I’ve been asked by more than a few people to explain why I’m such a gun nut. There are actually three reasons: the enjoyment I derive from shooting; the role of guns in self-defense; and the issue of guns and civic responsibility. Let me take these in order.
It makes one something of an anomaly to admit a love of guns and of shooting, especially in these times of girly-men, of men afraid to admit they’re men, or of men who have become too “civilized” to contemplate violence. No one has ever explained it better than Jeff Cooper, in his fine book The Art of the Rifle: “There is an enchantment cast upon almost any man when he holds a rifle in his hands.” Cooper also points out that when a man holds a rifle, he becomes almost godlike: suddenly, he has the ability to deal death and injury to another over a considerable distance—to send, as it were, a thunderbolt of Zeus. For some men, unquestionably, this power is going to be abused, just as some men will always drive a fast car at reckless speeds. For the vast majority of men, however, this power produces precisely the opposite effect: they are humbled by the power they hold, and they become more responsible in its use. That is why, in a nation of well over seventy million gun owners, only a tiny fraction, less than half a tenth of one percent, use a gun to commit a crime each year.
I love shooting for many reasons. In the first place, holding a gun means that I am not helpless in the face of aggression coming from another. I also love the very act of shooting, for one simple reason: it is the ultimate form of self-control. If I pull the trigger, and the bullet doesn’t go where I wanted it to go, I, and I alone, am at fault. (It has been my experience that 99% of guns are more accurate than the shooters—and that is certainly true in my own case.) In other words, I have to practice self-control when I shoot: there is no point in losing my temper when I miss, no point in blaming the gun, bullet or sights. I simply have to take a deep breath (not too deep, because hyper-ventilating causes my hands to shake), and try again. It is a constant process of self-improvement, and to achieve a goal of perfection, or even near-perfection, brings me immeasurable satisfaction.
At the end of every shooting session at the range, I come back at peace with myself and with the world. The noise of shooting, the power I’ve unleashed (and which I’ve had to control), the calmness which I’ve had to achieve, all combine to bring me into a state of Zen-like stillness.
It’s something everyone should experience. I’ve taken many people shooting with me, a lot who have never shot before. Without exception, they’ve all come away as fans of the sport, and wanted to do it again.
There’s another thing that’s not just personal: and it’s a guy thing. Guns are almost perfect machines. When you take one apart, and see what I call its “simple complexity”, you are in awe as to what happens—cams move, sears disengage, springs coil back, metal moves along metal, all within tolerances of thousandths of an inch, and all within a couple millionths of a second. Then you reload, and do it all over again. I have a rifle in my collection which was made in about 1906, and it still works as advertised. Find me another machine that still works about as well as the day it was made over a hundred years ago, has detonated and contained a mini-explosive device many thousands of times, lasted through who knows what weather, endured rough handling and neglect, and traveled through at least two continents (it was made in Sweden, for the Army). Like I said, the love of so perfect a mechanism is a guy thing.
In any event, I make no excuses for my attachment to guns, nor do I care about the opprobrium or condescension of others. I have far more than one gun, for the same reason that other people own far more than one CD album, and more than one performer withal. I don’t need more than, say, two or three guns (actually, I once worked out that eight would be about my minimum), but gun ownership has little to do with need anyway. Except for self-protection, and I’m going to talk about that next.
With a gun, I can also defend my family and property from evildoers (or, as Cooper wonderfully calls them, goblins).
Men, especially men living in Western societies, have become something less than men over the past fifty years. We have become gentled, more civilized, more refined, and more, well, more like women. Unfortunately, however, fifty years of social conditioning cannot easily overcome tens of thousands of years of genetic conditioning, which is why little boys still prefer to have swordfights than host dolls’ tea-parties, and why men still get into fistfights. It is an instinct that will not be denied, much to the dismay of those who would attempt to suppress it or deny its existence. We are called “animals” or “troglodytes”, as though this streak of violence is something to be looked down upon or denigrated. But when push comes to shove, men will still defend themselves, out of instinct.
This defense of “self” extends to family. Every man I know would cheerfully put themselves in harm’s way to protect their children — it is the most basic male instinct, after sex. And of course this drives authority figures and the societal nannies crazy. “Leave that to the police,” they implore, “Don’t get involved.” Bullshit. Where I and my family are concerned, safety is first and foremost my own responsibility, and I will not abrogate that responsibility to others. A pox on those who would make me do otherwise.
Of course, if I could sue the police for not giving me complete protection, then I might feel differently (or not — don’t count on it). But the Supreme Court has repeatedly found that the State cannot be at fault for not protecting its citizens — so if the cops take 25 minutes to respond to your 911 call, and in those 25 minutes a goblin kicks open your door, shoots you and your wife, rapes your 11-year-old daughter, and beats your baby to death, that’s just tough luck.
