Shooting Advice

Since the Orlando shooting June 12, social media has been abuzz with impassioned screeds from both sides of the political aisle, each attempting to explain what happened, exhort people to certain paths of action or excoriate those who fail to see the “truth” of the matter.

If you are like me, occasionally you have found yourself lurking on Twitter and Facebook feeds to see what the “other half” believes and shaking your head in disbelief. But the meme I encountered called “Shooting Advice” has bewildered and frustrated me more than anything else I’ve seen.

The Facebook post, which asks that you copy and share it if you agree with its content, contains a list of maxims on gun ownership and gun culture that claims to hail “from various Concealed Carry Instructors,” though it is attributed to a C.J. Grisham in a Business Insider article in 2012, which was later linked to in a Tweet by none other than Ann Coulter. Indeed, the list appears to have been circulating Facebook as a meme since then, and I figured it was about time that someone crafted a reply.

Facts have enemies, too

“Guns have only two enemies: rust and politicians,” proclaims the meme’s first maxim. This popular expression can be found on coffee cups and T-shirts in truck stops across the country. But for all its Americana charm, the expression falls flat. How can an inanimate object have an enemy? It reminds me of “the war on drugs.” You can say you’re waging war against an inanimate object, just as you can say that an inanimate object has enemies, but saying this only obscures certain human consequences.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, in 2014 alone, the war on drugs cost the U.S. more than $51 billion, resulted in more than 1.5 million arrests (83 percent of which were for possession only), and led to the incarceration of more than 2.2 million Americans (at the highest incarceration rate in the world).

Similarly, when we say guns have enemies, we are using a clever rhetorical trick to elevate the needs and desires of the one-third of Americans who own guns (mostly white men over 55) over the other needs of the two-thirds who don’t. Plus, the phrase’s generalization is so sweeping that it overlooks the fact that while some politicians favor gun control, plenty of others are pro-gun rights.

Oh, those pesky facts.

‘Like a war zone’

The second maxim on the list, “It’s always better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6,” can be translated as, “it’s better to kill than be killed.”

That’s true if one is in a life-or-death situation, but as Gen. Stanley McChrystal wrote last week in a New York Times op-ed, our communities back home should not feel like a war zone. And yet, for some Americans, it does feel this way. McChrystal explains that 33,599 Americans died of gunshot wounds in 2014. That’s more than twice as many deaths as the bloodiest year in the Vietnam War, 1968, when 16,899 Americans died in combat.

I do wonder what percentage of those white males over 55 (the ones who comprise the majority of gun owners) has ever been in a life-or-death situation in the U.S. According to the FBI’s 2014 Crime Statistics report, the violent crime rate was 365.5 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants, or just above 0.33 percent. Violent crimes are a reality, and for their victims, they can be devastating, but their perceived threat outweighs their actual threat.


mass shootings

Mass shootings: Do we have to reach triple-digit deaths?
by William W. Savage III

As we learned in Vietnam, having better and more firearms doesn’t necessarily guarantee your victory in a fight. Yet in what is starting to feel like a redux of the Cold War doctrine of mutually assured destruction, America continues to arm itself at an increasing rate, seemingly under the impression that guns ensure one’s personal safety and that the more guns one has, the safer one is. This is the assumption the author of Shooting Advice is making when, in the 10th maxim, it states, “If you carry a gun, people call you paranoid. Nonsense! If you have a gun, what do you have to be paranoid about? (I call it being prepared.)” Is the meme’s author prepared not to see an ominous or existential threat in his every suspicion, in every little provocation and annoyance and disagreement? Is he prepared not to see the bogeyman in every unarmed black teenager?

In our zeal to buy more guns, we’ve made them so easy to get that, as Gen. McChrystal points out, “loopholes … let felons and domestic abusers get hold of guns without a background check … [and] a known or suspected terrorist can go to a federally licensed firearms dealer where background checks are conducted, pass that background check, legally purchase a firearm and walk out the door.”

So while it’s easy for good guys to get guns, the problem is that it’s just as easy for bad guys to get them. That leaves the rest of us wondering how you tell the good guys from the bad guys when they’re both armed to the teeth? It would seem there’s a self-fulfilling prophecy here: Afraid that the homeland is becoming a war zone, we have turned it into one through our unchecked access to guns.

‘Comfortable’ with mass shootings

Which gets me to the final maxim in Shooting Advice: “You cannot save the planet, but you may be able to save yourself and your family.” The sense of fatalism here is heartbreaking: The resignation that violence and destruction are inevitable and unavoidable, so if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

The author belies a crisis of conviction: You may be able to save your family, but then again, you may not. Who knows? You’ll just have to wait and see. Maybe your house will be part of the 0.33 percent of houses that gets broken into this year and you’ll have a chance to test out your theory.

In the meantime, I suppose we are just expected to feel safer when we see people carrying guns around, like those dudes who popped into a Dallas-area Chipotle in 2014 with some AR-15s slung around their hips. I guess that should be a calming spectacle, especially when one of those guys is — wait for it — none other than C.J. Grisham himself, author of the original Shooting Advice post!

It turns out that Mr. Grisham is the founder of a non-profit organization called Open Carry Texas. As Mr. Grisham was quoted as saying in the Chipotle article, “We try very hard to make people feel comfortable.”

It’s nice to know that since May 19, 2014, when he and his militia brethren started patrolling our fast-food restaurants, Mr. Grisham has been concerned with making people feel comfortable. I feel much more comfortable thinking how many tragedies he’s probably averted in the open-carry state of Texas. Without him and his kind, there might have been more (potentially oh-so-many more!) than the 21 mass shootings Texas had in 2015.

And while all those good guys with guns might not have stopped one of the biggest mass shootings of 2015, the biker shootout at the Twin Peaks in Waco, or prevented the 10 acts of gun violence committed in Texas last week alone, including a mass shooting last night at an Abilene sports bar, it’s pretty clear that without those good guys with guns there, there might have been dozens and dozens more, right? Because 10 acts of gun violence in 72 hours isn’t so bad, right?

So thank you, Mr. Grisham. Thanks a lot. Where oh where would we be without your sage advice floating around social media?

And where, oh where would we be without all these guns?