A Brief Message from Our Sponsor: The Truth

After my recent dietribe [sic] against an ATF sting, commentator Dan Baum called me an NPCG (Needlessly Paranoid Gun Clinger). “Maybe ATF discovered two guys trying to buy a really fearsome illegal weapon and, lucky for everybody, busted them before they could do it. Nothing in the press release disproves my admittedly wacky theory.” As [other] regular readers of this site know, I’m equally skeptical of news reports, editorials and official statements from clingers or grabbers. All of the playas in this ballistic battle have an axe to grind. But it’s also true that I find more truth on the pro-gun rights side of the debate than the anti. Here’s why . . .

People lie. All the time. For many reasons, both personal and political. When it comes to guns, they lie as if their life depends on it. Because it does. Or at least, they think it does.

Many gun rights’ advocates are convinced that a firearm is all that stands between them and violent crime. They’ve bought into the Hollywood-inspired lie that an armed man is an island, capable of defending kith and kin against the slings and arrows of outrageous felons. They over-estimate both the threat and the role their firearm can and should play in their defense.

Gun control advocates aren’t as paranoid. They believe in their heart of hearts that people are fundamentally good. For felons who fall afoul of the nurture vs. nature debate, the resulting destruction can be limited by reducing access to firearms. In other words, less guns equals less crime. Less violence. Less suffering. Less danger for them. Less danger for the criminals themselves. And less danger for society.

Both sides of this debate may be equally delusional, but one side is far more willing to lie to convince fence straddlers of the “truth” of their position.

I’ve heard gun control advocates like Jadegold say it straight out: I ignore or deny facts because my cause is just. Most antis are ready, willing and able to cast aside incontrovertible factual evidence (e.g., John Lott’s book More Guns, Less Crime). They “massage” data and/or obscure inconvenient truth with horrific anecdotes, using emotion to overcome reason.

Equally important, gun control advocates perpetuate the idea that the threat of evil is easily controlled. The standard reply to gun crime (as explored in Wildfire’s post): let the cops handle it. They paint themselves as big-hearted pro “progress” people: an educated elite that knows what’s best for less fortunate people. Deep down, they have a child-like faith in authority.

Why else would anyone trust the ATF—or any federal agency—to tell the truth about guns? And while you’re pondering that affront to history and human nature, check this post from Mikeb302000. It’s about a story I was about to blog: Officer falls, gun shoots, strikes cop. Stimulus:

While officers searched the apartment, one officer stood on a table to look in an attic crawl space.  Police spokesman Cpl. Anthony Hipolito said that’s when the officer fell off the table. When he hit the ground his duty weapon went off, and a bullet struck a second officer who was in the apartment, in the foot.

Mikeb302000′s response:

I realize accidents can happen to anybody, nevertheless, this guy should surrender his weapon and work in the property shed from now on.

First, Mike should know by now that there’s no such thing as a firearms “accident.” Only “negligent discharges.” Second, no cop carries a weapon that “goes off” from striking the ground. The cop had to have his finger on the trigger for his weapon to fire. Third, highly dubious police shootings—complete with official under-carpet sweeping—are a regular occurrence.

Never mind. Mikeb302000 is happy to accept the official version of events and view the incident from the naive point-of-view that the police are supremely well suited to the responsibility of carrying firearms. If they screw up, that’s bad. But irresponsible, sometime reprehensible behavior by LEOs doesn’t shake Mikeb302000′s faith in the idea that guns are good for guardians, not the “common man.”

If, however, an armed civilian goes off the reservation, that’s a different story. Every such incident proves that the concept of armed self-defense is fundamentally flawed. That’s because Mikeb302000 has bought the infantile lie that the world divides into good guys (the police) and bad guys (most if not all gun owners). A few bad apples on one side, or a few good ones on the other, can’t disturb his world view.

To be fair, plenty of gun rights advocates share this black-and-white perspective. The gun blogger at learnaboutguns.com never met a defensive gun use he didn’t like—despite the fact that most such incidents involve drugs. The NRA, GOA and other powerful lobby groups genuinely believe that universal gun ownership would reduce violent crime to negligible levels.

This belief that guns are good—or bad—reminds me of the idea that “good health” comes from virtuous eating and exercise habits, rather than genetics. In fact, good health is a stalemate in an ongoing (until it stops) battle between the things trying to kill you and things that stop the things trying to kill you from killing you. Personal safety? Same thing.

To be safe, we need both honest, well-trained police and easily accessible, effective personal self-defense (including firearms). Both are ideals. Neither is perfect. Generally speaking, I find more people on the pro-gun rights side of the debate understand the truth underlying this inherent imperfection: you can’t change human nature. You can’t improve it. You can barely control it. The best you can do is protect yourself against it. Sometimes, the only way you can do that is with a gun. And that’s the truth.

