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Self defense and pacifism

Tim says he won’t own a gun because he’s a pacifist. Blake says you can be an armed pacifist. I concur. As someone who is generally armed, I can tell you that I will not use a weapon if the only thing I risk losing is material wealth. I could care less. I have insurance. However, the threat of violence to me or my loved ones will be met with force. That said, a couple of Tim’s ideas leapt out at me:

The fact that my wife “naturally” does not consider reacting to violence with violence fills me with wonderment and awe. Honestlyif someone on the highway cuts her off and flips her the bird, Sue just smiles and waves at the aggressive driver. I admire her so much for that. For whatever reason, the notion of countering violence or aggression with compassion is a relatively new concept for me. However, it is a concept that I buy into with my entire body, heart, mind, and soul.

This passage implies to me that he was, at least until recently, the kind that would engage an aggressive driver in a bit of aggression himself. If that’s the case, it’s probably for the best that you not arm yourself. Full disclosure: When someone flips me off in traffic, I blow them a kiss too but it’s because I’m a smart ass and not out of compassion. Additionally, he says:

It seems reasonable to me that if I am futzin’ around with a firearm or some other kind of lethal weapon, whether that weapon is on my person, in my vehicle, under my bed, or wherever, then I am probably concerned more with fear than I am with loving and caring about my family and other ones who are dear to me.

This is the kinder gentler way of saying that gun-nuts are scared folks with little penises. And it doesn’t fly. Sure, some folks like me (a self professed gun nut) do seem preoccupied with guns and that’s only because I think they’re fun. It’s a hobby. But in the event I was not a gun nut, I’d very likely still own a handgun for home defense because, here in the real world, idealism isn’t worth a squirt of piss when it comes to defending those I love. And it is not that I’m scared or in fear or this ridiculous notion that I’m scared more than I love my family. It’s realism. Study after study has shown that active armed resistance is the best way to deal with a violent situation. More:

Speaking only for myself, Sue and I have a home security system, and we have security systems in our vehicles. In the past, I have had my material possessions ripped offit isn’t the greatest feeling in the world, but, after all, they are only replaceable material possessions. In moments of meditation, the worst thing I can think of would be for harm to come to someone I love. Yes, that would be tragically painful. On the other hand, I nonetheless cleave to the belief that countering violence with violence is not a solution to the problem of fear.

No one I know is intimating that countering violence with violence is a solution to the problem of fear. Rather, countering violence with violence is a solution to the problem of violence. Again, the implication is that those who choose to be prepared are scared. Perhaps in some hippie, tree-hugging fantasy land where houses are painted with pixie dust and the streets are made of lollipops, this plan might work. But here in the real world, I’ll trust a gun over the compassion of a robber/ rapist /mugger /murderer any day.

My advice: You should hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.

28 Responses to “Self defense and pacifism”

  1. Tim W. Says:

    Hi Uncle,

    This passage implies to me that he was, at least until recently, the kind that would engage an aggressive driver in a bit of aggression himself. If thats the case, its probably for the best that you not arm yourself.

    This is a very astute insight. And you are absolutely correct. 🙂

    But here in the real world, Ill trust a gun over the compassion of a robber/ rapist /mugger /murderer any day.

    My advice: You should hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.

    While I certainly try my best to have compassion for those who may do my loved ones and me harm, I’m not sure how much stock I’d put in theircapacity for compassion, at least while they are “doing their deeds.”

    I genuinely respect your right to “prepare yourself for the worst” with lethal weapons. However, I’m better off with something a little less aggressive, given my own struggles with this character defect.


  2. SayUncle Says:

    how much stock Id put in theircapacity for compassion, at least while they are doing their deeds.

    Yet that’s what you appear to be choosing to do. I don’t get it.

  3. ben Says:

    This guys been listening to jack johnson. Did he mention anything about walking around barefoot all the time to further his pacification?

  4. Xrlq Says:

    I’m not sure what’s so non-violent about relying on a home security system. Doesn’t that thing call the police so they can come after the intruders with guns? Leaving one’s violence to the cops isn’t pacifism, it’s outsourcing.

  5. markm Says:

    All pacifism is really outsourcing. The only difference is whether or not when the pacifist is attacked, he actively calls for others to come and protect him, rather than just waiting for someone to notice him being abused and decide to do something about it.

