Wednesday, May 8, 2013

More Sloppy Thinking About Guns and Self Defense

I like to keep a wide range of opinions in my Facebook feed, because I think it's important to see what people with very different views from mine are thinking. Occasionally, that strategy serves up some unintentionally revealing tidbits:

Like all bumper-sticker (or, in this case, cardboard-sign) philosophizing, this meme is revealing - not for what is says, but for the things you would have to assume in order to buy this "argument".

The key here, of course, is the equation of self defense and gun (Glock). But as I've posted before, guns are very often not the right tool for self defense. Recent events have also demonstrated that they can cause all sorts of other problems, including the critical wounding of three young children and the death of another in the last month at the hands of other children. What if mommy's not there and this cute little girl gets ahold of mommy's Glock and accidentally shoots herself, or a friend, with it?

People who think that guns "ensure" their right to self defense are assuming something about the nature of the threats they will face in life. They assume that they will see the threat coming, with enough time to draw their weapon from wherever it is stashed (and, presumably, loaded) and bring it to bear.

People who are going to attack you, however, have no interest in giving you this much warning. Out in the public arena, attackers will want the maximum advantage of both isolation and surprise. Someone intent on doing you harm doesn't want to engage with you or fight you; they want to overwhelm you, because that minimizes the chances they will themselves get hurt. The defense against surprise attacks isn't a gun - which can't be brought to bear quickly enough - but awareness. The solution to the "what if I'm in a dark alley with a mugger?" problem is don't go down a dark alley alone, or at all. The mind is a far more effective self defense weapon than anything else you can carry, as every self defense workshop and instructor will tell you.

Guns-as-defense people also talk about firearms for home defense, on the assumption that someone is going to break into your home intending to do you harm. That can happen - although good locks, an alarm system, and a dog all go a long way to ameliorating that danger - but the vast majority of home break-ins are done on empty houses. People are there to steal, not to harm, and if loot is the goal they don't want to risk someone calling the cops or shooting them. If your intention is to hurt (assault/rape/murder) someone in general (as opposed to someone targeting you in particular, which is a different issue entirely), there are many, many easier ways to find and get access to a victim than breaking into a locked home.

As long as people write silly slogans backed by unrealistic assumptions on cardboard, our national conversation obviously isn't going to advance much. The woman in the picture above has every right under the First Amendment to say what she wants to say - she's just wasting her breath (or her paint) if she thinks her doing so will change any minds. What we need is thinking and dialogue, not sloganeering and chest-thumping.

As a side note - I seem to recall this same crowd of pro-gun-rights folks (including the poster of this particular meme picture above) decrying Obama and comparing him to Hitler some months back because he dared to "use children as political props" during a post-Newtown shooting news conference. I guess if the President does it, he's Hitler, but if you do it to your own kid, it's OK? Rank hypocrisy and tribal double-standards don't convince anyone, either - but I suppose they make people feel better about themselves.


  1. Unless your mommy is a trained paramedic,firefighter or police officer...No she is most certainly not your first responder. People are trained for years and then receive years more of hands-on experience to be first responders. This kid's mom is just a crazy lady with a glock. Odds are she'd hurt herself or her child long before she'd ever have to defend herself from a home invasion. Stats are stats.