If you would read one thing if I begged you….

Read Loaded, an essay by Garret Keizer.

I hope that I shall never have to confront anyone with my gun, but owning a gun has forced me to confront myself. Anyone who owns firearms for reasons other than hunting and sport shooting (neither of which I do) has admitted that he or she. is willing to kill another human being – as opposed to the more civilized course of allowing human beings to be killed by paid functionaries on his or her behalf. Owning a gun does not enhance my sense of power; it enhances my sense of compromise and contingency – a feeling curiously like that of holding down a job. In other words, it is one more glaring proof that I am not Mahatma Gandhi or even Che Guevara, just another soft-bellied schlimazel trying to keep the lawn mowed and the psychopaths off the lawn.

If the authorities attempted to confiscate my gun in a house-to-house search, I believe I would offer resistance. What I would not offer is a justifying argument; the argument is implicit in the ramifications of a house-to-house search. But all of this is so much fantasy, another example of the disingenuousness that tends to color our discussion of guns. The Day When All the Guns Are Gathered Up – what the paranoids regard as the end of the world and the Pollyannas as the Rapture – it’s never going to happen. There are nearly 1.4 million active troops in the US armed forces; there are an estimated 200 million guns in private hands. The war over the proper interpretation of the Second Amendment is effectively over. The most reasonable and decent thing that gun groups could do at this point is to declare victory and negotiate terms with the generosity that is so becoming in a victor. Five-day waiting periods? Agreed, but our sense of honor compels us to insist on ten. (Oh, to have been born in a time of so many guns and so little gallantry! Perhaps we ought not to have shot Sir Galahad after all.) No assault rifles owned by civilians – also agreed, so long as, no assault rifles are used on civilians.

Of course, none of this is going to happen either. It would require a confidence that scarcely exists. One need only peruse the ads and articles in gun magazines to see the evidence of its rarity – to see that poignant, ironic, and insatiable obsession with overwhelming force. That cry of impotence. The American Rifleman I recall from my boyhood was closer to Field & Stream than to Soldier of Fortune, more like Popular Mechanics than National Review. My father and my uncles were do-it-yourself guys; their guns were just something else to lube. When I was a kid, I thought a liberal was a person who couldn’t fix a car. But the cars aren’t so easy to take apart anymore; the “check engine” light comes on and only the dealership has all the codes. As in Detroit, so in Washington: the engineering works the same. I am not the first to point out the sleight of hand that bedevils us: the illusion of power and choice perpetuated to disguise a diminishing sphere of action, A person dry-fires his Ruger in the same reverie of preparedness as another aims her cursor at her favorite blog. What precision, what access, what an array of options! Something’s going to happen one of these days, and when it does, man, I’m going to be ready. In the meantime, just listen to that awesome sterile click.

Seriously, this is the best essay I’ve read in years.


Skip to comment form

    • RiaD on December 18, 2007 at 14:25

    thank you for pointing me in the correct direction 🙂

  1. …to require actual begging.  

    Excellent essay.

  2. They scare me. But I own one and I try to shoot on a semi-regular basis. I have a concealed carry license. I am on my own quite a bit and I live in an isolated area, without a gun I would be dead long before the County Sheriff’s office arrived. Will I be able to use it on another human being. My life goal is to never find out.

    However, an unbelievable number of stupid, untrained people do have guns. I know because I took some classes with them and saw the expression on the instructor’s face when they opened their loud mouthes. My opinion, if you buy one it should be mandatory to take “how to” class within a year of purchase and to have to show competence at some predetermined intervals once every five years perhaps.

    My honest and potentially unpopular opinion is that Americans have a very specific culture in which they like killing one another, not all armed societies have our rate of gun violence. I am not trying to shift the blame away from guns or their availability. There is something wrong with this country and its uncritical love of violence, phallic dominance, and numb acceptance of the inevitable outcome.

  3. became a top level security type guy and was granted a license to carry a concealed weapon.  On his way out the door one day I asked him why he brought the gun with him on personal errands, his answer was:

    “I don’t want to miss my chance to shoot somebody.”

    • Edger on December 18, 2007 at 16:56

    someone saying that a gun is simply a logical extension of a caveman’s club. It just allows the user to club someone to death from a comfortable (psychological?) distance and to avoid getting any blood spattered on him. To avoid facing, up close and personal, what s/he has done with the club. To avoid facing her/himself.

