Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Nuts With Guns

The comments have been vigorous here in a couple of recent threads on the topic of the Second Amendment, gun ownership by private citizens, the “well-regulated militia” vs. “a mob”, etc., etc.

One of our Finnish commenters has been arguing intelligently and lucidly that private citizens wielding small arms are likely to do more harm than good. Our American readers — some of them naturalized citizens — have argued the other side of the debate with equal vigor.

Gun collectionWhat Europeans often don’t understand is the deep cultural meaning behind American gun ownership. It’s not about pragmatic government policies, or effective social policy, or the practical consequences of private firearms. It’s not about how good a shot the average bozo is with his pistol.

We Americans simply see it as our God-given right to bear arms; that’s why we wrote it into our Constitution.

It’s our guarantee against tyranny. As long as large numbers of Americans own firearms, there will be no tyranny here. All our other rights and freedoms flow from the right to bear arms. An armed citizen is the guarantor of all our individual liberties.

The failed state of Somalia is not an apt comparison, no matter how many guns its mobs possess. Until 1989 Somalia lived under a brutal dictatorship. It has never known the rule of law. Without the rule of law and a flourishing civil society, liberty cannot grow.

The English colonists who came here brought with them the rule of law and a functioning civil society. In addition, they brought with them a tradition of their “ancient liberties”, which they transplanted to the New World. These liberties have thrived ever since in our fertile soil, and only an armed populace can ensure their continued existence.

Commenter eatyourbeans said it best:

You speak English as well as I do, yet you are as ignorant of us as a Martian.

What you say may be true as Scripture in Finland; here in the USA it’s merely pedantic and silly.

Let me repeat. It’s my duty, and not merely a right, as an American Citizen to own firearms and to be able and willing to use them. I owe this to those who founded and settled and built and fought for and died for this country. And I’ll do my duty as best I can. No doubt I’ll fall short of your metric standards, but no doubt the yokels at Lexington and Concord would have as well.
- - - - - - - - - -
Lastly, let me tell you a story that was told to me. Maybe it’s true, maybe not; even if not, it still tells a truth about us. Somewhere in the northern parts of one of our Midwest States, the local authorities convened a meeting of the property holders. Country folk, rednecks — or would have been if the sun shined hot enough thereabouts.

Anyway, the purpose of the meeting was to announce that a power company wanted their land in order to run a natural gas pipeline or something down from Canada. Don’t bother objecting — it’s a done deal, the owners were told: eminent domain and so forth.

Now, the infamous militias, because of the Oklahoma Bombing, were quite active here; and it’s a fair bet that everybody in that room was armed to the teeth. So, when the property owners stood up, and one after another told the authorities and the guy from the power company that this was their daddy’s land, and his daddy’s land, and his daddy’s land… voila! Suddenly the “done deal” became an un-done deal. Score one for the Greens. Ah, but they weren’t there… only the nuts with guns.

Will you old-continent types ever get us? We got a good government only because we don’t trust it one frigging, old-fashioned English inch.

PS: God bless America. And damn anybody who has an objection.


Anonymous said...

As a Canadian, I used to be anti-gun because that seemed to be logical. It was only after I did some reading on the actual effects of increased gun ownership that I changed my tune, obtained a PAL license and bought a handgun.

It is perfectly clear to me now that increased ownership of arms by citizens is the only sure way of combating the increase in crime.

Criminals are almost totally disinterested in the legal system, which they feel -- in Canada -- is contemptibly weak. They are, however, interested in staying away from home owners who might interrupt their activities with a firearm.

It's an old story; we have, most of us, confused image with reality; the image of a vigilant police force vs the half hour it takes to answer a 911 call.

Criminals operate in the real world so we homeowners have to as well.

As for Europe; what can I say. Until the French can control their own suburbs they don't need to talk to us North Americans about crime and punishment.

I could say more, but you get my drift.

Ironmistress said...

