A long time ago, a friend asked me why I carried a gun every day. Being young and intemperate, I offered up a glib answer about how I wanted to be ready or die in a pile of brass; something typical of what you’d expect a self-identified “sheepdog” to say. I’m older now, and hopefully a little wiser, but it’s still a question worth visiting. Why do I carry a gun every day?

Anti-gun advocates would suggest that I carry a gun because I’m a dangerous radical spoiling for a fight. That’s nonsense, as those of us who embrace the responsibility of self-defense would be perfectly happy to go our entire lives without ever pulling a gun in self-defense. So I don’t carry a gun because I’m looking for trouble.

What about the seat belt argument? Do I carry the gun for the same reason that I wear a seat belt? While there’s a certain appealing logic to that argument, I don’t find it applicable any more. I wear a seat belt because the odds of me getting into a car crash are relatively good, especially when compared to the odds of getting into a self-defense shooting. Additionally, a gun requires skill to use effectively, whereas a seat belt requires no effort beyond “click.” A seat belt is a passive safety device – same with airbags, it’s there to protect me and requires no effort for me to use. A gun requires effort and skill.

Is it because I’m afraid of terror attacks like those recently in Belgium? While that is a real danger, I also recognize that 21 rounds of 9mm aren’t really going to stop a bomb attack. I am CPR certified, and I know how to use a tourniquet, which to me are far more useful skills in that situation than being able to shoot. I don’t carry a gun because I have some fantasy of popping a suicide bomber with a head shot before he can push the button.

So why then? Why go to the trouble of strapping on two pounds of steel every day? Why educate myself on the laws of where I live and where I travel to make sure I’m in compliance? Why train to be able to employ my gun quickly and effectively?

The answer on its face seems simple, but is in fact a deeply personal and complicated process. However, it can be summed up in two words: what if. I understand that the world is a wild and unpredictable place. What if…what if today is the day that I need my gun? What if someone decides tonight, when I’m home and relaxing on my couch that they need my stuff more than I do? What if today is the day I’m walking the dog and some decides that they need to score, and they’re going to stick in a knife in someone to get that score. Most of all, I’m worried about what if something happened and someone gets hurt because I wasn’t able to act. My gun is a lot like a tourniquet, or CPR skills. If I don’t have those things, there are situations I can encounter where I’d have the training to help, but lack the correct tools.

What if today is the day I don’t need my gun at all; and I simply go about the day carrying a gun, a tourniquet, and never having to use them? Then that would be a good day. But the reason I carry a gun is because I don’t have the magical power to guarantee that every day is going to be a good day. I’m not jocking up and pretending I’m some sort of hyper-prepared sheepdog warrior, and I’m not constantly looking over my shoulder looking for badguys. Quite simply, I worried about “what if this happens, and I could have helped. If only I’d been carrying.”


    1. Wow, this is so timely! These are exactly the thoughts I’ve had. I’m no sheepdog, or Tommy Tactical, just as you put it….What if?……

  1. Rather than answer the question, “Why[carry a gun]?”, I prefer to ask the questioner, “Why not[carry a gun]?” That way, instead of giving my personal rationale that may not resonate with a different person, I can cut to the chase and find out why the questioner thinks I shouldn’t own or carry guns.

    If the objection is based on safety, I can then explain about gun safety rules, the safes I use to securely store my guns, etc.

    If the objection is based on the belief that I will make some kind of mistake with my gun, I can then explain about all the different training classes I’ve taken to make myself more likely to shoot the right person at the right time, and less likely to miss or shoot the wrong person at the wrong time.

    If the objection is based on some kind of legal rationale, I can then pull up the relevant state/federal statutes that I have bookmarked on my smartphone.

    If the objection is based on a generalized dislike of violence, I can then point out that having a gun makes me both less likely to initiate or escalate violence(due to my knowledge of the physical and legal consequences), and more likely to deter violence without bloodshed(due to the deterrent effect of a drawn gun in the hands of a resolute shooter).

    And, if the objection is based on the irrational fear that I am a ticking time bomb who will someday snap and spontaneously commit violence against innocent people, then I can point that out, too…

    1. Similarly, one of my answers to the question has been “because I can’t think of a good reason not to.”

  2. Well said.
    I carry only to not be a targeted victim.

    This week a guy was buying 2 cell phones on Craig’s List.
    He thought it was safe to meet at McDonalds at 4 PM just ahead of peak dinner hours for the sale where there would be plenty of people.
    The three teens had guns and tried to rob him.
    He had a gun and fought back shooting two of the teens !!!
    He might have been dead otherwise.
    Of course the teens were not old enough to actually legally own the pistols they had.


  3. “Additionally, a gun requires skill to use effectively …” Sorry, but this is demonstrably false, for any reasonable value of “effectively.” The vast majority of private citizens who successfully use a gun in self-defense (e.g., they win the fight) have little or no formal training in the defensive use of firearms (nor, for that matter, in the laws governing that use). Read those NRA “Armed Citizen” blurbs and guess what percentage of them attended “Front Sight” or took a Rob Pincus class. As a firearms instructor myself, I strongly advocate training, and combined with skill that will certainly improve one’s odds of winning the fight. And using a gun WELL certainly does require skill. But “skill” beyond what anybody starts with is certainly not “required” for a defensive gun use to be effective.

    1. That fact that you use Front Sight or Rob Pincus as examples of skill tells me everything I need to know.

          1. That’s not an answer. My Marine gunny sergeant cousin has taken several courses there and recommends it highly. So did many of those I met there last year including law enforcement, former military and one Alaskan Ranger. This sounds like a personality thing with you.

          2. “I wouldn’t take a class at Front Sight if someone paid me to.”

            Ah. And THAT tells ME all _I_ need to know. 🙂

      1. Great snark. Nevertheless, your claim remains demonstrably false. The vast majority of people who successfully use guns in self-defense have no particular skill whatever. They’re just normal people who are fortunate enough to have a gun and the willingness to use it.

        But if the game is scored in snarks, you’re definitely the winner. 🙂

        1. I’m curious as to whether or not you believe your claim is still true in the context that Caleb is using—that of _carrying_ a gun. (As opposed to the vast majority of people who successfully use guns in self-defense in their homes.)

          Do you believe that for people who carry a firearm for self-defense purposes, and have to use it for self-defense purposes, that “the vast majority…have no particular skill whatever” nor have they had any training?

          (I’ll note that you’ll have a tough time supporting that, considering the number of states in which a concealed carry permit requires a class and/or a firearms qualification run. No matter how easy either of those are, they mean that a certain level of skill and training was necessary and occurred, which rather causes your comment about “a vast majority” to fail.)

          This statement may be true: “The vast majority of people who successfully use guns in self-defense have no particular skill whatever.”

          That doesn’t mean that this statement is true: “The vast majority of people who carry a concealed firearm on a daily basis who successfully use guns in self-defense have no particular skill whatever.”

          If you are going to say “that second sentence isn’t what I said!” I agree—but YOUR statement didn’t address the context that Caleb was discussing, and thus your statement wasn’t really relevant if you meant to refute something that Caleb actually said.

  4. After carrying a gun for over 20 years, I come to the conclusion that if I didn’t have it after putting that much time into carrying it and something happened, I would be devastated. If I could have saved a love one or an innocent and couldn’t the one day I didn’t strap, life would be very difficult after that. I would always be asking myself why. After that much time, it’s no different than putting your watch on and putting your wallet and keys in your pocket. There is no reason to leave home without it.

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