My Personal Geography of Gun Ownership

I have no recollection of the first time I fired any weapon. I’m sure I was young, in the single digits. Other than flipping bird to any person who looked at me, the most trouble I got into when I was very young involved my BB gun.

The backyard of my childhood home was ringed with thick bushes. Something like a lilac, maybe; big bushes but easy to creep into, to hide in, make “forts” and the stuff kids do. My backyard neighbor had a quiet, lush, as I remember it, yard with little stone benches and stone birdbaths.

During one of my dad’s frequent sales trips out of town, I took my BB gun outside for some target practice. At some point I must have gotten bored, crept into the lilacs, and channeled Ranger Rick, or Davey Crockett, or Daniel Boone. I scouted out the birdbaths and shot pretty much every bird that landed on those birdbaths until I run out of ammo.

Now, you might be tempted to think the carnage around the birdbath was horrific. Nope, not all. In fact, I don’t remember seeing any birds around the birdbaths, dead or dying. They flew off when hit, actually. And probably died later when I had to go in for supper, and my paddling. We had lots of crows in those days, big birds. I remember my little BB gun had a hard time even penetrating cardboard. Mine was a spring-fired BB gun, not the more powerful pneumatic pump. Most of the time, the BB simply rolled from the barrel. But, some birds never lived beyond that day. The neighbor called later, spoke to my parents, spoke to me. I can recall his gravelly voice even now, but only the gravel, none of the words. Apparently, I was a better aim, and more lethal, than I gave myself credit for.

I lost the BB gun privilege for a while. Then, the next time I got it back I shot another bird. A little sparrow had perched on the phone line which crossed over our backyard. I stood under the bird, pulled the trigger, and the bird dropped like stone. Lying there, inert, I stood over it, considering my action. I was alone. No one saw me. Just me. I remember feeling great sadness. I found a shovel, picked up the bird and carried him to a spot of dirt my sister and thought might a good garden space some day. I dug a hole and buried the little bird, and told him I was sorry.

And that was it. I never had a desire to go hunt or kill anything after that episode.

Throughout middle and high school, my dad and I fired many different types of weapons. He fished and hunted, but I was done. I’ve never been hunting, except for one lame rabbit hunt where my rifle remained unused for the duration. He belonged to a gun club. We would take the .22 revolver, the .22 Ruger, the .44 rifle, .44 revolver, .270 rifle, or 12-gauge shotgun out and shoot targets or clay pigeons. If others were out on the range, we would trade weapons, giving me a chance to fire .38 revolvers, 9mm automatics, .45 automatics, .308 rifles.

We reloaded shotgun shells in our garage. We saved our brass and reload the .44 shells, since both the revolved and the rifle could fire the same round.

Last year, I went through our local Citizen’s Police Academy. Many communities have outreach programs and encourage citizens to come check out the local police department. I encourage everyone to do so. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about police; my high school best friend’s father worked for the Kansas City, Mo. Metro police department. He had a few good opportunities to arrest his son and I back in our youth. Thankfully, I have yet to experience any true incarceration. I was married for a few years, though 🙂

The Citizen’s Police Academy helps people understand the nature of police work, from a simple traffic stop, to the investigation of homicides/deaths, drugs, arson, and bombs.

English: Police issue X26 TASER

English: Police issue X26 TASER (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been tasered. I volunteered. Yes, I would do it again, just to prove to myself I can take it. My taser experience was probably worse for me than for some perp. Here is why: the taser lead were connected directly to me. There was no chance for a miss, no chance I was not going to get juiced, and a very good chance I was going to get the full juice. When you see someone tased on “Cops,” through a shirt, while running, the perp may not get the full 50,000 volts. That’s why some perps are able to still function, because the taser leads don’t make good contact.

I got good contact. I hurt for about 10 days after the fact. The fellow who volunteered with me says the feeling afterwards was like doing a month’s worth of weight-training in about 2 seconds.

Tasers are not classified as “deadly weapons.” Tasers are actually “non-lethal deterrents.” A license is not required to own one, nor carry one. I got into an argument with a woman one day who tried to tell me a taser was a deadly weapon. “Taser” is a brand name, and Taser International keeps very good records on every single unit sold. To my knowledge, and admittedly it is limited, no one has died as a direct result of being tasered. People have been tased in uncomfortable places, like Memphis, but no one has actually died from a tasing. A police baton is a deadly weapon, though. Anything that can be used to cause death, a brick, a car, a steel pipe, your mother-in-law, can be a deadly weapon. And if you conceal such on your person you are probably breaking the law. So, put down your mother-in-law and slowly back up and keep your hands where I can see them.

Participants were allowed to fire the AR-15, the Glock 22 and Glock 27. Both Glocks are .40mm; they have more stopping power than the .9mm. We were supposed to be able to get attacked by the drug dog but the officer forgot to bring the insurance waivers. I volunteered for that, too. I’m used to being jumped on by 70 and 80 pound dogs, with teeth. Being in the wicker suit, I was not afraid of being hit. In fact, many of the K-9 dogs these days are the smaller Belgian Malinois and not German Shepherds. The dogs look very similar and people will often confuse the two breeds. The Malinois is becoming preferred as they still exhibit the “intimidation factor” yet are smaller and are better able to fit inside the more fuel efficient police vehicles. Malinois are also nimble, fast, and bond with a sole handler.

