Next: French’s experiences at gun stores and shooting ranges. He seems to think it amazing the employees at these places were nice and friendly to him. Did I miss something? Are these not businesses? It is absolutely their job to be nice to you, to listen to you, to help you find the right product and teach you how to use it. And being nice and making you feel like part of a tight-knit community are also not always positive things. Cults do that too. Gun ownership isn’t necessarily a cult, but just because it makes you feel good doesn’t inherently make it positive.
Lastly, French ends on a fairly menacing note: We can be nice, but don’t cross us! Almost as if the whole point of the previous discussion was not empathy but threat. Almost as if the gun were an intimidation tool to silence dissent.
There is nothing in this article that I fail to understand.
What I don’t understand is how people like the author feel more free with a gun instead of a heavy burden of responsibility—and think that their newfound brazenness is a good thing. Or how they can write an article like this without addressing how frequently guns in the home get used (by people who have them legally) to commit crimes and suicide, get stolen and used for crimes, and injure people accidentally. Or how they can fail to at least consider that “gun culture” and the feeling of safety and liberty that they get from carrying a gun might be outweighed by how the presence of a gun could actually make others (and possibly themselves) less safe.
This was another piece about “feelings,” not data.
French’s piece is surreal from the start.
The threat of violence looms, as represented by the man’s gun holster, strangely empty. The defense is not, as you might expect, the French family’s guns—those were unavailable. Rather, the confrontation is defused with cleverness and, notably, no counter-threat of violence.
Yet French goes on to passionately—dissonantly—defend gun culture and gun ownership, the very things which presented the threat in the first place.
This paradox is seemingly driven by fear. Fearing imposition of liberty or freedom by the threat of others—and invariably these others force this threat with guns—one must likewise arm oneself. This fear is what drives French through the rest of the piece, in which he uses substantial and warm community dynamics to gloss over the dark implications of the paradox.
Guns, French explains, provide a sense of security at home, which compels him to acquire the same sense of security abroad in the form of a concealed carry permit. A sojourn into gun culture soon instills a “burning conviction that you, your family, and your community are safer and freer because you own and carry a gun.”
What French fails to explain is that describing a sense of security as something that must be acquired implies a baseline sense of fear and helplessness. What’s more, he frames security as a “sense” or a “conviction”—there’s no indication that French’s family or community is actually safer for the presence of guns. One imagines that if David French had statistics to support his conviction, he would readily and willingly marshal such data to his defense. However, like fear itself, this sense of security is psychological, not empirical:
We’re not scared. We’re prepared, and that sense of preparation is contagious. Confidence is contagious. People want to be empowered. That’s how gun culture is built.
This is what really terrifies me. Armed with weaponized hypotheticals, Mr. French empowers the individual with mutually-assured-destruction-style deterrence that makes the rest of us profoundly unsafe. As much as he might try to reframe the conversation with the language of empowerment, he betrays himself with the language of contagion; he is scared.