continued, “I can see your point about stereotypes, but that still doesn’t really answer the question, ‘Why, then, would an average citizen WANT to carry a concealed weapon?’ Why do YOU want to?”

“That’s a fair question so I’ll give you a fair answer from my point of view,” I replied. “I didn’t make this decision without first undergoing a LOT of soul-searching and investing a LOT of time reading about both sides of the issue and weighing them out. It is not a decision I came to lightly – the responsibility of owning and carrying a handgun is tremendous, and very sobering.”

“You need to understand this: I do not wish to choose to carry a handgun with the intent of just waiting for some opportunity to use it on some thug. In fact, I hope and pray that I would NEVER have to use it. In fact, I have no intention of carrying 24/7, but there will be an easily accessible handgun in my home 24/7.”

“However, if and when I choose to carry, then I want to be able to exercise the privilege – legally,” I continued. “And, on the rare circumstance that the use of deadly force MIGHT be necessary, I want to be able to exercise that option to hopefully protect my family or myself or maybe an innocent victim who is unable to defend themselves or escape a mortal criminal situation. God forbid that occasion should ever arise.”

“Hold on a minute,” he quipped, “That all sounds well and good, but let ME play Devil’s advocate – can you truly name any circumstances that you have encountered in your life so far where you might have had occasion to actually shoot someone?”

That was a question I’d hope he wouldn’t ask. I grew silent while a host of tragic memories flashed to the front of my mind, feeling as fresh – and terrible – as they did when the incidents occurred. My skin flushed over with goose flesh.

“Yes,” I said somberly, “yes I can. But I wish I couldn’t.”

“What you don’t know is, within my family, two rapes and the murder of a relative have occurred. And, once a man was shot climbing the same stairway as I, but beneath me. The first shot missed, ricocheted off the wall and zinged just inches away from my head. The second shot put the guy down, seriously wounded.”

“Oh God,” he responded, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.”

“There’s no way you would, they are not topics I care to discuss. Especially because the rape and murder criminals avoided prosecution. The murderers walked because their spouses refused to testify against them – they’re still out there. Who knows how many other rapes and murders these creeps have committed? How many other innocent women and men became their victims? You have no idea how many times over the years I’ve thought, ‘If only I had been there – armed – even once, especially once…’” my voice trailed off.

“I can see how you would feel that way, but you can’t live life by ‘if onlys’ and ‘what ifs,’” he offered. “Those are tragic, terrible things, but it’s not to say that you could have done anything about it.”

“That’s true,” I agreed. “But you still can’t escape those feelings and wish to God you could have been there for them. Plus, you have to consider how things might have turned out differently if the victims had been armed…”

“Maybe so,” he said, “but if someone is hell-bent to commit a crime, especially if their brains are fried by crack or coke or whatever, they’re going to do it regardless.”

“That might be true in some cases,” I replied, “but well-established studies conclusively show that a criminal’s biggest fear is a victim with a gun. That element of fear will at least make them think twice.”

“Here’s a good example. Remember my former position at the bank? One of my responsibilities was to respond to every branch robbery incident, deal with the media, and go through a laundry list of post-event issues. After dealing with more than three dozen robberies, you get to know the FBI guys because it’s pretty much the same team that responds. Know what they say?”

“What?” he asked.

“That bank robbers are THE stupidest of all criminals, for obvious reasons. They’re on camera from the time they step through the door, they’re rarely going to get any more than a pre-determined amount of marked money with a dye pack included, and they’re almost always caught within hours, if not days.”

“Despite that,” I continued, “the FBI guys well tell you that even though the crooks are stupid, they KNOW that if they carry and/or use a handgun in committing the robbery, they WILL serve time AUTOMATICALLY – no plea bargains. Game over. Their sentence STARTS from there.”

“That’s why, in the vast majority of bank robberies, the bad guys don’t carry a gun because they KNOW they will get a longer sentence. THAT, my friend, is a deterrent – even if you’re stupid.”

Continuing, “You can apply the same principle to other possible crime scenarios. And here’s the bottom line: the proliferation of legalized concealed carry throughout the nation has planted a wary seed in the minds of many would-be criminals -- that not everyone is going to be easy prey, and yes, there is a possibility that their intended victim just might be armed and able. National crime statistics substantiate the overall reduction of violent crime in right-to-carry states.”

“So you’re going to be one of those guys,” he said pensively.

“Yes,” I responded, “I am. Just one of those who is willing to add to that collective seed of doubt.”

“Well,” he said, stumbling for words, “I, uh – please don’t take offense because I don’t see you falling into this category – but I have to admit I have concerns about those who carry a concealed gun will somehow, sometime see themselves as judge, jury and executioner. I don’t want to see ‘ready, fire, aim’ situations popping up. We don’t need a bunch of vigilantes running around. The thugs are bad enough.”

“No offense taken,” I responded. “I don’t want to see that, either. And, you haven’t seen that ‘vigilante-ism’ running wild in states that have permitted concealed carry for years.”

“Every person I know who carries a gun also carries in their mind the grave responsibility that goes with it. Every one knows that to use a gun to respond to a perilous, deadly threat is a decision of last resort. You will not pass a concealed carry course unless and until the instructors make certain you have read your state’s concealed carry laws and know the possible consequences of using a handgun for self-protection or intervention in a criminal act. And, the sheriff’s department will not issue a license to any person without them first undergoing a thorough background check and voluntarily submit to fingerprinting.”

“Think about this,” I concluded, “how many bad guys do you think you’re going to find taking a concealed carry course and submitting to a background check?”

He smiled.

“We’re not the ones you need to worry about, my friend. There are plenty of bad guys with bad intent to go around. I hope you never encounter one.”

“Me either,” he said. “Look – I’ve got to get going, but it’s been a good discussion and you certainly challenged my thinking. But I admit, in this modern day and age, the concept of carrying a gun still seems too far from center for me.”

“That’s fine, but don’t walk away with the impression that I’m trying to talk you into making the same decision – I’m not. You asked questions, I answered them honestly and openly, and that’s that.” I cautioned. “Maybe the next time we have lunch, you’ll have more questions.”

He grinned and said, “Maybe so, but I have one now. Whose turn is it to buy?”

Bob Harsanje is a Buckeye Firearms Association volunteer, and lives in Northwest Ohio.

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