Over the last four posts

Carrying a pistol entails absolute responsibility for everything that happens with that pistol, with no exceptions.
Carrying a pistol entails absolute responsibility for everything that happens with that pistol, with no exceptions.

I have tried to elaborate on what I perceive to be the inadequacies of the gun control debate, and left off the third post with a rather bleak view of the situation. Unfortunately I do not feel qualified to propose a legislative solution to the problem, mostly because I do not think such a solution exists. I cannot think of an example in history in which a government has ever been able to prevent violence by legislation (I am not a historian, though. If you can think of such an example, let me know and I will add it to my list of things to research). I can think of any number of examples of cases in which such attempts have had the opposite effect.

This may seem pessimistic, but I do not think there is a solution to the problem of mass murder. There are only responses, which can decrease or increase the likelihood of such an event occurring, or increase or decrease the average person’s chances of surviving such an event if it occurs. A solution is not within the realm of human possibility.

A response, however, is possible and necessary, but a response is first and foremost, personal. Individuals respond by changing their behavior as a result of new knowledge, new outlooks, or a renewed determination to act upon old knowledge and outlooks. I will not say what anyone else’s response should be, but I will share my response with you.

To start with, I have a concealed carry permit, and I very often carry a pistol. I do this because I consider myself responsible to intervene to stop acts of violence that occur in front of me. Armed or unarmed, not acting is not an option for me. I am too strong, too well trained, I have too much experience, all of this specifically designed to make me able to deal with violence. I have the power, and therefore I have the responsibility, to act. I have seen situations in which I was powerless to act because of realities beyond my control, and I know from experience how they have eaten at me. Some of them still do. I cannot imagine living through the knowledge that I could have acted, and chose not to. It would be better to take a bullet.

This is a moral responsibility, not a legal responsibility. I take it on myself personally, unlike policemen who have an oath to act. Physically and mentally I am a Special Operations soldier, but legally I am a private citizen. This shapes how I respond and seriously limits the amount of force I may use, and the legal system’s tolerance of my use of force.

I am also a husband and father, and that, more than any other single factor, determines that I carry a pistol. My reasoning goes like this:

If I find myself in the middle of a lethal force encounter, I must act to save innocent lives.

Ideally I would like to save the perpetrator’s life as well, but that places me at a significantly higher risk of dying. If I die I can’t protect my family anymore, my wife is a widow and my daughter grows up without her father. I cannot, in good faith, take the same risks for the sake of a violent criminal as I could if I were single. Having a pistol means that I don’t have to get as close, I can act faster and from a greater distance to end the situation and save lives. So I carry one.

Everyone carrying a gun should read this book. It will help prevent you from using it.
Everyone carrying a gun should read this book. It will help prevent you from using it.

However, carrying a pistol entails a responsibility to be safe, fast and accurate with it, so that I do not add to the danger for everyone else. This means I have to spend time training in handling it, drawing, aiming at small targets, shooting under stress. Safe handling, and proper storage and transportation must be second nature, and I must never allow myself any shortcuts on them. I have seen two very experience shooters shoot themselves in the leg because they took shortcuts. All the nuts and bolts of concealed carry are way beyond the scope of this blog, but they absolutely are incumbent upon anyone who makes the decision to own a gun, much less carry one. The government cannot legislate this, or enforce it if they did legislate it. That is my personal moral responsibility, and I pass it to no one.

Carrying a gun also has a tendency to psychologically limit the person carrying it. I call this the “Hammer problem.” If you only have a hammer in your hand, every problem starts to look like a nail. Under stress, perfectly ordinary people can make surprisingly stupid decisions if they get tunneled in on the idea, “If anything happens I’ll just shoot him.” This leads to people getting shot who don’t need to get shot. If you have not practiced thinking clearly under stress, defusing situations and de-escalating potential violence, you should not be carrying a gun.

This book will give you a great overview of many of the things you need to consider before you think about arming yourself with a lethal weapon.
This book will give you a great overview of many of the things you need to consider before you think about arming yourself with a lethal weapon.

