Have you ever shot a gun, what kind, under what conditions and for what purposes? What effect does your personal experience with guns have on your opinion of gun control?
Answering my own question: I have shot a couple pistols, a 12 gauge shotgun and some really beat up 22 rimfire bolt actions owned by the Boy Scouts. The pistol shooting was very dramatic and I didn't like it. The rifle shooting was tedious, frustrating and boring. The shotgun shooting reminded me of my first time sex, to wit that it was exactly what I thought it would be, I was surprised by how simple it was, and although the movement was surprising the first time, I almost instinctively understood what I was supposed to do. Outside of that first experience I don't particularly like shotgun shooting either.
This year, I aimed to purchase a precision rifle and/or a cowboy lever action but I was short on funds, plus the prices have gone up. I have never considered any need to buy a handgun or shotgun for self-defense. As I have seen and overheard conversations in gun stores, I feel rather about new gun owners what I feel about nouveau riche. They annoy me and I don't trust them. As I want to have a gun, I want it one of two ways. My angle is that of a 'sheepdog' and as a gearhead.
As a gearhead I think about owning guns and understanding all the associated technology, the math of ballistics, the mechanics of trigger mechanisms, the beauty and power of the machines. I appreciate them as stunning mechanical inventions as I do with computers, cars, aircraft, spacecraft. In that regard I'm like a driver, a shooter, a pilot, an astronaut. I want to operate them with skill because of the advantage it gives me. I as I become proficient in that way, I would become a hacker and maybe even a maker. I would like to customize my firearms. I would like to load my own ammo, I have some of the tools already.
As a sheepdog (& Boy Scout), I think about owning a gun as being an amateur cop, in the exact same way anybody who learns CPR thinks about being an amateur doctor or fireman. It's all about taking an awesome civic responsibility but with a great deal of respect for what the professionals do. I happen to be taking emergency response training now, as well as pursuing my ham radio license.
As a citizen, I am in conflict with my sheepdog self. Because I want to have all the personal power a cop has without the responsibility of being a sworn officer. How shall I say it? Prosumer? There's a political part of me that likes the moral cover of the sheepdog, but I'd rather be libertarian about it and just have whatever-damned-gun-I-please-this-is-America-dammit. I say that in the same way that advocates for Gay Marriage argued that what homosexuals do is their own business. What I do with my gun is my own business. My reasons for having one is my own business. You have no right to restrict me in any way associated with criminality. Innocent until proven guilty, you're not going to round me up in your database.
Practically speaking however I believe very strongly that I'm going to do the upper middle class thing, which is to use my education and privilege and brains to do whatever I can do to have as much as possible. And that means I'll join the NRA and be ahead on policy discussions (I have) I will go up a government ladder of certifications, I'll make friends with politicians and first responders, kind of like I do as a computer hacker. While every common man is debating Andriod vs IOS, I'll be hacking. When the NSA is eyeballing, I'll know where and how hackers stay safer than the average Joe. As we speak I'm doing that community emergency response training eight week course. I understand, as the fire captains are telling us, that our first responsibility is to ourselves and our families, then we can help our neighbors without worry.
This conflicts with my ethics and genuine concern for the common man. I want to live in a country where you don't have to use connections (like I will) in order to exercise the right to know, own and use guns. And I will complain like a hypocrite when people finally realize, like they did during the LA riots or Katrina storm that protection is not on the way and the ordinary guy got screwed. And I'm going to be saying I told you so from a safe distance.
So where I come out on gun control based on my gun experience is that, I think I've shot guns like the driver who has learned to drive with a stick. I understand and appreciate the old school fundamentals, and yeah I want more and better custom gear for myself, and I want to get really good. I think everybody should be able to do the same with minimal bureaucracy within reason. But that doesn't make me respect the average gunner any more than I respect the average driver. In fact I think most of them will be privileged fools, because I intend to train and get as good as I can. (In the same way I've been a motorcyclist with the attending superior understanding of the road than ordinary drivers).