Okay, now it is the time for the resident Finn to respond:

1) I am not anti-gun, I am anti-loonie. The problem is not reservists with their rifles, the problem are trigger ticklers with pistols. If you want to have a functional militia, you arm it with rifles, not with pistols. That is how it works here at 60th latitude.

2) If I am eloquent on English and speak and write English well, it is because of EU. Nobody certainly won't go learning Finnish, so as a small nation inhabitant it is a good idea to learn foreign languages. Most Finns master three or four languages. That is a must - the question is about making business and staying alive. For a small nation, EU is an excellent idea. The big question is just its realization, which has been less than excellent. Good idea, bad execution.

3) If you really need guns to defend your personal safety and untouchability, and if the police is not compelled to protect you as an individual, then your society has failed. It is sad when it happens, but all bets are then off - I personally would arm in a similar situation.

4) I advocate everyone to go to army and to serve at least one tour of duty. Why?

- You learn survival skills and you get combat training. I can now survive infinite periods in wilderness, providing I have only simple tools.
- Weapon handling. Not just assault rifle, but also other small arms, explosives, bazookas and RPGs, mines, artillery, improvised munitions and everything that goes boom with responsibility.
- You grow adult. Army is an extremely growing experience. You learn to trust yourself and your comrades-in-arms.
- You get a reality check. You see things on how they are, not just how they are supposed to be. You learn the difference of suspicion and paranoia.
- Endurance. You learn to know your limits and how to surpass them.
- Discipline. You learn obedience, discipline and to get organized.
- Group work. You learn how to act as a member of a team.
- Leadership. If you are nominated as a leader, you learn to lead human beings and how to deal with them as human beings, not just as anonymous objects. That is why Finnish corporations appreciate people who have had NCO or officer training.
- You learn to hate violence, war and do anything to avoid it - but not by whining, ranting and running away. Knowing you have been trained to kill and that you really are capable of killing another human being is a formidable experience and makes you try act responsibly in the civilian life - to avoid such situations where taking another human being's life is a possibility.
- National cohesion. You learn to love your country, to appreciate its people, to appreciate democracy and to participate on managing your own community - be it municipality, town, county, province or nation.

5) By serving my country as a conscript and in my country's armed forces, I felt I did my duty to my nation and community. My nation gave me free and decent education, health care and social security. I paid it back by serving my country and risking my life for the sake of my countrymen - and later also served abroad constructing peace where it wasn't. I have now done my duty for my country, it is now someone else's task to do it, but if I am needed, I will do what I am supposed to do.

6) Each and every country has exactly the government it deserves. If you live in a democracy and think your own government is less than optimal, use your vote. I vote in each and every election we have - be it communal, parlamentary, presidential or EU.

7) Prevention works better than treatment. That is why I consider psychology better idea than ticklish trigged finger. Likewise, rigging your home is a better idea than arranging a shooting contest. Any unnecessary dead - even if they were criminals - should be avoided. That criminal is also a human being and someone's son, brother, father or nephew - not some alien predator scum from outer space. He has just the same God-given right to exist as you have. Therefore it is always a better idea to solve conflicts without bloodshed than with guns.

8) What do you do if and when the criminal has intention in breaking in your house while you are away and stealing your weapons?

9) This world is not black and white. Nothing is ever as good as it seems and nothing is ever as nasty as it seems. That is why EU is not the EUSSR - it rather is the Holy Roman Empire (which, of course, was neither Holy nor Roman nor Empire). The reality of the Orwellian world is not 1984 and Oceania, it is Alpha Complex and Paranoia. You just have to know the rules to play with them and twist them to your asset.

10) What makes Sweden so nasty is not that the welfare state failed: it is that it proved an enormous success. The Swedes just thought that if a little is good, then a lot must be excellent. The result was something not unlike Sly Stallone's flick "The Demolition Man". Welfare state is not a Socialist utopia, it is a Lutheran one. That is why it has worked in Scandinavia - at least it has worked in the past. Likewise, the Jews have used the concepts of similar communities for centuria and it has worked well. You do not need Socialism to build a communitarian utopia, it is enough you have a religion which stresses the society. Lutheranism stresses the society, Calvinism stresses the individual.

11) Likewise, Capitalism isn't the best system available, it is just the least worst. Capitalism does not necessarily produce the best results, it just produces the least nasty. Like fire, it is a good servant but a bad master. That is the reason why I rather pay a little bit higher (but not skyhigh) taxes - I see a person derailed off the society rather on welfare than in prison. It becomes cheaper in the end.

12) The best way to learn from mistakes is to let someone else make them for you. If Somalia is a hallmark of a Warlordistan and France has failed in the other extreme, the optimum must lie somewhere in-between.

Vol-in-Law said...

I'm not sure if the experience of Finland, a small homogenous country threatened by external neighbours, has any relevance to that of the USA, a large country where any threat to liberty is likely to originate from the power of its own federal government. Finland presents a case study for how to defend against conquest by a foreign tyranny, the US a study of how to defend against the development of internal tyranny. Arguably neither has been 100% successful, but both have valuable lessons for the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

"All our other rights and freedoms flow from the right to bear arms."

Actually, I think this should be rephrased.

As you accurately point out in the preceding paragraph, these rights flow from God.

The best guarantee of freedom is a citizenry that understands what freedom is, where it comes from, how to use it, and why and how to defend it. If you have that, then all their rights flow through the right to bear arms. If you don't have that, then you'll soon have gang warfare in the streets and Mujahideen in the hills.

Gun control advocates need to understand that gun control doesn't work. Criminals get guns the way they get drugs -- they get them illegally. The only people you disarm with gun laws are the ones who aren't causing problems to begin with, those who are your allies in the struggle with crime.

It is noteworthy that when the Left talks about children killing children with guns in America, they have to include statistics about gang-affiliated teenagers killing each other in gang-related business. Once you factor that out, you discover that America's children are not really slaughtering themselves in gun accidents.

It all boils down not to the firearm, but to the person who uses it. The problems in America are not guns, or drugs, but a retreat from traditional values that made America great, and that most emphatically includes a Judeo-Christian belief in God. That is why so many of the problems in Middle East stem from too close of an adherence to traditions with significant faults, most emphatically including a religion that promotes hatred and violence.

Panday said...


I don't know why you think citizens with guns are going to do more harm than good when compared to veterans. Some of the most competent shooters in the world are ordinary people who have never been in the military. Take John Shaw, for example:

Anyone in SWAT or SpecOps knows this guy, and he's a self-taught shooter who teaches the elite in America.

Here's a video clip of another such person. Note that there are a lot of people: nonvets, ordinary folk, who shoot recreationally. This man could outshoot Wild Bill Hickok:

Not realizing the popularity of this craft in the United States is understandable, as you're from Finland, but it shows a lack of knowledge on some prevalent subcultures in this country. Best to ask around a bit before you opine.

Zonka said...

It is amazing that these discussions keeps popping up again and again... Granted it's a way of both sides to bash the other sides heads and tell them "My Gawd you're out of your minds!"

If you look just a bit deeper you will see that it's two different approaches to the same problem, none of the approaches are the right one (or the other side would have switched a long time ago), and none of them are without problems (or the other side would have switched a long time ago). But both approaches can work pretty well, and once established into the surrounding cultural context, it is very hard to switch between the systems. Not for the lack of trying of some individuals, but because of how such a switch will be seen in a political and societal context. For the US to adopt an European style gun control, would seem as a massive loss of freedom and private security and probably incite riots and unrest, and for Europe to switch to US liberal gun laws would be seen as a descent into "Wild West" style, virgilantism and a massive surge in gun related crimes and injuries. And ironically both scenarios are probably true.