  4. my husband doesn’t own one because he says the ones he is responsible for at work cause him to lose enough sleep.  My father long ago questioned me on owning a gun when my roommate and I had picked up a phone harassing stalker who used to knock on the windows of our house late at night after making his calls earlier.  My father walked into my house and saw that we had a small .22 pistol on the coffee table and he told me that was a hell of a place for a gun.  I explained the situation to him and told him that we wanted the dude if he looked into the window to see we had a gun which caused my dad to almost die laughing.  He asked me what I was going to do if I came home one day to find the stalker in my house with our gun aimed at me….that just sounded bad to me.  Then he asked me if I was in a situation where I thought I needed to pull out my gun if I could just fire it or would I stand there in a state of continuing assessment and keep looking for reasons to not fire it until someone took it away from me(which is me and he knows me and he already knew the answer).  He told me that I was a person who really couldn’t own a gun, I was only enabling myself to be killed with it.  So I have big dogs now 😉  They seem to work pretty well for me.  The people next door were broken into last year and he has cabinets of guns but my house with barking large dogs remains unmolested in my absence.

    • odillon on December 18, 2007 at 18:23

    reason because my niece’s new boyfriend is a 31 year old Sgt just deployed back to Iraq in a combat group. And he just wrote something where he admitted to feeling “something like bloodlust.” He was just back in Baghdad and had not had any missions yet and declared himself to be chomping at the bit. Disgusting and frightening. Hopefully he was just psyching himself up for combat missions because he seemed so likeable and gentle! I’ve always hated guns but ever more so as life goes on.

  5. …after the  next Virginia Tech, or Omaha Mall or Denver Mission shooting episode…America’s perverse love affair with guns and violence is one of the most prominent aspects of our sick, twisted society.

    She’s not a girl who misses much

    do do do do do do, oh yeah

    She’s well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand like a lizard on a window pane.

    The man in the crowd with the multi-colored mirrors on his hobnail boots.

    Lying with his eyes while his hands are busy working overtime.

    A soap impression of his wife which he ate and donated to the National Trust.

    I need a fix ’cause I’m going down

    down to the bits that I left uptown

    I need a fix ’cause I’m going down

    Mother Superior jump the gun

    Mother Superior jump the gun

    Mother Superior jump the gun

    Mother Superior jump the gun

    Happiness is a warm gun (bang bang shoot shoot)

    Happiness is a warm gun, mama (bang bang shoot shoot)

    When I hold you in my arms (oh, yeah)

    And I feel my finger on your trigger (oh, yeah)

    I know nobody can do me no harm (oh, yeah)

    Because, (happiness) is a warm gun, mama (bang bang shoot shoot)

    Happiness is a warm gun, yes it is (bang bang shoot shoot)

    Happiness is a warm, yes it is, gun

    Happiness (bang bang shoot shoot)

    Well don’t you know that happiness (happiness) is a warm gun, (is a warm gun, yeah).

    • Lahdee on December 18, 2007 at 22:56

    most interesting

    There are those who will insist, and many do, that what might have been true in the days of James Madison and Henry David Thoreau – and even in the days of Robert Williams – is no longer true in the days of neo-Nazis and Guantanamo Bay. But that questionable premise gives rise to an even more interesting question: If the Second Amendment is a dispensable anachronism in the era of school shootings, might not the First, Fourth, and Fifth amendments be dispensable anachronisms during a “war on terror”? Small wonder if some of those who readily make the first concession were equally ready to queue up behind the Republican right in ratifying the second.

    That, I fear, is what I see.

  6. as it probably should be.  Guns appeal to the American frontier heritage, the sense of adventure, self-dependence.  It would take an earthquake in popular culture to eliminate private possession of firearms in the US.

    But personally I have never forgotten that guns are little more than killing machines:  metal, backed by gas, sent to render flesh.

    The idealist in me would prefer to prevent conflict through words and not threats of violence.  The realist knows that life is not so cut and dry.

    What bugs me, I guess, is the celebration of guns by many as some kind of national treasure… a cure-all against tyranny.

    Meanwhile the banks foreclose on farms and families struggle under massive credit card debts.

    I guess freedom wasn’t free after all.

  7. isn’t going to assure freedom. The truly armed among us those with the big guns aren’t protecting themselves, their predators, gangsters. Once it came down to armed warfare between us all, a armed madhouse would ensue rather then a revolution. The article was interesting and while I agree with the sentiments about liberalism that leaves the room rather then fight it seem to me that the citizens who value democracy better damn well learn to fight with something other then guns.          

Comments have been disabled.