The way some people reacted, you’d think this publication was called Guns Digest. Truth is, True hasn’t run a real “gun story” since the bit on John Lott almost five years ago!
So recap what led to this page, you need to see the relevant stories from the 20 April 2003 issue:
An Eye For An Eye
A woman who pulled up to a stop sign in Warren, Mich., was surprised when a man opened her door, pretended to have a gun, and ordered her to give him money. She didn’t pretend she had a gun: she pulled out her licensed 9mm pistol, pointed it at his face, and told him “If you’re going to shoot me then do it, ’cause I’m definitely going to kill you.” The man ran, and the unnamed 40-year-old woman was unharmed. (Macomb Daily) …”Rifles, muskets, long-bows and hand-grenades are inherently democratic weapons. …A simple weapon — so long as there is no answer to it — gives claws to the weak.” –George Orwell (1903-1950), British author
Choose Your Weapon II
Margaret Summey, 64, was relaxing at home in Duncan, S.C., when Timothy Doyle Huitt, 43, allegedly broke into her home. “I went straight and got the .357 Magnum,” Summey says. She shot the intruder, and police ruled the shooting justified. Doyle was found collapsed in the street with a gunshot wound in his leg. “I would have used a shotgun,” Summey said afterward, “but I had just had new countertops done and I didn’t want to tear up the kitchen.” (Spartanburg Herald-Journal) …Coming soon from Formica for discriminating housewives: Kevlar countertops.
Pharmacist Martin Francom of Bremerton, Wash., was confronted by an armed man demanding narcotics. Seeing “a moment of opportunity when he looked away,” Francom grabbed a baseball bat from behind the counter and whacked the intruder in the head. “I refused to be a victim,” Francom says. The man started shooting and Francom dropped the bat, so his daughter, Candice, 25, took up the cause. “I wanted to protect my Dad. I just picked up the bat and started hitting the guy over and over and over, probably 30 times,” she said. “I thought about hitting him in the head, but if I caused some brain damage and he died, I didn’t want that on me. I didn’t want to be charged with anything.” (Seattle Times) …She was, however, charged with an error: the guy obviously already had brain damage.
I Expected Some Comments
OK, OK! Truth be told, I actually expected outrage and ranting about how I dared to report a story or two that could be construed as telling of the “positive” uses of firearms.
I was, of course, not disappointed.
The first letter, though, was fairly interesting:
I came to the gun-control issue fairly late in life, having had no experience with firearms. When I did get around to thinking about it, I weighed the evidence from the two sides of the debate. I discovered that the ‘evidence’ from the anti-gun crowd was flawed, and that their arguments were based on emotion, not fact. When Florida legalized [carrying concealed weapons], they predicted that it would become known as ‘the Gunshine State’ due to the ‘rivers of blood’ from motorists quick- drawing on each other. When those predictions were shown to be utterly false, I naively expected the anti-gunners to concede that fact. Of course, they didn’t, and have continued to use junk science and fear to make their case. I’m not buying. No doubt you’ll [receive] many reactions from the anti-gun crowd, and I wonder whether you’ll get any arguments that are not based on fear, ignorance, and junk science. –Paul, New Jersey
When I ran the stories in the free edition, I included Paul’s letter (he’s a Premium subscriber, so he got his letter to me before the stories appeared in the free edition) as a sort of “challenge” to readers to think about their response and write something particularly thoughtful, especially if they disagreed.
I was, of course, disappointed.
You asshole, take a look at the murder stats. I actually feel sorry for people like you. People who don’t recognize that their need for guns is their own fear and inadequacy. –Duane, Ontario, Canada
So much for thoughtful debate.
For the record regarding my own “need for guns” because of my “fear and inadequacy,” I haven’t carried a gun since I was a sworn sheriff’s deputy, and that lack has caused me no negative emotions whatever.
No, the emotion here is quite obviously Duane’s. And John in the U.K.’s:
I’ve enjoyed your fairly level-headed and straight view of the world until you got on to the NRA podium and took up the good old American ‘I’ve got a gun therefore I’m right’ attitude. I’m unsubscribing.
Funny how I never even mentioned the NRA, or took any sort of position on the topic. Yet here I am, some sort of “propagandist”? I’m surprised I didn’t hear from the “anti-baseball bat” crowd.
