I grew up with firearms. Rural (and rather poor) northern  Michigan. I remember all the hunters in their orange outfits lined up in the bank making withdrawals, rifles slung over their shoulders. I remember my cousin (3 years older than I) bringing his black powder rifle to school, dressed like Davy Crockett, for show and tell. My father hunted for most of his life and usually brought home some venison for the table. I learned to respect firearms at his and my cousin’s direction. I carried a firearm for a living for a fair portion of my younger days, plus there were 6 years in the Guard where I shot expert.

 

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Me. circa 1959

This person has never fired a shot in anger. Firearms are not any more “killing machines” than are cars or steak knives or matches or the Starship Enterprise. The purpose of a thing is what you want to do with it. They are tools that are dangerous if treated lightly. Since I haven’t killed anything in the last 40 years, certainly my guns are not “killing machines” and their purpose, benign. I poke holes in paper, bust up clay pigeons, shred aluminum cans, and cause soda bottles filled with water to explode. (And I clean up after!) I have a notion to get involved in Cowboy Action Shooting.

Other uses include putting food on the table, self-defense, and organized competition. Target shooting has always been a great source of pleasure for me. It was the only sport I was able to excel at. The challenge of precision marksmanship & mastering your own body. (It is a very Zen sort of thing.) The complexity of ballistics. The beauty of the gun’s design, the flash and roar of the muzzle blast, force of the recoil, the smell of the powder. Then the satisfaction of a tight grouping or the learning experience of a poor score. The camaraderie and maybe a bit of competition. Great family activity. What’s NOT to like?

I suppose I could go hunting. Haven’t since I moved to CA. It’s an expensive pain out here. I bag my deer with a camera nowadays.

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Bagging a deer with a camera is much more difficult than with a rifle.

I did hunt when I lived in Michigan. The market value of the meat on a deer these days is about $300. That’s enough for one quarter pounder venison burger a day for a year. I wouldn’t mind hunting wild pig (if I could afford it). They are an invasive species out here and an adult wild pig is a formidable foe. Only mountain lions prey on adult hogs and there aren’t all that many around.

Self-defense is way down the list of reasons why I own guns. I don’t deny it is there. I’d rather plaster somebody ( or some predator) with bear spray. The need to use a firearm is very infrequent. There have been a couple times I wished I had a ranged weapon of some kind on me but I managed to avoid my assailant. (It is better to resist evil successfully than to run away from it. It is better to run away than to resist unsuccessfully.)

The presence of a firearm (the bigger and uglier, the better) is enough to cause any (human) attackers interested in self-preservation to flee, so most personal defense wouldn’t involve a shot being fired. (It is important that fleeing be an option if it is at all possible. Cornered bad guys may turn and fight.) My philosophy is that someone who tries to harm me, mine or any other innocent third party has given me permission to harm them first in order to stop the attempt. Symmetry is important.

I don’t carry unless I am hunting or engaged in recreational shooting. Anytime I shoot for pleasure I ensure the safety of the range. That is how I feel.

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Cleaning a gun is important.

I could go on for pages about the Second Amendment but suffice it to say SCOTUS agrees with me in its first definitive ruling on the subject since the founding of the Republic. It is my RIGHT. One needs no justification to exercise a right. Any more than gays should have to justify having gay sex or newspapers should have to justify printing editorials or the religious should have to justify prayer.

Do not insist on my “justifying” owning firearms. I won’t. I may describe what I enjoy about them but I don’t need to “justify” anything. It is a right, every bit as important as any other. There are plenty of other people horrified by unrestricted pornography, hate speech, or Satanism. There are people who would deny the right to due process for suspected terrorists. There are people who would subvert the voting rights act and ignore the 14th amendment. I quite rightly tell them to suck it. You don’t get to pick and choose which amendments you like.

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Becky on the rifle range.

OTOH, I am not averse to my version of reasonable regulation. Someone who does not know how to handle a firearm safely should not handle one. Nor should anyone with a conviction for violence. This is not rocket science.

