As I’ve noted here before, I wasn’t always a Second Amendment activist. I grew up in a pretty gun-controlly family, actually; dad’s a union Democrat, mom was a sort-of-repressed hippie.
I didn’t grow up around guns – which took some doing, in rural North Dakota. Mom didn’t allow toy guns in the house. I didn’t shoot a gun until the summer after I got out of high school. I remember feeling programmed contempt for the NRA even into my early twenties.
But there were a couple of things that changed that.
One of them happened when I was in 9th grade. I stumbled on a copy of “The Black Book” – the B’nai B’rith’s compendium of Nazi crimes against European Jews. And even though I was a 14 year old bobblehead, I realized that “It’s a lot easier to herd unarmed people into cattle cars”. I didn’t jump immediately to “therefore let us be armed”, but is slowly crept up on me.
As did the further realization that society’s veneer of order is perilously brittle; the Great NY Blackout, the LA Riots, Katrina, Hurricane Sandy – all showed that while our civil society is fairly resilient, it’s not weatherproof – and that the only thing that kept the Korean merchants of South Central LA from getting cleaned out as thoroughly as the shopkeepers of New Orleans and the Rockaways was a line of determined men with the means to defend order themselves, after the police high-tailed it outta there. George Orwell once wrote “We sleep soundly at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf” – and while heaven forbid it happens, and for most God willing it never will, nobody can know the time or place when the regular schnook in his Barcalounger will be called upon to be that rough man seeing to his own family’s safety.
It got personal in 1988: I had a breakin in my house. I woke up on a sweltering July night to the sound of a couple of people downstairs. There was no way out of the house that didn’t go past the burglars. There was no phone upstairs. But I did have a gun -a little .22 rifle. I padded over to the top of the stairs (the burglars didn’t run away at the sound of the creaking floor) and racked a round. I saw two pairs of Adidas running out the door. I was a believer.
And I also realized: just as I didn’t know at 8PM that at midnight I’d be aiming a rifle down my stairs, neither did the merchants of Koreatown or the residents of the Ninth Ward know they’d be facing complete anarchy the day before they were up to their necks in it; nor did Hitler’s future victims realize in 1932 what awaited them in 1942. Nobody can read the future; one can merely prepare for it. Or not. That’s your choice.
It didn’t start to coalesce into a philosophy, though, until I read this piece, probably 20 years ago; “A Nation of Cowards“, by Jeff Snyder.
And it started me thinking: the “gun safety” debate wasn’t, and isn’t, about facts, or hardware, or even anyone’s safety; it’s about two radically different points of view about how the individual and society interact.
And vis a vis Snyder, it’s best summed up by a subtle rhetorical difference between the sides; one that you see every time you listen to “gun safety” advocates talking at the Capitol. One side believes there’s a “right not to get shot”; the other knows there’s a *responsibility* to protect one’s self, family and community.
Is there a “right not to get shot?” Sure, why not? But like the right to speak, publish, assemble, worship, privacy and a fair trial, it’s worthless if you don’t actively use, and protect, it.
Do you farm your right to free speech and the press out to the media? (Some certainly do). Do you assume the ACLU will guard your right to privacy? (Some do!). Do you assume that the police will protect your “right not to get shot?” Some, most definitely, do.
Do you assume your abstract “right not to be robbed, raped or assaulted” is ironclad just…because? Or your “right not to be looted?” “Your right not to have your social or ethnic group jammed into cattle cars to oblivion?”
Seems excessively optimistic to me.