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A Gun In Your Face

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.

- continued -

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.


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Comments (31)

You are, in fact, taxed at ... (Below threshold)
kim:

You are, in fact, taxed at the point of a virtual gun. Fail to pay, and a real one will really get pointed at you.
=================================

More accurately, I should s... (Below threshold)
kim:

More accurately, I should say 'resist paying' and a real gun will really get pointed at you.
=========================

Pretty much the way I feel ... (Below threshold)
Paul Hamilton:

Pretty much the way I feel about it, too, DJ. I'm not a fan of guns, but being able to defend yourself is obviously a good idea. And the constitution guarantees you the right to be armed. Put them together and it's hard to reach any other conclusion.

TAMPA, FL (AP) -- ... (Below threshold)
Heralder:
TAMPA, FL (AP) -- A friendly game of Yahtzee turned deadly in Tampa after one man stabbed another man. Police say Mark Kelvin Allen was playing the dice game with a female friend Saturday night when an argument broke out between Allen and another man. The man retreated to a bedroom, but Allen kicked in the door.

Allen stabbed the man twice in the stomach. The man, who was not identified, later died at Tampa General Hospital.

Allen is charged with second-degree murder. He is being held without bond at the Orient Road Jail.

Whether Allen had a gun, knife, warhammer or explosive dice, the other man would still be dead.

Need I point out that in He... (Below threshold)

Need I point out that in Heralder's story, the unarmed man ended up dead?

This is precisely why when ... (Below threshold)
Heralder:

This is precisely why when I play cards with my friends, we play in my kitchen where I've wired a sawed off shotgun under the table.

Seriously though, if Allen had kicked in that door only to find a .38 being leveled at his chest, neither one of them would be dead.

Or maybe just Allen would be dead, who knows, he did kill someone over Yahtzee so perhaps he wasn't the most amenable of chaps.

I'm not quite sure I agree ... (Below threshold)
Tim in PA:

I'm not quite sure I agree with all points of this post.

"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."

Do you have small children? Does anyone in here have them, and would you leave an unsecured pike in your home? Believe it or not, I've seen a pike accident at someone's home. Edged weapons are far more dangerous to the user than are firearms. Compare the number of firearms accidents per year to the number of emergency room trips due to saws, hammers, box cutters, and so on, and you'll see my point.

But seriously, there is this conception among those who are not really familiar with firearms that they are some sort of magic death rays or something. I hear over and over again how firearms make it "easy" for people to commit crimes.

Bollocks. The vast majority of people without handgun training can't hit anything past arm's length except by chance, and that's assuming they can even get the thing to work. Hell, a lot of them still can't even after several days of training.

For your regular criminal, there are any number of other weapons that are cheaper, easier to use, easier to conceal, and easier to get away with.

For a regular thug or murderer, the availability of firearms is simply irrelevant except for the possibility of the victim having one. The effect of firearms isn't that it is easier to commit crimes, but that it is easier for regular people to fight back.

As for people who wish to create serious mayhem... unless you're built like Conan the Barbarian, a melee weapon won't work as well on crowds as a firearm, but think how much worse the VT shooting would have been if he'd walked in there with Molotov's or a flamethrower instead of firearms - either of which are easily made and readily available.

It doesn't take special ski... (Below threshold)
Matt:

It doesn't take special skill or ability to bludgeon somebody, or stab them, etc. All it takes is an unarmed victim. The mass deaths the last few years in Africa were mostly caused by machetes weilded against an unarmed populace. A Gun as a weapon is just a convenience factor. Guns make sure that the criminal (or defender in many cases) can trump lesser weapons.

I do agree with the final statement in your post. I would add that if you can't see yourself using it against a fellow human being, don't get a gun either.

Tim:Does ... (Below threshold)
Heralder:

Tim:

Does anyone in here have them, and would you leave an unsecured pike in your home? Believe it or not, I've seen a pike accident at someone's home. Edged weapons are far more dangerous to the user than are firearms. Compare the number of firearms accidents per year to the number of emergency room trips due to saws, hammers, box cutters, and so on, and you'll see my point.

A pike is a 12 foot spear, not an edged weapon. Therefore, unsecured pikes and pike accidents at home both seem very odd. The only accident anyone should have with a pike is to have one in the first place.

Also, there's a difference between getting nine stitches in your forearm because you were messing with a hunting knife and having a sheet pulled over you at the morgue because you left and exit wound in the back of your skull the size of a saucer.
There may be more hospital visits due to sharp objects, but I'd imagine less deaths. Hence DJ's point about accessability and ease of use being a danger.

Sorry Tim, but lame analogy... (Below threshold)
D-Hoggs:

Sorry Tim, but lame analogy. If you want to compare firearms accidents to emergency room trips due to edged tools, thats ridiculous. Why don't you be honest about it and compare how many victims of firearms accident are going to the morgue vs. the emergency room and then look at how many victims of edged tools go to the morgue versus the emergency room. Come on now.

