We hate to send you off to read bald-faced malarkey, but this slop from The Nation deserves a few minutes of every conscientious gun owner’s time. As new shooters—and particularly women—flock to the sporting and defensive disciplines, these gun-hating blowhards remind us more and more of George Santayana’s “fanatics”: Those who redouble their efforts when they lose sight of their goal.
Their goal, of course, is to finesse disarmament, piecemeal if necessary. Under the guise of “gun safety” or “common sense,” they simply don’t want anybody (but their protectors) armed. The “why” is perpetually infused with deeply prejudiced insinuations, and the latest merely a new twist on an old favorite: You’re incompetent. What’s new is the ever-lower depths to which the freedom thieves will sink. This failure to understand how aggression and crime most often overtake the average citizen is what renders the ponderous bulk of their hand-wringing bootless.
First, a little context: As reported in America’s 1st Freedom’s “First Things First” via The Truth About Guns, the original version of The Nation’s story had to be gutted because it was based largely on the opinion of a fake U.S. Navy Seal. The stolen valor creep predictably opined that regular folks simply aren’t qualified to defend themselves or their loved ones, much less strangers.
Like we haven’t heard that before. But what ought to be unconscionable is that the remaining experts—a retired Army sergeant, an associate professor of Criminal Justice at Texas State University and a former ATFer (now there’s an unbiased commentator)—all do what the lawyers would call “assuming facts not in evidence,” and then proceed to tar the entire notion of meaningful (that is, armed) self-defense. A little digression here: Research reveals that at least two of the three will likely still have their arms, of course, but the great unwashed must take their chances. Isn’t that nice? Their lives and families are worth protecting; yours, not so much.
In common with so many others, these, ah, experts invoke the most complex and ambiguous scenarios as the backdrop for their civilian carry beat-downs: The type where even highly trained good guys make mistakes. The Nation piece concludes, in fact, with, “The question is: If you see someone running out of a gas station with a gun in their hand, do you want an untrained person jumping out and opening fire. For me, the answer is clearly ‘no,’” says the former ATF agent.
All this after insisting that the training (in things like “judgmental shooting”) and ongoing qualification requirements are so daunting and complex that nobody but the pros can be expected to make the right choices.
Inconveniently—as David Kopel pointed out in the The Samurai, the Mountie and the Cowboy—even with extensive training, the keen-edged pros can get sideways: One in nine law enforcement shooting victims are the wrong person. One in nine. More inconvenient still, they hit that wrong person more than five times as often as those (supposedly) ignorant, incompetent civilians. (And don't intentionally misunderstand here: Americans benefit from, officer-to-officer, the finest police forces in the world, period. But they're human, and make mistakes too.)
How’s that argument looking now?
It gets worse: There simply isn’t any evidence that concealed-carry permit holders are going, or will go, far beyond their capacities in these situations (quite the opposite). Yet while hysterical detractors have been claiming this was right around the corner for nearly 30 years (Florida liberalized concealed carry in 1987, and most other states eventually followed suit), they must cherry-pick data to find even isolated cases. The Nation cites only one. Remember, police officers are 31 times more law-abiding than the general public, but concealed-carry licensees are between six and ten times more law-abiding than those same police officers. How is it reasonable to think such careful folks will suddenly become grossly, homicidally un-careful? As the The Nation makes clear, they must exaggerate and insinuate, message and embroider, and—just perhaps, engage pseudo (or altogether false) experts—because they have no other options.
Most galling, however, is the gargantuan failure of imagination in the civilians-are-incompetent camp. This failure to understand how aggression and crime most often overtake the average citizen is what renders the ponderous bulk of their hand-wringing bootless. The delicate ambiguities about which they agonize are damn rare. But despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, The Nation’s experts blurt the long-debunked theme that “untrained people … will just whip out their weapons and start firing.” Furthermore, no one is remotely suggesting that CCW holders supplant the police in complex scenarios. But assuming the police will always be there, and therefore can act at all, is clearly balderdash. The Nation and its experts expect you to do what, then? Plead, apparently, and die.
There are lots of ways to understand the disparity. But none of them need to undertake the wanton, baseless denigration of armed civilians as The Nation does. We still think Attorney Jeffrey Snyder got it the “rightest” in his 1993 book, A Nation of Cowards: “Rape, robbery, and attempted murder are not typically actions rife with ambiguity or subtlety, requiring special powers of observation and great book-learning to discern. When a man pulls a knife on a woman and says, ‘You’re coming with me,’ her judgment that a crime is being committed is not likely to be in error. There is little chance that she is going to shoot the wrong person. It is the police, because they are rarely at the scene of the crime when it occurs, who are more likely to find themselves in circumstances where guilt and innocence are not so clear-cut, and in which the probability for mistakes is higher.”
Here’s the point: The hysterical, gun-hating media has virtually nothing truthful to say about the self-defense demographic. As the The Nation makes clear, they must exaggerate and insinuate, message and embroider, and—just perhaps, engage pseudo (or altogether false) experts—because they have no other options. It’s worth remembering as a presidential election approaches.