According to James Whitlock and Bob Costas, it’s bullies (like the NRA and KKK) who have all those horrible guns that should be outlawed. They fairly drool over the very idea of removing every firearm from private hands throughout the land, thereby making all of us safer, more civilized, and free from all harm. Men won’t kill their wives or their neighbors, mutual courtesy and respect will break out all over, and the lion will lie down with the lamb.
Truth be told, the way it really works is this: Unless the lamb is packing heat, the lamb will lie down in the lion’s stomach.
One of my favorite truisms of all time was Tim Colver’s motto:
“God made the big man, God made the little man, and then God made the equalizer.”
Tim was one of our closest family friends when I was growing up in western Montana during the 1950’s. Not a large man himself, he thoroughly understood the value of the “equalizer”…and that as things stand in the world today, there is no greater equalizer than the possession of a working firearm in the hands of a citizen who knows how and when to use it.
But that’s all just generalization. How about a few specifics, you ask?
Absolutely. Thought you’d never ask. I’ve written about some of these events before, but the site where I published is run by liberals and also subject to the anti-gun whims of ye olde Gee-oogle itself.
Which is why–the real reason why–I started this website: Free speech. There are a “few things” that (in my never humble opinion) need to be said. There won’t be any advertisers here to object to my viewpoints or subject matter.
That said, here’s why I say, from personal experience, that guns/firearms/weapons in the hands of citizens really do keep us safer than we’d be without them.
I was ten years old. On our western Montana ranch, there was no other human within sight or hearing, just Mom, me, and my two younger sisters, all of us ensconced securely within the safety of four stout log walls. Dad was gone somewhere, as he often was between the twin demands of calving season and haying season. There was money to be made, trucking cattle for other small ranchers or working the Missoula auction yard gates.
“Stay inside,” Mom told us. We peered out the kitchen window, watching the diamondback rattlesnake crawling slowly along, tailed by Reddy, our fierce orange tomcat.
I had no intention of obeying orders.
There was, after all, a direct threat to the safety of the ranch and all of us who lived there. I’d seen a donkey Dad once owned, painfully suffering with a swollen lower front leg from a rattler bite. We no longer had hogs to eat the reptiles. The snake was right there, within a few feet of the residence….and with the old man gone, I was the man of the house.
Nobody told me that. I simply assumed the mantle. If Mom caught me too quickly, though, there would be nothing but frustration and humiliation.
Fortunately, I knew where there was a loaded weapon. Slipping silently into my parents’ bedroom–sacred turf, where we were forbidden to trespass–I got Dad’s 1917 model Smith & Wesson, the .45 Long Colt with half of a bright copper penny brazed on for a front sight. Speed would be essential on the way past my mother, who stood at the kitchen sink, washing dishes. The only safe way out (since the back door might lead to other grass-hiding snakes) was right behind her–
“Get back in here!”
I had no intention of obeying that order, either.
By the time I got outside, lifting the heavy pistol with both hands, the rattler was coiled and buzzing. Guess Jake the Snake could read my mind, knew I meant it all harm. It was over between the corner of the house and the doorway to the woodshed. Reddy the cat had disappeared.
Looked like maybe a 20-foot shot.
The recoil sent the revolver clean up over my head, both strong, thin, ten-year-old arms fully extended. There was nothing weak about me even then, but there wasn’t a lot of body mass to absorb the kick from even a soft-shooting blaster like the .45, either.
Thought I’d missed. Snake hadn’t moved. Still coiled, still buzzing.
Twice more the hammer dropped, though after that first round, my entire body was shaking like a leaf. Not from adrenaline, just from the simple trauma of a child’s body using a man’s gun.
A fourth time, down went the hammer, and–Snick!
Snick? Inspection showed the unbelieveable: The forward section of the hammer, which served as a firing pin, had broken clean off. Gone. Live snake, dead gun.
Weaponless now, I nonetheless edged closer to the diamondback, wary as the dickens but determined as all get-out at the same time…ah! I had hit it, no doubt with that first bullet, before I started shaking like an aspen leaf on a windy day. There was a big, round, absolutely beautiful .45 caliber hole clean through the center of the snake’s still-coiled body. Why it held position after being hit like that, I never could figure out.
