The Corner

Don’t Tell Me How to Defend My Family

The New York Times is in the midst of an editorial crusade against guns, and it’s doing it in standard New York Times fashion: supplementing its own house editorial with classic counterintuitive op-eds — in this case an infantry officer and a cop weigh in on behalf of the paper’s position. (Note to young writers: The absolute best way to get prime space in America’s most famous newspaper is to write a leftist op-ed while holding down a stereotypically conservative job). While I certainly respect his experience with weapons, I daresay that the infantry officer represents a minority viewpoint amongst his own brothers-in-arms (he would certainly be in the minority both in the armored cavalry unit I deployed with and in any unit I’ve served in since). And the cop — ironically enough — comes from Chicago, the land of repressive gun laws and astronomically high gun crime.  

Yet their arguments miss a fundamental moral point: As a husband and father, I refuse to delegate the defense of my family to those who — however well-meaning and courageous they may be — typically arrive too late. In my rural community, the police are likely 15 to 20 minutes away even in the event of an urgent emergency call, and calls that urgent often need response times measured in seconds.  

Several months ago our family had an extremely troubling personal encounter with a man obsessed with my (and my wife’s) political writing, an encounter that occurred on the heels of angry blog comments that openly wondered about our address. I understand and sympathize with the infantry officer’s lament that he doesn’t want America to be like Iraq, where you carry a gun everywhere, every day, but his lament is irrelevant to my family’s unique challenges. I also understand — just as the cop argues — that a gunfight can be a terrifying, confusing, dangerous affair, but is it more or less terrifying when the criminal is the only one armed? In reality, while mass shootings are exceedingly rare, law-abiding citizens use guns every day to protect themselves from situations less dramatic but no less consequential to their personal safety.  

The self-defense experts on the Times editorial board say that I don’t need anything more than a 10-round “clip” to defend my children, my wife, and myself, but the cop on the same page of the paper talks about how even trained professionals can blow through high-capacity magazines in a true firefight. Why don’t we let the citizen decide what he or she needs? A free society trusts its sane, law-abiding citizens to make the right kinds of judgments regarding their own lives. We can’t delegate those judgments to a government that almost always can’t protect us in our moment of maximum need, nor will I sacrifice my family’s safety to a pie-in-the-sky vision of a liberal, gun-free utopia.  

In other words: Dear New York Times, don’t tell me how to defend my family.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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