Saturday, January 09, 2016


A letter to The Boston Globe is going viral on the right. It appears under the title "To the Man I Sat Next To on the Train: I Am the Gun Owner You Hate."
TO THE man I sat next to on my way in to Boston:

When I boarded the commuter rail, you were already in the midst of a spirited phone conversation and didn’t seem to care about how loud you were talking. You were talking with someone about the Paris train attack and the growing epidemic of gun violence in America.

You spoke about the “murderous NRA” and “bloodthirsty gun nuts” who were causing our schools to “run red with blood.” You spoke profanely of the Republicans who opposed President Obama’s call for “sensible gun control,” and you lamented the number of “inbred redneck politicians” who have “infiltrated Capitol Hill.”
Okay -- some of this I believe. The rest of it, not so much. I don't believe that anyone in a sitting position has ever uttered the phrase "run red with blood." Standing before an angry mob while waving a pitchfork -- yeah, under those circumstances someone might say those words out loud. But sitting on a commuter train talking into an iPhone? I don't think so.

But fine -- your seatmate was insulting gunners. Go on.
I found myself amazed at the irony of the situation. While you were spewing your venom, I sat quietly next to you with my National Rifle Association membership card in my wallet and my 9mm pistol in its holster. You were only 12 inches away from my legally owned semiautomatic pistol. I suppose I didn’t look like the “bloodthirsty gun nut” you thought I should be. It apparently didn’t register to you that I could so cleverly disguise myself by wearing a fleece coat, Patriots hat, and khakis.
I try to avoid yokel stereotypes on this blog. I do this not just because they're often inaccurate and bigoted, but because they're a big reason that gunners like this letter writer are so self-righteous. One of the reasons so many Americans "cling to guns" is that they think we think they're dumb hicks for owning guns, and they want to do whatever we hate. Even the large percentage of gun owners who back certain gun control provisions inevitably stand with the NRA when it opposes those provisions because we support the provisions, and they don't want to do anything we favor.

That being said, here's a guy with a gun on what I assume was a fairly crowded commuter train. If I'm his seatmate, how should I feel about this? He says I should fall on my knees in gratitude.
So, to the angry liberal who sat next to me on the commuter rail: I don’t hate you. I don’t have any ill feelings toward you.

... let me say this as plainly as I can: If a bad guy with a gun had decided to walk onto that train and start shooting people, I would have been prepared and able to use my gun to defend my own life and the lives of everyone else on that train, including yours. Although you may hate me, a gun owner, I would risk my life for you.
Okay: define the word "prepared." Have you ever done anything like that before? Have you suddenly reacted to a violent attack by pulling out your precious gun and defending the lives of innocent people? Have you ever even done a drill that simulates such a situation?

Or is your belief that you'd save the day under these circumstances just a matter of gun theology? We all know the scripture: Private gun ownership is the principal guarantor of freedom, therefore every gun owner would be a hero in an active shooter situation, by definition.

Sorry, I don't buy it.
Opinions and ideologies make a pretty thin shield against the bullets of a madman. Your liberal self-righteousness and ignorance may have made you feel superior and comfortable, but during that 40-minute train ride to Boston, my gun kept you safe.
"My gun kept you safe" -- so you say, without offering a shred of evidence except your undiluted faith in yourself. Forgive me if I'd rather not trust to that.

And if there's an active shooter situation on my commuter train, why did that happen? Could it be because you and your fellow gunners have made gun buying staggeringly easy in most of America, and absurdly easy even for criminals, dangerous ideologues, and the violently paranoid? Gee, thanks for guaranteeing that you'd save your fellow commuters' lives, but first you helped put those lives in danger. People like you are the self-proclaimed solution to a problem people like you made epidemic.

We didn't ask you to pack heat in public in the belief that, if the worst happens, your Walter Mitty fantasies would come true. We'd like you to help us dial down the violence, not accept its current level as a given. But helping to reduce is something you won't do. If you change your mind, then we'll thank you.


sdhays said...

Should I thank him when his gun falls out of its holster when he shifts in his seat and shoots me in the leg by accident because he "thought the safety was on"? Because until I see evidence that 100% of gun owners truly have 100% control of their weapons at all times, my default assumption is they're all incompetent, at least some of the time, and by carrying their weapon into public they've just decided that the risk to my life is a risk they're willing to take. Screw that.

Jon said...

Hey Mr. Gun Owner,

(may I call you Mr. GO?)

30 years ago I took a first aid class. So don't worry, no matter what the medical emergency is, from heart attack, anaphylactic shock, or you choking on your self-righteousness, I am ready to intervene. I am confident I can assess the medical emergency, I am positive I have the knowledge to react appropriately, and I *know* I will not accidentally kill you by floundering around and pumping your chest until I pulverize your ribs.

So, we good? You protect me against a completely mythical if not hysterically invented threat, and I save you from medical emergencies. BTW, Tri-Met, our local transit authority, saw more than 60 medical emergencies on trains in this area, and 0 "bad guys with guns" this past year.

Looks like your life is in my poorly trained hands, and not the other way around Mr GO.

Raymond Smith said...

