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Altherion

Political power and arms

100 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

On 04/03/2017 at 2:46 PM, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

The first two points are linked. You are correct that 1 doesn't imply 2 but that doesn't mean that 1 has no impact upon 2.

It's one thing to say this, and another one to prove it. I'm sure you (and Altherion) believe this, but from the outside this is make-believe.
If you had any substantial example to provide it would help your case a lot.

On 04/03/2017 at 2:46 PM, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Being armed is not a guarantee of liberty because if everyone is armed some will, inevitable, oppose liberty.  It simply gives more people tools in the event of a Tyranny from above... or below.

Which means that in order to check one threat to American-style republicanism you are creating another one, possibly greater.

It's a funny debate, full of paradoxes. You say guns "give more people tools in the event of a Tyranny [...]." I say, in a nutshell that "armed masses constitute a threat to both life and liberty."
I think this is one of those curious cases in philosophy where conclusions may change depending on whether you adopt an individual point of view or a collective one. From an individual's point of view, their gun is a protection against any form of oppression. From a collective point of view, an armed population is a permanent security threat.
Paradoxically, both arguments are essentially correct, and not mutually exclusive because any individual arming themself to protect against oppression becomes a potential threat to their neighbor -and whatever system of government is in place, whether good or bad. Arming your population protects and threatens a society at the same time. I'll daresay what it truly does is considerably increase the chance that any societal or political upheaval will turn violent.
Or, to use the argument of some historians, you could reverse this and say that the relative youth of the US as a nation, combined with the fact that Americans never suffered from outside oppression (/invasion) since the Revolution, mean its inhabitants are far more prone to violence than the peoples of older cultures -because they haven't really experienced the detrimental aspects of armed violence. Incidentally, this argument also explains why a nation like Switzerland, despite having a high gun per capita ratio, does not even come close to the violence that is so widespread in the US.

It's the type of exchange that reminds me that American culture is different from the European one(s). From my point of view, taking the individualistic point of view that having a gun is desirable or necessary to protect one's freedom(s), rather than looking at the threat to the collectivity that spreading guns in a society represents, is a logical absurdity. While I can understand the argument on an abstract level, I could never bring myself to think in such a way.
And to be fully honest, I tend to believe that the most civilized cultures are those that repress such individualistic thinking and subsequent aggressivity (though civilization may not necessarily correlate with individual happiness, ha ha). This is, of course, because I read too much Freud:

Quote

Men are not gentle, friendly creatures wishing for love, who simply defend themselves if they are attacked, but that a powerful measure of desire for aggression has to be reckoned as part of their instinctual endowment. The result is that their neighbour is to them not only a possible helper or sexual object, but also a temptation to them to gratify their aggressiveness on him, to exploit his capacity for work without recompense, to use him sexually without his consent, to seize his possessions, to humiliate him, to cause him pain, to torture and to kill him. Homo homini lupus; who has the courage to dispute it in the face of all the evidence in his own life and in history? This aggressive cruelty usually lies in wait for some provocation, or else it steps into the service of some other purpose, the aim of which might as well have been achieved by milder measures. [...]
The existence of this tendency to aggression which we can detect in ourselves and rightly presume to be present in others is the factor that disturbs our relations with our neighbours and makes it necessary for culture to institute its high demands. Civilized society is perpetually menaced with disintegration through this primary hostility of men towards one another. Their interests in their common work would not hold them together; the passions of instinct are stronger than reasoned interests. Culture has to call up every possible reinforcement in order to erect barriers against the aggressive instincts of men and hold their manifestations in check by reaction-formations in men's minds. Hence its system of methods by which mankind is to be driven to identifications and aim-inhibited love-relationships; hence the restrictions on sexual life; and hence, too, its ideal command to love one's neighbour as oneself, which is really justified by the fact that nothing is so completely at variance with original human nature as this. With all its striving, this endeavour of culture's has so far not achieved very much. Civilization expects to prevent the worst atrocities of brutal violence by taking upon itself the right to employ violence against criminals, but the law is not able to lay hands on the more discreet and subtle forms in which human aggressions are ex- pressed. The time comes when every one of us has to abandon the illusory anticipations with which in our youth we regarded our fellow-men, and when we realize how much hardship and suffering we have been caused in life through their ill-will. It would be unfair, however, to reproach culture with trying to eliminate all disputes and competition from human concerns. These things are undoubtedly indispensable; but opposition is not necessarily enmity, only it may be misused to make an opening for it.
(Cvilization and its Discontents)      http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/50s/freud-civ.html

