D Gregory Smith

The Right to Kill

Filed By D Gregory Smith | January 19, 2011 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: constitutional rights, guns, insanity, Japan, Jim Brady, Montana, sanity

I grew up on a ranch in Montana. I rode horses. I branded calves. I collected eggs, hunting-montana.jpgbrought in lambs, moved irrigation pipe, milked cows, toted hay bales, and, yes, occasionally, I shot things.

Guns were part of our life - not an enormous part, but they were there. They were a tool with very serious consequences, and I was taught to be responsible for those consequences.

My friends and I, like the kid in A Christmas Story, lusted after the Red Ryder BB gun. When we got them (mine arrived on my 12th birthday; it wasn't a Red Ryder, but it was a repeater!) we shot at targets - usually tin cans, sometimes at small animals - and, on a dare, the windows of an old barn outside town. On the ranch, we sometimes shot at coyotes and foxes to protect the lambs. My grandfather's preferred method of livestock protection was a gas-powered "cannon" that would simply shoot off every 20 minutes - a relatively inexpensive (and effective) non-lethal noisemaker.

I, like every other kid my age, went to hunter's safety classes in preparation for a hunting license and learned rifle use and safety. I went hunting and shot (and field dressed) a few deer in my time, experiencing the blood, the gore, and learning basic anatomy from the inside out. I really went to spend some quality time with my Dad. Just remembering that time outdoors with him brings a smile to my face.

But around age 16, I lost the appetite for it. I just couldn't rationalize the necessity of shooting a beautiful animal when my survival didn't (necessarily - it's a macho thing) depend on it.

I think it started with an increasing awareness of violence in the world.

In 1981, we were worried about the Ayatollah Khomeini, the hostages in Iran, violence and hunger strikes in Northern Ireland, and war in El Salvador. There were assassination attempts on the President and the Pope. The attempt on Anwar Sadat succeeded. We wondered about baseball strikes, air traffic controller strikes, the first woman on the Supreme Court and "gay cancer."

But most powerfully, I think, was being in Japan that year as an exchange student for the summer. It was watching the solemn commemoration services of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that got to me. Sure, we learned about the bombing in school, but they weren't people to me then - they were savage enemies of democracy, hell-bent on our destruction. They deserved it. And besides, they were far away. What we did to them didn't necessarily matter.

But it did.

I couldn't shake the images I saw in Japan that day of burned, naked, terrified, fleeing human beings. I can still hear the bells ringing in otherwise quiet streets. I can clearly see the sadness on the beautiful faces of people I now knew and loved. I couldn't reconcile the stunningly beautiful architecture, culture, spirituality and people I now knew firsthand with the "savage enemy" of my social studies and history classes.

I never picked up a gun after I returned from Japan. My dad and my brother tried to get me to go hunting, but I couldn't. Nor could I explain to them my suspicion that even the seemingly innocuous act of hunting for me seemed like a slippery slope into barbarism, whether of thinking or of acting. It doesn't matter. Each one eventually leads to the other anyway.

There's been a lot of rhetoric happening in the last weeks. Some of it has been noble, some of it savagely self-serving. What I find missing is the soul of the debate - something we seem to be missing every time we talk about this: What's so important to human beings about protecting and enshrining our ability to kill?

It's so important that we've perverted religion to support it, governments to turn a blind eye, and industry after industry is tied to it. Therefore, the rhetoric goes, is tied the heart and soul of America.

Horseshit.

The heart and soul of America is tied to freedom, and that includes the freedom to live a life without the threat of being shot by someone who simply thinks you should be shot. For any number of reasons. Because they have the power. And a gun.

People have lost their minds if they think their right to an AK-47 is guaranteed in the Constitution. They have gone insane if they believe that they need to have stockpiles of weapons in their homes against the advent of anarchy. They are crazy if they think that every one would be better protected by carrying a gun. But that's the meme. That's what all the hullabaloo is about. It's about guaranteeing our right to kill.

I wonder if any of the people trumpeting unrestricted gun rights have ever seen the consequences of actually using a firearm, the blood, the pain, the terror. And not just from the movies or television, but actually having blood on their hands. Actually seeing a dead or dying thing or person in front of them. If so, their voices may be credible. If not, then they need to shut the fuck up.

