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November 7, 2003

Dressed to the nines
Posted by Teresa at 11:05 AM *

Sean Bosker has recommended to my attention a new NRA publication—

The newest addition to the family of NRA official journals, Woman’s Outlook specifically caters to the multi-faceted needs of today’s NRA woman as she exercises her Second Amendment rights in pursuit and enjoyment of the American firearms lifestyle.
—and in particular their article, Dressing Up Is Still a Blast!:
As little girls we liked to dress up; as women we still like to dress to the nines—a 9mm, that is.
This lead-in is printed in a tender shade of pink, and illustrated with a photograph of a little girl playing dress-up in her mother’s clothing. Sean was struck by “…the way it empowers women to have guns, and still keeps them in their place by infantilizing them. Wonderful.”

The funny thing is, this condescending froufrou has been tacked onto a no-nonsense article about pistol-grip ergonomics for smaller hands, written by no-nonsense firearms instructor Gila Hayes. If I were the editor responsible, I’d want to avoid walking along backlit ridgelines for a while.

In fact, none of the articles are strongly gendered, saving the presence of clumsily tacked-on girly bits. There’s a generic piece on travelling with guns, and a nearly generic piece on hearing protection that suggests that women might be omitting to wear noise-reduction gear because it’s unflattering, and a piece on gun safes that I strongly suspect was rewritten from manufacturers’ press releases:
A gun safe is a classic, beautiful addition to any home. … The evolution of the gun safe has seen products change from basic vaults, which protected firearms from theft, to beautiful, decorator cornerstones that ward off burglars; keep firearms out of the grasp of children; provide protection from fire; secure family valuables and also provide bodily protection for families.
Big yawn. No cred.

What I think would be way cool would be if the NRA were to seriously femme out, go way over the line into girl cootie territory. Guns and dress-up? Sure. Wail with it. Do photo spreads of fashionable clothing that works well with holsters, and evening bags that’ll hold a handgun and ammo. If they don’t have at least one photo of a woman whose pistol grips exactly match her gown, you gotta figure they’re just messin’ around.

I’d also like to see them get into some earnest discussions of what firearm strategies are best suited to the kind of violence women most frequently encounter: up close and personal, involving someone who isn’t a stranger. If they’re serious about self-defense for women, they have to consider which guns are best for prostitutes to carry, and what kind of muzzle velocity it takes to stop a berserk ex-husband.

Looked at that way, what you need is a bitty close-range gun that’ll put one or two big fat rounds into someone who really needs shooting, but won’t carry much further. It should be fairly inexpensive, because you have better ways to spend your money. It should be small, so you can tuck it in your purse or pocket, and pretty, because pretty is good. It should also be pretty because that way, it’ll take him an extra second or two to figure out that that thing in your hand fires bullets.

In short, what you want is a muff pistol. Or a “My Friend” brand combination seven-shooter and knuckleduster. Or a palm pistol, also known as a Minneapolis Protector. But most likely what you want is one of Mr. Deringer’s ingenious little guns.

The bitty slow-velocity pistol is the all-American ladies’ gun; always has been. If you were crossing the plains back when, or are in the military now, you might need a big powerful gun to defend yourself from energetically hostile brown persons. But if you’re talking about using guns for self-defense in everyday life, the likeliest scenario for a female NRA member is going to involve popping a hole through one of her menfolk at close range. It might be a random thug who’s attacked her; but statistically speaking, malign strangers are very much the minority scenario.

The NRA has a lot of members. If it figures it can stand to lose a few of them in the cause of equal empowerment for women, who am I to disapprove?

Comments on Dressed to the nines:
#1 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2003, 11:34 PM:

"...and what kind of muzzle velocity it takes to stop a berserk ex-husband." I read that and thought instantly, screw muzzle velocity, go for a big, fat, slow .45 ACP round.

I thought about it a minute longer, and said to myself, derringer.

So then I read down a bit, and find you've come to the same conclusion: I have taught you well, Grasshopper. My work here is finished.

#2 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 12:03 AM:

Women and Guns aside, the firearms industry still has a problem viewing women as something other than the girlfriends, wives, and daughters of their customers. Sporting Clays is popular with women, but look for a book on getting started, and you'll find lines like "something even the wives can enjoy".

Public shooting ranges are still mostly boy's clubs as well, leading to the dreaded boyfriend syndrome, where clueless males teach women to shoot by handing them a hand-cannon and demonstrating how to miss the paper at 20 feet.

Drives me nuts, especially since every woman I've taught to shoot has quickly surpassed the men in skill.

As for the American Derringer products, I've fired one of these little monsters in .45 ACP, and the owner was stunned that I was able to get both shots into something resembling a group at 21 feet. Something to do with the 20-pound trigger pull and habit of twisting sideways in your hand after firing.

The barrel latch also popped open between shots; now that could have been entertaining!

For something smaller than a S&W 337 Kit Gun (and the matching 317 KG for training beginners), I think the best thing out there is the Beretta Tomcat. I'd like to see a few million of these filling purses and fanny packs. Okay, I'd let guys buy them, too.

[and yes, I tried to find decent URLs to link to on their sites; sigh]

It's a pity that .25 ACP is mostly useless, or Beretta's 950 Jetfire model would be the premier pocket rocket; it's extremely reliable and surprisingly shootable. Give it the Tomcat's sights, and you could even coax decent groups out of it.


#3 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 12:26 AM:

When a woman refuses to wear available safety equipment, chances are real good it's because it doesn't fit. In many cases, badly-fitting safety equipment is worse than none at all, since it doesn't do what it's supposed to do, and interferes with other equipment.

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 12:55 AM:

Padrino, you're the one who taught me that if you don't know exactly what you're doing, stopping power is what counts.

J Greely, if you'll look at the photos linked from the words "it's unflattering", the two women are me and Nancy Hanger, and the large bearded guy is Jim Macdonald. That paper target of mine records both my first visit to a firing range, and my first opportunity to use a Thompson submachine gun.

It was great fun. I recommend the range. They'll rent you guns that look like they were designed by Tex Avery.

My understanding is that Deringer's pistols were meant only to be accurate for the first ten feet or so. After that, you and the other guy's guardian angel are on your own.

What happens when the barrel latch pops open?

Pericat: Amen. I just drove a rented car down to DC and back, and had to modify its safety gear with a piece of string. What fiendish piece of design causes shoulder belts to ride up on short women until they're wrapped around our throats?

#5 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 01:10 AM:

The NRA has a lot of members. If it figures it can stand to lose a few of them in the cause of equal empowerment for women, who am I to disapprove?

Woohoo. If your tongue gets any further into your cheek you may have to have it surgically removed.

The gun I've fired I like best was a Browning 9 mil. Fit my hand perfectly not too much recoil. Of course, I've never fired a derringer...

#6 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 01:30 AM:

There's been a lot of discussion about whether Howard Dean stepped in it with his comments about people with Confederate flag stickers on their pickup trucks (bad phrasing but not racism on his part, in my opinion). One of the more useful comments was in Max Sawicky's MaxSpeak, suggesting that Democratic Party liberals needed to give up certain fetishes, like gun control and tobacco.

#7 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 01:41 AM:

Yes, the hearing protectors do clash a bit with your outfit, but I think you managed to look quite stylish anyway, and the Thompson accessorizes nicely. On a similar note, one of my favorite memories from the old National range in Santa Clara was when a group of women showed up wearing pro-gay t-shirts, and spent a merry hour blowing the crotches out of silhouette targets. They were quite friendly, but for some reason most of the men kept their distance. :-)

I've only shot full-auto at The Gun Store in Las Vegas; I'd just won $1,500 at a quarter slot machine, and I told my friend that the ammo was on me. We each put 100 rounds through the Thompson, MP5, and grease-gun. My friend did best with the Thompson, but I got better grouping with the MP5.

