January 05, 2005

Gun Owners As Ambassadors Or Assholes?

This started out as a comment to this post of Kim du Toit's which asked for feedback on this post of Mrs. du Toit's concerning whether gun owners have a moral or societal obligation to hold themselves to a higher standard of etiquette. It's a spin off of the discussion surrounding the recent arrest of Fish Or Man.

See I started out taking a small internet/cigarette break while about halfway through a batch of '06 brass that I'm prepping for loading (specifically this phase is uniforming the primer pockets & sorting the cases by weight). I started going on a bit & well, surpsisingly enough I went over what is (or should be) a comment length limit. So I decided to post it here instead of in the comments of Mr. du Toit's blog to A: save him some space & B: feign creativity. If it seems more rambling in nature than usual my apologies.

I thought about commenting when I initially read it (the Mrs.' post) but I didn't feel I could present my case adequately enough at the time. For what it's worth I still don't but I'll give it a shot.

Was Fish Or Man an asshole? Possibly. Does it matter? No.

I understand the arguments about a gun owner being a representative of all gun owners, but I disagree with it in practice as well as principle.

For starters if we seriously take the view that gun owners are a collective & we are subject to the image presented by the weakest of our PR agents then we've already lost. I'm sure between the people who shoot into the air on holidays, the drunks who carelessly handle their weapons & others of less than ideal judgment we have a bad enough reputation. Being an asshole to a cop who is tap dancing on your ability to be armed is simply not going to be an issue compared to the others.

Similarly we are not a collective. We're individuals; united in some areas, diverging in others. To hold all accountable for the actions of one is an old trick that we'd be better off leaving in the annul of history.

Mrs. du Toit mentioned something to the effect that we don't have the right to be assholes. I respectfully disagree. On my own property I have the "right" (& I'd argue the use of the term in this context - but that's a whole 'nother semantic issue) to act as I see fit as long as I do not unjustifiably interfere with another's rights.

Does this mean we should all be assholes all the time? By all means no. Personally I think Churchill had the right idea when he said that even when you're going to kill a man it costs nothing to be polite. Course that's not to say there's never a call for rudeness. I have a friend whose g/f went to work for the IRSS; another whose cousin married an atf agent, & I'm hoping to run into some bastard who voted to jack up my smokes by 64 cents a friggin pack. Sometimes rudeness is an appropriate alternative to violence, & an effective way of trying to shame someone into rethinking their life.

But frankly this talk reminds me of the NRA distancing themselves from the group in Va. that started carrying openly, or the NRA's state affiliate who called a man a loon (or something similar) cause he carried a shotgun into a city council meeting in Colorado Springs. It's no more than being ashamed of those who do what others wouldn't dare.

Jealousy is dangerous. There are some people in this world who will see another doing something he can’t or won’t do & spend incredible amounts of energy trying to stop that person from doing what he’s doing. It’s probably not the motivation of most people, but it motivates enough that stemming its spread should be a goal for all of us.

& that's not to say that we should uphold all gun owners for every action they've ever taken in their life. Rick Stanley got himself arrested on purpose to challenge Denver's ban against open carry. Well from everything I've heard (& granted this is hear say) he's a grade A asshole. He's even got some theories that would make y'all think I was a reasonable fellow. But that does not mean we "distance" ourselves from him because of his flaws. Point them out? Yes. Discuss what he should have or could have done better? By all means. Denounce him because he took a stand in a way we found socially lacking? No.

We don't need to "police" our own. It wouldn't be unwise to counsel our own or even just discuss things with our own. But placing too much emphasis on the group & not enough on the individual is always a bad idea. We have no moral authority over each other (I’m referring to gun owners specifically) to dictate how we are all supposed to act. What we can do is reason amongst ourselves on how we should act, but not to the point of being dogmatic about it.

