Carrying a Gun for Protection: Are You a Sheep or a Sheepdog?

Throughout the last few weeks, I’ve been rather unexpectedly traveling back and forth between two Southern states. The trip itself is around 650 miles each way and carries me through a total of five states, and along the way I’ve discovered one state in particular is more than slightly risky to travel through, especially alone, at night, as a woman. On each occasion it’s seemed as though the route has become increasingly dangerous, or perhaps an increasing number of details is simply becoming clear; either way, it’s forced an issue to the forefront: the importance of carrying your gun at all times.

On one trek I found myself forced to stop for gas at a less-than-reputable looking gas station, and the fact that it was around midnight only compounded the problem. Inside the tiny, filthy shop, two groups of young men loitered, clearly divided by race. Each was a minority group, as was the cashier, and there I was, the 30-ish female traveling alone. Race should not enter into the equation; sadly, it often does. My inclination had been to quickly use the restroom, but a quick look at the broken door made it obvious there was no wisdom in messing with it, so I simply headed for the register. It was late, I was exhausted, and all I wanted was to pay since this particular gas station only took cash. As I moved towards the register, one group of men paced me in the next aisle, eyes glued to my body, tracking my movements. At the register the second group moved in close and wasted no time invading my personal space. I paid, and as I began to wonder whether or not I was about to be forced to defend myself, considering the incredibly charged air and tension in the tiny shop, the bell dinging out front signaled the arrival of another customer. Not just any customer, either, this was a LEO. All eyes suddenly turned to the marked patrol car out front, and I slipped out the door.

The LEO in his marked car simply sat at the pump by mine as I pumped gas; I jumped in my truck and got out of there as quickly as I could. Although it’s unlikely he spotted me inside the shop from the darkened road, it’s possible; either way, his presence made a difference that night. Leaving that gas station was a massive relief, but it wasn’t to be the last time I was made aware of the state’s apparent danger level.

Less than a week later found me traveling the same road. This time, aware of the local climate, I wanted to fill up my gas tank prior to hitting the creepier part of the state, so I began watching for a place to stop early on. Unfortunately, there are long stretches of empty road in the South, and finding a gas station open late at night can be a challenge, especially around the smaller towns. But one finally lit up my horizon, a large, brand-new looking station owned by a major chain. I pulled in.

Woman GunAs I rolled into the station, the locals caught my eye once again. This time they were milling around in front of the gas station, split into similar groups as before, and although there was nothing obviously taking place, the little hairs on my arms stood on end. Something felt wrong, and although I could see no reason for my alarm, I chose to trust my instincts, pulling away from the pump and leaving without gas. The way the road was built required me to go the wrong way and do a U-Turn, so I did, a maneuver that sent me speeding past the shiny new gas station again moments later. As I passed by, a pair of patrol cars came roaring in, spilling out LEOs even as they rolled to a stop. Before the station disappeared from sight I was treated to the view of the officers drawing their weapons, barking commands at the locals I’d noticed milling around the station’s shop doors. I don’t know what happened next, and I did not check the news the next day, but I was relieved I’d trusted my gut by driving away. I was also relieved I was carrying a gun.

Years ago, when I first considered carrying a gun for personal protection, I was under the tutelage of a man whose instruction I continue to consider among the best. Marty was not only a fantastic teacher, he was good with women, or at least with this woman, and even now, years later, I’ve taken the opportunities I get to thank him, again, for his help. A decade ago I sat in his classroom in a little town in Washington state and listened to him go over the various laws and common-sense rules. Among them was a simple sentiment I’ve since heard repeated more than a few times: always wear your gun when you leave your house, and if you fail to strap it on, you may as well say “baa” as you walk out your front door, because you’ve just made yourself one of the sheep. The sheep, of course, are those who are simply a part of the mindless flock, unable to defend themselves, relying on others for protection. It is the sheepdogs who protect the flock and who are able to protect themselves, and carrying a firearm places gun owners firmly in the role of protector. This carries with it a weighty responsibility; it is not a task anyone should take on lightly, nor is it one that should be carried out without proper training.

Carrying a gun for self-defense sounds like a good idea to many, but it isn’t necessarily right for everyone who likes the idea. There are certain factors to take into consideration, and if you carry a firearm but have never considered these very simple issues, it’s definitely time to hit pause and reconsider your actions. Yes, bearing arms is our Second Amendment right, written into our nation’s Constitution. However, if you’re going to carry those arms on your body as you go about your daily business, you’d better be absolutely sure you know what you’re doing. This is why.

