angry disappointed mother
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By Cockatoo

“What do you need a gun for?” It was an honest question, coming from my Mom. She was aghast when I told her I’d bought one.

She didn’t even want me to have toy guns as a kid. There were none in the house where I grew up. Both she and my Dad grew up with guns in their homes, but those weapons gathered dust. They weren’t even talked about.

My parents raised me to be a pacifist, to stay away from trouble, and to trust that the cops would show up in time. Yeah.  It was like that.

Honestly, I really hope I don’t need a gun. I don’t ever want to shoot anybody and I don’t want to find myself in the position where I might have to.

I could say that I need a gun for self-defense, but honestly, that answer doesn’t carry a lot of weight for me. Maybe it’s naive, but I don’t think of myself as a likely target for violence. If I were a woman, I’d probably feel differently and I’d carry a skinny little Kahr on me all the time. I know lots of people take up guns after they get mugged or have their houses broken into, but that hasn’t happened to me.

As it is, carrying a gun seems like an awful lot of precaution for comparatively little danger. Spree killings are a statistical anomaly. More than 80% of all gun-related violence happens between drug-trafficking gangs. The math says that I’m in a lot more danger from things like heart disease, traffic accidents, medical malpractice, or swimming pools than I am from bad guys.

So even with the recent increase in violence around the country, if I’m really concerned about my life and safety, I should be more concerned with switching from pizza to salad than I am with my EDC. So really, this is not about “need” for me. It never was.

And that’s what’s wrong with your question, Mom. It presumes that carrying a gun is something weird or wrong that needs to be justified. That’s a pretty big assumption to make. I might as well ask why you need me not to have a gun. There is no reason that the people of the gun should start this conversation on the defensive side. None at all.

Here’s why: this is not about needs. It’s about rights. They are not the same thing, and neither one justifies or explains the other. I might need a new kidney, but I have no right to take one from someone else. I may have the right to convert to Islam, but I have no need to do so.  Whenever rights and needs align with each other, it’s coincidental, not structural.

I won’t start out by trying to justify my gun ownership because rights are not the sort of thing which have to be justified. American law presumes that rights are not “granted” by the state, but simply come with being alive. We are “endowed by our creator” with rights that we regard as “inalienable.”

The government is specifically prohibited from restricting a non-exclusive list of liberties recognized in the Bill of Rights. The Constitution isn’t supposed to be the source of our rights. It is supposed to protect the rights we have inherently.

So it’s incorrect to say that rights exist “for (whatever) purposes,” because our rights are simply there. They pre-exist our individual lives, and whatever purposes we might have, as well as any kind of governing authority.

In fact, it’s very hard to justify any of our rights when we consider what we typically do with them. People are stupid and crazy wherever you look. When we hear what most people on the internet have to say, it’s hard to see the value of the freedom of speech. When we learn about institutional pedophilia and abuse, freedom of religion doesn’t look so hot to some, either. Given the way some people might behave, it’s amazing we’re allowed to run around loose…but think what it would mean if we weren’t.

Anti-gunners are quick to say, “My right to life is more important than your so-called gun rights,” and “If it saves even one life, we have to at least try real gun control.” I’m sure it would save lots of lives if we preemptively imprisoned everyone in rubber rooms, re-educate them with approved propaganda, forcibly exercise them twice a day, and feed them a nutritionally-balanced gruel through a tube.

If it saves even one life, shouldn’t we try that, right? Of course not. Our liberties are infinitely valuable. They are what make life worth living, beyond mere survival. Our most fundamental principles say that everyone ought to manage their own lives and determine their own best interests. We don’t need to provide justification for our rights and it’s wrong to even ask us to try.

Of course, all rights eventually run up against some natural limitations. For example, freedom of speech does not include making threats, committing slander or fraud. Freedom of religion does not include blowing up anything up that isn’t yours. And the freedom to keep and bear arms does not include brandishing them, threatening anyone with them without justification.

So here’s why I need a gun, Mom: I need to be able to have one. Or several. I need to be able to rise above willful ignorance about a fairly important topic. I need to be free from unjust prohibitions imposed by a well-intentioned, but misguided policy. I need to be responsible for myself, and not be anyone else’s responsibility. I need to be included and empowered, rather than managed and regulated.

