Marine Corps Moms

To Bear Arms:

Marine Corps Moms has become the center of gravity for the MilBlog and veteran response to this story:

A picture of a Marine holding an assault rifle has sparked a wave of controversy at a Salem high school. The problem began when the Marine's sister brought the picture to McKay High School to post on a classroom bulletin board. The assignment was to show McKay graduates at work.

However, the principal of the school, Cynthia Richardson, would not allow the picture to go up because of the school's zero tolerance policy on weapons. "What message am I sending to my students if I post that picture?" she asked.
There are a number of heartfelt responses to that question at Marine Corps Moms, as well as to the reverse: "What message am I sending if I refuse to post it?"

The intended message is clear, however: weapons are bad.
All it takes is one look around the school to see that there may be a problem with that logic, considering that the school mascot is seen carrying a sword. "He has a sword. (That is) so true. We might have to revisit that," said Richardson when KATU News asked her about the mascot's imagery.
There's a photo of the mascot, himself a military man of the "Royal Scots." He is indeed bearing a sword, which the school will now presumably hide. Photos or paintings of servicemen are fine, so long as we make no reference to the arms they bear.

A few days ago, I linked to this piece by Mark Steyn:
[O]ur victim culture is now so advanced and universal that we prefer even our soldiers and police officers in that mould.... That week there were two stories involving the PPCLI: the four men killed in Afghanistan, whose deaths prompted an orgy of coast-to-coast mawkish ersatz grief-mongering that was a disgrace to a grown-up nation; and the five of their comrades who’d proved such lethal snipers that the Pentagon wished to accord them the rare honour, for foreign troops, of the Bronze Star.

That story was reported nowhere except in the National Post. The Canadian government had nixed the award, officially on some nitpicky procedural ground, but unofficially because they were a bit queasy about letting it be known that our "forces" (we don’t say "armed forces" any more) still occasionally--what’s the phrase?--kill the enemy. In the spirit of that unarmed "peacekeeper" on the $5 bill, we’d rather see our soldiers as victims than warriors.

What do we do with people like this? How do we move forward when there is such a clear horror among so many people at the reality, the existence of weapons? Even among policemen and soldiers? How to address this unreasonable fear of weaponry, which can't admit the distinction between weapons that harm, and weapons that defend?

With many people, reasoning will be enough. Those who do not feel this unreasonable fear themselves, but merely have accepted the "logic" of Zero Tolerence, may be able to see the distinction once it has been raised and explained. I think Marine Corps Moms is doing a fine job of collecting and publishing thoughtful replies on that order.

But we must also address the people who do experience this unreasoning fear. I suspect that the only way to do so successfully is by building positive experiences with people who bear arms. It is necessary that they should see guns, knives, and swords in a fashion that doesn't involve threats or violence. Many of them have encountered weapons only on the news, in stories about violent death; or on the belts of policemen who, even when acting with utter professionalism, may be intimidating to timid souls as they issue orders, summons, or tickets.

For this reason, I advocate wearing arms openly where it is legal to do so.

You should abide by all of the laws of your locality, of course. In addition, and a matter just as important, you should abide by these guidelines:

1) When wearing arms, go out of your way to be polite and courteous. It is not for no reason that Miss Manners is listed in the "Admired Voices" section here, along with Mark Steyn and Bill Whittle. The fear of weapons often makes the fearful person say things that will make you feel like you're being accused of being a beast, a threat, an evil creature. Hate of weapons can make people express hate for the bearer of weapons. It would be easy to respond in kind.

You should not. If you have enough responsibility to bear arms to protect the weak from physical harm, you have enough responsibility to restrain your feelings to protect the weak from feeling the sharp edge of your tongue. Courtesy is the brother of chivalry, and the timid will have a much easier time accepting the latter if it is in the company of the former. Meeting an armed citizen may be intimidating, but we have the opportunity to make it a positive experience. Preserving liberty is what bearing arms is about, and that cause is advanced more by kindness than by hard words.

2) Start off with less intimidating weapons. Once your neighbors and the people you meet daily have adjusted to the tactical folding knife on your belt, carry a sheath knife. Once they've seen you with that a few times, carry an older revolver in a leather holster. Yes, this is irrational -- there's no reason to fear a semiautomatic more than a revolver. But the fear you're trying to ease is irrational. You'll achieve the end faster and more smoothly if you are sensitive to that. It won't be long before people are used to seeing you wearing your pistol or knife, and it won't bother them at all because they know you and have always found you to be upstanding.

3) You may find it helpful to carry to one side of the small of your back. In this way, you will frequently meet and begin talking to people before they notice the weapon. At that point, they will already have had the positive experience of dealing with a courteous person -- almost all of the intimidation that they may feel will be gone.

4) Be especially kind to the elderly, the disabled, animals and children. This is the right thing to do in any case. If chivalry and courtesy are to be defended, they must be lived.

5) Step your openly carried weapon down a level (or two) if you are going somewhere where there will be few other men, and lots of young mothers with their children. In this circumstance, you must do whatever you can to be a reassuring rather than an intimidating presence. As the law allows, you may still of course carry whatever you like concealed.

I have carried weapons openly for about a decade, varying them as appropriate to the circumstances. You can generally wear higher order weapons openly in rural areas, while scaling them back somewhat in cities or areas in which there is a cultural fear of weapons. Even when in the District of Columbia, I habitually wear a Gerber Applegate-Fairbairn Combat Folder on my belt without incident. No one has seemed put off by it, in spite of the fact that the sheath says "COMBAT" in big gold letters.

My experience is that people adjust quickly to the idea. I've had a number of conversations in the District with people who come from this group that has been raised to be fearful of weapons. After a few months of getting to know you, they will realize that the weapon on your belt is no more a threat to them than the birds in the sky. Because they trust you, and know they need not fear you, the weapon is just there. It holds no terror at all.

That is, of course, the important lesson: that it is not the weapon, but the man, who is the danger. The Marines, the Royal Scots, the man who upholds the old code of chivalry and courtesy, these are not enemies even though they may bear swords and rifles. The cruel and the murderous are deadly foes even when they bear only box cutters.

Be kind to your neighbors. Bear arms in the honest performance of your duty to the common peace. There are many examples before you in American history of men who did both these things at once. Be one of them.

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