A friend recently posed the question, “What do you have in your house to protect yourself?”
We keep the doors locked and all that, and we have Maglites all around in case we ever needed to club somebody, and I have a machete for more dire circumstances.
But why no gun?
I am not, as some who share the sum of my views, opposed to guns philosophically. For me, it’s strictly a numbers game.
I grew up with guns in the house, and I am not a stranger to them. I am not scared of them, and I know how to use them. I had guns well into my adulthood. I admire hobbyists who, like my father, had great respect for them and their power on principle, and who could take one apart and put it together again.
With this background, I used to get up in arms when — lefties in particular — would come at gun ownership and possession from an ill-informed or presumptuous place. We would inevitably fight, and fingers would be pointed, platitudes proclaimed on both sides. It would come down to one of us being in favor of random violence and societal decay, the other being totally fine with sitting by idly and unarmed while family members get intruded upon, raped and killed.
These exchanges would usually happen over a couple of drinks.
But I realize why many folks may feel uneasy, and I don’t begrudge people for that. And gun ownership is complicated — I get that too. Depending on who is in charge, a compelling argument can always be made for the need to protect oneself from an overzealous state, country, ideology, or whatever.
I believe that one can possess guns and be relatively safe in their storage and handling. Responsible gun owners are diligent about this sort of thing. I believe it is possible to own guns and reduce the risks associated with having firearms in the house.
But the numbers speak for themselves, so overwhelmingly that I get uneasy when my family is in homes of even the most responsible gun owners. We know that — despite compelling anecdotes that stir in us our deepest anxieties and suggest otherwise — what is more likely to happen than deterring a robbery or assault is that the gun stored in the home will increase the odds of injury or death inside the home. It is a grim irony that the tool many end up buying and storing out of a need for protection has often been the cause of death for those who needed the protecting.
Suicide rates increase exponentially. Accidental shootings. Domestic squabbles turn to murder. The likelihood of all of these things increase exponentially when we have guns in our home. To think that a gun is what will make us safer is to exclusively believe all threats to be existential — they come from outside — but if we are honest with ourselves, we would realize that we are not so exceptional as to be immune from these sorts of tragically fatal accidents inside our own homes.
And again, I know that there are many responsible gun owners, so please don’t feel compelled to hammer that fact home. And I know that many accidental shootings in particular are related to insecure storage of firearms. But curious kids are smart. Depressed and determined family members, or owners themselves, can find ways to liberate the gun from its security in no time at all.
And so at the end of the day, as scary as any existential threat is, it doesn’t seem worth the risks that increase inside the home the second a firearm crosses the threshold.
Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was a teenager. He’s an owner-partner of a Portland-based content production company and lives with his family, dogs and garden in Westbrook.