There may be more hospit... (Below threshold)

There may be more hospital visits due to sharp objects, but I'd imagine less deaths.

A doctor friend of mine spent the past few weeks at an LA crisis trauma center treating all manner of wounds and injuries, and came back with the following verdict - she would rather be shot than stabbed. If the person lived long enough to get to the ER, the gunshot victims apparently had a higher probability of survival.


*shrugs*

linoge, so what? Are you re... (Below threshold)
D-Hoggs:

linoge, so what? Are you really arguing that more people die from stabbings than shootings? Cause I really think that is nowhere near the truth. You are still talking about people that actually MAKE IT to the emergency room. Most shooting victims don't get that opportunity.

An important factor, keepin... (Below threshold)
Heralder:

An important factor, keeping in context with the post, would be whether these knife wounds were inflicted accidentally or purposefully?

Nonetheless interesting, Linoge.

Why does it matter? From a ... (Below threshold)
D-Hoggs:

Why does it matter? From a quick search I find this site, where you can search all firearms deaths, accident or not, it gives about 29,000 in 2004. Then you can search deaths by "cut/pierce", you get about 2,000.

http://webapp.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/mortrate10_sy.html

I felt it mattered because ... (Below threshold)
Heralder:

I felt it mattered because the point that DJ was exploring was the safety of owning a firearm, in reference to accidental discharges.

Oh D-Hoggs, the other comme... (Below threshold)
Heralder:

Oh D-Hoggs, the other comment was actually in response to Linoge's post, not yours, sorry.

I too have had one occasion... (Below threshold)

I too have had one occasion where I was glad I had a gun. I cam home from work one night at 2am. The baby sitter was asleep in the kids' room with them. I promptly plopped down on the couch to unwind in the dark, just sitting in the silence and relaxing, when the jalousie window next to the front door began wiggling. I walked over to the cabinet over the tv and extracted my gun, walked over to where the window was wiggling and flipped the lights on. Just then, the would-be burglar had lifted the window high enough that I could clearly see his face and he could clearly see the gun pointing at his face.

What ensued was a bit silly looking back though. I said, "Can I help you?" I don't know why I said this. It just came out. But his reply was even more priceless. Rather than just run for his life, he replied, "Oh, I didn't think anyone was home." It was finally then that he came to his senses and ran like the wind :)

A good ending. I didn't have to use the gun and a burglary, and possibly much worse, was thwarted. I often wonder what might have happened if I'd had no means to defend us.

I understand Heralder, my p... (Below threshold)
D-Hoggs:

I understand Heralder, my point is that accidental or not, we'll talk strictly accidental, who is going to the morgue in higher numbers, gun victims or knife/saw/whatever blade victims? My point was that tim and linoge seem to be arguing that more people die from knife and other sharp edged tool incidents than guns. I think not.

Are you really arguing t... (Below threshold)

Are you really arguing that more people die from stabbings than shootings?

Did I say that?

You are still talking about people that actually MAKE IT to the emergency room.

Yes, I was, and I did say that. Thanks for making that clear, though.

The comment was nothing more than a general observation of a recent incident in my life that seemed coincidentally relevant. A bit on the tetchy/defensive side, are we?

When I was in basic trainin... (Below threshold)

When I was in basic training, the Instructors told us that in WW1 and WW2 infantrymen were more terrified of being bayoneted charge than they were of being shot. I can see why that would be true since a major knife wound cuts very deep and very wide. I prefer having neither wound.

I keep a gun handy for home protection because I prefer to keep as much distance between and an attacker as possible. Better to hurt him than for him to hurt me.
Chuck

"Can I help you?"<... (Below threshold)
Heralder:
"Can I help you?"

Actually Oyster, I can't think of a better rhetorical question to ask in that circumstance.

When it comes to knife figh... (Below threshold)
cirby:

When it comes to knife fights, you have two people: the dead one, and the one who ends up in the hospital.

If you shoot someone with a pistol, there's a good chance they're going to live through the experience. If you attack someone with a decent knife, the most obvious attacks are killing wounds (arms at the wrist - bleed out, gut wound - bleed out, throat - well, you get the picture). Luckily, when most amateur attackers see that first big gush of blood, they have a tendency to freak out.

Also luckily, most bad guys aren't any better with knives than they are with pistols, and have a bad tendency to accidentally injure themselves with their own knives. I saw one moron stab himself in the side while waving his weapon around, and he freaked out very nicely and dropped the blade. Which is when the bouncer hit him with a stool and sent him to the hospital unconscious...


