The Abject Cowardice of Concealed Carry
There is nothing brave about guns
I grew up in what would now correctly be considered a toxically masculine culture. Casual homophobia and racism were part of my cultural landscape, as was fighting, bragging, guns, and hunting. To a sixteen-year-old me, there was no greater insult than to be accused of acting feminine, and no greater show of weakness than to back down from a physical confrontation. Almost as bad as the ultimate cowardice of running away from a physical confrontation, however, was to over-prepare: The euphemism of bringing a gun to a knife fight. By the honor code I lived by, this was unthinkable. In fact, most of the teen boys my age wore a belt knife every day, even to school. We engaged in serious fistfights without ever considering drawing the deadly weapon from our own belt.
On day, while “hanging out” in the municipal parking lot of my small town, I talked with a new guy, a man in his early twenties who had just moved to town in order to work at the papermill. As we bragged and tried to impress each other back and forth he opened the door of his truck and showed me the tire iron stashed near his door “just in case.” Contempt rose up in me like bile. I can still taste it almost forty years later. Not only was he bragging about a truly appalling level of cowardice, but he had convinced himself it was bravery! He wasn’t just a coward, but by tone and temperament I was certain that he was eager to outmatch someone to such a degree that he could hurt them while maintaining personal safety—he was a malevolent coward.
Through a great deal of introspection, and education, I’ve managed to identify and release most of the toxicity from my masculinity, while also hanging on to those parts having to do with honor, integrity and courage that make my life more positive. I don’t consider these “masculine” anymore, but I do find some traits personally useful. I admire courage and kindness. I admire strength of character. I also loath that man with the tire iron and all of the cowardice his need to outmatch potential opponents as well as the glint of cruelty in his eye as he contemplated causing another human being pain. As I think of him my lip curls into a sneer of contempt.
This is how I think of every person who pats their side and winks at me to show they have a concealed hand gun. I cannot express the depth of my contempt towards every person who personally, or on TV or through social media says that they believe they are safer because they carry deadly force. If you own a handgun, or shotgun, or assault style rifle because you are afraid of home invasion, or gangs, or immigrants, or Armageddon, all I hear is that you are afraid. What I see is you screaming your fear into the void, engaged in the impotent alchemy of trying to turn cowardice to courage.
I’ve read hundreds of accounts of people who claim that they saved themselves or others with a gun. In nearly every account, a careful reading reveals that the perpetrator was shot in the back as they fled. This renders the shooting completely unnecessary for protection—the moment of protection having long since passed. On the news I watched footage of a “hero citizen” shooting at a truck as it drove away. There is no courage here, only the fantasy of it.
I recently saw a conservative meme which began “I am the silent protector” and went on to glorify the carrying of concealed weapons. As I read, it dawned on me that American will never pass sensible gun control as long as we allow this perverse fantasy to fuel the debate. People believe that carrying guns makes them courageous. America has the largest army ever on the face of the planet and we still have the audacity to call ourselves the home of the brave!
In reality, that gun under your coat advertises your cowardice to the world. Here is a person for whom fear is the overriding emotion of their life. Wouldn’t it make sense that the country with the smallest army was the most courageous? I think so. I think volunteering in a soup kitchen is brave. Buying an assault rifle is cowardly. I think kindness is brave. Cruelty is cowardly. I think the courageous among us can walk any street in America with open hands and an open heart, while the sniveling, the small, the weak and the fearful cower behind locked doors with loaded guns, bragging about “just in case.”