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"I'm Buying A Gun..."

| 84 Comments

We're going through one of those phases where people are talking about buying guns.

Rusty Shackelford is the latest.

You'd think that I'd clearly approve (of the general trend, not the specific decisions - I don't know nearly enough to talk specifically about Dr. Shackelford). And part of me does, because it reflects a shift in the consensus away from "mere citizen" toward "citizen with the intent to be more self-reliant".

And, to be honest, I see this issue largely as one of attitude; I've said in the past that the largest impact of gun ownership is symbolic, like Sikh's knives.

But it's not entirely symbolic, and there's the rub.

So let me take a moment and talk to the people who are reading the news and thinking of heading to the gun store.

First, go sleep on it. Owning a gun is, more than anything, a responsibility (one this too many people take far too lightly). You are responsible for the gun 24/7; are you prepared for that? Owning a gun doesn't intrinsically make you safer; Jeff Cooper famously said that "owning a gun doesn't make you a shooter any more than owning a piano makes you a musician".

So you have to adopt a set of behaviors and habits along with the gun.

Some of them are about the security of the gun - keeping it from being stolen, or from letting children have access to it. Buy a gun safe. Use it religiously.

Some of it is about self-knowledge. There's a little Deb Frisch in all of us. Is yours fully under control? If the answer to that question isn't an immediate and obvious "Huh? Of course it is." And if you aren't 100% sure that 5 of your closest friends would answer the same way, think hard before you head to the gun store.

Some of it is about committing to some basic level of competence in order to make the gun a useful tool. There are classes you can and should take almost anywhere. They range from the big-time schools, like Gunsite, Insights, and Thunder Ranch (I've been to all of these and recommend them unqualifiedly) to local instructors like Mike Dalton here in Los Angeles, or others at ranges throughout the area you live.

If you can comfortably go that far, welcome. I need to get to the range this weekend...

If you can't comfortably go that far, please don't buy a gun. It's that simple.

84 Comments

I suspect that the probablility that you or a loved one will suffer from a rare but regretable accident caused by your gun is much higher than the probability you will ever use of the gun to successfully defend yourself.

Actually, no. That study pretty well got debunked a while ago. I'll go look for a cite when I take another break (the carpet is coming for the kids rooms on Monday, and we're still sanding and painting trim - next time, we're hiring it out!!)

A.L.

AL,

I can't help you with exact figures, though that's not just because I'm lazy--actual numbers, especially for self-defense uses, are quite hard to come by. But Gary Kleck's research shows that defensive uses probably exceed accidental shootings by several orders of magnitude.

Meanwhile, accidental shootings continue to drop: last year or the year before (I forget which one it was) tied the all-time low for accidental shootings, and set a new low for the below-15 age category. Percentage decreases in these categories since 1998 were 20% and 50%.

Stay vigilant, as I know you are, and you'll be just fine.

A.L.:

I think Rusty has good reason to make the purchase, and he's clearly responsible enough to take the measures you suggest. I'm also not sure what you mean by "symbolic", though I think I know what you think you mean. It's just that "symbolic" isn't quite the right word. I own a weapon, and have carried it legally, because doing so seems to be a step I can take in the direction of being more than a "passenger". It's not the only such step I can take, and I think if I believed that the step was largely symbolic I'd probably not bother. I mean, I post here and on Rusty's blog (and on may own) for largely the same reason. I'm an active defender rather than a passenger in the Terror War. I'm clearly not as active as some, nor as crucial.

And besides that, there are patently self-defense reasons.

Of course there are lots of fun, recreational reasons to own firearms.

Anyone here shoot blackpowder smoothbore flintlocks?

"Of course there are lots of fun, recreational reasons to own firearms.

Anyone here shoot blackpowder smoothbore flintlocks?"

No, but I use to know alot of people who did.

Of course, they were also the traditional Southern family that owns (at the minimum) two calibers of rifle, and a shotgun for every member of the family - plus assorted handguns and other self-defence weapons.

I always laugh when they raid some house and make a big deal in the news about the fact that they owned 20 or 30 guns, as if this was evidence of perfidy in itself. Every household in the community I grew up in, whether law abiding or not, owned 20 or 30 guns.

In my experience, misuse of guns is associated with people that don't know much about them. For example, the Iraqi's (and most the ME) have this gross love affair with guns that shames even the most gun loving house in West Virginia, but they clearly don't know anything about how to use them. They love guns; but they don't respect them.

Had some people tried teaching thier children to respect guns instead of fear them, those children might not have decided to do dumb things with them. I grew up with unsecured guns all over the house, and never once considered just picking up one and playing with it - much less creating revenge fantasies of me going out and shooting a bunch of people with one.

Free advice, FWIW. If you are buying a handgun, and if you do not intend to invest substantial amounts of time in training and practice, then do not buy a semi-auto. Buy a .38 or .44 Special revolver.

Of the accidents that occur with handguns, too many involve semi-autos in which the magazine has been removed, but a round remains in the chamber. Even among experienced shooters, it is a rare individual who has not made this mistake at one time or another.

If you have to have a semi-auto, buy one that has a magazine disconnect.

"There's a little Deb Frisch in all of us."

Ewwwwwwwww!!!

Which gives rise to a new term, "Frischectomy."

I wonder if that's an outpatient procedure.

Good post, AL.

From Gunshy: I suspect that the probablility that you or a loved one will suffer from a rare but regretable accident caused by your gun is much higher than the probability you will ever use of the gun to successfully defend yourself.

I don't know the future but, judging from the past, there is a 100% chance that a gun protected my family and a 0% chance that a gun hurt my family. I like those odds.

Who is Deb Frisch?

A backyard swimming pool is more of a danger to one's children than a gun in the house.

I'm glad I grew up in a small town, where guns and hunting were just a normal part of life. We had at least 5 guns in the house all through childhood. I went to hunter safety class, went shooting with my dad, and learned to respect guns.

Hmmmm.

1. If you're thinking about self-defense then do not purchase a handgun. A handgun is almost by definition inaccurate since a handgun's barrel is normally 6"-10" long. This requires much greater skill on the part of the shooter to actually hit the target and, more importantly, hit the target in a vital area. Additionally a handgun chambered for a powerful round, such as a .40 or .44 or .357 has a very good chance of the round penetrating through a wall, or several walls, and striking an innocent person.

