Jimmy’s Got A Gun: Thoughts On The Right To Bear Arms

A funny thing happens when you get out of your fishbowl and can experience life outside the water for a bit.

Expanding personal experiences has a way of changing you.

As many of you know I have been living abroad in Europe since late August.  It has been my observation that although many parts of Europe are very westernized, you can still detect very distinct cultural differences when contrasted with the United States. Whether it be driving on the “wrong” side of the street or treating the local bars like we treat our bathroom experience -everyone must go at least once every day to maintain health- there are some cultural variances from the US to be sure.  One area of very strong distinction is a rather fundamental one: The attitudes towards and use of guns.

I never really thought much about guns and have not carried strong positions either for or against their use or ownership. I have reacted to anti-gun advocates who seem to pop up after a school shooting, yet this has far more to do with condemning anyone who would use a tragedy to seize an opportunity to promote an agenda –not to mention living in a country of re-actors as opposed to pro-actors, the latter being my preferred set of people. Yet now I can reflect outside the bowl on the dry, primarily gun-less, lands of Europe.

One could argue America is built on a philosophy of gun rights.  The right to bear arms is as fundamental to American cultural practices as hot dogs and apple pie, and to many perhaps a much tastier and sweeter experience.  When I came to find out that even British POLICE OFFICERS (sorry for screaming, yet this is a biggie) do not carry firearms, I was stunned. Speaking of stunned, not even stun guns….only pepper spray.

Of course this does not apply to all police officers, just the rank and file ones that you and I are most likely to run into on the streets. You know, the ones who roam the blocks, eat crumpets and do the most community policing.

I asked myself how in the world can a police officer do his or her job, even if it is in the less dangerous positions, without a gun?

The truth is that they can…and, in Britain’s case, they do.

This has caused me to reflect long and hard about my personal philosophy concerning guns.  For a large metropolitan city like London, it is exceedingly safe with low crime.  Somewhat contrary to what my intuition might suggest, the criminals are not running amok taunting the unarmed police officers; not having firearms actually works well for public safety in the UK.

I have come realize that I was born into a gun-obsessed culture. Guns are an integral part of the US cultural landscape and are woven into our basic social narrative from a young age. Little boys and girls are birthed into a type of gun mania. Although I never allowed my children to play with fake guns, as soon as they were old enough to point their index finger out with their thumb up and yell, “bang!” they did. Why? Certainly we are not born into this world with a genetic knowledge about guns, rather they are so pervasive through all forms of media that many children are enthralled with them as we marinate them in a violent stew of gun use since day one.

One would be hard pressed to find, let’s say, a tribal African child playing with said pretend gun, in fact, it would probably be impossible.

And so this cultural sheep wandered right into the pen of violent gun culture. As soon as we started having children I went out and purchased a short barrel shotgun for my families protection -due to living in the very dangerous and violent streets of suburban Santa Clarita. Of course, statistically speaking, this shotgun has a far greater chance of doing great injury and harm to myself or family members than it ever will protecting them, but what is sound logic and reason when we have a second amendment ethos with which we must contend?

“I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands,” declareth the National Rifle Association. They just better hope they are not one day prying it from their child’s cold, dead hands -which is the far more likely probability.

So now I am rethinking my gun culture. In many respects the gun cat is out of the gun bag in the US, thus following a UK model would likely not work…at first.

“But Jimmy, what about guns to protect us from a potentially tyrannical government and attacks from foreign invaders?”  Well, frankly, if we were to be attacked, nuked or taken over with tanks and heavy artillery, I hardly believe my lil old shotgun will fare well in that battle. This would be like suggesting we should not ban aspirin because Ebola is coming -a mere band-aid for a gushing wound. Good luck with that.

Another major factor in my rethinking of the role of guns in society is the seemingly great rise in police officer shootings of innocent victims.  It seems there are new stories everyday of mentally ill, homeless, and otherwise innocent individuals getting shot by police officers who seem to be looking for any excuse to use their guns.  Perhaps there is no greater example of law enforcements lustful infatuation with their Smith and Wesson then when a manhunt was underway for a 6 foot something, 200 something lb., African American man named Christopher Dorner in Los Angeles in February of 2013.  Eager to use their firearms, police officers unloaded over a dozen rounds of ammo into the car of two innocent victims…both 5’ tall, diminutive female Hispanics, who they mistakingly believed to be Dorner.

Forget the disparity in gender, color, stature, or ethnicity: The vehicle they shot at was neither the make or color of Dorner’s.

Whoops, their bad. Another example of men thinking with their gun and not their brain.

Many (I did not say all) police officers are assholes anyway, and what can be worse than an asshole with a gun? And to my dearly beloved traffic cops, why in the world do you even have a job? Let alone a gun.

But Jimmy, many more police officers are also being shot at these days.” I agree. This gun stuff does seem to be working well for either side now, does it?

I realize statistics are just numbers waiting for an argument, though did I mention the fact that the US has 10.3 gun deaths per year per 100,000 people while the UK’s number is a mere .25? Wow. Only Japan and Hong Kong have less.

So, let me play a little cause and effect game if my math is correct. In the country with guns there is over 10 times more homicidal gun violence than the country (essentially) without guns. So guns are…NOT good for society? I think this to be simple logic a child can perform. I realize we can all perform statistical gymnastics in any manner to obtain our agenda and objective…yet I have no agenda and objective. I just want a better and more civil society and gun proliferation does not seem to be working.

As I observe UK law enforcement, they are quite friendly, helpful and seem to not possess US arrogant bastard type “attitude.” For example, I found myself one day on the bus to Belsize Park when I approached 4 officers to inquire as to if this was the correct stop for my destination. Each of them eagerly assisted and interrupted each other to explain to me the various exits and directions- nice as hell.  Imagine how I felt when I saw a police car nearly hit two jaywalkers when he slowed down, waved and yelled, “Sorree!!” (By the way, London has no jaywalking laws…perhaps another Brit tidbit that would work well in the US of A).

That shotgun has been sitting in my closet collecting dust for about 27 years now. I shot it once, at a can in the desert.  The attack on my family never came, thank FCBE. But if it did, I would have been ready.

But maybe being ready is not worth the costly price we all must pay. And if the UK is any example, it is not.

It is soon time to get back in the water. And this time the water will have one more inhabitant quite critical of its current gun state of affairs.

jimmysintension

8 Comments

  1. Admittedly this sort of case study is convincing, but there are some tings we have to consider to put this smoking gun into context: history, violent crime altogether, and of course, the attitudes of law enforcement officers.

    I am the first person to recognize an abuse of power, mostly because it really irks me, but also because I feel some sort of deontological obligation to “right” wrongs. One area that America has experienced a major abuse of power is on the streets with trigger-hungry boys (and girls) in blue. I personally have witnessed officers who have really over-stepped their call of duty, and not in a good way: like they need a gun to balance out the weight of their badge. Now, because of these experiences, I do have a bias against cops. Most of them are complete dick-heads (or vagina-heads, if we’re being politically correct and gender inclusive, here). The violence that is either incited, provoked, or encouraged by cops with guns is indeed being combated by on-person cameras (a major step towards real justice, which holds all parties accountable), BUT what about those asshole cops who beat people to death with batons or their fists? Worst of all is that their fellow brothers in blue defend the apparently inexcusable actions and out “justice” system that does have a tendency to favor officers. I do not mean to go off on a cop-hating tangent, but the truth is there is some major corruption that encourages abuses of power–that has to be fixed, but I’m just not sure that removing guns from the situation will be an adequate solution–perhaps on-person cameras is the best protection for both officers and civilians. (I’m transparency’s #1 fan!)

    By the way, we have less overall crime per capita when compared to the UK, and while this crime rate includes all crimes, other breakdowns of crime reflect a small difference between the US, which has guns aplenty and the UK, which has very tight restrictions: http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Crime/Total-crimes-per-1000#country

    Violent crime altogether is another interesting facet of this conversation about guns. I find myself asking, what about that nutcase who beheaded one woman and attempted to behead another woman at work? The dude was suspended from work (for reasons you can look up yourself), went home, grabbed a STEAK KNIFE, and began sawing off the heads of his female coworkers! WHAT THE F*CK?! There was a kid within the last few years who took a bow and arrow to the college classroom where his father taught, and shot his father in the chest… WITH AN ARROW! Okay, I’ll admit that these stories and others like them have made the news because of how grotesque they are, but the fact is that violent crimes are not only caused by guns. If someone is set on killing another human being, s/he will be it with a gun, a steak knife, an arrow, a fist, a wooden stake, or whatever else you can think of.

    Thomas Hobbes makes a very convincing argument that we exchange our liberty for protection, but what happens when the exchange isn’t fully carried out? What happens when a nutcase just finished sawing off a coworkers hear and begins to saw off another’s, a call has been place to 911 and still no officer has come to the rescue? WHAT THEN? (I believe the perpetrator was apprehended by an owner of the store who, guess what, was carrying a gun.) Who knows what could have happened had nobody had guns… sure it’s speculative, but the point is that when Hobbes’ exchange isn’t brought to fruition, someone has to be the protector. We have a right to be protected.

