A Liberal and a Gun Nut Walk Into a Blog


The debate over gun control and 2nd Amendment rights is stuck in an us vs them mentality

I’ve got a friend who’s a gun-nut.

OK. Obviously that’s an unfair, charged statement designed to spark an emotional response. But that’s the point. In today’s “us vs. them” politically charged environment people read “gun-nut” and tend to have one of two responses. If you aren’t part of the gun-culture you might imagine an ultra-right-wing, NRA-fundamentalist with a gun rack on the back of his F-150 and a confederate flag on his porch. If you’re a gun-enthusiast you might find the term “gun-nut” offensive and assume that the author who used that term is a free-wheeling, over-educated liberal elitist who would happily tax you to death to give free meals and healthcare to unmarried welfare queens.

Where public discourse is concerned, there does not seem to be a lot of middle ground when it comes to gun usage, ownership and the 2nd amendment.

In my friend’s defense, he is good natured enough not to take offense to the phrase “gun-nut”, but he would agree that “gun-enthusiast” might be a better choice of words. By way of a little background, he is a retired Navy SEAL. He spends his retirement blacksmithing, writing fiction and gaming with his wife and friends (this is how I know him). But his chief passion is investigating and debunking people who make false claims of valor (claiming bronze stars, purple hearts, SEAL membership on a curriculum vitae, etc.). He is an honorable man and one of the most intelligent people you could ever know. He loves his children, dotes on his wife and is a fiercely loyal friend.

And he’s a gun-nut.

He lives in remote southern Missouri, out of sight from the rest of the world, in the middle of vast acreage. On the political spectrum he’ll tell you that he believes all politicians are crooks, but he comes down especially hard in the “Obama-is-the-spawn-of-Satan” camp. On Facebook he regularly shares pro-gun-culture articles, literature and cartoons. He sees any attempt at regulation as an infringement on his constitutional rights and regularly rages against what he sees as an ever encroaching government restriction on his liberties. Essentially he’s a “you can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hand” sort of guy… and he means it. He freely admits to carrying a concealed weapon at all times, whether around the house or at the grocery store. He sees the world as a dangerous place with dangerous people in it, and the only way to stay safe is to be at least as dangerous as the people who would harm you. From his perspective more guns are better, so long as those weapons are safe in the hands of the people who are carrying them.

That is precisely the frame of mind that makes people on my side of the spectrum very nervous. I am not part of the gun-culture.

I live in a stereotypically liberal, elitist, educated, progressive part of the country. If people are carrying weapons they keep it to themselves. In the social circles I travel, to openly admit to gun enthusiasm is to invite mistrust and judgment. People in my world tend to share on their facebook walls the meme that says self-righteously “Guns make you safer the same way plastic surgery makes you more beautiful – only in your head. The rest of us just assume you have self-esteem issues.” Although I and most of the people I associate with appreciate the right to bear arms, and indeed don’t want that right taken away, we choose NOT to carry weapons, and feel more comfortable if we knew that nobody else in the room were carrying either. We would be happy in a world with no guns.

From his perspective more guns are better, so long as those weapons are safe in the hands of the people who are carrying them.

In stark contrast to my friend, the world I live in is an inherently safe place because most people are following the rules. We’re all trusting each other to do the right thing, and that’s how we stay safe. The only reason to carry a weapon is if you don’t trust your community, and that threatens the harmony.

My friend’s world is in balance because everyone is pointing a gun at everyone else. My world is in balance because the people in it trust each other not to hold a gun. His balance is threatened when he can’t defend himself with a weapon from an aggressor. My balance is threatened when someone becomes an aggressor with a weapon. He would call my world naïve. I would call his paranoid. He would tell you that lightning could strike at any time, and you’d better be prepared. I’d tell you that you can’t shoot lightning. He would point to the Constitution citing gun ownership as necessary for maintaining a militia. I would point out the passage that mentions a “well regulated” militia. He would make the case that gun ownership is the last defense against a tyrannical government. I would point out that his home arsenal won’t make a difference, when the government comes with drones, artillery and tanks, to which he would respond “Let ‘em come. I’ll put up a hell of a fight.”