There was a garden hoe in the tool shed, and pretty soon there was a dead rattlesnake hanging on the yard fence, waiting to see if the legends were true, that it would take a rattler till sundown to die, and that the snake’s mate would show up in the bargain.
False on both counts, as it turned out. Though maybe removing the head and burying it messes up the myth; who knows? What I did know was that the relationship between me and the abundant rattlesnake population on the ranch had just changed forever. No more climbing up on the roof of the station wagon at the age of five, waiting for a rattler to finish crawling across in front of the house exactly the way this one had done. No more leaping over a coiled rattler at age six, little red Radio Flyer wagon still in hand, fleeing down the trail as fast as my legs could churn.
The fight-or-flight adrenaline would still spike at every unexpected snake encounter, but the switch had been thrown. Bye-bye flight, hello fight.
Thus ends Personal Anecdote #1 in the Guns Really Do Make Us Safer series.
The carcass of the big mule deer rode across Dave’s broad shoulders as we traversed the back side of the ridge. Another few hundred yards would put us in position to top that ridge, then it was all steeply downhill, all the way to the ranch house. Fresh meat on the table tonight!
At 13 years of age and half my friend’s size, I carried both rifles. Dave was a former Marine who’d seen action in Korea. He stood five-eleven, weighed a hard-muscled 180, and was the only ranch hand who ever wintered with us. Most hired hands signed on for summer haying and then drifted on down the highway. At 24, Dave just needed a place to survive the cold months, so when the others left that year, he didn’t.
The pay? Room and board…and a whopping $5 per month, which usually went for sacks of Bull Durham tobacco. Winter wages, Montana country style.
The entire family liked him. Solid hand, hard worker, good guy, and quite likely the fact that his age put him smack in the middle between my 13 and my old man’s 34 years…yeah, that probably helped.
We did have a tiny disagreement regarding whose bullet had downed the deer. The two of us had fired at virtually the same instant, both targeting the biggest animal, taking down dinner at an easy range of 150 yards or so…but there was only one bullet hole, in and out, clean shot. One of us had been dead on; the other had missed. Most folks would likely credit the Marine combat vet with that go-round. I, being young and cocky and sure of my weapons handling, gave myself the credit. But it was not a big deal between us. Either way, we were a team, and the main point was, the family–hired hand included–would eat well.
A quarter mile below us, where the west side of the ridge leveled out after dropping precipitously down the slope, three other hunters were hiking up-country. They were on ranch property, undoubtedly having left their vehicle parked down by the old James place. Which was part of our ranch, but it didn’t seemed likely they’d stopped to get permission from Mom & Dad. We had a notepad posted on a wall just inside the door where hunters could sign in and out. Hunters were welcome, as long as we knew who they were and where they were going to be traipsing about our property, shooting critters.
But my folks knew full well that Dave and I were up in that back country somewhere that day; they’d not likely have authorized another party to come a-wandering on that particular morning.
One of those distant hunters suddenly pointed his rifle at us.
“DAVE!” I snapped that single word, both of us already in motion, dropping flat in the sage brush. On the way down, I threw him his rifle. He snagged it out of the air, shucking the deer from his shoulders as he did so.
Just like that, we were ready, “brushed up”, in prone firing positions with our weapons pointing at the men who’d dared draw down on us, never mind the quarter mile distance. I reminded myself to shoot low if it came to that; steep downhill shots will go high if you don’t.
It didn’t come to that. Most likely, the fool on the flats down there was merely “scoping” us, using the hunting scope on his rifle instead of resorting to binoculars or trusting his naked eye. Most likely. But hunters get accidentally shot every year, nor is there any certainty that all of those shootings are purely accidental. And with Dave having been packing that carcass on his shoulders….
We’d not been in position for more than a second or two when the rifle pointing at us was suddenly pointing in another direction entirely.
Once it was clear the threat had passed, we shifted our own rifle barrels as well. But we didn’t get back up off the ground. Not just yet. We waited, ever cautious, until the threesome below made a point of going about their own business by resuming their trek up toward the gully that would, if they kept at it, bring them over a high saddle and down past Red Clay Springs into Garden Gulch.
Would they have fired, had we not made our defensive intentions abundantly clear? Probably not…but we’ll never know, and a lot of lives have been lost over the centuries by betting on “probably”. What did happen that day was a double barreled demonstration: Firearms can and do make the difference when it comes to eating fresh venison or sometimes not eating at all…and when somebody points a weapon at you, it helps to have a shooter to point back at that somebody.
