gun-gal-via-Wall-Street-Journal.jpg

What Gun Guys Can Do About Gun Violence

I was fascinated by this piece in the Wall Street Journal about the human beings who comprise the so-called “gun culture” in the United States. It’s written by Dan Baum, a self-described “weirdo hybrid: a lifelong gun guy who is also a lifelong liberal Democrat. I often feel like the child of a bitter divorce who has allegiance to both parents.” 

Baum, intrigued by the silence of fellow gun-owners who do not feel themselves accurately represented by the NRA, took to the road to talk to gun guys (and presumably gals as well, although he does not mention them). He got himself a concealed-carry permit, “flash[ed] it like a Masonic pin, and gun guys poured out their stories.”

He describes the physical attraction of the object: guns are often the product of expert craftsmanship and can thus be “richly satisfying” to handle. (That registered with me. This might seem a ridiculous analogy, but I’m a serious knitter, and there is simply nothing to compare to a complicated object that has been meticulously constructed by human hands.) Baum talks with gun guys about “the Zen pleasure of marksmanship,” noting that “even less serious shooting is a hoot…Choose the most antigun peacenik you know, let her shoot a Tommy gun at a stick of dynamite, then ask if it was fun.”

Gun guys extol the way their weapons connect them to the past (“Men lovingly discussed the industrial-era designs of their 1896 Argentine Maxims and 1916 Vickers”) and laud the discipline and responsibility imposed on one through ownership of a gun. They take a “patriotic pride in the unique trust that America places in its people”, and feel bolstered by what Baum calls “their proximity to the Grim Reaper.” “”I am master of this death-dealing device, and you are not,” as he phrases their attitude. “I am prepared for the kind of situation you can’t even bring yourself to think about.”

Baum learned — I doubt this was much of a surprise — that gun guys are deeply insulted by gun control advocates who know nothing about carrying a gun but presume to pass judgment on other Americans’ fitness to do so. That sense of insult has the potential to translate into a potent political force:

From Arizona to Michigan, I found America full of working people who won’t listen to Democrats about anything because of the party’s identification with gun control. A parks-and-recreation worker in Wisconsin told me he was offended by the Democrats’ view “that guns are for the unwashed, the yokels.” It’s hard to think of a better organizing tool for the right than the left’s tribal antipathy to guns.

But Baum posits that gun guys need to get beyond nursing their grievance against blanket condemnation. They have to step up and acknowledge the role they must play in averting the catastrophe of more Sandy Hooks. And he argues that while gun guys recoil from government interference, government need not be involved in the solution at all:

As individuals, the majority of gun guys are achingly responsible with their guns. As a community, though, they are lethal—so focused on criminals and government as the villains that they have failed to examine how they themselves might help to reduce the number of gun fatalities.

The wrongest of wrong hands for guns aren’t necessarily those of criminals but of curious children and depressed teenagers. Accidental child death is one of the few gun statistics that has grown worse since 1999. Teenage gun suicide is a lot lower than it was in 1999, but it’s still heartbreakingly high. Almost half the teenagers who kill themselves do it with a gun…

Where are those children and teenagers getting the guns? Not from gun stores, thanks to age minimums. Not from gun shows, either, unless they’re getting an adult to buy them. And not from some murky “illegal gun market.” They’re getting them, by and large, from adults who leave them around, where immature hands can find them.

As well as criminal hands. Baum reports that about half a million guns are stolen each year from the households of law-abiding gun owners — owners who are notoriously averse to reporting such thefts.

So what to do? Baum argues that the NRA errs by insisting on a monolithic gun-owners’ bloc, which in effect conflates the responsible and the irresponsible. In his view, gun owners must draw a clear distinction between the two, rather than linking arms in the name of resistance to government interference. If responsible gun owners attach more of a social stigma to irresponsibility with firearms, Baum says, the problem of unsecured guns will be diminished without any restrictive laws required:

To the legislatures of 27 states and the District of Columbia, the solution to both problems seems obvious: Require guns to be locked up, trigger-locked, stored separately from their ammunition, or some combination of the three. A lot of gun guys hate these laws. They argue that a gun separated from its ammunition, disabled or locked away is useless in an emergency.

Not true. I keep my handgun loaded in the bedroom, in a metal safe the size of a toaster that pops open the second I punch in a three-digit code. I bought it on eBay for $25. The gun is secure but instantly available—to me only. Many gun guys use such safes. They just don’t want to be told to use them.

Neither do they want to be ordered to report a stolen gun to the police. Lots of gun guys consider it tyranny to have to tell the police anything about their guns, and they have kept most jurisdictions from passing stolen-gun laws. Only seven states and the District of Columbia make reporting a stolen gun mandatory.