Carrying a gun has legal ramifications. If you choose to draw and fire a weapon in any situation, you will answer to the police and the legal system for it. Even if it was the most justified use of force since David and Goliath, you will have to explain yourself, and odds are good that you will be dragged across the coals by the DA’s office. You need to be ready for that, know a good lawyer or know how to find one, or at the least, know how to prep a lawyer to defend you. You need to know what does and does not constitute self-defense, and how to stay within that legal definition. You need to know how to make sure that everyone around you sees you doing just that, so that when they are called as witnesses (and they will be) their testimony will match yours.

Finally, do not fall for the temptation to dwell on the possibility of violent crime. Your odds of being in a mass shooting incident are very low, about on the level of your odds of getting struck by lightning. Dwelling on them and spending all your time planning and prepping for disaster is a short route to paranoia and making yourself and everyone around you miserable. My technique for that is, every time I do a scan for threats, I also do a scan for beautiful, funny or interesting things. This keeps me from getting fixated on violence, and keeps my expectations realistic, since I hardly ever find a real threat, and always find something beautiful, funny or interesting.

Mass shootings catch our attention because they are visible and frightening and highly reported by the media, but they are not the real problem. The real problem is much worse, and much more common.

That is Monday’s topic, and the last post in this series.

Warning: This post attempts to be in harmony with the teaching of the Church.
Warning: This post attempts to be in harmony with the teaching of the Church.

This is going to be a short post, because the answer has actually already been settled for us, as far as I can see. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. “The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not.”65

2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:

“If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.”

2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.

Don't let the fluffy pajamas fool you, these guys are actually badasses.
Don’t let the fluffy pajamas fool you, these guys are actually badasses.

The right to act in self-defense, even using lethal means, has never been denied to Catholics. By correlation, the right to make all reasonable preparations to defend oneself and other innocent people, may be assumed. This includes the ownership, maintenance and practice of arms.

However, the rugged individualist interpretation of that right which is most natural to Americans is not actually in keeping with the way the Church has traditionally encouraged warriors to proceed. The lone warrior acting on a renegade  basis, loyal only to his own conscience and to the demands of de-personalized “morality” is not the normal state of arms in the Christian worldview. This is the lowest common denominator, and the final battle line, to be willing to fight for the right (or more likely to suffer and die for it at that point) when you are the last one left. It is the last resort, not the norm.

Recognizing that secular states may not be moral or effective guardians of the lives and dignity of people, nevertheless, the Church has always encouraged those who would use force to curtail violence to do so under the auspices of the government as much as possible. This holds true from St. Paul’s admonition in Roman’s 13:4 not to fear the magistrate who “bears not the sword in vain,” to the attempts to organize and restrain the warriors of the Middle Ages by the code of Chivalry, to the Church’s modern statements on capital punishment and just war.

Professional warriors have always been strong individuals, but professional warfare has never been anything other than a team event.
Professional warriors have always been strong individuals, but professional warfare has never been anything other than a team event.

Therefore, the private citizen who wishes to bear and maintain arms for self-defence should not act as if he were an isolated hermit, answerable to no one but himself for their usage. Instead, he should make a good faith effort to comply with all just laws regarding their use, and abide by restrictions placed on them.

Beyond that, while the Catholic is always obliged to resist evil*, the only people who are obliged to use force to do so are those “responsible for the lives of others.” The Church further defines these as “Those in legitimate authority,” which seems to indicate the police and military forces sanctioned by the state (let’s ignore for the moment questions about what to do when these forces are corrupt and evil). This could be extended to include parents, who are certainly responsible for the lives of their children, and in legitimate authority over them. However, the way the passage is phrased seems to indicate the civil government, which has legitimate authority over both the aggressor and the victims. I think we can say confidentially that under Church teaching no private citizen is ever obliged to use lethal force.

I make no empty threats!
I make no empty threats!

