Better Late than Never

Via Joe Huffman, a London Sunday Herald op-ed that I found quite surprising. I’m going to copy the whole thing here for archival purposes without comment. (Yes, I know. Unusual for me.)

Dunblane made us all think about gun control … so what went wrong?
By Ian Bell

ALMOST 11 years now. Kids grow up, life changes, leaves rot on the branch, and all memories decay. Stuff happens. Almost 11 years ago, on the morning after, I told myself that I had sworn off the vampire habit. You know the sort of thing. Something vast and terrible and inexplicable happens. The journalist dusts down his purple prose and sets out, consciously and deliberately, to feel everyone’s pain. Inexcusable, really.

For example: they gave me a prize for Dunblane. To this day, I have never understood why I am the only person I know who finds the fact unsettling. WH Auden, born a century ago last week, said famously that poetry makes nothing happen. He should have tried journalism.

Facts: In mid-March of 1996 Thomas Hamilton, 43, warped, morally crippled, dead in his soul, certainly disgusting, the suicide-in-waiting who should have done us all a favour in the privacy of his own nightmare, went into the precincts of Dunblane primary, and into the gym class, with all his precious sex-toy handguns.

He killed 16 infants, then their teacher, then himself. He accomplished all this with four weapons, in three short minutes. Lots of official things – never adequately explained, for my money – had gone wrong before the event. Somehow that ceased to be the point. Half the world was staggered, but Scotland went into a state of near-clinical shock. The human ability even to begin to pretend to comprehend was defeated.

All over the country, people did irrational things, knowing them to be irrational. They turned up at schools, 100 miles from the scene, just to convince themselves that their own infants were safe. They called home from work, or called people at work, simply to prove that sanity still prevailed. Many could not face the idea of the working day. Strangers in the street, caught unawares by the news, were in tears. If you happen to be too young to remember, trust this: I’m not making it up.

Explanation and analysis, journalism’s default responses, were worse than pointless. Those rituals, too, seemed insulting. Joining the world’s media on the streets of Dunblane to ask people “how they felt” was worse than ghoulish: I refused that request. To their credit, nobody pressed the point. There was still the usual column to be written, however.

In fact, over the days and weeks that followed, there was more than one. I allowed myself two simple, possibly simplistic, strategies. First, I was not ever going to attempt to “explain” Hamilton: the bereaved deserved better. Secondly, in my small way, I was going to take on anyone who failed to support the banning of handguns.

There was a lot of American comment, predictably, and much of it abusive. The clichés appeared as if by return of post. “Guns don’t kill people,” they wrote. “People kill people.” So why – this struck me almost as the definition of self-evident – did Thomas Hamilton feel a need for four of the damnable things?

Then the Duke of Edinburgh, and the field sports people, and the target shooters entered the fray. The royal consort, with his usual sensitivity, expressed the view that things were getting out of hand, and that a more considered response was required. I can clobber royals in my sleep.

The most troubling questions came, instead, from those who answered my simplicities with one of their own. They didn’t oppose a ban, as such. They merely wanted to know why I was so sure that legislation would work.

That seemed obvious. It even seemed faintly stupid to think otherwise. No guns, no gun-killings. Remove the threat: wasn’t that one of the jobs of government?

Sceptics were more subtle than I allowed. What they meant was that it is easy to impose laws on the law-abiding. Criminals, by definition, don’t take much interest in well-meaning legislation. If they chose to arm themselves while the rest of society was, in effect, disarming, outraged newspaper commentators and their quick fixes might merely make matters worse.

I’m still not convinced, or not entirely. A rueful young man in Los Angeles told me once that his city boasted more cars than people, and more guns than cars. “Current population?” he added. “Eleven million, give or take.” To him, the notion of a country patrolled by unarmed police officers was a kind of fantastic dream. To him, equally, the fact that nice kids could lay hands on the family pistol – bought for “self-defence” – and die while simply messing around in the back yard was not an example to be envied, or copied.

“You know what guns do?” he asked. “They go off. You know what guns are for? To kill. That’s their purpose. Only the rhetoric is harmless.”

Back then, I believed every word. America had, and has, too many of the instruments that Thomas Hamilton found so alluring. Yet almost 11 years on, what do I read, and what do I say?

