Gun Control, Etc.

So I know I normally try to stay away from politics on my blog, but because of the subject matter in relation to Ares, I felt it was necessary to address. This week, President Obama convened a task force to address the topic of violence and gun control, headed by Vice President Biden. Also on the docket is the issue of mental health in relation to gun violence.


I am personally an advocate for common-sense gun control. Surprisingly to some, I don’t own any firearms, despite my prior military service. I know a lot of other service personnel, both current and former, that might think that’s funny. I just don’t see any reason for me to own a firearm, so I don’t. I do hunt, but I use a crossbow. I live in a safe neighborhood, so I don’t really need a home-defense weapon, and even if I did, I still have that crossbow handy. I may get a hunting rifle eventually, because it’s silly to waste the tags, but then I know enough to keep it in a locked safe, separate from the ammunition.

I am a fan of background-check laws. There’s no reason that anyone should be able to just pick up a gun at a store without at least checking for a weapons offense or similar previous criminal activity. At the same time, I live close enough to Detroit to know that, if I wanted a gun today, I could take a couple hundred dollars and find one by the end of the night, skipping background checks, regimentation  and other legal safeguards. I know better than to think any law could stop me if I had true criminal intent.

And that brings me to the heart of my post today. I’m neither for nor against executive action or legislation regarding gun control. The way I see it, anything any legislative or other government body can do will be ultimately ineffective. You can’t control criminal intent due to its nature, you can only respond to it. By attacking the symptom of a problem, we divert attention from its cause, and thus lose solvency. I could write pages on what I believe are the root causes of violence and criminal activity, but that would be ultimately missing the point of this post. Only families, friends, and peer groups can effectively address the sorts of problems that lead to any sort of violence, and it’s up to those groups to recognize warning signs and tackle the underlying cause of the symptoms of violence.

The best gun control advice I can ever give was given thousands of years ago: Know Yourself. If you do want to own or do own a firearm, know why you want/have it. Know how to use it. Know when to use it and when not to. Know how to keep your weapon from falling into the wrong hands, even if its someone you would trust. Know how to care for it so that it doesn’t accidentally harm someone. Remember, even weapons bought simply for recreation were built with one intention: to fire a deadly projectile. Know if you can bear the responsibility of owning a deadly device, and decide if you have the mental and moral fiber required to make a life-or-death decision under stress. If you’re not ready or don’t need a gun, then don’t buy one. Always keep that in mind–Know Yourself. Hail Ares.

26 comments on “Gun Control, Etc.

  1. Kullervo says:

    I was an infantryman for 7 years but I don’t own a firearm.

    • pthelms says:

      Yeah, I’m not sure why prior service necessitates firearm ownership for some people, but it’s been my experience. I never even shot at anybody (unless you count paintball/airsoft), I just helped direct ordinance. The only weapons I own are the crossbow and my toys.

  2. soliwo says:

    I belief self-control does prevent the more serious consequences of violence, even when it does little to prevent the violent intent itself. A gun is easily fired, it is easier that to stab someone to death. And then there are those deaths by accident. Children who get access to their parent’s guns. People who accidental shoot themselves or their loved ones because they are untrained. These things gun control (or if it was up to me, a ban) would most certainly help to prevent.

    As a Dutch woman I must admit I have some trouble understanding this aspect of American culture. And I also freely admit I have a shallow understanding of the American ways of life. I recognise that there are areas in the USA you probably do not want to visit unarmed. Americans may not and have less reason too trust their government in the way that I can. It will be difficult for your nation to make this transition, and we Europeans must try and understand this.

    But in the end … the fewer weapons in the house and on the street, the safer things will be. But than it must count for everyone equally. No banning weapons among the poor, and allowing them for those wealthy enough to buy a permit. Weapon control will probably be impossible if it isn’t preceded by more social equality

    • pthelms says:

      One of the things I see as a problem is this idea of equity; people are not, nor should ever be counted as equal to one another. I believe this is actually one of the ideas that helps to perpetuate violence. However, like I mentioned, violence is a symptom. Norway has an 80% gun ownership rate, but a gun violence rate less than 1%.