The particulars of Fish Or Man's circumstance – we read his words. Not only does that mean we just had one side of the story, but it means we did not have a very valuable tool in discerning meaning; inflection. I've run across it before especially in chat rooms or messenger programs. Something typed can be ambiguous as to its intent. It can be meant in a humorous way but be taken as an insult. Or vice versa. So while on the surface it may seem Fish Or Man was being rude he could have spoken it all in a most reasonable manner but it came across as curt when typed.

In any case, the cop may have had a valid reason to pull him over & arrest him (the warrant) but to Fish Or Man the cop was being a jerk. He could have been under the impression that the cop was looking to exercise his “authority” on someone & Fish Or Man was the daily winner.

I don't reveal too much about myself but I don't think it's a secret that I'm a musician. I have long hair; I traveled amongst the several states frequently; had musical gear in the back seat of less than new & shiny cars. Couple that with (in my youth) having trouble paying for license plate renewals & inspections on time & I can assure you I've had a lot of interaction with cops (at least in the South). I'll grant that it's anecdotal but what I found was that a great many cops were average people. They'd have good or bad days & to varying degrees would either be very nice or very rude. I've had guns taken from me (luckily returned), my car searched, sniffed by drug dogs - everything short of a strip search. Some of the longest searches were because the cop just knew I had a years worth of heroin stashed someplace in the car. & some of the worst attitudes I've received from cops have been after extensive searches revealing nothing more incriminating than a pack of cigarettes.

All that is to say that I can understand anyone's apprehension at a cop pulling them over when they were not doing anything wrong (to their knowledge). I can also understand being less than friendly to a cop who seems less than friendly his/herself.

The bottom line though is that a cop can make life harder on you if you fail the "attitude" test. That's a fact. So it is usually unwise to flunk this test deliberately or otherwise. But that does not mean I will fault someone for being curt or rude to a cop when the cop was either rude or acting beyond the scope of his authority.

Now the absolute best thing to do when pulled over is give up your license, registration & proof of insurance, then give the cop no reason to even suspect you understand or speak English. That is w/o a doubt the best peaceful approach to any police contact.

But to be honest should the atf ever come in my house (which would be a feat in & of itself) & starting throwing my rifles into a trash can to haul away as evidence, I guaran-damn-teeya that they'll hear new ways of using profanity to question whether their lineage has been entirely human. Would it be the best thing to do in that circumstance? Probably not. & I wouldn't advise anyone else to do it. But personally if I get treated rudely I respond in kind.

Getting back to the point - when we carry we are not ambassadors to the world. We are merely people who carry openly. When I strap on my hogleg I have no societal duty to act more or less polite than when I'm unarmed. Now that's not saying we should walk around being asshats - just that the reasons for being nice to others is not grounded in your representation of the pro-gun cause.

Some will view any actions by a gun owner that acts rudely as indicative of all gun owners. Some people will also think a black man who doesn't say "please" & "thank you" means all black people are inconsiderate. It's no more than group association & should be shunned by everyone - not just gun owners.

Mrs. du Toit said that most people aren't afraid of the cops. I disagree. Perhaps it's because of my background & the circumstances in which I grew up & live but when I see a cop car in my rear view I don't think that there's a good person just doing his part for society. What happens is my pulse quickens as I check to make sure I'm doing at least 3 under the speed limit & doing a mental check of where my “papers” are. If I don't notice the cop until he puts his lights on that magnifies by ten - even when I'm 90% certain he's intending to pass me. So I respectfully submit that many people if not most are afraid of the cops to some extent even when they've done nothing wrong. It's not because they're armed - it's because they're agents of the state with too much power for any one person to wield.

Mrs. du Toit said that cop's should be able to charge someone with acting like an asshole & that cops themselves should be held tot he same standards. (More or less - if I've misread her intent my apologies.) With this I most heartily disagree.