Personally I feel safe in the US knowing that there are a lot of private owned handguns, and I feel safe in Europe knowing that there is not a lot of private owned handguns! Why because of the US culture most people owning handguns knows how to use them responsibly, and quite the opposite in Europe!

History Snark said...

Reading through this post, especially Mellivora's well thought out (and I would agree with "lucid") post, I had a thought. He makes a lot of good points about life in his corner of the world, and explains his thought process well.

Ultimately, I think that if he were an American, he'd be on our side of the argument. I sometimes fear that we are becoming, as he puts it a "failed society". The police can't be trusted to protect all the citizens all the time. So we take it upon ourselves, in accordance with American and British, tradition. (Think of the concept of "Hue and cry", which was the means of chasing down a lawbreaker).

Again, as I briefly touched on before, perhaps it does come partly from our colonial beginnings. When you lived on the frontiers of Kentucky, Colorado, or Montana, you took care of your own problems. If the Indians raided your settlement, you fought them off yourself, or died. If the James gang (not the Joe Walsh version) rode into town, then everybody grabbed their gun and started shooting back.

It was a necessary evil. And as their descendants, we were brought up with that same mindset. It's just our good old-fashioned American do-it-yourself nature.

Anonymous said...

"Ultimately, I think that if he were an American, he'd be on our side of the argument."
Yes, quite likely.

"I sometimes fear that we are becoming, as he puts it a "failed society"."
As long as a significant number of Americans understand what made their country great (God and liberty), and use their Constitutional rights to defend their Constitutional rights, you have nothing to fear.

"The police can't be trusted to protect all the citizens all the time."
And that's not their job.

"If the James gang (not the Joe Walsh version) rode into town, then everybody grabbed their gun and started shooting back."
And that leads us to the police's job: come in and arrest or pursue the surviving bad guys -- and perhaps, on occasion, keep them from getting lynched? (And, of course, deterrence, prevention, public relations....)

"It was a necessary evil."
If it were an evil, Jesus would not have said this: (Luke 22:36) Then He said to them, "But now, ... he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one."

Ho Yen-hsi quotes "The Strategies of Wu": "Though the world around us be at peace, the gentleman keeps his sword by his side."

livfreerdie said...

I believe in individual ownership and individual responsibility!
Won't find these in an EU home.

hank_F_M said...

I have a confession to make, due to supporting customers at work and similar commitments I am way behind in reading the Gates thus I missed the first posts.

Semi related but I think there is some confusion between the right to bear arms and the Militia. The right to bear arms is universal and does not depend on membership or even existence of the militia. In the Colonial era women were not part of the Militia but they had the right to keep and bear arms. The Militia is a tool of the Government to exercise its duty to defend against invasion, suppress rebellion, and enforce the law. Because of widespread membership it is especially difficult tool to turn on the people the government is supposed to protect. Unfortunately it is rather ineffective for the requirements of a modern war.

The right to keep arms was part of the English Constitution on the same basis as most of the due precess rights of the 4th and 5th amendments and a good case can be made the that the right to bare arms would be one of the implied rights of the 9th amendment.

The Constitution establishes most of the responsibility for the Militia on the state government. At that time the militia provided their own weapons. To protect the states duty to provide a well-regulated militia the 2d amendment protects the states ability to regulate the militia from intervention by the Federal Government by prohibiting the federal regulation of firearms.

Do note that I agree with the major thrust of your argument.


A while back I wrote a couple posts on the “Unorganized Militia” which may be of interest to your readers..

The Unorganized Militia I

The Unorganized Militia II

Ironmistress said...

I think the question is not me being on anyone's side or against anyone, but rather the circumstances we live in. I live in a country which has very homogenous population, where the income differences and wealth differences are small (see the Scandinavian concept of "lagomhet"), where everyone understands each other's languages (both of them), and where everyone trusts the police and authorities and corruption is very low. Therefore I advocate strict pistol and revolver policy and rather rigging your house.

