U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- Both sides of the gun debate feel that their position is correct. Both sides agree that horrible people do horrible things. Both sides want to stop that. That small point of agreement is where progress in the debate usually ends. I think both sides are empathic and distrustful but they are paying attention to very different things. A way to get farther in the debate is to ask a deeper question.
-The anti-gun side says that the bad guys would become better guys if they were disarmed and that the other side loves guns more than they love people. The self-defense side replies that gun control disarms far more victims than criminals. They note that disarmed bad guys are still bad guys, and the vast majority of violent crimes are committed with fists, clubs, and knives rather than guns.
-The pro-gun side of the debate says that the victims of violent crime would be less victimized if they were allowed an armed defense. The anti-gun side of the debate answers that guns are just tools of violence and violence is never an optimal solution.
Neither side changes their opinion because the argument never touches their core beliefs. I want us to join in the debate by asking a more fundamental question; can we be trusted with violence?
Most of us need to do some homework before we can put an answer together. Let’s look at the question piece at a time.
Can you judge when violence is justified? Have you studied enough to make that decision in a short amount of time? Can you recognize when violence is not only justified but a necessary evil that avoids a greater evil? Taken to the obvious limit, can you use a lethal tool that might kill another person?
Those are difficult questions, but this isn’t a philosophy course where we have a semester to debate each answer. The hard part about the questions is that we will answer on our own in a very limited amount of time. We have neither the time to ask, nor is there an informed authority who knows our situation in enough detail to give us accurate and useful answers about what to do.
The armed citizen reacts defensively when he is attacked. As legally armed citizens, we have an enormously wide range of possible responses when we face a threat. In contrast to a soldier or police officer, the armed civilian gets to run away as fast and as far as he wants. We never have to engage a bad guy if running away is a good option. Unfortunately, we won’t know, and we can’t know, all of our options when we suddenly face a threat. That is why we want to ask the important questions now when we have time for reasoned answers.
Should you be trusted with violence?
That is one of the fundamental questions that lie under the gun debate. The answer is not obvious.
The advocate for gun prohibition identifies with the victim and wants to take away the criminal’s tools. The self-defense advocate identifies with the victim and wants to empower the victim. In theory, both advocates are nearly on the same side.
I think both sides empathize with the victim but differ in their degree of trust. At a shallow level, the gun prohibitionists say we should trust the government for our defense. The self-defense advocates answer that we have to save ourselves until the police arrive.
At a deeper level, you won’t trust others to use violence if you wouldn’t trust yourself to use it.
If you have violent or barely controlled impulses then you assume that everyone else has those impulses. You assume that other people should be disarmed since you don’t trust yourself to carry and use lethal tools of self-defense.
That is why I think the question of violence and trust is fundamental. Do we trust ourselves? By extension, do we trust others with the power to use lethal tools responsibly? That question may yield more answers by practical inspection than by philosophical introspection.
Let me illustrate that point with a story I heard when I was a firearms instructor. I don’t know if this story is literally true. It might be fiction and tell us about many truths at once.
The story goes that a family wanted all the adults to know basic firearms safety before they introduced a gun into their home. The teenagers and cousins were eager to take a firearms safety class, but Grandma said she didn’t want to touch a gun since she would never use it. She would put her body between a bad guy and her family, but at her age she couldn’t think of anything that someone would do to her that would justify taking the other person’s life.
When they were in the classroom, the instructors pointed out that grandma should learn how to tell if a gun was loaded or unloaded so she could put it away safely. She should know the condition of the gun before she handed it to another person. Grandma learned the basics of firearms safety along with the other adults.
The problem came to a head when they walked out to the shooting range. Grandma wouldn’t shoot at the targets. One solution was to have Grandma shoot at the empty backstop so she knew how the gun felt in her hand.
Rather than give her a bullseye target, a firearms instructor deliberately gave Grandma a target with human figures on it. “This bad guy broke into your granddaughter’s room at night,“ the instructor said. “He has a knife in one hand and is dragging your granddaughter by her hair back towards the window. What are you going to do? Are you going to say goodbye to your grandchild?”
Grandma pressed the trigger.
“Did that stop him?” the instructor asked.
Grandma fired again.
Grandma would never use violence out of anger or hate, but she would use lethal force to save the people she loves. Maybe you have the heart of a warrior but you have to think through some questions first.
Consider this quote as you wonder if you trust yourself.
“I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.” (Faramir in Tolkien’s Two Towers)
About Rob Morse
The original article is posted here. Rob Morse writes about gun rights at Ammoland, at Clash Daily, at Second Call Defense, and on his SlowFacts blog. He hosts the Self Defense Gun Stories Podcast and co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast. Rob was an NRA pistol instructor and combat handgun competitor.