The fact that I might be trusted with a gun still feels like flattery. It calls me to rise to that role. It might say something about my place in society that I’m allowed to carry a gun, but it says everything about society’s relationship with me.

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  1. “My right to life is more important than your so-called gun rights…”

    I shut that argument down pretty effectively once. My answer was “Well, don’t ever attack my family or invade my home with ill intent, and you’ll be perfectly safe from me and my guns…”

    • “But what if you go crazy or miss? That infringes on my rights.” And so it goes…

      • That’s actually pretty simple to counter. Don’t play the “What if” game.

        If I’m not infringing on your rights, you have no right to infringe on mine. If I call someone a no good dirty hypocritical liar to their face that is my right. If I go to their place of work and tell their boss they are a child molester it is a possible libel/defamation situation. See, Free Speech is fine until I intentionally use it for harm.

        Same thing for firearms. Until I intentionally do something that makes someone unsafe, such as point it at them intentionally, I am not hurting anything. Acting in a threatening manner or shooting at someone without cause is already illegal. Actually, that holds true for any weapon.

        There is no right to feel safe, be comfortable, or never be offended.

        If they insist on playing the “What If” game, I am perfectly happy rattling off a list of examples of risks the common person takes everyday that we accept as part of everyday life. Many of which are more likely to take your life (such as your morning commute) than someone with a gun.

    • One’s right to life does not allow them to infringe on the rights of others. We could in infringe on all manner of rights in the name of protecting a person’s right to life.

    • This is a straw man argument. It pre-supposed that there is a collective responsibility for that person’s (right to) life, and therefore their right (to life) trumps your right to possess a gun. There is no collective responsibility for another’s life and that right certainly does not override your right to protect your own life and others.

      The proper response when someone says “My right to life is more important than your so-called gun rights…” is, “My right to life and the ability to protect it is more important than your life, to me. You are responsible for protecting your life, as I am for mine. I am not in any way responsible for your life, nor for protecting it.”

      • Well, since you made your response in terms of logic/philosophy, I’m going to respond in kind. I wouldn’t take that approach either. Best case is that the conclusion is guilty of begging the question. I.e. it is a premise in need of logical proof. Man’s apparent need to form societies makes proving that premise a bit of an uphill battle. I.e. the truth of your premise (presented as a conclusion) is not a matter of the excluded middle, but a matter of degree.

        More important than the informal fallacy is that your syllogism is flawed. A negative conclusion from affirmative premises is a formal fallacy.

        A big part of the problem here is that the our side and the progressives do not agree on the premises themselves. Without some sort of common ground there, there is no hope of getting them to agree with our conclusion even when there are no logical fallacies. If you’re going to argue syllogistically, you have to take the effort to find the common ground affirmative premises upon which you agree and build an affirmative conclusion. I had an interesting conversation in this model just last evening with someone who didn’t really understand the differences between modern conservatism, classical liberalism and progressivism.

        Really, the most powerful tool I’ve found in these types of arguments is to simply fall back on the Socratic method. The question “Why?” is one of the most devastating tool in our arsenal of reason. Combine that with a proper elenchus and it doesn’t take very long for the absurdity of their position to become painfully apparent, even to them. You’re not going to “win” the argument in the traditional sense. It’s their worldview you’re attacking, after all. But you are going to leave them with an aporia in regard to their initial presuppositions. They’ve led themselves to the impasse.

        In a long-term hearts and minds battle (which this is) those are amongst the most important victories to make. Remember in these kind of debates, what you’ve done is plant a seed. Water it, don’t drown it. Encourage it to grow. In fact, I’m betting this would be a good time to invite them to the range to shoot some .22. While they’re thinking about the other side of the issue. 🙂

  2. “Prior Restraint” is the entire idea behind gun control in the first place. BINGO.

    BTW: I wish an org with major resources — like the NRA — would borrow some ideas and skills from people who appear here in TTAG land.

    This article would do a lot more for The People of the Gun than a Palin appearance….

