In Charles C.W. Cooke’s fantastic piece in National Review last week on the power of emotion in the gun debate, he made an excellent point; facts and statistics aren’t enough to really win this battle. There’s a real, living, breathing emotional case to be made for the Second Amendment. And while Real Americans have been winning the factual, statistical and legal case for decades, we need to win the emotional case – the case that speaks to America’s heart and gut and liver – before we can really relegate gun control to the shallow intellectual grave it belongs in.
History Repeats: A longtime friend of this blog, long known as “Buddhapatriot”, a charter MOB member, sent me a poem the other day.
It’s from a post he wrote a couple years back:
Last year the edict forbidding us to ride horseback;
This year another edict saying we cannot carry a bow.
Yet we still hear about all those robbers who by the light of day
Ride their horses and shoot people on the empire’s highway.
Technology aside, it looks like it could have been written by anyone in Chicago, slaving away under a de facto gun ban as hoodlums shoot up his neighborhood. It could even have been Otis McDonald himself.
But it was written in China, under Mongol occupation, in the 1300s.
Some things never change.
Numbers: When America was founded, there was really no such thing as a municipal police force. County sheriffs – with their strictly limited powers, and their volunteer posses – were often days away if trouble sprang up.
And yet crime in America, as a general rule, was exceptionally low.
That changed, somewhere along the way, of course. About 100 years go, a variety of factors – urban crime, Prohibition and the concomitant explosion in organized crime and turf-protection murders – and then the War on Drugs and the 1968 Gun Control Act all correlated with massive surges in criminal homicide.
Do It Yourself: Real Americans have always had an organic sense of law-enforcement; civic responsibility is part and parcel of participatory democracy.
And it’s by no means a given everywhere in the world. Attitudes of civilians and citizens toward “law enforcement” vary widely, even wildly, around the world – and for good reason, since “enforcing the laws” (or engaging in a sham version of it) is often accompanied by brutal tactics, unaccountable power, and stunning, stunting corruption. Worse than Chicago, even.
Even in “democracies”, the role of the citizen versus “law enforcement” is sometimes – for lack of a better term – brain-damaged.
As, indeed, it was in the United States. At the nadir of the gun debate in the late seventies and early eighties, as major cities were enacting de facto or de jure gun bans, the individual right to self-defense was very much on the ropes.
I remember reading advice to people living in major cities in the seventies, urging people to carry a “mugging” wallet, with a little money – not too much to break you, not so little that the mugger would get angry – to give to muggers when you got stuck up. It was an abdication of our streets to our criminals – the smarter among us knew it.
And at the very nadir of that awful period came Bernard Goetz – who, sick and tired of the regular mugging, carried a gun. It was against the law, of course – unless you had the political clout to get a carry permit, which many media and business figures did for the asking.
But not Goetz. The humble electrical engineer, mugged one time too many, shot his way out of a jam in the New York subway in 1984.
The police arrested him, and New York’s pencil-necked, pasty, pusillanimous prosecutors, operating at the behest of an administration that figured armed criminals was better than safe people, prosecuted Goetz to the fullest extent of the law.
And a funny thing happened; America – even New York City’s cowed, pseudo-European subjects – feted Goetz as a folk hero. Oh, the establishment media reviled Goetz, of course; What’ll happen if regular schnooks kill all the criminals, they gasped.
But Real America looked at Goetz, I think, and they saw…
In the early eighties, at the nadir of the American right to keep and bear arms, and the peak of the urban crime wave that only started to break 20 years ago, it was very easy to identify with Goetz; robbed over and over, first by street thugs, and then by thugs with law degrees or working for newspapers, Goetz’ situation reflected a lot of peoples’ fears – and his response sparked a lot of imaginations.
It may be uncaused correlation, a complete coincidence, that on the day Bernard Goetz shot his muggers, exactly eight states had “shall issue” laws, requiring states to prove one should not have a permit to carry a firearm; by 1990, it was 15; by the 10th anniversary of his trial, 20; today, 42 of the fifty states have either “Shall Issue” or “Constitutional Carry”.
Was Bernard Goetz the cause celebre that led, slowly and circuitously, to the state we’re in today, with Real Americans in the ascendant?
I like to think they’re related. Prove me wrong.
Beyond The Stats: The statistics of civilian gun ownership in combating crime have been part of the diet on this blog since Day 1` – literally.
But beyond the numbers and the charts and the books?
There might be people in this country who don’t crack a smile when a typical schnook with a gun saves dozens of lives; whose step doesn’t quicken when the little woman with the kids repels the big bad robber; whose hearts don’t well up with pride when regular American schnooks seize order from disorder, as Los Angeles’ Korean shopkeepers did during the 1992 riots; They might exist.
But they’re not my countrymen.
We are a nation, historically, that treats “keeping order” as a community activity. And the message is getting out to The People, a majority of whom now believe that civilian carry makes us all safer.
May it ever be so.
That’s why we’re here.
To Sum It Up In A Sentence: Americans were never intended to be helpless in the face of evil.