“Why do you carry a gun?”

“Why do you carry a gun?” he asked.

I looked up from my Calamari and rice to watch his face. He was genuinely curious rather than probing, but I knew my preference for being armed sometimes troubled him. In the early, less settled days of our relationship I had startled him, even frightened him with the sudden revelation that a pistol was tucked away in some discreet but easily available place.

“For the obvious reasons,” I replied, smiling at him, “what makes you ask?”

“I just wonder… you can’t be hurt, not permanently. And I know you can face down just about anyone without using a gun. It just seems like an unnecessary risk. And this comes from a guy who’s owned plenty of guns.”

“Why would you believe my carrying a gun poses a risk? Do you think I am too careless, irresponsible?”

I was teasing him now and he took it with good grace. There was a time not long ago when this could easily have descended into bitter argument, but since November we had come to a semblance of understanding. He knows more of me now than any other human being ever has. He knows I do nothing without good reason.

“If you were ever in a situation… say a police officer had reason to search you?”

“In this state? I have the proper permits.” I then returned to my meal, letting him decide if he should pursue the matter further. To his credit he did not set it aside.

“But you want to avoid drawing the wrong kind of attention, don’t you? Back in Ann Arbor you drew down on that guy in a very public place- that alley had lots of foot traffic. You didn’t need to do it, either- with the other two down…”

I set my fork down with a sigh and gave him a frank look of incredulity. He was serious.

“I broke one man’s knee- he is likely crippled for life given the unlikelihood of his possessing sufficient insurance to have his leg properly cared for. The second man earned a broken jaw and lost several teeth. I drew my pistol because the third man hadn’t quite internalized the notion that his friends were badly hurt. That, and I lost my cane when I struck that man in the jaw. Drawing the pistol stopped him in his tracks. Without it I might have been forced to hurt him, or even kill him”

“So you pulled the gun instead of killing him?”

I noticed then that two ladies at the next table were being very quiet, obviously overhearing the conversation. I considered ending the discussion, but decided there was no harm so long as certain overt subjects were avoided.

“Is that your phone ringing?” I asked.

He reached in to his jacket and drew out the phone to check. I reached across the table and seized his wrist, twisting as with the other hand I took the phone from him. It was swift and sudden and he barely had time to gasp. He looked at me in surprise, and then chuckled as he rubbed his wrist.

“Okay, you’re fast and you’re strong, but that’s my point- you could have put him down without using the gun.”

I offered him his phone and he took it from my hand, but as he drew back I lashed out again. This time he held firmly and I could not even twist his wrist, let alone try to take the phone from him. I let him go and sat back with a grin on my face.

“I was able to take the phone the first time because you weren’t expecting it. Likewise, I could have struck that man once, but a second chance was unlikely. My left leg was still quite weak, and it nearly buckled when I kicked the first man- I would have had to hit the third with my fist. The only way to drop him would have been a hard punch to the throat… and that probably would have killed him.”

“And all this went through your head in those couple of seconds?”

I smiled a bit. “Not precisely, but my reflexes are honed from long experience. Had I pulled the gun immediately I probably would have had to shoot one of them. By drawing it when I did, I did not have to shoot. Likely it saved that man’s life.”

“Hmm, I suppose you’re right. Still, it’s a little embarrassing. You know I can take care of myself, but the whole thing was over practically before I could react.”

My smile broadened a bit as I returned to my meal. That foiled mugging had possessed great potential for tragedy, but the three miscreants were focused on the large brutish-looking fellow with me rather than on the woman with the limp and cane. When I lashed out the surprise was total. Had I been alone, the outcome would have been far more grave.

He continued looking at me, ignoring his steak, and finally decided to press further.

“Okay, that was a specific situation. And it turned out okay, for us anyhow. It still doesn’t answer my question, though. You carry a gun everywhere- you even avoid flying if you can, just because you can’t carry a gun on a plane. It smacks of paranoia.”

