Oklahoma: honor culture and open-carry laws

I haven't read much of Steven Pinker's monstrous book The Better Angels of Our Nature lately, mainly because I randomly decided I wanted to read Bram Stoker's Dracula. But I got to thinking about Pinker's book in light of the Oklahoma House passing an open-carry law.

Despite living in the most red state in the country, most of my friends are pretty moderate or liberal. So naturally, some concern has been expressed about the open-carry law, which basically means that it would be fine if you wanted to carry around a holstered gun, Wild-West style. The restrictions are the same as the current concealed-carry law already in effect, in that you have to complete a certain amount of training before you can do it, so that has some people asking, "What's the big deal?"

Free Wranglers with purchase of gun.
In his book, Steven Pinker talks about the "honor culture" in the South, and describes an experiment to that effect [abstract here]. In the study, young men are selected to fill out a questionnaire and submit a blood test for some scientific-sounding reason. But the real experiment (not revealed to them, of course) is that to get to the room, they have to walk down a narrow hallway where someone is at a filing cabinet. The person at the filing cabinet bumps into them and mumbles and insult. Participants from the North simply laughed off the insult, while participants from the South were highly agitated by the incident.

On Facebook, my thoughts on the open-carry debate were as follows:
Here's my concern: personal protection is not about killing the shit out of the assailant; it's about subduing them long enough to escape. There are already legal, non-lethal means that are very effective: pepper spray and tasers, which are effective enough for police in the vast majority of circumstances. Carrying firearms, especially brandishing them openly, simply increases the likelihood that those kind of encounters will end with serious injury or death.

Most people have argued that concealed carry laws haven't increased the crime rate. And that's true: the crime rate remains pretty much unaffected. So, it's not a crime deterrent. It doesn't increase crime. So what's the f'in point? It just makes it so if someone accosts you, instead of stunning them, you're more likely to put them in the hospital or kill them.
A friend of mine responded:
I had a guy try to break into my house while I was home and I fired a 12 gauge buckshot round 2 feet from him in the dirt while he ran away. I could have killed him if I wanted to, but I didn't because he didn't directly attack me, but if he had I wouldn't taser his ass and try to get away. I'd shoot him in the fucking face and end him. I don't see why killing some piece of shit who's ASSAULTING you or trying to take YOUR shit is a bad thing. That's one less piece of shit on the street. I've killed people who were trying to kill me and I've never thought twice about it. Fuck em.
I think my friend's view is very much representative of the culture of honor, and I strain to say that it's wrong in any black and white sort of way. But in my view, the cycle of violence has to end at some point. We have to make a conscious decision not to let it escalate. The police in England don't even carry guns, and police in the U.S. very rarely have to actually fire a deadly weapon – the vast majority of their takedowns are with pepper spray and tasers. I see where my friend is coming from – if someone is trying to assault you, if your life is at risk, what's wrong with using lethal force? And I admit, it's a gray area. But personally, I think the more moral thing to do is to use non-lethal force and call the police. We can get criminals off the streets without killing them.

This got me thinking too about Sam Harris' excellent piece on self-defense. But I'll leave the discussion open for now.


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