By: Phillip Dolitsky  | 

Letter to the Editor: The Gun Culture I Know

To the Editor:

In a recent Pundit column in these pages, Ruchama Benhamou paints a grim picture of what she calls “gun culture in America.” This culture, she writes, is one where guns “are often used to promote power and incite fear” as opposed to being used for self-defense. This culture has apparently led “to an increase in mass shootings and gun violence all around the country.” How does she know this? Where has she learned of the inner motives of gun owners and their culture? And how does she know her causal claim that the increase in mass shootings and gun violence can be linked to this pervasive culture? We don’t know, for she cites no sources to justify her claims on both points. 

My goal here is not to discuss gun policy and its constitutional implications; I have done that elsewhere. Nor do I want to discuss what accounts for much of this nation’s gun violence. I write here to correct the author’s (mis)perception of gun culture. So, allow me to describe the gun culture that I know.

For the readers who don’t know me personally, I must mention that I am a proud gun owner. I carry my firearm religiously, sliding it into my holster whenever I leave my house, be it to the supermarket or to shul. If you ever catch me out and about here in my hometown of Philadelphia, you’d likely not even notice my gun at my side. But it is there, ready to be used in an act of defense to protect me, my family and everyone around me from a lunatic who wishes to do us harm. My firearm was there to protect my neighbor when I heard his house being broken into this past Passover. My gun was there when, at the height of last summer’s riots, I heard someone smash my (other) neighbor’s car windows in the dead of night, frightening my entire household. The only fear my CZ-P10c has incited is in the hearts of those miscreants who stood down the working end of it; to those behind it, it has brought nothing but comfort and security. 

And I am not the only one who can attest to this phenomenon. The CDC has noted that “Americans use firearms in self-defense between 500,000 and 3 million times every year.” There are a plethora of stories and anecdotes about good Samaritans using their firearms, like a few years ago:

A concealed-carry permit holder intervened to stop a mentally disturbed man who was endangering drivers by throwing chunks of concrete and metal pipes at cars passing by on the interstate. The man had damaged almost a dozen cars and was holding a large piece of metal when the permit holder drew his handgun and detained the man until police could arrive. One of the drivers whose car was damaged told reporters that she was thankful the permit holder saved her and other drivers from further harm.

The five or so of us guys who carry to shul are a blessing to our congregation, whose members have encouraged us. We are not only trained marksmen, but we are also trained in various levels of first aid. I myself carry a tourniquet in my pocket, realizing that I am likely to use it more than I am likely to draw my gun. Many gun-oriented companies, such as T-Rex Arms or The Warrior Poet Society, emphasize how important it is to be self-sufficient first responders, ready to terminate threats and simultaneously save lives. Any glance at their websites or YouTube pages will make that abundantly clear. Gun ranges across the country often have as much programming dedicated to first aid as they do to marksmanship. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that concealed-carry permit holders are, by far, the most law-abiding demographic of Americans. 

Those who are not self-proclaimed members of the gun community and its surrounding culture should recognize how special both are. It is a culture that treasures the sanctity of human life. It is a culture that chooses not to stand idly by in the face of those evil people who have no regard for life or property. It is a culture where, as Thomas Jefferson wrote to George Washington, “One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them.” 

This is the gun culture I know. I’m glad you now know it too. 

Phillip Dolitsky (YC ‘20) is currently a master’s student at the School of International Service at American University.