A cop is not a citizen when on duty: he's an agent of the state. He has the force of the state backing his every move. Therefore he should be held more accountable for his actions than a non-government employed individual. If I was to call someone a foul name while instructing them on how to do something they'd probably (hopefully) feel no restraint against responding in a manner to defend their dignity. When a cop does that your desire for defense is tempered by a realization that he is an agent of the state & as such can make your life more miserable than you his. It's the equivalent of having the neighborhood bully approving the kid two years your junior telling you to call him "sweet daddy". If it was just the kid you could ignore him. But with the bully backing him up you would have to take on the bully as well as the kid.

So cops should be held to a higher standard than the person they stop on the street. Non-government agents should not be punished for any behavior towards a cop that they wouldn't be punished for if they did it to another non-government agent. If punishment is called for it should be no more harsh because a cop was involved than it would be if the person committed that act against their neighbor.

But again trying to drift back towards the main point - if we're talking about actions that are in fact threatening (i.e. waving a gun around a crowded room or talking about shooting people) that's one thing & it certainly should be frowned upon & punished by society. But for being less than someone's standards of polite? No.

I'm sure the du Toits are civilized people capable of comporting themselves very elegantly in most situations. But now we're getting into a matter of perspective. I may think their behavior is exemplarary in a given situation while a Gentleman's Gentleman or a NY soccer mom may not. Etiquette is largely a construct of society & within the borders of the united States are many different sects of society. What's appropriate in one may not be appropriate in another. So to judge whether someone was acting inappropriately (as far as manners go) requires one to A; understand the society he/she grew up in B; understand the society he/she interacted in & C; make a perceptual judgment as to which societal rules dominated the situation.

Let's call it Manners Relativism. But it's something to consider before we start requiring everyone to adhere to a certain standard. A child working was socially acceptable a few decades back & more recently than that carrying arms concealed was thought to be a mark of failing character or intentions in many places. In 20 years carrying openly may be shunned in most places like it is in the bigger cities. None of the above actions are clearly a case of right or wrong - only societal constructs.

(cue Tevya)

Now societal constructs aren't always bad - it's just that they're perceptual. Even when there's a majority of agreement as to what constitutes rude behavior & what doesn't it's usually based on traditions. If someone were to not show up when they said they were that's considered rude. Partly due to tradition but the underlying cause is a breech of contract. If someone interrupts you as you’re trying to say good morning by asking what you want that's considered rude chiefly because of tradition. I cannot think of any reason other than slighting someone's pride that such an action would be rude.

So again trying to drift things back to the point we should condemn gun owners for acting rudely as we perceive it. It could be a misconception of their actions. It could be a misconception of the etiquette they were operating appropriately under & most importantly we lack the moral authority to condemn a person because our perception of his actions leads us to think he was rude to someone else. There are exceptions to this paragraph most certainly. In fact it could be that this paragraph is an exception to some other more general rule. But in the specific instance being discussed (that of Fish Or Man's reaction to the cops) I think it applies.

& I'd be remiss if I did not mention this one last point: I've read Mr. du Toit for quite some time. I don't always agree with him or his bride but I can understand where we diverge & where we do agree. One of the reasons I read him is he's very blunt. I doubt anyone has ever read any in depth piece of his & wondered where he stood on an issue. Part of the mechanism he uses to express dis-satisfaction with certain people is to wish that they would be tarred, feathered, hung from street lamps so children could use their limp corpses as piñatas, etc.

Now there's nothing wrong with that. I've opined about the apparent shortage of tar & feather shops in seats of government myself. But I could turn Mrs. du Toit's point back around & say that because of Mr. du Toit's occasionally violence filled invectives that he's not being a good ambassador of gun ownership. & if I did that I'd be just as wrong as I feel Mrs. du Toit is in claiming that an individual gun owner has a moral responsibility to be a perfect PR machine for all gun owners everywhere.

Mr. du Toit is flawed. I'm flawed. Every person reading this & not reading this is flawed. We all do things that are not the best of all possible options from time to time. But as long as those things do not materially hurt another individual no one should bring societal weight down upon us for it. Talk to us in an effort to correct what is perceived as a mistake? Yes. But shun us because we appeared too rude to be a good example of a certain group? No.

