On Guns

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…

14 thoughts on “On Guns

  1. Just so you know, there are other shooters that follow your site. I have been following your site for a while, found it through one of the small house or simple living sites. I was also a competive pistol shooter for about ten years, but stopped when I moved somewhere that did not have a place to compete that was convenient to me.

    I am more frightened by those that say they would not be able to protect themselves than those that are shocked that someone else is able to. If people won’t protect themselves, they are empowering the criminals AND the police, and hoping that the police or a freindly neighbor will help them if they are in trouble. It also means that if I am in trouble, these people will not be able to help protect me. There goes self reliance.

    We recently had a case where four youths decided they were going to break into a house, any house, rob the place and kill anyone that was there. They found a house on a dirt road, went in and using machettes (or knives, the reports varried), killed the mother. They thought they killed the 11 year old daughter, but she survived. The kids joked about it on their facebook page.

    I don’t know if a gun would have helped these people. Maybe, maybe not. But at least these people would have had a chance to try.

    Google MONT VERNON, NH, Kimberly Cates


  2. Well stated. I think your views reflect those of many educated, liberal gun-owners. Its a view that probably goes back thousands of years. Having a weapon and being willing to defend one’s self or family has been an essential part of survival and only recently have we chosen to put out protection in the hands of unknown others.

    Just my two cents.

    Thanks for the interesting blog.

  3. While I’m not a current gun owner, I do want to applaude your stance on gun rights. I wish there were more like you. It’s unfortunate that the only view so many people have of gun owners are either urban gang bangers or the drunk white hunting redneck.

    The somewhat negative responses to your previous made me a little angry. I don’t know if it’s arogance or ignorance, but I believe it symptomatic of something that very disturbing about the average person in our country. There seem to be two incorrect believes that are becoming prevelent (A): I have the right to be safe, and (B) the enforcement of that right is someone else’s responsibility.

    Safety is an illusion, something that suburbanites need to sleep well. The world is a dangerious place. American foreign policy of the last 50 years or so has angered a large part of the world, and even locally, there are many people who are deperate enough to kill for the goods they want, or need, or just for the fun of it.

    Finally, given and lethal danger is a truth, do I want to be selfish enough to expect someone else (such as a law enfocement official or a TSA) to face that danger and possibly die on my behalf. I don’t think so. It’s my life, and it’s my responsibility and mine alone to protect it.

    I’m not saying that our law enforcement is doing a bad job, or disrepecting them in any way. Just becase i don’t expect them to, doesn’t mean that they aren’t putting their life on the lines everyday for people who are essentially a complete stranger to them.

    Sorry for the rant, I know it’s not my blog. For the readers, remeber that your freedom came at a price and continues to be paid for in blood, It’s selfish in the extreme to believe it should only be someone else’s.

    • Update on Ryo’s blog post since TinyHouse Design has sent a post about Project 31.

      I watched your Episode 6 (Ryo) about returning to your property after four and a half months. What I really want to comment on is Grant Wagner’s comments about “…reme[m]ber that your freedom came at a price and continues to be paid for in blood, It’s selfish in the extreme to believe it should only be someone else’s.” I’ve run a bit in tough crowds who do not own guns, but we’ve had our share of fights. By the way, I am a female. When I was around all these young males talking about blood, I assured myself I had blood every month and would fairly frequently remind them. I liked it (for what it was worth) and I’m not into the traditional Biblical interpretation of Eve, but I know as a woman I give my blood as a price for humanity. I support men in their passion to serve humanity to the point of bloodshed. To repeat, I don’t find my monthly menstrual cycle a punishment for existing in this world, it’s simply the way we are, and I don’t find it insufferable to bear children. We’re all born and we all die.

      I don’t want to make the leap to a conclusion men who won’t bear “arms” are feminized. I don’t want to think of all the females on this planet who have to take the role of “men”. I am not any more shocked by men in “their” warfare than I am by human reproduction.

      As an aside, I am not sure how I feel about harming oneself. I often don’t want others interfering with how I deal with myself even though there have been a few who have convinced me I am loved by them more than I love myself (at the time). This has increased my humanity towards myself and made me a better person. I learned more about love as a topic and applied it to myself.

  4. You had me up until the last paragraph.
    I appreciate reading about your views on gun ownership and if you’re a marksman and you do it as a sport, then fine, but then when you equate carrying a gun with freedom and faith in humanity, I’m afraid you’ve lost the plot.

