My Intent to Own a Handgun Exposes Political Sectarianism

by lizard

Pete Talbot is disappointed and disturbed that I would join the ranks of Republican gun enthusiasts, which he makes very clear with this comment:

I’m disappointed, liz. Joining the ranks of Gary Marbut? Seriously listening to Adam’s discourse on dropping methheads with a .22 hollowpoint v. a 9mm jacketed? Good company.

I’ve had whackos in my life, too, but I’m 60-years-old and never felt the need for a handgun. I’ve seen far more damage — suicides, accidental shootings, rage homicides — than legitimate acts of self defense.

What I find more disturbing is your comment on social and economic turmoil getting worse. You can buy an arsenal of weapons, move up some draw in the Bitterroot or Sanders County, and hole up. Or you can embrace your community, work with others to make things better and envision a world that has fewer guns rather than more.

While Pete did walk back his comment a bit, it’s that last paragraph I find the most intriguing. I’m going to assume Pete hasn’t read about this NASA-funded report about the potential for an “irreversible collapse” of our industrial civilization that specifically mentions resource exploitation and economic inequality between the wealthy elite and the rest of us as risk factors that have contributed to collapses in past complex societies, like the Han, Roman, and Mesopotamian empires. Here’s an excerpt:

By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.

These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: “the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity”; and “the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or “Commoners”) [poor]” These social phenomena have played “a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse,” in all such cases over “the last five thousand years.”

I wish I could just ignore the plausible nightmare scenarios where the social order breaks down and we are left to our own devices. Maybe I am just being paranoid. After all, I live in Missoula, and what can go wrong in our idyllic mountain college town, right?

After a lot of thought I completed the transaction yesterday and purchased a Ruger Mark III .22 caliber pistol. It took me about 20 minutes to fill out the paperwork. When I told my father, he told me it’s probably one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done.

I have two young kids and what I just did dramatically increases the chance they will die in our home from a gun-related accident. The responsibility I have as a parent is tremendous.

I truly appreciate the feedback from readers about this decision, especially this comment from Nameless Range:

Hey lizard I think others gave you good advice and you’re going the right way with getting a 22.

I think it is important to recognize though that having a gun in your house increases the probability that your children will die due to a gun accident. We all like to think we are outliers but the statistics are pretty clear.

I have a gun in my house for self-defense and I have two small children. If you’re going to have one gun I think it is worth your while to put as much thought into the safe you will have that gun in as the gun itself. I have a quick safe which is a four button combo. Practicing getting your gun out of the safe Safely and quickly is a must or else the purpose of having a gun is really defeated.

I would also not hide the fact that you have a gun from your children. Force them to associate your gun with danger and terrible consequences. You don’t want to instill fear of others into them, But I think it is better to explain gun safety and rules to them as opposed to creating some sort of forbidden fruit effect about the gun in dad’s closet.

I’ve wrestled with these things myself. I own many guns but only one is accessible. As a gun owner, don’t shy away from the fact that having a gun in your house increases the chances of your family members dying because of a gun. That’s a cost-benefit analysis you have to make yourself.

I did not see this post coming.

This is the kind of practical advise I was hoping for, because it both acknowledges how difficult the decision process is while providing some common sense suggestions about how to manage increased risk of a tragic accident happening.

My wife and I have already started the conversation with our kids about guns. I want them to be as aware and informed about guns as possible so they know how dangerous guns can be, but I also don’t want to create the “forbidden fruit effect”.

So thanks again for the feedback, even the criticism. For me this is a practical matter, and the political sectarianism, like Pete, is getting old. If I get to be 60, the year will be 2039, and like I told Pete, I’m not feeling all that optimistic about 2039. My outlook would be different if I knew there was the political will to begin substantively addressing the damage human beings are doing to the planet. Unfortunately our politicians are still playing the Great Game against old adversaries. If that doesn’t change I shudder to imagine the kind of world my kids will inherit.

  1. I think it’s worth pointing out that the title of the Guardian piece is incredibly misleading regarding the NASA study. NASA didn’t fund the study, NASA funded the development of the statistical model used in the study, for a purpose entirely unaffiliated with the study. The study:
    “was not solicited, directed or reviewed by NASA. It is an independent study by the university researchers utilizing research tools developed for a separate NASA activity.”

    Not that that discounts the study, but a lot of people give the study more weight because NASA is supposedly behind it, disregarding the fact that studies like this are published all the time. This is the media feeding us hype. The Guardian is no exception.