Instead buy a pump-action shotgun.

The longer barrel length makes it more accurate for a shooter that doesn't shoot a great deal. Using a shotgun is, IMHO, much more intuitive than properly handling a pistol and best of all the sound of a pump-action 12ga shotgun chambering a fresh round is absolutely distinctive. There is no other sound like it and hearing that sound informs anyone and everyone in the immediate area that stopping and standing very still is a very good idea. Either that or running like hell.

Plus a shotgun is unlikely to be a substantial danger to anyone living in adjacent houses or walking the sidewalk.

2. Having a gun is worthless. It's a gun. A weapon. Not a "Stop" sign. Holding a firearm may give a perp pause, but it will not be of any use unless you are willing to use the weapon as it was designed to be used.

Wielding a weapon isn't of any value unless you are willing to use the weapon AS a weapon. If you cannot find it within yourself to actually shoot someone, then it would be better to not own a gun and purchase some non-lethal device.

Gun safe? For one pistol? How the heck are you going to defend yourself if your weapon is in a safe?

I'm not suggesting handing loaded weapons to toddlers, but a gun safe is really not necessary unless you have a lage collection that you'd like to safeguard.

Millions of people have owned weapons without a gun safe for centuries. Not a big deal to own one.

Secondly, whereas I agree that it's a good thing to take gun classes, the beauty of guns is that they're not very complicated and don't require a lot of training, especially at close ranges. The lower the caliber the easier to hit your target and even a .22 will hurt a burglar pretty badly.

I'm not trying to discourage anyone from getting a gun safe or from taking classes. Taking classes is a very good idea. But there's no need to infer from that advice that without the training that a person would be incapable of using a weapon in a pinch.

When the second plane hit the World Trade Center the first thing I did was strap on my .45 ACP. It was my way of saying that I was prepared to defend my country. Of course, it made the UPS guy a little uncomfortable! With all the news of Islamofascist attacks, one would be a fool to not be prepared to defend oneself, their family, and their country.
Major Bill

#14

I keep my .45 in a small safe (with a keypad) on the dresser-the other weapons & all ammo are locked up in the office closet.

#16 P51D,

You don't by any chance, own a P51D do you?

Major Bill

Mike Renter (#14) -

I've got two small ready-access safes in the house; you'd have a hard time getting to a gun faster unless you were wearing it.

You can get one like this (and dozens others just like it), bolt it to something, and the casual thief or wandering kid won't have access.

Because we used to do something - like ride in the backs of station wagons - doesn't mean it's such a good idea today.

A.L.

#17
Only in my dreams....

"Because we used to do something - like ride in the backs of station wagons - doesn't mean it's such a good idea today." - A.L.

The world hasn't changed that much since we were kids. All that has changed alot are attitudes.

I'd still let my kids ride in the back of the station wagon, if I had a station wagon and if the law would allow me to do so.

We, like the Athenians before us, are loading ourselves down with nit picky little motherly laws that tell us how we must live our lives. To see where that process leads, go to Europe. To see where that process leads, read the history of Athens.

celebrim -

Tigerhawk actually has a terriffic post up on that today - go read it

(replace the * with an "o" in the Domain Which Shall Not Be Named...

Having said that, I'd still belt my kids in and secure my guns.

I lost a gun once, and it's not a feeling I'd ever like to reproduce.

A.L.

#19, Me too! But if I ever win the lottery! Or maybe an nicely restored T-28!
Major Bill

Put my household in the 100% defense category along with #9 DRJ. Before I met her, the woman I married was living on her own, and a man much bigger than her (I blog about her as my wee wifey for a reason) kicked in the door of her apartment. The first two shots she'd ever fired from a .32 missed, but changed his mind.

I know several other people who have told of deterrent use of a firearm, without having pulled the trigger. These range from a civil rights activist facing clan types in rural Texas in the '60s to people noticing a vaguely suspicious character wandering a bit close to the family van.

Shotguns are great for home defense, but are not a personal defense option in places where open carry is only legal for law enforcement officers.

My defense weapon is a .357 revolver loaded with .38s. The extra weight helps me control recoil better, though it is tiring to hold up for long periods. Plus I like having the option to load .357s, in case I need to shoot someone through a wall or ceiling.

Which leads me to my favorite form of home defense: electronic surveilance and targeting systems. If someone breaks into my house, the fact that I can accurately target intruders through walls and ceilings makes even my little handgun nearly unbeatable. The repairs are a pain, but much less so than the trip to the hospital (at best) that I'd risk by getting a clear line of sight.

"I've got two small ready-access safes in the house; you'd have a hard time getting to a gun faster unless you were wearing it."

Why not wear it? I have a Kel-Tec P32 that's always with me, unless (a) I'm going somewhere carry is prohibited, or (b) I'm taking one of my more capable handguns. The P32 just fits in a front pocket, and it's simply always there. (And yes, in the case of (a) or (b) it goes into a safe, not just lying around somewhere.)

I commented above: "I suspect that the probablility that you or a loved one will suffer from a rare but regretable accident caused by your gun is much higher than the probability you will ever use of the gun to successfully defend yourself."

Kirk commented: "I can't help you with exact figures, though that's not just because I'm lazy--actual numbers, especially for self-defense uses, are quite hard to come by. But Gary Kleck's research shows that defensive uses probably exceed accidental shootings by several orders of magnitude. . . ."

I did some quick internet research and I see where your statement comes from but I don't think the numbers are comparable. It would take a sophisticated analysis by an unbiased researcher to address this issue properly.

I looked at this web site: http://www.justfacts.com/gun_control.htm which includes studies by Kleck.

Some of the difficulties I have with the statistics are:

There are layers of research where a study on "defensive use of guns" is characterized in another study as "use of guns to defend against crime". The result is that the statistics cited for use of guns to defend against crime (764,000) include fights where the agressor is uncertain - ie they include criminals defending themselves. (Other studies that give higher rates of defensive gun use include police and military uses.)