If the situation was something else, I would adapt to it. If I lived in a place where I could not trust on police or if I lived in a place where I would live in a risk of attack, I would prepare for it - on sequence training in martial arts, carrying a knife, carrying a firearm and in the direst situation fortifying my home and boobytrapping my yard. I presume if I was an American, I most likely would think otherwise.

Still, not nice. When I was on peacekeeping duties, it was one of the grossest reality checks I've ever had. Here was I, a young shavetail straight from college, living safe middle class life, with no greater conflicts under my belt than the usual childhood and teenage fights and some knife-flinging at boot camp. I came to a war-ridden country where people had suffered immense tragedy, where people had been on each other's throats, where everything was on ruins and where nobody trusted anyone and anything.

The first task a Finnish UN battalion does anywhere, after having erected sauna, GHQ and lodging quarters, is building trust with the locals. Showing the locals they have come as friends and helpers, not as some occupation troops. Only then - when we had gained the universal trust and confidence - could the disarmament and gun collection begin. We were there not to set up an international dictatorship. We were there to build peace. It is so easy to start a war, but starting a peace can take years, even decades.

UN troops carry guns, yes, but they do not initiate firefights. But it must be remembered they are just as good as their commanding officers. An officer going chicken and lacking decision at a crucial moment - like the Dutch in Bosnia who yielded at Srebrenicza - is IMO committing high treason - he crosses the trust of those whom he is supposed to protect. When I was on duty and had my weapon, I was continuously on the mindset I was also prepared to use it. Fortunately I never needed, but there were a couple of exchange of shots at our area.

It is different from being at combat zone and securing and pacifying an area which once was a combat zone. It is only after the battle when you really see what kind of effect guns have and what hatred gets done. I mean, it is shocking to first go from college or home to Niinisalo training camp and then to fly somewhere elsewhere in world in the midst of havoc and desolation. This is one of the paradoxes on being an officer: being professional on violence - and then hating it to boot.

I was asked if policemen really have been sentenced in Finland for disregarding their duty on protecting someone. Yes, that has happened, and the immediate consequence is the unfortunate officer is sacked immediately. The police generally take their responsibilities here very seriously - and are respected in return. It has also occurred a police officer has been sentenced from shooting someone in a crisis situation from exaggeration of use of power - the judge has interpreted lesser use of force would have been sufficient or the situation had rather been solved by a negotiator than sniper.

Random Lurker said...

Perhaps this little article will provide some useful perspective about law enforcement in today's Britain.

This as well.

Don M said...

I remember Finland with happiness. From Finland came the ancestors of Arvo Ojala, who taught a generation of actors to use pistols, and second through 18th hand, so we learned. Jeff Cooper acknowledged the influence of Western movies on his development of Leatherslap competition, and that fathered IPSC and IPDA, and then, in an odd reversal, the Single Action Shooting Society.

And Valmet proved that the Kalishnikov action could be darned accurate if due attention was paid to tolerances.

togo said...

An armed society is a polite society"
Anyone who reads this blog should realize that such a statement needs to placed in a proper cultural context. My guess is that it was originally applied to societies composed primarily of Anglo-Saxons, Celts and other peoples of Northern European stock. I am certain that whoever coined the phrase did not have Muslim societies in mind.

Crime in the UK:
British police have now been told that instead of arresting a range of serious criminals, they can be let off with a caution.

The Home Office says offenses that may now be dealt with by a caution include burglary of a shop or office, threatening to kill, actual bodily harm, and possession of Class A drugs such as heroin or cocaine if police decide a caution would be the best approach.

Other crimes including common assault, threatening behavior, sex with an underage girl or boy, and car theft should normally be dealt with by a caution, if the offenders admit their guilt but have no criminal record.

London and British crime rates have been increasing for years. Recently total crime rates for London have been estimated at about seven times those of New York for a slightly smaller population and some authorities suggest these figures have been minimized. England and Wales are now accounted by some estimates as the most dangerous places for crime in the developed world.