Don’t Tell Me How to Defend My Family

As a conservative, I’m going to admit to a guilty pleasure — I love On Point with Tom Ashbrook, an NPR talk radio show based in Boston.  Ashbrook covers fascinating topics, draws excellent guests, and is an effective and fair interviewer.  This week Wade Goodwyn is filling in as host, and yesterday he focused on the gun control debate following the Aurora massacre.  One of his guests, Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, kept making a demonstrably flawed argument: That civilian gun-owners would make mass shootings more dangerous.  In fact, civilian gun-owners have stopped mass shootings in their tracks.

But that’s not the main topic of my post.  I want to deal with the renewed call for an “assault weapons” ban.  Again and again I hear a variation on the same argument: Assault weapons aren’t good for hunting, nor do you need a high capacity magazine for a shooting range, so let’s ban them.  Here’s Jon Meacham Time:

And I know this too: the kind of assault rifle used in the Aurora massacre — an AR-15, which is essentially a civilian version of the military’s M-16 — has no sporting purpose save playacting, in which the shooter is in some kind of combat situation. You don’t need an AR-15 to hunt, and you certainly don’t need the high-capacity magazine that was reportedly used even if your interest is target shooting on a range.

My response is simple: Don’t tell me how to defend my family.  We live in rural Tennessee (“when seconds count; the police are only minutes away”), we’ve already had one strange incident where a man came uninvited to our home demanding to talk to Nancy and me, and I can’t rely on police who will show up just in time to place yellow tape around the crime scene.  Given my training and my comfort level with firearms, I prefer to use either a 9mm semi-automatic or my M4-variant AR-15 for home defense.  Heck, I slept with those weapons when I was in Iraq, can strip and clean them with my eyes closed (well, almost), and can handle them comfortably and safely.

I know those choices may be tactically debatable (there’s good arguments for a shorter-barreled shotgun or a larger caliber pistol), but they work for me.  As a husband and father, I feel a deep and sacred responsibility to protect my wife and children.  And the idea that my ability to do so could or should be compromised because someone believes that my chosen weapon doesn’t have “sporting use” is, frankly, appalling.

I have no problems with background checks, with denying weapons to the mentally ill, or (critically) working to patch holes in a porous mental health system that allows all-too-many dangerous men and women to walk free.  I do, however, have a problem with a mindset that would leave me potentially outgunned by criminals and — even worse — delegating my defense to brave men and women who (despite all their courage) couldn’t possibly help my family in the moments when we’d need them most.

  • Brantley Gasaway

    David, I admit that I can’t imagine what it would be like to have had that incident and believe that this type of gun is necessary to fulfill your sacred duty to protect your family.

    But I do wonder about the principle behind your libertarian assertion that others (especially the government) must not dictate how you do this. How do you think Christianly about the balance between your individual rights (here, self-defense) and your communal responsibilities (e.g. to promote a safe society)? Is the common good and love of neighbor served by the government not restricting any type of weapon that someone might deem necessary for self-defense? Of course not…but by what principle do you draw the line?

  • David French

    Brantley, thanks for your thoughtful question, and I think it merits a longer post. However, I think that my individual gun ownership rights in fact promote a safer society than the alternative. As for the line, I’m pretty much comfortable where it is regarding weapon types. There’s no realistic policy options on the table for opening up access to true military weapons, nor would I support such options. In addition, I’d argue that self defense isn’t solely an individual right — defense of family, of friends, even of strangers in a mass shooting situation is an exercise of communal responsibilities. It’s hard to be more communal than stopping a mass shooting in its tracks, as numerous courageous armed citizens have done.

    • Brantley Gasaway

      Thanks, David–I’d be interested in your ideas about this. I’ve been thinking about this underlying principle (balance of individual rights and common good) recently as I’ve been writing about how different Christians have criticized the liberal political tradition’s individualistic focus and emphasis on rights rather than responsibilities. Of course I know it wasn’t the point of your original post here, but I do wonder how your Christian commitments rather than just cultural context lead you to a “don’t tell me how to defend my family” position. And yes, I try to subject myself and my own preference for more gun restrictions to the same evaluation!

  • Geology Lovell

    I called the 911 the other day there were at least two intruders stealing things out of my shed I called 911 and told them and they said there is nobody in the area and not sure when they could get to me so I hung up and in a couple of minutes I called them back and told them I had just called but never mind hurrying I shot the guys in the shed and funny thing my place was surrounded in no time and needless to say they caught the men. the office said to me that I said I had shot them and I said to the officer I thought there was no one in the area to take my call.

