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Beware “Law-Abiding Citizens” With Guns

One of the long-standing tactics of unfettered gun rights activists is to turn all debate about guns into a dichotomy between “criminals” and “law-abiding citizens.” It’s only “criminals” who misuse guns, we are told. That shouldn’t stop “law-abiding citizens” from carrying them.

Finally, this nonsense is being called out. About time.

Paul Waldman writes in Our new terror: The ‘law-abiding’ gun owner who is ready to kill that NRA and gun manufacturer marketing has created a nation in which “law-abiding citizens” are stoked with fear and ready to start shooting at the nearest provocation.

That so many gun owners are consumed with fear is not an accident. It is a central part of the ideology propagated by conservative media outlets and gun advocacy groups such as the National Rifle Association.

The message is hammered home again and again: The world is full of homicidal maniacs coming to kill you and your family. In the words of NRA leader Wayne LaPierre, “every day of every year, innocent, good, defenseless people are beaten, bloodied, robbed, raped and murdered.” Criminals, gangs, home invaders, terrorists, antifa — they’re all coming for you. So if your doorbell rings, you’d better have a gun in your hand when you answer.

See Francis Wilkinson at Bloomberg:

Upstate New York resident Kevin Monahan has been charged with murdering 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis. The young woman was in a car whose driver, looking for a friend’s house without the benefit of cellular service to guide the journey, mistakenly pulled into Monahan’s driveway.

The local sheriff said Monahan shot at a distant car filled with young people as it was leaving his property. “There was clearly no threat from anyone,” he said.

part of American society, vigorously contested by another part, has concluded that Monahan possessed the mental and emotional balance and moral discernment to be entrusted with firearms. Why, just last week Monahan was the very definition of a good guy with a gun. No one asked whether Monahan was a moral degenerate, a rage-addled misanthrope, a paranoid fool or all that and more. It wouldn’t have mattered if they did. Because all such people are permitted — indeed encouraged by powerful American institutions — to buy firearms like candy and stockpile them like gold.

But of course, as soon as the “law-abiding citizen” has killed someone, then he becomes a “criminal,” or else he is “mentally ill,” so the arguments don’t change.

At Slate, see American Gun Owners Are Bad at Owning Guns by Tyler Austin Harper.

The trouble is, the good guy with a gun is a myth—not simply because gun owners rarely have the chance to intervene in violent crimes, and those who do can be mistakenly killed by the cops. No, the good guy with a gun is a myth because the average gun owner is not Rambo. They are not James Bond or Joe Cool—they are Joe Schmoe. That is, gun owners are frequently incompetent—bad shots with bad nerves who are more likely to shit their pants and spray bullets than they are to swoop in and save the day. And why would we expect otherwise? The majority of states require no formal safety or marksman training to purchase a gun or even carry it concealed. The average gun owner is scarcely more prepared to engage in an impromptu firefight than any randomly selected dude from the phone book. I say this not as some anti-gun crusader, but as a gun owner.

Nicholas Kristoff has returned to the New York Times:

As I write this, I happen to be in Mississippi, which has a much more rigorous process to adopt a dog than to acquire a gun. Should it really be easier to buy an AR-15-style rifle than to adopt a Chihuahua?

Mark Sumner at Daily Kos describes the origin of the phrase “an armed society is a polite society.”

The origin of the phrase, usually described as “a Robert Heinlein quote,” is actually the dystopian novel “Beyond This Horizon.” The antihero of his novel is a privileged product of eugenics who happily shoots people for the slightest infraction, real or perceived.

The context of the quote—which ends with the character saying, “We do not have enough things to kill off the weak and the stupid these days, but to stay alive as an armed citizen a man has to be either quick with his wits or with his hands, preferably both”—rarely makes a T-shirt or bumper sticker. Neither does the novel’s lavish praise of eugenics, telepathic powers, and general weirdness.

But even if it were a fictional quote taken completely out of context, the saying turns out to be true, in a way. In a sufficiently armed society, any small transgression is met with bullets. America is sufficiently armed.

The shooting of Kinsley White and her family—that’s the 6-year-old who tried to chase down a basketball—illustrates this perfectly.

Andrew Lester, the Kansas City man who shot Ralph Yarl, might very well be acquitted given Missouri’s wackadoo “stand your ground” law.  Opinions I have read say the law won’t necessarily help Lester, but I wouldn’t place any bets either way.

The Tyler Austin Harper article at Slate, linked above, argues that most Americans who buy guns for self-protection get no training or even spend time at shooting ranges learning to use their weapon.

Contrary to media narratives, many gun owners are not gun-obsessed, but gun-casual. As someone who was raised to take guns seriously—deadly seriously, as they should be—I was shocked by how cavalier (and, again, incompetent) a lot of gun owners I encountered were. Some were the kind of guys who concealed-carried every day but only made it to the range once or twice a year. They couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn from 10 paces—the idea that they were capable of defending their “castle” from anything was laughable. Others were well-meaning new gun owners who had zero clue how to transport, load, discharge, or unload a firearm. They simply bought a gun and ammunition and showed up at the range or clay pigeon course to figure it out. I watched one of these bumbling neophytes nearly Dick Cheney his buddy one sweaty summer afternoon, sending a spray of birdshot into a birch tree 10 feet above his head. 

So, one might argue, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to require training and licensing for legal purchase of a firearm. But in NRA World that’s too much of an infringement on Muh Rahts, meaning that it would probably depress the sale of firearms and cut into industry profits.

So, whatever you do, don’t make any sudden moves. The way things are going, we’re all going to have to wear body armor whenever we leave home. This is freedom?

