Since 12/14/2012 the issue of "guns" has been front and center in the American discourse and because of this impact, many are starting to refer to it as 12/14.
Most of the hurt and trauma are still with people as, of the date of this post, we are only 45 days or so past the event. Trauma's have had almost no time to begin healing. And as a professional therapist who wishes to focus on PTSD in special operations Marines and other such military disciplines, I have no bright ideas what to say to people to help with this sort of tragedy. And it is that sort of deep impact that has led people to designate it '12/14'.
The NRA, since 12/14, has received the lion's share of this outrage, and rightfully so, really. Pretty much everybody knows - and has known for 2 generations at least - that the NRA has a tremendous influence on the US government and that is has done everything in its power to stop, thwart, stall or suspend anything that looks like a rule, regulation, limit, restriction or law on, about or for any gun.
Now the NRA is at the center of this firestorm directly be cause of it and because it is virtually impossible to NOT speculate that 'if we had just done a, b, and c' all these people would still be alive'. I think that sort of speculation is 'reasonable' in the context of the most-legitimate question: how do we prevent this?
This article is not about 'restricting guns' or 'banning guns'; nor is it in support of arming every last man, woman, child, rabbit and squirrel.
I don't believe that 'just banning guns' will provide the safety and security people dream it will, for a variety of reasons I do not care to waste time discussing.
Nor do I believe that arming yourself to the teeth helps you one eensy-teensy tiny lil bit, if you have no idea of self defense or if you have no real training with that gun. I don't own a gun most specifically because I don't buy into the argument that they 'protect me" that much. This is written from the perspective of somebody who has studied and practiced martial arts for 25 years as well as have learned something about home protection and self-defense.It doesn't mean I know anything but it is this mindset that I use to keep myself, my wife, and my home safe.
This is about 'security': how do we keep ourselves safe in the first place; it is about deterrence, which I will define as some thing or act that makes people want to not mess with you, particularly if they had an idea to do so; and about self-defense - actively doing something about somebody actually doing something to you.
The locks on your house and car, the big fence - these are designed to keep people out physically, by preventing entrance.
When I go to bed at night the doors are locked tight. There are 4 doors into my house; a back door that is pretty much permanently sealed and not used; a sliding glass door at the back of the house (that is by far the weakest link in my security), a front door and a kitchen door, both quite amazingly strong. You can break them down with some work, but you're going to wake me up, and I'm going to be.....displeased. I'll likely even be unfriendly and coarse.
The kitchen door always has something loud sitting in front of it, again, to make a racket should somebody get in. The sliding glass door has some awesome curtains my wife made and they are closed at night: anybody wanting to get in from there has to come in blind. And there are all sorts of plants and noisy things to knock over/trip over should they come in this way. A lot of advance warning.
All this is to provide me with early warning, to wake me up and give me a few seconds to get my act together. But mostly, there will be huge difficulty getting in to begin with.
This is security.
Deterrence is something you have or do that more actively causes people to decide they don't want to mess with you.
A 'beware of dog sign' and 'no trespassing signs are forms of deterrence. They tell you somebody that they are facing potential harm by doing thus and so. Usually it's 'stay off my property' and 'stay out of my house'. Something that somebody initially intent on doing something wrong and thinking it would be easy could see and choose otherwise.
A cousin of mine who used to live in a very rural area kept pheasants; apparently they make a huge racket - that is early warning if not deterrence. Forewarned is good.
The #1 deterrence, to me (I am not a security 'expert' by any stretch of the imagination) is a dog. Not a little yippie thing, a 'dog'.
A real dog doesn't cost any more than a chihuahua or a toy breed, other than maybe eating a bit more. The deterrence of a big dog is simply unsurpassed.
When that thing above was alive, people were terrified of her. Even if she was not outside, people would rather cross the street rather than walk in front of my house. People didn't even want to come near my house and while everybody else around was burglarized, I remained 100% burglar-free.
That is deterrence.
Once upon a time I had staked out a nice camping spot in the wilderness, rather early. A little later some people drove up and a lady started to talk to me in an aggravated manner. Dog got up and walked over, quietly... didn't even bark. Lady left. Event over.
That is deterrence.
Another time I was camping right on the wilderness boundary, on a dead-end road. A car - some old redneck bomb of a car - came down the road about 12 am and drove right up to my tent. People shut the car off and got out. Dog got up, walked around the tent in the dark and let out probably the single loudest bark I have ever heard in my life. Just one. And we were down in a valley between 2 steep mountains - you could hear it echo all over.
Car doors were opened.....car started up.....car backed away into the night to never be heard from again.
That is Deterrence.
After she died (bone cancer) my lawnmower was promptly stolen. Deterrence gone.
This happens when security is breached and/or deterrence has failed. People are in your home despite the effort to prevent this. You have officially been victimized. If you had a dog and they got past that, or worse, killed it, you're in real trouble.
Now, you either defend yourself or you are going to get even more victimized.
Some people seem to almost value being victimized versus lifting a finger to stop somebody from doing something even though they have that right to exercise: you don't have to tolerate anybody breaking into your house. You just don't. Especially if you have prominent NO Trespassing signs. You are covered.
Self defense includes staying sharp and thinking clearly, running away if possible, hiding or choosing possible weapons from things around you. Or employing those you have acquired for just this moment, whatever they may be. It means having a plan before things happen.
A lot of people say it pretty much means having/using a gun.
In this context the gun is your last opportunity for deterrence: brandishing the gun, pointing it at the intruder with firm commands to get on the ground or get out are deterrent actions. Especially if they work.
However, my guess is that most people who have forced themselves into you home at night aren't interested in just turning around and leaving. They came in for a reason. Your well-being wasn't one of their concerns. So you still have trouble.