I read of three London teenagers murdered in the space of 11 days. I read of firearms “incidents” spreading like an epidemic across our cities. I read of Tony Blair holding a Downing Street summit on a crisis that seems – call me naive – a greater threat to many communities than any terrorism.

What I say then becomes obvious: my idea didn’t work. In fact, I begin to thread certain fears together, like links in a chain. Here’s one: if even London teenagers can provide themselves with the means to kill 15-year-old Billy Cox in his bedroom, guns have become commonplace, so commonplace that every would-be terrorist worth his salt must be armed to the teeth. Bans have failed utterly.

That’s a nightmare for another day, however. We can worry about what might happen after we think of what is actually happening.

David Cameron’s Tories argue the issue is societal, a problem of parenting and family breakdown. John Reid, home secretary, speaks of people “working together” for a gun-free world while he hints at new laws. Menzies Campbell, of the Liberals, says we need more and more effective policing.

Each of these opinions may have some value. I’d like to think so. Yet why do they sound like the words of men who have only the faintest idea of what life might be like in Harlesden or Moss Side? It is entirely proper to talk of youths who have become detached from society. You may, however, need to qualify the statement with a question: who is detached from whom?

A weapons fetish escalates for a fairly obvious reason. Many things may have changed since my working-class youth, but I am certain that one piece of logic persists. If he is armed, you had better be armed too. Knives become swords, swords become pistols. Status, respect and “security” follow. If you live. Having a father in the household, or access to a youth club, or hopes of a decent education can seem minor, by comparison, on a dark Saturday night.

Saying so solves nothing, obviously. Perhaps journalists, far less politicians, should make that confession now and then. We could all demand a better world – preferably by tomorrow lunchtime – but always bear our fallibility in mind. It goes back to the question I refused to attempt almost 11 years ago. If I could not explain Thomas Hamilton any more than I can explain the killers of Billy Cox, perhaps I have nothing useful to say about anyone’s desire to kill.

I can guess, for all that, that there is something unreasonable, even bizarre, about declaring a youth crisis if teenagers are simply as we have made them. It’s Tony Blair’s fault, if you like. It’s my doing, if you prefer. It’s schools, or a lack of discipline, or insufficient policing, or new sets of laws, or just society.

If that last word still means anything, however, then we are all, in fact, culpable. Who turned Thomas Hamilton into a beast? God isn’t talking. That leaves the rest of us. I cling, nevertheless, to one near-instinctive conclusion from 11 years ago. Guns breed guns. When they enter a society they multiply like a pestilence.

Let’s concede that all the bans have failed. That doesn’t mean we should also fail to ask a practical question. Britain has become a security state in recent years. Nobody strolls unmolested through customs these days. There are terrorist suspects, so they say, at every turn. So why, precisely, are handguns still getting into this country?

OK, one comment: Why are they getting into the country? Simple economics. Suppy and Demand. Same reason illicit drugs are getting in.

He doesn’t quite get it, but at least he’s finally asking the right questions.

And Now for Your Amusement: Deer Roping!

Stolen Taken from the Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries, & Parks message board, via Deer Camp Blog:

I had this idea that I was going to rope a deer, put it in a stall, feed it up on corn for a couple of weeks, then kill it and eat it. The first step in this adventure was getting a deer. I figured that since they congregated at my cattle feeder and do not seem to have much fear of me when we are there (a bold one will sometimes come right up and sniff at the bags of feed while I am in the back of the truck not 4 feet away) that it should not be difficult to rope one, get up to it and toss a bag over its head (to calm it down) then hog tie it and transport it home.

I filled the cattle feeder then hid down at the end with my rope. The cattle, who had seen the roping thing before, stayed well back. They were not having any of it. After about 20 minutes my deer showed up. 3 of them. I picked out a likely looking one, stepped out from the end of the feeder, and threw my rope. The deer just stood there and stared at me. I wrapped the rope around my waist and twisted the end so I would have a good hold. The deer still just stood and stared at me, but you could tell it was mildly concerned about the whole rope situation. I took a step towards it. It took a step away. I put a little tension on the rope and received an education.

The first thing that I learned is that while a deer may just stand there looking at you funny while you rope it, they are spurred to action when you start pulling on that rope. That deer EXPLODED.

