This weekend I took the class and got the NRA certification I need to apply for my license to carry a concealed weapon.
I'd been interested in doing something like this since I moved away from a great big city. After the controversy over the concealed carry permits in Sandusky, I renewed my resolve to do so. As a journalist, I see it as my job to get into things over which there's a public debate. And as a person, and an Independent (I wouldn't belong to any party that would have me as a member, thank you), I don't like to make up my mind about things unless I have a working, personal knowledge of both sides of an issue.
So I went to the class, arranged by some good friends, as someone who doesn't know much about guns beyond which end is the business end to find out what was behind the compulsion to buy guns.
Frank Van Dresser (Sr.), who hosted the event, hit the nail on the head, I think, when he said taking the class was about responsibility. The people that were there were not macho yahoos who just wanted to "pack heat." They were people who, as Van Dresser put it, saw freedom as being all about responsibility.
The course was not about gun ownership it was about responsible gun ownership. It's hard to see that as anything but a good thing. If you're going to own an instrument of death, you should take it seriously.
Responsibility, especially personal responsibility, is really not something our culture seems to emphasize these days. I know there are plenty of individuals out there who do, but it doesn't seem to figure much into public debate. And that's a big problem.
Responsibility isn't sexy. It isn't cool, by definition it's the opposite. But we're in big trouble without it.
After all, even if you take away the guns, we are still surrounded by instruments of death. As our instructor, Ken Wilson, perfectly rightly pointed out, more children are killed in swimming pools every year than are killed by guns.
By getting this permit, these people were pledging to be responsible gun-owning members of society. They are taking responsibility for their own safety and the safety of those who surround them. And that doesn't mean just that they see themselves as deputized. It also means that they are willing to take a number of stiffer consequences if they misuse their weapons.
The importance of personal responsibility cannot be overstated. Wilson referred to the FBI's annual report that says that the consequences of an attack are generally more favorable (less unfavorable) if a woman resists than they are if she submits.
I feel like this is the opposite of what we are told all the time. We are told to submit and wait for the authorities to come and take care of things.
But this makes us a society of victims.
I hate the word "victimized." It implies that victims of crimes will forevermore be Victims. I hope not. My fervent wish for everyone so unfortunate is that the terrible event doesn't define them. If I can't keep it from happening, then I want it to matter as little as possible. I want it to be a blip.
Studies have also shown that the psychological consequences for women who are raped are considerably less if they resist. For them, it may not be a blip, but it is much closer to it.
Submitting, giving up all responsibility for that situation, is utterly devastating for a person. They may not have created the situation, but they can control how they behave during it.
Of course, such violent attacks, while more common than we'd like, are also relatively unlikely to happen to any individual. And the police are pretty capable people. But they can't be there every minute of the day. Getting the gun, doesn't have to be about paranoia or vigilantism. It can be a part of broad desire to take responsibility for yourself and to be a partner in society not merely someone waiting to become a victim.
So I will probably go ahead and get my permit. I will be a proud gun-owner.
But I don't know that I will join the NRA.