I also have to say I'm not alone. Look at the the transformation of Jim Brady and the clarity of Virginia Tech survivor Colin Goddard, to name two others....

I grew up in the West, but it's no longer the Wild West of Billy the Kid and Matt Dillon, nor is it the friendly, peaceful, sensible West I remember from my childhood. It's slowly becoming the crazy West of Ted Kaczynski, The Aryan Nations, Columbine, Oklahoma City, the NRA, and FOX News.

Back when I was learning to handle a rifle in hunters' safety class, a kid asked, "When are we going to learn about pistols?" One of the instructors said, "Son, handguns are for police and thugs and shooting vermin. If you want to be a cop, they'll teach you all you need to know. If you need to shoot a coyote, use a rifle. And if you want to be a thug, you'll have to learn it somewhere else."

That's what I miss: that being a thug used to be a bad thing.

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I remember being a kid and shooting a sparrow with my BB gun. It killed it. I walked over and picked the poor thing up and it hit me that I had just snuffed out the poor beast's life. It was done. Over.

Finished.

I still played with the BB gun - shooting cans and whatnot. But I never aimed it at a living being again and refuse to have a real gun in the house. Ever.

Because I'll never make that mistake again.

I find it curious that people who advocate the removal of firearms from our society never seem to stop for a second a thik about what the world was like before the advent of the modern personal firearm.

Let's turn the clock back to say, the 16th Century. That would be the 1500's, for those of you who weren't paying attention in school. Man-portable firearms of various sorts had existed for at least 200 years prior to that time, but they were fairly cumbersome to maintain. Of course, early flintlock firearms of the 16th Century were notoriously unreliable and inaccurate devices, and were generally not as useful as the preferred weapon of the time, the sword.

Now, I will ask you, have you ever used a sword? Most people haven't, but the thing I want you to understand is that swinging a sword about is something that takes a lot of strength, and a lot of skill. Couple to this the fact that a sword in those days would have cost a relatively large amount of money, and you will begin to understand the fact that it requires a relatively strong, rich person to both acquire a sword, and to train for its effective use.

Let's think about that. We're in the 16th Century, we're rich, we're strong...what sort of person do you think we're envisioning here...that's right, a man. Certainly it is a man, because women, as we well know from even a cursory review of history, were not in most cases capable of owning property, of earning large incomes, and in many places, not legally permitted to own a sword. A man not only rich enough to acquire a sword, but a man rich enough to afford the time it takes to learn to use a sword and practice regularly to maintain his skill with it, and also a man strong enough to do so.

Such men were usually found...where? That's right, in the service of a feudal master of some sort. For you see, power is maintained by the threat of violence in every society that has ever been, and in the era before the development of modern personal firearms, physically strong, rich men who could wield swords were the people who ruled.

Sometime in between the 16th and 17th Centuries, however, an interesting thing happened. Firearms became more effective. They became cheaper, as well. They began to proliferate.

The really cool thing about a firearm is that you now have a weapon which is capable of easily killing another human being, is relatively cheap, does not require great skill, and does not require great strength. Suddenly, people of all physical capabilities and a much wider range of economic backgrounds are a match, in terms of deadly force, for even the strongest, richest man out there.

This was the beginning of the end of tyranny. Even the weakest, oldest, woman among us could relatively easily defend herself against the predations of a strong man intent on robbing her of her right to Life.

Suddenly, and not coincidentally, philosophers around the world begin to realize, as did Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Hugo Grotius, and others, that every person possesses within them an inherent natural equality with every other man. They begin to develop the modern theories of civil society upon which our current societies are based. They come to the realization that every person possesses an inherent right to their lives and the right to defend their lives against those who would seek to forcibly remove that right. They begin to demand governments that reflect these principles.

If you think that any of this would have been possible without the development of the modern personal firearm, you are not thinking things through.

Within another 200 years, we saw the birth of this new nation, the first in all of human history founded on the belief that all people were equal in dignity, possessed of unalienable rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, and by the time another 200 years had passed, nearly every nation in the western world, and many far beyond it, had thrown off the bonds of feudalism and embraced modern democracy.

Modern democracy simply would not be possible without modern personal firearms.

Yes, a firearm is designed for one thing, and one thing only. Killing. You fail, however, when you make the assumption that all killing is unjustified, and furthermore, that all people should be forced to bow to your will just because you have a distaste for my right to self-defense in the face of lethal aggression.

I wonder if you've ever considered your position of relative privilege compared to other people in this world. Have you ever thought about how you might feel about this issue if you were, say, a trans woman of color, like myself, coming home late at night, alone, as I often do, wearing shoes that make it difficult to flee, as I prefer? I'm a musician, as well, so I might even be carrying a very expensive instrument, making me an attractive target for thieves. What about a disabled person in a wheelchair, like my mother? Or a single mother with an infant in a stroller living in a depressed urban area, because that's all you can afford, like some of my girlfriends? Or a single young woman making her way back to her dorm room after studying at the university library until the wee hours? Somehow, I doubt it.

Maybe you think we should just all be required to have men to protect us? Or a constant police escort?

How about Jack Price? Have you asked him how he feels about it? Jack Price was beaten to within an inch of his life in my hometown, the town where my family has lived since the 1920's. Perhaps he might be willing to explain to you how helpless he doubtless felt as those two men beat the living shit out of him just because they didn't like the way he looked. I don't know if Mr. Price supports gun control or not, but I'd be willing to bet that in that moment, he'd have liked to have had the means to defend himself.

Why don't you give the Pink Pistols a call and ask them to take a straw poll of how many of their members have been bashed?

Wishful thinking doesn't remove bad people from this world. You can take away our guns, but then all you've done is empower the already empowered, and weakened the already less powerful.

Yes, you have the right not to be assaulted, in any way. Has that ever stopped a criminal from doing so? People have been doing it all through the ages, simply because they can. Because they have the power. And the muscle that I, for one, don't.

My girlfriend and I used to live in Philadelphia, on Spring Garden Street, a couple hundred yards from the 9th District police station. One night, somebody attempted to break into our building. I called the police immediately. It took then 20, count 'em, 20 minutes to show up. 20 minutes to go 200 yards down the street and look around the corner to see what was going on. We were fortunate that night, and nothing bad ended up happening to us, but what if that person had been intent on harm? Could I have defended both myself and my girlfriend for over 20 minutes while waiting for the cops to put down their donuts and rescue me? Maybe, maybe not...

I have a right to my life. I have a right to defend my life. If I need a gun to defend myself against a physically superior opponent, I have the right to that, as well.

So what, so you shot a deer or two in your life. I'm not a hunter; not that I've got anything against hunting for food, but I hardly think hunting animals with firearms is as necessary in the modern world as it once was, so I don't bother going hunting.

If you think having shot an animal or two in your rancher days, or having looked at a few photographs of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (by the way, I'm Filipina...ever seen what the Japanese did to the Philippines?), or implying that a fission bomb has any relationship to a rifle gives you any credibility to talk about why I shouldn't have access to the tools that give me the power to defend my life and the lives of my loved ones against a physically superior aggressor intent on killing us, then *you* can shut the fuck up.

You can take my weapons from me when you pry them out of my cold, dead hands, 'cause guess what, the Constitution *does* give me the right to own and use an AK-47, even if I prefer a Marlin 1894SS, and the Supreme Court of the United States says so, too, and rightly so.

First off, swords do not require particularly much strength to swing. They require a certain amount of skill, but not so great as to be difficult to learn to use. Maybe 2 or 3 hours of sparring and drills a week is sufficient to maintain a person's skill. They did cost money, but not a prohibitive amount as you seem to think. Horses were much more expensive.
They were also not the main weapon of battlefields through most of history;
The spear, the single most prolific
weapon on the battlefield in every era
of history until now, is also extremely
easy to learn and requires very little
strength. It's also just plain better
at killing people; It's usually difficult for a skilled swordsman to best a skilled spearman. And it's not just because of range.

