(This article began as a reply to a comment made by Kim Gamble on my previous post - "Why Is Mary Linn Still HERE" - in which he asked why I own a firearm. By the time I was done with my response, I realized that my answer needed to be posted separaely. )
I own firearms for several reasons.
First of all, I'm Jewish. Secondly, I can read. Third, I know from my reading of history what happens to Jews who don't read history and don't own weapons.
My feeling is that that any Jew who doesn't own firearms and know how to use them is a god damned idiot.
I hope that doesn't offend anyone but, if the shoe fits, you gotta wear it.
The Jewish people have been living in a fool's paradise for the past 65 years - my entire lifespan plus three - during which the centuries-long, ongoing, relentless persecution of the Jewish people has abated because of the world's collective guilt over the Holocaust, but that abatement could end at any time, and already seems to be heading in that direction.
Evidence: A few days ago, a major media personality - Rick Sanchez - was fired because he said that Jews control the news media, or so the story goes.
That's obviously not true in a world where Rupert Murdock controls half of the world's news organizations....but it's true enough that Jews own controlling interests in a wide variety of media properties. Not enough to slant the news one way or the other, but enough to make Sanchez' statement fact, not prejudice.
But that's not really why Sanchez was fired. That was merely the excuse. He was fired because, when the interviewer, Pete Dominick, suggested that all Jews are constantly fearful in the backs of their minds that the holocaust might happen again, Sanchez replied, "I hope so."
Now that's a very ambiguous statement. He could have meant that it would be a good thing for Jews to be on their guard so as to prevent a recurrence of the Holocaust, which I would agree with and I really hope that’s what he meant. Or, he could have meant that he wishes that all Jews would be haunted by the prospect that another Holocaust is coming, which is morally indefensible.
I'm no Solomon, so I can't say what was in Sanchez' heart when he made that statement, but I am enough of a Yid to know that, whatever he meant, his subsequent firing hasn't endeared the Jewish people to him, or to the many thousands of people who liked Sanchez and don't like the fact that he was fired over a few misspoken words about Jews.
And that’s just the tip of this iceberg.
Now, I could have simply told you that I've been a gun collector, a recreational target shooter and an occasional hunter for many years and let it go at that....but that wouldn't have been true.
Despite my strong feelings about the dangers Jews face, I would probably never have sought out a gun permit or made myself proficient with firearms because, like most Jews, I would rather not confront this reality until this happened:
I was driving down Blue Hill Avenue in the Dorchester section of Boston one day when, stopped at a light, and stuck between cars, I ended up becoming a witness to a gang-related shooting...and found myself staring down the barrel of a gun held by a 15 year-old gunman who, if he hadn't already run out of bullets, would have blown my head off right then and there.
I know this because he smiled at me and pulled the trigger.
I had always meant to get a gun permit, because of my belief that Jews will always be targets for bigots and demagogues, but kept putting it off because I wasn't comfortable around guns and never had been. They weren't part of my upbringing. Yet, I worked in a very dangerous part of Boston, with very dangerous people, and I was a white face in an almost completely black community, working in a very visible position.
In short, I was a walking target, and that didn't have anything to do with my religion. Just my race.
All I could think at that moment was how close my nine year old son had just come to losing his father.
I drove back home to Gloucester that afternoon, stopped at the police department there, and asked for a gun permit.
They asked me the same question: why did I want to carry a gun?
By the time I finished the story, the gun control officer was already typing out my permit for me.
That was a long time ago. Since then, I have become proficient with a wide variety of firearms, but I sold off most of my collection when I moved to Florida and I still consider that one of the stupidest things I've ever done.
I hadn’t changed my mind about guns. I just needed the money.
Pro-gun demogogues are fond of saying that guns don't kill people.
Believe me, it is a lot easier to fire a gun than it is to beat someone to death with a stick, or kill them with a knife.
Guns kill people.
Pro-gun people are fond of saying that, if guns are outlawed, only outlaws would have guns.
That’s true because, once guns are outlawed, anyone who has a gun will automatically become a criminal by virtue of that fact. It’s also true that criminals won’t have any compunction about purchasing illegal firearms…but average citizens will.
There’s sufficient statistical evidence to conclude that, when gun ownership increases in a given state, because of recent changes in the laws, the crime rates in those states go down an average of two to three percent per year.
Nevertheless, anti-gun people are fond of quoting statistics indicating that there are 50,000 gun deaths each year.