And, yes, accuracy at much over 10 feet is mostly irrelevant for small defensive pistols, but I use it as a test of manufacturing quality; if the gun can shoot well, it's more likely to work when you really need it. The fact that the derringer was pointing 45 degrees to the right after firing it was not a good sign. The faulty latch was simply dangerous, since firing it could have sprayed hot brass and burning gunpowder across my hand.

I really, really like the Beretta pocket pistols. I rented a .25-caliber Jetfire one day to settle an online argument about their functionality, and found it surprisingly accurate. I put 50 shots into a 4x7-inch group at 50 feet, one-handed, while trying to line up the vestigial sights.

The best part was that there was a group of truly awful shooters a few lanes down, and I heard one of them ask his friend what I was shooting. "Probably one of those fancy target pistols." One of them came over and looked at the tiny little gun, and then went back and told his friends what he'd seen. It seemed to improve their shooting.

I immediately began the paperwork to buy my own Jetfire. I'd never use it for protection, but as a tool to shame people into learning how to shoot straight, it's just spiffy. The only downside is that it's so small, the slide digs into my hand.


#8 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 02:59 AM:

Oddly, although I frequently hear people claim that there are lots of people who would be willing to vote for Democrats if Democrats stopped pushing for gun banning, I don't know of any studies which indicate that Democrats who don't push gun control do any better than Democrats who do. Do you?

I also don't hear many people encouraging the Republicans to give up their "fetishes" like the death penalty or banning abortion, but I suspect that a lot more people would vote Republican if they gave up on at least the latter.

#9 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 06:41 AM:

Being British, with our own brand of stupid politicians, and a good dose of media gun-terror, I've practically no chance of legally handling either the guns, or the ladies who might be carrying them.

A pity, really.

But at least I got the basic safety rules from my Grandfather, who as a Sergeant i/c Lewis guns during WW1 probably shot more people than any gun-crazed loony ever gunned down by the cops.

And if the paperwork to own a gun were as easy as the paperwork to own and drive a car, I'd be inclined to get a gun, maybe something like a Lee-Enfield, and learn how to do the famous 15 rounds per minute.

Assault weapons? Who needs them?

#10 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 07:22 AM:

The Lee Enfield is a lovely weapon.

Meanwhile, back to the discussion at hand:

Lovely rosewood grips

#12 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 08:08 AM:

Took a look at the "it's unflattering" link. Ought to be accompanied by Sergio Leone music, I thought.

#13 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 08:47 AM:

In my misspent youth, I got to go through the British Army's Ordnance Corps museum.

There was a pistol in there that looked like an escaped prop.

Five shot revolver; black powder, unjacketed untappered lead slug. 0.65 inch bore.

Makes me think that someone was much of the same opinion as Mr. MacDonald about stopping power.

It wouldn't be that hard to do something similar in a disposable derringer, like the much-mentioned non-metallic four shot ones made for the Sky Marshalls.

Lots and lots of women shoot skeet, I seem to recall; I wonder if anyone at the NRA has looked aobut what's different between skeet and handgun shooting?

#14 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 10:09 AM:

Bruce, that poncho's been my less-than-overcoat, more-than-jacket wrap for years now, as well seeing duty as an extra blanket and an impromptu ground cloth. It's such a familiar piece of gear that it didn't occur to me until much later that I was dressed for a spaghetti western.

Graydon, that sounds right: big hunk of metal, low speed, dead simple. You don't want to rip a grapefruit-sized hole through someone's torso. You just want them to stop whatever it is they're doing.

#15 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 11:44 AM:

Hi, Kevin,

I don't think there are any such studies, but Howard Dean is about to give the theory a test.

The Democratic Party sometimes lacks a sense of proportion. There's a national constituency out there for many of what should be its core issues: Health care, job creation, workplace safety.

Cultural issues get in the way of that.

Some cultural issues are also moral issues, and the party can't abandon those. This started with LBJ and, to a lesser extent, JFK putting the party onto the side of civil rights. This was a good thing to do, even if it helped Nixon and the Republicans get a near-lock on the south. There are other issues that have this moral claim--gay rights, for instance--that can't be abandoned.

Gun control doesn't have the moral claim and isn't a core issue.

Both my senators back home in Arkansas--by the way, how many other southern states have two Democratic senators?--broke with the party on it, and I don't think any the less of them for it.

#16 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 11:56 AM:

Graydon --

My mother's family does a lot of shooting (used to do skeet, currently many do ducks [and there's a whole discussion available on how duck hunters are among the more ardent conservationists -- look how much wetland Ducks Unlimited has preserved, for example]). It's obvious to me that one of the differences between handgun shooting and skeet shooting is that skeet is a social activity. There were a lot of postcards announcing skeet shooting days in Kentfield in the house when I was growing up (from the 40s/50s I'd guess) -- if it was a private activity, they wouldn't have wanted to publicize it! And at that point, women were much more interested in social activities than individual ones. Similarly, if you look at the pix TNH posted in "it's unflattering", you'll notice that some indicate just how much this was a social occasion. And some of us are much more likely to engage in any activity (running conventions, for example) as long as it's done with folks we like and trust. I'd never go out to a shooting range on my own; if it were a chance to hang with P&T and any of a number of my friends, I'd do it in a New York minute.

When the handgun debate is centered around self-protection, it assumes a moment when one is alone and otherwise undefended. If you want to get women to use guns more, I'd suggest developing a social model of gun use (the firearms equivalent of Tupperware?). Going out to the range currently seems to have several things against it -- it's more expensive than the movies, it's more competitive than supportive, and the like -- developing Ladies' Shooting Circles might work against this.

All this is blue-sky first draft unedited, and I am _not_ advocating doing this (as someone who generally believes gun control is a good thing) -- I just point out that this is (IMO) more likely to work than the Fashion approach on many people. It's a way to get more people involved (and the pool of people who don't vote is a lot larger than the pool of swing voters).


#17 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 12:36 PM:

Handgun shooting works great as a social occasion, especially if you know a few people with large collections. We've even used it as an official department offsite a few times (and are overdue for another one).

We have enough experienced shooters to supply good supervision and instruction, and we've carefully cultivated a fun, non-competitive atmosphere. It's gotten to the point where people get upset if they're not invited ("why didn't you tell me you were going shooting?").

As for the expense of a range trip, we use the drug-dealer model: "the first one's free". Once they're hooked, the price doesn't seem like such a big deal. :-)


#18 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 05:44 PM:

I've never fired a gun. I have held both an M-16nd an M-60 before though. The M-16 is surprisingly heavy for its size.

Recently (as in th elast year or so) I've been thinking seriously of going down to the shootin' range and learning the ins and outs, maybe even purchasing a firearm.

Any suggestions?

#19 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 05:50 PM:

Tom, JG, I can only say that, speaking as a lifelong female, it was very encouraging to discover that there's nothing as weird about guns as some guys are about guns.

#20 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 06:07 PM:

If the NRA are looking for somebody to do guna and fashion, I don't think they have to look far.

But an idle thought: what are the fashion imperatives of camouflage patterns? Since fashion is about being seen, can camouflage be fashion (unless you're talking about the deceptive-pattern schemes applied to some warships and aircraft, which use such things as fake shadows to mislead an observer about which way the ship is heading).

I shall let somebody else head off with that concept.

#21 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 06:55 PM:

Dave, I've seen ladies' lace-up spike-heeled camo half-boots in NYC shop windows. And I'm sure you've heard about camoflage-patterned condoms, yes? They really do exist. The explanation I heard was, "That way they won't see you coming."

In women's fashions, camouflage prints are just another trope. They have very little practical use. If a woman really wants to disappear into the background, all she has to do is put on a cleaning service uniform.

#22 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 07:05 PM:

Keith, without knowing where you are or what you're interested in, I can't make any specific suggestions, but most indoor ranges either have an instructor on staff or have someone they recommend. A quick rule of thumb is that anyone who can't put every shot into a group the size of your fist (at 50 feet for handguns and 50 yards for rifles) is definitely not qualified to teach you. This rules out about 90% of the regular customers at public pistol ranges, many of whom will offer advice anyway.

As for shotguns, well, they have to be better than I am, definitely. I hired an NSCA-certified instructor recently at Coyote Valley Sporting Clays, and he was very helpful. At least now I know enough to recognize my mistakes.

I like to start everyone with a .22 (lever-action for the rifle, revolver for the handgun), but you can learn with anything. The downside of starting with a hand-cannon is that it tires out your hands quickly, and it's easy to pick up bad habits, particularly flinching.

One of the nicest things a beginner can have is a pack of Shoot-N-C targets. The big, colorful holes give you clear feedback on where you're hitting the paper. I buy them in 50-packs from online dealers.

My first two guns were a Browning Buck Mark .22 semi-auto and a Taurus .357 Magnum revolver. It's a good combination; you can shoot the .22 all day long without getting tired or going broke, and you can load the .357 with everything from light-kicking .38 target wadcutters to heavy defensive/hunting Magnum loads. Mine has a 6-inch barrel, which makes it easier to shoot accurately, and reduces the kick of heavy loads.

At the time, Taurus had a dubious reputation for quality, but I got lucky (and had help picking it out), and they've improved a lot since then; I'd definitely recommend their revolvers, as well as Ruger's, for someone on a budget. Ten years ago I made the mistake of selling my original Buck Mark to a friend, and only recently got around to buying a new one. Can't imagine how I did without one for so long.

For protection, my primary defense is having a nice house in a nice neighborhood, with friendly neighbors and well-lit streets. After that comes the prominently-displayed signs for the monitored alarm service, and then there's the sturdy lockbox bolted to the wall. Its contents follow the big-slow-bullet theory of defense.

In practice, the home invaders I'm most worried about are the ants. Too small to shoot, too stupid to scare off. I leave them to the professionals.


#23 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 08:39 PM:

Teresa: All this is reminding me that there was talk of a shooting expedition last Boskone, but it never happened. Maybe the next one? Who would be good to point us at a place....


#24 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 08:59 PM:

Doyle and I were just talking about a shooting expedition at Boskone or Arisia.

The place is Manchester Firing Line Range, LLC and it's really swell.

#25 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 09:24 PM:

I remember the day after the Dunblane massacre, when sixteen five-year-old children were killed by Thomas Hamilton, ten more children wounded, one teacher killed, three teachers wounded.

Every gun Thomas Hamiliton used in the massacre was licenced.

The day after, the flag on Edinburgh Castle was at half-mast. (I don't know who did it: it isn't supposed to happen unless Royalty dies. But I saw it, coming along Princes Street on the morning of Thursday 14th March, and thought, though I am not particularly flag-conscious, that this was an appropriate way to mark a nation in mourning.) Douglas McMurdo, the deputy Chief Constable of Central Scotland, the man who had signed off on the gun licenses Thomas Hamilton had held, resigned.

The feeling I had as it became clear that the guns Thomas Hamilton had used to commit the massacre were licensed is difficult to describe to someone who hasn't been there. I didn't know anyone personally who lived in Dunblane. I lost no one in the massacre. But it's a small country I live in. I didn't think "They shouldn't have done it!"

I thought, "We shouldn't have done it." I felt a citizen's responsibility for the appalling thing that had happened.

Douglas McMurdo resigned because he signed Thomas Hamilton's gun licenses.

The rest of us? We couldn't resign from our responsibility as citizens.

Within days of the Dunblane massacre, gun fans were writing, in The Scotsman and elsewhere, that after all, guns didn't kill people: people kill people. We shouldn't be reacting emotionally when something like this happens, they wrote. We should keep a level head. We shouldn't penalise hundreds of perfectly innocent gun-owners who would never use their weapons to destroy a primary class of schoolchildren just because of "the tragic events of Dunblane".

The Tory party, then in power, were quick to agree: many of them were gun owners.

The Snowdrop campaign was a grassroots reaction against that smugness. Dave Bell may prefer to believe it was "stupid politicians" and "media gun-terror" that did for private ownership of handguns in Britain. But it was neither one.

It was the sheer sick outrage in Scotland that we had let this happen - that the current licensing system had permitted Thomas Hamilton to murder 16 children. And it helped, of course, that in 1996 the Tories were clinging to power by the skin of their teeth, and they could count the difference between a few hundred gun owners and a hundred thousand people in Snowdrop - of which, I was one.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

#26 ::: clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2003, 01:17 AM:

It's long since been determined to be any other weapon but the High Standard derringer in 22 Magnum Rimfire with solids in a nice fire from the holster wallet - which can be fancy tooled leather - makes a nice surprise - although firing it from the holster often ripped some stitches in the interior barrel sleeve - when she was alive my ex often kept that around. Sadly she didn't live to play with my Steyr Scouts so beloved of John Dean Cooper and his daughters - I'd love to get a new/female shooters reaction to those (maybe not the .376?).

Knives can be more of a fashion accessory. She used Gerbers with jewelry handles and mirror polished blades in her business desk stuff and a Morseth Sleeve Knife with her manicure kit.

#27 ::: clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2003, 01:27 AM:

Without getting into the statistical arguments around "More Guns Less Crime" I notice from Seattle that asphyxiation is more than adequate for killing girl children retail and wholesale on 2 continents and tournantes are the latest rage from Paris. I am reminded that disarmaming citizens became a big deal in the U.K. in the last century for fear of a general strike among disaffected veterans - - in years to come I have no doubt Patronnes and Kleptrocrats will see that their own clients at least are armed so I suspect liberals will be burying guns in the backyard any year now.

#28 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2003, 02:23 AM:

Jim: Looks good though I have no feel for how far it is from downtown Boston to there. Maybe we should go Sunday evening -- ladies get free lane time!


#29 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2003, 09:08 AM:

We've got to get up there. Patrick's been lamenting that he wasn't along on the Tommygun-firing expedition ever since it happened.

#30 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2003, 09:43 AM:

It's about an hour from Boston, Mary Kay. And I have a seven-passenger van; we could get quite a group up there.

Sunday night -- a post-Dead Dog Party party?

I think Patrick would enjoy the Thompson quite a bit. (And you certainly looked like you were having a good time.) Shotgun next time, eh?

#31 ::: Elric ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2003, 09:51 AM:

The gun range in Manchester is about an hour from downtown Boston (barring snow or excessive stupidity in the general driving population). They've got a nice variety of weapons for rental.

Nancy had a great time there with Theresa, and I've been there once when Nancy had her second visit. Based on her experience on that second visit, Nancy might be inclined to vote for a Casell (sorry--ought to check spelling) .454 as a large but really great accessory.

