RF’s recent Question of the Day on the Boy Scouts and Gun Prohibition got me thinking about the whole question of firearms in our society. On the one hand, why should an organization with a decidedly outdoor/camping/wilderness/survival focus prohibit the carrying of firearms by troop leaders? The answer to this question goes beyond some of the motives and other thoughts attributed to the BSA by a few of the comments to that post and instead provides a window into how American society and the society in many other countries actually operates.
The condition color code was conceived by Jeff Cooper decades ago. He opined that much of society perpetually spends their time in Condition White – essentially oblivious to the potential for threat. Some folks (particularly those who have martial arts, firearms, and/or other weapons background) are more likely to operate in Condition Yellow – essentially relaxed, but always mindful of the possibility of a threat materializing. Interestingly, as children, we are often taught to operate in Condition Yellow, always on the lookout for potential threats such as cars coming while crossing the street and being wary of strangers in vans and offers of candy, etc. But as we age, it seems that this conditioning seems to fade as complacency sets in.
In actuality, I would suggest that most people are constantly subconsciously performing periodic risk assessments, but that their definition of risk is generally flawed or incomplete. Sure, when using an ATM at night or walking though a deserted parking lot to find your car, etc., most (but not all) people do move into a heightened alert state. The problem is that while they may correctly gauge the potential for risk in the scenarios above, they incorrectly gauge the potential for risk in other seemingly less threatening everyday situations.
The person who is hyper vigilant while walking on a deserted street late at night is blissfully ignorant of the risk that something bad might happen while they are in a restaurant. While some folks on this blog have talked about how they always like to have a seat with their back to the wall and conduct a brief assessment of potential exit strategies should something happen, they’re in the distinct minority.
Here is a simple test: the next time you are out with friends, bring up the question of safety when they go to a hotel. How many of them take a few moments to scout out the emergency exits? How about how many have clothes and necessary items near their bed should a fire alarm sound in the middle of the night and they need to grab essentials and get out quickly?
When you are on a plane, look around during the safety briefing. How many people are really paying attention? How many actually pull out the safety card and study it? In the event of an emergency, how many would know how to get to the closest two exits? How many could successfully convert their seat cushion into a floatation device? How many really understand they need to give that oxygen mask a good tug to start the flow? Not many would be my guess.
One hundred years ago when many of our ancestors lived in frontier societies, there was no question of carrying firearms and other items when you left the house. There were bad people and dangerous animals about and only a fool would leave their cabin without a means to protect themselves.
Fast forward to today and most people simply don’t believe that there are any credible, immediate threats when they leave their houses. Sure, every so often we read about something bad happening to someone, but we’re great at rationalizing things and convincing ourselves that those bad things simply can’t happen to us. Until they do.
It is this abrogation of personal responsibility for one’s safety that has gotten us to where we are today. As a society, we don’t feel that it is up to us to protect ourselves. An offshoot of this way of thinking is how we are never at fault when something happens to us – we are all victims, but that’s a topic for another day.
We pay taxes to have people like police and fire fighters whose job it is to protect us, so why should we need to do it ourselves? Question: how many of your friends have fire extinguishers within easy reach in their homes? How many have fully-stocked first aid kits in their homes, cars, and places of business? How many have a reserve supply of food and water for even a few days should there be a disruption or disaster such as hurricane/blizzard/ice storm/earthquake, etc?
The simple fact is most of our fellow
sheep citizens simply don’t believe that something really bad could happen to them and as such, they make no effort to prepare for it. Furthermore, preparing makes us face the reality that there is a possibility that something bad actually could happen and we don’t like to think that way. So we avoid it.
I’m one of those people who never had a problem with firearms, but until last year I simply didn’t own any. Neither did my parents until Hurricane Rita was headed towards Houston a few years ago. And in the aftermath of Katrina, my father decided that it would be a good idea to have a couple of guns in the house just in case someone decided to try to take advantage of the situation. In fact, the catalyst for me getting my first gun was a visit to see him last year in which, at 82 years of age, he decided he wanted an automatic pistol to complement the revolver and shotgun he already owned. I figured if he could get one, then dammit, so could I.
My wife was not thrilled with the idea. We have two young children and the idea of guns in the house was not something she was comfortable with. We’ve reached an accommodation, but it necessitates my guns being locked up. I can pretty much forget about home carry as the kids don’t even know the guns exist. At 6 and 5, keeping things under their radar is pretty easy, but that will change as they get older.
I do have a pistol in a safe in my bedroom, but my wife simply prefers not to think about it and it’s not a subject for discussion. Before I get the inevitable questions and helpful suggestions, let me say that my wife has shot guns before. She just didn’t like it. Also, anyone who is married will tell you that simply trying to put my foot down on a matter such as this – something she feels so strongly about – is an invitation for trouble of the lawyer/divorce/custody hearing kind. Not someplace I want to go. So I have to live with the compromise and bide my time in hopes that she gets more comfortable with the whole thing.
She’s also the sort of person who looked at me a little funny as I started to stockpile a modest supply of food and water for us should there be a problem. She was bemused when I purchased a couple of fully stocked disaster “go bags” to keep in the cars just in case. I’m far from a full-fledged “prepper”, but my neck of the woods is subject to power outages due to weather, so having a week’s worth of supplies doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.
She also didn’t initially see the need for a generator until the first winter that took out electricity for a few days which killed the pump for our well and deprived us of water. Never mind heat and light. Now she thinks it’s a good idea. Unfortunately, she is like many others who only learn the value of preparation after something happens. A power failure is pretty innocuous – inconvenient, yes, but not usually a life changing event. Other things could happen that might fall into that latter category and it seems that it would be foolish to wait for them to happen before learning the value of being prepared.
This, of course brings, me back to my opening reference to the BSA. The fact is that many of our fellow citizens calculate the risk of armed Scout leaders to be greater than the risk of an unarmed troop of kids running into a situation where a gun would be a good thing. Prior to 9/11, many people would have resisted the idea of armed pilots, but following that tragedy, the idea gained a lot more support in the flying public.
The fact is that strongly pro-gun people are still outnumbered by the anti-gunners and the vast population of the ambivalent. As long as that remains the case, we’ll continue to see things such as gun free zones and gun prohibitions in segments of society such as the Boy Scouts of America. In the end, the BSA has to cater to the larger group (and their insurers) and quite simply there are more people who would be strongly opposed to the BSA permitting troop leaders to carry guns than there are those who would avoid the BSA because of the gun prohibition.
Unfortunately, as long as the majority of society continues to operate in Condition White, things aren’t likely to change.