Communion Of Dreams

Do you own a fire extinguisher? Why?

Hmm. As noted in comments in the previous post, I seem to never have cross-posted this essay here from Daily Kos. So, I thought I would.

Jim Downey


Do you own a fire extinguisher? Why?

Do you own a fire extinguisher? Why? Are you expecting a fire? Or do you have some sort of left-over juvenile desire to play fireman, a private macho image of rushing into a burning building to save a child? Don’t you know that improperly used, a fire extinguisher can be dangerous to yourself and others? And there have been “studies” done that show people who own fire extinguishers are actually more careless with fire risks, thinking that they’ll always be able to resort to their fire extinguisher to solve the problem. Besides, firefighters are always right there when you need them, and can put out any fire for you, so there’s no point in having your own fire extinguisher.

How about an emergency first-aid kit? Do you have one of those? Why? Are you expecting to injure yourself? Or do you have some sort of left-over juvenile desire to play doctor, a private macho image of saving someone from bleeding to death with an improvised tourniquet? Don’t you know that improperly used, medical supplies and equipment can be dangerous to yourself and others? And there have been “studies” done that show people who own first-aid kits are actually more careless in general, thinking that they’ll always be able to resort to their medical supplies to repair any injury they sustain. Besides, Emergency Medical Technicians or doctors are always right there when you need them, and can instantly patch you up if you get injured, so there’s no point in having your own first-aid kit.

Are these responses to being prepared absurd? Yeah. But they are exactly the sorts of responses I get when people find out I have a permit for carrying a concealed weapon, and generally carry a pistol whenever and wherever I can legally do so. And my experience is not at all unusual – most gun owners encounter the same sort of reaction from non-gun owners. We’re asked if we’re expecting to have a shoot-out in the supermarket. We’re asked if we have some childish fantasy about playing cops & robbers. We’re told that if we want to play with guns and shoot people that we should join the military. We’re confronted with facts that guns are inherently dangerous to ourselves and others, and that “studies” have shown that owning a gun makes it more likely that we will behave in such a fashion as to need to resort to using one to get us out of a dangerous situation. And besides, there’s always a cop around when you need one, just to protect you, so there’s no need to have a weapon for self defense.

Are there gun owners who think that carrying a weapon makes them invincible, and they therefore go around with a chip on their shoulder, putting themselves in dangerous situations thinking that they can always whip out their pistol and escape? Yeah, probably. But that is no more the typical mindset of a gun owner than is the notion that someone who owns a fire extinguisher is going to be careless with fire risks. Are guns inherently dangerous, and if used improperly present a threat to the owner and anyone else in the vicinity? Definitely. Which is why anyone who carries a weapon has a responsibility (usually mandated by law in the state which issued their concealed carry permit) to know how to safely handle and use a firearm, how to safely store it, and when it can be legally used in defense of self or another. And are there gun owners who think that they’re some kind of auxiliary police force, ready to jump in and right any criminal wrong they see being committed? Yup. In fact, a lot of people who legally carry a firearm do so precisely because there are situations where intervening could save the life of a loved one, a friend or even a stranger. But that doesn’t mean that they are wanna-be cops. Rather, they’re just trying to help contribute to their own safety and the safety of others. The police, firefighters and EMTs can’t be everywhere. We do have a responsibility to protect ourselves, to make prudent preparations in the event of an unexpected turn of events. That means having a fire extinguisher handy in case of a fire. It means having a first aid kit, and knowing some basic medical skills for dealing with an emergency. And for me it means having a gun available as a tool for self protection. Your level of comfort with how you are prepared for what situations may well be different, but that does not mean that my decision, and the decision of millions of other Americans, to legally and safely carry a concealed weapon is wrong or paranoid.

Jim Downey

14 Comments so far
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I can’t agree with your arguments – and I agree that weapons are a part of US culture as much as they aren’t part of European culture. I will try and bear that in mind.

I don’t think that you can draw a parallel between fire extinguishers and first aid kits, both of those two are kept within the home and expected only to be used in the event of an emergency for which trained personel are much more preferable and likely to be contacted anyway.

You tell me however that you carry a gun whereever you go, and I think asking “Why? What are you expecting?” is a very valid question. What are you prepared to do with that gun if, or when, the situation arises that you feel requires its use? Are you really prepared to use it on another person?, or just threaten them with it? (I hope such a situation never happens).