Of course what Freud did was underline this paradox: that because civilization entails repressing some of our baser instints, it also leads to a form of oppression on the individual. But he tended to believe that this repression was essential. In fact, amusingly he did look down on American culture specifically for the great value it put on individualism and for its lack of leaders, so we can take his perspective with a bit of salt. Nonetheless, his observation that too much emphasis on individual liberty may mechanically lead to a more violent society seems particularly interesting when considering American gun culture...

And btw Scott, didn't you yourself link Libertarianism with tribalism? Or, to be specific, promote a book that did?

On 04/03/2017 at 2:46 PM, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

People forget that that the American Revolution (especially in North and South Carolina) was a civil war between American Patriots and American Loyalists for control of the North American colonies.  Most of the militias on both sides of that conflict provided their own arms and ammunition

And just how much the French sales of arms and ammunition to the rebels helped tip the balance I wonder... ;)
This is even a bigger debate, but looking at the recent historical record of armed revolutionaries/revolts overthrowing nefarious governments... How many managed this without some form of foreign assistance, uh?

Edited by Rippounet

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Ripp,

I do hear you.  But the "overmountain men" who defeated the Loyalist militia at King's Mountain were not carrying French provided arms and ammunition.  They were fighting with Tennessee long rifles not the smooth bore muskets European militaries of the day used.

This is not to say French arms had no impact, they did, but in areas like the up-country of the Carolinas the impact was negligible compared with the efforts of partisians on both sides.

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But you're just helping me make my earlier point: since both patriots and loyalists had guns, the American Revolution doesn't prove anything about them. I guess we could say that when a population is armed, the most popular ideas/ideology win(s). Which means... That the end result is pretty much the same as without them.
This turned out for the best at the time for tons of reasons. French help was only the first one that came to my mind -as a tease. Washington not wanting to be a lifelong ruler was another. The enlightenment of the framers could be yet another. And so on...

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39 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

But you're just helping me make my earlier point: since both patriots and loyalists had guns, the American Revolution doesn't prove anything about them. I guess we could say that when a population is armed, the most popular ideas/ideology win(s). Which means... That the end result is pretty much the same as without them.
This turned out for the best at the time for tons of reasons. French help was only the first one that came to my mind -as a tease. Washington not wanting to be a lifelong ruler was another. The enlightenment of the framers could be yet another. And so on...

Well... no.  Without arms North America couldn't have been colonized as it was.  Further without arms as the colonists agitated for more local control all the UK would have had to do is send troops.  Without locally and personaly held arms the American Revolution would have died in its opening moments.

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1 hour ago, Rippounet said:

This is even a bigger debate, but looking at the recent historical record of armed revolutionaries/revolts overthrowing nefarious governments... How many managed this without some form of foreign assistance, uh?

That question is a bit misleading. Any kind of serious revolution implies a power vacuum which almost inevitably draws foreign involvement almost always including materiel and quite often personnel too. In fact, there is usually assistance to both the revolutionaries and the regime. The more interesting question is whether this assistance is decisive (i.e. whether it determined the outcome of the conflict) and in most (though not all) cases, this is pretty difficult to determine. I do think that Ser Scot's point can be generalized to most revolutions: unless it's not so much a revolution as conquest with local assistance (e.g. Russia's recent adventures in what used to be regions of Ukraine), the revolution needs to get quite a ways off the ground before foreign powers step in.