The second thing I learned is that pound for pound, a deer is a LOT stronger than a cow or a colt. A cow or a colt in that weight range I could fight down with a rope with some dignity. A deer, no chance. That thing ran and bucked and twisted and pulled. There was no controlling it and certainly no getting close to it. As it jerked me off my feet and started dragging me across the ground, it occurred to me that having a deer on a rope was not nearly as good an idea as I originally imagined. The only up side is that they do not have as much stamina as many animals. A brief 10 minutes later, it was tired and not nearly as quick to jerk me off my feet and drag me when I managed to get up. It took me a few minutes to realize this, since I was mostly blinded by the blood flowing out of the big gash in my head.

At that point I had lost my taste for corn fed venison. I just wanted to get that devil creature off the end of that rope. I figured if I just let it go with the rope hanging around its neck, it would likely die slow and painfully somewhere. At the time, there was no love at all between me and that deer. At that moment, I hated the thing and I would venture a guess that the feeling was mutual. Despite the gash in my head and the several large knots where I had cleverly arrested the deer’s momentum by bracing my head against various large rocks as it dragged me across the ground, I could still think clearly enough to recognize that there was a small chance that I shared some tiny amount of responsibility for the situation we were in, so I didn’t want the deer to have to suffer a slow death. I managed to get it lined up to back in between my truck and the feeder, a little trap I had set beforehand. Kind of like a squeeze chute. I got it to back in there and started moving up so I could get my rope back.

Did you know that deer bite? They do! I never in a million years would have thought that a deer would bite somebody so I was very surprised when I reached up there to grab that rope and the deer grabbed hold of my wrist. Now, when a deer bites you, it is not like being bit by a horse where they just bite you and then let go. A deer bites you and shakes its head.almost like a pit bull. They bite HARD and it hurts. The proper thing to do when a deer bites you is probably to freeze and draw back slowly. I tried screaming and shaking instead. My method was ineffective. It seems like the deer was biting and shaking for several minutes, but it was likely only several seconds. I, being smarter than a deer (though you may be questioning that claim by now) tricked it. While I kept it busy tearing the bejesus out of my right arm, I reached up with my left hand and pulled that rope loose.

That was when I got my final lesson in deer behavior for the day.
Deer will strike at you with their front feet. They rear right up on their back feet and strike right about head and shoulder level, and their hooves are surprisingly sharp. I learned a long time ago that when an animal like a horse strikes at you with their hooves and you can’t get away easily, the best thing to do is try to make a loud noise and make an aggressive move towards the animal. This will usually cause them to back down a bit so you can escape. This was not a horse. This was a deer, so obviously such trickery would not work. In the course of a millisecond I devised a different strategy. I screamed like woman and tried to turn and run. The reason I had always been told NOT to try to turn and run from a horse that paws at you is that there is a good chance that it will hit you in the back of the head. Deer may not be so different from horses after all, besides being twice as strong and three times as evil, because the second I turned to run, it hit me right in the back of the head and knocked me down.

Now when a deer paws at you and knocks you down it does not immediately leave. I suspect it does not recognize that the danger has passed. What they do instead is paw your back and jump up and down on you while you are laying there crying like a little girl and covering your head. I finally managed to crawl under the truck and the deer went away.

Now for the local legend. I was pretty beat up. My scalp was split open, I had several large goose eggs, my wrist was bleeding pretty good and felt broken (it turned out to be just badly bruised) and my back was bleeding in a few places, though my insulated canvas jacket had protected me from most of the worst of it. I drove to the nearest place, which was the co-op. I got out of the truck, covered in blood and dust and looking likeheaven. The guy who ran the place saw me through the window and came running out yelling “what happened”

I have never seen any law in the state of Kansas that would prohibit an individual from roping a deer. I suspect that this is an area that they have overlooked entirely. Knowing, as I do, the lengths to which law enforcement personnel will go to exercise their power, I was concerned that they may find a way to twist the existing laws to paint my actions as criminal. I swear. Not wanting to admit that I had done something monumentally stupid played no part in my response. I told him “I was attacked by a deer.” I did not mention that at the time I had a rope on it. The evidence was all over my body. Deer prints on the back of my jacket where it had stomped all over me and a large deer print on my face where it had struck me there.

I asked him to call somebody to come get me. I didn’t think I could make it home on my own. He did.

