IOL: South Africa

Guns and Families:

"How will we protect our families now? Criminals prefer unarmed victims... and so does the African National Congress."

Thus begins an article on the new "Firearms Control Act" in South Africa. It quotes one Charl van Wyk, chairman of Victims Against Crime, who said: "A law that made it impossible to defend one's family was an illegitimate law." Indeed it is.

On which topic, I purchased a revolver today. It's a new Smith & Wesson M66, which is a K-Frame chambered for .357 Magnum. Come autumn, I would like to augment it with a carbine in the same caliber, although I may buy a rifle for the deer-hunting season instead as I gave my last longarm to my father to defend his home. He'd made do too long with my grandfather's single-shot break action 20-gauge shotgun, a fine weapon against squirrels and rabid dogs, but of little use in running off determined bandits. I passed over to him my Mossberg 500, which will make the job much easier.

I reflect that my father is highly unusual among my clan in that he has not concerned himself with owning or carrying firearms. My great-great-grandfather, Tom Clanton, was one of the most famous gunfighters in post-Civil War Tennessee. He used a lever-action rifle to kill seven men in one night. Interesting fellow--he'd held a whiskey-making license for the Union Army (my father's family were Union men, having abandoned the Quaker faith in favor of warfighting for human liberty; my mother's family were Confederates, having no use for foreign interlopers telling them what to do. I come by both positions honestly). After the war he ended up in conflict with the proto-KKK "night riders," in a series of conflicts that ended very badly for them and left him to grow old and feared. He was acquitted of eight killings, those seven plus one other fellow who turned in his still to the authorities. That last was deemed justifiable homicide by the jury.

His son, my great grandfather, was involved in his first gunfight in the Tennessee hills as a teenager. The occasion was a girl, of course--if I were starting this family history earlier, you'd see that motif has been regular one. His enemies ambushed him, and he would have been killed but that one of the local elders--a black man, as it happens, who remembered his father with kindness--took him aside, warned him, and pressed a revolver into his hand. He survived, and grew quite old in turn. Along the way, he managed to earn enough money as a farmer to send seven sons to trade school.

My grandfather was one of these. He became a welder, and the first tradesman of the family. He was three times rejected by the US Army during WWII: in spite of his repeated attempts to enlist, when they realized that he was a welder they rejected him and sent him back to work at the shipyards. He eventually worked at Oak Ridge, where the first atomic bombs were constructed. After the war, he ran a body shop and service station for long-haul truckers on the new interstates. He carried a handgun everywhere, as did his wife and eldest son, my uncle. In spite of their longstanding friendships with the black community, the service station was not spared in the violence of the Civil Rights movement. They had to defend it, although I understand it was without fatality on any side.

My grandfather did what his father had done, and saved so that his sons could do better than he had. Both of them went to college. My father, who was a drill sergeant in the US Army, took a white-collar position. For whatever reason, he didn't carry on the family habit of going about armed, although his father continued it nearly until he died at the age of eighty. He did carry on the tradition of educating his children, although I was able to help out with scholarships and work. I hold three degrees in history and philosophy.

I myself have enough concealed-carry licenses that, with reciprocity, I can carry from Key West to Vermont as long as I avoid a few of the less civilized states. Looking back over the roll of years, I can't see any good reason not to do so. The family holds itself together in spite of, not because of, the movements of nations. That mine exists, and has survived and prospered, is not due to the Civil War or WWII or the Civil Rights Movement. It is due to family love, courage, hard work, savings, and a good revolver close to hand. That is the recipie I suggest to you all, for whatever trials Fate may have in store.

No comments: