As a gun owner, I feel very strongly about our constitutional right to bear arms. There are people out there who say we need to reexamine our country’s firearm policies, and still others who believe American citizens shouldn’t be allowed to own guns at all. To these critics, I pose just one question: Without guns, how am I supposed to protect myself from my immediate family?

If I lose my gun rights, I lose my right to self-defense against those who live closest to me, right here in my own home—my wife and three children.

I’ve heard all the arguments. Guns are dangerous. Guns are evil. Guns kill thousands of innocent people across the world every year. But the last time I checked, there are four individuals living under my roof who have more or less unfettered access to my property and person at all times. They even have keys to the place.

So what happens if my wife or one of my kids, ages 7 to 16, decides to rob me? Or attack me? If I’m not carrying a gun, my options are pretty limited. The truth is, there are always going to be demented individuals in my family who are willing to do God knows what terrible things to hurt people. We can’t change that. But with firearms, we can protect ourselves against threats within the home.

It’s my house, and if a suspicious family member wandering the hallways suddenly threatens me, I have the right to fight back using everything up to and including deadly force.

This could be life or death we’re talking about here. There are crazy, desperate people out there in my kitchen, my living room—everywhere. I even ride in cars with these people. For Christ’s sake, my 13-year-old, Nathan, sleeps in the room right next to mine, his head just a few feet away from my own! Without a gun, I’d be left powerless and fully exposed.

That’s why I keep a Smith & Wesson 642 Hammerless strapped to my calf at all times.

Suppose I wake up in the middle of the night, hear noises coming from downstairs, go to check it out, and run into my teenage daughter, surprising her. Suppose a confrontation ensues. Suppose it escalates and gets out of control. In such encounters, it’s every citizen’s right to protect himself by gunning down a blood relative.

Even as I sit here writing this column in my study, those nutjob members of my household could break in from the next room and come right at me. Do you think the police would arrive before I was completely surrounded by my family? Of course not.

I’m the only police around here. I’m the one who sits across from his wife and kids at the dining room table with a loaded shotgun on his lap.

You see, those gun-control people in Washington don’t know what it’s like to live here, and so they just don’t get it. If they take away my guns, the other members of the Lewis family will still be out there—maybe on the couch watching television, maybe out in the garage, maybe around the next corner—and I’ll have no overwhelming, lethal force to protect myself with.

Still, the anti-gun crowd thinks it’s wrong for me to own an extensive collection of semiautomatic assault rifles. But then they probably also think it was wrong of me to shoot that son of mine I saw trying to break into my car last year.