The Cornered Cat

I suppose we’ve all heard the accusation: “Gun owners are compensating for something.” Usually said with an evil grin and a you-know-what-I-mean kind of chuckle.

Well, guess what? It’s absolutely true! By and large, people who own guns for self-protection are compensating for something. For example …

Gun owners are compensating for something. We are compensating for having children who need protection. Image courtesy Oleg Volk,

Or for another example …

Gun owners are compensating for something. We are compensating for having to protect each other from harm. Image courtesy Oleg Volk,

(Thanks to Oleg Volk for both of the beautiful images above.)

What am I compensating for?

Let’s face the awful truth: I’m not as young as I once was. I’m in pretty good shape for a middle-aged woman, but I’m no martial artist. You won’t see me on the silver screen doing one of those spectacular spinning back-kicks that miraculously knock deadly weapons out of the hands of people standing clear across the room. I’ve had just enough martial arts training to know that, in a physical fight between two people, the smaller of the two is generally at a tremendous disadvantage. Unless that gap is narrowed by significant training, the smaller person is going to be in a world of hurt — and this goes doubly if the smaller person is a woman fighting an aggressive man. Believe me, I’d give it my best rather than simply giving up or giving in, but I’m a realist. Realistically, an undersized middle-aged woman defending herself against an enraged young man is going to get her butt stomped. By carrying a gun, I’m compensating for that.

I’m compensating for having children who are still too small to beat off a kidnapper with their bare hands. The day my first baby was born, I looked into his eyes and swore I would never let any harm come to him that I could prevent. I took that vow seriously. I’m compensating for that.

Somehow I’ve never been able to wrap my brain around the idea of throwing myself on the mercy of the merciless. I cannot imagine betting my very life (or the lives of my children) on my ability to reason with the unreasonable. Nor am I alone in that skepticism, because you know what? SWAT teams often negotiate, but every single one of the guys on the team has a deadly weapon available too. I guess those guys are compensating for having the same skepticism that I do.

It just seems to me really unlikely that the intended victim could talk a Son of Sam or a BTK or a Hillside Strangler into quitting. In some circumstances, that’s worth trying, but it’s sure not worth putting all your eggs in that basket. I’m compensating for wanting a decent back-up plan.

Come to think of it, I’m also compensating for not having a policeman in my back pocket. When seconds count, the police are usually minutes away. Or more. The average police response time to an emergency call inside city limits in America is around 10 minutes — a lot more in some places, a tiny bit less in others, but around 10 minutes is normal. That time can stretch literally to hours if you live outside city limits or if the dispatcher does not understand that it is an emergency call. An awful lot of very bad and very permanent things can happen even in ten minutes: it’s enough time for a shooting, a stabbing, a strangulation, a successful kidnapping, a rape. There’s just never a police officer around at the very moment you most need one.

This is no slur on the officers, by the way. These are good people doing a thankless task. Being there when a crime first begins is simply not in their job description. That’s not what police officers do. Their job is to catch evildoers who have already committed a crime. I’m compensating for not wanting to be the dead victim of the next murder my local police will be investigating after it happens.

Those are some of the things I’m compensating for.

Now — what are you compensating for?