EDITOR: In New Mobility’s April 2013 issue, Mike Collins’ Everyday Advocacy column on gun ownership for wheelers stirred up a great many responses, some of which are included here (edited for clarity and brevity). Collins, a former NRA member, lifelong hunter and quad, is grateful for the heightened interest and has this to say to readers: “I know that there are many valid viewpoints on this issue.”
Ask the Experts
There are several revolvers that operate very simply without a “safety” to be concerned with. They are, nevertheless, very safe to carry and use if properly trained.
I get around with a power chair, and I often felt unsafe when out in public before I consulted with experts, got the recommended training and the required concealed carry license. The response time of law enforcement is always unknown, but the response time of my .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver speaks for itself.
The other thing to consider is that the police officer is concerned with his own safety first. Don’t misunderstand me. That is as it should be. He or she can be of no help to anyone if incapacitated.
There is so much bad information out there regarding guns spread by people who know very little or nothing about them — other than their prejudice that “guns are bad.” My point is that one should not give advice on subjects unless they are qualified. They should consult with experts, or at the very least, recommend that an expert in the field be consulted. The advisee must then be trusted to consider the information from the experts and make up their own mind.
Refreshing Common Sense
Great response about owning or not owning a firearm. So refreshing to read something written on the subject using intelligence and realistic common sense. I read and hear so much “gun nut” and NRA paranoid garbage.
Larry Naylor Morgantown,
Advice from Instructor
I’m a T5 para, wheelchair user, and I carry a gun. I’m a concealed hand-gun license instructor and teach folks who use wheelchairs how to carry and shoot. The only thing I charge for is the cost of ammo, and you can buy me lunch if you like.
That said, the likelihood of your being a victim of “violent crime” is very small if you don’t live or go into an inner city neighborhood with gang violence. Actually, violent crime in every category has gone down every year for the last 20 years. (See FBI table 1, Crime in the United States 1991-2010: www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10tbl01.xls).
A small yappie dog is a great deterrent. My home was burglarized three times before I got a dog, but never after. And alarms are an option to consider. You should do everything you can to reduce the chances that you could become a victim. But I was a felony prosecutor for five years and saw bad things that happen to good people. The average police response to a crime is over 20 minutes, so I prefer to take responsibility for my own safety. The problem for some wheel-chair users is dexterity. I have several friends who are high quads and only a couple can capably handle a handgun for self defense. However, if you can use a gun, have the temperament to use it, and know when and when not to use it, by all means get a gun.
I would suggest a single action .32 caliber. Very light recoil and easy trigger pull. I got my 85-year-old mom a CZ-83 (.32 caliber) when her arthritis became so bad she couldn’t pull the trigger on her revolver. With the external safety, she can carry it “cocked and locked” and fire it by simply swiping down on the trigger.
Caliber is not as important as having the gun. Studies show that merely having the gun and showing it will deter most crimes. And as the saying goes, “the .22 in your pocket beats the hell out of the .45 in your nightstand when you need it.” For home carry, I would suggest an outside-the-pants cross-draw holster. It is much more comfortable than a shoulder holster and easier to put on and take off. Just drop a T-shirt over it if you need to conceal it. I like the Side Guard Cross Guard — www.sideguardholsters.com/holsters/CrossGuard.htm. I have no interest in this company; they just make a good practical holster for seated folks.
If you do decide to get a gun, please get trained in its use — including safe storage. Then practice and carry it. I have two places for a gun — on my person or in a safe. A gun is not a magic solution and you really need to think about when you would use it. We talk about that for a couple of hours in CHL class. But when folks ask, “Why do you carry a gun? Are you paranoid?” I reply, “for the same reason I put on a seat-belt — I don’t expect to be in an accident, but I would rather have it on if I am.” Besides, what do I have to be paranoid about? I have a gun.
Shotgun Makes Sense
I enjoyed this well-thought-out article. Alert buttons are great. The usual advice for wheel-chair users is to wear one on a wristband, not around the neck. Not only does this pre-vent accidental choking, but it’s easier to press the button than if it’s on a pendant. I have used the Philips Lifeline wrist-band for years and it’s very comfortable.
If you want a gun for protection in the home, a shotgun is usually best if you want to intimidate a potential intruder. It’s very visible, you can hit a wide area, and they know you don’t have to be a good shot to hit them with it. You still want to secure it for all the safety reasons mentioned in the article, especially children’s safety, but if what you want is deterrent effect, a shotgun is the most effective, especially if you are visibly disabled. Small arms are only needed by people who want to carry a concealed weapon, which is a very different issue than home protection.
San Francisco, California
I Sleep Better Now
Having lived alone for many years and having been robbed and stalked 10 years ago, I sleep much better since I purchased a firearm that I keep by my bedside. There are a lot of gadgets such as lasers that you can buy to make target practice easier for those of us with dexterity issues. You are your first defense, and it could all be over before the neighbors or the law enforcement come to the rescue. Criminals always look for easy targets, and I am tired of being one. Not any more.
Try a Flashlight
One of the most overlooked methods of self-protection is the flashlight. Modern LED versions are small and very bright. I keep next to the bed an incredibly powerful, 550- lumen flashlight that is only 5.5 inches long. Just clicking it on would alert an attacker that I was aware of his presence, and shining it in his eyes would blind him. This might not deter the psycho deter-mined to do harm, but would scare off the casual burglar looking for an easy score.
When I go out at night, I carry two flashlights. One is the afore-mentioned “big guy.” If I saw someone suspicious approach, I would wave the light in the air, alerting him that I knew of his presence, and possibly ask him his business. In a dire situation, I would blind him and use the few seconds headway to try and get to a more populated area. It’s not much, but in such situations, seconds may count.
I thought the advice on “Guns for Self-Protection” was pretty much spot-on. However, there was an underlying theme that needs to be addressed. I’m refer-ring to the letter writer’s feeling of fear and hopelessness, and not wanting to be a victim.
As a C5 quad, “Future Gunslinger” needs to find a gun that he can control. I have been around guns since I was 5 years old. In high school, my idea of gun control was: “A tighter pat-tern in the bulls-eye.” But this is no time to be “Dirty Harry” and get a gun that is too powerful for you to shoot. You need to know if a revolver or semi-automatic fits your hand better. Can you re-load it easily? Can you clean it? Can you draw it, fire it and still hold on to it? And, most importantly, can you hit what you are aiming at?
Look for a shooting range in your local area that also sells guns. You don’t want a gun store that can’t let you fire the guns to see how well they work for you. Talk to the staff about your specific requirements and they can make recommendations on the guns that will best fit your needs. They usually rent used guns for use at their shooting range so that you can test several options and see what is best for you. Be willing to spend a lot of time looking. You don’t want to buy the $50 “Saturday Night Special” (they jam and you could be dead). And you don’t need the gold-plated $2,500-plus Collector’s Special. For a good quality fire-arm, be willing to spend several hundred dollars.
If you find a gun that will work for you, are you willing to spend enough time at the shooting range to be confident that you will hit your target under combat conditions? Training is the key. I personally love the numerous stories of the convenience store clerk who pulls a gun on the armed robber and they both fire numerous rounds and no one is hit. At the other end of the training scale is the Marine Corps, Green Beret and Navy Seal sniper. Their motto is: “One shot, one kill.” In a gunfight, the one best trained usually wins.
If you are not willing to spend the time and money required to be well-trained, don’t buy a gun. You are going off “half-cocked” — and you will get yourself and others hurt, if not killed. Let the police handle it.
Frank B. Dean