When it comes to weapons, there are a lot of things to talk about. Some are big picture issues, others are more technical. We're going to start with the big picture issues. Specifically, we're going to start with morality.
Warning. This particular column may be rather graphic.
Let's start by defining some terms.
Wikipedia defines a weapon as "a tool used to apply force for the purpose of causing harm or damage to persons, animals or structures." Merriam-Webster defines it as "something (as a club, knife, or gun) used to injure, defeat, or destroy."
Read that again. A weapon is used to "injure, defeat, or destroy."
One of the most important decisions you must make in regards to carrying a weapon is this--are you prepared for the moral, ethical, and psychological consequences of using that weapon to harm or kill another human being?
Do you believe that there are times when it is justifiable to take a human life? Shooting someone with a gun may do just that. So can stabbing or cutting someone with a knife. A well-placed blow from a heavy baton can kill. Even less-than-lethal tools can result in death: an allergic reaction to pepper spray will kill just as easily as a bullet in the head (a student at Emerson College in downtown Boston was killed several years ago by a misfired pepper canister).
Picking a target that "just disables" the bad guy is for the movies. According to Demi Barbito, head of the Center for Self-Preservation Training, "There is no human being alive who can control the amount of damage done to an aggressive attacker with a knife. "
And knives do damage. A lot of it. Damage that is ugly and bloody and messy. Are you comfortable with the idea of having someone bleeding all over you? Of actually watching, or even feeling a person die in your hands? Are you okay with the idea that with one simple trigger pull, another human being will cease to exist?
These questions, believe it or not, don't have right answers. The decision to carry a weapon is one that is entirely in your hands. But before you worry about training, laws, or the many other factors that we'll talk about as this series goes on, start with your basic ethics. If you aren't okay with the ultimate consequences of using a weapon on another human being, then you've got no business carrying one.
For some further insight into these issues, check out the following books