The Tyranny of Superstition

The more I enteract with people outside of our relatively close knit shooting community, the more I realize that our greatest struggle as a civil rights and advocacy movement is not the political whims of our elected officials, but rather the superstition which which firearms are regarded by the vast majority of the public.

It has become a predictable pattern these days. When most people find out that I’m carrying a firearm (which I am as I write this from my blackberry) their reaction if they’re not a member of the shooting community is universally “You have A GUN!?!?” as though the concept of carrying a firearm is as alien as little green men. I used to take offense to this, and offer pithy little comebacks; however that did little to help the situation or educate the person to whom I was speaking.

So I spent a lot of time thinking about what causes this reaction, and after a lot of thought I have reached the conclusion that gun owners are subject to the tyranny of superstition. If you’d prefer a less melodramatic phrase, then you could say that we are subject to the whims of misinformation. Think about a conversation you have had with an undecided non-member of the shooting community. How much of their info is based on fictional ideas or heavily biased main stream reporting? That is the superstition that we face, just as many researchers and scientists have faced superstition.

That is the issue – as long as people allow their education on firearms, self defense, and civil rights to come from fiction and the media, we will continually be at odds with the myths and superstitions imposed by those sources. Remember, the arguments for the right to keep and bear arms are built in facts – when we resort to arguing from a position of emotion, we are then arguing from the same place that the other side does. To draw a very heroic parallel, think of gun rights supporters as the Galileo of our time, using truth and observation to defend our points, and our opponents as analogous to the Catholic church of Galileo’s day: interested in control, superstition, and suppression of the truth.

(Author’s note: this is by no means a shot at the modern Catholic church)


  1. There is a lot of truth in your post. On the other hand, there can be some surprises. My wife and I took another couple to a KC Royals ball game yesterday. The lady is question, grew up in the Mennonite Church. As we were getting settled just before leaving our house, I opened the glove compartment to get a soda can insulator and she saw my S&W snubbie in its pocket holster. (Note: in Missouri, you can’t carry into stadiums that will hold more than 10,000 people and they check for weapons.)

    The lady saw my snubbie and said, “Oh, what a cute little pistol!” I’m not sure if she knew I had a CCW permit, but she gushed over my pistol. Her reaction was surprising. I would have thought with her background that she’d have a different reaction.

    That should teach me not to have preconceptions.

  2. I agree with this article, but as a “gun person” for the past few years…I think the average 30ish year old person who wants to be part of the gun group..if they are like me that find it stand offish and hard to get into…that’s a general statement, but one that I’m sure others will agree is happening to them. I subscribe to 16 RSS feeds that discuss guns…75% of them are older gentlemen who come off angry and annoyed (for the most part). I live in Middle TN and the closest gun club is Middle TN Shooters and a few years ago when I showed up for one of their Sun shoots (nervous as all get out), no one approached me … no one introduced themselves. They saw me standing there and they continued their IDPA practicing and I finally left as I felt like a the odd man out…I would love to shoot IDPA, but who wants to try and break into the “gun club group” who walk around like peacocks and almost dare you to interrupt them.

    Maybe I’m the exception, but I have always felt that as a newish shooter, you are considered an outsider until you can prove your acceptance into the group.

    My point in all this is…if you want new blood into the shooting world, you got to embrace new shooters and not only welcome them with open helping arms, but seek them out and really help them get started.

  3. This is true in a lot of areas. As another example, I have to refute the “poor socialization” misconception about homeschooling a lot more than I should.

    “…as long as people allow their education on firearms, self defense, and civil rights to come from fiction and the media…”

    That’s really never going to change, so we need to provide our own fiction and media, which get it right, for people to learn from as you are so excellently doing right here. We just need to push more into the mainstream.

  4. Gears grinding… need to post… but clients are waiting…

    Damn – work wins in the end – will revisit this later tonight…

  5. Believing the myth of galileo is, in itself, succumbing to the tyrrany of superstition. For those who don’t know the whole story, Galileo has been used as “A bludgeon against the church” for ages. The real- and off the reco4rd- truth, which you can find if you look for it, was that the Church already knew and understood the Galilean model, used it for their calculations (after all, a church whose existence depended on commerce needed to have the best possible grasp of the seasons and time and etc) and were not at odds with him at all. What they were at odds with, was his insistence on demonstrating the error of Scripture, and for the people of a relatively poorly enlightened world who took the Gospels as- well, gospel, the idea that a mere human could come along and using a few bits of string and some sticks and prove God wrong would have been disastrous for the Church. On the record, Galileo was tried and just asked, politely, to shut up, lest he start a huge wildfire. he did not, and it was not his first, but his second offense of the same nature, which got him reprimanded- and his reprimand was frankly pretty lightweight. Few people know, for instance, that:

    “Galileo was forbidden by church edict in 1616 from teaching Copernicus’ heliocentric view of the universe as fact, but it allowed that he could teach the idea as a hypothesis.”