  3. ” The antis are quick to say “my right to life is more important than your so-called gun rights,” and “if it saves even one life, we have to at least try real gun control.” Well, I’m sure it would save lots of lives if we preemptively imprisoned everyone in rubber rooms, re-educated them with approved propaganda, forcibly exercised them twice a day, and fed them a nutritionally-balanced gruel through a tube. If it saves even one life, shouldn’t we try that? ”

    Got to remember that one….

  4. Where’d you find the photo of my mother-in-law? Seriously … If that’s not Mary, she has a sister she never told the family about.

  5. Around 2009, I bought a SIG 522. I brought it over to my parents’ house to show my dad. My mom saw me pull it out of the case in the basement, and gasped, “is that a MACHINE GUN?!?!” I explained to her that it’s not, it probably just looks like things she’s seen in news and TV. She just said “well, I just don’t like the way it looks.”

    My mom isn’t actively anti-gun enough to criticize my dad or I for owning them, but she certainly has no interest in them and would likely never touch one herself, even if her life depended on it.

    • My mom, now deceased, always described herself as a “pistol packin’ mama”. She didn’t carry, but there was always a loaded pistol close to hand at home.

  6. I don’t understand the perspective that carrying a gun is an “awful lot of precaution.” To me, it’s a basic precaution that doesn’t cause much inconvenience.

  7. Pretty good article. We had a few guns in the house when I was a kid ( 50’s & 60’s). No one made a big deal out of it one way or another. My dad took us shooting once in a while but that was about it. Dad was an NRA member & occasionally took us to the local gun show in Kankakee, Illinois. I guess my point is nothing anti was ever conveyed to us. Thanks for that Mom & Dad.

  8. “I need to be responsible for myself, and not be anyone else’s responsibility. I need to be included and empowered, rather than managed and regulated.”

    Mom sighs: “You’ve really grown up. You’re not in diapers anymore, son. I can’t believe I miss those days. I’m still not happy about you having a gun that even you admit you’ll probably never need.”

  9. Good article. Mom brought you through the perils of childhood and wants to think that as an adult you can safely function in a civilized society as does she. In short she loves you. Federal, state and local governments do not love you. If you get harmed or killed the result is an undetectable increase in a statistical summary. Don’t become an undetectable increase in a statistical summary. Carry and love your mom.

      • This is an excellent example of why religions are interpreted differently when they are put in writing.

  10. What happens when the question turns to “hey, where’s your weapon???” [if you think it can’t happen here, check the nightly news, the population of several (larger) continents are playing it daily and hoping to start a championship match wherever they can manage].

    Gold won’t take-an-edge and makes a lousy shovel.
    There is only one precious metal and it comes bored and chambered in your favorite caliber.

  11. “my right to life is more important than your so-called gun rights”

    Except that “your rights end where mine begin, and vice versa”. My RKBA is not interfering with anyone’s right to life, but the anti’s are trying to use their right to life to interfere with (eliminate, actually) my RKBA. That puts them squarely on the wrong side of that argument.

    • Which leads them down the path to their logical conundrum….

      Invoking the right to life to take away guns = Good
      Invoking the right to life on behalf of an unborn child = Bad

  12. My younger brother called me crazy because I carry. My response was “I don’t intend to be a statistic” that’s why I carry firearms.
    Growing up we had guns in the home but from when I was 18 forward the only gun that wasn’t locked up was my Glock, and eventually my Sig. My father I feel was and is, too reliant on his home security alarm to ward off a home invader. The main reason he doesn’t carry his pistols is he works in a gun free zone, and until my younger brother finishes up school (my brother is 12 years my junior) he plans on keeping his job even though he could retire and be set for life.

  13. “Of course, all rights eventually run up against some natural limitations. They seem to stop at the point where some kind of harm is immanent or realized.”

    Probably the best way to put that is that one’s rights end where they infringe on another person’s rights.

      • THAT… is one I’ve been using a lot. It seems to strike the correct chord with most people.
        It’s also, quite frankly, the easiest and simplest way to live.

          • Rich, I’m getting closer and closer to that point. My single biggest issue with the Libertarian movement at this point is the apparent focus on the idea of individual sovereignty to the point of neglecting the sovereignty of the individual States.

            Our constitutional republic is built upon a careful balance of individual sovereignty and state sovereignty. Both need to be healthy in order for the federal government to remain within its appointed bounds and still avoid anarchy.

            Of course, I’m still learning regarding the formal Libertarian party. I’ll welcome any referrals you may feel like giving…

            • ” the idea of individual sovereignty to the point of neglecting the sovereignty of the individual States. ”

              OK, I’m personally a ravingranting anarchist, but the official Libertarian platform is consistent with the Constitution and fully respects states’ rights, at least states’ rights relative to federal power.


  14. I’m glad to see someone picked up on the “prior restraint” aspect of government censorship in forestalling free expression from being heard as an infringement on 1st Amendment rights, and applied the same concept over to 2nd Amendment protections.

    This is exactly what the antis are attempting to achieve through the use of legislation to incrementally restrict in advance law abiding citizens’ exercise of their natural rights to self-protection by arms should the need arise, just because the antis *feel* afraid such armed law abiding citizens *might* do something improper.

  15. Now imagine, Dan, that you live in a country where you do NOT have the right to own or even carry guns; and the jurisdiction in this country says that self-defense or your life being in danger is no good ground for owning or possessing a gun.

    Moreover, how would you feel if the Government in this country said: “Yeah…you have the right to self defense” but the State bans any effective means that could enable you to defend yourself”?
    Is the right to self-defense still valid if people de facto cannot exercise this right?
    (“But you still can defend yourself with your hands!” Really??? My 80 year old mum against a 25 year old 220 lbs thug????)

    My recommendation is: Don’t let anybody take your 2nd Amendment rights away!

  16. “If I’m really concerned about my life and safety, I should be more concerned with switching from pizza to salad than I am with my EDC. ”

    This is one of truest things I’ve ever read on TTAG…

    There are more than few people who spend countless hours arguing over this caliber, or that gun, or even take firearms training and carry multiple guns. But, are very overweight and obviously do not eat right and exercise.

    If people were truely honest with themselves they’d realize we are all more likely to die from poor health than in a gun fight.

    I’m a gun guy through and through, but if an over weight, non gun owning friend asked me which thing he/she should spend his/her time and money on, only picking one, guns and training or eating healthier and a gym membership… I would tell him/her the latter.

    The reality is that will be more likely to keep him/her on this planet longer.

    • You exercise and eat right to lessen your chances of dying to heart disease or being impaired by a serious health condition.

      You wear a seat belt to lessen your chances of death or serious injury in a car crash.

      You carry so you have an option in case some lowlife decides he wants what you have and will kill you to take it, or just doesn’t like your face.

      All of these are technically optional, we all know people who do none of the above, and probably people who do all of the above. the price of each one is added hassle and responsibility. Sure my chances of being laid out by health problems or a car wreck are way higher than being a victim of violence, but why would I just accept such a risk when I can so easily do something about it?

  17. LOL…I’m a great disappointment, as is my gun toting brother, to my dyed in the wool, liberal democrat parents. They ended up with a Goldwater Conservative and a staunch Libertarian for sons.

    My father worked on the McGovern campaign and is very happy with the gun ban in the city of Chicago, where he lives. My mom is still somewhat of a hippy minus the drugs and promiscuity. She’s softened a bit since she married a retired police chief, but she still hasn’t risen beyond tolerating guns for those that insist on having them, heh.

    It’s basically a subject we’ve agreed not to discuss. I don’t open carry in their house, and they don’t bitch about me carrying concealed 🙂

  18. Why refer to firearms as ‘Weapons’ Weapon is a legal description and imply that some person has used an artifact in the role of defense or attack. Please forgo front loading articles with politicaly weighted and discrimatory terms

  19. Why do you need a gun? Sigh…Whenever I get that question, I simply respond, Why not?. Seriously. People have forgotten that we dont have to justify jack shmit to anyone. “Why did you say that?” “Why are you eating that?” “Why did you buy that?” “Why are you doing that?” “…..Because I can. Land of the free baby. Enjoy it while you can.”

