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March 15, 2007

Guns and guitars

This is a side of the music blogosphere I don't see very often...*  William J. Beck III has a novel argument for keeping a handgun at home, to protect his guitar.

Evidently, he's very upset at me because he thinks I want to take away his gun, which he needs to keep the burlgars away from his heirloom instrument:

Beyerstein: "It might make sense be armed if you were someone who couldn’t call the cops (e.g., a drug dealer), or if you kept your entire lifesavings in uninsured jewels in a candy dish on the kitchen table. But does anyone really want to risk physical violence to protect their consumer electronics? That’s what insurance is for."

[William J. Beck replies] This sort of smug disdain for other peoples' honestly-gained values is simply outrageous. "Consumer electronics", huh? Nevermind that the money that people spend on things that they want from life represents the very time of their life devoted to acquiring these things.  In any case, it's all disposable to Beyerstein.

Beck thinks I reject all values because I question whether it's wise for untrained amateurs to use deadly force to protect material possessions. Actually, his reaction fits remarkably well with Amanda's theory about guns and property rights.

I think Beck is saying that if  I question the practical value of guns as a home security system, I'm thereby rejecting private property and therefore morality itself. I told you it was an unusual argument.

He continues:

Take a good look at this photograph. That guitar has been in my family since 1966: my father played it all the time I was growing up, to include the years that he spent teaching me how to play. He used to tell me that it would be mine someday "after you see that pine box dropping into the ground with my body in it". I've owned a lot of guitars in my own adult years, but my father died in 2003 and this one is mine, now, just like he said.

I can't tell you what that thing is worth to me in terms of family history: it's priceless. Nonetheless, the vintage market at large is telling me that its value is running at about fifteen thousand dollars, today. (It's a 1962 Gibson ES-355 in Cherry Red, with real PAF pickups and manufactured without stereo output or Varitone.)

[...]

It's pretty bloody easy for someone like Beyerstein to sit around and crack snide about other peoples' treasures and "insurance". When the context includes the matter of intruders doing manifest harm to innocent people, it's an unconscionable outrage.

My position is obvious:

If it ever came to the choice between that guitar and an intruder intent on taking it, I've got 147-grain Hydra-Shoks that say he's right-now dead on the right-now spot.

No choice.

As I've said before, I don't want to take anyone's gun rights away. The fact that there are grown men out there who brag about their willingness to kill for running shoes, or vintage guitars does give me a vague sense of unease about the whole system. But rights are rights. As far as I know, Beck III is a stable law-abiding citizen. If he wants to stand guard over his guitar every night for the rest of his life, that's his Constitutional Right. Even the NRA says that he shouldn't leave a loaded gun lying around his bed where a child (or a burglar) might get at it. But if he wants to stand there all night with his weapon cocked, I'm not one to judge what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms.

Maybe Beck doesn't really mean that he'd kill a burglar just to protect his guitar. I hope not, because if he ever did exactly what he says he'd do, he'd really be pushing the boundaries of self-defense. He'll probably never fire his gun in anger anway. Let's hope not, for the sake of that beautiful guitar. In his enthusiasm to splatter a burglar's brains all over his living room, Beck might miss and hit that gorgeous instrument.

*Unless I totally misunderstood why they called it "Pitchfork Media." 

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Comments

I really don't think his statement IS legally justifiable. Certainly were it to really happen, the waters get muddied with did he fear for his life and all, not to mention a jury's reluctance to send someone to jail for killing a burglar. However, I'm almost certain the law is not on his side for that one.

I also think he is seriously underestimating what it would feel like to have actually killed someone.

You misread Beck. He is saying you cannot know his values. He values that guitar more than a human life. It means more to him than $15000 in cash. It means his father. It means his own love of music. It probably means other things that I don't know, and you certainly don't. It may mean things that Beck himself cannot articulate.

Not only that, but to simply hand over the goods to some dirtbag who totally disowns the social contract is repellant to any right-thinking person. IMO. There is also value in not being a victim. (Yes I know, that's the dead white man in me talking.)

You don't know Beck's values. You can't know his values. That is his point.

Incidentally, if he did blow away some perp in his living room, I think it very unlikely that he'd feel any regret. One never knows this, of course. But Billy is well-stocked with ideology to justify that action.

I'm a string instrument collector as well, with instruments that also have family value, but I would never kill for one.

I kill in self defense, or in defense of innocent life, only. Not over property.

No, he's saying that I don't share his values. For whatever reason that upsets him.

I'll certainly give him credit for laying those on the line. Now I know what he thinks is important. Symbols matter more to him than practical calculations to protect his personal property or human life (including his own, if he keeps a loaded gun lying around where burglars can get at it).

People have different values than I do. I can live with that. I'm just saying that a gun is almost certainly a poor means to this guy's ends, especially if he's at all unstable or prone to fits of misdirected rage. You can't play your guitar in jail. (It's funny because he just flew off the handle because I was teasing Matt Yglesias for saying that he wanted a gun for personal protection. I never said anything about taking anyone's guns away. The passage about keeping uninsured jewels in a candy dish is actually a nod to people who have property they regard as maximally important and irreplaceable, like this dude. As I said earlier, it might make sense for those people to be armed, assuming they know how to use a gun and store it safely.)

