Question of the Day: Is An Armed Society a Polite Society?

Most gun guys are down with Robert A. Heinlein’s suggestion that “an armed society is a polite society.” They cite their experiences at the range, where everyone has a gun (or five) and shooters are unflaggingly polite to each other. Yes, well, most Americans don’t carry a gun and the majority of those that do carry concealed. While the percentage of the percentage who carry who are not polite is smaller still, two stories from last week got me thinking: the social crusader who subsidizes African disarmament (melting down AKs) and the guy who invaded the cigar store. Are highly armed African communities more polite because of their weapons and what would have happened if cigar man had been packing heat? What would happen if everyone had a gat? How much difference would it make if people carried open or concealed carry?

comments

  1. avatar DonWorsham says:

    I’m not concerned with a gun-toter being polite. I’m concerned about a gun-toter being stupid. I prefer concealed over open carry. When I encounter an open carry person I spend too much of my time keeping an eye on them just in case they do something stupid.

  2. avatar Joe nobody says:

    The portion of armed people who would be disarmed by gun laws are polite. I think this phrase means that you HAVE to be polite if you carry a gun. Any poor decision you make is magnified by the fact you are carrying.

  3. avatar Alexandr says:

    Well, first of all – there’s no “armed society” in africa. There’s just 3-10 firearms per 1.000 habitants. This is a far less then US (~500 guns per 1.000) or other civilized countries.
    That means, only military, criminals and terrorist organisations well armed there. So, absolut power means absolut corruption.

  4. avatar Van says:

    Are you asking if I am going to be more polite to someone I know is armed, or if I am going to act more polite if I am armed?

    To the first scenario, no. If someone is being an asshat I should be able to tell them so without fear that they are going to take offense and shoot me.

    To the second scenario, I don’t act any differently when I am armed than when I am not. If a person has to act differently than their normal self because they are armed, maybe they are naturally a hot head and should not carry.

    1. avatar Kevin McCluskey says:

      Well said, sir.

    2. avatar Texan says:

      In a perfect world, you are completely correct.

      However, the key in my mind is to avoid escalation as much as possible. Since it takes two of us to escalate (the stranger and me), and I only know/have control over one of us (me), in both cases I would answer yes.

      Scenario 1:
      If someone with a firearm is being an asshat and I call him on it, I have no idea how s/he is going to react (maybe not well, since he already has a demonstrated history of asshat-edness) – I want to avoid upsetting this person.

      Scenario 2:
      If I am armed (or not) and have any interaction with another person(s), I just don’t know how they will react, what meds they’re on, who just dumped them, layed them off, etc. Plus, I’ve noticed in the news that lots of people seem to be going crazy lately. And so I’m nice to them. I like to think the same as whether I’m carrying or not, but probably nicer if I’m carrying since I stand more to lose if the other person snaps and things escalate.

  5. avatar Tom says:

    I always thought it interesting that heavily armed rural areas ( where I live ) have less crime than the gun law restricted urban areas such as Washington D.C.
    Everybody where I live probably has at least 2-4 guns. I have 9 guns. Very little crime.

    1. avatar Patrick Carrube says:

      Your “armed rural=safe vs unarmed urban=dangerous” assessment is illogical. A much better comparison would be armed rural vs unarmed rural and/or armed urban vs unarmed urban. This would require crime statistics per city (probably difficult to get accurate statistics in rural areas since the FBI doesn’t seem to care about cities with populations below 250k) and gun ownership in those areas including the number and type of firearms, information that I’m sure isn’t going to be easy to get.

      Rural and urban areas are very different in terms of total crime and the types of crime committed. I always felt safe in rural Northeast PA (armed or not), however I cannot always say I feel safe when walking through Phoenix or a close suburb, even when I’m packing my .45ACP XDm.

      1. avatar Tom says:

        I know I am not illogical as I have been around the bad urban areas of Fort Wayne, Toledo, Dayton, Cincy. The body counts in a lot of those neighborhoods are rather high. ( Over the Rhine ). In large cities they deny gun rights as much as possible and out in the sticks CCW permits are much easier to get. Yes, there is more of a sense of community than in the urban jungle and yes, you do have a quite different breed of folk from one to another. Yes, the folk in rural areas are not going to put up with the crap that the Urban Communities seem to cherish.

        1. avatar Patrick Carrube says:

          I wasn’t denying the fact that there are “unarmed” cities with crime problems. I said your conclusion is illogical b/c there are also armed cities with very similar crime patterns and rates, thus making your “guns=safe community” assessment incorrect. Correlation does not equal causation and there are many factors that impact crime levels. The 2010 FBI Crime Statistics Table shows that L.A. and Phoenix have similar crimes and crime rates (although L.A. has 3 times as many people). It is significantly easier to carry concealed in Phoenix than in L.A. so where does the crime in Phoenix come from?

