As the global coronavirus pandemic staggers the financial system, millions are losing their jobs and they suddenly have no means by which to feed their families or put a roof over their heads. Police departments are announcing reduced service for “minor” incidents while at the same time cancelling leave for officers as if trouble is anticipated. Lines of people blocks long form to get into grocery stores. Lines are forming at gun stores too and firearms and ammunition fly off the shelves faster than they can be stocked.
This is not a “guns bad/good” article. There are plenty of those. Civilian firearms ownership is legal in the United States and millions avail themselves of that right. My concern for this article is for the new or potential gun owners who never had one before and are considering the purchase of a firearm out of fear of a zombie apocalypse. What is the scenario driving the gun newbies to rush out and equip themselves with deadly weapons? It goes like this: in the relentless onslaught of the coronavirus, civilization has collapsed. Distribution of food has ceased and there is no money to buy food even if some was available. Transportation is disrupted. Police departments are overwhelmed by large scale civil disturbances where large groups of desperate people riot because they can no longer meet their daily needs. Roaming gangs loot homes and businesses. The law of the jungle reigns.
If you have just bought a gun or are considering getting one, here are few things to consider:
If you’re just buying a gun now, and you have no prior experience with firearms, you’re too late. The time to buy the gun was years ago so that you would have had time to train on safety and proficiency. Guns are difficult to use effectively, especially pistols. What good is a gun if you can’t hit anything with it, or worse shoot yourself in the foot in a situation in which medical attention is not available? (Remember, the zombies have already looted the hospital.) Do you know what S.W.A.T. officers, Delta Force operators and other real gunfighters do with their free time? They train obsessively. They fire hundreds of rounds a month and run tactical drills like house clearing (“looking for someone to shoot me”). If you are not trained on your gun, you’re just dangerous to yourself and those around you.
Guns are not magic talismans. Could you pull the trigger? Shooting holes in a paper target is very different from firing at a human being who is moving aggressively in your direction. There was a mass shooting at a mall in Tacoma a few years back. A shooter was roaming the mall with an AK-47. A licensed citizen went toward the gunfire and drew his pistol. At the critical moment, the citizen froze and could not fire. The shooter put six rounds into his midsection. Everyone is different, but if a person has doubts about if they could shoot or not, it is better not to have the gun. Just run like hell.
Where is the safest place to store my gun? If you failed to answer “my holster” you don’t have the mindset to survive a gunfight. A gun that is unloaded in a safe is useless. A gun that is unloaded in a drawer is useless. A loaded gun sitting around someplace is a tragedy waiting to happen. Violent confrontations generally unfold very quickly and the real world does not have a “Pause” button. Whatever the crisis is, it will likely be over by the time a person can fetch a gun from a safe and load it. A lot of thought must be given to how the gun is stored, especially if there are children around. If there are children around, you have only two options: lock it up or wear it on your person. If you think you may need it, it should be loaded and in your holster. Do not handle or show the gun to people. Most accidents happen when people are handling or playing with a firearm.
Do you know the basics? Do you know how to disassemble and clean your gun? Dirty guns, especially semi-autos become unreliable when they get dirty. Do you know how to draw from concealment, emergency reload and clear a malfunction rapidly? The following is an incomplete list of basic skills and mental tools for using a firearm defensively:
- Gun selection
- Full disassembly and cleaning (detail strip)
- Reliability testing for pistol, ammunition and magazines
- Safe storage
- Discrete concealed carry
- Drawing from concealment
- Grip and stance
- Rapid sight picture acquisition
- Non-dominant hand firing
- Firing from retention
- Use of cover
- Emergency reload
- Emergency malfunction clearance
- De-escalation and control
- First aid
You can learn these things if you are serious about what you are doing or you can do what most people do: buy the gun, take it home, throw it in a drawer and forget about it. If you do, you would be better off throwing rocks.
Abraham Maslow once said, “When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” In the vast universe of problems that we humans face, guns solve very few of them. We have all heard the anecdotes about the elderly ladies who defended themselves from home invaders with a five-shot revolver. Those incidences do happen, but so far, they are so rare as to be statistically insignificant. Of course, if you’re the one in a million, then the gun is solid gold. These are hard choices.
When you arm yourself with a gun, there is a change in your psychology. If you adopt the “tactical mindset” you will find yourself walking around all day anticipating a gun fight. It’s a dark place to live, and it’s a legitimate question to ask if you want to live that way. The paradox is that if you get the gun and don’t adopt the tactical mindset, you’re just another fool upon whom Mr. Darwin is about to do his thing. I guess we all have to choose our own poison, but you have to decide if you want to live your life in that space.
I can hear some of you reading this and thinking, “Wow, Syd, your head is in a really dark place.” Not really, although I do read the news and global pandemics do tend to get me down. As I said in “Shooting Things (Not with a Camera),” I am a life-long gun owner. In 1997 when Kentucky passed its concealed carry law, I decided that I wanted the license. I took the course, found a gun that I liked and got my license. I joined a club that held tactical pistol matches each week. I hooked up with some people who were training serious people like Army Rangers and Air Force “A-Team” operators. I studied and learned everything I could. If some of my knowledge can keep someone from making a bad mistake, then it is worth the price of admission.
As to the present hour, I cannot offer advice beyond what I already have. If the experts are right, we are facing significant economic disruption from the coronavirus. With economic disruption comes civil disturbance. Life could get really hairy soon. In the final analysis, the question of guns for self-defense comes down to a set of moral choices, “Could I shoot another human being?” “If I choose non-violence, am I prepared to die or be abused for that conviction?” It also comes down to the question of our faith in our fellow human beings. Will we descend into an animalistic apocalypse or will we pull together and get each other through this? I’ll put my bet on us pulling together, but I still have a gun. God have mercy on us all.