But if we gun guys are the paragons of civic virtue that we claim to be, why do we have to be ordered to lock up our guns or report a gun theft? Wouldn’t a responsible citizen do that anyway?

We gun guys are operating under a double standard. We want to be left alone to buy, use and carry guns because, we say, we understand firearms better than any bureaucrat. But at the same time, enough of us behave so carelessly that thousands of people are needlessly killed, injured or victimized every year by guns left lying around.

Is a gun guy who keeps his guns properly secured responsible for some knucklehead who doesn’t? If the NRA is consistent in its logic, the answer is yes. Solidarity is a constant theme of the NRA, which exhorts its members to lobby and vote in support of the wider community of gun owners.

But that is where the NRA’s vision of service to the community ends. For the NRA to suggest that law-abiding gun owners are responsible in any way for gun violence would shatter the notion that only criminals are to blame. So while the NRA trains people in gun safety and publishes books about gun care, it avoids drawing a connection between the carelessness of law-abiding gun owners and America’s still-high rate of needless gun death.

What could the NRA and the community of responsible gun owners do to reduce gun deaths without government intervention? They could make unsafe gun behavior socially unacceptable, just as it has become unthinkable, among most Americans, to smoke inside another person’s house or to make lascivious comments about underage girls.

Some are trying. Robert Farago, who writes a popular gun blog called The Truth About Guns, runs a regular feature called “Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day”—often a YouTube video of young men acting stupidly or a news item about a needless tragedy. After Arizona instituted “constitutional carry”—allowing any adult to carry a concealed gun with no training or permit—a group called TrainMeAZ.com organized to urge citizens to get trained and to help them find trainers.

But these are lonely voices. The big dog, the NRA, has for decades run a monthly feature in its magazines called “The Armed Citizen,” about people successfully defending themselves with firearms. Were it to call its members to a higher standard of responsibility with a complementary column called, say, “The Armed Bonehead,” it would reach millions more people than either Mr. Farago or TrainMeAZ.

What say you, Ricochet gun guys and gals?

  1. dash

     The big dog, the NRA, has for decades run a monthly feature in its magazines called “The Armed Citizen,” about people successfully defending themselves with firearms. Were it to call its members to a higher standard of responsibility with a complementary column called, say, “The Armed Bonehead,” it would reach millions more people than either Mr. Farago or TrainMeAZ.

    So, this would be the armed version of Goofus and Gallant from the Highlights magazine of my childhood? I’m OK with that, especially if it is illustrated in the vintage style.

  2. Israel P.
    dash

     So, this would be the armed version of Goofus and Gallant from the Highlights magazine of my childhood? I’m OK with that, especially if it is illustrated in the vintage style. · 1 minute ago

    Good image. I am picturing Troy Senik on the next Law Talk introducing “the Goofus and Gallant of the legal profession.”

  3. dash
    Israel P.

    dash

     So, this would be the armed version of Goofus and Gallant from the Highlights magazine of my childhood? I’m OK with that, especially if it is illustrated in the vintage style. · 1 minute ago

    Good image. I am picturing Troy Senik on the next Law Talk introducing “the Goofus and Gallant of the legal profession.” · 0 minutes ago

    Mr. Hill, please pick up the yellow courtesy phone in the lobby. 

  4. Skyler

    No. No more gun laws. There are too many already. We need to repeal gun laws. We need to stop allowing the left to keep pushing our country to the left. We need to push back towards freedom.

  5. Xennady

    I take this as yet more gun control shinola.

    It seems to me that when I have my guns securely locked up inside my house then I have in fact been a responsible gun owner.

    If I get robbed of those guns I have been the victim of a crime, not an irresponsible gun owner.

    And I know exactly where this would go if the NRA decided to go along with pinning the blame for gun crime on the victims of robbery- the gun banning fanatics in government would immediately attempt to send the robbed gun-owners to prison when their stolen guns were used in a crime. The actual criminals might even get leniency if they finger the gun owners as the source of their illegal weapons.

    No thank you.

  6. Percival

    I’d be OK with this, if the gun-grabbers weren’t going to use such a campaign as propaganda for more gun laws, which Mr. Baum as a lifelong liberal Democrat would have to admit that is exactly what would happen.  That is, if the logical consistency he preaches is a value he practices as well.

    I don’t know any irresponsible gun owners.  The gun is always loaded.  You never point a gun at something you don’t want shot.  Know your backstop.  You remind everyone in the vicinity of guns of these rules all the time – yourself most of all.

  7. skipsul

    I’ll have more to say on this later, but a big part of the problem is this:

    We gun owners are largely dealing with dishonest opponents.  Yes, I could favor reporting lost guns except that such provisions are often abused with the “well, he should have known it was stolen sooner“.  The antis craft these laws to use as flails against us.

