Defending the Right to Bear Arms

by Mike Ruff

I carry openly. I do this for political reasons-the same reason I make it a point to sit in the smoking section at restaurants when I go out to eat by myself, even though I don't smoke. But that's another story.

I carry openly, precisely because it invites comment (it shouldn't, but such is the sad state of our society). Some of the comments are good, a few are bad, and many more merely serve educational purposes.

An example of the good: I was going to the store to do some grocery shopping. A local Volunteer Fire Department was selling raffle tickets to raise funds. One of the Firefighters said: "That man's carrying-I don't even have to ask-I know he's gonna buy a ticket!" Hey, you have to admire his salesmanship. But he hit on a truth about gun owners-we are usually nice guys, generous, just the salt of the Earth. And definitely helped our image in the minds of the bystanders. My response? "Y'all are raising money for a Volunteer Fire Department? You're right-I'll donate to that cause!"

An example of the educational: Same place and time as above. While I was filling out my new raffle tickets, a woman asked me if I was a police officer. I said, "No ma'am, I'm a Libertarian." She asked me what that was. Sadly, I was in a hurry (I was buying supplies for the County Libertarian Convention which was being held later that day) so I had to give her a quick answer. I told her (my apologies and thanks to L. Neil Smith) "We're sort of like the ACLU, but with guns." I did explain to her that we were a pro-freedom alternative to the Democrats and Republicans, and that we were in favor of volunteer organizations and private companies performing as many functions as possible, and that was why people such as myself made it a point to support organizations like the Volunteer Fire Department. She seemed to favor that idea.

An example of the bad: I was looking for a gift for my niece's 1st birthday. I went to Toys R Us. I checked their doors for a sign saying that firearms were not permitted, as I always do-and no sign. I went in, I looked around. No one seemed to be recoiling in fear-most folks didn't even give me a second glance. After I had been there for perhaps 20 minutes, a sales person comes along and asks me if I need any help. I told him what I was looking for. He asked if I was a police officer. I said: "No, I'm a Libertarian." He didn't know what that was, but he informed me that Toys R Us has a policy against firearms. I said that I was not aware of that, as they were not posted. I politely handed him a Grass Roots North Carolina "Don't Buy" card (a picture of a pistol in the crossed circle = a dollar sign in a crossed circle, with an explanation that we would respect their wishes and not patronize their business if they didn't want anyone to carry firearms there). I said, "Have a nice day" and turned to leave. He told me I didn't have to go right away, that he was telling me for future reference. I replied that that was quite all right, I would respect their policy, and I wouldn't want to put them in the position of accepting money from someone they were opposed to. Then I bought my niece's gift at a store that respected my right to carry.Then there are the folks who say they are ok with gun ownership, but don't see the need to carry everywhere-and seem to imply that I must be some sort of wacko for doing so. Of course, I suspect that if they aren't comfortable with those who carry, then they most likely aren't really comfortable with ownership either. They probably just hope to avoid an argument about ownership, by attempting to soften the argument and make it about carrying rather than ownership.

So I have constructed the following argument for use with these folks:

Q. Why do you carry that gun? Are you worried that you're going to be attacked or something? Do you think someone is out to get you? (With the obvious implication that if you are carrying, then you must be some sort of paranoid nutball, and maybe even a coward)

A. Well, see if you can follow my reasoning. Are there criminals out there who might attack a person?

Q. Well, yes, of course. But that's what the police are for.

A. Ok, fine, the police. Do you see a police officer accompanying me everywhere I go?

Q. No, of course not. That's stupid.

A. I agree. The police have much better things to do than act as my personal bodyguards. And I notice they don't keep an eye on you either.

Q. <Silence>

A. The cops carry guns, right?

Q. Of course!

A. So I take it you believe that guns are of use in self-defense for the police, and in the bringing to justice of the criminals?

Q. Yes…

A. So are cops supermen? Are they smarter and stronger and more skilled and have more powers than the rest of us? Or are they just normal, mortal men like the rest of us?

Q. (Probably pretty annoyed by now) No, they're regular people.

A. So really, there's nothing a cop can do with a gun that I cannot.

Q. I guess.

A. So then, if you agree that there are criminals who can potentially victimize anyone; and if you agree that police can use guns in defending themselves and others against these criminals; and if you agree that a police officer can do nothing with a gun that other mortals cannot potentially do; then you must agree that it makes no sense to say that regular people shouldn't be allowed to carry guns too. Am I correct so far?

Q. I guess…

A. So then, you're ok with people owning guns, even if they aren't police?

Q. Sure.

A. Ok. So do you agree that there is the possibility I could need a gun to defend myself or others?

Q. Yes, I guess so.

A. OK. So if I might need one in such a situation, when will I need it?

Q. What?

A. You've agreed that there is the possibility that I might have need for a gun. When? When can I anticipate the attack of a criminal? Will he call and make an appointment to attack me? Or to inform me that he will be attacking you on a certain date or time?

Q. No! Obviously not.

A. So then, how can I be sure that I do have the gun when I need it? And how can I be sure that no one gets hold of my gun-for example a child or a criminal-who might injure themselves or others with it (whether intentionally or not)? The only way I can be sure to have it when I need it, and be sure that no one has it who shouldn't, is to make sure I have it in my possession at all times. So I carry for my safety as well as that of everyone else.

Q. <Now obviously devastated by my powerful argument, yet quickly converting to a gun rights activist themselves>

Ok, so maybe that last is just a fantasy on my part. Obviously the whole argument will probably have little effect on those who hold irrational beliefs regarding weapons (i.e. the hoplophobes). But always remember that others generally overhear these discussions, and this may be the very thing that brings them off the fence and into our camp. And demonstrating that WE are the logical and rational ones in this fight can't hurt.


"'Ignorantque datos, ne quisquam serviat, enses.'
And they are ignorant that the purpose of the sword is to save every man from slavery."

- Lucanus (A.D. 39-65), De Bello Civili

Mike Ruff is the Chairman of the Pitt County Libertarian Party, the Vice-Chairman of the Greenville Citizens’ Advisory Commission on Cable Television, and a member of the Free State Project, the National Motorists Association, the Alliance for the Separation of School and State, and Grass Roots North Carolina, and a big fan of Sluggy Freelance. He is also a veteran of 9 years in the US Army, and works as an office manager while he is building a sort of Libertarian general services business. You contact Mr. Ruff at voteruff@VOTERUFF.org.

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