When to Carry

By Mike Nelson

My father kept his rifle standing in the corner behind the door to his bedroom, and all my uncles had rifles and shotguns. I don't remember learning to shoot, but I know that I was shooting jack rabbits, cottontails, and prairie dogs with his .22 at least a year before I started to school. Dad left home when I was quite young, but we kept in touch. When I was about 12, he let me take his .22 home with me for personal protection for myself, my mother, and my little brother. I never used it for protection, but I felt safer for having it with me. I also never considered using it irresponsibly.

After I went off to college, my brother "inherited" the rifle, hunted and fished with my father, and eventually procured his own deer rifle, returning the old .22 to Dad. With my first job, I purchased a single action 44 magnum, but later traded it for a Graflex 4x5 Speed Graphic and began "shooting silver" rather than lead. For forty years I felt little need for a firearm. I even began to consider firearms control legislation as perhaps worthy of discussion. I was wrong. I am convinced that the second amendment is critical to the preservation of our great tradition of personal freedom.

Near retirement, when I purchased an RV and began traveling and staying wherever I could find a place to park, I had a few encounters that reminded me that I was extremely vulnerable. My brother agreed, and insisted that I take one of his old shotguns and a .38 special that he no longer needed, just in case one of those "vulnerable" circumstances proved threatening. I again felt a little safer at home and in the RV, but I was now reminded of how vulnerable I was when away from home.

After retirement, I renewed my interest in firearms, began serious target shooting, and volunteered as a firearms safety instructor. Back in the "shooting community," I acquired a respectable arsenal, and I began to experience some of the critical consideration of firearm ownership, particularly, "since I have one, should I take one with me?" I never thought much about violent crime while I was "unarmed," but now that I have the option, I often consider what I would think if something unfortunate happened that I could have prevented had I simply brought along a firearm. I began to understand the mindset of the "second amendment crowd."

As a certified firearms instructor, I also felt obligated to take the state's official firearm self defense course and apply for the associated handgun certificate. Now I can protect myself almost everywhere I go. So the question now is, "since I have one, and can do so lawfully, should I take one with me?" Better, "am I somewhat obligated to take one with me?" For example, suppose I were in a situation wherein an armed citizen could help avert a major tragedy, how would I feel if I were unarmed? These questions do not occur to the person ignorant of firearms and blissfully assuming they will never need one, but they are a personal concern for the certified knowledgeable, and of critical concern for the licensed. Just like the physician, there is at least a modicum of social responsibility to serve others.

I rarely "carry," but I occasionally am reminded that I could, and sometimes I wonder whether I should.

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