      Part of the gun culture can be seen in our country’s founding. Rebels, who owned guns to both feed their families and protect themselves against Native raids suddenly found themselves in a position to stage an armed rebellion against their own countrymen. both the American Rebellion/Revolution and our Civil War started in earnest when rebel groups tried (unsuccessfully) to try to arm themselves. In the mid-1800s, an abolitionist tried to stage a slave rebellion by seizing a federal armory. It’s in the American tradition to use violence to solve problems, simple because violence gets results.

      Another reason for America’s love affair with guns stems from,WWII, when we saw Germany blitz its neighbors. We felt secure, and intellectually superior, because we have guns secured into our core legal and cultural framework; if Hitler had tried in earnest to attack America on her soil, he’d get a much better fight than he had gotten in Poland or France. This notion was only solidified during the cold war with Russia, and was cemented all the more in pop culture with movies like Red Dawn (which was awesome, by the by).

      • soliwo says:

        “Norway has an 80% gun ownership rate, but a gun violence rate less than 1%.”

        Yes, but Norway is such a different country than the US. First it is higher level of social equity. I do not mean to say that complete social equity is possible, but yes, to me it something to strive for. Furthermore Norway is much more rural. Owning guns in poor urban Detroit is very different from owning a gun on an isolated farm in rural Norway.

        Yes, I do understand that we Dutchman may be a little too comfortable. We were surprised by the Germans. We were too used to being neutral and expected to be remain so in WW2. Yet a lack of guns wasn’t the issue as much as political weakness.

        The Polish problem was that it had no real armed army. There army was still based on horses. I doubt weather it would have made a difference if their private citizens owned more guns. Obviously a country should be able to defend itself. Our army, though small, is very modern though. It is just that The Netherlands relies more on international relations/ support than on a large. We tend to be more trusting. I understand that US citizens have reasons to be distrustful, but then, we have reasons to be trustful.

        I do no mean to idolize my country though. We are in the top 5 of countries dealing in weapons trade. But yes, I do feel my surrounding are likely to be safer. And I attribute this partly to a larger social equity.

      • pthelms says:

        See, that’s funny that you mention that Norway is mostly rural; so is the US. Part of the socio-political divide in this country can easily be seen as a rural/Urban split. In terms of area, most of my home state voted conservative in the last election, but the three most liberal counties carried the state based on population. I’m sure that’s often the case elsewhere, both here in the US and abroad. It’s one reason my country is so divided these days.

  3. soliwo says:

    I would like to add this. Violence may work for America, but I doubt it works well for all Americans. But if I would, for the sake of argument, accept your argument, you may have to accept that the non-violence of the Dutch as worked equally well. We do have an army, which is sent to fight in wars we do not belief in, in order to stay friends with America and NATO. And the European Union, whilst financially and economically ineffective, has proven to be effective in terms of serving peace. As one of the founding countries, I do feel proud of this.

    I think the main current causes of difference between our respective countries in this is:
    1. Level of social equity (regardless weather this is good or bad)
    2. Trust or lack thereof in one’s movement

    And yes … we have always been grateful of America and Canada in liberating our country. But I must admit, for the younger generations, this seems very long ago. And the more troublesome recent explorations in war have done much damage to Euro-American relations. Not in high political surface, but on the ground certainly. Fortunately the presence of Obama has done much good for international relations, even if the effectual political changes seem minor to us.

    One might summarize the general Dutch view as following:
    We do not like our government, but we tend to like other people’s government even less 😉 And I dare-say most feel American politics may be a bigger danger to us than those of any terrorist.

