Three data points, all anecdotes:
- Some time back, I was reviewing an article, which was a profile of a concealed carry person. The writer asked the interviewee how long he had been carrying a firearm. “As far as the government knows, three years,” the man replied. Why three years? “That was when the shall-issue concealed carry law passed in my state and made an honest man out of me.” It turned out that the man had carried a concealed handgun every day for nearly 40 years before the law allowed it. Nobody else ever knew, not even his wife.
- A few weeks ago, I came across a news story (you can read it here) that talked about a young woman who went on the news because she wanted to put a face on the people who value concealed carry rights at the university campus in Colorado. “It doesn’t look like James Holmes. It looks like professional students that just want to exercise the right to defend themselves,” the woman told reporters. She explained to them that she was speaking up because retaining the right to carry was important to her.
- Last week, I received an email from a Cornered Cat fan. “Should I get a concealed carry permit?” the letter writer asked, going on to explain that she was worried about the application process because she didn’t want to get her “name on a list” of gun owners. She didn’t want anyone else to find out that she owned firearms, and she did not want her local authorities to know she existed. The funny thing is, I used to get that question all the time … seven or eight years ago. As I read this one, I suddenly realized that it had been a long time since I last needed to answer it. People have almost stopped asking this once-common question.
What do these anecdotes mean?
Just this: gun owners are braver than we used to be. And that’s a good thing. If you’re one of the new crowd of gun owners who isn’t afraid to speak up and defend your rights, good for you! If you’re one of those who regularly invites other people to the range and who isn’t afraid to let your friends know that you care about your right to own guns, awesome!
Before we get too cocky about our own bravery, though, we should all turn around and say thank you to one of the rare, brave souls who took the risk of speaking up back in the days, twenty or thirty years ago, when there was almost no social support for concealed carry. Back when gun owners were demonized everywhere in the media and in real life. Back when the human right to own and use the tools of effective self defense was under attack everywhere, and when gun owners lost battle after battle in the courts and ballot boxes. The rare people who spoke up back then almost singlehandedly brought us to where we are today, and we all owe them a great debt because of it.
Come to think of it, maybe we’re not braver. Maybe we’ve just come to understand that there are more of us than we ever knew, back in the days when concealed carry was a dirty little secret never discussed in polite company.