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By Crystal X.

I think every gun owner has had a moment of self-doubt, a moment when they’ve questioned their reasons for owning guns. Do we buy gun after gun for that fleeting feeling of euphoria only to cast it aside as another firearm catches our eye, or is there a deeper reason for why we brand ourselves firearms enthusiasts? I was born in Red China, three months before the start of the Cultural Revolution, and went to college during the student protests and massacres of Tiananmen Square. I’ve lived through the depredations of the Red Guards, and felt that brief glimmer of hope in 1989, only for it to be crushed beneath the steel treads of government tanks . . .

To me guns are not just tools; they are symbols of individualism in the face of conformance, of history written in wood and steel, and of the chance to stand up against incredible odds.

There’s a clichéd old saying that goes something like, “when the whole world tells you to move, that’s when you plant your feet and say, no, you”. As a high schooler I was constantly at odds with the school administration,  even going so far as to say, “there will not be true communism in our time.” If I had said that ten years earlier, I would have been sent to a labor camp. As it stands, I don’t have a high school diploma because I refused to participate in certain activities.

The Chinese government enforced conformance through measured application of force and coercion. There was no way for us to stand up to them. If the government controlled the very fiber of our society from high school upwards, how could the protests at Tiananmen ever have ended any differently? When soldiers were in the streets of every major city, and students were being outed as traitors on national TV, how could we resist?

Ask yourself, would the minuteman still be a symbol of American liberties if you took away his musket? Would he still be that champion of freedom, or would he be another nobody, unceremoniously shuffled off to be executed for the heinous crime of non-compliance?

On my wall, there hangs an old Hanyang 88, a copy of the Gewehr 1888 produced at Hanyang Arsenal. To me, it’s not just a battered old rifle, it’s a war hero that tells the story of desperate rearguard actions against the Kwantung Army and young men going to war in straw sandals against all the industrial might of the Japanese Empire. Every dent, ding, and scrape is an etching that represents the history of my nation. Ironically, the very rifle that broke the shackles of Japanese Imperialism is now illegal in the land it was forged.

I think, through all these years, my firearms have become an extension of myself. My ideas and views have shaped how I view my guns, and in turn my guns have shaped how I view the outside world. Truth be told, it’s not about the gun. It’s about the person. I personally believe each person should have a favorite gun, that way, no matter how it looks or what shape it’s in, it’ll be yours. You’ll know exactly how to treat it and use it and soon the physical bond will become slightly emotional. Personally, the newer a gun is, the more worn and scuffed it has to look to be appealing. It has to be headed toward the gritty future, not the pristine one.

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  1. “we buy gun after gun for that fleeting feeling of euphoria only to cast it aside as another firearm catches our eye”

    Can you say retail therapy! Why yes we can!

    • My wife keeps complaining about all the lonely, homeless old guns I bring home. I tell her it is better than bringing home lost dogs (have several of those, already). Granted, a massive herd of pups may be cheaper to feed.

      • but, you can choose which ones to feed and not to feed, and if money becomes really tight you can choose not to feed them at all until things get better, and you can feed them as often as you’d like when things are good. and it’s more fun to feed them. and you don’t have to worry about stepping in their waste. in fact, their waste can be reused to help make feeding them less expensive. you only have to play with them when you want to, you don’t have to take them out in the middle of the night, and cleaning them is less messy(at least in terms of area damage). and, last but not least, they don’t have to be replaced every 10-15 years, and you avoid the heartbreak of loosing them.

      • Yeah but if you lock them in a safe for six months they don’t die on you!

        Also like Crystal stated it is an extension of you. Like a nice car, or an old beater. Think an old Ford F-1 pickup that still runs solid.
        I like the Tavors, and new stuff, but there is something about an old M1 or classic 1911 that just screams out a story.

      • The guns don’t poo-poo and wee-wee all over the house, though. TELL HER THAT!

        That said, I’ve never bought “gun after gun”. I could never afford to. I own an “assault rifle”, a .45 ACP, and a Remington 870. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

        I’ve owned altogether seven. I’m sticking to that, too.

  2. I find it ironic that China denies its citizens the use of arms while keeping America well supplied with them.

    • I wonder what Mao would think about the irony the modern PRC is now far more hyper-capitalistic than the USA. They’ll make/sell anything to anybody!

      Not to mention the amount of bribery and rich guy tyranny in Chinese politics puts the corruption in New York to shame.

      The smartest thing my ancestors did was to leave the old country for the good ‘ol USA. Crazy railroad building and all.

      • Mao did write “It’s glorious to get rich.” What’s ironic? The amoral lust for power and money was at the core of the Party from the beginning. It’s all natural. What’s ironic is that so many westerners, including corporate chieftains, have papered over the fact for…their own greed.

    • Doubly ironic that the US gov’t is handing out guns & ammo to radical Islamic rebels in Syria, while waging war against the Second Amendment and patriotic Americans.

  3. Ironically, the very rifle that broke the shackles of Japanese Imperialism is now illegal in the land it was forged.

    Citizen soldiers are often stunningly valiant. Leadership members almost never are. Even when they appear brave, the truth often reveals another explanation, that they took risks only when their own necks were directly on the line.

    Enjoy your freedom. Kong Dong Mei shows me that China has taken the bad from the West, but not the good. I’m glad you have spoken out.

  4. Great article, Chrystal. I am with you on the battered, the old, and the historical firearms. Most everyone I know heads to the rack of black rifles or gleaming handguns, all new in the box, when they enter a gun store. I feel drawn to the old lever actions and single shots. The Swedish Mausers and Colt hammerless pistols. So much history, so much to learn, so much to appreciate.