I often tweet my stances on some issues associated with gun laws, gun ownership, and gun rights. Unfortunately, the United States was born from violence, the Revolutionary War. We used weapons to repel our British overlords. Later, we again used weapons to suppress insurrection, and maintain our union, The American Civil War. Weapons have been part of U.S. culture from the onset.

One day, I would hope our U.S. culture evolves from our infatuation with guns, and other things that go “Boom!” and kill people. And I do feel this is evolution. We don’t love guns. We see guns as literal appendages. I don’t love my fingers, they just “are.” Many U.S. citizens feel this way about guns; we have arms, legs, fingers, toes, and a Sig Sauer.

IMG_2786

I cleaned my handgun this weekend. My dad lent me a Ruger LCP .38 so I could take a Concealed Carry / Deadly Weapons (CCDW) course last winter. I tore down the handgun, cleaned, oiled, and reassembled. And I’m still alive. I have yet to fire the handgun, but it is ready. I included my magazine in the pic just to head off those who think I’m faking. I took the CCDW course due to the increased number of people I’ve pissed off, mostly students. I’ve had them threaten to shoot me, beat me up, and shoot my dogs. My local contacts on the police department have asked me if I carry and I say, “No,” and they say, “Well, you should.” I have yet to submit my application as of this writing. Being an educator can be a dangerous, these days, just so you know. Parents don’t instill respect in their children; the children grow into disrespectful youth; the youth grow into pain-in-the-ass (PITA) adults, who then raise more belligerent kids.

The Cycle of Life needs an overhaul.

Now, if my assembled handgun and my loaded magazine were lying this close together in Kentucky, the gun would be considered “loaded.” Every state has different gun laws. In Kentucky, even if your magazine has not been inserted into the grip, your handgun could be considered loaded if the magazine is within arms reach of the weapon. The Ruger came with instructions detailing a few differences between state’s laws.

Connecticut: Unlawful storage of a loaded firearm may result in imprisonment or fine.”

Maine: Endangering the welfare of a child is a crime.”

Maryland: It is a crime to store or leave a loaded firearm in any location where an individual knew or should have known that an unsupervised minor would gain access to the firearm.”

Texas: It is unlawful to store, transport, or abandon an unsecured firearm in a place where children are likely to be and can obtain access to the firearm” So, don’t go abandoning guns in parks. What are people thinking?

I’m not going to link to any National Rifle Association web site. I personally believe the NRA is borderline lunacy. I am not a gun fanatic and would much rather weapons didn’t exist, but even in Roddenberry’s Star Trek Universe, people still carried phasers regardless of how poverty and “need” had been addressed.

There are good web sites which can educate people about the geographic distribution of local and state gun laws.

GunLawsByState.com

USCarry.com

When we look at real issues associated with gun rights and gun laws, the underlying problem is that legislation does nothing to prevent crimes committed with guns, legislation only affects people who are legal gun owners. Legislation does nothing to prevent criminals from accessing guns. How does a law prevent a person who intends on breaking the law anyway from finding a gun? Answer: a law can’t.

In Kentucky, for example, I can have a yard sale where the only items I sell are guns. I don’t need a license. I don’t need to do a background check. I don’t even need to see a driver’s license. Now, it may be a good idea to have some paper form and see a picture ID, but Kentucky law says I’m not required to. Gun show laws vary state-to-state. In some states, a vendor may need a gun license to sell gun at a gun show. Again, in Kentucky, if you are a “hobbyist,” you can sell guns at a gun show without a being a registered handgun dealer. Just buy yourself a table, square away your change box, all of your transactions are cash, and no pesky paperwork (background check).

See, literally anyone can purchase a gun. Crazy people, people fresh from prison, people on their way to commit a murder or robbery. Just find the nearest gun show, bring some cash, find a hobbyist gun trader, and off you go. People say it’s “hard for people to buy handguns.” No, that is a straight-up lie.

Look, laws do not prevent action. Laws detail the repercussions should someone or some entity be found in violation of the law. People speed all the time, shoplift, run red lights, etc., and their actions are not impaired by laws. Thankfully, the vast majority of people are law-abiding citizens. Otherwise, our society would be Mad Max:Beyond Thunderdome just to get milk and coffee every day. Personally, I do not relish the idea of having to run through a gauntlet of bald-psycho-babbling-lunatic-nutjobs just to get my Seattle’s Best from the library coffee shop. It’s bad enough having to wade through meandering students who can’t decide if they want to go to the library, go over to Wade’s apartment and finish that video game, or go back to their dorm room for a nap.

I have no solution. I’ve been ruminating on a solution for months. While I’ve been in deep contemplation, right-wing media outlets, like Breitbart’s web site, believe themselves to be the pinnacle of Reason, as exemplified by this article and series of shitty maps.

