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Too many guns! (or: When extremism is indeed a vice)

December 20, 2010

A reality check on my battery and bank balance

Situation: You’re leaving the all-night supermarket when you sense someone is shadowing you. You look around and see two men coming at you. Something glints in the dim streetlamp. You reach into your purse and draw your .380…

Situation: A knock awakens you from an afternoon nap. You look through the window and see a man at the door wearing street clothes. You’re home alone and have heard about several burglaries at the neighborhood forum. Just to be safe, you unsnap the retention strap on your holster and put your hand firmly on the backstrap of your 1911…

Situation: An earthquake shatters the tranquility of your urban existence. Within minutes, civil order breaks down. There are reports of looting. The police are unresponsive. On the television, you hear that roving gangs are smashing windows in another part of town — and now they’re headed your way. Fortunately, you have a Remington 870 at the ready. You load the magazine with double-0 shot and brace for the worst…

Situation: The FBI releases a frantic bulletin — chatter indicates an impending terrorist attack by Muslim extremists in the United States. But there is no indication of the time or method of the attack. Just to be safe, you defy state law and carry your concealed 9mm to church. As the congregation finishes the first hymn, you happened to notice a strange man hovering at the back of the sanctuary. Before you can say anything, he uncovers an AK-47 from his coat and racks a 7.62×39 mm cartridge into the chamber…

Situation: It’s finally happened. North Korea has gone crazy and lobbed a nuke at Seoul. Outraged by retaliation from the west, China activates its network of sleeper agents and somehow immobilizes the U.S. military. From your rooftop, you spy a column of PLA soldiers approaching, their QBZ-95s unslung. You throw your FN FAL and ten crates of .308 into your truck and call up the pre-programmed coordinates of your mountain hideaway on the GPS. To survive the occupation, you’re going to need that battle rifle and your extensive militia training…

You could go on and on with thought exercises like these. In fact, I’m sure many of you have. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about gun owners, it’s that we like to be prepared.

But while preparation is a virtue, so is honesty. I was confronted with the collision of preparedness and truth recently, when I realized my gun collection had grown too large. “Now wait a minute,” you say. “Ain’t no such thing.” True, in a different world, I would keep buying guns for sport, hunting and defense until the Second Coming. But this isn’t that world. This is a world of limited funds.

I had already blown many C-notes buying handguns (two revolvers, four semis) and two shotguns. The final blow to my bank account came when I spontaneously bought a used Kel-Tec SU-16C at a gun store. The price made it a bargain, and now I could rest assured that I had my much-needed “assault rifle.” But a funny thing happened. I got restless again, wondering what would happen if I encountered the last scenario above. I immediately began shopping for heavy-caliber battle rifles.

And that’s when it hit me. Here I was, in the middle of a terrible recession and an “austerity plan” designed by my wife and I to get us through a lean period, and I seemed to have little compunction about dropping $700 on another gun. (Sure, I told myself, save your money now, but you’ll regret it when the shooting starts!) I don’t hunt, I don’t compete in IDPA matches and I’m not law enforcement or military. My only justification was defense — defense of my person, defense of my household and defense of liberty.

Not quite enough guns

Like every good "gun nut," I had to snap a picture of my babies. This was before the SU16C, but I didn't hesitate to include my son's BB rifle.

Defense of one’s person and household is easily justified. A quick read of the police blotter in any daily paper clears any sane, law-abiding citizen to spend a little money for a gun in the house or on the hip. I had that covered seven guns ago. So that left defense of the homeland — defense of liberty. Barry Goldwater famously said, “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” Often it’s not the extremism in question, but what constitutes a true defense of liberty.

Yes, a riot, flood or other disaster could decimate the civilized society of my city. It has happened before in Los Angeles and New Orleans. Yes, I truly believe the next terrorist attack will be ground-level, and will involve small arms instead of fuel-laden airliners. No, I do not believe the Chinese or the Iranians or any other regular army will invade American soil, leaving the defense of the realm to me. If that scenario was unlikely, then I had to give up my aspiration of a used FAL — or better yet, a new FN SCAR.

The reality? I have small children, so it would be dangerous to keep a “truck gun” loaded in the station wagon. The reality? I live in a small city with a shooting range that only allows handgun-caliber ammunition, so training with high-powered rifles is difficult. The reality? I am not a hunter, an “operator” or a Swiss conscript, so a semi-automatic rifle will likely just collect dust in the basement. The shotgun, which I’ve never fired, will cover us if we have to shoot food or fend off a mob. (Interestingly, my uber-liberal friend was the one who suggested the shotgun — he lives in San Francisco, and I wrote the third scenario with him in mind.) The other reality is that there is always time to buy that next handgun or rifle — when the funds are replenished.

It’s a bitter pill to not get what you want. But it’s also a humbling blow to realize you’re just as guilty of overextending yourself as “those other people” — the ones who max out credit cards on shoes, or flirt with foreclosure on McMansions, or rack up trillions in debt without a mechanism to pay it down. Alcoholics and gamblers have websites to help them deal with their addictions. Gun-lovers have websites that offer tempting yet remote scenarios to goad them into feeding their addictions. Don’t get me wrong. If you have the money for toys, please enjoy. If you live on the Mexican border, then congratulations — you live in a “war zone.” Go buy that .308. As for me, I sold off a good number of handguns and the SU-16C. I kept the Bersa .380 my wife is comfortable with, the Walther P22 for cheap practice, my EDC gun and the 12-gauge. I still have my ammo box full of 5.56 NATO, but I also have a Visa card that is now balance-free. And that’s a liberty that is real and tangible.

What about you? Do you think you have “too many guns?”

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  1. All the guns I need « Liberal Gun Owner

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