Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Guns in the home? (paca)

So, dear readers, would any of you ever have a gun in the home? If so, what type and for what reason?

Let me go off on my personal history with guns. First, I have a little more experience with guns than one might expect from some grad student in Linguistics living in Honolulu who is a bleeding liberal (OK, maybe not if my great hope with the new Democratic Congress was to immediately tackle the deficit, but I try to live up to stereotypes.) I did riflery at camp as a kid, where at 8 or so I earned enough points to get a Marksman badge with my .22. I actually had a hunting license for a year or so as a Boy Scout (though the instructor told me to get a lot more practice in before I ever went hunting for real.) I also owned both pellet and BB rifles as a child, and we would walk around the neighborhood shooting poor birds that went by - black bird, bluejays.... Not terribly proud of that now. At the same time, my family was never a hunting family at all. My dad got invited on some duck hunting trip once and for a couple years there was a 12 gauge in his closet. It never got used other than the one vacation trip.

Also, since I grew up in a small town in a rural area, these are the ways that guns were used when I was a kid:

1) You go hunting and shoot some animal, like a duck or deer.
2) You shoot as sport - targets, beer cans, the unfortunate turtle sitting in a creek on your grandfather's farm.
3) You shoot your spouse in a fit of domestic violence.
4) Your child or your child's friend find your gun lying around and shoot themselves.

When I think about owning a gun, it's item number 4 that I always think about. Far too many children shot themselves or others with guns when I was growing up, and for people who have seen me with B, I am, on the matter of physical safety, very cautious. (Basically, I treat him like I treated myself as a kid, which is that I don't go dangling off things until I have practiced dangling for a while and know I'm a good dangler. The llama was a go-for-it dangler and had broken bones to prove it, as well as more adventures. I had less adventures and have never broken a bone.) So I think I would only ever have a gun if I could truly keep it locked in a safe - literally. If that's correct for my personality, then I can imagine owning a gun for hunting purposes. But due to the safe, I just see no point in keeping a gun for security reasons.

In the time between someone smashing in my door and running into my bedroom, I don't think I'd have time to open the safe much less load a weapon. It would probably be quicker for me to jump out the window. Because of this, I've just never seen any great purpose in owning a gun for security. I'm not going to keep a loaded weapon in a drawer by my bed. The risk is just too great for me.

There was a bit on NPR several years ago where they were doing reader letters. In some segment, they had given a stat that a weapon in the home was (something like) 10 times more likely to be used against a family member than an intruder. The reader asked what crazy hippie organization gave them that stat. The lovely answer was the NRA.

So, do any of you have guns in the home for security purposes? How do you handle the quick availability versus gun safety issue? Again, I'm not anti-gun. I can imagine keeping a gun for sporting purposes quite safely in the home. It could be quite fun to go shoot targets on an afternoon. But for security, it's never seemed practical to me. I'd have to feel very, very insecure before the rewards outweighed the risks of keeping a weapon easily available.



bunnygirl said...

I've never owned a gun, and I don't come from a family of gun-owners. (Even though they were Nixon Republicans, not hippies.)

I wouldn't consider having a hunting weapon unless I thought there was a real chance I would need to hunt my own food, as opposed to the much more convenient method of going to the grocery store.

But if I wanted a gun for home security, I'd get a bolt-action shotgun. I've been told the just the sound of the bolt is enough to scare off an intruder. And with a shotgun, you almost can't miss. One can't say that about most other guns.

Yeah, shotguns kick. So what? If my life were in danger, my collarbone would be low on my list of concerns.

And no worries on the gun safety issue. No kids, and the rabbit is a pacifist.

Anonymous said...

Firstly, Bunnygirl: I think that you intended "pump-action" shotgun. There have only been a handful of manufacturers that ever produced bolt-action shotguns (Marlin, Mossberg, Sears & Roebuck and a couple of others); they are all currently out of production, as far as I can tell; and the majority are long barreled goose guns, which would be very impractical for home defense. The sound of a pump shotgun's slide being racked is very distinctive and loud, and used to great effect in action/horror movies; no "bad" guy will ever hear that and mistake it for anything else. The fact that depending upon the sound to frighten the bad guys is a really bad tactical error from a philosophical standpoint is another matter entirely. The sound of a bolt-action shotgun cycling is not particularly loud or distinctive (there were two in my household when I was growing up, and I have hunted with one of them extensively.) I agree, however, that if I only had one firearm, it would be my pump shotgun. I must also point out, however, that I've proven too many times that it is pretty easy to miss with a shotgun, too.

