tool: (n) implement used for a specific task, usually connoting allowing human force to be greater than that which bear hands can exert.
Marcia Ball, a blues singer, recites a tune, “Right Tool for the Job”, in which she lists a variety of tools and the jobs for which they are best suited. Constructions tools, garden tools, cooking utensils, household items, etc. are among the list of tools and their purposes. Love comes up, in the evasive manner of blues songs, but I’ll let you decide whether than is a tool or a job.
For the sake of a secure, free State, we need many tools. Education, with various pencils, pens, paper, calculators, computers, text books, desks, etc are tools which provide citizens with knowledge and skills. Health care, with plinths, evaluations devices, interventions, etc. provide citizens with strong bodies and minds. Vehicles and transportations systems provide citizens with means of getting to work, businesses, stores, etc. Arts and sports venues provide citizens with recreation, leisure, and ways of expressing themselves and developing confidence. All of these tools are right for the job of a quality life in society. None of them are explicitly mentioned in the Constitution.
Yet, at the federal or state level education, health care, vehicles, transportation system, arts and sports are all granted as privileges of engagement in civic life. And, to assure that all of these are enacted safely, the government restricts those privileges to those who demonstrate some basic degree of competence to use the tool correctly.
Teachers and health care workers are required to have a certain level of education and licensure to practice their trade (I just renewed my occupational therapy license in the Commonwealth of Virginia, for $108 for two years). Drivers must have a license and proof of insurance to legally be behind the wheel. Road construction and maintenance crews must follow specific guide line to build and maintain the roads on which we drive those vehicles. Concert halls, theatres, sports arenas must meet certain codes for the safety of the patrons, such that exits are visible and open, food and beer offered hygienically, bathrooms are sanitary, and seating does not collapse.
Why should guns be exempted for any such regulations?
In my prior post about Rights and Responsibilities, I argued that the Second amendment to the Constitution does not grant a right to bear and keep arms, but restricts the federal and state governments from limiting well regulated Militia. The right to bear and keeps arms is a function of participating in those Militia, which I clarified include the branches of the military, reserve and National Guard units, and state and local police forces.
But, I believe that citizens can own guns for other purposes, not as a right but as a privilege. The gun, as a tool, can be for the jobs of sport (target practice, trophy hunting), hunting (for food), and personal security. And, like being a teacher, health care provider, driver, road crew employee, artist, or athlete, we need to demonstrate that we can use these tools correctly.
Time to discuss the responsibilities of gun ownership and use.
First, one who owns a gun, must accept the responsibility that the only purpose of a gun is to destroy something. That might be putting holes close to the center of the target, or blasting a skeet shooting clay pigeon to pieces. That might be killing an animal for sport, food, or to protect one’s livestock and pets (we chose an electric fence, baited with peanut butter… only need to lick that once to decide to browse somewhere else… painful, but not lethal). That might be to intimidate, take down, or kill an intruder in own’s home.
If you are not willing to kill an animal or person, a gun is not the right tool for you. Most likely, you will hesitate, get bitten, malled, or gored by the animal, or killed by the threatening person. I have known more than one person whose life was threatened by his or her own realization in a dangerous situation that he or she could not actually follow through with his or her belief that he or she could use that gun to kill another person. Better to find another tool.
Second, with which ever gun(s) you chose, you should have adequate training for the use of that tool in the situation you intend to use it. Pistols, rifles, and shotguns each have different methods, just like hammers, screwdrivers, and saws fulfill different steps in the task of building something. If the NRA wants a role in a secure, free State, I would recommend that it go back to its original mission to training people to safely and accurately use guns.
Third, the government (federal and state level) should license people to own guns, only after they have passed back ground checks and demonstrated competence to use the gun they purchase. The tool of a vehicle to drive requires a license, with demonstration of participating in a driving school, initial learning permits, then full driving privileges. Proof of insurance comes with the social expectation of protecting others from the inherent dangers of taking a 2000+ pound tools down the road at 25 to 70 MPH. Also, with my standard driver’s license, I cannot drive an 18-wheeler. That requires additional training and a CDL license. Thus, gun owners need to have training for their weapon(s) of choice, learning permits, and licenses, and insurance.
