Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Anti Gun Rights to Pro Gun Rights--My conversion

I have been anti-gun all my life. When my sons were little, I wouldn't allow them to ever own a toy gun. But events in the past few years have radically changed my views. It starts with September 11, 2001.

On September 11, my children were in school. I wondered if the teachers had turned on televisions in their classrooms. I wondered what they might be hearing. Most of all I wondered how many children in their classes were directly effected because we live close to Washington, D.C. How many of them lost parents or other relatives? I worried about how frightened my children must be. Needless to say, they were terrified. Even though we live miles from the Pentagon, we could smell the smoke. The children came home from school that day in what looked like a snow flurry except that it wasn’t snow; it was ashes. When I heard that the terrorists were not able to hit their second D.C. target, I wondered “When will they be back with another tactic?” I thought of the various possible scenarios including armed groups coming through our streets.

The following year my children were again terrorized by the “Beltway Sniper.” The sniper was shooting people in front of their own homes as well as in public places. He shot them as they walked into schools and shopping malls. He seemed to prefer areas with quick egress. One of my daughters was attending Cooper Middle School which is located less than a block from the Beltway. Because all K-12 schools in Virginia are “gun-free zones,” I knew that the only person with a gun would be the sniper. The school administration would not be able to protect the students.

My daughter talked about her school day. It is hard to understand that these conditions exist within our U.S. borders:

Day after day the story was the same. She told me that all of the windows in her school were blacked out, and she could not tell whether it was day or night. The school was locked so nobody could get in. The children were not allowed outside for any reason, and all after-school activities were cancelled. The school requested that all children be sent to school on busses. One day I said to her, “I’m glad you feel safe on the bus and in the school, but what about when you’re walking between the bus and the school?” I will never forget her answer, and neither will you. She replied, “The teachers line up between the bus and the school, and we walk between them.” I just started crying as I typed that. Those defenseless teachers had no way to protect the children other than to put their own bodies between the students and any potential bullets.

During that time I tried to stay home as much as possible. I heard that if you got out of your car, you should weave back and forth while walking so that you were a more difficult target. When I had to go to the grocery store, I ran and weaved like a madwoman as I went from my car to the store. I knew that I could not protect myself.

A year or so later, I went to a rental property owned by one of my older sons. On this day my son and I were pulling up to the house. A man ran up to my car and slammed into my window, screaming at me. I was too scared to listen to what he said, and I did not get out of the car. We restarted the car and drove off. Still shaking, I asked my son, “Why do you think he did that?” My son answered, “He was dealing drugs on the corner, Mom, and you looked at him.” I did not remember looking at anyone, but I knew that something as simple as an accidental look could put my life or my children’s lives in danger. I never went back to that neighborhood. I returned to my "safe" home.

My second daughter is very sensitive and more fearful than the others. In 2005 when she applied to colleges, she only considered those in Virginia and Maryland because she didn’t want to be too far from home. Among the best schools, she chose the one where she felt safest. She chose Virginia Tech. You know what happened there. She is still alive, although traumatized. She cried for days on end. She still cries. I remember one time in particular. She was sobbing, ”Look at what one person can do. Look at how many lives he changed–the 25,000 students at Virginia Tech, the more than 50,000 people in the surrounding community, the families, the friends. Look at what one person can do!” I said, “Yes, and conversely, look at what one person can do.” She immediately understood what I meant and said, “I have thought about that, and I wonder what I’m supposed to do with my life.”

It is well known that criminals, terrorists, and psychopaths choose victims who are likely to be unarmed. The problem with Virginia Tech is that it’s another “gun-free zone, ” which should be more correctly called a "criminal protection zone." The killer, Cho, wanted to do the most damage possible, and he reportedly was armed with 400 rounds of ammunition so that he could carry on for a long time. NOBODY could stop him. The entire campus is unarmed, so they had to wait for someone to come from the outside to stop his rampage. It was only when the police arrived that Cho realized he couldn’t go on, and he shot himself. If he knew in advance that students were likely to be armed, he may never have tried, or if he did, he would not have been able to kill as many people before someone stopped him.

