People who buy guns for defense range from victims like Stroup with hard-to-dispute evidence of a need for protection to those impressed by scary headlines. Some are better prepared than others to use them in real life.
Dave Young, whose company, ARMA Training – a part of the defense training Vistelar Group in Mequon, Wis. – provides military, law enforcement, and civilian firearms courses around the United States, has seen thousands of novice and expert students and estimates that 3 or 4 out of 10 in his civilian courses fail after he cuts through "all the fiction and fantasy" they bring with them. But Mr. Young does preach strongly the obligations a gun owner has – specifically, an exhausting list of lifestyle adjustments, including holster-accommodating wardrobe changes, how to sit, walk, and even hold a cup of coffee. And then there's the requirement to practice gun-drawing and shooting – in any number of possible positions – once a month. It's a regimen that would give pause to even the most avid gun enthusiast. (He details the just how hard the responsibilities are here.)
Often the decision to keep or carry a firearm for self-defense is emotion-based and not that well thought out, say many experts. The immediate formation of lines at gun stores after the Newtown shooting is an example.
"Fear makes people go out and buy a firearm," observes Young. "Fear makes them lose confidence in the lifestyle they had before, that gave them the feeling of being safe. However, this perceived safe lifestyle is not the environment they're in now."