American Culture

I hate handguns, but I have still considered owning one

On my way into work this morning I was listening to an NPR story about how there’s now an ammunition shortage because Americans are stockpiling it. Many are afraid that the government will be taking away the right to own guns, or certain types of guns, or certain types of ammunition, or they’re convinced that an armed rebellion against the government will be necessary soon, and so they’re buying ammunition left and right. The story reminded me of the reason why I might be willing to learn how to use and own a handgun.

I might need one to protect myself from the kind of people who stockpile ammunition and think that they might need to overthrow the government.

I hate handguns. With vanishingly few exceptions they exist for one purpose – killing people. And they’re very good at fulfilling that purpose in the hands of criminals, the mentally ill, and poorly-trained private citizens. I think handguns and ammunition should be regulated and taxed so extensively that they’re too expensive to own and operate even for most criminals. I think that everyone who wants to own one should be licensed, both to ensure that he or she knows how to properly carry, wield, clean, and store their deadly weapon and to ensure that criminals and the mentally ill can’t get their hands on one. And I think that owners should be held criminally liable for the actions of anyone else who uses the handgun except under a very small set of exceptions (shooting ranges and self-protection).

But even with all that said, I no longer think that they should be banned outright like I once did. While I firmly believe that most people are better off learning some basic unarmed self-defense techniques than relying on a weapon, that doesn’t work for everyone or in every situation. So I appreciate that people should be allowed to own and carry handguns, albeit under the restrictions I mentioned above.

I also used to be afraid of handguns, or more specifically what I would do with one. I used to fear that having that kind of easy life-and-death power in my hand would be too likely to turn me into a monster. But that fear was burned out of me when, in November 2010, I briefly considered owning one myself.

There’s nothing like cognitive dissonance to clarify what you really believe, and in this case I came to the realization that as much as I hate handguns, owning one wouldn’t turn me into a monster any more than owning a sword or knowing how to kill someone with my bare hands would.

The NPR story today reminded me of what it was in November 2010 that got me to this point. It was the fact that my fellow Americans voted so many Tea Party politicians into Congress. I’m not afraid that the government is going to come and get me. But I don’t trust the significant percentage of the American population who are apparently terrified of the government. Terrified people tend to make really, really bad choices. And form mobs. And there’s not a self-defense technique that exists that can save me or my family from a terrified mob armed with handguns.

I’m not sure that owning and wielding a handgun myself would protect me and my family from a mob either, for that matter, which is one small part of why I still don’t own a handgun.

Every time I hear about how my fellow Americans are stockpiling ammo because they’re terrified the government will come and take their guns away, I think about owning a handgun again. Every time I read about how 29% of my fellow Americans think an armed rebellion may be necessary in the next four years, I think about owning a handgun again. Every time I read about how Republican Congresscritters killed sensible federal gun safety bills in Congress that the vast majority of my fellow Americans supported, I think about owning a handgun again.

I truly hope to never own a handgun. But if I do, it won’t be because I’m afraid of my government. It’ll be because I no longer trust too many of my fellow Americans.

8 replies »

  1. We might disagree on some of the not-so-fine points, but I think you nailed the overall reasoning. It’s not the government that worries me. It’s the distinct possibility, however remote, of the collapse of order and common sense. It’s seeing what frenzied mobs are capable of doing to “the enemy,” whether it’s Christians burning heretics for their own good, Muslims beheading captives, or US soldiers engaged in rapine and urinating on the bodies of fallen enemies that makes me think that “defense against out of control mobs” is sufficient reason to support ownership responsible ownership.

    Maybe a handgun, or even a scary black “assault” rifle, won’t hold off the Huns, but faced with some of the horrifying alternatives? I’d rather know I made the attempt to defend family, friends, and myself and die trying than to just cry into the pavement while a few bored goons bash me to death and their compatriots are doing who-knows-what to those I care about.