  6. Phelps Says:

    I’m with XLRQ on this one. This is simply a shifting of the burden. Tim expects violence to be done on his behalf; he simply doesn’t want to dirty his hands doing it. Tim says that countering violence with violence isn’t the answer, but apparently countering it by begging someone else to commit violence on your behalf is.

  7. Formerflyer Says:

    Some rational pacifists have a more pragmatic outlook. There’s the story about the Amish farmer who awoke to find a burglar taking the family silver. He came downstairs with an ancient fowling piece (double barrel 12 bore) and announced, “Sir, not for anything on the face of the earth would I harm a hair on your head. However, you are standing precisely where I am about to shoot.”

  8. tgirsch Says:

    Pet peeve of the day:

    “I could care less.”

    You almost certainly mean that you couldn’t care less. Although, in truth, you probably actually could care less, but pointing that out in this context wouldn’t make much sense. In all likelihood, what you really mean is that you’ve got a lot more important things to worry about.

    [/language nerd]

  9. SayUncle Says:

    But I could care less. Just not that much.

  10. tgirsch Says:

    And for what it’s worth, I don’t totally buy the “be prepared for the worst” logic. As Uncle rightly points out, if you’re not comfortable with a gun, you shouldn’t carry one, but there’s more going on here. Life is risk, and every day we take calculated risks, based on what we expect to encounter. On any given day, the odds that any one of us will be in a scenario in which defensive use of a firearm is both warranted and helpful is vanishingly small. Statistically speaking, at least, you’d be doing far more to decrease your risk of death or serious injury by, say, wearing a helmet every time you get into a moving vehicle. Almost no one actually does this because they don’t ever really expect to be in an accident, and don’t want the hassle of lugging the helmet around. It’s no different with a firearm, except that the firearm is far less likely to come in handy.

    This is why, whether you agree with them or not, it’s not all that unreasonable for people to think taking a gun wherever you go seems a bit “paranoid.” Because it does. You’d probably look at someone crosswise for wearing a helmet every time they drive their Lexus, and you might even think that the habit seems a bit paranoid (in my estimation, rightly so). But they’re far more likely to be served by the helmet than by the firearm. So if helmet-wearing-Lexus-driver is paranoid, what does that make gun-toting unemployed accountant? 🙂

    Mind you, this isn’t to disparage your right to carry, nor is it to actually call you paranoid. It’s just to say that people who do call you paranoid aren’t exactly unjustified in doing so. They’re merely operating from a different standard than you are.

    As to the “small penis” thing, all we really know is that irrespective of size, we’re soon to have a second exhibit of evidence that it at least functions properly. Whether or not the caliber is sufficient is Mrs. Uncle’s call. 🙂

  11. SayUncle Says:

    Tom, per the only stat I could find there are 45 house fires reported every hour. So, 45 x 24 x 365 = 394,200 per year. Yet, I see just under 2M violent crimes reported in 2004. So, you’re more likely to be in a situation where a gun is arguably a better thing to have than be in a situation where a fire extinguisher is needed yet no one is paranoid for having a fire extinguisher. Obviously, that’s not a scientific measure by any means.

    I also have in my car an air compressor for flats, a flash light and a knife with a serrated edge that is easily accessible to cut myself out of a seatbelt if I need to. Odds are, I never need them. Odds are, I don’t need my seat belt. But not many folks would call me paranoid for having and using that stuff.

    I don’t find that ‘it’s ok to say you’re paranoid’ bit convincing.

  12. Ron W Says:

    It’s very unlikely that one can rely on the police to protect you from criminal intruders–just based on the time factor. I’d much rather rely on my own guns which can be acquired in seconds than waiting for minutes hoping the police can come before the armed inturder(s) have their way with you and your family. Although it’s statistically unlikely that most people will need a gun, when you need it, you need it now! The same can be said for other measures like home security, locked doors, home owners insurance, etc.; all things based varying degrees of rational fear rather than paranoia.

    As for being “paranoid”, I can easily deal with the anti-self-defense bigotry of those who label me as such. But I have a more rational fear of their bigotry when they work to impose it on me by government agents with guns–the “legalized” version of criminals. But I’m all for their choice to waive their 2nd Amendment rights and choose unarmed pacifism.

  13. Nylarthotep Says:

    Paranoid? I’m not paranoid, everyone is out to get me.

    They just don’t know what to do when they do get me.