Even if I can’t relate to his position on guns, I certainly can understands why he thinks the way he does. He is a Navy SEAL. He has trained himself to the highest levels of his profession. He has been in situations and seen parts of the world that most of humanity is happy to pretend doesn’t exist. He is trained to instinctively assess potential threats and vulnerabilities in any situation, foreign or domestic, urban or rural, and have a plan to safely (and aggressively if necessary) navigate those threats. The level of training required to reach the ranks of the Navy SEAL’s does not leave you when your service is over. It becomes part of your tapestry. It is who you are and always will be. We asked him to see the world this way so that the world we lived in could carry on in blissful ignorance.

In short, my world would not be possible without his protecting it. But it’s also worth pointing out that his world would not be possible without mine to protect. These world-views are the competing extremes in the gun debate spectrum. So where then is the actual reality? Which is right? The only certainty is that the two extremes are talking right past one another without making any attempt to listen and understand. If the question is “a world with guns” vs. “a world with no guns”, there can be no compromise. It’s one or the other. Most rational people would acknowledge that the truth lies somewhere in between.

The only reason to carry a weapon is if you don’t trust your community, and that threatens the harmony.

If the objective is to find a compromise, then the first step is for both sides to try to understand one another. Thus far I have been unable to find anything worth citing where the anti-gun-culture tried to make its case to the gun-culture in a way that didn’t come across as haughty and condescending. But Dan Baum was recently interviewed for The Atlantic where he made a very interesting case trying to make the gun-culture understandable to non-gun-enthusiasts in a way that goes beyond 2-dimentional stereotypes. It’s worth a read.  ((http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/03/what-liberals-need-to-understand-about-gun-guys/273736/ ))

Ultimately, I’ve got children of my own that I’ve got to raise, and values of my own to pass along to them. I’ve got to raise them to function in the world as I see it. I look at the world my friend lives in and think, given his experiences, it has no more or less credibility than mine. As my view of the world is focused through the lens of raising my children, the chief and most relevant difference that I can see between my friend’s gun-world and un-gun-world is that in my world there are far fewer bullets.

—photo by Vincepal/Flickr

About Dork Daddy

During the work week the author is a mild-mannered dentist, but after work and on weekends he transforms into DORKDADDY!! When time allows he writes about raising two... wait, no three healthy, well-adjusted kids, while passing on a love of all things geek. His blog can be found at www.dorkdaddy.com


  1. Tom Brechlin says:

    Given the clients I work with generally come from high crime areas, in the past 15 years, I’ve talked to these guys about guns and gun control.

    I’ve asked the question to some of the guys this simple question. If you thought your victim had a concealed weapon, would you have robbed him/her? All of them said no. I asked, If you thought the store owner or resident of the home had a gun, would you have robbed them. They said No.

    When I asked these guys if guns were ban in the city of Chicago, would they still have access to guns? Some actually laughed and said the guns they use are “illegal,” it sure as hell won’t stop them from having them.

    I should note that these clients are adolescent males. Most (at least 95%) have used a gun, some have assault with a deadly weapons charge.

    @Duffer … I too live in the Chicago area, not long ago I posted something on GMP where I listed all of the suburbs that had at least three known gangs in their community. I listed Naperville as one of them. In fact I wrote an article about it. I think it was called A community Service Announcement. Look it up.

    What’s the saying? You can run but you can not hide?

  2. I’d like to frame the argument in a fashion I think the progressive community can better relate to.

    Proponents say they have a clear constitutional right. Many court cases have help up that right. Local and state politics continue to chip and twist that “right” in many ways both pro and con.
    Opponents use horrible pictures in an attempt to move public opinion. Opponents are clearly on record saying the current initiatives are only the first step in hopes of a total ban.
    Proponents view the oppositions call for “compromise” as just conceding that first step towards the desired total ban and simply do not trust the opponents to ever cease pushing for that desired ban.