    No, you carry a gun on your property because you fear that someone else might be there also with a gun. What could be less free than fearing for your own life? Gun ownership has led to nothing more than an arms race and people now live in a personal hell as a result. Hardly freedom. And assuming that the other person is going to shoot rather than be a friendly neighbor does not place much faith in humanity.

    Dude, I lived in Texas for 10 years and never felt the need for a gun. Now I live in a country where gun ownership is not ‘a right’ and even though I feel the same way about intruders on my forest property as you do, I don’t have to worry about carrying a gun because other people might be. What’s more freeing and having faith in humanity than not having to fear for your life or not fearing that if you encounter someone on your property, that they are likely to shoot at you?

    Americans are not free. They live in fear because of the foreign policies of the government which has trampled on everyone else’s rights in the name of giving so called freedom to Americans, present government included. And Americans are certainly not free if they have to fear their own neighbors are going to shoot them.

    • Hi Steve,

      Thanks for your thoughts. I guess I didn’t explain the “faith in humanity” bit very well, so let me try again. I think societies that ban guns do so with the underlying assumption that most people can’t be trusted with guns. The assumption is that most people are either too stupid, too irresponsible, or too malicious to be entrusted with firearms. Otherwise, why would guns be banned? But I think that’s a very bleak and uncharitable perspective on humanity. Personally, I have more faith in my fellow man (and woman). I believe most people can be trusted to own guns if they wish. And indeed, the numbers speak for themselves in the US. There are an estimated 80 million gun owners in the US. Of those, some tens of thousands (rough estimate based on the number of gun crimes) will use guns for criminal purposes. That represents far less than 0.1% of gun owners, which means over 99.9% of gun owners can be trusted. Furthermore, since most gun crimes are committed using illegal firearms, I think it’s not too far fetching to say that over 99.99% of legal gun owners can be trusted. If 99.99% of people who own X can be trusted, why take it away from them? Granted, we should strive for 100%. Personally, I’m in favor of gun laws that actually help keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. I also acknowledge that we’ll actually never get to 100%, and some legal gun owners will use guns for violent or criminal purposes. But, personally, given how much I enjoy the shooting sports, I’m willing to accept that very low additional risk.

      Also, if you got the impression that I fear for my life on my property, I apologize for misleading you. I have never felt afraid on my property, and I probably wouldn’t keep going back if I actually feared for my life whenever I was there. It’s actually more like wearing a seatbelt when I’m in a car. It’s not like I’m constantly in fear of getting in an accident when I’m in a car. But I wear a seatbelt anyway, because if I am in a car accident, it might save my life. Carrying a gun on my property has about the same feeling for me, except it’s even less likely that I’ll need it compared to a seatbelt.

      Finally, as for comparisons with other countries… Personally, I’ve only lived in three countries (other than the US, 9 years in Germany, and 5 years in Japan), and have only visited a couple dozen others, so my perspective is admittedly limited. But, unlike many Americans, I made a conscious choice to come live in the US. I have a dual Japanese-US citizenship, and I went against my parents’ wishes, saved up money, and hopped on a plane to come to the US. Japan is far safer than the US, but I still don’t think I’ll ever want to live there again, because it is oppressive in other ways. I won’t try to argue that the US is more free compared to this country or that, but at least of the places I’ve lived and/or visited, I like it the best, despite all its failings.

  5. Pingback: Tiny House Design , Archive » We’re stronger together

  6. paleotool wrote:
    Well stated. I think your views reflect those of many educated, liberal gun-owners.

    It’s also the same view of many educated, conservative gun-owners. Agreeing with all the comments and you, also, Rho.

    I came exploring here today to see the video and your eloquent reply post (per TinyHouseBlog). As paletool wrote: Well stated! Thank you for being a voice for responsible gun-ownership & gun usage.

  7. Man Ryo, your land is absolutely gorgeous!

    I applaud and support your right to own, carry and shoot a gun. I too grew up with guns and have no problem being around them. My personal fave is a good old Remington 870. The sound it makes when you pump it will stop any troublemaker dead in their tracks.

    I don’t mention firearms on my blog but my cabin is also very remote and it would be foolish not to be protected. We have drug addicts, armed illegal growers and all sorts of dangerous folk in the nearby town, not to mention aggressive wildlife…bears, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes and feral dogs. All of my neighbors openly carry shotguns when walking the woods.

    You certainly can’t drive up a private dirt road by me without being greeted by a gun-toting neighbor. Personally, I’ve always felt safe there.

    I also find that people are much more polite when everyone is armed. Also it turns out that counties with the highest rates of gun ownership have the lowest crime rates and vice versa!