    Life is full of risks and we all choose what we want to do to compensate for those risks. People purchase insurance to assuage the monetary risks. People carry firearms as a countermeasure to another risk. If you don’t choose to carry a firearm, well, you have weighed the risks and have chosen to deal with the risk of violence in some other way. Many people choose to accept the risk of injury or death from violence. Or assume that the police are a sufficient countermeasure.

    Personally, I prefer to have some method of self-defense rather than depending on others or being hurt of killed. Those risks are unacceptable to me.

    I also have the tire pump in the truck, a fire extinquisher, extra cash in the wallet (as well as a second wallet) a pocket knife. I request emergency exit seats on planes as well. I maintain extra situational awareness when I’m on unfamiliar ground. I keep in fairly good condition and I brush and floss. etc. etc.

    Paranoid? If that’s what you want to call me, that’s fine. I view it as being prepared.

    Will I survive when others don’t? You bet.

  14. tgirsch Says:


    A couple of problems with this logic. First, you needn’t carry the fire extinguisher everywhere you go. Having one in the house seems reasonable. Carrying one around does not. Second, I’m not sure a fire extinguisher would do any good even in the event of a “reported” house fire. I’d wager that most reported house fires are big ones, for which an extinguisher would be useless. The extinguisher is there for kitchen and fireplace accidents, to prevent them from becoming house fires. Third, you’re assuming that a large portion of the 2 million violent crimes could have been prevented if the victim had a gun. That may be the case, but it’s far from established (both extremes tend to throw out suspect stats on this). Fourth, a gun is a single-tasker, whereas knives and flashlights are multi-taskers. I carry a small knife wherever I go and use it all the time, but almost never for reasons involving safety or survival. Fifth, they don’t find you paranoid for these other items/issues because they weigh the cost/hassle of having them against the risk of needing them. If there’s virtually no cost or hassle associated with wearing a seat belt, then wearing one seems quite reasonable, considering the risk. But carrying a gun isn’t like that: it’s a life-long responsibility, requiring active, ongoing maintenance (both of the skill and of the weapon itself).

    From a purely anecdotal perspective, I’ve had use on multiple occasions for every item you listed except, thankfully, a gun and a fire extinguisher.

    Maybe “paranoid” isn’t the right word, but I can certainly see how people could reasonably think that carrying a gun everywhere you go is overkill.

    Ron W:

    A house gun is a substantially different thing from carrying in public. I was specifically referring to carrying in public.

  15. tgirsch Says:


    I request emergency exit seats on planes as well.

    I do so, as well, although admittedly it’s for comfort, not safety. Which makes me a dick, given that I’m 5’6″.

    As a side note, when I took my firearms safety course, the instructor engaged in a lengthy “hard sell” session, wherein he tried to scare us all into wanting to carry a gun wherever we go. (I’m sorry, but this guy was clearly using scare tactics; your mileage may vary.) But mystifyingly, virtually every example he gave of “the world is a dangerous place” involved scenarios where having a firearm wouldn’t have helped the victim one iota. I’m not quite sure what he was trying to get across. He was fond of saying that “the gun bidness is a lot like the piano bidness,” and I kept quietly thinking “you mean they both engage in pressure sales?”

    I do have to note, thought, that since taking that course I’m acutely aware of (and cringe at) scenes in movies where the “hero” is walking around with his gun pointed up in the air, finger on the trigger. The physics bastards ruined the sparking bullets for me, and now the gun safety bastards have ruined pretty much every action hero ever filmed. 😉

  16. _Jon Says:

    There is much I can write on this, but I don’t have time. I’ll try to summarize though.

    Firstly, someone “cutting you off” in traffic is not a violent act and someone who doesn’t react violently isn’t a pacifist. The example is badly flawed. Let’s take it apart; A person’s interaction in traffic is a series of compromises – if the person cut the driver off, then there was no contact – and hence no violence. And – unless the driver needed to avoid the other, there was no chance of violence. The driver who cut off the recipient may have violated a law wrt safe driving, but it probably wasn’t violence.
    If the reaction involved revenge or contact between the vehicles, then violence has occured. A driver who is “victimized” by another’s bad actions makes a conscious decision not to escalate the situation by not reacting violently.

    Regarding being concerned with fear by having a firearm for home & family defense – I find it hard to write a polite response. This is a nieve opinion. Examples of family protection are fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, CO2 detectors, keys & locks, alarms, and oudoor lights. All items we use to secure comfort and safety for ourselves and our families. I just do not accept the argument that a household firearm is anything other than a wise, practical tool for family-defense.

