Streetwise Professor

December 11, 2012

Don’t Leave Home Without It

Filed under: History,Military — The Professor @ 9:46 pm

In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Illinois’ draconian gun control laws.  I am quite pleased with the result, but rather than discuss the law (which is an abomination-good riddance!) or the decision as a whole, I’m going to focus on one part of Judge Posner’s decision that made me smile due because it resonated with family history.

Specifically, this part:

And one doesn’t have to be a historian to realize that a right to keep and bear arms for personal self-defense in the eighteenth century could not rationally have been limited to the home. Suppose one lived in what was then the wild west—the Ohio Valley for example (for until the Louisiana Purchase the Mississippi River was the western boundary of the United States), where there were hostile Indians. One would need from time to time to leave one’s home to obtain supplies from the nearest trading post, and en route one would be as much (probably more) at risk if unarmed as one would be in one’s home unarmed.

Here’s the family connection-directly from the Ohio Valley.  My great-great-whatever grandfather, Abel Sherman, was a Revolutionary War veteran and an early settler in the Ohio Territory, outside of Marietta (“Campus Martius” when he arrived).  He and his family had a farm in Olive Green, near Marietta, and hard on the Ohio River.  During the Indian War of 1794, he and other local families retreated to a small fort.  Abel became concerned about the fate of his cattle, so he set out alone to find them.   He went out armed with his Revolutionary War musket.

While on his search, he came across some wild tomatoes.  He was picking them and putting them in the front of his long hunting shirt when he was attacked from behind by a lone Indian prowling the woods.  The Indian-Silverheels-felled Abel with a tomahawk blow to the head.  He then scalped Abel, and hid his old musket in a hollow log.  Silverheels proceeded to Detroit, where he sold Abel’s scalp for a double price, Abel being double-crowned, so Silverheels cut the scalp in half and sold it as two separate scalps.

How are all these details known?  Well . . . Abel’s family went looking for him, and found him dead, the tomatoes still in the front of his shirt, and his gun in the hollow log.  And some years later, an Indian came into a logging camp, and asked the loggers for a drink.  While in his cups, sitting by the fire, he regaled the loggers with the tale of his killing a white man picking tomatoes in the woods during the late war.  The story was complete with details about the man’s unique scalp, and th emplacement of the odd musket in the log.

Unbeknownst to Mr. Silverheels, one of the  members of the rapt audience was Abel Sherman’s son (the brother of my Great-Great-whatever-minus one Eli).

The next day, Silverheels was found dead by the side of the trail, shot through the heart.

I’ll leave it up to you to connect the dots.

So Judge Posner was spot on.  You were probably more in danger outside your home in the late-18th century Ohio Valley than inside it.  So taking a gun with you while trekking to the trading post-or looking for your cows-was advisable.

But as Abel’s fate shows, a weapon might have been a necessary condition for self-defense: it wasn’t a sufficient one.

Abel’s story is told in detail in the History of Washington County, Ohio.  His first gravestone contained a rough carving of a scalped head.  His more permanent marker was inscribed thus:

Here lyes the body of Abel Sherman who fell by the hand of the Savage
on the 15th of August 1794, and in the 50th year of his age.

His musket is in the little town museum in Waterford, Ohio, and the original tombstone is now in the Campus Martius Museum in Marietta:

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  1. I had a friend who was into target shooting and I asked him why he took up pistol shooting. He told me it started with his interest in self defense. I explained that was the same reason I took up running.

    Considering your approval of more liberal gun laws combined with the fact we both know you can out run me, remind me to either borrow a large sum of money from you so you have a vested interest in my staying alive or to never p!ss you off. 😉

    For the record, in Texas (which has rather liberal gun laws) I can’t remember when I heard of a gun owner with a concealed carry permit getting into a crime of passion involving a firearm. Also, although I know many people who have concealed carry permits and I know many people have them, I haven’t seen a firearm in public since I have been back and that has been almost 15 years.

    Comment by Charles — December 11, 2012 @ 10:18 pm

  2. @Charles. LOL. I have a CCL and try to keep up my speed. I consider it a diversification strategy 🙂

    And I know you’d never piss me off, so no worries!

    Funny story. 3 years ago, when the TX Senate was considering a bill to permit concealed carry on campus, the UH Faculty Senate debated a resolution to send a letter opposing the bill. Well, debate isn’t quite the word. It was a series of hysterical, old womanish statements expressing fear that a crazed student po’d about a grade would gun them down, as if the campus concealed carry ban is all that is preventing that now. “I’m going to blow that assh*le prof away for that D . . . well, I would but I can’t carry a gun on campus.” Whatever.

