Conversations About Guns Can Get Smarter

The debate over gun restrictions bothers me for two conflicting reasons.

One is that little has been done to ban mass killing machines outright. A bipartisan resolution in the Senate would at least limit access to the mentally ill. What it won’t do will stop the not-yet-certified lunatic from buying these guns. The worst mass shooter in American history—the monster that killed 58 people in Las Vegas and injured more than 500—was your average loner with low self-esteem.

What is often lacking in the debate is the acknowledgment of the genuine fears that drive many a reluctant gun owner to become one. That is, the fear of being the victim of a violent crime.

Let me lay my cards on the table. I have a gun. Here’s why: Years ago, we were staying at my mother-in-law’s house in a suburb of New Jersey when my husband immediately asked me to hide in a closet. As it happened, someone was crawling over the porch and trying to break into a second-floor window.

When the thief came to know that there were people inside, he jumped and ran into the forest.

He clearly thought there was no one and didn’t want a confrontation. But we had to consider the possibility that he could be insane, armed, or a combination. This prompted my husband, a former Marine, to say, “I think we should get a gun.”

General view during the March for Our Lives 2022 in Washington, DC on June 11, 2022
Paul Morigi/Getty Images for the March for Our Lives

And so we got one. My husband has passed away, but I have kept the police revolver with me. (That said, I would have gotten rid of it if there were kids living in the house.)

But there’s no reason why I or any other homeowner, hunter, or hobbyist needs an assault weapon with high-capacity magazines. In our case, a well placed shot could take out the home invader, no matter what weapon he had. The same went for stopping the neurotic 18-year-old with an AR-15 that shot down an elementary school classroom in Uvalde, Texas.

This is clearly not a simple discussion. People with guns, especially people good with guns, need training to face an armed intruder. New Jersey police tell us that one problem with good homeowners having guns for safety is that when they encounter a trespasser, they often show the weapon to intimidate him. They really don’t want to kill anyone. After all, it might just be a local teen. An armed criminal is more likely to just shoot.

Guns can pose a great danger to family members. Younger children can take them for toys. A depressed teen who does not understand the final state of suicide may be holding a gun in a moment of desperation. Calling 911 can save someone from taking an overdose of drugs. A bullet in the head usually leaves no opportunity for second thoughts.

The Senate bill calls for schools to “toughen up” against such violence. Enthusiastic gun-control advocates see this as a form of surrender. They have a point: Wouldn’t banning weapons of war be the best defense against mass attacks in school rooms?

Given the recent horrific parade, I wouldn’t mind improving safety in schools. But if we are going to toughen up schools against these massacres, we must also toughen up churches, Walmarts, and wherever people gather.

Would I like to live in a society where there is less crime and no guns apart from hunting and target practice? yes of course. But the America of 2022 is not such a place. There is a real fear in high-crime areas—and the country is already up in arms. Smart reasoning for regulating firearms must recognize two realities.

Froma Harrop is an award-winning journalist, author and syndicated columnist.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author.

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