When is a first strike not a first strike?
When it's Anticipatory Retaliation.

May 20, 2004

Guns, Guns, Guns

Charlie Victor Echo

(After more thought, I did a little editting and posted it anyhow...sometimes, you just need to go with your gut. -CVE)

One of the interesting things about a column like this is the way it lets you get a better look at the writing process. There are, after all, a metric ton of pressing and relevant issues that I could (and probably should) write about right now.

Iraq War, execution of hostages, treatment of prisoners, what's the point having Geneva Conventions if you're just going to say 'its not really a war' and ignore them, Israel v. Palestine, China v. Taiwan, North Korea v. Everybody. The list goes on. And while I do have many and varied things to say about all of these issues and more, all it took was a random link from a buddy and I'm off the reservation onto an issue that, while possibly important in the election come November, isn't really on the front burner right now. But its the one stuck in my head, so that's the one I'm going to write about.

This writing thing's a funny business, ain't it?

So a friend of mine sent me a link exposing the malpractice involved in Michael' Moore's Bowling for Columbine. I've said before that I have little use for Moore, and that link tells you why.

Thing is, he had an opportunity to make something worthwhile on the subject of America and Firearms, and no matter how much money he made on Columbine the fact remains that the subsequent research into the crap he pulled with it have blown any long term credibility he or his film might have had.

And that's a shame, because there are some serious and troubling issues to be addressed in this matter, and all Bowling for Columbine did was obfusacte them. So I'm going to take a stab at them.

Here's my question:

Why do Americans need guns?

To save some time (and pad my word count) let me anticipate the probable responses, and give you my rebuttals:

1. Hunting is a Way of Life

Hunting was a way of life. I won't discount the importance of game hunting in an agrarian society, but we haven't been primarily an agrarian society in quite some time. Hunting for pleasure is a luxury and an indulgence, not a neccessity. To argue that the pleasure hunters recieve while hunting compensates for the number of guns deaths we suffer strikes me as a rather callous attitude. To be sure, most gun deaths are attributable to handguns rather than rifles or shotguns so perhaps hunting could be considered sustainable. But if we accept the hunting argument, then we should therefore be willing to do away with non-hunting weapons like handguns and assault weapons, and the NRA wants us to have those too...

2. I need it to Defend Myself

This one's tricky, because a quick search across the web shows as many different numbers for "self-defense" shootings as there are websites talking about it. A common number is 43 times as many wrongful gun deaths as justified ones, but that number seems to include suicides, most of which would have been accomplished without a gun present. So let's toss out the numbers for a moment and go with feel. I remember Bernie Goetz and the huge amount of press he got for shooting some punks in New York. That was a big deal. I can't imagine that similar situaitions where an intruder is shot in a house or an attacker is gunned down in self-defense wouldn't recieve at least some media play, even if only locally. But despite my living in a major metropollitan area and reading a newspaper every morning, I can't recall very many cases like that.

But every week, and sometimes every day, I read about another shooting death, either a murder or an accident. And unless someone wants to make the patently ludicrous argument that the American Media would willingly give up a quick buck to hide flashy stories like that, that sure seems to suggest that guns used successfully for self-defense are a fairly small minorty of the guns used for everything else, even if we remove hunting from the equation entirely.

So is the feeling of security you have from a gun worth the increased risk it adds to your life? Because there is extra risk, both for an accident as well as someone losing thier temper and doing something they'd later regret.

3. The Constitution Says I Can

Does it really? Sure, everyone's heard the oft repeated "the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Thing is, that's leaving out half the Amendment:

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

What happened to the well regulated militia? What are gun control laws if not attempts to regulate well? We can 'Michael Moore' the thing, if we like. Here's a version:

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall be infringed."

All I did was drop three letters from the Amendment and suddenly the whole thing goes off in a completely different direction.

How much more off the rails do we go if we ignore twelve whole words? Isn't that what Moore was doing? Wasn't he ignoring words he didn't like and twisting the ones that remain to fit his purpose?

How is dumping 5% of the Bill of Rights any different than that?

4. I Need Guns to Overthrow the Government if they get Oppressive

I love this one. I really do. When I first had that one explained to me I broke out laughing.


Unless you want to start handing out M-1s, F117s, and nukes, you're not going to overthrow the U.S. Government. The military power is out of reach. Its been 139 years and a few days since several states tried that route and failed. A few guys with pistols and rifles aren't going to accomplish a damn thing.

More to the point, if you believe that a group of insurgents armed only with second rate gear could hold out indefinitely against the modern American Military, then you should also be saying that we need to get out of Iraq, because that's exactly what we're facing over there.

