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The roots of our attachment to guns go deep. Guns promise protection from a few real (and a vast number of imaginary) dangers. They contain romantic suggestions of the West and John Wayne. Guns are beautiful, in a way.

But “self-defense”? Should we accept that as a good reason to own a gun?

Several years ago, I was awakened in the middle of the night by a thunderous battering. I opened the door to the front porch and saw a big, young man standing there staring at me. Our front door, which had been locked, was open and our doorknob was lying on the floor. He’d beaten it in with some sort of mallet.

I finally said, “You must be in the wrong house!”

He looked at me and slowly repeated, “I must be in the wrong house!” Then he turned and ran out the door.

(Note to that man: what were you on?)

After, I remembered that I had a gun in the bedside table.

I wondered then, and still wonder, what would have happened if I’d had it with me? If I’d tried to hold him under arrest until the police came; if in his dazed state he’d lunged at me and I’d shot him; if he’d taken the gun from me and maybe shot me; if the gun had gone off in our struggle and wounded one of us ...

No matter what would have happened if I’d had a gun with me, any of those things would have been worse than what actually did happen.

Buy a gun, if it will make you feel any better, for the one-in-a-trillion chance that a Grizzly bear or a serial rapist is going to come in through the window while you’re sleeping; but leave it in the bedside drawer.

George Jamison,

Missoula

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