Early in December I received an invitation to give a talk this summer in Aix en Provence, France. Ramona and I had often been to Aix but not for many years. We still have a 1985 Peugeot TD wagon she bought new at the Peugeot factory, drove around France, and had shipped home. Still in excellent shape, it's been undercover in our barn for many years. Its value? It's an icon of good treatment and pleasant times with smart people who take liberty seriously and care about ecology.
The new opportunity seemed attractive and the travel fairly easy. We'd fly to the East Coast then on to Paris, enjoy a few days there, and take a comfortable three-hour train to Aix. It's probably silly but Charlie Hebdo adjusted our calculations. People aren't comfortable when apprehensive.
Even if I legally brought my Colt 1911 through TSA, my permit-to-carry isn't valid in France. And it's dangerous to be in a gun free zone. Why take the chance? Richard Epstein agrees.
Richard is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and a law professor at the University of Chicago and NYU. He is among America's most articulate spokesmen for classical liberal and libertarian positions.
Richard has a regular column in Hoover's Defining Ideas series. Here is the conclusion of his January 12 column, "Stopping Another Charlie Hebdo".
We need a return to the Pax Americana. If the nations of the West and the rest of the free world do not insist on the universal adherence to the principles by which they bind themselves, an angry public through the political process should displace them with new leaders who are prepared to wage war against those who wage war against us…
He added in a note: "It is sad that we have a president who is so lacking in judgment and courage. He won’t go to Paris, and he won’t speak out."
I emailed Richard that I agreed with him and added this. What would you call terrorists who try such Paris stunts in any Montana town? Answer: Corpses. Why? Most people here believe a self defense shoot-out is better than a massacre.
Coming to economics from anthropology I'm sensitive to how cultural differences affect behavior. Here are local examples of cultural expressions regarding respect for weapons. I don't mean only their ballistics.
First, I learned that a main line protestant church in Bozeman has six trained and armed members attending their main Sunday services. (The member who told me conceals a 45 cal Colt 1911.) Note that the congregation is in a well-respected, old line protestant denomination. It's conventional, not an out on the fringes sect.
Their new building is located in Bozeman and in a new and attractive neighborhood, not a storefront. They want people to "... join us, whether it is in worship, small groups, serving our community, joining our church family or finding help for yourself or friend." This seems a central and conventional church position, not anyway unusual. Their security precautions surely are uncommon.
I just received my second example, our invitation to the "Hunting Heritage Banquet" of the local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. "Join us to save the habitat. Save the hunt." Those sponsoring a reserved table for $1,000 get eight tickets with a gun included to take home. It's Saturday, March 7th, in case you are interested.
Note the cultural presumption. Of course you'd like another gun! If you don't like the one that comes with your table, trade it for another of equal value. While there surely are outliers, acceptance of guns is part of the local culture. Not a conducive place for terrorist success.
Third, a few years ago some fool tried to hold up a Four Corners bar/casino. On a Friday night, big mistake, he walked in with a stolen shotgun. Construction workers were drinking and cashing paychecks. One grabbed the shotgun barrel and pointed it to the ceiling. Others took the gun away, dragged the would-be robber out side, slapped him around, drug him back in and made him apologize to the waitress/cashier. They then took him back outside, duck-taped him to the hood of his car (girlfriend driver was in the car), and then with the important business done, finally called the sheriff.
We knew this story immediately for Ramona and I were with the sheriff, Jim Cashell, at a library fundraiser. He got the call on his cell, laughed, and shared it with us.
Fourth, on January 14 the local paper reported that the Gallatin County Sheriff Office is buying 52 Colt 901 rifles in .308 caliber, the NATO round. That would be one for each sworn deputy including the command staff. The cost to the county will be $81,154.84. That's $1,560 each, slightly under retail.
The new weapons will replace the M14s on loan from the U. S. military since 1991. According to sheriff Brian Gootkin, "It's become really cumbersome having to do audits and reports on those military surplus (rifles)." Further, M14s are long barreled infantry rifles. They were designed for battlefields, not for carrying in patrol cars. The DOD won't allow the Sheriff Department to shorten the barrels to law enforcement standards.
Here is my point. While cops are not normally armed in Paris, here we assume all law enforcement and some minority of civilians are packing, some at church. Even terrorists behave differently in gun-free zones than where people are armed.
Many people find Western Montana an increasingly seductive place to live. Should more Charlie Hebdo type events occur, our ambiance of security will augment the traditional attractions; transportation, recreation, education, good health care, and civility.
The next few FREE Insights will explore another feature of our local culture, strong commitments to deliver necessities and services to the poor, unfortunate, and the needy.