How well did Ruby Ridge and Waco work out in the "overthrow the government" scheme?

Some Concluding Thoughts

"So what are you saying Chuck, that we should all hand in our guns?"

Well, no. Whatever ideals I may hold, I'm too much a historian to get fooled by utopian ideas like that. Guns are integral to American culture, particularly in the South and West, and they're not going away on my say so.

But let's look at it another way. We regulate driving. We say you have to be at least 16 years old and able to see this well and be smart and educated enough to pass a basic test on how to drive. This is for a vehicle designed for transportation that could, if used incorrectly, injure or kill others.

For guns, on the other hand, all most states ask is that you show an ID and wait a week, and not have had a felony conviction. This for devices that are designed to injure and kill. What's more, the NRA doesn't like even that much. And making mandatory the kind of education and testing that we require to drive a car?


But why is it unthinkable? We regulate things that harm others. That's fundamental to Modern Government. We require a certain degree of expertise to drive a car, fly a plane, or operate heavy machinery. We ban smoking in public areas to prevent injury to bystanders. We say you can't blast your music in a residential area at night. We ban telemarketing after 9pm.

Why can't we just say, "You need to have some education before you own a gun."

Launched by Charlie Victor Echo at May 20, 2004 07:49 PM

Retaliatiory Launches

... Going to take a while to come up with the retort to this one.

in sum:

point 1: agreed

Point 2: disagree. You hear plenty about it when it happens, and I can whip up a list for you of at least 60 cases in the last year or so. Keep in mind that after the UK banned private ownership of guns, the crime rate drastically increased, as thugs knew their marks wouldn't be armed. Keep in mind that when Detroit passed a concealed carry law, the murder rate drastically decreased. These are facts that the media doesn't like to bring up much.

here's a link: http://www.kimdutoit.com/dr/weblog.php?id=C0_4_1

point 3: disagree, the 'militia' was at the time defined as 'all able bodied males of age' and that remains so. given the modern situation it may be outmoded, but those are still the words and meaning of the admendment.

point 4: Agreed.

conclusion: the problem with the registration of firearms is that if the government ever decides to disarm it's citizens, much like the nazi's did to the jews before the holocaust, then they have a list of who to go after. Remember, the first step in the complete subjugation of a nation is the disarmament of it's people. Not to say that it couldn't happen if there .were. arms out there, but taking them away makes it that much easier.

The basic difference between gun ownership and car driving is, amsuingly enough, a legal issue. As people (namely my father) are so oft to quote "driving is a privlige, not a right" but, as it stands right now in this country gun ownership, by fiat of the 2nd amendement is, in fact, a right.

Posted by: Downwood at May 20, 2004 09:57 PM

In Fact, this is a pretty good article too. Describing not just right to own, but right to carry.


Posted by: Downwood at May 20, 2004 10:14 PM

First, the question itself: It's a matter of want, not need. Nowhere does the Constitution give the Government the power to tell people what they can and cannot own. To my recollection, it mentions only two tools: the printing press and arms, and in both cases, the message is: Hands OFF!. You want to change that, amend the Constitution. Don't end-run it. That ought to be the end of it, right there.

1. Hunting: OK, the [Elmer] Fuddites won't support my right to keep and bear military arms, I won't support their right to kill Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Hunting is no longer a economic necessity for most people. I still absolutely support their right to own any tool they damn well please.

2. Self-defense. You're right, the numbers are fuzzy. But consider this: More than 35 states now have laws that require law-enforcement authorities to issue concealed-carry liceneses to anyone who passes the clearly-defined requirements.

Uniformly, before passage, anti-gun forces screamed to high heaven about the coming wave of shootings resulting from accident, road-rage, drunkeness, and so forth.

"The sky hasn't fallen."

Although it's debatable whether the crime rate has fallen in any of those states, it absolutely hasn't risen (corrected for population, etc.). And the nation's highest murder and violent crime rates are routinely places like New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., with the toughest gun laws in the land.

Many, many self-defense gun uses do occur, but are not widely reported in the press, even when they come to the attention of law enforcement. Many do not, either because the weapon was not fired (Funny thing: goblins don't like even messing with someone they know to be armed, much less having guns pointed at them), or because the incident involved an illegally-possessed firearm.

Goetz is an excellent example of why: it was illegal for him, as a NYC subject, to possess the firearm he used. Plus, he had the misfortune to shoot the nasty little punks right as the gun-control crowd in the press-room was hitting its stride: he was a great test case.

