Wednesday, February 28, 2007
After thinking through my options, I've decided that my next few hobbies will be focused on physical fitness. If I can get myself into shape, I won't feel so bad about being 40, and it will be easier to take on James Bond's tasks.
My main goal is to run the Peachtree Road Race, a 10K run on July 4. I certainly don't expect to win—I just want to be able to run the 6.2 miles without slowing to a walk.
I can run a couple of miles now, so I think I can build up my endurance over the next four months. I've been running once or twice a week, so I hope that if I start running three or four times a week, I'll reach my goal.
I've also joined a health club (LA Fitness). It is about a mile and a half from my apartment, so I hope I won't find too many excuses to not go. A friend from work wants to play racquetball once or twice a week. I'd also like to swim laps.
(While the Membership Director gave me a tour of the club, there was a very attractive woman working out in the aerobics room. I wonder if she "just happens to be there" whenever they are giving a tour to a prospective male member. And I wonder if a hunky guy "happens to be there" when a woman is given the tour.)
I'm going to look into golf lessons when it gets a little warmer. I also noticed that the local school system is going to be offering a beginners' fencing class, so I want to give that a try.
So, with any luck, at 40 I'll be in better shape than I was in at 30.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Due to a series of events and decisions that I can't begin to describe, my TiVo is now filled with episodes of Columbo, The Rockford Files, and Magnum, P.I. This naturally leads to evaluations of which investigator is the "best."
Rockford and Magnum each solve their crimes within an hour. Columbo takes two hours. Obviously, Columbo is less efficient.
Magnum gets to fly in a helicopter, courtesy of his friend T.C. Magnum also gets to drive a Ferrari, which is better than a Firebird or Columbo's beater.
Magnum lives in Robin Master's guest house, and is often surrounded by stewardesses and/or models. Rockford lives in a mobile home, but at least it is near the beach. Columbo is happily married, but doesn't get any appreciation from damsels in distress.
All things considered, I think I'd prefer to have Thomas Magnum's life. But I prefer to watch Lieutenant Columbo. "Just one more thing, sir, ..."
Unfortunately, I can't find any cable stations that show Mannix, Beretta, Cannon, Barnaby Jones, or Kojak. If I had those available, I could really decide who I want to be.
Am I a Scary Gun Person?
In my first entry about guns, I noted that I had been repulsed by "scary" gun owners. I wonder whether I have become one of those scary people myself.
So, I'd appreciate it if anybody out there would tell me if my gun-related posts have changed their opinion of me. Did you think I was a cool guy who you'd like to share a drink or dinner with, but now you're glad you didn't? If so, is there anything in particular I wrote that disturbed you, or is it more of a general concern about people who like guns?
I really do want to know what people think, and I promise not to get defensive nor to "punish" anybody who answers the question affirmatively. Anonymity is fine. I won't respond to any of the comments for this entry unless specifically asked to do so.
Monday, February 19, 2007
So, What's Next?
Small airplanes didn't kill me. Skydiving didn't kill me. Scuba didn't kill me. Motorcycles didn't kill me. Firearms didn't kill me.
A pundit might want to add the word "yet" to each of those sentences, but I've accepted the more-obvious conclusion: I'm invincible.
Being invincible, I have no further reason to confront my fears. I think my next few obsessions should be things that are not dangerous, as a way to keep my karma balanced (and my mom's blood pressure down).
Here are a few things I'm considering trying out. A couple of them fit the "James Bond" theme of earlier hobbies, but most of them are pretty mundane.
- Martial Arts: All the self-defense material I've been reading in the firearms-related books and forums has led to an interest in unarmed defense. Due to my age and reluctance to get punched, I think I'll try one of the arts focused on holds and throws (judo, ju-jitsu, aikido, etc.) rather than any of the striking-based arts (karate, taekwondo, etc.).
- Evasive Driving: Also known as "bodyguard driving," "anti-terrorist driving," or "executive protection driving." There are schools that will teach you how to avoid ambushes and evade pursuers. I think this would be fun, but it has the downside that I wouldn't really be able to practice the skills outside of the class. As an alternative, maybe one of those auto racing schools would be fun.
