The conversation about guns we’re not having

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 2 months ago


I reached out to Stephen Gutowski, the founder of and a longtime reporter on the gun beat, for the latest episode of Vox Conversations. Gutowski is pro-gun, but he’s also a good-faith voice in this space, and I was looking for someone who could make his side of the argument intelligible to people who don’t understand it.

We talk about my own ambivalence on this issue, the blind spots on the left and right, how he makes sense of America’s obsession with guns, and if he thinks we can ever find a way out of the scorched-earth debate we seem to be stuck in.

Notice the term categorization and scorched earth policies the writer uses right up front.  Only someone who is willing to compromise is debating in “good faith.”  Second, anyone who likes to shoot, for hunting, or sporting purposes like three-gun, two-gun, precision rifle, or simply range shooting, has an “obsession with guns.”  Or anyone who believes that all gun control laws are an infringement upon liberties is obsessed.

Next in our little survey of this conversation, “pro-gun” Stephen Gutowski makes the following statement.

I think that there’s often a lack of focus on trying to come up with real solutions for gun violence. [The gun-control movement is] often looked at instinctively as attempts to restrict gun ownership or gun rights. But restricting gun ownership is not the only thing you can do to address gun violence. So there’s just not enough focus from the right on all the potential solutions that might make a difference without necessarily impacting individual gun rights.

Take note.  Restricting gun ownership isn’t the only thing you can do to address violent, and also take careful note that in order to be a legitimate and good faith advocate for gun rights, you must engage a debate about things you can do to reduce violence.  Much more on that in a moment.  Next, the “pro-gun rights” guys says this.

The president likes to say that no amendment is unlimited, and, frankly, he’s right there.

Next up, here’s that time-honored tradition of asserting that a piece of metal can change human psychology.

How much training is enough? I’m a veteran; I was trained to use a pistol and a rifle, but that was 20 years ago. I’ve barely fired any guns since I left the service. I don’t think I’m prepared to walk around town with a gun on my hip. And that’s not because I can’t shoot, it’s because possessing a gun can change the dynamics of an otherwise trivial confrontation and not being prepared for that responsibility is dangerous, and I worry that most people have even less training than I do.

[ … ]

My worry is that having a gun increases the likelihood that a bad interaction will escalate needlessly. There are a lot of people who think they’ll be safer with a gun, and in some cases, they surely will be, but often pulling a gun in order to neutralize a situation only intensifies it.

Sure, a potential rape victim is only intensifying the situation if she pulls a gun.

To give you an example, I was in the grocery store a few weeks ago in southern Mississippi, and there was a guy in line in front of me with a 9-millimeter on his hip. I’ll be charitable and say he didn’t look trained. But the point is that I don’t get what’s going on there. Carrying a concealed gun is one thing, but this guy wanted everyone to see it. To me that’s inviting aggression or it’s just dumb posturing. I don’t buy that he’s seriously scared of being assaulted in the produce aisle.

What am I missing here?

Let me explain what you’re missing here, and then the reader can go read the rest of this silly conversation as he wishes.

When people make the decision to carry and take it seriously, as one might have car insurance or health insurance or life insurance, or carry an emergency suction device for choking victims (I read just recently about a child who was choking on her food and saved by a stranger who just happens to carry such a device as part of their planning for emergencies), they are making the decision to be disciplined about it.

That means carrying even when you don’t like it.  I hate carrying things on my person.  I don’t wear jewelry, I don’t wear watches, and even hate carrying my phone around and won’t do it if I don’t have to.

But in this case, I will carry a firearm because of [we’ll call it] “The practice of discipline.”  For those who are in that category, they may just hate to carry IWB.  It sweats the weapon and corrodes it, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s unnecessary.  No, we’re not trying to prove something.  It’s just the way we choose to carry.  And finally, there was a time in American history when it was considered unlike a gentleman to carry a weapon concealed.  No gentleman, it was thought, would conceal his weapons.  Open carry was the order of the day.  And it’s easier for men to conceal than women.  Men can hide weapons in our girth.  It’s much more difficult for most women to do that.

So let’s get the root of the problem here.  The constitution isn’t a source of rights.  It is a contract and covenant.  The bill of rights constitutes limitations on governmental overreach.  The root of the problem is that no matter what these writers feel about the limitations on amendments, rights (and duties) come from the Almighty.  We’ve discussed this before.

