Self-Defense: Not Just for Gun Owners

I’m seeing a lot of babbling about George Zimmerman defending himself.

What I’m hearing very little of is Trayvon Martin’s right to self defense.

Trayvon didn’t know Zimmerman. He didn’t know why Zimmerman was following him. He didn’t know why Zimmerman had a gun. All he knew, was that this strange man was following him, for God knows what reason, to do who knows what.

From what I can piece together, this seventeen year old boy tried to deescalate the situation. “Why are you following me?”

When that didn’t work, he tried to remove himself from the situation and get to safety. He tried to run away.

Zimmerman followed.

Trayvon was backed into a metaphorical corner here. Deescalation didn’t work. Flight* didn’t work. All that he had left was Fight*. Self-defense.

(Fight or Flight, you know, the two instinctual responses to a threat?)

Trayvon showed more sense than this grown-ass man. He waited to use physical confrontation until the very last, after all other options were exhausted.

Now, I don’t believe for a second Zimmerman’s accounting. I don’t believe for a second that Trayvon attacked him. I believe Trayvon fought back. To defend himself, from this strange, grown-ass man that was following him home in the dark. With a gun.

Zimmerman should not own a gun. He has shown that he has no sense. He has no respect for his weapon, and no respect and caution in the face of the power a gun gave him.

The power to take a life.

Responsible gun owners know that the mere presence of a gun escalates a situation. Responsible gun owners know that you don’t exhibit threatening behavior to another (perceived, in this case. Zimmerman thought Trayvon was carrying.) gun owner. That’s a good way to start a shootout. Responsible gun owners don’t look for a fight. Responsible gun owners avoid it. Responsible gun owners don’t want to use their weapon. At all.

When Trayvon tried to deescalate the situation, Zimmerman kept escalating it.

Zimmerman was the threat. Zimmerman was the instigator. Zimmerman was the attacker.

Trayvon was exercising his right to self-defense.

Zimmerman is a murderer.

A Gun Owner on “Stand Your Ground”

I don’t like “stand your ground” laws. I understand the sentiment–if I have the right to be in a space, I also have the right to be there and be safe. I have the right to be free from harm, from being a victim of a crime. I have the right to defend myself.

I have the right to defend myself.

That is why I don’t like “stand your ground” laws. I already have the right to defend myself.

One concern many people have for new (or old) gun owners is that gun owners will get overconfident–they’ll feel invincible, because of the power that comes with carrying a deadly weapon. As a result, they’ll become careless. They’ll escalate tense situations. They’ll be too quick to draw their weapon. They’ll draw their weapon when they have no intention of really shooting, just because they’re feeling out of control, and they want that control back.

Those are reasonable concerns, to say the least.

I’ve said before that drawing a deadly weapon like a gun, in self-defense, should be a last resort. What I haven’t said, but implied, is that every possible attempt should be made to deescalate.

I believe gun owners have a duty to try to deescalate.

If deescalating means removing yourself from the situation, if that’s possible, then so be it, your right to be in whatever location you’re in be damned.

Because it’s not about your right to be occupying a space, it’s about your right to be alive, to be safe, to be free from harm and injury.

(note: I’m not talking about castle doctrine here. I’m not referring to occupying your own living space, or your car, for instance.)

The right to self-defense is more than adequate for gun owners to protect themselves from attackers, wherever you are.

Stand your ground laws only protect irresponsible rogue-cowboy-wannabe gun owners from being prosecuted, not to mention encourages them to go on with their rogue cowboy fantasy.

This costs a lot of innocent people their lives, and that’s unacceptable.

Interview on Sunday Night Safran

Earlier this week, I was interviewed for the Australian radio program, Sunday Night Safran, on Triple J. It’s broadcasting live at the moment–it’ll be available as a podcast tomorrow. When the podcast goes live, I will update this post with a direct link to it.

Edit: The link is up! Check it out here. My interview begins about twenty-one minutes in, and lasts for about fifteen minutes. If you have the time, listen all the way through. The guest before me had a fascinating story.

Recap: I was interviewed because of my position as a pro-gun-rights feminist.

Correction/Clarification: In the interview I said one could not own a handgun until the age of twenty-one. (Please correct me if I’m wrong!) A person over the age of eighteen may own a handgun if it was given as a gift, but may not carry it until they reach the age of twenty-one. Edit: Felons are also prohibited from buying and carrying.

Other Comments: The other guest, Sofia Stefanovic, said something at the end of the segment that I would very much like to respond to: she said she’d be afraid, were she to own and carry a gun, that she’d grab it and point it at someone when she was irritated or frustrated with them. She used as an example how she’d lobbed a pen at one of the hosts when he said something that irritated her.

I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to respond to this, because I’m sure it’s a very common fear.

When you carry, you are very acutely aware at all times of your weapon. You are aware of its power. You are aware that you can frighten, hurt, and kill someone with your weapon. Your handgun is not a thing you ever treat lightly–certainly (and obviously) when handling it, but also when carrying.

I can only describe it as there being an invisible bubble around your weapon. Should I get the urge to throw something at an annoying friend, my hand would never stray to my weapon. I’d be more likely, should I get the urge, to grab for the pen. However. When I carry, I am also very aware of my behavior, my body language, my facial expression, my language, and my actions. I am extremely careful not to do or say anything that may be construed by others as being a threat to their safety. I am more reserved. I moderate my hand gestures. I watch my tone. I am careful to be polite. If my favorite song plays while I’m grocery shopping, I’m less likely to be silly and dance to the beat. I make eye contact and smile. I avoid resting my hands on my hips.

Being a responsible gun owner begins before one ever purchases their first gun: you reflect, considering your own maturity, impulsivity, and temperament. If you find yourself unable to be completely, 100% sure that you will handle your gun with all the respect it demands, then you don’t purchase a gun in the first place.

That self-reflection doesn’t end there. It’s a continuing process. It’s something I do every time before I reach for my Ruger. Carrying a gun is an enormous responsibility. It is a heavy weight on one’s shoulders. If I find that I do not have the strength to carry that burden that day, I leave my weapon at home. I close my eyes and hope I don’t need it, every time I decide to leave it at home. Because you know what? Some days I just want to pretend that the world is safe. I want to be a carefree 20-something woman. I want to be silly and dance in the produce section at the grocery. I want to be passionate and accompany my speech with grand hand gestures.

But if, during one of these reflections, I ever found that I might pull my weapon in any situation that does not threaten my life and my safety, I would sell my gun–because I would no longer be trustworthy or responsible enough to call myself a gun owner. I hope that day never comes. But it is something I must ask myself, in order to honestly call myself a feminist, responsible gun owner.

All in all, I had a fabulous time on the show–and I’m absolutely delighted and very grateful for the opportunity. I can’t wait to discuss it with my readers!

Logistical note: When the podcast goes live, I will post the time stamp marking when my interview begins. I will also do my best to get a transcript up as soon as possible, which will also be edited into this post. Edit: I plan on working on the transcript tomorrow. It is rather late here at the moment!

I may also add other comments (or edit ones already written) once I can listen to the broadcast. Memory is a funny thing, after all. I’ll note any changes and edits for those who may read the original post and return later!