    • Robin White

      Wow, I just saw that 911 story on Pinterest today. Should we assume that your real name is Tony Gladstone or that you borrowed that story to make your point?

  • Alicia

    I agree completely with your article. We purchased a new AR yesterday. It is my job to protect my family.

  • Kim Taylor Bunker

    Hi David,
    I agree with the individual right to bear arms and it’s ability to tamper criminal activity, we also have guns in our home from a collectors stand point and my husband hunts pheasant. I do not agree with the ability of an average individual to buy 100 round magazines, there is no domestic use purpose that benefits from that . I dare say that I agree with Sen. Feinstein. (Yes that is ground shaking to me as well). Your service and your training make you unique in your in-depth understanding and handling of this type of firearm and should be available to you in all military duties for your protection and your team. Having said that you know that a well placed double barrel can be an effective weapon at close range for the person that showed up at your home. Thanks for your posts! Best to you. K

    • Jamfish

      Hi Kim,
      Please cite historical law where a bar had to be met for “domestic” or “sporting” purposes for arms that we keep and bear. I will understand if that’s your personal opinion/preference, but I think you’ll be hard pressed to find any such historical reference. In fact, what you will find, is that the weapons are typically referred to as those available for “general military use” or “ordinary military equipment” under The Standard Model theory of the 2nd Amendment.

      “Sporting purpose” is a ubiquitous term, but not defined anywhere. Its meaning must be divined from legislative and enforcement debates. There is no standard set that we can judge against or establish general recognition. That leaves us with government as the sole authority to make this judgement. Brilliant, eh?

      As far as one’s civic & moral duty, I like this pull quote from “A Nation of Cowards” by Jeffrey Snyder:
      “Although difficult for modern man to fathom, it was once widely believed that life was a gift from God, that not to defend that life when offered violence was to hold God’s gift in contempt, to be a coward and to breach one’s duty to one’s community.”

    • James

      What do you know of the events in Aurora? Perhaps you saw a different report from what I saw, but what I heard was that the fact he was using an easily available 100 round magazine saved lives- because he did not know how to use his weapon and it jammed. If he had been forced top buy several lower capacity rounds, it would have slowed him down and prevented the weapon from jamming and lead to more injuries/deaths. The fact that the 100 round magazine was available saved lives. If there had been a trained, confident concealed weapons holder in the crowd, it is likely that more lives would have been saved.

      The AR-15 is a tactical weapon, for laying down suppressive fire and similar tactical uses- and is not a weapon that is very effective in the hands of an inexperienced operator. There are far better tactical options for the Aurora scenario, and thank God the shooter did not have the knowledge or experience to use them- and thank God the less effective AR-15 with a 100 magazine was available so the shooter didn’t think about or research more effective options.

  • Ryan


    I have to say that although I appreciate (and would have a hard time not doing) the desire to protect your family I have to say its a far more difficult subject than this post admits. Firstly, your logic allows you to use virtually any weapon (its your right!), you thus could have a tank parked in your back yard. Secondly, I would ask where that “sacred responsibility” comes from to protect your family. Now don’t get me wrong, I would have a very difficult time not protecting my wife and children in a similar situation. Yet I have to ask the serious question. “If you were an african and you were asked to rape in order to save your families life would you do it?” And even if you would, does that make it right?” Thirdly, at least in the case of Canada (which of course is debatable) I would argue that there are other underlying issues that make you fear in the United States ($FILE/ATT8BNDV/0110185-002-XIE.pdf) and ( Although I wouldn’t argue that more guns wouldn’t make “some” people safer, it obviously does not make all people safer (particularly handguns).

    David, as a reader of your blog and a first time commentator I welcome response. Particularly in regards to the Harvard research it shows that in Canada a man may show up at my door(as a Canadian that I am), and be tremendously angry. Yet I am not afraid that he will shoot me. Why are you afraid? That question I believe will answer questions about gun control. Americans are afraid because that criminal may have a pistol and may use it. Even if criminals in Canada have pistols they are far more rare (and although I may be shot), it seems that it does not carry the same level of fear. I have to admit it seems a bit of a American solipsistic introspection this obsession on the right to bear arms.


  • Pingback: The Biblical and Natural Right of Self Defense