Monday, June 22, 2015

The second amendment, open carry and the politics of a snarling dog.

My views on gun ownership are complicated. Please read the whole thing because I'm gonna tread on both sides of this topic.
On one hand I don't believe that the framers of the Bill of Rights intended for individual ownership of military firepower. I think the "any one, any gun" interpretation is dead wrong. The phrasing of the amendment clearly intends for military arms to be per view of  "well regulated Militia" to whit regulated is an important modifier of Militia. Military arms should be regulated. Small arms, shot guns and sporting arms those are a different story. The current interpretation that citizens can all own firearms, with some restrictions on capacity, caliber, and rate of fire is quite reasonable (and where to draw those lines is to get into minutiae far beyond the scope of this post)
I think the vast majority of Americans should own a fire arm and be well practiced in its use. Public schools and police departments should offer free firearm safety training much like driver's education is offered. A lot of the issues we have with folks carrying and carrying unsafely comes from guns being unfamiliar. Having grown up in Missouri surrounded by guns I fully understood and understand the devastating power they have, but I also had no interest in fooling around with one. I enjoyed hunting and shooting, but I had no desire to "show off" guns to my peers, and they'd have likely had no interest in fooling with arms that they saw around their own homes. The vast divide surrounding arms in this country comes from too few people being well versed in the safe and intended use of a firearm. This unfamiliarity leads some people to fear their very existence, and some to fetishise their power. This would be resolved by giving the former folks some information, and the latter needs to have a bit of red tape and monotony to wade through to take some of the shine off of guns and gun ownership.
To accomplish this we need training publicly available and free of charge, but also in order to operate a gun you must be licensed. No one is going to take down the serial numbers, makes or models of your gun, but if you purchase a weapon, ammo, enter a firing range, or are observed by police with a firearm you must have a license. Same as operating a motor vehicle, same as buying a hunting license.
To go bow hunting this fall, I had to take a 12 hour hunter and firearm safety course. Why not push that information to all gun owners? It doesn't seem to me to high a bar to leap, if the vast majority of people are licensed then there is no "big brother gonna take my guns" paranoia, and if people are safely trained then at least we'll be down to intentional shooters with the social skills to sit through the class and pass a test. This would be at least better than the current non-system.
If you live in a rural area, and think this a ridiculous requirement, please bare with me. Having lived in major cities the past 15 years you would not believe the number of gun owners I have seen who do not have a basic understanding of firearm safety, discipline, let alone basic efficacy behind the trigger. If you're former Military, or can pass the basic test, you're good.
Which brings me to open carry. If you open carry, you are (pardon my language) an asshole. Do you have the legal right to be an asshole? You certainly do. I will assert that you are doing much more harm than good. By way of explanation I'll tell you a story:
A few years ago we had a big snow and ice storm here in Seattle. The roads were icy as all hell and this city is really hilly. I needed to get a couple things from the store and there was a small grocery a maybe half a mile from my house. On my walk to the store I meet up with what I think was a Belgian Tervuren his owners were not quite a block away. The dog, I'll call him fluffy, because he was. Fluffy loped up to me, while I was standing on the icy sidewalk. I generally like dogs so I say "Hey pooch" in a friendly voice. The dog gets within a couple feet of me, it's hackles raise and it bares it's teeth and it growls. Uh oh. "Hello," I say to the owners "can you come and get your dog?"  "Oh he's super friendly!" they tell me. As Fluffy barks twice and then growls some more. I am not feeling like fluffy is friendly. I am feeling threatened, and like I am in danger. It's too slippery for me to move well. This dog is snarling at me. He is big and has lots of teeth. I have no idea of it's just bluster, or if it's really going to try and hurt me. I end up sliding away without getting bit, but that encounter did not leave me with a favorable opinion of those dogs or their owners. Fluffy's owner assured me; that I was safe, that fluffy was friendly, but the outward appearance was threatening.
Which brings me back to open carry. You may be a law abiding citizen. You may be just doing some grocery shopping, but all the rest of us see is a snarling dog, and no one wants to get bit. If you want to concealed carry, then by all means get a CCW and do so. However, the open carry folks, you can couch it in whatever rhetoric you like but you're threatening your neighbors, and that makes you an asshole. The way to convince people that the second amendment should allow private gun ownership is to be a reasonable person, AND a gun owner. Take precautions to keep your guns out of dangerous hands, To take people to the range, take people hunting, teach your kids about guns, and most of all don't be an asshole! The more interactions people have with reasonable, non-threatening gun owners the more support there will be for gun ownership Conversely every time there is an "open carry event" more people on the fence see gun ownership as a fringe activity. It leaves a bad taste in their mouths and keeps them from being open to more reasonable interactions. It closes doors.


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