- Golf Lessons: I've been "playing golf" for twenty years, but have never had a lesson, and I really have no idea what I'm doing. (Dad taught me everything he knows about golf. It didn't take long.) Taking a few lessons from a professional would do me some good. If I can shoot under 100, I'll feel good.
- Piano Lessons: I've owned a couple of keyboards, and have bought several teach-yourself-to-play-piano books, but have never really devoted myself to it. A teacher would help keep me focused. I'd like to be able to play so that I'll have something to do in the senior-citizen retirement home.
- Peachtree Road Race: Every year, I tell myself I'm going to enter the Peachtree Road Race, and run the full distance, but I've never done it. I can run a few miles at a steady pace now, but I'll need to get serious about training if I want to be able to run a 10K in July.
- Helicopter Lessons: I've written about this before. It's really on the back-burner for now. I need to put aside a lot of money and lose about twenty-five pounds before I can take helicopter lessons. I need to prepare to explain to a future wife and kids why I blew twenty grand of their money on a completely impractical skill. Also, this one might be an unnecessary test of my invincibility.
So, what you do all want to read? Endless articles about golf swings, hand positions for playing scales, or how far I ran yesterday? Or would you prefer more death-defying stunts?
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Anyone who closely monitors my blog (and I'm sure there are many who do) will notice that I revise entries many, many times in the hours after they are first posted. I don't spend much time revising my initial drafts before posting to the web, so I do a lot of polishing after posting.
There are a set of quirks to my writing style that I know I need to watch closely. I like to start sentences with and and but, which grammarians find objectionable but which is, I think, acceptable if not overused. After a few re-readings, I am usually comfortable with deleting most of those initial ands and buts.
I like semicolons and dashes, but I overuse them. I've had to adopt a rule limiting myself to no more than one usage of each of these punctuation symbols per entry. I also overuse parentheses. I use a lot of bullet lists; I don't know whether I overuse them.
I write "I think" or "in my opinion" a lot. I usually delete these, because they are wishy-washy and everything in my blog is obviously what I think.
I write a lot of stuff in the form of "on the one hand . . ., but on the other hand . . . ." I tend to accept both sides of any non-trivial argument as being valid, and I try to understand each side well enough to make the case. However, after re-reading I sometimes decide that I need to adopt one side as my own. Choosing a side has never been my strength—I am a compromiser by nature—so I like to force myself to do it once in a while.
There are a few entries that I have deleted entirely. Most of these were written after having a glass or two of bourbon.
If there is anything about my writing style that drives you nuts, let me know and I'll add them to my list of bad habits.
(And to anyone who wants to point out that I broke my own rules in this entry: I know.)
Friday, February 16, 2007
What Kris Thinks About Guns
I've been worried about Undefined Value becoming a "gun blog." Guns have been my primary interest for the past couple of months, so I'm writing a lot about guns, but I hope I'll be writing about other stuff in a month or two.
In my Are Gun Owners Crazy? post, I wrote my interpretation of what gun owners think, but was careful to say that those weren't necessarily my views. So this leads to the question of what my views are.
I'm still working through this. On the one hand, I've lived 40 years without any need for a weapon, and so I wonder what kind of lifestyle one must lead to feel that a deadly weapon is a necessary piece of equipment. On the other hand, I've learned that many people who carry guns are not paranoid, survivalist rednecks—they are people who just want to be prepared in the event that Something Really Bad happens and the police won't be able to help.
I've gone 40 years without the "need" for a seat belt, a helmet, a smoke alarm, or a fire extinguisher, but I don't think anyone would think I'm paranoid for using those things or having them available. Maybe wanting to have a gun available isn't paranoid either.
I would like to believe that there is no need for guns, but I can't give myself satisfying answers to these questions:
- If your daughter/mother/wife/sister/niece wanted to carry a weapon in her purse for self-defense, would you want to make it illegal for her to do so?
- Do gun-control laws succeed in taking guns out of the hands of criminals?
- Why should any law-abiding citizen be prohibited from carrying anything they want to carry?
So, I guess I've become pro-gun. The Assault Weapons Ban, gun registration, and other proposed gun-control laws seem nonsensical to me. (FWIW, the Glock 19 I own would be illegal under the AWB. It's ridiculous to consider my little pistol to be an "assault weapon.")
