Becoming a Gun-Owning Patriot

"Only gangsters and hunters carry guns -- and we are neither."

So went the closing argument in my Chicagoland household (circa 1960's) as a boy anytime the topic of guns was introduced.

Mine was a staunchly conservative upbringing, but the Second Amendment was never a topic that I can remember being discussed at any point. Even when, as a married man, I moved my family to North Carolina, I still had a fear of and ignorance of guns. Guns were for hunters, and I wasn't one, so I had been taught. I didn't know how they worked. I didn't know the styles and types and importance of being able to defend oneself. I had friends who were gun owners, but I figured they must all hunt. I also unwisely assumed that I lived in a safe place, and that I didn't need to know how to defend my family and myself.

After we moved to Tennessee, I began to learn and study more about our basic rights as afforded in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the various amendments, and became an avid reader of The Patriot Post. Only then did I begin to see the need to learn about and own firearms. I learned that the right to bear arms is the right upon which the rest of the laws depend. Freedom of speech and religion and assembly rest upon the Second Amendment. The right to be secure in my home against unreasonable search and seizure depends on 2A. The right to vote is upheld by the right to bear arms.

So I forced myself to admit my ignorance and learn about guns as a 40-something year old male. What was the difference between styles and manufacturers. What was a revolver? What was an automatic? How did they work? What were the advantages and disadvantages of both? How could I handle them safely? Why would I want an assault weapon? Weren't handguns good enough to defend myself? What about a shotgun? What's a 12 gauge and a 20 gauge, and does it really matter which you own? Why would I want to carry a gun on my person? And how should I introduce them into my home?

It was an arduous and daunting task. I had to swallow my pride and admit my ignorance to several friends who I knew were knowledgeable about the topic.

Instead of receiving scorn, they were only helpful, patiently answering my questions and assisting me on my journey. I convinced my wife (who also grew up in a gun-free home) that we needed to take a concealed permit class together. Our oldest son also took the class and our two younger children will do likewise when they are of age.

To my surprise, my wife took to the idea quickly, and also scored a 50/50 on her accuracy test! We filled out our paperwork, got fingerprinted, sent off our applications and waited. It was an exciting day when our permits arrived in the mail - only then did I feel the full weight of the decision I had made to carry a weapon.

After all my research, I decided upon a Glock 19 as my first weapon; my wife settled upon a S&W .38 Special. I researched various carrying styles, and finally settled on a Blackhawk SERPA Holster as my primary holster. I've added several other handguns to my collection, including a Ruger LC-9 as a secondary weapon - easy to tuck into a coat pocket, the small of my back, or carry in an ankle holster. Last Christmas, my family gave me my favorite present ever: a horizontal shoulder rig from Ross Leather for my Glock. Black leather, lined, double mag holder under the right arm, it is truly the envy of all who see it.

We added an AR-15 to our collection, which was another learning opportunity. The first time we took it to the range, I asked a friend to teach me everything I needed to know - again, swallowing my pride and admitting my ignorance. We've added a 12-gauge and a 20-gauge shotgun to our collection as well. With each weapon, I've had to admit my ignorance and submit myself to someone more knowledgeable. That's not easy for someone like me to do, but I figure it's better than any alternative.

We started a new family tradition with our oldest son. We paid for his handgun class and paid for his concealed permit, and bought him his first handgun -- in his case, an M&P 9mm (yes, we've settled into pretty much of a 9mm family). My now 19-year old son can't wait to turn 21 - he knows what's coming. And my 17-year old daughter knows it will be her turn soon.

(Speaking of my daughter, I was very willing to let stories circulate among her friends, the guys especially, that I was a proud gun owner and a fierce protector of my family. That has reduced the potential "suitor" pool significantly; I'm okay with that!)

When we made the decision to bring handguns and other weapons into our home, I made sure to not only teach our children handgun safety, but took them out to the range many times to familiarize them with the weaponry. That also served to take some of the curiosity factor out of the equation. They saw firsthand the awe and power of the weapons; they learned the damage that can be done. They also learned from us about the laws of the state, how they can and cannot be used, and the implications of every having to use one.

My kids are crack shots; my daughter the best of all. They know how to safely handle and clean guns. They know how and when to use one to defend our home. We have safe, secure, private locations where the guns are stored - easily accessible to our family, but hidden from others. I made the decision that having a gun locked in a cabinet or gun safe was not going to help much if our home was being broken in to - they needed to be readily accessible. Yes, my children were all in their teens when we began this; that decision might have been different had then been younger. But our ability to defend ourselves is paramount, and speed is of the essence. We also posted Patriot Post "Protected by Second Amendment Security" stickers at every door, just to give thieves a fair warning.

I hope that I never have to pull or use my gun in any life-threatening situation. However, I have trained for that possibility, and am prepared should that situation ever present itself. To me, that's all a part of being an American Patriot and a proud gun owner.

I encourage everyone I can to get their concealed permit, get the proper training, and carry a weapon. We live in dangerous times. Crime is on the rise; criminals are more sophisticated; police forces are stretched to the limit. Our personal security - and the security of our loved ones - is truly our responsibility. You know what they say, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away...

I literally don't leave home without a gun on my side or on my ankle. I've also learned the misnomer of "concealed weapon permit" as it pertains to Tennessee. A weapon does not need to be concealed; in fact, I've learned that an openly displayed weapon is a powerful deterrent to crime, and, at least in Tennessee, is perfectly legal. I don't display it all the time; for business reasons that's not prudent. But a weapon is always readily accessible, and I've trained on the range how to draw in many carry situations (waistband, holster, ankle, small of the back, etc).

Fear is a powerfully motivating factor. It was fear - and ignorance - that kept me away from guns for many years. Knowledge, however, drives away fear. Learning about guns; studying about guns; talking to informed people about guns; becoming knowledgeable about the laws of my state and the surrounding states; all of that helped to drive out the fear. I still fear for the safety of myself and my family, but I know I'm prepared to act should I ever have to. That's my right and my responsibility.

We are American Patriots, we're proud gun owners, and we're taking personal responsibility for our own safety, and joining millions of other Patriots who are prepared to defend Liberty.