Sunday, January 03, 2010

Why I carry

I have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. It’s rather common public knowledge in my community and the reason why it’s public knowledge is I made it that way.

I am not a hunter, but keep guns with me all the time for use on the ranch as needed. I regularly blast at coyotes and take sporadic shots at prairie dogs around my house. I shoot a lot and think I could disassemble and reassemble my pistol in the dark – it’s become that much of a tool my hands are used to holding. I am very comfortable with my choice of firearms, and feel a measure of security in having a firearm when I’m driving alone long distances on lonely Wyoming roads. My concealed carry is actually a 22 magnum Ruger revolver - a physically large pistol most people wouldn’t think is a “lady’s purse” firearm. My husband paraphrases my purse purchase criteria as: “What good is a purse if it won’t hold a gun?”

Most of the time, my pistol remains in its holster inside pocket of the door of the pickup truck I drive, within easy reach of my left hand. When I travel, I put the pistol in the purse, butt up within reach. I feel more confidence in walking into a highway rest area where I know a woman was attacked when I carry that purse. When I check into hotels, I carry the holstered pistol, butt up, in an outside pocket of my overnight bag. I’ve seen men eyeball my bag on elevators, but no one has ever said anything about it. Even when I’m traveling alone, I don’t feel alone when it comes to security.

Being a newspaper reporter for more than 15 years here in western Wyoming, I received various threats to my well being, and nasty messages with thinly veiled threats. That, and being on the county predator board (which conducts a coyote control program), as well as my involvement in the wolf issue in the Rocky Mountains, brought even more threats. All of the threats and hate mail and messages I’ve received over the years had something to do with natural resource issues, and were never things like neighbor disputes or personal relationships.

Let me provide a few examples:

A male reporter, a co-worker, became enraged that my articles on the wildlife/livestock disease brucellosis were getting such prominent play, and punched a hole in the wall of our office in a rage. Before he was finally fired, he began following me, showing up at the office late at night while I was finishing a story after a government meeting. His creeping around me ended when my husband crept up on him one night. Jim didn’t do anything to the man, just scared him from the shadows of my office. I took to putting my pistol on my desk when I was in the office writing articles after hours. It was a violation of company policy, but the company wasn’t protecting me.

Another time, a man I knew by name only backed me into a corner at the public library meeting room because I was on the predator board that was in charge of killing coyotes. He screamed at me about how vile I was, flailing his arms as he yelled before I escaped.

One evening I came home to hear a threatening message on my answering machine at home, left by a third coward who did not say his name. My reporting instincts kicked in, and I was able to figure out who the man was that left the message, so I turned the recording and information over to the sheriff’s office. The man admitted to the deputy that he had left the message, but swore he would not bother me again. Because he only called me a nasty name and didn’t explicitly threaten me, the sheriff’s office let it drop. The man was the husband of a U.S. Forest Service employee who apparently wasn’t viewed in a positive light in an article I wrote about a livestock grazing controversy on the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

I decided this sort of thing was bullshit and wanted to put a stop to it. These men had made me fear, but then I was really mad that someone was succeeding in scaring me. By then I was carrying a pistol for protection, so decided to get a concealed carry permit to make it legal. Since I was a reporter, I took a photographer with me as I got fingerprinted, completed the hunter safety course, consulted a concealed carry instructor about various methods, and selected my pistol. When I received the permit, we dedicated two full pages of the newspaper to the process of getting a concealed carry permit, showing me as I went through the process, ending with my new permit:

The public had thereby been put on notice that I was carrying a concealed weapon. The newspaper spread was rather popular, with other women inspired to get their own permits.

I later learned that the men involved in the first two incidents had mental disorders and had been off their medications. The man in the library incident was institutionalized, but came back for me years later, harassing me at the office, in meetings I was covering, leaving me strange notes. I had the sheriff’s office start monitoring him, telling him to stay away from me and my office, and he was eventually institutionalized again.

It’s only been about a year and a half since I received my last threat. During the short period of time in 2008 when wolves were delisted in Wyoming, my predator board ordered the killing of four wolves that were killing calves in a calving pen on private property. Certain wolf advocates posted nasty things about me and others involved in any wolf deaths, included our contact information, and indicated that what happened to those wolves should happen to us as well. One wolf advocate posted on the forum portion of Barack Obama’s campaign website that I was a “murderer” – not a “wolf murderer” but a “murderer.” It took about three days of complaining before the Obama campaign had that trash removed from the website.

The filing cabinet near my desk includes a file of hate mail messages and printed Internet chatter in case we ever need to turn it over to law enforcement to trace some threatening person - yup, a whole file. Any questions why I carry a concealed weapon? I’m my opinion, I’d be negligent if I didn’t. A tool is a tool, and I prefer to keep a full toolbox.


prairie mary said...