I still respect the views of those who wish that guns didn't exist, and I am sympathetic to their wish that we could live in a world where people don't shoot one another. However, I accept the reality that Americans will always have access to guns, and as long as "bad guys" can get them, good people should be able to get them too.
I don't have much respect for the gunnies who refer to unarmed people as "sheeple," "hoplophobes," "gun grabbers," and so on. In a society where most people are comfortable being unarmed, I think it is perfectly reasonable to be wary of people with guns. If gun owners want greater acceptance, I think they should try to educate people and address their concerns, rather than just reciting the second half of the Second Amendment and spouting slogans like "Molon Labe!". If somebody asks you why you carry a gun, and you answer "In case I need to shoot someone," you are an idiot.
To some people, guns are symbols of crime, violence, and death. To others, guns are symbols of protection and freedom. With such opposing worldviews, each group thinks the other group is either stupid or evil. Neither group is right.
Among gun people, CCW stands for "Carrying a Concealed Weapon." It can be used as a verb, as in "How does one CCW a full-size handgun wearing just a t-shirt and shorts?" It can also be used as a noun, denoting the permit ("I just got my CCW. What kind of gun should I buy?") or the gun one carries ("My CCW is a Colt Defender.").
There are some variations of the acronym. There is CHP (Concealed Handgun Permit), CWP (Concealed Weapon Permit), CHL (Concealed Handgun License), and all the other combinations of (weapon, handgun) and (permit, license, endorsement). Every state has its own laws regarding concealed carry. Take a look at http://www.packing.org if you want to know the laws for a particular state.
Gun people classify state CCW laws as "shall issue" or "may issue." In a "shall issue" state, the law is written such that anyone who applies for a CCW permit/license/endorsement/whatever will receive one, unless disqualified by some well-defined set of circumstances (felony conviction, violent misdemeanor, domestic violence, mental illness, etc.).
In a "may issue" state, issuance of CCW permits/licenses/endorsements/whatever is at the discretion of some local official, typically the county sheriff. Obtaining permission to CCW in such jurisdictions is dependent upon the attitude of the official in question, as well as the local political climate. One may need to demonstrate threats against one's life, or transport of large amounts of cash or jewelry, or other special circumstances to justify a carry permit. In some "may issue" jurisdictions, it is pretty easy for an affluent white citizen to get a CCW permit; it is not as easy for people who are not so privileged.
Georgia (my home state) is a "shall issue" state. All that is required to get a Georgia Firearms License is to submit an application to the county probate court, provide fingerprints, and allow a criminal background check from the county police department. The fees add up to about $45. The probate court is required to issue the license within 60 days. I wonder what criminal background information they can find in 60 days that they can't find in 60 minutes.
My Georgia Firearms License is signed by a probate court judge named "Pinkie Toomer." I wonder whether it is really legit.
I received my Georgia Firearms License about 45 days from the time I applied. This gives me the right to carry a firearm concealed or open (in plain sight), except in places prohibited by law. Prohibited places include schools, nuclear power plants, and Georgia's ambiguous "public gatherings," which include, but are not limited to, athletic or sporting events, churches or church functions, political rallies and/or functions, publicly owned or operated buildings (Fed, state, or local government buildings), and establishments at which alcoholic beverages are sold for consumption on the premises.
Having the Georgia Firearms License allows me to buy guns without need for the National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS). So this saves me about ten minutes of waiting whenever I buy a gun in Georgia.
Georgia has "reciprocal agreements" with many other states, so my Georgia Firearms License gives me the right to carry a concealed weapon in those other states.
Carrying a concealed handgun is a pain in the ass. One needs a suitable holster that keeps the gun in reach, but which keeps it concealed. If you don't keep your concealed weapon concealed, then you may have to deal with "man with a gun" calls to the police, which could lead to a "disturbing the peace" kind of charge if somebody complains too much.
