by Gila Hayes
Let me start my comments this month with a heart-felt thank you to all of our Network members who have joined, renewed and are going forward, bravely facing the new year with us. We advance into 2022 with confidence and courage, in no small part because you accompany us. When a Network member is selected as a criminal’s would-be victim, and instead of being injured or killed uses force in self defense, he or she faces scrutiny from the criminal justice system – potentially a second victimization. In the aftermath, the balance of power between this citizen and the government is a lot more equal than it was before he or she became part of our big Network family. For the member, resources available far exceed what just one individual, their family and friends can scrape up to fight prosecution or a lawsuit seeking damages. Now the strength of thousands of like-minded men and women bolsters both the resolve and the resources of the intended victim.
Armed citizens support one another in various ways – not only in the aftermath of self defense, although the importance of standing together then is at an all-time high. Adopting the armed life style contains a number of risks that have little to do with being charged with a crime after use of force, but everything to do with habituating safety procedures, deciding who should know – and who does not need to know – you carry a gun, how to navigate everything from public restrooms to dressing around the gun while in the workplace to what’s allowed and disallowed on public transportation.
Folks who have carried guns for decades have forgotten the multitude of puzzles faced by the new gun owner. There seem to be two extremes (with a lot of behaviors between the two opposites, too). At one extreme, we have all met the obsessive compulsive who worries endlessly about whether they should carry a round in the chamber, whether the terminal ballistics from 165 grain hollow points are more effective than 230 grain hollow-points or obsess over the effect of barrel length on bullet performance. No minutiae is too trivial for these ceaseless thinkers!
At the other extreme you’ll encounter people who are frighteningly casual. Their gun has been in their car’s glove box ever since they bought it and a box of “bullets.” It is growing a colorful patina of rust but they consider themselves armed and ready for danger. In other examples, their gun is buried deep in a handbag or brief case. At home, it is in the night stand drawer or jammed between the couch cushions. Those conditions don’t afflict just newbies – some multi-generation gun owners learned careless gun practices from parents and if it was good enough for dear ol’ Dad, who was never harmed by his casual attitude toward being a gun owner, it is good enough for his heirs. Until it isn’t.
As Legal Issues Editor Art Joslin pointed out earlier in this edition of the eJournal, society expects armed citizens to secure their firearms. Beyond the possible access to guns by children in their own homes or homes they visit, risks arise when guns are left unsecured in cars or in a handbag resting in a shopping cart while the shopper runs down the aisle to pick up a forgotten food item. I’m not a fan of off-body carry for that reason, but that is my personal bug bear.
The famous pronouncement attributed (perhaps in satire, not reality) to Queen Victoria, “we are not amused” fell from my lips when I read the Reuters report that instances of guns detected in carry on bags at security check points was nearly a third higher than previous years. The news brief was complete with the opinion of a high-up TSA honcho that the increase in people carrying firearms had resulted in more people forgetting about guns in their checked luggage. Who knows? He might be right, and if he is, we have a serious task ahead – making sure new gun owners and seasoned gun owners who are new to carrying in public understand and adopt a lifestyle of responsibility and safety with their guns.
Last month, we talked about checking our own behavior as regards the safe storage and safe muzzle direction aspects of gun safety. The entirety of armed citizenry gets a black eye when one irresponsible person breaks the safety rules. Without becoming busybodies, I believe we must lead by example, offer help and coaching where it is welcome and actively work to develop openings with new armed citizens to encourage safety and responsibility. Blogs like Massad Ayoob’s and John Farnam’s and Kathy Jackson’s older but golden articles at Cornered Cat are all great starting places and those three only scratch the surface of sharable links to help newcomers to going armed get off to a solid start.
It takes a light, deft touch to influence people outside our immediate families – heck sometimes even inside the family it is nigh on to impossible to ask for change without inciting rebellion! A good New Year’s resolution would be creatively and kindly reaching out to new armed citizens with ways to be more responsible. Let’s give it a try!
To read more of this month's journal, please click here.