05 September 2009

Firearms perceptions

Personal firearms are like medicine: discussion of either reveals fundamental attitudes in a society and, when the discussion expands to involve more than one society, exposes fundamental differences and similarities between them. Individuals in the US and UK, to take a specific case, may make common cause over personal arms or funding of healthcare, and may appear to be on the same side, but can never operate from the same psychosocial assumptions.

In both cases, the root of specific difference lies in a general philosophical divergence over the balance between two necessary component personal freedoms: the right of the individual to act freely versus the right of that same individual to protection from the actions of others. There's no objective right or wrong view of exactly how these two should interact, but that doesn't keep either side from subjective certainty.

Studying such a difference can tell the curious observer a great deal about both societies.

Such routine musings were pulled to the surface of my mind yesterday by a chance conjunction of two pebbles dropped into my personal pond: publication of a VPRP report and a comment by Jim Putnam over at TTMF.

I won't comment more on either than I can help, for fear of contaminating them with my own ineradicable programmed assumptions. In Jim's case, if you haven't already done so, pop over to TTMF and read the post (particularly, if you are really in a rush, paragraphs 3-5). The VPRP report is much longer, weighing in at around 25 megabytes (split into nine smaller downloads, and containing a lot of photographs) but all of it worth reading – again, if you are in a rush, go for the executive summary.

One thing that interested me is the following pair of media headlines (from a much longer list of two dozen emailed by a friend who shall remain unnamed, on the precautionary principle, unless they ask to be identified). They illustrate nothing about firearms or societal variation, but a great deal about how differently the same research can be seen even within one society.

  • Wintemute, G., Inside gun shows: what goes on when everybody thinks nobody's looking (B. Claire, Editor). 2009, Sacramento, CA: VPRP, UC Davis School of Emergency Medicine. http://ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/vprp

1 comment:

Dr. C said...

I really despise personal firearms. Where I live there are a lot of hunters, both deer and ducks/geese. So, I guess I have a tolerance for rifles and shotguns if they are locked up 99.9% of the time. It is amazing how young they start hunting. I even had a little 10 year old female who was bragging about the deer she shot (not that it is that hard, they are thick as fleas and rather brazen in their wanderings. Sometimes I think they are into dares.)

There are several incidences of hand gun use a week in our small burg, almost all of it drug related. This would be unthinkable in a similar village in England, I think. There is rarely, if ever, a case of true self protection with a handgun. For crying out loud, if a thief had a handgun and you pull one on him you are probably dead. (Actually, the most recent "personal protection" incident in Baltimore involved a student killing a thief with a samurai sword.)

As for the cowboys bringing assault rifles to a presidential appearance and swaggering around, I have nothing but disgust. If they wanted to use firearms, perhaps they should joint the Army in Afghanistan.