How Carrying a Gun Can End Your Life
“You should carry a gun Nick”, my friend told me as I started work in his abortion clinic. “We all do, and you never know when you might need it.”
It was sort of shocking advice to get so early in my medical career, that I should be arming myself in case some cuckoo bird activist chose to try to assassinate me for my choice to help women realize their reproductive freedom. I didn’t take that advice, as I didn’t grow up with firearms. Overall, they scare me, and I don’t like handling them. Perhaps this is why I was a little freaked out every time I got in the car with my friend and he unholstered his Glock and unceremoniously dropped it into the side door pocket of his truck. I worked in abortion clinics for years and never chose to carry, though. It would have been easy to get a carry license, given that I was a potential target of legitimate violence (as if that is required). But in the end it seemed really unlikely that a gun could be useful to me, even if somebody tried to kill me. And I could think of a tremendous number of ways it could be to my disadvantage to have it. So I didn’t carry.
But my friend thought differently. He imagined some kind of situation where a bad guy might come up on him and he would be John Wayne, outdrawing the perp and somehow taking him down. It always seemed a little ridiculous that this could possibly happen. The problem would be that you would have no idea who that dangerous person might be. By the time you realized who the bad guy is, you would be dead or injured at least. I can sort of imagine a firearm being useful in some kind of mass shooting situation, but for an abortion provider it wouldn’t be a mass shooting – it would be a directed assassination attempt. And that would be an entirely different situation. But my friend still thought it made sense to carry, and he did.
And wouldn’t you know it, one day he actually had a reason to use that gun, and he did. And this is what happened.
The clinic was regularly attended by protesters. They varied in intensity and number, though in my experience it was never a problem to drive past them as long as you ignored their yelling and rudeness. They generally didn’t come onto the private property. But occasionally they got a little too active and one had to call the police to push them off the property line. Sadly, court cases to keep a safe zone outside abortion clinics were ruled as violations of the first amendment or some such, and they were allowed to congregate right up to the property line and yell at providers and patients alike, just as they drove in.
A neighboring office allowed our providers to come in through the adjoining property and come through the back of the parking lot, which allowed the physician’s car to drive on without going through the public sidewalk area. In theory, protesters were not allowed to interfere with this path since they would be on private property to do so.
Over time, they got more aggressive and started interfering with that path. It was illegal, but they did it anyway. And on one particular day they did this to my friend. I wasn’t there, but my understanding is that they surrounded his car on private property and were yelling. And my friend had the great idea of resolving this situation with his gun.
He pulled his weapon out and held it up, basically showing the protesters that he had it. He said he felt that he was in danger and wanted to show them that he was armed.
So in the movies what would happen is that the protesters would scatter, realizing that the jig was up and their were outgunned and outmatched. And in the movies they wouldn’t come back because they knew my friend wasn’t to be trifled with.
But in real life something entirely different happens when a gun gets pulled out.
The protesters, either feeling in danger of being killed or just seeing a great opportunity to destroy the life of an abortion provider, called the police and said they were being threatened by a guy with a gun. And the police came, and they arrested my friend for the crime of Menacing. Menacing is “the criminal charge that arises if you “knowingly” place someone “in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.” In other words, you try to make someone believe they are going to get seriously hurt right now. And it is very hard to argue that my friend did not commit that crime. He pulled a gun on them, basically making the non verbal communication that he was going to kill them if they didn’t get away from his car.
So then he went to jail, and was charged by the district attorney. He paid bail and was released. After a tremendous amount of dollars paid to his criminal attorney, the charges were dropped, under the argument that he was under reasonable threat of bodily harm from the protesters and was somehow using his weapon in self defense, and that probably he would be acquitted of charges if it went to trial.
So he got off, but not off easy. The medical board was notified of his arrest, and he lost his medical license in the state. If he ever applies for a license in any state has to inform the board that he was charged with a felony. To date he has not gotten his state license back. He can no longer practice medicine in the state where the incident occurred.
So there are a lot of ways people can look at this. The protesters were clearly doing something illegal being on private property and surrounding his car. And it is certainly possible that my friend felt in danger. And in the end, being a very pro-gun kind of person, I think he believes that the trouble this situation created in his life is because of the protesters and their aggressive behavior, and a world where a lot of people hate abortion providers and generally try to screw them. He probably thinks he was right to use his weapon to scare off his would be attackers.
But I see it differently. I think the core of his troubles came from the fact that he chose to carry a gun. In having a gun in his car, he had the opportunity to make this terrible decision to threaten people with it. It is said you should never pull a gun out unless you intend to kill someone with it, and in this case that’s probably true. He certainly didn’t have enough grounds to fire his gun, so it didn’t make sense to pull it out at all. What he should have done is what the protesters did – he should have pulled out his cell phone and called the police. They would have been there quickly and most likely would have arrested a number of the protesters. For a while they would have been less aggressive and realized that they couldn’t come on the property without consequences. Instead what happened is that the story of an abortion provider threatening protesters with a firearm went all over the news, strengthening the position of the anti-abortion crowd in the public eye. And my friend lost his medical license.
This happened many years ago, but it is so apropos in our recent political discussion about guns. So many people believe that they are somehow protected by arming themselves. It seems so crazy to me. Everyone is worried about accidents with guns. I am worried about that too. But more so, I worry about what we can do intentionally with them. You have a gun in your hand, you have so many opportunities to do the wrong thing with it. There is certainly some tiny slice of possibility that you might live out some hollywood fantasy where you actually stop a crime or successfully defend yourself or someone else with your gun. But its far more likely you are going to do something stupid with your gun.
So for your own sake, don’t carry one. It’s far more likely to hurt you than help you, and in ways you never even imagined.