If he's negligent about gun safety and something goes wrong, he's the one who will end up in court.

It would be a real shame for him to buy a gun to protect his guitar but have to sell the guitar to pay the civil damages he might incur if a visiting child were to find a loaded gun in his laundry hamper and get hurt.

It would suck if he shot the burglar and the burglar dropped the guitar. It would suck if he got brains all over the guitar which he literally values more than life itself.

It would suck that nice guitar got broken in a fight with a stupid burglar who probably would rather steal the TV set anyway.

Beck appears to be almost a straw man of what a typical liberal believes gun owners to be like.

when the burglar enters my house, i reach for my guitar and bash it across their head.

i would replace that guitar with this one:

http://www.xselectronics.co.uk/specialprojects.cfm

You misread Beck. He is saying you cannot know his values. He values that guitar more than a human life.

Your theory that the morality of shooting someone should be based on the shooter's valuation of the target's life greatly intriques me.

Beck is being ridiculous enough that it almost seems unsporting to pick on him.

Also, don't be so quick to speak like there's a constitutional right to bear arms that's of the same character as, say, the right to assemble or sign a petition. Unlike the First Amendment, the Second has never been incorporated via the Fourteenth to apply to the states. Beck only has Second Amendment rights against the federal government - his state or local government isn't covered.

For some reason this makes me think of a guy I used to know years ago on Usenet, who had the following quote in his .sig: "They can have my urine test when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers." Obviously a play on the well-known gun-rights slogan -- but of course it was impossible not to imagine him walking around menacing people with a urine test. He never did seem to get it when we pointed out how silly the slogan was applied to that particular political issue.

Maybe what makes me think of this is the similar attitude about killing and dying. Of course, it's easy to say "I would kill [or die] for this," but it's not something you can really be sure about unless you've been in that situation. In other words: hot air.

I can't help but wonder about the hairy edges of this guy's values. If the guitar had only sentimental value, and no market value, would he kill for it? If it had little sentimental value, how much would it have to be worth to kill for it? How *many* people would he kill for it? Given the choice between being unjustly separated from his guitar, and nuking a city, which would he choose? Is the guitar more important than the life of his own child? How about a cousin? How about damaging other property: would he feel justified in killing people who throw eggs at his house? What if they step on his grass?

beck is an artist at heart, obviously. he was trained from a young age to be an artist and respect the instruments of art.

now, it could be argued that beck's strong feelings for objects of art and expression relate to his deep feeling of self-protection & right to privacy and dignity. art is, in the end, a deeply personal experience for most artists.

the time spent learning an art form & its corresponding expressions is also parallel to what a soldier endures when in basic training & armed forces service.

beck's arguments are both valid in context of our laws & basic freedoms in the United States.

personally, i do not own a gun, nor feel it is necessary to protect myself or my belongings. that's why i pay, through my taxes, the local police departments. however, i cannot fault beck for his decisions or his feeling for guitars & guns.

Let's hope that if he's ever in a situation where a calm demeanor is in order, beck can deliver. Let us also hope he stores his weapons & guitars properly.

both a gun and a guitar can kill someone. it depends on the needs & the needer.

while this will disappoint many progressives who may happen to read this, i believe every citizen has the privilege to own a gun.

those privileges may be taken away for cause.

i support gun ownership because the fascists & militia groups support gun ownership. if i feel it appropriate & necessary for personal safety or to participate in open revolution, i may consider purchasing a weapon.

until that day comes, i am a peaceful person and have no intent to ever own a gun. but i want the privilege preserved.

Leonard --

"You misread Beck. He is saying you cannot know his values. He values that guitar more than a human life. It means more to him than $15000 in cash. It means his father. It means his own love of music. It probably means other things that I don't know, and you certainly don't. It may mean things that Beck himself cannot articulate.

Not only that, but to simply hand over the goods to some dirtbag who totally disowns the social contract is repellant to any right-thinking person. IMO. There is also value in not being a victim. (Yes I know, that's the dead white man in me talking.)

You don't know Beck's values. You can't know his values. That is his point."

You go, mate. Testify. And you're exactly right about my conceptual integration in all this. I'd shovel the perp out and sleep like a baby.

Questions:

"If the guitar had only sentimental value, and no market value, would he kill for it?"

You bet. In fact, I wasn't aware of the market value of this particular item until shortly after Dad died and I took it apart for serious examination. (For example: the pickups alone are worth about six grand if I smashed the rest of the thing to bits and unsoldered them. I hadn't known that.) No matter what it's worth at market, it will never leave my possession of my own free will for the rest of my life.

"How *many* people would he kill for it?"

All of them who tried to take it, until I was overwhelmed with deadly force or I ran out of ammo.

"Given the choice between being unjustly separated from his guitar, and nuking a city, which would he choose?"

I would 'choose' that you stopped being an idiot.

Beyerstein --

"No, he's saying that I don't share his values. For whatever reason that upsets him.

I'll tell you what: I have a lot better outlook on this if I take you at your word that you're not one of the commissar-wannabes interested to come get my guns.