But if you wish for more direct evidence of ownership of weapons in the Scriptures, look no further than what Jesus commanded in Luke 22:36.  Let’s look at the cultural context for a moment.

… for some evidence, see Digest 48.6.1: collecting weapons ‘beyond those customary for hunting or for a journey by land or sea’ is forbidden; forbids a man ‘of full age’ appearing in public with a weapon (telum) (references and translation are from Mommsen 1985). See also Mommsen 1899: 564 n. 2; 657-58 n. 1; and Linderski 2007: 102-103 (though he cites only Mommsen). Other laws from the same context of the Digest sometimes cited in this regard are not as worthwhile for my purposes because they seem to be forbidding the possession of weapons with criminal intent. But for the outright forbidding of being armed while in public in Rome, see Cicero’s letter to his brother relating an incident in Rome in which a man, who is apparently falsely accused of plotting an assassination, is nonetheless arrested merely for having confessed to having been armed with a dagger while in the city: To Atticus, Letter 44 (II.24). See also Cicero, Philippics 5.6 (§17). Finally we may cite a letter that Synesius of Cyrene wrote to his brother, probably sometime around the year 400 ce. The brother had apparently questioned the legality of Synesius having his household produce weapons to defend themselves against marauding bands. Synesius points out that there are no Roman legions anywhere near for protection, but he seems reluctantly to admit that he is engaged in an illegal act (Letter 107; for English trans., see Fitzgerald 1926).

In this passage, Jesus is quite literally ordering His disciples to ignore the Roman laws and disobey them, buy weapons, and be ready to use them.  He is turning His disciples into lawbreakers for the sake of having self defense.

At its roots, these are issues of epistemology (your source of knowledge), ontology, and Biblical law.  Neither author gets that.  To assert that the only ones who are debating “in good faith” are the ones willing to compromise, is to assert that we should be willing to negotiate away God’s law and settle for enslavement rather than liberty.  What God has granted, no man can take away.  Why would a man choose enslavement when God has set him free?

And mark this down for your records.  I had only been exposed to “The Reload” once before, and this time it is even more distasteful.  I don’t consider him to be a legitimate defender of gun rights and will never cite him.  Be careful, Mr. Gutowski, who you befriend.

As for having these debates, this is an ongoing process here on these pages.  We just don’t compromise.  If you believe that you have to compromise to have a debate, I don’t think you understand the word “debate” at all.


  1. On March 27, 2022 at 11:11 pm, 41mag said:

    Is Mark Walters gonna come to his defense now?

  2. On March 27, 2022 at 11:26 pm, Dan said:

    All the “debate” and bullshit about gun control and “no amendment is unlimited” is simply straw man deflections away from the fact that few wish to admit the true definition of a “RIGHT”. They wish to redefine our rights to become privileges. A Right is exactly that.
    Nonnegotiable, not subject to changing definitions and not a subject to be debated.
    Anyone wishing to exercise a Right must accept the sad, ugly reality that there are countless evil people who hate your Rights and wish to make those Rights null and void. And the next sad ugly reality is that unless you are willing to accept the loss of those Rights you MUST be willing to fight for, die for and most importantly KILL FOR those Rights. Because otherwise they are nothing but privileges to be granted and withdrawn at the whim of others.

  3. On March 27, 2022 at 11:34 pm, Archer said:

    If you believe that you have to compromise to have a debate, I don’t think you understand the word “debate” at all.

    It’s been a frustratingly common thing. The pro-rights person must be willing to “compromise” or they get written off as an extremist.

    But the pro-control person never needs to compromise. Diane “Mr. and Mrs. America, turn ’em all in” Feinstein was still often called on to push for more controls and kept getting re-elected; not once was she ever required to concede that 2A does, in fact, protect the individual right to keep and bear arms “necessary to the security of a free State”.

    Not. Once. Even that basic point, in the 2A text itself.

    Vox thinks they’re being generous to find a 2A “advocate” that’s not an “extremist”, but it’s a load of crap; they just found another squish. They still believe DiFi is a reasonable voice.