The statistics cited for gun accidents is very low (1,400) but looking closer this is only for "fatal accidents", not "all accidents". I think it would be reasonable to infer from military experience that 1,400 fatal accidents might reflect somewhere around 14,000 injuries. This is still small but it does not include the number of "accidents" caused on the spur of the moment by violent arguments among people who are otherwise not criminals - these "accidents" are included in the statistics for crimes committed with firearms.

Also, there were more defensive use of guns against criminals (764,000) than crimes committed with firearms (691,000). This might be possible but it seems so absurd as to call into question the reliability of the studies.

It is also difficult to compare the nature of the two concepts. Is it worth x% risk of accidental injury to counter y% risk of being a victim of crime? Would you let yourself get (mugged, murdered, raped) to prevent 1 of your 10 children from being (blinded, killed, paralyzed) in a gun accident? Different people would answer this differently.

I found three relevant statistics in the web site:
http://www.justfacts.com/gun_control.htm

1)
"In the United States during 1997, there were approximately 7,927,000 violent crimes. Of these, 691,000 were committed with firearms."

Reference: # Calculations performed with data from:
a) "1997 Uniform Crime Reports." Federal Bureau of Investigation. Table 2.11.
b) "National Crime Victimization Survey - Criminal Victimization in the United States, 1997 Statistical Tables." United States Department of Justice. Table 66.

2)
"Americans use firearms to defend themselves from criminals at least 764,000 times a year. This figure is the lowest among a group of 9 nationwide surveys done by organizations including Gallup and the Los Angeles Times."

Reference:
http://www.saf.org/LawReviews/KleckAndGertz1.htm

3)
1995 Fatal Accident Totals
...
Firearm 1,400
Reference: ILA Research & Information Division Fact Sheet." National Rifle Association of America Institute for Legislative Action Research & Information Division, 3/1/98. Source Cited: The National Center for Health Statistics.

Me again...It is hard to draw any firm conclusions from the statistics in comment 26. But I think the original assertion would be almost certainly true if it was modified:

The probablility that you or a loved one will suffer from a rare but regretable accident caused by your gun is much higher than the probability you will ever use of the gun to successfully defend yourself against a terrorist.

All good points of advice on how to make your decision to own a gun or not to own a gun.

It must be nice to have that be your decision, rather than the government deciding in effect that citizens aren't up to such a responsibility.

If I was an American, I would buy a gun just as part of what being American means, because it was my choice and it's good to make such choices for yourself. I'm not sure that counts as a "proper" reason for owning a gun.

Anyway, I still love Australia and would never want to live anywhere else, and I still vote for Howard, the most anti-gun Prime Minister ever. Guns are not the most important thing on the world. (Except in situations where they suddenly are.)

When the second plane hit the World Trade Center the first thing I did was strap on my .45 ACP. It was my way of saying that I was prepared to defend my country. [. . . .] With all the news of Islamofascist attacks, one would be a fool to not be prepared to defend oneself, their family, and their country.

And when Osama dispatches a team of terrorists to crash a plane into your suburban Peoria home, you can rush into the front yard and shoot it out of the sky with your pistol.

Keeping a gun in one's home to defend against a possible intruder is reasonable. Someone who carries a sidearm in order to defend his country against terrorists is a buffoon.

Conrad,

Actually, I'd say the person who thinks that terrorists have to stick with one play (hijacked airplanes) and can't expand into things like individual freelance attackers is the real buffoon.

Hey shapechanger,

"Also, there were more defensive use of guns against criminals (764,000) than crimes committed with firearms (691,000). This might be possible but it seems so absurd as to call into question the reliability of the studies. [emphasis added]"

That's a nice apriori way to do research! Perhaps you could explain why your intuitions lead to such a result, and why we're wiser to follow them then rely on actual interview with actual crime victims (and near-victims)?

Ed was right a shotgun with birdshot is best for home defense and a .38 revolver is fine for personal conceal carry. But for the shotgun, keep rounds of buckshot and slugs available for a Katrina type situation (the reason I bought my first weapon in flood prone Sacramento).

The revolver I want for my women - wife and adult daughter. Permit or no, I want them able to defend themselves when they are out on the streets, especially at night when the bad guys like to do their stuff.

The birdshot won't penetrate walls at home hurting anyone else, but will blast a considerable hole in a bad guy. The buckshot has shot the size of .22 bullets, hence the name, strong enough to kill a deer. A shotgun rifled slug is simply a monster round that will blow a gaping hole in a human. The army also uses them to open locks and doors in Iraq and such.

If you're buying a gun because you're AFRAID, a better way to address that fear may be through MARTIAL ARTS. KRAV MAGA especially, addresses how to deal with close quarter attacks in a very simple and direct manner. Also includes ways to deal with attacks by an armed attacker. Works for women, works for kids, you don't need to spend 3 years studying it to be effective. Learning it is also a great way to piss off terrorists, because it was developed by the Israelis.

From Gunshy: I suspect that the probablility that you or a loved one will suffer from a rare but regretable accident caused by your gun is much higher than the probability you will ever use of the gun to successfully defend yourself.

I contribute to the Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
http://claytoncramer.com/gundefenseblog/blogger.html and for every news account of an accidental shooting in the home, I find hundreds of stories about successful self-defense.

That study is ludicrous.

Has America's social situation really disintegrated so far that people believe that there is a significant chance they will need a gun for self-defence?

If Americans want to cut down on immigration, just advertise how many Americans so strongly believe that their life will be in danger in the near future that they have gone to the considerable effort to buy a gun to aid them in that fight.

#33 - Jenn:

Although she had some martial arts training when she was younger, we were unable to find a reasonable one for my paraplegic (100% wheelchair bound) daughter.

When she turned 18, we got her a 12ga. After some experimentation, we found it unsuitable for her with anything greater than light loads (recoil while sitting in the chair), so she now has a 20 ga (pump, of course).

For her long-term mental well-being* I hope that, should she need to use it, the sound of racking a round would be enough. For her short-term mental and physical well-being, I hope that she would not hesitate to use it if needed.

*I've known cops who, even though they thought they were mentally prepared, suffered mental problems after killing someone (including a 'Nam Marine vet). OTOH, the suffering would have been worse had they not done so.

