To believe Philip Van Cleave ["Armed and Determined; Va. Group Openly Carries Guns in Its Effort to Change Laws and Minds," front page, Nov. 14] is to believe that indiscriminate violent crime is pervasive enough to warrant the consequences of carrying concealed firearms; that guns are our most effective "24-hours-a-day" home-defense option and are never used to shoot the wrong people; that al Qaeda plans terror tactics that armed citizens can foil; that guns, not public opinion, are our ultimate protection from home-grown tyranny; that proliferating personally carried firearms wouldn't make most average citizens uncomfortable; and that it's "asinine" to believe alcohol promotes impulsive behavior.
Does Mr. Van Cleave live in the same Virginia that I do?
I was once in law enforcement, and I carried a revolver. Based on my own experiences, I thought the gun was a good deterrent to crime. But when I studied for a master's degree in criminal justice, I recognized that my experiences say little about the effectiveness of guns for protection.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics of the FBI, which keeps nationwide data, has found that in homes in which guns are kept, the guns are more likely to be used against family members than as protection for them. More homicides are committed every year by people known to the victim than by strangers. When guns are eliminated, the number of homicides decreases because most other weapons are not as deadly.
Do those who possess and carry handguns feel comfortable that they are safeguarding those weapons and keeping them from the hands of children? Where are the guns when they shower or go to the beach or play volleyball?
Guns are a liability and a danger to those we love -- the very ones we are trying to protect. It is not a good idea to carry them.
When I used to parade around with a gun on my hip, I was a 7-year-old playing cowboys. When adults do it, I'd call that arrested development.
I am unsure how psychologists would label this behavior, but I am sure that it has little to do with self-defense.