Later that afternoon, a game warden showed up at my house and wanted to know about the deer attack. Surprisingly, deer attacks are a rare thing and wildlife and parks was interested in the event. I tried to describe the attack as completely and accurately as I could. I was filling the grain hopper and this deer came out of nowhere and just started kicking theheaven out of me and BIT me. It was obviously rabid or insane or something. EVERYBODY for miles around knows about the deer attack (the guy at the co-op has a big mouth). For several weeks people dragged their kids in the house when they saw deer around and the local ranchers carried rifles when they filled their feeders. I have told several people the story, but NEVER anybody around here. I have to see these people every day and as an outsider, a “city folk”, I have enough trouble fitting in without them snickering behind my back and whispering “there is the ding-butt that tried to rope the deer.”

Now that’s funny right there. I don’t care who you are!

Petzal Logic

I don’t know how accurate this is, but it’s the closest I’ve seen to date to the whole Field & Stream piece by David E. Petzal from 1994. Taken from a comment at Petzal’s last most recent blog post – read it and weep:

Field & Stream (West ed.), June 1994 v99 n2 p26(2)
Reveille. (gun control laws) David E. Petzal.
THE BUGLE CALL KNOWN AS REVEILLE IS A CHEERFUL, energetic tune that, when I was in the Army, few soldiers actually got to hear. The real reveille was something quite different; it consisted of the NCOIC (noncommissioned officer in charge) snapping on the overhead lights at 4:30 A.M. and slamming a sawed-off broom handle around the inside of a garbage can. That is about the least cheerful experience that you can have, but it wakes you up for fair, and brings you face to face with reality.
Real-world reveille came for gun owners this February in the form of a single sentence buried deep in the 1994 Federal Budget. On page 201 of that document, under the heading “Passing Effective Crime Control Legislation,” there is this sentence: “The administration also supports a ban on semiautomatic firearms; limitations on access to handguns by juveniles; and the creation of a crime control fund to pay for eligible crime control initiatives.”
The key phrase, the one that turns on the overhead lights and crashes the broom handle around in the GI can, is “a ban on semi-automatic firearms.” Not “assault weapons,” but semi-automatic firearms. All of them. It is simple English, and there is nothing else it can mean. It means all semi-autos.
It also means that the NRA has been right all along when it warned us that an “assault weapon” bill was only one of a series of steps in a much more ambitious plan to outlaw many types of firearms. If you would like to dismiss the NRA’s warning as paranoid and hysterical, you must ignore the fact that the White House has put us on notice: All semi-autos are going to go if the Clinton Administration has its way.
In January, President Clinton included the following in his State of the Union Address to Congress:
“Hunters must always be free to hunt. Law-abiding adults should always be free to own guns and protect their homes. I respect that part of our culture. I grew up in it. . . . But I want to ask the sportsmen and others to join us in this campaign to stop gun violence. I say to you: I know you didn’t create this problem, but we need your help to solve it. There is no sporting purpose on earth that should stop the United States Congress from banning assault weapons that out-gun police and cut down children.”
Will the real Clinton policy please stand up? Before Congress and the United States, the President said he wants to get rid of assault weapons. In the Federal Budget, it’s semi-automatic firearms. Which is the real agenda?
There are a couple of possibilities. One is that some overreaching functionary was confused by the terms “semi-automatic firearm” and “assault weapon” and assumed they were interchangeable. This is given support by Barry Toiv, a spokesman for the Office of Management and the Budget, who was quoted as follows in the March 14th edition of The Washington Times: “The language in the budget is a mistake. It made its way through without being fixed.”

A more likely scenario is somewhat simpler. The Administration wants to ban semi-automatic firearms, judged the political climate to be favorable, and decided to put its intent on the public record, albeit not in a forthright manner.

