On Matters of Defense…

Okay gang, I’m going to talk about this. Go ahead an read the article, then pour yourself a beverage.

I am not a fan of this legislation for several reasons, but I need to qualify myself first.

I support a person’s right to purchase and possess firearms. I also think that there are certain places where firearms should not be permitted: schools, churches, courthouses, et al. More importantly though, I strongly believe the right to possess and carry is coupled with a great responsibility. When people say “get a gun” as an answer to the question of self defense (in this case against sexual assualt/rape), it’s usually present with the air that it’s a catch-all mode of protection — as if being so armed is the perfect solution. I don’t think it is.

The “get a gun” mentality tends to be coupled with the belief that a firearm is a tool. That’s a grave error — a firearm is a weapon, design to launch a projectile through a target in an attempt to turn a person into a casualty. Any weapon, be it a pistol, a knife, a taser or even an empty hand, requires three things: training, discipline, and awareness. The casual owner of handguns lack these three qualities.

We as a society do not effectively train its civilians in the maintenance and use of fire arms. Granted expert-level instruction is available, but it’s not required. As a result, the casual owner, gets a basic safety course, and it’s up to him (or her) to go to the range to practice. Note that shooting targets place the highest value in two locations: center of the torso and center of the head. These are kill shots. Martial practice is programming the body to act. With time and effort, the amateur pistolier will train themselves(physically) to draw down and shoot to kill. Training at a range does not necessarily confer the sort of discipline that can allow someone to keep their wits when attacked, or to maintain clam in the presence of a threat. Nor does it confer the ability to be aware of a threat, or for that matter what their skills are capable of doing. This sort of combination can make a casual gun owner a danger to themselves.*

A person with skill in a firearm (that does not include military training or — to a degree — people who hunt game out of necessity) can have a false sense of security if they fall into the “a gun makes me perfectly safe” mentality, or worse a sense of bravado.** That tends to supplant awareness and discipline.

According to RAINN, nearly three out of four victims of rape were assaulted by someone they know, sometimes in situations some form of intimacy may have been initiated and then aborted. Sometimes the aggressor is a family member. Can a person with simple range practice steel themselves to bring a weapon to bear against a friend, lover or family member and then pull the trigger? I don’t know if I could.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument that the case is that one in four where a stranger attacks. Any sort of surprise assault is likely to happen at close range. Consider that police officers — people who are better trained in the use of firearms — consider themselves in danger of physical assault if an aggressor is within twenty feet. Let’s also consider that in most situations, a person in possession of a firearm will not have it out, cocked with safety off. Rather it will be in a holster or a container. A rushing assailant can close twenty feet in a very short amount of time, and in a clinch a pistol can be rendered ineffective.

Now let’s take these factors to a college campus. So we now have young casual firearm owners, exploring life of their own. They’re testing personal boundaries. They’re going to parties. Lot of drinking can happen at these events — many colleges have problems with alcohol abuse — and we know that alcohol and firearms are not a good combination.+ If students are allowed to carry them on campus, that includes everyone, not just potential rape victims. The potential for firearm incidents at places and events when inhibitions are lowered and excitement heightened are potentially high. I doubt it would be a weekly shootout akin to the Wild West of Hollywood, but college shootings have already happened in the past. Would the proliferation of firearms among the student body make things better?

If a person does successfully ward off a sexual assault using a firearm, what happens after? Our justice system is notoriously negligent regarding the investigation and prosecution of these crimes. For anyone not white, it gets even worse. Let’s not forget what happened to Marissa Alexander for firing warning shots. Let’s also consider that in most rape and sexual assault investigations, the victim is often blamed: “What were you wearing? Didn’t you watch your drink? What were you thinking, going there?” Now we can add “Why weren’t you carrying?” to that list of questions.

In my mind, telling potential victims of sexual assault to arm themselves is still putting the onus on them, rather than providing a way to deter the desires of the attacker. First and foremost, I believe we need to reform our justice system to take all cases of sexual assault seriously and investigate them thoroughly. Yes, our courts are not perfect, and some attackers may be acquitted, but given that a tenth of current cases even go to court, it’s a step we need to take.

For the long term, we also need to look critically at our society and begin to break down what compels people to do these things. We need to address the sense of entitlement to sex that people can have, the objectification and reduction of a person to a receptacle of intercourse. As a people we need to take the effort to overcome sexism and bigotry that still permeates our culture, remove the label of Other to people that don’t fit what might be considered a norm. I don’t know what steps to take, save for trying to be a better person and listening to others. It’s not much, but for many of us it’s a good start.


*And to be fair, the same goes for martial arts. I’ve seen very well disciplined White Belts and oblivious (and tempermental) Black Belts.

** Again, the same goes for martial arts training. An undisciplined or unaware karateka — such as one suffering from Green Belt Syndrome — can get themselves into all kinds of trouble.

An anecdote: One of my roomies in college was a Marine. One day I came back to my dorm room to find him and one of his fellow Marines in the living room, cleaning their rifles. Never bothered me in the slightest.


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