When I was an animal control officer, the men often wanted to "carry" but I was less interested. I have very little experience with revolvers, though I qualified on the sheriff's rifle range (we were deputies) because one of our shared tasks in Browning, Montana, when I was with Bob Scriver was to shoot a couple of ground squirrels for breakfast for our pets (eagle, fox, badger) whose health depended on ingesting fur and guts. (I think when you say prairie dogs you might mean ground squirrels, which are not endangered.)

I thought over whether I ought to have a gun here in this Montana village next to the rez. I decided against it for several reasons:

1. The necessity of practice to be effective -- I'm poor and don't want to spend money on ammo.
2. I'm lousy at cleaning house, much less a gun, but a dirty gun is more dangerous.
3. If no gun is present and people know it, they won't break in to steal it.
4. I should probably keep it hidden from casual visitors, but judging from my other behavior, I'm likely to forget where I hid it, esp. if it's an emergency.
5. I thought about a taser, but didn't much like the idea of it being turned on me.
6. I decided bear spray was the best option. We're used to bear spray around here. I did keep a can of it in my desk in Portland when I worked for the City in a department that made many people very angry. (Building permits.)
7. I live in this village because there are many old people here so that someone is awake and watching almost all the time. We have our small crimes, but within 24 hours the sheriff knows who it was and is knocking on their door.

I defend your right and wisdom in carrying. I'm pro-choice.

Prairie Mary

Cat Urbigkit said...

Prairie Mary:
Great response - love the pro-choice stance.
BTW, I do mean prairie dogs. There are two species of prairie dogs, and ours (west of the Continental Divide) are not endangered or threatened, and are plentiful. The species east of the divide is not classified as endangered or threatened either, although some groups have petitioned the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for such a listing.

Matt Mullenix said...

Great post Cat. Thanks for sharing your story on this issue.

Steve Bodio said...

Great essay Cat! We too carry-- always in the car and open carry in the mountains (the main threat there being mt. lions attacking a dog).

Libby picked our most recent carry gun when I sold a superfluous rifle-- it is one of the new ultra- ugly Ruger .38's, the LRC. She wanted extremely light,and very simple. It is both by virtue of much aluminum and plastic where steel usually is.

We also have other various '38's and .44's but this one, despite its looks, is a keeper. I think it is Lib's favorite.

steveo_uk said...

Great post and interesting experiances.

I'm not allowed to Carry as im not a US Citizen. Funny thing is i can carry a Rifle for hunting year round but not a hand gun....

Nagrom said...

Well said, Cat.
I grew up around guns, though neither of my folks have ever had a carry permit, and was heavily involved in training and teaching self defense skills by the time I was 21, so carrying was sort of a given for me. As a college student I've played the role of educator among my friends on this issue, and have done my part to arm and start training a small cohort.
I'm always interested to hear others articulation of why they carry, it helps round out my perspective and makes reaching those who're still int he deciding stage easier.

Steve - The LCR is a strange, but seemingly nice, little piece. Some rather serious associates of mine, among whom the S&W J-Frame snub has a healthy following, have been running the LCR's recently and have good things to say about it. I've had the evil eye on one myself, but first I need to get back into the 1911 game.

Steve Bodio said...

Nagrom-- I have had J- frames-- nicer- looking guns, but heavire. And the DA pull on this-- not something Ruger is famous for-- is very good.

Amazingly the LCR is also rated for +P ammo-- though it is probably less fun to fire!

Kitty Carroll said...

Great post Cat. I also got a great email from a friend of mine. Wasp Spray, YES WASP SPRAY. The stuff sprays about 20 feet, will incapacitate a thug and is legal everywhere. Keep a can in your car, purse, at your desk and home. For those uncomfortable with guns and using them. I still suggest that everyone take a gun safety course and a defense course. At least you will know gun basics. Even if you decide that firearms are not for you. If you decide that you are not the type to carry a gun. GET WASP SPRAY. Nasty stuff!!! NRA has a great course called 'Refuse to be a victim' The title says it all, attitude is 90+ percent of your success thwarting a criminal act against you.

Mike Spies said...

More women should be trained to use and permitted to carry personal weapons. Some people, who might not otherwise respect women, might develop respect.

Self defense is a primary right for everyone. I have a 1911 Officer's Model .45 ACP that serves very well for this purpose. I don't often carry it, but it is at hand if needed. Interestingly, I have only leveled it two times - both when I was being violently threatened in my vehicle when stopped. It is nothing short of amazing how it can change an angry and aggressive person's attitude. But having leveled the pistol, you must be prepared for escalation. Just sayin'...

Anonymous said...

Quote: "But having leveled the pistol, you must be prepared for escalation. Just sayin'..."

Well, maybe that's just one of the reasons why we don't have pistols legally allowed for private citizens in UK !.
We leave it to specialist, trained "armed response" cops over here, and pretty frightening they can be,( with justification ) if they suspact firearms are possibly present at a reported incident!

