UPDATE: TNH requests that I credit the comment's author, who goes by the handle "Old Jarhead". While he doesn't seem to have a blog or site of his own, his entire commenting history at Making Light (a short history thus far, but insightful) can be perused here.
If you intend to get a carry permit and pack heat for self protection, you should keep several things close to mind:
1. Unless you have invested the time and money to be well trained in the defensive use of a handgun, don’t carry one.
2. Unless you are willing to spend the money and time to go to the range and fire your weapon at least monthly and at least a box of ammo at that time, don’t carry one.
3. Unless you are certain that you have the emotional and psychological ability to shoot another human being dead, don’t carry one. Do not count on “brandishing” the weapon to frighten the other party into submission - it is far more likely to dramatically increase the level of violence. Do not even consider “shooting to injure”. Unless you are willing to put two rounds, center of mass, into the other person and kill him (usually) dead, you are far more likely to end up the dead or grievously injured one.
4. A handgun is not a magic wand. Displaying it will not cast a spell of caution or calmness on the various parties. A loaded weapon makes people crazy - the person at which it is aimed, the persons who are witnesses, and often the person who is holding it.
5. Unless you are willing to purchase and practice with a handgun that is large enough and packs a sufficient punch to put an attacker down and down now, don’t carry one. In the early 70s a female student at [University] was in her apartment with her daughter when an attacker burst through the door. She had a .22 pistol and shot him 4 or 5 times. He had a .45 and shot her once. He was arrested at the hospital. She was dead.
There are lots of sources of good advice on combination of caliber, proper ammo, and frame size for control.
What it comes down to is that there is no way to prepare for the first time you point a loaded weapon at an identifiable human being and have to pull the trigger. The reason the military does repetitive, mind-numbing training is to try and ingrain the muscle memory and develop the reflexes so that brain does NOT interfere, because if you give it a vote it will pause and then it is too late. Soldiers call the enemy by racial or ethnic names to depersonalize them so that they don’t have to think about the fact that they are killing other people with mothers, fathers, kids, wives, and families. Troops assigned to Special Operations forces or Delta Force fire hundreds of rounds a month because in their job they have to be able to make a split second decision on whether the human in their sights is a target or a hostage or innocent.
The passive defensive measures discussed herein are excellent approaches and will be far more effective in providing security than a sign that says “This family law attorney is protected by Smith & Wesson”.
When I was a young Marine we lived in southern Cal, and one night about 2 am my wife said that she had heard a sound in the garage. I scoffed of course (husbandly response #1), but then I heard the sliding door of the VW van. There WAS someone in the garage. I got up and sneaked to the garage door and peeked - the dome light was on. Heart beat at 120, adrenaline everywhere. As I whispered for my wife to call the cops I saw an arm - a little arm. A 5 y/o girl’s arm! I stormed out into the garage to confront my little daughter and as I demanded an explanation she sobbed that she couldn’t find her bunny rabbit and was looking in the car.
I had numerous weapons in the house - all locked up. After that I asked myself - “If I had had a weapon quickly available would I have gotten it and had it ready?” My answer was “yes”. And then I realized that if I had, I would have been confronting my little girl with a .357 in my hand. Accordingly I have never kept a weapon out of the safe in the house.
Given my background I obviously am not an anti-gun crusader. I believe, however, that the decision to carry a weapon in the office or on the street places an enormous responsibility upon the bearer to obtain excellent training, to commit to frequent practice and refresher training, to choose a weapon ideally suited for you and the purpose, and to stare into the mirror and ask yourself if you could really use it - and if you would make its use a truly last resort.
If you shoot and kill someone in the office you are not going to be celebrated as “Annie Oakley” and carried around the Family Law convention on a sedan chair. You are going to go to a private place and vomit until you don’t think you will ever be able to stand up straight again.
I have never had any problem with gun ownership, but I do have a problem with the idea that the more people are packing heat, the safer we'll all be. I personally do not own a gun, nor do I have any desire to own one. Guns give me the willies.