Gottschall had to make a decision about what his book was going to be about:
Violence is a huge topic, and I found that the kind of violence that I was really interested in was the duel, broadly understood. In my definition of the duel, we have everything from sports to a staring duel to a pissing contest to certain kinds of arguments, and so forth. So I stayed away from the more tactical, real-world, self-defense type of writing.
One of the reasons I think your article on the topic is so great is that I think every guy our age can relate to this. Men with families suddenly realize, “Holy shit. My dad doesn’t live with us anymore. If somebody comes through that door, it’s my job to deal with it.” So I absolutely have thought about that.
I live in a place — southwestern Pennsylvania, right on the border with West Virginia — where almost everyone owns a gun. And most working-class guys carry their guns everywhere.
So I’m living in the heart of gun culture, but I’m not a gun guy. I didn’t grow up with them; I was never a hunter; my dad was never a hunter. I’ve shot a handgun, and it really scared me. I also enjoyed it as I got more comfortable with it. And I do think about getting a gun. I’m not comfortable being at such a force disadvantage when everyone else is armed.
Right now, my self-defense, home-invasion plan is based on an ax handle that’s within easy reach in the kitchen, and I also have a hatchet in my bedroom. I chose the hatchet very carefully. In the sitcom, the dad always keeps a bat handy. But a bat is too long. You can’t swing it in a hallway, and it’s also not as terrifying as a hatchet.
A few times a year in my small town, one of these monkey dances goes off, and the guys are carrying guns, and they shoot each other. Or they shoot each other after a road-rage incident.
I think we have very similar attitudes toward guns and gun culture. I’m not an abolitionist, but I would like the laws to be stiffer. Now I can walk into a gun store in my town and buy military-grade weapons. You’d be shocked by the amount of firepower you can buy — .50 caliber sniper rifles and the same shotguns the Marines carry in Iraq or Afghanistan. It doesn’t matter whether I know how to use these things — I can just walk into a store and buy them.
And if I do get a handgun, I can take it to the sheriff’s department, and in about as much time as it would take me to order a value meal at Wendy’s, they will give me a concealed-carry license. There will be no screening at all to see whether I’m qualified to carry a gun in public — which I absolutely am not. That’s one of the reasons I haven’t gotten a gun in the first place: I don’t know how to use one.
Gottschall clearly isn’t comfortable with — or particularly informed about — guns or gun laws. That makes this stand out even more:
My little brother is a federal law enforcement officer, and he’s also a firearms instructor. He came up recently to visit, and we went out to the range. Part of why I was attracted to the idea of owning a gun was self-defense, and part of it was that I’ve been fascinated by guns since I was a little kid, and I want to play with them. It seems like a lot of fun. And I had a great time. It was probably because I had such a skilled teacher. My brother really knows what he’s doing, and he knows how to make it safe. Shooting with him, and seeing his expertise, I had a tiny eureka moment. I suddenly realized that when it comes to the use of firearms, my brother is a badass martial artist. And I think that a lot of people who like training with guns are probably drawn to it not only for practical reasons, but also in that same restless quest for physical excellence that draws people to a martial arts dojo.
Yes, a lot of people who like training with guns are on the same restless quest for physical excellence that draws people to a martial arts dojo.