Again, an unarmed teacher knew the only way he could save his students was to put his own body between them and the gunman. Professor Liviu Librescu blocked the door to his classroom so that his students could jump out the window. A survivor of the Holocaust, Librescu clearly had the will to live. He was shot several times through the door and lost his life saving his students.

The tragedy at Virginia Tech was the final straw. I was not going to be a victim anymore. My children were not going to be victims anymore.

I took my first gun safety class, and I got my first concealed carry permit. Some people may be surprized that I have changed. I am surprized that some of them haven't.


Texas Mike said...

Nice blog! As a Hokie alumnus, it pains me to see the administration's continued denial of self defense rights. On both 9/11 and 4/16, it pained me to see how our society has trained nearly everyone how to be a compliant victim. Sit still, cower in the corner, and hope they ignore you. What a futile and disgusting thing to teach. I applaud you for choosing to take responsibility for your safety. May you inspire others to do the same.

Broadsword said...

As Viktor Lazlo said to Rick Blaine in Casablanca, "Welcome back to the fight," (for liberty).

Jack Burton said...

An Open Letter to Those Who Wonder Why Citizens Would Want to Carry Guns in Public


Kevin said...

Welcome to the family. We're really much nicer than most people think!

K-Romulus said...

Thank you for sharing your story with us.

mikeb302000 said...

Thanks for that most eloquent post. I am strongly anti-gun, helped partly by the fact, I admit, that I live in Rome Italy and not Newark NJ.

I seriously question (often on my blog) whether arming ourselves is the answer. Does it not lead to a never ending escalation of the very violence that you cite?

Lorimor said...

Mike in Rome,

CCW permit holders are not the problem. Many, many years of experience substantiate this conclusion. The anti gun forces rely solely on conjecture and pessimism. Their argument is not factually supported.

princewally said...

Mike in Rome,

I carry because, if a thug threatens my family's well-being, he has already escalated the violence as far as it goes.

From lethal threat, there is no further escalation possible, and no better counter than lethal force.

Unistat said...

To Mike in Rome:

Unfortunately the idea that responsible citizens arming themselves only contributes to violence is as widespread as it is false. Ask yourself, "Why are the Police armed?" It is to stop any further violence on the part of the criminal. Police do not pose a danger to the public with their firearms, neither do the majority tens of millions of American firearms owners. It is clear from both crime statistics and anecdotal evidence such as in this blog, that criminals prefer unarmed victims precisely because they cannot stop any violence done to them or anyone else. Again, ask yourself "Do I object to a person learning martial arts for personal protection?" Not everyone can do this, some are frail or elderly or simply smaller than average. Nor can we all be part of the police force who have a recognized reason to carry means of self defense. Personal safety should not be dependant on these factors everyone has a right to defend themselves.

David said...

I'm glad you have taken responsibility for your personal safety and that of your loved ones.

No one cares more about your life, and the lives of your loved ones, more than you do. Thus, no one bears greater responsibility or has greater incentive to protect those lives -- certainly not the government.

Hopefully you will never need to use force to defend yourself or your loved ones, but isn't it empowering to know that you have and can carry an effective tool to do so?

Stay safe.

theirritablearchitect said...

Thank you for the background story. It is inspiring to hear from people who are willing and courageous enough to take their lives, and country, back from those who attempt to pull it into the dark recesses of history.

Stay your course. You will prevail.

Anonymous said...


Your "neverending escalation of violence" scenario relies on several incorrect assumptions.

First it assumes that all violence is morally equal. Is the violence associated with an innocent young woman fencing off a rapist morally equal to the violence that the rapist would visit upon her?

Of course not. Violence in self defense and defense of family is moral and just. That's why we don't fire every cop who's ever used their weapon in the line of duty.

Your scenario also assumes that criminals willingly risk death or injury when faced with an armed victim. That they will simply "escalate the violence" to counter the threat.

That simply is not borne out by the facts. According to a study by criminologist Gary Kleck and associates, people who resisted violent attack with a weapon (particularly a firearm) were significantly less likely to be injured than those who resisted with no weapons or even those who offered no resistance at all.

