The Shibboleths of “Protection” and “Entertainment.”

The Shibboleths of “Protection” and “Entertainment.”

 By James C. Whiteside

            Abstract: As part of the gun industry’s effort to get every citizen to deal with the fear the gun lobby is promoting, it has evolved a “right-to-carry” claim and attempted to get this claim adopted in as many venues as possible.  It has gone so far as to lobbying for this “right” in bars, schools, places of entertainment and other crowded places.  It never acknowledges the risks or complexities of inserting guns into volatile situations or how guns volatilize any situation.


The public has been made particular prey for the profitable extension of such individual gun ownership in the so-called “right to carry” (RTC). This confabulated excuse is said to be “protection,” to make us safer.

Right-to-Carry (RTC)

The effect is not to make us safer but more likely to see increases in aggravated assaults. The argument was and still is that anyone who is legally eligible to own a firearm is law-abiding and at low-risk for committing a violent crime.  Therefore the idea is to make permits easy to get or not requiring them at all.  The effort is to obtain an ingrained presumption about firearms in public perception before research could establish any truth about the issue.   Once such research is performed a far worse societal effect is found.


Reviewing North Carolina permit holders for a five-year period researchers found that 2,400 permit holders were convicted of crimes including more than 200 felonies and 10 murders or manslaughters.  An additional 900 were convicted of DUIs.  A large amount of research has investigated the effect of RTC laws.  Most notably, that led by John Lott, Jr. who suggests RTC laws produced significant reduction in violent crime.   This research has been found to be fatally flawed.  Correcting for such flaws shows RTC laws are associated with an increase in aggravated assaults.  Using a variety of statistical methods, the differences amount to increases from 1% to 9% in aggravated assaults.[i]


The claim for usage as protection is very beguiling in a society constantly taught to be fearful and not only by gun manufacturers.  Guns as such do not provide protection per se to the average family or householder.  That is the first of the great lies.  They provide protection only if you are trained in their use, if you practice that training regularly and only then if you are willing to maintain your life in a high state of alertness.   Otherwise your defense will be easily breeched and your time and speed of engagement in any attack will be easily overwhelmed by the preparedness of the attacker.  That attacker may then use your own gun against you as any police officer knows and trains to prevent.


The danger and frustration of such a “wired” life was once explained to me by a student of mine, an officer of the Hartford Police Department.   Taking his duty seriously according to department rules that officers are on duty 24 hours a day and wishing to provide protection in his new house in a district not entirely peaceful—the only district he could afford on his police salary—he bought a personal gun.  He decided to keep and maintain this gun within his house so he could leave his service revolver in his locker at police headquarters thus freeing him from the more direct portion of the “on-duty” stipulation which didn’t require being constantly armed.


After a fairly short time, a few weeks, a month or so, he decided to give it up, told me he had sold the gun.  I asked him why.  His explanation was simple and along these lines:  “I always knew it was there.  I was in a constant state of readiness.  I acted differently toward my wife and children.  I had to make sure it was secured from and undetected by my two boys.  I was constantly on the job even in my own home.  I had no leisure.  I couldn’t have my cup of coffee in the morning without being aware of it.”[ii]  (The gun was kept in the kitchen for easy access based on the configuration of the house.)  This from a trained professional, though admittedly, a thoughtful one.


“Protection” is thus a N.R.A. contrived function to sell guns based on the preposterous expectation that gun owners will always be in readiness and prepared based on another expectation that they will know an attack or an attacker whenever they see one and can react in time—even in a crowd.  The ridiculousness of the supposition reveals there is a more cloying use of human psychology for the effectiveness of this claim.  It is, of course, the desire for respect, power and heroism especially among the young and the not so young and the reward of receiving such glory beforehand without having had to perform the hard and slow tasks of growing up.


No acknowledgement is ever admitted that the mere recognized presence of a gun in any situation immediately raises the complexity, psychic temperature and heightened stress of every person in the area whether involved or not.


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[i] John Hopkins Center…opus cit.

[ii] Personal communication with the author.