One last thing: I think it is very rude of Mr. du Toit to refrain from picking up a Garand especially when he can get one from the CMP for less than $320 shipped to his door. What does it say of gun owner diversity when the most prominent gun blogger does not have an example of what may in fact be the perfect battle rifle in his arsenal? But by no means do I think I have any moral authority to condemn him for his action (or lack thereof). But less than $320... :) I can’t say that he should buy one for the greater good, but as a friend (as much as is possible on the net at least) I would ask him to reconsider. Did I mention less than $320? Shipped? :D

Posted by Publicola at January 5, 2005 06:23 AM

Wow. Great post. Makes my comment over at Kim's look like an insignificant waste of typing.


Posted by: billy-jay at January 5, 2005 07:37 AM

Well said!

Posted by: Len - KC at January 5, 2005 10:18 AM

I odn't have a Garand (yet) because I'm somewhat iffy about it being the greatest battle implement ever devised.

Not that I have anything against the Garand -- anything but -- but I prefer the 7.62x51mm cartridge over the .30-06 Springfield.

Which makes the M14 a more likely purchase for me in the future.

Now THAT'S a battle rifle...

Incidentally, your comment about my "violence-filled invective" hurts me to the bottom of my being. "Hyperbole-filled invective", however, would be 100% accurate.

I'm just a delicate, sensitive flower, really.

You know, at the last couple of gatherings at my house, I'm pretty sure just about everyone was carrying a handgun -- but you'd never have known it.

If ever there was a location where it would be safe to bring out a gun, even just to show it around, it would be in my house, among friends.

NOT ONE person did, however, unless they were specifically asked to do so.

It's a non-issue with me. I don't care how many people carry guns. I don't even care if they carry guns illegally (and are otherwise law-abiding citizens). Just don't act like an asshole when you carry one, in public.

Posted by: Kim du Toit at January 5, 2005 07:03 PM

Mr. du Toit,
You grace my humble dwelling with your presence. Come, sit here by the fire & we shall reaosn together - well after I clear out a few spare rooms to hold your ammo :)

If you wish to admonish people to not act like assholes in public I can agree with you. asdie from dealing with the IRSS or atf I'd advise being a spolite as possible to everyone they encounter (& don't give me any talk of making it worse on yourself by being rude to the IRSS or atf - by that point you're already screwed & you might as well go out on your feet rather than your knees so to speak). But if you're saying that because they're a gun owner they should be held to a higher standard I beg to differ.

A standard should be applicable to a person regardless of whether or not he carries. Now saying it's a good idea cause of the PR concerns is one thing, but to phrase it as an unwritten rule whose breakage warrants ostricization is sonmething I must disagree with.

But for more pleasant matters - if you're iffy about the Garand being the greatest battle implement ever devised then I'll make you an offer:

If you happen to be near Colorado I'll (schedule permitting) meet you & take you to a range suitable for our needs. I'll loan you my Garand & at least 150 rounds (but probably there'll be closer to 500 at your disposal) & I'll let you give her a thorough working out to see if you can arrive at a definite conclusion. It may not convince you it's the best battle rifle ever designed, but I guarantee ya that it'll be harder to resist the "less than $320 shipped" deal the CMP has going.

& if you really prefer the 7.62x51 (which is a fine cartridge I'm just an '06 kinda guy) then let me tempt you a bit:

Less than $320 shipped. Add $170 for a .308 Win barrel & another $100 or so to have it thrown on & voila - you have a Garand in .308 Win for less than $600. How much is an M1A going for again?

