The choice of violence over safety

The explosion in gun nuttery leading up to the 2020 election,[1] in part because conservatives were afraid Joe Biden wouldn’t allow them to, also led to people buying guns because they were afraid of the gun nuts that surrounded them.[2] It’s an example of the very thing anti-gun folks fear: Guns lead to more guns and, inevitably, the violence that accompanies those guns.[3]

Fig. 1. A “no trespassing” sign, Pittsburgh style, on the edge of Clairton. Photograph by author, August 8, 2020.

I understand the motivation and, in the past, I’ve been able to say that I had learned a lesson, that when I felt I was in a situation where I needed to carry a gun, that was a situation I needed to get out of.

Then I moved to Pittsburgh, where not merely gun nuttery but gun idiocy is pervasive,[4] where it is clear to me that there is a lot of white supremacy around and that these folks are arming themselves for a possible race war and indeed that I should personally fear this violence.[5] Making it even more personal was a road rage incident in which another motorist was incensed that I was not driving sufficiently in excess of the posted speed limit (yes, I was already over that limit), cut me off, forced me across a double yellow line, slammed his brakes in front of me, forced me to stop harder than I normally would, and then got out of his car and threatened me.

It’s not so easy to leave a situation one has moved cross country for. I moved here from California, where gun laws are strict but costs are high. As an Uber and Lyft driver, my income is low and uncertain, as it is for other drivers, which is why, in the wake of the pandemic, it’s become hard to find a ride.[6] And here, the legislature is rabidly pro-gun.[7]

Uber[8] and Lyft[9] both forbid both drivers and passengers to carry firearms and, as a driver, I would have to think very clearly about how I would use a gun in the event of—the most likely scenario—an assault by a passenger in my back seat. I realize that a lot of drivers probably do carry firearms for that very, fairly obvious reason,[10] but the mechanics of actually pulling a gun on a passenger who is assaulting you from behind while you are in a driver’s seat don’t actually make any kind of sense whatsoever. Which means it would be far more likely that a gun would fall into the wrong hands than that it would serve in self-defense.

Yes, I most certainly understand the motivation. My answer in Pittsburgh, instead of carrying a gun, has generally been to cut off orders by 8:00 pm; this is when the gun and knife club seems to come to order here.

More guns cannot be the answer. The very fact of their existence increases the probability that they will be stolen, mislaid, or misused, sometimes violently. The very decision to own a gun is a decision to accept, rather than leave, a situation with a potential for violence and therefore a potential to use that gun. This is unequivocally a choice of violence over safety. It is not an answer that makes any sense.

But then, my life doesn’t make any sense.[11]

  1. [1]Abha Bhattarai, “‘We’ve got to protect ourselves’: Some threaten to shop elsewhere if they can’t openly carry guns,” Washington Post, September 6, 2019,; Andrew Chung, “U.S. Supreme Court weighs challenge to New York gun transport limits,” Reuters, December 1, 2019,; Jane Coaston, “The Virginia gun rights rally raising fears of violence, explained,” Vox, January 17, 2020,
  2. [2]Marc Fisher et al., “‘Fear on top of fear’: Why anti-gun Americans joined the wave of new gun owners,” Washington Post, July 10, 2021,
  3. [3]Gun Violence Archive, 2021,
  4. [4]David Benfell, “An unhealthy relationship with guns,” Not Housebroken, January 1, 2020,; David Benfell, “Pittsburgh, race, and a threat to appropriated identity,” Not Housebroken, November 13, 2020,; David Benfell, “Safety for gun nuts,” Not Housebroken, April 17, 2021,
  5. [5]David Benfell, “They’re taking our guns away!” Not Housebroken, August 10, 2019,; David Benfell, “The place where I live,” Not Housebroken, January 1, 2020,; David Benfell, “Militia territory,” Not Housebroken, November 13, 2020,; David Benfell, “Natural-born or trained killers,” Not Housebroken, March 14, 2021,; David Benfell, “Hate, Pittsburgh Style,” Not Housebroken, April 6, 2021,; David Benfell, “The banners and the guns: Flagrant racism in Pittsburgh,” Not Housebroken, April 6, 2021,
  6. [6]Jessica Bursztynsky, “Uber CEO is ‘not happy’ with how long it’s taking to pick riders up or prices being charged,” CNBC, May 25, 2021,; Laura Forman, “Uber and Lyft Need a Sharper Turn,” Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2021,; Michael Hiltzik, “Uber reneges on the ‘flexibility’ it gave drivers to win their support for Prop. 22,” Los Angeles Times, May 28, 2021,; Farhad Manjoo, “The Uber I.P.O. Is a Moral Stain on Silicon Valley,” New York Times, May 1, 2019,; Aarian Marshall, “Gig Companies Fear a Worker Shortage, Despite a Recession,” Wired, March 5, 2021,; Dhruv Mehrotra and Aaron Gordon, “Uber And Lyft Take A Lot More From Drivers Than They Say,” Jalopnik, August 26, 2019,; Mariella Moon, “Uber and Lyft rides are pricier due to a lack of drivers (and the waits are longer, too),” Engadget, June 1, 2021,; Alexa Noel, “Revised MIT Study Says Uber, Lyft Drivers Make About $8 or $10 per Hour,” Points Guy, March 8, 2018,; Kari Paul, “Uber drivers plan shutdown over ‘poverty wages’ as company goes public,” Guardian, April 25, 2019,; Rida Qadri and Alexandra Mateescu, “Uber and Lyft: woo drivers with stable pay, not short-term honeypots,” Guardian, June 20, 2021,; Preetika Rana, “Uber, Lyft Sweeten Job Perks Amid Driver Shortage, Lofty Fares,” Wall Street Journal, July 2, 2021,; José Rodríguez, Jr., “The Aftermath Of Prop 22 Is Not As Happy As Big Tech Promised,” Jalopnik, February 18, 2021,; Alexander Sammon, “Prop 22 Is Here, and It’s Already Worse Than Expected,” American Prospect, January 15, 2021,; Faiz Siddiqui, “Where have all the Uber drivers gone?” Washington Post, May 7, 2021,; Faiz Siddiqui, “You may be paying more for Uber, but drivers aren’t getting their cut of the fare hike,” Washington Post, June 9, 2021,; Faiz Siddiqui and Andrew Van Dam, “As Uber avoided paying into unemployment, the federal government helped thousands of its drivers weather the pandemic,” Washington Post, March 16, 2021,; Alissa Walker, “Why Your Uber Ride Is Suddenly Costing a Fortune,” New York, June 4, 2021,
  7. [7]Associated Press, “Gov. Tom Wolf Vetoes Bills On Firearms During Emergencies And Gas Drilling Regulation,” KDKA, November 26, 2020,; Stephen Caruso, “Pro 2nd Amendment lawmakers want to let you carry a gun during an emergency,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, July 7, 2020,; Jon Delano, “Lawrence Co. Lawmaker Wants To Abolish Concealed Carry Gun Permits,” KDKA, May 7, 2019,
  8. [8]Uber, “Firearms Policy,” 2021,
  9. [9]Lyft, “Safety policies,” 2021,
  10. [10]Quora, “Can you carry a gun when driving for Uber/Lyft?” May 18, 2021,
  11. [11]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d.,

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