On Guns

by Jason Stotts

Recently, I’ve gotten into guns and shooting as a recreation and sport.  This is strange, perhaps, since I developed my interest after I had already moved to California from Ohio (anyone who knows anything about how terrible the guns laws here will appreciate this fact). It’s also strange in that I’ve owned guns all my life, but wasn’t very interested in them.

I’ve been shooting since I was a little kid, first with my BB gun, then a pellet gun.  When we moved to a farm in Ohio from Atlanta, I got a .22 rifle that I liked and would occasionally go and kill cans.  I had a .20 gauge shotgun that I would occasionally go hunting for whitetail with (I didn’t really like hunting, but the family did it so I did it too, at least for a couple years).  I also had a little FEG PA-63 and a really nice Smith and Wesson .22 revolver.  Really, it was quite a nice little arsenal for someone who wasn’t old enough to legally own the guns and wasn’t that into guns. I left all my guns on the family farm when I went to college and didn’t miss them.  I had never really been into guns and so it just wasn’t an issue for me.

When I got my own apartment after college, I retrieved my pistols, but more because I wanted to have them around and less because I thought I might need them.  When I got married and we found out we were moving to California, I decided to sell most of my guns and only take the FEG to make getting into Cali easier.  I was worried, though, that this wouldn’t be reliable enough as it was pretty old and we were moving to a part of California with lots of crime, so I went out and got a new XDM, which I really liked.  I wanted to be capable of defending myself and my wife in case the need ever arose.

When we got to California, I was happy that we had the gun. There was a robbery or attack regularly in our area and I don’t think I would have felt as safe at night without it.  The constant threat of potential crime is what really got my interest in guns going.  I was an adult now, living in a new state with my wife, and I had an obligation to be capable and prepared to defend our home against any n’er-do-well.  Moreover, I started going to the range occasionally and I found that I really enjoyed it.

As my interest in guns deepened, I began to consider why I liked them.  At first, my primary interest was protection.  I believe, firmly, that the person of self-esteem who values their life should be capable of defending it against attackers or those who might wish to cause them harm. Moreover, the person who purports to love their life but who is incapable of defending it is acting without integrity and evading by ignoring the practical reality that it may need to be defended at some point.  A person who claims to be the friend of another, but won’t come to his aid is no real friend.  Similarly, the person who claims to love his life, but who won’t defend it, is no real lover of his life.

After I had been going to the range and got more proficient at shooting, I started to really enjoy going and shooting recreationally.  Shooting is a skill like bowling, golf, or basketball.  Shooting has been a sport since its early days and an Olympic sport for over a hundred years.  Shooting is not easy and requires much practice.  Just because you’ve seen someone shoot a gun on TV or played a video game with guns doesn’t mean you have any idea how to really shoot them.  Most of what you see on TV, in movies, and in games bears little relation to reality.  Learning to hold the gun just right, to pull the trigger correctly, to aim it true, and keep it steady is hard and cannot be learned over night.  Shooting really is a skill if you want to do it well.

At this point I own guns for protection (although we live in a nicer place now) and for recreation.  I also just enjoy having them around, as I see them as an instantiation of the integrity and commitment it takes to live a good life.

As an aside, some feminists talk about guns as pseudo-penis-substitutes, but while I think there is some visual similarity (“guns ejaculate bullets”), I don’t think that’s right at all.  People don’t want to have sex with guns, nor do they think they’re “penetrating” others when they shoot them, nor do they become sexually aroused by them.  On this issue, like many, the feminist position has little connection to reality.

Finally, one last point I want to make is this: as an American, you have an (hypothetical) obligation to own guns.  That’s right, I said you have an obligation to our past, to our country, and to our future to own guns.  What’s the source of this obligation?  The fact that you want to live a good life and having a free society is a necessary condition of that.  Our country was founded on the idea that all men should be free and no man forced to work to sustain another or be taxed for ends that don’t directly benefit him.  To achieve this country, the best that has ever existed in history, much blood was shed and many lives lost.  So, now we must own guns so that no foreign agressors would ever dare to attack our country.  Moreover, and more importantly, we must own guns so that our government knows that their are limits to the things that they can get away with before a free people will rise up and water the Tree of Liberty.  The Second Amendment is second only to the first because while the first is unarguably more important, without the second we the people have no way to guarentee the first, or any other of our political rights.

Ultimately, a gun is just a tool, but an important one for the person who values his life.

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