L. Neil Smith's

Number 19, December 1, 1996

Armed and Dangerous: To Criminals!

By Sunni Maravillosa

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

         I used to hate guns. I used to think that it was the gun's fault that some people were so brutally violent toward others. I couldn't understand why someone would want one, and thought that people who liked guns were "gun nuts". For many years I vowed I would never have a gun in my house.
         Now, I am the proud owner of a .45 auto Sig-Sauer. I have a wish-list of accessories I'd like for it, as well as a list of other firearms I want, including a shotgun and a high-power, scoped rifle. I love to go target shooting. I love the smell of gunpowder, the clink of spent brass.
         What led to my complete change in attitude?
         It was nothing specific, really, no crime committed against me. I simply awoke, gradually, to some harsh realities.
         Being a woman, I recognized the fact that most men are stronger than I am. And that men commit most violent crimes. So, if someone were to try to hurt me, I would probably be at a disadvantage at the outset.
         I also realized that the protection offered by the police is an illusion. They cannot protect everybody, and they do not. At best they can collect information after the fact, and in some cases they catch the aggressor. Whether or not justice is served in this way is best saved for a different essay.
         Most importantly, I asked myself, "Whose life are you living?" MINE! And whose responsibility am I? MY OWN! This set me to thinking about what I would be willing to do to protect my life and property.
         This is not just a simple mental exercise. A crucial, fundamental principle is at work here. If I won't protect myself, what right do I have to expect another person to risk his or her life for mine? It's a moral question. One has a duty to protect oneself to the best of one's ability.
         My answer involves firearms. They have many advantages: they are a great equalizer of force; they do not require brute strength nor close proximity to be effective; and they often act as a powerful deterrent upon sight.
         The first firearm I owned, along with my then husband, was a 12-gauge shotgun-- a Remington 870 Wingmaster. And what a joy it was to shoot that gun! Once I had learned the basics of proper gun handling and safety (this is absolutely essential; most gun accidents happen because of unsafe handling), learning to sight and shoot it was pure pleasure for me. One of the most satisfying aspects of the process was the knowledge that, if someone were to try to aggress upon me, I would be able to defend myself. The brute strength disadvantage disappeared. Not having any fear of the gun, I quickly became a consistently good shot with it.
         When my marriage ended, my husband kept the shotgun, due more to stereotypes rather than anything else. The two months I spent without a firearm, after having been accustomed to having one nearby, was a difficult period for me. I felt vulnerable. For the first time I realized how important a weapon of deadly force is to me. I never want to be an easy target for anyone. It took almost no thought for me to decide to purchase a handgun in order to protect myself, and eliminate that vulnerability.
         Researching and buying my Sig-Sauer P220 was an educational experience. Although some gun-shop owners still have 1950s-era attitudes, most people I talked to were helpful and willing to share their knowledge. I had expected some people to try to talk me down to a smaller caliber piece, but that rarely happened. Once I demonstrated that I had some knowledge and experience with guns, it almost always disappeared.
         The five-day waiting period that my state requires for a background check was among the longest waits in my life. These laws, and federal ones like the Brady Law, make it impossible for people to protect themselves with guns during that period, something that is one's right to do.
         My handgun is in a safe place, loaded at all times, and ready to use should the need arise. I have taken an oath to uphold the non-aggression principle, so I will never use it to aggress against another: But woe to anybody who tries to aggress upon me or my property!
         This is not a contradictory attitude with respect to the use of force. If someone initiates the use of force against me, my loved ones, or my property, it is my right and my responsibility to use whatever force is necessary to counter the attack. By arming myself and taking responsibility for my own protection, I have withdrawn from the ineffective government "protection" racket.
         Some people may read this and still be reluctant to accept my arguments for owning a firearm. Consider this: in a society where most individuals are armed, and it is difficult to identify the armed from the unarmed, what would the crime rate be? If the intended victim might be armed with equal or perhaps greater force than the aggressor, how would that affect the aggressor's decision? Violent criminals thrive in our society because they know the odds of any given person having a firearm are low. Government laws restrict access to firearms only for the law-abiding.
         Self-protection is not a right given to an individual by any government or other entity; it is one's by virtue of one's existence and the value a person puts in his or her life. If you do not value your life enough to act to preserve or maintain it, why should you expect anyone else to do so?

Sunni is a psychology professor at a private midwestern university. She thinks of herself as a 'stealth professor', planting question-bombs in her students' minds to encourage them to think about their values and liberty-related issues.

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