We’re often told that guns should be feared. We’re told that they kill people or cause pain and injury. But what we need to realize is that guns are tools, and when used correctly, they can serve as an equalizer between an assailant and a would-have-been victim.
Of the many hot-topics in our current discourse, gun control is in the running for the most contentious. And that makes sense. It's difficult to talk about tragedies like Columbine, Sandy Hook, or Umpqua Community College without feeling a sense of despair and urgency to prevent such tragedies from ever happening again.
Discussion around how to prevent these tragedies from ever happening again is important to be had, and none of those tragedies should soon be forgotten. But we’re inundated over and over with the same conclusion: guns are evil. The logical conclusion to that line of thinking is that if there were no guns, horrible tragedies would never happen. If no one had guns, everyone would be safe. But all of this is far from the truth.
Misinformation Surrounding Guns Is Rampant
There are many types of guns. And mainstream media outlets and politicians don’t tend to label them correctly. We could go into all the distinctions in an entire essay, so we’ll focus on the main buzzwords that are often used incorrectly. The term “assault rifle” is used a lot, but that definition is contentious. If you google “assault rifle” (at the time of writing), you’ll see the following Oxford definition appear: “a rapid-fire, magazine-fed automatic rifle designed for infantry use.”
One key word here is “automatic.” Simply put, “automatic” refers to the way a gun shoots, and it’ll either be “automatic” or “semi-automatic.” “Automatic” means that if you squeeze the trigger, the weapon will continue to fire until empty. Meanwhile, “semi-automatic” means that if you squeeze the trigger, one bullet will shoot out. If you want to shoot again, you have to squeeze the trigger again. Machine guns are an example of an automatic firearm; AR-15s (which you can get at your local gun store) are semi-automatic. Lawyer and gun rights activist Colion Noir demonstrates the differences, and also points out how a machine gun and an AR-15 (a semi-automatic gun) look very similar but operate differently in this video.
The majority of law-abiding gun owners, who aren’t the perpetrators of gun tragedies, aren’t carrying “assault rifles.”
Another key word is “designed for infantry use.” As a private citizen, it’s not enough to go to the gun store and purchase a machine gun (an automatic weapon) with the routine background check you receive when purchasing a regular semi-automatic weapon.
In fact, there are several restrictions in place that make it harder to buy a machine gun. Perhaps the biggest roadblock is the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, which “prohibits the possession of new machine guns (made after 1986) by civilians. If the machine gun was not registered at the time the act was passed, it cannot be legally owned by a private citizen for any reason.” Only the military and Special Occupational Taxpayers (SOTs) are able to get new machine guns.
In short, the majority of law-abiding gun owners, who aren’t the perpetrators of gun tragedies, aren’t carrying “assault rifles.” Certainly not all politicians understand that or understand firearms. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney called for a ban of “massacre machine gun magazines” (those aren’t a real thing). Hillary Clinton, during the 2008 Democratic debate, said she wanted “sensible regulations to protect their people and keep, you know, machine guns and assault weapons out of the hands of folks who shouldn't have them.” The vast majority of U.S. gun owners have no access to assault rifles already.
In the above two examples, neither politician knew what they were talking about. How many politicians currently in office have a better understanding than Clinton or Maloney?
A Gun on Its Own Is Just a Tool
The most common type of gun for everyday carry is a pistol, which falls under the “handgun” category, along with revolvers. Unless you fall under a category of restriction and you don’t pass a background check, you can purchase a firearm, and, depending on your state, you can open-carry or concealed-carry, with or without permit restrictions.
Not all guns have the same safety features, but many modern guns have some kind of safety feature. Glocks (I have experience with these) have a three-part safety system; all three parts “disengage sequentially as the trigger is pulled,” and they re-engage as the trigger is released back into position. Many other modern guns have safety features as well, which provide extra layers of safety for someone conscientiously operating a firearm.
A gun is a powerful tool. For a gun to kill, someone needs to be using it.
These layers of safety also make it so that a gun on its own will not kill someone. A gun laying on a table untouched is never going to hurt anyone. For a gun to kill someone, someone needs to be using it. In the same way a knife alone can’t kill someone, a gun won’t be able to do so either.
This isn’t to minimize the power of a gun; they are powerful tools. They’re able to shoot a number of calibers (the size of the bullet’s diameter, measured in inches unless millimeter is specified), and each caliber is generally suited for a particular kind of gun and for different scenarios, like hunting or self-defense.
