With the exception of an antique single-shot percussion-cap pistol inherited from my grandfather, for which I keep neither powder nor shot, I do not own any guns. My reason is twofold: 1) guns are expensive, and I lack the time to devote to their maintenance and the necessary training, and 2) Wifey doesn’t like them. But I support the rights of other Americans to arm themselves, and the gun-rights movement over the gun-control movement, with my votes. I have again a twofold reason: 1) I have never seen any compelling evidence that gun control improves public safety in any sizable way (rather, I think the reverse is true), and 2) I see far too much hysteria and snobbery in the gun-control movement for my liking.
Reasonable people can and will disagree about the efficacy of any public policy, and a robust debate about the purposes of the Second Amendment, and what level of regulation best balances liberty with public order is like to continue so long as the Republic does. This to be expected, and is all to the good.
However, Ms. Magazine’s “My Month with a Gun” feature does not contribute to that debate. I don’t think it really intends to contribute anything but shock and incredulity (and of course, hits for its parent web site). The feature is long on impression and short on facts, and its entire premise reeks of the kind of manufactured authenticity that Reality TV trades in.
The writer of the feature, one Heidi Yewman, a self-proclaimed “board member of the Brady Campaign,” has decided to go thirty days armed under the carry laws of her home state. She operated under four “rules”:
Carry it with me at all times, follow the laws of my state, only do what is minimally required for permits, licensing, purchasing and carrying, and finally be prepared to use it for protecting myself at home or in public.
The last rule seems to come with emphasis on the “finally”, as in the course of this first week Yewman has not bothered to learn the first thing about operating or even loading the Glock 9 she purchased:
Tony told me a Glock doesn’t have an external safety feature, so when I got home and opened the box and saw the magazine in the gun I freaked. I was too scared to try and eject it as thoughts flooded my mind of me accidentally shooting the gun and a bullet hitting my son in the house or rupturing the gas tank of my car, followed by an earth-shaking explosion. This was the first time my hands shook from the adrenaline surge and the first time I questioned the wisdom of this 30-day experiment.
I needed help. I drove to where a police officer had pulled over another driver. Now, writing this, I realize that rolling up on an on-duty cop with a handgun in tow might not have been fully thought through.
I told him I just bought a gun, had no clue how to use it. I asked him to make sure there were no bullets in the magazine or chamber. He took the magazine out and cleared the chamber. He assured me it was empty and showed me how to look. Then he told me how great the gun was and how he had one just like it.
The cop thought I was an idiot and suggested I take a class. But up to that point I’d done nothing wrong, nothing illegal.
The feature ends and begins with her sitting in a Starbucks, shaking with fear that the gun is suddenly going to leap from its holster and start killing children.
I have two problems with all of this.
First of all, I and many of the readers of this piece question its veracity. In Yewman’s account, she hands over $56.50 for a concealed-carry permit, and within 7 minutes is walking away from Tony the Gun Dealer with a Glock 9. As Bryan Preston of the PJ Tatler demonstrates, that’s not exactly how gun laws work in her state (note that Yewman’s article does not name her home state, which is Washington. Preston had to glean it from her bio).
There’s not enough to cry “hoax” but there is enough to question whether the situation has been specifically manipulated. Washington State has a five-day waiting period for firearm purchases, except for those who already have a concealed-weapons permit. Yewman learned enough about Washington gun laws to move around the waiting permit, but did not learn that Washington State regulations require a gun to be delivered securely wrapped and unloaded. So if Gun Dealer Tony sold her a loaded weapon, he was in violation of the law. Which would be a useful example of investigative journalism, to the point of providing a needful public service to the residents of Washington State
But such would distract from Yewman’s rhetorical goal, that being spreading breathless horror because OH MY GOD THEY LET ME BUY A GUN OH MY GOD WILL I BLOW UP A GAS TANK? I NEED A LATTE!
Which brings me to the second point. Yewman seems to be operating on what I like to call the Spurlock Fallacy: “If I can conceive of doing something stupid, then lots of people must be doing that. Because everyone knows how stupid people are.”
And just like no one actually eats McDonald’s three meals a day for a month, I protest my incredulity that anyone has ever gone through the time and trouble to get a concealed-carry permit, then buy a weapon, then walk around with the weapon on their hip without a clue as to how to load it. People who buy guns want to learn how to use guns. But because no state agency required her to demonstrate that she know which end of her Glock 9 the bullet comes out of, Yewman has gone out of her way to maintain her ignorance, despite the wealth of information on gun safety she could have accessed using the WiFi at the Starbucks she was quaking with fear in (a veritable plethora of Glock-safety videos can be found on YouTube alone). So after doing something stupid (to the point of being advised by law enforcement to do otherwise) she leverages said stupidity to justify previous attempts to infringe upon the rights of people who never did what she did. For which she will be proclaimed a peerless visionary, rather than the ignorant Bobo on Safari she is.
Finally, Yewman seems to have missed that her very experience in the Starbucks defeated her premise. There she was, an armed ignoramus, carrying a deadly weapon IN REACH OF CHILDREN OH MY GOD OH MY GOD, and . . . nothing happened. No one, soul infected by the Glock 9’s mystical dark power, took the gun from her and massacred the inhabitants. The gun, built by wage-slaves broken in spirit and tempered with the blood of lambs, failed to go off. She walked in with a gun on her hip, bought a latte, wrote a magazine column, and walked out with a gun on her hip. The End.
It may be argued that this is but the first in a series. Perhaps subsequent issues will improve. However, I have my doubts. This feature seems conceived as a gun-controller’s parody of what armed citizens do, rather than a recreation of what they actually do. That may change, but I’ll not be holding my breath.