Sunday, December 12, 2004


I eat lunch at a place called Lam's Gardens down on Colonial Drive just about every day. I'm a regular and the family that owns the place are friends of mine. So it wasn't too strange for me to find myself chatting about political things, including this blog and the whole bloggosphere. Mark Unpronouncable (you expect this American Cracker to actually deal with those Oriental names? get real), and his brother, were sitting around yesterday with me talking about The Belmont Club and the home invasion story of that British guy and the subsequent shit storm that occurred last week. The Belmont Club has a pretty thorough run up of the incident and what it means both to them and to us.

All of the standard shibboleths are in play: gun control, self-defense, castle rule, racial profiling, class wars... the works.

Mark was concerned because he has been thinking about buying a handgun for self-defense. But he is reluctant because he has 3 fairly young children in the house and his bride is against the idea because the kids may get hold of a weapon and rain sorrow down on their family. A reasonable concern. His brother is dead set against it, in spite of the fact that he was the victim of an armed robbery there at the restaurant this year. Some street turds came in and emptied out the till of the restaurant after holding a handgun to his head. Mark was amazed that no one in the restaurant even noticed that they were being robbed. They just kept on eating as if it was no big deal.

What did I think? The fact that both of them read this blog makes me an expert, I suppose (sigh). But this did start me to thinking about the origins of my friend's delimma. This is a guy who works hard and is smart in business and has managed to get about half of his huge family out of China (somewhere near Hong Kong I understand) and all the way around the world to Orlando, Florida where they are all slogging along working out the traditional American Dream Machine.

Now these guys are both in transition from a culture that was primarily British-leaning and now they find themselves nearly in the heartland of Crackerness. This has to be conflicting. All I could say was that a gun is one of those things that... if you need it and don't have it you're screwed, but if you have it and don't need it it will always be a secret threat to your future. In other words, if Mark does go buy himself some firepower then he is also obliging himself to a big long series of aggravations: One, he must train himself to the safe use of the firearm. Nothing is more dangerous than a gun in the hands of an amateur. My example was with my airplane. I fly a very quick Velocity experimental aircraft and I had to get myself qualified in the thing before I could even crank it up on the runway. To do otherwise is not only stupid, it's illegal. Just owning the plane doesn't mean that I can use it safely. Same thing with that Glock. Two, he has to train every member of his family in gun safety. I mean every one. In my own family, I have a young daughter (not so young any more... a grown woman) who was raised around guns. Even as an infant she knew that there were "don't touch" things around. That gun could "hurt a baby" and it could also get her a spanking. To this day, my 24 year old kidlet calls off limit things "don't touch" things that will "hurt a baby". Don't touch 'puter. Don't touch daddygun. Don't touch matches. Don't touch TV remote. It's not a big deal. Just don't touch the damned things. And for good measure, it's a good idea to have them out of reach. Buy a trigger lock if you have impulsive mice in the house. For me, Kathryn was also a good baby and I never had any troubles, but you know best.

Then Mark's brother raised the issue of having guns in the first place. Lots of folks oppose gun ownership just on fundamental ontological grounds. Should we have guns at all? Well, that's one of those cultural differences between the us Americans and our brothers over in the old country (and many other places). America has, since the beginning of this country, been a nation of riflemen. And today, organizations like my beloved Marine Corps say that every Marine is a rifleman. They make even the Commandant of the Corp qualify. And they should. They are called upon to defend this country. And they do. They're doing exactly that in Iraq as we speak.

"Yeah, well, what's that got to do with us arming ourselves and putting our family at risk?"

"Reasonable question. The answer mostly involves manhood and immediate response time."


Well, that British guy actually went to his front door blind and opened it to a crew of thugs who proceeded to do a home invasion that resulted in his death and the serious injury of his wife. He just assumed that he was safe. Why did he think that? I suspect that he trusted the police to protect him from home invaders and robbers. Why? Well, he was some kind of big shot who paid a lot of taxes and figured for that kind of money the government should see to it that he didn't need to concern himself with individual safety. And he's right. Dead right. But... can they deliver? Nope. Try as they might, the cops can only respond to a criminal complaint. Hear that? The cops can't do shit until something actually happens. Until then, the thugs that killed the British guy were just blokes driving around in a ritzy neighborhood admiring the expensive architecture.

Is it any different here? No. Our cops are armed and perfectly willing to protect that homeowner, but they can't very well go down to the 'hood and pistol whip some kid who MIGHT be thinking about committing a home invasion at your house. Sorry, folks. By the time you call in a 911 call the bad guys are long gone. All the cops can do is fill out the paperwork and help clean up the mess.

"Yeah... but if I were to shoot one of them I would get in trouble."

Maybe, but in America we have what is called the Castle Rule. You have a right to defend your own home and your own life. But... you are tinkering with life and death issues here. You damned sure better know when you can fire and when you can't and you'd better stand ready to hire a lawyer and protect yourself after the fact as well as when you plug some cretin who has broken into your home with evil intentions.

Why? Because we are armed and dangerous... as a whole society. Here in America the vast majority of us are armed whether the government likes it or not. All governments disapprove of average citizens owning the wherewithall to protect themselves. The Chinese oppose gun ownership, not because they are British, but because the Chinese government doesn't want to have a wave of pistol toting peasants in the next Tienimen (sp?) Square demonstration. The government only has guns. It's the same thing here in America. The cops don't like it when Joe Citizen comes up with a handgun. But it happens all the time. And, I'll suggest to you that it is this fact that makes the average cop polite to the average citizen. Most cops will knock first... even if they have a warrant. At least the smart ones do.

My grandfather was a row crop farmer in Sumter County and was a card carrying member of the Klu Klux Klan back in the old Depression Days. And his best friend was the Sheriff of neighboring Lake County, Willis McCall. Ever see the movie Cool Hand Luke? Well, that was a true story about a guy in Tavares who ran afoul of Sheriff Willis McCall. They made a movie about it. Well, when Willis retired he just went to farming like my granddaddy. He wouldn't allow a motorized disc harrow in the grove near his house. Made too much dust, he said. My granddaddy was the same way about a piece of muck land near his back barn. Had the ground cleared by hand or with a team of horses. The joke always was that that was where Willis buried his mistakes.

Mark, you may find a time when you have to make some hard choices. You may be looking down the barrel of a gun and know that if you don't fight you're gonna die. And at that time you are going to have to decide whether you are willing to do what has to be done, even if it hurts, or is painful and expensive, or even terminal. The question is Will you fight no matter what? That British guy let some animals into his life and he paid the price because he was not able to fight back.

But believe this: if they come to my house, I intend to take a look at them before I open the door. And if I make the mistake of letting them in and they give me a half a chance, I intend to take as many of them as possible to visit St. Peter right along with me. The truth is, some dogs just won't fight. I will. And you will have to kill me if you want to hurt me or mine. My advice? You should knock and state your business because I don't care if the government wants to protect me or not. I WILL NOT go quietly into that good night.

The question is... which are you?

Mark decided to get a gun. I gave him directions to a gunsmith and owner of a decent school and range. I suspect that he will learn that gun ownership is actually a lot of fun. His brother decided no. And he was the one who was robbed at the restaurant. Go figure.