You know all those movies in which there is a firing range, with people doing their normal practice, and someone fires off some astonishing weapon that makes everyone else stop what they're doing? Well--the Casell is one of THOSE pistols. Lots of noise and kick, but a good barrel length and stable shape. Nancy loved it.

I'd fired .22s before, and a .45 semiautomatic once. I was a little surprised to find that I had a lot of trouble with the sight view for a Browning Hi-Power 9mm, but that a S&W .44 revolver settled into my hand as though it had always lived there.

If a party should happen, I'd enjoy trying some other pistols. And I think it can be a social occasion, especially if people are willing to share experience and observation--and learn from each other. Being willing to accept the note that one is flinching, holding the pistol improperly, or jerking the trigger, will make the whole thing more fun in the long run.

#32 ::: Connie ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2003, 10:07 AM:

This is the first time I saw pictures from that expedition! Oh my!

Save me a seat in the van if such an expedition comes together, or I can offer my own car for supplementary expeditioners.

#33 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2003, 11:33 AM:

Yonmei, neither you nor the rest of your fellow citizens gave a dangerous schizophrenic a license for a gun. Y'all issued a license to Thomas Hamilton, who was not outside your established profile for gun owners. You do what you can to make safe, responsible laws and regulations, but that doesn't guarantee your results in every case. The world's full of arguments about what law and government should do, but it's well to remember that there's a limit to what law and government can do. Inevitably, driver's licenses, teaching certificates, and clearances to operate heavy machinery will sometimes get issued to what turn out to be the wrong people. The increasing degree of control, monitoring, and denial of access necessary to decrease the incidence of regrettable events will inevitably generate other problems. The best we can do is figure out where to set the tolerances, and know as we do so that some bad will come of it no matter where they're set.

#34 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2003, 12:08 PM:

Yonmei, neither you nor the rest of your fellow citizens gave a dangerous schizophrenic a license for a gun.

No, Teresa: we did.

Y'all issued a license to Thomas Hamilton, who was not outside your established profile for gun owners.

Exactly. Hence the Snowdrop campaign.

I read the arguments from gun owners at the time. They were using David Brooks argument: "What will happen to the national mood when the news programs start broadcasting images of the brutal measures our own troops will have to adopt? Inevitably, there will be atrocities that will cause many good-hearted people to defect from the cause."

Well, in Scotland, the many good-hearted people looked at the brutality and atrocities, and did, just as David Brooks warned, "defect from the cause".

#35 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2003, 01:06 PM:

I'm in for a trip during Boskone. Note that they're only open until 8pm on Sundays. Do we need to make a reservation or whatever? I'll see if Jordin wants to go.


#36 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2003, 01:31 PM:

Elric, on paper, the .454 Casull (pronounced like ka-boom) is an absurd cartridge to load into a handgun. The only thing that keeps your hand attached is the sheer mass of the guns designed to fire it. Definitely not one to put in a derringer.

The original Freedom Arms revolvers are still the best tool for the job, but the newer competitors are at least safe, if perhaps less comfortable. People unfamiliar with single-action revolvers shouldn't shoot this one first, though. Back when National Shooting Club had one for rent, someone didn't keep a good grip on it while firing, and it flew across the room.

As for Yonmei's emotional appeal, I'm simply going to activate my Someone Else's Blog field and let it go.


#37 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2003, 05:33 PM:

J Greely, actually, it started out as a factual correction to Dave Bell's comment. I decline to apologise for the fact that I still find it difficult to write about the Dunblane massacre without emotion. But I appreciate your activation of the "Somebody Else's Blog" field: I don't really want to pick a fight about it either.

#38 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 12:29 AM:

Okay, Jordin wants to go too


#39 ::: Mike Hoye ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 12:49 AM:

Heh. The first thing that crossed my mind reading this was "The Glock 26 - because black is this year's black."

#40 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 01:22 AM:

TNH said: "The best we can do is figure out where to set the tolerances, and know as we do so that some bad will come of it no matter where they're set."

I'm pretty sure I agree with this. And I also think that if I expressed such an opinion on rasff, just to name one forum where I have discussed gun ownership questions, I would be condemned as a gun-grabber by the people who there express the opinion that if the Democrats just stopped being gun-grabbers, why of course people would flock to the party.

#41 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 02:58 AM:

I do see a difference between the Snowdrop campaign and the other anti-gun organisations which piggy-backed on Hamilton.

The anti-gun groups which have got a foothold on the long-established official bodies that are supposed to advise the government have admitted to having very small memberships.

Frankly, I don't think there was anything wrong with the essentially emotional response to Dunblane. It was an horrific event. But new anti-gun laws in the UK haven't stopped murders; they've just taken guns from people the police knew about and could have controlled.

Hamilton's lunacy was a failure of the Police, not of the law.

#42 ::: Suw ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 03:21 AM:

"The best we can do is figure out where to set the tolerances, and know as we do so that some bad will come of it no matter where they're set."

But how much 'some' is acceptable?

I did some research into gun related murders in the UK and US recently for my own blog. For 2002-03, 80 people in the UK were killed by a gun, compared to between 9,369 and 11,504 in the USA (depending on which FBI figures you believe). In terms of deaths per 100,000, this is 0.12 for the UK, 4.08 for the US. (figures from the Home Office and FBI.)

I personally believe that gun control is a good thing and that the argument 'guns don't kill people, people kill people' is entirely spurious. To paraphrase Eddie Izzrd, 'guns don't kill people, bullets kill people' but without the gun, a bullet is pretty harmless.

Living in the UK, I find myself entirely unable to understand why people in the US are so enamoured of guns. Merely being in the same room as one gives me the willies, and frankly I think the US would be a safer place if more people got the screaming heebiejeebies from firearms, instead of seeing them as an acceptable lifestyle accessory.

#43 ::: Caroline Yeldham ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 07:18 AM:

Reading these comments, with the incomprehension most UK people have about the attraction or utility of guns, it struck me there is a parallel with fox hunting; a Bill to bann foxhunting with dogs is currently going through Parliament.

Both are ritualised activities which engender enormous enthusiasm amongst participants but bewilderment and even condemnation by onlookers. They are justified on grounds of utility by participants, which grounds are regarded as spurious by critics who point out the cruelty and death which result from the activiy. Defendants threaten to break the law to protect and continue their activity.

These activities are so exciting and give such a sense of power to participants? Ironic.


#44 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 08:46 AM:

Caroline, I don't think it's really comparable.

Suw, there have been many interesting and vigorous online discussions of exactly those points. If you feed "gun control" into Google Groups, you can take your pick of them.

#45 ::: Caroline Yeldham ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 09:29 AM:


It was people's emotional reactions that struck me as comparable, rather than the details of the cases. These issues lead law-abiding people, in the UK, representatives of the establishment, to threaten to break the law, and that strikes me as interesting.


#46 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 09:37 AM:

These issues lead law-abiding people, in the UK, representatives of the establishment, to threaten to break the law, and that strikes me as interesting.

Caroline, the people who are threatening to break the law over guns and fox-hunting tend to belong to an overwhelmingly-privileged group. As such, they are unaccustomed to the idea that something they like to do can possibly be illegal. Any privileged group will tend to have the same reaction. (See much American protest about US breaking of international law: those Americans who protest thusly somehow feel international law just shouldn't count when it means that the US can't do anything it wants.)

By the way, hi! Under another name, we met in TWP in the 1980s. ;-) You'll probably figure out who I am if you read my livejournal: Yonmei is my Secret Identity. Or possibly the other way round. You just can't tell which side of reality the phone box is these days.

