Among my friends here in deepest blue Los Angeles, I am likely the only openly conservative Republican some of them know.
And as a veteran, I am probably the closest contact they’ve had with the military since sitting in the theater to watch American Sniper.
So when events like the Las Vegas shootings occurred, knowledge of my personal history and political views would temporarily displace the usual Trump/Russia collusion banter and lead to genuinely uncomfortable conversations about guns.
Over the past weeks the conversations have become more frequent because California is in the midst of an election cycle where the shining lights of state’s Democratic Party are climbing over each other to position themselves as the strongest “gun control” candidate.
Why does anyone need a gun anyway? my liberal, well-educated SoCal friends invariably - and rhetorically - ask.
Shotguns and hunting rifles I can understand if you’re a sportsman, but there’s nobody in America who needs a military-grade assault rifle. You’re not going to shoot ducks with that. And look at the damage they cause!
I’d usually just nod and agree that the shootings were cowardly, despicable acts, and that I too wanted them to end, just like everyone else. Evil people killing innocent people is unspeakably heinous whenever and wherever it occurs, be it with a rock, a knife, or a Kalashnikov.
My somber observation confirming the obvious usually concluded the conversation, but doubtlessly left my liberal “gun control” friends unconvinced that people like me who adhere to the belief that Americans have a fundamental right (maybe even a moral duty) to bear arms have any real desire to “fix the problem.”
And despite the fact I believe mass shootings are symptomatic of a larger societal problem that has little to do with guns themselves, it was a hard point to argue in the wake of tragedy without sounding trite and callous.
Then the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School happened and the subsequent press reports uncovered something that crystallized my conviction.
Eleven minutes- the length of time it took law enforcement officers who responded to the school to enter the building after the shooting began.
“Eleven minutes” supplies the explanation that I’ve never been able to clearly articulate: I believe in the Second Amendment because I want to be able to protect my loved ones and myself for those eleven minutes, wherever and whenever those eleven minutes happen.
See, the thing that’s hardest to communicate to “gun control” advocates is that all the people who own firearms aren’t caricatured “gun nuts” who drink Wild Turkey out of the bottle. They aren’t “survivalists” stockpiling ammunition and canned tuna living in cabins in the woods. Their convictions don’t spring from some sort of strange gun fetish or allegiance to an anachronistic ideology birthed in a less civilized time. They are not morally flawed because they have an “assault rifle” in their gun safe. They are instead people who, in moments of heart-pounding necessity, believe they would stand their ground during those eleven minutes. A considerable portion of the American public is armed for no other reason than it aspires to be brave in the darkest of moments when them and theirs are threatened. They want to be able to defend their loved ones and themselves for those eleven minutes when nobody else will - or can.
People believe in the Second Amendment because they don’t want the safety and security of their friends and families to depend upon the bravery of others. They are not willing to put the lives of those dear to them, or their own, at risk because the armed person the government assigned to protect them is cowering behind his patrol car.
I wonder what Korean shopkeepers in South Central Los Angeles who survived the 1992 riots would think about the progressive notion that the only guns the public should have are basic rifles and shotguns designed for ducks and deer. Those who stood on the rooftops with weapons in hand while the Los Angeles Police Department was miles away and the city in flames around them would probably think it was quaint. More likely they’d think it was dangerously naive because their eleven minutes lasted for days.
Ideas about what sorts of weapons are “necessary” can change dramatically during eleven minutes, especially when the bad guys have guns and their intentions aren’t focused on ducks or deer.
So now when my “gun control” friends ask about why anyone needs a modern firearm, or that the Founding Fathers couldn’t conceive of bump-stocks or 30-round magazines when they wrote the Second Amendment, I simply respond - eleven minutes.
Patrick “Kit” Bobko is the author of “Nine Secrets for Getting Elected: The Official Manual for Candidates from City Hall to the Statehouse and Beyond” available on Amazon.