You make a good point about training, and I agree with that point, but I challenge your analogy. In making the point that owning a gun makes you no more competent to handle a gun that owning a piano makes you a pianist, I think you plot the learning curve too high and too steeply. You cannot become licensed without some training, usually by an NRA certified inistructor. Its not all that extensive, but it is enough to get you started, and you should go to a range for about a half hour of shooting once a month. I would love to go to one of those schools that you mention (and hope to some day), but in the meanwhile, I am going to put the thing in my pocket and go to work. It doesn't take up as much rooom as a piano would, and I'm not thinking of Carnegie Hall.

Has America's social situation really disintegrated so far that people believe that there is a significant chance they will need a gun for self-defence?

Quite the opposite. Ammerica's social situation looks quite good compared to similar societies which have disarmed their citizens. Would you suggest that the presence of fire extinguishers in my house means that I live in terror of conflagreation?

The number one reason for an armed citizenry is to guard against tyranny. Sure, the prospect of tyranny in this country seems absurdly remote. But maybe that is because we have had the 2nd Amendment and an armed citizenry since the founding of this country.

The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do," Judge Kozinski noted. "But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed -- where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once."

http://realclearpolitics.com/Commentary/com-10_19_05_JS.html

In Europe, without our 2nd Amendment tradition, the ugly yet familiar spectre of tyranny is rising from the grave:

There is obviously a connection here: The less control the authorities have with Muslims, the more control they want to exercise over non-Muslims. As problems in Europe get worse, which they will, the EU will move in an increasingly repressive direction until it either becomes a true, totalitarian entity or falls apart.

http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/1199

With this purpose in mind, I would recommend these puppies:

http://www.springfield-armory.com/prod-rifles-m1a-stan.shtml

I, for one, think it is a duty for American citizens to have rifle skills. I'd like to see elective rifle training courses offered to students in our public high schools.

One additional benefit of offering rifle rifle training courses to high school students is it would help solve the "boy crisis" we are experiencing. Especially if certain academic qualifications had to be achieved in order to qualify for rifle training. What self-respecting, red-blooded, American male would not be willling to apply himself to his full abilities if doing so made him eligible for rifle training in the the final quarter of his senior year of high school?

My boys will be raise as riflemen. I would like to see America become, once again, a Nation of Riflemen.

http://www.thenationofriflemen.org/oldnor/

PS - I have no doubt that Floyd Landis was contemplating one of these M1A's just prior to his drug test!

If Americans want to cut down on immigration, just advertise how many Americans so strongly believe that their life will be in danger in the near future that they have gone to the considerable effort to buy a gun to aid them in that fight.

You have precisely the wrong end of the stick, there, Tom, which is one of the reasons AL cites as "symbolic."

What prospective immigrants should understand is that, first, if you come here you may possess and use effective means of self-protection, and, second, that many of us regard such possession as evidence of a willingness to participate rather than being a passive member of society. The reason Major Bill strapped on his .45 was not that he expected to need to shoot Osama. It was a sign to his neighbors (and a reminder to himself) that he is willing to participate, to aid, in the mutual self-defense pact that is a "society".

People who aren't willing to put up with that shouldn't come here, and if they're here they should leave. This is not a demand that people leave, but the fact that so many do not indicates that we have a lot of parasites and free riders masquerading as nose-in-the-air moral superiors.

Regards,
Ric

Ed said:
"1. If you're thinking about self-defense then do not purchase a handgun. A handgun is almost by definition inaccurate since a handgun's barrel is normally 6"-10" long."
Incorrect. Most pistols and revolvers have barrel lengths of 5" or shorter. Only "target" guns have barrels over 6", and those are almost never considered serious self-defense weapons.

"This requires much greater skill on the part of the shooter to actually hit the target and, more importantly, hit the target in a vital area. Additionally a handgun chambered for a powerful round, such as a .40 or .44 or .357 has a very good chance of the round penetrating through a wall, or several walls, and striking an innocent person.

Instead buy a pump-action shotgun.

The longer barrel length makes it more accurate for a shooter that doesn't shoot a great deal. Using a shotgun is, IMHO, much more intuitive than properly handling a pistol and best of all the sound of a pump-action 12ga shotgun chambering a fresh round is absolutely distinctive. There is no other sound like it and hearing that sound informs anyone and everyone in the immediate area that stopping and standing very still is a very good idea. Either that or running like hell.

Plus a shotgun is unlikely to be a substantial danger to anyone living in adjacent houses or walking the sidewalk."

DANGEROUSLY INCORRECT: Anything other than birdshot, which will NOT reliably produce a wound that will stop a human attacker--won't even get past the ribs normally--WILL penetrate sheetrock.

http://www.theboxotruth.com/docs/bot3.htm

Having an instant-access handgun safe will keep it in eazy reach of the wife and myself and the bugular will not get it. About $120 plus an hour to install.
plus you can store other valuables in the safe.

To the comments on shotgun loads. Do not depend on bird shot for self defense. Bird shot does not penetrate past the breast bone into the chest cavity. For shotgun loads try #1 buck or #00 buck. For very interesting studies on effects of projectiles on walls and bodies see:
http://www.theboxotruth.com/index.htm

If you are angry and want to do something emotional and stupid, buy a paintball gun. It will hurt and scare the target, but will not be lethal. It is also easy to aim.

For self defense, load it with marbles. they are light weight, and work well at close range. 20 to 50 marbles at 300fps will stop anyone, even someone high.

Start the load with paintballs, then add marbles. That way you are not hesitant to fire. If you accidentally paint a friend that scares you, offer them a drink and apologize. After the 5th or 6th paintball, the marbles will come - you need to make you decision to stop firing before that.

It is half a joke, but for most home defense needs a paintball gun makes sense. 99% of what you will encounter will be a stray dog, a curious squirrel, or a visiting rat. Paintball guns are easy to get good with, and you'll be a good shot after $30 and an afternoon in the backyard.

If you think your life is in imminent danger and desparately need a real gun, seek help. Move. Get a restraining order. Don't get a gun unless you are ready to kill someone, because that is what is going to happen.

Thanks, I needed that. I dont usually require approval for my actions but your comments do support my feelings well.

I was trained with hunting guns in my youth. I never cared about them. I dont care about them or any firearm today. But I did try to join the NRA a couple of times.

