To Gun or Not To Gun

I’ve referenced guns and gun ownership several times now, in passing.  I think it’s time to blog on that specifically, because it’s a highly misunderstood and even more highly politicized area of thought.  People seem to camp out along party lines on this issue, perhaps more than on any other.  Or perhaps not more than any other — as I’ve said several times now, I am someone unqualified to comment upon anything political, who nevertheless does, so I’d suggest you take me with a grain of salt.  I do feel qualified to comment on guns, at least conditionally.

So, really quick context: I did not grow up with guns, so I had a big learning curve, marksmanship-wise, when I did my first rifle shooting in boot camp.  Amazingly, I was the distinguished honor grad of my cycle, at Ft. Leonard Wood, demonstrating aggregate competence even though I wasn’t the best at any particular thing — PT, marksmanship, drill and ceremonies, military history and knowledge, and hand-to-hand combat.  And I think this is a pretty good capture of me in general — I’m reasonably smart about a bunch of stuff but by no means the sharpest tool in any particular shed.

Now, before I move on from that, let me say that I will always, always hold deep, positive, almost spiritual associations with rifle shooting, thanks to my first experience with it at Ft. Leonard Wood, and this is really easy to explain:  when you’re on your belly, looking through those sights, and you know your mates are on your left and right, comfortingly, but you can’t really see them, and your earplugs are in so the whole world recedes and it’s just you and your breath and these distant pops of the other guns, and you’re just trying to line up your shot with the gentle sough of your breathing, watching the sights move up and down over the target and — here’s the important part — every other aspect of your experience except this one, in boot camp, consists of someone yelling at you and making you scurry, or freeze — the tranquility of the rifle range is so immense, it’s like dying and going to heaven.  

I just want to always be here, doing this, I would think, with my right cheek pressed lovingly against the butt stock, and the tip of my nose gently, intimately, conspiratorially grazing the charging handle, my trigger finger sensitive to the pressure, the pull, the stages of initiation, all in perfect sync with my breath.  And the feeling of just laying there and being still — in the context of an 8-week ordeal designed around sleep deprivation and constant activity — was marvelous, like when the good drugs kick in, at the hospital.  It was with truly the most unspeakable regret that I stood up, took out my earplugs, and rejoined the fray, when my turn was over.

I really don’t ever shoot rifle without getting some echo, some hit, of this transcendental bliss, just so you know.

Pistol — that’s a different story.  It feels, to me, exactly the way you’d think shooting a gun would feel, if you’ve never shot one, which is like…not as controllable as you’d like, a bit alarming every time, and on some level you just want to slink off and crochet something instead.  I’ve made better friends with pistol, over time, but for me it can never compare to the meditative trance of target shooting with rifles.  Caveat: I don’t enjoy hunting rifles with a big kick, or shotguns.  

Really funny anecdote: several years later, I was at a regional Army Guard marksmanship match, and I had to do a little pistol although my primary discipline at that point was machine gun.  Sniper and machine gun competitors are obliged to compete in a couple pistol and rifle matches, just because those are “foundational” skills.  So we shot our match, and it was time to go check our targets, and my eyes widened with amazement as I walked up, because my paper target showed this incredibly tight shot group, right around dead center, plus…a bunch of extra bullet holes, around the edges…?  Possibly more bullet holes than I had had bullets…?  I was so captivated by what this could mean that I was startled by my neighbor’s intrusion: “Hey — I think I shot your target.”  I looked at him.  Just some guy with a fairly clenched jaw.  “See here?,” he said, indicating the tight shot group.  “Those are mine.  All these ones at the edges are yours.”  I was offended he’d dismiss my shooting skills so immediately — probably because I was a woman — while at the same time knowing he was probably right.  

