Here Thar Be Monsters!

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So Close And Yet So Far

Had the pleasure of an evening with a colleague of mine from Australia the other night.  We sopped up some margaritas and TexMex while trading war stories from the world of theater.  It was a congenial evening with a few good laughs at some of the head-slappers we've both witnessed in our industry over the decades, as well as a few horror stories.

All was well until the last half-hour when the topic turned to guns.

I had made the assertion that Texas and Ozzie cultures were very similar in many respects.  We both had strongly independent streaks, with cowboys and what might be interpreted as a kind of Old West period down under.  And this brought us to guns, where our views parted ways dramatically.

He was staunchly anti-gun, pointing out that the world sees America as rather crazy, what with all the mass shootings and such, not to mention the high murder and suicide rates where guns were involved.  The only solution, he posited, was a complete ban on all guns everywhere.  That would eliminate the use of guns in such a cavalier way to commit so many crimes.

Well, for someone like me, that was throwing gasoline on the fire.  I have been shooting since I could hold a gun, have been trained extensively, competed in range contests (with some success), and have fired just about everything from .22 to .50 caliber firearms.  On top of that, I come from a long line of Texans (pre-dating Texas independence) who firmly believed that only slaves are disarmed by "authorities."

First of all, when it comes to murder, history is replete with examples that go far beyond the introduction of gun powder, much less firearms.  In fact, a recent article out of the UK shows that gun bans there have only led to an increase in stabbings.  I also pointed out that nearly all mass shootings (at least in the US) occur in "gun-free zones."  Makes sense - if someone was hell-bent on mass murder, they'd naturally attack somewhere that ensured a large body count before they were taken down or shot by "authorities."

I made the point that if a gunman entered a place and started to open fire, I would much rather be in a room full of gun-carriers than not.  "Ah, but in that situation, most folks don't have time to react and so it wouldn't make much difference," he pointed out.  "It's called the 'normalcy bias,' and you're right, " I agreed, "However, just three trained carriers in the room at the instant the gunman opened fire would go a long way to minimizing loss of life, than waiting for 'authorities' to finish their coffee and donuts and cruise over to the scene."

I speculated that events such as the Batman movie murders, Sandy Hook (which may be a hoax) and Columbine might have had radically different outcomes had there been armed citizens on hand to react quickly.

In any event, I believe the odds are much more favorable if I have the same or better weapon in my hand than any potential attackers.

In the second case, my associate had brought up suicides.  "So many suicides would be prevented if they didn't have guns," he stated.  "How do you figure that?" I inquired.

"Suicide with a gun is a snap decision, and if they didn't have one, they might reconsider," he said.  I disagreed.

I have had three people close to me commit suicide: one with pills, one by hanging and one with a gun.  Obviously, not having guns would not have affected the outcome of 2/3s of those events.  In addition, I have reason to believe that having a gun in the third case probably would have delayed the outcome, but would not have prevented it.  From what I know of suicides, those that are prevented are usually in cases where they just needed attention, not where they were intent on the final act.  People who attempt suicide where they are found and stopped usually wanted to be found, and so chose a slow or obvious means to their end.  Those who have decided to end things will always wait until they are alone and there is little chance of being found, no matter what method they have chosen.

To posit that taking away one means out of hundreds available will prevent mass murders and suicides is nonsensical to my way of thinking.  A good archer can take out as many targets in roughly the same amount of time as someone randomly shooting a gun.  There is also chemicals, germs, radiation, knives, and even piano wire.

As I pointed out to my companion, an index finger on a properly trained attacker can be just as deadly as any other weapon, and much less likely to draw attention until significant damage had been done.

Finally, I firmly believe that any populace that is disarmed is a slave to whomever is set over them as "authorities."  If history teaches us anything, it is that governments and religions are the most dangerous and deadly forces known to Mankind.  In the 20th century alone, well over 100 million people died at the hands of ideologies (politics or religion).  In the early parts of the 21st century, the clash of Yahwisms continues to kill people in great numbers.  The only conceivable defense against these types of attackers is a population that is as well or better armed than the "authorities."

I suppose this is truly the point of contention between my associate and me.  Texas history is populated by fiercely independent characters who rejected several entrenched "authorities," Mexico and the British Crown, for two.  Further, living in a sparsely populated and wild land, where getting backup of any kind was highly unlikely, lends itself to self-reliance.  Having a gun equalizes the odds against many forms of mortal threats, whether imposed or natural.

On the other hand, Australian culture began in a penal colony and remains subject to the British Crown.  To my way of thinking, this creates an historical precedence for the individual to be subjugated to "authority."  I will likely be showered with hate-mail from Ozzie readers, but I think a philosophical case can be made for such a theory.

In any event, had the Vietnamese population been armed and trained, would the killing fields have happened?  If the Russian people had been armed and trained, would Stalin's atrocities have occurred?  If the good people of Timor L'este had been armed and trained, would the slaughter of 200,000 people turned out quite differently under Soekarno?  And if the Swiss had not been armed and trained, would that country have had 500 years of peace and neutrality?

A lot of hypotheticals, but in every instance, guns (or lack thereof) seemed to have made a difference in the outcomes.

My sister is rabidly anti-gun, yet she is more than willing to call on armed "authorities" when threatened.  I would much rather depend on my own guns and skills, than to call the coffee-and-donut goons and then cower while I wait for them to arrive to save me.  To my mind, their jobs are more to mop up and fill out paperwork, than to protect me.

Harvard University apparently agrees with me.