Editor's note: El Cerrito Patch granted the writer's request to remain anonymous out of concern that the presence of firearms in his home could make him a target for burglars.
I have been hesitant to provide my opinion or comments regarding firearms. This includes the possession, storage, availability and legitimate use of firearms. Most of the arguments I would make are widely available elsewhere on the Internet for any who choose to seek them. Unfortunately, the terrible event at Sandy Hook Elementary happened. This has thrust the issue upon the national stage. My congressional and state elected representatives have been some of the loudest voices for further restrictions on firearms.
Local newspapers have sensationalizes the news coverage with an anti-firearms slant. On Sunday, one of the local papers titled their main story, “Gun Control, What Will It Take?” It was framed with photos of all 20 children who were victims of that horrible crime. This type of presentation clearly attempts to blame firearms as the principal cause, instead of properly identifying that there were multiple factors behind the despicable and criminal shooting at Sandy Hook.
Some of the commentary at Patch has been from people who do not understand (or who do not want to understand) firearms. They apparently believe that there are no responsible firearm owners. While there are several thoughtful comments, shrilly calling firearms owners “gun nuts,” and attempting to compare the NRA to the KKK is insulting and detracts from what is a valid discussion. Several of the commentators are also trying to confuse the issue by collecting different firearms-related incidents under one umbrella. Incidents such as the Martin/Zimmerman incident in Florida have not been fully or fairly reported in mainstream media and additional facts are gradually being revealed.
Within this context; however, I believe it is necessary to provide some balance to the discussion. The editors at Patch have graciously allowed me to submit this commentary anonymously. This is because it would be possible for my residence to become a burglary target. As a responsible owner of firearms, I do not want to elevate any risk; however small, that my weapons might be illegally removed from my control. I suspect that most firearms owners have similar concerns, and quietly support the national organizations such as the NRA instead of voicing their opinions.
I live within the Patch readership area, and I carry my firearm concealed almost all of the time. I do this legally, in a State that is generally otherwise extremely restrictive of firearms in the hands of private citizens. I will not reveal the reason why it is legal for me to carry. Nor will I present any details of which model(s) of firearm I carry, nor how I carry it on my person.
I will declare that I have invested a significant amount of time, money and energy to be a responsible firearms owner. I have followed the permitting process so that I can legally carry. My firearm is properly registered, cleaned and maintained. I carefully selected a reliable model and appropriate ammunition. I train routinely, and I use different concealed-carry holsters depending upon my activity.
My firearm has never been identified by others when I have carried it concealed. My family and close friends know that I often carry. If I am entering a business or other place that has armed security or law enforcement present, I will usually quietly let them know that I have my firearm. I am not required to identify that I have my firearm on my person, but I do so both as a courtesy and for safety reasons. If an incident occurs and I have to access and to reveal my weapon, I do not want to become identified as a threat.
I have, at times, encountered businesses that post prohibitions to firearms on their premises. Privately owned businesses are within their rights to establish rules of conduct within their property boundaries. I do not make a fuss. I simply choose not to enter or do business with those establishments.
I carry my weapon with me so that I am able to defend myself and my family. This is the only reason. If an incident occurs, there is no obligation for me to defend anyone else of the public. The public can contact law enforcement directly, or the public can go through the process to obtain an appropriate permit. It is the public's choice. I will note here that the typical gun battle is typically over in seconds--before a telephone call can even be connected.
Having said that; the public benefits from my presence. If a criminal does not know where or if there may be effective resistance, then they are less likely to commit a crime. Consider the theory in public health known as herd immunity. It states that vaccination programs do not need to vaccinate every single person. When a sufficient percentage of the population is vaccinated, then the chain of infection of a pathogen is disrupted enough so that the remaining susceptible individuals are unlikely to encounter an infectious individual. The remaining susceptible individuals are therefore protected by the efforts of the community to responsibly pursue vaccinations.
This analogy can be continued with regard to firearms control measures. When a “gun-free zone” is established, on either public or private areas, it is the equivalent of creating a vaccine-free area for a pathogen. Whether it is an opportunistic criminal, or a mentally-disturbed individual, it becomes an area where there is no effective protection. While the teachers and administrators were courageous at Sandy Hook, they were completely ineffective. In at least one past incident, a mass shooter at a school was stopped by a firearm wielded by an assistant principal, which shows the only type of effective response.
Rather than pass additional laws to restrict firearms, the existing controls should be relaxed. The general public in this State has too few people who can raise effective resistance to crime. It is insufficient to provide herd immunity.