There are several kinds of CCW holsters available. The two most popular kinds are outside-the-waistband (OWB), where the gun rides outside one's belt, and inside-the-waistband (IWB), where the gun is clipped to a belt but rides inside one's pants. OWB and IWB usually require some sort of "cover garment," such as a jacket or untucked shirt to hang over the weapon to keep it concealed, but there are "tuckable" holsters which make it possible to tuck a shirt into the holster so that it looks like one is wearing normal clothing. Also popular are "pocket pistols" that fit in a small pocket, making it possible for someone to CCW while wearing a t-shirt and shorts.
Some more exotic forms of carry include ankle holsters and shoulder holsters. Women can wear thigh holsters under their skirts—male gun owners are always eager to see pictures of these rigs. There are also purses, briefcases, backpacks, and waistpacks designed to carry guns. Among those in the know, seeing a man wearing a "fanny pack" implies that the man is armed.
There are also people who carry guns without holsters, simply putting them into a pocket or sticking it in the waistband. This is not a recommended way to carry a gun. A holster covers the trigger, guarding against an accidental discharge. Without a holster, there is a greater chance of something getting snagged on the trigger.
Every type of concealed holster is uncomfortable in some way. There is just no getting around the fact that hiding a few pounds of steel on one's body is going to involve some compromises between stealth, comfort, and the ability to present the weapon when needed. Due to the discomfort, many people who get CCW permits and try carrying give it up after the novelty wears off.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
A player in the Super Bowl got in trouble because a raid of his home found six guns and 500 rounds of ammunition. Now, this particular player had problems with firearms violations before, so law-enforcement may have been warranted in this case, but I figured I would explain a few things about ammunition to the uninitiated.
500 rounds is really not that much. You may be picturing a stack of crates, but that amount of ammo will fit in half a shoebox. Every time I go to the shooting range, I fire 200 or 300 rounds. So having 500 rounds is really just enough for a couple of range sessions—it does not signify that one is gearing up for war or extensive criminal activity.
Ammo can be loosely classified into two classes: range ammo and carry ammo. "Range ammo" is what you use at a shooting range for target practice. It is inexpensive, so you can fire a lot of rounds for practice at minimal cost. "Carry ammo," also known as "defensive ammo" or "street ammo," is the stuff that you load in case you need to use your gun in self-defense. Such ammo is generally a lot more expensive than range ammo. It is usually hollow-point, and has greater mass and power than range ammo.
A lot of people buy their range ammo at the "big box" stores like Wal*Mart, Bass Pro Shops, or other big chains. Those chains generally have the lowest prices, due to high volume, and their prices are cheaper than the prices charged at ranges. Wal*Mart sells 100 rounds of 9mm ammo for about $15. In contrast, guns ranges might charge $22 for the same amount of ammo. So it makes sense to buy ammo from the discount stores, which explains why somebody might buy 500 rounds, or 1000 rounds, or more, and keep it at home instead of just waiting to buy it at the range.
FWIW, I currently have 600 rounds of ammo in my own personal stockpile. Are you scared?
Buying My First Gun
When I bought my first gun, it felt like buying my first porn magazine when I turned 18, or buying alcohol for the first time when I was 21. It felt like I was doing something that "decent" people didn't do, so I should be ashamed, but I was legally eligible to do it, so I did it anyway. Even though I'm 40 years old, I'm still worried about being judged by people behind cash registers.
I had rented a Glock 19 at the range, and decided that I wanted to buy one. I asked the clerk behind the counter if they had any in stock, and he found one. As a newbie to the gun world, I didn't really know how to determine if the gun he showed me was any good, so I just said "Yeah, I'll take it." The Glock 19 with serial number KNN067 became mine.
From that point, the only legal obstacle was the NICS, the National Instant Criminal Background Check. I had to fill out a form with my name, address, and other identifying information, and the clerk copied that into a web page. We then twiddled our thumbs for about ten minutes until the result came back indicating that I was OK to buy a gun. The whole time, I was worried that there might be something bad on my criminal record that I didn't know about.
In addition to the pistol, I also bought a holster and some cleaning supplies. I asked the clerk if I needed a locked case or anything to transport the gun from the store to my home, and he recited Georgia law about carrying or transporting a weapon in my car. I felt a little ashamed that I hadn't reviewed the law before deciding to buy the gun—I felt like an idiot as I received the lecture.
