|Crowded gun show in Michigan this past weekend (courtesy of Chad Hines)|
I am starting to wonder what the end game for gun ownership in America looks like. More frequently we hear "gold" and "guns" uttered in the same breath. In fact, last year when talking to my accountant about owning gold and silver his first question was: "How many bullets to do own?" I did not own a gun at that time so my response was "zero." With a smirk his follow up remark was: "Your gold is worth nothing if you can't protect it." So is there more value in owning the gold or owning the guns? Some take the conversation a step further by saying that organic seeds (not your round-up ready seed varieties from Monsanto) would be most valuable because if the world blows up, people will need self-sustaining food sources in order to exist past what little they can store in their basements. Again, this thought brings me back to my accountant's comment: "Your (INSERT ANYTHING HERE) is worth nothing if you can't protect it."
Gun ownership is controversial in its own right and is something I never paid much mind toward. Why should anyone NEED a gun? We pay taxes so that our local governments can staff an operational police department armed with enough weapons to protect the community. Right? Well, what happens when those local governments run into financial difficulty and can no longer support the boys in blue to the extent they were able to in the past? We get situations like in Ashtabula County (Ashta-who??) where a judge told citizens to "arm yourselves" (LINK). Earlier this year in Colorado Springs, the police department was forced to downsize and raise cash by selling off their helicopters (LINK). I cannot imagine that engenders much of a sense of security in that community. We are seeing more and more evidence that Americans are taking their safety into their own hands. Suddenly, the Neighborhood Watch Program is not for the old retiree who likes to ride his or her bike around the block at dusk.
Over the weekend there were two articles I came across about weapons. One was on the cover of the FT about a law in Kennesaw, Georgia that makes gun ownership compulsory (i did a double-take when I first read that but found that the law is not enforced so only 50% of the town's inhabitants are gun owners...50% is still a big number) (LINK). The other was in the Daily News, which stated permits for the right to carry concealed weapons (CCW) are on the rise among celebrities in NYC (LINK). I do not know many celebrities but I do know at least three people who have gotten their CCW permit in the past couple years (one was in NY and 2 were in Michigan).
What should we takeaway from this? There may be some kind of self fulfilling prophecy here. People assume they are less safe (national violent crime and homicide rates have actually fallen over the past 5 years according to the FBI) because the country is on hard economic times and traditional means of protections appear to be less reliable. I can see how the inclination is to go out and get armed. You think your safety may be at risk (though on the whole, crime is little changed)...your neighbors are doing it...your friends and colleagues are thinking of doing it...so now you feel like you may want to consider it. Maybe it is the general level of fear going up, or maybe it is just a simple herd mentality, or maybe it is about keeping the playing field level? I suppose I wouldn't want to be the only Olympic sprinter NOT juicing and getting away with it if everyone else was. People assume they are unsafe and go out to get armed - does that make all of the unarmed people unsafe?
What is the end game here? Are citizens capable of policing themselves? Will this new found need for protection be turned into local military offensives and militias, should the "mob" decide they have a better plan for how to be governed? Who knows? I know this much: I own firearms the same way I own term life insurance and teeny puts on the S&P 500. I am hoping I never actually need any of them.