Part of the “gun law” problem, as evidenced by Breitbart’s web writers, is the lack of true reason and critical thinking. The maps presented prove nothing, and present no case gun ownership and homicides are related. The maps do prove any dum-dum with software can make a maps which may or may not show causal relationships. These maps are submitted as “facts” against an alleged crusade by President Obama who personally is going to go door-to-door and ask each U.S. citizen to kindly hand over your weapons. Honestly, people don’t fall for this tripe. These maps do not prove causality. There are so many factors at play when comparing these two variables the presentation of the maps fails on their lack of merit. I teach Cartography, the Art and Science of Map-making, and have done so since 2000. I would fail any student who tried to present these maps as “evidence” of some causal relationship.

In the United States, guns are ingrained within our psyche like no other country. In rural communities, children first hold their pacifier, then they old a gun. And, parents think its awesome when their 6-yo picks up daddy’s AK-47 and makes like he is Rambo, or maybe Stallone from the “Expendables,” as Rambo is my generation.

Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, all of the “rational” and “sane” countries have very little handgun crime, few handgun deaths, and they are not explicitly prevented from owning weapons. People in these countries own handguns and rifles. They hunt game, target and trap shoot.

And, they have seen lifetimes of death, born witness to the nightmares of bullets and gunpower. Two entire world wars wrecked their landscape, destroyed families, social groups, neighborhoods, a societal conflagration from the end of polished steel. We are not in a position to tell Europe or Russia about gun laws and gun death. They know.

The City of Kennesaw, Cobb County, Georgia, enacted an odd bit of legislation. In 1982, the city passed an ordinance requiring every head of household own a handgun. There were allowances for exceptions, conscientious objectors, people who were not mentally capable of owning a handgun, and such. The idea being that intruders would think twice about robbing an armed homeowner. According to the city, the crime statistics plummeted. Over about 3 years, burglaries fell 54%. Many pro-gun advocates use this case to argue for more liberal gun laws. Of course, what they fail to state is that the crimes were not prevented. The burglars just moved to different areas where people were less likely to own guns.

Then, as logic might dictate, “Make sure everyone has a gun. Then, the burglars won’t have anyone left to burgle.” Maybe, or maybe they just shoot the homeowner, instead. The economics of crime will change to meet the environment. Here is what I mean.

The other night we had a robbery on campus. After midnight, three youths approached a single person out for a walk. One of the youths acted as if he had a gun tucked into his back at his waistband. He never produced a weapon, but the threat of a weapon was enough that the robbed person handed over his cash. The threat of a weapon was enough to initiate the robbery.

Let’s imagine both parties were armed. If it is common knowledge within a community people are armed the potential exists for immediate escalation of violence. The person who draws first, wins. Or, the person who shoots first, wins. In peaceful, passive environment, the threat of escalation is less, as all that is needed is to act like you have a weapon and the victim capitulates. Theoretically, while the victim might be humiliated, at least they are still breathing.

It might be easy to say, well, look at the City of Kennesaw, everyone is armed there and their violence declined. Violence declined not only because of armed residents but also because of the lack of armed residents elsewhere, making the cost of moving to other areas more attractive. We can’t lose track of all causal elements and fixate on only those which support our argument. That is Confirmation Bias, and dangerous, and flawed reasoning.

If we imagine a universe where all people are armed, then that is our datum, our starting point. Then, the difference is who is willing to draw? Who is willing to draw and shoot? Who is willing to draw, shoot, and kill? The notion might become, then, that sense all people are armed, they must then understand the association between being armed and being shot, being killed, and therefore since all people know these rules, all armed people are willing to die or die trying. And then we have the Wild West, partner.

The economics change but the economics won’t prevent crime, won’t stop crime, and will probably make criminals more creative, not less criminal.

Finally, I share this. I have two acquaintances who are both former military. Both were snipers. One was an Army sniper, one a Marine sniper. Both have been trained to the highest level possible by each military branch. They have both met each other, swapped tales, vetted each other. One continues to train snipers and edits the sniper manual Marines use today. Both have admitted to me that for the average everyday person to be out-and-about with concealed weapons scares the living shit out of them. The average CCDW-carrying person has been through 8 hours of training and has never stared down a barrel at another human being prepared to kill them. One of the snipers took 3 AK-47 rounds in the chest in Afghanistan and has a permanent heart flutter. He was wearing armor obviously. The point is, 8 hours of training is just enough to make a dangerous person. People don’t understand a bullet can penetrate a wall, fly through that wall, and penetrate another wall, like a neighbor’s house. They don’t understand guns are really loud, and have a recoil which will knock your teeth out or break your knuckle if you’re not ready. On the other hand, the anti-government paranoid zealots found in every U.S. State who stockpiles weapons awaiting the Mothership, the Tribulation or End of Days, or this year’s Red Tag Sale at Macy’s are just as scary to my sniper friends.

If you are looking for good gear, check out Gall’s. They, too, are Kentucky-based.

Thanks for reading.

PAX

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