Let us now consider the legislation submitted to Congress by Senator Diane Feinstein (D/CA). Amendment No. 1152 would, if ratified, be applied to the Omnibus Crime Bill (which was passed late in 1993 by the Senate), and appears to be the type of “reasonable” gun bill that “reasonable” gun owners should support. Amendment 1152 would ban, by name, a number of firearms (or duplicates of same) such as the Colt AR-15, MAC-10 and NRC-11, Galu, Uzi, Street Sweeper, and others of this ilk [e.g., the FN-FAL]. It would also ban guns by description; i.e., firearms that incorporate folding or telescoping stocks, flash suppressors, threaded muzzles, bayonet lugs, grenade launchers, and “conspicuous” pistol grips.
Also included are semi-auto shotguns with magazines that hold more than five rounds, and any large-capacity magazines (tubular magazines for .22 rimfires exempted), which means those that hold more than ten rounds.
The Feinstein Amendment would, upon passage, allow the present owners of proscribed guns to keep them, provided that they obtained and maintained Form 4473s documenting their ownership. However, no new guns of the types described could be bought, sold, or owned by civilians.
The Amendment contains a sunset clause, meaning that it expires after ten years. It also contains a lengthy list of firearms that are exempt. These guns include bolt, pump, and lever-actions, and many semi-automatic rifles and shotguns of the sporting variety.
If you are a gun owner who is looking for the middle ground, it is very hard to argue against legislation such as this. Senator Feinstein, it seems, has made every effort to prescribe “assault weapons” and protect “legitimate firearms.”
So what’s wrong with supporting–or at least not opposing–this amendment? Perhaps nothing–except that the reveille sounded by the 1994 Federal Budget warns us we can’t think of Amendment 1152 as a final step. Anti-gunners see it as an interim measure, paving the way for much wider prohibitions. Sarah Brady, Senator Metzenbaum, and others, have been quite honest about what they have in mind. The Feinstein Amendment is, in their view, just one in a series of steps to outlaw other types of firearms. The next step, without doubt, is handguns. In the lengthy list of “legitimate” guns protected by Amendment 1152, not one handgun is mentioned.
There’s more. President Clinton, in a lengthy interview in the December 9, 1993 issue of Rolling Stone was asked by national editor William Greider:
“Is it conceivable that the country. . . could entertain the possibility of banning handguns? Is that a cockamamie idea in your mind? Or is that in the future?”
President Clinton answered: “I don’t think the American people are there right now [emphasis mine]. But with more than 200 million guns in circulation, we’ve got so much more to do on this issue before we reach that. I don’t think that’s an option now [emphasis mine]. But there are certain kinds of guns that can be banned and a lot of other reasonable regulations that can be imposed. The American people’s attitudes are going to be shaped by whether things get better or worse.”
You are at liberty to interpret this any way you wish. My interpretation is: “We haven’t got the votes for a handgun ban right now. In the future, if I think the votes are there, well go for it.”
Judging by the letters we get at Field & Stream, and the people I talk to within the firearms industry, there are many of us who would like to rid the United States of assault weapons. It is true that these weapons account for only a miniscule percentage of armed crime, but the crimes they are used in tend to be horrific.
The classic example of this is the schoolyard massacre in Stockton, California, in 1989, when a deranged man named Patrick Purdy used an AK-47 clone to kill five children and wound twenty-nine others [in fact, most were shot with Purdy’s 15-shot, 9mm handgun]. The fact that Purdy was at liberty with a gun of any kind was due to a catastrophic failure of the California justice system, but the question we have to ask is, if Purdy had not had a thirty-shot semi-automatic rifle that was designed for the express purpose of taking human life, would the carnage have been so great?
Much is made about the difficulty involved in defining an “assault weapon.” However, firearms such as the AK-47, AKM, Uzi, Street Sweeper, and others [like the FN-FAL] have two things in common: They are designed for killing people, and they enable a person who is unskilled in the use of firearms to do an extraordinary amount of damage in practically no time at all.
Assault weapons are designed to be produced quickly and cheaply, and in huge numbers. They are designed to operate under conditions that would destroy civilian small arms. They are designed to put out a high volume of fire with a high degree of controllability. It is these characteristics that prevent assault weapons from being us as anything but what they are. (The AR-15/M-16, and the M1A in modified form, are highly accurate, and have a legitimate place in organized target competition.) You can remove the flash suppressors and the bayonet lugs; you can change the shape of the stocks; you can sell “sporting” ammunition for them; but they remain guns for killing people.
Gun owners–all gun owners–pay a heavy price for having to defend the availability of these weapons. The American public–and the gun-owning public; especially the gun-owning public–would be better off without the hardcore military arms, which puts the average sportsman in a real dilemma. We have received a wake-up call that clearly warns us that gun ownership is under siege. On the other hand, the public at large has been sent another kind of reveille: that guns are the root of most present-day evil, and the NRA is somehow to blame for the guns.
MOST AMERICANS HAVE LITTLE FAITH IN THE promises that politicians make, and with reason. Most gun owners are uneasy about making concessions of any kind, and with reason. But it may be time to consider shifting from an absolute opposition to any ban on any guns to an effort to get lawmakers to include a guarantee that will safeguard our handguns, and other arms–something not subject to the whims of the BATF or the Secretary of the Treasury or Sarah Brady. If the Feinstein Amendment included a list of “protected” handguns, and did away with its prohibition on magazines that hold more than ten shots, that would be something for us to think about. If Senator Fienstein is willing to meet gun owners halfway, we should think about her amendment very hard indeed.
For at some point we must face the fact that an Uzi or an AKM or an Ak-47 should no more be generally available than a Claymore mine or a block of C4 explosive. It is time for these guns to be limited to people with Treasury Department licenses, just as with fully automatic arms. I doubt if anyone would suffer much without assault weapons. Surely, we will suffer with them.

