The tone of this post is going to be much happier than the last one, because today I did something awesome.
I took a 12-hour class to qualify for my state’s concealed carry permit.
And I’m here to share my many, many thoughts on the subject. Unfortunately, I’m not really sure where to start. So this post, like most of my strongly-opinionated posts, will probably be incredibly scatterbrained.
Most people who know me fairly well know that I am one of the least patriotic Americans in the country. Yes, I despise the government, but that’s because I’m a libertarian/voluntaryist/anarcho-capitalist who doesn’t like any government. There is a great deal about American culture I dislike as well. But one thing (not the only thing, mind) that I like very much about this country, that I am very grateful for, is what both residents and non-residents so often criticize: the “gun culture.”
The foundation of this culture, of course, is fairly legit: untamed wilderness, attacks from the Indians/French/Spanish, revolution against mother country/government, Bill of Rights/Second Amendment/right to bear arms, protection against another meddling government, expansion into a wild frontier, etc. etc. etc.
Many believe that it’s time for the U.S. to join the rest of the “civilized” world and give up this culture, this attitude of “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.” The belief that such an attitude applies to the whole country is certainly a gross generalization that ignores the fact that many, many U.S. citizens do not own guns and do not like guns. Yes, some of the most extreme gun enthusiasts just can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to be packing at all times, and they’re as silly as those people who think that banning all guns from every private and public area will make people safer.
Unfortunately, because the U.S., in general, has a more gun-friendly culture, people from other parts of the world think we’re all a bunch of pistol-packin’ cowboys who have giant safes full of guns and we all hunt for our dinners and just go nuts shooting anything that moves, just for fun. (It also doesn’t help that the U.S. government can never resist sending out its gun/drone/tank-toting military at any opportunity.)
I’m not kidding. I’ve been to the United Kingdom. You know the “yee-haw, bang bang, I’m-lookin’-fer-the-man-who-shot-my-pa” stereotype that many Americans apply to the state of Texas? Most Brits seem to think that’s what our entire country is like.
This attitude among many non-U.S. residents fascinates me—especially when it comes from the U.K., as that is a place (and a culture) as dear to my heart as my native country. In fact, more than once during the course of the class, I wished that I could bring in people from the U.K. as observers.
Really, I wish I could have brought anyone with an anti-gun attitude into the class as an observer. I doubt that the hundred-plus people in the class would convince such observers that America is not all obsessed with guns and violence. What observers would have seen, however, was a cross-section of the American population. There were people there who already owned multiple guns, and some who had never shot a handgun in their life. There were both sexes represented, as well as variations in age, race, socioeconomic background, and reasons for attending. The instructors were knowledgeable, interesting, and possessed a sense of humor even as they emphasized over and over the seriousness of what was going on. The class included nearly 2 hours of lecture by a local attorney familiar with self-defense law—this was not required for the license, it was part of the class because the instructors wanted us to know the law and know what would be expected of us if we got our CCW license. The class’ focus on safe handling, proper care and storage, and adherence to existing law could (and did) change a few minds. These were not mentally unstable persons, they were not foolish people, they were not people out looking to make trouble. If people must be allowed to carry guns, these are the people you want to be carrying guns. The people there were careful, safe, and respectful; they wanted to do everything properly; they were willing to follow the rules. They were not criminals in the making; they were paying money to adhere to the law.
(Side note especially for feminists, those with feminist interests, those who lean politically left, and generally anti-gun people who may be reading this: Say what you will about conservatives’ attitude toward women, but from my personal experience, gun owners—and especially instructors/other firearm-related professionals—are some of the most supportive people when it comes to empowering women. I have never met anyone, even the most redneck good-ol’-boy, who thought guns were only for men. Yes, men were the majority among both the class attendees and the instructors today, but the women were not treated any differently, except in practical matters—like discussing what type of holster to get for carrying a gun in your purse. I have never met a man who had the attitude of “this isn’t for women” regarding firearms. They are absolutely over the moon to see a woman being gun-smart—whether that means she is a crack shot who knows what she’s doing, or whether she is a novice who genuinely wants to learn, and learn the right way. They are always excited to see “girl power” in action. And trust me, nothing is quite as empowering as knowing how to use a firearm. After spending 2 hours at an outdoor range, I came home smelling like woodsmoke and gunpowder, and I felt like a f***ing rock star.)
