Synopsis: Gun ownership is a Constitutional right — but heavy responsibilities go with it.

Shortly after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December 2012, I took to these pages to chide the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre gently for his proposal to install an armed policeman in every school.  Instead I suggested it would be more effective to permit armed teachers and school personnel, carefully screened and trained, to fulfill this role.   The article outlined three principles to optimize the deterrent value of a societal gun presence: pervasiveness, anonymity and publicity.

The article also pointed out (hat-tip John Lott) that all citizens, not just those who are armed, benefit from the crime deterrence created by law-abiding gun owners.  This got me thinking about my own status.  There I was, benefiting from all my gun-owning neighbors who helped create the safe neighborhood where I’m fortunate to reside.

At that point I made a personal decision to cease being a parasite and become instead a producer.  Thus began a very steep learning curve to train and equip myself over several months to become a responsible and competent hoplite for the benefit of myself and my family, yes, but also my friends and neighbors.

In March 2013 I participated in a CCW (Concealed Carry Weapon) class.  In May I received my CCW permit.  On that day this semi-retired septuagenarian (I, myself) became a citizen carrier.

My appetite for sound, reliable news and information about 2nd Amendment issues and the technology and skills of gunnery continues unabated.  I’ve also made new friends and acquaintances who share my new passion.  All this confirms for me what I knew at the outset: the propaganda of the gun-hating left about these issues and people is an unconscionable, ignorant pack of lies, every word of it.

In my CCW class there were no Rambos, just ordinary middle-class folks, mostly men but a few women.  All of them who spoke seemed to be above average in intelligence.  At the range where I practice my shooting skills, interpersonal behavior is if anything more than usually polite, considerate and well-mannered.  The personnel at the little gun shop where I do business are intelligent and well-informed; they wear normal clothing and treat their customers as well as the firearms they sell carefully and respectfully.

The most outrageous lie of the left about citizen carriers is that we’re all a bunch of wannabe bad cops, wild-west shoot-up-the-town brawlers or even closet cold-blooded killers just itching for a chance to maliciously gun down a black youth.  What I’ve found among fellow gunners I’ve gotten to know is just the opposite: great caution and reserve about using their weapons.  Consider this recent narrative from a gunsmith I know, a man who works on guns every day:

The closest I ever came to shooting my gun at somebody is when I came home one day and opened my front door. I heard a loud crash and figured somebody had broken in. My gun was in my truck, so I ran out to get it. On the way I thought, hey, this isn’t my job. I called the sheriff. I sat in my truck until he showed up about fifteen minutes later. He went in and looked around and didn’t find anybody. Turned out the crash was a rack of stuff stuck on the shower wall with suction cups that fell off.

Such is the culture of restraint among responsible gun owners that three rules of gun engagement in particular seem to predominate:

  1. Stay away from any high risk location unless you must be there.  If you find yourself in such a place, summon full mental and sensory alertness until you can get away.
  2. Shooting at an attacker is a last resort.  Do anything reasonable to avoid it: escape, hide or barricade if at all possible.
  3. Don’t chase trouble.

My CCW class spent lots of time expounding these rules, with special emphasis on the third one, using verbal narratives and videos.  Every other reputable information resource (e.g. NRA, Personal Defense Network, etc.) presents similar arguments.  A citizen carrier doesn’t rush pell-mell in the direction of gunfire, weapon drawn, expecting to start shooting as soon as he sees where the shots are coming from.  (Real-life CCW class instance: the shooter, whom the citizen carrier shot to death, turned out to be a certified Federal agent chasing down a drug criminal.)  A citizen carrier doesn’t continue pursuing an attacker when an escape opportunity presents itself.  (Real-life CCW class instance: the citizen carrier’s little daughter ended up shot to death by a ricocheting bullet.)

I have a home invasion plan for me and my wife that calls for immediate escape — a place to hide and barricade ourselves — in our house…followed by an immediate call to 911 with the intention of staying there until law enforcement arrives. This is widely accepted home defense SOP.  However, I keep a Glock 19, fifteen rounds loaded and one chambered, on my bed stand when I tuck myself in at night.  That gun is also equipped with a tactical strobe light, the brightest one I could find.  This strobe is a powerful deterrent.   Trust me: I’ve tried it on myself, full glare in pitch dark, but only for two or three seconds.  Any invader confronted with this beam, unless he’s PCP-crazed and thinks himself indomitable, will most likely turn around and get the heck out before he starts bouncing off the walls.  That’ll leave me with all fifteen rounds still in my Glock.

So then, what would I have done in George Zimmerman’s shoes?  First of all, Zimmerman fell right into the middle of the Rule #1 trap the moment he lost sight of Martin.  The 911 transcript makes it clear that Martin had seen him and that Zimmerman knew it; Martin’s disappearance alone converted the location to high-risk.  But Zimmerman seems to have naively, absentmindedly let down his guard, making himself a sitting duck for Martin’s sudden, close-up reappearance and criminal assault with no way for Zimmerman to back off.

When Martin disappeared, Zimmerman should have resorted to Rule #2 while continuing to wait for the police: get in the truck, make sure the windows are closed, lock the doors and start the engine…and put the Kel-Tec PF9 over on the passenger seat.  This situation would have provided something of a barricade if Martin had reappeared with, say, a crowbar and started bashing windows.  It would also have provided a possible means of escape; if Martin had showed up with a gun, that gas pedal would have been down there on the floor waiting to be tromped.  Shooting accurately at a moving target is notoriously difficult.

How about Rule #3?  In short, it has no relevance to this incident, notwithstanding AG Holder’s bogus attempt to link the case to stand-your-ground laws.  The prosecution tried all the facts — and lies — it could muster but failed to prove beyond a reasonable or even unreasonable doubt that Zimmerman stalked Martin with intent to kill.  The charge was utterly baseless: when the 911 operator said, “We don’t need you to [follow Martin]” Zimmerman’s response was, “OK.”  This is one thing Zimmerman did right.  However, observing Rule #2 as elaborated above would obviously have eliminated all possibility of making the stalking charge.

When I go forth nowadays from my home as a citizen carrier, I am confidently exercising a Constitutional right.  I am also profoundly aware of the responsibility and burden that goes with this right.

This post first appeared as an article in American Thinker on August 1, 2013