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Ripp,

And for the record the tenson between individual and collective aspects of democratic systems is and always will be at the core of human political disputes for as long as we remain human.

;)

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@Altherion, to directly answer the last question of your OP, no, I personally do not think the Constitution, or the 2nd Amendment is antiquated or obsolete, even given the full might the US military can bring to bear.  It may be more important now because the military is so much better equipped.  The civilians would have overwhelming numbers, something like 100 million to 4 million (and that's including state and federal LE).

As to who would win, I personally don't see the civilian populace being able to throw back the military in a no holds barred fight, but there are too many variables to know for sure.  One being that military and LE personnel, AFAIK, are sworn to uphold the Constitution, not the federal government.  But, oaths don't mean all that much to most people, I think, yet surely there would be dissenters.  Having said all that, just because you believe you can't win a fight doesn't mean you shouldn't actually fight, IMHO.

I'll state further that it's my personal and probably unpopular opinion that the 2nd amendment has been partially shredded over time.  Military and LE have access to SBR's, SBS's, full auto, suppressors, etc (civilians can acquire some of these, through long and costly applications, which require approval from local and federal authorities and a tax stamp). I don't think the founding fathers would agree with these laws.  But that may be off topic.

I'm reminded of the opening scene of the movie Body of Lies;

I think I agree with the sentiment, that it is a fallacy to believe a prolonged war will weaken an occupied enemy, the longer the fight went, the more it could swing in favor of the civilians, maybe?  I'm no military buff, but that does sound somewhat accurate to me.

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1 hour ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Further without arms as the colonists agitated for more local control all the UK would have had to do is send troops.  Without locally and personaly held arms the American Revolution would have died in its opening moments.

Like all the other wars of independence, revolutions or movements of decolonisation you mean? Sending more troops always worked, right?
Oh, wait. ^_^
It's undeniable that personal weapons did facilitate the American Revolution. To say that it was a necessary condition is a much more extraordinary proposition. One that could be endlessly debated with loads of decent arguments on both sides. I doubt a satisfactory conclusion would easily be reached.

And even if that could be successfully addressed there remains the even more extraordinary proposition that it affects modern politics to this day. Or, to put it differently, that personal weapons allowed American patriots to successfully win their independence from Britain in the 18th century means that they give American citizens a significant amount of political power today.

And say you can in turn sucessfully demonstrate that. You're still left with the cost (in human lives) and risks that an armed population entail. Which were my initial points. I don't think anyone has even tried to address my point that an armed population is as much a threat as the evils it purposes to defend from.

It seems to me that the idea of associating guns with liberty is built on a post hoc fallacy which has been weaved in your historical narrative, dubious speculations and assumptions about the nature of political power, and a deep belief that the protection of individual liberty is synonymous with the greater good (or even that it is what the greater good must be about).
In a nutshell, it's all about ideology and ideological bias. Which goes to show how different our cultures are.

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Posted (edited)

13 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Well... no.  Without arms North America couldn't have been colonized as it was.  Further without arms as the colonists agitated for more local control all the UK would have had to do is send troops.  Without locally and personaly held arms the American Revolution would have died in its opening moments.

I have never wished for gun control more that I have in this moment.

Edited by TrueMetis

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2 hours ago, Altherion said:

That question is a bit misleading. Any kind of serious revolution implies a power vacuum which almost inevitably draws foreign involvement almost always including materiel and quite often personnel too. In fact, there is usually assistance to both the revolutionaries and the regime. The more interesting question is whether this assistance is decisive (i.e. whether it determined the outcome of the conflict) and in most (though not all) cases, this is pretty difficult to determine. I do think that Ser Scot's point can be generalized to most revolutions: unless it's not so much a revolution as conquest with local assistance (e.g. Russia's recent adventures in what used to be regions of Ukraine), the revolution needs to get quite a ways off the ground before foreign powers step in.