Thus ends Personal Anecdote #2 in the Guns Really Do Make Us Safer series.
The old man was in the VA hospital with a busted back–getting his spine fused after rupturing a disk–and I was, at age 17, running the ranch. It was smack dab in the middle of haying season. Hot, sweaty sunup-to-sundown workdays, mowing, baling, and stacking the year’s fodder. (One of my sisters handled the raking.)
One afternoon around 4:00 p.m., returning from a hayfield positioned a mile to the west and out of sight of the ranch house, I noted a car with some people hanging out near it. They were parked in a wide spot an eighth of a mile east of the house, directly across the highway from the far edge of what we called the Big Corral.
Mom told me they were trouble. The man and his more or less grown son had walked up to the house, told her their car had broken down. Nothing new in that, but they’d been “acting crazy” ever since.
“Crazy how?” I asked.
“Lying out in the middle of the highway, trying to stop cars coming down off the hill.”
Yep. That was crazy, all right. U.S. 10–the freeway hadn’t been built through our place yet–was the main east-west road through western Montana. Not always heavily traveled, it nonetheless presented hazards enough. For example, these folks were sitting in the crook of a sharp curve at the bottom of Rattler Hill. What cars did come along often barreled down from the summit at considerable speed, cranking through the turn at 60 or 70 miles per hour.
Not a place to be playing “dead man” unless you truly wanted to be one or were desperate to carjack somebody dumb enough to stop.
I suspected the latter.
With potentially dangerous people present, all of our property would be at risk of going bye-bye as soon as it got nice and dark and safe for things that go bump in the night. No rancher in his right mind is going to sit by and let a situation like that develop. There was no 911 system in those days, nor did we own a phone if there had been such a system, nor would I have used it anyway.
It was up to me.
When I turned onto the wide pullout and came to a stop, leaving a good 30 feet between me and the supposedly stranded family, I called out cheerfully,
“Yeah,” replied the head of the clan, a man in his mid-forties, maybe five-eight, 180 at least, ambling toward the red ’55 Ford pickup I was driving, explaining how busted his poor machine was, etc., etc.
I had them sized up instantly: The son was 19 or so, big young fellow, but hanging back with the others while his Dad came to talk to me. There was a worn woman who looked like she came straight from the pages of Steinbeck’s book, The Grapes of Wrath, and several smaller children, none of whom looked to figure in what was coming.
A word of explanation: At 17, that summer between high school graduation and going to college in the fall, I looked more like 12 years of age. With a shock of blond hair (long gone now) and blue eyes, I looked the very picture of hayseed innocence and naivete.
But trust me, I was not naive, and the innocent part…we’ll talk about that some other time. I watched the man come, chatted easily with him as he did so–and experienced exactly zero surprise when he got close enough to lunge for the driver’s door, giving the handle a furious yank.
He’s the one who got the surprise. More than one, actually.
The door did not open. I weighed under 140 pounds at that time, and my fighting skills were not what they are today. But my brain worked just fine, and the Ford’s doors were firmly locked. On that model, there’s no button; to lock the doors, you just throw down the handles on the inside…which of course I had done.
That was surprise number one. Number two was the .22 caliber revolver held on my right thigh in my right hand, the barrel suddenly tipping up till it pointed straight between his eyes, the hammer coming back to full cock with an audible triple click.
The third surprise was when his gaze jerked back up from that muzzle to lock eyes with me. They say the eyes are the windows of the Soul. What the man with his hand frozen to the truck’s door handle saw in my eyes at that moment was no kid. He saw Death.
We both knew. We knew that if he so much as blinked or twitched, he’d be sprouting a third eye as fast as a hammer could fall on a rimfire cartridge. Nor would I have ever had the slightest twinge of regret, then or later. This man had shown every intention of hauling me out of that truck, beating the crap out of me, quite possibly stomping me to death for kicks and giggles.
Evil does truly exist in the world.
Eternity passed, or a few seconds, in timeless communication and total silence …which I finally broke by telling him quietly, in a voice so soft it was almost a whisper,
“You might…want to think about…taking your hand off that door handle.”
He thought about it. And did it. Carefully. Very carefully.