    It’s unfortunate you feel a threat so great that owning a gun is a net-gain as far as risk goes. That sucks. But if civilization collapses, I don’t think it will be those with guns or even arsenals that flourish, it will be those who meet with their neighbors at their local high school gymnasium and say, “Hey guys, let’s not starve to death this winter.”

    Maybe wishful thinking.

    100 years ago, a tenth of what is today’s western U.S. population nearly drove all of our big edible critters to extinction. At our current population levels, with firearms and technology as they are, if people “took to the hills”, I’d give all our big ungulates a year before utter extinction took place. They exist at our pleasure.

    Together would be the only way we’d make it.

    I derive my optimism from the fact that we have been increasing the carrying capacity of our planet with technology for the last 100 years, and technology isn’t slowing down. In fact, it’s speeding up – exponentially.

    • lizard19

      yeah, it’s not fun actually paying attention to what’s happening in our world where we export violence at tremendous cost to benefit and protect corporate interests as those same corporations do everything they can to maximize profit on the backs of a totally depressed and exploited labor force.

  2. Big Swede

    Now we can only hope there’s some pro-gun protests down the road and your registration papers gets burned in a symbolic gesture.

  3. It’s a shame you chose not to listen to folks who encouraged you to NOT purchase a gun. VERY SAD that you join the ranks of FEAR. That will be the world your children will inherit, with guns, anger, fear, hate.

    I’m greatly disappointed in your choice for our future.

  4. Billings Dad

    Lizard – my kids started helping me clean my guns at the age of 4 or 5 – because I figure that if they were at a friends house, and one of them pulled out Daddy’s gun to look at, that they would be educated enough to tell them to put it away, and not point it at anybody.

    Learn to shoot that .22, the one you picked is a good pistol, and you’ll also discover that it’s FUN !

    • lizard19

      yeah, my kids will be educated about gun safety because, from what I’ve been told about kids, you can’t lock them in the house until they’re 18 to keep them from being exposed to danger.

      • d.g.

        An artist I know has a one-man show where he references the time his father became concerned the son was playing with Barbie dolls too much. So they enrolled him in Hunters’ Safety and gave him a Tonka Jeep. (He claims he promptly put Barbie in the Jeep and had a grand parade.)

    • d.g.

      Either someone read A Clockwork Orange or The Road one too many times OR it’s that 40-pound cat that cornered the family in the bedroom!

  5. I don’t really care if you have a gun or not, but if you were really concerned about 2039 you’d take a different tact.

    Act, don’t react.

      • If you’re so concerned about the fate of society’s future, why not try to take some constructive actions to change it, not what would only lead to destructive outcomes?

        Writing a blog doesn’t really cut it. Sure, you can get your ideas out, but mainly your just preaching to the converted. I don’t know what your traffic is, but I don’t think there’s any substantive policy changes coming about because of it.

        Wouldn’t running for city council be a more concrete step toward ensuring violence doesn’t reach your family? If you do a good job there you might be able to move up to a higher office.

        Of course that’s not as easy as buying a gun, now is it?

        • Well, there’s a false dilemma if ever one was writ.

          1) The vast and overwhelming majority of firearm owners in this country do not ever and have not ever experienced or engaged in ‘destructive outcomes’. That is unless you are championing the salvation of paper targets …

          2) Here’s the false dilemma: gun ownership does not now nor has it ever precluded one from either a social conscience or progressive action. Lizard would be the first to tell you that I am hardly the biggest fan of his cock-certitude concerning the moral rights of the world, or even his opinions about how the world works. But I’ve never told him that if he follows one path than he can’t follow another as well. You might as well be telling him that if he’s a fan of Football than he’s useless to his fellow humans. That’s kinda silly if you look at it, isn’t it?

          3) You’ve no idea how humorous I find it, and should, when one writer tells another how pointless his endeavor is.

          Here’s the long and short of it, Greg. It would be one thing, you being so judgmental, if lizard had taken action to willfully hurt other people. This is not that thing. He bought a tool, just like many other tools, which can be put to many uses, killing among them. He did so with a strong profession of responsibility and concern. If only people bought TVs, or books, or cars or politicians with such care, the world might indeed be a better place. You have no bench or pillar from which to pass judgment here.

          • d.g.

            Dying to know the other “many uses” of the pistol! (Oh, maybe that intense party game played in Apocalypse Now?)