#47 ::: Sheila ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 10:13 AM:

Consider my car, which has room for up to four passengers and knows its way to Manchester, at your disposal should you need extra Boskone transport.

#48 ::: Kortney ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 11:00 AM:

Well, actually, if you want to get into the perfect gun for women, it would have to be a Kel Tec 32. It'll fit in your purse, pocket, or wherever, and it's black. (And we all know, black goes with everything ;-D )

Don't freak out about the pink font or the "girly" undertones of the Women's Outlook magazine. If you just gave it a chance you might actually see it's worth reading. Women don't take their security seriously enough until something happens. And too often they feel like guns are something for "men".
Well, I don't think so. And if the women's lib movement was smart, they'd be all about a woman's right to carry. Protect yourself...Sh** happens, and it happens to good people.
Maybe I'm wrong; we can agree to disagree. But it's really something worth looking into. Don't wait around for the cops to show up right when you need them...they'll tell you themselves they don't always get there in time. And don't wait around for a man to protect the family. That's b.s. If the husband or boyfriend is away and you're home alone or home with your kids and something happens *which it certainly can* be ready. Better safe than sorry.
Gun safes...Now I'd have to agree, they're not exactly what you'd call attractive in "any part of the home"...there's definitely a spot better for them than some, but they serve a good practical purpose. I don't think I need to say what that is. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it. :-D

#49 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 12:17 PM:

Kortney: Women don't take their security seriously enough until something happens.

Either this is simply not true or "something" has happened to far more women than men. At any rate, most women of my acquaintance are security conscious in ways that most men of my acquaintance simply are not. (Example: I know a number of women who aren't comfortable walking alone the three blocks between the BART station [a kind of subway] and my house after dark; whereas I can't think of a man who has ever mentioned a concern to me.)

One can argue that the way a typical woman deals with her security concerns might or might not be appropriate or effective. But to state flat-out that "women don't take their security seriously enough" is to misrepresent the actual situation.

#50 ::: davey ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 01:19 PM:

I'm wondering if anyone else might be up for a range trip on Arisia Sunday? I'd also like to go in the company of knowledgable friends, but I'll be packing up NESFA Press and supervising dealer load-out during Sunday late-afternoon at Boskone.

If not, s'OK, another time.

#51 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 03:21 PM:

I'm not sure I'm into the "women don't protect themselves" gambit either. But there are too many arguments both ways, and many men are larger than most women, and there may be some justification.

But as for guns - well, the only one I've touched was a muzzle-loading black powder musket - not even a rifle. I've always intended to check into the byzantine rules for learning more modern weaponry in Canada - those teeny little pretty guns Teresa was talking about have a more than just aesthetic appeal - someday. It's fairly low on my priorities. After the soft twang-hum of an arrow (and the much lower hassle level to use a bow legally) it seems too much effort and sound for a mere whim.

But one thing is comparable. I've learned right away to watch people new to the range, and the people with them, to see what's taught first.

If they're taught how to shoot first, I keep an eye on them, and usually have to give them a safety tip at some point in the evening. If they're handed a bow and ignored, or (MUCH more often) not paying attention to the teacher in their enthusiasm, I will, guaranteed, have to say something at some point, even to people who appear to be trying to use common sense to overcome their ignorance. Only if someone goes over the rules of the range first, and the safety issues, and the student is attentive, do I pretty much ignore them as "not dangerous". Of course, if I understand thigns correctly, you don't ever end up downrange at a gun range, you bring the target to you. But with archery, you go downrange to retrieve, and while I've never seen anyone hurt yet, I've seen bows drawn, and one arrow fly, while people were down there. Not pretty. Not when you're looking at it from the wrong end.

Alas, the proportions of attentive students versus eager-to-start-shooting are not positive. The two guys running the range try, but they only have so many eyes and so much time.

I presume that at a standard gun range, there are more restrictions, more necessary emphasis on rules, more actual teaching. The laws pretty much force the issue. But I suspect the proportions of attentive students vs. eagerness would be at least the same. I only wish there was a way to judge and test excessive eagerness. More than the real maniacs, which can never be entirely prevented, those are the people who worry me. Those are the ones more likely not to lock the cabinet, or to (inadvertently) let their child know where the bullets are. Or to shrug off comments like Yonmei's as "Not my concern". Which, in the end, they are.

#52 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 04:00 PM:

Excessive eagerness is really, really easy to deal with in principle, though it takes some time and planning.

You start with 'this is how to take it apart and clean it', and you keep at that until you get good at it. Not necessarily 30 seconds apart-and-reassemble blindfolded, or a minute for blindfold reassembly of parts scattered on the blanket, but until there aren't any more questions in the process, it's just something like chopping onions for soup.

You then do loading, unloading, jam clearing, and hang fire drills with 'drill purpose' -- solid metal in the right shape -- rounds, until those things are dull reflex.

One splits that up with shouldering and aiming practice; the modern laser dot adjuncts are very useful for this, but not really required.

By the time one gets to the actual part that goes bang, it's a matter of caring about one's score, rather than hey cool this goes bang!

I am less clear on the archery equivalents, in part becuase they were less formal and so are less vivid in memory, and in part because I got them second, and much later, at twenty or so instead of from five to fifteen; things about range clearing and everything that could shoot being down before anyone moved were already burned into my brain.

I will say that anyone shooting with people down range would be subject to criminal charges if I could possibly arrange it.

#53 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 05:21 PM:

I was a farmer, part of the rural community, and a lot of the politics of both guns and fox-hunting has an us-against-them feel to me.

And I don't even own a firearm or a horse.

#54 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 06:13 PM:

Graydon, I've never had a student who needed such strong corrective measures. I give formal one-on-one instruction, starting with the safety lecture and dry-firing an empty gun, then loading a single cartridge for them, then finally working them up to a full cylinder, making them lower the gun to the bench between each shot. I use a Ruger Single-Six for this, because I've noticed that people who start with a semi-auto tend to empty it before putting it back down. This drastically reduces their real "practice".

Cleaning, jam-clearing, and other issues I save for the person who has learned to shoot and now wants to own a gun.

Lenora Rose: Of course, if I understand things correctly, you don't ever end up downrange at a gun range, you bring the target to you.

True at indoor pistol ranges, and competition/military outdoor ranges may have people working in a pit as target-changers. At most public outdoor ranges, you do end up walking downrange, during a formal cease-fire monitored by the range officer. Nobody steps forward until all the guns are in a safe condition and no one is touching them.

Shotgun sports such as skeet, trap, and sporting clays either launch the targets from secure buildings or by remote control from behind the shooter.

But I suspect the proportions of attentive students vs. eagerness would be at least the same.

Definitely. It's rare to find someone being actively dangerous, but careless enthusiasm is abundant. I've lost count of the number of times I've caught people getting so excited by a good shot that they walk over to another lane to tell a friend, while still holding a loaded gun. Most of them have the good grace to be ashamed when they're (politely!) called on it, but police officers and cadets often have an above-the-rules attitude that requires official intervention.

Watching cops shoot at public ranges tends to reduce your faith in the quality of their firearms training. Those with a personal interest in shooting tend to be excellent, but most practice just enough to pass their qualification tests.

Lenora: I only wish there was a way to judge and test excessive eagerness. More than the real maniacs, which can never be entirely prevented, those are the people who worry me. Those are the ones more likely not to lock the cabinet, or to (inadvertently) let their child know where the bullets are.