Yes, I own guns, for many reasons. For one thing, it is fairly safe for me: I am single, no dependents, my friends with children rarely visit (I live a significant distance from most of them; plus, as a bachelor, I have very sparse and uncomfortable furniture), and I don't associate with idiots stupid or irreverent enough to go messing about with any of my guns without first asking permission and unloading them.

I will state from the get-go that I also own a very substantial (heavy-as-hell, soon to be mounted to the wall-studs) gun safe. That is to keep my guns from being easily stolen, and to allow me to keep them from prying young eyes/hands. HOWEVER, I do not believe that this is an absolute necessity. Personally, I like being prepared, and I like to avoid nastiness by means of copious planning. On the other hand, I was raised in a house with many guns that were not locked up. In fact, as a toddler, I slept in the same room as the wall-mounted gun rack; all of the high-powered rifles and shotguns were in my room. Granted, I couldn't reach them, but they were there, and I do not consider myself a warped person from falling asleep every night looking at gleaming steel. (The mounted deer head hanging above my pillow, however, gave me no end of nightmares before I managed to articulate my great displeasure, at which point Homer the Deer Head moved to my parents' room.) From the time I was about 4, I also knew that there was a loaded pistol in Dad's sock drawer. 1911 Colt, .45 ACP, military surplus. Fine weapon. And I never touched it, never so much as made a fast movement toward that drawer. Why? Because I was raised right. There were certain rules that you never dared break, and messing about with something like Daddy's guns was probably the biggest. I don't ever remember being told this, but it was such a strong idea in my head that it must have been drilled home hard. (My dad now owns an even nicer gun safe, btw.)

I strongly believe that the children who find the hidden gun in the sock drawer and accidentally shoot themselves or others were not raised firmly enough. (Don't anybody take offense; obviously I'm not ready for parenting, so I'm not admonishing anybody. In addition, don't question me too harshly, either; I've had about 15 hours of developmental psychology on the undergraduate and graduate level, and I've taught school from 2nd grade to seniors: for a non-parent, I'm pretty experienced.) I was super curious and hard-headed, and I got into my fair share of trouble, but I NEVER touched one of dad's guns without his permission, not until I was grown and permission was understood. A little fear of the wrath, appropriately applied, would negate this issue in all but a few cases. Beyond simply wishing to avoid punishment, I was shown on several occasions just what a high powered rifle or shotgun could do to a rotten watermelon or water-filled milk-jug. A respect for the power of the tool probably goes a long way, as well.

As to the other reasons that I own guns, yes, protection/defense is one of them. My creed (before I took up walking/jogging) was always, "Running? I run when chased, and then just far enough to find a rock big enough to make up the difference between myself and the guy chasing me." I'm not fast or strong, though I'm working on both of those things, and firearms can indeed be a great equalizer. Please don't think I'm particularly belligerent; I would back down in a heartbeat in most instances ("hobbit-like" would describe me fairly well), but I draw the line at my home. That's sacred, and I will defend it by whatever means necessary. The way I personally handle the issue is that all of my guns are locked up in the gun safe when I leave the house. When I return to the house, I retrieve my revolver and place it in it's "ready" spot next to the industrial strength flashlight. At night, (remember, I have no kiddos), I can have them both in hand within a couple of seconds. If anyone that shouldn't be trusted with loaded firearms shows up to visit, it's a very simple matter to pop the little darling back into the safe and lock it. If I am ever blessed with a family of my own, several mini-safes are marketed with ergonomically-designed quick-combination locking devices that can be easily opened (with the correct combination code) in the dark with one hand, and I would probably buy one. On the other hand, my kids would have drilled into their heads with appropriate gravity that the prime rule is to "not screw around with Daddy's guns."