Yet most people didn’t bother to write: they voted with their feet. Hundreds of people unsubscribed from the free distribution, which I just can’t quite understand. They enjoy the stories in issue after issue, but when one issue has two or three stories that hit a hot button for them, even though the stories take no position whatever on the topic, they can’t stand the thought of illumination on the issue and have to run and hide their eyes from the possibility that someday there might be another such story?
That’s awfully sad; they can’t just enjoy the stories they like and skip the ones they don’t. Who loses? They do. And so does society, when its voters can’t risk the chance of witnessing a brief debate on what even they think is a very important topic. Oh well — I tried, even though I knew what would happen.
A Broader Point
When I talk about driving debate, I’m not speaking of this page. I of course mean that readers should talk to their friends, families and co-workers so you all can more fully understand such important issues. Which is to say, I work to provoke the debate, not to host or moderate it, though obviously this page will give many an idea of where they might start.
But there’s one that I want to highlight to ensure it doesn’t get buried below, from Ken in California:
Randy, I think you’ve missed the point. Gun control is based on lies and falsehoods, as your correspondent ‘Paul from New Jersey’ writes. Gun control advocates live by their fantasies, and cannot bear the thought of living without them. They are, literally, ‘un-sane’; they cannot face the reality shown by the facts. When you present truths that contradict their (call it what it is) religion — a belief system unsupported by evidence. When you present facts that contradict their religious beliefs, they must abandon you as a heretic. Like it or not, to them, you fall into the ‘pro-gun’ label. You’re with them or against them. [And] if you reject their fantasies, you’re against them.
Ken, that has to be one of the most insightful letters I’ve received on any topic in quite some time. “Religious faith” is called that for a reason: if there were evidence, the “faithful” wouldn’t need faith, since they’d have proof (that’s not a dig; that’s simply the meaning of those words). It never occurred to me to look at this issue in this way. What a brilliant observation.
Just a couple more before we get to the comments on the blog post. Steve in Michigan:
Something that neither the pro or anti-gunners ever seem to note is that in states with relaxed concealed-carry laws, only about 2% of those eligible to apply for a permit do so. Of those who do receive a permit to carry, many do not carry or only seldom do. Additionally, it can be expensive and time consuming to qualify for a permit. Here in Michigan the training course must include:
- Safe storage, use and handling of a pistol including, but not limited to, safe storage, use and handling to protect a child
- Ammunition knowledge, and the fundamentals of pistol shooting
- Pistol shooting positions
- Firearms and the law, including civil liability issues
- Avoiding criminal attack and controlling a violent confrontation
- All laws that apply to carrying a concealed pistol in this state
- At least 8 hours instruction, including 3 hours of firing range time.
So, even in states with relaxed laws, the probability that the person you just passed on the street is carrying is pretty low.
Anyone who has a gun that doesn’t have a basic understanding of the law and full instruction in how to use that gun, which must include plenty of live fire practice, is a fool.
The “right” to own it is not enough; rights imply responsibility, and one of them is to know how to handle the gun safely.
The government requires car drivers demonstrate they have a basic knowledge of traffic laws and the ability to drive. It is reasonable that it have parallel requirements for anyone who wants to use a firearm. Like a car, a gun can be useful or dangerous, and training is a must in either case — which is a perspective I gained when I was trained in using a gun in a police academy. (I already knew how to drive by then — also thanks to formal, expert training!)
You said that you ran the gun stories to ‘drive debate’. OK, then why did you include the third story, with the baseball bat? –Betty, Kansas
To further the debate. All three stories dealt with women who were faced with immediate danger from criminals. If we could magically make all guns disappear, would that mean all crime victims would suddenly have to lie down and take it from any hoodlum that broke in on them?
Nope. Human nature is to defend oneself; a gun is a tool to that end. If that tool is not available, people can — and will — choose another tool. Guns aren’t the embodiment of evil; they are indeed in a very real sense a tool. One which can be misused, to be sure. But then, so can a baseball bat.
I am troubled by the implications: Is one completely responsible for one’s own safety and protection? Are not law enforcement and criminal justice a function of civilized society? I don’t know if I want to live in a place where I must ‘pack’ in order to insure the safety of myself and my family. What has happened to the United States that so many reasonable people feel this now necessary (and it seems to be borne out by the statistics)? –Rhondda, Hong Kong
I got similar questions from several foreign readers. What has happened to the U.S.? Nothing. We have never had a right to police protection. Not in the times of the “wild west,” and definitely not now.