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

17 Responses to A Brief Message from Our Sponsor: The Truth

  1. avatarJOE MATAFOME says:

    The gun haters aren’t happy unless they can control all aspects of other people’s lives. They will thell you what to eat, what insurence you need to buy blah blah blah. They really need to worry about trying to run their own lives and let others run their own.

  2. avatarRalph says:

    “Gun control advocates aren’t as paranoid. They believe in their heart of hearts that people are fundamentally good.”

    Are you nuts? Gun control advocates believe that they and they alone are good and that the rest of humanity is vicious, stupid and cannot be trusted.

    • Ralph, I don’t know anybody who feels like that. My contention is there are too many of you gun owners who are unfit. By “too many” I mean 10% to 30%. I wouldn’t want to interfere with the rest. I certainly wouldn’t want to say they’re “vicious, stupid and cannot be trusted.”

      • avatarRobert Farago says:

        Mike,

        How do you ID these 10 percent? And how and when did that percentage creep up to 30 percent?

        • IDing them is a problem, but with better screening and training requirements some of them can be weeded out. Making violent misdemeanors a disqualifier would help too. Sticking with “may issue” helps. In other words many of the standard gun control suggestions would help.

          The 10%, as I originally wrote it up, was a conservative figure I arrived at by chopping down the actual number in each category. At the time of writing The Famous 10%, because I reduced all the numbers so, I actually though it would be accepted by the pro-gun crowd.

          How naive was that, huh?

  3. avatarDave Y says:

    Robert,

    I think this quote fundamentally underestimates the vile hatred and distrust of the enemy: “They believe in their heart of hearts that people are fundamentally good. For felons who fall afoul of the nurture vs. nature debate, the resulting destruction can be limited by reducing access to firearms.”

    I don’t think this for one minute. These people believe that you & I and anyone else who owns a gun are ‘flawed’ and evil. Theirs is a binary world where the world is divided up into groups and their group is intellectually, morally & ethically superior. Their whole mindset is one that seeks to control the actions of others down to the very base functions of human existence.

    I’ve mused before that their desire to disarm gun owners is out of pure selfishness. They seek the equal victimhood of the herd mentality. This philosophy accepts predation as necessary and an element of existence that cannot be prevented. Anyone who deviates from this mindset upsets the balance between predator and prey. The antis are devoted to the ‘herd’ philosophy and by you, me and 50 million more people choosing to deny the herd philosophy increases the antis chances of becoming prey. They want you and me and 50 million gun owners to become potential prey just like them so that they stand a better chance of statistically not becoming prey themselves.

  4. avatarWes says:

    “Are you nuts? Gun control advocates believe that they and they alone are good and that the rest of humanity is vicious, stupid and cannot be trusted.”

    Well, anyone who thinks only the government and other criminals should have guns IS probably stupid and can’t be trusted.

    • Wes, who thinks that “only the government and other criminals should have guns?” Only the most extreme gun control advocate would say that, at least the part about the government. Those guys are as crazy as the most extreme gun rights guys, and I think a lot rarer.

  5. avatarDan Baum says:

    You’re calling John Lott — Dr. My Dog Ate the Survey Results a.ka. Mary Rosh — a purveyor of “incontrovertible factual evidence?” (The drop in violent crime is far more attributable to changes in demographics — a shrinking cohort of crime-age young men — and smarter policing (see http://www.copinthehood.com) than to gun ownership. Lott’s a polemicist, not a scholar.) And as for “Why else would anyone trust the ATF—or any federal agency—to tell the truth about guns?” Why trust the CDC to tell the truth about disease? Or the Defense Department to tell the truth about Afghanistan? Or the Treasury Department to tell the truth about money? Maybe you don’t. Maybe you go in for aluminum millinery and think all government, from the lady at the DMV to the President, is one vast conspiracy of satan-worshippers and freemasons. This virulent anti-government thing you’re up to is so fundamentally unAmerican. In this country, we are the government — or, at least, we decide who gets to be the government. This incessant driving of a wedge between “the people” and “the government” that you engage in undermines the best thing about this country. If you make Americans hostile to their government, you make them hostile to themselves, and you invite tyranny. Don’t like the government? Vote them out! Vote in people that you like! But don’t delegitimize government in all its works, and the very idea of government. Do that, and you delegitimize the very thing that makes this country unique.

  6. avatarRobert Farago says:

    Dan,

    No disrespect: have you read John Lott’s book? It’s VERY tough sledding; not for narrative-minded readers. I’ve struggled through it. I also gave it to a stats guy at Brown University (who daren’t be identified). He gave it a cautious thumbs-up.

    As for your accusation that I distrust all government, it’s true. Maybe it’s because I came of age during the Watergate era. It could have something to do with the fact that I live in Rhode Island, a state whose corruption wouldn’t be unfamiliar to a Guatemalan refugee. Or my genetics. Or my occupation. But the bottom line is that I don’t take anything politicians or bureaucrats tell me at face value. If their lips are moving . . .

