Why I Carry a Gun

What Critics Don’t Understand About Gun Culture… I carry a weapon—and it’s tied me closer to my community.

DAVID FRENCH
Roanoke Firearms owner John Markell holds a Glock 9 mm pistol in Roanoke, Va., Tuesday, April 17, 2007. The gun is similar to the one sold in his gun shop 36 days ago to the Virginia Tech shooting suspect Cho Seung-Hui, for $571 (euro421) which included at box of 50 rounds of ammunition. (AP Photo/Don Petersen)

My wife knew something was amiss when the car blocked our driveway. She was outside our house, playing with our kids on our trampoline, when a car drove slowly down our rural Tennessee street. As it reached our house, it pulled partially in the driveway, and stopped.

A man got out and walked up to my wife and kids. Strangely enough, at his hip was an empty gun holster. She’d never seen him before. She had no idea who he was. He demanded to see me.

I wasn’t there. I was at my office, a 50-minute drive from my house. My wife didn’t have her phone with her. She didn’t have one of our guns with her outside. She was alone with our three children. Even if she had her phone, the police were minutes away. My wife cleverly defused the confrontation before it escalated, but we later learned that this same person had been seen, hours before, slowly driving through the parking lot of our kids’ school.

That wasn’t the first disturbing incident in our lives, nor would it be the last. My wife is a sex-abuse survivor and was almost choked to death in college by a furious boyfriend. In just the last five years, we’ve faced multiple threats—so much so that neighbors have expressed concern for our safety, and theirs. They didn’t want an angry person to show up at their house by mistake. We’ve learned the same lesson that so many others have learned. There are evil men in this world, and sometimes they wish you harm.

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Miles’s law states, “Where you stand is based on where you sit.” In other words, your political opinions are shaped by your environment and your experience. We’re products of our place, our time, and our people. Each of these things is far more important to shaping hearts and minds than any think piece, any study, or certainly any tweet. And it strikes me that many millions of Americans don’t truly understand how “gun culture” is built, how the process of first becoming a gun owner, then a concealed-carrier, changes your life.

It starts with the consciousness of a threat. Perhaps not the kind of threat my family has experienced. Some people experience more. Some less. And some people don’t experience a threat at all—but they’re aware of those who do. With the consciousness of a threat comes the awareness of a vulnerability. The police can only protect the people you love in the most limited of circumstances (with those limits growing ever-more-severe the farther you live from a city center.) You want to stand in that gap.

So you take a big step. You walk into a gun store. Unless you’re the kind of person who grew up shooting, this is where you begin your encounter with American gun culture. The first thing you’ll notice—and I’ve seen this without fail—is that the person behind that counter is ready to listen. They want to hear your experience. They’ll share their own. They’ll point you immediately to a potential solution. Often the person behind the counter is a veteran. Often they’re a retired cop. Always they’re well-informed. Always they’re ready to teach.

Your first brush with this new world is positive, but it’s just a start. The next place the responsible adult goes is to the gun range, a place that’s often located in the store. Sometimes you buy the gun and walk straight to the range. You put on eye protection. You put on ear protection. And if you’re honest with yourself, you’re nervous.

But, again, there’s a person beside you. They show you how to load the gun. They teach you the basics of marksmanship. They teach you gun safety. Always treat the gun as if it’s loaded, even if you think you know it’s not. Keep your finger off the trigger unless you intend to fire the weapon. Only point it at objects you intend to shoot.

You do it. You fire. It’s loud, but if the salesman has done his job, then he’s matched you with a gun you can handle. In an instant, the gun is demystified. You buy a box of ammunition and shoot it all. Then you buy another box. For most people there’s an undeniable thrill when they realize that they can actually master so potent a tool.

But something else happens to you, something that’s deeper than the fun of shooting a paper target. Your thought-process starts to change. Yes, if someone tried to break into your house, you know that you’d call 911 and pray for the police to come quickly, but you also start to think of exactly what else you’d do. If you heard that “bump” in the night, how would you protect yourself until the police arrived?  You’re surprised at how much safer you feel with the gun in the house.

Next, you realize that you want that sense of safety to travel with you. So you sign up for a concealed-carry permit class. You gather one night with friends and neighbors and spend the next eight hours combining a self-defense class with a dash of world-view training. And when you carry your weapon, you don’t feel intimidated, you feel empowered. In a way that’s tough to explain, the fact that you’re so much less dependent on the state for your personal security and safety makes you feel more “free” than you’ve ever felt before.  

And as your worldview changes, you expand your knowledge. You learn that people defend themselves with guns all the time, usually without pulling the trigger. You share the stories and your own experience with your friends, and soon they walk into gun stores. They start their own journey into America’s “gun culture.”

At the end of this process, your life has changed for the better. Your community has expanded to include people you truly like, who’ve perhaps helped you through a tough time in your life, and you treasure these relationships. You feel a sense of burning conviction that you, your family, and your community are safer and freer because you own and carry a gun.

It’s a myth that gun owners despise regulation. Instead, they tend to believe that government regulation should have two purposes—deny guns to the dangerous while protecting rights of access for the law-abiding. The formula is simple: Criminals and the dangerously mentally ill make our nation more violent. Law-abiding gun owners save and protect lives.

Thus the overwhelming support for background checks, the insistence from gun-rights supporters that the government enforce existing laws and lock up violent offenders, and the openness to solutions—like so-called “gun violence restraining orders” that specifically target troubled individuals for intervention.