Criminals aren't brave and chivalrous. They don't like to test their mettle on "hard targets", they like soft targets. Easy prey that they can victimize with the least risk to themselves. In a survey of prison inmates several years ago, the number one reason given that a criminal would break off an attack is if they suspected or became aware that the intended victim was armed.

Finally, the statistics pretty clearly demonstrate that increased legal gun ownership does not have a detrimental impact on crime. Societal factors are the most significant driver of crime rates, but there is no evidence that lawful gun ownership increases crime or violence and many studies suggest that armed citizens can prove to be a deterrent to violent crime.

Mike said...

Welcome to the land of the living, and those who intend to stay that way. Once the scales fall from ones eyes, they can never be replaced. You should visit my wife for more discussion on the topic.


The Saj said...

Action is better than inaction...especially when the noble stand against the ignoble.

As a holocaust survivor, Librescu was probably familiar with this understanding. I am sure he saw how one individual's noble actions could protect the lives of others from those perpetrating ignoble actions.

Likewise, there were two planes headed for DC. Only one made it to it's target. All passengers on all four planes on 9-11 lost their lives. But only three planes were used to take more lives. Why? Because someone said "Let's ROLL!!!" and decided to act nobly.

Likewise, you've decided to do the same. It's not an easy decision. I myself am new to such decision as well. Though I've always been pro-gun. I chose not to own one for many years, largely due to my faith. I know where I am going when I die. I did not want to take another's life in exchange for my own.

However, now I have a wife and a beautiful 1 yr old daughter. And I will do ANYTHING to keep them safe. And if I have to chose between the life of a criminal and the life of my daughter; my answer is clear. "My Daughter!!! Always!!!!"

So with that, I knew the time in my life to become a gun owner had come. I too have recently created a blog to follow my account.

- N.U.G.U.N.

Eric Shelton said...

Wow. Thank you so much for your write-up! That was a great read! Not only in your skill at wordsmithing, but in your unique and very personal story.

Many people often wonder why I carry a sidearm (ccw), but it's really very simple. Of course I don't go looking for trouble, who in their right mind would? But living in Tucson, near a porous smuggling border, even a harmless camping or horseback riding trip can easily take a tragic turn. Even in-town, our newest and nicest shopping mall has had two shootings in the past few years. Sometimes a person is simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Thank you for your personal story, and what seems like a realization this is not a partisan issue. NOBODY deserves to be a victim, and I wish you and your family all the best!

Freedom Fighter said...

This is an excellent writeup and it nearly made me shed a tear.

I am campaigning via the Open Carry Movement to get the CCW laws changed here in Kalifornia. Check my blog here


OnThe Right said...

To mikeb302000 and Freedom Fighter:

Please see my October 8 post, "What gun control really does."

Anonymous said...

Its always better to have a gun and not need it than need it and not have it. No different than seatbelts or airbags.

Do guns promote violence sure they do. As do knives, lighters, fertilizer and baseball bats. I know that is a worn out analogy but that is because it is true.

The worst thing I may ever do to someone in the city who I do not know is make fun of their clothing or something. But you better believe if he looks like a heavy weight boxer or if he/she is carrying a gun....I might decide to just keep my big mouth shut.

Bottom line is...people who want to kill will kill. Its not hard to kill someone. There are also millions of ways to get it done. We can't sterilize society from everything that may create harm. We can only teach people how to protect themselves...in some cases that will mean teaching them to carry a firearm.

mikeb302000 said...

I'll take this discussion over to the Oct. 8th post. I think it's called "What gun control really does."

Thanks for all the feedback on my comment.

Anonymous said...

Hi there. Perhaps your daughter and I know eachother. I graduated from Virginia Tech only three weeks after the shooting. My girlfriend was killed.

My beliefs changed too, but not in the same way as yours. I was neutral on guns before the shooting, and for a good six months after.

A lot of people tell me that "those kids could have protected themselves if they'd had guns." I don't think that's the case. First of all, given the number of people with concealed carry permits in Virginia, chances were something like 1% that anyone in that building would have had one. Secondly, I've spoken to survivors. They tell me they didn't have time to think, to defend themselves. But thirdly, and I think most importantly, even if the 10th person had had a gun, nine people would still be dead. Does that make it better? I don't think so. A shooting is still a shooting, and a lot of people are still dead.