I'd much rather see a 'solution' aimed towards a lightweight liability insurance that people like me can afford and doesn't hurt my access any. I'll make loud noises about abrogation of rights and will not back down on 2A principles. But I will survive, stoically in the very same way that cops and security guards do. I do not have a lot of trust or respect for the laws that will ensue from this debate, in the exact same way I am not pleased with the way this country and government decided on Gay Marriage. I will continue to invest a great deal more trust and respect with people who see things my way as a sheepdog, not because of the credentials they have with the government with their badges, but with their skills and knowledge. If certifications and badges and credentials are what it takes to have possession of a suitible fraction of those skills and knowledge with firearms, then that's what I'm going to do because I think when it comes to gun rights, we are creating second-class citizens and chilling the options for the common man.
In short, if I have to be a gun-nut and a government certified gun-nut, then that's what it takes. I'll hate it, but I'll have my freedom.
Related by Cobb:
I should add the following about 'Reviewing the Moment of Death' because beside the fact that I clearly state above that I don't want to be a sworn officer, I am a lot closer to their way of thinking and their attitude of responsibility for the common man than I ever was in my life. And I am actually in the process of preparing myself for that actual responsibility so I don't get caught out. I *am* a sheepdog and actually always have been, but I know I can get myself in trouble out of ignorance in acting out that role. Like I said, in NYC I stopped a robbery on a subway and almost got into a fight between two Nigerian street peddlers before I checked myself.
That encounter I had in Brooklyn about 20 years ago defined my attitude about guns the majority of my life. I presume that to be similar to many Americans.
1. It's easy to kill with one,
2. I don't want to be a killer. Therefore keep them away from me.
There's something additional about item 2 which is I think most Americans have had a moment of rage or disgust where they felt like somebody deserved to be shot, and could not really justify that emotion. So they want to keep guns away from themselves because they believe that firearms easily translate that emotion into death. (And this is how they feel about TV violence and video game violence, and most depictions of violence - that it's easy.)
It wasn't until I actually started studying and using guns that I realized how wrong the that assumption was. Guns are not magical Krell machines that instantly instantiate monsters from the Id. They are non-trivial technologies that require constant practice for competence. But they are also empowering and they force you to think as if they were magical death machines. This is something I have found extraordinarily well expressed by Eric Raymond.
I have been caught in the crossfire of a robbery in which my toddler daughter was present, and I have seen a teenager roll up and point a pistol in a man's face. I now know very well, since I have studied guns and shooting a great deal more of how to think in those situations. I understand the tactics and capabilities of shooters so that I am not purely emotional about the encounter. I think more clearly about what is and is not likely to happen. The emotions of fear and rage don't predominate, and it is my knowledge about guns and ballistics that control those emotions. They don't dispel those emotions, they contain them in a logical framework. I would assert that gun training is the only reasonable way to contain those emotions. That certainly cannot be accomplished by having no experience whatsoever, or by having an objection to experience.
Nothing most of us will ever do combines the moral weight of life-or-death choice with the concrete immediacy of the moment as thoroughly as the conscious handling of instruments deliberately designed to kill. As such, there are lessons both merciless and priceless to be learned from bearing arms — lessons which are not merely instructive to the intellect but transformative of one's whole emotional, reflexive, and moral character.
Consequently, I think that you honestly can divide the American gun culture into camps of shooting ignorance and experience. Note that I am saying there is a gun culture of American consumers of violent entertainment who have never seen an actual shot human or animal corpse or been personally involved in any kind of shooting. And then there is the gun culture of actual shooters, sportsmen, hunters, target shooters (either recreational or competitive), law enforcement, industry folks and military.
About that former group, and I say this as a member of that former group and a big fan of Bruce Willis movies. I find that they are utterly convinced by the portrayals they see of violent death in film, TV and video games and do not have any counter-intelligence that real shooters know about what and how firearm projectiles affect the human body. And it is the hype surrounding mass shootings that is nothing more or less than the awakening of that fictional portrayal in their imaginations. Every action movie is a mass shooting. Every violent video game hero kills 20 before he can be killed. A real shooter knows these things to be preposterous, but the first gun culture of America does not, not specifically.
I don't find this to be anything special. It is merely ignorance vs experience. But also innocence vs experience. It is completely understandable and natural for one to wish to keep one's innocence. I don't want to be a sworn officer, and I like most normal people, am queasy about seeing blood and much more about having blood on my hands. The gun culture I am a part of maintains this quality of human decency, and we also know as sheepdogs that we are part of the barrier against those who do not, whether or not we want to be. We require courage to take responsibility commensurate with our knowledge. That's where I am today.