    Lastly, the United States has a strong history, and perhaps this was the mentality and culture you were referring to. I think it imperative to understand the reasons American feel so inclined to own and use guns. Some of those reasons were mentioned before: We aren’t actually protected and we have a right to live (unless of course a conviction determines otherwise). It’s true that if the government were to take over in a tyrannous fashion, your shotgun and my pistol would do little to provide protection, but for me, it comes down to this very real expression: it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. The libertarian in me sings out a song of personal choice (when it comes to guns and other things as well). You don’t like guns? Don’t own one. You do like guns? Get one, make sure you’re trained, and go shooting to remain able were a need to arise.

    Final thought: It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. Also, cops are mostly dicks.

    • First off, please let me say thank you for your input and making jimmyintension a much smarter place! Excellent….but would I expect otherwise? Of course not. You and I are a thousand percent sympatico on law enforcement. I suppose that is where the real heart of my feelings over this issue comes from…and it just so happens that guns play the central role in this major social problem of corrupt law enforcement. I also totally agree that “guns don’t kill, people kill people idea.” Though I think that you would agree with me that certainly guns make it far more easy, efficient and expeditious to kill people. I would rather take my chances with an assailant and his steak knife than with his or her Glock. As I read your response, I am thinking of a two tiered solution. First off, not all police officers should carry guns…only those roles where guns are a complete necessity and with officers who possess MANY years experience and who have demonstrated excellence, professionalism and wise discretion in the course of their duties. Currently we give guns to fucking 22 year olds who cannot even get car insurance because their brains are not yet fully developed. Secondly, gun training must be mandatory in order to own a gun. And I do not mean some bullshitty “driving school” type joke…REAL training. It seems this would be quite reasonable in exchange the dangerous item that it is. A final thought: Cops better get their shit together because one day the people are going to revolt against them and it will not be pretty. We somewhat saw this in Missouri. I agree…the proliferation of cameras is AWESOME! Thanks again!

      • I really like your two-tiered solution. I think it’s a realistic solution and definitely not a band-aid. Your point about traffic cops carrying guns is a perfect place for the solution to be applied.

        And maybe I didn’t surprise you, but the things I wrote you wouldn’t see coming from most people in Provo, Ut. 😉

  2. The differences between police between both countries are extremely different. I think it’s general attitude than anything, but guns have their place. Police in the US should be looking up to the UK, I think.

    Anyway, a link to discuss why there is a positive for guns in the US.

    http://humanevents.com/2012/12/23/when-assault-weapons-saved-koreatown/

    Tyranny against the government/foreign invaders? Yeah, I doubt a handgun would help, but it doesn’t mean they’re not out of style in the US either.

    By the way, true story:

    WhenI left at 2 AM in the freakin’ morning to catch a flight to Germany from the UK, I was walking to my bus station. In my path were two officers carrying sub-machine guns, MP5’s or something of that nature. In the street. And they were talking and being very casual despite the fact they were walking around with automatic weapons in plain view. You damn near never see that in the States unless something bad was about to go down.

    I walked by, they said, “Good evening.”

    I replied, “Good morning.”

    We went on our ways.

    About five more officers down a block were chatting away at a corner. ALL of them were armed with pistols. And I was only at Marble Arch. Nothing government or significantly important or expensive… unless you count an Aston Martin car dealership nearby.

    My point is, the cops in the UK have guns, and they patrol in the dead of night. Yet, they’re fine to chat up with. Cops in the US are kinda dicks sometimes. But really, how much do we know about the UK that cops have to patrol at night with automatic weapons?

    Food for thought.

    • Thank you so much for the contribution Albert…it is really appreciated. I do know that Police Officers are armed commensurate with their duties. I have seen probably a dozen officers since I have been here and none have had a firearm. I will do more research on this. What cops in the UK have guns and why? Funny how the armed officers were still very nice and friendly -very non United States law enforcement.

  3. I take my right to bear arms very seriously. My two cents worth. My credentials on the matter, Im a veteran and a fire arms owner. I own military grade weaponry.

    Point 1- Fire arms need training, and proper military grade training. This needs to be addressed. this includes police departments, they are woefully under trained.
    Point 2- Why do we need or want military grade fire arms. I reflect back to Bosnia on this.
    When things begin to collapse it can happen fast and very brutally. Those that are armed fare much better. Any nation has the potential for a collapse. As soon as some one says “It cant happen here.” Id recommend arming your self. Ive seen the results first hand of not having weapons when you need them. I can assure you it is MUCH worse then the alternative.
    Point 3- With proper application of point 1- you will find your shot gun and a bed sheet will work remarkably well against tanks.

    In Summation- We forget that firearms ownership has a military component. We are supposed to be an armed citizenry. I think we should be armed as citizens, but we are lacking in the proper training. With that in mind i think we need to look more at Switzerland then Britain.

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