14 October 2007

Guns and Lima Beans

Guns. I don't get it. I live in a rural area and I suspect nearly all of my neighbors own guns. Hunting season is approaching fast here in Western NY - and a friend is going to bring his son out to hunt on our land. I am not really "against" owning guns. I also am not a hunter, nor do I see much attraction in owning guns. They definitely don't make me think of safety or security. In fact, it seems quite clear that having a gun in the house is pretty dangerous - almost surely more dangerous than not having one in the house. Of course, gun owners seem to insist more or less indignantly that it is those other people who are in danger in this regard. Maybe so.

In any case, this project Armed America is quite intriguing. It is an invitation to meet your neighbors and co-workers. The photographer is Kyle Cassidy [here too] and from what I can tell he goes out of his way to remain non-judgemental about the people he has photographed. That is admirable. Predictably, reviews* from the left seem to be non-comprehending. Like me, the folks who write them don't get it. What strikes me in the comments that Cassidy records from his subjects is that, as far as I can tell, many own a gun (or several) 'just because'; often they simply want to. Of course, some are afraid, and some equate having a gun with freedom, and some just like collecting stuff and it might as well be guns as Pokemon cards. I think that is what I don't get. Why would someone bring a lethal weapon (leave Mel Gibson aside) into their home for no particular reason.

Mostly it seems that they own guns for no other reason than that they can and they feel like it and they don't have or need a reason to do so. Gun ownership seems to be a lot like liking (or not) Brussels Sprouts or Lima Beans. Of course, everyone knows that neither sort of vegetable kills people, only people kill people.

H.T. ~ I own guns for the same reason that I own fast
cars and fast motorcycles. Something about
the mechanical aspect of riding, and driving and
shooting and tinkering with these machines
that appeals to me. They appeal to
me - that's pretty much it.

Bashir ~ I just think it's a good thing to have.

Portia ~ I learned to shoot a gun when I was 10
or 11. My mother had a boyfriend who was a San
Luis Obispo County Sheriff, and he lived in a
teepee with a "wolf dog". We'd stay out there,
eat ashcakes for breakfast and shoot his guns.
The first time I shot a shotgun, I landed on my
ass and laughed uncontrollably the way you do
when you're a kid.
Anthony ~ I own a gun because I'm a fuckin' American
and a Marine. It's my God-given right.

[All Photos in this post © Kyle Cassidy.]

* This review/essay is originally from The Guardian.

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Blogger geekwitch said...

I don't care for brussel sprouts but I like lima beans. And dogs.

15 October, 2007 10:06  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...


First, I like neither Brussels Sprouts nor Lima Beans. Second, I do, however, like your name a lot!

15 October, 2007 11:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never really got interested in guns. I knew they were in some important use in history and of course present for hunting purposes.

But the whole killing the civilian in battle never appealed to me and I was very turned off by them. Especially as one of my negative childhood memories was being held at gun point.

Then I began to know a man I now call my boyfriend who really enjoys the inner workings of 1911 pistols, especially colts, and he has given me his views and his knowledge on what he felt about gun collecting, hunting and the NRA.

It is indeed a constitutional right to bare arms. And how kyle cassidy showed these people, they all individually had their own right to posses the weaponary they posess. Its what our forefathers requested. In our constitution.

Yes it is wrong that there are children making threats and robberies everyday.But there are good people who are more than willing to stand up for themselves and save theirs and others lives, such as the school teacher who fought in court for her allowance of conceal in carry in public school.

Not saying its wrong to turn the other cheek but what if the amish school possesed something that could of stopped that man on his tracks? Would it of been such a great loss?

More and more I observe the reports that are given, it seems to be quite ridiculous. If it isn't exaggeration on how big and bad the weapons were used by the "bad guy," its the warning signs that they share in the news that everyone else apparently missed that could of been stopped.

Such as the paper work with the Vtech murders. If the paper work was appropriately assembled, that young man would of been denied the weapons due to his extensive counseling.

Well I see I am rambling so I shall regress. But yes I as many others have strong views and multiple sides to being armed or not being armed.

15 October, 2007 21:46  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...


thanks for your thoughts. I am not sure how to reply, as I did not post this to "debate." I just wanted to mention a few things and see if others would do so too. Thanks again.


15 October, 2007 22:36  
Blogger Mark F. Cook said...

"Why would someone bring a lethal weapon (leave Mel Gibson aside) into their home for no particular reason." I love the way you ask this question, then answer it in the very next sentence and, at the same time, attempt (and fail) to refute it.

No one brings a lethal weapon into their own home for no reason. For personal protection, because I like to collect guns, because I'm a hunter, because I'm a competition shooter, because I like intricate mechanical devices, because I CAN, are all valid reasons. You may not agree with any of them, but that doesn't make them no particular reason.

