Formatted as a Q&A interview, Mr. Baum asks and answers:
At one point in your trip, you switched from open carry to concealed carry. What was that like?
In some ways I really liked it. It's physically uncomfortable, it's heavy and it digs into you, and you have to be very conscious of your clothing to make sure you're not displaying it, because you really don't want anyone knowing you're carrying it. But it kept me vigilant. You really have your shit together when you're carrying a gun. You never forget you're wearing it. Maybe cops who've been wearing a gun for 30 years forget they're wearing it, but I certainly never did, and I wore it for about 18 months.
It also made me really calm. When you're wearing a gun, you do not get upset if someone takes your parking space, or if someone cuts you in line. You have this quite noble sense of being the sheepdog, being the protector. And I liked that.
But then you start wondering -- what is my responsibility here? It's really complicated. Say you're in a shopping mall and somebody starts shooting. What do you do? If you run away, are you like a doctor who doesn't respond when someone starts choking in a restaurant? If you're wearing a gun, do you have an obligation to run towards the sound of the guns?
To answer Mr. Baum's question, No Sir, you have no obligation to "run towards the sound of the guns" simply because you are carrying a complimentary tool yourself. You may or may not have a moral/legal/ethical responsibility to live up to the American urge to "do something" in an emergency, but simple ownership of a potentially useful tool doesn't automatically infer obligation to do so directly. BTW, your choking comparison isn't really apropos as a choking person offers little if any direct physical danger to any but those in immediate close contact; a shooter does. You have the potential ability to effectively and (more) safely respond to a shooter if you are yourself wearing a gun, but that doesn't automatically translate into obligation/responsibility to do so.
Later in the piece he asks/answers:
Nick Kristoff wrote a column in the New York Times about a gun standoff that was the result of a disagreement over a goose. He argued that instead of preventing conflict, guns actually escalate it. What's your response to this?
I think we are all too cavalier with our guns. I fault both sides, really. The NRA and its handmaidens want us to believe that the whole problem is criminals, and they will not take responsibility. We need to lock guns up. Training should be better. And I think the anti-gun side needs to show gun guys more respect and needs to summon gun guys to respect themselves more. I think we all need to take this more seriously. We have 300 million privately owned guns in this country. Let's really talk about how we can be safer.
Joe Nocera at the Times runs a daily tally of gun killings. He's not running a daily tally of how many people defend themselves with guns. For one thing we don't know about it most of the time. David Hemenway at Harvard is very pro gun-control and he thinks it happens about 80,000 times a year. If that's true, that means that guns are saving 10 times as many people as they're killing.
I call for my fellow liberals to approach gun owners with respect. These are the people who understand guns, these are the people who can help us figure out how to be safer around guns. Instead, you drive them into a defensive crouch by calling gun culture the problem.
I suggest the phrase you're tip-toeing around Mr. Baum is: as a political issue, gun control is more about "control" and less about "guns".
A final observation; Mr. Baum asks/answers:
At the end of this trip, did you feel any less conflicted about your place in the gun world?
No. I still don't really belong in either camp. If you watch the reaction to the book when it comes out, you will see that. I'm no less a Democrat than I was, but I am more attuned to the gun guy complaint -- "I am over-managed and I am under-respected as a citizen and a human being." I think the right has a point there. We need to stop fearing capable, empowered, independent-thinking individuals.
Mr. Baum associates guns and gun ownership with "conservatives" and fair enough, lots of my gun-owning friends are actual conservatives politically. That said, I believe the attitude Mr. Baum closes his article with is more aligned with the libertarian political attitude than it is with the conservative view point.
I heartily endorse his final words; We need to stop fearing capable, empowered, independent-thinking individuals. Indeed Sir, indeed.