Friday, March 6, 2009

My Gun is Long

I got this in an email from my old Navy buddy:

"Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not."
-Thomas Jefferson


1. An armed man is a citizen. An Unarmed man is a subject.

2. A gun in the hand is better than a cop on the phone.

3. Colt: The original point and click interface.

4. Gun control is not about guns; it's about control.

5. If guns are outlawed, can we use swords?

6. If guns cause crime, then pencils cause misspelled words.

7. Free men do not ask permission to bear arms.

8. If you don't know your rights, you don't have any.

9. Those who trade liberty for security have neither.

10. The United States Constitution (c) 1791. All Rights Reserved.

11. What part of 'shall not be infringed' do you not understand?

12. The Second Amendment is in place in case the politicians ignore the others.

13. 64,999,987 firearms owners killed no one yesterday.

14. Guns only have two enemies: rust and politicians.

15. Know guns, know peace, know safety. No guns, no peace, no safety.

16. You don't shoot to kill; you shoot to stay alive.

17. 911: Government-sponsored Dial-a-Prayer.

18. Assault is a behavior, not a device.

19. Criminals love gun control. It makes their jobs safer.

20. If guns cause crime, then matches cause arson.

21. Only a government that is afraid of its citizens tries to control them.

22. You have only the rights you are willing to fight for.

23. Enforce the gun control laws we ALREADY have. Don't make more.

24. When you remove the people's right to bear arms, you create slaves.

25. The American Revolution would never have happened with gun control.


My buddy stated that he agreed with most of these articles, but didn't specify which. I agree with numbers 8 and 9. How did number 9 get in there? It contradicts nearly all the other articles. I did not pass the email on to anyone.

The right to bear arms is one of the oldest concepts of liberty. As soon as the first tyrant told his subjects a few thousand years ago to turn in all their swords, their knives and their bows and arrows, depriving them of their power of self-defense, the free possession of arms became a prominent item on the ever-expanding list of fundamental human rights.

Since the invention of the automatic gun, which gave a single individual the firepower of several people, the right to bear arms has had to be restricted. The reasons are understandable, whether or not one accepts them: it threatens law enforcement's ability to protect itself from the public, which is a perilous position for law enforcement to be in. The freedom of the public to possess firearms of any specification has always been problematic to law enforcement. Proponents of gun ownership claim that firearms somehow ensure their safety and keep their government honest.

A gun is not a precision instrument. It does not require special skills to operate one, and proper training in its handling is not a requirement for ownership. All that is required is that its owner register the gun's serial number with a law-enforcement agency. This makes the gun traceable if it should happen to be stolen from its rightful owner. It is not as if the gun's registration somehow creates a chain of custody, like a piece of registered mail. It simply gives law enforcement an idea, however imperfect, of the dimensions of the black-market in stolen guns, which is of its nature incalculable.

A liberal society is especially vulnerable to crime precisely because the powers of the police are limited and because penalties for crime are, at least in theory, humane. And crime, as Hollywood loves to point out, does pay. This environment has created the career criminal, who fully expects to spend some of his life behind bars, but who is not in the least deterred from his crimes because of it. Add to all this a folk tradition of reverence for successful criminals and a kind of in-bred contempt for authority and you have crime's happy hunting ground.

If one listens to proponents of the liberty of gun ownership, it becomes clear that, to a substantial degree, their arguments are informed by a paranoid siege mentality. They often sound as if they are being hemmed in, not just by crime and criminals but by the government and the police. Crime is threatening their property - the age-old shibboleth (1) - and laws and their enforcers are threatening their rights. I have a friend who, aside from possessing some extremely reactionary political views, is an unbending believer in gun-ownership and, of course, owns at least one gun, which he quietly and reverently showed me. He and his wife are convinced that the shooting sprees that seem to be happening every day somewhere in America would come to an end if everyone carried a gun. The only victims would, of course, be the people without guns. Not only does the use of a firearm keep one safe, so goes the logic, but the very possession of a gun makes one somehow invulnerable.

I have owned a gun. I no longer do. It was required that I own one by an employer. I carried it, loaded, in a holster at work. When I went home I removed the holster and hung it, with the loaded pistol, in my closet. I was married at the time and my wife and I regarded the gun with mingled respect and distaste. Were it not for the job I would never have owned it. If I were pressed to define the distaste I felt toward that gun, I would say that it was derived from a feeling of dread at the lethality of it and the sense of inhuman malice that it seemed to give off. As anyone who has made use of a weapon or seen with his own eyes the results of its use, the weapon itself, untouched, possesses a peculiar power and a threatening presence.

I must admit that, if I lived in a society - or, more to the point, perceived that I lived in a society - in which I did not feel safe enough inside my apartment or going to and from work or shopping for groceries without having to arm myself with even a snub nose .22 caliber pistol, I would move somewhere else. I love my country, but not so much that I would find living in Canada intolerable. For all the mistrust and lack of confidence that gun-owners tacitly demonstrate in the ability of their government to make laws and in the police to enforce them, they might as well move to another country too.

(1) There is a chilling exchange of dialogue in the film The Good Shepherd (2006). Matt Damon plays Edward Wilson, a CIA director who has come to the home of Joseph Palmi, played by Joe Pesci, a Mafia boss recently chased out of Cuba by Castro. The dialogue encapsulates two very different, even opposing, attitudes about America:

Palmi: Let me ask you something. We Italians, we got our families and we got
the church. The Irish, they have their homeland. The Jews have their traditions.
Even the niggers, they got their music. What about you people? What do you

Wilson: We have the United States of America. The rest of you
are just visiting.


Anonymous said...

Very insightful, Dan.

I am against gun ownership. My wife and I vowed to never bring a firearm into our home. We don't want to turn our house into a fortress, and we especially don't welcome the threat of having in our presence a device specifically designed to kill someone.

It's terrifying to imagine that there are many people who advocate for gun ownership out of fear and mistrust of society. These people don't possess liberty nor do they defend it. They are trapped in a perception of society that is hateful, untrusting, and corrupt. What is more disturbing about these folks is the passion most of them have for a man named "Jesus," whose vision of a world filled with love and peace they have pushed across the fine line to one of hate and war. In my mind, they are little different than the ones who use guns. Both are filled with fear, hate, mistrust, and the belief that it may one day day become necessary to kill another person.

As a jurist, I see the modern interpretation of the Second Amendment as the biggest failure of American democracy. This skewed vision of freedom has cost the lives of countless innocent people. The time to reverse the course of that failure is now. The problem will only worsen as our gun technology becomes more advanced, and the people who own and/or use them become more fearful and hateful.

Eric Larsen

Dan Harper said...

I recall that when martial law was declared in Poland in 1981, some gun owners were claiming that it could never happen in the U.S. because Americans have the right to bear arms.

I knew a girl in college whose father belonged to a survivalist group in Colorado. She told me they have bunkers stocked with enough food to last months and their own armory. I am far more fearful of these gun-toting hicks than I am of a meth addict with a Saturday night special.

I worked with law-enforcement types for a few years. Their talk about guns sounds almost erotic. It's probably no coincidence that the phenomenon is male-dominated.

I have two words for Ted Nugent: Henry Rollins.