However, as I mentioned above, all Catholics are obligated to resist evil at all times. One of the options for doing so, which seems strikingly absent from the popular debate, is that of willingly laying down one’s life for someone else. While not technically martyrdom (except in cases where the killer may explicitly kill those who profess faith, as in Oregon recently) “No greater love has any man than this, that he should lay down his life for his friend.” The men and women who, in mass shooting incidents, have willingly exposed themselves to getting shot either to shield other people or in an attempt to take down the attacker undoubtedly displayed a high degree of the virtue of fortitude.

For Catholics, however, we have an option even more profound, St. Paul says “For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:7-8. The choice not to use lethal force, but instead to seek to restrain the attacker by some other means, even at the risk of one’s own life, could be an act of ultimate heroism. By not killing the man in the midst of his sins, you give him both a powerful witness to the value of all life, including his own and the nature mercy, as well as the time for that lesson to sink in, and hopefully for him to come to repentance and save his own soul. While we may debate about the feasibility or prudence of this course of action in any given situation, I submit that to suffer and even die for your enemy is the most Catholic response of all.

This is our model. Be suspicious of any ideology that would use holding a gun as an excuse to let go of the cross.
This is our model. Be suspicious of any ideology that would use holding a gun as an excuse to let go of the cross.

To those who say, “Don’t be a hero. Keep your head down, or just shoot him and be done with it,” I ask, if not us, then who? We are Catholics. Heroic love is part of the job description. To the extent that we do not love heroically, we fail as Catholics. If we get to heaven it will be because, in His mercy, He has enabled us to love heroically. The only question is whether only God will know about it, or whether other people will hear about it too.

Guns are both a potential problem and a potential solution, but what both sides of the debate seem not to realize (with some exceptions) is that they are only ever an immediate problem or an immediate solution. That is, a gun is only ever the threat in a very specific time and place when a tactical situation is threatened or ongoing. They are solutions only in the same kinds of situations that they are also problems.

First, guns as immediate problems. It is an internet trope by now, the person who says, “I left all my guns lying on the living room floor all day, and they never killed anyone.” It is flippant and simplistic, but it does illustrate a point which many anti-gun advocates simply do not understand, which is, that guns are only dangerous when someone is pointing them at you.

I don’t suppose anyone can fully understand this point unless you have lived in an armed society. I have. I was active duty military for over a decade. I walked around with guns, surrounded by men with guns, and didn’t get shot by them, and didn’t shoot any of them. I walked up and down the streets of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, with both American and Iraqi/Afghani forces, all armed, all looking for a fight or dreading a fight. We got into major arguments, fistfights, feuds, outright hatred sometimes, and yet we did not shoot each other. I was not worried about getting shot, unless someone pointed a gun at me.

America has been criticized for embracing
America has been criticized for embracing “rugged individualism” but what those critics often neglect is that the heart of this individualism at its best is the absolute acceptance of personal responsibility for your own well-being and fulfillment, and that or your family.

This is because we accepted a certain level of risk, but also a certain level of responsibility. This is the heart of the liberal anti-gun position, the unwillingness to accept risk or take responsibility. They want to be safe, to live in a world where people cannot do things like shoot up a school, and they refuse to acknowledge that that is not the world we live in. It is tainted by sin, full of evil and heartbreak and sadness and suffering and death. To think that if we just get rid of all the nasty guns then all that suffering and death will go away is childish. Worse, it is false, and it gets people killed.

Along with the unwillingness to acknowledge that we live in a dangerous world, comes the unwillingness to take responsibility for one’s own safety. It is the job of the police to protect me, the government’s job to protect me, the law, the lawyers, the media. Everyone else needs to keep the scary bad guys away, and people who won’t join me in pretending that we live in a safe world are mean. The ones who remind me of the fact that I might die today are bad guys themselves, just as bad as the mass murderers.

The people who adjust to combat the best are intelligent risk takers. They know they might die, and they accept that fact, even embrace it. They also want to live, and know that in order to live, paradoxically, they have to be willing to die. They are willing to die, if there is a good enough reason, e.g. to save their friends’ lives, but not for some BS politics or oil money. They think it’s just great when higher ups send us cool things like air support and artillery to help out, but they don’t count on it. They go in knowing that when it comes right down to it, no one can save us but ourselves. Even if help does come, we have to survive long enough for it to get here.

