One thing about the gun debate I find interesting is how quickly and easily gun owners get riled up when politicians, or anyone else for that matter, begin talking about taking away their guns. From the way they talk, you'd think the world was about to come to an end. What was Heston's famous line? "From my cold, dead hands." Heston made more forgettable movies than anyone could ever remember, but five words uttered at the NRA convention and he's immortalized forevermore.
I see the same intensity of feelings in comments on my blog. "You're a traitor," is one of the less-angry ones; "Mike the Gun Guy is Enemy #1," crops up from time to time. I have never once advocated any legislative or legal response to gun violence, but God forbid I say that maybe some of what the NRA claims to be true isn't so true and you'd think I was calling for the confiscation of every, single gun.
Maybe I just don't appreciate how gun owners think about their guns. So I decided to get a better understanding of the average gun owner by conducting a survey on how frequently gun guys (and gals) actually walk around with a gun. After all, if you listen to the NRA, you quickly learn that nobody understands the problems faced by gun owners like they do, and nothing is more important to gun owners than being able to protect themselves and their loved ones by walking around with a gun.
Yesterday I sat down and sent an email to 650 men and women who took the required safety course from me that my state requires for issuance of the LTC. If they had, in fact, received their LTC, I asked them to tell me how often they carried a concealed weapon with the choices being: always, usually, sometimes, frequently or never at all. Obviously, the folks who said they always or usually carried a concealed weapon were embodying Wayne LaPierre's "good guys" dictum. The rest? "Pussies" or worse.
Within 24 hours I got back more than 130 responses, of whom 103 stated they had their LTC. And how did the NRA do in convincing them that they would be fulfilling a sacred trust by walking around with a gun? Not very well, I'm afraid. Only 29 of 102 LTC-holders reported that they 'always' or 'usually' carried a gun, of whom 23 were guys and 6 were gals. The rest just weren't convinced that they needed to carry a gun, and 54 of the respondents, 44 men and 10 women reported that they 'rarely' or 'never' carried a concealed weapon at all.
Now don't get me wrong. The latest numbers indicate that there are roughly 8 million active concealed-carry permits in the United States, so if the results of my poll are representative, that means there may be about 2 million people walking the highways and byways of our beloved country ready at any moment to yank out and use their guns. But 2 million doesn't even represent 1% of the country's population so it's not like there's some huge, gun-toting army out there just waiting to protect the rest of us from the criminal hordes.
On the other hand, a couple of million people who believe that something's about to happen in DC that will directly affect them can make a lot of noise. They can contact their Representatives, or make a telephone call, or send a nasty email to me. I have never done any of those things because I can't recall that Congress ever debated a law which would have any direct impact on me. But the NRA, to their credit, has managed to make its membership feel that any discussion about gun control is a discussion about them. Why pass up the opportunity to let everyone know what's the most important thing to you? I wouldn't, that's for damn sure.