by Justin Hinckley
LPNC 2nd Amendment Liaison Coordinator
Many words have been spent in defense of the 2nd amendment. Those words often focus on philosophical and judicial reasoning. In recent years, those words created strong arguments which led to great strides in our freedom to defend ourselves, such as in the decisions of Heller vs DC eliminating the outright prohibition of owning firearms in the home, or Bruen vs NYSRPA which essentially makes every citizen able to carry a firearm outside the home, through shall-issue permitting.
Discussion of Supreme Court cases, congressional action, and executive order, among other massive federal-level interventions, we sometimes we drift away from why these legal and political arguments are discussed with such gravitas. Stuck on the philosophy, we forget the practical reality that 2A enables individuals to defend themselves against aggressors. Today, I want to focus on the practicality of self-defense, of which the 2nd amendment is the absolute guarantor for all US citizens. In this discussion, I wish to take a closer look at guns and gun ownership on the individual level. How and why is a single gun beneficial to an individual person?
First, I propose this question to the readers: If you could snap your fingers and get rid of every gun in the US, legal or illegal, would you do it? You may think "yes of course! No more drive-by shootings, school shootings, or rampantly armed criminals!" It is my experience that many people, especially those who do not own guns for self-defense, think about guns almost exclusively from the perspective of criminals. Worries about what harm criminals and other bad-faith actors might promulgate dominate people’s minds and the gun-rights conversation.
Lost in this rumination is the reality of what an otherwise peaceful citizen can do with a gun. Guns are the great equalizers. Criminals have the privilege of preparation, thus theoretically putting them at an inherent advantage. They get to ensure they have superior size, strength, speed, age, numbers, weapons, aggression, positioning, and timing. As a general rule, confrontation with a criminal is an ambush, often placing the defender in the least ideal position to survive the fight and forcing the defender to overcome the disadvantage of reacting to a surprise attack.
A firearm, especially combined with training on how to use it, gives the defender a fighting chance by negating or eliminating the criminal advantages discussed above. Think about it this way: if you were only able to land one hit against your attacker do you want that hit to be a punch or a bullet? Sometimes in an ambush we only get one shot, best make it the most effective one you can.
Guns are so effective at stopping fights, they enable entire segments of the population a brand-new ability to live without fear. Elderly, disabled, petite, and non-aggressive individuals can now deliver deadly force with the same level of potential effect as the Navy SEAL, the terrorist, the seasoned criminal, or the SWAT officer. It’s unlikely an elderly or permanently disabled person can train enough to overcome their natural disadvantages in a hand-to-hand fight. Petite or pacifistic individuals might have neither the time nor the inclination required to dedicate to becoming skilled in a martial art or other self-defense technique needed to escape such a violent encounter unscathed.
Guns reduce the entry cost of self-defense. This is quite literal in the financial sense; a few hundred dollars can get a person access to a basic firearm that is often more than enough to save that person’s life. The cost of each of the many classes it takes to learn hand combat defense adds up quickly, and is likely to easily hit the cost of a middle or possibly high-quality firearm.
The entry cost is not just financial, however. One must also consider the time commitment of each defensive tool. In a world where no firearms were available to defend oneself, one would need to spend many hours over months or years to become proficient enough at retreating, fighting, and defending in a close encounter to survive, much less win, against an attacker with inherent physical and tactical advantages. With a firearm, safety can be relatively easily taught to a basic level of proficiency, giving the defender infinitely more potential for not just survival, but triumph in a violent encounter.
Theoretically, as soon as someone purchases a firearm, that person’s odds in a life-or-death fight increase substantially. In actuality, training is generally necessary to employ a firearm with consistent competence. That said, each training session on the gun range pays way more dividends than any single training session in a martial art, such as BJJ or Krav Maga.
To be clear, this is not to denigrate the martial skills, nor to discourage people from training. Certainly, any well-rounded defender has the ability to physically defend him/herself long enough to employ a firearm. There is an endless list of scenarios where a person's physical skills are called on long before or even instead of his/her firearm skills. The difference between minimum necessary gun skills and minimum necessary martial skills can be compared to the difference between learning to play an instrument and learning how to use an mp3 player.
It is clear there is great value, at the individual level, of owning and carrying a gun for defensive purposes (and there are countless examples supporting this). Guns enable us to be equal in an otherwise unfair fight. They give a lifeline to otherwise helpless victims, making an armed society an equitable society. Further, firearm possession enables freedom and encourages individualism. That is why, if I could push a button and make every gun disappear, I'd push the button next to it, putting a decent weapon in every citizen’s hands.