“I won’t be taken alive if you try to take my guns,” he said repeatedly. We had a warrant for his arrest related to a domestic violence incident, and not only were we going to take him, we were going to confiscate his guns. After a brief struggle, my partner and I wrestled him to the ground and took him into custody without further incident. All the way to jail, he went on a rant about the Second Amendment.
“My right to bear arms is too important to me. That’s the way I am,” he said, handcuffed behind the back in the rear of the patrol car. “If you try to take my guns, I won’t be taken alive.” He said it over and over. After a while, if it hadn’t been so sad, it might have been laughable.
Finally, I turned to him and said, “Just so it’s clear, notice we already did take your guns, and we already did take you alive.”
This gentleman’s gun collection amounted to several old, rusty long guns, mostly single-shot shotguns and bolt-action .22s—the type his grandfather might have purchased cheaply at Sears or Montgomery Ward 60 or 70 years ago. But they were his prized possessions. The rural house at which we caught up with him had a dirt floor. Those guns were important to him. At the time, it got me thinking: There were no collector-grade guns in my modest collection either. But if I ever fell on hard times financially, what would I give up before I gave up my guns? And if it ever came to give up some of my guns, which could I part with first, and which would I hold onto until the very last?
We were getting close to retirement, so we could probably give up the second car. And the kids were grown, so we could probably downsize and get a smaller house. Of course, my wife, Dawn, would have some say in the matter, and I could anticipate some resistance to those ideas.
And what about my guns? The Second Amendment protects my right to bear arms—but not my financial ability to buy them. My problem is that everyday carry for self-defense isn’t the only thing important to me. I love all types of hunting, too, and have dabbled in different types of competitions. Informal plinking has always been a recreation I’ve really enjoyed. Okay; first, I’d have to eliminate duplication. Shh! Don’t let Dawn hear, but I don’t need a half-dozen deer rifles or as many shotguns. The same goes for my handguns. I could probably stay well-defended with one or two fewer carry guns.
So, after the first cut along this thought process, I decided I’d keep one centerfire hunting rifle, probably a bolt-action, for big game and one .22 LR rimfire for small game. I’d keep one 12-gauge shotgun with three interchangeable barrels: a short smoothbore for defense, a long smoothbore for birds and a rifled barrel for sabot slugs.
For handguns, I’d want to keep one each in .22, 9mm, .45 ACP, .357 and one long-barreled .44 Magnum for hunting. The trouble is that I would hate to give up all my lever-action and semiauto rifles, my single-action revolvers and my 10mm handguns (including that new long-barreled one). And I’d really love to hold on to more than one 1911.
“We always talk about it not being the government’s business to know about everything we own… but what about wives? The right to bear arms was important to me, but so was my marriage. It was a tough dilemma.”
THE BIG DILEMMA
Dawn overheard me talking with a friend about this. Later, she wanted some answers. “What do you mean you’d want to keep the new long-barreled 10mm and more than one of the 1911s?” she asked (actually, she demanded). “When did you buy those, and where did you get the money? If we’re ever going to be debt free so we can retire, you’re going to have to get rid of some of those guns you never use.” We always talk about it not being the government’s business to know about everything we own… but what about wives? The right to bear arms was important to me, but so was my marriage. It was a tough dilemma. “I’m sorry, Hon. I can’t tell you about all the guns I’ve bought over our years together,” I answered, carrying a blanket to the sofa—where I knew I’d be sleeping that night.
My EDC gear usually included a blanket whenever I anticipated having one of these discussions with my wife. This particular blanket had an eagle on it, representing freedom—ironic in this instance, because I felt I was on my way to the equivalent of marital prison. “My right to bear arms is too important to me,” I continued. “I’ll have to plead the 5th because of the 2nd. And if you try to sell my guns, Dear, you’ll never take me alive.”
Steven Paul Barlow is a retired sergeant/station commander and former firearms instructor with the New York State Police. He has been writing on outdoor topics for more than 30 years and has served as the editor for a number of Engaged Media special publications, including Gunslingers.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the July 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.