Taking a break from bar exam study a few weeks ago, I went to diner and a movie with two of my coworkers. One of those coworkers is anti gun, and we and I have debated gun rights in the past. (While we disagree, we do so amicably, and gun rights are about all we disagree about politically). While debating gun rights over dinner, he stated that carrying a gun for self defense would not allow me to defend myself against every single conceivable attack by criminals. One example he gave was a criminal sneaking up behind me and shooting me in the back of the head, while I am sitting in a restaurant or in a movie theater. From this, he concluded that I wasn’t better off by carrying a gun. I find that reasoning to be flawed:
To be clear, his statement that an armed citizen is not always able to defend themselves from every possible type of criminal attack is correct. However, that fact doesn’t mean that a citizen who carries a gun for self defense is no better off than an unarmed citizen. Instead, both statistical evidence and anecdotal evidence clearly show that armed citizens can and do successfully defend themselves – and that citizens who fight back against criminals are often better off than citizens who don’t resist. Just because every single criminal attack can’t be stopped by an armed citizen, it doesn’t follow that citizens should give up the most effective means of self defense, which can and does stop so many attacks.
Perhaps an analogy will make this clearer. It is true that not every vehicular fatality can be prevented by the wearing of a seatbelt. That is because some collisions are so extreme that death will almost certainly result, even if the car accident victim is wearing their seatbelt. An example would be where a car collides head on with a semi truck that is going 75 MPH, and then careens off the roadway into a 500 foot deep canyon, the floor of which is lined with sharp and jagged rocks. But such a collision is the exception, rather than the rule. Most car collisions are not so extreme, and seatbelts clearly save lives in a great many car accidents.
Similarly, it is quite uncommon for a criminal to walk up behind a random victim and shoot them in the back of the head. It is much more common for that criminal to attempt a robbery, rape, home invasion, racist attack, etc. – which can often be stopped by an armed citizen.
Carrying a gun for self defense is like wearing a seatbelt. Both are prudent choices that have the proven ability to save lives.
Note: For an overview of concealed carry, its benefits, and how it is not a danger in and of itself, see this article.