The Philosophy of the Gun

November 10, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

Guns Galore. The name might be emblematic of the US as a whole, but it’s merely the name of the store where Maj. Hasan plunked down his $1,100 and walked out with his brand new
Hekstra FN Herstal 5.7mm and several 20-round magazines.


At first, I thought that gun control was irrelevant in this case because Maj. Hasan was member of the US Army, and no law could deny a gun to a member of that category. But I was wrong. The murder weapon was not an Army firearm. It was privately acquired. Maj. Hasan was able to get his gun because he was a member of another category for whom getting guns is rarely a problem: people in Texas (also a few dozen other states.)

Maj. Hasan may have been a Muslim first and an American second, he may have practiced an extreme form of a foreign religion, he may have been psychologically unstable. But in at least one way, he was as normal and American as Charlton Heston: he believed in the philosophy of the gun.

The philosophy of the gun is simple: if someone does something you don’t like, shoot them. If you can’t shoot that person, shoot someone like them.

If you don’t like abortions, shoot an abortion doctor . If you don’t like an anti-abortion protester , shoot him. If you feel wronged by people at work, go postal. If a woman has rejected you, shoot her. If you can’t find a woman who actually rejected you, shoot several women. Don’t like the kids in your school? Shoot them. Feel you’ve been dissed by someone from another gang, shoot them.

Gun advocates put this in terms of self-defense. If you have gun, you can defend yourself, your property, and your loved ones from people who are doing something you don’t like. Which is just another way of saying that if you don’t like what the person is doing, shoot them. The only difference is that such shootings might be legal.

The question is this: whose decision is it? Who gets to decide whether shooting the bad person is OK? Most societies restrict this decision to law enforcement, to agents of the state. If someone is doing something you think they shouldn’t be doing, something that should be stopped right now, you call the cops.* That’s true to a great extent in the US as well.

But distrust of the government is a theme that runs through US political culture. So we make it easy for any person to take that power literally into his (or her) own hands. The law might punish you afterwards, if you are still alive. But until then, you are the law, and the decision over the use of deadly force is yours. Gun manufacturers might just as well advertise: “We provide, you decide.”

Fortunately, most gun owners never shoot their guns at other people. The vast majority don’t use guns to express their anger or their religious and political beliefs. But for the small minority who do want to use guns in that way, wide open lies the door of Guns Galore.


* Police scholars will recognize this as Egon Bittner’s definition of the police.The title of his article “The Capacity to Use Force as the Core of the Police Role” states it formally. More colloquially, Bittner says that the police are who we call when “something ought not to be happening about which something ought to be done right NOW!”

34 comments:

Joshua said...

The philosophy of the gun is simple: if someone does something you don’t like, shoot them. If you can’t shoot that person, shoot someone like them.

More generally, the philosophy you describe here is one of using violence against others. People who use violence against those they don't like hardly restrict themselves to firearms. Calling this "the philosophy of the gun" is like calling rape "the philosophy of the penis." The vast majority of us, who use our guns and our penises in a responsible and legal manner resent such an association.

Gun advocates put this in terms of self-defense. If you have gun, you can defend yourself, your property, and your loved ones from people who are doing something you don’t like. Which is just another way of saying that if you don’t like the person is doing, shoot them. The only difference is that such shootings might be legal.

Such shootings are legal because they are morally justified. If life has any meaning, then it must be morally justified to defend one's own life against one who would take it. If you don't believe in using violence to defend yourself or your loved ones, that's pacifism. I respect your right to be a pacifist, but I mourn for you and your loved ones when you encounter one of the afore-mentioned people who desires to use violence against you for no morally justifiable purpose. To put it another way: given that there are people in the world like Major Hasan, how can you deny the moral and legal necessity of using violence to defend yourself?

The question is this: whose decision is it? Who gets to decide whether shooting the bad person is OK? Most societies restrict this decision to law enforcement, to agents of the state.