    Additionally, it’s very difficult to find any mention of Cardinal Bellarmine:

    “When Cardinal Bellarmine met with Galileo he said, “While experience tells us plainly that the earth is standing still, if there were a real proof that the sun is in the center of the universe…and that the sun goes not go round the earth but the earth round the sun, then we should have to proceed with great circumspection in explaining passages of scripture which appear to teach the contrary, and rather admit that we did not understand them than declare an opinion to be false which is proved to be true. But this is not a thing to be done in haste, and as for myself, I shall not believe that there are such proofs until they are shown to me.” Galileo had no such proofs.”

    Dinesh D’Sousa,

    In fact such proofs did not exist until 150 years later.

    The Catholic Church has a lot of bodies. I have wiggled my fingers in the earth where many of them are buried. But this is demonstrably not one of them. Before the modern world had an independant scientific community, the Jesuits were the scientific community, and far from promoting superstition and controlling or supresssing the “truth” the early Church was the source of scientific learning.

    Damn, six years in seminary still comes back like a house afire when the memories are prodded. Sorry for the longass comment.

  6. Otherwise, by the way, the rest of your post is spot on. I just rankle when someone drags out that tired old (and demonstrably false) chestnut about Galileo. And I try to shed light rather than heat, where I can.

  7. FYI Og, your first Galileo post got sent into auto moderation because it contained 2 or more links – I’ve approved it so it shows up in the comment stream now.

  8. Jees, really sorry. I really didn’t mean to leave such a long and rambling post, but thanks for allowing the counterpoint.

  9. Hey, I’m just regurgitating what I learned in school when it comes to that, it’s interesting to hear stuff that doesn’t get covered in class.

  10. …and the normal silence continues…oh well…it was the wrong place to put those comments anyway.

  11. Actually,. Randy, your comments were certainly more on point than mine, and I completely agree, you have to get people interested and get them shooting. I smell a contest.

  12. og is right: it really does come down to taking people shooting. I’m in grad school and have taken over 10% of my class shooting, most of them for their first time. Without exception they’ve enjoyed it, and most have asked to go again. A few even want to buy guns now.

    As Caleb pointed out, you have to avoid snark. It’s really easy to fall into that, but you absolutely must completely refrain. Get small groups of 2-3 others (no more than two unexperienced people, though) together, making sure that they know each other decently well. A few days before the range trip, send them a copy of the Four Rules and ask them to memorize them before your trip. Before starting, go over the Four Rules, then show them how each gun you’ll be using works (if possible, have guns that have a similar manual of arms). At the range, start them off with .22s at very short range. Encourage them to try everything, but don’t force them. Shotguns especially can be terrifying to people, and you probably want to start them with rifles first.

    I’ve learned all that through reading gun blogs and through my own experience, and as a result I’ve gained a reputation as someone who my friends trust with firearms and trust as someone who can and will teach them while keeping them safe and secure.

    Also, good job for og on the Galileo thing. Galileo certainly didn’t debunk Scripture, but his model did help discredit some of the prevailing interpretations of Scripture of the time.

  13. Hi, happened by your blog rather by accident and found this post rather interesting, which surprised me as I have absolutely no experience with guns at all. One comment in particular caught my attention:

    “… as though the concept of carrying a firearm is as alien as little green men.”

    To me, being not a member of the shooting community, it is exactly that foreign, and seems quite strange. Sitting here, I cannot imagine ever wanting to do so, so far outside of my world it is, and I find myself trying to unravel my initial reaction of surprise and fear.

    Ignorance, certainly, plays its part – those of us not part of the shooting community in any way, who have no interaction with it, have little context in which to place the idea of recreational shooting. I find myself trying to look for some kind of common ground, some familiar analogy through which I can understand why someone would carry a gun around with them. The only parallel I can come up with is carrying a book around with me all day so I can read it on the bus, but the back of my mind wants to say that the book cannot harm anyone.