You specifically cite the sniper, and say that if people had guns, they could have protected themselves against him. How do you protect yourself, using a gun, against a sniper? A sniper is, by definition, invisible. He's not going to sit out in the open where you can shoot back. You're not going to even know he's there until he shoots, and if you're lucky enough that he missed you, he's going to be gone before you can fire back.

And one final thing. Are you aware that 55% of gun deaths in 2005 were suicides? That means that you're more likely to kill yourself with a gun than protect yourself with it. It might not be you. It might be one of your kids who kills themselves. Actually, statistically, the greatest threat to a woman's life is her own husband/boyfriend.

School shootings, snipers, terrorists--these are all exceedingly rare (per capita). Suicides are much more common. Remember, Cho was not a criminal until he shot Stack. He was just one of us, another Hokie. We had no reason to be suspicious of him. And remember, what he did was--ultimately--suicide.

I'm not saying there isn't a time and a place to have a gun. But the three times you've cited--they are NOT the place. Guns don't work against terrorists, snipers, or school shooters. Two of the three aren't afraid of dying, so they're not deterrents either.


KaseyQ said...

Thanks so much for this post! From one mom to another, I completely agree with you. And it's a touchy topic for moms. I went through a similar course of events that led to my own choice to take a stand- I was living in Fredericksburg, Virginia at the time of the 9/11 attacks, and my husband was supposed to drive right by the Pentagon that day. I was also living there when the sniper attacks occurred (one at the Michael's store less than a mile from my apartment). My brother went to Virginia Tech.

The final straw was when my home was broken into 2 years ago. My husband had his gun out, but I was left defenseless down the hall with a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old. All I could think of was what if something happened to my husband? How would I protect my children?

Luckily, the intruder was scared off by our house alarm. But I didn't feel any safer.

In August I worked with the National Geographic channel to film a show about guns in America. They wanted a story of a woman who had decided to go about getting a gun for the first time. They took me to a gun show, then to a basic instruction class and a firing range. It was a great experience for me- I started out terrified of guns, and I came out with some targets with holes in the bullseye that I made with a 9mm handgun.

I cannot fathom the thought that someday my kids could be in danger and I would have no way to protect them, simply because I was too scared to learn to use a tool that would save our lives.

The show (part of the National Geographic Explorer series) will air sometime between November and January. Keep an eye out for it!

OnThe Right said...

To John,

No, I never said that people could have protected themselves against the sniper. He was hiding in the trunk of his car with a hole drilled though it. Nobody could see him. He's just another example of why I was afraid--someone was shooting people at random. Maybe I can protect my children against another one who is not so well hidden.

Cho is a different matter. It is shocking that you could say that "even if the 10th person had had a gun, nine people would still be dead. Does that make it better? I don't think so. A shooting is still a shooting, and a lot of people are still dead." It would certainly be tragic for the family and friends of the nine people, but we would have more than 20 people still alive. Is that better? Absolutely.

I had a daughter who died (not in the shooting). The death of someone you love, as you know, is extremely difficult. Sometimes you wonder if you can go on at all. Once a parent has gone through that, he/she will do anything to prevent another child's death. You implied that 33 deaths is not worse than 9: "a lot of people are still dead." I beg to differ. It was hard enough to deal with the death of one child. I can't imagine if I had lost all of them at the same time.

If responsible students with concealed carry permits (who have had to be trained and submit to a background check to get that permit) could have saved only ONE of those lives, yes, it would have been better. Every life is precious. I'll do whatever I can to protect even one.

Rebekah Christine said...

Mike wrote: "I seriously question (often on my blog) whether arming ourselves is the answer. Does it not lead to a never ending escalation of the very violence that you cite?"

No more than fire extinguishers lead to more fires, or (as another commented) seatbelts/air bags lead to more accidents.

-Rebekah's Daddy

aar said...


I am trying steadfastly to get in touch with you seeking reprint permissions with full links back to this blog entry and your blog in general.

Please email me ASAP: AAR@uscca.us