  4. On March 28, 2022 at 1:34 am, Georgiaboy61 said:

    “Compromise” to the anti-gun crowd is just another word for surrender and giving in to them. Don’t be misled about promises to negotiate in “good faith,” they do not know the meaning of those terms. Tell them “No!” and mean it….

  5. On March 28, 2022 at 4:30 am, Joe Blow said:

    When you say “no amendment is unlimited”, I am done with the conversation.
    Seriously. It has to do with knowledge of words and language.
    “Shall not be infringed”
    Go ahead, show me the “grey areas” there that are not unlimited.
    I only took English Language Arts through High School, but I’ve got a decent grasp of the language. I need someone more elucidated to explain how that passage is limiting, and not unlimited in its scope. Having a debate about a topic is pointless if both sides don’t use the same language and definitions.

  6. On March 28, 2022 at 7:33 am, Michael (from Utah) said:

    If no amendment is unlimited, then how many slaves can a person own before they create a problem?

    Which women can be prohibited from voting?

    How many troops can be quartered in a private home?

    Oh, wait, you can and do take my property and life without due process, so there is that…

    Like Joe Blow above, when I hear that (no amendment is unlimited) I tune out the discussion.

  7. On March 28, 2022 at 7:41 am, Bill Buppert said:

    Want the moral measure of a man? You can discover it in two questions: what is their position on infanticide and the private possession of firearms.

    It’s that simple.

    Both answers speak to your future, literally and figuratively.

  8. On March 28, 2022 at 8:48 am, John Taylor said:

    “VOX” does not allow comment. Gutkowski is “pay to read”. So much for “conversation” and “debate”.

  9. On March 28, 2022 at 9:56 am, Unknownsailor said:

    I’ve been debating gun control with hoplophobes for more then 20 years. There is no debate to be had with them, theirs and our first principles are too divergent.

    All I tell them any more is a variation of this, “I won’t comply. You are going to have to make me. If you do, I won’t express my outrage on the armed men you send in your stead, I will take it out on you, the person who sent them. Are you willing to die for your cause? I’m willing to die for mine.”

    Cribbed from Mike Vanderboegh, RIP.

  10. On March 28, 2022 at 10:15 am, Bradley A Graham said:

    I always take it down to the lowest common denominator.

    My body, My choice. If you refuse to let external domination of your body then why would rely on that same external domination to protect your body .
    Adequate self-defense requires no debate or permission.

    You will never legislate morality because the strong will always rule the weak.

  11. On March 28, 2022 at 12:17 pm, MTHead said:

    “No amendment is unlimited.” Of course not. It only limits what it says. The government.
    And as some are fond of. “No rights are unlimited”. Once again true. But that’s up to god. Not man.
    As the example goes. Your not allowed to yell fire in a crowded theatre. Well you still can. There’s just a penalty for doing it.
    No one thinks how retarded it is that your not allowed to tell people the theatre their in is on fire?
    Well ya, they burned to death. But I really didn’t want to abuse my free speech rights.
    The real question is why is my gun carry any of your business?
    If not for a bunch of do nothing busy-bodies, we wouldn’t even be having this conversion.

  12. On March 28, 2022 at 12:19 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Bradley A. Graham

    Re: “You will never legislate morality because the strong will always rule the weak.”

    That’s the crux of the matter. The old saying went, “God may have created men, but Samuel Colt made them equal.” Meaning that a Colt in the hand instantly gave the weak a vote in whether or not the strong would rule them. Now, obviously, not everyone – or even most – who carried one were “weak,” but the principle applies.

    The late Colonel Jeff Cooper had a similar sentiment when he said, “Picking up a rifle immediately turns you from a subject into a citizen.”

    And that’s what the communists and the other would-be bullies out there do not like.

  13. On March 28, 2022 at 12:43 pm, Arthur Sido said:

    I am fine with being described as “obsessed”. If we are to be obsessed about anything, let it be the rights guaranteed in the Constitution. The alternative is to be obsessed about sportsball or reality TV.

  14. On March 28, 2022 at 3:07 pm, Stephen Gutowski said:

    A correction is in order here. Half of what you quote in this piece as being part of what I said is actually what the Vox host Sean Illing said. The entire section about concealed carry is pulled from him, not me.

    Frankly, what I said about concealed carry (something I personally do every day) is pretty close to what you said.

    I don’t mind if you want to criticize my decision to appear on the show or what I actually said. But the least you can do is make clear who said what.

