Liberty and Death: What a Man Can Do With a Gun

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About Carl Pettit

Carl Pettit is a writer, illustrator and musician whose education and travels have taken him all over the world. When not out exploring, or pondering the universe, he finds time to produce fiction for both adults and children. You can catch up with him on his blog, or twitter.

Comments

  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    Legal gun ownership is about as well-regulated and disciplined as the old-time militia who would show up once a month–except in the winter, to drill on the town green. Max. The drill was to learn to operate as a unit, not to learn how to shoot or to be responsible. You either are or you’re not.
    The fighting against the Brits on the Battle Road going to Lexington and Concord was self-organized, on the spot, by guys with guns. No organization at all. And that was the start of the Revolution. One might say that it was the ideas motivating the Founding Fathers to include the Second Amendment. Might, might not, have been what they were thinking. But the point is, it worked without organization, regulation, or training.
    John Lott wrote “More Guns, Less Crime” some years ago. Hammered for it. Blood in the streets. OK Corral. His critics have been reduced to saying the reasons for less crime where there are more guns are something else than guns.
    How’s Chicago doing with their strict gun laws? It’s said that Mogadishu has a more tolerant attitude toward guns, and it’s not as dangerous as Chicago. If gun ownership were legal in Chicago, it would be difficult to think the criminals would have more guns, but the potential victims might be able to shoot back.

  2. Copyleft says:

    Worshipers of the Founding Fathers always talk about “original intent.” Fine; I will defend anyone’s right to own a breech-loading musket.

    • AnonymousDog says:

      I suppose you regard “freedom of the press” as limited to the hand-cranked printing presses of the 18th century?

      • Copyleft says:

        No, I regard “original intent” as the joke it is.

        • AnonymousDog says:

          So, should the Second Amendment be interpreted and applied by the same ‘modern’ judicial tests as the First Amendment? Or is your rejection of ‘original intent’ just a convenient way to get to certain result, and to hell with judicial standards?

      • Peter Houlihan says:

        Web-blogs and photocopyers aren’t capable of firing multiple rounds per second.

    • wellokaythen says:

      I think there’s a place for original intent but also a place for seeing the Constitution as an organic, evolving document. I have a lot of respect for what the framers of the U.S. Constitution wanted to achieve, but I don’t believe they should have the last word on everything.

      At the time they didn’t really intend for women to vote or for slavery to be abolished. (I doubt they intended that the federal government would ever pay farmers not to grow crops or send Marines into Central Asia.) Sometimes the original intent from the late 18th century context becomes obsolete.

  3. Richard Aubreyco says:

    copy. I don’t think there is such a thing, but if anybody invents one, I’m glad you’ll defend my right to own one.
    Actually, it seems the FFs thought everybody ought to be able to own a weapon roughly equal in capability to the standard Infantry weapon, flint-lock muzzle loading musket or rifle, at the time.
    Today, equal capability would be any semi-auto hunting rifle with high-cap magazines.

  4. john schtoll says:

    BUT, didn’t they write ‘in defense of the state’, those words seems to be ignored or more truthfully, twisted to mean everyone no matter what.

  5. Why not ask WHY people are trying to kill each other? A gun can just make it easier, people still get knifed every day but where are the huge restrictions on knives? Hell a baseball bat can kill.

    Teach people to respect firearms, make laws to ensure guns n ammo are locked away separately so there are no accidental deaths, but to really stop murders I’d say start dealing with poverty, drug addiction, mental health, etc. Get rid of the reasons a person wants to kill others.

    I’d love to own a few guns and one day I probably will, my only interest is to take shots at pieces of paper because I like the skill in having to aim and fire accurately. If ever there is a war in my country I’ll definitely want a gun. But I have no interest in killing someone. I’d love to fire an assault rifle, a 50cal, wish I could goto a local gunrange and fire them but the laws here don’t allow that. It’d be nice if they were locked away but let out in safe ranges (steel cables tethering their aiming to a small degree of movement to ensure no one gets harmed).

    AFAIK Switzerland has very high gun ownership, most men of combat age do a year of military service and have an assault rifle at their home whilst having a lower per capita gun crime rate. I think there are bigger issues than simply access to guns at play in gun crime, such as WHY the perp wants to commit crime in the first place.

  6. Richard Aubrey says:

    afaik, the worst school massacre was pre-planted explosives. I mean in the US. Not counting, say, Beslan. It was in Bath, MI, early 20th century. McVeigh used AMFO and not guns. About twenty years ago, a guy used a buck’s worth of gas and a bottle he found in a dumpster starting a fire and panic in a night club. Dozens killed..
    Holmes had rigged his apartment with booby traps. The theory is that he left his radio on loud, expecting the cops to eventually respond to a noise complaint and get blown up. That would attract more cops and EMT to the scene, giving him more time at the Aurora. I don’t know if the theory was correct, but the rigging was supposedly so elaborate that the cops were thinking about blowing the thing in place instead of trying to defuse it. Turned out they didn’t have to. Point is, if he’d thought about things differently, he could have done something with a bomb. Fortunately, he tried the mall ninja hundred round drum mag which, as usually happens, jammed. Ditto Loughner’s hi-cap mag when he shot Giffords.
    The Columbine shooters had rigged a propane tank to explode. The Fuel Air Explosive bomb is so effective that any half -wit thinks he can get a tank from the local hardware store and blow up a city block. Not that simple, fortunately.
    The Rwanda massacres were primarily with machetes.
    So the question is, as another poster remarked, why people want to kill others and what to do about it. McVeigh was supposedly pissed about Ruby Ridge and Waco. Might have calmed him down some if the Self-Appointed Viewers with Alarm of Injustice had deigned to note the dead in those situations. But, as one reporter said, Weaver was an unsympathetic character.
    I recall a stinker of a movie with Tom Cruise about a system which could tell when people were going to commit a crime–fantasy, obviously–and the cops arrested them in advance. Involuntary commitment? Touchy.
    Archy. I’ve fired all those, and after the first ten minutes it’s about as exciting as using a lawn mower. The only interesting part is trying to do it well. Except for the penalties for doing it poorly–the bad guy wins–it’s about as interesting as trying to mow a very straight line. The advantage of using the lawn mower is that there’s no sergeant to make you strip it down and clean it after every use.
    A gun’s a tool.

  7. AnonymousDog says:

    You forfeited any credibility you may have had when you started quoting the Violence Policy Center.

    If you are really interested in a reasonable public discussion about commonsense gun laws, you will avoid VPC and the NRA equally.

  8. Carl Pettit says:

    Unfortunately avoiding the VPC and the NRA is not an option, as these two organizations are some of the most vocal proponents for and against gun control. Many people abide by their very different principles. Like it or not, they are a part of the gun debate, and should be included.

    I truly wish “More guns, less crime” actually meant less crime nationwide. If this were the case, then the United States would be the safest country on earth. It is not. In fact, it is one of most dangerous democracies on the planet. The reasons for this are complex, rooted in history, the Westward expansion, the Second Amendment and other causes. The good news is that violence in society isn’t as bad as some of us might think, although brutal massacres, like what happened in Aurora, bring the gun debate to the forefront of our minds in a very visceral way. Steven Pinker, in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, has a lot of interesting thoughts on the decline of global violence, and why America still remains one of the most violent societies around. It’s worth checking out.

    The United States has a lot of powerful guns and ammunition stockpiles in the hands of, well, pretty much every kind of individual or group you could imagine, citizens and criminals, sane or otherwise. By examining differing opinions, no matter how extreme, on both sides of the gun debate, perhaps we, as a society, can find some middle ground. Those of us who want to keep our guns can do so, and those of us who would like to reduce the statistical chance of being gunned down without cause, can do so as well.

    • John Weeast says:

      You can’t expect nationwide balance when you can’t even get balance in population in a single state. Cities are always more populated than suburbs, and the crime rate is always higher. That’s why the VPC likes to throw out Mass and Hawaii because the populations there are so different. They don’t match the scale. Just look at the 10 deadliest cities and you’ll see the states with the strongest gun control laws.

      If the theory that stronger gun control worked, Chicago wouldn’t happen. You’d have school shootings in lax gun control states instead of strict states. Even in Aurora, he went to 5 movie theaters. The first 4 all allowed carry weapons, so he chose the one that banned them. These people want victims. They aren’t hitting police stations or gun ranges, they’re after victims. It really is that simple.

  9. Peter Houlihan says:

    Well said.

    Thomas Jefferson was writing in a time when a well trained militia could reasonably expect to stand up to a professional standing army of the time using privately owned equipment. Especially one fighting over an atlantic ocean. In this context small arms ownership made sense.

    Today the rifle and the horse are not the kings of the battlefield they once were. Unless the US government is going to start allowing private citizens to buy tanks and surface to air missile racks the idea of informal local militias handling national defence is a bit of a joke. Times move on and old strategies aren’t applicable to the modern world. There’s two reasons people own their own guns: For fun or to kill someone. The former isn’t worth the latter.

  10. Richard Aubrey says:

    Peter.
    Couple of problems. Almost without exception, people killed with guns are killed by illegal guns. See the war on drugs for the success of banning that which people want.
    As to standing up to the government. Wrong. It was the local government, not the Brits that the Noble Second was considering. The Brits, in 1775, were the legitimate government and had been since 1620 in New England and earlier in the Tidewater. For a hundred and fifty years, as it happens. That would be the same period as from the Declaration to the middle of the Roaring Twenties.
    Second, as to standing up to the current Army. As a vet, I hope an institution of which I think a great deal would never become an instrument of repression. Knowing soldiers as I do, I doubt such orders would be followed. Maybe Obama’s Homeland Security civilian auxiliary “euipped as the military” might try. Thing about tyrants is they have competing militaries. See the SS vs. the Wehrmacht, the NKVD or its predecessors or successors vs. the Red Army. The Nork border constabulary vs. the Nork army. The Republican Guard vs. the Iraqi army under Saddaam. We haven’t heard much from the admin about the HSA auxiliary, starting about the time we didn’t hear much about the mandatory voluntary service.
    However, if you wish to contemplate it, we have about twenty million veterans in this country. Some, maybe the knees aren’t up to it, but what it takes they still got, as somebody said.
    The Reserves are divided into two groups. The actual Reserves anwering directly to the Army, and the National Guard answering to their respective governors. If the DoD wants odds and sods, ash and trash, admin and training personnel, so forth, they get the Reserves. If they want heavy combat formations, they go to the Guard, which is where heavy combat formations are found. So the states control the combat units of the reserve component. Just sayin’.
    Also, see “Oathkeepers”.
    And horses aren’t in it. But see “technicals”. Chadian irregulars gave Libyan forces a hard time some years back driving big pickups with heavy machine guns and rocket launches. Has to do with heart and tactics, both of which the Libyans lacked.
    IMO, the US military is made up of citizens who have taken an oath to the constitution and will not take orders for oppression. See also “posse comitatus” law.
    Now, as it happened, a well-trained militia could not stand up to a professional army. With a few exceptions, Washington and the colonists were losing badly until the famous von Steuben and other professionals actually built a professional army.
    Lastly, as with most revolutions, the colonists lost most fights except the last one.The revo needs merely to remain in being until the other side quits.
    Also, the idea that, since we can’t win against our government, we may as well quit now seems unpleasant.

  11. On behalf of the rest of the developed world, the United States’ obsession with guns is the primary reason why we think you are crazy.

    • wellokaythen says:

      And I wonder how many billions of international tourist dollars Americans are missing out on because of this. A lot of Germans still won’t go to Florida on vacation. (And Germans get a LOT of vacation time….)

  12. Richard Aubrey says:

    Karl. You have a point?

    • wellokaythen says:

      Well, there ARE benefits to the rest of the world thinking that you’re crazy. It helps with the credibility of the threat to use force….

  13. wellokaythen says:

    The legacy of the American Revolution is actually pretty complicated, especially when you look at it in terms of the use of force. It’s kind of slippery, violent, and dangerous if you really think about it.

    Ultimately, the lesson from the war of independence is “it’s not treason if you win.” Or: “it’s good to shoot at the authorities if you feel the government is unjust.” That’s essentially the message of the Declaration of Independence – sometimes armed acts of treason are justified by other values. That’s a pretty radical, violent, scary promise to base a society on.

    The militia and Continental Army were not about to defend the rights of EVERY man to bear arms. They didn’t believe in the right to bear arms when it came to Loyalists or “Tories.” You got to keep your gun if you were for the revolution or maybe if you were a reliable neutral party, but they certainly picked and chose who got to bear arms and who didn’t. The patriots who were slave owners sure as hell didn’t want their slaves to get ahold of firearms…..

    Which comes around to original intent again. I think we’d all agree that the drafters of the Second Amendment in 1790 did not intend ALL people to have the right to bear arms. They assumed that the law gets to make distinctions about who does and who doesn’t get to own guns. So, let’s agree. Not everyone today gets to bear arms.

  14. wellokaythen says:

    So, what precisely did the Newtown shooter do that was wrong?

    Based on what some people have said here, I get the impression that the Newtown shooter didn’t really do anything wrong, not until he pulled the trigger. Before that moment he was totally within his rights and not doing anything we need to worry about. Carrying firearms onto school grounds wasn’t wrong, that was just a private citizen exercising his constitutional rights. Is that what I’m hearing?

    If we take this argument to its logical conclusion, perhaps he didn’t do anything wrong even when he shot all those people. Maybe he felt threatened by those children. Maybe when he arrived at the school one of the children reached into his backpack for what looked like a weapon and the shooter was merely “standing his ground” and defending himself and his loved ones from harm. Perhaps in the shooter’s own mind he was protecting the lives of other children.

    Maybe he heard a rumor that those kids and teachers wanted to take his guns away from him, so he acted pre-emptively to safeguard the rights that his forefathers fought so hard to protect. He was shooting at them just like the minutemen shot at the redcoats. Some of those redcoats were hardly more than children, after all. He killed teachers who were older than the British conscripts killed by militia at Bunker Hill (on Breeds Hill, more accurately). Maybe he was just striking a blow for freedom, right? If it’s okay to shoot people because you feel threatened by them, then how do we know the Newtown shooter did anything wrong?

    If he had been challenged by an armed volunteer at the school, and if the state had a “stand your ground” law, the Newtown shooter would have been well within his rights to shoot the volunteer, wouldn’t he? They would have both been within their rights to kill each other.

    What worries me is that so many people are calling this a “tragedy,” as if the people died because of an earthquake. That’s a handy escape from recognizing that a crime has been committed. People need to speak up and say what exactly they think was wrong about this shooting. So, at what point did the Newtown shooter do something wrong? I say carrying a gun onto school grounds was wrong. What I hear others saying is that carrying a gun to a school isn’t wrong, it’s actually a good thing.

    • Clearly, you are using absurd extremes to illustrate absurd extensions of logic. I get that and appreciate it in who things would work in reality. But I really don’t think such Quentin Tarantino scenarios will ever exist.

      Ok…to be honest here…WICKID Funny story here…There was this one mobbed-up bar in South Boston that was popular with President Reagan’s team. He wanted to go there on an impromptu basis, and bang a Bushmills. So, the SS, lacking proper and adequate advance-time and work, had to just go on in, including agents in very plain street clothes. They went into the bar WAY ahead of the Pres and his Suited-up SS team.

      Well, wouldn’t cha know…the FBI was already thar on a LONG term, undercover thing, sharing Bushmills with Whitey Bulger’s boys. The SS is highly trained to spot signs of concealed weapons. Its amazing what they can detect. FBI can do it too, somewhat. Well…guns were pulled ALL over the fargin bar. FBI guns, SS guns, Mob Guns, Private citizen guns, bar tender guns. It DID look like a Tarantino movie…the LSD part of the movie. Funny as a bastid IMO. But no one was ready to die that night, so no gunfire.

      People DO have the power of discernment. Its a God-given power installed in our minds to keep us alive. I THINK you are being genuine with these scenarios – hypothetical, but they ain’t gonna save a single child.

    • John Weeast says:

      He did plenty wrong. CT has strong gun laws in place and he and his mother broke many of them.

      In CT, schools are gun-free zones or as I call them Victim zones. States that have guns in schools don’t have these shootings and the rare occasion that they do, the death toll is drastically reduced because they’re stopped sooner.

      He was mentally unstable. He tried himself to buy a gun and was denied. Shocker, the laws working. His mother’s disregard for safety and having firearms in the house with something that is unable to use one lawfully was the mistake. Having a glass case instead of a locked safe was the other. She paid for that mistake with her life.

      Stand your ground laws don’t hold weight if you’re already breaking other laws.

      This whole line of thinking is laughable. As soon as he had the intent to do harm, it was wrong.

      • wellokaythen says:

        “States that have guns in schools don’t have these shootings and the rare occasion that they do, the death toll is drastically reduced because they’re stopped sooner.”

        I admit some ignorance about this. Are there states that do allow guns in schools? In what sense do they allow guns in schools – security officers get to have guns, school staff, students, visitors? I have the sense that some schools try harder than other schools to keep guns off campus, but I wasn’t aware of any schools that *welcomed* guns.

        So, I think I have two responders so far that disagree with me. From what I hear you saying, he was wrong to bring those guns onto campus in the first place, it was wrong for him to have those guns in the first place, but it’s because he intended to do harm. His intention was what made it wrong for him to carry those guns there. In that case I wonder how in the moment anyone on campus is going to judge the intention of an armed visitor — He’s okay, he’s just walking around, hasn’t drawn yet, hasn’t drawn yet, hasn’t drawn yet, okay, now he’s drawing and pointing, so now I think he has bad intent, now I should shoot him.

        If the key difference is intent, then I wonder how a well-meaning armed visitor is supposed to determine that. And, I would point out that intent to do harm is not by itself a criminal act, though aggressive panic-mongers are currently working on that. He didn’t break any laws just intending to kill a bunch of innocent people. What he did wrong is intending to kill a lot of innocent people and DOING so. If he intended to shoot a lot of innocent people with firearms but couldn’t get ahold of firearms, he would not be able to realize his intent.

        And, of course, what is the best, most incontrovertible sign that he intended to shoot a lot of people? Carrying multiple firearms and a lot of ammunition. It’s not conclusive proof of intent, but it’s a wicked good clue. If we can only identify intent by looking at behavior, then I think coming to school heavily arms suggests a good chance of dangerous intent.

        Instead of metal detectors in schools, we should install intent detectors?

        Rob, meanwhile, I think is also disagreeing with me. From what I hear him saying, it can be right to bring guns onto school grounds, or wrong to bring guns onto school grounds, depending on context, maybe. If no one is really committed to risking their lives, then no gunfire gets exchanged. Sort of a “mutually assured destruction” kind of thing. That works well if the armed person has a sense of self-preservation, but deterrent doesn’t work very on people who are psychotic. Sometimes, deterrence actually attracts violent people who are suicidal, for example “suicide by cop.”

        I’m suggesting that the difference between a “good guy with a gun” and a “bad guy with a gun” (to quote a recent NRA spokesman) may be impossible to tell before the massacre. What I hear you two saying is that what made the Newtown shooter a “bad guy with a gun” was his internal characteristics. Taking guns into a school is not a bad thing to do. If he came to the school and shot another guy carrying a gun, he might even be a hero?

        I’ll put it another way that doesn’t sound so absurd. Tell me what the instructions would be for an armed school security volunteer. At what point is he legally authorized to shoot someone? When he sees someone he doesn’t recognize carrying a gun? When he “senses” danger or “feels” that his life is in danger? When the person behaves in a “threatening manner”? Not until the other person fires the first shot?

        Meanwhile, doesn’t the school get to weigh in on rules for carrying and/or using guns on school grounds?

  15. See Carl, you have already deferred to “crime.” The 2nd is in NO WAY about stopping crime. Have you EVER EVER read the balance of the bill of rights, or just the 1st, 2nd and 4th? Read the whole bloody thing. There’s a common theme that ought to be clear to you. That is, the entire bill of rights was drafted and ratified in order to maintain or freedom from ANY and ALL governments who over-step. The first government being OUR OWN.

    But now this reality no longer applies? Any reality ignored WILL come back and f you over so hard you won’t believe it!

    Its funny though, I’ve never seen more straw-man platitudes in one incident response than Sandy Hook; Our worst tragedy of the sort ever. And the antis are getting dangerously in the way of any real protection of the kids.

    • Only in this liberal-emo nation will “Danger” be discussed as a requisite ingredient to maintaining Liberty as our constitution intended. We have Liberty as a result of the Entire Bill of Rights. The Bill Of RIghts was not created as an enabler of trade-off for crime. This country is fully lost.

      “The beauty of the second amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it.” -Thomas Jefferson

      And I’m STILL waiting for someone to come up with ONE realistic suggestion on how to protect school children other than “hope” that banning certain guns of outrageous appearance will save us all. It won’t save ONE!

      • Here’s one idea. Have schools practice shooting drills instead of fire drills. I read an article recently (not sure where) that stated there hasn’t been a single death due to a fire in a school over the last 50 years largely due to the fireproof building materials that are used in schools. So, how about bulletproof doors on classrooms and/or turning closets into fortified locations. An expensive option, to be sure, but given that school shootings are a reality the cost would be well worth it. That would buy some time for first responders to arrive and would save lives in the process.

        Banning guns won’t work and shouldn’t be considered as a reasonable option.

        • wellokaythen says:

          What I like about this idea is that it is at least more than the simple dichotomy I keep hearing between “armed” and “helpless” — Either you have a gun or you are a powerless victim. Either you’re in a safe school with guns or a helpless target in a school without guns. That’s not a view I subscribe to. It’s actually quite Maoist: “all power flows from the barrel of a gun.” There are multiple forms of power and multiple forms of safety. If ALL of one’s individual safety is invested in whether or not he/she owns a gun, that person is not a very safe person.

          All school safety boils down to something loaded, safety off, not jammed, in your hand, pointed in the right direction, not used against you? Tall order.

      • wellokaythen says:

        At the risk of offending people on both sides, I suggest that maybe the pre-existing laws are working as well as they can. Maybe the best policy is to not extend them NOR roll them back but to imagine new approaches.

        Hard as it is to imagine right now, schools are still by far the safest places for children to be. Compare time at school to time they spend anywhere else, including AT HOME, and kids are statistically far safer at school than anywhere else. Bullying at school is still a major issue in our schools, but it pales in comparison to the bullying that happens once they leave school grounds. The swimming pool in your backyard is probably a thousand times more likely to kill your child than a school shooter. Your teenager is a hundred times more likely to kill himself or someone else with your car than with a firearm. Firearms are an obvious focus of attention because they are designed to be weapons.

        Now, what we should be doing is analyzing not only why school shootings happen, but also why they are such extremely, extremely rare causes of death for children. We should be analyzing why schools are so overwhelmingly safe. Perhaps all the efforts to keep guns out of schools are part of the answer? Perhaps children are injured by firearms at home much more often than firearms at school because there are more firearms in homes than in schools.

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