Although it would seem that the world is rife with conflict and tragedy, statistically speaking, we’re currently living in a golden age of human peace and cooperation. As individual economies grew into one another, our nations grew to depend on the prosperity of our neighbors in order to maintain our own prosperity.

China, for instance, may be a global competitor and even a sometimes aggressive opponent in the South China Sea, but our economic dependence on one another forces us to play nice. Even Donald Trump, who campaigned on a platform that included a good deal of animosity toward China’s trade practices, was forced to acknowledge China’s “One China” rule recently. Not out of fear of military reprisal, mind you, but because the exchange of money flowing between the two countries is too great to dismiss over differences in our respective leadership.

That same peace that pervades international dealings nowadays exists in a local sense, too. Violent crime has been on a steady decline in the United States for decades now, and violence all around the world has dropped dramatically when compared to the vast majority of human history. For a species that once held warfare in nearly as high a regard as hunting and gathering, we’ve become downright tame. It’s not uncommon for many Americans, for instance, to go their entire lives without ever experiencing any real danger of violent death.

So if things are so much better now than they ever have been, why are so many of us carrying guns?

Those on the left have been making the argument for years: In a safe society such as our own, there should be little need for everyday citizens to carry around the type of firepower I strap to my hip when I leave the house. Statistically speaking, the likelihood that I’ll ever have to draw my pistol in defense of myself or my family is so low, those in the pro-gun-control camp would argue there’s no reason for me to carry it at all.

Statistics are funny that way. They can give you an important level of perspective on your place in the world, and I can see the Left’s point. Statistically speaking, I could have gone my entire life without ever needing to use my pistol to protect my family. The thing is though, I already did. Now, I didn’t have to shoot my way out of trouble. In fact, I didn’t have to shoot at all, but in my opinion, that’s exactly how I’d like such a story to end.

While living in Massachusetts, my wife and I were staying in Army military housing established for Natick Labs. I received orders for a short deployment (a bit over a month) and we had just moved to the neighborhood recently, so I walked across the street to the only guy I already knew and asked if he’d stop by and check on my wife now and then while I was gone. He was happy to help, and suggested that he get his wife involved because it might make Jamie feel a little more comfortable to receive visits from another spouse, rather than some soldier she only barely knew. I thanked him, said goodbye to my wife—confident that she’d be safe in our military neighborhood and with good folks nearby if she needed them—and headed off for my deployment.

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Little did I know, during the first few weeks I was gone, my well-intentioned neighbor and his wife had mentioned my absence to their neighbor. They got together and decided to put together a little care package for Jamie, an awfully sweet gesture with unexpectedly unfortunate repercussions. Soon, that neighbor told hers, and down the line it went, all the way to a small house a few blocks away that housed an abusive Army master sergeant, his continuously “ill” spouse, and a teenage son who had the sort of drug problems teenagers tend to develop in those sorts of houses.

On my end, I was only able to converse with my wife once or twice while I was gone. The nature of the deployment and the region of the world we were in just didn’t allow for frequent communications, but I got an email from her telling me that all was well, and that she’d gotten a nice visit from some neighborhood spouses with a DVD copy of season one of “Army Wives” that she never intended to watch.

Soon thereafter, I received word that the colonel a few of us were working security for would be heading back to the States a week early, and three of us would be going with him. I had received a promotion in the field to sergeant, so I think my name was still fresh on his mind when he chose the lottery winners that would be heading back to real showers a week before the rest of the group. We gathered our gear, and 36 or so hours later, I walked into my living room to find that my wife had spent my time away memorizing Colonel Jessup’s speech from “A Few Good Men.” There’s a video of her crushing it while folding laundry on YouTube somewhere in case you need evidence that I outkicked my coverage when I managed to convince this lady to marry me.

We ordered pizza, got drunk, and after a few hours of catching up on my DVR, we headed upstairs in a bit of a hurry—leaving both of our cell phones on the coffee table in our haste.

That drug-addled kid from a few blocks away was also partying pretty hard that night, and armed with the knowledge he’d gained from his mother’s participation in the neighborhood delivery of “Army Wives,” he figured he’d celebrate the night the same way I was: by spending some quality time with my wife. After all, as far as he knew, I wouldn’t be home for another week.