6 thoughts on “Beware “Law-Abiding Citizens” With Guns

  1. Guns are harmless unless they are used. I have 36 guns, pistols, shotguns, rifles large and small, scopes range finders. I’ve had a few of them since I was a kid and inherited the rest over time. I take some of them to a range once in a while. Our problem today is we have a bunch of nancy boys who've grown up romanticizing guns, somehow (tee-vee, guns, god, money, supreme court) they have been able to completely pervert the 2nd amendment and the high courts to allow them unfettered access and the ability to shoot first or hey just shoot for fun. Open carry, show it off, stickers on the car. Set up a range in your backyard? I have 3-4 gunners living within a half mile of me, they go out and rub them guns, they want everyone to know they have them, and waste ammo for 20 sometimes 45 minutes at least a few days a week. The rest of us have to wait for them to stop, horses are spooked, dogs, cats, kids, 62 year old hippies? Cops won’t stop them.There are no laws, it's really unbelievable? I told one of them (he’s since moved away) that if you hear gunfire from my house, hit the ground, my guns are not toys!

    The NRA had one point: it aint just the gun it's the people who own them.

  2. In Navy basic training if you point your gun anywhere but down or down range you have to do one thousand jumping jacks.

  3. A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State

    The 2nd Amendment was written to make it bedrock constitutional that states could have militias.  It was interpreted that way until the Heller decision in 2005 and individual access to firearms was left to federal, state, and local laws.

    The Dobbs decision was not the first time that the Roberts/Alito court overturned decades/centuries of precedence or created additions to the constitution.

    Citizens United v FEC – corporations are people

     Heller v District of Columbia – everyone has the right to guns at home

    Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization – women are chattel property of the state


  4. @OldVet – your point about how the 2nd Amendment's been twisted to create the free for all we have today, is one that's often forgotten but is central to the gun issue. The Supreme Court's corruption began IMO with Bush v Gore in 2000, followed by a series of ever worsening decisions, as you point out, in the years that followed. I'd add the Shelby County decision (ended voting rights protection) and their refusal to adjudicate gerrymandering.

    Someone needs to connect the dots – Sheldon Whitehouse has started to when he describes how right wingers manipulate the courts – but the stench from this court goes way back, and most people only see some of the effects.

    It doesn't help that the great liberal icon, Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn't retire strategically (hello Amy Conant Barrett), nor that Dianne Feinstein refuses to get out of the way when we need someone physically in DC to confirm Biden's court picks.

  5. "Guns are harmless unless they are used." Uncledad (see first comment.)

    Absolutely true.

    "I have 36 guns, pistols, shotguns, rifles large and small, scopes range finders."

    No harm in that. Perfectly legal and I have no inclination to change the legality of owning multiple guns for personal use. I don't think you can infer evil intentions by the number of guns one person owns. Except in John Wick movies, no one can fire more than one gun at a time.  (Stockpiling for use in a crime or insurrection is a different thing.) 

    There are three broad, sometimes overlapping, categories of gun ownership. target, hunting, and personal protection. IMO, the least threatening is target – just owning a gun to make round holes in paper forms.

    Hunting means you are taking the gun someplace other than to the range. Someplace other people may be. That suggests training and licensing by the same rationale that you can drive an unlicensed vehicle on your own property without a license to operate a vehicle. As soon as you are on public roads, you endanger other drivers so you must have and prove a minimal level of proficiency. IMO, this validates providing training and testing for a hunting license. And severe penalties for carrying a firearm outside the home without a license except to go to the range. You should not be able to carry a gun for hunting or "to the range" in a ready-to-fire (loaded) condition in a vehicle. 

    Owning a gun for personal protection announces you are willing to use the gun to kill a human being. A gun is not a magic wand you wave at a bad person that forces them to follow instructions. The idea that you will know when to shoot and when to hold your fire under conditions of fear and emotional stress is ludicrous. SOME people can be trained to make that decision but the rate of occurrence of failure by cops suggests the decision when not to shoot is not easy. But I agree it's a personal decision that you are entitled to protect yourself and family in your own home.  That decision to get a gun for protection can be linked to mandatory training. No one who acquires a gun for protection can do so without being told that if you shoot someone through the door of your house, you will probably go to jail. If you shoot someone in your driveway or elsewhere on your property, you will probably go to jail. If you shoot someone in your house, you may go to jail unless you can prove you were in peril. That won't keep a fool from executing someone on their property but the gun owner has warning that the use of a gun against another person will come under legal scrutiny. If you are scared of all those "other" people, prison is an environment where you will be placed in close proximity to those "others" in  high concentrations with the most violent "others." And you won't have a gun. 

    The category that should be most regulated is carrying a gun outside the home. People in public place don't want to feel like they are in a shooting gallery. The "good guy" with a gun doesn't fill me with a feeling of safety. Occasionally, a concealed-carry person is a marksman with good judgment. But usually he's a yahoo who thinks he's a hero who will shoot wildly and injure several bystanders before he figures out who the target should be. As uncledad pointed out, they love to show off their guns.

    Obtaining a permit to concealed-carry should be hard. (There should be an expedited concealed-carry review for a person with a reasonable fear for her/his life.) Before it's granted, the applicant should have to prove marksmanship, proficiency (load/unload/maintenance) an understanding of the law as it relates to use of a weapon, and a firm grip on the shoot/don't shoot decision matrix. 


    • Doug, I didn't intend to brag about 36 guns, quite the opposite. I only mention the number to point out the fact that  have all these guns but almost never use them at all. I've never actually purchased a gun, a few were gifts when I was a kid and the rest I inherited from family. I gave up hunting almost 40 years ago and haven't been to the range in years. Many people now are buying guns as a toy, they feel like they need to use them weekly for some reason? Like I told one of my asshole neighbors: "if you hear gunfire coming from my property something is getting ready to die". Why waste ammo, guns are not toys.

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