Friday, June 4, 2010

Why do we need guns anyway?

Note to those who are saying things like 'I don't see why anyone needs to have a gun.' To intelligent people the words 'I don't know...' or 'I don't understand...' or 'I don't see...' are a signal to shut up and find out about whatever it is they are ignorant of. To Labour politicians, commenters in the national press and random people on the street they seem to constitute rational argument.

'I don't understand it so it must be nonsense', 'I don't know why people do it so it must be banned', are not arguments, they are immensely stupid remarks that disbar people from intelligent discussion.

A dozen people were murdered yesterday in the north of England, a terrible thing which leaves a mark on an area for many years, but it happened because a man went crazy in a particular way. It is an anecdote, not a pattern, and means nothing. More people are murdered with golf clubs and cricket bats than with legally owned firearms.

The best reason for having a gun is the best reason for doing anything: you want to. A world in which we can do what we want unless there is a powerful reason not to let us would be a wonderful place to live. A world in which people act as they wish and answer for what they do. We are not so far from it, in fact. Although we complain bitterly about the restrictions of freedom that exist in Britain (where I am from) and in Spain (where I live) the truth is that both of those countries are much freer than most places around the world. You can do a lot of things because you want to, without having to ask permission, but it is often necessary to ignore those who will tell you what to do. It is important to learn to do it.

Bird had a gun because he wanted one, and probably because he needed one. Apart from the philosophical reasons, there are practical reasons for having a gun which, if you don't hunt or live in the country, you can happily pretend don't exist. By doing so, you expose your ignorance.

There is a need to kill vermin, there is pleasure in hunting, there is a desire to feel capable of defending yourself. This is not some weird stuff that only nutters, provincials and people who don't matter care about. I live in a small city in the main hunting area of Spain. People come from all over Europe and pay good money to hunt here. (We also have Don Quijote but, despite his many merits, he isn't actually real). My brothers-in-law all hunt and a few of my friends, although I don't. I was, however, on the rifle team at my university. I know about guns. I respect them, but I don't fear them.

At the farm we have never been robbed, despite the isolation, because everyone knows that there are guns there and we know how to use them. Some people use guns badly, If they didn't have guns they would have to find other ways of killing people, but the irreflexive reaction to an act of this kind assumes that there is nothing to lose by trying to ban something. And it is wrong.

Freedom is lost, pleasure is lost, life is lost because it cannot be defended. Each of these things is too important to be surrendered so that some politician can score points or some self-appointed spokesman for something or other can feel a glow of satisfaction. If anything happened to my family because Zapatero had forbidden me to keep a shotgun at the farm I know who I would go after.

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