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
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!"
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.
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
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:
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
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
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.
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?
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
Q. I guess…
A. So then, you're ok with
people owning guns, even if they aren't police?
A. Ok. So do you agree that
there is the possibility I could need a gun to defend myself
Q. Yes, I guess so.
A. OK. So if I might need one
in such a situation, when will I need it?
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
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
"'Ignorantque datos, ne quisquam serviat,
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
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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God, Guns and Rock 'n' Roll