Please forgive me as I speak as a lifelong,responsible & legal gameshooter, and don't mean to offend anyone!


Steve Bodio said...

And when the cops are not around? Or a large predator is?

Apart from the second, police are minutes away when you need an immediate response.

No offense-- I believe I have a photo of you shooting a can down John Davila's ranch driveway with a 1911 .45, wearing a cowboy hat and smoking a cigar. Bet you felt as safe as in England!

Steve Bodio said...

PS:You should not be afraid of cops-- only criminals should.

Anonymous said...

Quote; No offense-- I believe I have a photo of you shooting a can down John Davila's ranch driveway with a 1911

Et Tu Brute! - Yes Steve , it was a great experience!

Seriously though, I have no problems "out in the Wild" as a defence against predators, just not ( yet ) convinced about use against Human ones!

I realise that cultures are different, in different places, but I would rather know that a stranger doesn't have a(legal) gun, and if he has , then the law and penalties are draconian .

UK Police take their resposbilities for urgently dealing with gun crime reports very seriously, with mobile , specialist teams on daily 24 hr call in all localities, for an extremely fast response! .


Cat Urbigkit said...

I live on a ranch outside of town, and a good part of my time is spent in our lambing pasture - it takes at least 30 minutes on a two-track road to get there from my house, which is about 20 minutes from the nearest small town. If I have to call for help, the wait can be much more than a few minutes - closer to an hour. I am so thankful I have the right and the ability to protect myself.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cat

I guess that you, too, could be classified as a "special protecton " case!, due to your isolation, and specific needs - I am just very unhappy about handguns , in particular , being generally carried "out there in the community".


Anonymous said...

I'm all for having guns to protect yourself, but I can see where Johny UK is coming from--I think it is probably much easier to have an accident with a handgun than a rifle--not that both types haven't contributed their share of accidents! But rifles aren't exactly convienant to many situations. I have two rifles--sadly, mostly for human deterrants, although luckily I haven't neeeded them much for that. There was that one incident....the BOOM! BOOM! of the 30-30 sent some sleezy, threatening intruders speedily on their way! I sure was glad to have it at the time! With all my dogs, I tend to not need the gun to deter intruders! When the uproar starts, I have plenty of time to leisurely rise, fetch the weapon, clean it if necessary, make sure it's loaded, check the mirror and practice my scowl a bit, then head outside to deal with them, and by then the dogs have usually already taken care of that for me, and all I have to do is a bit of clean-up, and to note how much to cut back on kibble that night on the packs' diet!.....L.B.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I was joking a bit there about the dogs--but they are EXCELLENT deterrents--not only the noise and guarding behaviour they might exhibit, but anyone who encounters my place and sees ALL THOSE DOGS, correctly assumes that the owner MUST be nuts, and potentially dangerous, so they quickly move on in search of easier prey! And although my main use of a gun is as a visual/audial deterrent, if I have bothered to pull it out at all, you can bet I am more than willing to get as serious as I have to....Another unpleasant but very useful purpose of having guns around, especially in a rural/farm environment, is, sadly, putting suffering, dying animals out of their misery. One can't help but encounter these on occaision, and a quick, merciful bullet is a kindness in those situations. We also have had a LOT of rabies incidents the last few years, and a gun is a fine thing to have handy if that is ever a threat! Awhile back, here in N.C., a rabid bobcat attacked some people--did quite a bit of damage before it was finally killed! Boy, I'd hate to run into a rabid bobchey, that would make a great country proverb; example, "I'd rather run into a rabid bobcat than date that girl!"--or whatsoeverith you would like to conjugate it alongside....L.B.

Anonymous said...

JohnnyUK says, " I guess you to could be classified as a "special protection" case!, ...

I consider anyone who is in a dangerous situation (and that could any of us) a "special protection" case whether due to remoteness or by virtue of living in a neighborhood that requires bars on the windows. In my work as a geologist I open carry when working on remote ranches and properties. Have I ever had to shoot for protection? Not yet, and hopefully not ever. But more than once I have come upon fresh lion killed deer, rabid skunks and coyotes, and active pot gardens occasionally guarded by pit bulls and unpleasant people. Carrying a rifle would not allow me to work efficiently, whereas a revolver is unobtrusive. Perhaps as important as the above is the awareness that I am not a "subject" and am responsible for my own behavior and defense.

Mike Spies said...

In response to the concern over private citizens having pistols or revolvers...

We are citizens, not SUBJECTS. We have the right to determine our own status as 'special protection' cases, based on our judgement and ability to take responsibility for our actions.

The Assize of Arms of 1252 [England] stated that all "citizens, burgesses, free tenants, villeins and others from 15 to 60 years of age" should be armed. The poorest of them were expected to at least have a bow.

