When a gun is a gun and not a flower

Hippie puts flower in gun
The photo above must be one of the most iconic images from the hippie, anti-war period.  A youthful anti-Vietnam War protester, faced with a ring of National Guard troops pointing their rifles at him, carefully places a flower in each muzzle.  He thinks, no doubt, that the flowers have magically converted the guns into harmless instruments.  The troops, however, know that their rifles are still rifles.  The only thing that’s preventing them from firing is their inherent decency and, of course, the lack of any order telling them to pull the trigger.  The flower didn’t change anything; it’s the underlying morality that matters.

I thought of this liberal delusion — that guns can magically be transformed into harmless flowers — when Hube brought to my attention the clarity with which Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about the existential threat facing Israel, and about the West’s passivity in the face of this threat:

“The leaders of the Allies knew about the Holocaust in real time,” Netanyahu said at the opening of a permanent exhibit called “Shoah” in Block 27 at the Auschwitz- Birkenau State Museum.

“They understood exactly what was happening in the death camps. They were asked to act, they could have acted, and they did not.

“To us Jews the lesson is clear: We must not be complacent in the face of threats of annihilation. We must not bury our heads in the sand or allow others to do the work for us. We will never be helpless again.”

To stare down the muzzle of a rifle is a remarkably clarifying moment.  Why aren’t we having such clarifying moments in America despite the Islamists’ relentless war against America and Western values?  I think the problem is perfectly summed up by the young man in that photo:  reality-challenged Progressive think that, by pretending the rifle is a flower, it will magically become one.  That’s not how rifles or flowers work.

Found it on Facebook: It’s impossible to educate Progressives about guns

Honestly, you’d think that, after weeks of information flooding the Fox TV and the internet, that some liberals would finally figure out just a little, wee bit of actual information about guns.  (And yes, I’m being extremely sarcastic here.)  I just found this gem on Facebook, showing the loony Left trying to attach Ronald Reagan to aggressive gun limitations:

Ronald Reagan on weapons

Please repeat after me (or better yet, write this 100 times on the chalkboard): Semiautomatic rifles, including those “scary” looking AR-15s, are not fully automatic machine guns. You have to move your finger to generate every shot. 

I’m pretty sure most of us agree Reagan on this one.  We just don’t agree with the Progressive yahoos who resist facts in order to advance a deeply flawed agenda.  They know that facts are stubborn things, so their goal is to be even more stubborn and pretend that the facts don’t even exist.

The right to bear arms is the only true bulwark against government tyranny and mass murder

Nicholas Kristoff is very excited about the opportunity the Newtown shootings present to advance a gun control agenda.  (By the way, have you noticed that the media narrative is that the Progressives are not politicizing a tragedy when they use it to advocate everything from gun control to higher taxes, but that the Republicans are disgustingly politicizing a tragedy when they argue it should not be used as an excuse to take mad public policy leaps.  Just sayin’….)

Second Amendment

In his latest column, Kristoff sets up a few straw men and, with child-like glee, shoots them down.  The straw man response that interested me was his cavalier dismissal of the Second Amendment:

We have the Second Amendment, which protects our right to bear arms. So don’t talk about gun control!

There’s a reasonable argument that the Second Amendment confers an individual right — to bear a musket. Beyond that, it’s more complicated. Everybody agrees on a ban on fully automatic machine guns. The question isn’t whether to limit the right to bear arms, but where to draw the line.

Mr. Kristoff, how dumb do you think your readers are?  Well, never mind that question.  To the extent you preach to the New York Times crowd, most of them are probably every bit as ill-informed, credulous, and illogical as you think they are.

Let me ask a different, more pertinent, question:  How dumb do you think the Founding Fathers were?

Revolutionary war rifle

First of all, just as a little bit of historical information, muskets weren’t the only arms available during and after the American Revolution.  Those who wanted to own arms had a broad array of weapons from which to choose.  Thus, in addition to those muskets, they also had rifles (the Tennessee mountain men were famed for their abilities with that weapon), pistols, and blunderbusses.  Yes, they were slow-loading, but what was important was that they were equal in force to the weapons the British Army used.

Putting aside Kristoff’s obvious factual error, he also does the Founders a profound disservice by saying that they were using the word “arms” as a synonym for “musket.”  In fact, “arms” referred to all weapons, swords and cannons included.  By using such a broad term, the Founders were also leaving open the possibility of new weapons.  Otherwise, they would have said, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear muskets manufactured on or before 1791, shall not be infringed.”  Tellingly, these men, who used language with a facility and brilliance unknown today, chose not to speak with such specificity.

