US gun carriers, opponents debate risks and benefits of being armed

World Today

Although it’s hard to get an exact number, there’s strong evidence there are about as many guns in the United States as there are people. There are more than 300 million civilian firearms in the country. 

Many of those weapons can be openly carried around by their owners in public. 

CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy explains.

“I have a Sig Sauer, model P238,” said Elizabeth Hautman of Black Forest, Colorado. “I wanted something that was easy to manage and also easy to conceal.”

She brings her firearm with her most everywhere she goes.

“It is the last resort,” she said. “If there is nothing else I can do to get out of a sticky situation then I’ll use it.”

As a concealed carry permit holder, Hautman keeps her gun on her right hip, hidden from view, for protection. “I believe it’s a God-given right of people to be able to defend themselves and a firearm levels the playing field,” she explained.

Each U.S. state generally allows certain concealed weapons to be carried in public. Most require a state-issued permit. All but five states let people display their guns openly. Many of them require permits for that.

“Pro gun rights people have referred to me as a gun grabber,” said Eileen McCarron. She runs Colorado Ceasefire, a volunteer organization committed to increasing gun regulations as a way of reducing gun violence. McCarron believes firearms owners should keep their weapons at home. “Their carrying guns into places where we’re worshipping or watching a movie or walking on the street is not ensuring our safety.”

The debate has been going on for years in the U.S. And the facts are in dispute. One side argues guns carried in public have helped reduce crime. The other side says more guns lead to more gun deaths and have not made the country safer.

Hautman said her concealed carry permit helps her protect her disabled son out on the streets. She thinks she has the advantage in any confrontation.

“I would prefer the element of surprise be on my side,” said Hautman. “If there’s a bad guy, I don’t want them to know right off the bat that I have a firearm.”

But McCarron disagrees. “Actually, an assailant has the element of surprise. And she’s got to quickly respond and retrieve her weapon which could be used against her.”

McCarron said threats generally don’t occur out in public. “It’s not stranger danger, it’s the guy you know.”

Hautman insists on the benefits of being armed. “I think it’s good. I think it’s good for the community.”

Good or bad, right or wrong, both women agree on one thing: here in the U.S., guns in public, concealed or not, are here to stay.