I’m usually a heavy sleeper, but despite the fair amount of vodka in my system, I woke up pretty quickly when my dog started to growl. Jamie was already awake, clutching my arm tightly, then jerking as we heard the sound of movement in my downstairs living room. Another thud confirmed it: There was someone in the house and we weren’t just hearing things.

I popped out of bed and asked where the pistol was. She whispered that it was in the lock box…in the living room closet. Another quiet thump near the base of the stairs made the decision for me. I told her to stay in the room and lock the door behind me, and I took off down the stairs shouting at a burglar I hoped would be smaller than I was. Loud crashes filled what was a quiet house as I reached the closet at the base of the stairs, yanked the gun case down and pulled my handgun out of it. Another crash from the next room sent me sprinting after the noise. I found the back-sliding door wide open, but no one in the kitchen. I cleared the laundry room quickly before returning to the living room, grabbing my cell phone and calling to Jamie. I dialed 911 and tossed it to her at the top of the stairs before clearing the remainder of the house and heading out the front door clad in only my boxer-briefs and toting my 9mm.

I could see the guy running down the street in the faint light of the rising sun, arms full of something I couldn’t make out, but I knew it belonged to me. I started after him when my wife called out the window that the police were around the corner and would be here soon. My pistol was legal inside my house, but in Massachusetts, I was as likely to get arrested by the arriving police officers as the burglar for open carrying in my underwear, so I reluctantly headed back inside and put the pistol away.

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Fifteen minutes later, the police let us know that they’d caught the guy. He’d left a trail of my belongings–Xbox, laptop, DVDs—all the way to his house. But what did him in was our pizza. He must have grabbed it on the way out the door, and when the police knocked, it was sitting on his coffee table. They took him into custody and returned the last slice of cold pepperoni and extra cheese to us at home.

I met with the kid a few months later. The court asked me to, and to be honest, I wanted to hear what he had to say. I wanted to know if he had intended to simply rob us quietly, or if he’d planned on hurting my wife. I wanted to know if he had targeted her specifically. I wanted to know whether I just wanted to beat some sense into this kid, or if I wanted to strangle the life out of him for preying on the woman who I love. Unfortunately, when I met him, he couldn’t really say.

According to him, he was on so many different drugs that night, he doesn’t remember any of it, nor does he recall his intentions. He was being released, which meant he’d be back in my neighborhood, and I explained to him in no uncertain terms that, although he seemed to want to play the card of the victim now, he would get to learn exactly what it was like to be one if I ever saw him near my home again. We moved to the next town over a month or so later.

So sure, I see the statistics. I know the world I live in is a safer one than the world of my ancestors. I know that statistically I may never need to fire my pistol at another human being. I know that we have incredibly hard-working men and women in law enforcement that happened to be nearby when things went wrong for my family that night.

But I also know that there are people like that kid, who by his own admission didn’t know what his intentions were for my sleeping wife that night. I know there are evil men, like generals whose hands I shook as a representative of the United States while in Africa. I know there are lunatics and extremists, pedophiles and kidnappers, angry people with an intent to send a violent message. I know there are people in this world who would do us harm if we allow it to happen, and since that night, I know that sometimes they’re in our own neighborhoods.

And I know I’ll have a pistol on my hip if ever I come across one again.

People don’t carry because they’re hoping for a fight. Hell, we usually don’t even carry because we’re thinking about one. We carry because, if the statistics said one person in a million would be attacked today, we know someone has to be that one, and if it happens to be us, or anyone near us, we’ll be able to protect ourselves and those we care about.

We live in a safe society, but that doesn’t come with a money-back guarantee. My new neighborhood is secluded, my neighbors are good folks, and my town doesn’t have a crime problem, but you’d better believe I still lock my doors and make sure the phones, and guns, are accessible if I need them.

I carry because the same statistics that tell me I probably won’t be in any danger today also tell me that someone will be. I hope it won’t be me or someone I love, but hope is not a course of action.

Carrying my gun is.

Image courtesy of YP Next Home