Gun Owners and the "Magic Wand Syndrome"
"When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you..."
When You Wish Upon A Star © 1940
Music by Leigh Harline - Lyrics by Ned Washington
The other day I read a news story about an Arizona man that got into a confrontation with a thief breaking into his car. The car owner was armed with a gun and for whatever reason, could not or would not use his gun against the young criminal. As a result the thug took the car owner's gun from him and then proceeded to beat him with it! The man was badly injured but the story did have a somewhat happy ending in that he kept his life, it could have just have easily ended much more tragically. I don't know all the facts regarding this particular incident but I would be willing to bet that this was yet another manifestation of what I like to call the "Magic Wand Syndrome".
The Magic Wand Syndrome is the very naïve belief that a gun is a powerful cure-all endowed with magical powers, a mystical object that can somehow save the day by just be presented. All you need do is wave this miraculous talisman in the direction of your problem and it will disappear. A person's troubles will just evaporate with the display of a gun, criminals will flee or surrender, conflict will instantaneously end and all will be right with the world. MOST IMPORTANTLY, THIS MAGICAL DEVICE CAN DO ALL THIS WITHOUT EVER BEING FIRED - ITS MERE PRESENSE IS ENOUGH TO WORK ITS MAGIC. There are some otherwise sane people that actually believe in this fairy story and they do so at their own peril. For people that don't own a gun this is nothing but harmless delusion, but for those that do own a gun and also hold to this childish fantasy it is a dangerous belief that could cost them their life some day.
Yes, wishful thinking can get you killed.
I've encountered this attitude several times in my own life; the most recent occasion was with a male coworker a few months ago. We were discussing firearms and he was talking about his home defense gun, a .45 Sig Sauer pistol. His comment to me was if a criminal did break into his home that they would "wet their pants" after he showed them "the business end" of his .45 Automatic. Maybe they would "wet their pants" but on the other hand maybe they would pull their own gun and just start shooting. The possibility that a criminal might not be paralyzed with fear when looking down the barrel of his gun was something that my coworker didn't want to accept. After all what kind of person wouldn't be completely intimidated when looking down the barrel of a gun? I tried to talk some sense into the guy but he was having none of it.
That's not the first time I've dealt with gun owners, or potential gun owners, with similar hardheaded attitudes.
The first time I ever dealt with this personally was with another coworker many years before. She knew that I was the resident "gun guy" and was continually asking me firearm questions. I came to find out that she wanted to purchase a gun for home protection and was interested in my opinions on the subject. So I proceeded to tell her about various types of guns that could be used for self-defense and the best calibers suitable for the task. It was there that she stopped the conversation to inform me that she had no intention of buying ammunition and that she only wanted a gun to "point" at an intruder if she had to. It was her belief that killing was wrong and she did not want even the slightest chance that she could kill someone. She might have to buy a gun but under no circumstances was she going to buy the very item that makes a gun practical, the ammunition. I quickly tried to talk her out of this childlike idea and to bring some rational thought into the conversation. I told her that best thing would be to go ahead and get the gun and ammunition, and the training to use it. I also told her that if she wasn't going to possess ammo to not have the gun either because it would just increase the chances of her getting hurt or killed. I told her that if she couldn't live with the idea of owning a gun and possibly having to use it she would be better off to just get a big dog or pepper spray or maybe take Karate lessons. But mostly I tried to emphasize the idea that a useless, empty gun wasn't going to be any help in her time of need and her "plan" was not well thought out to say the least. I never knew the outcome of that conversation because not too long after that she took another job and we never spoke again. I would like to hope that I talked her into getting that gun, ammo and the training to use it, if not that, then at the very least dissuaded her from the silly notion that pointing an unloaded gun at a armed intruder was somehow a good idea.
There are thousands of instances every year where gun owners prevent crime simply by having a gun, without ever having to use it.
Knowing that the above statement is true some might think that they wouldn't ever have to fire a gun at someone. Maybe they won't, but they shouldn't count on it, life isn't always a statistic. You can never completely predict how people will react, not people that you know well and certainly not people that you've never met. If you were to confront an armed intruder in your home one might indeed "wet their pants" and surrender while another might be agitated to the point of attacking you with their own weapon, or like in the case above wrestle your own gun from you and proceed to beat you with it, or worse! It is great that many armed confrontations end with no shots being fired but the point here is that if you are using a gun you should be psychologically prepared for the worst case scenario. You should be prepared to use it on someone! If you can't accept and prepare for that possibility you shouldn't own a gun. This is not a fairy tale, this is not your perfect dream world, this is not the movies, this is real life and there are very real and sometimes horrific consequences to your actions. If you can't mentally accept the idea that YOU may have to kill someday to protect yourself DO NOT OWN A GUN! Having one that you can't or won't use could get you badly hurt or even killed. Better to be robbed, better to be beaten, better to be raped than to have a gun that you won't use, because it might be used on you. And under those circumstances you probably wouldn't live long enough to regret your foolishness.