Many inhabitants of the Emerald City (that’s Seattle) are dismayed by the recent spate of shootings. We can point out that the our fair city’s rate of gun violence is in fact low in comparison to other comparably-sized American cities. Reassuring to some, perhaps not so much for those who lost friends and family.

And out trots that perennial argument. Do guns kill, or do people? If Seattle had tighter regulations on gun sales and ownership, could some of these murders have been avoided? Or should more people be allowed to carry guns in more places, to stop the evil-doers in their tracks?

I am no expert on firearm legislation. I do, however, worry about the eagerness of some to bear arms. A couple of years ago, when the media spotlight was on the University District and the emailed Alerts about all reported crimes around campus, some UW students reportedly began carrying guns and organized armed patrols of the community. If their members are much like the spokesperson interviewed on KUOW, I would be more afraid of them than of most muggers. To my ears, this guy came across as just spoiling for an excuse to blaze away.

I do know some people who own guns. They have a healthy respect for firepower, practice regularly, and are very concerned with gun safety. They are not the gun owners I fear.

My concern is that some are so keen to jump to the most lethal form of self-defense, rather than looking first at other prevention measures. There are reports that states with a “Stand Your Ground” law are seeing a increase in killings. Rather than resulting in a decrease in crime, these laws may be justifying needless homicide.

As a self-defense teacher, I am occasionally asked about carrying firearms. (Most often, however, the weapon I’m asked about is pepper spray.) What I in turn ask those students is: are you willing to kill someone? Are you willing to go to the firing range and practice on a regular basis? Do you understand that there’s an emotional cost to taking life? Do you have the names of a good lawyer and a good therapist? If you are not willing to think long and hard about these questions, you should not be considering carrying a gun.