I took the gun (cased, unloaded) out to my car, and then drove toward home. Along the way, I stopped at Wal*Mart to buy some ammunition. When I parked in the Wal*Mart lot, I transferred the gun from its case into my glove compartment, locking the glove compartment, and making sure that nobody in the parking lot saw me. I entered the store, and went to the sporting-goods section. As I stood at the sporting-goods counter, again I felt like I was buying porn or drugs or something else that I should be ashamed of, but I bought some range ammo (cheap) and some "personal defense" ammo (hollow-point, expensive). I constantly had the feeling that somebody would tell me that I was doing something bad, but that never happened.
I was very self-conscious as I carried the Glock-logoed case and bags of ammo from my car up to my apartment. Once I made it inside, I felt safe, but the whole process of carrying a gun from the point-of-purchase to my home was nerve-wracking.
When I got home, I cleaned the gun. Some say that this is unnecessary with a new firearm, but I felt better having cleaned it before firing it.
With a little bit of hindsight, I know I shouldn't have felt like a criminal while carrying the gun from the store to my home. I was a law-abiding citizen, exercising my right to carry a gun and to buy ammunition.
It's sad that I felt like a criminal during the entire process. The next time I buy a gun, I won't feel that way.
When I bought my Glock 19 pistol, I was thinking of it as just another "tool" or piece of "equipment." Just like everybody has a hammer, everybody has a flashlight, everybody has a microwave oven, and so on, it now makes sense to me that everybody should have a self-defense weapon.
With this in mind, I started looking at some of the other "tools" and "equipment" that I've collected over the years. I think the selection of such things can indicate a lot about a person. Here are some of the things that I've owned for a while:
- two electric guitars, a bass guitar, and a Yamaha keyboard (none of which I can play worth a damn)
- several computers, laptops, and handheld computers
- a toolbox containing a hammer, several screwdrivers, a big wrench (inherited from my grandfather), and a bunch of nails and screws
- a 54" TV, a 9" TV, a TiVo, and a DVD player (and I've got a VCR in a closet somewhere)
- two iPods
- three yo-yos
- three MagLite flashlights of various sizes (what kind of idiot pays $30 for a flashlight?)
- a microwave oven, a George Foreman grill, a French-press coffee maker, a toaster oven, and a bread machine
- a washer and dryer (the only "major appliances" that I own)
- half a dozen electric shavers/razors of various sorts (I currently use the Gillette Fusion Power)
- a GE clock radio that I've had since I was a teenager (this may be my longest-owned device)
- four wristwatches (two of which currently have dead batteries)
- a Soloflex (go ahead, laugh)
- beer-making equipment
- scuba equipment (unused since I took the class)
- golf clubs, tennis racquet, racquetball racquet
- a car (the one object in this list that I truly can't live without)
I hope to eliminate at least half of this crap the next time I move.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Logs, Timestamps, and Python
I spent a day helping people analyze log files from a set of systems. Something Really Bad had happened, and the world was going to come to an end if we didn't figure out exactly what had gone wrong, and how to fix it.
The world didn't come to an end. You can all thank us.
To analyze the log files, we used good-old grep. For those of you who aren't IT people: grep is the name of a program that can search text files for particular words, phrases, or patterns. For example, if you have a few dozen log files, containing millions of lines of data, and you just want to see all the lines that contain the word "error", you can type the command "grep error *.log". (Don't bother trying this on your Windows machine. grep is only standard on UNIX-ish operating systems.)
Unfortunately, the format of the log files in question is such that timestamps don't appear on lines containing log data. For example, it looks something like this:
02-03 15:23:16 Send CVB to device 432 Receive BVC from device 432 Send CVB to device 567 02-03 15:23:17 Receive BVC from device 567 Send UJK to device 12 Send UJK to device 23 02-03 15:23:18 02-03 15:23:19 02-03 15:23:20 Receive KJU from device 23 02-03 15:23:21 Receive KJU from device 12
So, if you are interested in seeing all the activity for device 12, you can try "grep 'device 12' *.log", but the problem is that you will not see any of the timestamp information; you'll just get this:
Send UJK to device 12 Receive KJU from device 12
You don't see what times these events happened. In this case, timing was a major issue: the client was claiming that things took too long, but this simple grep wasn't helping us figure out how long things were taking. "Grrr," the developers said, and it was decided that the next version of the software would put the timestamp on each line of the log files.