This made it easier for the King to raise an army, but also meant that the bow was a commonly used weapon by rebels during the Peasants' Revolt. From the time that the yeoman class of England became proficient with the longbow, the nobility in England had to be careful not to push them into open rebellion. This was a check on the power of the nobility of England which did not exist on the European continent.

Just Sayin'

Anonymous said...

Ha! Mike Spies, are you doing promo work for the new "Robin Hood" movie due out soon? I personally can't wait! Robin Hood always having been one of my favorite characters....L.B.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Robin Hood the guy who was famous for robbing the rich to help the poor? Is that acceptable behaviour?
Anyway, he was definitely not a Freewheeling Capitalist of the "frontier" persuasion in my history book - more a "Socialist"
- Wow, I don't actually believe I've mentioned the "S" word on a US site!


Anonymous said...

Hey, socialist, capitalist, communist, baptist--all grist-for-the-mill I would think for discussion's sake! As for the appropriateness of "Robin Hood Tactics"--that certainly depends on the circumstances--I feel they are absolutely appropriate in some situations--where crooked, greedy people bend the laws to their will, or have the power to make unjust laws to take advantage of others unfairly, I have no qualms with someone "breaking the law" to get actual justice. It doesn't seem to matter what form of government is in control, Royalty, Democracy, Communist, or Socialist, or any of the various powerful religious groups, there will always(alas) be power-hungry, greedy individuals who will oppress others, and that need to be reigned in or expunged, whatever it takes. And although the term was not existent in the day(1100? 1200?), what Robin Hood was doing (fictionally or historically) was indeed Frontier Justice! Long before the United States was even a twinkle in Britainnia's eye! I guess Sherwood Forest WAS the frontier in that time and place! Long live the spirit of Robin Hood!....L.B.

Anonymous said...

But back to the guns issue--there is a really interesting book I got not long ago--"Wolves In Russia"(or something like that--available on!) that makes a very interesting case that wolf attacks on humans in Russia have been more numerous because of several factors--loss of big prey animals for one--but also the fact that the general peasant population was forbidden to keep firearms, and couldn't effectively protect themselves from wolves, which the wolves eventually learned and took advantage of--a very interesting read, whether people agree with it or not.....L.B.

Steve Bodio said...

It is a serious and interesting book and I think hard to refute. Wolves have not always been so "benign" as they are in the US-- nor cougars for that matter. A certain amount of "armed response" seems to keep them safely timid-- as witness lion attacks in Cal-- no lion hunting-- and Boulder (town with a large number of vegetarian New Agers).

Anonymous said...

This does seem like common sense. Being interested in cougars all my life, and now being a cougar keeper in a zoo, I have read a lot on cougar/human interactions. There is a glaring exception to the hunt-them-keep-them-shy theory involving cougars, and that is the island of Vancouver, where cougars are heavily hunted, but there are still many cases of cougar attacks. My feeling is that Vancouver is just some weird kind of exception for some reason we don't yet understand. I think another reason wolves in North America have not traditionally been man-killers, is that the original Native American population lived very close to nature and well knew how to interact and defend themselves, so wolves never developed the habit of looking at humans as prey--plus PLENTY of big game to choose from in those days! very diffrent from big game depleted/helpless peasant Europe. Perhaps a new style of hunting could develop in places like California where cougar hunting/killing has been banned for the general public, where hunters can trail and tree cougars in problem areas, shoot them with rubber bullets, and let them "escape"! Okay--kinda far-fetched--but what would a good name be for this type of hunting? Something catchy like the fishermen have like "catch-and-release" about "Rubber-and-disperse"?.....L.B.


Reading this piece and the well-thought comments by the Steve Bodio, reminds me how inane this society is and how ignorant of firearms (a tool and not some kind of freaky monster) has become! I still have hope though.

Until, then I'm moving out of California, or at least out of the San Francisco Bay Area, where the only people who can own a concealed weapons permit are those with the money to pay off the local sheriff.

...Anybody remember when Diane Feinstein was the Mayor of SF and pushed for gun control and it was found she carried a licensed pistol in her purse? What hipocracy!

If you don't want to carry no problem. But don't prevent me, an ex-Special Forces trained and combat-experienced operator, well aware of the dangers, and benefits of carrying, defend myself and those I care for.

...If someone is crazy enough to attack someone carrying a pistol, there's not a bit of talking that's going to stop them--I think everyone respectful of firearms and trained in them, knows when to pull, and when to point, and when to shoot, and when not to. But, when you need to, isn't it nice that in states and counties where they follow the 2nd Amendment, they allow you to defend yourself?

shadygrove said...

The L.B. "Tree and Flee" method sounds kinda catchy.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Shadygrove--"Tree-And-Flee"--that's it! A term any tree-hugger could love! Much catchier even than those fishermens' "catch-and release"!....L.B.