Unfortunately, they're also the ones likely to carelessly store power tools, household chemicals, matches, kitchen knives, and car keys, allow unsupervised access to backyard pools, let their kids play in traffic, etc. A quick look at the fatal accident statistics for children is quite revealing.

When I was skimming through the 1989 edition of Vital Statistics of the United States, I remember being surprised at the number of children aged 0-4 who were killed while driving motor vehicles. Those parents definitely wouldn't be safe with guns, but they weren't safe without them, either.


#55 ::: eleanor rowe ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 06:38 PM:

"women don't take their security seriously enough until something happens"


I just had a very girly night in at my house, and sent my sister-in-law a (short distance)home in a mini-cab, which prompted a discussion on safe behaviour with mini-cab firms.

We agreed that 1) using a familiar firm was good, but 2) Always making sure that the cab driver saw that whoever was taking the cab was coming from friends - who would remember the cab company, and 3) Somebody yells 'call me when you get in!'.

While I suspect that all of the above would not deter a serious malfeasant, it made us all feel safer & I suspect the cabdriver knew exactly what we were doing, we can't stay home & be protected all our lives.

We are in the UK, so everyday use of guns we do not have, (BTW, Teresa, thank you for an interesting piece about the Practical uses of guns for protection. I do get a bit bored of 'We need guns! To shoot bad people! And I have a whole other thing about the bad drunk boyfriend breaks restraining order - with the little lady guns, where should you shoot him if you a)want him dead & b) just want to stop him. & also, legal repurcussions)

In short, I take my security seriously. I don't let fear of being in danger stop me doing anything I really want to. There aren't that many dangerous situations I might get into where a gun would help.

#56 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 06:47 PM:

Lenora, not all gun ranges "bring the targets to you". Indoor ranges pretty much all have some sort of overhead electric target trolleys, but most outdoor ranges (as far as I know) don't. The outdoor ranges I've seen all divided time up in alternating blocks (15 minutes or so?) of "no one over the line" and then "all weapons down, empty, and open". That is, during the one period, you can fire, but anyone crossing the firing line will get immediate attention from the proprietors. During the 2nd period, you can walk to your targets and change them, but anyone handling a firearm will get similar negative attention.

Actually, the two archery ranges I've ever been on had similar time-division schemes. But I guess the distinction between "shooting" and "not shooting" is little more obvious with things that go "boom".

I was imprinted with a strong safety orientation from an early age by my father, which was reinforced at Boy Scout camp. The camp range instructor started his orientation lecture off by telling us to treat all firearms as loaded except when we were actually looking into an empty chamber. He then continued with the rest of his lecture about the range procedures. At the end of the lecture, he told us a little about the shotgun he was holding, (we were going to be shooting .22s), and said to a kid in the front row, "Here, want to look at it?" As the poor kid reached to take the gun, the instructor turned, took a step downrange and fired. I think the resulting boom penetrated even the thickest kid's apathy. The instructor reiterated the idea that all guns are loaded until the person holding it shows you that it isn't, and explained that the blank load he had just fired, while not dangerous at any distance, was still capable of causing crippling injury at close range.

#57 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 07:29 PM:

J -

That seems really quite reasonable, intellectually.

Emotionally, weapons are holy, and should be treated as such. (Because people are holy, and so killing them must be, also.)

#58 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 08:07 PM:

Emotionally, weapons are holy, and should be treated as such.

A few social range trips tends to clear up that problem. I disagree with the recreational shooters who try to ban the word "weapon" from their vocabulary and insist that their guns are simply tools or sporting goods, but I understand why they do it. They're responding to their opponent's magical thinking by invoking name-magic. Change the name and you change the thing.

The gun in my safe is both tool and weapon, as are the knife and lighter in my pocket. In fact, the primary reason I carry a knife and a lighter is to proudly claim my membership in a tool-using species. If I could figure out a good reason to carry a wheel around, I would.


#59 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 08:16 PM:

J Greely, seems to me you're actually agreeing in a way with Graydon, just extending holiness to all tools.

Have you thought about those wheeled sneakers kids are wearing these days? I don't know if they come in adult sizes, but they look amusing, if perhaps a little risky to more fragile adult bones (and dignity).

#60 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 08:43 PM:

J Greely:

Don't lighters have little wheels on them, to spark the flint?


Perhaps it's just that I'm lonely for home.

My mother's sister died last week just short of 95, which means she won't be down to Newton County for Thanksgiving, where her brother and his sons are celebrating the start of the deer season the best way they know how. (Yes, one of them bow-hunts, too, but not this year. I figure it's because of the hernia surgery.)

My uncle (he's 91) still goes out in the woods to kill a deer every year, or at least try, and he's smart, still has steady hands and good eyes, so I figure he's got at least a fifty-fifty chance at it this year.

He's got an ancient poster of FDR still up on the wall, but he and his kids are lost forever to the Democratic Party, and the hot button that did it is gun control.

You can count the people killed by guns pretty easily.

It's hard to add up the sheer misery loaded onto people by the dominance of the Republican Party. Most of it falls on the poorest and the weakest, which makes it easy to ignore.

I figure Republican economic and social policy is much, much worse than guns. Maybe I'm wrong.

Or maybe a lot of gun violence is driven by the misery imposed by those policies, and maybe changing those policies would do a lot more to stop the violence than any gun legislation would.

If giving ground on gun control, tobacco, and any of the other cultural issues that don't have a clear moral claim--equal rights, civil unions, things like that--can help shift the electorate back to the economic left, then I say smoke 'em if you got 'em, and that includes Bambi bratwurst.

#61 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 08:56 PM:

Jeremy, I'll let him decide if I interpreted his comment correctly, but I'd like to draw a line between "object X is a holy thing" and "object X has both practical and symbolic uses".

I've carried a pocket knife for more than thirty years, because it's so darn useful. It wasn't until fairly recently that I recognized its symbolic importance as Man's Artificial Claw, when the nanny state started trying take away one of our oldest and most important inventions.

That was also when I added Fire to my collection, in the form of a Zippo. It doesn't get as much day to day use, but it came equipped with more symbolism than any other fire-maker I could find.

I do have one knife with more than usual symbolism attached to it. It's a custom belt knife made by the late James Mattis, whose trademark was the Hebrew word for "life", because he believed strongly in knives as tools and not weapons. [note that his e-commerce site is long-gone, and the domain has been taken over by some search engine]

While I'm on the subject, I should mention that James built many of his knives around blanks purchased from Bob Engnath, also sadly "the late". His family preserved as much of his work online as they could, to help people remember him.

Wheeled sneakers? I've actually thought about them once or twice, but there's a bit of a snag: I usually wear sandals. Shoes, in my worldview, are for when you're planning to walk more than two miles, or when your toes start to turn blue from the cold.

I suppose I could always buy a Harley. :-)


#62 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 09:40 PM:

How can something be holy if it isn't practical?

(Yes, yes, I know a lot of people disagree with me about that, too, but the emotional incomprehension is very real.)

While I've only fired a handgun once, I've put some thousands of rounds downrange from long arms. (And that teaching sequence is the one I went through, and then taught, come to that, not an abstract theorizing. Nothing deglamorizes guns like having to get sand out of the trigger mechanism.) So it's not an uninformed opinion.

"Take up the sword, take up death" isn't just about swords, or things that are sharp, I don't think.

My special sharp thing, well, really, it's not one sharp thing; there's a Granfors-Bruks carpenter's ax, the kitchen knife made in 1920 or so from Sabatier and the Grohman chef's knife, all the planes and chisels...