(All bold is my emphasis.) Petzal’s comment in that post:

As has been pointed out by those of you with long memories, I wrote a piece 13 years ago about the then-looming assault rifle ban. The story was unpopular with a lot of people, but nowhere in it did I endorse the ban, as some are claiming. I note that none of you have seen fit to haul up the many, many times I’ve said critical things about Senators Clinton, Schumer, Feinstein, and of course our beloved former President Bubba. But then it seems that most of you who are visiting here don’t read this blog, or Field & Stream, or what I’ve written to defend the Second Amendment over the years.

Here’s some other relevant information: When I wrote it, black guns were not nearly as important a part of shooting as they are now.

My response:

“When I wrote it, black guns were not nearly as important a part of shooting as they are now.”
Yet, had the gun-rights community backed down on the “evil black rifle” topic an inch, if they had, in fact, taken your advice and not paid the “heavy price for having to defend the availability of these weapons,” they would not be as popular as they are today. They would not be the dog, rather than the tail. And your M1A would most probably be banned as well, with your evil “long-range sniper rifles” next up on the agenda.
How can a “gun guy” not get this?
We cannot be divided on this topic. The right to arms is not the right to hunt. It is not the right to shoot birds or clay pigeons. It is the right TO ARMS. Defend THAT, and you get to keep your particular sport. Deny it, and risk losing all.
The Black Rifle people understand that. The Fudds for some reason don’t.

No, Mr. Petzal, you didn’t “endorse the ban” – you advocated “compromise” after explaining that we couldn’t trust the gun ban crowd because they wanted everything. Frightened that you might lose your “sporting” semi-automatics, you were willing to give them half in the self-admittedly futile attempt to gain “a guarantee that will safeguard our handguns, and other arms“. After all, you can’t hunt with an “assault rifle,” right?

Thank you Petzal Chamberlain for your attempt to secure “peace in our time.”

But now, since we were not willing to “compromise” – and made that fact plain – the “Assault Weapons Ban” that your attitude helped pass has sunsetted and “black guns” are a far more important part of shooting world and the firearms industry than hunting rifles. And, subsequently, you’ve changed your words – but the tune remains the same.

Again I will quote master phrase-smith Tamara K:

Your attempt to throw me out of the sleigh, hoping that the wolves would be satisfied with my AR and would leave your precious bambi-zapper alone, is the most craven act of contemptible cowardice I’ve seen in a while.

Get over your stubbornness, and get your head out of your posterior.

Defend them ALL. Or LOSE them all, one little chunk at a time.

Even Neville supported Winston Churchill once reality was made obvious to him.

I Love Being Right

As I noted in the first line of That Didn’t Take Long,

I’m unfamiliar with the MySpace page ostensibly run for or by the Brady Campaign, but they glommed on to Jim Zumbo’s article almost as rapidly as the gun community did.

I also noted in comments here and other places, that the author of that site seemed a little too stereotypical. In fact, at a post at Snowflakes in Hell I commented:

I’m not convinced that that MySpace page really is affiliated with the Brady Campaign. I can’t help but wonder if it’s run by someone trying to make the Brady Campaign look worse than it already does.

Later in that same post a Brady representative commented:

I can confirm that these statements were made by an impostor. I’m a spokesman for the Brady Campaign, and I know that none of us were involved in those postings. That’s not our statement, and it’s not our position.
Sebastian, you should have access to the email address I logged with WordPress, so you can verify that I am who I claim to be.

