Monday, October 7, 2019

Why I Carry A Gun


After carrying my gun, on and off, for several years, reading anything and everything I can get my hands on about guns, and participating at the range, dry firing practice, and other things, I have few illusions left about the nature of carrying a weapon. I am not a Rambo, nor am I a particularly good shot. A handgun is, at most, a compromise weapon. It small size means that the ammunition needs to be underpowered for a human size target, in order to remain controllable. It small size also means that the effective range of the weapon can be measured in feet, not hundreds of yards. The pistol is truly a defensive weapon, unlike the rifle, which can be either offensive or defensive nature.

Because it is easily concealed, it is the perfect weapon to carry wherever you may go, yet have your hands free to do your daily chores. But because of the compromised nature of the weapon, it is intended to buy a person time to get away, or get to his rifle or shotgun. Hollywood movies, often show people rapidly firing and hitting their targets, often at ridiculous distances, seemingly without aiming. I am always "impressed" with the man, or woman, shooting in two directions with two handguns, as rapidly as possible, and hitting the intended targets. In the Hollywood version, the handgun is incredibly lethal. But in real life, a handgun is used to stop a deadly attack, not to kill the attacker. From my experience, there may be a few elite individuals, perhaps one or two in each generation, who can pull off these Hollywood type stunts. I marvel whenever I see such shows of mastery, but I harbor no illusions as to my own abilities.

Yet, while a handgun is light in weight and easily concealed, it is a great burden on the wearer. I find myself more and more each day trying to always find a way to avoid a fight, if one should come my way. If it cannot be avoided, then keeping myself under control, not letting my emotions over run myself, because I have a gun. Like the samurai of Japan, I have adopted a philosophy that argues that if I am truly successful at carrying this weapon, I will never need to draw it. I carry a cell phone. On my walks, I carry a stick. If a discussion becomes heated, and the other person threatens to become belligerent, I do my best to back away. I no longer drink, and I avoid going into bars at night, when the worst elements are out and about. I find myself scanning my surroundings more, rather than walk around with my head in a cloud. I look for bad guys, with the intention of avoiding them before an altercation can ensue. I find myself walking out of a place if someone's actions disturb me, rather than confront them. I don't want to endanger innocent others in the name of protecting myself or my loved ones.

Ultimately, a handgun is only a tool, and in today's world, one can do very well without it. While I believe every man should carry a pocket knife at all times, I have to acknowledge that this tool likewise can be dispensed with. Fewer things need cutting, and the world is a much safer place than it was, even a generation ago. I applaud, and take advantage of all the innovations I can afford. But still I carry a gun, as I do a pocket knife.  Because "you never know whats around the corner."

A right of citizenship:

The defense of self is a natural right of all human beings. The right exists prior to, and independent of any government that may be established. In nature, if a predator attacks you, whether that predator has four legs or two, you have the right to defend yourself. When God says "You shall not murder,” he also means that if someone attacks you with the intent to kill, you have the right, even the duty, to respond, with deadly force if necessary. By not defending yourself, you spurn the great gift that God has given you, in essence committing suicide. When the Constitution was written, and the Bill of Rights was adopted, this natural right was recognized, but not granted, by adopting the 2nd amendment.

It is noteworthy that the ability to keep and bear arms was incorporated into the Constitution of the United States. It shows that the Government trusted its citizens to be able to have arms, and that those arms would never be used against the State. But it also meant that if the State became tyrannical, and all other means had failed to seek relief through the Executive, the Legislature, or the Courts, that people should take up arms to set things right. This possibility was foreseen, and discussed by Madison, Jefferson, and a number of the other Founders. Indeed, that is the reason the first ten Amendments to the Constitution were ratified. The people were so concerned that one or another of the branches of government might usurp their limited role in government, and wanted to ensure that certain things would never be done. Clearly, Congress has made laws curbing free speech, and there are many laws on the books infringing the right to keep and bear arms by law abiding people, so in retrospect, the people had some reason to be concerned.

For these reasons, I think of carrying a gun as a right of citizenship, similar to voting, and expressing my opinion to my representatives in Congress. If my State recognizes my right to carry a firearm for self defense, I am a citizen of that State. I can meet any representative of Government on the level, and reason with him. The representative cannot do otherwise because we are both armed. But if my State denies my right, I am a subject of that state, a very different proposition. The State can order me about, and there is very little I can do about it. My State does recognize my rights, if imperfectly. For instance, the State does not allow me to carry on any State owned property. This fact makes me suspicious that the State is not entirely trustworthy itself. When the Federal government says I cannot carry on a Federal installation, again, I wonder if the Federal Government is entirely to be trusted. If a government is acting correctly, and above board, there should be no reason why a citizen cannot carry a gun into any State, or County, or Municipal building. On the other hand, municipalities like Chicago, or Washington DC has no citizens, only subjects. Such people had better hope to remain anonymous from a Government that may take it into its head at any moment to do them more harm.