When he’d backed away far enough that it felt safe to speak freely–far enough to give me plenty of time to react if he tried coming back at me or reached for a weapon of his own–I spoke once more.
“You might want to see about getting that car fired up and moving.”
Then I put the Ford in gear and drove back to the house, driving one-handed, waiting to ease the Iver Johnson’s hammer back down until I was well away from the Problem People.
On their part, you never saw such scrambling in your life. Those folks were hustling into that “busted” car like a mob hitting Walmart on Black Friday. No more than two minutes had passed before the machine that wouldn’t run was up and roaring, peeling out from its parking spot, accelerating all the way past the house and on down the highway, pointed west with the hammer down.
Never thought of that before. Pistol’s hammer down, car’s hammer down, never saw those fools again and nobody got hurt. This episode in particular illustrates the truth that if guns are outlawed, bullies will rule and victims will drool…or even die. If I’d been unarmed that day, I might well not be here today.
Thus ends Personal Anecdote #3 in the Guns Really Do Make Us Safer series.
The magazine salesman was aggressive beyond belief. He was also powerfully built and refusing to leave the house when I told him to go. The head-butting contest was getting dangerously heated. Looked like it could go nuclear at any moment.
My first wife had taken the solicitor’s call the previous day when I was at work. He’d been just as pushy on the phone, but in my then-bride’s defense, she had no experience with people like that. Of all the bullies we’d ever encountered, he ranked right up there in the Low IQ, Throw-Your-Weight-Around category, complete with the use of anger as an intimidation tool.
Now, once again, it was up to me.
Without warning, I spun on my heel, striding as fast as my long legs would take me. Retreating to the bedroom, snatching up my hunting rifle–which is always loaded, ’cause an empty weapon is nothing but a club–and returning through the French doors. There wasn’t a round in the chamber, a concession to the fact that we had a toddler in the home, so I worked the bolt as I reentered the living room.
That’s effective, anyway. They always do it in the movies, jack a cartridge into the rifle, that unmistakeable sound ever and always getting the point across. I didn’t get close to the guy, just held the weapon level. No between-the-eyes stuff this time. Center of mass, take out the spine on the way through if he was really that nuts.
Oh, yeah, he was still snapping and snarling, all the way out the front door and through the little yard to his aging Plymouth. But he went, and that was the point.
Thus ends Personal Anecdote #4 in the Guns Really Do Make Us Safer series.
This page is certainly long enough, so we’ll stop with the anecdotes. However, please do not think that means there was never another time when being armed made me and mine safer after 1968. My working partnership with the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution has continued unabated to this day.
A couple of notes in closing:
1. Weapons handling in general: Safety.
I’m among those who firmly believe in keeping loaded weapons close to hand. Rather than gun locks and empty magazines, our family’s approach has always been to (a) watch young children very closely, and (b) educate every kid in the house on firearms safety from the beginning. Many an accidental gunshot victim has died from the misuse of an “empty” weapon. We treat every firearm as loaded at all times, and the number one rule in our house is always point the weapon in a safe direction.
During my growing-up years, I can remember four separate times when guns went off unexpectedly. Two of the incidents belonged to me, one to my Dad, one to my sister. Yet not once was anyone at risk; the shoot-thingy was always pointed in a safe direction. Always.
2. Track record.
My personal track record with guns is impeccable. As the reader can see from the anecdotes listed above, I’ve used firearms to prevent crimes a number of times–yet even now, nearing 70 years of age, I’ve never once had to drop the hammer on anybody.
The larger track record–belonging to armed American civilians in general–is just as impressive despite being on a much larger scale. According to a study funded by the Clinton Justice Department in 1997, Americans use guns to defend themselves more than 4,000 times a day.
Yep. You read that right. More than 4,000 times per day We the People defend ourselves with firearms. Some, though fortunately only a relative few, do end up having to pull the trigger to stop a bully in his tracks. Bullies are not interested in your precious rights, your suffering, or any part of your side of the story. Whether they’re the kids handing out wedgies on the school playgrounds or the guys breaking down your front door to do a home invasion just as you and your family are sitting down to supper, it’s all the same.
We defend ourselves 4,000 times a day x 365 days = 1,460,000 times per year. Think about that.
On our side of the equation, the defensive side, the track record is beyond good. It’s exemplary.