I also enjoy hunting, though not so much as in my youth. As you mature, you come to a greater understanding of the issues related to killing in order to eat. As an adolescent, I loved the thrill of the hunt/chase/stalk. I still appreciate those things, but I appreciate hunting these days more in the same way that you can appreciate a sore back after a day's hard labor. It's not pretty, it's not trivial, it's not something to be undertaken lightly, and it should be conducted with a degree of respect (at the very least, you kill only what you intend to eat), but it can also be very rewarding, and it keeps you tied directly to many aspects of life on this planet. I do maintain a certain set of firearms to enable me to effectively hunt whatever I might choose (on this continent, anyway), because it can be a noble and important thing to feed yourself and your kin.

Another reason that I own firearms is that my hometown is still fairly rural (from your home state, Paca), and they are necessary tools. We've been invaded by skunks recently. Not only are skunks fearless and less than pleasant when irritated, but they are also a prime carrier of rabies. As they have started taking up residence under our houses, we have been forced to trap them. You cannot approach a skunk in a cage too closely, so they must be dispatched from a distance. We are also afflicted with stray dogs, any of whom might also become rabid or abnormally aggressive, at which point they would need to be dispatched (no animal control in this rural parish.) My grandfather's advice to people moving to our town back in the 50s was, "Keep your gas tank full, because the stations close on the weekends; keep fresh batteries in your flashlight, because the lights go out pretty regularly; and keep your rifle loaded, because the nearest law is 20 minutes away." Except for the gas stations, it's still much the same today.

In a real sense, there was never any question as to whether or not I would be a gun-owner. I "owned" (was entrusted to use and care for one of my father's) guns by the age of 10. They have always been considered necessary in my community. To illustrate, my father once queried, "What kind of man leaves the house in the morning without a good knife in his pocket?" There is a very similar assumption regarding firearms ownership, or at least the ownership of a formidable defensive weapon, even if it's merely a Louisville Slugger. A man could easily face a task that requires such a tool to accomplish, and he should be prepared.

One of the main reasons I own firearms is rarely, if ever, touched upon in these friendly discussions. I believe it is my responsibility as a free citizen (who strives toward up-standing) to be armed in order to protect myself, my family, my community and my nation from invasion and unrest. We often hear of the right to keep and bear arms. With all rights come responsibilities. I feel competent with arms, and I have thought through the issues related to their defensive use, both in the personal and the citizen-militia sense. As I am thus prepared, I believe it is my responsiblity as a free citizen to make use of this inalienable right to help ensure the continuance of peace and order in my community, state and nation. Obviously, it's a free country, and I do not advocate everyone doing the same. I do believe, however, that those of us who believe strongly in that right, who educate ourselves in the ethics of the matter, and who are willing to take on the responsibility, should maintain arms at the ready for such a purpose.

In the end, the only thing that tyranny has ever truly feared is a competent and resolute armed populace. I believe that the Second Amendment is the primary amendment in the Bill of Rights. Obviously, the First Amendment is far more important, but the surest way to secure the First Amendment is to support the Second. I am neither a baby nor a fool who cannot be trusted with arms, and thus, it is my responsibility to help constitute that competent armed populace.

Tony S.

-E said...

no guns... for the same reasons you list paca.

my biggest oppostion to personally owning a gun is that i think that if you own a gun you need to be willing to kill someone... and for the most part i am not. if it is required or happens accidently in self-defense i could do it, but i am not willing to kill someone over my material possesions.

although phillip and i have discussed taking some sort of gun safety/how to shoot something class, especially for me as i am quite scared of guns. and if there is a kids gun safety class when J gets older, i will probably sign him up. both classes regardless of whether or not we own a gun.

i can conceive of the need to get a shotgun at some point if our situation changed like moving to the country, taking up hunting, or an apocalypse.

bunnygirl said...

Thanks for the corrections, Tony! As I said, I was only repeating what I had been told, but obviously if I thought it were important enough to pursue, I would research the matter very thoroughly. I have a lot of respect for any weapon that allows one to inflict death and mayhem at a distance, and it would never be a casual, uninformed purchase.

But honestly, in the small places I've always lived, it would be very hard to miss with a shotgun. And I wouldn't try to kill someone unless they were in my home, which means they'd be pretty darn close.

But for just general self defense, I want to learn krav maga. I'm much less concerned about an intruder in my home than about the possibility of being attacked in a parking garage or something. A gun in that situation, no matter what type, and no matter how well I knew how to use it, would probably do me little good or would even work against me.

