Erik Larson

Nov 19, 2008

Clinging to Guns

I plan to purchase a Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum revolver with a 6 inch barrel. It’s the Dirty Harry gun. Why? Something of romantic overkill, sure, but also self-defense, the much maligned concept that nonetheless persists with so many as practical and, well, human.

Classic scenario, if not over-used: when I’m travelling, my wife is in the home alone with our two children (8, 7 years old). We have a firearm, currently, in the home, which I taught her to use in the unthinkable situation where someone attempted to assault them. Now, living in the country, I can estimate (without claiming to precision), that it would take the local police force several minutes, and likely, say, upwards of ten minutes to respond to a 911 call. In that time, as I’m sure we can all imagine, so many horrors could be visited upon my wife and kids, that I’d rather not continue.

It works like this: people who live in major cities, see major city problems with guns. For those of us who live in the suburbs (read: in the country), the thought of having responsible access to deadly force is not problematic but comforting. I’m sure my neighbors have firearms as well. Bully for them.

It’s difficult to see how the State could argue our comfort away; on what grounds? I, for instance, am not a felon, have handled firearms since a kid, taken gun safety courses, hunted my entire life, and on and on (same too, mostly, with my spouse). And so, the argument to deny me a firearm is…?

As to inner-city gun violence, I’m well aware. My point isn’t a blanket argument about guns but rather a question of who should get them. I’m inclined to make the law strict in this regard. Apply for your firearm. If you qualify, wait a period, receive it. I’m not opposed to this.

Shifting gears, on a purely theoretical level, it’s incomprehensible to me that somehow our relationship with the State should be such that the State controls, exclusively, the means of deadly force, and denies categorically the same to its citizens. Again, if organized law enforcement can’t be everywhere , all the time, why shouldn’t well-meaning citizens provide for their own protection? We are not, after all, children. The law provides (indeed, it’s in the Constitution, not by accident) for citizens to have access to firearms. We’re not children.

Finally (to munge many points together here), “self defense” for me includes also backpacking trips in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Wyoming, where the chances of encountering a brown or black bear are non-trivial. Self-defense. I’m not interested in testing theories about playing dead; I’d rather my kids see me return home. Hence, a large-caliber handgun.