Actually, that's not true. The legislature "decides" in that they write the laws that describe the conditions under which a person may use violence and lethal force against another. Then after an incident, the judicial system "decides," through the grand jury and trial process. Individuals, be they citizens or agents of the government, have equal capacity to choose violence within the bounds of the law, although they have different parameters under which the use of violence will be considered legal.

Here is what I think the Philosophy of the Gun is: "You hold in your hands the power of life and death. Obligate yourself to use it responsibly. Hold yourself to the high standard that such power requires. You cannot afford even a single mistake." I know a lot of responsible gun owners who would agree with me.

max said...

If someone is doing something you think they shouldn’t be doing, something that should be stopped right now, you call the cops

This sure will work... as soon as someone will invent police cruisers with built-in teleportation engine, and means to establish direct mind link to local 911 call center.

before that, police will be always minutes away while danger is in seconds.

James Santiago said...

Although it's a nitpick I should point out that the weapon allegedly used in the shootings was an FN Herstal 5.7mm. It fires a 5.7mm diameter bullet (in comparison to the Nato 9mm diameter bullet). Although certain forms of the 5.7mm cartridge can supposedly pierce soft armor, the ammo available commercially on the civilian market can not. It's interesting that MAJ Hassan chose that particular weapon as it is not popular, widely used, similar to the sidearm that he qualified with etc. However it does hold 20 rounds in it's magazine and is fairly concealable (especially under an ACU uniform).

Endif said...

"The philosophy of the gun is simple: if someone does something you don’t like, shoot them. If you can’t shoot that person, shoot someone like them."

No, that's the philosophy of the violent moron. There is a difference. The violent moron has always existed, guns have simply made him more effective than when he used a sword or a club.

The philosophy of gun ownership is one of independence.

It asserts that individuals have the right to defend themselves until police arrive, since police cannot and should not be everywhere all the time. Note the ineffectiveness of the disarmed UK surveillance state as a real world example.

It asserts that individuals are capable of making their own decisions, and that those decisions need minimal regulation by the state until empirically proven otherwise.

It asserts that individuals should be allowed to be as self sufficient as possible, by enabling them to hunt if necessary to feed their families.

Next time, try researching beyond the echoey memetic confines of the Brady Campaign. You'll get publicly spanked less.

The Mike said...

Fortunately, most gun owners never shoot their guns at other people. The vast majority don’t use guns to express their anger or their religious and political beliefs. But for the small minority who do want to use guns in that way, wide open lies the door of Guns Galore.

Far too little, far too late. By the time you've written this, you've already written off gun owners as psychotic killers on power trips.

tomcatshanger said...

You would feel OK if Maj. Hasan has used sharp bits of steel, explosives or chemical weapons to harm those doing something he didn't like, or whom he didn't like? Would you prefer that he set fire to the building and blocked the exits with automobiles?

You want your point to be that gun owners shoot folks. This would require Eighty (80) Million or more people shoot others for doing things they don't like.

I believe you are focusing on a tool and disregarding the behavior.

Folks who attack others for the reasons you stated (not liking what they are doing, not liking them, not liking the group they belong to) are not nice folks. Bad people really do murder their families with knives, or set homes on fire while folks sleep inside, or beat people to death, or run them over with their automobiles, or blow them up with explosives, or attack them with chemical weapons.

Take away firearms, very basic tools indeed, and the weak are at the mercy of the strong.

Anonymous said...

FACT: 80% of Americans will be the victim of a violent crime at some point in their life.

FACT: You have no right or expectation to police protection, even in the presence of a restraining order. This has been upheld by SCOTUS several times.

FACT: When every second counts, the cops are just minutes away.

The problem is, even if Guns Galore was not there, someone determined to go on a shooting rampage will find a way. After all, drugs like cocaine are completely banned, but I bet you would know where to start asking around if you wanted to get some. We tried to ban alcohol, that didn't quite work how we expected. Bad guys having guns is just a ugly fact of reality. So the question is: do we want the bad guys to be the only ones with guns?