Progressive policy prescriptions, like assault-weapons bans and bans on large-capacity magazines, are opposed because they’re perceived to have exactly the wrong effect. They’ll present only the most minor of hurdles for the lawless, while the law-abiding experience the law’s full effect. It’s a form of collective punishment for the innocent, a mere annoyance—at best—for the lawless.

Many gun-rights supporters were appalled to learn after the Sutherland Springs shooting that the military was systematically underreporting disqualifying convictions to the federal background check database. Under pressure, the military has added more than 4,000 new names in just three months. Similarly, law-enforcement failures or background-check failures that preceded, for example, the Virginia Tech, Charleston, Orlando, Sutherland Springs, and Parkland shootings are spurring serious new consideration of the gun violence restraining order, a move that would allow family members and others close to a potential shooter to get in front of a judge to request that the court direct law enforcement to temporarily seize a dangerous person’s weapons. It gives ordinary citizens a chance to “do something” after they “see something” and “say something.”

It’s against this backdrop of experience and sincere belief that gun-owners experience the extraordinarily toxic rhetoric of the public gun debate. People who want to stop murders are compared to terrorists. People who want to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands are compared to mass shooters. People are told they have “blood on their hands,” when they aspire to have all the courage that Broward County School Resource Officer Scot Peterson so clearly lacked.

And make no mistake, when it comes to rhetoric, the gun-owning community can give as good as it gets. A movement that’s kind and generous to its friends and allies turns instantly on its enemies, eager to believe the absolute worst about political opponents who are genuinely stricken by the carnage in places like Parkland and Sandy Hook.

Because of the threats against my family—and because I don’t want to be dependent on a sometimes shockingly incompetent government for my family’s security—I carry a weapon. My wife does as well. We’re not scared. We’re prepared, and that sense of preparation is contagious. Confidence is contagious. People want to be empowered. That’s how gun culture is built. Not by the NRA and not by Congress, but by gun owners, one free citizen at a time.

DAVID FRENCH is a senior writer at National Review and a veteran of the Iraq War.

Eddie Eagle & Firearm Safety for Children

“STOP! DON’T TOUCH. RUN AWAY. TELL A GROWN-UP.”

The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® program is a gun accident prevention program that for over 30 years has helped keep kids safe. The program was developed by a task force made up of educators, school administrators, curriculum specialists, urban housing safety officials, clinical psychologists, law enforcement officials and National Rifle Association firearm safety experts. It began in 1988 with one mission: teach children four simple, easy to remember steps so they know what to do if they ever come across a gun. In 2015 the NRA introduced a fresh, new Eddie and added some friends—his Wing Team. Though Eddie has evolved, his mission has not. Now celebrating its 30th anniversary, Eddie and his friends are still focused on telling children that if they see a gun, they need to Stop! Don’t touch. Run away. Tell a grown-up.

You talk about stranger danger, Internet safety, fire drills and more with children…so why not include gun safety? The program makes no value judgments about firearms, no firearms are ever used, and it covers an important topic that needs to be addressed with kids. Like swimming pools, electrical outlets and matchbooks, firearms are simply treated as a part of everyday life. With firearms found in about half of all American households, it’s a stance that makes sense.


A special kid-friendly webpage, called The Eddie Eagle Tree House is also available. This experience allows children to discover Eddie’s video and lesson individually, or it provides an interactive element for groups and families to talk through together. Visit www.eddieeagle.com to learn more.

Neither Eddie nor any members of his Wing Team are ever shown touching a firearm, and there is no promotion of firearm ownership or use. The NRA does not make any sort of profit off the program, nor does it intend to. The goal of the Eddie Eagle GunSafe® program is to help prevent accidents and keep children safe.

Meet Dr. Lisa Monroe

Eddie Eagle GunSafe® program instructor guides were created by early childhood curriculum specialist Dr. Lisa Monroe of the University of Oklahoma. Dr. Monroe’s accolades and accomplishments span for more than two decades, including multiple published works, presentations and grant projects. After a thorough review, she stands behind the Eddie Eagle GunSafe® program as something that should be taught in schools. Dr. Monroe shares her thoughts on Eddie Eagle and the accompanying instructor guides she created in three testimonial videos: 

About the Curriculum

Dr. Lisa Monroe created the Eddie Eagle curriculum guides with discussion questions and activities that allow teachers to cater the program to their students’ needs while still emphasizing the main safety message. Both parent and educator guides are available for age groups ranging from pre-kindergarten through fourth grade.

Creating a Message that Resonates

With five different characters and personalities represented, our hope is that all children will be able to see themselves represented in the Wing Team. Other relatable themes such as friends, sports, problem solving, peer pressure and doing the right thing make the Eddie Eagle video a teaching tool that children will latch onto and remember.

Advice for Non-Gun Owners

Even though you don’t own a gun, you may know someone who might. And it’s imperative that you prepare your children so they know what to do if they ever find a gun.

Talking to Other Parents

There are lots of questions when meeting new parents: Do you have a swimming pool? Will you be home? Any food allergies? But often it’s not the norm to discuss if there are firearms in the home. The moms share some advice on how to address this delicate topic.

The Eddie Eagle Video

Eddie Eagle and the Wing Team encounter a gun in a place that they didn’t expect. Eddie helps his friends decide what to do to stay safe by reminding them of his favorite song. The Wing Team makes the right choice, but they still have some questions about gun safety. So they look to adults they trust for answers. Pre-k through fourth grade children will find this video engaging with its catchy songs, dance moves and entertaining dialogue-but most importantly, they’ll know what to do if they ever come across a gun.

So before taking off today, let me introduce you to Eddie Eagle and his gun safety tips.