When I started this blog, I assumed that the few people who would read it would be my friends. My friends know me for who I am first, and for them, the part of me who is a gun-owner and a woods-dweller is only a relatively small part of a larger whole. While I consider myself fortunate to have picked up a few readers who haven’t met me in person, I suspect that those of you who don’t know me well may make assumptions about who I am based on what little you see and read on this blog. For instance, a few of you picked up on that short scene in the last video where I was loading shells into my shotgun, and commented on the potential use of force on my land. While you’re free to think of me as you wish, as a gun-owner-blogger, I feel a certain responsibility to articulate my views on guns as clearly as I can. So, here we go…
Unlike many of my city-dwelling friends, I grew up around guns. My father was an avid marksman, and shot competitively for as long as I can remember. There were guns in our house when we lived in Los Angeles in the 80s, and my dad shot air guns competitively when we lived in Germany in the 90s. We even had a 10m indoor “shooting range” setup in our basement, where I often shot air guns as well. I didn’t get into shooting competitively myself until I moved to the Bay Area after college and joined a local club, where we shoot matches similar to NRA Highpower matches (and CMP Service Rifle matches). I started off shooting about 40% of maximum points, and have gotten to the point where I can score about 90%. So I’m not great at it, but it’s something I take seriously.
Though I primarily consider myself to be first and foremost a competitive marksman, gun owners are actually a pretty diverse group. Even within competitive shooters, there are various disciplines that are very different. Some are more “practical” and simulate the challenges of tactical scenarios, while “benchrest” shooters clamp down their guns and compete based on their ability to tune their guns and ammunition and read wind accurately. However, there are tens of millions of gun owners in the US, and most of them don’t even compete at all. Many of them have guns tucked away in the closet “just in case” and rarely actually shoot. Some shoot casually at shooting ranges. Many hunt, for food or leisure. Some have permits to carry concealed handguns. And while the stereotypical gun owner might be a white conservative man living in a small town, some are like me; well-educated, young, socially liberal, reasonably affluent, and/or living in the suburbs or cities. Even in the San Francisco area, known for its liberal population, there’s a thriving community of gun owners, gun shops, and shooting ranges if you know where to look. So, while the label “gun owner” has a certain stigma (and set of assumptions) attached to it these days, stereotyping us is as misleading as stereotyping any other group of people in this diverse country.
Now, with that aside, let me talk a little bit about why I carry a gun on my property. First of all, I’m not certain that there aren’t bears or wild pigs around, and both can be quite dangerous. If a pig were to charge at me, I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot it (mmm… free pork). But when it comes to humans, the short answer is, deterrence. Out there, there’s a good chance that anyone who is illegally on my property is also armed. Maybe they are illegal loggers or hunters. Maybe they are illegal marijuana growers. Whoever they may be, by being on my land illegally, I would consider them to be people of questionable moral character. And the reality is, if someone wanted to shoot me and leave me for dead, they could. They’d be far, far away before anyone even noticed I was missing. I carry a gun not because I think I can win in a gun fight, but because it’ll hopefully make someone think twice before shooting at me. If I am unarmed, the equation is simple: if they shoot me, they can get away free. Even if they miss and I call the sheriffs (which I currently can’t since my phone doesn’t work up there), it’ll be an hour before they show up. In fact, there may be more incentive to actually just kill me to avoid the hassle of potentially being identified later (since there won’t be any other witnesses). But, if I am armed, there is more uncertainty: if they try to shoot me, I might shoot back. It’s very, very unlikely I’ll ever get shot at, but anything that makes it even less likely for me to get shot at is a good thing.
Now, I’m a pretty chill dude and do not wish to do anyone harm unless they threaten me with imminent danger. That’s fortunate for me because state law prohibits me from using force in pretty much any other circumstance. I can’t shoot someone for merely trespassing (nor would I wish to). I can’t shoot someone even if I catch them in the act of burning down my hut (nor would I wish to). I can’t shoot them even if they are armed and shoot a hole into my solar panels with a shotgun (nor would I wish to). In fact, I won’t point my gun at another person unless they’ve shot at me or I feel they are about to, and even then, only if I think they can actually hit me (most people can’t shoot worth a damn), and only if I don’t think I can safely retreat.
If I came across someone vandalizing my property, how can I be sure that in my rage I won’t shoot them even though I have no legal basis to do so? I can’t. But I have faith in myself. I believe I am a good person, and that I won’t cause unnecessary bodily harm in another person. Like I said, I’m a pretty chill dude. While we’re on the topic of safety, I should also note that I exercise extreme caution with my firearms. When I carry guns on my property, I leave the chamber empty. That means I can disengage the safety and pull the trigger and nothing will happen. I have to load a round into the chamber, which is a clear and deliberate act that gives me an additional moment to reflect on what I am doing, or about to do.
For me, gun ownership is about more than what the 2nd Amendment says or doesn’t say. It’s about freedom, individual accountability, and faith in humanity. It’s about what kind of society I want to live in. Personally, I want to live in a society where people can do whatever the hell they want, as long as they don’t harm others. And if they do do harm, then they should be held accountable. But as long as I don’t actually do harm, it shouldn’t be anyone else’s business what I might do. I also want to believe that most people are good, and want others to believe that I am good too. I’d like to live in a society where I’m not assumed to be violent or dangerous just because I own a device that could conceivably be used for violent and destructive purposes. In other words, judge me by what I do, not by what I own. And trust me, for I am good.
I hope this clarifies my view on guns, gun ownership, and the use of force. As always, leave a comment if you have any questions or thoughts…