        2. avatar Tom says:

          What about Northern Virginia versus Washington DC? I still say if we tally up the gun control places to the less regulated communities, you probably would see less crime. I will agree that local society and culture will play a part as well. A lot also happens to do with which sections in some of these cities the crime occurs ( which were never really societies in the first place ) as compared to other parts of the surrounding areas or suburbs ( in which a sense of community and responsiblity to others in the surrounding environment occurrs. I think it would be interesting to see the crime rate of the cities ( which has more defacto gun control ) to the crime rate of the surrounding areas ( which usually issue more permits ). I do not think it is all guns, but I do think along with the legal guns, there usually is a more developed sense of community and society.

        3. avatar Tom says:

          Going to Neighborhood Scout, Phoenix had less violent crime than LA. Washington DC is bad and Detroit is even worse.
          One thing that was consistent, big cities have much more crime than the surrounding areas. Closer to home, Indy has double the violent crime rate than the rest of Indiana does. Indy is known for being very anti-gun rights. So as far as I am concerned, in the magical state of Indiana, gun control does not work. Gary gets even worse in both the gun control and murder rates. Batesville Indiana has a third of the Indiana average. No real rich folk there. German Catholic Community though.

  6. avatar copsoldier says:

    I am with Don on this one. Carry it if you are able but, please conceal it. There is always that one india delta ten tango who says “I can whip your butt even though you have that gun!” Then you have to defend youreslf while retaining your firearm.

  7. avatar Braden Lynch says:

    Adding to Tom’s insights…It’s not like the rules for inappropriate use of firearms change whether you carry a gun or not. If you brandish it, fire indiscriminately, or actually shoot someone, you will be in a heap of legal trouble.What changes if everyone is armed (such as in rural areas) is that the criminal element knows the game is up and that they had better behave themselves. (Neighbors who know and watch out for each other is a big factor too). If the criminal ignores the reality of an armed township, then the criminal herd gets culled and we are left with the polite, decent, law-abiding citizens. So, I suggest that criminals know that their best chance of plying their trade is in disarmed cities (due to idiotic laws). That is where they operate mostly and their rude behavior is just part of their demeanor (if you’re willing to kill without qualms, why would they ever bother being polite).

    Just saw Patrick’s comments, and I believe that there are many factors about safety, including the community feel that is missing from big cities. Criminals would like to be just lost in the crowd. When criminals know that everyone is not going to be armed in places like Chicago and Washington D.C. previously, or in gun free zones, I think they are more bold and more confrontational (and rude).

  8. avatar LC Judas says:

    I can say from experience that since I carry and everyone knows I carry it’s rather funny to imagine everyone more polite than they start if they started packing heat. I say it is funny to imagine because…I became more polite. I dropped most of my temper, not out of a need to, just because I mellowed out some.

    My reason for saying it is funny is because the majority of people I talk to say that they get too mad and passionate about things to carry a gun and that they would shoot someone. I do not know if they are being truthful or facetious every time, I’m sure that varies, but I was less polite than I am now before I was packing heat and I was pretty impolite. So…an armed society would be more polite, those of us who have not been involved in a firefight with a fellow citizen over a petty argument. Just my opinion, though.

  9. avatar Coyote Gray says:

    As someone on this board already mentioned, “I’m not worried about polite. I am worried about stupid”.

    I’m all for 2A. But some people shouldn’t be carrying, concealed or otherwise.

    I could only imagine the mess that would occur if some robbery were to occur in any establishment, and EVERYONE in the place were armed. How many people who carry now, actually go to a range with ANY regularity? How many have had ANY tactical training? How many have the mental capacity to quickly distinguish the difference between a good guy with a gun and a bad guy with a gun?

  10. avatar tdiinva says:

    Heinlein’s quote is only applicable to civil society. Africa, and America’s gang infested urban areas, are effectively ungoverned and live in a state of civil anarchy. They are rough societies run by warloards.

    I live in Northern Virginia where the crime rate is a fifth of our DC neighbors across the river. We are not all rich OFWGs. There are gang, drug dealers and poor neighborhoods. However, unlike across the river law abiding poor people can still legally purchase the means of self defense and because of this the gangs do not rule our streets.

    1. avatar Jake says:

      Africa is mostly disarmed by small numbers of well armed warlords, dictators, and other ne’er-do-wells, and thus a perfect example of what disarmament does to the innocent. Same can be said for American “gang infested areas”, only without the prospect of mass starvation and far fewer dismemberments.

  11. avatar Ralph says:

    Is an armed society a polite society? Sure. Absolutely. But in that sentence, “armed” is only an adjective. Politeness starts with being a society, which a lot of the “third world” is not.

    1. avatar Tom says:

      Or certain sections of our larger cities.

  12. avatar Asterix says:

    Similar to what tdiinva said, the difference is that the United States is a nation with the rule of law where the government has a monopoly on the use of force. You legally use a firearm and violate that monopoly of force only to enforce the rule of law the monopoly exists to protect.

    In places without the rule of law or monopoly of force – perhaps Mexico, perhaps Somalia, perhaps our own historical Wild West – a firearm simply becomes a means of defending what you think is yours or taking what you think isn’t but should be. Law and associated morality need not play any part.

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