Next, the gun was not a magical equalizing force for the weak. Crossbows already provided an easy to train, effective way for peasants to arm themselves. Until about the revolutionary war and the development of rifled barrels(Which even then were not cheap enough or logistically feasible to field to troops on a wide scale), crossbows in fact had superior accuracy and faster firing rates.

Next, saying that the renaissance and post-renaissance philosophers asserting that every man was equal had something to do with the fact that the peasants and lower classes in society suddenly becoming relevant to warfare (Which they already were) is pretty ridiculous. The preferred civilian weapon in that day was, wait for it...the sword! That's right, our friendly rapier. Duels using pistols didn't become widespread until the 1800's, almost 100 years after our friend Locke declared all men (And he only meant men, Locke did not consider women his equal.) equal.

You absolutely do have a right to defend yourself; you'd be shocked at what five minutes with an instructor and a knife would allow you to do. And if they have a gun, well, you're honestly more likely to win. Yes, even if they're physically superior. Yes, even if they have training with the gun AND in an unarmed style.

Feel free to continue to make arguments, but please understand that you may want to read up on military history a little bit, and actually learn to use a sword or knife before you describe what it takes to use them.

amen sister. i can tell you know your history and i'm proud that a fellow american can make such an intelligent and sound argument. i must say that i agree with this article in one sense and i also fully agree with yours. the synthesis that i can make is that we can all have guns, and if we also have respect for life - no innocent blood need be spilled. this article points out something extremely important, and that is how fragile and important each human life is. we ought not blindly and ignorantly hate any group of people, nor should we target them with violence. but we can also have a gun for instances that you speak of... and make thoughtful, humane decisions on if and when we should pull the trigger. thank you for this wonderful counterpoint. i find you interesting and intelligent enough that i would love to be your friend.

"I find it curious that people who advocate the removal of firearms from our society never seem to stop for a second a thik about what the world was like before the advent of the modern personal firearm."

Read my post again. Never did I say that I advocate the removal of firearms from our society.

My point, if you read more carefully, is that the right to defend has morphed into the right to kill- your sarcasm and dismissal toward/of my personal experience notwithstanding.

Thank you for writing.

Well, then, allow me to directly address certain aspects of your article:

"What's so important to human beings about protecting and enshrining our ability to kill?"

Therefore, the rhetoric goes, (it) is tied the heart and soul of America.

Horseshit."

Our ability to kill is directly related to our ability to maintain a functional modern democracy. It is, in fact, the cornerstone of modern democracy, which saw its first expression in the founding of this country, and of the modern liberal philosophy which enabled that to happen.

Has it occurred to you what happens when you break the law? At some point, depending on the severity of the crime, every law in this country is based upon the idea that non-compliance with the law will eventually result in the loss of your inherent rights, at its ultimate end, your property, your liberty, or your life, are forfeit if you break the law. Every time you go to the voting booth, you are pulling a trigger, because every time you vote, you are selecting the people who make the laws that determine, ultimately, at what point it is appropriate to deprive another human being of their property, their liberty, or of their life.

I submit to you that holding that power in your hand is the most direct method of understanding the responsibility you are granted with your sovereign franchise, and that it is largely because so many people no longer are taught to intimately grasp the nature of the ability to kill that we have so many misguided laws in our society. As well, it contributes to the callousness with which people treat one another regularly in our time.

"It's about guaranteeing our right to kill.

I wonder if any of the people trumpeting unrestricted gun rights have ever seen the consequences of actually using a firearm...

Actually seeing a dead or dying thing or person in front of them. If so, their voices may be credible. If not, then they need to shut the fuck up."

Mr. Smith, I am one of those people trumpeting unrestricted gun rights, or as unrestricted as it is reasonably possible to make them (note permissible restrictions in D.C v. Heller, with which I largely agree). We have them in Alaska, in Arizona, and in Vermont, the which you may note is the only state of the three which also guarantees the civil rights of gender variant and homosexual people and the right of homosexual people to marry. I'm seriously considering moving to VT primarily because of those three issues.

Don't tell me to "shut the fuck up".

"I also have to say I'm not alone. Look at the the transformation of Jim Brady and the clarity of Virginia Tech survivor Colin Goddard, to name two others...."