Or if you want to get all unique, you can (for roughly the same cost) have a Garand in .270 Win. For a little more any case based on the .308 Win or .30-06 Springfield is a possibility. Think about the conversations you'd have about your .243 Winchester Garand, or your 7-08 Garand. :)

& to further sweeten the pot I tried doing a yahoo search (which ranked you as number 5) for the 7x57 Mauser. I wasn't able to find the case dimensions but barring a rim or some other thing I think it may be possible (though a bit more expensive) to have a Garand in 7x57. Course this is just speculation & I could be mistaken but it might be worth looking into since I think you have a passing okay-ness with that flavor of bullet holder. :D (although I did find that Remington offered their Model 30 in .257 Roberts - the Model 30 was just a sporterized version of the '17 Enfield & the .257 Roberts is based on the 7x57 case so I'm thinking there wasn't much of a problem altering the mag for the .257 & that leads me to believe that there shouldn't be any case dimension issues with a 7x57 in a Garand - though again I could be wrong.)

In any event, I'd ask you to give it some more thought. The CMP has a sweet deal & I don't know how much longer it'll last. Hell, I'm thinking about grabbing another one myself.

& no, I don't own stock in the CMP. Though considering all the pimping I do for them they should at least send me a thank you note.

Posted by: Publicola at January 6, 2005 04:49 AM

Case head, case rim, and similar dimensions are identical between the .30-06, .308, 7x57mm, 8x57, .243, .284, .270, .358 Winchester and others from that cartridge family: all of them are based origionally on variants of the .30-06 Springfield case. Dimensions that differ are going to be: case length overall, case neck, and shoulder diameter and slope-degrees. So...

Theoretically, unless the overall legth difference is such that it makes it virtualy impossibe to get adequate feeding out of a full length magazine [like some of the Benchrest wildcats], a 7x57 *should* be able to be made to work in a Garand. Might take a bit of gunsmithing [of varying expensiveness] and possibly blocking the magazine a bit at the rear to allow for the shorter cartridge. But if it can be done for a 7.62x51, than a 7x57 should be workable.

[End technical digression, take off cartridge nut hat. ;)]

I've stayed out of this one because I'm to degrees of agreement with both sides of the argument.

In personal: I am as polite to other people as they are to me. Unless I'm provoked to rudeness - and what is provocation to me is not always provocation to another man.

I do tend to agree with the Churchillian view: even if it should turn out that I might have to kill a man, it does me no harm to treat him politely. "Sir" and "Mamn" cost me nothing, and "Sir" and "Yesir" are fantastic social lubricants for disarming the authoritarian. They're cheap, from someone who is 6'1" they don't sound humble, merely respectful - and they don't make the recipient "bulletproof and immortal", as my Dad used to tell me. ;)

To coin an Ironbearism - "If'n it costs me nuthin' it loses me nuthin'" ;}

Online *is* a different story: blunt, direct, and plain spoken language - occassionally harsh rude language - is often the only way to squash a troll or a fuckwit. Speaking as a site admin and experienced forum moderator... you don't always want to use the "nuclear option" of banning someone from an online community when it is possible that other methods can keep them inside the bounds of reasonable behavior.

[Online really is a different world than off. It takes different techniques.]

Posted by: Ironbear at January 6, 2005 11:05 AM

Thank you for your excellent post. My husband posted a "long comment" over at kim du Toits saying many similar ideas, as well as some different ones (it can also be found at kickingbroadswords.blogspot.com). I was rather annoyed by the responses- as if they had missed the point of the comment. Your post actually restored my faith (partially) in gun owners. Once again, thank you.

Posted by: saribeary at January 6, 2005 12:19 PM

Thank you for your post. Being close to this fishorman incident (aka witness). I have my own view. Jason was nothing but helpful yet his concern grew with the officer's evasiveness with regard to why we were stopped.

On the a**hole view:
To be curt, rude, or an a**hole when provoked seems like a reasonable response to me. Maybe it is just the influence of the people who raised me who were quick to anger and filled with sarcasm. One of these family members was an officer of the law and the area where he worked was crime free. And it wasn't from being cuddly.

To generalize and categorize people with one commonality (gun owner) based on one incident or one person or a group's actions is going back to the dark ages.

I hope we can all realize that life is a learning experience. We are not perfect.

Posted by: Sierra at January 7, 2005 10:03 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?