  20. Well hate to say this, if you fvck we me and my rights, I’ll fvck with you and it will be done, final, finish! I have a area that is pure, so don’t fvck with me! I always watch my flank and rear!

  21. “why do you need a gun son?”
    Mom, because I can.
    Hey mom, why don’t you sit down and pull up a chair so I can get you a big cup of “shut the hell up!”

  22. “my right to life is more important than your so-called gun rights,”

    “Oh, so you’re a pro-lifer?”


    “my gun rights are not in conflict with your right to life, as I have no right to arbitrarily kill you.”

  23. My Mom was always afraid of guns; probably because my PTSD Uncle ( Dad’s Brother) shot himself near the heart with the .22 rifle which he stole from Dad.The Uncle did survive. Mom never liked my Uncle anyways. But, she would not allow guns in the house until Grandfather ( Mom’s Dad) gave me his Winchester Model 12. Luckily, most of my other relatives were pro-gun. Ironically, the one relative who was also anti-gun was Moms Brother who was a Deputy Sheriff. BTW, Dad was an expert Basic and Advanced Marksmen and led an Infantry platoon against the Japanese in WWII.

  24. “my right to life is more important than your so-called gun rights,”

    I love statements like this. I like to counter with…IIRC, there is no right to life in the Constitution, nor in nature. A zebra isn’t protected from a cheetah by a set of laws, planets get hit by asteroids, bugs get hit by windshields…there is no right to life. The ability to live is only as good as your ability to collectively or individually protect yourself from threats, using what you have…speed, strength, camouflage, or tools.

    These rights we have were concepts codified in the documents that serve as the basis for our laws…ie our set of rules to govern ourselves and provide for our defense of the collective and the individual.

    The men that created this document recognized the importance of this ability to use the tools available for protection and made that one of the rights we enjoy.

    In short, your ability to survive is protected by my ability up keep and bear arms.

    • For some reason the edit function didn’t save the change…should read:

      In short, your ability to survive is protected by my ability to keep and bear arms.

    • While not in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence states:
      We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

      I believe an argument may be made here.

  25. I learned long ago that telling PPL that you are armed effectively disarms you. It’s neither my parent’s nor anyone else’s business that I am armed and I am of the opinion that arguing about my rights with the drones of the Progressive Elite is neither productive use of my time nor conducive to a private and tranquil life.
    Live your life as if the Gestapo lived next door for chances are they do.

    • “Live your life as if the Gestapo lived next door for chances are they do.”

      That is a money quote! Only its name is now the DLN – disgruntled liberal neighbors. You know, the kind who bristle at your Gadsden flag or NRA sticker or see you placing gun cases into your vehicle.

      They can have you SWATed with a phone call. And when’s the last time you heard of someone being prosecuted for making a false 911 call? Remember, the po-po never make a mistake & if they arrested the jerk who made that false call, they’d be admitting upfront that they’d been hoodwinked.

    • “I learned long ago that telling PPL that you are armed effectively disarms you.”

      I don’t think that’s true at all, in the literal or figurative sense, disarming you from a debate, as it were.

  26. My mom never did like guns personally, but she understood why it was important for people to be allowed to own firearms. She personally experienced having their home searched for guns after France fell in WW2. Mom never objected to my dad owning guns, when he had to work nights, my dad taught her how to shoot.

  27. Good article; no, a great article, with points that everyone who supports the 2A should read and memorize. These are the kinds of basic irrefutable points needed in an honest discussion with anyone one the fence w/r/t the issue. Bringing up prior restraint is an excellent point and one that is used too infrequently. Keep up the good work!

  28. Cockatoo,
    This is one of the more lucid and succinct summaries of the whole concept of constitutionally protected natural rights I have read. I’m saving it for future reference. Thank you.

  29. 1. The 2nd is an absolute right to possess a firearm for any non malicious reason including self defense, target shooting, hunting, or historical interest or even no reason at all!!

    2. More practically the USA, not to put to fine a point on it, is falling apart because its being destroyed by socialism from within. When things fall down, violence goes up. It’s all the better to be armed and comfortable with your weapons in advance.

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