Analysis: Does a civilized society really need guns?

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not those of St. George News.

OPINION – A number of questions are being raised following the highly publicized Florida shooting case in which a neighborhood watch member shot and killed a young man. As is the case in most highly sensationalized stories, a great deal of effort is being put into placing the blame in a politically advantageous manner.

Race baiters have been quick to blame racism while gun control advocates are blaming easy access to firearms and laws that don’t require a person to flee before using deadly force in self-defense. Tragedy too often spells opportunity for those who wish to draw attention to either themselves or their pet causes.

But beyond the political posturing, there is a valid question raised by the incident: Do firearms in the hands of private citizens still have a place in civilized society?

The answer to this question requires greater context than a simple “yes” or “no” response. It requires an acknowledgement that human nature has remained remarkably consistent throughout the history of mankind.

As human beings, we have just two basic methods of conducting our dealings with one another; we can use persuasion or we can use coercion. When we need someone to do something, we can either try to persuade or we can force him or her to do our bidding, it’s that simple. When someone uses coercion in a criminal or aggressive manner, the only way to effectively counteract that compulsion is through having our own ability to employ equal or greater force.

Since not every person possesses the same physical strength or defensive skills, an equalizer that creates a parity of force is required. In our day, the personal firearm serves that purpose.

Writer Marko Kloos explains why this is so:

“The gun is the only personal weapon that puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger, a 75-year old retiree on equal footing with a 19-year-old gang-banger, and a single gay guy on equal footing with a carload of drunk guys with baseball bats. The gun removes the disparity in physical strength, size, or numbers between a potential attacker and a defender.”

The firearm serves the purpose of removing another person’s illicit force from the equation by negating it. Those who use persuasion to accomplish their goals are not limited in their interactions. Coercion is useless against those who hold the ability and the will to resist it. A moral and just society would never abandon the weaker to the predations of the stronger. But there are two fundamental considerations that must accompany the decision to defend oneself with a firearm.

The first one is the realization that skill at arms is not an innate quality; it must be learned. Too many gun owners mistakenly believe if they are confronted by a life-threatening situation that they will somehow rise to meet the occasion. In reality, when faced with a highly stressful situation, we’ll tend to do only what we have consciously trained to do ahead of time. With no prior thought or training as to what to do, we tend to revert to a default setting of incredulous disbelief of what’s happening before us.

Defensive firearms training is where one gains the indispensable skills of firearms handling, tactics and mindset required to prevail in a deadly encounter.

The second consideration is the necessity of situational awareness regarding what is happening around us. Maintaining a heightened awareness of the actions of others is not the same thing as living in a state of grim-faced paranoia; it’s about having the wherewithal to recognize potential trouble and to steer clear of threats before they are unavoidable. It’s also about having the proper tools to solve problems when necessary.

This mindset of personal responsibility is increasingly rare today when a majority of the population naîvely believes that laws alone are sufficient to protect them from predatory behavior. Unfortunately, too many people have allowed a bureaucratic nanny state to convince them that they are either unable or unworthy to shoulder the responsibility of protecting themselves.

Firearms play a respectable and necessary role within a civilized society by placing a check on the power of those who would rely upon force alone to accomplish their goals.

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Copyright 2012 St. George News.

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  • Stranger April 20, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    History tells us that, without exception, every edict that lessened the citizens ability to defend themselves against violence or criminal aggression has resulted in the end of civilization. Life very quickly becomes dangerous as gangs of armed criminals roam the streets and countrysides taking what they want.

    The oldest restrictive weapons law was just a century before the kingship of the Biblical David. A kinglet barred weapons in the streets and the complaints of the citizens rose to the skies. Gangs of youths roamed the streets, violating everyone who ventured forth alone. Men could no longer go abroad except in large groups armed with stave’s. . Women were robbed, stripped, and “insulted” on their way to the market. And all the time the king was in his palace, behind high walls and armed guards. Until the weary citizens invaded the palace, shortened the kinglet a head and installed a man who repealed the law. And peace reigned.

    I could repeat that lesson, many times. We have many places where the criminals rule. And every one of them disarms the people.


  • Jeremy Christiansen April 20, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Hey Brian,

    I just thought I would chime in a bit. I am currently taking a criminal law class from a former US attorney and Federal district court judge. Something that has been so interesting during the whole Martin case is the fact that the stand your ground law has even been made an issue. Let me explain.

    There are two prevailing schools of thought in American criminal law: a “traditional” system and a “reform” system. The traditional system is represented by the common law decisions of state courts throughout the United States since the time of our founding, through the time when all states codified their criminal common law through the state legislatures. One principles that the American common law system refused to borrow from the British common law system is the “duty to retreat” rule. This rule simply stated is that when one has the chance to flee, with no additional risk to self, one must flee rather than using deadly force against an attacker. The American system most famously rejected this rule through the elegant words of the famous Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who said, “detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife.” This has represented the majority rule in the United States for a very long time.

    Enter the reform era. Some very bright people drafted what is known as the Model Penal Code. An attempted uniform criminal law system that took much of the common law as is, but tried to reform certain areas to reflect greater “retributive” philosophical underpinnings. The MPC adopted the British “duty to retreat” along with the classic “castle” exception (i.e. no duty to retreat from your own home). However, the duty to retreat was a minority position in the United States.

    Florida previously followed the duty to retreat rule. The state legislature abolished it and, contrary to the cries of liberal commentators everywhere, brought Florida into the majority view in this country: we don’t expect people to make detached judgments about fleeing situations which the person reasonably interprets as life threatening. We would rather that people be allowed to err on the side of protecting their own life.