You also say that guns don't make you think of safety or security. You comment reads, "In fact, it seems quite clear that having a gun in the house is pretty dangerous - almost surely more dangerous than not having one in the house. In fact, having a gun in your home is no more dangerous than have a kitchen full of sharp knives, of full gas cans in your garage. They can all kill equally well if misused. On the other hand, I suspect that you'll never read a newspaper article about the homeowner that stopped an intruder in his home by using a lawn mower. Firearms serve a variety of positive purposes, but can be misused just like power cords and drain cleaner.

Now, having said all of that, I'm not trying to convince you to rethink your opinions on firearms. I've tried to do this for years with other liberals and have reached the inexorable conclusion that it's a bit like trying to explain the concept of light and color to someone who was born blind. You either understand the ideas of personal responsibility and self-reliance, or you don't. You either have an irrational fear and distrust of an inanimate mechanical device with no personal will or agenda, or you don't. If you think that this is an inaccurate description of a firearm, then you really need to reread the definition of the word "weapon", and then ask yourself why you apply the same label everything else in your home that could possibly be used to kill someone.

I am a bit disappointed that you concluded your blog post with the trite, vacuous, and totally incorrect homily that only people kill people. Lots of things kill people, and plenty of other mammals kill their own kind.

I'm grateful to Mr. Cassidy for the wonderful opportunity to have participated in his book Armed America.

- Mark Cook, NRA Firearms Instructor

16 October, 2007 11:44  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...


Since you find it impossible to talk to "liberals" about this subject, perhaps you might consider if your premise is faulty: "You either understand the ideas of personal responsibility and self-reliance, or you don't."

Perhaps I think about self-reliance and responsibililty quite a lot. Perhaps I think both are immensely important. And perhaps I think that there is no necessary connection between either and owning firearms.

Perhaps I think, in fact, that many, many people own and use firearms in irresponsible ways. Even you don't deny that. The starting point of a real discussion might be that we both think responsibility and self-reliance are important and have different views about how best to embody those in our own lives and those of the communities and nation in which we live.

You are right, guns don't kill people any more than lawnmowers do. People kill people. Fine. But more people kill people with guns than with lawnmowers. And more people kill people intentionally with guns than do so with lawnmowers or even gas cans. I'd wager that more people accidently kill people with guns than with lawnmowers. So perhaps we can start by parsing intentional killing, accidental killing, rates of killing with different instruments and so forth. Blanket statements are not terribly useful here. Nor are silly analogies - mine or yours.

Moreover, guns, when used properly, meaning for purposes of self-reliance or security or protection in fact kill people. The same is not true of autos or lawnmowers. So, the rationale you offer for having a gun seems to lead to what you call the "the trite, vacuous, and totally incorrect homily" I mention.

I don't see any of what I have said here as wildly inaccurate or contentious. I have mixed feelings about guns. When I say many of the folks in this book seem to have no particular reason to own a gun I mean it. So, I like to collect things. Why guns instead of postage stamps? So I like mechaniscal devices. There are a lot of options, why not stock cars or lawnmower engines or anatique clocks? The alterntaives are less likely to be lethal to my loved ones (either accidently or intentionally) than guns turn out to be. None of the folks I cite in my post mention anything like a "reason" other than "I can and I want to." That is like saying I like lima beans. A reason might be that they taste good and are good for you or that they are cheap or that they are grown locally and so eating them supports the local economy and so forth. "I'm a fucking American," to take one example, is not a reason. Neither is "I just think it is a good idea." Neither answers the question "why?"

So given the alternatives I choose not to own a gun. Why? To follow your example, I'll never read a news article about a homeowner who, mistaking his son for an intruder, ran him down in the living room some night with a lawn mower. But I have and will again read about sons being shot dead as "intruders" in their own homes by their own parents. And I have read about putatively "responsible" gun owners whose kids (accidently or intentionally) kill themselvs or siblings or friends with guns left lying loaded around the house. Very, very, very few teens kill others with lawnmowers. If that difference gives you no pause whatsoever, the problem may not be with the "liberals" whom you no longer talk to.

I do appreciate your comments. I really am ambivalent about gun ownership. That I don't understand it does not mean that I am opposed to it. You seem to assume that opposition somehow follows. I think about it and worry about it in large part beause I worry about responsibility (and its lack) and self-reliance.

16 October, 2007 12:50  
Blogger Unknown said...

After spending two years in the middle of this, I no longer believe it's a "liberal" vs "conservative" issue -- I do realize that we tend to spend time in our own political bubbles, speaking with like minded people. I've also learned that "liberals", especially ones in urban areas, are far less likely to be comfortable talking about their gun ownership and far less likely to be willing to be photographed. Liberals in rural areas where gun culture is more universal are much more vocal.

But I think if you handed out a secret ballot to your left wing friends and asked how many owned guns you would be (as was I) surprised.

Another thing I learned, and probably the most important thing, is that seeing "the other side" as people and listening to their arguments, goes a very long way towards resolution. Which means listening to rhetoric before responding -- because I think both sides agree on what I really see as the key issue in the gun debate: "people shouldn't get shot."