People fear what they do not understand. I have seen some people who almost have a panic attack just looking at a gun. I know a lot more who get uncomfortable and visibly nervous. This often seems to be the attitude behind gun control activism, fear writ large. We can’t keep bad guys from being bad guys, but they have guns and guns make me nervous, so get rid of guns.

(As I said before, if I thought this policy would work I would be more inclined to support it.)

By the same token, gun rights activists often fall into the opposite trap. They are comfortable taking care of themselves, and perhaps a bit too comfortable. They also want violent situations to end, but they expect to have to end them themselves, rather than cower in a corner and wait for the police to show up. This is a reasonable view of violent incidents. Any level of acceptance of personal responsibility to act is better than the futile, self-defeating complaint of “Why is this happening to me?”

The Hatfield-McCoy vendetta is one famous example of violence begetting violence, but the same reality occurs even when the use of force is justified.
The Hatfield-McCoy vendetta is one famous example of violence begetting violence, but the same reality occurs even when the use of force is justified.

Where this view fails is in thinking that by ending the incident they have resolved the issue. That is not the case. Ending the incident rarely even ends the incident. Legal, social, psychological and emotional consequences are unavoidable, even if you have the food fortune to survive uninjured. More to the point of this blog, even in the best case scenario, the underlying cause of that violent incident is still very much intact.

It may even be stronger.

This is because violence begets violence. It is easiest to see in honor cultures, such as gangs or the tribal codes of the Middle East, where an act of violence calls forth reprisals, which calls forth further reprisals, which perpetuates and endless cycle of violence.

A subtler and more insidious version of this dynamic is at work in our society, where a mass shooting occurs and dominates the headlines for weeks. Others with similar desires and issues see this and are inspired to plan their own mass shooting. Meanwhile, anti-gun activists lash out in frustration, insinuating that gun rights activists are little better than accessories to mass murder. Gun rights activists lash back in fear of having their gun rights infringed upon and being left defenseless, accusing the other side of exploiting tragedies for political gain, and of attempting to disarm the population in preparation for government takeover. Anger begets anger, fear begets fear, violence begets violence.

A use of force, even of lethal force, is a justifiable means of ending a violent encounter in which one person is killing other people. I have no wish to diminish awareness of that fact. However, the point I am trying to make stands, that merely to focus on having the ability to end such an encounter, is to miss the larger issue entirely. The larger issue is the violence inherent in the hearts of men, and even a justified use of force may end the incident, but worsen that underlying situation.

The question for next time is: what can we do about it?

Just as it seems, from the way liberals talk, that they think that guns are the root problem behind mass shootings, it would seem from the way gun activists talk that they think guns are the solution to mass shootings. And they have a point. The overwhelming majority of mass shooting incidents are resolved with a gun. Either:

  1. The shooter shoots himself.
  2. The Police shoot him.
  3. An armed citizen shoots him. (See edit below).

To date, I can think of only one exception to this general rule, that of the shooter taken down by unarmed passengers on a French train. In one sense this case is instructive because it shows what courage and a willingness to risk one’s life for others can accomplish. However, it is important also to point out that this was a special case for a couple of reasons.

The importance of an existing team dynamic cannot be overstated.
The importance of an existing team dynamic cannot be overstated.
  1. First, the shooter had not had time to get started shooting before he was tackled. Frankly, he was a rank amateur.
  2. Secondly, it was a train car which is a highly enclosed space, so the when he pulled a gun out, he was close enough to be taken down before he could make effective use of it.
  3. Third, there happened to be a group of friends, sitting together, two with military training. This is an incredibly rare circumstance. One person alone would probably not have been able to take him down successfully, but they already had a team dynamic in place, with an aggressive leader and that made all the difference.
Courage is never useless, but sometimes it isn't enough to get you past the bullets.
Courage is never useless, but sometimes it isn’t enough to get you past the bullets.

The majority of the time, people who attempt to bumrush a gunman end up getting shot and incapacitated before they can get close enough.  That is kind of the point of a gun.

