Never carry a gun

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 60s
Occupation: Professor
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: April 21st, 2014
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Information about the Informant

My informant is a professor teaching English and American Literature at the University of Southern California. He grew up in Chicago during the 1950s, and fought in the latter half of the Vietnam War. After that, he returned and received his degree in English Literature at UC Irvine. He has worked on many textbooks and movies that deal with the Vietnam War.

Transcript

“Same man…who was a professional burglar…taught me to never carry a gun. Because, he said, if you carry a gun, you’re gonna have to take it out. And if you take it out, you’re gonna have to use it, because if you don’t use it, the son of a bitch you’re pointing it at is gonna take it away from you and use it on you. So, never carry a gun.”

Analysis

Practical advice, but also folklore as it has been passed down by word of mouth from person to person such that even I, who grew up in Taiwan and has been nowhere near Chicago, have heard a variant of this piece of advice. I have heard this advice given not just about guns, but about knives and about Mace. An interesting comparison can be made between this piece of folklore that my informant gave me and the similar advice I’ve heard. In my case, the example I’m thinking of was about Mace, and it was told to me as a reason why girls should not carry Mace pepper spray around with them to defend themselves with, because it could so easily be turned around and used on the girl if she was not careful or if she hesitated at all. Which seemed to me at the time a bit sexist and troublesome as its core message seemed to be that I, as a girl, should not carry items that I could use in case of being attacked. But here, it sounds more like practical advice, because it was told to a male, and was told to my informant by a purported criminal who would be more likely to know these things firsthand, and thus the advice has more of accuracy associated with it.