I definitely had an experie... (Below threshold)
Desmothenes:

I definitely had an experience where I was thankful to have a gun, but it was also my most horrible experience in my life. Essentially, two people broke into my home late at night and they were armed with knives by breaking down the door. Luckily I was awake because while they came in, it gave me enough time to run for my bedroom and retrieve my gun. When they came after me, and broke down my bedroom door, I didn't even think, I just emptied out the clip. I took one of them out, and seriously hurt the other although I have no real memory of doing the deed; all I can remember is shooting the gun repeatedly. Being that I live in Florida, the whole thing was ok legally, but I still got a lawyer to make sure. I still have nightmares of that night, and I hope to this day that it had never happened, but I'm also glad that I was able to defend myself.

true dat... (Below threshold)
Dave:

true dat

Following the VA Tech shoot... (Below threshold)
smartguy:

Following the VA Tech shootings, I felt I had the need to take action to protect myself and my family. I purchased a handgun and took the training required to get a concealed weapon permit. I now carry a concealed 9mm all the time, except in locations where Florida does not allow it (Federal buildings, educational institutions, bars, etc). I am willing to use deadly force if it becomes necessary, and I hope it never does.

Modern pistols, as well as ... (Below threshold)
gattsuru:

Modern pistols, as well as revolvers with a transfer bar, are both perfectly safe when cocked, and will not go off on impact with a surface from a normal height. The only exceptions are also recalls.

If you're carrying a revolver from the 1870s, a real el cheapo handgun, or plan to drop a gun off a third story roof, it's not a good choice, but a well-chosen gun will go off unless you pull the trigger. Revolvers with a transfer bar or pistols with specialized drop safeties can take impacts that will damage the rest of the gun without going off.

Also, there's a difference between getting nine stitches in your forearm because you were messing with a hunting knife and having a sheet pulled over you at the morgue because you left and exit wound in the back of your skull the size of a saucer.

There's also a difference between sticking a six inch hunting knife into your eye socket, and grazing your forearm with a -p .22lr cartridge. Comparing entirely different levels of accidents isn't a particularly good metric.

>If someone kicks in the do... (Below threshold)
Miako:

>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?

...odds are they're probably already in your house, locking you up. They aren't liable for the door, either, even if you told them "I'm coming, just a minute" when they shouted "Police!"

Guns are not very good psychological weapons. Duh. They are useful in the context of armed rebellion, but fairly non-useful in protecting your house. these are easy concepts -- to use a gun, you must be awake, aware of direction of attack, and most importantly, holding the gun.

gattsuru:... (Below threshold)
Heralder:

gattsuru:

There's also a difference between sticking a six inch hunting knife into your eye socket, and grazing your forearm with a -p .22lr cartridge. Comparing entirely different levels of accidents isn't a particularly good metric.

No, but it's a sensible one. What are the chances of you accidentally sinking a 6 inch knife into your eye socket in comparison to accidentally discharging a firearm at your face or chest (or at someone else's)?

You're making the assumption that everyone that owns a firearm -A) knows how to use it -B) has common sense, and -C) keeps it in a place where other people can't access it.

Something is only as safe, to a degree, as the person who uses it. A friend of mine who in highschool accidentally gut shot and killed his buddy with his Dad's shotgun would likely agree with me.

All of this is only said in periphery to the actual post, which is to bring up that there can be safety issues in owning a firearm, more so than owning a kitchen knife...at least in terms of sustaining a serious or fatal injury.

Myself, I would own a firearm if I lived in a slighty more rural area, and will when I do. I'm in favor of the right to bear arms, but am not under the impression that they're not as dangerous as owning a knife.

[quote]No, but it's a sensi... (Below threshold)
gattsuru:

[quote]No, but it's a sensible one. What are the chances of you accidentally sinking a 6 inch knife into your eye socket in comparison to accidentally discharging a firearm at your face or chest (or at someone else's)?[/quote]

Pretty comparable -- I follow the rules, so both are at a nice flat zero for me.

In general, I think they take about the same level of stupidity. We're talking about pointing something that fires chunks of lead at high speed at yourself or another person, loading it, and then pulling the trigger while it's pointed at a purpose. I don't think that's vastly more stupid than pointing a long knife at your eyeball, unsheathing it, and pressing forward.

gattsuru:... (Below threshold)
Heralder:

gattsuru:

Pretty comparable -- I follow the rules, so both are at a nice flat zero for me.

Ideally, it should be. But this world is filled with stupid people. We can go on theory: that everyone follows the rules, or we can go on reality: that too many don't even know what the rules are.

In general, I think they take about the same level of stupidity.

Agreed, but one consequence is more instantaneous and therefore has more potential to be fatal, which is all I'm arguing.
Once that trigger is pulled, the weapon fires. Your choice in the matter is at the point, over.

Agreed, but one co... (Below threshold)
gattsuru:
Agreed, but one consequence is more instantaneous and therefore has more potential to be fatal, which is all I'm arguing. Once that trigger is pulled, the weapon fires. Your choice in the matter is at the point, over.

And there's that much delay when we're talking about a knife?

Hell, if speed's the consequence, what about cars?




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