“The realities of my life are different from your own, but choosing to be armed springs from a simple and recognizable fact: unarmed means dependent upon others for safety. In most cases that is acceptable, but when it is not the results are nearly always tragic. I prefer to be in a position to defend myself at all times, and in situations where social norms hold no sway a weapon is indispensable. Trust me on this point- I have much experience on this topic.”

“I’ll grant you all of that… but you’re in a pretty unique position, don’t you think? What would be really dangerous to others is just… well, inconvenient for you, isn’t it?”

“Inconvenient? It would certainly have been inconvenient had I let them kill you.” He started at that. Perhaps I should not have said it?the male ego is a fragile thing. “In any case, do you suggest I have some obligation to permit violence against myself?”

“Well no, I guess not. I’m just curious how you judge which situations justify violence, and which don’t. You seem primed for it, if you catch my meaning. It’s kind of the opposite of what I would expect from…” he glanced around suddenly, realizing he might be in a situation where he should watch his words, then finished with, “from somebody in your particular position.”

“It goes back to the same reasoning behind drawing down on that fellow in the alley: will violence reduce the situation, and if so, how much is enough?”

“We could have just handed over our money…”

“Unacceptable. Your people have made too many civilized concessions to criminals. If one chooses to engage in crime there should be a tangible and credible threat of immediate consequence, but the modern reaction is often to allow the crime to occur and then look to the government to mete out some form of justice after the fact.”

“So… shoot first and ask questions later? Vigilante justice?”

“I did not shoot that man, did I? The issue is willingness to act in one’s own defense, and possessing the means to do so. In any situation where I believe my safety?or that of those I care about?is threatened I will not hesitate to employ whatever means are at my disposal to defend myself, including deadly force. Even for a simple mugging or purse snatching, I would not hesitate to use whatever force I felt necessary. Tolerance of such things is a social weakness. It is so endemic in modern society that instances of ?ordinary citizens’ acting to foil crime are considered news… unless, of course, they use a gun. For some reason your news reporters rarely mention when a gun is used in defense.”

There was motion at the next table as one of the two women turned to face me, her younger companion obviously attempting to prevent her.

“I’ve been sitting here and listening to you two and I just can’t believe what I’m hearing!” she hissed, “You honestly believe you have the right to shoot anyone who you think is threatening you? Don’t you understand just how stupid that is? This is supposed to be a civilized country but people like you make me wonder. We have a maniac in the White House and maniacs on the streets!”

“Only a slave refuses to defend herself,” I said, then stopped. If I said more it would likely cause a scene. I smiled disarmingly, but as I feared my response seemed to make her angrier. I could hear the gold bracelets on her wrists jangling as she trembled with indignation. So I was surprised when my companion spoke up.

“Your problems with what you’re hearing are solved by not eavesdropping, lady. It’s not like we’ve been shouting here. Besides, you’ve got no idea who we are, which makes you not just rude, but ignorant.”

I graced him with an amused expression as the woman turned a withering gaze in his direction. He smiled, a picture of almost beatifying calm that nearly forced a laugh from my lips. Still, this was becoming a scene, and that would not do. Not at all.

“Madame, there is no point in arguing. I am certain we both have very different worldviews. I understand yours; I doubt you would ever comprehend mine. Why don’t we just finish our lunches and say no more? Or should I call the manager?”

She almost made the wrong choice, but her young friend took her by the arm and asked her to quiet down, breaking the flow of her anger.

“Barbarian,” she sniffed, and turned back to her lunch.

My companion covered his mouth and snickered.

“Indeed,” I sighed, and returned to my salad.

3 Responses to ““Why do you carry a gun?””

  1. Packing

    Methuselah’s Daughter has a unique point of view on the subject of packing.

  2. Mugged? In Ann Arbor?? The place sure has gone downhill since I taught there twelve years ago!

    Beyond that, the only remark I could make would be the same one cattleman John Chisholm (of the Chisholm Trail) made when asked why, unlike most of his cowboys, he didn’t carry a gun:

    “You can shoot your way into more trouble than you could ever shoot your way out of.”

  3. Wise words, in their own way. I have noted before that I am not a fan of guns. I own several because I see the utility of being a gun owner, and as I have also noted before- when you need one, nothing else will really do.