Mac Clayton: If I Had A Gun

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Many gun owners believe their weapons make them and their families safer. Mac Clayton doesn’t believe that.

If I had a gun, I might shoot you.

Don’t worry, I don’t. I turned in my 20-gauge shotgun to be destroyed 10 years ago. I thought too many guns were a societal problem. I wanted to do my part by getting rid of mine.

Since then, with the flood of guns, practically encouraged by the Supreme Court, I sometimes think I might be the last unarmed person around, or at least the most naïve. Maybe I should be carrying.

I got punched once when I was a mouthy teen. I never saw it coming. Every time fight or flight has been activated in my base brain, I’ve chosen flight. Plenty of guys are bigger and stronger. It would be beyond stupid to take a swing at one of them.


But what if I could, in a moment of blind rage, reach into my waistband and pull out a gun? A gun is a great leveler. How big the dude is doesn’t matter.

I say blind rage because that’s an easy way to think of escalation to violence. There must be something wrong with someone who gets into a blind rage, right? Maybe, but there are plenty of states of anger on the way to that that are dangerous.

When we’re threatened, our amygdala jolts us into action and an instant assessment of risk. Fleeing is almost always less risky, but many of us (I, certainly) have a strong impulse to stand our ground. States like Florida have even made it a legal right.

I’m not likely to stand my ground if I know I’m going to get pounded to a pulp. But, if I had a gun…

We routinely protect ourselves against falling victim to our biology. We know we’re going to have sex, so we carry protection. We know we’re going to have confrontations that make us angry, sometimes very angry. The way to be prepared for that, though, isn’t to carry a gun. It’s just the opposite.

With a Perspective, I’m Mac Clayton.

Mac Clayton is an author living in Palo Alto.