This article provides a really good run-down of the different calibers and what they do. But different diameters, and how those bullets are shot, can dictate slightly different behaviors across firearms. For instance, .22LR is small, but still deadly. Thanks to its lower caliber, there’s little recoil. This makes it good for beginners. The 9mm (very common — carried by many police forces in the U.S. and by the FBI) is often used for self-defense.
Photo Cred: Pew Pew Tactical
Guns aren’t toys, but tools. They serve different purposes, but all essentially for some flavor of self-defense.
Guns Are Powerful, Liberating, and Empowering
Guns are powerful tools. When a civilian population is armed, a government will have a harder time subduing them — just take a look at the American Revolutionary War. Having an armed population is important to keeping a government in check and keeping that government at the service of the people, rather than at the service of themselves and their own interests.
Women tend to be smaller than men. In my personal case, I’m about 10 inches shorter than the average American man, and the average man is 70 to 80 pounds heavier than me. If an average man wants to assault or kill me, I would have little chance at surviving such a confrontation. A gun, however, is an effective equalizer.
A commercial stun gun or taser will require that you be very close to an assailant, and at that point, there’s risk of injuring yourself or having the tool knocked out of your hand. The same goes with a knife. Pepper spray or mace have a risk of injuring you, as well, given that factors such as wind or user error can cause the spray to hit you in the eyes instead. In a situation where you have some time to run, you can pull a pistol out of your purse or holster, and save yourself. In a life-or-death situation, every second counts. You can wait 10 minutes for the police to arrive, or you can take charge of your own life and safety. Guns are empowering to women, and to restrict guns would be to take an equalizer away from them.
Women tend to be smaller than men, and a gun is an effective equalizer.
A gun isn’t empowering to just women either. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “males experienced higher victimization rates than females for all types of violent crime except rape/sexual assault.” Additionally, “men were more likely than women to be the victim of a carjacking (2 men and 1 women per 10,000 persons).” While it’s good to train your body, become stronger, or embrace an image of strong, protective masculinity, that can only get you so far in a life-or-death situation. Being trained in a firearm and having one by your side can save you and those you care about.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
While guns are necessary for a government to remain in check, and while they’re empowering to individuals that could otherwise be victimized by others, you can’t just go to purchase a gun, pass a background check, and walk out with it. If you’re going to be a gun owner, you need to train with it, maintain it, and treat it like the deadly weapon that it is.
Under extreme stress, our fight-or-flight response triggers. No matter what, nothing can prepare us for personally experiencing assault, and nothing can prepare us for witnessing an assault. If we don’t practice with a gun, how can we rely on ourselves when in an extremely stressed state?
It’s important to learn about your gun. How it works, its safety features, how to take it apart to clean it. Ideally before you buy a gun, you can start by YouTubing “best self-defense handguns” and go from there, after you narrow down the scope of what you’re looking for. When you buy a gun, it’s important to find a way to train with it. You can practice drawing it (unloaded) and take it to a gun range.
If you’re a gun owner, you need to train with it and treat it like the deadly weapon it is.
When you have a gun, learn how you’re allowed to carry, according to your local state laws. Many women carry a handgun in a Kydex purse holster, pocket holster, belly band, or athletic leggings. Kydex material makes for a safe holster, since it has a rigid casing around the trigger, making it so that it can’t snag on fabric or a waistband. I would advise using a pocket Kydex holster along with a belly band or leggings, for an extra safety measure.
When you’re not carrying your gun around with you, it’s important to invest in a safe to keep it in. As a temporary precaution, you can hide your gun somewhere in your home, under lock and key.
Another thing to note is that as a gun owner, you’re at liberty to tell people if you own a gun, but I find the fewer people know I do, the better. However, laws around disclosing that you're armed during a traffic stop differ from state-to-state, so know your local laws and obligations.
Finally, it’s important to know your local gun laws and to advocate for more freedom and education around firearms. The more education a population has around guns, the less scary they are; people will see they aren’t inherently evil or murderous. When a population has guns, trains with them, and acknowledges them as powerful, life-preserving tools, they can’t be subverted. When a young man or woman is forced by circumstance to walk down the street alone at night, they can feel a little safer.
Gun-related accidents and tragedies are a very real and serious issue in this country. However, instead of jumping to ban all guns and blame the tools, it’s important to look at the underlying issues and circumstances. Additionally, people who look to commit crimes with a gun aren’t likely to be looking to get a gun through legal means. If you think gun laws will be effective, how's that war on drugs going?
Getting rid of guns doesn’t help people. It weakens them. If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that safety isn’t guaranteed, even in a suburban setting. Additionally, the police may not always be there for you, especially in light of activists calling for defunding the police. It’s important to empower ourselves, and in the meantime, educate and help others to empower themselves as well.