The topic of civilian firearm ownership is a complex one. To some, this topic is often contentious and controversial, but it really should not be. I have written about civilian firearm ownership on several occasions over the years, as to me it is an exceptionally important thing to protect; especially when we are talking about self-defence. Some previous articles I have written on this topic are:
- Crime and Punishment: It’s not the guns – A discussion that how correlation does not equal causation between guns and crime
- Guns, the Great Social Equalizer: An update with additional commentary – A commentary on a world without guns and why they are needed
- Do you feel it is dangerous where you live? – A Crime stats analysis – A breakdown of crime stats and how perception and data often do not match
For the sake of being overly cautious: As I am writing this in Canada, I must remind individuals that in Canada*, you cannot purchase a firearm for the purpose of self-defence, but you can become a license holder and purchase a variety of firearms for a variety of reasons that are, at least for the time being, legal and acceptable.
This series is co-written by myself and Max, a UTKM student and fellow gun ownership supporter. We have broken this series down to several parts, some written by myself, some by Max, and some are a mix of both our commentary:
- Firearms: Predator and Prey
- Firearms: A loose history of guns the need for civilian ownership
- Firearms: Morals, Ethics and Legalities on Use of Force and the Right to Use Force
- Firearms: Training and Responsible Ownership
- Firearms: Politics and Statistics
Firearms: Predator and Prey
Many Moons ago, our early ancestors lived in the trees, similar to the way modern day chimpanzees and bonobos do. Due to what is presumed to be geographical shifts near the Great Rift Valley, these early ancestors were forced out of the safety of the forests and onto the newley created plateaus and planes that over time changed their ecology into vast grasslands we see today. This shift in environmental pressures forced humans to evolve and become bipedal, likely as a need to be more mobile and, as some suggest, use the method of persistence hunting to chase down prey. This is likely why humans have one of, if not the best, endurance capacities of all the creatures that roam the land.
However, as a species goes, we are not the fastest, not the strongest, but we at least to our knowledge were the smartest. Being the smartest however, doesn’t give you sharp teeth, fangs, strength or anything that would normally be needed to fend of the now serious threat of large game predators like lions, sabretooth tigers and well basically all the predatory animals that our ancestors had to deal with.
In his book, “The Social Leap“, Chapter 2 in particular, William von Hippel describes what we believe was the most important discovery for survival in human history; learning to attack from afar and to work in groups to defend ourselves rather than just as a bunch of random, uncoordinated individuals. It is theorized that the reason human arms evolved to be more flexible, with a greater range of motion than that of our closes relatives, was the need to learn to throw rocks with accuracy. Yes that’s right, the discovery that throwing a rock, or LOTS of rocks, at a predator, was a very good strategy for self-defence. One can only guess what actually happened to lead to this discovery. One can only speculate that it was probably due to a pure moment of terror, either for one early ape needing to protect itself or needing to protect another. But it worked. Leading to the discovery that multiple apes, with multiple rocks, and a little bit of learned strategy in the form of basic group tactics, meant that our ancestors could now defend themselves, their hunting kills, and territory from the much faster and stronger predators. It is even suggested that this important discovery predates our ancestors’ mastery of fire, another one of the most important discoveries of our species, but that is very much a topic for another time.
This very much was the end of humans being merely another terrified prey animal and evolving into the apex predator of their world. A simple act of throwing a rock, or rocks, which is easy enough for most humans, may have changed the course of our entire species.
What does his have to do with firearms you might ask? Well, if you haven’t already made the connection yet, it’s a simple one: The ability to attack from distance very much levels the playing field between the physically weak and the strong. On top of learning to throw things, which eventually led to spears and, much later on, bows and arrows some 71,000 years ago, humans re-enforced the knowledge that attacking from afar reduces the risk of harm to oneself and forces a stronger predator or opponent to think twice before attacking.
Eventually, in our more modern times, we developed firearms, which, as they continued to develop, become a more viable means of self-defence from those who would use force against you, for whatever the reason. A loose history of firearms will be discussed in the next post.
However, it is important to understand the very simple concept that, when it comes to protecting yourself, if you can indicate to a predator, animal or human, that “hey, I can do serious harm or cause your death if you try anything”, even by simply flashing a firearm in the waistband of your jeans, it will usually make them rethink their actions. Though you certainly can convince another human that you are the wrong target, and they should back off, without such a tool, it is still a valuable one for predators who aren’t getting the verbal or physical cues.
Often people forget that humans are animals, and as animals there will always be those among us whose chosen survival strategy is to act in a predatory manner toward other people. Some do it to steal, some for sex, some for power, some for property, and the worst, some for fun. With the exception of the last category these (whether right or wrong) are very much strategies of survival and a search for wealth and status, which is, of course, desirable for those who want to pass on their genes.
In the absence of a firearm you will need to spend time and energy developing your combat skills so that you have the ability to fend off a predator that comes in the from of another human. The thing is, these skills take A LOT of time and energy. Regardless, I encourage everyone to learn these skills, because you never know, you may find yourself against someone who is still better trained, stronger, or against a group of individuals with no way out. Once again we find that the ability to attack from afar, mixed with some skill and strategy, creating an increased risk of harm or death to the predatory attacker, will need to be an option for the most extreme cases.
There are those in society who believe we are past this behavior and thus should not need such tools, but to them I say, “you clearly live a sheltered life and do not understand what humans are still capable of.” Though in modern society we regularly offload the right to use of force to the government, which has been a useful tool for society’s growth, it still has its limits.
Now that you have an understanding of the need for long range tools, both in our evolutionary history as humans and in modern day self-defence, I hope that you now are starting to realize why these tools are still necessary. Homo homini lupus, we remain both prey and predators. We need firearms for hunting, for protection of property against predatory animals and violent persons, or even against those who would use force to oppress others, as distasteful it may seem to many.
We are all animals, but we are not all saints; we must live with and navigate our fundamental evolutionary drive to survive.
Written by Jonathan Fader
*Please read, learn and follow your local laws to know what is acceptable in your society and Country regarding firearms, self-defence, and personal ownership. Do not break the law in your country regardless of your personal beliefs.