A Civic Duty:

One of the trends since the 1960s has been to have men, especially, vent their emotions. Whether doing so has been therapeutic, or not, the practice has made all of us seem more childish. An adult should be able to control his emotions at all times, and particularly when he carries with him the means of killing another human being. The lack of guns, strange as that may sound, is partly to blame for the general lack of emotional control seen in society today. It is an often quoted remark of Robert Heinlein that "an armed society is a polite society," but for all that it has become trite, it is still true. When each member of society is aware that everyone else is similarly armed, everyone remains more guarded in their speech and actions. People cannot afford to have outbursts. Ad hominem attacks as a substitute for reasoned debate becomes imprudent.

There are those who have expressed the belief that they themselves have too volatile emotions to fully control, and then project their lack of character on their fellow citizens. This belief that, because everyone has the potential to become angry and emotional, therefore nobody should be allowed arms is a fallacy. Even people who believe such nonsense none the less believe the police should be armed.

But are the police not made of the same stuff as the rest of us? Do these people really wish to believe that the police of a different breed, not subject to the same limitations as are the rest of society? And if the police can train themselves to be "professional," does it not stand to reason that others could as well? And how does it work, morally, that though we are not willing to defend ourselves, we expect that a police officer should put his life on the line to defend us. Is my life of incalculable value, the police officer's life only worth $50,000?

And, keeping in mind that the police are our servants, not the other way around, does it not make sense that the police should be armed to the same degree, but no more, than I can be? When one takes up arms, sooner rather than later that person is forced to grow up, and learn to become more responsible. Our society could use a little more courtesy and circumspection in our public dealings.

Thus, I believe it is a civic duty for each citizen, if he chooses to accept that duty, to carry a firearm wherever he goes, within the constraints of the law. In colonial times, some colonies had laws on the books that every able bodied male had to carry his rifle anytime he left his property. Of course, as a member of the militia, every able bodied male was expected, at a moment’s notice, to muster out and lend a hand against marauding Indians, the French, or who or what ever happened to be threatening the peace of the colony. It wouldn't have done to say "I need to go home and get my rifle."

While I recognize that today the world is much safer, it still remains a potentially dangerous place. When Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast, armed neighbors organized to protect their communities. These neighbors were demonstrating the continuing need for a militia, by organizing as a militia, and carrying out militia duties. By Federal law, the militia consists of all able bodied citizens between the ages of 17 and 45. Furthermore, the militia is divided into the organized militia, and the unorganized militia. Thus most of the time, most citizens are members of the unorganized militia, whether they realize it or not. But in times of crisis, they may become members of the organized militia, as the response of neighbors during Hurricane Katrina can attest.

Guns are a civilizing influence:

I will freely plagiarize Marko Kloos in this section, as he has said it better than I ever could.

"Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force. If you want me to do something for you, you have a choice of either convincing me via argument, or force me to do your bidding under threat of force. Every human interaction falls into one of those two categories, without exception. Reason or force, that's it.

In a truly moral and civilized society, people exclusively interact through persuasion. Force has no place as a valid method of social interaction, and the only thing that removes force from the menu is the personal firearm, as paradoxical as it may sound to some.

When I carry a gun, you cannot deal with me by force. You have to use reason and try to persuade me, because I have a way to negate your threat or employment of force. The gun is the only personal weapon that puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger, a 75-year old retiree on equal footing with a 19-year old gangbanger, and a single gay guy on equal footing with a carload of drunk guys with baseball bats. The gun removes the disparity in physical strength, size, or numbers between a potential attacker and a defender.

There are plenty of people who consider the gun as the source of bad force equations. These are the people who think that we'd be more civilized if all guns were removed from society, because a firearm makes it easier for a mugger to do his job. That, of course, is only true if the mugger's potential victims are mostly disarmed either by choice or by legislative fiat--it has no validity when most of a mugger's potential marks are armed. People who argue for the banning of arms ask for automatic rule by the young, the strong, and the many, and that's the exact opposite of a civilized society. A mugger, even an armed one, can only make a successful living in a society where the state has granted him a force monopoly.

Then there's the argument that the gun makes confrontations lethal that otherwise would only result in injury. This argument is fallacious in several ways. Without guns involved, confrontations are won by the physically superior party inflicting overwhelming injury on the loser. People who think that fists, bats, sticks, or stones don't constitute lethal force watch too much TV, where people take beatings and come out of it with a bloody lip at worst. The fact that the gun makes lethal force easier works solely in favor of the weaker defender, not the stronger attacker. If both are armed, the field is level. The gun is the only weapon that's as lethal in the hands of an octogenarian as it is in the hands of a weightlifter. It simply wouldn't work as well as a force equalizer if it wasn't both lethal and easily employable.

When I carry a gun, I don't do so because I am looking for a fight, but because I'm looking to be left alone. The gun at my side means that I cannot be forced, only persuaded. I don't carry it because I'm afraid, but because it enables me to be unafraid. It doesn't limit the actions of those who would interact with me through reason, only the actions of those who would do so by force. It removes force from the equation...and that's why carrying a gun is a civilized act"

So, there you have my reasons for carrying a gun. It is not, as people may think, because I am spoiling for a fight. Why would I spoil for a potentially life ending (for me) fight? Nor is it because I see bad guys around every corner, but bad things can happen to anyone, at any time, and it makes sense to be as prepared as possible. But the real reasons are these: it is my right, existing since ancient times, to protect myself and those I love; it is a civic duty, even though some politicians would have you believe otherwise; and carrying a gun is a civilizing influence on society as a whole.

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