What Kristoff is really missing, though, isn’t the bit about the type of “arms” involved, but the reason for those arms:  “being necessary to the security of a free State.”  What the Founders were saying is that the people should always have the ability to defend themselves against aggression from their own government.  With that principle in mind, you can see where the Founders would have been happy to see citizens armed with the most sophisticated weapons available in any era — provided that those weapons match the fire-power of government weapons in the same era.

The Founders weren’t the only ones who had figured out the importance of an armed population as a bulwark against totalitarianism.  As Paul Harvey wrote back in 2000, dictators of all stripes have realized that the single greatest defense against their tyrannical goals is an armed population:

Nazi Death Camp

CONSIDER:

- In 1929 the Soviet Union established gun control. From 1929 to 1953, approximately 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

- In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915-1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

- Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, 13 million Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally ill, and others, who were unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

- China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

- Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

- Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

- Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million “educated” people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

That weapons in the people’s hands may be used for other purposes (e.g., hunting, recreation, home-defense) or misused entirely (e.g., Sandy Hook, Columbine, or Fort Hood), is irrelevant to the primary purposes behind our constitutional right to bear arms.  Individual murders have happened at all times, in all places, with all types of weapons.  The Founders weren’t naive nor were they stupid.  They fully understood that “arms” could be misused.  Nevertheless, they made a moral calculation and determined that the risk of a thousand lives lost (or even ten thousand lives lost) was much less than the risk of millions of lives lost, with many millions more reduced to slaves of the state.

Maybe Kristoff is as woefully misinformed and as intellectually un-curious as he appears.  My suspicion, though, is that he’s a man on the Left with an agenda, one that sees the unwashed masses rendered helpless so that their Ivy League educated, elite betters can impose the loving tyranny that would make this land a new Utopia.

The littlest bodies in the Rwanda genocide

(As an aside, I’ll add here that a career military man I know says that, whether they were in Africa or the Middle East, many of their efforts were to arm beleaguered citizens who were being turned into mincemeat by forces belonging to their own government.  The people there have seldom died because individuals had arms.  Instead, the various massacres and ethnic cleansing across Africa might never have happened had ordinary people been able to defend themselves against the government hordes.)

Exercising my Second Amendment rights

Twenty years ago, if you had offered me the opportunity to fire a gun, I would have recoiled in absolute horror and read you the riot act.  I can still recite my standard factoids from memory, although I’m too lazy now to string them together into a coherent narrative:

Guns are dangerous.  They kill people.  America is the most violent country in the world and it has the most guns.  Look at England and Sweden.  They have far fewer murders per capita than America does (although I have to add here, in 2009, that when I was making this argument England did not have gun laws as stringent as it does now, and it even then had a very violent knife culture).  Most gun crimes occur in a moment of passion because there is a gun in the home and someone grabs it.  Children can’t stay away from guns and will invariably kill each other or themselves if they stumble across one.  And the Second Amendment is all about militias, and individuals who have guns aren’t forming formal militias, they just want guns to kill people and innocent animals.

I think I got everything there from the old standard riff.

As with everything else in the last decade, my views about guns have changed substantially.  I understand now that, even if all of the above facts are true, the bigger issues surrounding the right to bear arms transcend — and offset — those concerns.  The biggest principle is that the right to bear arms is the hallmark of a free society.  It is no coincidence that, as my pro-gun brother-in-law always said, one of the first things the Nazis did when they came into power was legislate against private gun ownership.  Even though they understood that a rag tag band of citizens is probably of little immediate effect against a well-trained, well-supplied standing army, they also understood that armed, enraged citizens can engage in guerilla warfare that is sufficient to hold off even a formal military — especially if the military is comprised of troops who share the values of the armed citizenry.

I also know now that, even if the government isn’t my enemy, it may not be at my side when the chips are down.  This won’t be from a lack of will, but from a lack of ability.  Hurricane Katrina vividly illustrated that, with the best will in the world, when all systems break down, law enforcement cannot be at your side and you are on your own.  In New Orleans, those communities that could boast that they were protected by Smith & Wesson were left alone by marauding bands of looters.  The same will hold true if, God forbid, there is another major terrorist attack against the United States, paralyzing government, and its ability to protect us both from terrorists and from fellow-citizens taking advantage of the anarchy that can occur in the wake of a major terrorist attack.

I’ve also figured out over the years that similarly situated societies that have outlawed guns have much higher gun crime than those that haven’t.  Look at Texas and California for a nice side-by-side comparison of gun policies.  The former is much more gun friendly, but traditionally has had a lower per capita crime rate than California. And we all know that, when cities such as London or Washington, D.C., enacted complete gun bans, violent crime sky-rocketed.  These comparisons seem to lend complete credence to the saying that, “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”

It’s an interesting question, though, whether banning guns really is a direct cause of the subsequent increase in crime.  Another one of my brothers-in-law, who is pro-gun, does not believe that there is a direct cause-and-effect relationship between crime and outlawing guns. He points out that, in Los Angeles, most of the gun crime involves gangs.  In those cases, both sides are armed.  The combatents are young men who are not at all deterred by the fact that the house or car they are targeting contains equally well-armed combatents.  In the tribal cultures they’ve created in the ghettoes, warfare is normative, and the other side’s weapons are not a deterrent.  This means that, for these young men, it is irrelevant whether a homeowner has arms.  They’ll break in anyway.  And they’ll shoot regardless.  Gun control or not, these guys shoot to kill.

Thinking about it, I believe my brother-in-law has a poi nt. Gun control laws alone are probably not the direct cause of an increase in crime.  But how about this:  Is it possible that the same democratic societies that voluntarily enact gun control laws (as opposed to totalitarian dictatorships that disarm their citizenry for power purposes) are societies that have already broken down at other levels?  When you look at cities or that have outlawed or severely limited access to guns, they are also cities or states that have embraced welfare, that are hostile to self-reliance and traditional Judeo-Christian morality, that are “soft on crime,” that oppose capital punishment, that have high rates of out-of-wedlock pregnancies, and that generally have fallen into moral disrepair.  Outlawing guns is part of a package deal of social decay — and social decay invariably brings with it rising crime rates.  In other words, gun rights are the canary in the coal mine, giving one a fairly good reading of a society’s level of freedom and morality, without actually having a direct causative effect on either one of those things.

All of which brings me back to the start of this post.  I mentioned that, in the old days, I would have reacted in horror to an offer to fire a gun.  On Thursday, however, when yet another brother-in-law (I seem to have a lot of them) offered to take me to a firing range to try out his revolver (357 Magnum) and his rifle (I have no idea what kind), I jumped at the chance.  Yesterday morning, therefore, saw me at the Angeles Shooting Range, just outside of L.A.

I have to admit to being quite intimidated.  I’ve never been next to a gun in my life (except for museum pieces, and those were behind glass), and suddenly I find myself surrounded by dozens and dozens of people armed to the teeth.  Even with hearing protecting, my ears were ringing.  I was instantly impressed, though, by how well-organized the shooting range was, and how respectful the customers were of the rules — which makes sense, since the rules were so obviously for everyone’s benefit.

My bro-in-law first had me fire the revolver.  I did exactly what he said:  After carefully loading the gun, I got into a balanced stance, held the gun in both hands. extended my arms, and looked down the sites to aim the gun.  My hands were shaking, but I took a deep breath, held it for a second, and fired.  I was surprised by the kick.  When I’m working on the bag at the dojo, and I punch it, the push-back I get from the bag is pretty much equivalent to the energy of the punch.  With the gun, though, a teeny movement of my finger caused the gun to rear up in my hands.  It was disconcerting, because it seemed to defy physics.  (And yes, I know that every time I get into a car, I defy physics, but that’s such an integral part of life I no longer think about it.)  Most magical of all, though, was the fact that a hole appeared in the piece of paper that was hanging some thirty or so feet away.  I ended up firing about 21 shots, and all of them hit the paper.  Here’s the result of my first ever attempt to fire a gun:

photo(2)

(My brother-in-law, by the way, hit the bulls eye on his target.)

After using up all the revolver ammo we bought, my brother-in-law and I headed over to the rifle range.  This was much more difficult for me.  The weapon felt awkward (which the revolver didn’t), I kept being worried that I’d manage to break my jaw with the recoil, and I couldn’t see the target very well.  Or rather, I could see the target but, because I couldn’t see whether I hit the target, I wasn’t able to correct my form from one shot to the next.  Here are the results of my first outing with a rifle:

photo(3)

It’s a bad photo, so it doesn’t show that I hit the paper in the white area several times,but it still gives a pretty good idea of the difficulties I had with the rifle.  Still, I don’t regret firing it, and would certainly do so again.

As my long-time readers know, I’ve been talking since Hurricane Katrina about learning how to shoot.  Somehow, though, I couldn’t seem to get myself going, no doubt due to some lingering liberal procrastination, coupled with the fear of going alone to do something entirely different.  Now, though, thanks to my bro-in-law’s help, I’ve taken that first step, and will try again, with pleasure.  I enjoyed the experience a great deal.  Ialso came away with a much greater respect for the gun, both as a weapon, and as a source of sportsmanlike pleasure.