  8. Hey Ryo,

    I am a lifelong shooter and handloader; at age 52, I have been actively doing both for 42 years now. I learned from a cousin of my father, who taught me at age 10 how to melt lead to cast bullets, then reload cartridges before I ever squeezed a trigger. I have spent my whole life around firearms and am glad I learned what I did as a young man. I shoot very often now, as I have a 270 yard range on my property and it’s easy to get out.

    Every month, I shoot a 200 yard competition; iron sights, standing position, unsupported, no sling. It’s real competition; just shooter and rifle. I feel out of place there as the only liberal on the property, but they accept me because we have a lot of common ground.

    You’re doing a very good thing out there on your property, and I wanted to let you know how much I admire that.

    All good things,


  9. I’m not a gun owner, nor a liberal politically. I am a strong supporter of our Constitutional rights and consider people who think private citizens should not own firearms to be grossly undereducated…My sister sent me this. I think it says it best (look at the dates separating gun control and government exterminations; makes you wonder what might be the agenda of politicians who push so hard for gun control here):

    Gun History
    After reading the following historical facts,
    read the part about Switzerland twice.
    In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control..
    From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
    In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1..5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
    Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, a total of 13 million Jews and others who were unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated.
    China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million poltical dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated
    Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
    Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000
    Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated
    Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million
    educated people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
    Defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control: 56 millon.
    You won’t see this data on the US evening news, or hear politicians disseminating this information.
    Guns in the hands of honest citizens save lives and property and, yes,
    gun-control laws adversely affect only the law-abiding citizens
    Take note my fellow Americans, before it’s too late!
    The next time someone talks in favor of gun control, please remind them of this history lesson.
    With guns, we are ‘citizens.’ Without them, we are ‘subjects’.
    During WWII the japanese decided not to invade America because they knew
    most Americans were ARMED!
    If you value your freedom, please spread this anti-gun control message to all your friends

    The purpose of fighting is to win. There is no possible victory in defense. The sword is more important than the shield, and skill is more important than either. The final weapon is the brain. All else is supplemental.

    I’m a firm believer of the 2nd Amendment!
    Thank GOD for Thomas Jefferson!

  10. You are right. I agree. I too am socially liberal but believe in your right to own a gun. I used to enjoy target shooting in the past and would love to again in the future. I used to hunt in my youth and we ate everything we shot.

    There is nothing so wonderful as being out in the woods in the Fall, a good chill in the air, the leaves turned colour, walking quietly with some friends and a 410 shotgun, hunting for partridge. There is something enjoyably primeval about hunting (and, I’m afraid, it is generally only men who seem most able to appreciate this).

    I also think that if you are going to live on 60 acres of woodland in Northern California, you had better understand the reality of bears. It is absolutely ridiculous to spend any time in the bush without adequate firearm protection against bears. To them, we are protein.

    Thinking you can ward off a bear attack by shouting or pepper-spray is insane. Give me a .3030 any day, and I’ll feel 100% safer when I know there’s bears in them thar woods …

  11. I suppose I am conservative politically, one of my big issues is gun control right? I hate it, never understood it. I go browsing the huffington post every now and then to stay familiar with the political left, I noticed a while back that a blogger writing pro-gun control was essentially jeered down by the readership there, so your view on guns is not all that uncommon amongst social liberals based on that little anecdote.

    By the way, you forgot to mention the #1 reason for gun ownership, they’re frickin’ fun!

  12. Ryo,

    What logic; what good, reasonable, common sense. I applaud your writing skill and your judgement. Would that all gun owners shared your reserve, resolve, and level-headednesss. If so, then I would feel much more secure in our world with so many gun owners who have, shall we say, “different” reasons for touting the 2nd ammendment! I never trust those who flaunt their rights instead of respecting and using them with respect to the opinions and sensitivities of those who may differ with their take on the parameters of the rights they flout.
    I appreciate your eloquent response to Steve R as well, as I too had reservations until I read your response.

    When one lives in the wilderness, a firearm makes sense. There are dangers out there from man and beast. While firearms are hopefully never used against either, there is the chance that they may be required for one’s own preservation.
    I have served in the military and have been trained in the use of firearms.

    Currently, I own a shotgun. I used to hunt as a young man, but found no joy in the killing of an animal, and gave it up before I was 20. My shotgun sat in a closet in the city where I live, without shells in the house for 37 years, until last year when my wife and I bought a piece of property in a remote part of our state. I took the gun there, and bought a box of shells. I hope I never have to use the gun, and that it can be passed to my grandchildren as a relic from grandaddy that can be hung over the fireplace, or be placed in a closet for another 37 years or so.

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