I was still digesting this bad news when a range sergeant came up to see what the delay was, and my neighbor made his case.  After a little back and forth, the range sergeant said, essentially, ‘You’re trying to get credit for shooting the heck out of someone else’s target?  Waste my time with this shit.  Next!”  So I won that pistol match, and felt pretty sheepish about going up on stage to get my award, later in the day.  When I looked out in the audience, that guy was staring holes through me, with some accuracy this time and not six feet off to the right.  I was honest with my team about it, and they all thought it was the most hilarious thing ever, and we laughed about it all the way back to Arizona although I still felt stupid.  But like they said — at least I hit my own target, damn.  

My second enlistment was in the Air Guard doing medical stuff, and since that unit focused less on marksmanship and more on sitting around, eating doughnuts, and being entitled useless shitbags, I didn’t get to shoot very much at all in that enlistment.  

I did attend a civilian concealed carry class, years ago, more out of curiosity than anything — I have consistently opted *not* to own or carry a firearm, for reasons I’ll get to — but that class prompted me to buy and read a book called “Armed and Female”, by Paxton Quigley.  In researching her book, Quigley interviewed quite a few career predators — incarcerated murderers and rapists who focused on female victims, serially and specifically — and asked them questions about their work, lol.  Uniformly and unsurprisingly, they all advanced the variable of a firearm as being the one thing that would really wreck their plan.  So essentially, they’d just do whatever the heck they wanted with a string of female victims and then eventually encounter one who was armed, and like that was how they ended up in jail, essentially, and available to be interviewed.  It’s been a while but that’s what I recall of the book.  

This still didn’t prompt me to go around packing heat — again for reasons I’ll discuss — but it did flesh out a perspective that is often missed in the, er, national debate about firearms.  So, couple things here: firearms are fucking dangerous, and it’s much better to responsibly not own a firearm than to irresponsibly own a firearm.  Best of all, in my opinion, is to responsibly own a firearm IF that aligns with your worldview and sensibilities generally, but it’s not something to take lightly.  Think of it more as a pet than a possession — don’t get a dog if you don’t plan to walk it every day.  Don’t get a firearm if you don’t plan to spend meaningful time, at least once a month, massaging yourself into a place of full and total comfort in operating it.  

And even then, you’re obliged to continue educating yourself, putting yourself in those circles, developing some idea of what scenario would evoke your use of that firearm and how you would mentally and ethically negotiate it — in advance.  Watching TV, where everyone shoots everyone, is not a good source of guidance.  Like I learned in concealed carry — never “brandish” a firearm.  You’ll only end up having someone take it away from you and shoot you with it, and then how stupid will you feel, if you survive.  A gun is to save your fucking life, or the lives of people legitimately under threat.  Ownership of a firearm represents the tip of the spear of what should be an entire, cohesive, well developed, meaningfully challenged thought process about the conditions and circumstances that pray-god never occur, but should they occur, you would recognize and be able to assess.  It is easier, much much much easier, not to own a gun, and let’s all admit that it’s highly unlikely you’d ever need one, or that you’d negotiate its use correctly if you did.

Final diagnosis: if you’re reading this, I probably don’t even know you, but it’s likely you shouldn’t own a gun.  There are a million reasons for you not to own a gun, and only a few recommending it.

Now: back to the status of the national debate.  People who are into guns caricature-ize people who object to them, and vice versa.  Many people on both sides are, unfortunately, living caricatures.  I trust the reader is able to adequately envision the caricatures I’m referring to, here — the slobbering redneck versus the bespectacled, educated do-gooder who’s never worked a day in their life, that type of thing — and all that is so bankrupt, I’m not even going to waste my time on it.  Instead, here are some more important things:

One: I loathe this association between gun-owning types and the indiscriminate, ceaseless, pointless killing of animals.  Like I said, my earliest associations with marksmanship were military, with paper targets, and I went on to have quite the little career for myself as a competitive machine gunner etcetera, all over the country, in these fun tactical matches, among great friends.  None of it involved animals, or else I would have been flipping tables.  I hate — emphasis, *hate* — going into gun stores and gunsmith shops and being assaulted by their insane plethora of taxidermy’d tragedy.  This is the most unconscionable, pussy outrage.  You killed an animal, with no means to defend itself except to run away, with a gun, and then you cut off its head and mounted it on your wall, and now you hang stupid shit on its antlers like it’s cute.  You fucking cuck virgin barbarian.  There are only two things that should ever get shot: inanimate objects and human beings.  I pray to god you reincarnate on the other side of that.  