Anyone living in the U.S. — and likely many other countries — that does not fully understand this basic fact is in for a shock. There is absolutely no legal requirement for the police to protect you. Even if you can reach them on the phone and make it clear that you will be tortured to death if someone doesn’t come help soon, you (or your survivors) have no right to sue for their failure to do so.
So while the criminal justice system is indeed a “function of civilized society,” the ultimate responsibility for your safety is yours. Once you understand this, it becomes much harder to blame civilians for wanting some of the same tools the police have.
When we have one of the highest murder rates in the world, one has to be concerned. Would that the solution were simple! I think the extremes on both sides are absurd. Although the entertainment industry claims no responsibility, I really have a hard time believing that the saturation of extreme violence in television, films and games has no effect on thinking and behavior. Who would have thought that a game called Grand Theft Auto would be considered mainstream? –Jim, Michigan
As “no-gun” cities such as Washington D.C. and Chicago clearly demonstrate, the elimination of guns does not reduce the murder rate.
In addition to illegal guns, people substitute other weapons such as knives, clubs and cars. It’s a lot easier to say “guns are to blame” than to face up to the actual fact: that there’s something wrong with our society which provokes violence as a “solution.”
And you’re right to point toward the entertainment industry. I love the way the media claims “entertainment has no effect on what people do” — yet they sell advertising, which clearly does help sell products. And they see no irony in the discrepancy!
You claim that True’s ‘first-best’ function is ‘to provide entertainment’. Yet farther down you say ‘Oh well — I tried, even though I knew what would happen.’ I offer that if it was really an entertainment organ, avoiding having subscribers ‘voting with their feet’ would be a high priority. In my view, while True is entertaining, that aspect is a thin disguise for its real function: education. The motivation? ‘…society loses when its voters can’t risk the chance of witnessing a brief debate on an important topic.’ Which is why I stick around — interesting exchanges, as well as examples of ‘death by stupidity’. And why I am upgrading to Premium (finally) — your work needs to be supported. –Doug, Oregon
And that support is greatly appreciated.
You quoted the “first-best” function (entertainment), but didn’t quote what I identified as True‘s “second-best” function: to provoke thought and debate. Those two functions are sometimes in opposition, and I do compromise from time to time in favor of the first function.
For instance, I could run many, many more zero tolerance stories than I do, and indeed the more I run the more they demonstrate the need for public debate. But if True were “all ZT, all the time” it would quickly become much less entertaining.
It’s a difficult balance to maintain, but when I see stories that are entertaining and will provoke debate, such as the three on the top of this page, how can I resist, even when I know it will provoke an exodus?
While I have not expressed a position on gun control, it should be fairly obvious that I don’t have the emotional response to the issue that many do. Thanks in part to professional training back in my deputy sheriff days, I’m not afraid of guns. (I was a search and rescue deputy, not assigned to law enforcement, but since we searched in very rural areas with many illegal marijuana farms, it was the sheriff’s desire that all qualified deputies carry firearms for protection, since certainly the drug farmers were well armed!)
While I don’t think “just anyone” should be able to carry a gun (few would argue, for example, that paroled felons or the insane should be able to carry a gun in public), the phobic position which many “anti-gun” people take, ignoring any and all objective evidence, is obviously foolish.
So what’s your position? Don’t tell me, tell yourself — after spending time looking at objective evidence. Whatever your decision, you will at least be satisfied to know you did base your opinion on fact, rather than emotion. Which is, really, your responsibility as a citizen.
- - -
This page is an example of This is True’s style of “Thought-Provoking Entertainment”. True is a newsletter that uses “weird news” as a vehicle to explore the human condition, and bring up questions about society — in an entertaining way. If you enjoyed this page, consider scrolling up to the top of the page for a free email subscription.
To really support True, sign up for a paid subscription to the much-expanded “Premium” edition:
Q: Why would I want to pay more than the regular rate?
A: To support the publication to help it thrive and stay online, and this kind of support means less future need for price increases (and smaller increases when they do happen), which enables more people to upgrade. This option was requested by existing Premium subscribers.