    Thanks for putting yourself out there with this article. It matters. People of the Gun are a much wider group of people that perhaps even we realize. The more we hear from people such as yourself, with your unique experiences and history, the more I recognize that gun owners are not just a narrow slice of some political ideology, but represent a universal, very human hunger for self determination and freedom.

  5. Good write up. It reminds me how some people get so comfortable thinking to themselves “Nothing like that can happen here! This is America!” when considering the idea of an armed populace as a deterrent to tyranny, when there is literally no guarantee whatsoever that peace and stability will last. No one can predict the future.

  6. Crystal, very well written. I however disagree with your opening, if only on a personal level. “I think every gun owner has had a moment of self-doubt, a moment when they’ve questioned their reasons for owning guns.” While that may be your personal feeling, I believe that does not apply to me. I have not had this moment of self-doubt concerning firearms, nor have I ever questioned my reasons for owning guns. In retrospect, maybe I should have felt that way being that I have had great familial losses brought on by guns, beginning with the murder of my mother when I was only eleven years old, however that feeling has never shown its ugly face when I peer into my psyche. I use firearms for fun, for self-defense and for work. I consider my lack of self-doubt as to guns to be an asset, one I wish to never lose.

  7. My favorite is a Mini-14 I bought in 1976, Series 180. It is stamped “Made in the 200th Year of American Liberty” on the upper receiver. I won’t let it go until I’m gone.

    • Wow, that’s great. I used to have a Mini-14, from the year before the Clinton Ban. I don’t have it anymore. Long story, we’ll just say it was “stolen”.

      I liked it, but they’re not all that accurate, IMO.

      • I found, that with enough practice, you can hip shoot soda cans in the air. My only problem was the time I accidentally unlatched the trigger assembly while firing and dropped it in the dirt. My brother looked at me and said, “You’re our country’s first line of defense?”

  8. According to our betters it the tool not the user. A couple of weeks ago ATF showed up at my son’s Chem lab at Colorado State and seized explosive precursors. The bureaucrats didn’t understand that a bunch of organic chemists can go down to the hardware and grocery stores and buy all the things they need to make explosives.

  9. Crystal, thank you as you have produced a beautiful, moving and insightful essay that has left me wanting more. If I may be so bold as to suggest and request that your essay needs to be expanded upon and fleshed out further. You were truly on a roll and I was left wanting. You’re perspective is of immeasurable value regarding the current debate.

    I trust that you’ve read Red Scarf Girl and the Hunger Games trilogy. Not that you need to as your life experience should more than suffice. That said, your essay deserves a broader treatment to deliver its greatest impact to the broadest audience. Much like the video at the top of your essay or Jeff Snyder’s “A Nation of Cowards”, , you have hit a nerve that that will resonate with many. Please go deeper.

  10. I really don’t see how, if tyranny, as a benefit to a small percentage, can not be dealt with by over a billion people.

    It is unfathomable to me how any excuse to live under the circumstances as they are in the PRC can continue.

    You can only stretch a rubber band so tight before it snapps and puts a massive hurt on both hands pulling it. The bigger the band, the more it’s going to hurt.

    • Well, maybe 2.28 million active military, and an unknown number of paramilitary forces, all outfitted with modern gear, has something to do with it.

      Maybe a populace conditioned to cowed obedience for three generation does also.

      Don’t judge, investigate.

      • This is true William, at this point a violent revolution would be very costly.

        If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without blood shed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves. -Sir Winston Churhill

    • For the very simple fact it’s not benefitting only a small percentage. The idea that Chinese are chomping at the bit to overthrow the government if only they had guns is, frankly, just about as true as the idea that 90% of Americans want universal background checks. Along with that comes economic growth which keeps poor people moving up. As long as you have a large chunk of peasantry slowly making more income, and a middle class that’s being kept happy by an influx of material goods and entertainment, a few dissenting intellectuals isn’t going to change the game – nor, if we believe in equal representation, should they.

      What should really concern you is the simple trend that China’s headed for more unbridled capitalism even as America moves towards socialism. The very thing that China wants to emulate America for greater success, and the Left wants to get rid of it.

  11. I find it so ironic and disappointing that it is often people who have immigrated to the U.S. are the ones so passionate about the rights and responsibilities of being citizens. I’m not surprised, mind you – just disappointed.

    Crystal – thank you for this post. It serves as a reminder that for much of the rest of the world, the freedoms we often take for granted and the freedoms that our elected despots in training are so eager to toss aside are quite rare.

  12. Was it my imagination, or did it seem like they were in a hurry for him to wrap it up, as in they didn’t want to hear anymore (not as in time’s up.)

  13. Great article!Really gives a boost to the Cooper adage that “an armed society is a polite society”,I agree,as I would assume that most gun owners believe it too.Be prepared and ready.Keep your powder dry.

  14. Where the hell is the spot that allows me to share this page on Facebook and Twitter? Without it, I have to copy/paste the URL when it really should just be there already considering the fact that this is a great article.

  15. Funnily enough, Crystal, I’m on the exact opposite side of you where 1989 is concerned, but my own Chineseness is also what makes me have a favorable view on gun ownership. Specifically, I always liked those kung fu movies and novels, and I’ve always liked guns ever since I made the connection between learning kung fu to protect yourself from bullies and having a gun to protect yourself from criminals.


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