[NOTE: I actually wrote this post the day before the Tucson tragedy and for some reason, did not post it right away. After contemplating it for a week, however, I believe my comments are still valid. Gun access was certainly a part of the tragedy, but there are many other factors at play in any shooting like this (and a general atmosphere of insurrection rhetoric deserves a great piece of the blame pie) and additional laws will, as always, act more as window dressing to sooth our fears….until the next tragedy happens. Perhaps prohibition of super high capacity magazines might have helped. But they did that here in California and one of the consequences is that many of us are now so quick at changing 10 round magazines during a shoot that a 30 round magazine is almost superfluous. Again, of all the factors I see that could have reasonably led to someone stopping that incident would have been the presence of additional armed civilians with substantial training. Nothing is a guarantee, of course. So, on with the original post…..]
Greg Laden has had a series of posts on gun ownership over the years. It seems clear that Greg would prefer additional gun control in the country and he frequently cites cases that would seem to support this conclusion. Personally, I am a proponent of firearms ownership (and use) in this country. Unfortunately, there are so many misconceptions about gun ownership (on both sides of the argument) that the seriousness of the issue often gets muddled within the anecdotal and media scare stories that seem to dominate what we Americans use as “logic” these days. Even as an advocate for private ownership, however, I also frequently wonder what the reasonable boundaries should be.
Let me start by saying that I have always been around rifles, shotguns and pistols. I was introduced to shooting sports early as a child, hunted as a young adult, and was an accomplished reloader by the time I was in high school. I therefore grew up in a “gun culture”. I shot competitively in high school and early college, winning several marksmanship awards. I hunted and shot during graduate school (although not as frequently) and have always felt that my hunting knowledge and abilities aided me in my studies of the Hadza and other peoples in Africa. I still “shoot for score” with rifles and pistols at various distances and have started to learn “combat style” shooting techniques (no, not backwoods militia wargames (glorified paint ball with a self-aggrandizing delusional streak if you ask me) – but developing the ability to draw and fire multiple times (and still hit the target!) frequently while moving). I have been fortunate to shoot with law enforcement during qualifying matches and have received personal instruction from a number of them. So, my background probably makes me a bit biased in this discussion, and in this regard, I probably seem like a typical “gun nut”. However, there are some things that separate me from the typical media depictions of people who own and use weapons:
- I’m not an active member of the NRA (well, technically, I am…my grandfather bought me a “life” membership as a child, but ever since Waco (and the subsequent political trashing of federal ATF agents) I’ve refused to give them money and over my many moves across the country they seem to have lost track of me).
- Gun control issues are not the prime motivation for my vote; in fact, more often than not I probably vote for candidates who don’t share my views on gun ownership (although they share them on other issues I consider more important);
- I don’t particularly think gun control laws are especially egregious at the moment; I can easily wait 10 days for a weapon pick-up, I don’t mind getting fingerprinted to buy handgun ammunition (law about to go in effect in California – although I live close to Nevada and also reload my own, so it’s not as much of an issue – I do feel an obligation to support local sports shops, however, so I’ll still buy pistol ammo in CA). Now, I DO feel the semi-auto ban in California is arbitrary and capricious, which may make me seem like a “gun nut” – do I think any of these gun control laws actually make us safer…absolutely not. Oh, the 10 day waiting period might keep down the spur of the moment decisions by some kooks, but I can’t think of any other laws where data show it’s being effective. Gun control laws are a lot like Intelligent Design – they make you feel like something greater is out there but don’t reflect the real processes at work;
- I’m a member of the “Gun Owning Atheists” group over at Atheist Nexus (not exactly the profile for an NRA member, is it?). Personally, I think there is a social value to having a populace that is largely (and openly) armed. I would personally like to see more of my liberal friends actually take up gun ownership (even join the NRA) as liberals, freethinkers, atheists, etc. I think it makes a statement about the true intent of the Second Amendment that people other than white, Christian good-ol-boys own guns. (I would LOVE to see a “gay atheist” gun group show up at an NRA convention!). By the way, I think there are way more “liberals” out there who own guns and who know how to use them than the Right would be comfortable knowing about. I also thought it was somewhat comical the way the Teabaggers would use revolutionary language in their politics (first, I doubt very many Teabaggers would take the risk – they’d probably just pay to have mercenaries do it for them; and second, I think the extent of resistance against them would be an eye-opener).
Finally, gun ownership is a responsibility, not a right. If there was one governmental action I think would make a difference it is regular training. Owning a gun is for thinking individuals (not beer drinking yahoos who make videos of themselves shooting firearms for YouTube). I (and others like me) spend a lot of time training – and the emphasis is always on safety (I DO think the NRA makes safety a priority – you can get any of their safety materials for free). Responsibility is also taken seriously by true gun owners. I recently completed training for my conceal-carry permit and it was eye-opening (probably because I had a great instructor) – the responsibility of using deadly force requires serious thought and contemplation – you better be absolutely sure, not only that it’s your only choice but that you can live with yourself afterward…before you pull that trigger. And you better not be thinking you can win that “bar fight” now that you’re packing a deadly weapon. Unless your first reaction is leave, call appropriate authorities, back down, de-escalate the situation, do anything else BUT pull that gun, your motives for using it will be called into question should you actually need to use it. I have to admit, once the training was over, I was questioning whether or not I should actually proceed with getting a CCW permit – and in my opinion, that’s what every good gun owner SHOULD be thinking.