Roughly a week ago, I received a call from my sister informing me that one of my family’s cherished basset hounds had been bitten by a rattlesnake while hiking with my mother in Green Mountain Park in Lakewood, Colorado. She requested assistance from my brother and me in order to evacuate the injured hound off the mountain and get him to the emergency veterinarian. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with basset hounds, these diminutive and stubborn dogs are astonishingly heavy and awkward for one person to carry. It is rather like carrying a 3-foot long, 50-pound sack of writhing and howling cement.) My brother and I rushed up the mountain, and we successfully rescued the seriously wounded hound off the mountain.
The incident was extremely trying for me. In the first place, I am absolutely terrified of snakes. Whenever I have the misfortune to encounter a snake — no matter what its size — I immediately and involuntarily emit a sound that is usually only made by 10-year-old girls, and I instantly start running for my life. The incident was trying, in the second place, because it was the second time that this particular hound had been bitten by a rattlesnake on Green Mountain. Just one year ago, a baby rattlesnake bit him squarely in the face, and it nearly cost him his life. At least seven other dogs were also bitten by rattlesnakes on Green Mountain last year, and there was a shortage of canine anti-venom in this area as a result.
What really made the incident trying for me, however, was the fact that the City of Lakewood, Colorado has apparently no intention of curbing the outrageous number of venomous snakes that reside on this barren hill, and for which it is responsible. So many rattlesnakes have historically resided on Green Mountain, in fact, that the hill was originally known as "rattlesnake hill" before real estate developers building its base adopted the less terrifying and grandiose-sounding name of "Green Mountain." The city has apparently decided that it has no need to manage the out-of-control venomous snake population in this heavily visited park; rather, it has merely opted to post more signs warning people about their presence
The fact that the City of Lakewood is uninterested in actively managing the poisonous snake population in this park would be bad enough taken alone, but the city has made the situation much, much worse by forbidding the carrying of firearms in the park. Firearms can be extremely effective for defending oneself against snakes. This is especially true of smaller shotguns (like the Springfield M6 survival rifle, for instance), and pistols loaded with CCI Pistol Shotshells. These cartridges shoot extremely small shot with a very limited range, which is exceptionally effective for killing snakes without endangering other people or animals. Were a man to prudently arm himself with a pistol or shotgun in order to defend himself against these dangerous, venomous serpents, however, the City of Lakewood could, and almost certainly would, fine or jail him. The City of Lakewood apparently prizes the lives of venomous snakes more than it values the lives of its citizens.
This means, in essence, that men like me who despise snakes are forced to pay taxes to a group of city bureaucrats who then use the power of their position to defend the lives of snakes. On what grounds could this relationship possibly be thought to be voluntary? If I were given the choice, I would rather pay the salary of some bloodthirsty, modern-day St. Patrick, than to pay bureaucrats and police officers to defend snakes from me!
By banning firearms in their parks, moreover, the City of Lakewood has created an even more absurd situation with respect to other dangerous animals in the park. For example, at the trailheads its parks, the City of Lakewood posts signs alerting hikers to the possible presence of mountain lions in the parks. But, since the city has banned the carrying of firearms in the park, their advice when it comes to protecting oneself against mountain lion attacks is shockingly asinine, even by bureaucratic standards. "If you are attacked by a lion," the signs read, "…use whatever is available: your backpack, jacket, sticks, tools, keys, knife or even you bare hands."
Nowhere on the sign does the City or the State acknowledge that centuries ago man developed a special tool that is the best defense against giant, predatory animals: the gun. And, since these tools are in plentiful supply in the United States, one would think that the best advice one could proffer about how to handle an attack by a giant, predatory cat would be to simply say: "Shoot it." Instead, however, since the City of Lakewood, Colorado has banned the use of these effective tools against attack on "its" property, it advises that unarmed men fight giant cats with their jackets and car keys. It is perhaps unnecessary to point out that if it is unadvisable to bring a knife to a gunfight, it is also perhaps less than bright to bring car keys to a fight with a lion.
(To be perfectly honest, though, a part of me would be morbidly interested to observe an unarmed, middle aged hiker attempting to fight a mountain lion with a jacket in one hand and car keys in the other. My guess is that the encounter would end rather badly for the hiker, no matter how skilled he happened to be in close-quarter car key combat.)
The root of the problem here lies in the docility with which men in this country have yielded their individual right to self-defense. While acknowledging in principle that individual men have the right to defend themselves against aggression by wild animals and human beings, the vast majority of Americans have apparently forgotten that effective self-defense requires appropriate tools and preparation. And, since the firearm is the single greatest tool for defending oneself against aggression, man’s undeniable and individual right to self-defense must include the right to bear and use firearms in self-defense — whether the city, state and federal governments like it or not. The right of self-defense does not mean merely that the State grants you permission to fight aggressive animals and people with your car keys.
I, for one, am unwilling to allow the state restrict my right of self-defense against aggressive animals, criminals, and tyrannical government. And this means that I am, and forever shall be, heavily armed to protect myself and my family from these mortally dangerous threats.
Mark R. Crovelli [send him mail] writes from Denver, Colorado.