Archive for the 'Firearms' Category

Operation Choke Point and the Erosion of Freedom

by Jason Stotts

Today is the Fourth of July or American Independence Day. It’s a day when we celebrate the freedoms we have by enjoying spending time with our families, having barbecues, going to parades, and watching fireworks.  It’s a day when we should be contemplating what freedom is and what it took to achieve it.

This has made me think about Operation Choke Point (OCP) and the erosion of freedom that began under Bush and escalated under Obama.  In OCP, the Obama Administration and the DOJ are going after “undesirable” entities and trying to get rid of them by cutting of their access to banks and financial services.  The two most targeted areas, or at least the two areas who are vocally standing up for themselves, are porn and firearms.  I’ve already written about this in terms of porn (The Obama DOJ and the War on Porn), but what I want to point out today is something different.

In both the porn camp and the firearms camp are people who are vocally rejecting this draconian and clearly immoral use of the government to try to stomp out things with which they do not agree.  Each camp stresses that they should have the right to do the things they’re doing because they’re not harming anyone.  Each camp is, to this extent, right.  The problem is that these two camps don’t like each other and each would be happy to see the other fall to the Obama DOJ.  Of course, not everyone in each camp thinks like this, there will always be exceptions, but it holds true for the general view of each side. But each side would like to see the other fall and so refuses to come to their aid.

The problem is that if we don’t defend freedom in principle, then we can’t provide a real defense of it at all. If I think the government should stop you from what you’re doing because it offends me, then what possible objection could I offer if my own actions offended someone else?  We need to stand together to fight against this tyrannical destruction of our rights to live the kinds of lives we want to lead.  As long as we violate no one else’s rights, there should be no restrictions on our actions.

We must either stand for freedom on principle, or fall individually one by one, and this is especially true of things that we don’t like and don’t agree with.

You either stand for freedom on principle or you don’t.

Choose.

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A Government For, or Against, The People

by Jason Stotts

In honor of Halloween, I recently watched Night of the Living Dead for the first time.  One of the things that really struck me about the movie, which is probably not most people’s response, was just how very different the government’s position was in regards to the people.

Night of the Living Dead is set in the late 60’s.  It’s a movie about zombies, but that’s not the interesting part.  The interesting part is that in response to the zombie threat, the government activated the military, national guard, and police.  Because there aren’t that many trained warriors in our culture (as they’re not really needed), they also called upon the civilian defense authority.  They asked for the people to rise with their guns to combat the threat and to work side by side with the local police or military to engage the threat.  This, of course, helped them to eventually win the day and restore order and was clearly the right thing to do.  The civilians fought well and made the difference in neutralizing the threat.

Now, obviously, this is a fictional zombie movie, but I think it makes a really good point.  Can you imagine the Obama administration calling upon the people to take up arms to defend themselves and their neighbors against a threat? I think it’s more likely that the dead would come back to life than that would happen.

We’ve moved from a society in which the government is the servant of the people to one in which the government is the master of the people. And that master is fearful and suspicious.  The people are no longer trusted with weapons and the democrats are doing all they can to make it impossible to own them.  They monitor our every move and read our every message. They worry that the people will rise and overthrow the government again, as we Americans are wont to do when our freedoms are trampled.  And they are right to worry because they are trampling our freedoms and they are taxing us to death.  Why should I be forced to pay to support your life when I can’t afford mine?  Why should I work five months a year to pay for others and suffer myself?  I shouldn’t!  It’s intolerable.

It’s no wonder they fear the people rising.  They should fear the people rising and we should rise.  But, it doesn’t have to be this way.  If they would return to a real government whose purpose was to protect individual rights and end all redistributionary taxation and victimless crimes, then we would want the government to persist and it would be a value in our lives.  I firmly believe that we need a government to maintain order and law and that this can be a real and necessary good.  But, there is little that is worse than a bad government and the only thing that has caused more death than governments is religion.

We, the people, have been sold out by both political parties and our rights have been systematically trampled for so many years now that we hardly notice anymore.  We need to wake up and notice.  We need to stand up and assert our right to our own lives and that we do not have to work to support others and a government run out of control.  We need to reign in our servant and put him back in his place.  He has become prodigal and dangerous and it is time to remind him who his master is.

