The Consequences of Handgun Carry
Russ Chastain 05.30.18
There is no doubt that stressful events in which your safety and life are threatened can change a person. The actual use of a firearm in that sort of situation is pretty much guaranteed to do so. This is examined in an article titled, “Does Carrying A Pistol Make You Safer?” — which, in spite of the title, is more of a portrait of Americans who go heeled — along with some closer looks at folks who have actually fired their carry guns.
There is a pistol-packing revolution going on in America. Nearly 13 million Americans have permits to carry concealed handguns — triple the number just nine years ago — and that figure is low because not every state reports.
In looking at personal carry, John Burnett asks, “How Does Carrying A Gun Change You?” and interviews some concealed carriers.
One thing is certain: Carrying around a loaded weapon and being prepared at a moment’s notice to use deadly force changes how people perceive their environment. Of the 20 handgun carriers I interviewed over several months, most of them say they’re more aware of how people look and how they act.
“I pay attention to different people, weird people, maybe stereotype people,” says Sam Blackburn…
What is he looking for, specifically?
“Gangbanger-looking guys, maybe guys that look like they’re up to no good or somebody that may think they’re a Muslim extremist or something like that,” Blackburn says.
This next guy… really? “Exciting” and “visceral?”
“It’s exciting. I won’t lie to you. There’s some visceral response that you get from carrying a firearm,” says Doug Miller. He owns a small IT company in Austin and teaches Israeli self-defense classes on the side. “But after about 30 seconds, it becomes, ‘Is this gonna be comfortable when I sit down? It’s digging into my hip because my car has upholstered seats. That’s really not that comfortable.’ “
“Family situational awareness is a big deal,” [Robyn Sandoval] says. “When we go to a restaurant, my 9-year-old [is thinking] who looks suspicious? What are people doing? What’s an anomaly? Let’s point out people in their cars. We make a game of it, of who can find somebody in their car just sitting there.”
“We name our guns,” Sandoval says, “I have Francesca, Dolly, Gracie. And we talk about ’em like, ‘I’m takin’ Gracie to the mall with us.'”
“My small one is my Baby,” says schoolteacher Bettylane Chambliss. “And my dad will say, ‘Do you have your gun with you?’ And I went, ‘Oh, yeah, I got Baby with me. I’m fine.’ “
Moving on to folks who have used their carry guns to avert crimes, we hear from Darrell Standberry, who fired a fatal round into an armed carjacker sitting behind the wheel of his vehicle.
“It changed a lot in my life,” he says. “Matter of fact, in my English class, I just did a report on it. I named it, ‘The incident that changed my life forever.’ ”
Standberry went to counseling. He became fearful of gas stations. And he carried the burden of killing a 19-year-old.
“You know why? Because my son was 19 at the same time. It really bothered me that I had to take a 19-year-old’s life. His life was just beginning. But he was into the wrong things. To this day, I still ask God for forgiveness,” he says.
Alaina Gonville was carrying openly when approached by an armed robber. Apparently, his cohorts in a nearby car saw her holstered pistol, because they opened fire on her.
“I’m assuming they saw my gun. That’s when they opened fire from their vehicle. I heard the gunshots coming at me. That’s when I pulled my gun and returned fire,” she says.
She doesn’t know if she hit them or not. The robber bolted. His henchmen sped out of the parking lot, spraying Gonville and her car with military-grade bullets.
“I got shot with an AK-47, and it basically blew my arm off. It was dangling. I carried it into the hospital. After four surgeries and a lot of prayer it’s healed about 70 percent,” she says.
Did she think that having a handgun that night saved her life or endangered her more?
“That’s a good question. I replayed the situation in my head over and over. I can’t say, but I’m glad I had it,” she says.
And then there’s Tatiana Rodriguez, who made the huge mistake of pulling her firearm and shooting out the tires of a getaway vehicle that was being driven by shoplifters. For that, she earned probation and lost her right to carry.
In Michigan, it’s illegal for a citizen to use deadly force to stop a property crime. Rodriguez got 18 months of probation for reckless discharge of a weapon and had her gun license revoked. She thinks the punishment would have been harsher, but the cops caught the shoplifters after she shot out their tires.
Her story got lots of news coverage. It turned into a case study of when not to use your pistol.
“It was not my intention to do anything wrong. I was just trying to help somebody who really needed it. And it backfired on me. So what do you learn? It’s like you have to think a lot before you help somebody,” she says.
Most of the people Burnett contacted for his article, folks who had fired their guns in self defense, had no interest in being interviewed. Who can blame them?
Some had been arrested by the police or sued afterward, and had spent thousands of dollars on legal fees. They didn’t want to be dragged into the media spotlight again. Others were just traumatized by the whole experience.
Perhaps most interesting is his examination of the way concealed carry makes everyone safer, not just those who are armed.
An eye-opening Gallup poll released late last year revealed that 56 percent of respondents said they’d feel safer if more Americans could get permits to carry concealed handguns. Jennifer Carlson, a sociologist at the University of Toronto, wrote a book about handgun carriers in Michigan called Citizen-Protectors.
“This is what I think is really fascinating,” she says. “It’s not just the idea of if I conceal carry then I’m safer. It’s the idea that if I just imagine there’s people out there who are conceal carrying then the world is safer.”
And some police officers — the smart ones, in my opinion — realize how valuable armed citizens can be.
Three years ago, Detroit’s new police chief, James Craig, made a startling public announcement. He encouraged law-abiding citizens to consider carrying concealed weapons as a deterrent to violent crime.
In an interview, I asked Chief Craig if he ever worries about the citizens that he has urged to arm themselves?
“What concerns me, more than anything else, is guns in the hands of criminals, guns in the hands of terror suspects. That’s what keeps me up at night. Not armed citizens,” Craig says.
Meanwhile, [firearms instructor Mike] Cortis reports so many Detroiters are seeking concealed pistol permits, classes are booked for two months out.
More guns means more safety for good guys. As long as we live in this imperfect world in which armed bad guys seek to victimize others, law-abiding citizens with guns can only make us safer.