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News & Editorials

Why DO I Own a Gun?

By Kevin Baker
December 7, 2000


As is the case for the majority of gun owners, my father owned guns and still does. However, he was never an avid shooter, and in my recollection has never been a hunter. His guns were his father's, except for the revolver he purchased after our home was burglarized twice. Guns were just something he had, and they were not really thought about.

However, I have been keenly interested in firearms for most of my life, an interest not shared at all by anyone else in my immediate family. So why do I own a gun? Well, in fact I own several. First and foremost I own guns because I am a recreational shooter. I shoot for sport. It is my number-one hobby. I do not hunt, though I understand the appeal. I am a shooter, and to me hunting is taking your gun for a walk. 

My particular hobby is International Handgun Metallic Silhouette shooting. In this sport the competitor attempts to knock down steel targets shaped in the profiles of chickens, pigs, turkeys and rams at various ranges. It is quite demanding because the longest range in competition is 200 meters and the targets at that range weigh 50 pounds. An accurate gun, a good aim, and a powerful cartridge are all required to do well. 

Most people don't realize how popular shooting is. My sport is just one of many practiced all over the country. Here is just a short list of shooting sports: Bullseye, High Power, Trap, Skeet, Sporting Clays, Practical Pistol, 100 yard Benchrest, 1000 Yard Benchrest, Bianchi Cup, Schutzenfest, International Defensive Pistol, Steel Challenge, Biathlon, Olympic Free Pistol, Rifle Silhouette, and perhaps the most popular of all, Cowboy Action. 

There are many, many more. These are all organized shooting sports with written rules, sanctioning bodies, and scheduled matches. Competitors spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on their equipment and on ammunition for practice and competition. My last competition pistol cost more than $600.00. Used. An Olympic Free Pistol may easily cost in excess of $2,000. Shotguns for Trap, Skeet, or Sporting Clays may cost $5,000 or more. My hand-assembled ammunition costs me about twenty-five cents a shot for the components, so a typical match costs me about ten dollars just for that, not including the 70 mile round trip to the range and the entrance fee. And no, we don't win prizes. 

In addition to the literally millions of rounds fired yearly in organized competition, millions more are fired in practice and just for fun. Ammunition manufacturers report that they sell a combined one BILLION rounds of .22 rimfire ammunition each year. (I confess to consuming about a fifteen hundred rounds each year of that total.) Shooting as a sport is POPULAR, and while it can be an inexpensive hobby, it can get pricey FAST. The point is, recreational shooters don't exactly fit the stereotype that the media keeps presenting.

I have also been an avid reader for most of my life. My reading has spanned fiction and non-fiction, history, philosophy, mystery, science-fiction, fantasy, technical. In my youth I read just about everything I could get my hands on having to do with World War II. Perhaps I am a throwback to that time, but I believe in duty, honor, personal responsibility, and individual rights. My reading, much more than my formal education, has brought me to study the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the history that surrounds these documents and those who wrote them. Because of my readings, I have what I feel is an intimate understanding of the rights and responsibilities conferred upon the citizens of this nation. 

Listed second in the Bill of Rights is the guarantee to all citizens that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed by our government. One reason for this guarantee is the common defense of the State in the form of a militia. It is not the only reason. Each of us is responsible for the safety and security of ourselves, our families, our neighborhoods, our cities, our states, and our nation. It is OUR responsibility to combat crime, whether it is armed robbery or reckless driving or governmental corruption. Our freedom of speech and freedom of the press serves to expose corruption. Our ability to call the police department and bear witness in court to crime when it occurs serves when the crime is not directed at us, or when bodily injury is not likely. 

However, when we ourselves are confronted with crime directly, it is our duty to resist as best we can. This belief stands in direct conflict with what we've been told by the police and other "officials" for the last several years. "Do as you're told" they tell us "and you (probably) won't get hurt. Nothing material is worth your life." They're right. Nothing material is worth my life. My duty and my honor, however, are not material things. 

No, I am not saying that I will immediately throw myself on an attacker and sacrifice my life for no good reason. That's not honorable; it's stupid. But to defend my wife against assault, I might do that very thing. I might also do it for a stranger. I decide when a violent response is appropriate, not some uninvolved "official". To that end I have decided that being armed is preferable to not being armed. I am capable of using firearms, willing if necessary to use lethal force, convinced in my own mind that I have the logical capability to decide if lethal force is necessary, and secure that once I have made a decision that I will be able to live with myself. Further, I am comfortable with the idea that others have made the opposite choice and are willing to take their chances (which are realistically pretty good) remaining unarmed. However, I take EXTREME exception to those who would tell me "I don't feel safe because YOU have a gun - you must get rid of it". I am not a danger to anyone who is a law-abiding citizen. How DARE someone try to restrict my ability to defend myself.

I don't recommend universal militiarization - everyone armed all the time. That's as insane as the idea of universal disarmament. But I do believe that those who are armed act as a check on those who would commit crime. The evidence backs me up. Wherever laws have been passed allowing or even encouraging average citizens to keep arms for defense, violent crime has dropped. Wherever laws have been passed prohibiting or severely restricting average citizens from keeping arms for defense, crime has increased. Facts seem to be useless against those with firearms phobias, though. 

The last reason I own a gun is probably the most controversial. It's the one that gets gun owners branded as "nuts", "kooks", and various other derogatory terms. 

I own a gun in order to keep my government in check. 

That is the primary reason the Second Amendment was added to the Constitution. The men who wrote the it created a whole new form of government, one untried before in history. They did this in the full knowledge that governments are run by human beings, and that some human beings lust for power. They understood that, even with all the checks and balances engineered into the Constitution, with time and patience and even with good intent, the system they set up could fail and tyranny could again rise up. They understood that if the force of arms could be restricted to only the government, that the consent of the governed would become unimportant to those in charge. 

So I own a gun. Just as a reminder those in charge that they'd better mean it when they swear an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. The Declaration of Independence says it best:

"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security." 

Throwing off such a government starting with only small arms would be tough, but it has been done. Doing so without them would be impossible.


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