    This country was founded by people who had a profound mistrust of government. All government. Any government. Their OWN government. Check and balances baby. That’s why they wanted limited government. Because government can’t be trusted. As we’ve seen time and time again.

    The idea that America’s pols and civil servants are looking out for the best interests of the populace that employs them is a dangerous fantasy. Like everyone else, they look out for themselves. And if the ATF agents implementing an illegal gun registry are deeply honest and moral people, for example, what difference does THAT make?

    None. It doesn’t make any difference at all. The road to hell is paved with liberal intentions. Paranoid “stay off my lawn” gun clingers are far less of a danger than do-gooders.

  7. avatarDan Baum says:

    You have to be careful, though. Make everybody hostile to all forms of government and we all end up holed up individually, wearing guns around inside our own houses. (Sorry….) Seriously, I think we must avoid drumming this all-government-is-bad line every minute. Why vote? Why participate in democracy at all, if all government is bad, all politicians lie, and on and on. It’s tinfoil-hat stuff, really. Government can be awful, but it also does a tremendous amount of good. Ask anybody over 65. Ask anybody who’s had a public education. Ask anybody who has drunk clean water or eaten safe food. Ask anybody who has been protected from rapacious bosses. And on and on. Criticize what you like, but stop this all-government-is-bad bullshit. It’s unpatriotic. I’ve lived and worked on four continents; you have no idea how lucky we are to have this system of government.

    • avatarRobert Farago says:

      Dan,

      I come at it from the opposite side: we have to be careful to warn people not to trust the government. The natural human tendency is to trust authority. It’s the easy thing to do. But blind faith in authority always leads to an abuse of power.

      Why vote? To throw out one group of blood sucking hypocrites and replace them with another. At least in theory.

      As for the government providing for our old age, news flash: Social Security is bankrupt. Public education? Have you looked at the level of education on offer since the teachers’ union hoiked pay and eliminated accountability? Clean water? Are you suggesting that the government is all that stands between us and intentional poisoning by rapacious capitalists? It’s amazing people survived before the advent of the EPA, FDA and the alphabet soup of federal agencies “protecting” us from each other.

      Don’t get me wrong: I’m grateful we have a stable democratic government that doesn’t allow mill owners to chain seven-year-olds to knitting machines. But it’s vitality depends on accountability. And who’s going to hold the government accountable if we accept what it tells us at face value? In fact, I consider a “real” journalist a professional skeptic.

      Anyway, while we disagree about the proper role of jobbing journos and the American government, but please don’t accuse me of being unpatriotic. I love this country with every fiber of my being. I would sacrifice my life to keep America free for my children. And yours.

      in case you didn’t know, I lived in the UK for 18 years and travelled the world for a year. I know that we have the worst of all possible political systems—except for all the rest. One more thing . . .

      After the Nazis somehow failed to exterminate my father (succeeding in murdering his parents), he had one goal: to be an American. He didn’t want to live here because he loved the American government. He loved the lack of government. The freedom to find his own destiny, by the sweat of his brow and the force of his will. He loved America, but hated politicians and bureaucrats. Is there something wrong with that?

    • avatarRalph says:

      You make me chuckle. You want us to trust our government? But what is our government? Nothing more than a collection of people. People like me. People like Robert Farago. Do you trust us with such extraordinary power? No? Then why should we trust our government?

      Anyone who trusts their government gets exactly the venal and corrupt government they deserve.

  8. avatarPatrick Brown says:

    Using terms like “ unAmerican” and “ unpatriotic”? Nancy Pelosi resorted to those terms when ramming socialized medicine down everybody’s throat. Socialism is un-American as far as I’m concerned, but free speech is still #1.

  9. avatarJim Gallagher says:

    I don’t know if you would classify me as a “clinger”, but I have a permit and carry on occasion. I’m not sure I’m all that worried about the bad guys and really see a firearm as a type of insurance. I have fire extinguishers in my home, car and boat but I don’t necessarily think there is going to be a fire anytime soon. I take other precautions that preclude fires happening, but that doesn’t mean I don’t also keep the extinguishers handy, just in case. I wear a seat belt when I drive but don’t really think I’ll be in an accident, but just in case. So goes my feel about the firearm. If that makes me a “clinger” then I’m guilty as charged.

  10. Robert, I’m afraid you’re reading my mind badly again. I don’t think of the cops and the civilian gun owners as two distinct groups. Rather I think of them as both needing more screening and more training, a lot more. I would apply the “one strike you’re out” rule to both.

    How can you admit that “gun control advocates aren’t as paranoid” and then say this?

    Both sides of this debate may be equally delusional, but one side is far more willing to lie to convince fence straddlers of the “truth” of their position.

    I presume you mean by that that it’s the gun control folks who, although not as paranoid, are “far more willing to lie to convince fence straddlers of the “truth” of their position.”

    “Far” more, really?

  11. avatarJohn Fritz says:

    i b

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