Two really extreme case caveats: I would shoot an animal that was big and was charging at me, although it would probably be my fault I was in that situation and if I had some foresight I’d arm myself with a big tranq gun instead.  And, if you’re part of a tribe that’s literally following a herd of caribou for survival, you probably don’t have a gun because if you could get your hands on a gun, I’d assume you could get your hands on some beans and rice too, which is just easier and better, so you’re probably using bows and arrows, but if you’re not, and if everyone you know is going to die unless you pick off some caribou, then no doubt you’re not following my blog but okay, maybe you’re justified, but you might still experience some karma around that, just saying.   

Okay, second: gun violence in the US tracks upwards with permissive gun laws.  I have a number of things to say about this, not the least of which is: I don’t personally care.  If I chose to own a firearm — which I historically have not — but if I chose to, as an option-of-last-resort, I would, and in the face of any statistics on earth.  If I felt I was likely to be a target of violent predation, I would carry a gun, legally or illegally, I don’t care, case closed.    

Having established that, let me additionally say that I tend to separate out this discussion from other discussions of public safety, such as speed limits or OSHA regs, because I don’t think it’s through a weakening of our stance on speed limits or OSHA regs that my own government will turn rabid and attack me.  Now: I am many things, but I am not some slobbering redneck holed up in my shack fetishizing about that unlikely moment when my narrow-minded, whiskey-fueled, uneducated militance finally pays off, and I’ll get to shoot some people wearing badges who are trespassing on my land.  And even if I were that slobbering redneck — do you have any idea how fast that firefight would be over, and definitively, and not in my favor?  And even more pertinently, it’s probably not gonna go down like that.  I mean, it’s probably not gonna go down at all, but if it does go down, we’ll all just be starved to death or fried by space lasers.  Or simply continue killing ourselves through diseases of consumption as usual.  The funniest thing about all of this is that we’re killing ourselves with diet faster than anything or anyone else can.  I mean, realistically, the people fantasizing about a guns-blazing showdown with a rogue government are the very same people killing themselves with fried chicken faster than any communist coup could possibly dream.        

In other words, it is just so unlikely that any meaningful confrontation with the government, even a rabid rogue government, would be remotely survivable, armed citizens or not.  It’s a fantasy.  

But it’s not insignificant, at least symbolically.  Here is a fact: gun control works, at least conditionally, in other countries for one reason and one reason only — those countries aren’t full of Americans.  American problems demand American solutions, because we’re either too smart, too stupid, or both, for other solutions.  Take me, for instance — I’m the least American American I know, and I’m still American as fuck compared to any given European.  We are a nation of barely controllable, often complacent, easily flummoxed, but essentially unpredictable honey badgers.  It’s not clear to me that mass shootings in America aren’t to some extent manufactured or at least leveraged in order to organize public sentiment against permissive gun ownership — and yes, I’m taking into account how many of us are crazy, stupid, self destructive, or just plain medicated.  Even a cursory Google search on the subject will serve to convince you that the only course of action is to make guns more and more, and more, illegal.  Permissive gun laws = higher rates of gun violence, and it looks like a done deal, statistically.  

I have a lot to say about that, but first let me just advance this most unpopular, perhaps, of all my unpopular opinions: American mass shootings will be best and most effectively addressed by more Americans being armed and willing to intervene in an unfolding mass shooting event.  I can’t prove that, of course, but I can tell you that instances of successful mass shootings are headlined to the moon, while instances of attempted mass shootings, prevented only through the fortunate coincidence of at least one other person in the scenario having a gun and the presence of mind to use it, are suppressed, obscured, and ignored.

But back to the statistics, there are at least two obvious ways they can mislead us.  First of all, there are something like 160,000 instances per year of law-abiding citizens preventing a violent attack or home invasion by using their firearm as a deterrent.  This can be understood as the gun control debate’s equivalent to “flattening the curve”, where the people who weren’t killed, because of responsible gun ownership, remains somewhat invisible but still relevant.  