    Having a home alarm does nothing for your personal safety. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Police are not obligated to protect an individual. Their job is to “Protect and Serve” – that doesn’t necessarily mean “arrive in time to prevent violence against you”. I fear someone has mis-informed this kind man.

    There is a disturbing angle to be discussed here too. Stay with me as I “play pretend” here.
    Let’s consider this scenario:
    – Late at night, man and wife home alone.
    – Car with two drunk men are passing by. Let’s assume they are good natured but, being drunk, aren’t in control of their good sense.
    – They see a basketball net in the back yard and decide to play ball. Loudly.
    – Man and wife awaken to noise, turn on light and look out window.
    – Drunk men see woman and decide to “have some fun”.
    – They throw the lawn chair through the back door (sliding doorwall / glass).
    – Man calls 911 and provides information.
    – Woman locks herself in bathroom door.
    – Drunk men hit man with char and knock him unconscious, then kick in the bathroom door.
    = By the time the police arrive, drunk men are gone.

    Let’s assume that we accept all that I’ve proposed – consider these repercussions:
    – The doors can be fixed.
    – The man’s scars will heal.
    – The woman’s fears will *never* go away.
    — There will never be another intimate moment in the lives of those people *ever* again.

    Now, let’s rewind and consider what would happen if the man and woman had a self-defense weapon:
    – Woman locks herself in bathroom.
    – Man shoots first drunk in chest.
    – Second drunk runs back out through door.
    = By the time the police arrive, the first drunk is dead.

    If we assume this preparedness and course-of-action, consider the repercussions again:
    – The door will be repaired, the blood cleaned.
    – The gun confiscated and maybe returned.
    – The man lives the rest of his life reliving the dying gasps of the man he killed.
    – The woman has trouble feeling secure in that home for the rest of their time there.

    Based upon the successful lives of millions of GI’s from many wars, I think it is safe to assume that many men will not suffer irreparable harm from such a killing.

    Based upon the years of counselling of millions of assaulted women, I think it is safe to assume that protecting our family is more important than anything else.

    I’ve gotta go. I’d like to write more. Hopefully this isn’t too graphic. More importantly – hopefully we can all see that this could happen to any of us, and will happen to some of us. Being prepared is not “paranoid” or “folly”. It’s wise, smart, and the right action to take.

  17. t3rrible Says:

    I don’t follow the logic. Using this example I could say that because I am a pacifist I will not own a car or a hammer or any other inanmate object. Owning a gun does not make you more or less of a pacifist. This is a stupid leap of reason. That gun sitting on a shlef is no more dangerous that an anvil. Now improper handling of any of the above mentioned can be deadly, but pacifists are just as likely to be plagued by stupidity/accidents as the next guy.

    As for my personal reason for having a firearm….


    To borrow a phrase from my four year old, neener neener boo boo you can’t get me.

  18. Ron W Says:


    I think carrying in public is useful too in that it is a more likely place to encounter criminals with evil intent, but I respect your choice to leave your gun at home.

    Once again I have a rational fear of those who want to deny me that right by using government agents with guns, but respect those who choose not to do so themselves, even if they disagree with but are tolerant of my exercised right, particularly according to the Declaration of Rights in our State Constitution; (Article I, Section 26)

  19. _Jon Says:

    I just saw this video at Roger’s.
    You’ve *GOTTA* check it out!

  20. SayUncle Says:

    Jon, that is so yesterday.

  21. tgirsch Says:


    For a guy who doesn’t have time, you wrote a shitload.

  22. jesse Says:

    Hey Tim, I just wanted to point out something I noticed in the way you phrased “However, Im better off with something a little less aggressive, given my own struggles with this character defect.”

    By thinking of a firearm as something “aggressive” you’re associating a particular set of behaviors onto an inanimate object and that mental framing is a key component of how you view firearms. Since you see firearms as being inherently aggressive, it’s natural to think of their use as aggressive as well.

    By itself, a firearm is no more “aggressive” than a teddy bear. It’s only through the speciflc use of the firearm by a person that it could be involved in something aggressive and it would still be more accurate to say that their behavior is what’s aggressive, not the firearm itself. I would not consider someone responding to an unprovoked violent attack by shooting their attacker to be aggressive, although they’re clearly acting violently.

    Also, another thing you might not have considered is that carrying a firearm can actually have a calming effect and make it easier for you to avoid responding aggressively to people. Having a constant reminder that if you let things escalate, people could get killed, can help you put the little annoyances you encounter into perspective and make them easier to brush off.

