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No, I’m not nervous

June 18, 2019

Recently, there was a question on Quora that I took the time to answer. The question, “Do Americans feel nervous in public places where the person walking behind them could easily have a gun, and could easily kill you if they so choose,” elicited a variety of answers. Some of them were creative, some were boringly predictable and some were, well, stupid. Mine follows. Feel free to assign it to whichever category you choose.

My answer requires me to provide some background. Please, bear with me. I’m a retired US Navy officer, but I began my military career by enlisting in the US Coast Guard. I am also a RN with what we like to euphemistically call “significant” clinical experience in both psychiatric/mental-health nursing and in the Operating Room. In addition, I am an executive life coach.

My answer pulls from both the question and from some other answers to the question.

No, I do not feel nervous. Allow me to explain.

Feeling nervous

Most people, as in the vast and overwhelming majority of us, have this amazing ability. We exercise it regularly. Unfortunately, we often do so without being aware of what we’re doing. What is this thing we exercise both regularly and without conscious awareness? Simply this: we choose how we feel. That’s it. We choose. What’s even more amazing is that we can learn, if we so choose (there’s that word, again), to do so consciously. We can even learn to make a given choice a regular, settled part of our lives. This includes the things/situations we choose to fear or not fear; the things about which we choose to feel nervous or not. It’s a choice.


I knew a man, now divorced, who simply would not trust his wife though she gave him no reason for his lack of trust. My advice was simple. Either make the decision to trust her, and act like he trusted her with the goal of making that trust both easier and stronger, or make the decision to not trust her and get out of the marriage. His method, not trusting but staying in the situation, was driving him nucking futs.

As an OR nurse I have participated in several thousand surgeries, in both military and civilian settings and all over the world. And yet, I have worked with only a small percentage of the world’s surgeons, OR techs, anesthesiologists, and nurse anesthetists. During that time I have seen surgeons endanger staff and patients by choosing to lose their temper(s) in the OR. I have seen surgeons deliberately break expensive implants by throwing them against a wall, break functional surgical instruments with an orthopedic mallet, threaten staff members, and commit assault and battery. I’ve seen similar behavior from others in the OR. And when I decided to have a mass removed from my neck, I chose to trust the OR team, entrust myself to their care and undergo both surgery and general anesthesia. Why? Because in spite of what I’ve seen, I know it doesn’t happen all that often, even though it happens far more often than many or most people think.

It’s a choice.

Easily have a gun

Though they are not original with me, there are three rules, adherence to which greatly reduces one’s risk of being a victim of any sort of violence. Those are

Don’t do stupid things
Don’t go stupid places
Don’t hang out with stupid people
When I was young (and stupid) I violated those rules, whether one, two or all three, with reckless abandon. I suppose I was particularly stupid in that I violated them not only in the US, but in other countries, as well. It was during that time that I made an observation. I saw something in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, some Commonwealth Countries, some countries on the European continent, and in some Latin American countries. This is my observation based on my experiences: If you live in one of those countries, and spend/have spent any significant time in a metropolitan area, then you have been, more than once, within not just shooting distance, but very likely within spitting distance (and maybe even “bad breath” distance) of one or more people who are at that moment in illegal possession of a concealed firearm.

Could easily kill you if they so chose

When I was in the US Coast Guard we devoted a lot of resources, including time, energy and effort, to law enforcement. At that time, one of our big concerns were the incredibly violent Colombian cartels. One of the points made during law enforcement training was this: if the bad guy(s) want(s) you dead badly enough, there is nothing you can do about it and you will die. Talking to my friends in civilian law enforcement, this is still recognized as true. It is independent of person, occupation, weapon or method. It does not matter if you are shot, stabbed, poisoned, run over with a car, blown up or killed by an “angel of death” nurse, you’re just as dead.

Other thoughts

I don’t usually talk about statistics. As far as I can tell, even before Great Britain started its walk toward increasingly draconian gun laws, the US was a more violent place. Interestingly, over the last 20–30 years, as gun laws in the UK have become more restrictive, and as they have become in many ways less restrictive in the US (concealed carry, specifically) and as the number of privately owned firearms in the US has increased dramatically, something interesting has happened. Crime, including violent crime (which includes crimes committed with firearms) has decreased dramatically in both places, suggesting the driver is not guns.

I can choose any number of things. I can choose to be nervous and/or afraid, or not. I can choose to trust my fellow-citizens, or not. I can choose to believe the democide of the 20th century makes it reasonable to entrust government with a monopoly on force and its tools, or not. I can choose to believe my safety is primarily my responsibility or that of someone else or some entity. I can choose to be just a little more alert and see the colors of the flowers in spring, the tree leaves in fall, and all the other amazing things going on around me, or I can choose to remain oblivious, trusting in blind luck to keep me from violating one of the three rules. I get to make all those and a myriad of other choices. I can make them consciously or otherwise. Regardless, I will choose. So will you, OP.

People are nothing if not interesting, to no small degree because of how they approach their choices.

What I find really interesting about the question is the presumption which underlies it. The belief that it is the lack of a gun which prevents someone from attacking you (including with deadly force) is childish reasoning. The gun, an inanimate object of metal and wood (or polymer) and which lacks both will and volition, is cast as a present-day version of the One Ring. As such, it is viewed by many as being imbued with the power to warp the thoughts, twist the mind and pervert the character of its possessor. It turns this inanimate object into a focus of evil talismanic power. It also, almost certainly inadvertently, deprives people of their ability to choose; to choose how they feel and to choose what they do.

Look, you may feel nervous at the prospect of someone around you being in possession of a gun. If you are in even reasonable possession of your faculties, that is entirely up to you. And, yes, what that person does with that gun is entirely up to him, as are the actions of the person passing by you at 45 miles per hour in a car while you walk down the sidewalk mere feet away. If you decide to make your feelings and actions, as well as those of others, a matter of something other than choice, it’s worth asking yourself why you wish to deprive humans of both their power and their responsibility and accountability. Why do you object to people possessing agency?

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  1. OldNFO permalink

    Well said, and out here, more carry than don’t… 🙂

  2. Thank you. Even here in the “big city” of Abilene, a “significant” number of people carry. If that was a problem, we would have known long before now.

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