I am a Liberal and have voted Democratic for many years now. I also am close to 60 years old and I own a pistol myself. I do not carry the pistol with me I keep it in a locked box with a lock on the weapon so it cannot be fired or loaded. I keep my ammunition in another location. I have on numerous times in my past had to qualify for employment I had in the past. I am also a veteran.
I feel a lot of the problems that we have with ALL firearms but especially pistols in blatant weapon handling a storage negligence. I was trained by my father how to handle and store weapons from an early age. It seems that there is a huge majority buy a weapon and treat it like a set of car keys throwing it anywhere in the house loaded. Then bam some innocent child ends up dead.
I believe in having stricter back ground checks but that is not enough. If the real gun lovers do not want tighter restrictions fine. Lets work this a different way. Firearm required liability insurance!
Any military style rifle $5 Million
AN example of insurance needed. The rest others work out. You can also make ammunition price expensive. There are ways to think around the issue

But one thing is desperately needed hold weapon owners accountable for how the firearm is stored and require classes to teach them.

Victor said...

Oh please, spare us the smug self-confidence in your Mittyish "I'm the good guy with the gun, ready, willing, and able, at the drop of a hat, to shoot the bad guy with a gun - and save y'all's lives" fantasies!

You, like almost all of us, have absolutely no fucking clue as to how you'd react in that type of life-and-death situation.

Hell, even highly trained military and police personel can't be 100% sure of how THEY'LL react!

You might very well piss and shit yourself before you even think to reach for your gun. And then, it'LL probably be some pissed-off grandma, with bags of the day's purchases, who knocks the gunman out cold with her new, still in the box, George Foreman grill!

What a sanctimonious putz!

Eric said...

"My gun kept you safe" -- so you say, without offering a shred of evidence except your undiluted faith in yourself."

That and the gun he's carrying. Meanwhile, you (and that commuter) have armed yourself with the impervious shield of righteous indignation. I wonder who would have had a better chance at survival against that "abstract" threat of a train attacker.

Chai T. Ch'uan said...

"Have you suddenly reacted to a violent attack by pulling out your precious gun and defending the lives of innocent people?"
Well of course he has, hundreds of times... in the comic book action fantasy series running inside his own head. The one where he's the fearless hero instead of a scared, angry gun-fondling Boston Globe letter-writer.

BTW, did you hear that over 20 years ago in Long Island a handful of train passengers successfully grabbed and disarmed another sad gun-fondling nutjob -- and none of them were even "carrying"? How is that even possible? Guess you done been told!

Steve M. said...

Hey Eric, Colin Ferguson was subdued by three unarmed men.

Steve M. said...

Oh, and two of the victims were the husband and son of Carolyn Maloney, who later became a congresswoman and was one of Congress's most prominent gun control advocates. But you know that, don't you?

Never Ben Better said...

Well said, Steve. Shared on my Facebook page.

Tom Hilton said...

If someone I didn't like the look of had decided to walk onto that train and start behaving in a way I considered suspicious, I would have been prepared and able to use my gun to shoot wildly in a crowded train and kill or injure multiple passengers, including you.

There, I fixed it for him.

Glennis said...

That overheard phone conversation doesn't sound like an "angry liberal" to me; it sounds like someone appalled at the amount of gun-caused bloodshed in our country.

Glennis said...

I read a column a few years back written by a woman who, as an experiment, carried a loaded gun on her person 24/7 for a week. She wrote that her hyper-awareness of the gun was very stressful; she had to worry about dropping it or allowing some innocent person to grab it. It gradually changed her outlook on her surroundings and the people she encountered; she was constantly assessing for danger and constantly wondering if people around her had ill intent. She kept wondering what clue or signal she would perceive to let her know when she should pull the gun out and use it. Nothing actually happened, of course, but she wrote that the experiment was so stressful and made her such a suspicious and negative person that she was relieved when the week was over and she never wanted to touch a gun again.

Perhaps that's what happens to most people who regularly carry a gun - and I would include law enforcement in this, too. Certainly the Letter Writer seems to have developed a skewed perception of human intent and emotions, and a level of personal paranoia, since he has interpreted what I see as an entirely understandable expression of horror at the amount of gun deaths in the US, coupled with a frustration at the obstructiveness of Republican congressmen, as "anger" and a personal animus against him.

Eric said...

Yes, Steve, I know that he was subdued by three unarmed men...after shooting 25 and killing 6.

By your telling, nobody on that train thought "I wish I had a gun." Instead they were thinking: "Wow, gun laws are lax."

Steve M. said...

You mean like the "good man with a gun" who tried to be a hero in the Gabby Giffords shooting and almost got himself shot instead?

Never Ben Better said...

Aunt Snow, that is a wonderful comment! I'm going to copy and paste that as a comment on my share of Steve's post on Facebook, of course with attribution to you.

Belvoir said...

When has a good guy with a gun ever stopped a bad guy with a gun? Never, except: In Hollywood movies, fiction, an idea that has infected our politics and segments of the populace to an alarming degree. I'm not exaggerating, these gun-humpers really do see themselves as the movie-star hero of their imagination. It's rather sick.

Agree also, immensely, that there's no way this gun-humper allegedly overheard some flaming liberal talking loudly and caustically that way on public transit. It's utter caricature, a made-up fantasy, like this guy's rescue fantasies where he's the hero, that have no basis in reality at all. Contemporary right-wing thought is visibly unmoored from reality. Dumb fantasies inspired by terrible movies and TV shows. Pretty sad for the rest of us in this once-great Democratic Republic.

The Sanguine Pen said...

Sadly, a threat that is at least as realistic in today's environment is a package or briefcase with a bomb quietly left under a seat to explode... which will blow up M. GO as well as anyone else nearby...