"I'm just saying that a gun is almost certainly a poor means to this guy's ends..."

That's what you you think, and you get to think so if you want to, but it's none of your business.

Get it?

"That's what you you [sic] think, and you get to think so if you want to ..."
That was her whole point; faltering on the reading comprehension perhaps?

"... but it's none of your business"
I see, you get to express your opinion, but she doesn't, if she doesn't share yours, she should just shut up, or at least not blog in public, how manly of you.

I had no idea Beck had such a violent streak. Loser, indeed.

The solution isn't to outlaw possession of handguns. Outlaw manufacturing and importation of handguns and bullets. No infringement of the right to bear arms.

"...she should just shut up..."

Look, asshole: you would do well to not try to put words in my editor, okay? You're the one who said that. Not me. Piss off.

billy beck,

i understand where you are coming from as a citizen. now, i do not know where you live in the united states, but in some homes & areas guns are a real safety concern.

this is irregardless of personal belief about guns.

now, you choose to own a gun. others in this country do not.

guns kill people. it's a dangerous slope to believe that a gun is enough to protect your personal belongings.

what would happen if a tornado or an earthquake or a house fire or collapse caused damage to your guitar? these events would be out of your control. your guitar and heirloom would be lost or seriously damaged. this would be a tragic loss, from my perspective as a long-time guitar player.

no matter what your view, guns are responsible for death and destruction when that trigger is pulled. guns must be used responsibly, even in hunting & wildlife conservation situations. period. end of story.

while i support basic gun ownership rights, those rights must carry VERY STRINGENT TESTING STANDARDS & SAFETY STANDARDS. otherwise, no gun privilege.

"I had no idea Beck had such a violent streak."

"Friend, I would do thee no harm in the world, but thou art standing right where I am about to shoot."

~~~~~~

I don't know you, "CatManDu", but I never would have figured you to stand up for predation by indicting "violen[ce]" that would defend against it.

Why you people cannot or will not draw the moral distinction in this is a puzzle that I am not interested to figure out, but it's one of the damndest things I ever saw.

"guns kill people."

Bullshit, and I am not interested to attempt rational discussion with anyone who says something like that.

The owner of this blog expressed her opinion in the post that offended Beck. Nowhere in that post was a statement that she wanted to take away anyones guns or their right to own one.

Beck is the one that made the leap.

billy,

i noticed this on your website:

http://www.two--four.net/Essays/sl.html

did you meet Timmy, the Fox Theatre Stage Manager?

he's union. he's pro-gun. and, he was a touring roadie in the late 60s, 70s & 80s before landing as the Stage Manager at the Fox in the late 80s.

we run in the same circles...

send me an e-mail:

revenantive@yahoo.com

-john david

also check out:

www.myspace.com/colorspace

www.myspace.com/revenantive

you may like my music...if you play guitar, too.

music is for peace. guns are for war.

be nice.

Anyone care to hear from Samuel Adams?

Look, Billy, this may come as a huge shock to you... So, I'm going to break this to you gently: Your gun is insignificant.

You don't know Beck's values. You can't know his values. That is his point.

Convieniently, we don't need to know Mr. Beck's values: we only need to know society's values. We live under the rule of law, which says that no-one shall be arbitrarily deprived of their life based on someone else's unknowable values. It also says that human life is universally equivalent, and this is unlikely to be modified anytime soon to include musical instruments. Even ones that our dad gave us.

"Unlike the First Amendment, the Second has never been incorporated via the Fourteenth to apply to the states. Beck only has Second Amendment rights against the federal government - his state or local government isn't covered." - aeroman

Solid point. States have for years limited or expanded gun rights. I am a states rights advocate first and foremost. I am all for a state sayinig "Hey, we need to XYZ when comes to guns." The over reaction always is "THEY ARE TAKING AWAY MY 2nd AMENDMENT RIGHTS!! EGAD!!"

Not true at all. The 2nd amendment as aeroman points out is a federally granted right. But as with all federal rights, the states may place limits upon those rights. Obviously, every citizen may challenge that in the courts. It's called the checks and balance system.

We as Americans will NEVER lose our rights to bear arms. But I see nothing wrong with a limitation or two. For cripes sake, they are dangerous! And there are many morons in this country who do not know the 1st thing about gun safety. That's what scares me! That and thousands of armed inner city youth! (and they are armed, I grew up there!!)

Wait, guns don't kill people? I should probably look this up, but I'm pretty sure there were some gun deaths in the last 24 hours in this country.

Anyway...

He values that guitar more than a human life.

Well, therein lies the problem. Any time a material possession is valued more than a human life, the valuer has some fucked up priorities. Granted, I love some of the items that I possess that have been passed down from generation to generation in my family (like a mall wooden box carved, with beautiful decorations, by my great, great, great grandfather), but if someone broke into my home and, without threatening my son or me with bodily harm, and took those items, I wouldn't even think of wounding them in such a way that it could cost them their life. Because short of a possession without which I will die immediately (say I need oxygen and a machine to supply it to live, and would die before I EMS could get here if it were taken from me), no material property is worth more than a human life.

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