However, absolutely NOTHING comes between me and a constiutional right to own and bear. I have arranged with friends that should militia action be required they would have a gun on hand for me.

You are correct. If you are not willing to treat a gun at least as well as you treat your dog then you should not own the gun.

roy in nipomo (#36) -

Totally off-topic, you've just reminded me that I need to make my quarterly pilgrimage to Jocko's...

And on-topic, you may want to consider an autoloading 12ga if recoil is the issue; the Benelli wonder-gun is neat, but prone to malfunctions, while a Remington 1187 is a truly neat shotgun.

A.L.

Mike Rentner Unless you're going to have your single handgun on your person 24/7/365, get a gun safe for it and use it.

Remember, Sterling Firearms was bankrupted by the lawsuit after a baby-sitter's boyfriend, who wasn't even supposed to be in the house with her, shot a child while playing with the homeowner's gun.

If people put 1/10 the importance on their responsibility in voting as they do with handguns our country would be a better place.

And btw... I swapped my Mossberg shotgun for an S&W .357 for home protection for the very reason that it CAN shoot through doors and walls reliably. Plus if I do need to drop someone at 50 yards I can do that too.

It's too big to carry though. I've got a little Sig .380 as a carry weapon.

As for the safety issue the deterrent factor that the homeowner may be armed is highly valuable... banning guns in a community is a free pass invitation for the criminals to abuse anyone who abides by such a stupid law.

And, yes, to clarify my statement:

"If people put 1/10 the importance on their responsibility in voting as they do with handguns our country would be a better place."

I'm echoing that people ignorant of firearms shouldn't use the just like people ignorant or misinformed about the candidates, economics, current events and history should not vote.

43 posts and the thread hasn't degenerated into mere name-calling yet. Very good. Some obvious observations -

13 - "If you cannot find it within yourself to actually shoot someone, then it would be better to not own a gun and purchase some non-lethal device."

Except that the available data indicate that the substantial majority of defenses, even successful ones, don't involve the gun being fired. So whether the gun is even loaded (let alone whether the wielder is willing to shoot, or capable of hitting the target) may not be a decisive factor.

Rule One of gunfighting - have a gun. Everything else is secondary at best.

15 - "When the second plane hit the World Trade Center the first thing I did was strap on my .45 ACP. It was my way of saying that I was prepared to defend my country."

I know the feeling. To this day my trigger finger itches whenever I see those action photos of the WTC.

26 - "I found three relevant statistics in the web site" et seq.

There are multiple books on this very subject. Start with Kates, or Kleck, or Rossi & Wright. None are "gun cranks" and may fit your criterion for "unbiased researchers". A quick once-over via Google can't possibly do justice to the mountains of available data.

28 - "If I was an American, I would buy a gun just as part of what being American means, because it was my choice and it's good to make such choices for yourself. I'm not sure that counts as a 'proper' reason for owning a gun."

It's not only a proper reason, it's perhaps the best reason. A good American exercises initiative and does it with some sense of personal responsibility.

29 - "Someone who carries a sidearm in order to defend his country against terrorists is a buffoon."

Conrad is being childish and unimaginative. He could say the same thing about military or police personnel - should they all disarm?

After the dust settles somewhat I believe we'll see that most terrorist attacks will have been on theatres, office buildings, sports arenas, and such. Airdrops of pathogens, poisons in water supplies, and bombings of major buildings will have been relatively rare, and best handled by the military or by law enforcement. How would New Yorkers handle a simple problem like a Moscow-style attack in the theatre district? By demanding that the management post a single armed rent-a-cop at the back door? Terrorists attack the weak and helpless. Rendering oneself weak and helpless is therefore no deterrent.

"And when Osama dispatches a team of terrorists to crash a plane into your suburban Peoria home, you can rush into the front yard and shoot it out of the sky with your pistol."

The hijackings were possible in the first place because of the government's mania for disarming everyone - passengers and aircrew - on commercial flights. Make something a weak point, and that's where the attacks will occur. Postulating that terrorists aren't stupid, they will be aware of the highly-publicized fact that certain places - like schools and airplanes - are "gun-free zones" and therefore easily attacked.

For some good commentary on gunshy's original supposition go to ChuBlogga!'s blog (he is with blogspot so I can't give a link).

Google up "Gun Facts" for some very interesting information on gun myths vs. realities.

Good advice, and not so good advice. But I'm glad the topic has come up.

Armed Liberal advises: "First, go sleep on it. Owning a gun is, more than anything, a responsibility (one this too many people take far too lightly). You are responsible for the gun 24/7; are you prepared for that? Owning a gun doesn't intrinsically make you safer; Jeff Cooper famously said that 'owning a gun doesn't make you a shooter any more than owning a piano makes you a musician'."

As I recall, the quote goes more: "Owning a gun doesn't make you armed..." - a subtle but pertinent point. Even shooters aren't necessarily "armed" when it comes to the mindset necessary to defend oneself or others. A lot of people are "shooters" - and keep their trap & skeet shotguns or target pistols locked up in safes at home. They own guns, but are not "armed."

There's a lot of advice in this comment thread - some of it good, most of it not. If you read Dr. Shackelford's declaration and said to yourself, "He's right, I should too," then avail yourself of one of the blogosphere's myriad useful features, the gunbloggers. There's 107 of us at last count. Most of us are reachable by email and we're happy to answer questions. Or, if you're interested in the idea, but unsure for certain you want to go the distance and buy a gun, check out this list of people who will give introductory instruction - free of charge, using our own firearms and ammunition. We're all over the country.

Now, on to some of the more excellent to egregious comments.

Comment #1 from Gunshy has already been handled ably by others. My comment: Do some research. You'd be surprised.

Comment #13 from ed: While it's true that handguns are not particularly effective weapons at dropping an assailant at one shot, most defensive shootings occur at ranges of 21' (yes, feet) or less. A 4" barrelled revolver is adequately accurate at that range, if the operator does his job properly. At 21' or less, it is quite possible that an assailant can cover the distance to the defender rapidly enough to get inside the swing of the barrel of a shotgun, rendering it ineffective. But even a .38 snubbie works quite well if it's pressed against flesh. Handguns are useful. So are shotguns. But they are not interchangeable. Handguns are more convenient. That's why cops don't carry their riot guns while writing traffic tickets.

