July 30, 2006

Violence Begets Violence Part One

Certain events make folks rethink their decision to not be armed at least part of the time. Hurricane Andrew was one as was that whole Y2K thing. Ditto for the attacks of September the 11th, 2001 & Hurricane Katrina. Now there's been a shooting at a Jewish Center in Seattle. It's caused some reflection in the short time since it happened & part of that reflection is the idea to become armed. I gotta admit, being armed seems to deter these type of things in other countries & I think it'd be a fine strategy in this one.

Armed Liberal offers some advice but I'm going to offer some more. It all starts with a simple, oft repeated phrase: Violence begets violence.

I grew up with firearms. Many gun owners did. They're not scary to us, yet we don't take them as casually as some would think. It's really no different than carrying a good sized pocket knife or even a fixed blade knife; if you use it correctly then everything should be fine. If you don't use it correctly or use it negligently then there'll be some rather unpleasant consequences to deal with.

Guns themselves are rather simple mechanical devices. If you can handle driving a stick shift you can handle owning a firearm. Mechanically that is. Mentally is another story.

It really is all about the mindset. If a person views a firearm as an object to be toyed with or to gain prestige or respect then it's probably not going to work out well. But if you look at a firearm as simply a tool to be used only in certain applications then it should be fine.

Along with that is a discussion of those applications. Firearms are very useful for target shooting, hunting, & killing people. The last one hangs folks up & tends to give them pause as it should. Firearms are not as the anti-gunners say useful only for killing. But when it comes to discriminate killing they are damned good (for indiscriminate killing we'd have to start talking about hand grenades & bombs & all kinds of other fun stuff).

A firearm is not designed to kill. A firearm is designed to propel a projectile over a certain distance towards an object. That projectile will continue until it strikes an object. That object can be a piece of paper or a tin can or a plastic bottle or the ground or a tasty deer or a charging mountain lion or a person. It's the last intended target that trips folks up, partly because they start to realize the power that they hold. They think that they can decide matters of life & death & that scares them. It's a lot of responsibility & almost gives one the feeling of it being too much power for any person to hold.

Here's the catch - you already hold that power. I've been in a few situations where I had the means to kill someone despite not having a firearm on me. Odds are every one of you has had that experience but just didn't dwell on it. After all it really wouldn't take much to poison food that you're cooking, or smother someone in their sleep, or cut the brake lines on someone's car. Stabbing & bludgeoning have probably killed more folks than firearms have in the last 5 centuries or so. But you don't get an awesome & foreboding sense of power when you've got the big kitchen knife in your hands & the kids come in the kitchen do you?

But with a firearm a lot of folks seem to get overwhelmed with that idea. It's been talked about before & it'll be talked about again. When you grow up around firearms you become accustomed to it, just like folks become accustomed to using knives when kids are in the room.

But killing someone is what we all must face whether armed or not. It's not very likely to happen to most of us but there's always the potential that you'll find yourself in a Jewsih center that's being attacked by an Islamo-fascist, or a grocery store where someone's playing slash & grab, or a semi-dark street where a crack head thinks you'll be an easy mark & a dead witness. Or a house with absolutely no numbers in common with the one that is actually on the warrant. If you live on or near the border you've probably thought of the threats indigenous to that locale. Ditto for living in bad neighborhoods in big cities.

& just to clarify, statistics ain't worth a damn when you're the "1". So if there were 5 billion illegal aliens who had no harmful intent crossing your backyard every year that won't make you any less dead when the 1 out of 5 billion decides to kill you & house sit for a while.

Everyone that can be armed should be armed. The benefits to that would reach beyond each individual & make our society a little bit better. But not everyone should be armed. The trick is that I haven't figured out some magic that helps me divine who those folks are. The .gov claims to be onto something, but these are the same fine folks who gave us the too-efficient-to-be-believed DMV. There's no mystic question or series of questions that will tell you or anyone else if you're fit to carry. If you're not it'll become pretty apparent & most likely at your trial. But ultimately it's a decision you must make for yourself.