  15. On March 28, 2022 at 3:51 pm, Herschel Smith said:


    What you said is true. I lifted portions out from you, and portions out from the author at Vox.

    It’s always a balancing act – this blogging thing. I want to lift enough for the reader to get the gist of what I’m commenting to, but not enough to either be guilty of lifting entire articles, or preventing the reader from going to the source.

    Even when I disagree with a piece, it’s bad form to refuse to give traffic to a source. I always like to send traffic to sources, and I appreciate it when they do the same for me.

    So that’s no so much a correction as an expectation I have of my readers. The alternative would have been for me to give names rather than simply expect my readers to go to the source, but I would MUCH rather my readers go the source.

    I apologize if you think I’m ascribing positions to you which you do not take.

    Once again, readers MUST go to the source. There is also some useful discussion. If the main point of the post is for criticism, it makes no sense to lift prose with which I agree.

    The main point was that I simply find no point of correspondence, no analogue in my world and life view with the writer at Vox. Our assumptions, axioms, presuppositions, are too different.

    The only way I can see to come to terms with the writer at Vox is to jettison my own presuppositions – and I will not do that.

    I want my readers to fixate firmly on starting points, and that should dictate the balance of the conversation. Form, fit and function should follow the starting point.

    I cannot compromise with that writer because he and I see life differently. It has nothing to do with “good faith.” It is faith that puts me squarely in this position to begin with.

  16. On March 28, 2022 at 3:57 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    I want to point out one more thing (that I failed to address in the post).

    It is neither my station in life as a citizen, nor within my power, to help craft laws to end violence.

    Such a thing is not possible. Laws will never end violence. If guns aren’t available, men will commit crimes with hammers, sticks and stones. I did a series on “hammer violence” a few years ago, doing a news search every day for about a month on hammers used in violent attacks.

    The results were staggering.

    The root cause of violence is rejection of God’s laws, and failure of the family and church. If those are the root causes, then the solution relies on addressing those problems, not more or different laws.

    Laws are there for punitive measures. Grace and instruction are granted to the family and church, not the state. Proper sphere authority (a Calvinian doctrine) is necessary for the proper function of life in society.

  17. On March 28, 2022 at 4:31 pm, X said:

    “We talk about my own ambivalence on this issue, the blind spots on the left and right, how he makes sense of America’s obsession with guns, and if he thinks we can ever find a way out of the scorched-earth debate we seem to be stuck in.”

    The “blind spots on the left and right” are largely due to the unassailable fact that gun crime is overwhelmingly a racial problem, and nobody is willing to admit that.

    Don’t take my word for it; take the word of the NYPD, controlled by black mayor Eric Adams and black commissioner Keechant Sewell:

    Murder: black suspect 63.9%. white suspect 4.8%
    Shootings: black suspect 68%, white suspect 1.7%
    Firearm arrests: black 73.5%, white 2.6%

    The solution that has been offered by the Left is to stop arresting and stop prosecuting blacks, which is simply insane, and to ban and confiscate guns from law-abiding, taxpaying whites.

    The idea that this is some kind of “training” issue or that lower-class whites should not open carry or that military veterans are not in the right frame of mind to carry or that a gun will automatically escalate a situation is absurd.

    The problem is that a very, very small subset of the population, namely black males between the ages of about 15-40, have either little ability or little willingness to behave within the law and to respect the rights and property of others, and commit a grossly disproportionate percentage of the violent crime, full stop.

  18. On March 28, 2022 at 5:14 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    “There is a certain class of race problem-solvers who don’t want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease holds out they have not only an easy means of making a living, but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public.”

    “There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.”

    Booker T. Washington

    Washington’s words were spoken over a century ago, but are just as relevant today as they were in 1911. The Democrat Party – amongst others – have made a profitable living and reaped much political power out of the troubles of black Americans over the years, problems whose solution – including gun violence within the black community -would adversely impact their power, prestige and wealth, which is why these problems have been allowed to fester for so long.

    The truly sad part is that so few people in that community realize the full extent to which they are being used. One of the reasons Trump “had to go” was that he was in the process of tearing the lid off of that particular scandal for all to see.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Religion,Second Amendment and was published March 27th, 2022 by Herschel Smith.

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