Esquire Magazine article.

No I didn’t write the article in Esquire Magazine published on December 3, 2013 http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/bateman-on-guns-120313. It was written by Army Lt. Colonel Robert Bateman. I did read the article, and at prompting from the site which pointed me to the article I noted the e-mail address published in conjunction with the article by the Lt. Colonel. Below is the series of emails we’ve exchanged so far on the topic starting with my initial e-mail to him.

Lt. Colonel Robert Bateman,

First off I want to thank you for your service to our country in the US armed forces. It is a difficult task to undertake to give so much for your country. That being said I have also worked for the Federal Government for 22 years this month (December 2013). On the advent of my 22nd Anniversary of Federal service I printed out my SF 61 form.

Section A of the SF 61 form reads as follows:

A. OATH OF OFFICE

I will suport and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

Now we may have a difference of opinion about what this means, but in my opinion your article in Esquire magazine of December 3, 2013 is basically stating you believe it is time to dump our US Constitution in favor of a more totalitarian form of rule. The Second Amendment is not writen in the Bill of Rights so that the people may hunt. It is so that individuals who desire totalitarian rule over the people are put on notice that the people have a legal and moral obligation to defend against such, and it guarantees the people will have the necessary tools to prevent it.

I know that as someone who feels that private citizens shouldn’t have access to the same guns your soldiers have, and that you think we gun owners (and lifetime NRA members) should “sit on it”. I, sir, kindly beg to differ with you and your totalitarian objectives.

Sincerly,

Kelly R. Martin

Private Citizen

Then his e-mail response:

Kelly,

At least you have the courage to sign your name. Many, if not most, of your peers do not, and I respect that you do attach your name to your opinions. Moral courage means a lot in this age of anonymity. As you probably sussed out, the whole “plank” thing was deliberately done very much in order to get people to talk. And you will please excuse me for the brevity of this response, the number of your peers who have been willing to threaten my life (and to rape my wife and slaughter my baby) is quite interesting. OTOH, they also illustrate my point about the need for such changes, because it is evident that quite a few people who own guns are willing to at least threaten murder. Second, thanks for engaging in a rational debate. It is useful for both of us, but if you would, might I suggest you also read this: http://www.saf.org/lawreviews/bogus2.htm It puts forward the idea that Madison actually threw in the Second Amendment as a sop to southern anti-federalists since it was they who feared the disestablishment of local militia due to the presence of a standing army. And not because they wanted it to confront any future government, but because local militias were the tool used to suppress slave rebellions. Had you seen thisanalysis before? It was too complex for a “general audience” readership on a blog, but you might be interested. Third, and just FYI, the “Running” thing is a longstanding joke on Esquire, that Pierce (a comedy writer) and I (a military officer of no political affiliation) should “run for President/vice” once put forward by readers. It’s not real. I have no desire to ever hold political office, mostly because I am moderately lousy at compromise. Look, it’s not about *all* guns. That .50 Barret somebody cited on the comments would still be legal, for example.  And I am way cool with double-barrelled shotguns, they are the best possible home defense for a small woman or an elderly person.  (Especially if you use bird or buckshot, so you don’t accidentally kill your neighbor or kids, one or two walls away.  See this:  http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/a-lesson-on-guns-041913 )  And I am not talking about total eradication of all violence, that is impossible. But 31,000 or 32,000 people killed by guns (in all uses) is too much. No, you wouldn’t stop all suicides, but you would certainly reduce the number. (Although I will cede that there is also some scholarly evidence to suggest that suicide is very much more about a cultural inclination. Japan, for example, has a crazy-high level of suicides, almost none of which is committed by guns. But they have a culture which also includes, historically, the idea that one must commit suicide if you have been dishonored. So there is that.) But you would certainly cut down on the nearly 1,000 people a year who die accidentally. (Here is the source for most of my numbers, it’s from the University of Sydney.http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/united-statesJust so you can see where I am getting my numbers, and dispute them if you like.) And, of course, we haven’t even touched upon the woundings. Statistically our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan would suggest that that should be about 7x greater than the actual deaths, but it is actually only a little more than 2x as high. I don’t know why. In 2008 78,622 were wounded. http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/ficap/resourcebook/pdf/monograph.pdfso call it “more than 100,000” Americans are shot, each year, as a rough ballpark.
In other words we lose the economic, military (dead can’t be recruited), creative, and social equivalent of a city larger than Portland, Maine, for at least some of every damned year. How do we stop that drain on our national resources.

I’m willing to listen, and if your ideas are better than mine, I’d even put them forward. Obviously “education” is not working. So what would? Regards, Bob Bateman

After which I replied with the following which is fairly typical of me in full “the role of government” diatribe mode:

Lt. Colonel Robert Bateman,

If I am going to address someone in their personal e-mail, then I consider it proper form to use my own name if I know their name. I also don’t think that anyone making threats against someone or their family members because of a difference of opinion on the role of government is anyone I want to consider one of my peers. I consider my peers to be people who can engage in civil discourse on matters of governance. I know this is a declining number of people in today’s society, but I endeavor to make the attempt as much as I can.