For target shooting, the participants must select a safe target range, assure that others are not in the line of fire, have rules for cease-fire when someone physically approaches a target to set it up or inspect it for results, etc. If rules are followed, everyone participating should have a safe adventure and the enjoyment which he or she anticipates.
For hunting, the owner must know the correct weapon and techniques, for the hunting situation. Deer hunting, squirrel hunting (a tradition for youth around here in West Virginia), turkey hunting, and bear hunting are very different. Some safety measure are shared, such as how much blaze orange outerwear a hunter much have on, how to establish a safe back drop to stop the bullet from flying past one’s intended range, how hunters should communicate to other hunters about their location and movements. Without following these methods, someone is likely to get shot by mistake. Hunting is less predictable than target shooting, because the hunter does not know when the target animal will pass by, from which direction, and at what rate of movement. But, this is part of the skill of hunting, setting up the situation, waiting, and responding at the right moment.
Personal security, as the job, is the most complicated because one can only predict and prepare for certain situations, which may not be replicated when the time arrises (though statistically, the probability of a particular person being in such a situation is quite low… you are more likely to find a hazardous road situations than personal security situation, thus safe driving skills will be more useful for most of us).
Thus, the question for someone planning on having a gun for personal security is, “What situation do you anticipate being at risk”. If you expect an intruder in you home, to kill you, sexually assault you, or steal from you, get a shot-gun. At close range, in poor visibility (either the dark or quick motion) a wide-spreading shot is your best probability of stopping the intruder dead in his tracks, you might say, (or getting him to shit in his pants when he hears you cock the shot-gun… you might say he’s loaded then). Rifles are of little use for personal security, unless you can accurately identify a target and the threat a block away. Pistols are potentially useful to carry, as open carry or concealed weapons, when you are on the move. Shotguns and rifles are a bit bulky at the grocery store. But, a pistol under the pillow is not much use in the dark, when you suspect that your suspect is somewhere over there in the dark or around a corner. The bullet is too accurate to find a general target. Better find another tool.
This brings up the next concept in personal security: Do you have a clear view to identify your target and verify that this target is a threat to you. If in the rush of the moment, you shoot at anything moving, you are likely to miss the target or hit someone you did not intend. If you shoot through a closed-door, anticipating that the threatening person is on the other side, you might kill an innocent person (remember the mistake of the federal agents at Ruby Ridge killing the man’s son and wife through a closed-door, or Oscar Pistorius shooting his fiancée in the bathroom?) Better find another tool.
Once you identify your target, you must give a warning. This is partially to verify that the person is truly whom you believe him or her to be, and that he or she is a threat. This also gives the person an opportunity to end that threat, by fleeing, putting down his or her weapon, or shitting in his pants, etc.
Even after verifying your target and giving a warning, you must verify that you have a clear line of fire and no one other than the target in the line of fire. This is the risk that open or conceal carry folks bear. If you open fire on someone in public, at a store, subway, or school, can you assure that the bullet from that pistol will only hit the threatening person, not miss or pass through him or her, and not wound or kill someone else? Better find another tool.
Finally, one who choses to own a gun(s) must accept the risk that those weapons will be used, ignorantly or intentionally for purposes that the owner does not plan on. Many gun owners, with security in mind, do not have gun safes. What use is a gun in a safe in a different part of the house, when the intruder is down the hallway, or the gun owner is out in public? But, unsecured guns can be stole by criminals, or picked up by passionate young people, or found by children. Stolen guns may end up killing people during crimes. Passionate young people, taking their relative’s guns are shooting at schools. Children pull the trigger, not knowing that dad’s bullets can kill their siblings. Furthermore, domestic violence and suicide deaths are higher in households where guns are owned. Better find another tool.
This weekend, students and supporters are joining in various marches in Washington, D.C. and other cities around the nation to call for public debate and legislation that will provide security to those students going to school. We need better tools.
Training for gun ownership.
Licenses and insurance for gun ownership.
Enforcement of laws when gun owners do not follow the laws or demonstrate risky behavior.
The First Amendment: “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”. The right tool for the job.