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Quoth Robert Farago:

That’s the crux of the Zimmerman case for both “sides” of the debate. Not whether or not Zimmerman should have followed Martin (he shouldn’t have). Not whether or not he should have shot Zimmerman. Whether or not he should have been armed.

The Zimmerman case is a litmus test for concealed carry. Those who condemn him out of hand or attribute racial motivations to the shooting are, by and large, people who don’t believe that American citizens should be able to carry a gun. Those who maintain an open mind think ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’

Read the whole thing.  In particular, though, I am thinking about this point, in the context of discussing Minnesota’s blossoming concealed carry culture:

The key to the age of Minnesota’s concealed carry permit holders lies in the phrase “security conscious.” The plain truth is that older people have more to lose. Unlike my relative’s unmarried homies, they have a family to protect. A gun is insurance against those who would destroy their ability to provide for the ones they love.

I have always liked guns.  I can remember having toy guns taken away when I was pretty little, and then not being allowed to have them.  For all that, my first experience with firearms (beyond a BB gun belonging to a stepbrother) was with an M-16A2 at Basic Combat Training, Fort Leonard Wood, Misery, when I was already 25 years old.  I loved it.  Even with the Army sucking all of the fun out of the process, I could instinctively tell that firearms and me just went together.

So I promptly went out and didn’t buy a gun.

While I looked forward to going to the range each year to qualify and thought that I’d really like to get into shooting, I never (if you’ll pardon the expression) pulled the trigger and bought my own–not even a BB gun. After I finished training and deployed to Afghanistan, I carried an M-16 (still an A2; I frequently joke that the Nasty Guard just turned in our muskets) for about six months, and then carried an M-249 squad automatic weapon for most of the remainder of our tour. For the latter period, I also carried a Beretta 92 pistol. I slept with the pistol under my pillow, the SAW in my arms. Being armed was simply a normal part of my life, about on par with wearing boots, to the point that coming home (unarmed) for R&R was distinctly uncomfortable.

After our piece of the war ended, I came home and didn’t buy a gun.  There are a few reasons for that outside the scope right now, but in part it was because I didn’t particularly feel the need for one.  [I did acquire my first firearm, however–a bolt action Mosin-Nagant given to me by a family member who apparently hadn’t received the your-relative-might-be-crazy briefing for families of redeploying soldiers.  I fired it a handful of times when we would all go out to the range, but it was and is primarily a novelty.]

So why do I now, just six years later, own multiple firearms and carry (concealed or open) everywhere that I’m not prohibited?

A few reasons.  Because I can.  Because a right not exercised is discarded.  Because of the little monster sitting in my lap right now watching Rio in another window on my computer.  Because of his big brother, arguing with Sweetie over whether she is going to reheat his dinner.  Because I have a lot more to lose in 2012 than I did in 2007 or 2004.

Because the more I read and the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that the means to effectively defend oneself and one’s family are so fundamental that I cannot accept responsibility for their general well-being (as a husband and father) without also taking responsibility for their safety.  If I have the means–or the means to acquire the means–then I have the responsibility.

I spent a year being responsible for my own safety and that of my team in a place where people were absolutely intent on killing us.  We all stood watch, and we all carried loaded firearms, prepared to use them in the common defense.  Most of the time, we didn’t expect combat–it only visited us a half dozen times over the course of the year–but we all waited in readiness.  In many respects, I have never been safer.

Once you have been responsible for your own life on those terms, it’s hard to entrust that responsibility to agents of the State, no matter how well-meaning they might be.  To entrust the safety of Monster and Ivan the Terrible to them, too?  Sorry.  A bridge too far.

If I can provide for my own defense, why would I choose not to do so?