Guns are nasty things, for a number of reasons. I’m a big believer in the 2nd Amendment, because while I like the Republicans and can cope with Democrats in charge, it’s important that our elected officials never completely forget that we the people put them in office, and they have no power or authority whatsoever beyond what is granted by the, as it is written in a certain document, ‘consent of the governed’. America is neither Imperial Rome, nor the court of some arrogant King. And sometimes it’s absolutely vital for the government to be reminded that the people are armed.
That said, some truly terrible things are done with guns. Any thug so minded can use a gun to commit robbery, rape, or murder, with no special skill or craft. Not that the cutpurses and marauders of the old days were gentlemen, but the chief reason we have to worry about crime today, is that guns make it easy to commit violent crimes. Then there is the safety question. The nice thing about a halberd or a pike, is that the little tykes are going to have a hard time picking up the thing , let alone having it go off in their face. A pistol, on the other hand, is capable of killing anyone. It’s easy to use and looks cool. I’m not a proponent of gun control per se, but I agree that there should be criminal consequences for someone leaving their gun out where a child can gain easy access. Then there is the person who wants a gun for security, but doesn’t know what to do with it. In my life, I have encountered people who never cleaned their gun, people who did not know where they kept their gun, and in a couple cases, people who actually had a loaded gun with a cocked hammer in a bag, unaware that a sudden jolt could cause it to fire. Drop your purse and kill someone, now that’s an obscene possibility for someone to allow.
But even with the crooks and idiots, I still stand by the right of the citizen to be armed. Why? Well, let’s start with another fact of modern life. If someone kicks in the door to your house and you happen to immediately call 911, how long will it be before the police arrive? And what do you think the criminals will do while the police are on their way? This assumes, of course, that the 911 system is not down, as happens from time to time, or you are not placed on hold, which happens on weekends and peak criminal activity times – apparently the authorities do not staff their phone lines according to citizen need. So, if someone breaks into your house while your wife and children are home and therefore are in immediate danger, what exactly do you do? In my case, the decision is simple – be prepared to act, and if necessary, carry out the plan. That includes taking care to insure safety and avoid mistakes, but yes it includes having deadly force available if I need it.
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I have not found a statistic out there for one important condition – how many of you have been in a situation where your life was in danger? I ask, because there really is no condition quite the same as being unarmed and at the mercy of someone who is pointing a gun at you. When I was younger and a bit more careless, there were several such instances. I recall one time when I was at a convenience store when it got robbed by a gang, and I was angry at myself because I could not describe any of the robbers in detail; all I could remember was the .45 pointed at my eyes while they took my watch and wallet. Another time I was actually shot at, but that was a bit different – somehow the threat is psychologically worse than someone trying to actually do the act, though there is a terrible moment when your brain concludes – hey, that was a gunshot – hey, someone’s shooting at me – oh crap, there’s nowhere to run. In that situation, the shooter had the bad luck (and I the good) to take his shot in the hearing of a county constable officer in his car, who hit the lights and pursued the guy. I could go on about the other occasions, but all I really need to say, I think, is that I was a bit careless and criminals are rather confident when they know they are armed and believe you are not armed. One time I was prepared and confronted a gunmen with my own pistol, and for some reason he immediately lost interest in the transaction. I have never yet had to shoot another human being, but the point is that having a weapon greatly reduces the possibility that someone will get shot, since the people most likely to shoot someone are cowards when confronted with force. It’s better to avoid the danger as much as possible, by watching out for situations where you could be in trouble, but that is not always possible.
I mentioned earlier, that the government should be very aware that the population is armed. That sounds laughable on its face, since the military has weapons far more terrible than anything the simple citizen has available to him. The answer, again, is psychological. After all, the U.S. military is a volunteer force, made up of ordinary people trained to some excellent methods and, as it happens, who are generally of the highest character and moral standards to be found in the world. The notion that the U.S. military would agree to oppress the American people is an absurd and baseless insult, largely limited to the craven minds of Hollywood and media types, who coincidentally tend to reflect the lowest character and moral standards to be found in any profession as a group. There is no real need, therefore, for the average American to feel the need to use force against his government. That said, the psychological impact of the right of citizens to bear arms (not felons or aliens, by the way) has the effect of reminding elected officials that they do not have absolute control, and must be answerable for their conduct. It may sound cynical to say so, but sometimes I believe that elected officials dislike the Bill of Rights, because each of those rights speaks of a specific group which limits government. Just as the first Amendment reminds government that people will say inconvenient things, and their dissent is protected, so the second Amendment reminds government that the people have the final right to force, more inviolate than anything the government may choose to do.
Another thing about guns, is that they are a sort of symbol of the modern age. We common folks have a lot more power in our hands than ever before. We can contact our elected officials in person, by phone, letter, telegram, email, and through proxy representatives like talk show hosts. We can kill a bill, or keep it alive. We can turn a nobody into a contender, or make the front-runner a has-been. But too often we are a bit careless about how we use our influence, sometimes allowing a demagogue to claim our support when he does not deserve it, and sometimes we react in anger without considering the effect of our rage. Just as I said a person who has a gun must be careful to keep it responsibly, so too a person must be careful to say things with the consequences in mind. But I would not draw the analogy too far.
There are people who are very afraid of guns, and they speak of “gun control” as though we need to train our guns not to be dangerous, or that absurd notion that banning law-abiding people from having guns will somehow convince criminals and the insane not to have guns. The Virginia Tech massacre rather grimly proves that notion horribly wrong. The flip side of that notion is not the belief that having a lot of guns will fool people into thinking they are safer, but rather that some people think having a gun will automatically make them safer. With all due respect, please do not get a gun, unless and until you are prepared to know how to store it, clean it, and use it safely and securely.