So are guns the answer then? Are the “arm and train all the teachers, hire unemployed veterans to guard our schools,” memes a viable option? Would the world be a safer place if everyone had a gun on his hip?

Just as it is mostly wrong, but partly right, to say that guns are the problem, I think it is also mostly wrong, and partly right, to say that they are the solution.

First, the problems with that position: have you ever tried to shoot one single bad guy with a pistol in a crowded room full of innocent people? What if he is moving, you are moving, and the innocent people are moving? It is not easy. In Special Forces we would conduct a training exercise every year to get us up to speed on that task. It takes a full month of training, 40 hours a week for four weeks, every year, before we are considered up and current on close quarter battle tactics.

This is the product of years of experience, and a full month of full time practice. It is not available to the average civilian.
This is the product of years of experience, and a full month of full time practice. It is not available to the average civilian.

This is not to say that every person who wants to carry a concealed weapon needs to reach a professional level of tactical marksmanship, but it does illustrate just how difficult tactical marksmanship is. It is not a question of hitting your target. The trick is not hitting anything else.

For the average concealed carry civilian, it is enough that they have a realistic appraisal of their skills, and not to exceed them (in itself a very difficult and complicated task). This means that you need to train at least once a month, with the weapon you plan on carrying and the holster you plan on wearing. You need to practice shooting under stress so you know how far away you can realistically hit a target without missing. And if you find yourself in a lethal force situation, you have to be willing to hold your fire if you cannot shoot without risking hitting an innocent bystander. Simply having a gun is not the same as having a clear shot.

This is why I do not consider the average concealed carry civilian to be a viable solution to mass shootings. Most people are just not up to the task. They could be, but they aren’t willing to put in the effort. The mere fact of having a gun acts as a mental magic bullet, which is worse than not carrying one (more on that later).

This is what most average civilians look like at the range. This is just enough training to get yourself killed, or accidentally shoot an innocent bystander. This does not cut it.
This is what most average civilians look like at the range. This is just enough training to get yourself killed, or accidentally shoot an innocent bystander. This does not cut it.

That being said, a general population in which a third or half of the people you meet are carrying a pistol could definitely have a deterrent effect. One person out of a thousand with a pistol is like one person with a vaccine. The odds of him being in the right place at the right time with a clear shot are pretty low. 300 people out of a thousand, and now the odds are stacked against anyone trying to commit a violent crime. A general presence of guns could (theoretically) act as a sort of herd immunity against mass shootings.

However, we must be clear that this is not a solution. It does not prevent violence, it best it merely levels the playing field between psychopaths and ordinary folks. At worst it invites a “Wild West” kind of society where a high level of mutual interpersonal violence is common and accepted as status quo.

The most important problem with the “guns are the solution” position is the same as the main problem with the “guns are the problem” position. That is, both of them miss the point.

The point is that guns are only ever immediate, as problems or solutions. But that is the topic for tomorrow.

*Edit: Many thanks to Joe Wagner for fact checking my lack of awareness. In a 2014 FBI study of 160 active shooter incidents between 2000 – 2013, they identified that in 37 (21%) of the incidents, unarmed citizens “successfully and safely” restrained the shooter before law enforcement arrived. By contrast, only 5 incidents (3.1%) were resolved after an armed civilian engaged the shooter with gunfire. Further, of those 5 incidents, the armed civilian killed the shooter in only 3 incidents, while 1 shooter was wounded and the fifth committed suicide.

While this does not substantially change my assertion that the majority of incidents are resolved by the shooter killing himself or being killed by law enforcement, it does add a fourth category, that of shooing incidents resolved by unarmed civilian intervention, which I had previously thought was a fluke. Additionally, given the fact that unarmed civilians overwhelmingly outnumber armed civilians, it should be noted that the higher numbers of unarmed intervention versus armed intervention (by a civilian) reflects statistical variance. It does not indicate that an unarmed civilian is as likely to be able to end and encounter as an armed civilian.

In the wake of the recent College shooting at Umpqua Community College in Southern Oregon, once again guns are in the news and all over facebook. I cannot open my facebook without seeing someone making a triumphant rebuttal to everything the other side says in one quick phrase or picture. It appears we no longer make arguments, we make catch phrases.

