“Ammunition” For Debate

As you may know, in the US there were large protests held in Washington, DC and elsewhere on Saturday demanding tougher gun control laws. They were a direct outgrowth of the Parkland, Florida school shooting. In February, a 19 year old expelled former student entered the building and began opening fire, murdering 17.

I shall attempt here to be as reasonable and objective as possible.

Clearly those protesting abroad in particular obviously don’t well-understand either the dynamics of US domestic politics or the whys for many Americans’ outlooks about firearm ownership…

…and one is left to wonder if any have actually known any numbers of US legal gun owners personally. Such protests only reinforce a sense of being “under siege” which many US gun owners already feel. And in now seeing foreigners calling to take away their rights too, that will only further cause many to become even less trusting of the motives of “gun control” efforts… after all, many already don’t much like “mouthy foreigners” seeking to tell Americans what to do over other issues.

Meaning gatherings in London and other non-US locations demanding US gun laws be tightened is wholly counterproductive and shockingly tone deaf from a US “gun control” policy evolution standpoint. They are decidedly unhelpful to Americans in the US who support stricter laws. Indeed those opposed to tightening gun laws actually welcome such foreign protests.

For overseas gatherings by non-voting, non-US citizens merely provides extra “ammunition” to those in the US determined to see no diminishment in their ability to own firearms. “Didn’t we throw you people out in 1776?” such Americans are likely to reply to British whom they feel are “crossing a line” regarding “interfering” in US domestic matters. More broadly, they’ll also cite “meddling foreigners” seeking to undermine Americans’ constitutional rights; a video like that BBC report will only harden gun-owning Americans’ determination to maintain their gun ownership rights and as a result probably find itself making it into NRA (National Rifle Association) fundraising efforts.

[From VOA News. Instagram.]

“Ban All Guns”… that’s the real goal, many worried gun owners already commonly assert. They would maintain that a placard like that one at the Washington, DC rally on Saturday is a Freudian sign slip; it is truth inadvertently revealed. “Gun control,” they argue, is not about finding reasonable ways to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, criminals, and the potentially violent mentally ill, but ultimately aims to disarm law-abiding Americans.

Seeing protest signs like that one is what activist groups opposed to curtailing gun ownership also love to see. Such an idiotic statement demanding an outright ban (which does not exist even here in Great Britain, nor anywhere else in Europe), would, if the US government dared to attempt to implement it, they argue, be an overt subversion of the Constitution. And they feel their anti-anti-gun control efforts gain a boost – which they probably do.

An essential fact for non-Americans to appreciate and understand when learning about gun ownership in the US is it is perceived by most gun owners (and I have known many personally) as fundamentally defensive. Yes, guns are often for hunting or other sport, but ownership is about looking out for one’s home and family. It is seen first and foremost as about protecting one’s life.

Americans who hold that view are likely, for example, to observe…

…that the police cannot be everywhere, of course. However, had a law-abiding person trained in its use been carrying a concealed gun in that French supermarket on Friday, he or she could have surprised and shot down that Islamist attacker before matters got out of hand. They are apt to note as well that Islamists like him launch these terror attacks so brazenly in the first place because they are nearly 100 percent certain people in places like European supermarkets will likely be unarmed, so they can kill lots of people before armed police arrive.

“They wouldn’t try that sh-t in a Texas supermarket,” they might declare. “He’d get his dumba-s ISIS head blown off the moment he pulled out his gun. Wanna stop this? Mr. Macron oughta allow mademoiselles to start concealed carrying.”

Whatever anyone else may think about an assessment like that, it is what many of them do honestly believe.

[Kaaterskill Clove. Catskills. Photo by me, 2017.]

Even in our New York, with much stricter local gun ownership laws than Texas, I know quite a few of our rural Catskills neighbors are armed to the teeth. I use the term “neighbors” loosely because houses “nearby” are few and far between and often separated from each other by thick woods, streams and pretty substantial hills. Our house alone has a nearly “1/4 mile” long “driveway” and no one lives behind us for literally miles.

You can easily feel isolated and vulnerable, especially at night. Police are at least “20 minutes” away upon you making a 911 call – and possibly longer. By then, many locals believe, my loved ones and I could already be killed or maimed by intruders armed with only knives. Imagine if the criminals had guns? So the gun in the bedroom wardrobe or in the garage provides, they would assert, a first line of defense if it should ever be needed, and it is their absolute right to own it and no government may take away that right.

Personal gun ownership is a hugely complicated social, legal and historical matter in the US. It is worth never forgetting that the country was a born out of an armed uprising (1775-1783) against what was claimed to be a government’s blatant, oppressive, and arrogant, misuse of its powers. That rebellion’s firing line cutting edge – early on, in particular – were young men (some as young as their mid-teens) organized hurriedly into militias and a new army, but using mostly their own firearms brought from home:

[Excerpt from Conventions: The Garden At Paris. On Kindle for iPad. Click to expand.]

That reality was not forgotten upon securing independence. Thus the US has a firearms legal inheritance other countries simply do not, and it is put into words in the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution. I feel like I have been having pretty much this same conversation with non-Americans for decades… and I suppose I have:

[Excerpt from Distances. On Kindle for iPad. Click to expand.]

Sadly, debates about how best to lower the number of gun deaths in the US usually descend into ugly namecalling and insults. The vitriol is close to unmatched compared to any other issue. (Only religious freedom and health care come, I think, anywhere near close.) One only has to scroll Twitter for “30 seconds” and locate a “gun tweet” to get a taste of it.

Whenever I see that, I can’t help but also recall this from The West Wing television series. In one (2001) episode a woman character who is far more supportive of personal gun ownership rights than another character notes to him that she believes this debate is not about the guns really, but far more about the people: you just don’t like the people who own guns, she sighs – meaning all of their politics and values which lead them to feel they have a right to do so.

Much the same, I feel, could be said of the reverse: gun owners (and those who support “gun rights”) appear heartily to dislike the people who carry placards declaring they demand the right to own firearms be dramatically curtailed or even outlawed entirely.