And look at it from the other-way-round as well – how many people are you prepared to trust to intervene with a weapon on your behalf? How many strangers?

I recognise that America allows its citizens to carry weapons. But requiring a licence will not stop people from using them improperly, as well as making life more difficult and dangerous for police officers.

I liked the story you linked to (previous posts comments) – but what happens the next time that would-be burglar is planning to steal – isn’t he going to be just as pragmatic as you, and aquire a weapon himself? Will the next time he robs also be a murder?

However, I agree with you that, from a pragmatic* point of view, getting guns out of American society (or introducing them to Europe, for that matter) is unlikely to be helpful, we’re just two different worlds I guess.
From a European perspective if people (European citizens) are carrying guns, then as a rule of thumb, somethings wrong, something has happened to make them powerless, and they turn to violence. Thats why we get frightened by weapons – it marks a bigger failure of society, thats how we see it.

PS – I also like the irony of how, in the US its the conservatives who defend guns, but in Britain they introduced the ban. 🙂

*I don’t agree with pragmatism, but it works. 😀

Comment by Troika21

OK, before we go further . . .

Thanks for the discussion. Seriously – because of our different cultural baggage, we each come at this from significantly differing positions. I have traveled in the UK and Europe a fair amount, and know from having this conversation just how difficult it is for people from each side to be able to understand the other.

Now that the niceties are out of the way . . . 😉

The scale of the US is a factor. If you do not live in one of the large urban areas, it is entirely possible that you are *an hour or more* from any kind of emergency help, whether that is a fire truck, an ambulance, or a cop. Even in our urban areas, it is entirely possible for weather or other factors to disrupt the normal services, and leave you without the police or fire protection you are used to. We’re just more used to having to fend for ourselves. And we like it that way – it’s part of our mindset.

Why carry a gun? Because it is a tool I may need. As I said here:

And I carry a concealed weapon (legally – by permit and where allowed by law) pretty much all the time. This isn’t paranoia, just a simple recognition that we live in an unpredictable and sometimes dangerous world. That same mindset applies to preparations for any kind of small-scale disaster, whether natural or man-made. If you live in the Midwest, you understand that power outages occur due to weather (tornadoes in Spring, Summer, and Fall, ice-storms in Winter), and that you may need to be self-reliant for days or even a couple of weeks. I’ve long abided by the Scout motto of “Be Prepared”, and while you wouldn’t find a years worth of supplies and a generator cached here, we could manage pretty easily for a period of a couple of months. That’s not too far off what is recommended by both the government and independent health agencies.

Am I prepared to actually use a gun? Yes, absolutely, and I would not even consider carrying one if I did not think that I was. I would have no qualms doing so in self defense, or in the defense of a loved one, and under some circumstances in the defense of others, as allowed by law and common sense. And I too hope such a situation never happens.

It is a violent world we live in. Sure, I’d rather it wasn’t, but it is. I don’t worry about such things – I’d rather not live my life in fear – but I am also as prepared as is reasonably possible to deal with a threat should it occur. I don’t fear other people carrying guns legally – the incidence rate of misuse of a firearm by someone with a permit to do so is vanishingly small. For this reason, most cops aren’t bothered by the growing trend across the country for states to have a mechanism to allow people to carry (with the necessary background checks and training requirements). It’s not the people with the permits who cops have to worry about – it’s the people who carry without regard to the law or safety of others.

And last point – I am actually very liberal, under the US understanding of that term. But there is a growing sense on the left here that it makes no sense to be against guns per se – rather, it is better to address the issues of violence and crime in our society, both as is happening and at the root causes. Check that discussion on the Daily Kos posting, and you’ll get a sense of this – that is one of the largest and most influential leftist blogs in our country.

Hope this helps somewhat to understand where we’re coming from on this issue.

Jim Downey

Comment by Communion of Dreams

Yes, its wonderful to have a sincere disagreement with someone prepared to listen to listen to your arguements seriously. We don’t see enough of that.

As regards your point the size of the US does that mean that guns should be allowed in rural areas, but not cities? I would think there are more restrictions in urban/sub-urban locations?

But if you want to defend yoursleves, why do you need handguns? Whats wrong with a shot-gun?

I couldn’t imagine living more than an hour from anywhere. Travel for that long from where I live and you’d get to Manchester or Birmingham or somewhere.