I choose not to be a victim. I also try to avoid violence at all costs. But if someone makes me choose between my life and theirs, I want to be in a position to choose for myself instead of having it chosen for me.

Weer'd Beard said...

"At first, I thought that gun control was irrelevant in this case because Maj. Hasan was member of the US Army, and no law could deny a gun to a member of that category."

Technically you're correct on this. Could you explain how a trained member of the US Military who is in good standing and can be trusted to operate firearms and weapon systems for our country SHOULDN'T also be able to buy private firearms?

I certainly think mistakes were made in the Army handling Major Hasan's radical and threatening behavior prior to this crime, but at the time of him buying his guns he was an Officer of the US Army and was in good standing.

How could we lawfully deny him the right to purchase a firearm, but order him on deployment to keep his weapon close at hand at all time?

All the other comments cover just about anything else I'd have to say about many of your insulting and rude comments better than I could personally.

Weer'd Beard said...

Ooops spoke too soon, I should have touched this point as well:

"The question is this: whose decision is it? Who gets to decide whether shooting the bad person is OK? Most societies restrict this decision to law enforcement, to agents of the state. If someone is doing something you think they shouldn’t be doing, something that should be stopped right now, you call the cops.* That’s true to a great extent in the US as well."

FALSE! Well at least partially. Many places deny access to firearms for their people so the specific verb "Shoot" does make it true for many Non US countries.

But just about all developed nations have justifiable homicide laws on the books. If a person is attempting to kill you in just about every location on the globe, and you kill them in the course of resisting the assault, this is not a crime.

The only difference is in the US we allow our people access to effective tools for resisting attacks so that the disabled, the elderly, the weak, and Women, who as a general rule have less physical strength to resist assault from a strong man. (Sexist, yep, but that's the sad root to the Patriarchy in the world...disarming people is simply propagating that)

I don't think a person's physical strength should have any bearing on their right to live.

Firearms are one of the ONLY tools that can effectively make an 80 year old woman, or a man with Parkinson's, or a person in a wheelchair at an even footing (or at an advantage) with a person in optimal physical health who would choose to do them harm.

How can a civilized person not support that?

A Friend of mine wrote two very eloquent essasys on this subject:
http://munchkinwrangler.blogspot.com/2007/03/why-gun-is-civilization.html
http://munchkinwrangler.wordpress.com/2009/08/25/a-vote-for-gun-control-is-a-vote-for-thunderdome/

Eric said...

Given your logic, a car should be extremely difficult to obtain since many drivers get mad at cyclists and attempt to run them off the road to "teach them a lesson".

Todd Krohn said...

Endif writes: "Note the ineffectiveness of the disarmed UK surveillance state as a real world example."

More like, "Note the ineffectiveness of the armed US surveillance state as as a real world example."

J.R. said...

The U.S. is nowhere near a united state of arms law as the UK approaches, if not has already reached.

I think Alan Gura said it best: an "apartheid of civil rights," where gun rights vary by state. And few states have not infringed on the only amendment and pre-existing right to self-defense that "... shall not be infringed."

Drop the infringements (other than the ineffective laws forcing the mentally unsound and ex-convicts to easily buy firearms on the black market), and as a rule, you see crime drop substantially. FBI Uniform Crime Reports.

http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/10/01/taking_liberties/entry5354594.shtml?tag=contentMain;contentBody

Nick B said...

RE: Todd Krohn
You are aware that UK Homicide rates have been going up since right about when they banned most guns, correct? In fact if present trends continue, in less than a decade the UK will eclipse the US in homicides per capita.
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwR/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5214a2.htm
That's well worth a mention as well, when the CDC of "private guns are a public health crisis" fame says "shit, we can't find a single shred of evidence for any type of gun control" you might want to reconsider your position on gun control. Or you can continue your religious fear of guns, passed down from generation to generation.
Nick

Anonymous said...

reminder, do not send kids to this school.

Jay Livingston said...