But the next version wouldn't help with the existing log files we had to analyze, so I decided I'd write a quick little script to re-format the logs. This is the kind of thing you can do in less than a minute if Perl, Python, Awk, or Ruby is something you use every day. Unfortunately, I know these languages just well enough to know that it should be easy, but I use them rarely enough that it usually takes me 15-20 minutes to re-familiarize myself with the syntax and libraries enough to write that one-minute script.
After twenty minutes of Googling and testing, I had my script written in Python. I'm not displaying it here to show off my amazing Python skills; I just want to be able to find it when I need to do something similar in the future:
#!/usr/bin/python import sys import re # Timestamp regular expression (MM-DD HH:MM:SS) tsre = re.compile('\d\d-\d\d \d\d:\d\d:\d\d') def process_file(filename): currentts = '' f = file(filename) for line in f: match = tsre.match(line) if match: currentts = match.group() else: print currentts + '|' + line, f.close() for filename in sys.argv[1:]: process_file(filename)
So, after running this script on the logs, we get output like this:
02-03 15:23:17|Send UJK to device 12 02-03 15:23:20|Receive KJU from device 12
Then we can devote the rest of the day to figuring out why it took three seconds to get a response from device 12.
(See The Perl Adventure for a similar exercise.)
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Is QuickBooks the Right Tool for the Job?
As a contract programmer, my accounting needs are (I think) pretty simple. I just need to do the following:
- Record time spent on client projects
- Record reimbursable expenses
- Record non-reimbursable expenses
- Record income
- Once a month, generate invoices for clients detailing the time and expenses.
- Once a month, do payroll (my corporation pays me).
- When appropriate, pay dividends to the shareholders (currently consisting of just myself).
- Handle taxes
In my previous independent-contracting career, in which I was organized as a sole proprietorship, I just used Quicken Home & Business and a few spreadsheets to do all this stuff. Now that I've organized a corporation and need to keep my personal and business finances formally separated, I decided to buy QuickBooks, as I've heard a lot of good things about it.
Unfortunately, QuickBooks makes me feel stupid. No matter how much documentation I read, I can't figure out how to do a lot of things that I think should be simple. For example, I discovered the QuickBooks timesheet feature, and entered all my time spent. I figured there should be some easy way to generate an invoice from my recorded time, but when it came time to do it, I couldn't find a way. The Invoices dialog has a little button labeled "Time/Cost..." that the documentation seems to indicate will do what I want, but that didn't give me any of the data I've entered in the timesheets. The only solution I've found is to generate a monthly report of my time, and then manually copy those values into an invoice.
Everything I do in QuickBooks seems unnecessarily difficult and counter-intuitive. I've developed a theory that QuickBooks is targeted at a more complicated business, with multiple employees, a large number of customers, inventory, suppliers, etc. For a one-person service-oriented company, it's overkill.
I'm going to spend a little more time trying to master QuickBooks, not because I think it might be useful, but just because I want to understand how it is intended to be used. The bank that has my business checking account provides a set of online small-business tools that are supposed to handle a lot of this stuff (payroll and invoicing, in particular), so I'm going to look at those.
A lot of independent programmers decide to develop their own accounting systems, because it looks deceptively simple. I'm not going to fall into that trap. If a client wants to pay me to develop a new accounting system, I'll be glad to take the money, but I'm not going to waste my own time on such a project.
I could hire a real accountant, but that seems like overkill for my needs. Also, part of the attraction of forming my own business is the challenge of doing all this on my own.
Friday, February 02, 2007
Are Gun Owners Crazy?
As mentioned in previous posts, I found gun owners to be pretty scary before my own interest in guns surfaced. As I've talked to other gun owners and read their online forums, I've become more understanding and sympathetic.
The following is my attempt to state their case in terms that anti-gun people might understand. These views are not necessarily mine, and I'm not trying to convince people to change their minds. I'm just trying to promote understanding, without any of that from-my-cold-dead-hands style of extremist rhetoric.