I want to share a few of thoughts on the issue, not because I believe that they will destroy everything the other side says, but because they might help to illustrate just how the catch phrase mentality dominates the debate, while being utterly inadequate to it.

Are Guns the Problem?

In the wake of any shooting in the news there are always three catch phrases that get tossed out before the bleeding even stops.

From the left we hear, “How many times does this have to happen before gun rights people will take action to prevent murder!”

From the right we hear, “If only it hadn’t been a gun free zone, someone with a gun might have stopped it immediately and saved countless lives.”

From both sides we hear, “The left/right immediately began exploiting this tragedy for their own political agendas.”

These catch phrases are powerful because they resonate strongly along tribal lines, polarizing those who already agree and getting in some jabs at the “flaming liberals” or “conservative gun nuts.” They are great rallying cries. They are not so good for compromise, working on solutions, or even just trying to understand each other.

Both sides agree that people shooting innocent people in schools (or anywhere else) is bad. However, both sides are latching onto a simplistic, childish understanding of the issue. The left sees guns as the problem. The right sees guns as the solution. Both are wrong. I want to address these two points in separate posts, and then go on to consider what the Catholic response to the gun question is.

From the way Democrats talk, it seems they think that guns are the problem. I say this because the solution they propose is essentially “Get rid of guns,” so I reason that the problem they have identified is the guns.

The response from the right is predictable. It has been plastered all over the internet that “guns don’t kill people.” Interpreted strictly, I think we can agree with that. The person firing the gun does the killing, the gun is just a tool. The gun rights crowd will go on to make the valid point that people who want to kill other people will find a way to do it. They will often point to statistics seeming to indicate that Britain, where nearly all personal ownership of guns is illegal, has a higher aggravated assault rate. The argument is that even though they have fewer murders, they have more violent crime, because violent criminals still find ways to attack people, and those people don’t have guns and so can’t defend themselves.

However, a more careful look at the data shows that because of differences in definition, the data doesn’t actually support that interpretation. Instead, it seems that Britain has only slightly higher or slightly lower rates for nearly all violent crime, except murder, in which we have nearly a four times higher rate.

Even if Britain did have a higher assault rate that would not be a ringing endorsement of gun ownership. It would mean that the overall situation in America is more lethal, meaning that more of the assaults actually kill their victim, instead of just wounding them.

Secondly, while I think we can all agree that guns do not make people mentally ill or homicidal, the fact remains that it is much easier to kill with a gun than with a knife. I don’t mean physically easier. If you know how it’s pretty simple either way, although a gun gives you more tactical options.

More to the point, it is psychologically easier to kill with a gun. It is psychologically easier to terrorize with a gun. Psychologist and Army Lieutenant Colonel (Ret) Dave Grossman theorizes in his seminal work “On Killing,” about the existence of what he calls “Killing Enabling Factors.” Briefly put his theory (which has not been subjected to rigorous research) is that the average healthy human has an innate repugnance to killing. Killing enabling factors are factors which make it easier to overcome that resistance. Guns enable by:

  • Creating distance. It is much easier to kill someone outside of physical contact range. It is harder to dehumanize someone who is up close and personal.
  • Minimizing risk. It is easier to kill when you are in predator mode as opposed to fight mode, and low risk makes you the predator and everyone else the prey.
  • Making noise. The noise and flash of gunfire in an enclosed area creates panic, and panicked people are easier to dehumanize. They become prey, which makes them psychologically easier to kill.

While guns may not technically be the problem, the liberals are right to the extent that they are an enabler of the problem. Guns do not kill people. We can agree on that. However, equally indisputably, guns enable people to kill other people more efficiently, and with less psychological resistance. In a society with guns, people who are assaulted will die more often than in a society without them.

Given the society we live in, in which people are can become isolated and full of hate, and in which mass murderers achieve instant national notoriety, such a person with a gun is more dangerous than such a person with, say, a knife or a club.

