Monday, April 30, 2012

Why should I own guns when there are no zombies to kill?

This question comes from Ricochet (slightly reworded), an Aussie blogger who has starting to think about guns.

She says:

Now rather than discuss the history of cricket bats, or debate whether guns are actually designed solely for the purpose of killing, I’m going to look at the mindset behind this.

Ricochet is concerned about buying something that is designed to kill.  This just shows how far we have come from our roots - meat is sourced plastic wrapped from the supermarket.  Nothing in our ‘modern day’ environment dictates that we need to be able to kill to survive.  But that's not where things started from.

We were designed to kill – doesn’t matter how you wrap it, that’s what we’re all about.  So let me reword a sentence of hers:

“Just because you aren't doing what you’re designed to do … doesn't take away from the fact that's what you’re designed to do.”

 Yep folks, we were designed to kill to survive – food and predators.   And if we weren’t living in a “relatively safe” first world country we might actually experience more of this than we currently do.

So guns are designed to kill, and so are we, now what?

Does this mean that we all go and out and kill? No, of course not. 

To me it means that maybe we’ve been asking the wrong question.  Maybe rather than asking “can I own anything that is designed to kill” we need to ask ourselves “why should I own a gun?”  A bit like asking “why should I own a drill?”

So why should you own a gun, or a drill or anything else?

There are only two valid reasons for owning anything – need or want (tempered by the ‘can you afford it’ question).

Assuming the “can you afford it” question is answered in the positive – if you can answer  “yes” to either the “do you need it?” or “do you want it?” question then no further questions need to be asked.

Why do I own guns? Because I want to, and can afford to.

There are a lot of sub-clauses to why I want to own a gun, including:- 
  • I enjoy target shooting; 
  • I find shooting IPSC matches challenging; 
  • I enjoy hunting and sourcing my own meat; 
  • I enjoy sharing the hobby of shooting with my family.

Why do you own guns?


Erin Palette said...

I own guns because they are fun and awesome and when I got to the range I get immediate feedback on how well I'm doing with poking holes in pieces of paper 100m away. :)

They also make me feel like quite the badass. :D

The fact that my owning them pisses some folks off is just icing on the cake!

pdb said...

Like Jeff Cooper put it so many years ago, "The rifle has no moral stature because it has no will of its own."

Intent overrides purpose. You can use a knife to prepare a meal, treat a wound ... or slit a throat. You can use a hammer to build a house or crush a skull.

But tools designed for fighting favor the righteous because they give balance back to the unprepared. A person intent on violating the law has the advantage of not only a mind devoid of empathy, but he has time to plan and envision his attack. The victim has to recover and respond immediately with whatever is at hand. You may be able to repel an attack with a kitchen knife, or a table leg, or your bare hands... maybe.

I choose to have at hand a small tool that can be comfortably carried every day that launches expanding, supersonic projectiles with great accuracy. This tool happens to negate any advantages in speed and strength my opponent may have, and also allows me to deal with him at a distance.

My guns aren't designed to kill (although that is a morally correct side effect), they're designed to fight. Or rather, to allow me to fight more efficiently in order to defend my life and those of my loved ones. If you accept that it is morally correct to answer violence with violence, then the rest follows naturally.

Unknown said...

It seems like this comment surfaces frequently from the left. My theory is, they have impulse control issues, which causes them to look at short term solutions to attain their goals. They assume everyone has those same impulse control issues and will kill at the drop of a hat because they can.

Ricochet said...

Hi Jigsaw, it's interesting to see this discussed by people who actually have experience with shooting and owning guns :-)
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to hear from people who can actually answer the question.

Knowing that it is in our nature to hunt, to compete with each other and to protect what is ours is one thing but it's hard to reconcile with my personal experience.

I've never lived rurally, had any experience of keeping predators away from stock, putting down injured animals or hunting for food. No-one in my extended family or circle of friends has any experience with firearms and if I was going to hunt I would need to know I was good enough to kill efficiently and not cause my quarry any suffering.

Guns are very useful tools but I've never been and may never be in a situation that requires that particular tool, hence my indecision for myself. With no socially acceptable reason in my life, it feels a bit weird to look into gun ownership. I'm still interested though.

