Thursday, January 17, 2013

Guns In The Country; Guns In The Town

Late 18th-century artist Thomas Rowlandson published two etched aquatints titled Four o'Clock in the Country (date 1788) and Four O'Clock in [the] Town (date unspecified). Each etching is a caricature of a gentleman being undressed (town, preparing for bed) or dressed (country, preparing for the hunt) by his maidservants (or perhaps his wife) at 4 A.M., a deliberate mockery of the difference of the two lifestyles. The point was clear even more than two centuries ago: town and country people lead dramatically different lives.

And so they still do. Josh Marshall, in "Speaking for my Tribe," couches the difference in his descriptions of the difference in reactions of today's Americans, country-dwellers and city-dwellers (Marshall is the latter), in their reactions to the habit of carrying firearms. His point is that, to people in the country, carrying weapons as protected by the Second Amendment, is normal and (apparently) unthreatening, while to city-dwellers like Marshall and me, carrying a gun (often shortened to "carrying") is often perceived as an open threat to others. I tend to believe this distinction will never change. Country people need guns, arguably for hunting, eliminating dangerous critters, feeding the family, etc. City people arguably have every right to fear guns because of their hostile and often criminal use in large cities. If you expect to resolve this dispute, forget it; it's here to stay.

The Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of a personal right to bear arms, "personal" as opposed to a right that exists only in the context of forming a militia to protect the citizenry. Many of us who live in inner cities don't feel the love. Most of us don't own guns (I don't) and would as soon live without them, at least in the city. Virtually everyone in the city knows some family that has lost a member to gun-inflicted crime. By analogy, many country folk frequently hunt for the food on their table. Both sides have good reasons for their feelings toward firearms. I can't say country-dwellers are wrong, only that they are advocating for the lifestyle they necessarily lead. And I'm certainly not about to say city-dwellers are wrong; too many of us are murdered by blatant criminal use of firearms.

What to do? There are no easy answers. Read Marshall's well-argued article. I can only hope you can agree that there really are two sides to this one... and that neither side is about to be argued out of his/her position. Not I, at least... I am happy for you to own and carry a gun in Livingston, TX, but if you're packin' in Houston, which you are legally allowed to do, I hope we never meet.

ASIDE: Sheriff Joe Arpaio says he may not enforce any new gun laws. Respect for the law is not necessarily a characteristic of advocates of guns as societal safety measures. YMMV.


  1. But, I do draw the line at taking an Uzi into Safeway to bag a cellophane wrapped beef roast. The time will come when Arpaio will go too far and be taken down by the Feds. He claims a personal army of nearly 3000. Homeland Security, where are you?

    1. karmanot, in your and my youth, it was abbreviated "cello," which I always read as meaning "violoncello," which always seemed a strange thing in which to bag a roast! :-)

      Yes, Arpaio seems to be deliberately provoking a response, and I have no idea where that will get him, but I wish he and others like him would stand down... needless violence is worse than violence by itself.

  2. These will be Federal laws and Arpaio has no role in their enforcement, so who cares what he thinks. If he tried to enforce them there would be another report added to his Federal file. This is the situation that causes the problems with these state 'immigration' laws which infringe on Federal jurisdictions. Arpaio is just staging a PR stunt.

    We have a need for weapons in my area, but you don't make a point of displaying them unless you are looking for trouble, or trying to avoid it. People have seen my shotgun twice when I was 'assisting with police inquiries' [keeping a lid on things until deputies showed up]. If people start wandering around armed in my neighborhood without an obvious purpose, there will be trouble. We may need them, but we don't like seeing them. They are tools, not toys.

    If you continue the tool concept - what would be the reaction if someone took a running chainsaw into the supermarket? That would make people edgy, so why shouldn't a firearm have the same reaction. They are both dangerous tools that need to be mastered before being used, and they both have limited uses. There are no specific laws about where you can and can't take a chainsaw, but people have better sense than to walk around with them.

    The problem with guns is that too many people treat them as a totem that endows them with power. Face it, anyone who would spend hundreds of dollars on a worthless piece of crap like an AR-15 is not a realistic candidate for reproduction and should be flushed from the gene pool. If they had been the target a few times, the allure of guns would fade quickly.

    1. Bryan, you sound a lot like my maternal grandfather, a red Texas dirt farmer, for whom I had great respect and admiration. Pop always locked the gun cabinet when young kids were brought into the house. He was a decent shot at any critter Grandma could serve as dinner, and didn't shoot at much else. (Well, except rattlesnakes.) He was not a man to anger quickly, and I never saw him point a gun in the direction of a human being... of course he would have if that person endangered his family, but it never happened within my eyesight. When he was done with his gun(s), he wiped them and put them away where they belonged, as surely as he did with any well-maintained tool or piece of farm equipment.

      I want to say to country and city folk: neither of you is more civilized than the other. Both of you, at least most of you, treat your kids with love and your spouses with respect. You wouldn't (most of you) face down your kids with a gun, or anyone else's kids. You would help your neighbor with what s/he could not do alone. I grew up seeing both of these social settings, and I have admiration for both. Guns can lead to trouble; indeed they do so altogether too often... so respectful people, town and country, keep them put away when they're not in use. There is nothing to prove here by brandishing them about, nothing to be gained and a lot of trouble to be had by doing so. There are country and city ways, but respectful treatment is welcome everywhere. Let's hope it stays that way. Put away the guns and live your lives peaceably with each other.

      Oh, and... Bryan: Joe Arpaio belongs behind bars. I just hope when it happens, it happens without serious harm to anyone else.



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