While I have not been the victim of gun violence, I have been physically assaulted by a mugger and have had someone deliberately set the apartment building where I used to live on fire two times. Because of these experiences, I have been commenting on articles and Facebook about violence and I have come to believe one effective way to reduce violence is to also challenge the idea of guns as a method of self-defense.
In both of my brushes with violence, I was attacked ambush style by a stranger from out of the blue. In the first instance, I was grabbed from behind and thrown to the ground. I experienced shock and my brain could not absorb what was happening to me. After a while, I recovered my senses and was able to fight back. I've never owned a gun, so I did not have one on me. But, it wouldn't have made any difference. I would not have had time to retrieve a weapon. Fighting back and screaming loudly were enough to make the man retreat.
After he ran off, I understood that he was after my purse, which he didn't get. I made a police report and found out later the police believe he attacked another woman later that night and did get her purse. So, I think about what would have happened if he'd gotten my purse. Would that have been enough for him? Would that have kept someone else from being attacked? If I had a gun in my purse, would he have used it against her or another person? My point is not to answer these questions, it's to try to explain that crimes have a randomness to them and the situation you might confront can be lessened or aggravated by factors you don't know about and that you do not control.
My second encounter with violence was someone's decision to set garbage on fire in my apartment building. The first time, the fire was started in the basement, about 7 at night. The building was successfully evacuated. However, to exit the building, all the residents had to get through our front entryway, which was about 10-12 feet long and was enclosed by two doors. Most days it was very easy to navigate. But, when you have to face it when it's filled with black smoke that makes it hard to see and breathe, it's terrifying. The perpetrator returned a few months later and set another fire, this time in the elevator and much later at night. This fire killed my neighbor. Once again, a gun would be absolutely useless. A gun would not have saved my neighbor's life.
I have Facebook friends who post about incidents in which people with a gun have successfully driven off alleged intruders. My point in writing about this is not to say you shouldn't defend or protect yourself. Rather, it's an effort to use my experiences as a means to explain that the single most important weapon all of us have in fighting off any attacker is a clear head. The truth is, sometimes it might be best to stand your ground, but sometimes it's best to flee or play dead. The best defense is your ability to assess the situation you are facing as it confronts you. Life doesn't let you preselect the type of violent encounter you might face. Because of this, the idea of gun ownership for self-defense in many cases is nothing more than superstition or a belief that guns have magical protective properties to keep you from harm.
Guns are not magical objects, they are lethal objects. We must make sure people are clear about the difference. It will make us all safer.