The proposal to allow and encourage concealed carry provides a cost-effective way to immunize those areas from being targeted. It can not, and will not eliminate threats. It does provide the possiblity of an immediate, effective response and minimize damage if a threat materializes. These proposals should be given serious consideration, instead of being dismissed as absurd.
To those critics who would call me a 'gun nut', I provide the following Q & A:
Q: Why do you feel that you need to carry your firearm everywhere?
A: I do not expect to need my firearm anyplace. I do not associate with criminals, nor do I go to high-risk areas. I do not seek out dark alleys late at night to walk.
Q: If you already avoid high-risk areas and high risk behaviors, why do you still carry your firearm?
A: Because I do not live in an isolated part of society. Although I do not worry about my co-workers, the angry ex-spouse of the cousin of the co-worker is someone who I do not know about. Even at post-secondary schools, I can trust my classmates, but not someone from the previous year.
Q: So you are a vigilante, then?
A: Not at all. I am not seeking to enforce laws when I am carrying concealed. As I stated before, my firearm is for my protection. Not the public's, and not yours. If you want to be able to defend yourself, go get your own firearm, training and necessary permit(s).
Q: So what is this about 'herd immunity' that you are arguing about?
A: It is a recognition that the community has a fringe benefit at no cost to itself by my concealed carry practice.
Q: So if we control all other firearms, then you wouldn't need yours, correct?
A: No. There are non-firearm related threats out there. For example: aggressive canines, knife wielders, and assailants with blunt-force weapons. A mugger with a baseball bat can be just as much of a lethal threat. The same argument about 'herd immunity' applies to these threats as well.
Q: Well, how about using less than lethal options, such as pepper spray?
A: I encourage that people use whatever option works for them. However, I recommend that they evaluate the option comprehensively before choosing it to depend on (Pepper spray does not always work, takes time, has limited range and is subject to weather conditions).
Q: Aren't you concerned that your firearms may be lost/stolen/removed from your control?
A: Of course I am concerned. That's one reason this commentary is being published anonymously. It's also why I train regularly, select holsters for appropriate retention and concealment, invest in appropriate weapons, and select appropriate ammunition.
Q: So you are advocating that firearms should be available to all people, then?
A: Not at all. If someone has demonstrated that they behave irresponsibly (e.g., felony conviction), or that they have a valid prohibition due to mental incapacitance, then they should be prohobited from having access to a firearm. The existing background check system already provide some controls. Note that the existing system is not perfect. It does not work if someone either has no criminal record or has no history of mental illness. It also should allow for the restriction to be removed if someone has been included by error or has demonstrated responsibility over time.
Q: But several of the recent incidents involved people who were already prohibited from having access to firearms, and they got to them anyways. If we eliminated firearms completely, then the irresponsible and mentally disturbed would not be able to access them too, correct?
A: This is a non-starter for an argument. Firearms exist. Reasonable controls such as background checks help, but are not perfect.
Q: So if we eliminate all firearms from the U. S., then you'd be willing to give up yours as well?
A: No. Firearms are made in machine shops. Machine shops can create new ones that are outside of everyone's knowledge or control.They might be not quite as effective, but they are still possible. The knowledge is there.
Q: How about if we control ammunition, then? Let's eliminate hollow-point ammunition.
A: The characteristics of ammunition types is counter-intuitive. For example, hollow-point ammunition expands upon impact. This causes more damage to a threat, which increases its effectiveness. It also reduces the penetrating power of the round through other things, and is therefore safer to the surroundings. Metal-jacketed target target ammuntion causes less damage to the threat, and is not quite as effective. It also has deeper penetrating capability through things such as walls.
Q: So what about taxing firearms and ammunition more?
A: It would increase my expense, and reduce the amount could train myself and others.
In summary, as a responsible firearms owner, I find much of the rhetoric regarding gun control has become hysterical. I am providing this commentary as balance. A serious discussion needs to be engaged regarding modifying and changing firearms restrictions to address the current threat of a criminal intent on causing mass casualties. Instead of reacting by trying to further limit firearms, the nation should consider relaxing the restrictions to provide unknown and effective resistance.
While I was preparing this commentary, the incident in Webster, NY occurred. It shows again that the only effective resistance is armed resistance. The shooter did not cease engagement until he was met with armed resistance, upon which he ended it (by his apparent suicide).
Also while preparing this commentary, I came across this comprehensive article. It includes additional arguments beyond my limited commentary.