  2. 1. this whole collapse of order stuff is nonsense. i did a series of posts on this some time ago, but there’s absolutely no reason to believe the US is likely to descend into chaos. the polls though say that most americans are coming around to agree with brian. Come on, look at Europe, look at Latin America, etc. It’s pretty rare that countries with a tradition of solid government descend into chaos. it’s by far the exception rather than the rule in non-African nations.

    2. brian’s epiphany says more about the success of the nra’s marketing than it does logic. it’s actually giffen-good logic–i hate guns therefore I should own one to protect myself against people who love them.

    3. it’s worth remembering that once upon a time everyone did carry guns and it didn’t take long for people to decide to establish police forces. there’s no evidence amateurs can use guns effectively for self defense. not a shred, except that self-reported anecdotal stuff done by that shill at FSU.

    4. excellent writing, brian. clean, crisp, clear. one of your very best.

  3. I’ve thought about this myself. Other than needing one to protect crops from rampaging animals that’s the only reason that makes sense to me personally. But the problem is that I’m not convinced that the danger of having one in the house outweighs the danger of rampaging conservative mobs. I think most of these people are all talk and the FBI is on to the ones that aren’t.

    I’m also of the opinion that if conservatives go on a rampage, the government will step in, either on our side like in 1865, and we’ll be saved, or on their side and we’ll be screwed no matter what we’re armed with. I live in a big blue city too, so I doubt they’ll attack here first.

  4. Eloquent post. The Tea Party right would do wise to ratchet down their rhetoric. They will only create an armed opposition as you speak of. But perhaps they’re spoiling for just that kind of fight. Would reaffirm their gun “rights” all over again.

  5. After reading this I’m not sure if this is legitimate or just somebody trolling, on the off chance this is a real post, first let me say you are a SHEEP! A handgun is a good self defense weapon for use against criminals and as the last line of defense, if you think you can just buy a handgun and suddenly be marshall dillon you are mistaken! Shooting even moderately well requires practice! I have been shooting since I was 4, hunting since I was 10 I have never not owned a gun! I can out shoot most cops, but that is not saying alot because. Cops rarely practice except for the once or twice a year they have to qualify, if your concerned about defending yourself against people that have spent their lives shooting with just a handgun you are stupid or suicidal or maybe both! Using a handgun against somebody armed with a rifle is almost pointless, if you truly want to defend your family then buy a rifle, I suggest an AR15, learn to use it, be able to operate it in the dark! Have several loaded magazine ready to go! I keep three 30rd mags loaded, one has soft point bullets for deer and hogs, one with frangible bullets for coyotes and criminals, one loaded with armor piercing bullets for anybody that wears body armor! If your not mentally prepared to kill a human then don’t buy a gun, that is something you must know in your head and your heart you can do! MOLON LABE

    • Actually, if I really wanted to defend myself using a firearm, I probably wouldn’t buy a handgun. I’d buy a shotgun, since I’m not highly trained and the shot spread makes it so I wouldn’t need to aim as much. In addition, the rounds from an AR15 punch through walls, which means that I’m less likely to put my family at risk with a shotgun than with a rifle.

      Handguns require training to use effectively. I’m glad that you have trained yourself with them. But again, I don’t feel the need to protect myself using a handgun at this time. And frankly, if you think that 30 round mag with armor piercing bullets will protect your family from people wearing body armor, you’re an idiot.

      Think about this for a moment – the kind of people who are likely to come at you wearing body armor aren’t the kind of people who are going to give you time to swap magazines. They’re the kind of people who will come through your doors and windows at 3:30 AM when you’re asleep, and you’d be subdued before you could even grab your AR15.

      • I was a tactical medic 7yrs I know way more about that than you could ever know! And it’s really not tough to deal with those circumstances if you know waht your doing! We always did the raids at 2am. Shotgun is a good choice, loaded with #4 shot at close range you can cut a man in half and it won’t come thru a wall with much velocity! The shot spread isn’t that great when it leaves the muzzle it more or less comes out as a big lead ball until air resistance opens the pattern up

  6. Browsing around the net and came across this article. I agree with the author and despite my absolute 2nd Amendment stance I hate handguns but they are necessary in daily urban and suburban living for personal self defense.