Hey commenters, where'd you guys all come from? I can't believe that you're all regular readers of this blog (though I hope I'm wrong). How did you find your way here?

Anonymous said...

Your ignorance is insurmountable.

Your nievete admirable.

But your arguments are unsupportable.

Go move to the UK if you want a gunless public and go get yourself stabbed.

Anonymous said...

One thing I find interesting is the ongoing research on altruism and punishment. Several of the studies find that a population that can employ punishment to defectors can usually maintain a population of altruists only as long as a majority of members are willing to cooperate AND punish defectors.

As the willingness to punish falls off, so does the ability to control defectors except in limited areas where punishers maintain a majority.

That's what one of the point of gun ownership is: The means to--if necessary--to punish defectors (criminals) within a population of cooperators (law-abiding citizens) as a means of maintaining the trust required for other-wise costly altruism.

It's also a probably factor in out of control crime-rates in cities. Not so much the loss of altruism at the individual level, but the inability for local populations to maintain an ability to promote social norms regarding trust and altruism.

I suggest the original writer investigate this line of research.

spartakos said...

Hey commenters, where'd you guys all come from? I can't believe that you're all regular readers of this blog (though I hope I'm wrong). How did you find your way here?

I found my way here from one of your regular readers, who mentioned this post on a livejournal community. I think many others may have followed suit.

That said, as long as you were posting, why didn't you bother to address any of the points raised?

When all is said and done, you made a statement that is a cross between a broad generalization and a flat-out lie. Your definition of "the philosophy of the gun" is absurd, and is not held by 99.99% of people who own guns. It is the philosophy of the sociopath.

If you're going to make such an outrageous statement, don't you feel even the slightest need to defend it? To justify it? To offer any shred of evidence in support of it?

Joshua said...

@Jay: I'm a regular reader, and I pointed your article out on a LJ forum that I also read, because I thought the readers of that forum would be interested in your post. This is probably where the majority of new posters are coming from.

Anonymous said...

This is not the philosophy of the gun,but the philosophy of Islam.

Most mass shooting happen in gun free zones. If other soldiers there had weapons then this would have been stoped quickly. Concealed carry for all!

Dan said...

Funny how you say this is the philosophy of Islam when America has faced more Christian terrorism than Muslim terrorism.

But don't let the facts interfere...

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, typical liberal that has NO clue. You do realize that over 170,000,000 million people died in the last 100 years due to genocide after firearms were restricted or confiscated?
Firearms are illegal in India, yet they have the HIGHEST murder rate (by guns) in the World. Switzerland requires ALL homeowners to own a fire arm, yet they have the lowest murder rate via firearms! I could go on and on, but your radical, liberal brain just won't get it. There is a reason the Constitution has the 2A and completes the statement with "...shall not be INFRINGED"! They know the importance of defending against tyranny. The law abiding gun owners ain't the problem...which is 99.9% of them. A criminal is the problem. If you think all citizens should be denied the right to own a firearm, then you truly lost your freedom. You think the criminals will follow the law? Nope, they'll be running around with guns and you'll have no way to defend yourself!
Someone once wrote: " what is the difference between a Communist and a liberal? A communist knows what they are doing.." Meaning, a liberal thinks because it "feels good and "cutesie" it should be right.... Go ahead, give up your last means of defense and your on your own. The criminals will ALWAYS have guns...ALWAYS no matter what the law. The innocent are the ones that suffer from your radical laws!!

Anonymous said...

DAN SAID:
"Funny how you say this is the philosophy of Islam when America has faced more Christian terrorism than Muslim terrorism."

Where do you get this stuff from? Seriously? Is this what they teach in school now? First off, The white male Christian DIED to end slavery.The most Americans to ever die in a single war....White male CHRISTIAN! Second, Muslims were the original "slave traders" and 90% of their slaves either died in transit or were killed, raped and abused. On the other hand, whites treated slaves as though they were family. Giving them a place to live, inviting them to family events and sharing part of their wealth. Also, there were many BLACKS that owned slaves...over 800 alone in Charleston,SC! Muslim religion is not peaceful and your claim that Christians killed more on USA soil simply is not true. i could go on and on. Do your research before you spout off stuff like this...