If you have a gun, this is the time you use it. You're within your rights of protecting hearth and home. You may fire at will.
That is, IF you know what you are doing , that is. Guns, to me, are a part of martial arts, a part of self-defense and like any other weapon of self-defense: you need training and practice for it to be anything other then a liability.
I feel most comfortable fighting empty-handed, with no weapon. I don't have much weapons training: some kali stick and a little knife fighting - just enough to tell me I'll avoid using knives. I studied a mix of Wing Chun and Muay Thai and I feel that is sufficient for general self-defense. One does not have to be Bruce Lee to be successful with martial arts at the self-defense level. We're talking practicality, not point fighting and rules. Martial arts is about strategy.
I worked with a severely depressed woman some time ago. Heinously depressed, to the point of psychosis at time. Mostly a reasonable and pleasant lady. She lived by herself in an apartment on disability. She was terrified of being a victim of crime and so she slept with a gun and a hammer and a knife under her pillow. (No. I don't know how you sleep with all that junk under your pillow...) She had zero training to use the gun, had no concept of self-defense and with one leg amputated from diabetes, escape was out of the question.The lady I talked about above could most likely get lucky and hit whomever she shot at, but that's more speculation. It could be argued just as easily that she'd not be able to hit the intruder and end up with the gun being used against her, especially if the intruder is more experienced.
I have talked with countless people who sleep with guns under their bed or pillow. She kept the gun as a security blanket. Given her relative lack of knowledge about it and lack of anything resembling appropriate training she would be as likely to shoot a friend in the night as a foe, if she could manage to get her gun and shoot it at "an intruder' as she awoke from slumber.
(I just talked with her recently - she looks worlds better and happier: depression hugely improved and family relationship quite improved. I asked her about the gun under her pillow. She burst out laughing as said she had 'put the thing away'. No hammers or knives either.)
A gun is of limited value if you have limited experience or training with it. It doesn't shoot itself and it doesn't just magically hit what you want it to, especially in a crisis. You need a lot of practice and d-d-d-d-discipline. It is not going to be a lot of self-defense.
Attitudes about guns
I think a LOT of people who espouse guns as 'deterrence', 'protection' or 'self-defense' probably have a lot less of a self-defense mindset than they think they do. Some doubtlessly do, and many doubtlessly don't. And this provides a false sense of security.
People's attitudes about guns include a host of oddities and outright nonsensical beliefs and these are really part of the problem with 'guns' and general gun-related accidents. And an attitude I focus on is equating gun possession with protection.
Guns do have significant deterrent value. The mere presence of guns can keep things from escalating, can 'deter' further trespass of whatever sort without firing a shot.
Guns do not protect you from other guns. You can try to shoot back to disable the intruder/assailant and that is self defense.
I also think Americans - in general - have simply seen too many movies. They don't really have a clue as to what happens when a person is shot. Movies seldom dwell on the real life impact of all the killings in a given TV show or popular movie. Or video game. (OK, I don't know jack about video games, I simply assume there is not too many that focus on grieving families or legal fallout. I could be so wrong.)
This helps with an unrealistic expectation of what guns can do. My recon Marine buddy says he hates to tell people he's a Marine because they just start asking all sorts of stupid questions about stuff they saw in movies. Once in awhile he'll start to tell them about something he did or saw during duty and they don't want to hear it, it's real and horrible and not like a movie.
I think that, in general, American attitudes towards guns are mostly problematic because they are somewhat unrealistic. That is not to say 'most gun owners aren't responsible, blah bla blah'. It is to say that a lot of people seem to believe that the possession of a firearm creates a level of security that I do not believe exists. You can't buy a gun and take it home and just cannot honestly believe you are any safer. It makes no sense to me.
I talked with a man at a gunstore/pawn shop several years ago, sort of browsing handguns. I told him I was just looking and that I didn't own a gun. He was rather shocked and asked why - I told him I had never really needed one; that I more or less stayed out of trouble. "Trouble finds you" he said.
It is not the gun, itself, that draws the trouble. It is the mindset of the person with it that does that. Americans (in general) already have what I call a "push-button, pill-popping' expectation for most of life's problems and pulling a trigger falls into that "button-pushing' solution Tasers belong here as well. An example of this is the Trayvon Martin murder. A young black man killed by a guy with a gun and an itchy trigger finger, seeking an excuse to use it.
I have a few ideas that have been brewing as the national conversation has heated up. In addition to current and pending gun regulation legislation, I'd like to suggest the following
1: Schools and similar institutions are doubtlessly reviewing security procedures and disaster response plans. I also imagine that details of Sandy Hook and other large-scale events like it are being given the nano-toothed comb and all formation gleaned is systematically being made available as further recommendations in said security procedures. Chance favors the prepared mind.
2. Public service announce campaign that - somehow - can raise awareness of gun safety, that can encourage/remind people to make sure guns are secure at all times, that, God forbid, tackles on decreasing gun-related domestic violence: and "for more information" availability of appropriate online information. Sort of like an anti-smoking campaign. I would also solicit input from 'responsible gun owners' about what they feel 'responsible gun ownership' entails or means to them and incorporate this.
3:A 180 degree turn around in the funding and availability of counseling and mental health services. God only knows how many depressed and paranoid people are out there trying to sleep with guns under their pillows. Or who MIGHT elect to seek some counseling rather than commit suicide. We have some services leftover for the late 90s's and the Bush years, but we need what we had before that returned to us.
There is a lot that we can do to protect ourselves that won't require guns to be banned or to be distributed far and wide.
But I think it will require looking realistically at what guns can and cannot do with regards to security and enhancing public safety.