The actual figure is closer to 30,000, but those statistics don't tell you what percentage of those shootings were justified as self-defense.
Many anti-gun advocates claim that a gun in the home is more likely to be used to kill a family member than it is to be used to prevent the commission of a crime.
The Centers for Disease Control, which collects mortality statistics for the United States, reports that there were 18,361 homicides in 2007, the most recent year for which statistics appear to be available. Only 12,632 of these homicides were committed with firearms. The rest were accomplished with other weapons.
That’s a far cry from the 50,000 deaths claimed by gun control advocates but, when you dig a little deeper, you discover that the total of all deaths from firearms did reach 31,224 in 2007, a year in which significantly more people – 17,352 – died from purposely self-inflicted gunshot wounds – suicide - than died in homicides.
So, yes, it is more likely that a firearm will be used to commit suicide than in the commission of a crime. (I won’t raise the question here about whether or not people have the right to commit suicide. That’s a different post.)
But how many times were guns used to prevent a crime?
No one knows. That information isn’t collected by any reliably neutral organization.
We do know this much: only 351 people were actually killed during a legal intervention, which means that the total of all the offenders shot to death by police officers or civilians during the commission of a crime was actually lower than the 613 accidental shootings reported in 2007. However that may be, the fact remains that no one has any idea of how many crimes are prevented simply by brandishing a firearm, firing a warning shot, or wounding an assailant.
No one knows.
So, why bother to carry at gun at all if it is more likely to kill someone you love than to protect someone you love from an attacker?
In my life, I have been in four shooting situations and, in each of those four cases, I managed to avoid shooting anyone or being shot myself.
In the first case, I didn’t have a gun when I confronted an armed burglar in my New York City apartment and managed to talk him into leaving but, in that case, I had the bigger knife.
In the second case, on Blue Hill Avenue in Boston, I didn’t have a gun and only lived to tell the tale because the other guy had run out of bullets.
In the third case, in which an angry husband was looking for me, I survived through the simple expedient of having removed the firing pin from his gun beforehand.
In the fourth case, a burglar kicked in the door of my basement apartment in a very expensive Boston townhouse in the South End section of the city.
I came upstairs from the lower level of my duplex to see what the loud banging was about, and discovered a stranger standing in my foyer, a very large young man who obviously didn’t belong there.
“Who are you?” I asked, rather stupidly.
“I just saw this guy kicking your door in and chased him out,” he replied. He was actually quite well spoken, as I remember it.
That might have gone over but, years ago, when I confronted that first armed burglar in my apartment in Harlem, the burglar had said almost exactly the same thing to me, claiming that he had seen someone breaking into my apartment and climbed up the fire escape after him.
(This was truly laughable. I lived on Riverside Drive and 157th Street, in a very strange apartment building that was literally built on concrete pylons. In order to climb up that fire escape, he had to climb approximately 150 feet to get to my third floor apartment.)
This experience left me somewhat skeptical, so, of course, I asked my second burglar, “Well, where is he?”
The big kid was staring at me, his eyes bugging out of his head.
I looked at the hand I was pointing at him.
There was a gun in it.
I had been in the process of cleaning my guns after a shooting session at the Boston Police Department Range in Dorchester and had absently-mindedly gone upstairs while holding a .44 Magnum….yeah, the same model that Clint Eastwood used in “Dirty Harry.”
My young visitor edged toward the door. “Hey, why don’t I go look for him while you call the police?”
I said that was a good idea, and watched him run out into the street, whereupon I slammed the shattered door shut and jammed it with a chair.
The gun wasn’t even loaded.
I had been about to start cleaning it when my door got kicked in but the presence of that gun in my hand completely changed the dynamics of the situation. The gun in my hand may or may not have saved my life, or saved me a whopping - that kid was really big. We'll never know one way or the other, but isn't it better to be safe than sorry?
Let me make this clear:
In 99 out of 100 cases, when you find yourself in a shooting situation, you are probably going to be shit out of luck whether or not you have a firearm in your possession.
That’s because you’re not expecting anyone to assault you, which gives the assailant the upper hand.
The bad guys always have the upper hand because they are the initiators and you’re simply reacting to them.
It takes the average shooter more than three seconds to draw a firearm, set the safety mechanism to the firing position and squeeze off a round, unless you are accustomed to carrying your firearm in the round-chambered, cocked, unlocked and ready condition – called condition zero– that only well-experienced shooters should ever consider doing.
