April 16th, 2007

hound of heaven

Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog

Good people all, of every sort,
Give ear unto my song;
And if you find it wondrous short,
It cannot hold you long.

In Islington there was a man
Of whom the world might say,
That still a godly race he ran --
Whene'er he went to pray.

A kind and gentle heart he had,
To comfort friends and foes:
The naked every day he clad --
When he put on his clothes.

And in that town a dog was found,
As many dogs there be,
Both mongrel, puppy, whelp, and hound,
And curs of low degree.

This dog and man at first were friends;
But when a pique began,
The dog, to gain his private ends,
Went mad, and bit the man.

Around from all the neighboring streets
The wondering neighbors ran,
And swore the dog had lost his wits,
To bite so good a man!

The wound it seemed both sore and sad
To every Christian eye:
And while they swore the dog was mad,
They swore the man would die.

But soon a wonder came to light,
That showed the rogues they lied: --
The man recovered of the bite,
The dog it was that died!
-- Oliver Goldsmith

Arms and the Man

A lot of my LJ friends are heavy into what may be called "the gun culture." They are interested, both theoretically and practically, in the Second Amendment's guarantee of the right to bear arms. This is not a subject that has much moved me; guns don't interest me much. But I've been doing a lot of thinking about them of late. Here's my take on their proper use.

1. Sporting Use
I'm all for hunting, even though I don't hunt, myself. It's a part of our heritage, it's good for the animal populations we manage, and besides, I like venison. Target shooting is also cool with me: a sport like any other, and one which I have participated in for funsies at various Scout camps. Hunters and target shooters are very responsible people, by and large. They believe in gun safety training, and they follow their training. They're good people.

2. Self-Defense
I believe in the right of self-defense. I have not chosen to protect myself or my home and family with a firearm, but that is my right. And if I had such means at hand, I would take care to learn how to best do that. I would store the gun(s) and ammo properly and all the rest of it. I also believe in the propriety of issuing permits to carry concealed weapons. I think this should be subject to background checks and the rest of it, but by and large CCW is a good thing. If criminals have to worry about who is armed and who is not, they are less likely to attack.

3. Collecting
Guns -- especially those made before the advent of cheap modern materials -- are works of art and pieces of history. Those who are interested in collecting them are no more dangerous than those who collect matchbooks -- albeit their collection might be seen as an "attractive nuisance," like a swimming pool, and they should take seriously the need to safeguard their collections, not only for their own insurance purposes but to protect the community. That said, if collecting guns is your thing, then by all means, buy whatever you can afford.

4. Political Use
Here's where things get sticky. Second Amendment advocates who emphasize arms' ability to withstand oppressive government make other people nervous. Nevertheless, we need to face this question.
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