In Short: Accountable.
I was a reserve sheriff’s deputy in rural northern California. At least at the time, a reserve at the level I was didn’t automatically have the right to carry a gun off-duty, but the sheriff was a practical sort: the more responsible citizens that could help, he figured, the better, so he wanted any who went through the academy to get concealed carry permits.
Filling out the application I left one slot blank: the “good reason” to want the permit. I asked the sheriff, Was “reserve deputy” a good reason? He said I should put in that slot, “To comply with the law.” Had to have a permit to legally carry? Then that’s the reason! Seemed logical to me.
Still, I rarely carried my pistol when not on duty. I vividly remember the first time I did. A friend showed up one evening to ask for help: his girlfriend was missing, and he thought he might know where she was. Could I come with him to help her?
Sounded fishy to me, so I strapped on my pistol, put a jacket over it, and went with him.
What went through my head was, carrying off-duty wasn’t much different from carrying on-duty: if I merely drew it out in someone’s presence I’ll be accountable for my actions. Americans are big on “My Rights!!!” …but forget about the other side of the rights coin: responsibility. I vowed to never forget that.
Turns out the girlfriend had gone bar-hopping with friends: false alarm.
Once I moved to rural western Colorado, the subject came up again. I live on 40 acres (16+ ha) 20 minutes from “town” — where “town” is fewer than 1,000 people. Need cops in a true emergency? If they’re not already busy, the average response time is going to be at least 20 minutes.
I still didn’t carry a gun, though, until something happened.
When people say “predators” they usually mean criminals. I don’t: I think of the real predators — wild animals that hunt to survive. We have bears, mountain lions, bobcats, and more on our land. But the one that surprised was when I was in my own driveway and spotted a huge badger coming toward me.
“The American badger has most of the general characteristics common to badgers… stocky and low-slung bodies with short, powerful legs,” Wikipedia says, “identifiable by their huge foreclaws.” It’s “an aggressive animal with few natural enemies.” They’re normally nocturnal; it was mid-day. I’ve heard from natives that they can be vicious if they choose to be.
And it was between me and the house. I moved aside and gave it a wide berth. But like most animals with “few natural enemies,” it didn’t pay me any mind and continued on its way.
I felt no need to shoot it, but it occurred to me that had it chosen to attack, I didn’t have any way to fight it off. I thought of the other myriad animals that roam freely on our land. The predator of concern isn’t human, it’s any number of unexpected carnivores that I could disturb as I went for walks. So yep, I now tuck a pistol into my belt when I go out, and I still know I’m accountable if I use it.—
Randy Cassingham is WiLt’s head writer and publisher. His flagship publication This is True, established in 1994, is the oldest entertainment feature on the Internet.
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