Given that when you hear about guns in the media it is always in relation to violent crimes or tragic accidents (I know, media bias), it's hard for a complete COMPLETE newbie to feel like anything other than a bit of a deviant when looking into owning what I know to be a powerful and potentially lethal device.

Craig, I don't personally have impulse control issues, I have a very strong sense of responsibility. If I'm going to hold a weapon I want to know that I know how to use it safely and I know that if anything went wrong I would feel terrible (as I'm sure all responsible gun owners would). I can understand you'd be annoyed by the scapegoating though.
The only chance I've had to fire a weapon so far (at an Army simulation range on qualification weapons) I found very interesting and the fact it was a simulation let me assess the experience without concern about my inexperience being an issue or any worries about the weapon being live.
I'm not anti-gun, I'm just cautious and starting from scratch.

Julie said...

Thanks for stopping by Ricochet.

It is definitely important to think through issues rather than implusively jumping.

Please feel free to ask any questions I look forward to doing my best to answer them.

Erin Palette said...

As I said on her blog, the fact that Ricochet here is concerned with the consequences of her actions just reaffirms my belief that she'd be a responsible gun owner and handle hers properly.

Carl-Bear said...

Aside from the difficulties involved in obtaining firearms and ammunition, and learning how to use them after the zombie hordes begin massing...

I'll note that goblins (in Cooper-speak) are among us, and I've never been successfully mugged while armed.

Julie said...

Erin - totally great reasons for owning a gun :) I also like the "you do WHAT?" reaction I get when I mention shooting.

PDB - very valid points you make

Craig - I do agree that there are a number of people who have the "I don't think I would be safe handling a gun therefore you can't be trusted" mindframe. And I have had people actually state this to me. However, we also see people like Ricochet who are approaching it from the "before I do this I want to understand what and why I'm doing". I find these people are willing to confront their biases and ask questions to gain knowledge.

Carl-Bear - you make a very very very good point here. No point waiting until the zombies get organised before you do :)

Erin Palette said...

Know what's fun, Julie? Showing up at a range with a Mosin-Nagant that's nearly as tall as I am, and getting lots of "What the HELL?" stares from all the menfolk. Especially if they're shooting a lower caliber, like 5.56 or .22LR.

They wonder what this little slip of a girl is going to do with this huge rifle whose recoil will surely knock her on her ass.

Then I proceed to tear the bullseye up...

Carl-Bear said...

"Then I proceed to tear the bullseye up..."

I like her. [grin]

Julie said...

woo hoo - you go girl :)

Ricochet said...

Carl-Bear, in my original post I do acknowledge that the zombies aren't likely to patiently stand back and let me go through a training montage before attacking :-D

I've found this discussion and all your comments really helpful in pinning down some of my ideas.
One reason I've felt a bit uncomfortable with the idea of walking into a gun shop or a police station to ask about weapons or licences is because I expect someone to ask me 'why do you want this?'. As I'm not a hunter or a farmer or a sportswoman and have no concrete need to own/use firearms, I have thought they'll find 'I'm just interested' a rather suspect reason and start interrogating me to see if I'm up to something.

But as you've pointed out, guns are the equipment used for their sport and sports aren't about need, they're about interest.
For instance, if I walked into a sports store and asked to see a canoe and what you had to do to join a rowing club and the salesperson started eyeballing me and asking if I lived by a body of water or a river and need it for transport or in order to fish for food and if not what was I playing at, I wouldn't think 'oh my God, they're right, I'm such a fraud', I'd think they were a nutbar.

And just like that I'm a lot more relaxed about the whole idea :-)

Julie said...

That's great Ricochet :)

Now onto exploring what you can use guns for :)

Bram said...

I own guns because none of your business.

Tam said...

"So the idea of going out and purposefully purchasing something that could be used to quite easily kill someone... someone who wouldn't have a chance to get close enough to fight back or defend themselves...

Where this idea came from that it's somehow sporting or noble to let somebody or something try to kill me came from, I have no earthly idea.

Yes. If I am shooting at something or someone animate, it is because I am trying to STAY ALIVE, not give them a sporting chance to kill me right back.