Anyone who can drive a stick shift can safely handle a firearm. That's speaking in the mechanical sense. Temperament comes into play a bit, but I've found that some folks who seem a bit hot headed are generally calmer when they're packing, simply because they realize the serious consequences that going into a rage or even a heated rant could bring.

But what I want to discuss here involves the consequences of owning a firearm.

Let's assume you're mechanically capable of safely handling a firearm. That seems to put you one step ahead of a lot of cops but it's not enough. You have to be mentally capable of handling the firearm.

We tend to claim we're civilized. When I was 17 I saw someone mix Maker's Mark & Coke & I realized we weren't. Human nature hasn't really changed much in the past few millennia; we've just got nicer tools & toys & different schedules. 700 years back it wouldn't have been a mentally debilitating experience to kill someone slipping in through your window. Now when it happens there's usually an extended relationship with a psychiatrist involved. We haven't "risen above" such behavior any more than our ancestors did 1,000 years back. We've just convinced ourselves that we have so when we're faced with it we either go into denial or have some other "issue" that causes medical treatment on a couch.

But getting back to the point, being mentally capable of owning a firearm entails knowing when & when not to use it, as well as the most important aspect: being willing to use it.

No matter how high tech, modern, "tacticool", ergonomic or expensive your slug thrower is it will not do a damn thing for you if you won't pull the trigger when you should. Some would say that it'll get you killed but I have to disagree. You were likely going to die anyway. Not using your gun just turned "likelyhood" into "certainty".

What you have to have mentally is a belief that in certain limited situations it will be necessary to kill someone in order to protect your life, your family or your property. As to the last legally most places proscribe the use of deadly force to protect property. Oddly enough in many of those places protection of property is listed in a constitutional enumeration of the Right to arms. For the record the laws may vary but I see nothing morally wrong with shooting someone who is trying to steal your property. In this post I'm mainly discussing the practical & moral implications but check your local & state laws to see what they say & make your decision accordingly.

But protecting life & limb & family should be a non-contentious point, at least legally. The real world problem is twofold: determining when you absolutely have to do such a thing & then doing it.

Shooting your milkman because he came by a little earlier than normal & you thought he was a Cryp isn't a good idea. But then neither is letting the guy you thought was a milkman walk up close to you to find out he's got a chance of breaking Dahmer's record.

It's not as easy as it sounds, but then again at times it is. The guy in the middle of the shopping mall who is shooting randomly at passerby? That's a no brainer in a shoot/don't shoot test.

But the other hard part comes next; actually shooting.

It's forever. Or at least it should be if your aim is good (a lot more people get shot & live than get shot & die every year from everything I've seen). Once you pull the trigger you cannot take it back. It's daunting & it causes a lot of folks to freeze up even when there's no moral or legal question about whether to shoot or not.

What helps most people is realizing that we are not "civilized". There are people out there who cannot be reasoned with. Negotiations are ineffective & reasoning will not work. Is it a terrible thing to kill someone? No. It's a terrible thing someone made decisions that led to them being killed, but actually killing someone who intends to do you or someone else unjustifiable harm is not a terrible thing. In fact it's a good thing, worthy of praise in some instances. Not simply because you saved your own hide, but because you are actually doing something for your community & society.

The saged Col. Jeff Cooper put the whole matter in perspective:

"One bleeding-heart type asked me in a recent interview if I did not agree that 'violence begets violence.' I told him that it is my earnest endeavor to see that it does. I would like very much to ensure — and in some cases I have — that any man who offers violence to his fellow citizen begets a whole lot more in return than he can enjoy." -Jeff Cooper, "Cooper vs. Terrorism", Guns & Ammo Annual, 1975

Now imagine if Ted Bundy was simply a guy who was shot & killed when he tried to break into the house that Joni Lenz lived in? Prosecutors often encourage women to testify at rape trials by pointing out that their testimony can keep what happened to them from happening to someone else. The same logic applies when you encourage people to kill those who are trying to kill them. Criminals don't always progress to more brutal or heinous crimes, but odds are if they're going to kill you that they won't have an occupation change immediately afterwards unless they're caught. Enough of the folks who do go on to commit more violent acts could be stopped by one of their early victims.

I'm not saying that the 12 year old you see shoplifting should be killed to keep him from becoming the next Bundy (he should be disciplined by his parents to prevent that). But the formidable looking guy in your living room at 2:38 a.m. isn't trying to sign you up for the local glee club & probably isn't interested in reforming his ways.

Violence is not evil. It can be but it can also be good. Most folks think of violence as violence, but there's a division of violence: predatory violence versus protective violence. If you can grasp the distinction then you should see why shooting someone that broke into your home in the middle of the night or shooting someone who is randomly shooting folks in a shopping center isn't just not bad, but actually a good thing for all involved.

But no matter the moral & philosophical conclusions you come to it's not easy pointing a firearm at another human being & pulling the trigger knowing what the consequences are. Perhaps that's as it should be, but if you truly wish to protect yourself & those around you then you must endeavor to act in spite of those mental reservations about violence in general.

As I said, determining when to shoot & then actually shooting are not easy tasks. Tomes have been written on the subject & no concrete answers have been universally accepted. Ultimately you'll have to resolve this very weighty issue for yourself.

But I grew up around guns. I know that the gun isn't what makes me lethal; it's my intent. Conversely a lack of a gun doesn't make me harmless; it's my intent. Sure, it's a catchy phrase on NRA members' bumpers but guns really don't kill people, it's people that kill people.

Some of you who came here looking for advice on buying a gun might be rethinking the whole thing. To those folks I'd say the problem won't be solved by not buying a gun. You can be lethal in any number of ways & some are more effective than a firearm. What you should work on is your perception, namely the one that tells you we're all civilized people & violence is not really necessary. We're not & it is. Most folks are benevolent but it only takes one person that's malevolent to kill you & your family. You should also try to figure out why you don't trust yourself with implements that can kill in general, as a firearm is only one such tool.

A firearm is the most effective discriminate weapon at our disposal. It's a lot of responsibility but not so much mechanically as morally. If you can resolve to not start barroom brawls when you have a perfectly breakable beer bottle in your hand or you can resist the urge to slice up your kids with your new model Ginsu then you can safely possess a firearm & not use it.

Another question you should face is could you actually use it when you had to? Of course if all you have is your brand new Ginsu when you hear the glass break in the middle of the night you'll not need to worry about that question, or anything else for long (unless you're really good with a Ginsu). But it's important to really think about the how's & why's of using a firearm as well as not using a firearm.

Only you can figure out if you can appropriately use & not use a firearm. I won't try to make that decision for you, chiefly because I think if you're morally so unstable that handling a firearm isn't a good idea then you probably shouldn't be in society unsupervised. Nor do I think you should be responsible for those who truly are defenseless (children, the elderly, the infirm, etc…) if you’re not willing & capable of defending them. But it's not my decision to make; it's yours.

So if you think that you can safely & responsibly handle a firearm, mechanically, morally & legally then the next post will try to help you with that.

Posted by Publicola at July 30, 2006 03:30 AM | TrackBack

Not to change the subject but I want to let you know that I have changed my blog format a little. The direction I’m going towards may not suit your taste. The change is nothing too drastic, just a much higher ratio of adult related content. If you wish to delete me from your blogroll I respect your decision. At the same time if you would like me to remove your link from my blogroll please let me know by leaving a comment or by emailing me. I'm looking foward to remaining in your blogroll and keeping your link in mine.


Posted by: Bullseye at July 30, 2006 11:22 AM

It's only going to get worse. All hell is breaking loose in the Middle East and it is starting to show in the United States. In just a few days, you have a shooting and Mel Gibson ranting about Jewish people. What next?

Posted by: Shawn at July 30, 2006 01:00 PM