I looked curiously at my friend. We’d been discussing gun stuff, and he offered the thought that there are some places that should be off-limits for law-abiding citizens to carry a concealed weapon. When I asked him for an example of such a place, that was the one he came up with.
“Why a gym?” I asked him.
“Maybe this isn’t a problem for women,” he replied, “but I know the testosterone gets pretty thick in a gym, and I’d hate for someone to see a gun under my shirt and make a grab for it. It’s just not worth the risk. I mean, what would you do?”
I thought about it for a second. “If I felt that having someone make a grab for my gun in a gym was a serious risk,” I answered, “I’d probably choose someplace else to work out.”
His next question threw me for a loop. “Don’t you feel like your focus on safety and self-defense is limiting your life too much? Where’s the point at which you say it’s not worth it?”
I thought about the question for a long time, both because this is a friend I care about, and because he’s a pretty pro-gun, pro-self defense sort of guy and so his question deserved an honest and reflective answer. And I realized that the answer is simply this: By choosing to learn and practice our situational awareness and self-defense skills, by choosing to carry gun or knife or other weapon, by choosing to be self-reliant and responsible for our own safety, we are making a foundational choice about the values by which we live our lives. That choice, and those values, will always shape what we do in our lives.
In some cases, making the choice to be responsible for our own safety means there are things we can’t do, places we can’t go. Just like my friend’s hypothetical gym, there are places and activities I avoid. I don’t hang out on the main street downtown on a Friday night, because fights between drunk college kids are distressingly common there and I have no desire to land in the middle of a group of “stupid people doing stupid things in stupid places.” I don’t walk in the creek bed near my house at night, when mountain lions and two-legged predators might be about. I don’t voluntarily incapacitate myself with drugs or alcohol. I don’t get into a car with the guy I just met in the restaurant, no matter how nice he seems. I carry my cell phone, flashlight, and pistol even when it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient. And to my friend’s point, in one sense each of these choices limits, to a certain extent, the things I can do.
But choosing to live a lifestyle of relaxed awareness, choosing to carry and train with the tools with which I ensure my safety, has benefits too. Apart from the amazing community which those choices make me a part of, there are other benefits that come from being a lawfully armed citizen. For one thing, I can engage in the activities I enjoy with the knowledge that, if something bad happens, To borrow Kathy Jackson’s example, I don’t have to fear the tow truck driver who comes to pick me up on the side of a dark road (as happened to me recently, in fact). I can be calmly confident knowing that I can handle what life has to offer, and that confidence liberates me to focus on the people and activities that really matter to me.
In fact, this is probably the reality: A place where it would be dangerous to go with a gun is probably a place (at least for my lifestyle) where it would be even more dangerous to go without one.
“I don’t think there’s ever a place where being aware, where being equipped and prepared to protect myself, where having the tools to safeguard myself and my loved ones becomes not worth it,” I told my friend at last. “In the final analysis, I’m not making a choice just about carrying a gun. I’m making a choice about what kind of person I am and how I want to live my life, and if that choice requires trade-offs, so be it.”
Being a lawfully armed citizen, autonomous and self-reliant and self-responsible, is about so much more than the tools I carry. It’s about who I am and what matters to me. Living authentically is never not worth it.
What about you? What are the values that drive you to the choices you make? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.