I'm the sort of person who carries sharpening tools around, because the meditative process of honing has some holiness about it also.

#63 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2003, 10:37 PM:

Graydon: Nothing deglamorizes guns like having to get sand out of the trigger mechanism.

Likely true, but I must point out that it's enough to make most people pass on their first range trip. Which would you rather have, twelve co-workers who've learned gun safety and basic marksmanship, or one expert and eleven non-shooters?

When one of my co-workers decides to move from joining us at the range to getting her own gun, then I start the advanced class.


#64 ::: Caroline Yeldham ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2003, 03:57 AM:

Yonmei Hi - I replied over on your journal yesterday - didn't seem relevant to this discussion.

Back on topic. I have friends who have black powder licences (not easy to obtain over here in the UK) in order to fire medieval cannons and I still don't understand the attraction. I'm the one at the back with hands over my ears - far too noisy.


#65 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2003, 07:34 AM:

Eleanor, one of the things Macdonald taught me years ago is that non-fatally shooting someone is not a reliable option unless you have a lot of expertise. If you're an amateur who's just trying to stop an attacker, you have to assume you're going to kill them. You might not -- but there's no certainty.

#66 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2003, 09:05 AM:

J -

If it was up to me, that level of basic firearms training would be compulsory, no exceptions, at ages 11, 15, and 19.

Gun safety is it's loaded and don't touch it; shooter safety is different, and I think it ought to start with the naming of the parts. (My, what an excess of emphasis.)

This is probably due to having taught twitching fourteen year olds to shoot, and dealing with adults would doubtless alter my biases a bit, but, well, I'm not going to believe someone is actually safe with a firearm unless it's got inside their self image as an understood complex thing. (And they have a good imagination about consequences, too, but that's a completely squishy subjective judgement.)

I feel the same way about table saws and lawnmowers and stuff like that, so at least I'm consistent.

#67 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2003, 11:06 AM:

I kinda feel the same way about basic butchery skills, Graydon -- if you're gonna eat meat, you ought to know how to prepare it and where it comes from. Vegetarians may claim an exemption....

I think some of the disconnect around guns is similar to the disconnect many people in this society feel about meat.


#68 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2003, 11:53 AM:

Could you expand on said disconnect a bit?

(Farm kid. Consequentially deeply fussy about where I buy meat. Doubtless deeply clueless about how most people view the subject.)

#69 ::: clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2003, 01:28 PM:

RASF gong with brass for The Naming of Parts (which in our case we have not got) reference today.

They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,
And the breech, and the cocking-piece, and the point of balance,
Which in our case we have not got; and the almond-blossom
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards,
For today we have naming of parts.

#70 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2003, 02:24 PM:

Graydon: I'm not going to believe someone is actually safe with a firearm unless it's got inside their self image as an understood complex thing.

I think a Macaulay-ish Way Things Work understanding is important (but not absolutely necessary) for a gun owner, but I'm quite comfortable leaving it at the black-box level for someone who only shoots as part of a supervised group. I'd definitely handle fourteen-year-olds more carefully than adults, but that's true for pretty much anything I taught them.

I once taught a group of 20 eleven-year-olds to juggle, and there was definitely some excess enthusiasm to deal with. "No, Johnny, you throw the ball into the air, not at Lisa."

On a related subject, I drive at least 600 miles each week, and after more than twenty years behind the wheel, I still don't know how to do much more than change a flat tire. And yet I'm willing to claim that I've been a safe driver for most of that time.


#71 ::: clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2003, 02:38 PM:

I'm not going to believe anyone is actually safe with a firearm - or without. Personally I've found 14 year olds doing hunter safety much more comfortable to be around than adults. Perhaps a lack of hunting is part of the problem.

#72 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2003, 02:52 PM:

J, thanks for the Engnath link; I'm not a knife-maker, but I do have one of his catalogs (about 100 pages of how-to, why-to, here's-another-way-to, let-me-tell-you-about-this-other-thing, and about 20 pages of actual products for sale) that I picked up when I stumbled across his shop in Glendale many years ago. I remember seeing some knives with an engraved Hebrew letter in a display case there; they were very nice, as I recall.

Personally, I carry a Swiss Army knife for practical and sentimental reasons, rather than symbolic ones, but then I'm not too big on concious attempts at symbolism.

As far as the "it's always loaded" rule, even that is too complicated to start with. My 3 year old recently said something about guns, and so I asked him what he would do if he found a gun. He said "I'd pick it up and put it away, because guns are too dangerous for boys like me to play with." I complimented him on his concern for safety, but explained that for a little kid like him, guns are so dangerous that he should leave it alone and go get a grown up to take care of it. I figure in a few years we'll discuss "loaded" versus "unloaded", and then eventually move on from there to more detailed safety information when he's ready.

#73 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2003, 05:21 PM:

I can't say as how I read this thread all the way through, Gnu Control debates giving me a classic case of Usenetter's heebie-jeebies, but I did feel compelled to post the following quote from /. :

"Yeah, but if we outlaw zapping people from the sky, only people from the sky will zap outlaws."

Thank you, that is all.

#74 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2003, 06:26 PM:

Graydon wrote:
Could you expand on said disconnect a bit?

(Farm kid. Consequentially deeply fussy about where I buy meat. Doubtless deeply clueless about how most people view the subject.)

Most people seem to believe that meat is grown in vats, processed, and through the Magic of Technology arrives in their local grocery ready for them to consume, never having been part of an animal.

If, in the course of a farm visit, or a tour of a reconstructed nineteenth century village, one should tell them, or worse yet their children just why the farm-dwellers kept pigs (they grow real fast, they breed pretty durned easily, you can have piglets in the spring and bacon in the fall.), many of them will be distressed. They may object to your subjecting their offspring to this distressing fact. "Oh! But they're so cute!" some will say, "don't tell us anyone would eat them!"

If one is being paid to lead a tour, and show the tourists a lovely time, one simply smiles and says "Well, they didn't really have access to tofu in Upper Canada in 1816." One keeps one's thoughts entirely to oneself.

Likewise, if one is feeding fresh chicks to birds of prey at a tourist site, and is asked by an inquisitive six-year old "What are you feeding it.", and one says "Dead baby chickens.", it is entirely probably that the parents of the six-year old will gasp, and clutch the child's hand, exclaiming "Don't tell them that! It's horrible!"

One does not, under these circumstances ask "And do you sir or madam never eat chicken at home? You, at least have an option! A falcon is a bird of prey. It eats meat."

That's the disconnect. City dwellers don't like to think that something that was once living and may have been cute and fluffy like a chick, or have wagged its curly tail engagingly like a pig, might have actually been killed to feed them.

O.k. digression finished. Can't talk intelligently about gnus or ugns, even archery, so I won't.

#75 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2003, 07:22 PM:

Thank you, jennie -- couldn't have said it more clearly myself. Exactly what I was referring to (and having someone else say it so well makes the point that it's pretty common these days).


#76 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2003, 08:03 PM:

Jennie --

Digression appreciated.

I appear to be entirely incapable of believing that there are really people in the world who think like that.

The disconnect I see about 'take up the sword, take up death' as generalized is that a lot of people think they're taking up victory, instead of death, and magic victory at that.

I suppose the pigs-aren't-meat disconnect is thinking that one can pick up food and not pick up life.

#77 ::: clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2003, 09:33 PM:

For an arguably more extreme example of disconnect from vulgar reality, consider exposing a city child to a gelding in the presence of the child's mother and picture the reaction in the mind's eye. Green Acres meets Cold Comfort Farm meets ..... And don't forget the pig was often the landlord's share as in Ireland even when the potatos were blighted.