The main opposition to semi-auto external magazine firearm prohibition is really a slippery slope argument. While “slippery slope” can be a logical fallacy, it isn’t always. That is why we fight so hard against minor infringements of freedom of press or speech or the 5th or 14th amendments (among others). A small restriction lays the groundwork for another and then another until a right can be consumed piecemeal. Whereas if you were to try to repeal the 1st or 2nd amendment tomorrow, you’d go down in flames.

Our national history (on average) shows the opposite “slippery slope”, expansion of a right soon leads to an even greater expansion of it. I am proud of my country because of that. One must understand though that if slippery slopes exist, under a change in government they can slip in either direction. (Trump is an example of how hard-won freedom can be lost in bits and pieces. But then, his supporters think he’s an example of gaining freedoms. I guess it all depends on which “freedoms” you value.)

BTW, I am not a pacifist. I may not approve of the second Iraq war but I understood the need for a military response to 9-11 and earlier, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. I spent 6 years in the National Guard in a combat unit in the 1980s and  I shot expert. I do not own an AR or anything even vaguely equivalent. But I see the point of those who would oppose a national “assault weapon” ban.

A small number of high population blue areas would then be controlling the rights of a very large red area with just a slightly smaller population, ignoring the constitutional requirement of 2/3 of both legislatures and 3/4 of the states to change the constitution. Just have some unanswerable bureaucracy keep tweaking the regulations downward until rural Texas has the same law as New York, D.C. & Chicago. And if you can regulate one right out of existence, you can regulate ANY right out of existence. (Can anyone here say “Patriot Act”?)

And there is the weak argument of preventing mass murder. I say it is weak because anyone who understands firearms understands no shooter needs an AR to kill dozens of people. A hundred-year-old pistol and a few magazines would have done as well and cost far less. So could arson. Or easily made explosives.

Much is made of the Aussie gun control enacted after the Port Arthur massacre and the statistics are much abused. However, I count 13 mass murders in the ten years since then, with several of them being murder by firearm. You have to go 15 years prior to Port Arthur to find the same number of mass murders. After Port Arthur, 75 people died in mass murders. In the ten years prior, 60 people died in mass killings. In the 13 prior mass killings, 77 people died. There is no evidence whatsoever that the laws enacted in response to Port Arthur had the slightest effects on mass killings. But I’m sure it felt very good to those who passed them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_massacres_in_Australia

Another reason the public safety argument is easily dismissed is that banning something that a large number of people desire has a REALLY bad history of actually accomplishing something. We banned alcohol for a while. While consumption by responsible drinkers may have dropped, irresponsible drinkers didn’t stop. What happened instead was organized crime became empowered in a way that could not have happened otherwise. Disrespect for the law-in-general grew among the common folk.

Eventually, prohibition was repealed and… no – the agency responsible for enforcing prohibition didn’t go away. It went on to fight a useless, constitutionally destructive and incredibly expensive war against marijuana and other drugs which still goes on today. (Bureaucracies take on their own life independent of their stated purpose and work to preserve themselves at all costs.)

So, in our hypothetical world, say we’ve just made ten million existing firearms illegal. How would you enforce such a law? How much violence and criminality would this create? If you think the country is polarized today, banning a widely distributed firearm would really bring things to a boil. The various drug lords would have a brand new profit center, gun smuggling. (Hmmm…. Could we stop it if we built a wall?)

California went screwy in its “assault weapons ban” (2000). (This is also known as the “ugly gun ban” because it focused a lot on what a gun looked like rather than functionality.) If you wanted to keep your “assault weapon” you had to register it and then they placed tight restrictions on how it had to be transported and where it could be shot. Not that these restrictions would have the slightest effect on someone intent on murder, but it made legislators feel good that they were “doing something”. Maybe 10% of owners complied and the rest ignored it. (You’re talking well over a hundred thousand owners here.)

The same firearm is still legal to purchase as long as it doesn’t have these “features”: Thumbhole stock, folding stock, flash suppressor, pistol grip or a grenade/flare launcher. This is the kind of law you get when people – who are afraid of and don’t want to know anything about guns – pass laws about them.

My position goes like this: I don’t mind waiting periods for firearms. Not as a suicide prevention tool, that’s just nonsense. Rather I see it as a way to allow the various background checks to go thru. According to the FBI, they have to go out and collect over 4000 firearms that were sold to forbidden buyers in 2017 because the rejection came thru after the gun was delivered. Make me wait a week. Please.

One thing California did right was to require firearms safety training as a condition of purchase. I do not believe the training is extensive enough. I think a few hours in the classroom with an hour at the range is not unreasonable. (I am a certified rifle and shotgun safety instructor but I do not make any money at it. I did it so they’d have a range supervisor for my son’s Boy Scout troop.) This is the functional equivalent of a good hunter safety course or a Boy Scout merit badge. Beat wanna-be owners over the head with safe gun storage. Please.

Once you’ve passed the course, renewal of the cert should not be onerous but I think something should happen on a periodic basis. Maybe a one-hour refresher every couple of years. People forget or get lazy or go blind or let the firearm fall into unsafe disrepair. If you buy an additional firearm all they should have to do is a background check for the time from the last purchase to this one.

Let’s get our background check sources acting together and in a timely fashion. This agency didn’t forward the info, that agency didn’t report, some other entity got the info but didn’t look at it, blah blah blah. How many mass shooters shouldn’t have gotten the gun but something fell thru the cracks? How many times have people reported someone to be a danger and it went nowhere? FBI has to patch up over 4000 cracks just from last year. Those are the cracks we know about. Wanna bet there are ten times as many we don’t? I have diminished expectations for bureaucracies but this is unacceptable.

While we are at it, lets put some resources into mental health. Let’s start it in school to identify children with serious issues and give them the help they need so they don’t turn into Klebold and Harris? Let’s continue it into adulthood so that the problem of the mentally ill and drug addiction don’t just get pushed into homeless encampments, violent crime and prisons. If someone starts threatening violence, let’s grab that person, not in a punitive way but in a way that defuses the anger.

Background checks and waiting periods should be mandatory for any weapon sold. Person to person or store to person. Jack wants to sell his gun to Joe, Joe wanders down to the local gun shop who runs the check. While the check is running, Joe may not take possession.

If you are going to try to prohibit certain weapons, don’t prohibit weapons that will create ten million scofflaws. If you try to prohibit “military style” weapons or handguns or whatever you’ll get that and much more. Automatic weapons and short rifles and shotguns and a host of other devices are already heavily regulated. (Not illegal – but the pain and expense of registering an NFA weapon make it more practical to go to a person who already has one and shoot their machine gun rather than getting your own.)

Have firearms experts (law enforcement, ordinary gun owners, firearms designers, military, competitive shooters, mental health professionals, ect.) come up with an objective standard of what is truly dangerous (not just thumb holes or flash suppressors) and say that all law-abiding citizens can buy these weapons but only with an enhanced background check and enhanced training. As long as they don’t change owners, existing weapons are grandfathered in. Guns get gifted or sold or traded or disposed of over time and the number of grandfathered guns drops. Eventually, all owners would have to be up to snuff. Nobody has anything taken away, nobody has been denied RTKBA unfairly, but over time higher standards are emplaced.

I’d really like to see CCW reciprocity across the states. Article 4 section 1 of the constitution (Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.) demands it. Just like driver’s licenses, divorces, and marriages. California’s CCW permit situation is bizarre to say the least but at least it does call for CCW reciprocity across local districts. It just sucks if you live in LA where you have to bribe the sheriff to get one. Across the road in Kern County, the sheriff there is “shall issue”.

Those are my thought on gun control. Prohibition is not a part of them. Requiring responsible behavior is.

Not to greybeard anyone but when I was a kid hunter education was a mandatory part of the health curriculum in 5th, 7th, and 9th grades. (We also got time off for deer season.) Any time you take possession of a firearm, you should demonstrate you can handle it safely, will store it safely and you are aware of the area’s firearms laws. (CA has a weak written test. Needs to be improved. Every salesperson I’ve met will happily demonstrate safe behaviors for you and watch you emulate them.) For public carry, (concealed or open) I would require a higher level of training but nothing so onerous or expensive that Joe Sixpack couldn’t do it.

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Most gun control proposals are really intended to reduce legal ownership and won’t have the slightest effect on illegal ownership. (Crooks don’t care.) They are not directed at safety either. Accidental firearms fatalities are at historic lows in absolute numbers and it isn’t related to which set of state laws you live under. Even so, I think every child should be run thru an Eddie Eagle type of safety class. (Stop! Don’t touch it! Move away! Report it to an adult immediately.) First grade is about right. Not saying the curriculum can’t be improved but arguing that it is better not to have guns around is kind of like wanting there to be no cars on the street, no drugs in the school or puberty never to happen.

Yeah, I know some people hate the Eddie Eagle program. It’s kind of like sex education. Or drug and alcohol education. It is needed because of parents abandoning their responsibilities. If you were a parent, what would you say to your kids about guns? What? You haven’t had that talk with them? Have you told them not to run across the street without first making sure it is safe? Why not tell your children to never touch a gun, leave the area if you find one, and to tell an adult about it?

Ah, political reasons! You want to pretend the world isn’t awash in guns and they can’t be stumbled upon in the oddest locations? Maybe you also want to pretend your kids will never have sex, They will never smoke, they will never drink, they will never try a drug and they’ll never encounter a gun. All the same bullshit. You risk your child’s life so as not to interfere with a  pleasant fantasy.

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Daniel with a .30-06

 

My kids had the best of all possible gun safety instruction. They both shot rifles and handguns at an early age and were around me when I practiced, at an even younger age. They were fully aware of the power and destructive potential of a gun. (Just as many other things in life are potentially dangerous.)  Knowing this firsthand breeds respect and caution. Kids who only grew up with toys (or maybe not even that) don’t learn this. They think all guns are toys.

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Becky is good with a pistol.

Fast forward a few decades… I’m living just outside Los Angeles. My nuclear family owns well over a dozen firearms, half of them inherited. Son scored a shotgun merit badge at the youngest age (10!) of anyone ever in his scout troop. (I got certified as a firearms instructor just to make it easier for his troop to practice.) Sent Daughter off to a combat pistol course and she really showed up the guys. She can be a bit intimidating with archery, fencing, and shooting – but her ability to drive a stick shift is what impresses guys the most.

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One of my Walthers

EVERYBODY deserves respect. All peaceable, honorable humans deserve that regardless of… of… ANYTHING. (Gun owners as much as gun haters.) Denying respect deepens divides, one thing we don’t need any more of. The next step after denying respect is denying humanity. I leave that to the Nazis and Stalinists, slavers and robber-murderer-rapists, and other assorted evil-doers. I will not go down that road. I don’t care if you are black, white, brown, yellow or Martian; Liberal or conservative or libertarian; Voted for Trump or Clinton or third party or not at all.  I respect you. And if something harmless, voluntary and challenging gives someone joy, you should respect that as well. I am just as appalled by someone shooting up a crowd of people as you are. I am also equally appalled at someone driving a truck into a crowd or bombing an event or torching a busy nightclub. Some people think there is a difference between them. There isn’t.

I even respect your right not to have a firearm. (At one time that was illegal for most adult males.)

Diversity doesn’t mean just diversity for what we agree with. I don’t agree with pacifistsysa_natalie_meredith_dsc9378hires but I certainly respect them. I’m not gay or transgender but I certainly respect them as well. Not even lightly religious myself but I treat any religious belief with deep respect. I eat meat like a bloodthirsty carnivore but when my vegetarian sister-in-law shows up, we honor her request for vegetarian fare. I disagreed with Sanders’ positions on a great many issues but I still respected his candidacy, far more so than Clinton. (Don’t even say the name, “Trump”. He is a doofus. That doesn’t mean his voters can be disparaged or belittled.)

Diversity is allowing people to engage in activities you think are distasteful as long as they do not impact other people’s rights. And no, you don’t have a “right” to a gun free society. (Or a right to a free gun.) Or a right to eliminate anything else you find personally scary, yucky, or immoral or has the possibility of misuse. You only have a right not to be interfered with as long as you aren’t interfering with another’s rights.

Do not deny respect for the *personal* choices of those you disagree with. Owning a gun is a personal choice. You may find that if you accept people for who they are (and not what you imagine them to be) they will accept you – and from this, a dialog can emerge. Dialog is the cure for polarization and the only way progress can happen for any of us. Let us start out honestly and maybe we can find a middle ground that doesn’t give either of us acid reflux.