            • Entertainment, hand-eye coordination skill training, defense through intimidation so one does not have to kill a human being, personal defense against dangerous animals like snakes, hunting, education, family bonding as parents and children involve themselves in shared danger and commitment to safety and understanding. Hopefully that list is long enough to keep you from “dying”, d.g.

              It’s best not to confuse assumptions of design with assumptions of purpose. Computers were designed to do binary addition really really fast. They can save lives, ruin lives, take lives, inspire creativity, ruin artistry, grow knowledge and confine human spirit, create employment and steal it at the same time, land us on the moon and target wedding parties with explosives. All of that from a little machine that adds ones and zeros. Bladed edges have been used for millennia to dice our veg, cut our boot straps, chop our wood, hunt our meat, slice our fabric and entertain. Yet every year people die because a blade cuts something important to our biology. Blades are ‘meant’ to one purpose, destroy bonds between things, and yet we don’t question the use of blades because they are so very useful …

              The Ruger Mark III is a semi-automatic. It’s my understanding that semi-autos are a very poor choice for playing Russian Roulette. Anyone willing to use them for such are proving Darwin’s theorems correct.

        • lizard19

          you have no clue what I actually do.

  6. Pogo Possum

    Lizard. Here is my contribution to this conversation.

    1. Now that you have purchased your first handgun, take a weapons class lead by a reputable instructor. Gary Marbut is an excellent instructor. Several of my very very liberal friends who hate much of Gary’s politics and who don’t like him personally took his class and were both impressed and thankful for doing so. Unless he has changed, he spends a lot of time discussing the legal aspects and responsibilities of owning and (if needed) using a weapon in self defense which you need to learn

    2. Have your wife take the same course with you. This is as much for safety as it is for defense. She needs to know how to safely handle a firearm for her protection as well as any people in your home.

    3. Practice handling and shooting your chosen firearm frequently. In crisis mode, muscle memory, familiarity with your weapon and your confidence in what you are doing can be a life and death issue for you and others. Join a shooting range and take your wife, and your children when they are old enough to shoot frequently. A membership at the Dear Creek Rifle Range is only $50 per year. It can be a fun family project.

    4. If you haven’t already done so, talk to the local police about the individual harassing you regardless of how minor the situation is.

    5. If you haven’t already done so, consult an attorney. She/he can explain legal remedies you can take and you what should and should not do. Consulting an attorney and informing the police helps protect you legally if any unfortunate actions do occur. If the harassment directed at you is in any way connected to your work or place of employment because of job duties or the clients it serves, ask your employer to refer this matter to your human services department and/or your companies legal representatives. Don’t try to just handle this yourself. Your company may have the legal obligation to provide you legal assistance.

    6. Ignore your friends who want to condemn you for wanting to protect you and your family. My family and I are alive because we had quick access to a firearm when a deranged stranger smashed through a locked door one night, entered our house (located in a ‘safe’ neighborhood) and tried to kill us. If we only had a baseball bat, instead of a handgun, we would all be dead.

    7. Good luck to you and your family.

    • lizard19

      thank you, Pogo, that’s good advice. I hope for the best but want to be prepared for the worst. sounds like you were prepared for the terrifying scenario you describe.

      the issue I have with the unstable person is tricky. I could send a certified letter telling the person to cease communication, and if the person continued, then I would have better standing for an order of protection. but I’m worried that any kind of response will encourage the delusions. as it stands, I have never responded, so the person can’t be sure I am even receiving the crazy letters in the first place. I have also talked to the crime victim advocate office and they told me I could resubmit the request for a protection order. I think if the person was in Missoula, I’d have a better shot.

    • d.g.

      Good Lord in Hell: If I thought Liz was doing this for theatrical impetus in a self-referential and slogglish blog, I’d cheer the cheekiness. But it’s an obvious sign of someone who simply needs to volunteer at AniMeals or something and get the hell out of the house and out of the HEad!

  7. lizard19

    hey Rob, I’m trying to trouble shoot the mainspring assembly issue. I did the mallet tap and got it unstuck, but now the bolt is stuck. any suggestions on some video support?

  8. d.g.