    Am I referring to gun control or abortion?

  3. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    I’m a liberal in many ways, mainly economic (wanting to control corporations and their influence on government,) but, at the personal level, I’m a libertarian. I’m a six year Army vet (62-68,) and have guns. I don’t carry them because they’re mainly for home defense. I agree with BlacksmithSEAL. Virtually everyone on our country lane is armed, and I think it’s a good thing. Hopefully, people who intend bad would think twice about venturing onto our properties, and I think this is fine. I think it’s less likely that people might need guns against the government than it is that they might need protection from outsiders if there were ever a civil breakdown. War? Weather? Who knows?

  4. Duffer says:

    All fair and, sincerely, thank you for the clarifications. My understanding of the distinction comes from the 1994 SAW ban, or “Semi automatic assault weapon ban” (http://www.atf.gov/firearms/faq/saws-and-lcafds.html). 19 semi-automatic guns were banned for possessing detachable magazines and two or more “cosmetic” features, thus classified as “assault weapons.” So, not all semi automatics are classified as assault weapons, except those nineteen. So confusing semi automatics with assault weapons is not a media misrepresentation, but a governmental definition as to what constitutes an assault weapon. Assault weapons, by this definition, are not limited to only those that can auto fire. The debate on guns could be greatly clarified if everyone, from the media to the government to you and me could agree on what exactly we’re talking about.
    As I said, I am pretty ignorant about gun features. And I’m even more ignorant of the semantics employed by the government. But I still don’t understand why such features as high capacity magazines, which the government designated at more than 10 rounds, are needed. Maybe for big game hunting?

    • well say your a farmer who has a corn field and you have a pig problem. those are BIG problems. like where you need an AR-15 so you can take out as many as possible quickly as possible. without an AR-15 you’d lose a lot of crops my friend.

    • WillBest says:

      politicians use the word “assault weapon” to refer to a scary sounding feature on a gun. The scary sounding feature does not in fact increase the deadliness of the gun, but it usually does make the gun safer to use.

      Incidentally, roughly 50% of murders are carried out with guns handguns (another 35% with knives, blunt objects, and hands). At most 12% of murder are carried out with weapons that could theoretically use more than 10 bullets.

      The reason for these stats is of course obvious to anybody that spends more than 10 minutes thinking about these things. The markup on a trafficked gun is 1.5-3 times retail price. The puts “assault weapons” in the 2k+ range but revolvers in the 200-300 range. Given that gang bangers and drug dealers also place a premium on portability and it becomes obvious that targeting “assault weapons” is really only about protecting the government from its citizens rather than the citizens from the criminals.

      As for why a citizen needs more than 10 bullets in a magazine, I guess I would challenge you to go hit a moving target 3 times at a range of 20 feet and get back to me on if you would like to play that percentage game. Bear in mind that guns don’t work like the movies where 1 shot kills. Sometimes it takes 5-6 to actually stop somebody that is hopped up.

  5. BlacksmithSEAL says:

    The term “assault” is used only with weapons that are capable of being fully automatic in firing… i.e. one pull of the trigger and hold it will result in multiple bullets being fired. A “semi-automatic” cannot be fired on “fully automatic”. A “semi-automatic weapon” fires one bullet for every pull of the trigger… and at the end of the function it discharges the spent brass shell casing and cycles in preparation for firing the next bullet. There is no such thing as a “semi-automatic assault weapon”. The term “assault weapon” has been horribly, irresponsibly and INCORRECTLY used by the media in their effort to promote and support the implementation of stricter gun laws. Almost every single handgun, with the exception of old style “cowboy” guns, are “semi-automatic”. It has been against the law – a violation of US federal law – for non-military, non-law enforcement individuals to own any fully automatic assault weapon for decades. Anyone who wishes to own one must go through a very costly and exhaustive sequence of taxes, applications, background checks, and regular oversight. Those laws are already in place. If a “new law” is put in place which outlaws “semi-automatic” weapons, then almost every single weapon except the cowboy lever action rifles, antique bolt action rifles, and revolvers will be illegal.