    • pthelms says:

      I actually would hold that the EU has not done much for peace in Europe (as the Bosnian and Serbian debacle proved), but that’s a matter of tit-for-tat, I suppose. I can see where you would think that and American hegemony of Western politics would not be necessarily appreciated by foreigners. I understand we play the WWII card a lot, but the Cold War hurt everyone, and that was in large part because we refused to deal with it immediately after Hitler. Alas, we wouldn’t follow Gen. Patton.

      • soliwo says:

        Ha, you are right. I do not necessarily want to plead my country’s case (the Dutch tend not to be very patriotic), but just to show how little Americans and Europeans (and Europeans amongst themselves) understand one another.

        I agree that the EU wasn’t very effective in Bosnia – I strongly disagree with giving the EU the Nobel Peace Price – but than Bosnia was not part of the EU. I meant to refer to the EU’s internal peace. It has done much good in helping in regional troubles. The Basques and the Catalan for example have benefited greatly from admittance in the EU, and so have been their national host. The Dutch have personally done much wrong in Bosnia, especially concerning Sebernica, but than so have the Americans. It was a great failure of NATO and the UN (being led by Clinton ;).

        Yet, in the end, though not hopeful, we tend to hope for the development of better global political institutions rather than buying guns. But than we feel much safer and less fearful than the average American.

        About the Cold War … that is a tricky subject of which I do not know much. I do know that – even though the Dutch fearful – large masses protested against the placement of American rocket launchers etc. By that time, the Vietnam War, had discredited the US to a great extent in Dutch eyes, even if you did seem the less scary of the two.

        The Netherlands is a small pragmatist country. Since the 16th century it has always survived by playing out bigger nations against each other, supporting the weaker party to ensure a power balance. Therefore we have always been distrustful of big powers.

    • pthelms says:

      I wanted to add one addendum to this: selling a war with complex geopolitical repercussions is tough to do. The complexities of the Afghan campaign going beyond terrorism are innumerable. It’s hard when, at the meta-level, a war is extremely necessary and fruitful, but at the view of the public, seems nonsensical and wasteful of both life and coin. No politician can sell long-term strategy, because people are bad at seeing it. Those who get a glimpse have a hard time translating it. I know I probably saw more than the average soldier, but even I can’t fathom the level of knowledge strategy the generals and heads-of-state had to work with. Unfortunately, the West has a way of wanting something easy and fast, but that’s not how geopolitics works.

      And btw, I don’t think your “Dutch” view is only Dutch; It seems pretty applicable to many countries 😉

      • soliwo says:

        Yes. Applicable to all small liberal countries no doubt. As I have said, we hardly have the moral high ground. We do not use the guns, we just secretly sell them 😉

        I have enjoyed this exchange. I have learned some new things today. And you are right about America being largely rural. We Europeans tend to forget about how diverse the USA is. Just as many Americans likely forget about the same in Europe. They only time I tend to feel very European is when we compare ourselves to the Americans. I can be as suprised about Berlusconi as I was about Bush.

      • pthelms says:

        And this is why WordPress needs a “like” button 🙂

  4. soliwo says:

    Well, a few comments can also do a world of good can’t it? I remember a conversation with a group of Americans when I was very young and on holiday in Spain. It was all shock and awe. You have legal drugs?! Ehm yes. You have legal prostitution?! Yes. You can drink alcohol at sixteen, but you cannot drive? Yes.

    I was always surprised how shocked Americans were at this since they have legal guns! Who is the true liberal now, I used to think? 😉

    • pthelms says:

      Whats funny is that I belong to a “Conservative Pagan” group on Facebook, and I don’t consider them really conservative (and vice versa) because I’m a monarchist who believes in a class system vs. individual liberty and am a social conservative vs. fiscal. Many I call liberal because in the end, they are classical Jeffersonian and Lockean liberals, which I still call liberal 😛

      • soliwo says:

        We have our own right-wing populist parties, but I guess we all seem left-wing to Americans. Funnily enough in our country ‘liberal’ tends to refer to economically liberal parties and thus the right-wing, not left. Confusing huh? We talk more about progressive versus conservative. Listening to Americans, liberal can mean both socialist and libertarian. And your socialist seams to be our social-democratic, and our socialist your communist? Don’t you just love this wordplay? 😛

        I am a liberal, in a social-democratic way. And I am very wary of geopolitics as you may have noticed. Yet I do not think this makes me lest of a realist. It is because I am realist that I am wary and want to change things.
        And violence does solve some things. I slapped a guy in secondary school, and it was very effective against any bullying, more than any talking and sharing could have done, in the short term at least. And as a recreational boxer (as a contact sport), I cannot deny how knowledge of basic martial arts has changed me, and how people see me. I may be against guns but I am not against … sending an occasional message. And saying violence can serve some constructive purpose is of course very shocking amongst my liberal friends. This is one of the reasons I enjoy your blog. I can acknowledge the undeniable presence of violence in society and respect it without supporting certain geopolitical policies.

  5. soliwo says:

    By the way how well do you think the average person knows himself? I think it might even be easier to try to prohibit guns in America, impossible as it seems, than to make sure all people learn to know themselves! 😛

    • pthelms says:

      I would say well enough. Well, unless you get all super-Buddhist and completely deny existence of the self. and you may well be right, there.

      Side note: I’m getting super deja vu from this conversation; have we had it before?

  6. soliwo says:

    I do not know, maybe. I wonder how successful you’ll be in keeping politics out in the future, especially since I keep responding. I wonder why Ares seems more political to some, though peace of course is as political as war.

    I promise though that I will never go all super-Buddhist on you. 😛 Funny. It appears that I am more conservative in estimating our ability to educate people. I would call your standpoint sooner elitist than monarchist. Or do you want to appoint a king? But than … how does one appoint a king. Tricky. We have a capable queen with limited functions and I prefer it to a prospective overpaid president. It can be quite handy to have someone who stands above the political parties and yet be experienced. Yet somehow, I do not think this is what you are talking about. 😉

    I’ll try to make my next response Ares-related … I don’t just want to be a political troll.

    • pthelms says:

      It’s all good. I would say I am a bit elitist, but then I’m a person who insists on hierarchies. It’s been really hard sometimes, keeping politics out of the blog, because war is a political instrument, you know? And with Ares as primarily a god of war… It’s a struggle, to say the least. I do say though, I enjoy the back and forth.

    • pthelms says:

      Also, don’t worry about trolling; it helps sort the wheat from the chaff 😉

  7. This is probably the most sensible commentary on this issue I’ve yet seen. So I propose we dissolve the existing bodies of government and put you in charge instead!

  8. ladyimbrium says:

    I second Sannion’s message.

    Also I have to agree with you on the sentiment. I’m not really convinced it matters what the government decides regarding gun control laws. Laws only stop people who follow laws.

    Now follow me through an exercise we did around the dinner table the other night. I’d like to get your opinion. For the sake of looking at the argument from a different angle, and trying to remove the word that causes such a powerful emotional reaction (thus preventing clear thought) I like to reword the argument with “automobile” in the place of “firearm” and see how it changes. Automobiles (which are more than just cars) are deadly weapons. I’ve been an EMT far to long to qualify them as anything other than deadly weapons. We maintain that we require automobiles to accomplish our daily lives. Obviously this is not the case as my grandmother remembers riding in a Ford Model-A when the thing was very nearly new. Ergo we do not require automobiles. Yet everyone has them and deems them necessary. Operation and ownership of automobiles is closely regulated and no one really seems to have a problem with that. By the same reasoning (not mandatory, deadly) I don’t mind having firearms regulated. Firearms are not required and they are inherently dangerous and they should, like automobiles, be regulated. Just don’t ever tell me I can’t have them at all.

  9. Thanks very interesting blog!

  10. continuously i used to read smaller articles or reviews that also clear their motive, and
    that is also happening with this post which I am reading at
    this time.

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