Comment #20 from celebrim: Bravo, sir! I've archived that one.

Comment #26 from blabberjabber: Again, skillfully handled by others. The lowest number of self-defense incidents I've ever seen came from a Bureau of Justice Statistics study. It was 168,000 defensive gun uses annually. That's 460 a day. How many does there need to be to make gun ownership justifiable?

Comment #28 from David Blue: Thank you for your sentiment. I feel for you.

Comment #29 from Conrad, who wrote: "Someone who carries a sidearm in order to defend his country against terrorists is a buffoon." Tell that to the victims of the shooter in Seattle. The only one armed there was the terrorist. (And yes, he was a terrorist. Why do you think he shot only women?)

Comment #41 from Ric Locke: Hear hear! Absolutely correct - and completely ignored by those unwilling to "to participate rather than being a passive member of society."

Comment #45 from hmmmm, who wrote: "If you think your life is in imminent danger and desparately need a real gun, seek help. Move. Get a restraining order. Don't get a gun unless you are ready to kill someone, because that is what is going to happen." I suggest you read the blog of Zendo Deb at wheelgun.bl*gspot.com. Her specialty is citing story after story of people who have done all that you suggest - and still end up dead. She also covers stories that turn out somewhat better - when a defender is armed.

And if you're interested in further commentary on gun ownership and personal responsibility, I invite you to my blog, The Smallest Minority, at smallestminority.bl*gspot.com.

First, I don't agree that you have to be prepared to kill somebody to use a handgun as a defense. As Kleck points out, simply brandishing a gun ends a confrontation with criminals in the overwhelming number of the cases. Only a few percent of gun defenses require shots fired. I can tell you from personal experience that brandishing a .357 is enough to end a crime in progress.

I was asleep in bed one morning when I was awakened by women screaming. I woke up, grabbed the .357 by my bed, looked out the window to find two women treed in the landing opposite my apartment by a dark van. I turned on the light, the women looked over, the van brake lights came on. There was a pregnant pause, then the van drove on. When I ran down to the street, the women ran right to me, the guy with the gun. The police were there fast, in five minutes. However, by that time the women could have been in the van speeding down the highway. Maybe months or years later there would have been a sad headline that their clothes and bones were found wrapped around a fenceline in the country.

That's how most gun defenses work. Merely brandishing a weapon ends the confrontation because most criminals are opportunists who do their crimes when circumstances favor them. They flee when circumstances change.

While I own a shotgun, I'm not convinced it's a particularly good self-defense weapon. It's too cumbersome to wield indoors. It's longer range is not particularly helpful because you're not going to shoot somebody fifty yards away. The approved solution at that distance is to break off the engagement, leave. Most gunfights happen close, six feet or less. A shotgun is a liability in such a close fight. However, the previous poster makes a good point that handguns tend to overpenetrate walls while shotguns do not.

Tantor

Damn, I screwed up the links.

The Gunbloggers

Introductory shooting instructors

A gun is a lethal weapon. Brandishing may disarm an attacker, but it is a signal of intent to kill. If one is not prepared to kill; don't brandish, don't own. Wounding is for TV and comic books. Shooting away the opponent's weapon happens in fiction.

To be an owner is to be a serious and responsible owner. Nobody can recall a bullet once it leaves the chamber. There are no "Take Backs" or "Do Overs".

AndyJ - exactly correct.

Kevin Baker - thanks for the correction on the Cooper quote, and for the link to the blogger-instructors. Send me a note offline, that sounds like a useful thing to do.

A.L.

@#29:

Yes and no.

Yes: sick fantasies of wiping out an attack by 27 terrorist ninjas? Yup, somethig's very wrong with that.

No: I am a totally unremarkable person who has met an honest-to-God terrorist, and a lobbyist for same (at a part-time job, for pete's sake).
I thought a lot like you do, until I met them, and had the opportunity to sit at a table drinking coffee with Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians in '96. Fact is, if you haven't been keeping score lately, it's the civilians who have been getting piled on the body count in the late-20th and early-21st centuries. Military casualties don't even begin to come close.

So far in my life I have used a High Standard .20gauge pump to convince a young man who knocked on my door at 1:00am whilst 4 of us were playing cards and drinking that it was unwise to collect for United Way at that hour. As soon as he heard the pump operate he knew exactly which sound followed that extremely distinguishable sound...BOOOM. Apparently he didn't need to collect for United Way so bad since he departed post haste.

Then just recently when my wife called me at work announcing that a stalker who had been hassling her for over 6 years was in our front yard. I rushed home and cleared my backyard with my Springfield .45 GI Stainless. It is worth noting that I beat the police to my house and apparently flushed the bad guy out into the street where he was seen and eventually caught by our police force. For the next few weeks I slept on the couch with my children and wife in the master bedroom. My .45 was within reach (under the cushion) just in case mister badguy lost control. The entire story is outlined here...
Stalker-0 Armed Husband-1 Wifey happy with the investment in my .45 and all the training!

My wife now knows how to shoot my .45 as well as i do and can load the .20 almost as fast as I can.

You can have my arms when you pry them ....

#56 AndyJ

Actually, I've seen the video of a police sniper shooting away a pistol from the suspect's hand.

However, it is clear that it can happen only in rather particular circumstances.

I just read where swimming pools are more dangerous than guns. Thank the Maker you don't need a permit to carry a pool with you for protection.

I might note that the #1 incentive for gun crimes is prohibition.

Say haven't we done that before? Well never mind, that was then this is now.

Uh OH, 666333 again. We are up to 10^29. Or geater.

Did some one write some special code just for me?

Or am I the dearly beloved of some spirit or force? LOL

When I was a kid in the 50s our Jewish Community center had target training for any one who signed up.

We used BB guns.

That was back in the day when Jews remembered they had enemies and weren't afraid to refend themselves.

If I was to propose something like that now all I would get is a screaming match.

I have recently become an NRA instructor for rifle and shotgun.