Because of that, I am cautious of any knee-jerk “I’ve got a constitutional right!” response to proposed gun control legislation. I think that if we had a reasonable basis for believing that stricter gun legislation would reduce gun violence then it would be very hard for a Catholic to argue against it.

The main reason I do not support disarming America, or even really increasing our gun control legislation, is because I don’t think it really has any very great chance of working. It won’t work because there are already too many guns. Trust me on this one. we have spent a good deal of time trying to disarm both Iraq and Afghanistan, and it hasn’t worked there. I remember the frustration of realizing that no matter how many caches we seized and destroyed, there were always more guns and explosives. That is exactly what would happen if the government attempted to disarm America.

Expanding gun control legislation doesn’t seem to work either. The largest cities in America, with the heaviest anti-gun laws, also have the highest rates of gun violence in the nation and in the world. This does not indicate that “more guns equal less crime” as many gun rights activists will claim. It does, however, prove that “less guns does not equal less crime.”

So I do not support gun restriction policies because I see no reason to believe that they will in any way reduce the level of gun violence in our nation. I wish it were that simple, but it isn’t.

There are few things more beautiful than a Catholic Wedding. This is the Bride and the Father of the Bride. We are terrible journalists and worse parents because we have precisely two pictures from that whole day. Both are in this post. There are few things more beautiful than a Catholic Wedding. This is the Bride and the Father of the Bride. We are terrible journalists and worse parents because we have precisely two pictures from that whole day. Both are in this post.

This week has been a crazy busy week. It is the second to last week of Spring quarter for me, (finals next week!) and we attended a wedding on Saturday. A very good friend of ours married a young soldier in a beautiful Catholic wedding. Since the bride is a classically trained harpist who has traveled the world, harping here and there, she had contacts in the Catholic music scene. Let’s just say, the music for the wedding was gorgeous. Latin hymns all the way, thank you very much!

Evie was highly entertained by her first out-of-utero wedding. Kathleen very carefully selected a lovely navy blue dress to match my navy blue sport coat. We managed to get a picture of it, even, before the Nuptial Mass started.

Literally just minutes pre-blowout! Literally just minutes pre-blowout!

Needless to say, the dress did not survive the Mass. It did not even make it to the procession. Ryan had to push the bridal party out of the way in the back of the church, to get Evie to a changing table before the consequences became irreversible. There was poop everywhere, but none of it ended up on the sport coat! God is good. Ryan hates buying clothes, or paying to get them cleaned. And Kathleen had very cleverly packed a backup summer dress for Evie, which did not match either parent’s outfit, but was cute, nonetheless.

We went for a walk in the park last Friday and played around on the pullup bars. Kathleen insists that no pictures of her hardcore gymnastics/parkour routine will be published, so you just have to use your imagination. To aid in that process, I include this video of some similar moves.

In the meantime, Ryan was busy pulling a muscle trying to do a horizontal lever from the bar. Must be getting old. Evie didn’t seem to have an issue with it.

Can't even straighten his arms and legs! What a weakling! Can’t even straighten his arms and legs! What a weakling!

For date night last night we went to a nearby indoor shooting range and Kathleen fired a pistol for the first time ever. Since she had never been there before she had to go through the range safety briefing. The nice lady in the dreadlocks who gave the briefing asked, “Have you ever shot a pistol before?”

Kathleen said, “No, my first time.”

The lady looked at me, “Do you have any experience with them?”

“A little.”

“Okay.” She turned back to the briefing. Paused. Turned back, “Wait, are you being facetious?”

Great Word! And yes, I was being facetious.

Turns out Kathleen already knew the big four safety rules from my last post… Actually, she just told me that she remembers them from last spring, before we were even married when I was cleaning out the apartment and I promised to teach her to shoot someday. Her memory is much better than mine.

She is kind of an oddity because she is right handed but left-eye dominant. Since I teach tactical shooting (it’s the only kind I know) I teach shooting with both eyes open, and dominant eye is critical, so Kathleen had to learn to shoot off hand. It is much easier to teach a hand than an eye. She isn’t the first person I’ve seen with an eye-hand mismatch, but after 12 years in the Army I could probably count them on one hand. I sometimes think they are people who were originally wired to be left handed but were socialized into right handedness, and their hands conformed but their eyes did not. It’s a theory anyway.

