“Sheepdog” or Lap Dog?

One of my biggest pet peeves as a defensive shooting instructor is when someone tells me that they want to carry a gun or have one in their home for “peace of mind”. I always ask people in my state mandated concealed carry classes what made them decide to get their license. Invariably, at least half of the class responds with some reference to this security blanket mentality which implies that simply possessing a defensive tool will make them “feel safer”. An unfortunate fact in the shooting industry is that we have a tendency to perpetuate this dangerous mindset when we can use it to appeal to certain demographics. How many times have you seen or experienced someone within the industry pandering to women with promises of “empowerment”? How many self-proclaimed “sheepdogs” have you met who have never logged a single hour of formal training? We use cliché’s such as “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” in response to anti-gunners, but then turn around and convince ourselves that just having a gun somehow gives us magical powers with which to stop the bad guy. We in fact mock stories like this one where people suggest a defensive strategy that doesn’t involve firearms in a restrictive environment. If you fall into this category of armed citizen, you are kidding yourself, and you could be on a path to your own demise if the wolf ever does come knocking.

My Basset Hound was bred to hunt rabbits. That is why she has short legs, a pointy tail, and droopy ears. Hundreds of years ago, the French and British aristocracy did selective breeding to create this ideal rabbit hunting machine. However, when I picked my Basset Hound up from the rescue service, I didn’t take her out and train her to hunt rabbits. I instead took her to my house, let her lay on my furniture, fed her treats, and taught her how to fetch dog toys. As far as she knows, that is what she is supposed to do. If I were to take her into the woods, her sense of smell and other instincts might take over well enough that she would be able to catch a rabbit; but it would be due to little more than dumb luck.

Similarly, all humans have innate proclivities toward self-preservation. Red-blooded Americans also have a strong connection to firearms as a means of self-preservation due to our history as a nation. However, those two things in and of themselves are about as useful for real world self-defense as my dog’s pedigree is for rabbit hunting. It is true that untrained individuals successfully defend themselves with firearms all the time but it is equally true that Basset Hounds follow their noses to rabbits in their suburban backyards just as often. In the absence of training, instincts are all you have to rely on. It is always troubling to me when people believe that the possession of a mere tool somehow negates this fact.

Gun ownership may well elicit warm and fuzzy feelings about security or a sense of patriotism and the desire to protect yourself and your fellow man from evil. However, if emotion is all you are chasing after by purchasing a gun for self-defense, you are missing the boat. Gun ownership ought to come with a sense of responsibility and an understanding that simply possessing the tool does not make you a master craftsman. If you wouldn’t be prepared to build a house just because you possess a hammer, you shouldn’t consider yourself prepared for a fight just because you possess a gun.

It is a fact that most gun owners will never be compelled to use deadly force in self-defense. You will likely go your entire life without needing any of the defensive shooting skills you can develop through training. However, the same could have been said of me during my time in the military. Despite the years upon years of training I received in preparation for combat, I never fired a shot during my rotation to Iraq. But would you have called me reckless if I had let my patriotism and my emotional response to 9/11 alone lead me to board a plane and fly to Baghdad on my own? That option in my view is no less insane than sticking a gun in a safe for home defense or strapping on a gun and walking around in the public space because it gives you “peace of mind”, and then never learning how to use it in context. You could train a lifetime for an event that never occurs; or you could walk around with a false sense of security and hope that your instincts are enough to bring you through if an event does occur. I choose the former, and I hope you will as well. If you want to feel warm and fuzzy feelings, get a shrink or join a church. If you want to be prepared to stop the bad man; get to a class and get to the range.

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