Comment by Troika21

One of the major points of discussion here on this topic has been the rural/urban split, and generally there are more restrictions in states (this is largely a governmental issue at the state level currently) which are more urban.

Why a handgun? Well, a shotgun is more effective as a weapon. It is also much less convenient. But the primary thing to keep in mind is that it’s not about the gun – it’s about the person. As you have discovered in the UK, people who are violent criminals will turn to knives, or bats, or whatever – and trying to limit their weapons is to be constantly chasing a moving target.

My first time to Europe was in 1974, when I was a foreign-exchange student to Germany one summer. It was a revelation to me to see how *close* everything is. In the initial post about Willis, I mentioned that he was 100 miles down the road – for us, that’s almost next-door. Seriously, here in the Midwest we think *nothing* of driving five or six hours to go visit friends for a weekend. Because the distances involved are that substantial. Next weekend my wife and I are going to Chicago – about an 8 hour drive. That shapes your view of the world in a significant way.

Jim D.

Comment by Communion of Dreams

To be honnest, it looks to me as if banning weapons has worked for us in Europe, whilst allowing them has worked for you, and I see no reason for either of our socities to change. And if that dosn’t show me up for a Realist, I don’t know what will. 🙂

I do think that, as you say, our “cultural baggage” has had a significant impact on our attitude towards guns.

In the US obtaining weapons seems to be either as a ‘self-reliant’ protection, as in your case, or is based on some kind of Survivalist apocalypse. Either way, its assumed by the people aquiring them (across the spectrum) that they are more of a last-resort, with the hope that they don’t have to be used.

Here in Europe however, for most of our history we’ve been shooting each other, we’ve only stopped doing so in the past few decades (thanks to the EU). Its assumed if you want a weapon then you want to use it. And of course, many groups have, the IRA and Basque Nationalists are the most clear examples.

I think that the European dislike of guns comes from having lived through terrible loss in (frequent) wars. The First World War is what I think is the turning point – the jingoism and cries that war and violence are good things is never seen again, which I think is telling.

Seriously, it strikes me that Europe has now become the archetypal ‘old soldier’ whose seen too many wars and now refuses to pick up a gun. Or is that a bit histrionic?? 🙂

Perhapse you think I’m being a bit simple here – I’d love to hear your opinions on the matter.


I just thought I check to see if you’d written anything whilst I was thinking of a comment.

I ask about handgun/shotgun because it seems to me that weapons are a matter or intimadation and if you want to intimadate people into no attacking you then a shotgun seems more reasonable. 😀

Plus – EIGHT HOURS!! EIGHT HOURS!! DRIVING FOR EIGHT HOURS!! Holy buggering monkyes, thats an eye-opener. It only takes 2 1/2 hours to fly to Malaga, goodness knows where I could get to within eight hours! I never think of driving for that kind of time!

Reminds me of joke though – heres the short version: An English farmer is working in his field, when he notices an American is studying it. He goes over to him and the American tells him ‘You know, back home I could drive for hours and hours and still not reach the end of my fields’. The Farmer turns to him and says ‘I sympathise – I had a car like that once’. 😀

Comment by Troika21

Ugh. Its just starting to get late over here. I need more tea. Terrible spelling.

Comment by Troika21

No worries about the spelling – my worst skill.

The joke seems to be common – I’ve heard the same thing here, but substitute “Texan” for “American” and just about anyone else for the English farmer.

As to the other stuff . . .

Actually, I think your assessment of the differences between US and European attitudes about guns has the ring of truth. I have also made similar comparisons about religion, and why it seems to be more entrenched here than there.

Really, for large segments of the US population, having a gun is just no big deal – everyone has them. There is a rural/urban split, but even there it is common to find homes in the suburbs to have someone who hunts or just enjoys target shooting or something. Something like 35 – 40% of US households have one or more firearms. Properly handled, they’re no more dangerous than a car or any other tool. And yeah, we do tend to think of them as tools – only as weapons as a last resort, as you mention.

And . . . how to phrase this . . . you don’t want to use a gun to intimidate people. That’s the stuff of Hollywood. Do that, someone is going to get hurt. Because it changes the whole social equation, puts it more on a par with what you describe as attitudes there. I would only draw a weapon in order to use it (not saying I would use it immediately upon drawing – just that I would only draw it if I thought I would have to use it immediately.) Because, once drawn, you have just stated that you are willing to kill. Flashing a weapon is going to provoke people, and should not be done without serious understanding of what is involved. I think that this might be why we’re very bothered by the thought of actual military troops on guard here in the States.