But getting back to cultural differences…
Unfortunately, many of the people I talked to in the U.K. (well, London specifically, since that’s all I really saw of it) believe that fewer guns = fewer crime, and that they are safer when private peoples cannot (legally) own firearms. And to be fair, this attitude is prevalent in the U.S. as well, though of course probably less so because of our “gun culture.” However, conversations with other people in London provided evidence to the contrary. One woman I met, sitting on a park bench with two teen sons, said that she was concerned about gangs and gun violence and their potential effect on her family. The boys echoed her concerns, saying that knife/gun violence were significant issues in their world. And these were working-class families in lower-income neighborhoods—not posh mums who were worried about everything, including their children consuming non-organic eggs.
It was an excellent peek behind-the-scenes at another Western culture. And it only solidified my preexisting belief that strict gun bans or restrictions do not necessarily cut down on crime or make people safer.
(I am by no means trying to bash the U.K. or its culture or anything of the sort. If you’ve spent any amount of time reading this blog, you know that half my heart is across the Atlantic, and that I have a great respect for the British.)
Although it’s a relevant subject, I don’t want to get too deeply into what happened in Newtown, Connecticut. First of all, the news was so painful that I don’t actually know many details about the incident. Obviously I know what happened, I know who caused it, and I know what many public reactions were to the shooting. I do not think that any further government-mandated gun control is the proper response. That does not mean I was not horrified by the shooting, that I was not heartbroken for the families involved, that I was not sickened at the reminder of what incredible evil humans are capable of. Trust me—I was.
The main reasons I’m not going too deeply into this hot-button issue are 1.) People more qualified than I have already written about it, and 2.) I have nothing to add.
If you want some anti-gun-control perspectives on the shooting, I do have some suggestions:
- One of my favorite contemporary libertarian writers, Jeffrey Tucker, wrote a piece on school security. As always, his writing focuses on the free-market perspective.
- “Russia Today” published a short piece on Ron Paul’s perspective, mainly his argument against the stance that the NRA took after the shooting. My favorite quote from the piece: “We cannot reverse decades of moral and intellectual decline by snapping our fingers and passing laws.”
- A column of noteworthy “Reflections on Newtown,” published in USA today on Christmas Day, by Glenn Harlan Reynolds. This piece points out that Connecticut has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, and that most gun violence in the U.S. involves suicides or drug deals.
- And finally, an anti-gun-control article written from a British perspective
I think all the above articles offer some very valid perspectives, and if you’re anti-gun, pro-gun, or gun-curious, you should take a look.
Personally, I’m a fan. I really like guns. I think they’re cool, I think they’re pretty, I think they’re incredibly fun to use—but safely, and WITH PROPER TRAINING AND PRACTICE. I grew up in a pro-gun family—at least with pro-gun parents. I learned proper gun safety the same way I learned to look both ways before crossing the street and not to run with scissors. It was drilled into my head that Mommy and Daddy’s guns were dangerous tools, not to be touched except under supervision, but also that a gun would not attack me on its own. I had a Red Ryder BB gun when I was 8 or 9 and I killed a few birds with it. I was taught never to put my finger on the trigger unless I was actually ready to shoot. I was taught to never, ever, ever point a gun—not even a plastic toy gun—in the direction of a person. I wrote an anti-gun-control essay in school when I was 12 or 13.
Trust me: If people are going to be carrying guns, you want one of those people to be me.
(Did I mention that I’m a pretty good shot? I mean, I’ve never fired my gun under the stress of, say, a carjacking or an attempted rape, and I really, really hope I never have to. But I’ve been to gun ranges and fired several types of guns, and it turns out that I have good aim and a steady hand. Never been legit hunting, though … that’s something I still want to do.)
So today I came one step closer to becoming an Avenger. The next time Loki stages an attack on the earth, I will shoot him in the chest. And then he will promptly murder me, since earth bullets don’t affect him. So you can bury me with a tombstone that looks like this:
Anyway, those are some of the thoughts that passed through my mind during the 10 hours of class time and 2 hours on the range. I may write another post if more come to mind, but this is what I most wanted to say. And if you actually read this whole post, God bless you.