Being proficient in tried-and-true street fighting techniques that don't depend on brute strength seems the better way to go, for the types of violent crime that a woman is most likely to encounter.

Anonymous said...

First, here is my background history with guns and other weapons. My family did not own guns, well except apparently for those couple of years that Paca wrote about and I’m assuming was before I was born. Going on, there were no hunters and no guns in my house growing up. But I learned to riffles and handguns at camp and I also studied archery for many years at camp and in college. I did earn many badges in archery and would like to restart it up again to really develop mastery for it. I also had a boyfriend who had a 30lb and an 80lb crossbow that he used to lend me so I could practice on official archery targets. I did manage to shoot kill a squirrel who ran across the target circle. I also studied a couple semesters of fencing as well. While living in Portland, a friend of mine that was a police officer would take me to a shooting range. He and another friend wanted to by me a gun for protection because at the time I had a crazy ass ex trying to kill me. However, I am a believer that violence is not the answer for the majority of situations. I never violently fought back and in the end I should consider myself damn lucky I never died, but I can't bring myself to violence as any justification.
I LOVE the skills I have leaned in handling weapons. For me its like studying martial arts or ballet, its teaches a person to connect with the world around them and to learn self control and discipline. But one should never learn in order to kill. I understand and have no problems with hunting for food, or sport (as long as there’re is no danger to the species line). And I agree with Tony, there are many parents who do not teach their children the respect of rules and the use of weapons as not toys. But children or not, people are people and do stupid things for stupid reasons that seem perfectly logical to them at the time. Also, humans tend to have this conception they have control over all things, mechanical or living at all times, but things happen cause we don't have control. In my opinion, I would never have a gun in the house, even though I would, locked up, own swords or crossbows and arrows. If you want protection in case some one breaks into your home, keep a charged cell phone and baseball bat near your bed. Have a security alarm system. Keep things simple and everything will stay simpler.
I do have one story however about guns being kept in the home. When I was in forth grade, I was at a birthday slumber party with about 15 girls at a friend’s house. It was a two-bedroom apartment, the girl's mother and her policeman fiancĂ©. He kept several guns in the house, cause he also hunted. I have no idea where he kept the other guns but he kept a pearl-handed gun in the drawer of his nightstand on his side of the bed. The girl’s mother had left the party and walked to the corner to get us more snacks and while she was gone, this is such a classic gun story, my friend wanted to show off the gun to us, mostly we wanted to see the pretty pearl handle. Only half of the girls went back into the bedroom at first, I stayed watching the movie with 2 others. Then later we went to see what all the noise was about, not knowing anything about a gun. We 3 walked in the run, girls where fighting over who was going to hold the gun next and it, of course went off. My hair went flying, something buzzed very loud near my right ear and the bullet landed in the wall behind me. The gun was loaded and a couple of my 4th grader friends had shot my hair accidentally. The neighbors called the police and it was a huge ordeal.

pacatrue said...


1) First, nice to see you over here, bunnygirl. If you actually stick around, you will be the first new addition to this blog as a reader in at least 6 months.

2) Tony, I think you win an award for best blog comment. I learned a lot from it and I thank you for taking the time.

3) I admit to being rather conflicted about how to interpret the 2nd amendment. On the one hand, it's quite straightforward. A right to bear arms is a right to bear arms. I am usually more "right" on this issue than the stereotypical liberal position and frequently come down more on the "it's a right even if there is possible harm because of it." In the same way, people often do harmful things with 1st amendment rights, but they remain rights. However, 1) I think it's pretty clear that personal nuclear weapons are not protected by this right. (Actually, I was in a debate once with someone who thought it was fine for people to have personal nuclear warheads.) If that is the case, then there seems to be some limit on what classifies as an "arm". Perhaps one can bring in the "for the purposes of a well-ordered militia" part to help interpret this. What is a militia's role and what arms would belong to a well-ordered one versus an unordered militia? I don't know. I'm also conflicted on the waiting period thing. Assuming it is possible to lose rights for violating the law (which we do, since we lock convicted people up), then it seems reasonable to have a check, with possible waiting period, to see if the buyer still has the right to bear or not. Simply put, I am conflicted on lots of these things and have nothing wise to add, really.

4) Court, I had forgotten the pistol story. Thanks for telling it. Ruston is a dangerous place.... : )

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