For the record... Foreign assistance in the American Revolution was a pisspoor argument of mine. It's relevant in that particular case and in a number of others but actually contradicts my main point that personal guns are not necessary for social or political upheaval, indeed that they may only make such upheavals more violent and/or more frequent and thus constitute an inherent risk to the rule of law, to democracy, or even to individual security.
 

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35 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

Like all the other wars of independence, revolutions or movements of decolonisation you mean? Sending more troops always worked, right?
Oh, wait. ^_^
It's undeniable that personal weapons did facilitate the American Revolution. To say that it was a necessary condition is a much more extraordinary proposition. One that could be endlessly debated with loads of decent arguments on both sides. I doubt a satisfactory conclusion would easily be reached.

And even if that could be successfully addressed there remains the even more extraordinary proposition that it affects modern politics to this day. Or, to put it differently, that personal weapons allowed American patriots to successfully win their independence from Britain in the 18th century means that they give American citizens a significant amount of political power today.

And say you can in turn sucessfully demonstrate that. You're still left with the cost (in human lives) and risks that an armed population entail. Which were my initial points. I don't think anyone has even tried to address my point that an armed population is as much a threat as the evils it purposes to defend from.

It seems to me that the idea of associating guns with liberty is built on a post hoc fallacy which has been weaved in your historical narrative, dubious speculations and assumptions about the nature of political power, and a deep belief that the protection of individual liberty is synonymous with the greater good (or even that it is what the greater good must be about).
In a nutshell, it's all about ideology and ideological bias. Which goes to show how different our cultures are.

Are you suggesting that individual liberty, with or without rights to firearms, is not a positive?  

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Posted (edited)

26 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Are you suggesting that individual liberty, with or without rights to firearms, is not a positive?  

Firearms are much more likely to deprive someone of life and liberty than ever would they preserve it. It's almost like that's what they are designed to do. And what's so strange is that like half the pro-gun crowd concede this point at the starting gate, citing 'other people with guns' as reason numero uno for why they won't give up theirs. It's a horribly self-defeating way of thinking that would lead to similar levels of carnage and mayhem if we tweaked the subject to say, tanks or motor transit. But no one seriously suggests we do that, because...? Oh, right, self-evident.

This quasi-romantic notion of human-hunting guns is really bizarre. At some point the madness will stop and people will look back on this with all the nostalgia of the long-lost slave plantation or trial by ordeal.

Edited by James Arryn

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James,

Your statement has nothing at all to do with the question I posed to Ripp.

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3 hours ago, James Arryn said:

Firearms are much more likely to deprive someone of life and liberty than ever would they preserve it. It's almost like that's what they are designed to do. And what's so strange is that like half the pro-gun crowd concede this point at the starting gate, citing 'other people with guns' as reason numero uno for why they won't give up theirs. It's a horribly self-defeating way of thinking that would lead to similar levels of carnage and mayhem if we tweaked the subject to say, tanks or motor transit. But no one seriously suggests we do that, because...? Oh, right, self-evident.

I don’t follow your line of reasoning here, James Arryn. One can admit that he/she personally doesn’t like weapons and would have preferred it if they were gone for good, but still accept that the world isn’t an ideal place where everyone gets along, and that he/she would want a weapon of his/her own in case he/she becomes the target of ill-intentioned people with weapons. It’s not necessarily all that different from say getting a more expensive car with a high safety rating in case you get involved in a car crash. Or buying some kind of insurance.

With that being said, I actually believe there are good argument for why banning certain types of firearms/weapons is beneficial for our society, but that doesn’t mean I can’t also understand why some people would want a weapon for self defence when we’re living a world where people are traumatized and paralyzed for the rest of their life because they happened to walk past some violent gang of teenagers who thought  that beating up some random passerby would be a fun way to spend the next 10-15 minutes.

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Posted (edited)

Quote

I have never wished from gun control more that I have in this moment.