    Enter the “stand your ground law.” As far as I understand the law gives additional procedural protections to those who have used self-defense. I.e. it requires some probable cause determination in order to arrest the person who claims self-defense, and gives them a civil remedy if they are arrested and it turns out they were justified in their self-defense claim.

    But let’s think about the two competing narratives and what they mean for the applicability of the duty to retreat rule. First, let’s accept the Trayvon Martin narrative that Zimmerman is a racist, that he picked a fight with Martin, and then brutally murdered him. Okay, well self-defense doesn’t apply when one is the first aggressor. So the Florida law is inapplicable. Okay, let’s accept the opposite story, the ZImmerman narrative. Zimmerman is jumped by Martin, in the dark, and has a reasonable fear that his life is being threatened. Well, even if the duty to retreat were the law here, it doesn’t apply in ANY jurisdiction when you don’t have an opportunity to leave. Being jumped and in the midst of a person-to-person struggle would NEVER be found by any court to be a situation where a person has an opportunity to flee. Therefore, in ANY jurisdiction in the country, George Zimmerman would not have been required to do anything before shooting. Thus, it is apparent that the stand your ground law only applied in this case in its PROCEDURAL aspect, that is trying to ensure that someone claiming self-defense is not unduly arrested. The SUBSTANCE of retreating v. not-retreating is in no way at issue in this case, if you accept either side’s story. This is helpful to see that the attack of “stand your ground” is a thinly veiled attack on the time honored, historically rooted tradition in our country that you do not have to run away and risk further injury or death when someone is attacking you with force that you reasonably perceive to be life threatening.

    I don’t know what happened that night. I wish more people would admit the same. The saddest thing is this: a young boy’s life was snuffed out (rightly or wrongly); George Zimmerman has been found guilty and crucified by the media and public opinion before he even had a bail hearing; and politicians and activists swoop in the capitalize on the situation in whatever way they can to further their own agendas. I think the case as of right now is only showing a sad reflection of what our criminal justice system should be: a system where people are tried in courts, under the law and the facts.

  • Oldtimer April 20, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    I still don’t get what all the fuss is about over the Treyvon Martin case. There are senseless intentional murders every day all over this country they don’t get any attention whatsoever. Why is this case so important?

    I believe it is the fact that it surrounds a conceal carry permit and the “Stand your Ground” law in Florida. It’s not really the fact that a young black man was murdered, heck young black men are murdered daily in every big city in our nation. It’s another attack on gun ownership and the 2nd amendment. That’s it. However, I think this case will back fire on those who decided to use Mr. Zimmerman as the scape goat.

    The biggest crime in this case is how Al Sharpton, and others, talked on TV and the contract the Black Panthers had on George “dead or alive”. That’s probably the scariest part of this whole issue. Why are their actions being swept under the rug? Their behavior is far worse than anything George has done yet.

  • ron April 21, 2012 at 7:47 am

    In today’s political climate, it is impossible to have a reasonable discussion about guns. The issue is always framed in stark either-or terms. “Liberals” want to take our guns away while “Conservatives” want us to have ready access to any sort of weapon we want short of a nuclear missile. How can we craft a sensible gun policy if we aren’t willing to concede that each side has some valid arguments to make? Today, there seems to be no such thing as a “middle ground.” Hence, we shout and accuse rather than talk, listen, and work to forge policies that work for the good of the whole society, not just one segment.

  • Joe Burge April 21, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    Once again, please read the Constitution of the United States of America, and tell me where exactly “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” includes a “middle ground” ?
    As a legal, law abiding citizen, I am required by law to: undergo 8 hours of training, demonstrate my abilities at a graded range session, be finger-printed, have my background checked by the FBI, pay a FFL transfer fee, carry my Identification with me at all times, and inform any police officer immediately that I am armed. From shall not be infringed, to that ridiculous list, and you want me to cede some more middle-ground?

  • ron April 22, 2012 at 7:29 am

    Perfect example of what I meant, Joe. Calling those requirements a “ridiculous list” demonstrates your mindset. I suppose you would rather have us all free to arm ourselves to the teeth with the latest high tech weapons just in case we are needed to participate in our local “well regulated militia,” whatever that is.

  • Jerry Carll April 22, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    In any “civilized society” about 2.5% of the population are evil to the bone. A lot of times they are very covert and hard to spot their real intention to do away with anything good. Another 20% of the population is tied to and controlled by the 2.5% in some manner and seem to dramatize the actions and intentions of the 2.5% group and so are potential trouble sources.
    This is the way it is in reality in any “civilized group or civilization”.
    Our founding fathers knew this from their own life experiences and made it possible to safe-guard the citizens of this Country with the right to own and bare arms. We have a right to protect ourselves.
    Whenever that right has been taken away as in Chicago, crime went up and innocent citizens were murdered and robbed without any means of protecting themselves. The police were never able to get there in time. Criminals can always get guns whether they are made illegal or not. Remember, criminals don’t obey the law. They will NEVER give up their guns and can always get more.
    There are 2 factions who are against the 2nd amendment. One is insane enough to not realize that it isn’t the gun that kills people, it’s the person pulling the trigger and if they didn’t have a gun, they’d use something else. This further demonstrates the need for the 2nd Amendment to protect ourselves.
    The other is a group called Progressives who have been striving to make this Country Socialistic since before the Constitution and Bill of Rights were written. They are anti-republic, anti-freedom, etc.; exactly what our founding fathers were separating us from by writing those documents.
    Mr Obummer and a lot of our government are Progressives and that is the real battle we fight now.
    That group wants to get rid of all privately owned firearms so they won’t have any resistance when they take our freedom by force.
    So Wake up Mr and Mrs Goody Two Shoes and live in the real world. Take a good look at who would want us to give the 2nd Amendment and what their REAL intention is.

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