    You say that you don’t understand why anyone would “need” a semi-automatic assault weapon… but (1) there is no such thing and (2) even if you were just referring to the “semi-automatic” nature of the weapons, you apparently don’t understand that the term refers to almost every modern handgun and rifle currently made. I strongly urge you to learn more about weaponry before you make such all-encompassing statement and use terms that are contradictory or meaningless.

    No progress can be made in any discussion if only the people on one side of the debate are conversant with the words/terms that will be used. MISUSE of the term “assault weapon” is intentionally being done by the media in an effort to scare listeners who do not understand the true meaning of the words. The word ASSAULT is threatening in and of itself, and using it incorrectly, and intentionally, to scare people if absolutely unconscionable. When a knowledgeable gun enthusiast debates someone who has never held/fired a gun and does not understand the function or the terms, the gun enthusiast is fighting to educate the other person at the same time he’s attempting to support his own position… and the anti-gun debater just feels like he’s being treated like an idiot. There truly is some degree of EDUCATION required before meaningful participation by either side can take place.

  6. WillBest says:

    Would you give universal conceal carry to get universal background checks? In compromise each side gives up something. What do you want to give up to get whats most important to you?

    The 2nd amendment is not a hunting and fishing licenses. It is clearly about self defense, particularly defense against tyranny. You might say, small arms won’t protect you against tanks and drones. Well look what was accomplished with a pressure cooker, box cutters, and fertilizer. Technology isn’t to the point where tanks and drones are everywhere yet.

    The other fallacy is that the government isn’t dangerous


    this is tyranny folks

  7. BlacksmithSEAL says:

    For those that don’t realize it… I am the ” Navy SEAL” described in the blog… and I am a gun enthusiast. In the 1980s I lived with my first wife and our 4 children in Huntsville Alabama, and had a home built in a nice, clean, new, modern subdivision. Within about 6 months a series of horrendous attacks/rapes started occurring.We quickly found our entire area under intense police surveillance… but the attacks continued. We got a large dog and kept a very close eye on our kids and the streets, always aware of those in the area… who belonged and who didn’t. One night our next door neighbor was attacked and raped in her own home, while her child slept undisturbed in a bedroom down the hall from her. The next day her father mounted BARS on the windows of her home. She was safe from a repeat attack, but if her house had caught fire she would have been hopelessly trapped and unable to get out any of the windows. The rapist was eventually caught… a construction worker who specialized in working with windows… and he’d used his knowledge to break into the homes of his victims. Police were a constant presence, yet it took many weeks to apprehend the criminal… weeks during which attacks/rapes were committed literally under their noses.

    My wife and I were divorced and I moved to Florida, then eventually remarried. For a time my new wife and I lived in Daytona Beach in an apartment complex with close to a dozen local police officers as fellow residents (police officers were given a discount rate for rental, and encouraged to park their patrol cars in the apartment complex lot). There were many, MANY occasions when we heard gunfire in our vicinity after dark… single shots, multiple shots, and even some fully automatic gunfire. On these occasions we always quickly extinguished all lights and ducked below the level of the window ledge so as to eliminate the possibility of either of us being selected as a ‘target of opportunity’. We were living in “the best part of town”… not the “less desirable” part. There was a small, isolated “branch bank” less than a block from where we lived. It was robbed on almost a monthly basis… always with the aid of firearms. Some of the perpetrators were caught, some were not. The police were RIGHT THERE, living around us, constantly… but we were potential targets and victims.

