Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What Is It About Guns, Anyway?

Why are guns such a hot button, politically? What causes people to be so passionate about them, either pro or con? I have my own thoughts about that, but that is not what this article is about.
I was just reading a fairly good article about the erosion of our liberties, that mentioned the fact that up through the 1950s in the more rural parts of America, a 12 year old kid could bring a gun to school, store it in his or her locker, then take it out after school to go hunting or plinking, or even participate in a school-santioned target shooting event. In fact, up until 1968, that kid could (with parental permission, of course) actually buy a gun from a catalog and have it shipped through the mail to his home.
This sounded great to me, and in fact, I remember the last dregs of those days. But then the author stopped me cold with this statement: "I want a gun-free world as much as the next person, and the way to get to that world is to create so much love and freedom that, eventually, nobody needs or wants a gun." That ruined the article for me.
I'm sure that, to some people who are around me in person or who read my random rantings on this and other sites, I seem to be fixated on guns. There are a couple of reasons for that. One is the political thing, simply because how any "public servant" views my right to keep and bear arms (which these days is treated more as a licensed privilege rather than a right) is an indicator of how he regards my status: freeman or slave to the state? The political side becomes even more weighty when you consider that, in many states, it is a felony to even carry a gun without prior governmental permission, regardless of what the Second Amendment says. And everywhere in the USA it is a felony to possess a variety of different types of guns the government has ruled not acceptable for us to own without governmental permission. Guns so simple as, for example, a .22 revolver with a smooth bore, for efficiently using rat-shot cartridges to dispatch vermin in the barn without damaging walls and equipment.
And by the way, in case you don't understand that, felony charges cost thousands of dollars, whether convicted or not; and conviction results in mandatory loss of rights (including permanent loss of the right to keep and bear arms, as if we really had it to begin with) and a probable prison term, where we are pulled from our families and placed in an environment where we are surrounded by real criminals. I think that threat, in itself, is sufficient cause for a great amount of consideration.

But there is another side to gun ownership, a side which the author of the referenced article alludes to but obviously doesn't understand: guns are not just about killing or injuring people. That is the main obstacle we, as gun owners, face when dealing with non-gun-owners. And even with a lot of gun owners, for that matter; especially those who live in the city. In fact, guns are not just about killing or injuring anything. Legitimate uses for guns fall into several broad classifications, and all of those classifications are things free people have a right to not be harassed about. If they are harassed about them they are not free. Here are some of those classifications:

  • Defensive use. You never know when you may be attacked. The attacker may be a person with criminal intent, a person who may not understand what they are doing (such as diminished mental capacity) but nevertheless poses an immediate threat to your or someone else's life; or perhaps an aggressive dog or wild animal. Or it could be a rabid animal. Even a skunk that is carrying rabies could pose a serious threat to your life, or your child's life. And since such threats don't make prior appointments, the only way you can be truly prepared is to do like the Second Amendment says, and bear arms. That means carry a gun on your person, all the time if possible.
  • Hunting. OK, that's the other one everybody knows about. Not everyone agrees with it, but everyone who understands it does. The thing is, although many people assume that human encroachment directly reduces wildlife populations, that is not the case with all species. In fact, it tends to be more the case with predators (with some exceptions, like black bears and coyotes), and less the case with their prey, especially deer. What that means, in a nutshell, is that since our encroachment has reduced the population of wolves which thinned the deer herds, we must take up the slack by hunting deer. Otherwise, they overpopulate and then die off from starvation and disease. Furthermore, since we are also creatures of this Earth, and a look at our tooth structure will confirm that we were intended to eat meat, it follows that we have the right to hunt for that meat. Doing so is also healthier to our own bodies, as well as our environment, than buying meat that was raised on a factory farm.
  • Vermin control. Every farmer understands this. Raising food of any kind attracts animals that want to avail themselves of that food. From rats and mice which steal grain and also introduce disease organisms, through raccoons, foxes and even copperhead snakes that kill chickens, to coyotes and feral dogs that kill newborn calves. Guns are a necessity for farming and homesteading.
  • Recreational use. This is something most anti-gunners are aware of, but consider unimportant. What they don't consider is that restricting or banning the free exercise of shooting sports is the same as restricting tennis, golfing, hiking, or even chess playing. Shooting sports run the gamut from casual plinking to long-range target shooting, reloading, home gunsmithing, and many other activities. Some of these activities are highly technical, and some are not. But even casual plinking is a legitimate sporting activity, and should not be unnecessarily restricted, even in public recreational areas. Those who are against the activity claim that it is too dangerous, causes litter, etc. But there are already laws against littering and against reckless endangerment. How about prosecuting people when they actually do something wrong, rather than persecuting them because they might do something wrong?
  • Utility uses. This is a class of firearms use that is rarely considered by people who are down on gun ownership. I'll give some examples. Winchester used to build an 8-gauge slug gun that was specifically designed for knocking build-up off the inside of huge steel tanks. Lots of ranchers have used a rifle or handgun as an impromptu power tool when a hole must be punched or a cable or chain broken right now. Twice I have had to use a rifle to free a tree I was felling, when it became hung up in the branches of adjacent trees. Yes, I was firing in a safe direction and yes, I realize this doesn't say good things about my lumberjacking skills, but I couldn't just walk away and leave a trap like that to possibly kill somebody when it fell.