Answering the ‘Why’: Part I – Sporting and Self Defense

The divide on gun policy seems to be getting starker. In one camp, we have gun enthusiasts who grew up with an appreciation for gun rights, and in the other, we have gun-control advocates who did not. There is a dwindling middle ground of people who want to be reasonable but who don’t have much background with guns. Those are the people we need to reach. You need to be ready to answer when someone asks you, “Why would anyone want a gun?”

This is the first of a two-part series where I will help you address that question. People own guns for different reasons, and people support gun rights for different reasons, but in my experience, there are three key themes: sporting, self-defense and a fail-safe. In this segment, we will hit the first two.

Give Us a Sporting Chance

Hunting is a major American and world tradition, and despite modern supermarkets, it is a substantial food source for a surprising number of Americans. Hunting is a comparatively cheap way to acquire hundreds of pounds of lean meat, and it also brings revenue into land management and wildlife-preservation efforts. This may sound strange to non-hunters, but some of the most aggressive environmentalists I know are hunters; they spend a lot of personal money to keep wild areas wild. You may not literally need an AR-15 to hunt deer (though plenty do precisely that), but deer aren’t the only quarry.

Huge swaths of the United States face invasive and destructive pests. Feral pigs have been an ecological disaster from Florida to Texas, and prairie dogs are spreading plague in Western states. Poison and trapping are common alternatives but can impact non-targeted species. You know what works on feral hogs? Suppressed rifles with large magazines. That may not really be what an anti-gunner would consider “fair,” but neither is the habitat destruction wrought by a single group of wild swine.

Hunting isn’t the only sporting purpose. There are about a dozen major types of shooting competitions, ranging from the biathlon in the Winter Olympics to practical competitions where competitors shoot and move. One of the best aspects of these competitions is that men and women are on roughly equal footing. Even amputees can compete on equal ground. Shooting sports are an awesome equalizer. If you want to see what I mean, type “USPSA” or “3 Gun” into YouTube.

Our Natural Right to Self-Defense

Illustration By: Brian Fairrington

Illustration By: Brian Fairrington

The matches described above also help us hone self-defense skills. Self-defense is the biggest reason I personally own guns and the biggest reason I am such a passionate supporter of gun rights. Life is the most fundamental human right, and self-defense is a natural extension of that right. You have the right to use proportional force against someone trying to murder you.

The police aren’t required to protect you (Castle Rock v. Gonzales), and you should already know that if you are attacked, the police cannot protect you until after they arrive. So, I have to be able to protect myself and others for at least 10 minutes (maybe longer in a major regional disaster or if I live in a particularly secluded area). That might mean going up against three or more armed home invaders or a rapid mass murderer in a shopping mall. That doesn’t mean a gun will always work to protect me or that I intend to employ it even in those scenarios, but a gun gives me a choice and a chance. A gun actually gives me the unique ability to de-escalate a situation: I have the option to walk away and an actionable response if I am pursued.

The type of gun and number of rounds it holds matter. Bullets don’t work like they do in the movies; it may take 10 bullets to stop an attacker, and it may take a lot more to stop two attackers. I once watched a group of insurgents get hit with three 500-pound bombs and keep fighting. The human body is incredible.

I don’t want politicians to decide how many rounds I need to stop someone trying to murder me. I don’t want a shotgun or hunting rifle for self-defense, and I certainly don’t want a musket. I want a modern firearm designed for fighting, not sport.

There are, however, some counterpoints to address. I could try to engage an attacker in a public place and be mistaken for him. I am willing to accept that risk. At the 2007 Trolley Square attack in Salt Lake City, the murderer was first engaged by an off-duty cop. At the 2007 New Life Church attack in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the shooter was first engaged by a church member. Likewise, there is some truth to the stat that a gun in the home increases some risks (depending on how you’d like to bend the statistics), but that’s a decision I get to make; you don’t get to make it for me.

A Choice and a Chance

It is possible that the aggressor could kill me even if I have a gun or perhaps with my own gun. A gun doesn’t guarantee my safety. A gun gives me a choice and a chance. I could rely on security measures other than a gun, such as a dog, an alarm and locking my doors. I do all that, but I want something more than Fido to protect me.

Jim is a concerned citizen and gun-rights advocate. His opinions are his alone and do not reflect the official policy or position of his or any other agency. References and links to other gun-advocacy sites do not imply endorsement of those organizations. You can reach him at

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