Uh-huh. Thanks, but no thanks. From where I stand, if a goblin tries to assault me and mine, the proper role of the police is to take my statement, and because I don’t know the number, to call for the hearse to pick up the goblin’s corpse.
As with all things, there is a great deal of responsibility to be exercised in self-defense. I wouldn’t chase after the goblin down the street, shooting at his worthless ass, tempting though the action may be. Once he’s out of reach or off my property, then he becomes police business. They just have to follow the blood trail.
The very idea of abrogating one’s own personal protection to the State would have thrown the Founding Fathers into peals of laughter—it is a concept completely without historical foundation, and deserves no currency today, either. Defense of the people as a whole, however, is a different thing altogether, so let’s look at that now.
We’ve moved from the purely personal, to the family, and now we’ll look at the civic nature of gun ownership. Here’s the Second Amendment, my personal favorite:
“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary for the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
I’m not going to parse it word by word—or on second thoughts, maybe I should, given all the crap that liberal idiots have tried to throw over its intent. Let’s deal with the low-hanging fruit first.
The “militia” does not mean the frigging National Guard, which came into being over 150 years after the American Revolution. There are essentially two versions of the word militia: the way it was understood by the Founding Fathers and other original patriots, and the actual legal definition.
For the former, we only have to rely on the actual words of one of them (and the others agreed, as you will see):
“I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.”
That’s George Mason, speaking during Virginia’s ratification convention in 1788. He makes no mention of state governments, nor of standing armies (like the National Guard), which the Founding Fathers regarded with as much liking as for a snake in a bedroll.
The United States Code of Law narrows the definition somewhat, but not overly so:
“The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age…” — Title 10, Section 311 of the U.S. Code. (It has been subsequently amended to include women, but its essence is unchanged.)
Note that the U.S.C. doesn’t say “as maintained by state government” or any other nonsense — it’s an unequivocal statement of all able-bodied males.
Oh, and one more thing about that pesky first phrase: “regulated” does not mean “beset by rules and laws”: that’s the modern meaning. In 18th-century English, “regulated” meant “trained and equipped”, in other words: ready for action. Hell, we’ve even lost that because of the abolition of the military draft. Aaargh.
Now for the next phrase of note, the “security of a free State” one. Note that security of a free State does not just mean of the country as a whole — but by using that other pesky word “free”, the Founders made it plain that the whole concept of a free state is that which requires security. It doesn’t just mean a state free from Nazi tyranny, for example, but also a state inherently free, from its own government if necessary.
How do I know they meant that? Let’s roll the tape, Simon:
“If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is no recourse left but in the exertion of the original right of self-defense which is paramount to all forms of positive government.” — Alexander Hamilton.
Need another? Sure.
“No man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” — Thomas Jefferson.
And one last one:
“Arms in the hands of the citizens may be used at individual discretion for the defense of the country, the overthrow of tyranny or private self-defense.” — John Adams.
Those phrases make the blood of government lackeys run cold — or rather, they should.
Now for the penultimate phrase in the Second Amendment: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms”. Not just “the people who can afford to buy a gun license”, or “only the police” or “only Mayor Daley’s bodyguards” — it says, “the people” without qualification. Can’t be much plainer than that, really…
…except perhaps for the last phrase: “shall not be infringed.” Note carefully that the Second does not say, “Congress shall not” or “government shall not” or “Mayor Daley shall not”. The use of the passive voice is quite intentional: it is a clear, universal statement that the right to keep and bear arms cannot be circumscribed, by anyone or by any institution.
It is, of course, no coincidence that the right to have guns is one of the earlier freedoms outlined in the Bill of Rights. Without guns in the hands of the people, all the other freedoms are easily negated by the State. If you disagree with that statement, ask yourself if the Nazis could have gassed millions of Jews, had the Jews been armed with rifles and pistols — there weren’t enough SS troops to do the job. Lest we forget, in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, a couple of hundred Jews armed with rifles and homemade explosive devices held off two fully-equipped German divisions (actually about 8,000 men) for nearly two months.
Using the Germans during the First World War as another example, the thing that caused German officers and their troops most concern was the appearance of francs-tireurs: individual citizens who, from their homes and villages, shot at and killed German officers and soldiers as the Fourth Army made its way through Belgium. The Germans considered this form of fighting to be completely at odds with the rules of warfare, and began to slaughter civilian hostages as reprisals.
Why was the mighty Fourth Army (of some six million men) so afraid of a few irregular snipers? Because they knew that they could never defend against a million pinpricks — their morale would suffer, and they’d spend all their time policing the Belgian countryside, instead of invading France and fighting the French Army.