You realize that Canada has over 13 million firearms, and in most cities every 2nd home have at least one firearm according to RCMP/Firearms center statistics...Canada is nearly as well armed as the USA, just with more restrictions, but there are still hundreds of thousands of magazine fed semi auto rifles, and millions of handguns in Canadian hands.  Do Canadian gun control laws and initiatives make you feel any safer? (Hint, they shouldn't).

Quote

With that being said, I actually believe there are good argument for why banning certain types of firearms/weapons is beneficial for our society, but that doesn’t mean I can’t also understand why some people would want a weapon for self defence when we’re living a world where people are traumatized and paralyzed for the rest of their life because they happened to walk past some violent gang of teenagers who thought  that beating up some random passerby would be a fun way to spend the next 10-15 minutes.

Banning certain types and having magazine restrictions has been shown to have little effect on reducing firearms violence.  I give you Chicago as a perfect example, all kinds of restrictions, yet  4000 shootings per year, and nearly 1/5 of these fatalities (you're 80% likely to survive a pistol gunshot in the USA statistically due to modern medical capabilities, and how quickly EMS can get you to them).  There are many other examples I can use.

 

If there ever was a civil war in the USA, it would be extremely ugly, due to the extremely high rates of firearms ownership, and also the high rates of training and capability among the civilian population.  Hundreds of thousands of veterans that have fought in the wars of the last 15 years, and hundreds of excellent shooting/fighting schools are out there who pass what they've learned on to civilians.  Check out any of the large shooting schools, they are always booked  years in advance, thousands of civilians learning to fight with firearms...millions in fact most likely.

I fought against insurgents in 2 countries, and I can tell you that just a few hundred scattered here and there, with a fraction of the resources that millions of Americans have in terms of logistics - primarily weapons and ammunition - caused American and Allied forces a lot of grief, for a very, very long time.  Guys with nothing compared to the training, experience, and capabilities that millions of Americans have, were able to make life pretty miserable for our team. 

As for the OP's question, I do think that the US people bearing arms has some effect on the landscape still, however I find it unlikely that the people will ever "rise up" regardless of anything our governments do.  A government would have to do some pretty crazy things to push people to that edge, and I don't think either side/party will ever cross that line. 

 

Edited by SerHaHa

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Posted (edited)

I'd think it would depend on if said insurrection could withstand the initial blows leveled against it. Yes modern militaries are powerful, but one of the reasons they're powerful is they use high-tech equipment that is expensive and once used/destroyed can be difficult to replace. 

Edited by A True Kaniggit

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1 hour ago, SerHaHa said:

Banning certain types and having magazine restrictions has been shown to have little effect on reducing firearms violence.  I give you Chicago as a perfect example, all kinds of restrictions, yet  4000 shootings per year, and nearly 1/5 of these fatalities (you're 80% likely to survive a pistol gunshot in the USA statistically due to modern medical capabilities, and how quickly EMS can get you to them).  There are many other examples I can use.

I realize that the issue of gun violence in the US runs deeper than just the fact that there is an abundance of guns, but when it comes to gun laws in general, it's more of question of which weapons should civilians be allowed to own (and for what purposes).

Now I come from a country where keeping an eye on your government is not considered a legit reason to get a firearms permit**, and if what you’re doing is mostly sport shooting or hunting anyway, you don’t really need an AR-15 with a 60-round drum magazine (or an automatic grenade launcher for that matter).  Nor do I think that it would be a particularly uplifting notion if our Police wouldn’t be able to confiscate such weapons from for example Hell’s Angels members, Neo Nazis, Islamists, Communist Revolutionaries etc. or prosecute their owners because it would be entirely legal to own such weapons if Norway had gun laws similar to some US states.

 

** And should the day should come when we actually need weapons to oppose a tyrannical government of sorts, I’m pretty confident that weapons would find their way into our hands one way or the other anyway (as was the case during WW2).

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6 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Are you suggesting that individual liberty, with or without rights to firearms, is not a positive?  

Is this even an honest question anyway? I'd forgotten your favorite tactic is to avoid actually engaging in discussion and only poke at other people's argumentative weaknesses.