So the question remains: Is the MySpace poster serious, or is he just trying to make the Brady Bunch look bad?
The sad part is, it’s impossible to tell, really. Good job, Sebastian!

Something Everyone Should Read

Michael S. Brown’s Sept. 2000 essay, The Radicalization of America’s Gun Culture. Excerpt:

Since the National Firearms Act was signed into law in 1934, the number of gun control laws at all levels of government have multiplied exponentially. So has the overall crime rate, which some argue is a direct result of gun control laws that discourage self-defense.

Although none of these laws reduced crime, each new law creates another way that a well intentioned gun owner can inadvertently end up in prison or ruined by legal costs. Some have been killed in raids by government agents. Much like laws passed to promote the failed war on drugs, each new gun law gives the police additional powers that threaten basic constitutional rights.

America’s lawful gun owners are painfully aware of these facts. Since gun laws don’t reduce crime, they wonder, what is the real purpose? This question has led to numerous theories that attempt to explain why the “ruling elite”, which includes the media and many politicians, would want to eliminate civilian gun ownership in America. American gun owners feel as if they are being slowly crushed. One writer recently described this decades-long campaign as a slow motion hate crime.

Frustration has been building in the gun culture for thirty years and has been accelerating with the faster pace of anti-gun attacks and the dramatic improvement in communications. Stories of outrageous persecution by government agencies now circulate like wildfire via the internet. Anti-gun bills introduced in any legislature are instantly made known to millions. Gun owners know the major players in the anti-gun lobby as well as they know the villains in their favorite movies.

Read the whole thing. It is quite relevant to the current situation.

The Wedge Goes In Deeper

Without further ado, Field & Stream‘s David “The Gun Nut” E. Petzal’s take on the Jim Zumbo fiasco:

In case you just emerged from a coma and have not heard, the shooting world is agog over a blog posted by Jim Zumbo, former contributing editor at Outdoor Life, over the weekend of February 17. In it, Jim stated that any semiauto rifle with an AR or AK prefix was a terrorist rifle, had no place in hunting, and should be outlawed for that purpose. Then, courtesy of the Internet and all its blogs and chatrooms, the roof fell in.

The speed with which Zumbomania spread, the number of comments it drew, and the rabid nature of same were a revelation. Overnight, this thing became as big as Janet Jackson’s clothing failure or – dare I say it? – Britney Spears’ shaved head. Jim Zumbo is now as employable as the Unabomber, and Sarah Brady will no doubt adopt his comments to her own gun-control purposes.

For which you will now make excuses. That speed frightened you, didn’t it?

For the last several days I’ve been visiting all manner of blogs and chatrooms, which has reminded me of when I used to deliver used clothing to the local mental hospital. I’ve tried to make some sense of it all, but because the waters are still full of blood and body parts continue to rain from the sky, I haven’t come up with any Great Truths. Lacking that, here are some Lesser Truths.

What Jim said was ill-considered. He’s entitled to his beliefs, but when a writer of his stature comes out against black guns, it sure as hell does not help our cause.

Understatement #1. What he said was not only ill-considered, it was (to many of us) inexcusable. Which is what you’re railing against here.

Even so, Jim made an immediate apology. He did not equivocate, or qualify, or make excuses. He acted like a gentleman and said he was wrong, and he was sorry. Apparently this is not enough anymore. We now live in the era of one strike and you’re out.

Uh, no. As both I and Tom Gresham have noted (among myriad others lost in the cacophony of outrage), Jim’s initial apology missed the point. And so have you.

To quote myself:

How about this, Jim? How about we educate the public (and other Elmer Fudds like you) about semi-automatic rifles? And how about you break your damned fingers for ever typing the word “BAN” in relationship to firearms you goddamned gun-bigot?

And Gresham:

Jim basically committed career suicide. In short, he wrote in his blog on the Outdoor Life web site that he had just learned (while on a hunt) that some people use AR-15 rifles for hunting. He offered his thought that this was a bad image for hunters. Okay, that’s his opinion. But, he went even further, calling for game departments to ban the use of these rifles for hunting. After crossing the line and calling for a banning of those guns for hunting, he firmly planted his foot on a land mine and called AR-15s “terrorist rifles.” The explosion from that misstep was heard throughout the firearms industry.

