Fear and the Way of the Gun

This response to Arkansas State Representative Bell yammering about Bostonians ‘cowering’ in our homes because we couldn’t defend ourselves from terrorists is a couple of weeks old, but it’s dead on target (boldface mine):

I don’t know what citizens of Mr. Bell’s district would have done in such a situation. But if a sense of community was weaker, or if residents lacked confidence in their leaders, they might not have agreed to stay inside and out of the way.

Fear of others plays a big role in the reasoning of gun enthusiasts like Mr. Bell. They say they carry concealed weapons and high capacity magazines because there are lots of bad people with guns.

In contrast, Bostonians know bad people exist—we’ve just had an indelible example of this—but that good people far outnumber them, as we saw amply demonstrated by the helpers who ran toward the injured. Despite the bombing, most Bostonians walk around this city without fear, and aren’t afraid of other people, including people who are unlike them.

It seems preposterous—and terribly sad—to live in a place in which you believe you are in such constant danger that you must carry a weapon. That kind of society seems more like 10th-century Europe than 21st-century America. Or war.

Perhaps Bostonians possess greater optimism than do gun advocates like Mr. Bell. Paranoia, fear and pessimism ring loudly in the other worldview. For example, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said as budget cuts force municipalities to downsize their police departments, citizens can take up the slack by arming themselves with AR-15s. He warned of “marauding gangs.” Maybe Senator Graham has been reading “The Road” too much.

…We do know about marauding gangs. A few Boston neighborhoods suffer from wild young men wreaking havoc. Our solution is to tell the police to do a better job, realizing that even more havoc would ensue if neighbors took matters into their own hands with firearms.

Some of the gun fetishism is totemic, both in terms of feeling powerful and in terms of pissing off ‘liberals’. But the other part is about fear. It must be a miserable existence being so hypervigilant. And misery loves company:

But gun advocates want to create a society governed by fear, or at the very least, make sure that everyone feels the same fear they feel. “An armed society is a polite society,” they like to say, and it’s polite because we’re all terrified of each other. They genuinely believe that that the price of safety is that there should be no place where guns, and the fear and violence they embody, are not present. Not your home, not your kids’ school, not your supermarket, not your church, no place. But for many of us—probably for most of us—that vision of society is nothing short of horrifying.

Unfortunately, some people like fear. The irony is that they think we’re the ones who are constantly afraid. This type of misunderstanding typically doesn’t end well.

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7 Responses to Fear and the Way of the Gun

  1. Joel says:

    “Marauding gangs”, being, presumably, other groups of citizens who have also armed themselves with AR-15s.

    It seems to me that so much of the pro-gun rhetoric boils down to Mutually Assured Destruction type thinking. “They” carry lots of assault rifles, so we need to carry lots of assault rifles to defend ourselves. They have hollowpoints, so we need body armour. They have armour piercing bullets, so we need…

    (“they” can refer to actual criminal gangs, militias with opposing politics, the police, the national guard, or even the army, interchangeably)

  2. Min says:

    We have met the enemy, and he is us.
    — Pogo

  3. Amber says:

    I liked this as hard as I could. I live with one such gun advocate, and we both know several others like this. One of these other advocates even tells people he felt safer while deployed in Afghanistan. Because he had a gun. But my boyfriend does a lot of it to piss off liberals like me. He (and the rest of them) tell me over and over “Nothing”, when I ask what it is they’re so afraid of that they need guns to feel safer or whatever. And then he tells me I should be afraid of rapists and muggers, etc, and that I need concealed carry. I don’t feel fear about these things. They are grim realities, and me having a gun will not stop them. I froze up over seeing a turkey tom when my tags were valid, for cripes sake. It’s all so much terrible macho posturing and John Wayne hero fantasies, and I hate that mindset more than anything else about gun culture.

  4. Gingerbaker says:

    “Despite the bombing, most Bostonians walk around this city without fear, and aren’t afraid of other people, including people who are unlike them.”


    But then, a few lines later, that author says that living in a city where people can carry concealed guns nearly everywhere (like where I live, Burlington, Vt or, presumably, Boston, MA)) is :

    “But for many of us—probably for most of us—that vision of society is nothing short of horrifying.”

    So… which is it? Bostonians don’t live in fear of terrorists, but they do live in fear of law-abiding citizens who carry concealed weapons?

    BOTH sides here are getting hyperbolic.

    • DBP says:

      Uh no. You’re seriously misunderstanding this. They aren’t afraid of some big scary unknown. Just life. They’re afraid of people who look at a busy sidewalk and see potentially dozens of people they might need to shoot and carry a gun to do so if they, with their obviously twisted minds, feel the need to do so.

      Also, those “law abiding citizens” are much too often not that far removed from terrorists. The “an armed society is a polite society” is a fucking terrorist mentality. “Everyone will behave if I’m potentially dangerous enough” is terrorism.

      • I see. Hyperbole is your friend also.

        Come to Vermont. Every single person, unless they are a previous felon, has the right to carry a concealed handgun and there is no permit they need to obtain to allow this.

        We don’t “look at a busy sidewalk and see potentially dozens of people they might need to shoot…”. We don’t have “obviously twisted minds”. Our “law abiding citizens” are NOT “much too often not that far removed from terrorists….”.

        We don’t have gun battles on the sidewalk strangely enough, considering that we must all have those “obviously twisted minds” you wax eloquent about. Having the right to carry a concealed weapon, as far as I can see, has not encouraged a terrorist mentality, either, even though our sidewalks are filled with “dozens of people [we] might need to shoot”.

        I can’t explain it. Maybe there is something in our water? Maybe living so close to Fearless Boston has allowed us all to walk around without anxiety? Do you think it could be the maple syrup?

  5. joemac53 says:

    Have you ever lived in Boston? They don’t fear either. My dad was on the Boston Fire Department for over 30 years. The only time he thought he might get shot was by a robber who was hit by car while making his getaway (on foot). The bad guy was trapped under the car and my dad said loudly “I’m not lifting that car unless that guy is unconscious, dead, or I see a gun out here.”
    instantly a revolver was slid out from beneath the car. “OK, buddy, we’ll get you right out of there.”
    I never got to hear any stories unless they were funny or had a safe ending.

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