A couple of points regarding shotguns. When teaching shotgun shooting, the NRA recommends using a 12 gauge semi-automatic. Two really import reasons are simple:
12 gauge has a lot more pellets than smaller gauges and consequently, kids start hitting a lot sooner.
The semi-auto mechanism reduces the felt recoil making it easier to shoot enough to become proficient.

I have taught 3 of my kids using a 20 gauge pump. It's okay, but I'm now starting on a younger boy and am switching to the 12 gauge semi-auto. The recoil actually feels lighter to me and it's definitely easier to hit the clays.

While my comments have been primarily about sporting use, I believe that it is pretty clear how they would apply to home defense training and application.

#54 - While it is true that most of the times that a firearms is used for self defense no shots are fired, it is VERY important to be prepared to use it if need be.

The reason that no shots are usually fired is because the criminal is usually not crazy and when he becomes aware that the target is armed he flees or in some cases surrenders.

However, if you bring a firearm into the situation and the criminal does not immediatly flee or surrender you have to be prepared to use the firearm at once. If you don't, the criminal is likely to either use their own weapon or yours against you. You need to have thought this through before the altercation or you may just freeze up. A self defense situation which tends to be fast, violent, and extreemly stressful is not the time to suddenly realize that you might actually have to shoot someone with your gun and figure out how to deal with that.

I teach Personal Protection classes. Mental preperation is an important part of being able to defend yourself with deadly force. That same mental preperation may make it possible for you to avoid having to use deadly force by being more aware of what is going on around you and having a plan to deal with the sorts of problems you might run into.

I am pleased to note that the vast majority of the readers that commented on my remarks (see #15) had no difficulty understanding what I was saying.

Thank you for your kind words and support.

Sincerely,

Major Bill

Oh and it is worth noting that I did Judo for 14 years won various tournements including the Southern AAU tournement and YMCA National Championships. Advocating self defense for women instead of teaching them to use weapons is dangerous. Self Defense is a supplament not a substitute for a .45.

I taught self defense for several years to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff Department in the Greater New Orleans area. It is simply a false hope to believe that a woman will prevail in an encounter with only months of training. With years it is possible unless the man in overwhelmingly large.

Just some thoughts...

Paul,

You cannot become licensed without some training

That depends on where you're talking about. Here in Washington State (home of one of the oldest shall-issue CCW laws in the nation) there's absolutely no training requirement whatsoever.

Now, I certainly wouldn't advocate obtaining a permit and carrying without some training and ongoing practice, not at all. But it turns out that when the state simply allows citizens to make their own judgements about what kind of training they need, and how much, it works out just as well as when the state dictates all the details. I base this on the fact that our rate of criminal acts by permit holders, and license revocations, is about as low as it is anywhere else. (Those rates are quite low everywhere.)

Or to put it more briefly, the state trusts those citizens who have a clean criminal record to be responsible, and by and large we are. Quelle surprise!

"unequivocally" is a better word than "unqualifiedly".

I'm surprised someone hasn't brought this up yet:
DEA Agent shoots self in foot (video footage)

Even the qualified can have accidents with guns. Please be careful.

I live in San Francisco. Is it even possible to keep legally a gun in my home anymore? A law passed banning home possession. A court case reached a result in at least one level of state court. But I haven't followed this closely enough to know. Can anyone comment please?

The San Francisco handgun ban was defeated in court after the eeeeevil National Rifle Association sued.

Neither San Francisco nor any other city can have firearms laws more restrictive than the State legislature passes.

And they haven't passed a statewide handgun ban in Sacramento.

Yet. (But I'm sure they'd love to.)

Kevin
http://smallestminority.bl*gspot.com

"Keeping a gun in one's home to defend against a possible intruder is reasonable. Someone who carries a sidearm in order to defend his country against terrorists is a buffoon.

Not too long ago Naveed Afzal Haq broke into a hall where a Jewish charity was meeting, and held the assembled group hostage, killing one woman and wounding four others while claiming "These are Jews and I'm tired of getting pushed around and our people getting pushed around by the situation in the Middle East."

I'd call him a terrorist. And if one person there had been armed and skilled in the use of arms, one of those women might be alive today.

As other commentators have already stated, if you rely on a lethal weapon for protection, you have to be ready and willing to actually use it on an assailant.

I would add that you also have to be prepared to defend your actions in court afterward. Reasonable self-defense laws or no, there's always the off-chance that the prosecutor(s) in your jurisdiction will second-guess your use of the weapon, or that a relative of the assailant will sue you for wrongful death, either as a shakedown or simply out of revenge.

Joshua - Excellent points.

One rule of thumb that I've heard is that it will cost you $50,000 to pull the trigger, even if you're fully justified in doing so because of immeidate threat.

It's a useful thing to think about when people contemplate use of deadly force against someone stealing a car stereo.

I'll also point out that none of the people I know who have actually shot anyone would consider doing it as anything except a final resort to save their own or someone else's life. You can replace a lot of stuff for $50,000.

A.L.

Sounds like yet another good reason for adopting a "loser pays" system for attorney's fees.

I've posted before that I don't really like guns, would like to see some kindof registration/required gun class before ownership, but don't really beleive in taking away guns. To this conversation, I add two personell stories:

1) At my highschool two brother were playing with gun their father had hidden in the bedroom. Loading the gun, unloading the gun, pretending to shoot eachother. It was a semi-auto, and a bullet was left in the chamber, and one of the brothers was accidently shot, killing him instantly.

I didn't know either of them, probably would not have liked either of them (they were both troublemakers), but the impact on my school was devastating. It seemed like the whole school turned a shade of gray overnight. I think this sort of scenario absolutely reinforces my idea that the gun be placed where children cannot reach it without adult supervision.

2)15 - "When the second plane hit the World Trade Center the first thing I did was strap on my .45 ACP. It was my way of saying that I was prepared to defend my country."

In phoenix, a Lebanese-descendent was shot outside of the mobil gas station he owned because the shooter beleived he might be a terrorist. As the shooter was arrested, he was heard yelling "I stand for america all the way."

There are other incidents of this misidentification here, although they are rare and some of which have since been disproven. I would never expect someone on WOC to make that mistake, however, there are a lot of stupid people out there, and the I don't particularly like the idea of them being armed.