A second important qualifier to the statistics correlating gun ownership with gun violence is the fact that there is somewhere from 60% more, at least, to roughly twice as many, at most, gun suicides in the US, per year, as compared to gun homicides.  Is it sad for people to off themselves with guns?  Yes.  Might their decision to off themselves have been made tougher if they did not have recourse to a gun?  Yes, particularly for males, who kill themselves at a 4x higher rate than females.  A shooting range near my brother’s house mandates that male customers, specifically, bring a friend, simply because they’ve had so many solo males come and rent a gun, blow their brains out, and drop the mic.  So for these instances they didn’t even need to own a gun, they just had to get their hands on one for a couple minutes.  While suicide by gun or any other means is regrettable, I consider it an entirely different kind of problem than homicide by gun, so I’m inclined to adjust my assessment of the statistics accordingly.  I’d be pretty irritated if my 2nd Amendment right to bear arms against a legitimate threat was eroded because a bunch of people happened to choose a gun as their mechanism for suicide, no offense.  

Subtracting guns as successful deterrents to violence (statistically invisible), and as mechanisms for suicide (statistically distracting), we’re left with all the other issues: mass shootings, gang violence, domestic violence, and then whatever subset remains for just, you know, someone jumping out at you or breaking in, which is especially concerning for women.  Personally, in 100% of these remaining scenarios, I’d prefer a random, self-elected portion of the public carry a gun, whether or not I choose to myself.  I’m pretty irreverent as a person, and I don’t have faith in a lot of things, but one thing I do have perfect faith in is that the worst among us will manage to acquire a firearm no matter what, so I’d prefer those odds be evened, despite the likely potential for attendant mayhem.  

Just to echo Paxton Quigley’s research, a 1982 survey of felons found that 34% of incarcerated, violent, male predators had been “scared off, shot at, wounded, or captured” by an armed would-be victim; 69% personally knew another violent male predator who had experienced the same; and 40% had decided to steer clear of potential victims who they knew or believed might be armed.

The more you look at the numbers, the deeper the rabbit hole gets.  If you’re interested in how the gun control debate may be distorted in order to leverage erosion of 2nd Amendment rights, one good starting place is this article,  If you’re interested in learning more about how dangerous guns are and why we should do away with them, just read anything by the New York Times.  In any case, like I said, you probably shouldn’t own a gun but that doesn’t mean you need to guzzle all the Kool Aid.  

Here is that personal opinion about gun ownership I’ve been holding over your head for the entirety of the blog: live by the sword, die by the sword, at least vibrationally.  As you probably know by now, I’m a flaming airy-fairy fag for spiritual metaphysics, which I use to navigate my world more often and more earnestly than any expert or statistical guidance, much to the chagrin of advocates of expert and/or statistical guidance.  I really don’t care what everyone else is doing or saying, I’m going to make up my own mind.  I do not want to live at the mercy of a government which is, itself, armed, but which makes it illegal for its citizens to be armed, no matter what shenanigans may result.  I’ll take those shenanigans, ten times out of ten.  

BUT, that which you resist, persists — it is universal law.  Or another cliche, although still accurate, is you become that which you seek to destroy.  So for myself, I’ve been very very picky about how I align my personal energies around firearms.  As I described, rifle shooting feels to me like communing with the infinite, surrounding myself in gunpowder-huffing existential bliss, and so it doesn’t feel like this violent, victim-y flavored energy when I go out to shoot.  I’m not angry, and I’m not envisioning violent scenarios, although I am pragmatically interested in competence, speed, and accuracy.  

