September is safety month for the National Association of Realtors, and that makes it as good a time as any to bring up the issue of whether real estate agents should carry guns.
Being a real estate agent can bring inherent risks.
Real estate agents often work odd hours, in parts of towns they may not be familiar with, and they often find themselves alone in empty houses. They have been, time and again, targeted by thieves, rapists, kidnappers, strong-arm robbers and worse.
The National Association of Realtors has a great list of safety precautions agents can take, but the list is conspicuous in what it doesn’t mention – gun ownership.
I'm all for real estate agents bringing guns to work, unlike my colleague, Ben Lane.
In addition to all the safety precautions recommended by NAR – yes, real estate agents should arm themselves.
That comes with some caveats. Several big ones, in fact.
First, they should do so in compliance with the laws where they work. A few unfortunate jurisdictions — those most often with the highest level of violent crime — restrict concealed carry, and people should obey the law. Even stupid laws.
Second, real estate agents must respect the rules set by their employer. The Second Amendment protects us against government infringement on our gun rights. If you agree to work for a company, you are agreeing to abide by the rules it sets for employees.
Third, if you think I’m suggesting that people who have never touched a gun are made safer by strapping on a .44 Magnum hog leg, you are sadly mistaken. The safety that comes from carrying a firearm, concealed or openly, starts with learning proper gun handling and gun safety, and proper usage.
So with that — following the carry laws where you live and work, following the rules set by your boss, and getting the right training and license for carrying — yes, agents should carry firearms.
Study after study shows that where concealed-carry laws have passed, crime has gone down. John Lott has it right — more guns = less crime.
Even if you don’t believe there’s causation there, it can’t be argued that the presence of guns increases the likelihood of violence or gun accidents. The number of guns owned by civilians in America has grown dramatically in the last 25 years – it’s estimated now to be around 300 million in 90 million households. The rate of gun ownership is also at its highest since 1991.
In that same timeframe the number of gun homicides and the number of fatal gun accidents has fallen dramatically.
I’m sure the skeptics and anti-gun people reading this assume I’m quoting from some biased gun-lobby study.
No, I’m citing the U.S. Department of Justice. The DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics show that homicides dropped 39% over the course of 18 years, from 18,253 during 1993, to 11,101 in 2011, while at the same time non-fatal firearm crimes plummeted 69%. Firearm homicides declined from 1993 to 1999, rose through 2006, and then declined again through 2011.
Separately, a Pew Research study from 2013, using data from the DOJ and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows a 49% decline in the homicide rate, and a 75% decline of non-fatal violent crime since the early 1990s.
And despite recent high-profile tragedies like Newtown, Connecticut, the average number of mass shootings that occur hasn’t changed since 1980.
The point? There’s no way that having someone who is responsible and trained carry a firearm does anything to increase the danger.
Concealed carry is a deterrent to crime. More importantly, it’s the best tool to prevent yourself from becoming a victim. When your life is on the line, the effect of you carrying a gun on the community at large is a secondary concern.
And to quote the cliché, when your life is on the line and seconds count, the police are minutes away.
A gun in the hands of someone who knows how to use it is the great equalizer. Two pounds of steel puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 250-pound attacker – and suddenly she’s not the victim anymore.
Every day, people use their privately owned, concealed-carry sidearms to protect themselves. Not every incident involves a shooting. Most often, merely brandishing it causes the bad guys to run away. Estimates for the number of annual civilian defensive gun uses vary based on methodology, but on the low side it is around 1 million a year, which is not surprising given 90-plus million gun-owning households.
There are entire websites devoted to documenting defensive gun uses, both statistically and anecdotally. Good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns pretty much every day of the week that ends with “-day.”
There are other self-defense tools – Tasers and pepper spray and the like. Just like the basic NAR safety guidelines, these can help. But when a 250-pound thug intent on rape or worse is charging at you, you want a little more guarantee than you get from squirting condiments at them or giving them a jolt. (Ever turn on a flashlight and have it not work?)
Nothing works as well at stopping an aggressor as a gun in the hands of someone who knows how to use it.
So I’ve established that a gun is your best self-defense tool, and the presence of a gun is not dangerous. And surely you don’t think that if you disarm, the criminals will do likewise. Out of, you know, common courtesy.
So the real question is – should real estate agents carry?
The keyword in concealed carry is “concealed.” There’s no reason that clients ever need know you are carrying. Why? Because your weapon is concealed. It’s there when you need it, but no one else has to know that. The only time it has to come out is when everyone except the bad guy will be glad to see it in your hand.
Unilaterally disarming yourself will not make you safer.
Furthermore, arming yourself won’t hurt your business. Like I said, no one needs to know you’re carrying at all.
And while some high-profile, AstroTurf groups like the one bankrolled by billionaire Michael Bloomberg — “Moms Demand Action” — want to strong-arm businesses with boycott threats, businesses are learning that being gun-friendly can be more lucrative. (Also, responsible moms don’t “demand action” – they take action. They arm themselves to protect themselves and their children.)
Maybe you, personally, aren’t comfortable carrying a gun. That’s fine. But having a company policy allowing licensed, concealed carry by real estate agents is still smart.
Why? Because the presence — or the potential for presence — of a gun is a deterrent to all but the most irrational criminals. There’s a reason mass shooters like picking “gun-free zones” for their atrocities — there’s less chance of someone who will shoot back.
Concealed carry has spread to most states over the past two decades and despite the constant, dull-minded fear-mongering about society becoming the Wild West, gun homicides have declined.
Progress is every man, woman and responsible teen having training and access to privately held firearms. It devolves power away from a central authority that in no way can guarantee anyone’s safety, and it ensures that everyone is on equal footing. No brute or gang of thugs can outmuscle even the smallest man or woman who knows how to use a gun and has it at hand.
Disarming citizens and putting the power in the hands of the police, or in the hands of the biggest thug on the block – that’s not progress. That’s what the bulk of human history has been. Disarmed people are not citizens; they are subjects.
Thomas Jefferson may have declared all men equal, but Samuel Colt made that promise real.
Those of us who carry concealed weapons don’t do so because we’re itching for a fight, or because we want to play Dirty Harry, or anything of the sort. We avoid conflicts. We never want to use it against another human being, anymore than we want to have to use a fire extinguisher, or use our CPR training.
We carry because when there’s no other way to get away from a threat to life and well-being, there’s no better tool for stopping that threat.
The fact is, in all probability you will almost never, ever need to have a gun to save your life.
But if that horrible moment ever comes and you do need a gun, nothing else will substitute.
To paraphrase the Beatles, happiness may be a warm gun, but safety, security and independence is a worn gun.