There exists a law, not written down anywhere, but inborn in our hearts, a law which comes to us not by training or custom or reading, a law which has come to us not from theory but from practice, not by instruction but by natural intuition. I refer to the law which lays down that, if our lives are endangered by plots or violence or armed robbers or enemies, any and every method of protecting ourselves is morally right.
-Marcus Tullius Cicero, Murder Trials, trans. Michael Grant (New York: Penguin, 1975), p. 279. Quoted in: Guns in Law (University of Massachusetts Press, 2019), p. 1.
As someone who came from completely outside gun culture and became a gun owner later in life, I have tried often to find a middle ground between culture warriors on both sides of the Great American Gun Debates. That, in fact, is one of the purposes of this blog.
As I said earlier this year, one of my key discoveries in journeying through gun culture is that “guns are normal, and normal people use guns.”
Although this could be seen as simply stating the obvious, many gun control advocates go beyond wanting “common sense” gun laws to prevent gun violence. They are not just against gun violence, they are fundamentally against guns. A story in the New York Times on the recent debates over open carry in stores highlights this yet again.
***CORRECTION: A FACEBOOK READER noticed something in the Mother Jones data I presented recently that I had missed. Beginning in 2013, MJ changed their definition of a mass public shooting from 4 or more victims to 3 or more victims in 2013 (see more below), but did not retroactively update their database. Although not deceptive (they said plainly they were doing this, I simply missed it), this is methodologically problematic. So I eliminated those cases, which reduces the total number in the database from 114 incidents to 95, and re-did the chart here.***
Gun trainer Rob Pincus texted to ask me tonight if I had any source for data on the seasonality of mass shooting activity. I.e., mass shootings by month.
I did not, but I was intrigued enough by the idea to do a little work when I got home tonight. The fruit of that labor is below. Important notes and interpretive points follow the chart.
Whenever dramatic events happen in the US involving guns, I hear from the media. Not a ton of media, alas, since my overarching position that “guns are normal and normal people use guns” doesn’t fit most media narratives following dramatic events. And, to be clear, I am not an expert in gun violence or any other unlawful possession/use of firearms.
To the extent that I know anything in particular about guns, it is about what I have been calling “Gun Culture 2.0.” So, for those interested in a sweeping overview of American gun culture, here are my broad (not deep) thoughts.
The debate over civilian ownership of AR-15 platform rifles heats up every time there is a mass murder in the United States using one. Because I study gun culture, people often ask me, “Why does anyone need one of those weapons of war, anyway?”
I usually don’t have a good answer, since handguns are the gun of choice of Gun Culture 2.0, and most of my personal experience with firearms has been with handguns. In fact, about 5 years ago I bought an AR platform rifle with the intention of learning more about it, and it sat untouched for 4 years. Last fall someone shot 5 rounds through it and it has not been touched again since.
So I am happy to bring forth the writing of someone who has thought about this issue more than I have. Jon Stokes is a computer engineer who has two master’s degrees from Harvard Divinity School, co-founded Ars Technica, was an editor at Wired, and continues to be a progressive gun nut.
I appreciate his allowing me to re-print his essay, “Why I ‘Need’ an AR-15,” originally published on Medium in June 2016 following the mass murder at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.
Image courtesy of Oleg Volk
Even people who are avidly anti-gun recognize the value of pepper spray as a tool of personal protection.
On the other side, some pro-defensive gun people ignore pepper spray thinking that the gun they carry will solve all of their problems. According to trainer John Murphy, this is like trying to “hammer screws.”
Thankfully, those in the civilian defensive gun training industry whose work I respect most are increasingly promoting pepper spray as an important force option, one that can solve problems of personal protection well before lethal force would be necessary or legally justified.
POM pepper spray unit with pocket clip
Yesterday I wrote about a new source of information about guns in America, written from a gun rights perspective, Open Source Defense.
One aspect of their work that I neglected to mention was the dedicated page on their website called “Take a Newbie Shooting.”