Conceal CarryThere are many tenets of gun safety, from the four golden rules – keeping your finger off the trigger until you’re on target, treating all guns as though they’re loaded, never pointing your gun at anything you’re not willing to destroy, and knowing your target and what is beyond it – to countless others. Some are based on what should be common sense while others are borne of experience, but all are important. Some things, however, are not a matter of what to do with a gun when you’re not actively shooting, they’re a matter of gun use. This includes learning to squeeze a pistol’s trigger rather than jerking it, lining up sights properly, and follow-through, among many, many others. But there is one aspect of gun use not all gun owners consider. It might seem like common sense, or basic logic, at least, but it does not cross everyone’s mind, despite its importance. The issue at hand? Whether or not you can kill someone.

For those who find this extreme, or harsh, you’ve just received your answer: carrying a gun for self-defense is not for you.  Making the call that you’ll be able to use your gun, should the need arise, is something you do to the best of your ability with the knowledge and experience you have at the time. Unless you’re a member of the military and have seen combat, or are a LEO who has been put in the position to use deadly force, there’s no way to be sure how you’ll react in the face of a true threat. While we all hope we’d respond bravely and without hesitation – and we should train accordingly – there is no way to know for sure until the moment of the event itself. So why bother to stop and think about it in advance? Because it’s the wise thing to do. Because a gun is a weapon, and owning one may be a right, but carrying one is a major responsibility.

Taking a human life is a life-changing event, to say the least. For those who have not seen combat nor been put in a deadly force situation on the job, deciding whether or not you are capable of taking a life is a process in itself. There have been books written on the topic, one of the best of which is “A Time to Kill” by Greg Hopkins, and it’s well worth reading them. Col. Dave Grossman penned a pair of books related to the topic, although not specifically addressing the decision itself, called “On Combat” and “On Killing”, both of which offer excellent looks at the physiological and psychological effects of the topics named in the titles.  More than a few gun owners may find themselves unable to pull the trigger, should they be forced to aim it at another person. That hesitation, even for the barest moment, could easily be the difference between life and death for you, the gun owner. This is not a decision that can be made on the spot. It must be dealt with in advance and should, in fact, be dealt with before you ever walk out the door carrying a loaded gun.

Word to the wise: just because you can shoot deer, turkeys, or hogs does not mean by any stretch of the imagination you’re capable of turning a gun on a person. Hunting game is a separate matter from taking human life and should not be considered an indicator. Conversely, there are military veterans who refuse to hunt as a result of the things they have seen and done, but that is another matter entirely. In addition, just because someone is a hunter does not automatically qualify them as proficient shots or competent pistol users, not by a long shot – pun intended.

GunsYou should be horrified, or at least saddened, by the idea of taking a human life. Being forced to defend yourself or those you love with a gun is not a matter of manliness, and it has nothing to do with someone’s “cool” factor, either. It should be taken seriously, and thought beyond a matter of moments should be put into its execution. The aftermath of such an event will not be without its pains and horrors. There may be insomnia, nightmares, and guilt, despite the knowledge that your attacker was going to kill you if you failed to defend yourself, fast. Some people involved in self-defense shootings find themselves either throwing their gun far away from their bodies immediately following the firing of the fatal shot or emptying their magazine into the ground in an attempt to make their weapon “harmless”; both behaviors are within the realm of normal responses to the situation at hand. Doing some research, including talking to someone who has had to defend themselves, is well worth it.

Once you understand the reality of carrying a loaded gun, you can make your decision. If you decide you believe you could, indeed, defend yourself using lethal force, all right. Train accordingly; train as you intend to fight, and train well. Your life, and the lives of those you love, may one day depend on it.

Carrying a gun is a responsibility, one that should not be taken lightly. Should you choose to take on the role of the sheepdog, remember: wear your gun 100% of the time you are legally able. Fail and you’re one of the sheep. Fail, and it just might be the one day of your life you needed your gun. Failure is simply not an option. Those who carry a firearm for protection do not say “baa;” we walk in silence, silence that remains unbroken until the day we are forced to roar.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Katherine Ainsworth

Katherine Ainsworth

Katherine is a military and political journalist with a reputation for hard-hitting, no-holds-barred articles. Her career as a writer has immersed her in the military lifestyle and given her unique insights into the various branches of service. She is a firearms aficionado and has years of experience as a K9 SAR handler, and has volunteered with multiple support-our-troops charities for more than a decade. Katherine is passionate about military issues and feels supporting service members should be the top priority for all Americans. Her areas of expertise include the military, politics, history, firearms and canine issues.
Katherine Ainsworth
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