Evolving on Guns: Considering the Morality of Gun Ownership Now That I Refuse to Be a Victim

Last week I wrote about my “evolution” on guns during the Boston manhunt:

In the middle of that night listening to the Boston police scanner, I evolved. I realized right then that if I were holed up in my house while a cold-blooded terrorist roamed my neighborhood, I wouldn’t want to be a sitting duck with only a deadbolt lock between me and an armed intruder. There are not enough police and they cannot come to my rescue quickly enough. They carry guns to protect themselves, not me. I knew at that instant if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev showed up at my door while I was “sheltered-in-place” and aimed a gun at my head and only one of us would live, I could pull the trigger.

Once I made the decision that I would not be a victim, I began to research my options for home protection. I plan to share the experience of choosing my first gun in a future post but first I’d like to deal with some of the moral implications of the decision to purchase, own — and potentially use — a gun.

I wrote about one of the reasons I refrained from owning a gun for many years:

The other thing holding me back was my belief that if you’re going to own a gun, you must be willing to shoot to kill...I searched my heart and realized that in the heat of the moment of an attack, I wasn’t sure what I would do with a gun in my hand. I knew that could be more dangerous than being unarmed; it wasn’t worth the risk.

A gun is an inanimate object and as such is morally neutral. Lying on a table, tucked under a mattress, or locked in a gun safe it cannot kill, inflict harm, or protect its owner. However, the fact that a gun is in one’s home creates the potential for both danger and protection depending on many variables, including the training, skill, and temperament of the residents of the home and the mental capacity and willingness of the gun owners to use the weapon, whether in self-defense or to inflict intentional harm.

While I understand that many who grew up around guns accept them as a normal part of life, for me, it’s a decision that requires serious introspection and moral evaluation. Though I passionately support the Second Amendment, I confess that I had never taken the time to earnestly contemplate its practical applications. Perhaps this is because I’ve mostly lived in safe, virtually crime-free neighborhoods and have never experienced violent crime. Whatever the reason, it’s not an excuse to jump into gun ownership without first embarking on this intellectual exercise.