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You Can’t Eat a Gun

April 7, 2012

Browsing through survival websites I’ve noticed a constant trend: some commenter always mentions the need for firearms in a catastrophic situation. It doesn’t matter if the initial topic was canning tomatoes or stockpiling beans and rice. It doesn’t matter if the hypothetical scenario stemmed from a natural disaster or a foreign threat; a significant percentage of the population view guns as a necessary tool for survival.

The problem with guns is they can only do two things: threaten and kill. They can’t feed you (keep reading even if you disagree) and they won’t bring people together. Stockpiling firearms against apocalyptic situations assumes a general lack of faith in humanity and creates a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I definitely understand the desire to protect one’s family and property. If – for whatever reason – food distribution were to collapse, millions of people across the world would grow desperate very quickly. The relative security we take for granted in America would be shattered in the face of starvation and fear.

But you can’t eat a gun, and there’s not enough wildlife left (in this country) to support humanity’s appetite, so very few would be used for hunting. Firearms should be the last thing added to your survival kit unless you plan to use them offensively. Which leads me to the conclusion that firearm enthusiasts would exacerbate the problem instead of helping to solve it. This is a clear case where the best defense is not a good offense.

Modern human society is fragile. It wouldn’t take much to lose hundreds of years’ worth of progress: an EMP bomb, a nuclear war, rising ocean levels, a biological plague… Read ‘Earth Abides’ by George R. Stewart for a vivid imagining of such a scenario.

I imagine the first few months of an apocalypse would be unpredictable and chaotic. There’s no way of knowing where you’d be when it happens. There’s no way of knowing how long you’ll have to prepare. You’re supposedly 70% more likely to survive the actual event if you’re carrying a bottle of water. What use is a gun if you don’t last through the first few minutes? What use is a stockpile if you can’t get to it?

In my early twenties I thought Armageddon was inevitable and on its way. I moved to the country with the firm intention of being a survivor. Cities would be hit the hardest and I had no intention of being near one when it happened. What I didn’t do was hoard food or learn to grow it. I just sat around and waited. Time went by, nothing changed, and I got bored. I realized I had to live as if it would never happen or I wouldn’t be living at all. So I reinvested myself in society and here I am: living in the city. But now I have a child and that changes everything. I have to protect and provide for her come what may. I can’t live in a fantasy world, and I can’t run for the hills at the first sign of a mushroom cloud.

The smartest thing I could do in such an event would be to hightail it to my in-laws home in Idaho. Regardless of our religious differences I respect the Mormon culture’s unity and preparedness. They’re the most likely people to survive an apocalypse because they know how to grow food, store it, and save their seeds – and because they’ll work together instead of killing each other.

It’s a thirteen hour drive in the best of conditions, and chances are they won’t be. Vehicles might not work. The roads might be impassible – or blocked by gun enthusiasts who forgot to stockpile food. Maybe I should move there now.

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