    The problem is that we KNOW the Anti crowd wants total disarmament, and ALL gun laws are, for them, means to that end.  We have New York and California as key examples of the path they wish to take.

    Perhaps we could support safety laws, if only we could trust those writing and wielding them.

  8. paulebe

    Just because I’m paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me. I read this in the WSJ and found myself immediately on the defensive. I own guns (more recently than I had a mere 6 months ago. Thanks Mr. President ;-). The solution to the issue of crimes perpetrated by criminals using guns is this: PUNISH THEM, quickly. Then leave me alone with my property. We’re overcomplicating this as conservatives. We must deny the premise, push back hard, and remember we’ve got many, many more fellow citizens who silently agree with us and are completely serious when it comes to defending our right to protect ourselves, our families, and our property. We are growing less silent by the day.

  9. Margaret Sarah

    So gun owners are supposed to make a campaign for resonsible handling of guns. Isn’t this what the NRA has been doing for years and years? But now responsibility somehow includes not allowing your gun to be stolen. Well, most people are making good-faith efforts there, too. When gun thefts are not reported it’s usually because as here in Chicago gun ownership is illegal. Reporting the theft gets the owner in trouble.

    Again, most gun owners make a good-faith effort to prevent children’s accidents and teen suicides. After all, why would exhortations from others have more weight with a parent than protecting his or her own child? But many of these statistics are conflating responsible gun owners with illegal owners.

    Meanwhile, swimming pools and bathtubs are the really lethal threats to children. Let’s have a tour to have heart-to-heart talks with back-yard pool owners. . . .

  10. Pony Convertible

    I kept my ammunition locked up when my kids were growing up.  However, there is risk to that.  It is like keeping your fire extinguisher in a locked cabinet, or your life jacket (PFD) stowed in a locked compartment.   Seconds sometimes do mean the difference between life and death.  

    Daily I see on the news, someone is killed with a gun, often several people.  Yet criminologists estimate that Americans’ use guns in self defense 2 million times a year.  That is over 5000 times a day.  99+% of the time a shot is never fired.  Just the presence of the gun neutralizes the situation.  Even if the criminologists are off by a factor of 10, there are still 500 people a day protecting themselves with guns.   Few people will report when they used a firearm to protect themselves and didn’t pull the trigger.  They don’t want to deal with the hassle.  Thus it isn’t in the news.

    As far as responsible guns owners being able to reduce the suicide rate, look at Japan.  Their youth manage to kill themselves at a higher rate than ours without firearms. 

  11. Pony Convertible
    dash

    So, this would be the armed version of Goofus and Gallant from the Highlights magazine of my childhood? I’m OK with that, especially if it is illustrated in the vintage style. · 2 hours ago

    Really, name calling?  If you can’t do better than that why are you on Ricohet? 

  12. Nick Stuart

    Maybe he should have joined the NRA too, and found out about it’s training programs and other efforts to encourage responsible gun ownership.

    One reason for the adamantine block-voting resistance to any new (and many existing) gun laws is that gun abolitionists are incremental. A little click of the ratchet here, a little diminution of the 2nd amendment there, and eventually the goal of complete confiscation (like Australia) is accomplished.

    Look at what happened to smokers. Using a largely false narrative about the dangers of 2nd hand smoke, smokers were first sequestered into smoking sections, then to the bar, then outside the door, then 25 yards down the street to where there is talk of banning smoking in public entirely and private apartments in some juristictions.

    The Left elites have a tremendous totalitarian impulse to control every facet of their inferior’s lives, right down to “tooth level surveilance” in the Affordable Care Act (HT Mark Steyn for repeatedly pointing this out). With gun owners they have run into a group that is ready and able to push back.

    So here we are.

  13. ctlaw

    The thing to do is not to compromise with evil and ignorance. The thing to do is to educate the ignorant to ennlist them in the battle against evil.

    The wirter’s speed safe is only useful to kreep the guns out of the hands of a 4-year old. That being said, I strongly endorse such safes for people with 4-year olds. Anyone older can breeak in with a screwdriver. Even that big safe you see at Costco (which contains more fireproofing weight than metal weight) can be opened in a couple of minutes with a crowbar. One  has to pay several thousand dollars to get something capable of delaying a rookie criminal for more than a few minutes and more to delay a moderately capable criminal.

    One problem is that these laws are inflexible. There are numerous instances of teenagers (even young ones) using the unsecured family gun to defend the house against an intruder. It’s a highly subjective call as to when kids should have access to guns.

    The same with repoting laws. This is instance of that “3 felonies a day” dynamic. If you report it, you draw scrutiny re. compliance with storage laws.