His apology didn’t address the points. He said “I’m sorry!” and “I’m a patriot!” but every apology so far has been of the order of “I didn’t know so many people hunted with them!” As I said in my last piece:

The opinion I am left with is one that many, many people on many boards and in many comments have left – Zumbo just doesn’t get it.

Gresham got it. Why haven’t you?

For 40 years, Jim has been a spokesman and ambassador of good will for hunting. Through his tireless efforts as a teacher and lecturer on hunting and hunting skills, he has done more for the sport than any 250 of the yahoos who called for his blood.

Ever hear the expression “One ‘Oh Shit!’ cancels all ‘Atta boy’s!'”? That was a huge “Oh Shit!” And while I’m as interested in the preservation of the sport of hunting as the next guy, it seems that preservation of the right to keep and bear arms is a prerequisite, no? Unless you plan on hunting exclusively with a bow. Or a sharp, pointy stick.

Jim has paid dearly for what he said. He has lost his blog and his association with Remington. Cabela’s has suspended its sponsorship of his TV show; and Outdoor Life has accepted his offer to sever ties. To all the chatroom heroes who made him unemployable, I have a word of warning: You’ve been swinging a two-edged sword. A United States in which someone can be ruined for voicing an unpopular opinion is a dangerous place. Today it was Jim’s turn. Tomorrow it may be yours.

BZZZZT! I’m sorry, Dave, but that’s the wrong answer! Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from its consequences. I could say something stupid tomorrow that might lose me my job. Therefore it’s encumbent on me to control what I say. That’s what’s called a “market force,” and it’s not “censorship.” Censorship is when the GOVERNMENT tells you what you can and can’t say – at the point of a gun.

How long have you been a journalist again?

If Sarah Brady is smart – and she is very smart – she will comb through the same blogs and chatrooms I’ve been reading, excerpt some of the most vicious and foul-mouthed entries, print them up, and distribute them to Congress.

Wait, wait… Jim Zumbo should be allowed to say anything he wants without fear of consequence, but we hoi polloi, the non-gunwriters, the un-anointed, are required to shut up and take it because the consequences of our speech could be grave? Sorry, but the words of the “former contributing editor at Outdoor Life” – one of the “most well-respected outdoor writers” will carry far more weight with Congress than the rantings of we little people – and you know that. They already think we should be disarmed. Zumbo just told them that they’re right. Frankly, I hope Ms. Brady does what you suggest. Congresscritters understand that we vote, and they know what one issue we vote on.

Then it will be interesting to see how the men and women who wrote that stuff enjoy seeing their efforts being put to use by every anti-gunner in America.

Sorry, David, but that falls totally flat.

Yes, a lot of people went overboard, but as I’ve commented several times, it’s the end result of what Dr. Michael S. Brown once referred to as a “decades-long slow-motion hate crime” – the hatred of guns and gun owners by those outside our culture. It’s wearing, and I’m not surprised that the patience of so many is wearing so obviously thin. Having someone inside that culture stab us in the back resulted in this outpouring of vitriol and invective. But try re-reading some of those forums and blogs. A lot of us had a lot to say about it that you obviously missed.

“ChrisH” wrote in a comment to Petzal’s post:

First, Jim wrote what I’m sure a lot of folks think.

I’m sure they do. That’s what’s got to change. If the different factions of the shooting world don’t figure that out, and soon, we might very well go the way of the British.

UPDATE, 2/23: David Codrea (and a lot of the commenters on Petzal’s post) notes that David Petzal was a supporter of “advocat(ed) compromise” on the 1994 Clinton AWB:

Gun owners — all gun owners — pay a heavy price for having to defend the availability of these weapons,” writes Petzal. “The American public — and the gun-owning public; especially the gun-owning public — would be better off without the hardcore military arms, which puts the average sportsman in a real dilemma” Petzal concludes by advocating compromise, something that Knox and other members of his regime say they will never accept.

This was when Field & Stream quite publicly separated itself from the National Rifle Association.

I can’t say this any better than Tam did a couple of days ago when this whole thing first blew up:

Your attempt to throw me out of the sleigh, hoping that the wolves would be satisfied with my AR and would leave your precious bambi-zapper alone, is the most craven act of contemptible cowardice I’ve seen in a while.

That goes double for you, Mr. Petzal. “Gun Nut,” my ass. RTWT (both pieces) if you haven’t already.