How many of Colin Goddard's 32 dead schoolmates might have also survived had anyone been able to return fire? We'll never know, will we, because no one present had the ability to kill, except, of course, for the criminal Seung-Hui Cho, for whom the disarmament policy was no deterrent.

And James Brady? The man who was instrumental in the disarmament of people to an extent which we will also never be able to count? For how many deaths is *he* responsible, for helping to impede people's ability to defend themselves? Unfortunately for Mr. Brady, it was as impossible to prevent his wounds as it was impossible to prevent Rep. Giffords', but his solution was to advocate for the infringement of the rights of responsible citizens.

Guns aren't the answer to every situation, of course, but it is my right as a sovereign citizen of the United States of America, indeed, as a human being, to determine for myself when lethal force, when killing, is justified. Just as it is my burden to provide an affirmative defense in a court of law if that situation ever comes to pass.

What's so important about the protecting the ability to kill? The continuation of my life and the lives of my loved ones, that's what. My life, to which I have a unalienable right, just as I have the right to kill someone who attempts to kill me. Odds are, I may not be able to stop an assailant intent on bodily harming me or killing me without resorting to lethal force.

I'm not built for slugging it out with a man twice my size, and neither are any of the women of my family for which I provided examples, above, but we all of us have the right to defend ourselves, and if that means killing, then so be it. I, at least, will lose no sleep wondering whether or not I've made the correct moral choice.

Please, don't tell me you're not advocating for gun control when all the language you use is that of the gun grabbers. Don't insult my intelligence. In return, I will freely admit that this is about killing, pure and simple, and I will advise every gun rights advocate I meet not to shy away from that fact, because it's the truth, and it's our right.

Our ability to kill is directly related to our ability to maintain a functional modern democracy. It is, in fact, the cornerstone of modern democracy, which saw its first expression in the founding of this country, and of the modern liberal philosophy which enabled that to happen.

I think most of us would be more impressed with guns' ability to protect democracy if we saw:

A) orgs that advocate gun ownership showing even the least bit of care about assaults on our democracy, and

B) if anyone believed that the people who want to take away our democracy, who have been steadily chipping away at it for decades, won't just get more guns than the rest of us.

The ability to kill...cornerstone of democracy?

Whatever you're drinking, I want the cure.

That's the most warped argument against gun control I've ever heard.

I grew up in rural Indiana. My cousins hunted. I went along several times. I lost the appetitite for it early on, so I understand Bil's argument. I don't judgue my cousins' desire to hunt. I just want nothing to do with it. And they hunt with standard rifles, by the way. Not reapid-fire or assault weapons. Geeeeesh.

This entire agenda has been hijacked by NRA types and their ilk. I want nothing to do with anything that limits your right to obtain and own most types of guns. I will not allow Charlton heston's legacy to re-arrange my thoughts on that issue, or to mince my words. To be clear:

You can have a gun. If you're not a felon, if you demonstrate nominally-normal skills and common sense, knock yourself out.

Rapid-fire weapons, and the ammo used for them, do not and should not fall into that category. If you consider that sport, you're warped.

There. That was easy, wasn't it?

A well-regulated militia indeed.

Dear Greg and Gemma,

It’s always the subtleties of discourse that separate us! Both of you wrote and made profound arguments and you agree with each other for the most part. Defending oneself from a lethal threat, perceived as immanent, or actual, is correctly protected by our beloved constitution.

Gemma, what Greg was writing about, and I understand, is that there seems to be a perception that our right to own and use a gun is equivalent to having a right to kill. Actually we do have the right to kill someone if we’re defending ourselves. From what Greg wrote I think Greg is loath to kill anyone unless his life or that of a loved one is threatened with lethal force.

Gemma, I surmise you live in Philadelphia from what you wrote. I live in New Jersey and I understand your visceral desire for self-protection and support your desire. Last fall a wonderful trans-woman was shot to death in North Jersey and a week later another in your city. Fortunately for me I live in an area where I feel no need to own a gun for the protection of my family or myself but I do know what it feels like to live in a place where I would feel unprotected if I didn’t have a gun.