We rented a .22 since that’s the easiest and cheapest round to learn on, and went over dry-fire and weapon handling, and then went right into 5 round groups at the 5 meter line. She was a little nervous at first, but I explained that a .22 was kind of like a popcorn popping. She didn’t believe me.

She still doesn’t.

Wait until she gets to the 9mm! I don’t think she will ever graduate to .45 with my current arsenal because a full frame XD .45 is just too big for her hands, but other than that, I think she will turn out to be a very competent shooter.

The following are basic firearm safety rules that every student must learn in order to handle a firearm safely. When I am teaching shooting I will not allow anyone on the range who does not know the Big Four (Developed by Col. Jeff Cooper) by heart prior to beginning training!

1.    Always treat every firearm as if it is loaded. Do Not Play at this. It is deadly serious.
2.    Do not allow the gun to point at anything you do not intend to destroy.
3.    Do not put your finger on the trigger until you have a good sight picture on your target and are ready to fire.
4.    Know what your target is, and what is behind, beside and around your target.

Notes on Jeff Cooper’s Gun Safety Rules.

#1 is the most often and conspicuously violated, especially with pistols, especially by moderately experienced shooters. After shooting for a few months, shooters will get sloppy and complacent. Never relax your vigilance.

#2 A safe direction means downrange when you are on the range. When you are anywhere else it usually means that you keep the weapon holstered or pointed at the ground a few feet in front of your feet until you are ready to engage your target.

#3 when applied to assault rifles also includes the safety. Do not place the weapon on “fire” until you have your sight picture. With all weapons, the trigger finger is indexed, meaning it is extended straight along the top of the trigger guard, until you have actually aimed at your target.

#4 is consistently violated in the real world because of the artificial nature of shooting ranges. This is why it is helpful to use low percentage targets sometimes, in which there is a small “shoot zone” surrounded by a larger “don’t shoot zone.” In real life, bullets that miss their intended target do not simply vaporize or turn into flying rose petals. They continue travelling until they impact some unintended target. Also, the more powerful the weapon (i.e. hunting rifles) the greater the chance of a round actually going through the target and retaining lethal velocity on the other side.

Clearing the weapon (for Rifle and Pistol):

You will conduct clearing the weapon every time a weapon is handed to you, every time you finish shooting a drill, and every time you pack or unpack a weapon for transport. Every time a weapon that was out of your control comes into your control, you will clear it.

1.    Orient the weapon in a safe direction and place the weapon on safe*
2.    Remove the source of feed, i.e. the magazine, and safely stow it.
3.    Lock the slide or bolt to the rear, observing any brass that is ejected.
4.    KEEPING THE WEAPON ORIENTED IN A SAFE DIRECTION conduct your three point safety check:
a.    Check the chamber for un-ejected brass
b.    Check the magazine well for un-ejected magazine
c.    Check the slide/bolt face for un-ejected brass
5.    Release the slide/bolt forward
6.    **Take up a good sight picture downrange, place weapon on fire, press the trigger, listening for the metallic click.
7.    Place the weapon on safe, re-cocking if necessary.

* There are exceptions to step #1. Some pistols and older hunting rifles may not have a safety (e.g. Glock pistols, the Springfield XD series). Others have a safety that prevents the slide from being retracted when engaged (e.g. 1911 pistols). In these cases do not place the weapon on safe.
**Step #6 is optional based on range protocols and unit SOP’s.

Additional range rules:
•    Eye pro and ear pro at all times while range is hot
•    Keep your area neat and free of clutter
•    Know where all your equipment is and be organized about it
•    If you set the weapon down, keep it pointing down range with the slide/bolt locked to the rear and chamber readily visible.
•    No one goes forward of the firing line until all shooting has ceased and all weapons are cleared and set down or holstered
•    Train with the weapon and equipment you will be using (i.e. holster, clothes, shoes, gloves, purse, glasses etc.)