I take my civic responsibility very seriously. I am the epitome of the franc-tireur: a man who would defend his country from invasion, who can use a gun, and who would not hesitate to risk his life in its use. I suspect that, if the chips were down, there may be another seven-odd million men like myself in the United States.
This country will never be conquered militarily — and it has nothing to do with our Armed Forces, because they are just the first line of defense. The rest, the militia, are more than a match for any army, at any time — as long as we still have our guns.
And one last word on the subject: the next politician who assures me that he’s not going to go after my hunting rifle with his latest “reasonable” gun law, is going to get a punch right in the face. The Second Amendment isn’t about hunting, buddy. Don’t insult me by thinking I’ll swallow that lie.
Perhaps the best statement I’ve heard about “government vs. citizens” with regard to the gun issue came from a politician, Rep. Suzanna Gratia Hupp of Texas, who said:
“How a politician stands on the Second Amendment tells you how he or she views you as an individual… as a trustworthy and productive citizen, or as part of an unruly crowd that needs to be lorded over, controlled, supervised, and taken care of.”
Finally, I’m going to shut up and roll the credits, quotes of people who have said it, all far more eloquently than I, and who can explain the original intent of the Second, because they wrote it: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison all understood the importance of private gun ownership in a free society.
“And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms… The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” (in a letter to William S. Smith in 1787. Taken from Jefferson, On Democracy p. 20, S. Padover ed., 1939)
“If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is no recourse left but in the exertion of the original right of self-defense which is paramount to all forms of positive government.”
…and Hamilton again:
“The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.”
Madison (in Federalist No. 46, predicting that encroachments by the federal government) said that these would provoke “plans of resistance” and an “appeal to the trial of force.” Madison also said (still in Fed. No. 46):
”[T]he advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”
And Thomas Paine:
“The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other hand, arms, like laws, discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside… Horrid mischief would ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them…” — Thoughts on Defensive War in 1775
While Tench Coxe said:
“Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American… The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state government, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.” — (Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788)
While we’re about it, let’s also quote again another of the great men, Patrick Henry, commenting on the Second Amendment in 1788:
“Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined… The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have a gun.”
And another from Mr. Henry:
“Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in possession and under our direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?” — (3 J. Elliot, Debates in the Several State Conventions 45, 2d ed. Philadelphia, 1836)
Even the British used to have the right idea (they don’t nowadays):
“No kingdom can be secured otherwise than by arming the people. The possession of arms is the distinction between a freeman and a slave. He, who has nothing, and who himself belongs to another, must be defended by him, whose property he is, and needs no arms. But he, who thinks he is his own master, and has what he can call his own, ought to have arms to defend himself, and what he possesses; else he lives precariously, and at discretion.” — James Burgh (Political Disquisitions: Or, an Enquiry into Public Errors, Defects, and Abuses) [London, 1774-1775]
Some more modern quotes:
“The right of citizens to bear arms is just one guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against the tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible.” — Senator Hubert H. Humphrey (D-MN)
From George Orwell, the author of Animal Farm and 1984, himself once a socialist:
“That rifle on the wall of the labourer’s cottage or working class flat is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.”
From another Brit (an expat):
“The certainty that a potential victim is unarmed is an encouragement to armed criminals. Less guns, more crime.” and, ”…it is interesting to note that of the 150 or so law enforcement officers killed every year in the U.S., one in four is shot with his own weapon. The moral of that is: If you are defending yourself with a gun against someone bigger than yourself, be much less scrupulous about shooting him than police officers have to be.” — John Derbyshire
From the foremost practitioner of passive resistance and non-violence:
“Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest.” — Mahatma Gandhi (Autobiography, by M.K. Gandhi, p.446)
And from the world’s gentlest human being:
“If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.” — The Dalai Lama (May 15, 2001, The Seattle Times), speaking at the “Educating Heart Summit” in Portland, Oregon, when asked by a girl how to react when a shooter takes aim at a classmate.
And lastly, opinions from a couple of bad guys:
“Gun control? It’s the best thing you can do for crooks and gangsters. I want you to have nothing. If I’m a bad guy, I’m always gonna have a gun. Safety locks? You’ll pull the trigger with a lock on, and I’ll pull the trigger. We’ll see who wins.” — Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, Mafia hit man
“A system of licensing and registration is the perfect device to deny gun ownership to the bourgeoisie.” — Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
“The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed the subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the supply of arms to the underdogs is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty.” — Adolf Hitler (H.R. Trevor-Roper, Hitler’s Table Talks 1941-1944)
It’s amazing how those last couple of quotes echo the sentiments of modern-day gun-controllers.