Oh, 8 hours driving? Pfft. Nothing. I will and have driven up to 12 hours in a day. That’s getting a bit long. 8 hours driving doesn’t even get you out of the Midwest. No, I’m not kidding – look at a map, and see the circle traced using the radius of from Columbia MO to Chicago.

Jim D.

Comment by Communion of Dreams

I though I’d just finish off the discussion.

I know that weapons can be used responsibly – my Grandad, before he lost his eyesight, was an excelent shot with the air-rifle, as a string of squirel tails would attest.

Sometimes you can also see people down the fields here shooting rabbits – AR or SGs, though I think lamping is a bit of a cheat. Though thats not to say that a gun isn’t an insignificant advantage. 🙂

Dad has 3 guns, I think – two ARs and a SG, or vice versa, can’t remember. But the msot we’ve ever done with guns is go clay-pigeon shooting.
The old joke about ‘more guns in the countryside than in the cities’ could be true – I don’t know any farmer with less than 3 guns.

I do have one last question for you – when looking through some websites on this topic I saw the wiki entry for the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, and I wondered –

Did/would you support something like this?
From my perpespective these types of weapons are purely there to make it easier to kill people, whilst a HG, SG or AR does have some utility as a tool, these posess none. Thats how it strikes me, anyway.

Comment by Troika21

Well, to answer your final question, there were all kinds of problems with the AWB. It was quite literally a ban on aesthetics rather than function, outlawing some guns but allowing others with identical power that just didn’t look as “scary”. It only served the purpose of making some people feel safer, while making a mockery of sensible gun laws in the opinion of gun owners who knew full well that their hunting rifles have just as much power and range as any so-called “assault weapon”.

Once again, it comes down to a question of behaviour rather than tools. Long guns of whatever type are used in almost no crimes here (it’s like 1%). That includes military-style “assault weapons”. Shotguns are used in more crimes (making up a substantial portion of that 1% figure). Full hunting rifles are more powerful, and are actually more of a threat to police. So why ban a lower power gun that happens to look scary?

We already effectively ban full-auto weapons (you can get them by jumping through enough hoops and spending enough money, but very few people see the point). We also already require any rifle or shotgun to have a minimum barrel length of 16″/18″. I”ve said all along “assault weapons” because what was banned here wasn’t a true military-style assault weapon, with full-auto capability and usually a very short barrel.

So, no, I don’t really support it. I tend to look at pointless laws as devaluing the good laws. I don’t own any “evil black rifles” which would have fallen under the AWB, so I don’t say this from a personal motivation, btw.

Jim D.

Comment by Communion of Dreams


Saw your comments under RKBA, and was wondering:

Doesn’t it bother you that it took all the “conservative”‘ justices to block the “liberal” judges to make the right decision?

What do you think would have been the outcome if Thomas, Roberts or Alito had been successfully blocked by the Democrats?

Comment by rich gitschlag

And I think Troika21 is missing another point: In GB, it is illegal to defend yourself from a violent criminal attack, using any weapon that might cause injury to the assailant.

Last year I had a delightful conversation with a couple of shop owners [naturalized immigrants] in Heatherow Airport. This was one of their complaints – they did not feel safe in London any more, and any means of self-defense had been stripped. All they were allowed was a burgler alarm for their flat, and just maybe a bobby would come by in a couple of hours. But to actively protect their property or persons? Notta chance.

Comment by rich gitschlag

Rich, yes, I do agree – the decision in Heller was entirely too close. The result of an anti-gun mindset among the Dems for too many years. Which is why I and others have been trying to change attitudes on the Left – it is far better to not have this right tied to one political party or the other, or in ‘seachange’ elections as we’re about to experience we could lose ground. I think that we have made progress in this regard – but it will take more time to be sure of that. I don’t plan to stop my activities in this regard.

And yeah, I have heard similar complaints about self-defense in the UK. But it’s their country, not mine.

Jim D.

Comment by Communion of Dreams

“And yeah, I have heard similar complaints about self-defense in the UK. But it’s their country, not mine.”

I am concerned because in so many areas the issues in the UK have come over here 50 or so years later.

Rich G.

Comment by rich gitschlag

[…] partly it was insurance. Like owning a fire extinguisher. Chances are I may never need it, but if I do, nothing else will be a very good substitute. And […]

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