  14. Chris

    I find this intriguing:

    To the legislatures of 27 states and the District of Columbia, the solution to both problems seems obvious: Require guns to be locked up, trigger-locked, stored separately from their ammunition, or some combination of the three. A lot of gun guys hate these laws. They argue that a gun separated from its ammunition, disabled or locked away is useless in an emergency.

    Not true. I keep my handgun loaded in the bedroom, in a metal safe the size of a toaster that pops open the second I punch in a three-digit code. I bought it on eBay for $25. The gun is secure but instantly available—to me only. Many gun guys use such safes. They just don’t want to be told to use them.

    California requires trigger locks and I found this from an approved CA manufacturer confirming my understanding that trigger locks don’t go on loaded weapons.

    So, in 27 states, Mr. Baum is a criminal as a loaded weapon in a locked cabinet does not constitute the combination test mentioned above.  But he is too busy patting himself on the back and bad mouthing the NRA to realize it.

  15. Chris
    ctlaw: The thing to do is not to compromise with evil and ignorance. The thing to do is to educate the ignorant to ennlist them in the battle against evil.

    The wirter’s speed safe is only useful to kreep the guns out of the hands os a 4-year old. That being said, I strongly endorse such safes for people with 4-year olds. Anyone older can breeak in with a screwdriver. Even that big safe you see at Costco (which contains more fireproofing weith than metal weight) can be opened in a couple of minutes with a crowbar. One  has to pay several thousand dollars to get something capable of delaying a rookie criminal for more than a few minutes and more to delay a moderately capable criminal.

    Edited 0 minutes ago

    Thanks for making this point; safes like this are important to keep guns out of hands that shouldn’t fool with them but don’t work against someone choosing to tread where they shouldn’t.  I doubt the Sandy Hook guy would have been deterred by anything short of a mega safe.  Hard to outlaw evil.

  16. skipsul
    Pony Convertible

    dash

    So, this would be the armed version of Goofus and Gallant from the Highlights magazine of my childhood? I’m OK with that, especially if it is illustrated in the vintage style. · 2 hours ago

    Really, name calling?  If you can’t do better than that why are you on Ricohet?  · 25 minutes ago

    Er, you never read Highlights for Children ?  Goofus and Gallant was actually a cartoon in there, put in for teaching moral lessons.

  17. Nick Stuart

    The analogy that occurred to me on the drive to work is:

    If Israel would just stop being so intransigent and back off it’s mono-block mentality, learn to play nice with it’s Arab neighbors, and give the Palestinians their own state and more autonomy within Israel itself, everything would be fine.

    Ridiculous of course because the aim of the Palestinians, Arabs, and entire Islamic world is the complete obliteration of Israel specifically and all Jews everywhere generally.

    Same thing with gun controllers. Their ultimate aim is confiscation of all firearms in private hands. After which they’ll start on knives  and make it illegal to defend yourself at all as in England.

    Starting with the ascension of Barack Obama, passage of Obamacare via legislative jam down, etc., I am no longer willing to grant the benefit of the doubt as to good motive and intent to any Leftist, Baum included. My hypothesis is he set out to write a “most gun guys aren’t so bad, it’s that nasty NRA and their intransigence that’s the problem” with the aim of opening up another angle to chip away at the 2nd amendment. Chip, chip, chip, …

  18. Spin

    The NRA isn’t really interested in gun safety…just politics:

    http://eddieeagle.nra.org/

  19. Spin

    With respect to teen suicides, the statistic is that half teen suicides are committed with a gun.  This is sort of like saying “most of the time a toilet gets plugged up, it’s in the bathroom.”  The question you’ll never know the answer to is this:  of those kids that killed themselves with a gun, how many would have done so anyway, if that were not an option?”  On average half of all suicides are committed with a gun.  But what about the other half?  The bulk of them are self-poisoning and hanging.  If we were able to eradicate suicide related to guns, would they just happen anyway?  

    Whenever the statistic is quoted, the intent is to show that kids are killing themselves because of guns.  I’m not sure that’s accurate.  

  20. EJHill

    Liberals need to start thinking about guns they way they do about sex.

    • Abstinence doesn’t work.

    • Bans result in back-alley deals.
    • Teach safety in the schools. The mystery is part of the allure.

    And not to get too obvious, but speaking of Goofus reminds me of Dianne Feinstein. What makes her think for a moment that people with a complete disregard for human life will respect her opinion and her laws on guns?

    And let us consider who would be responsible for administering DiFi’s vision for America: The ATF.  Yessiree, Bob, the agency that brought you Operation Fast and Furious, Waco, Ruby Ridge and other lethal bungling. Let’s clean up that mess first.