Do I need a gun?
This is a sticky question because there are definite benefits either way you look at it. What it basically boils down to, however, is the kind of person you are. Forget the gun for a second and ask yourself these questions:
Could you, in cold blood, kill your next door neighbor? Could you point a pistol into the face of your fourth-grade english teacher and blow her head clean off?
You might think that I'm being overly graphic or personal. You're not going to have to shoot your english teacher, so what does it matter, right? Wrong. Morally, or ethically, there is absolutely no difference if the person you terminate is a complete stranger or someone you have spent your whole life with. You had better look at it as if your victim is a close friend, because it might just come to that. Don't kid yourself. If you can't see yourself lugging away a dead body and cleaning up about three quarts of blood, then forget it. If it comes to you needing to shoot someone, then you can bet the police won't be dropping by to pick up the mess. They'll be busy with more important matters. And no, you can't just leave the body outside your door. In a day or so it will be so foul that moving it earlier would seem like a piece of cake.
Scared yet? I hope so. Murder is serious business, and make no mistake, it would still be murder, no matter if you were defending your life and freedom. The authorities might forgive you, but your conscious won't.
Okay, so what could possibly be the advantages to having a gun? There are plenty. Sheer stopping power is one. A single bullet will take down almost any would-be attacker cold, even from a considerable distance. You can't really say that of any other weapon. Then again, they need care and ammunition, make an unreal amount of noise, and can be taken away from you. Most importantly, however, is the fact that they are completely unforgiving. A gun is just a tool, and like any tool, it can make a real mess of things in the wrong hands. You might think that the shadowy figure in your livingroom is an intruder, only to find your soul mate laying on the floor gasping their last breath when you turn on the lights. And all they were after was a late night snack...
Guns are very final, and don't allow for mistakes in judgement. If you simply must answer the knock at your door with a weapon in hand, pick up a frying pan. Think about it. Almost everyone has one. They are usually readily available. They look damn impressive (I think Big Mama Cass waving her blackened cast iron skillet over her head and screaming like a banshee, sounds a lot more daunting than some fool revolver)... And most important, if it does happen to be your english teacher at the door, then even if you do whack them over the head, you might not kill them outright.
So... as a general rule, if you don't already have one in your home, and practice with it on a regular basis, don't do it. You don't have the time (or the money) to be properly trained not to shoot your own foot off.
Is a knife any better?
Maybe, but like a gun, it can be taken away from you. Knives are only good for fighting that's "up-close and personal", and if the guy who attacks you has a gun, you might as well be holding a frisbee. Unless you're a Navy Seal, leave the knife fights to Rambo. For most people, you're better off using your Ginsu for sandwiches.
So how can you defend yourself? If not a gun or a knife, is a frying pan enough? Probably. Consider that most people aren't psychos out to kill and maim. Most would-be attackers want something. It might be food or water, maybe your money. The point is, GIVE IT TO THEM! What's the point of protecting your family's food if you loose half your family in the process? Hand over the damn food! Just don't give it all...
Okay... There is another side to having a gun that needs to be considered. Hunting. In most parts of the country, there can probably be found some kind of vermin that can be killed for food. (Unless you live in LA, in which case all the real vermin shoot back.) A .22 and a bit of patience can dish you up a rabbit or two, maybe even some bigger game. But consider this: Have you ever skinned and cleaned a rabbit? I haven't. I've lived in white-bread, pre-packaged America all my life. I would have no more idea how to butcher a small animal than blow glass for a living. And the last time I checked, it wasn't the kind of thing that politically correct Betty Crocker covered.
"I can learn," you say. Great. Go learn, then buy the gun. Hunting may be a valid cause to buy a gun, but don't confuse your issues. If you get the gun for hunting, then use it just for hunting. Put it away some place where you won't be tempted to use it for protection as well.
One last point. If you already own a gun, and are determined to use it for self defense, then shoot to kill. Forget honor. Forget being merciful, because if by some chance you miss, they won't think twice about taking you out. Pointing a gun at someone says that you are willing to kill them. The only response to that posture is to kill you first. Not "wing" you... kill you dead.
The End of the World as We Know It (TEOTWAWKI)
Okay, okay... There is another time when a gun comes into play, and that is total collapse. In this, I'm talking about a permanent, or near-permanent condition in which society has gone completely to pot. It's anarchy, and every man (or woman) for themselves. As I've said elsewhere in this site, when this happens, all bets are off. Danger to yourself and your family become greater with each passing day (as the people around you get more and more hungry) and self-defense becomes a real and serious business. I still feel that the same rules about guns above apply, but the necessity for having a gun will have changed. If you start learning weapons when the kaka hits the fan, it's highly likely, even probable that you will be more of a danger to yourself and those around you than a protection. When you carry a gun around openly (which would be the only real incentive for someone to leave you alone) you paint a great big sign on yourself that reads, "TARGET - SHOOT ME FIRST". You become a threat, like it or not, and from that moment forward, others are going to be looking for a way to remove that threat, even if it means they have to pry it from your limp fingers. Choose your paths carefully.