The report underscores that defensive gun use is frequently complicated by unpredictable human behavior.

In the fifth chapter Bird reviews the sordid history of New Orleans’ gun confiscation in Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath. Residents and outsiders alike were stunned after the hurricane when local government took away residents’ guns. The confiscations impress on us the import of fighting back early when a government shows tendencies toward violating citizen rights. The New Orleans gun grab was the culmination of the big city’s decline. If unable to stop government misbehavior, the prudent citizen may be best served moving away from so unstable a community before such a catastrophe.

Bird interviews Louisianan Vinnie Perval, who was robbed while caring for homes in his Algiers Point neighborhood after the hurricane. Perval concluded that allowing his elderly mother to remain with him was not worth the risk, and that indeed, New Orleans was not worth the dangers he had endured. The city died in the hurricane, he expressed, and was never the same afterwards. The effects of being knocked to the ground, robbed, and then holing up and protecting the neighborhood irrevocably changed this man.

If there is a common thread through the experiences of the many individuals interviewed for Thank God I Had a Gun, it is the surprising number who, although living in households containing guns, had only fired a gun once or twice, or in Perval’s case, had disliked guns. Beyond varied experience levels, the survivors’ ages span 18 to 80, and they vary from comfortably well-off to very poor.

Thank God I Had a Gun’s first half primarily deals with people who used guns to defend themselves with little to no prior training. That changes about half way through the book, with the story of a man who shot a cop killer, and a convenience store owner who attended a concealed carry licensing class for his state’s CHL law then three days after his carry license arrived shot an armed robber. Several of the subjects were veterans of military service, and one had operated a range facility.

Bird’s collection of stories of defensive uses of guns is much more than pro-gun hyperbole. He details post-shooting ordeals and tells of the death of an armed citizen who intervened in a domestic violence shooting and was shot by an ex-husband who had a rifle and wore body armor. While many of the subjects avoided injury, several required hospitalization for wounds suffered while preventing their murder. The stories related are realistic, sobering, and all include valuable lessons. After all, we’d prefer to learn from the experiences of others.

Toward the end of the book, Bird relates the story of a disabled man whose display of a .380 ACP Colt pistol stopped road rage assailants. His assailants gave conflicting reports to law enforcement, starting a months-long cascade of legal problems for the armed citizen. Delayed release of the 9-1-1 calls from the incident concealed a call from an independent witness. When finally discovered, that evidence spurred case dismissal. The story is disheartening and stands in stark contrast to so many chief law enforcement officers Bird quotes in earlier chapters who speak strongly in support of armed citizens.

I am confident Network members will appreciate and learn from the experiences of other gun owners as told in this book. Once having read Thank God I Had a Gun, pass it along to a friend, family member, or co-worker who does not understand why you own firearms. These are truly stories gathered by one of our own: Bird is a Network member, and the subject of an eJournal interview about his experiences as an immigrant to the United States and his viewpoint on gun rights. Learn more about him at http://www.armedcitizensnetwork.org/images/stories/journal/2010/Network_2010-10.pdf.

Thank God I Had a Gun is available from Privateer Publications, P.O. Box 29427, San Antonio, TX 78213; phone orders only 888-700-4333. http://www.privateerpublications.com/ The book costs $19.95 plus $5 for shipping. TX residents add $1.65 sales tax.

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