    The only dissenting voice was . . . you guessed it, yours truly. I cited the stats re crime rates among CCL holders in TX and nationwide. After I finished, everyone looked at me like I had three heads.

    Amazingly, the fact-based community was not persuaded by this blizzard of actual data, but went instead with the hysterical imagination thing and voted to send the letter in opposition to the bill. Go figure.

    Maybe it’s my imagination, but do think that people on campus do treat me with extra courtesy now 😉

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — December 11, 2012 @ 10:41 pm

  3. Did you know that it was Adolf Hitler who gave the assault rifle its name? Strange but true. Google MP43 or StuG 44 for more details.

    Comment by Green as Grass — December 13, 2012 @ 8:48 am

  4. @Green as Grass. Another reason to ban it, obviously.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — December 13, 2012 @ 10:10 am

  5. SWP, by no means am I a follower of Jesse Ventura, but after the shooting in the Colorado theater, where a gunman had snuck into the theater, he was asked by the English (bleeding liberal) host on one of those liberal talk shows on CNN about whether it would not have been better to ban guns.

    After some exchanges, Ventura ventured as to how an armed person in the theater could have prevented loss of life by shooting the gunman.

    That seemed to sort of close the topic. As you know, Ventura was in the armed forces.

    “Standing in a garage doesn’t make you a mechanic any more than owning a gun makes you a mad killer.”

    When the russkies first started their workers’ paradise, by force of arms, financed in part by a vicious thug bank robber named stalin, the first thing they took away from the peasants in order to grab their land and collectivize it was – their weapons.

    By the way, that included multiple searches by commie thugs, and included confiscation of everything – knives, farm implements – anything and everything that the thug commies thought could conceivably be used as a weapon.

    Comment by elmer — December 14, 2012 @ 8:31 am

  6. Barely a week has passed since you wrote this post and Newton happens.

    Comment by Surya — December 15, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

  7. *Newtown

    Comment by Surya — December 15, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

  8. @Surya. I thought about that immediately. I am going to write a follow up post. Basic point: no way that any gun control law will stop Newtowns, and some gun control laws actually make them more likely.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — December 15, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

  9. Even if gun sales were banned in the USA tomorrow there is still the question of what happens to the 250 million currently in circulation.

    Switzerland and Israel have liberal gun laws and don’t have spree killings.

    Germany, Finland and Norway don’t have liberal gun laws yet do have spree killings.

    What puzzles me is why it is always schools or young people who are the target.

    Comment by Green as Grass — December 17, 2012 @ 2:34 am

  10. @Green-All of that spot on. The number of guns is closer to 300mm. About 10-11K of firearms homicides in the US.

    IMO-and I will post on this later today-stricter gun control laws have the least effect on mass killings than on other types of gun crime. In economic terms, those who want to commit mass murder are highly inelastic demanders of weapons. Raising the cost of weapons will have the smallest impact on them.

    Re schools and young people. These acts are so warped it’s hard to explain anything about them. I think it is a variety of factors. Those who do these sorts of things often want their acts to have the greatest shock value-killing children does that. The killers are often not too long from school age themselves, and many no doubt have deep seated, irrational hatreds that they associate with their school years. Moreover, schools are gun free, and there is some empirical research showing that mass killings are more likely, the less likely the perpetrator is to confront armed resistance (i.e., concealed carry laws tend to reduce the rate of mass killings, and gun free zones increase the rate).

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — December 17, 2012 @ 9:24 am

  11. In the last 25 years Britain has had Hungerford, Dunblane and Cumbria in the way of shooting sprees. Only the Hungerford killer’s weapons were legally held.

    America has 5 times our population, so logically – given that there are just as many targets – you’d expect them to have 5 times as many trigger-happy-loony killing sprees as us. They seem, however, to have slightly fewer. There haven’t been 15 such sprees in the USA in the last 25 years, have there?

    It’s clear that you can do a lot more harm with an assault rifle than a handgun, and I’m buggered if I can see why any private citizen “needs” an assault rifle. Yet the issue / correlation with lunacy appears to relate to the prevalence of handguns, not the deadlier assault rifles.

    Moreover, a close reading of the Second Amendment is that it allows assault rifles – as being the type of weapon a well-regulated militia might use – but does not obviously enshrine a right to own handguns (in that they would be useless to a militia).

    And it is handguns doing most of the homicide.

    Comment by Green as Grass — December 17, 2012 @ 12:22 pm

  12. There are approximately 20-25 mass shooting events in USA per year. Total deaths have been averaging around 80/ year since mid 70’s.

    Comment by Surya — December 17, 2012 @ 8:21 pm

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