The essential problem I have as someone who frankly probably thinks about the formulation of the US Constitution, and its various amendments more than the average American citizen is that there was a serious contention with the original document versus the original Articles of Confederation which had created a weak central government. The US Constitution produced a lot of centralized power which created some fear since the prior British Monarchy had used its centralized power to rule the people without their consent and against their will. The colonies had fought a war of succession to reduce the impact of a disconnected centralized power, and deliberately sought a democratically elected Republic as its model of governance.

As we both are probably aware, there is no such thing as a perfect government. Government by its very nature only really does a couple of things. Government takes and redistributes wealth. Government restricts and punishes those who do not comply with society’s rules. A standing military was a very strong concern of those people who feared a more powerful central government. The central compromise to allay that fear was to counter that standing military necessary for the national defense by formally codifying the Second Amendment as a restriction upon the government in creating a disarmed, or ineffectually armed populace. The Second Amendment was the tool handed to the people to keep the government from attempting to implement tyrannical controls over the people the government was supposed to serve. The Second Amendment was intended to allow the populace to have the same state of the art weaponry which was available to the military at the time.

As we both know the state of the art has changed significantly since 1776. Neither of us is likely to think that the average citizen needs unfettered access to thermonuclear weapons, chemical weapons, or biological weapons. These weapons of actual mass destruction are sensibly controlled and restricted by the government from private citizen use. So yes, in this instance we both believe in a level of control over weapons and very few are going to argue against this level of control.

However, you and I also both know that even the military has not used a thermonuclear weapon against an enemy since the surrender of Japan in 1945. Chemical and Biological weapons are also off the table for nation against nation warfare. The use of such are considered grounds for sanction by the United Nations.

So since we both can likely agree that certain weapons are too terrible to use, and that those weapons should not be in the hands of civilians it isn’t that I’m automatically against any kind of government restrictions.

Yet this whole “personification” of guns as weapons which cause people to do horrible things is quite a bit too far in that direction. Bad people exist. They will use any and all means to do the bad things they desire to do. Removing one kind of means from a society does not prevent bad people from harming others. It arguably makes it easier for them to prey upon the weak and helpless. If you have worked in military matters for years, then you know that IEDs have killed and wounded significant numbers of American soldiers. “Primitive” societies have built and continue to build bombs even when they have no means with guns to put our soldiers at serious risk. We’ve occupied Afghanistan for ten years, and we still can not eliminate the Taliban’s influence in that country. The Soviets also previously occupied Afghanistan for ten years and could not eliminate the opposition to them either.

What made this possible? The people of Afghanistan own small arms. Even the two most powerful armies on the planet could not put an end to their resistance over twenty combined years of occupation. This is why arms in the hands of private citizens matter. This is why governments which want a docile people to control are afraid of armed citizens.

As you are likely well aware, the 1994 “Assault Weapon Ban” expired in 2005 and the US Congress chose not to reauthorize it because they feared losing elections over the issue like they did under the President Clinton administration. Since 2005 over 3 Million so called “black” rifles (AR and AK style rifles) have been sold in the US. After the ban first went into effect in 1994, the incidence rate of firearms related shooting for all rifles was only approximately 4% of all firearms related incidents. Since the ban was rescinded, and with 3 Million more AR and AK semiautomatic rifles on the streets the incident rate for all rifles is still only approximately 4% of all firearms related incidents.

If you check the Department of Justice crime statistics for the incidence rate of violent crime, then you can see there has been a gradual steady decline over the last 20 years in the US. Incidentally there has also been a steady increase in legal concealed carry over the last 20 years as well. There is no study proving a direct correlation of these two possible, but it is possible to point out that the detractors of concealed carry had wrongly predicted the violent crime rate would skyrocket if it were allowed.

Compare that crime rate with the violent crime rate in Great Britain. Certainly less violent crimes in Great Britain involve firearms, but their violent crime rate per one hundred thousand people remains higher than the rate in the US where we have approximately three hundred million guns among a populace of three hundred twenty million people.

For me it always comes down to admitting one central tenant to my philosophy regarding firearms and the Second Amendment. Do I want a bad actor to have a weapon? Of course not, that is why we make it a crime to harm someone with a weapon with ill intent. We make it a civil liability to harm someone by accident. The truth of the matter is that more physical damage is done to the people in the US through medical malpractice than through the use of firearms. Misuse of automobiles is also a leading factor in preventable deaths and injuries in the US as well. Firearm related injuries and deaths are a small percentage compared to those numbers.

It all comes down to personal responsibility and whether the government trusts the people to properly exercise it on the whole. The less the government trusts the people they are supposed to serve, then the less the people should trust the government which is supposed to serve them. I hope this helps you understand my point of view. I’ll understand if you disagree as well.

Sincerely,

Kelly R. Martin
Private Citizen

The Lt. Colonel is very busy so he only had this to add at the moment:

Kelly,

I don’t generally disagree on your ideas of smaller government.

I would point out that we made the decision not to go into Afghanistan with 700,000 (versus the actual 30,000 we used), but that was  a political decision, made so that we could go in to Iraq.  Had we gone into Afghan with sufficient numbers, we would be in a different place today.  (FYI, at their height the Russians only had 150K in Afghanistan.)  Again, it was a political decision.

I would like to challenge your US/UK “Violent Crime Rate” statistics, and I have an idea how, but it will have to wait. I am sorry, but I am trying to respond to every single person who writes to me, and I am almost 300 behind for the past 5 days now.  Perhaps later?

Bob Bateman

We’ll see if the conversation continues from here.

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