Why on earth does any private citizen need to carry a gun? This isn't the Old West. We have police and a legal system to deal with criminals.
Violent crimes may be rare, but they do happen. If you have a weapon, you can defend yourself and your loved ones. If you don't, then you can't.
When an attack occurs, the police won't be there. They may come along later to catch the guilty party, but while an attack is occurring, you are on your own.
The Katrina experience shows that if Something Really Big happens, the government may not be able to restore order for days or weeks. Having some means of defending yourself and your household during such a period just seems prudent, no matter how unlikely it is.
If an aggressive, armed criminal attacks you, it's unlikely you'll be able to defend yourself. You're deluding yourself if you think carrying a gun is going to be helpful.
Maybe, but some chance at defense is better than no chance. Some of us aren't willing to just let the bad guys have their way.
We don't need vigilantes taking the law into their own hands.
People don't carry guns with the intention of hunting down and punishing criminals; they simply want to be able to take advantage of their legal right to defend themselves with appropriate force if attacked.
It's immoral to carry a weapon designed to kill. If you just want to defend yourself, why not carry pepper spray or a taser, or learn martial arts?
Would you be willing to use lethal force to prevent a deadly attack upon yourself or your family? If so, is it immoral to be prepared to do so?
A gun is a tool. It is not intrinsically good or evil. What matters are the motivations of the person using it, and the consequences of its use.
Pepper spray, tasers, and other non-lethal defensive weapons available to the public are less effective than those available to the police, and those are less effective than are firearms. Martial arts require a lot of study and practice, and are still of questionable effectiveness against an armed attacker.
If you are attacked, you'll want the most effective means of defense you can possibly have. It may be distasteful, but if you find yourself in a violent conflict, you'll need to be as willing and as able to use lethal force as your opponents are.
Aren't you worried about accidentally shooting yourself or a member of your family?
Accidents with firearms do happen, and receive a lot of media attention when they do, but they are actually very rare. With care and common sense, the risk of an accident is small in relation to the risk of being the victim of an attack.
Some gun owners get rid of their guns when they have kids, but others keep them, believing that children are safer when their parents are able to protect them. To not have a gun in the home would be like not having a fire extinguisher.
OK, it might make sense to have a gun in the night stand, or to carry one in a briefcase, purse, or glove compartment while traveling alone at night or in unfamiliar areas, but why would anyone feel a need to carry a concealed weapon at all times?
You never know when an attack could happen. Criminals want to attack when their victims are unprepared. The best defense is to always be prepared.
Many shootings have happened in schools, churches, government buildings, restaurants, shopping malls, and other "safe" places. There are no safe places.
For those who have made the decision to carry, it actually makes a lot of practical sense to carry all the time. Wearing the gun becomes part of one's daily routine. In contrast, if one carries only when nervous, there is a greater chance of some sort of accident.
People who always carry do not live in a constant state of panic. They always carry their guns for the same reason that people always wear seat belts and always lock their doors.
We can't tell which gun owners are good people, and which are bad people, so wouldn't it be prudent to take guns away from everybody?
It's a cliché, but it's true: Gun bans really only affect law-abiding citizens. The bad guys will always be able to get guns.
We trust law-abiding adults with cars, motorcycles, swimming pools, power tools, poisons, and many other things that can kill if misused or used negligently. Why can't we trust them with guns?
The UK has effectively banned guns, and their murder rate is much lower than that of the US. Doesn't that show that bans work?
The UK's murder rate has always been a fraction of the US's, even when the people of both countries had unrestricted access to guns. European countries such as Switzerland, with few restrictions on gun ownership, have much lower murder rates than the US. Whatever the reasons are for the high murder rate in the US, it can't all be blamed on the availability of guns.
When more people have guns, won't that lead to more arguments escalating into violence?
Many critics predicted bloodbaths in the states that have passed concealed-weapons laws over the past few years, but there has been no significant increase in gun violence in those states (some studies and statistics show there has been a decrease).
People who carry guns generally take the responsibility very seriously, and are more likely to avoid confrontations, ignore provocations, and keep their emotions under control than unarmed people.