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Guns and Crime

by Jason Stotts

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I hate how everything that becomes politicized becomes covered in layers upon layers of lies and deceptions as people try to bend reality to meet their political agendas.  Frankly, I find it disgusting.  Firearms are definitely one of those topics where people let their emotions run roughshod over their reason and attempt to pass feel-good legislation that serves the ends of security theater, but does nothing to help real people stay safer in the real world.

Consider the following two articles:

Gun Crime has Plunged, but Americans Think it’s Up, Says Study (LA Times)

Gun crime has plunged in the United States since its peak in the middle of the 1990s, including gun killings, assaults, robberies and other crimes, two new studies of government data show.

Yet few Americans are aware of the dramatic drop, and more than half believe gun crime has risen, according to a newly released survey by the Pew Research Center.

Media’s Anti-Gun Narrative Destroyed by Justice Dept Report (Breitbart)

Between the years of 1993 and 2011, as the assault weapons ban expired, more Americans purchased guns, the Supreme Court overturned outright gun bans, and individual states not only loosed gun control restrictions but also issued concealed carry permits to private citizens, incidents of gun violence in America collapsed.

Between 1993 and 2011, nonfatal gun crimes plummeted 69%; from 1.5 million to 467,300. Gun-related murders dropped 40%; from 18,253 to 11,101. Gun-related murders for black Americans plummeted by 51%.

The report also shows that the media-created hysteria over school shootings is wildly misleading. Between ’93 and ’11, the murder rate in schools dropped by almost a third; from 29 to 20.

It bothers me that the media’s selective reporting has completely distorted the truth about what’s happening with gun use in the US and whether are kids are safe in school (they’re much safer now than when I was in school in the 90’s).

Guns are not evil. Neither are they good.  They are simply tools that can be used for good or bad ends.  To ban guns in an attempt to reduce crime is just misguided.  People who want to hurt each other will always find new and creative ways to do so: like “glassing” in the UK.

This reminds me of a conversation I had the other day with a friend who was praising the idea of gun buy-back programs where police “buy” guns from citizens in order to “get them off the streets.”  This, at first, sounds like it might be a good idea, except:

– The guns turned in are not going to be the ones used to commit crimes.  Criminals are not going to turn in their guns voluntarily.

– The people who are going to be turning in guns are poor people who need the money.  Yet, the amount of money the programs pay is much less than the market price, thus cheating people of the money they could get elsewhere

– There have been reports that criminals have used the gun buyback programs to get paid to have the police destroy evidence of their crimes.  The programs accept the guns without questions, so this is a perfect solution for the criminals.

Thus, these programs accomplish nothing at all except waste taxpayer dollars on feel good programs.  This kind of thing has got to stop.

We need to look always for the facts and not try to impose our uninformed emotional reactions on others via the law.  Guns might be “scary,” but that’s no reason to try to prevent law-abiding citizens from owning them.

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Freedom and Tragedy: The Story of Les Miserables

by Jason Stotts

Note: this essay primarily deals with the story of Les Miserables as portrayed in the musical (and consequently film) version, but draws from the book to fill in the gaps in the story.  If you have not seen the film or read the book, you should wait to read this essay until you have done so as it explains the entire plot and some of the subtler points.

Les Miserables is the story of the downtrodden of France in the days before the French Revolution.  It is the story of Jean Valjean, Fantine, Cosette, Marius, Enjolras, and the rest of the students.  It is a story of a people being ground to dust by a repressive and exploitative government who grants no rights to the people.  It is a story of a people who might dare to fight for the chance to be free.

The story opens to Jean Valjean who has been in prison 19 years, originally for 5 years for stealing a loaf of bread, the rest for trying to escape his unjust imprisonment (and to maintain their free labor).  Valjean had stolen the loaf of bread to feed his sister’s children, who were starving.  The people in that time were being taxed to death (literally) by a government run amuck and knowing no limits on its power.

The story of Les Mis cannot be understood without this backdrop: it is the story of a people being oppressed by their government.  It is the story of people trying to live under a government that treats them as property and not free men.  Secondarily, although Hugo definitely did not intend this, it is a story about how bad sexual ethics destroys lives.  Primarily, however, it is a story about government gone wrong.

After being freed, Valjean is given his prison papers that brand him a dangerous criminal and discharged.  He goes from town to town, but no one wants to help a dangerous criminal (recall, he only stole some bread to feed starving children).  He ends up sleeping near a church and is brought in by a kindly bishop who is the first person to treat him with kindness and humanity in nearly two decades.  Valjean decides to take advantage of this and steals the bishop’s silver in the night.  He escapes, but is caught and brought back by the gendarmes to stand before the bishop.  The bishop could have Valjean executed for crimes against the Church or at least minimally thrown back into prison until he dies.  The bishop, however, takes mercy on Valjean and corroborates his story, setting him free and even giving him two additional pieces of silver, his candlesticks.  The bishop encourages him to think about his life and the kind of man he wants to be.  Valjean has an inner crisis about what kind of man he has become and chooses to be a man and leave behind his hate-filled and misanthropic past.

Valjean tears up with prison papers and leaves into the night.  His story jumps several years and Valjean has become the mayor of a small town.  He is widely known for being a caring and just mayor who has brought order and prosperity to the town.  How did he become mayor of a small town?  He became a capitalist.  He developed a new locking mechanism for bracelets and opens a factory to produce it.  He ends up being very successful and his business rejuvenates the town.  Overjoyed at having jobs, money, and food, the people make him mayor.  Valjean, the capitalist, creates the prosperity that the government had destroyed.  The businessman brings food and jobs to a region where the heavy governmental taxation had decimated the people and people were starving in the streets.

Entre Fantine.  Fantine is a young woman who fell in love with a man.  After having a romantic summer full of sex, the young man deserts her.  She gets pregnant and has to flee the town to have the child (think The Scarlet Letter).  After having the child, she sees a sweet child swinging in front of an inn being doted on by another young mother: Mme. Thenardier.  She makes a bargain with the Thenardiers to care for her daughter, Cosette, and to raise her.  In return, Fantine would travel to the town with the prosperous factory and work there, sending money back to the Thenardiers for raising Cosette.  This goes well enough at first, but the Thenardiers are actually criminals and do not care about the value of human life.  They start fabricating stories that Cosette is sick and that they need more money.  Fantine, the diligent mother, works as hard as she can to raise the money to save her daughter.  Unfortunately, the other women who work in the factory find out that Fantine has a child out of wedlock and, being the good christians that they are, attack Fantine for not living according to their rules and get her fired from the factory.

Fantine tries to find other work, but cannot. Fantine would do anything to save her daughter and sells all of her possessions, including her furniture and heirlooms, then must turn to less savory means including selling her hair, her teeth, and even turning to prostitution.  She is assaulted by a noble (a person granted special authority by the government to own certain parts of the country and the people who live there) and is blamed for the assault: since, of course, sex workers aren’t real people. She would have been thrown in prison by Police Inspector Javert, if not for the intervention of Valjean (recall he is the Mayor) ordering Javert not to do so, when he realizes that she is not a villain and that she is working to save her child.  Realizing that she is also very sick, he takes her to be treated for her illness.  She at first resists, blaming him for being kicked out and forced to turn to prostitution, but when she realizes that he did not know and genuinely wants to help, she implores him to save her child.  He vows to do so.

In the meantime, Javert, the police inspector who used to work at the prison at which Valjean was housed thinks that he recognizes Valjean and writes to the authorities in Paris.  They say that it cannot be him, since they have that person in custody in a nearby town awaiting trial.  Javert goes to Valjean and tells him of his breach of duty and asks to be punished for violating his duty (as Mayor, he would report to Valjean).  Valjean tells him that he has done no wrong and dismisses him.  Unfortunately, he now must choose between letting an innocent man return to life in prison for breaking parole or let his city fall back to ruin.  He chooses to free the man and travels to the town, clearing him of guilt.  Stunned that the well-known Mayor could actually be a criminal, no one in the court moves to stop him and he returns to his town to check on Fantine and to seek out her daughter as he has vowed. Javert discovers that he was right and moves quickly to arrest Valjean.  He goes to where Fantine is being treated and bursts in to make his arrest.  Fantine thinks he has come back for her and she dies of fright (she is already deathly ill and close to death).  Valjean overpowers him and escapes to find Cosette.

(As an interesting aside, in this time period in France, the Mayor would have worn ornate chains of office and these are the chains that Javert refers to in his song when he says “M. le Mayor you’ll wear a different chain.” Since he would soon lose his office and be returned to shackles.)

Valjean takes the profits that he has earned as a businessman and savior of the people and takes Cosette from the Thenardiers, who have abused and neglected her.  They then head together to Paris and ends up at a convent, where he enrolls Cosette and takes up a position as a gardener in order to remain out of the eyes of the law.  Recall that the Church and State have long been enemies in their desire to control the people and so they were in this time period too: the police could not enter sacred ground without cause lest they cause civil war between the church and state.  Many years pass (Cosette is around 8 when she is taken from the Thenardiers and around 16 when she meets Marius) and things are going well until she meets Marius.

Marius is a young aristocrat who is studying law.  He is one of the leaders of the student rebellion, being disaffected with the aristocracy and walking out on his uncle who spurns him for not taking his place of duty.  He moves to a boarding house, where he meets Eponine, daughter of the Thenardiers, and befriends her.  She falls in love with him, but he is indifferent to him (this plays out very differently in the book and play).  Marius does his part to help lead the underground student rebellion against their oppressive government, until he sees Cosette and falls in love with her “at first sight.”  He has Eponine find out where she lives and goes to see her.  Unfortunately, Thenardier has recognized Valjean and later that night goes to get his “rightful” share of his money (rob him), but he finds Eponine still outside his gate.  She saves him by calling out, even though she risks herself to do so.

Valjean thinks that Javert has finally found him and takes flight.  Cosette barely has time to send a note to Marius, who despairs that he has lost her.  Unfortunately General Lamarque, who is the only advocate for the people in the government, dies and the students decide to use his death as the rallying point for their cause.  They take over his funeral procession and erect barricades to fight the government, who is sent in to kill them all, to maintain “order.”  Marius sends a note to Cosette via the young Gavroche.  Valjean intercepts the letter and is moved to protect Cosette once again by going to the barricade to protect Marius.

Javert also goes to the barricade as a spy, but is recognized by Gavroche, who is the urchin son of Thenardier.  Valjean, having shown himself to be true to the cause by helping repel a wave of the army, volunteers to take care of the spy.  Javert, believing that Valjean is evil and that people can never change, thinks that he will be killed, but Valjean frees him and sends him away.  He returns to the barricade, which is soon beset by the army.  They are overwhelmed and underarmed.  They start to run out of powder and Gavroche sneaks out past the barricade to get the powder from the fallen soldiers (this is before bullets, in the days of powder and balls).  He is killed, but dies fighting for his freedoms against the oppressive government.  In the next wave Marius is wounded and Valjean escapes with him into the sewer as the barricade is overrun and the students, including their leader Enjorlas, are cornered in the bar and killed.

Valjean manages to escape with Marius through the sewers.  In the process, Javert sees them and is forced to make a choice: to violate his duty and let Valjean go or to uphold his duty and send a man he now knows to be a good man to rot in prison for the rest of his life.  Javert is thrown into crisis, never before had he considered that to do his duty may not be morally right and discovering that morality is something apart from duty is too much for Javert.  He lets Valjean go, but confronted by the doubts he has now about his duty and the way he has lived his life, he commits suicide.

Valjean successfully saves Marius, but uses up his strength in the process.  He doesn’t tell anyone who saved Marius, leaving him at his uncle’s to be found and treated.  Marius and Cosette are reunited and their relationship blossoms.

Valjean now is greatly weakened and he knows that his time is running out. He confides his past to Marius and leaves, so as not to taint Cosette’s future with Marius.  He secretly goes back to the convent where he has spent so many years, knowing his death is imminent.

At their wedding, the Thenardiers crash and attempt to extort money from Marius, who has reconciled with his uncle and resumed his place in the aristocracy.  Marius finds his ring with his family crest on Thenardier and finds out that it was Valjean who has saved his life.  He forces Thenardier to tell him where he has gone, then kicks him out, before he and Cosette rush to find Valjean.

Unfortunately, Valjean is dying.  He has, however, written Cosette a letter explaining her past.  They thank him for all that he has done and attempt to comfort him.  His final visions are of Fantine and the Bishop as he dies.

Les Miserables is one of my favorite stories, whether the book, the play, or the movie.  It is the story of a heroic man who acts as well as he can under an oppressive government.  It is the story of a kind man who takes it upon himself to raise a young child as a kindness to a dying woman.  It is the story of young love.  It is the story of a downtrodden people who are suffering at the hands of their government and church.

It is, above all, a story of a people who long for freedom and the tragedy of life in an oppressive government.

Looked at this way, Les Miserables is a testament to the importance of philosophy, to the importance of having a rational philosophy such as Objectivism.  Ideas move the world.  Good ideas lead to freedom and prosperity.  Bad ideas lead to oppression and death.  Although I’ve already spelled this out somewhat in the laying out of the story itself, let us look closely at several aspects.

Jean Valjean is a capitalist hero.  Through his ingenuity he creates an invention that improves people’s lives and that they want.  They voluntarily buy his goods and he creates a factory that employs people and brings wealth to the area.  People get jobs and money, they are able to buy the things they need and are saved from their destitution.  He becomes known far and wide for saving the town.

Throughout Les Miserables, the enemy at every turn is the government.  It is an unjust government that taxes its people to death and creates an environment where human life is not possible.  Javert, as a representative of the government, is the perfect exemplar of duty.  He will do his duty without a thought to right or wrong.  Morality can’t coexist with duty: an unchosen obligation (duty) is the opposite of free choice taken for one’s own ends (morality).

A second-level enemy of human life in the story is the church and christian morality, which has permeated the culture.  Recall that the reason that Fantine must flee her hometown is so as not to be ostracized or attacked for having sex outside of a marriage sanctioned by the christian god.  Christianity is evil.  All religion is evil to the extent to which is encourages irrational thought and divorces one’s mind from reality (which is the essence of religion).  This is not to say that there is no value to religion, but such value as it has is incidental to its real nature, which is irrationality and control.

I find the fact that in the musical and movie that the Thenardiers are comical to be offensive.  They are thieves and murders.  They are directly responsible for Fantine’s death.  They are evil and to laugh at evil as comedy is immoral.  To deride evil and cut it down with laughter is an entirely different matter and is perfectly moral.  But, to look at pure evil and find it comical is offensive to all people of reason.

Lastly, throughout Les Miserables, I kept thinking: Freedom, how easily people give it up and take it for granted.  What our ancestors gave their lives for, we take for granted.  We take this great gift that was given to us through the blood of good and noble men and we take it for granted.  We can have freedom or free things; we cannot have both.  Of course, there will be problems in freedom since there are evil people, but how much better to have a chance at life than none at all.  It struck me that Les Mis was beyond relevant to our current firearms debate.  Especially in the scenes of the student rebellion, I can’t help but to think of the rifle as the symbol of a free country.  The rifle to these students was a way to fight back against the power of the government, it was their chance at life, it was their one shot.  The firearm was, and is, a symbol that a man’s life is his by right and that good men will fight to the death to protect their lives and the lives of those they love. Our firearms, our rifles, are our freedom.  If we give up one, we give up the other.  Moral men, good men, must always maintain the ability and will to fight to the death to preserve their rights and freedoms and if the day should ever get so dark that human life becomes impossible, good men must be willing and able to strike back and fight to restore the necessary conditions of human life.

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The Forgotten Victims of Gun Control

by Jason Stotts

Doesn’t it seem like the Republicans and Democrats have been awkwardly pro-rape lately?

A couple of days ago a bunch of satirical posters appeared on Facebook purporting to be from the “Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence,” a principally democratic group that seeks to outlaw guns and remove them completely from American life.  However, it seems to me that they’re taking a page from the Rape Caucus (you know, the Christian-Theocratic Party, or do they still call themselves Republicans?), and are now going after women.  I think this poster sums up the problem most clearly:

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While obviously the Brady Campaign would never come out so clearly against women, this is what their position amounts to: the use of deadly force is always immoral and a woman should prefer to be raped than to kill her attacker with a gun.  This is monstrous and pure evil.  To shoot someone in self-defense is so completely morally different than to rob or rape someone at gunpoint (initiate force) that the two cannot be said to even be in the same category.  Only an idiot would lump these two things together because “they both involve guns.”  This is true, but misleadingly true, obscuringly true, and even trivially true.  To package-deal these two things is to destroy any meaning to morality and to give equal moral claim to the woman who doesn’t want to be raped and the man who wants to rape her.  It is so vicious that it is hard to remain calm when I write this.

If we outlaw guns and prevent their concealed carry, then violent rapes will go up.  Criminals are, by definition, people who violate the laws.  Why does anyone think they’ll comply with laws against owning guns and carrying them?  If legislating against a thing would really reduce it, then we should make rape illegal, we should make robbery illegal, etc.  The euphemistic way that people talk about passing laws that “address gun violence” by banning guns is disingenuous, since “gun violence” is already illegal.

I personally think that the best way to reduce rape is for all women to learn how to use firearms and to carry them at all times.  Imagine the difference in the likelihood of rape if a large percentage of women carried guns.  I bet it would go down, one way or another (violent rape is often perpetrated by repeat offenders and if they’re getting shot…).

Even if the intention of people who are against guns is to prevent people getting killed by guns, it is simply a fact of reality that removing guns from the hands of good people is only an advantage to criminals and women are going to be disproportionately victimized.  Thus, making it harder for women to get guns and to carry them will increase rape.  Contra Kant, in reality good intentions don’t amount to much.

I am also against the government trying to restrict access to  “assault rifles,” which is a misnomer to begin with.  If an “assault rifle” is a military weapon that allows for fully automatic fire, then these rifles are already illegal to own without all sorts of governmental permits.  The rifles that are sold to civilians, like the AR-15 rifles, are only superficially similar to the military M-16 and are actually no different from hunting rifles.  The thing is that these rifles may be necessary for a person defend themselves against larger groups.  For example, in the LA riots homeowners and store owners were forced to defend their lives and properties from roving bands of violent criminals and a rifle is much better suited to this than is a handgun.

None of this is to say that I think people should have unrestricted access to any kind of weapon they might want, like hybrid viruses designed to be weapons, nuclear bombs, or aircraft carriers.  I think that there is a real question about the limit of what kinds of weapons a person should be permitted to own in society, but legislating against safe and conscientious gun owners based on the isolated actions of a small number of people who are psychopathic is a moronic way to legislate.  In fact, the US has one of the lowest violent crime rates and fares much better against countries that have banned guns like England and Australia.  Moreover, when we increase access to guns and make it easier for people to carry concealed, we see crime go down.  This is a point of fact and has been shown to be true in lots of cases.  Additionally, cities with highly restrictive gun laws have higher violent crime rates compared to cities without (for example: Chicago to Houston) and this is a matter of fact.

If we really want to reduce the incidence of guns used in the commission of violent crimes, then I think we need to make it easier for good people to own and carry guns. I think we need to be harsher on criminals who violate the rights of others (I don’t think drugs should be illegal in the first place and the idea of a “victimless crime” is nonsense).  I think we should provide a way to get counseling for people who are showing psychopathic tendencies early in life and make access to information about these tendencies easier for parents to find and utilize.  I also think we need to abolish the idea of “gun-free zones” (except in perhaps very limited circumstances), since criminals love places full of disarmed victims.

More broadly, I am against the growing movement of people who would trade freedom for “security.”  I think that we need to stand for individual rights on principle and without exception, for example: the right to speech unrestricted by the government, the right to travel unrestricted by the government, the right to control our bodies (abortion, contraception, drugs, etc.) unrestricted by the government, and so many other individual rights.  If we start trying to carve out exceptions, like it is okay to tax some to give it to others, we establish the principle that no one actually has rights. Once we’ve given ourselves up as children to the State, it is right that the government then seeks to control our actions as a parent should to its children.  If we want to live free, then we must live as adults and be responsible for our actions.  We also must carefully guard our rights as the necessary conditions to our happiness.

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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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Range Report

by Jason Stotts

I haven’t talked much about guns here on Erosophia before, but in the last couple of years, I’ve really taken an interest in them.  I’ll probably write about why at some point in the future, but for now here is my report from our most recent visit to the range.

My friend Earl and I went shooting at the LA Gun Club over the weekend in downtown LA.

We brought a couple of our own guns including a Colt Gold Cup, a Dan Wesson CBOB, Smith and Wesson .38, and Ruger 22/45.  For fun, we also rented several 9mm’s, including  a Walther P99, CZ-75b, HK USP, and a Glock 19.  It was quite the arsenal!

We shot over 100 rounds of 9mm, lots of .45, and a good deal of .22.

This is my first target, at 25 ft.  The upper orange group is the CZ-75b.  The lower orange group is the Glock 19, which I shot better than I expected.  The fliers are from those two guns too (getting used to them) and from the HK USP 9, which I did not shoot well at all.

This is my second target.  The scattered orange is the Walther p99, which seemed accurate enough (I got all orange with it), but the trigger was what I can describe as only “mushy” and I couldn’t tell when it was about to fire.  The lower impacts are my CBOB, which I’m sure is very accurate, but I can’t shoot it that well.  I flinch more when I shoot the .45 and always end up shooting low, unless I really overcompensate and aim really high.

This is my third, and last, target.  The top group is the CZ-75b again.  The group around the 9 is my CBOB again (I get better with the .45 as I warm up.  The middle group is the Glock 19 again.  The random really small holes are the Ruger 22/45 (on this and the above target).

All in all, I’d say that I really liked the CZ and Glock the best and I think I’m going to look into selling my .45’s and going to 9mm, which I’m much more accurate with.  It’s not like I wouldn’t have hit the person with the .45, but I feel like putting the bullets where you want them is probably better than simply getting impacts.

All in all, we had an excellent time.

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“I was Anti-Gun, until I got Stalked”

by Jason Stotts

Here’s an interesting article from Salon.com about a woman who was against guns, until she was stalked and had to start carrying a gun in order to protect her life.

I told [my boyfriend] a firearm in the house made me nauseous [sic.], that I feared the weapon would be turned on one of us, that there’d be an accident. I told him I believe in compassion and peace. I told him the very idea of a gun was a compromise of my principles.

[My boyfriend] sighed. “Which would you prefer, compromising your principles or getting abducted by Crazy Man?”

That’s when the old Theodore Roosevelt adage popped into my head — “Speak softly and carry a big stick” — and I finally got it. I can still be the compassionate, diplomatic, interfaith groovy gal I’ve always been; I’ll just be packing heat in case negotiations tank.

I find it interesting how many people are quick to say: guns aren’t necessary (for others), but I actually need protection.  For example, judges, prosecutors, politicians, etc, all are able to legally carry weapons, but in many states a regular citizen cannot. (Does the 14th amendment come to mind for anyone else?)

But even just the average liberal (and don’t take this to mean that I’m a Republican) is quick to say that guns are unnecessary and they they kill more innocent people than evil ones.  The facts (2009 FBI Crime Statistics), however, show that when gun ownership increases, violent crime decreases. Furthermore, liberals argue that guns in the home lead to accidental deaths, especially those of children.  Again, though, reality asserts itself.  As we can see from the 2010 Statistical Abstract of the US Census Buereau in 2005 only 789 people in the US died of an accidental discharge of a firearm, in 2006 it was only 642.  Compare that to some of the other things I left in the graphic, like deaths due to cars (45,343/45,316), drowning (3,582/3,579), the flu (1,812/849), tuberculosis(!) (648/652), or complications from professional medical care (2,653/2,521).  Think about that, a medical professional is 3.61 more likely to accidentally kill you than you are to die from an accidental discharge of a firearm.

I think it’s time that we come to realize that while guns can be dangerous, what keeps you safe if not avoiding them, but knowing how to safely use them.  Furthermore, I think the whole debate over whether firearms are killing children in droves should just be over, reality says that it’s just not the case.  A gun in the home is much more likely to keep you safe than it is to harm someone you don’t intend it to and a gun kept safely is nearly no danger at all.

Guns are tools, just like any other.  Sure, we need to be safe with them because they can kill, but sometimes killing is not only necessary, but morally obligatory.  If your life were in danger, wouldn’t you wish you had a gun?  If your family’s life is in danger, wouldn’t you wish you had a gun?  The fact is that guns can keep us safe from those that would wish us harm and for those of us who value life, this is something that we desire.

(Colt 1911)

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