Spleen Ventilation – Volume 1

Welcome to what will become an occasional feature, wherein I shall regale you with stories of wine, women, and song…or maybe just yell about some stuff that’s annoying me to the point where mini-rants about it keep working their way into everything I try to write. If I sound a bit…well…

…just bear with me.

The Starbucks thing

Lots of people have said lots of things about Starbucks’ recent policy change wherein they ask people to stop carrying guns into their store. Reactions to this decision vary considerably. My own personal reaction is that it seems like the Starbucks management tried very hard to be non-offensive in their response. They could have said a bunch of really ridiculous stuff and would have been perfectly justified based on what some people have been foolish enough to do with firearms in their store. Instead, as Ms. Tam said, they politely asked people not to take guns to their stores. They managed to do this without resorting to a bunch of anti-gun hysterics in the statement, which no doubt took some considerable restraint and thought on their part…something we can’t get reliably from politicians or media figures. So kudos on at least making an effort there, Starbucks.

Do I support their position? Of course not. But I understand why they’re doing it. One photo sums it up nicely:

This isn't how you win the argument, folks.
This isn’t how you win the argument, folks.

Now the guy in that picture may be a decent enough fellow. He may nurse orphaned animals back to health. He may be crazy ‘bout Elvis, love Jesus, and America too!

Whatever else he is, he’s not helping his cause. Folks, I’ve open carried into a Starbucks before, long before any of this was a controversy. I did it with a 1911 on my hip, carried in a holster where it stayed. I was dressed reasonably and the folks at the shop assumed I was law enforcement. None of the patrons panicked or took any real notice. I’m about as pro-2nd amendment as someone can get, but if I saw a dude walking into the coffee shop with a shotgun, I’d be worried. I’d be especially worried if he unslung the thing and started handling it so his similarly clueless buddy could take a silly photo. If you make me worry about what the hell you’re doing with that gun, you’re losing the argument. I don’t want to walk into a coffee shop and wonder about where the muzzle on somebody’s shotgun is pointed. I know, I know…if I don’t see some dude playing with a shotgun in public and instantly want to hug him for being such a patriot, I’m somehow anti-freedom. You can save the vitriol. I suck, and you hate me. Got it.

…but calling me names doesn’t change the situation: Perception is reality, and you will not win the perception game with the nonsense in that photo. Posing with your shotgun on someone else’s property isn’t striking a bold blow for freedom, it’s doing damage to the cause you claim to be supporting. Evidence? A company that was neutral on the issue sticking to the law in the area where the store is located is now asking you to please very kindly NOT bring your shotgun to their store anymore.

The “We’re here! We’re queer! Get used to it!” style of in-your-face campaigning doesn’t work well as a general rule, especially when you can’t rely on a sympathetic media portrayal. What progress we’ve made has been attributable directly to fighting smart. Trying to impress the internet with pictures of you holding your shotgun in Starbucks isn’t fighting smart.

Tools in the Toolbox

I’m sure by now you’ve encountered the analogy of techniques for manipulating firearms or strategies for using them in self defense being referred to as “tools in the toolbox”. Doubtless something an instructor came up with on the fly in an moment of inspiration that was copied by other instructors, and by students, and spread from there. Curiously enough, some dudes who just wanted to be different came up with the idea that too many tools in your toolbox leads to confusion, and ultimately insist you’ll die screaming in a gunfight if you have too many “tools” in your “toolbox”.

This assertion makes my teeth itch.

I’m not a master mechanic, but I have spent a little bit of time working on cars, guns, and even electronic equipment. I’ve come to appreciate the value of good tools, and I’ve even collected a few that I keep handy. Some of them I use quite a bit, while others I use only for very specialized applications.

Walk into any really skilled person’s workshop and you’ll likely find quite an array of tools. A wood turner may have a dizzying array of chisels. A cabinet maker may have an entire wall of different router bits. The layman walking in off the street may have absolutely no idea what these tools do, and if you ask them to bring you a chisel or a router bit from this vast array of possibilities odds are they’ll bring you the wrong tool for the task at hand.

…but that’s not because there are too many tools. It’s because they don’t know how to use them. The person who accumulated all those tools did so because in the practice of their craft they eventually encountered a situation where they found that their existing options didn’t get the job done, so they had to acquire another tool. Through regular practice they learned to use the tools they had, learned the limitations of those tools, and sought out others to give them more capability. Further, the time they’ve put in with their tools gives them the ability to judge pretty well exactly which tool they need to fix the issue that’s in front of them. The experienced mechanic knows when it’s appropriate to use a torque wrench, and when it’s appropriate to use a breaker bar.

The person who is exposed to four different reload techniques but can’t successfully complete a reload in a timely manner under stress was not a victim of having learned too many techniques. He didn’t learn any techniques. He didn’t practice any of them to the point where he could reproduce them under stress. It’s not an overload of information, but a lack of skill and experience that is likely to produce inappropriate responses to the circumstances at hand. The person who does the work will understand when it’s time to use the slide release and when it’s time to grab the slide….or when it’s time to perform a tactical reload, and when it’s time to perform an emergency reload, etc.

A person who has done their homework will know when they need a screwdriver and when they need a socket wrench. The person who hasn’t done their homework won’t know what tool does what task. The remedy for that is not to get rid of everything but the hammer in the toolbox. The remedy is to learn something.

You Jelly? No, actually…

Some time ago in my series about modifying the Glock, I referenced a photo from Bill Jordan’s book No Second Place Winner. The photo is of Bill Jordan and another man that I’ve always seen identified as Delf “Jelly” Bryce. Apparently the other man in the photo is, in fact, Louis Werne Jr, another member of the Border Patrol. Mr. Werne’s son alerted me to the identity of the crouching man in the photo.




  1. OK, someone please explain to me the part I don’t get:
    ITEM 1: have I OC’d in said coffee shops? Yes I have, legally, with a glock 17 in a holster… oh yeah wearing a nice polo and *NOT* screaming about my right to be a jackass.
    ITEM 2: these guys basically came out and said “don’t be stupid and scare the crap out of our patrons with you tacti-cool long gun of choice”… not banning guns just have a little good sense about how you carry.
    ITEM 3: this all seems to me to be in keeping with “don’t do stupid shit at stupid time in stupid places” and “don’t be a dick”.

    so why are we even talking about this? and how in the world did this rate not one but two write ups on gun nuts?

  2. Just so you know, that guy with the shotgun is in Kuwait and off base, and the pic is from 2005.

  3. A very interesting post.

    I enjoyed reading it.

    Living in Australia we don’t have these issues so I’m often interested in well written articles ‘from the other side’ so to speak. Thanks for that.

    Other than the ‘gun owning’ thing , (about which we’d disagree but which isn’t the point here) I’d disagree with your view about the following:

    “The “We’re here! We’re queer! Get used to it!” style of in-your-face campaigning doesn’t work well as a general rule…”

    This doesn’t work when the issue is about something which poses a risk of harm to others. It has worked in many countries for many issues such as the environment and gay rights and the right to vote.

    I think your argument IS spot on when it comes to firearms and those things which affect the well being of others. People acting like the one in the photo scare the public at large.

    Again, thanks for a very interesting post. Most interesting to read.

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