Why I would carry a gun in the US

First, there's self-defence. Then the high principle of states trusting their citizens

Share
Related Topics

Now is not a good time to admit this, but when I went to Washington as correspondent in 1997, I had two ambitions. The first was to become proficient in Spanish – for demographic reasons that are even more obvious now than they were then – the second was to learn to shoot.

Part of it was the seductive glamour; I fancied keeping a tiny bejewelled firearm in my handbag, as the late Nancy Reagan was reputed to do. But the greater part was practical. If you are living in a country where it is legal to be armed, then you have a choice. You can take the moral high ground and opt out, or you can decide to join them. And if you joined them, I reckoned, it was as well to know what you were about – or, to put it crudely, to know how a gun worked and to be able to shoot straight.

My only experience of firearms up to that point had come from shooting tin cans in an American friend’s extensive garden, and I wasn’t too bad at it. But almost the first thing you discover is that the kickback is fiercer than you generally anticipate, and you have to adjust for it. Then you need to figure out how the mechanics work, so that you can load and disable the weapon, as required.

Unfortunately – or fortunately, whichever way you look at it – I never got to go shooting during my time in the US. The problem was that Washington DC, while having at that time one of the highest rates of gun crime in the US, also had – and still has – some of the tightest gun laws. There was a shooting club buried somewhere on Capitol Hill, for gun-minded members of Congress to hone their skills; elsewhere firearms were illegal.

Which you could argue rather undermines the much-quoted Second Amendment that is interpreted as entitling every American to bear arms. And you might conclude from this that the US could go much further towards outlawing guns than is generally believed, at least at state level, if not federally. Maryland and Virginia, on either side of DC, for instance, have radically different gun laws. 

Although thwarted in my desire to become a crack markswoman, however, I don’t exclude having another go at it one day – for two reasons. While I share the general European aversion to the overweening US firearms lobby, gun ownership has two compelling arguments on its side. The first is self-defence. Those countries which arm their police do so because possessing a gun evens up the odds, as between male and female, attacker and victim, in a way that no other weapon can. You may be smaller and weaker than your assailant, yet if you are armed and shoot better, you can prevail.

The second is an argument of high principle. A state that allows its citizens to carry arms is a state that is confident in its legality and unafraid of its people. Americans do not often defend their attitude to guns in this way, but if they did, they might be better understood. 

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The daily catch-up: fathers looking after children, World Cup questions and Nostradamus

John Rentoul
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Phone and data laws to be passed in haste

Andrew Grice
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice