Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ammo for the Debate on Violence

Okay, I'm having a discussion online and have run into the anti-gun crowd, as often happens. I want to lay out a line of debate here, bear with me.

Let's divide the room into two groups: If you cannot conceive of yourself ever using deadly violence against another human being for any reason, even in defense of your life or that of your family, go stand over there by the door.

If you would would be willing to take out somebody offering dire threat to yourself or loved ones, then step over there, by the bleachers.

Good. Those of you by the door? Use it. Even Gandhi allowed there were times when he'd choose violence over the alternative, and it's obvious that if you wouldn't step up to knock somebody down threatening your child, we are done talking about this. I have nothing more to say to you. 

Now, those of you who would do what it takes to do the job, let's subdivide you into two groups: A) Those who would use whichever tool came to hand–rock, stick, knife, gun, SCUD missile–to stop the bad guys,  and B) those who have scruples that won't allow them to use a gun.

Okay, those you who chose option A, have a seat there in the bleachers, you can stay and watch.

The rest of you who wouldn't use a gun, why not?

There's an old joke. Guy talking to a good-looking woman. He says, "Would you sleep with me for ten million dollars?"


"Great. Would you sleep with me for a hundred bucks?"

"No! What you think I am!?"

"We've already determined what you are; now, we're just haggling over price."

If you are willing to kill somebody if the necessity arises, we've already determined what you are–and I'm right there with you–so now we're just haggling over the means. 

Using the right tool for a job is a basic rule of efficient function. I mean, a guy with a gun is pounding on your door and about to kick it in, and his intent certainly seems potentially deadly to you and your family. Would reach for, say, a whisk? Maybe the newspaper? Or would you rather have a gun?

I know about martial arts. Empty-hands don't work real well against knives and guns. If they did, our armies would be marching bare-handed, and they've never done that; even the great apes will pick up a stick and whack something with it. 

Call 911? Sure, but unless they have The Enterprise's transporters, they might not get there for a while. What to do until the Law comes?

There are a lot of reasons for not keeping a gun on hand, and I understand some of them. But what I don't understand is people who narrow down their choices so they don't really have any viable ones in such a situation. If somebody else has a rock, I want one. If they have a gun, I want to be able to shoot back. It's the option, you see. If you don't want it, that's fine, but why should I go there if I think it's not a good choice? I've owned guns for more than fifty years, never shot anybody, and with any luck, never will. But whatever else you might say about the NRA–an organization that certainly does have some blind spots–the slogan that "It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it." makes sense to me. 

So, if you are willing to use deadly violence in justifiable defense of your life and loved ones, maybe even the next door neighbor fighting off a rapist, then why would you handicap yourself as to the legal tools available to you?


Steve Perry said...

I took my argument back to the discussion, for all the good it did me ...

Geez, sometimes it's just mind-boggling.

I realize I am opinionated and sometimes abrasive when I express it, I cop to that. That polarizes people. (If you believe in something and you aren't willing to defend it? It's not much of a belief, is it?)

But cranky as I can be, I try to offer a reasoned debate. You might not agree with my stand, but I came by it honestly and I'll try to explain the whys and wheretofores as best I can. Language being what it is, I often fall short, but "Because I said so" isn't my default position.

Now and then, I realize the person to whom I am speaking is let us be euphemistic here -- intellectually-challenged. They parrot something they heard without understanding it; they offer what Stephen Colbert calls "truthiness." As Gertrude Stein was reputed to have said about Oakland, "there's no there there …"

When that happens, I realize I might as well be talking to the cat. Nothing I can say is going to sway these folks. They've made up their minds, shut the door, and that's that. Anything I say gets me pigeon-holed as a racist, sexist, jackbooted stormtrooper, and they aren't listening to it, fingers-in-their-ears.

So when I get to that realization, I'm done. What they say doesn't matter, because chances of them finding an acorn drop from "blind pig," to "blind, deaf, senseless, actively-stupid pig."

A stopped clock might be right twice a day, but I don't want to have it sitting on the bedside table if I need the alarm to get up. So it's AMF and have a nice life ...

Tony Muhlenkamp said...

I can sure relate. I commented once on some guys blog that it was a good thing we didn't count on insurance companies being altruistic; and it led rapidly to me and my ideas being dismissed because I wasn't poor, black, or sick.

It was a shame too, because I agree with this guy on some issues and learn from him on the ones where we disagree. It was kind of discouraging.

FWIW, I agree with you completely on this topic (and I've heard the haggling story comes from Winston Churchill and Lady Astor, but that's apocryphal.)

Anonymous said...

For me, it's a question of skill and money and the probability of a problem. Then again, I don't have as much to protect so I've been lax about it. And I long ago stopped dealing with the inflexible. I just note who they are so they don't get on the ark when it starts raining.

On an overkill note: have you seen the double barreled handgun?

Steve Perry said...

.45 auto double looks cool, but watermelon-sized groups at twenty five yards? Maybe not.

Jim said...

See Rory's blog today...

You're challenging something deeper than reason. Push these folks who won't use guns, and you'll almost certainly find out that they've so narrowly restricted when they'd use significant force, let alone lethal, that they might as well say they won't. "If they're really seriously about to kill me or my family, and there's no way out, and I really, really think they mean it, and there's no other choice, I suppose I'll use my deadly martial arts skills to handle business... but, really, can't we usually avoid the whole situation by staying out of bad places, and calling the cops..."

That said -- there are legitimate reasons not to have a gun around. First -- you just plain may not like guns. No problem; you're business. Just realize that, when it comes to handling violence, you've shortchanged yourself.

You may not be able to legally own a gun. Went along on a domestic rap, or got a psych diagnosis, or even made a felony stupid mistake as a youngster. Oops; can't have a gun.

You may feel that the risks of having a gun around outweigh the benefits, like if you've got a houseful of kids, including some special needs types and you just plain don't trust any combination of safes, locks, and separating guns & ammo.

You may have the misfortune to reside in DC or NY or some other place that makes owning and carrying a gun legally extraordinarily difficult. Or just be too broke...

Note, none of these are philosophical. I presume anyone in those categories, if visited by the ghosts of Smith & Wesson, and given a gun in the moment of need, would use it.

Travis said...

Can't find the exact quote but Chris Rock once said something along the lines of "Everbody hates guns but whent he shit goes down you're going to call somebody who's got one"

William Adams said...

Well, there's the classic:

``The belief in gun control is the belief that the woman found beaten, tied-up w/ her panty-hose, raped and strangled in an alley is somehow morally superior to the woman who has to explain to a police officer how her would-be attacker got that fatal hole in his anatomy.''

steve-vh said...

used to ask the college students in our MA classes if they had examined morally if they could kill/hurt someone (cause when the time comes, there's not time to have the mental debate). those that said no? OK fine, we respect that. OK, right NOW, an excaped convict is raping your mother/sister? "oh that bastard's dead". Ah, so you could.......
1 in 10 did actually say, "no I don't think I could"

Joe said...

I live in Wisconsin where deer hunting is almost as popular as breathing. I have a good bow, and a couple of good hunting rifles. Handguns are used for target shooting, I haven't gone and applied for my concealed carry license yet and I don't intend to take a Glock with me to church on Sunday.

I think I have a reasonable attitude towards guns. I have very little patience with the total anti-gun nuts, or with my cousin who feels the need to bring a 9mm Browning to my backyard BBQ. I support a persons right to defend their home and family, I just question whether anyone really needs an AK-47 to do it.

Reasonable comments and criticism welcome.

William Adams said...

You need the AK-47 (I'd prefer a Thompson) to deal w/ the gang of thugs which shows up:

Maybe he'd still be alive (certainly would have taken more bad guys w/ him) if he hadn't been handicapped by only having the bolt-action rifles which were all the law allowed him ``for hunting purposes''.

Kris said...

You lost me. Is it that some people don't mind killing in defense, as long as it's not with a gun, or is it that using a gun, in their mind, gives them less control over the exact degree of violence that they dispense (say, over a rock to the head)? I don't believe I've ever met that middle type, who wouldn't choose either the bleachers or the door. Perhaps they're just uncommitted.

Dave Huss said...

I am from Texas. We really don't debate that issue here. Everyone is also reasonably polite to one another. I understand the issue in Ny. and Il. but I wouldn't live there. I also understand poor also, but you still can aquire a firearm and defend yourself if you really decide to. Look up Isiah Thomas' biography and learn from his mother. Mostly what you are dealing with is hypocracy and lazyness. Just like there are no athiests in a foxhole, there are no unarmed athiests there either.

SM said...

The only trouble is, the easier you make it for the average citizen to carry a gun, the easier it is for the average citizen to carry a gun- and average people have accidents, get into arguments, feel suicidal, and commit crimes. (And things which reduce the rate of firearms suicides, impulsive violence, and accidents tend to interfere with using firearms for self defense). Trying to unpick the costs and benefits gets very complicated, especially in the US where so many crazy people are interested in the issue.

Then on the individual level, guns cost time and money (both to start out then keep in training), and are only helpful in certain rare situations. I think your friend Miller is right that more people have avoided a broken neck because they learned judo breakfalls, than have avoided a broken nose because they learned judo throws. Handgun-loving folks in the US fantasize about being attacked by an anonymous rapist or mugger, but that is only one kind of violence.

There are lots of skills and equipment which would benefit most people, but most people don’t have. Often, the gaps reflect class and custom as much as practicality. (In Canada, attitudes to firearms reflect an urban/rural divide more than a right/left one).

Dave Huss said...

Man, so much of what you are saying is utter bullshit. First off, the easier you make it? Listen up! It is already a barn door that is WIDE OPEN! There is NO GOING BACK. Banning does not work, and you just go ahead and voluntarily decide to be a victim. Also, I have been a soldier and a police officer and I am so tired of self righteous ASSHOLES who have never had to put their body between vicious animals and the rest of society, telling me that I carry a firearm so that I can jack it off in someones face. Until you have, your opinion means shit.

Steve Perry said...

Kris --

Truth is, I have bumped into martial artists for years who don't own guns, won't, and that's because they think their unarmed skills are sufficient. They don't need no steenkin' guns.

There are MAs who are whizzes with a blade and they don't care for boomware, either, but at least a knife is a viable option in some cases.

Don't bring a knife to a gunfight, or vice-versa gets said because it's good advice. If I have a gun out and you are farther away than a few feet, your knife doesn't worry me. If I have a knife and you are barehanded, I like my chances no matter who you are. Superior weapons matter.

SM --

As for ordinary joes being able to haul hardware around, I'm not against the idea in principle. If you take the time to learn how to use it, that's good, but there are a lot of crappy drivers who kill people with their cars, and nobody denies them the right to own wheels.

A skilled martial artist in these times benefits from know how to use edged weapons and firearms because they are effective tools in the chest.

Face it: Guns are the rocks of our times, that's just how it is, and if somebody can have one, I want the option. If they stopped making them tomorrow, it would take a thousand years for them to go away.

In the U.K., after they made handguns completely illegal? They still take a shitload of them off the street every year. Can't buy one, can't own one, the British Olympic pistol team has to go to France via the Chunnel to practice, but there are probably more handguns in the U.K. now than there were when they made them illegal.

People who want something bad enough will find a way to get it, legally or not. Unilateral disarmament isn't the option I want.

God made men; Sam Colt made them equal. Not true, but you can see why one guy against five, if the one is strapped, it changes the equation.

SM said...

Steve: While you can own a car without a license in many countries, driving it almost anywhere requires a license and a test, and you can have your vehicle temporarily or permanently confiscated if you abuse that privilege. I think my own country is too lax about letting bad drivers and drunk drivers keep owning and driving cars, although some regions are tightening up the rules.

English gun laws seem odd, but I will note that they have 5% the rate of firearms deaths that the US does. How much of that is due to all the other differences between England and the US, and how much firearms laws, I can’t say, but it does suggest that if guns are harder to get, less people will be shot.

I certainly agree that its a good idea for adults to know how to shoot ... but its also good to be fit, know first aid, be competent at math, understand the basic methods of salesmen and con artists, and have lots of other skills which most people lack.

Dave: All I will say is that its not a good idea to assume that people you meet on the internet are from your own country.

Steve Perry said...

SM --

If you live in Canada, as I guess from your post, you don't have the same choices offered in the U.S. Not saying you can't chime into the discussion, but it is somewhat more theoretical from where you sit.

Not arguing with your basic premises about fewer guns meaning fewer people get shot, but the logic starts one down a slippery slope. Few cars mean fewer people will get run over. Fewer Big Macs mean fewer people will croak of heart disease. Fewer people born will mean fewer will die …

I don't think that every mother's son should have the right to carry a bazooka around. Nor do I believe that a gun is a magic wand that will save you in each and every situation. The licensing part doesn't mean that folks who get one will, 100% of the time, be lawful with their six-shooters.

Numbers show that as a class, concealed weapons licensees are far less likely to use their weapons illegally than those who aren't certified. In the local state, I think there are something like two hundred thousand people who can legally go about strapped, and offhand, I can't recall anybody in that group being convicted of murder using a handgun, and only a relative handful that have been revoked for illegal activity.

Yes, a man with a gun is more dangerous than without it, but given the numbers of folks who can legally carry one -- and in the U.S., there are literally millions of them -- it is interesting that there haven't been any bloodbaths connected to these folks.

That's probably because criminals as a class don't get licenses. Felons and crazies aren't supposed to be able to do so.

No system is perfect, and it doesn't sound to me as if Zimmerman should have been given the right to pack a pistol; still, Florida has issued a couple million of these, with more than three quarters of a million of them currently valid, and again, the streets aren't running red.

I'm inclined to blame the hand that wields it rather than the tool.

Here's a pretty good wiki about this:

Anonymous said...

Here's my problem with carrying a lethal weapon.

What's the first rule of self defense?


Fighting is for when running and defending fails, and you need to resort to force to protect yourself. Granted, once that line is crossed, you can and should use whatever means are appropriate, including guns/lethal force.

But up to that point? Unless you have legislation like Florida (which may not stand up) then you have a duty to retreat and do the minimum possible damage. So going for a gun in a knife fight could get you in a lot of legal trouble.

What's more, if you have a weapon, your first inclination is to use it. So, instead of running for cover or running away, which are usually the most sensible things to do, you go for a weapon-- and likely, get killed or hurt when you could have been protecting yourself.

I've studied a handful of martial arts myself, and I've seen many martial artists fall for this. They instinctively go for their weapon, instead of blocking or running. I can't think of any schools that teach guns as another tool, like a punch or a kick. There's a time to punch, a time to kick, and a time to shoot. And unless you know which is which, you can easily make a mistake and get hurt.

I think people need to be taught progressive self defense. First learn to defend, then attack with hand to hand, then hand weapons, and finally firearms. This is just like how you need to learn to handle the brakes before you drive a car on the road-- or rather, you learn to drive a car before you learn to drive a big rig.


Steve Perry said...

Run away -- if you can. Sometimes, you can't. Then what?

Most martial arts I've played with use that model -- you start with your bare hands, and if the art teaches weapons (some don't), then you learn how to use them. In Okinawa-te, for instance, you went from unarmed to wood -- sticks, staves, nunchaku; then to steel -- sai, spear, sword. Didn't play with pocket knives, nor guns.

Silat is based on the blade. Early stuff is bare, but we move into the short knife pretty quickly, and longer blades aren't that far behind. Golok (machete), like that.

No traditional eastern martial arts I've been involved with dealt with guns, save for a few last-ditch disarms if one is shoved into your face.

There are various classes that teach gun-fu. I've taken some of them. I grew up being able to shoot, and doing so. Shotguns, rifles, pistols, mostly.

I'm not sure about the go-for-the-weapon first stuff. I know more than a few folks who have carried knives or guns for years who have gotten into altercations and never pulled a weapon.

If you refuse to carry a weapon because you are afraid you might use it, I can understand that. But if you need it and don't have it, that's a potentially deadly problem for you. I trust myself enough to want the option. I realize my skills are not so great that such a choice might not happen. Running is not always an option, either.

In these times, I think refusing to learn how to use a knife or gun handicaps you as a martial artist.

SM said...

Fair enough Steve. I've never spent the time to unpack the facts from the spin, but American concealed carry laws are one of the things that make me say that changing firearms laws often doesn't have the effects on firearms use that one might expect (either a rash of idiots shooting each other over parking spots, or American gun-rights-enthusiasts' dream of an armed truce with no more violent crime).

With running or fighting, it seems to me that you can always imagine a scenario where you would need to use more deadly kit and training, but it isn't necessarily a likely one. I still think that if most people in a rich country do a risk assessment, carrying a weapon isn't likely to be one of the first two or three things which would make them more secure.

Steve Perry said...

Here's the nub: Maybe carrying a gun doesn't make you any safer at all. Maybe taking vitamins only gives you expensive urine. Maybe buying fire insurance for your house is a waste of money. But should you have the right do do these things, as long as you aren't hurting anybody else?

If I go to the 7-Eleven for Skittles wearing my hoodie -- and yes, I have a couple of those, as do most people I know -- would I feel safer if somebody rolled up on me in the dark and started giving me grief?

I would. It gives me an option.

I want the option. I used to do private eye work, including some bodyguarding, and I've had licenses to carry concealed handguns on and off for thirty-odd years. Never had occasion to shoot anybody. Never had to pull a gun and wave it at anybody. Once, when somebody pulled one in my direction, I drove away really fast.

Don't see that I would go for a piece unless things got deadly serious. And if things do get deadly serious, maybe I'm n better off having that option, but that ought to be my choice.

Statistics are wonderful, but they don't mean much to the guy on the narrow side of them who winds up hurt or dead.

Joe said...

Mr. Perry,

Maybe a better question should be where to draw the line. Hand guns, rifles, shot guns - probably no arguments from most people. What about assault rifles like an AR-15 or AK-47? Or should even higher capability military hardware be made available to private citizens (I don't mean tactical nukes, but some cousins of mine would love a .50 cal gatlin gun for deer hunting.)


Steve Perry said...

Yeah, where to draw the line. I don't think military weapons have much use in civilian life, and anything past submachine guns and full-auto assault rifles, which are highly regulated, is farther than I want to go.

Civilians simply aren't going to have parity with the U.S. military, we're way past the musket days. Nor do I want my neighbor to have an anti-tank weapon, nor rockets capable of taking down an airliner upon which I might be riding. Anything bigger than .50 cal is pretty much forbidden without special licensing, and I don't have a problem with that.

Yes, the 2nd Amendment is not about duck hunting, but the notion that the neighborhood association is going to be able to slug it out toe-to-toe with the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and National Guard is insane. I am for reasonable regulation, and not anything goes.

And, long as I am here ...

Barring specific back-to-the-wall statutes which allow that you have to flee, there is not really any need for a Stand Your Ground Law, either. Self-defense laws already cover what is right and what isn't.