#78 ::: Caroline Yeldham ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2003, 04:59 AM:

I entirely agree with Jennie - I often cook for 15th/16th century English groups and the best way I've found to get over the emotional reaction to preparing meat that looks like animals (deer, rabbits, pigeons etc) is to explain to them the process - parts of the animal, the crop on a pigeon is brilliant for that.

If you don't think about the animal behind the meat, then you don't think about the conditions the animal lives in.

BTW there was an interesting article a few years ago (I don't have the reference) which indicated that in medieval France the household pig was a rariety as few households had sufficient spare food to feed one. By contrast, average holdings in England were 3 pigs per household (evidence from Lincoln). Big variations in pig ownership and its role in farm/household economy over Europe - partly dependent on whether there was a predominatly cash or barter economy.


#79 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2003, 07:24 AM:

Jenny -
What you said. To digress further: I once upset a group of 15-year-olds by suggesting that they should kill their own rats for dissection. We were allowed to abstain from dissecting and do another project instead (I dissected a virtual frog,) but only a few people did. Quite a lot of the rest said "But these rats are already dead," apparantly not having figured out supply and demand yet. The one person to agree with me (in principle) was the teacher, who told me how in his day they raised them from birth to maturity, then dissected them.

The student who annoyed me the most at the time was the one who wanted to be a vet, and said "But I want to learn to help animals, not kill them."

I'm a vegan because I want to reduce the harm done to animals. I benefit from medical research, and so do my pets (who are rats, in fact.) But I know that research didn't happen by magic.

#80 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2003, 02:02 PM:

Only barely appropos to some part of this discussion somewhere . . .

I just was referred today to the 2004 Nuns Having Fun Calendar, with the following Amazon blurb excerpt:

Nuns at the roller rink, holding hands, rosaries swaying. Nuns gleefully taking over an amusement park97who92s having more fun, the nuns or the spectators? Plus nuns playing softball, making music, fishing. Even skeet shooting97that92s right, nuns with guns.

Hmm . . . nuns with guns . . . I really want to see the NRA progam for that "affinity group".

#81 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2003, 03:18 PM:

Oddly enough, for all I love venison and like the taste of bunny (So many people dislike that phrasing...?), I do not do bowhunting currently, only range shooting. Nor have I slaughtered my own meals. Nor even fished. The only non insectoid/arachnid animal I can hold direct responsibility for killing was by saying "Yes" when the veterinarian told me there was zero chance of her recovery.

But I have relatives who hunt, who trap, who have a self-sufficient farm. I was made to understand the relation of meat and death long ago. In spite of living in a city and buying meat in packages, I try not to forget it.

#82 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2003, 04:11 PM:

Graydon, Tom, et al

The examples I used were from two different people: I worked at a heritage village; a former room-mate is a falconer. At the heritage village all the education assistants faced scandalized, squeamish parents. The kids were nonplussed, sure, and upset. The parents had hissy fits.

My problem is not with people who don't kill their own meat, nor do I have a problem with people who eat meat. I am simply dismayed at the arrogance and wilful stupidity that causes people to want to "protect" children from a very real and powerful truth. Something, be it a carrot, a soybean, a rat, a deer, or a wichity grub, must die so that we can live. There are those to whom that is a scary thought, and there are folks who prefer hiding their heads under a blanket and their abbatoirs in suburbs and deny the reality of the conditions under which they live. This I deem irresponsible.

#83 ::: eleanor rowe ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2003, 04:33 PM:

I once killed a chicken, although I think in the end the poor thing died of fright. I'd rather leave to to someone more competant.

My grandfather was a farmer who raised turkeys for Christmas, and the day we turned the evil feathered gobble monsters into oven-ready was a whole family endeavour. I particularly remember the stink, and the way a cheese sandwich and, perhaps, a nice bowl of vegetable soup, seemed to be a good idea for supper that day. I also remember that the year I was a vegetarian I still had to help with the disemboweling. They f**k you up. it's not just your Mum & Dad, it's the whole crew.

I know where meat comes from, I know I can kill it if I have to, and, better yet, I know how to turn it into dinner.

My sister and her husband run a dairy farm, as does my brother-in-law's father. I find the way they relate to their cows hard to understand - these are nice people who have pet cats from the rescue home, and spoiled non-working dogs - the cows are business. And yet, I heard one talk about the (expected) death of a poor-doing calf with regret. He had spent a couple of hours a day, for about a week trying to get milk down it, although he knew it was probably a waste of time, and it died. Wherepon he had to get someone else to dispose of the corpse because 'once they're dead it turns my stomach.'

A Jersey bull calf has to be shot: it is of no worth as it cannot be raised for meat.

I used to wonder how farmers deal with the range of emotions they feel over the animals they have. Then I found out about the suicide rates.

#84 ::: Ab_Normal ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2003, 04:50 PM:

Gee, I think I AM America: I carry a Swiss army knife in my pocket and a Gerber pocket tool on my belt. For my 21st birthday I got a concealed carry permit (long expired, alas; ran out of money for renewals) and a target pistol. A friend gave my husband and I a 22 caliber rifle for a wedding present. My father was a reserve deputy, and I inherited his service pistol. And I briefly carried a .38 after a scary encounter at the bus stop, but stopped after a few weeks when I realized I wasn't morally ready to shoot somebody. (I call it my "steel teddy-bear" phase.)

As soon as the kid is tall enough to handle a weapon, we're going to teach her how to shoot. Like Jeremy Leader, we've long ago started on basic gun safety.

(Oh, and we taught our daughter where food comes from in no uncertain terms. Toddler looks out the window on car trip: "Cows!" "Mmm-hmm, honey, we eat cows." "Cows are tasty!")

#85 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2003, 06:38 PM:

jennie; right with ya. I can only recall one animal I've killed in order to eat it (a fish); but I've killed birds and mammals in order to end suffering, and I often think about what must die in order for me to live (and that occasionally contributes to my depressive state). You speak very clearly, and very well, and I look forward to more of your comments in this forum.

I've got a degree in zoology; I've dissected more different animals than most of my friends; I've seen dead dissected humans (courtesy of my massage school, and very useful it was to me!) and dead relatives. I find the previously-mentioned disconnect -- disingenuous? Probably the closest word.

I do know enough anatomy to figure where most of the meat I eat comes from (it's a bit harder with hamburger, though there's a lot of tongue, lips, and other Odd Bits in most fast food). But I always know what phylum my food comes from....


#86 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2003, 07:49 PM:

Tom: Many Big Fat Cookbooks have diagrams in their meat cooking sections about where on the animal the primal cuts come from. If you're that interested.

I remember being in Wales in late March and early April and watching the new lambs gambol (they do, honest) about their pastures. I made Jordin stop the car numerous times so I could watch and laugh. And then freaked him out by having lamb chops for dinner. I lived on a farm as a child and my father raised cattle there even after we moved into town. Cute and tasty are not mutually exclusive categories.


#87 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2003, 02:20 PM:

"But I always know what phylum my food comes from...."

You'd have loved to be out with the lot of us who went to Dim Sum on the Monday of Worldcon this year. The more daring (and scientific) folks made a game of ordering at least one item from every phylum represented on the menu. Frank Wu was so very disappointed they didn't have sea-cucumber, as that would have been one more...

#88 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2003, 12:58 AM:

Too bad it wasn't sushi, or they could have used uni (sea urchin) for echinodermata....


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