Greg was only trying to get us readers to understand what it feels like to kill.Greg wasn’t attacking anyone’s right to own a gun. Like Greg I shot all sorts of guns as a kid at paper targets or “skeet.” I feel fortunate that I never shot at, let alone killed a living creature, though I could if I needed to eat, and like Greg I could probably field dress a deer if I needed to kill it to eat but I’d never kill a deer for trophy because that would disrespect nature.

In summary, Greg’s point, in my mind, is that the current talk about gun control is that the proponents of gun ownership seem more interested in cultivating feelings that some of us have a right to kill others, even though we only have that right under very limited circumstances, namely self defense. Gemma, you and Greg are in agreement!

Hugs,

Pam

Ms. Daniels:

I no longer live in Philadelphia, though I lived in Center City for 7 years, and in the New Jersey suburbs for an additional 13 years. I now live in the Atlantic City area, though I still spend much time in and around Philadelphia, and I plan to move back to Philadelphia as soon as it is feasible for me to do so (unless I move to Vermont). Originally, I am from New York City, where I spent my high school years traveling all over the city via subway at all hours of the day or night, usually alone.

You may be unaware of this, but it was largely through my blogging efforts that the story of Victoria Carmen White, the murdered trans woman from North Jersey to whom I am sure you are referring, was brought to wider attention.

I am also well aware of the story of Stacy Lee Blahnik of Philadelphia.

I think about these stories every time I'm in Philadelphia hanging out at Sisters, Standard Tap, or Johnny Brenda's, to name three of my usual haunts, or going to visit my brother, his girlfriend, and my infant niece in Kensington.

You know Kensington, right? That's the neighborhood north of Center City where three women have been recently strangled to death by a serial killer. People of less than professional income have been pushed further and further away from the safer parts of town that people like Glenn Beck find so scary (ha! what an ass!) by the progressive gentrification of Old City, Northern Liberties, and even Fishtown, so now Kensington seems to be next on the list.

I think about them every time I meet somebody new out at a club or a bar and think about what might happen to me if I leave with them.

I think about them every time I hear a transphobic slur yelled at me from behind, as I just did hear from a group of young men while leaving a bar a few nights ago near the Atlantic City Airport, the last of my girlfriends to leave the party, while making my way to, and across, an ice covered parking lot in 3.5" heels.

And I definitely think about them every time I hold my 5-year-old daughter in my arms and hope that I will live to see her grown.

I don't want to end up with my name on the list at the next TDOR, or at any one after that, and I'm going to do every thing I possibly can to see that no more names end up on that list, either. So, if you see me getting a little heated sometimes when it looks to me like somebody wants to take away my ability to defend myself, now you know why.

I, like Greg, grew up on a Montana cattle ranch. My father, a former Special Forces Veteran drafted into the Vietnam War, taught me how to shoot. He thought it was a good thing for a girl, or anyone for that matter, to learn how to do. Respectfully & safely. With ultimate respect for the weapon & the potential consequences.

I also spent 17 years looking over my shoulder at the very real threat of a stalker who pronounced his intent to kill me on more than one occasion. I was- literally- hunted.

Early on in this horrific experience, I decided to go to a shooting range & practice up on my skills which had become rusty after some years in the city. Then I called my father to discuss what kind of gun he thought would be best.

To my ultimate surprise, he was opposed to the idea. Based on the facts that: One- to be useful as a weapon of self defense, a gun has to be carried on your person 24 hours a day; which is not really practical in any life outside of law enforcement. Two- if you are not going to wear it 24 hours a day, you will presumably leave it in your home/car/hand bag, etc. Three- it is just as likely that someone who really means to harm you can do so with the very gun that you own if you are not wearing it on your person.

He then encouraged me & helped me find a very intense course of self defense. Beyond karate- this was the kind of class that taught hand-to-hand combat; how to use your body & daily objects around you as a weapon if you are in a fight for your life. It is the best thing I ever did. You always have your body, and there are many objects around us on a daily basis that can be used with deadly force when needed. It changed my life in many ways- providing the knowledge that I REALLY could defend myself if needed.

The right to bear arms as granted by our founding fathers was based on their experience of rising up against a corrupt and oppressive government. It was not meant in the spirit that is now being twisted & turned by corrupt & oppressive politicians for their own self-serving purposes. Our founding fathers lived in villages, where it was easy enough for the community to remove deadly weapons from local mentally ill residents.