I’m that good. I can draw and fire my first round in under one second….if I’m not wearing a coat, if I happen to be carrying my firearm in fast draw holster, if I’m not holding something else in my hand, if I am actually facing the in the direction the attack is coming from, and if I am not in the semi-comatose condition that most people walk around in all the time….and I know that an attack is imminent.
Real life almost never presents anyone with that set of conditions.
If I were as good as my son is at Aikido, I wouldn’t even bother to carry a gun. He often demonstrates how he can disarm an assailant within 15 feet of him, even if the assailant has already holding a firearm….but I’m not that good.
How it that possible?
Well, it takes time for anyone, even the most hardened criminals, to make the decision to actually fire on an unarmed person…unless that criminal was actually stalking the person in question and knew in advance that he was going to shoot that person. As the caliber of the round increases, each round fired throws the gun futher off target, requiring the shooter to bring the firearm back into alignment and regain the sight picture.
And even in that extreme situation, all it takes is a lateral movement of less than 15 degrees to throw the shooter so far off his mark that his first round will miss completely. Translation: turn sideways. (Even if he hits you, it’s less likely that you will suffer a mortal wound that way.)
This then requires the shooter to readjust his aim (let’s assume the shooter is a he in this case) which takes the inexpert marksman more than two seconds, enough time for my son cross those 15 feet – the average shooting distance in fatal exchanges - to break the bastard’s wrist, arm and shoulder.
And most criminals aren’t expert marksmen. Most of them actually think you can hit something holding a gun sideways. It may look intimidating but it’s pure hype.
It takes a lot of ammunition to make a gun owner into an expert shooter.
Over the years, I have spent thousands of dollars firing many thousands of rounds through various firearms. In my opinion, you’re not even close to proficient until you’ve fired ten thousand rounds. That’s how long it takes to develop the ability to build up eye-hand coordination, train yourself into taking a good shooting stance, learning to acquire the target, while making sure of your backstop, fixing the sight picture, controlling your breathing, defocusing your eyes, and not flinching when the round goes off, along with the 15 other things you are trying to control when you squeeze a trigger.
Very few civilians ever reach that level of proficiency. As a matter of fact, very few cops ever reach that level of proficiency, and almost no criminals because criminals don’t belong to gun clubs and therefore have difficulty finding places to practice.
It’s not as easy as it looks, not by a long shot. (Sorry about that. The pun, I mean.)
Why bother to carry a gun at all, then?
Let’s go back to that day on Blue Hill Avenue.
What if that 15 year-old gunman wasn’t holding an empty gun?
Speaking strictly for myself, I owe it to the people who love me to make sure that, if I am in that 100-to-1 situation where having a firearm might make a difference, I'm going to be the one who goes home alive at the end of the day.
I had nowhere to run and, sitting in car is not a good position to draw from, unless you are wearing an ankle holster. That’s because the car’s seat belt with interfere with your efforts to draw your firearm.
Of course, then, there’s the other side of the coin.
On that day, if I had had a firearm with me, I would have shot that 15 year old boy, and I would have been exonerated of any wrong-doing.
But I still would have shot a 15 year-old boy, not knowing that he was holding an empty gun.
And, yes, by the expression on his face, I knew he was surprised when his gun – a revolver - didn’t fire. He had every intention of killing me. I was, after all, a witness to his crime. (If he had been carrying a semi-automatic, he would have known that his gun was empty because the slide on virtually all semi-automatics lock up in the open position when you fire the last round in the clip.)
As it happened, however, the case never came to trial because the young man in question was shot dead himself a few hours later. The case was barely reported upon at all, and disappeared from the news feed within 24 hours when something else happened.
As a Jew, however, I have another concern.
If that day ever comes again when storm troopers come knocking on our doors again, we will know they are coming long before they arrive because demagogues always telegraph their punches before they unleash them.
And, if you know they are coming, and you don’t have anything to fight back with, then you are a damned fool and that's exactly how you're going to feel when they come at you.
But, if they get shot down every time they come to the door, sooner or later, they will stop coming.
And that’s why I have firearms.
I don’t carry a gun anymore, because I have kidded myself into thinking that I live in a safe area….in Florida, which has the highest violent crime rate in the country after New York, DC, Michigan and California.
But I still have them against the prospect of that terrible day when the wrong people come knocking at my door.
I will never be without a firearm again.