    Please understand that I do not mean to come across as confrontational with this, I honestly want to understand. And perhaps also describe to you what it is to be that ignorant vast majority that stand outside familiarity with guns, and why our initial reaction is so often surprise and fear.

  14. #14 apb — Not sure I can help much, but I wonder if you have these same reactions when you see a police officer with his weapons.

    When people ask me why I carry a firearm, I say that it is for the same reason that I have fire extinguishers and smoke alarms in my home, why I wear a seat belt and lock my doors. I don’t expect a fire, accident, break-in or potentially violent confrontation, but I know that they happen and plan for minimizing the danger/damage.

  15. Also og — appreciate the comments re Galileo — spot on.

    And speaking of scripture, remember that among the very last words Jesus spoke to his disciples before his arrest were, “Let him who doesn’t have a sword sell his cloak and get one.” Luke 22:36.

  16. APB:

    The most telling part of your comment is this:

    “but the back of my mind wants to say that the book cannot harm anyone.”

    What you don’t understand is, neither can the gun. Ever. period. For the gun to do harm, it must be misused. I have a cabinet full of guns, and they have never done harm to a single soul.

    On the other hand, books have done a WORLD of harm. Mein Kampf. Das Kapital. Quotations from Chairman Mao. Those books have caused more suffering than all the firearms in north America. The book itself is not dangerous, but the book is not what it seems. The book is a container that holds ideas and makes them portable.

    You have to look at motives and understand animation. Inanimate objects are incapable of being good or evil of themselves, and a gun, like a book is an inaminate object. When the book is used to transport humor, or fiction, it can be wonderful. When it is used to transport a message of hatred and evil, it is a different story. Similarly, a firearm can be used to make a portable security zone around the carrier, or a delivery system for evil intentions. Only people can be good or evil, and inanimate objects are merely the tools of that good or evil.

  17. Hank – Thanks for the reply in any sense, it is something I continue to investigate. Yes, I do have the same reaction to police with guns. To me it’s the same as anyone else with a weapon. I perhaps should clarify my situation a bit – I live in Australia, rather than the US, and moved here from New Zealand. I remember, when I first came here, being shocked to see police carrying weapons as they didn’t in New Zealand at the time, so this is something different to what I grew up with. Police with weapons is similarly foreign to me as anyone else with weapons, and seems almost a contradiction.

    og – I’m unsure what your point is regarding the difference between your perception of guns and my analogy of the book. You seem to be saying that neither is inherantly harmful, and then provide examples of different harm caused by each and compare such. I have no difficulty intellectually segragating the inanimate object from the actions and intentions of people who may use them, to play with the ideas separately. The two become linked when the object is picked up. What I do not understand, far from the inate neutrality of the object itself, is why someone would want to do so in a setting outside recreational shooting. To me it seems like an invitation for violence, and I realise that this reaction is based largely in ignorance thus am attempting to educate myself.

  18. “thus am attempting to educate myself.”

    Then you must understand that a book, a firearm, or a flatiron are of themselves no danger to anyone.

    “is why someone would want to do so in a setting outside recreational shooting. ” So you don’t see self defense as a viable reason?

    “To me it seems like an invitation for violence,”
    Absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. Our host, Caleb, is a sportsman and a marksman and- if he wanted to be- a dangerous man to mess with. And if you met him on the street, you would not KNOW he was carrying; you would not be aware that he had a firearm, and you would be the safest you’d ever been in your life. As the crime rate in various areas of our nation has repeatedly proven, the only fool proof invitation for violence is civilian disarmament.

  19. apb: Your question about an “invitation for violence” assumes two things: 1) People are more likely to attack someone who’s carrying (which they’re not, unless they’re stupid), and 2) carrying a gun makes a person more aggressive.

    The one or two times I’ve carried (it was my sister’s pistol, and she’s reclaimed it since), I found myself feeling *less* confrontational and more centered and in control of myself. I felt the same way when I’d been taking krav maga lessons for a few months: Having the knowledge and ability to inflict serious harm on another person makes me less willing to use them. I’m more likely to attempt to defuse or avoid a situation when I’m carrying than when I’m not, just like I drive more carefully when I’m in a bigger car. The more damage I can inflict, the more safety-minded I become. If a person becomes more aggressive when they pick up a gun, they’d probably have the same reaction to a knife, club or any other weapon. This is a reflection on them, not on the gun. In their hands, the only difference between a gun and a claw hammer is range.

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