3. Constitution: A "reasonable gun law" for me would be one that required law abiding citizens to keep arms and be proficient with them, so that we could act as a militia at need. This was, in fact, the law in post-Revolutionary America. Every head of household had to have a rifle, and enough lead and powder for 24 rounds. I'd go with a law that said you can't vote until you've demonstrated proficiency. In general, though, until the modern Supreme Court clearly acknowledges the basic right to keep and bear, I don't want to hear anymore about "reasonable restrictions," which somehow always come to down to "No."

4. Rebellion: No, the purpose is not to overthrow the government. It's to prune back its encroaching tentacles. Look up the "rebellion" in Athens, Georgia, after WWII. A corrupt sheriff was run out of the county by force of arms, and lawful government restored.

Every politician, every cop, every sworn public servant (and I think all of us swilling at the public trough should be sworn), ought to sweat, and sweat hard, when they raise their right hands, remembering that all their neighbors were at last Sunday's neighborhood target shoot and picnic; that John, the kid down the block, placed first in his school district's 300-yd rifle competition; that Mr. Pierson from across town was no-billed by the Grand Jury just last week for shooting dead the leader of a dynamic-entry team who misread the address on the warrant.

Occasional small rebellions, one or a dozen citizens at a time, would prevent the need for widespread overthow.

That said, you're probably right: it's been too long, and may very well be too late. But that doesn't mean we should give up trying.

One last thing:
The founding stone of our Republic is the sovereignty of the ordinary citizen. We are all of us sovereign, sovereign as any King. Our right to keep and bear arms in defense of ourselves, our families, our communities, and our liberties, is the great seal that proclaims and protects that sovereignty. And that's need enough for me.

[contact info at URL]

Posted by: refugee at May 21, 2004 12:27 AM

A couple of things...

The NRA is actually supportive of most of the gun control laws we have right now. Their image as an extremist organization is much exaggarated.

If you want to see exteemist ideas feel free to check out my site (though I prefer the term absolutist).

The 43 times stats have been disproven for quite a while. The author of the study used highly questionable data to arrive at that number. On the other side it's been estimated that between 80,000 & 2,000,000 defensive uses of a firearm occur each year. You won't hear about most of them because in the vast majority of cases shots aren't fired. Firearms are as effective a deterent as they are a fight stopper.

But you don't hear about justifiable uses of firearms because you don't look for them. http://www.kimdutoit.com/dr/weblog.php , http://keepandbeararms.com/ & http://www.claytoncramer.com/gundefenseblog/blogger.html all keep track (some more loosely than others) of defensive use of firearms. The media simply doesn't want it to get out that they are as frequently used for defense as they are. That'd kind of kill most pappers editorial mission to promote more gun control laws.

As far as hunting is concerned I think you'd be surprised how many people supplement their pantry with game. Poor people in downtown areas don't usually go that route but I know many struggling families in the country that do count on rabbits, squirrel & deer to help them get by. So the argument that hunting isn't necessary is very urban-centric as well as inaccurate.

As far as the constitution is concerned, what you have is an amendment with a two-part structure. An explanatory clause & an operative clause are used in the 2nd Amendment. This was used in many state constitutional amendments of the time & the emphasis should be properly placed on the operative rather than the explnatory clause.

That being said Congress has been slack in providing a "well regulated militia" which should mean that requirements & standards for training should be set up as well as encouragement of participation.

But in any case the 2nd's operative clause does very clearly protect a pre-existing Right of the individuals that make up the U.S.

So yes, the explanatory clause ("a well regulated militia being necessary for the security of a free state") is important but it does not negate or overshadow in any way the operative clause ("the right of the people to keep & bear arms shall not be infringed")

As for your idea that the military is too powerful to care about a bunch of armed rednecks...what you simply do not understand is that in any military endeavor the control of real estate is essential. Sure, you can bomb & shell the hell out of a place but to have real control you have to send in the troops. That's where ther militia comes in.

It's common knowledge amongst the military that for every guerilla fighter you need ten regular troops to match him. That's match, not overcome. Military leaders understand this. In fact the Jaopanese in WW2 dismissed ideas of invading the then sane west coast of the U.S. not because of our military (which they had contempt for at the time) but because they feared "a rifle would pop up behind every blade of grass". Ditto for Switzerland. Switzerland is a small country. In 1937 they had about 200,000 enrolled in the militia. A German officer was visiting & asked a militia officer if the presence of 400,000 Germans right across their border bothered him. The Swiss officer told him no - they'd just have to shoot twice.

Long story short you underestimate the ability of rednecks & farmers with "second rate gear" to slow down &/or stop a modern military. You also dismiss the deterent factor of well armed citizens which does a lot more to keep the military from attempting something than you'd think.

& as I've said many times over, I'll put my money on ten rednecks armed with M1 Garands (a rifle we stopped using in the 50's) against any 100 regular troops from any military in the world - including our own.

But about the "second rate gear" thing...that's exactly the reason why gun control laws are so damaging to our infrastructure - in order for the deterent value of the militia to realize its potential the citizen needs to be able to purchase & possess freely the same arms that are in common use by the infantry soldier of a modern military. I'm no fan of the M16 family or the cartridge it uses, but I can see how citizens being able to own them would give much pause to our military should they ever be ordered to do something uncool.

As far as Ruby Ridge & Waco - what you had was a superior force attacking a stationary position. In the end the Weavers surrendered & the Davidians were murdered but only after a prolonged stand-off. If the press had been less willing to demonize both groups of civilians then they could have held off the feds long enough for support (i.e. some of the neighbors the FBI wouldn't let in to see what was happening) to assist them. In short yes, the feds won but only after expanding a lot of resources & time. Multiply that by 100 & perhaps you'll see how costly (in manpower & time) it is for a modern government agency equipped with modren firearm to overcome a group of citizens with "second rate gear".

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 as well as the Battle of Athens, Tennessee (in 1947) are other examples of a small group of ill-armed ctiziens taking on a modern government force. In the former they eventually lost but after a protracted enaggement. The latter won & that's why you probably have never heard of it.

& here's soemthing to consider: in the 20th centruy 170,000,000 people were murdered by their own governments. In the vast majority of these mass murders civilian disarmament preceeded the killings. It won't happne here next year or perhaps not even in the next decade, but it's naive to think that it could never happen here & it'd be criminally nelgigent to ensure you children & grandchildren are unarmed when it does happen.

If 10% of the troops Hitler sent to round up the Jews had died in the attempt that would have had a chilling effect on the whole process. The Jews targeted might have died, but their level of resistance would have kept the Nazi's from accomplishing what they did. A few thousand or hundred thousand Jews could have discouraged the murder of a few million Jews if they'd only had the means, knowledge & will to resist.

As to your concluding point - you're using examples of immoral legislation (banning smoking in public??? - in California this might seem reasonable but not in the free world) to justify another immoral legislative measure.

& you're confusing things that harm others with things that have the potetial to harm others. If oyu want to argue that prior restraint based laws are a good idea you're welcome to try. But the thing is if we accept the potential to harm as being valid grounds for regulation, then what in this world would not be eligible for government regulation?

Government is not supposed to regulate potential. Want to have laws against behavior? that's fine. But possession of an object because it could potentially cause harm? No thanks. Especially when it comes to the exercise of a Right.

No, guns were not designed to kill. They were designed to propel a projectile. The projectile may or may not be designed to kill. In any case the intended purpose of the initial design doesn't mean as much as it's actual purpose. With firearms many times more are used for target shooting than they are for killing. & killing, while unpleasant to most, is necessary in the world. That's because some people feel it's necessary to harm others & usually the only way to protect yourself is to incapacitate them. This usually means killing them as it's the only way to ensure an incapacitation.

If you feel that all killing no matter what the justification is wrong then I cna understand (though I'll disagree) with your position. But I would point out that cars are used in more deaths per year (in the u.s.) than are firearms. As far as the stats go, the total of yearly firearms related deaths is around 28,000. 16,000 or so are suicides. About 800 are negligent shootings with about 10% of those involving children (under14). Car accidents acoount for 40,000. (another interesting comparison is kids drowning in buckets each year exceeds the number of kids killed with a firearm.)

Cars are much less regulated than firearms. There's no minimum age to buy, no waiting period, no background check, no disqualification for past crimes, etc... There are certtain restrictions on aquiring a drivers license & driving on public roads, but these are far less burdensome than the restrictions most places have on firearms ownership & carrying.

So to wrap it up I think you had quite a few facts wrong as well as being wrong on the conclusions derived from said faulty facts. What we need is less gun control, not more. & to go along with that we need to educate the people not only in the safe use of arms (which will curb negligent shootings much more than any law ever could) but the reason why they're so important even in the 21rst century.

Posted by: Publicola at May 24, 2004 09:07 PM

Note that the last successful use of arms to restore representative government in the U.S. took place in Athens, Tennesee, not Georgia.

It should also be noted that during the critical period of the Civil Rights movement, altho non-violence was used as a tactic in confronting government, armed defense against the Klan and their like played an important role.

Posted by: triticale at May 30, 2004 07:55 PM

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