Anyway, no, and that's not even what I wrote. My sentence was poorly written but it meant that individual liberty is not always a positive.

And I like the way James Arryn presented the argument. The collective good is often opposed to individual liberty, especially in the usual gun debate, but it's really more about one's individual liberty (to protect oneself against oppression or aggression) against another one's (to safety and security from armed weapons).

And then it's all about how you frame the debate. Possessing a firearm can be said to about political power or self-defense. Yeah, right. It's really about having the ability to kill other human beings in a heartbeat. "Political power" is an elegant way to say that it's about "having power," the power to kill your fellow humans on a whim. It's a thrilling power, to be sure, and one could argue that it's useful in some ways. But it remains before antyhing else the expression of some primitive urges that are rather ugly.

3 hours ago, Einheri said:

With that being said, I actually believe there are good argument for why banning certain types of firearms/weapons is beneficial for our society, but that doesn’t mean I can’t also understand why some people would want a weapon for self defence when we’re living a world where people are traumatized and paralyzed for the rest of their life because they happened to walk past some violent gang of teenagers who thought  that beating up some random passerby would be a fun way to spend the next 10-15 minutes.

Sure. But why firearms specifically? There are many non-lethal weapons for self-defense. And with our current technology they could easily be improved too.

2 hours ago, SerHaHa said:

Banning certain types and having magazine restrictions has been shown to have little effect on reducing firearms violence.  I give you Chicago as a perfect example, all kinds of restrictions, yet  4000 shootings per year, and nearly 1/5 of these fatalities (you're 80% likely to survive a pistol gunshot in the USA statistically due to modern medical capabilities, and how quickly EMS can get you to them).  There are many other examples I can use.

I don't see how any kind of local restriction could seriously affect the situation anywhere in the US so it's about bans not being enforced rather than them not being effective.
Such bans are highly effective in almost every other developed country on the planet.

2 hours ago, SerHaHa said:

As for the OP's question, I do think that the US people bearing arms has some effect on the landscape still,

Like what?
If the discussion is about exchanging opinions, then my opinion is that we should replace all firearms in the world with swords. I'll take a katana myself, because they look cool, though I'm aware they're really not the best sword available.

 

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Posted (edited)

Ripp,

My question wasn't a trap.  It was an attempt to make sure you do see individual liberty as a positive in some situations.  As I said earlier almost all of human political debate involves the tension between individual liberty and collective good.  Both are essential and both need to be considered in any political problem.

Edited by Ser Scot A Ellison

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, Rippounet said:

Sure. But why firearms specifically? There are many non-lethal weapons for self-defense. And with our current technology they could easily be improved too.

Firearms (pistols, revolvers) currently have a few advantages compared to their non lethal alternatives IMO.

They're much better at fending away multiple attackers than a taser, and even if it’s just one person you’re facing, most tasers are single shot, so there is not much room for error. Heavy clothing can stop a taser shot, and the range of thing is also worse than a 9mm pistol.

Pepper spray (and other types of spray weapons) can be effectively used against multiple attackers, but it can be difficult to pull this off depending on their behavior, and again, it’s generally very risky to let your attackers close in on you. Things like eye wear and mouth covers can also reduce the effectiveness of the spray, and even if you do get a solid hit on one of your attackers he might be resistant to the effect anyway.

Then you have these stun guns and stun batons, which again requires a lot of skill to use as you have to let your attacker get within striking distance.

You can also load your firearm with less than lethal rounds, which decreases the risk of your attackers being killed, but if it buys you enough time to run away for help, it will have served its purpose.

Last but not least a firearm has a fear factor that is greater than its non lethal alternatives, and the mere sight of a firearm might be enough to convince your attackers to disengage before the fight has even begun.

With all that being said, however, I still consider the best self defence to be being aware of your surroundings, staying clear of areas you know to be dangerous and try de-escalation before escalation.

Edit: And of course, if your attackers got firearms of their own...

Edited by Einheri

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