It occurred to me the other evening that, through my lifetime, I’d never given much thought to sharks. That might seem odd as I was born and raised in a beach town, and until I left for college, I spent a good deal of my time in the ocean, swimming, body surfing or sitting on a surfboard waiting for that perfect ninth wave. As a child I was in the surf almost daily, but sharks really didn’t enter my train of thought.
I knew that on rare occasions someone was injured or killed by one, even along the coast where I spent my time in their habitat. But of my many friends who regularly shared my aquatic adventures, nobody was injured, killed or even had an encounter with a shark, and not a single one related any instances of a shark threatening any of their acquaintances, either.
While the report of a shark attack occasionally cropped up in the news, I have not, even now, witnessed any of the hundreds of thousands of ocean swimmers and surfers worldwide arming themselves with spearguns or other shark-protective devices while pursuing their sport. Yes, sharks are a potential hazard, but a statistically insignificant one.
Through my lifetime, as I moved from the beach and around other areas of the country, I have become acquainted with several hundred people: friends, neighbors, co-workers. Except for a few who served in Vietnam, I never knew a single one who told me they had to defend themselves with a firearm, never domestically from an aggressive burglar or a home invader. Again, I have read instances that such crimes occur, but not to anyone I’ve met.
However, a good number of them believe it an absolute necessity to keep guns close by (even on their persons) in the event such might happen. In a number of cases, the guns they have chosen provide enough firepower to defend against a large crowd of armed invaders or even a herd of elephants.
When I ask if they can provide data on the statistical occurrence of such events, they repeat NRA talking points, never personal or first-person instances. Yet, they are paranoid regarding the potential that such a time will occur when they have to defend themselves and their families. And they readily quote passages from our Founding Fathers regarding the essentials of a strong personally armed militia.
For example, I once worked with a gentle individual, an accomplished engineer and devout Mormon, who, at his retirement luncheon, told me, “I just did something I’ve never done before.” When I asked him what it was, he said, “I bought a gun.”
“What kind of a gun did you buy?” I asked, thinking he planned to take up hunting when he retired. He replied, “I bought an Uzi.” When I asked why he bought a non-sporting, fully automatic, and thus illegal weapon, he told me he was fearful the government could try to take away his freedom and that he wanted to be able to defend himself.
“So,” I said, “The tanks are rolling down your street, and you step out on the porch and yell, ‘Don’t come any closer, I have an Uzi.’ Do you believe this will convince them to retreat?” He had no response, but I could tell he’d never really thought it out.
I’m sorry to inform all of you wannabe “Minutemen” that the days are long gone when an untrained citizen army can compete against an organized and well-equipped government military. Have you heard of the Switchblade drones used in the Ukraine? How many do you have? How about Sarin gas? Bear spray just won’t cut it. And you have no stockpile and supply chain for a prolonged encounter.
The Second Amendment was penned when the ultimate weapon was an inaccurate single-shot rifle that took 30 seconds to reload. The document was based on the American Revolution, in which a number of local militias using guerrilla warfare—methods they’d honed to hunt squirrels for the stew pot—defeated an Old World stoic military who wore bright red uniforms, stood out in the open as targets and whose supply line was sailing vessels that had to travel 2,000 miles across an ocean.
The Second Amendment is no longer applicable and, like the Electoral College and the U.S. Senate, needs to be stricken from the Constitution.
But we won’t ever do it!
We’ll keep defending ourselves against the dangers of the imaginary burglar or the aggressive driver who cuts us off on the freeway and flips us the bird. We’ll wall ourselves off from the potential of foreign immigrants and legislate against women deciding their own reproductive issues. But we’ll continue to ignore rising sea levels or the trickle of water called the Colorado River, as well as the wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes devastating our communities.
Yet, we’ll all feel safer knowing we can stand our ground against a mythical home invader. And we’ll don our MAGA caps and wave Old Glory while we pat ourselves on our backs.
Ah, the joys of pure ignorance!
The author, a longtime Paradise resident and retired biologist, moved to the coast after losing his home in the Camp Fire.