Statistically, every day 15 KIDS are killed by guns in the U.S., and 64 are wounded; KIDS, not adults. This is not about gun control or the right to bear arms. This is about overly easy gun access, the hype that dramatizes & romatacizes it, the culture of fear being thrust upon us, and the lack of public safety measures to protect children & adults from the irreversible harm caused by both accidents & insanity.

Gun deaths amongst youth now statistically outmeasure death by car accident. You have to have a license to drive; there needs to be a measure of responsiblity & ability for gun ownership as well.

I was raised on a ranch in NM. When my family raised sheep we shot coyotes every time we saw them. When raising sheep no longer made sense and we returned to cattle ranching we stopped hunting coyotes. Not an issue with calves as much as lambs.

I own a 22-250, 22, 12 gauge and the double barrel shotgun used by Billy the Kid, when he escaped from the Lincoln County Jail. My Uncle owned the Old Fort Sumner Museum where Billy was buried. All the rifles were given or inherited by family. I own an XD-40 for protection. I do not carry it with me, although I can without a conceal carry permit in Arizona where I now live.

When I was young I had hunters safety - was a requirement in high school. In Roswell where I attended high school everyone had a rifle in their truck, that lived on a ranch, people that lived in town did not, at that time no reason to.

But with that said, even though I own guns, I do not hunt (I just find it boring and do not kill except for food or self defense) and how many people really need to kill for food these days in the US. Now there is the self defense issue and I find most people tend to view this in black and white/all or nothing and it's just not that simple.

Take the recent shooting in Arizona that made international headlines. A comment was made that if everyone was armed that would not have happened, a comment was made if no one was armed that would not have happened. But someone was armed. In an interview they even stated they almost shot the wrong person. The gunman was already restrained by the crowed and a by stander picked his handgun up to move it as safe distance from the shooter, at that time an armed civilian came out of the store almost pulled his own weapon to shoot that person holding the gunman's weapon. Fortunately more level heads prevailed and the armed bystander decided to subdue physically. During which time the crowd correct him on who the gunman was and he then helped to hold the shooter down until authorities arrived.

So I think from this we can glean that the issue is not guns, bats, knives, swords. And hopefully everyone knows that killing a person in cold blood is illegal in this country, yet people still do it. With guns, with knives, with bare hands. And just like murder which is illegal making handguns illegal will not effect those that chose to break the law. The only people affected are those that would not murder in the first place, the law abiding citizen, not so much abiding the law of the US regarding killing but actually abiding the law of humanity that says for basic survival needs of self and community you have to help your fellow citizen, not kill them.

Now one would think I belong to the NRA or GOA because I own weapons, the answer is absolutely not! I find those organization to be radical extremes. The have their own agenda beyond the right to bear arms reasonably and sensibly. When I ask the GOA to cancel my membership they were nice, understood I could not support their other agendas and said well see you as we protect the right to bear arms. The NRA on the other hand attacked me a liberal enemy which I find that kind of extremism irresponsible and short sited of seeing the big picture.

So I believe we still need the right to bear arms, but within reason. I fly airplanes I need a license and training. I also fly helicopters, I need a license and training, I drive a car and when I learned to drive I needed a license and training (now one only needs a license; no training.). I own rifles and handguns no license or training required (although I took safety lessons and had training on my own).

If you hunt you need a rifle or bow depending on your sport and a license for the game you're hunting. Makes sense and in my world the rifle should fit the hunt and there never is a need to blow the animal up or use automatic weapons. Never a need to carry a rifle unless your going hunting.

If your cup of tea is shooting high powered rifles that can penetrate a tank or firing massive rounds that spray lead all over the place, well lets face it that just playing and I guess boys like to do that sort of thing. But there is no reason to have ammo available except at designated ranges where you can go to play with such weapons. (not so easy to regulate, since some such weapons use the same ammo a hunting rifle would - example of a complex not black and white issue).

If like me you carry a hand gun for self defense you have no need for large capacity clips, if you have to fire that many times you need to find another method of self defense.

