I was recently reading an article on firearms in Switzerland and was surprised to learn that their firearms laws are very similar to Canada’s. What was so surprising about it is that the public perception of firearms in the two countries is widely different.
I enjoy firearms and it drives me batty the way people view them as dark and dangerous things. When Sharon and I started dating, I wanted to ensure that Sharon had a minimal amount of training with them and to ensure that she was reasonably comfortable around something that is somewhat important to me. So I took her to a firearms safety course, and we got our firearms licenses. This was the first time Sharon ever handled anything like a firearm and it took a lot of the mystery out of it for her. Suddenly, they weren’t as scary.
This is the perception of firearms that I want in the world. The more I see people being scared of firearms, the more I feel the need to correct their perceptions.
Guns and Gun Crime
So many people we speak with hear the word “firearm” and instantly think gang-land shoot out, just like in the movies. This was made really evident to me the first time I offered to take Pumpkin to the shooting range: “No Way!” In her mind she saw them as a tool of the criminal. In her mind, firearms and criminal were synonymous.
I always like the quote that, “An armed society is a polite society”, implying that private ownership of firearms acts as a deterrent to crime. Sharon is always quick to correct me by pointing out that there is no correlation between gun legality and violent gun crime1.
This is most evident looking at the quantity of guns per capita in nations. If one takes the top 15 countries, with the highest number of guns per capita (excluding the USA where the numbers are way out of proportion), you find about a 50/50 split of crappy places, and happy places. What is most interesting, is you have some of the crappiest places on earth and some of the happiest. It is actually the two extremes that are present in the top of the list (which I copied from Wikipedia).
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Also interesting is to look at the countries with the lowest guns per capita:
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I’m not seeing any correlation between “Gun Crime” and “Guns”.
Let me break this down a little. If its not the “Guns” that cause “Gun Crime”, what on earth could it be? I could try to hazard a guess… Could it be… oh… “Crime”? Nations with a high incidence of violent behaviour have a high incidence of violent behaviour with guns. But this isn’t a function of the guns being available, this is a situation where people will be violent with whatever they can get their hands on.2
One of my favourite images is of riots taking place in South Africa. Some of the most violent situations I have ever seen. There are plenty of images of people running around with guns, and shoot-outs between police and rioters, but there is one image that stands out in my mind. A band of men who had just finished beating someone to death showed one of the rioters charging with his bloody carpenter’s hammer in hand.3
Violent people will be violent; non-violent people will not be.
Gun-Grabbers Scare Me
This leads to the next problem I often face when I tell people I enjoy shooting: they assume I am a violent person.
The flaw in logic is highlighted by an ex-colleague of mine. He walked in on a conversation about shotguns where I was discussing the versatility of the shotgun. We had just finished discussing “Bear Bangers”4 when he jumps in and states that they aren’t versatile, they can only be used for one thing: killing. He stormed off before I could bring up rubber bullets, flares, paint balls, and confetti & ribbon.5
In my co-worker’s mind, guns can only be used for violence; I enjoy using firearms; therefore I must be a violent person.
This attitude is very common.
I am often reminded of something said by Aleister Crowley during alcohol prohibition in the United States: “The Prohibitionist must always be a person of no moral character; for he cannot even conceive of the possibility of a man capable of resisting temptation”.6
I sometimes wonder what kind of people these gun prohibitionists are…
While I am not a violent person, I do recognize that sometimes violence is necessary, that is why we have police and armies. Unfortunately (as the saying goes) when seconds count, the police are only minutes away. This holds doubly true living in the country where services are farther away; you do need to become more self-sufficient. It is very important that I learn to and am equipped to protect myself, and those who depend on me for their care.
Being out on the farm, there are many individuals I need to protect against, and many individuals that need protecting. While we don’t have any yet, Sharon and I are hoping to be keeping chickens very shortly, and chickens are pretty close to the bottom of the food chain around here (I think rabbits may be the only thing lower than them). By undertaking the care of animals, I am undertaking a responsibility to “take care of them”, and that includes keeping them safe from harm. Coyotes, foxes, falcons, and eagles, are all predators we have seen in the area and they will attack and kill our animals.
Certainly I will take measures to reduce the problem: keeping food sources away, and regular walks to scare the predators off; but all of that can only reduce the chance of the predators finding the ready source of food that is “chicken”. Fox will steal your chickens when they find them, and are notoriously apathetic towards the law. At some point I am going to have to confront these thieves and explain to them that the chickens are my property and are under my protection.
The problem with explaining ownership to predators is they speak Animaleze, not English. So, like the Horse Whisperer, I am going to have to learn to speak like the animals do:
So animals communicate using violence…
I think I’m going to need a translator.
In the end, the best justification for firearm ownership, and firearm usage is that they are fun!
Some of my fondest memories from my childhood revolve around camping with my dad. We spent a lot of time in the bush together, and a lot of time setting up targets and testing our marksmanship.
I remember spending a whole afternoon and evening out shooting together. Towards the end, we spent what must have been half an hour working on my technique. I would shoot at a pop can and my dad would call out whether I was shooting high, low, left, or right. We worked on my shooting for a long time, critiquing my stance, trigger pull, and breathing, but I always missed the can. Finally, I got frustrated, grabbed the binoculars out of his hand, and looked for myself. The pop can was a chewed up mess, every shot had hit its mark.
“Oh, I thought you were shooting at the one on the right”, was all he said…
All tools are inanimate objects that have no sense of right or wrong. In the end, its what the person holding the tool does with it that defines morality. For me, firearms are about afternoons on sunny days playing and joking with family and friends. Somehow I wish I could make those who see them as tools for violence, and only violence, see them the way I do.
All I can think to do is to keep talking, and keep smiling, and hope that eventually people start associating firearms with a really friendly guy. My fear is that they’ll start associating my face with the gun they fear.
Maybe innocent young girls will offer a better distraction from the gun than my ugly mug…
I have to call it “violent” gun crime because places that make possession criminal the stats will be skewed. For this discussion we are only interested in people that have harmful intent. ↩
This is not an argument for making guns illegal. Making guns “Criminal” will not prevent “Criminals” from obtaining them. That is inherint in the definition of someone that is Criminal by intent. Criminals don’t respect the law, that’s what makes them criminals, therefore it is less likely they will obey Gun Laws in particular. ↩
There was another story in a major newspaper that discussed rioters burning a house with the family inside. Everyone of the mob had rifles, but when one person tried to make a run for it, they threw a rock at him, and physically dragged him back, not a shot was fired. ↩
Bear Bangers are basically shotgun shells with a fire-cracker in them. When fired the projectile flies out and after a pre-set time, explode with a really loud “BANG”. They are used to scare wildlife away from areas where they don’t belong; like birds around the airport, or bears near camp-grounds. The funniest story I ever heard was from a Fish and Wildlife Officer who was tasked with scaring a bear away from a camp-ground. He saw the bear, loaded a 150 foot bear banger, and fired at the bear… which (unfortunately) was only 100 feet away. The banger went 50 feet past the bear and then BANG! Suddenly the Warden had a very scared and angry bear coming directly at him. He now puts two shells in: one banger, followed by something “just in case”. ↩
Shotguns, due to their shell configuration, lack of rifling, and large bore size, can fire a large number of projectiles. In the end, a shotgun is not so much a weapon as a high speed delivery device. What you deliver is up to you. ↩
I am a little fuzzy on this quote. I remember it from a Biography on Tesla that I own, but that book is in a box. Sharon looked it up and found it attributed to “Absinthe: The Green Goddess” by Crowley, which I have read. I still stand by Tesla on this one. ↩