Anonymous said...

Something that gets overlooked a lot is the fact that, aside from being predators who have risen pretty high up the food chain, we are also (most of us) sentient, rational beings who are able to NOT kill, maim or injure when the situation requires. Civilized humanity has the ability to become predatory for survival or defense purposes, then return to day-to-day living without having to shoot the neighbors. It's what we do. Those who can't make the switch probably shouldn't have weapons, but that's no reason to deny the entire population!

Tam said...


"Now onto exploring what you can use guns for :)"

Here's a fun one: I own some guns that I most likely will never shoot, just because they're interesting historical artifacts, in the same way that none of my Roman coins will work in a Coke machine. :)

skidmark said...

Being an American the main reason I own guns is "Because I can!" But, sad to say, that does not hold as true for you folks Down Under.

About the remark: "She says: “The fact still seems to remain that unlike cars, gardening implements, cricket bats and other things that could at a pinch be turned into weapons against the living or the undead, guns were specifically designed to kill or injure.
It isn't a side effect or bonus feature, it's what they're designed for." - I must burst your bubble. Several others have already told you that guns are just tools and it is what the human does with them that is important. But just to keep the record clean - some of the guns I own, while capable of killing someone, were never designed or built for that purpose.

So, why do I own guns, besides the fact that I can? Probably the answere to that is better provided by answering the question of why do I Open Carry some of the handguns I own? The answer is more political than practical (by not going stupid places with stupid people and doing stupid things I avoid most trouble) and the rest of the reason is because the drama of doing it reminds certain groups that a) I can (we seem to keep coming back to that) and b) that by itself the gun is just a tool in the same way that a shovel or cricket bat is just a tool - it's what the person does with it that is good, bad, or indifferent.

I must stop her, or I will end up writing a book, While you may be interested in what I have to say others may not.

stay safe.

Erin Palette said...

Carl, in full disclosure I should point out that I'm working on my aim at 100 yards, and the biggest danger facing the bullseye is that I'll shoot an orbit around it and the material will fall down...

My most recent Mosin endeavor at 100 yards. Yes, I'm using a bipod and 7x optic.

Carl-Bear said...

Hi, Erin.

"[T]he biggest danger facing the bullseye is that I'll shoot an orbit around it and the material will fall down..."

Then more than likely so will the zombies (-sigh- the semi/un-dead theme is getting tired, but it seems firmly stitched into the cultural tapestry... and it does make for useful shorthand). Just keep practicing, and don't sweat your improvement rate. I don't do much rifle shooting these days; mostly defensive handgun practice. I recently transitioned back to one of my .45s (seemed the thing to do when my latest web client was in a nastily contentious union election). As you can see, I'm still working on it myself: (5.5" target at 25 feet- typical defensive working range - ol' fashioned iron sights)

More on topic: I own guns for defensive purposes*, hunting, sport shooting, and just plain fun (watched too many cowboy shows as a kid to pass up on that Bisley). I'm not planning for an undead apocalypse, but the skillset would translate well come "Dawn" anyway.

* I've been through three amusingly unsuccessful mugging attempts (twice by two wanna-be assailants, once by three), many years ago I was a sworn peace officer and collected a handful of specific death threats, and where I'm at now it is entirely possible (and has actually happened to me) to encounter a bear just going to the mail box).

Kristophr said...

I carry a pistol because I'm too old to take an ass-whipping.

Merely having it has derailed about a half dozen attacks by various thugs on me during my lifetime.

In Oz, you have to just take that ass-whipping, and hope you aren't killed or crippled by it.

Julie said...

Bram - I must admit that your comment has me more intrigued than any other here. I mean I'm quite happy to accept that it is none of my business as to why you own guns. But commenting on a blog is voluntary so it seems an odd comment to make. Yours Confused.

Tam I actually hunted your blog for that comment as I've seen you make it/similar ones before. I guess it's along the same mentality that we see here with bullies - those who stand up to them are the ones who are punished, not the bullies.

And as for having guns you don't shoot - I wish I had that many :) Any I'm dying to know if you have ever tried putting your Roman coins in a coke machine :)

Skidmark very interested in what you have to say and would love to hear more about your guns which weren't designed or built for killing.