I remember when the STARK treaty was first being brought to public attention the NRA sent out email that Obama was trying to take away our arms by regulating via international treaty and one of my conservative co-workers (actually right wing extreme) co-workers sent me the email and knowing I owned a hand gun, even though I was very liberal thought I would jump on the pry from my dead hands band wagon. But instead I went online looked at the initial areas NRA had concern over and realized that unless the weapons were atomic or used uranium depleted shells our ownership laws in this county were intact.

Well Mr. extreme started making loud comments at work about how I wanted to take away everyones hand gun and specifically how I wanted to take away his right to own guns and take away his gun. My reaction was if I wanted his gun, I would just pull my own shoot him and take it.

I think both sides need to think reasonably on this issue. Making something illegal does not stop those that break the law.

But regulating in safety only makes sense, the FFA does it when I fly. The DMV does it when I drive. Sensible regulation helps everyone and if we can get the exsteamist on both ends to quiet down on the rhetoric we just might be able to find a sensible common ground that makes sense for everyone and makes life safer for everyone as well.

Also the argument for needing weapons to protect against a tyrannical government is insane at best, we would need tanks, planes, bombs and missiles to do that. Talk about the wild west, huh :)

Democracy (actually a representative republic to be more accurate) is what protects us from a tyrannical government, but only if all citizens participate, otherwise that leads to full democracy which leads to a monarch.

Just one liberal T-Girls point of view anyway.

Yeah, that is an absurd line. It also reeks of American exceptionalism. Most modern democracies have far stricter gun laws than the US and almost none have any sort of 'right to bear arms' in their Constitution. Somehow they haven't collapsed into a pit of ravenous murderers, in fact, the US has extremely high rates of murder and violent crime for a developed country. But by Gemma's standards, where more guns equals more safety, the Congo should be considered a far safer place than Japan (which has extremely strict gun laws). If citizens cannot live in reasonable safety, the government's police and legal systems are failing. Being able to walk down the street safely without being armed is a far better measure of progress than number of guns.

Rick Sutton | January 20, 2011 5:10 PM

So true. It's all about context. We've raised 1.5-2 generations of folks scared of the NRA's hyper-arguments, which are garbage to begin with.

In England, over half the police don't walk around with guns. IN many German towns, if the police re called, the radio dispatcher determines whether weapons will be needed, and if so, a special "Weapons Car" is sent. Kinda like our SWAT teams.

It can be different. But we choose to romanticize the gun ownership process, and we over-simplify the Founders' reasoning for a Militia.

Context.

I once found myself in the rifle section of a Fleet Farm in the middle of Wisconsin. I had to get out of there, it made me feel physically ill. It's SO scary how easy it is to acquire a gun in this country.

This is sort of scattered. Somehow you've gone from hunting culture in rural areas to moral attributes of atomic bombings to critiques of modern political movements and attributing horrible tragedies to evil right wing forces.

You might want to start reading some quantifiable facts on the matter like John Lott. He is one who's worked on finding correlation between gun cultures and crime. Doing a county by county study of the entire US he found places where guns were owned had lower crime rates. It's a basic reasonable logical conclusion that you are less likely to commit a crime of any sort if your victim could be armed. We've tried extreme gun control measures in places like NYC, Chicago and DC and they've all produced more crime and violence since criminals are no longer as afraid of running into an armed victim.

It's interesting seeing this from a sexual or gender minority status. One would think groups that traditionally have been weaker and victimized more and less protected by traditional police because of stereotypes and prejudice would applaud an equalizer that would reduce crime against them and make them overall more safe and secure.

Your "right to kill" argument sort of falls flat against the superior right to self defense. You live in a state where by last count 57% of households contain a gun. Do you really think the majority of people in Montana have this mentality you're describing? Because it's really difficult to make the leap that this "fringe" you're identifying is really almost 3 out of 5 people in your neighborhood...

Your arguments would be better served by facts than anecdote and emotion...

My argument is not meant to be analytical and passionless- entirely the opposite. That's what's gotten us into this mess in the first place. This is meant to be subjective, opinionated and personal.

Thanks for writing. I appreciate your position.