    Now we reside in a rural area of SW Missouri. Everyone one around us owns weapons and shoots on a regular basis to maintain their proficiency. Everyone hunts… turkey in spring and fall, deer in the fall, and squirrels almost year round. A couple who purchased the rural lot beside ours turned out to be meth makers/dealers. We were threatened by not only them, but by their clientele until they were evicted for failure to make their land payments. The male was also a convicted sex offender who had failed to properly register as required by law. We complained/reported events to the police and the county Sheriff on multiple occasions, but despite their best efforts and regular visits/patrols, they never could find a reason to arrest the man. We armed ourselves and spent many a night watching/waiting for a retaliatory attack for having reported his activities to the authorities. He made verbal threats, but thankfully he never actually attempted to carry them out. They were evicted and a wonderful friend lives there now. I understand that the former occupant is now behind bars once more on another sex charge. The constant reports to the police never resulted in any resolution for us, and despite all we did, the man was never charged with drug violations or for conveying threats.

    Not long ago a retired couple (in their 60s, like my wife and I) living in our area were attacked and brutally murdered in their own home. The attack was carried out by two teenage boys who had run away from a “home for troubled youths”… a sort of “camp” for delinquents which was just a step down from prison/incarceration. The two boys wanted a place to hide so they brutally slaughtered the elderly couple and then “lived” in the home to avoid capture. Ultimately they were captured… but that “camp” is still there, still has no fences, and the elderly couple is still dead.

    If we lived in a perfect world no one would need protection, no one would need a handgun or a rifle or a shotgun. But our world is NOT PERFECT and there are real, vivid dangers. We don’t live in the town, we live just outside the town limits in the COUNTY… where law enforcement is handled by the County Sheriff. Law enforcement officers do their best, but response times are in the 30 minute range at best… and their forces are stretched very thin. If there’s another call on the other side of the county, then it could be an hour or more before a single officer responds. If an attack were to take place, their likely task upon arrival would be limited to drawing chalk outlines around the bodies and filing a report.

    So… I am a gun enthusiast. I practice to maintain my skills with a variety of weapons. My wife practices. The County Sheriff’s response time might be about 30 minutes… but if there is an intruder in our home, our personal response times are in the 30 SECOND range. Cell phones and loaded firearms are within reach from virtually EVERYWHERE in my home. They aren’t obvious, but we know where they are and how to use them… with deadly efficiency.

    We do NOT live in a perfect world… and until we do, I will remain a gun enthusiast, and I will vehemently defend my right to keep and bear arms, my right to defend our lives with deadly force if necessary, and will loudly decry those who would take away my ability to maintain my safety and security.

    • Duffer says:

      Thanks for sharing your story(s), BlacksmithSEAL. If I had your experiences, I’d own a gun. In fact, when we were living in Chicago’s northwest side, with a baby and a toddler, two gangbangers were shot dead in our alley. This is not unusual in Chicago, but regular gun shots were new to us. I’d been mugged and pistol whipped in better neighborhoods before, and in all of these instances, I considered buying a gun and learning how to use them. I’d shot a few guns before with some hunters, but ultimately my ignorance would’ve caused more problems than it was worth and of all my violent revenge fantasies, I couldn’t picture ever having to use one. Don’t know if many people do. Instead of contributing to the Chicago problem (ignorant gun owners), we moved to the statistically safer suburbs. Statistics don’t prevent you from violence, however. I understand and empathize with the right to own a gun to protect oneself but I can’t understand the justification for semi-automatic assault weapons, or assault weapons of any kind. I still haven’t heard an argument for it other than the fear of a precedent that if you take away semi-autos, then all guns are next. It didn’t happen in the decade of the SAW ban(1994-2004), though it didn’t prevent Columbine, either.
      The 2nd Amendment defense should not apply to every weapon ever made. Technology changes over the years, and if there’s one thing we’re adept at, it’s devising weapons for human destruction. We’ve got to allow for that in our interpretation of a revolutionary edict from 200+ years ago.

    • I agree with you man! I mean as a Conservative in South Carolina this is extremely true. Why would you trust everyone you meet in these times? Look at the numerous rapes, murders, etc that happen because we don’t have good men and men like you who I applaud for your service who have enough common sense to carry a weapon on their person and are trained in using it.

      Enthusiast question: Did you ever work with a Howard Wasdin in the Seals? I read his book was real good and just had to ask.

    • jon bond says:


      You are not who gun reformers are worried about. You having a gun makes the world safer. But the casual
      attitude of many people who should have very limited access to guns makes the world a more dangerous place.
      So, when you talk about rules of conduct, both legal and moral, I think you should think about using the word ‘we’ instead of ‘me’ because the standards that allow you the freedom to use guns responsibly are misused by others and create needless violence. The common good is more important than frankly what is good for certain select individuals. I strongly believe that we need people like you to be leaders in the gun community and focus your energies not just on protecting rights of gun owners, but on getting the
      people who make the world more dangerous to shape up. You are outraged that some people take false credit for heroic deeds they haven’t ‘earned.’ I am outraged that some people leave their guns around 4 years olds, and then say they are a ‘victim’ when their kid shoots the neighbors’ child (see Joe Nocera’s NYT column). Shouldn’t some people have to ‘earn’ the right to use guns? Navy SEALS like you with guns., great. On the other hand, A friend who comes from a ‘gun family’ told me his grandfather always said: ” there’s nothing more dangerous than a weak man with a gun.”

      • WillBest says:

        The common good is more important than frankly what is good for certain select individuals.

        So true:

        1) In the name of the common good women shouldn’t be allowed to murder the fetus growing inside them unless it has a genetic defect. The US is currently on the wrong side of the fertility curve and needs fresh productive workers to pay for the elderly.

        2) In the name of the common good, people shouldn’t be allowed to produce hateful speech, which is defined pretty much as anything the government might consider hateful.

        3) In the name of the common good, no parent should be allowed to home school, or send their child to a private religious or secular school. All children should learn the state approved lessons

        4) In the name of the common good, no person should be allowed to have more than $5 million in assets and must forfeit the remainder to the government.

        5) In the name of the common good, doctors should be made to work a min. of 45 hours a week, even those female doctors that drop down to part time to have their own family because there is a doctor shortage and healthcare is a right

        6) In the name of the common good, bright students should be forced to become a doctor to meet the rights of others to have healthcare.

        7) In the name of the common good, … oh you get the idea.

        • Jon bond says:

          It’s not your right to drive your car drunk and kill
          Or pollute the stream running through my backyard

          Or put me in danger with any kind of irresponsible
          gun behavior

          I don’t care what you do that doesn’t effect me

          That’s why we take your car away if you can’t drive
          sober, but no one seems to have a problem
          with that. Why are you ok with people
          being penalized for mis use of one kind of
          dangerous product and not another? Why
          aren’t you mad about idiots you probably see
          on the gun range when no one wants to shoot
          next to them? Why do you want to protect those guys
          But would never support that same guy when he drives his car from the
          range home and runs over some family ? I do not understand
          this at all.

  8. Mike L says:

    Thank you for writing this. I completely agree that it’s VERY important to try and see each other’s point out view.

    I am most interested by this part:
    “In stark contrast to my friend, the world I live in is an inherently safe place because most people are following the rules. We’re all trusting each other to do the right thing, and that’s how we stay safe.”

    From what I understand, BOTH sides actually believe that their position is “trusting each other to do the right thing.” Those who favor restriction-free gun ownership believe that the average citizen can be trusted to own a gun (hence the mantra “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”). By contrast, those who wish to limit gun ownership believe that no one should need a gun if we all trust each other.

    In addition, it seems like the issue at the heart of the debate is that both sides feel the other is committing an act of distrust.

    On the one side, owning a gun for “self defense” is argued to signal distrust of society (because why do you need a gun if you can trust people?).
    But on the other side, the potential taking-away of guns is the act of distrust (because why would you need to take guns away if can trust the gun owners?).

    The problem seems to be that trust, and what actions signal betrayal of trust, are at the core of both sides’ beliefs. I don’t really know how to get around that.


  1. […] This comment was by Hank Vandenburgh on the post “A Liberal and a Gun Nut Walk Into a Blog.“ […]

  2. […] This comment is by BlacksmithSEAL on the post “A Liberal and a Gun-Nut Walk Into a Blog”. […]

Speak Your Mind