Among those of us who carry a firearm on a day-to-day basis, it isn’t uncommon to hear us cite self-defense as the primary reason we lug our EDCs around with us. Indeed, the internet is rife with stories about legal concealed carriers stopping tragedies before they can happen, or ending them sooner than they otherwise would have, but unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Last week, a story broke about a legal carrier opening fire on shoplifters at her local Home Depot… and it got me thinking… maybe some of the folks who criticize America’s love affair with firearms have a point.

During the onslaught of visitors in our home throughout the holidays, one of my more liberal-leaning relatives snuck in a remark about us gun-toting crazies, keeping a pistol strapped to our waist “and looking for a fight like this is the Wild West.” Of course, I disputed that statement, and she pleasantly back tracked, happy to suggest that I’m “different” because I received military training – perhaps unaware that she was then extending her insult only to my lovely wife, who despite not actively serving in uniform, keeps a Walther tucked in her purse.

In the spirit of the season, or maybe because my wife was digging her nails into my arm, I let it go… but it kept nagging at me. The idea that all concealed carriers see themselves as some kind of cowboy, carrying their pistol to dispense justice over personal slights, is an offensive characterization of my people – but the part that stung the most was the realization that, in some ways… it’s true.

Now, you may be an upstanding gun owner. You may follow the rules of firearm safety to the letter. You may be well-trained and practiced regarding situations that may call on you to draw your weapon. You may be the very model of responsibility… but as long as there are folks looking to draw down at Home Depot when they spot some shoplifters, we all carry that 2nd Amendment scarlet letter. When we suffer fools within our ranks (however loosely established those ranks may be), we make ourselves all look a bit foolish.

I know what you’re saying: “It isn’t fair to judge such a broad group on the actions of a foolish minority,” and I agree. It isn’t fair – but these types of generalizations exist in all walks of life, and often, are the very basis of legislation when anti-gun types start writing up new laws. To the lefty-gun hater that lives in suburban Connecticut, firearms exist only as they’ve seen them on TV, in fictional depictions, and news stories about murderers.

If your only exposure to guns comes from the media, it makes perfect sense that you’d perceive them as too dangerous to be necessary.

So, because I know that convincing anti-gunners that gun owners are overwhelmingly responsible is a never-ending battle, I’ve decided to take the fight in a different direction: I’ve decided to take the argument to fellow gun owners themselves. We all need to work to ensure that we’re all on the same page when it comes to drawing (and discharging) our firearms.

Sure, I could come up with a long think-piece about utilizing a “rules of engagement” type escalation of force when facing a potential threat… but honestly, I think it’s simpler than that. In fact, I think it really boils down to one simple rule any time you’re not standing on land you own: