The Hairy Triggers

Not all American enthusiasts for the Second Amendment think the same way. I once corresponded with a professional firearms instructor who had yet to point a weapon with intent to shoot anyone, much less actually to shoot them; he said that “The best way to win a gunfight is to be somewhere else when it happens.” He also refused to tell Europeans that they ought to go armed, provided that they returned the compliment by not telling him that he ought to go unarmed. Others, however, are not in the least shy of informing Europeans that they are cowardly wusses, who not only are “slaves” but for failing to carry guns at all times deserve to be slaves.

From what I have heard of conditions in some parts of the USA, such as Dade County or L.A. South Central, I can understand why the natives feel the need of a weapon. But consider my own community. The only time I ever see a firearm is when I meet deer or ptarmigan hunters in the mountains, or a reservist coming home from a refresher. What with the Home Guard and the farmers, there are plenty of rifles and shotguns in cupboards, but pistols are conspicuous by their absence. There is no “hot-prowling” here; burglars hit unoccupied dwellings in the daytime, and do not carry guns. Neither do the police in the course of their ordinary duties. There is no conceivable way in which the personal security of anyone in my community would be enhanced by going armed.

So what exactly is so drastically wrong with this situation that American “gun nuts” despise us so? What is so terrible about never meeting an armed man or seeing a handgun waved about in the supermarket? Why is it so reprehensible for the whole community to go about its daily business without giving a thought to the possibility of being gunned down by some robber or lunatic? Not only do we live without this particular fear, we save time and money as well; guns, ammunition and accessories cost money, while training and cleaning (not always shown on TV!) are time-consuming.

It may be that those Second Amendment enthusiasts who consider Europeans a lower form of life are actually jealous; for they are on the wrong side of the irreversible “stadium effect”, we are (so far) on the right side. It is more probable, however, that they are simply unaware that there is an alternative to eternal vigilance and hair-trigger response to perceived mortal threats.

Most disquieting of all is the possibility that they are in fact aware of the possibility of a peaceful, unarmed life and deliberately reject it. What I see here is less a reluctant adaptation to a regrettable predicament than an incomprehension of what a civilised society actually means; not so much a fear of anarchic violence as a yearning for it. For, in a society where no one is going to pull a gun on him, how is a poor guy to demonstrate his cojones?

Posted on November 27, 2011 at 12:05 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!, The Shadow In The West

3 Responses

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  1. Written by dwasifar
    on November 28, 2011 at 00:46

    I feel uniquely qualified to comment on this one.

    Think of the American desire for self-defense, not in comparison with Norway or other relatively unarmed nations, but rather in comparison with the Cold War. Imagine you are a cold warrior nation. Whether you imagine yourself to be the USSR or the USA doesn’t matter; what does matter is that the other guy’s got The Bomb, and you better have one too, or else you’re at a disadvantage.

    American gun owners don’t want to relinquish their defense arms for the same reason neither the USA or the USSR wanted to be the first to disarm – it’s foolish to do so if the other guys haven’t. And that’s the case here; the criminals and the law-abiding are both well-armed. Gun control laws affect primarily the law-abiding, so any gun control imposed in the US will render an advantage to the criminal side.

    It may be that over time, more difficulty obtaining legal guns would diminish the proliferation of illegal ones. But not immediately; it would take decades for it to even out, given that a gun lasts basically forever unless it’s in heavy use. I have a .22 rifle made only a year after WWII ended; it still works fine and is quite accurate even though it was an inexpensive gun when new. There’s no reason to think it will not still fire just as well 10, 20, 40 years from now. Even given that the police will slowly acquire criminals’ arms, it will take many, many years to even out the imbalance.

    Given that the criminals here are well-armed, and will be for some time to come, it is a rational response for the average citizen to arm himself as well. He might in fact wish this were not necessary; but I’m sure plenty of people in the US and the USSR during the Cold War wished nuclear arms races were not necessary, yet would not have advocated being the first to disarm.

    For the record, I own several handguns. Like your instructor friend, I have never pointed any of them at a person intending to shoot. I have never had to so much as brandish one in self-defense. I use them mainly for recreation, in which I shoot holes in circular paper targets from a distance. But I would use them defensively if necessary. In well-armed America, I view defensive gun ownership as being like the safety belt in your car – you hope you will never need it, but when you do need it, you need it NOW.

    That said, I sometimes wish there was more of a culture of training and respect for firearms here. I have seen people at the range who simply should not own guns; they’re reckless, or inexperienced, or just plain not that good at it. I’ve seen stupid gangbangers doing that sideways grip, always a tipoff that someone learned everything he thinks he knows about guns from the movies. Once I was in the lane adjacent to a guy who couldn’t hit a 16″ square target hung less than 10′ away. He was trying his best, but he couldn’t do it, or if he occasionally did, you could see it was by accident. It made me nervous to be that close to him and I eventually packed up early. Out in the front, while I was settling my range fees, his companion came out to buy different targets, and I said, “Your friend needs some practice.” “Oh, he’s got a real bad vision problem.” I said nothing, but what I wanted to say – “then he shouldn’t be shooting” – hung between us in the air. A man should know his limitations, and maybe in a different world a qualification and training program would be a good thing. But there’s no clear way to impose those requirements without having them turn into backdoor gun bans, and all gun owners know that’s the risk, so they oppose them.

  2. Written by urban
    on November 28, 2011 at 03:19

    I was waiting for you to go first on this one, Dwasifar!

    I’m personally very comfortable with firearms. Full disclosure: Dwasifar and I have shot pistols together and I generally agree with much of his position. I have also done some hunting and have gone through point-shooting training as part of a well rounded martial arts background.

    So that I do not own a gun even though I live in a heavily armed area is not due to any aversion to guns, per se. I do not own a gun because I feel safer that way. None of these jamokes can hit what they are aiming at anyway. There’s nothing you can do about random stray bullets other than wear armor. Carrying won’t help you there.

    I was in the middle of a gunfight a couple years ago. Wrong place–wrong time. There was no place to go for cover so I just watched. Five or six guys holding pistols up over their heads or sidewise or in some other peculiar-but-stylin’ grip that guarantees never hitting a target sprayed three or four dozen bullets in each other’s general direction for about thirty, maybe forty seconds. Nobody got hit. A few windows on buildings and cars were broken. Several cars had holes that hadn’t been there before. At no point would a pistol have been useful to me.

    If I get robbed at gun point I would rather not be carrying also. I’d rather lose a little cash than be in a position where I must make a split second decision that could involve one or both of us getting killed. And if he’s got the drop on me he gets my gun too, whether he shoots me or not.

    And do you really want to find out that it was actually a cellphone that the unarmed kid you just killed had pulled out of his pocket? Real gunfights happen suddenly, at close range, in poor light, amidst great confusion. A lot of mistakes are made. Just a few of the reasons I avoid them!

    You aren’t always safer just because you have a gun. Carrying might even make you a target. The street smells fear and trust me, the street is armed and ready to rumble. So you’d better be on your toes at all times. I’d rather just act like I belong there. Of course I’m safe. Why would I be afraid? Carrying doesn’t help me there and it might get me in trouble.

    If I had a good reason to carry I wouldn’t hesitate. If I had to deal with rattlesnakes or wild pigs on a regular basis, for example. Or if I lived in Texas. Now I do realize that a crime-tsunami may be headed our way if the economy continues to sag, so circumstances may yet compel me to reconsider, but until then I like my chances unarmed. Or armed with a kukri.

  3. Written by Hugo Grinebiter
    on November 28, 2011 at 10:37

    @Dwasifar: I am not sure your Cold War argument makes sense. Norway isn’t bristling with nukes, but we were occupied, which is an unpleasant experience the US hasn’t had since the Revolutionary War. There was very much a danger of private armies persisting after Liberation, although the deep state warned me off researching this, see previous piece. Libya is in the same position now. The transition from militias to a proper army and police guarding an unarmed citizenry can be done, but it takes work and guts, and probably luck.

    I note that you are not the same kind of gun owner as the crazies who tell me that I am a slave; no surprise there. I also have the impression that you actually agree with me about the “stadium effect”. Other things being equal, would you rather live here, where carrying is truly unnecessary, as explained? There is a rifle range up the road, if you want to keep your skills up, I can hear the firing from my balcony on a Saturday morning. You might even try biathlon, which is a very Norwegian thing.

    @Urban: I’m more like you than you and Mr. D. might think. If I came to live in the US I should definitely do a gun safety course — hey, I might find a gun on the highway one day, and wouldn’t want it to go off in my face — and marksmanship is a cool skill. I would surely be better than the Mr. Magoo whom D. describes; I once fired everything from pistol to tripod MG at an army range, and the sergeant couldn’t believe I was a virgin. It was probably because I then used a heavy SLR camera, the breathing bit is much the same. But I absolutely know that I do not have the reflexes for a gunfight.

    Our other mutual friend smells a bad neighbourhood, even in European cities where she doesn’t speak the language. But then she acts nervous. I tend to be like you, acting as if I belong there. FTR and touch wood, nothing has ever happened to me. If it did, I don’t think I have the neural wiring to do anything about it anyway, whether I was carrying a kukri, a handgun or a magic wand. (When I was younger, alas, I could run like a hare.) I have been on mountains which drop rocks on you. There is nothing to do but to walk normally; que sera, sera.

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