February 12, 2015

Responsible Firearm Ownership and Global Culture

(I doubt anyone cares, but it is worth noting that today's meandering and somewhat irrational outburst is blog post number 601. Over six hundred posts. Over a decade online. I know the age of blogging is supposed to be over, but I'm quite proud of my little corner of cyberspace. Unfortunately, it has never earned me a single dime.)

Every since the first of the year the news has been filled with horror stories related to firearms. Terrorists with firearms shot up a satire magazine, a concealed carry permit holder executed three Muslim students, a man was arrested after plotting to attack the U.S. Congress, Marines in Yemen are forced to surrender their weapons and leave the country, so forth and so on. I'm not going to bother linking all of these to the news stories themselves. It seems no one follows the links I provide anyway and today I'm feeling completely burnt out on all the hatred floating around out there.

I am in Japan at the moment, so I do not have access to my firearms. They are secured in a locked safe with 1200 degree fireproofing, watertight seals, an 11-bolt locking mechanism, and five-inch thick solid steel walls. With weapons and ammo both inside as they are right now, the safe weighs right around a full standard ton. No one is going to break it open and no one is going to haul it off. It is twelve feet below ground behind a modern, state of the art security system with 24/7 monitoring. I take security very seriously. I have seen firsthand the destruction wrought by insane people. Firsthand experience has also brought me an uncomfortably intimate awareness of how much trouble a desperate criminal will go to in order to acquire a gun. I hope and pray that I will never have to confront one of these insane predators, but if I do, I also hope and pray that I am armed. One of my own personal nightmares is being in Japan and being confronted by one of these animals. Call me paranoid if you like, but for all its reputation as one of the safest countries in the world I have lived here long enough to see how violent these people can become when they slip beyond the bonds of sanity. Remember, barely three generations ago Japanese criminals were routinely beheaded for petty theft or publishing anti-government books and comics. There are people alive today who still wish they had died on the battlefields of World War Two. Not many, but enough.

If someone in the United States exercises their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms then they should also be prepared to take full responsibility for protecting their firearms, maintaining their firearms, and mastering the use of their firearms. We do not need a plethora of laws with extreme punishments that coerce or force people to be responsible firearm owners. Absolutely not! What we do need is more teachers who are willing work pro bono providing indepth guidance to people of limited economic means. We need salespeople who will take time before they make a sale to ask about a prospective buyer's training level as well as their ability to properly secure their firearm when it is not in use. A salesperson cannot base the sale on these answers, naturally, but asking the questions will raise awareness in the minds of first time buyers that firearm ownership is not the same as buying a new dishwasher or big screen television. Knocking over a big screen television might make a mess but it is unlikely to kill someone. Knocking over a loaded and improperly secured firearm on the other hand, could have disastrous results.

When and how to use a firearm is also important to learn. The case in North Carolina yesterday along with the case in Montana last year are typical of poorly trained individuals who abused their Second Amendment freedom. Both cases will probably result in the offenders spending the rest of their lives behind bars. The Second Amendment does not grant permission to hunt people down, lay in wait for them, or execute them. Those actions do not constitute self-defense and anyone who engages in such activities deserves to feel the full weight of the law come crashing down on their shoulders. At the same time, access to firearms is not the problem here. In every single one of these cases the murderers could have just as easily committed these crimes with hand axes, bow and arrow, golf clubs, or baseball bats. When a murder occurs in Japan (and they occur with horrifying regularity) the weapon of choice is usually a knife or poison. Banning firearms has not changed the murder rate in Japan. Modernization of their education system along with better policing is the main reason Japan has a lower violent crime rate than the United States. It has nothing to do with firearm ownership. It is more a matter of education and culture.

I suppose I ought to get to the point. If you own firearms you have a personal responsibility to keep those firearms safe and to learn how to use them safely. If you own firearms or plan to own firearms you must also:

1> Get educated about firearms.
2> Buy a safe and use it.
3> Always clearly identify both your target and what is behind it.
4> Subscribe to a firearms magazine that emphasizes safe shooting and read it.
5> Practice regularly.
6> Keep your weapons clean!
7> Remember that once the trigger is pulled the bullet will not stop until it hits something.
8> Memorize and review daily the four rules of safe firearm handling:

a. Assume every gun is loaded
b. Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire
c. Keep the barrel pointed in a safe direction
d. Look at the area behind your target before you fire

Whenever someone dies from an accident, in a natural disaster, or by violence, it is a great tragedy. It is important for each of us individually to be aware of our surroundings and remain vigilant. Know where the safe exits are. Be alert for excessive anger, aggression, or stalking-type behavior. Cross the street if you see something dangerous, or choose a different street entirely. Learn how to use a firearm, get a concealed carry permit, and keep your firearm on your person, both inside the house and when you leave home. Learn some kind of hand-to-hand fighting technique. Boxing, martial arts, self-defense classes at the local YMCA/YWCA. Anything at all. It does not matter which techniques you learn. The important part is to learn something. Any level of preparation is better than naively wandering into someone else's garage late at night assuming the homeowner is both friendly and unarmed.

Most important of all, don't be the person everyone else wants to kill! If you go through life assuming everyone is trying to take advantage of you then you are headed for trouble. Vigilance is not paranoia. Be polite, be helpful, be the individual who everyone around you knows they can trust to provide a helping hand. Life is unpredictable. Sooner or later you will need the help of your neighbors. That help will be far easier to gain if you have a history of helping all of them. True, some people will take advantage of you, so it is important to have limits. It is equally important to respect the limits of others! If the guy in the corner apartment hates having people park in front of his door then don't park in front of his door! It would also be a good idea to warn your friends not to park in front of his door. Don't just tell yourself the guy is an asshole and ignore him. It's his door. Cooperate with him and help him keep it free of cars.

In every single violent outburst that makes the nightly news there are no innocent participants. Both people are guilty of failing to properly assess the situation and act wisely. The number one rule to not becoming a victim is to avoid situations that create one. Respect the beliefs of other people, especially when you disagree with them. Atheists have every right to deny the existence of God and to ridicule the idea of God. A believer, no matter what faith they carry, is entitled to hold fast to those beliefs and base their life upon them. Arrogant, noisy people have the right to be arrogant and noisy. Quiet, unassuming people have the right to be the way they are. Homosexuals have every right to spend their life with someone of the same gender, heterosexuals have every right to spend their life with a partner of the opposite gender. Children need a safe environment to grow up in, parents need an environment free of hostility to raise their children in. You have every right to call me every insulting name you can think of and I have the right to not only return every insult but if possible to double down on them. On the other hand, wouldn't both our lives run more smoothly if we concentrated on avoiding insulting each other and making unrealistic demands?

It has been my experience that when individuals cooperate with one another without demanding conformity everyone gains something and no one loses. Cooperation works more efficiently and effectively than competition in every human endeavour imaginable. I don't understand why the modern world has become so violent and so hypercompetitive. The current global culture of domination and oppression is far worse than it was during the Cold War era. I remember. I was there. I grew up in a world divided between the United States and the Soviet Union with an impoverished China perched like a vulture waiting for the two combatants to destroy each other so she could pick scraps off the bones. I see a television program like "The Walking Dead" and I cringe at every episode. It's not the violence, the blood, or the gore that makes me cringe. What I cannot understand is how diverse bands of people in a post-apocalyptic world can run around killing each other off faster than the zombies do. In online gaming "League of Legends" has now surpassed "World of Warcraft" as the most popular game in the world. Its appeal crosses cultural and political boundaries as easily as the wind. I don't understand why the favorite pastime of modern gamers is beating each other up over status on a virtual ranking board that proves absolutely nothing about either their potential as human beings or their fitness as breeding partners. Russia has spent the past decade biting off chunks of territory from smaller nations all along her borders. The Russian people on social media and in news interviews routinely appear to enjoy bragging about their nation's bullying tactics as well as its aggressive stance toward nations that are home to a tiny percentage of what Russia holds in terms of land, resources, population, and economic power. Seriously, what is the point of all this?

Irresponsible firearm owners are created by a global culture that has once again fallen into the habit of treating people like objects. This trend needs to stop, both individually and globally, and it needs to stop now. We don't need ISIS, we don't need a new Russian Empire, and we don't need gun owners walking around looking for someone to kill. I am a firm, unshakable advocate of an armed global citizenry. Everyone, everywhere in the world should have the right to own, maintain, and train with their preferred personal weapon. Regardless of whether they are rich or poor and regardless of whether that weapon is a sword, a knife, a handgun, a rifle, a battleaxe, or a game controller, everyone has the right to defend themselves and to carry their weapon of choice with them everywhere they go. It is far past time that national laws around the world stopped trying to limit the individual's natural right to self-defense and started looking for ways to enhance it. However, with that right comes a harsh, unrelenting responsibility. Owners of firearms and other weapons have a personal responsibility to pursue their right to self-defense safely and sanely. Even a tiny percentage of accidents is not acceptable. A life, once taken, cannot be returned.