The prospect of armed stupid people seeme less troubling than any possible Federal Bureau to Identify and Restrict Stupid People.

I recently got a very sturdy and heavy 14-gun safe (I hope to add to my collection) and a GLOCK 27. It's a start. I don't have fast access to the gun at this time (it's in the combination-lock safe in the basement, I'm upstairs). For now, the best I can do is a Ka-Bar knife behind the socks for a sudden situation. I would like one of those fast access small safes. I'd like a lot of things. Oh well. I have young kids at home and I think my setup is very safe as far as locking things up, but it could be better from a defensive angle. Any ideas?

"I think this sort of scenario absolutely reinforces my idea that the gun be placed where children cannot reach it without adult supervision."

This is an opinion I find typical of people who didn't grow up with guns. Growing up, there were guns under beds, guns in closets, and guns in the dresser. I knew where they were. They weren't hidden. I'd in fact been shown where they all were when I was about four. I never once thought to pull one out and play with them, much less take one to school and shoot a bully with it.

The story you relate is about two children for which guns were mystic artifacts of power, incomprehensible, but utterly cool. They'd probably never fired the weapon, never really been taught about the weapon, just told 'Don't play with guns' (if that).

It's impossible for me to imagine playing 'shoot each other' with my brother with a real gun. For as long as I can remember, I knew what a gun did. It busted things up. It killed things dead. It would never occur to me and never did occur to me, that such a thing was a toy.

Guns and kids don't mix when you've got a kid in a household with no discpline and little to no positive relationship with the parent. Guns and kids don't mix when you've a household that doesn't teach respect for guns. But that's a problem with the parents and not with the guns.

Dillon Klebold and Eric Harris are typical cases. There parents seemed to know nothing about thier life. Even after they had been convicted of criminal tresspassing and theft, apparently no alarm bells went off, no real investigation of thier lives took place. Warning sign after warning sign went by apparantly sparking no interest what so ever from the parents.

You said the too boys were troublemakers. What kind of relationship with thier parents do you imagine that they had?

My experience with this debate is that both sides have the same evidence and yet walk away with entirely different conclusions. For example, in a communications classes in college I was forced to take, the final oral presentation from one student was about gun control. In it, she related a story about how she had been nearly the victim of a car jacking. She related how when the criminal had pointed the gun at her head, she realized that he had at that point nearly complete power over her, and how at that momment she lost all of her freedom. From this she concluded that guns must be made illegal, whereas I conclude something rather different.

You hear a story about an apparantly troubled kid accidently shooting his brother, and you conclude that the problem in this story was that the gun was not secured well enough. I conclude something very different, and suggest - knowing what I know of kids - that there is no physical barrier which would secure firearms from a determined youth. Sooner or latter they will figure out the combination, sneak the key to the gun cabinet, or - as Klebold and Dillan did - read anti-gun literature in order to figure out how to evade the law and obtain guns sureptitiously.

One of the many ironies of Columbine is that pamplets intended to encourage people to fear guns, became how to guides for criminals. The son of a leading local anti-gun activists, was one of the primary sources of thier illegal weapons. For my part, I can think of no better way to ensure that my children would one day sneak out daddy's gun and play with it, than locking it up someplace , making it mysterious, and making the some total of my instruction on this mysterious object to forbid it. The last thing I want is for my kids only exposure to a gun to be through the movies.

Fair enough. This isn't a prime situation where only the gun is at fault. Obviously, there were family problems (and lack of familiarity with how to handle dangerous weapons) that led into this problem.
Still, I don't want a gun, don't ever feel the need to own a gun, and although some day I may go to a firing range or hunting with someone knowledge just for the experience, would never think to get one for my own use. I really just don't feel threatened enough to need one.
(Tangent)
If you figure you live in a big city, let's say New York. In 2004, per 10,000 people, there were 688 violent crimes, (including rapes (18), murder (8), agg. assault (360), and robbery (300) . Now if we look at general trends, let's say ~30% of those crimes were committed by a victim acquaintances. These leaves the chance that you will be victimized in any given year at about 400 non-acquainted victims per 10,000 people, or about a 4.5% chance of being attacked. The odds of being murdered or raped are about 0.25%. I would accept that you are more likely that a gun will be used against an attacker than against a family member... but what are the odds that either will happen?

I don't really have a point here... just making conversation

Re: shotguns. Two words: rock salt.

Doesn't kill, but apparently hurt like m---f---g hell. My wife has a story about a couple women she knew who lived in a remote area and were being bothered by a peeping tom. The police said they couldn't do anything, and the security fears escalated. Finally, they had enough - and one non-lethal blast from a shotgun loaded with rock salt permanently discouraged the creep without making a mess.

No, Joe, rock salt isn't a reliable non-lethal projectile. Get a bit too close, and your target will be sorry--and so will you, after you hear from the prosecutor's office.

If you (or someone you're with) is really at risk of being killed or injured, you're justified in using lethal force--unless you started the fight. If you're not at that much risk, then the gun simply shouldn't come out.

Terminal ballistics is a messy, difficult area to slog into, so, I can understand why there is little good information in this comment thread. Let me just deal with one caliber. In the 9mm Parabellum, I can load the 115 grain FMJ round with a "standard" charge and the bullet might penetrate half way through a four inch piece of lumber. If I use 147 grain "Golden Sabre" rounds by Remington, the round will cut through a five inch piece of wood, and I don't know where it stops. Same Glock pistol, totally different results.

How an individual bullet is designed has immense effect on how it performs. A .308 round might have a tiny hollow point on a very tapered nose and a "boattail" rear emd, weighing only 90 grains, being designed to fly hundreds of yards with the best aerodynamic characteristics. But a .308 round loaded for a Winchester 30-30 might weigh 200 grains or more, designed to work best at only 150 to 200 yards at the most.
A .22 magnum from a high performance target rifle will produce totally different results from a four inch barrel revolver.
I can shoot a Glock 17 and print 8 rounds in under 2 inches from 35 feet, in under 15 seconds, amd I'm just an average shooter. I've also tried to simulate "under stress" shooting and my accuracy drops by about 40%. But that means that if you are taking a hostage and I'm only twenty feet away from you, and I can see your full forehead, I'm going to kill you.

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