    Most nights I kneel before The Baby Solstice and pray I will never share common opinion with either Peter Talbot or Geoff Badenoch. Tonight, however, I have to say that owning a pistol is just damn stupid. My WWII, Marine-veteran father (who passed over in June at 92, loaded his own shells and always got his elk…) forbade us from having three things: a pistol; a motorcycle and a snowmobile. He found all three dangerous, worthless and noisy. (Oh, we were also not to say the word “stupid” or “shut up”.) So I did. And now I will.

  9. d.g.

    With weird irony…..the Republican anti-assisted-“suicide” stance might leave many of us wishing we’d gone in on this seemingly eccentric twist at 4&20 (soon to be renamed 40-0-6).

    At least lizard19 won’t be chased down Higgins by the violently-aggressive homeless. Dear Alderperson Cat Copple will be proud.

  10. How about this story of a 26-year old breaking into 6 houses here in Missoula over the weekend?

    Perhaps Lizard’s just ahead of the times.

  11. I am going to get into the discussion about whether you should own a weapon or the merits of the weapon you have chosen. As most know, my views on firearms have been unwelcome on this site for years.

    That said, the particular pistol you have chosen is one of the most accurate and easy to fire of the .22 handguns but it does have some “gotchas” that you need to be aware of. One of them is that this firearm (like the Luger is was originally styled from) is not very forgiving of being dirty and worse, it is a stone cold bitch to disassemble and reassemble after use.

    I own one myself (a bull barrel target model) and, even being an amateur gunsmith, I was somewhat hesitant about taking it apart the first time. I researched this firearm a lot and viewed a number of videos that were extremely helpful. Be aware, though, unlike most handguns, you can actually break this handgun if you put it together improperly (this is my biggest complaint about the Ruger Mark III). If that occurs, your only option is to send the handgun back to Ruger to have them repair it.

    The first time you take it apart, it will be VERY difficult. The action assembly will be hard to remove and (in my case), I had to use a rubber mallet as explained in the video. This gets easier each time you disassemble and reassemble the firearm. I have liked the video at the end of this message.

    Clean all the manufacturers grease out of the firearm the first time you clean it. It will make the firearm stiff and it collects dust horribly. I soaked mine in a solution of Simple Green for 10 minutes and then rinsed it in clean water. Be sure to blow out any trapped moisture (I use a small air compressor set to 20lbs pressure). Apply light gun oil where indicated in the video and manual before reassembly.

    If you have further questions, feel free to email me at mahpetite at moorcat dot com.

    You are actually the last person in the world I would have expected to purchase a firearm after some of the previous discussions we have had but welcome to the world of gun ownership. You will find that the handgun you have will give you hours and hours of enjoyment putting holes in targets but let me echo what someone else said above – ANY tool (and a gun is just a tool) is only as good as the skill with which you use it. There is no substitute for practice. You MUST practice with your firearm if you have any hope to be able use it when you need it.

  12. Here is a second video on the disassembly and reassembly of the Ruger Mark III

    Again, if you have any other questions, feel free to ask. As a Ruger Mark III owner, I am sure you will enjoy the gun a great deal and if you decide to get a different firearm (if your true aim is self defense, a Ruger Mark III is not a good choice), let me know. I have some thoughts on that subject that are not steeped in the gun/anti-gun BS. What you will always get from me on this subject is the view of someone that has studied firearms from a number of perspectives and I will give you the best advice I can from a neutral perspective.

    • lizard19

      I hope I didn’t do any damage as I was trying to fix it last night. the videos were incredibly helpful. the mainspring assembly was stuck in the same manner addressed, and the mallet freed it. then the bolt got stuck. somehow I got it loose, then leveled the hammer, replaced the bolt, and got the “dingleberry” hanging down from the hammer into that little notch of the mainspring assembly.

      I’ve read the manual and I do plan on taking Marbut’s class with my wife.

      I may be the last person you would expect to buy a gun, but I can’t recall any specific disagreements we’ve had on this issue, Kenneth, even after Newtown when emotions were being exploited for political gain on both sides.

      • I may be mis-remembering it, Lizard. I do know that when I – as a gun owner and gun enthusiast have expressed opinions on this site, I have been mercilessly attacked. I may have assumed guilt by association. Not all gun owners are “Marbut groupies” and some of us actually have reasons for owning and using firearms that go beyond penis envy. I am neither a fan of Marbut or a member of the NRA, but I do believe that gun ownership is important for a variety of reasons.

  13. d.g.

    Honestly: Why doesn’t this person run for MCPS Trustee and change something besides the Ionesco-esque bell jar which seems to be enveloping him?

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