some facts about guns, episode 10

At the end of my last post, I promised more cheerful news. So, from New Zealand, in March of last year, another awesome story of unarmed crimefighting:

When Aiya Van Kooten stood face-to-face with a burglar in her bedroom, her left eye twitched, then she went into “predator mode”.

“I screamed at him… jumped off my chair, leaped over my bed and sprinted after him down the stairs,” she said.

The 20-year-old student was studying at her Dinsdale, Hamilton, home when two burglars entered through an unlocked door last Saturday at about 5.30pm.

“There were two of them; they were about 17-years-old. I said: you’ve robbed the wrong house.”

Although she was the only one home, Van Kooten said she had no regard for her safety . . . .

“I just thought these guys are in my house, this is breaking the law . . . I’m gonna get you . . . .”

[S]he chased the pair outside, where she managed to “boot one of them up the arse” before they clambered over her fence and into an adjacent paddock.

If you don’t want to click through, here is a picture of this fierce lady:


What I love about this story is the combination of fearlessness and gentleness. She takes off after these guys in full-on “Predator mode” — but only to deliver a “boot up the arse.” Which seems about right for attempted nonviolent burglary.

I wouldn’t say, of course, that this lady’s focused righteousness, physical courage, and ultimate mildness are attributable to the fact that she lives in New Zealand rather than the U.S. But I think it’s certainly a model for us fearful Americans to consider.

Some facts about New Zealand and guns. New Zealand’s gun laws seem like they were drafted by the liberal moderate consensus in the U.S. — handguns and “military-style semi-automatics” are regulated in a somewhat restrictive fashion, but other long guns are not. But I don’t think this is a sign that New Zealanders hate guns; while their ratio of 1 privately-held gun for every 4 citizens is not up there with America’s more ambitious 1-to-1 ratio, it nonetheless signals a healthy and thriving gun culture. As is the case in the U.S., the guns are not distributed evenly: 230,000 people own some 1.1 million guns.

One might expect that if there were a simple guns-to-homicides ratio, New Zealand’s gun homicide rate would be 1/4 that of the U.S. That is not the case; it is, rather, less that 1/10th of ours. This might show that the liberal moderate consensus is correct and restricting handguns and “military-style” rifles would decrease homicide disproportionately to the loss of arms. Or it might show that, as I have suggested in the last post and elsewhere, Americans are peculiarly fearful of one another and thus tend to behave irresponsibly with guns. Or it might tend to show what the other liberal moderate consensus claims — that poverty and extreme inequality tend to cause violent crime, and the U.S. has a lot of both. Or it might be that the U.S. has a lot more violence and therefore Americans buy guns. Or it might be some other factor entirely, like the beautiful landscapes, or the calming presence of all those sheep. Comparing nations is a tricky business.

“You know I never understood why you gun control people don’t all join the NRA. They’ve got two million members. You bring three million to the next meeting, call a vote.” — Congressman Skinner, The West Wing.

More cheerful news: ABC reports that liberals are, at long last, getting into the gun advocacy game:

Gun owner and Second Amendment advocate Marlene Hoeber . . . regularly visits firing ranges, where, along with other members of her gun club, she shoots a variety of weapons. “Guns are fun to play with,” she says. She even makes her own ammunition.

She has no use, however, for the NRA’s conservative political agenda. By her own description, Hoeber is a feisty, liberal, transgender, tattooed, queer, activist feminist.

She belongs instead to another gun advocacy group entirely–The Liberal Gun Club–whose membership ranges, she says, “from socialists, to anarchists who can quote Marx, to Reagan Democrats.”

Its mission, she says, is to provide “a place for gun owners to talk to other owners about neat gun stuff, without having to hear how the president is a Muslim-usurper-socialist running a false-flag operation.”

San Jose member Walter Stockwell describes it as the NPR of gun clubs . . . .

A couple of other liberal gun orgs are described in the article as well. I think this is the right move. If, as seems to be the case, we are constrained by the Heller/McDonald regime, which guarantees that we are going to have guns, then gun-owning/gun-using liberals need to be part of the gun advocacy game. Neither leaving the liberal position to people who don’t understand that “assault weapon” is a more-or-less meaningless phrase nor abandoning the gun conversation to hard-right ideologues is an acceptable strategy. Liberals need to be part of the conversation, and they need to be informed, and they need to be able to work within — perhaps even be glad of! — the limitations the Supreme Court has placed on firearm regulation.

Here is the Liberal Gun Club’s website. And here is an interesting, if somewhat fanciful, proposal for a national concealed-carry scheme:

[Licensees would take] a course that is federally approved, with range time, legal time, class time, and a federal background check . . . . This basic level would ensure that you’re able to carry in all 50 states and DC, regardless of local law.

The plus level would take all of the training of basic and add on additional training of the law enforcement variety. This would include advanced deescalation techniques, additional marksmanship training, and more legal time.

I’m not sure that police are always models of calming, de-escalating behavior. But I do think this is intriguing — tying CCW licensure to training in conflict resolution/de-escalation. I think the position of the law should be that citizens have a duty to avoid violent conflict whenever possible. (That is also the principle behind the imposition of a duty to retreat — the element of self-defense that “Stand Your Ground” laws remove.)

Here, also, is their forum. It’s quite clear that everyone is in the pro-gun, pro-Second Amendment camp. But within that framework, there’s some robust debate on gun regulation — e.g., here, where members discuss California’s (admittedly byzantine) gun laws.

In any event, I am considering buying a basic membership in this organization to see whether there is, in fact, a way for liberals who are pro-gun (or even, like myself, deeply ambivalent) to organize in an effective way. You might consider it as well.

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