When I shoot pistols, I’m careful to get into the same mindset, and they are really fun, although I don’t know why so many women are urged to go the pistol route because I think a nice, cheap Walmart .22 lever-action rifle would be more to women’s taste, and the ammo is hella economical.  I mean, I am from Arizona, so the idea of potentially shooting someone isn’t like a foreign concept to me, but I’m also a woman, with delicate female sensibilities, and I’d rather not scare the daylights out of myself in the process, although I do love my AR-15.  But above and beyond all that, I couldn’t help but notice that almost 100% of the violent crime victims in the ER, when I worked in critical care, were up to no good when they got themselves hurt.  “Oh, someone bashed in this guy’s head with a shovel!  Poor thing!”  Well, turns out he was holding someone down and cutting off their fingers, one by one, until that victim was able to wrestle free and grab that handy shovel.  Turns out, you suck, and you put yourself here.  

But even just vibrationally speaking, I think it’s important we affirm, to ourselves, that we are safe, we live in a safe world, and that it’s our anger and our resentment that threatens us most, and which is most likely to manifest as a violent crime, a car accident, cancer, or some other injurious twist of fate.  The best deterrent to violent crime is to actually not focus on those elements of our world, and to align our energies creatively, not destructively, and then just don’t be an idiot.  Don’t look like prey.  

Okay, I know that sounds confusing and conflicting, but I walk with my back straight, my chin up, my shoulders square, and on the rare occasions I have felt someone’s malevolent energy directed my way, I’ve assessed them as a sad sack of shit I wouldn’t even need a gun to overcome, even despite differences of physical size.  Maybe Jordan Peterson puts it best, when he recommends that true morality is not found in harmlessness per se, but in the ability to do harm, and the choice not to.  Be an angel with a flaming sword, by all means, but keep your sword sheathed, under almost all circumstances.  People can feel the heat, don’t worry.  

So for that reason, and reasons of expensive ammo for target practice, I have largely chosen not to own or carry a gun.  I’ve become more involved in guns, gun purchasing, and target practice of late because — oh, I don’t know, something about all the statues being torn down and the obviously manipulated race riots just appeals to my sense of, you know, having a bit of thrust-and-parry fun with my own personal flaming sword, despite my commitment to it remaining sheathed for all intents and purposes.  

I’ve developed my own sensibilities and philosophies about guns and gun ownership over many years, with appreciated influences from both “sides”, and to me it still remains very much a personal decision, and one that must be negotiated conscientiously and spiritually along with everything else.  I haven’t shared my perspectives on guns openly in this manner before, and to be honest I’ve really enjoyed this blog because, like most issues, I think this one is falsely compartmentalized, to everyone’s detriment.  And as usual, at the end of the day, I’ll just say: it’s pretty silly to “trust the government”, any government, ever, because that’s not the contract we made with them, so they’re not even asking for that, nor should they.  

Guns are a huge, huge problem, but we opened that Pandora’s box and it’s a done deal, so what do we do now.  We can be like London, and ban guns, and then have our knife homicides surpass gun homicides in New York City, or we can just deal with the devil we’ve got.  It’s easy to caricature-ize each other when we’re already so good at being really problematic caricatures of ourselves, especially in regards to gun control, so here’s my advice: if you’ve never shot a gun, go to a range and get a lesson, just to clarify for yourself what is and is not worth freaking out about.  If you’re all about guns, then that’s great but maybe look at your penchant for fried chicken and the likelihood of killing yourself medically before anyone else even has a chance.  If you’re a woman and you go around mentally catastrophizing your vulnerable femininity, then either stop doing that (best solution) or, alternatively, learn to use a gun.  If you’re a violent predator, then I hope you get shot in the face by your next victim, you piece of shit.  If you like to use guns to kill animals, then re-orient yourself to the real task at hand: empty paint cans or violent human predators.  If you’re planning on attending a mass event in the United States, congrats: all it takes is an alleged pandemic to save you from both the baby and the bathwater of all our other problems.  And if you’re a good person with your head on straight, and you own a gun, and you’ve given some thought to how and why you might use it — thank you.  You are the white blood cells patrolling our system.                                                                                                                            

2 thoughts on “To Gun or Not To Gun

  1. Oh, another Ft. Leonard Wood grad! I took basic there in the summer of 1959 – running squad tactics in 117 degrees! Got to visit there again when I enlisted RA in 1960.

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