If people start there, and treat others with respect, as people who have spent a long time formulating their opinions for reasons that are valid to them, only then arises the opportunity for meaningful conversation.

Thanks for taking the time to review Armed America.



16 October, 2007 16:03  
Blogger Kevin said...


I swear I left a comment here earlier...

Ah well, the short and sweet of it, Mr. Johnson, is that Kyle pretty much has it right, and Mark Cook has a very good point. For a large number of us, gun ownership is about self-reliance and responsibility, and gun "control" is about government and personal sovereignty.

In that comment that never made it, I invited you to please read an essay in two parts that I wrote some time ago concerning the questions of self-reliance and personal responsibility: Is the Government Responsible for Your Protection?

If you are interested at all in "getting it," this might be a constructive place to start.

If you'd care to discuss the topic further, please drop me an email.

16 October, 2007 21:49  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...


You seem not to have read my response to mark "buzzgunner"; there is no necessary relation between responsibility/self-relainace and gun ownership. At least neither you nor he have offered any. An assertion is hardly an argument.

Nothing I wrote implies any endorsement of "gun control" that is your projecction onto anyone who doesn;t own a gun. I don't. I have no view about gun control. I let friends who do own guns hunt my land. I simply don't get why someone feels the need to own a gun. And I am extremely critical of and skeptical about both government and other large powerful organizations. A hand gun is not going to stop them should they opt to haul me away.

As for "getting it" perhaps you can accept my invitation - the one I extended to buzzgunner - and consider that the way you characterize others may be problematic. After all, if half (roughly) of all Americans own guns there is another half that don't.

Best, Jim

16 October, 2007 22:29  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

PS: Having read your posts (wuickly) I stand by my assertion. There a commitment to responsibility and self reliance does not imply gun ownership. Best, Jim

16 October, 2007 22:40  
Blogger Kevin said...


Thanks for responding. I think you misunderstand my position, though. I was not characterizing you as supporting gun control, I was attempting to explain the beliefs of (many, but not all) gun owners.

It would seem that sensitivity about the issue exists on more than just the gun owner's side. (As an aside, my original comment that for whatever reason didn't post was more clear on this than the the one that I put up later. Mea culpa.)

For many of us, gun ownership is about personal responsibility and self-reliance. We recognize that we, ourselves, are primarily responsible for our own protection, and we object when others wish to deny us the best means available to protect ourselves. Go back and read Part II of the essay slowly, especially the last few paragraphs, and I think you might come away with a different understanding. Or maybe I think I write better than I actually do.

I don't have a problem with people who don't own or want to own guns. In a free society, you get to choose not to do something, if you wish. But I prefer it if people make their decisions (about anything) from a position of knowledge rather than ignorance. Unfortunately, acquiring knowledge takes effort, and most people uninterested in a topic don't bother to acquire knowledge. This presents problems of its own.

17 October, 2007 09:11  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Kevin, Thanks for the sensible reply. On this topic reasonable discussion is important. I appreciate your comments. Jim

17 October, 2007 10:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"On this topic reasonable discussion is important."

But not others?
seems to be your policy anyway, whenever you're challenged.

17 October, 2007 13:25  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Anon, I reply to reasonable comments and delete bigoted, rants that are not germane to the topic at hand. If the shoe fits ...

17 October, 2007 15:32  
Blogger Kevin said...

"On this topic reasonable discussion is important."

I agree. Unfortunately with regard to this topic, Reasoned Discourse™ doesn't happen much.

Look, I'll be right up front and say that I'm a "gun nut." It's a pejorative I willingly embrace. I'll go further and say that I'm a fanatic - defined as: won't change my mind, won't change the subject, and won't shut up.

But the fact of the matter is that I've reached this point through over twelve years of pretty thorough study. I wasn't always like this. Still, I try not to be strident or insulting. My schtick is to be informative. Twelve years of self-education brings a lot of knowledge that most people just never receive. I try to impart some of that knowledge to those who evidence an interest in the topic.

I don't try to convert the opposition - that's almost always a futile gesture - but I do, enthusiastically, debate them in public forums for the benefit of the audience. When you do that, getting pissed off and flying off the handle is counterproductive. Besides, I'm firmly convinced that reason and logic are on my side, so I use them.

I'm not all that happy with people who own guns "for no other reason than that they can and they feel like it" either, but I honestly believe that gun ownership is a right, however they go about exercising it. For those who choose not to own guns, I have no problem with that either, but I'd prefer that they do so not out of fear of an inanimate object (you might be surprised by the breadth and depth of that fear in our culture), or a misunderstanding of the dangers of gun ownership. I'd prefer it if they made the choice from a position of understanding.

As I concluded that essay, "I trust my fellow-man to make the right decision if given all the information." I see part of my job as trying to help propagate that information.

Thanks for your time.

17 October, 2007 16:03  

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