  23. OldeForce Says:

    Hey, Uncle, keep the fire extinguisher in the car – but learn how to use it! Have had twice to put out fires in someone else’s car, and didn’t go near two others as the driver was out of the car and the fire was too far gone. (At one, some bystanders kept screaming about how the car was going to explode, “like in the movies”. Afterwards, I took a moment to explain about special effects…) And Uncle, do NOT try to open the hood, even if you think the fire is out, as air will now be able to flow easier through the engine compartment and you’ll at least be missing your eyebrows. Also, as the hood might still be a little bit toasty, you might have to see if you can put both hands fully into your mouth. (Saw this happen to a fireman.) Helps that I spent 10 years “working corner” at auto races – one of those guys you see run out when someone goes arse over teakettle. And had a lot of training.

  24. NateG Says:


    Regarding carrying a gun for the (thankfully) vanishingly small chance of violent crime in public. Yes, you’re unlikely to need one, but part of that is because you have one. More-guns-less-crime and all. A thought experiment: a college has a string of rapes. (okay, suspend disbelief for a minute…) To combat this, the college offers concealed carry/firearms training to those of age who want it, and other self-defense (pepper spray, stunguns, whatever) for those who aren’t of age. They publicize this practice. Do you imagine that the incidence of rapes would go up or down if it is known that a percentage of potential victims could be quite dangerous to an attacker? Or would attackers go elsewhere/flip burgers/whatever?

    An advantage of concealed over open carry is that it is a societal good (externality, whatever) in that criminals don’t know who’s an easy victim.

    In a static world where behavior is constant without regard to incentives, then carrying a gun with a vanishingly small chance of crime could well be more dangerous than not carrying one. However, the act of carrying one makes the community safer (potential victims are more dangerous) by deterring potential agressors.

  25. _Jon Says:

    I write fast.

    Oops on the video.
    I don’t have time to visit every day.

    I gotta set aside time to read the 9,000 word monster. 🙂

  26. tgirsch Says:

    More-guns-less-crime and all.

    You know, I hear that repeated all the time, but when you strip away the spin, I haven’t seen any significant effect in either direction. That is, the number of guns owned by the public, and the legality thereof, seems to neither increase nor decrease crime. Other factors seem to be far more important.

    And as a counterexample to your thought exercise, there’s something that I covered with Kevin Baker in my recent marathon debate with him about the effect of culture on crime: the people who are statistically most likely to be killed by a firearm are the ones who are also statistically most likely to kill someone with a firearm. In other words, these victims are the most potentially dangerous, and somehow this doesn’t help them. Again, this isn’t to say that their being armed causes them to be victimized at a disproportionate rate; only that it doesn’t seem to prevent it. It runs contrary to the idea that you make yourself safer by making yourself more potentially dangerous.

    I think the primary problem with your reasoning is that it relies on what you expect to happen (just as the anti-gun rhetoric is based on what they expect to happen), with little regard for what actually happens in the real world, which is a much messier place. True, the violent crime rate went down in states that introduced concealed carry; however, it also went down in the states that didn’t, and at comparable rates, indicating that something other than concealed carry is responsible for the drop. (The same holds true for the death penalty, by the way… search Uncle’s blog for my marathon debate with Xrlq on that subject.)

  27. Mother Tongue Annoyances » Blog Archive » Aesop’s Fable: The Dog and the Shadow Says:

    […] Truth be told, I did not in the least like how the greed made me feel. Look, I am about the furthest thing from a “pollyanna” you are gonna find. I’m no primrose or blushing altar boy. Similarly to how Uncle called me out on my history of issues with anger (which I’d like to disclaim by extolling the virtues of an amazing, loving family and a highly skilled and competent therapist), I’ll call myself out on the fact that, in large part, I’m plumb afraid to gamble because I’m plumb afraid I’ll like it too much. Heaven knows I have close friends who have ruined their family’s finances just this way. Greed is a POWERFUL “drug.” […]

  28. Ron W Says:

    tgirsch writes, “…the people who are statistically most likely to be killed by a firearm are the ones who are also statistically most likely to kill someone with a firearm.”

    Does this statistic perhaps include criminals who use guns to commit violent crimes and get killed by other criminals (as in gang violence) and/or the police?

    But how does this information help me, as a peaceable, law-abiding citizen if I encounter an armed criminal(s)l? Am I safer being an unarmed victim?