Carl-Bear And they say Oz is a dangerous place :)

Kristopher - I laughed at your reason, but unfortunately you are correct the outcome here in many situations is less than ideal :(

DJ said...

Last time I was asked a variation of this question (about 5 years ago), the subject was "America's fascination with guns", and by extension, MY fascination with guns. This is what I wrote:

"Why America's fascination with guns?

- Constitutionally, the difference between a subject and a citizen.

- Defensively, one final option of last resort. If faced with an armed criminal or violent person, I have every one of the same options an unarmed person has, plus one. I can still run away, beg for my life, dial 911 and hope for the best, attempt to reason with the person, or whatever. If all that fails, or I'm not allowed the time to pursue these other courses, or the bad person is threatening another person's life (maybe someone near and dear to me), I have one last option in reserve. I hope I never have to use it, but it's one more chance at a favorable outcome for me and mine.

- Sportingly, guns are fun and challenging to use with a high level of skill (is "sportingly" a word? Well, it is now). From Olympic-level precision target shooting to bouncing a dirt clod on the forest floor to bringing home a full bag of game for dinner, guns are regularly used in many sporting applications.

- Psychologically, guns are tools of power projection. You shoot a bowling pin or steel plate, it falls down. A hole appears in your paper bullseye target. The deer is harvested for food. BANG! "See that, way over there? That's me, I did that!" You have projected power, expanded your personal sphere of influence. The better you are with your gun, the larger that sphere grows.

- Mechanically, absolutely amazing. Small, highly machined parts, designed thoughtfully, finished skillfully, mated perfectly, forming intricate and complex (or surprisingly simple) mechanisms containing pressures that might otherwise kill an unprotected person, yet able to direct a projectile over long distances with a high level of precision. Machineguns that have the capacity to stutter forth a seemingly endless stream of bullets despite heat buildup and vibrations that would destroy many similar-sized devices. Revolvers that have six or more separate firing chambers, but each are held to such close manufacturing and fitting tolerances with the barrel that a slug fired from each chamber will still land in nearly the same hole on a target. To study firearms is to study design, manufacturing, ergonomics, materials selection, corrosion resistance, modern production concepts, and cutting-edge technology (in ANY and every era).

- Historically, an American birthright. From the frontiersman hunting for his food as he explored a strange new (to him) land, through the first skirmishes of our earliest wars, to the rise of the greatest manufacturing giant the world has ever known, guns and America/Americans have always been linked like Siamese twins -- nearly inseparable.

- Artistically, guns can be a thing of beauty. A Renaissance Hi-Power, a Purdy exhibition-grade shotgun, a Swiss miniature, a gleaming Colt Python, an artfully executed custom dangerous-game rifle, any well-engraved firearm; guns are a part of the world of art, too."

Some of these reasons are why I own guns. Not much artsy stuff in the collection right now; it's primarily oriented more toward function than form.

Firehand said...

Tam beat me to it: when in comes to self-defense, that "... someone who wouldn't have a chance to get close enough to fight back or defend themselves...” bit is absolute crap. If they're not threatening your life, you have no reason to go to a gun; if they are, why the hell am I supposed to be worried about letting them get close? That's what a gun is to avoid. And 'defending themselves' is not exactly a factor when someone is trying to hurt you.

Firehand said...

As to guns not meant for killing, I've got a BSA Martini .22 that's marvelously accurate, and one of the last things you'd want for squirrels or rabbits; that long, heavy barrel and such that make it wonderful on targets show that killing was not in the minds of the designers.

For that matter, there are benchrest rifles you'd NEVER take into the woods; they're bloody heavy. But amazingly accurate for shooting tiny groups at loooong ranges.

Don't know if Tam has one, but parlor guns were made for many years; useless for anything bigger than(maybe) a mouse, but nicely accurate and quiet for the target shooting they were made for.

Firehand said...

Should have noted this earlier, as to my reasons to own guns:
Mechanical precision
Sometimes amazing design
Because I can, in my wonderful country
General fun, as Ms. Palette said
Lots of good reasons, including how she closed her comment! Knowing that owning them irritates all the right people, well, that's dessert.