I’m finding myself increasingly irritated and impatient at the idea that guns are essential to protect one’s family. When I hear men talking about guns and how there’s nothing that will stop them from defending their family, my mind goes to the story of Naaman in the Bible.
Do you remember Naaman? He was a great military leader, and he also had leprosy. The prophet Elisha told him to bathe in the River Jordan seven times and he would be cured. He refused. In fact he was quite angry that the suggested cure was so simple. So his servants said: “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”
To me, that’s the same as men bragging about how they’re ready to protect their family. They’re picturing some great thing — having to protect their family at gun point from a clear and present danger. When the actual instructions for protecting the family are simpler, they are no longer interested.
I was thinking this idea through and imagined several conversations between God and a Man. Take a look (and be aware, they are written in my Twitter voice, which is less gentle than my blog voice).
Man: Hey God, I just want you to know I am committed to protecting my family at all costs.
God: Gosh, that’s great to hear. One of the main things I need you to do to protect your family is laundry. Tons of laundry.
You know kids — they’re so susceptible to infections and viruses. Pinworms, athlete’s foot, lice, strep throat, colds and flues. Pneumonia and diarrhea are serious killers of children under five. The list of possible sicknesses is endless. So you’re going to need to do laundry basically daily. Their socks and underwear, their sheets. and put their sneakers through the wash too.
I can’t emphasize this enough: protecting your family involves a lot of laundry.
Man: Oh. Um. I was thinking more along the lines of a masked intruder with a gun, at 2:00 in the morning, raping my family.
God: First of all, stop fantasizing about your family being raped.
Second, do you know the stats on break-ins? The vast majority happen when no one is home, and only a small percentage are armed. And the number drops even more if you have a dog or a home alarm system. Even if you do end up being the rare house with an armed break-in when you’re home, do you really want to shoot someone for stealing your TV? Wouldn’t you say that’s a ridiculous overreaction?
Just a reminder: You’re not in the mob. I can assure you (and remember, I’m God), there’s a slim-to-none chance you’ll need to defend your family at gun point. If you really want to protect your family, laundry is where you need to focus.
Man: But. But. I bought all these guns. And ammunition. And I’m telling you, if anyone threatens my family, I’ll be ready.
God: Is there anything you’re willing to do to protect your family that’s not the plot of an action/thriller?
God: I’d like you to protect your family.
Man: You bet. I’m ready. If anyone touches my kids, they are dead meat.
God. Okay. Well, the thing I need you to do is teach thorough hand-washing. Basically, you’ll need to carefully wash your kids’ hands several times a day until they’re old enough to do it themselves.
At that point you’ll need to supervise the hand-washing for several years until you know they’ve mastered it. And from then on, you just need to spend another ten years asking them to wash their hands multiple times a day — before school, after school, before meals, after potty breaks, etc.. Cool?
Man: Well. Ummm. Is there an assignment that’s more related to guns?
God: Nope. The main thing is hand-washing. Having guns in the house actually puts your kids in harm’s way. Surely, as a protective parent, you’ve read about the dangers of keeping and storing guns at home?
God: Let me guess. If I need someone to dig a hole on an asteroid, plant a bomb and blow up the asteroid, in order to save the Earth, you’ll be first in line.
Man: HECK YES
Man: I’m ready to defend my family!! My guns and ammunition are stocked.
God: So glad to hear you’re ready to defend your family. Here’s the key thing I need you to do: Never drink alcohol again.
Man: Wait. What?
God: Well I’m sure you’ve heard that motor vehicle accidents and gun accidents are top killers of children. And mixing alcohol with driving or guns makes both of them far riskier. If you’ve been drinking, there’s a higher likelihood you’ll drive drunk, lose your temper and hurt the kids, or be irresponsible with your gun.
So if you want to protect your family, I would recommend giving up alcohol as a good way to start.
Man: Can’t I just shoot some bad guys?
God: So then, not actually interested in protecting your family.
God: Are you ready and willing to protect your family?
Man: YES. Come at me. My home is fully armed and I keep a handgun under the passenger seat. I am ready.
God: Oh. Well. The thing I need you to do is feed your kids plenty of healthy food. Do the grocery shopping. Plans the meals. Stock the fridge. Cook dinner. And of course, do the dishes and keep the kitchen clean because you don’t want harmful bacteria taking over.
Man: But… I don’t even know how to cook.
God: How did you learn about your weapons?
God: Are there cooking videos on Youtube?
You may find those sample conversations overly obnoxious. And I get that. The topic of protecting one’s family is serious, and we’ve had long and serious conversations about it. But the more I hear arguments about needing to protect one’s family at gun point, the weaker those arguments sound. The data just isn’t there. Instead, the research keeps pointing to the fact the homes without guns are safer.
A related, but slightly different topic, woven throughout the arguments for keeping guns at home, there are often references to how men have instincts to protect their family and how Protector is their natural role. I think the case can be more easily made that men have zero natural instincts to protect their family.
My thinking is that if an instinct to protect had evolved, wouldn’t that include men checking back (over the course of several months) with any woman they’d had sex with, to find out if he had caused a pregnancy?
I mean, how can we say men have an instinct to protect their family when there are children all over the world, who have fathers who have no idea the children exist?
I would say it’s much easier to argue that mothers have a strong instinct to protect their families. Mothers still do the bulk of the parenting (by far the bulk of the work). Which means mothers do the real things that actually protect their kids every day, all day long. The laundry, making sure there’s good food, watching out for bullies at school, making sure the kids are getting an education, keeping them healthy, nursing them back to health when they are sick, getting them vaccinations, etc..
It’s hard for me not to conclude, that men who insist they need guns because of their role as protector-of-the-family, are full of it. It seems clear they are only willing to protect their family in make-believe instances that are never likely to happen.
They are only interested in protecting their family if they play the role of hero.
When they’re asked to actually protect their family, by doing something mundane and boring like laundry, they can’t be bothered. (And here I should acknowledge that I’m married to man who is awesome at doing the daily protective tasks, like cooking and teaching our kids, and I’m not trying to yell-at-all-the-men — I’m just tired of the disingenuous gun arguments.)
What are your thoughts? Do you disagree with these ideas? Or can you relate to my impatience with pro-gun arguments? Do you feel strongly that a man’s role is protector? If yes, what does that look like to you? And what are some of the small things you do each day that add up to effectively protecting your family? (Like carseats, seatbelts, well-checkups, etc…).