Michael Zeleny said...

Who gets to decide whether shooting the bad person is OK? Most societies restrict this decision to law enforcement, to agents of the state.

Well, no. The right to defend oneself and others using deadly force against an imminent threat is recognized by the vast majority of jurisdictions worldwide.

If you are thinking of Max Weber’s definition of the Gewaltmonopol des Staates construing the essence of statehood as the monopoly on the legitimate use of violence, its scope and extent allow for the right to use physical force to be ascribed to other institutions or to individuals, inasmuch as the state permits it. Contrary to a common misconstrual, Weber’s definition identifies state not as the sole possessor of the right to use violence, but as its the sole source. And even that is not the case under the doctrine of natural law and natural rights, expressly recognized by the framers of the U.S. Constitution. The right to defend oneself and others using deadly force against an imminent threat is the paradigmatic example of a natural right that cannot be alienated to anyone else, under any circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Better to remain silent than to provide verbal proof of lack of intelligence! The article posted is a complete and total waste of bandwidth.

Anonymous said...

Most societies restrict this decision to law enforcement, to agents of the state. If someone is doing something you think they shouldn’t be doing, something that should be stopped right now, you call the cops.

Yes, that's how it was handled in the Soviet Union, in Mao's China, in Hitler's Germany. That's how "agents of the state" killed more than 150,000,000 unarmed people last century alone. People who were subservient to them because they lacked the means to defend themselves against the vaunted "agents of the state."

In this country, we have the "philosophy of the gun" which is also known as our 2nd Amendment and it's the very basis of our freedom. Unlike this typist, I have no interest in being a serf.

Army of Won said...

I certainly believe that some people should be prevented from owning firearms. The author of this illogical screed is at the top of that list, along with IRS agents, Muslims, and all other mental and moral defectives.

If you don't like the 2nd Amendment, go unarmed. That's your choice. You may not choose to disarm people who are better informed and capable of far clearer thought than you, however.

Anonymous said...

Please post this on your front door:


"Dear criminals, terrorists, psychopaths and govt agents coming to arrest me for thought crimes.

This is a "gun-free" zone. I do not believe in the 2nd Amendment nor the right to defend myself and my family.

Please do not hurt me as you rob, rape or muzzle my freedom of speech.

Thank you (rattles his chains,

Yours in serfdom,
Jay Livingstone

Anonymous said...

The casual reader will have already ascertained that Jay Livingston is an idiot due to his Philosophy of the Gun statement.

But what many probably do not know is that there would have been more deaths if the Terrorist has used a standard .45 caliber handgun instead of the 5.7mm weapon he did have.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes! I remember when Charlton Heston freaked out several years ago and killed all those people. [It was OK, because they were zombies.]

Wait... that was a work of fiction.

Kind of like the intellectual infrastructure of this putative blog; and all the rest of "Progessivism."

Anonymous said...

Of course, taking an idea to an extreme and making that the norm. that's the logic of liberalism.

Just way to stupid to comment more.

tsiya said...

The Brits are now killing each other with knives, at an alarming rate, and trying to ban those. Will teeth be next on the outlawed list?
Western society now views
barbarian behavior as acceptable, and even subsidizes it.
Why is anyone surprised when barbarians act like barbarians?

Anonymous said...

A contributing issue with the Hasan murders is that people were reticient to notify authorities when he displayed irrational behavior.

Assume that this post is notification to Montclair State that Livingston is displaying irrational behavior and should be investigated.

Anonymous said...

You liberals really think the police will proteect you don't you? Newflash it takes an average of 15 minutes to more than an hour if you are in city for the police to show up. Most places we just refer to them as the cleanup crew. If you are unarmed they will clean up your family after the criminal kills all of you, if you are armed they will clean up what is left of the criminal. :)