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Guns, and Less Butter

Rationally, personal safety measures must also include your health and lifestyle choices.

by
Clayton E. Cramer

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September 7, 2013 - 12:09 am
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One of the most amazing aspects of the gun-control fight in America is how short-sighted the focus on guns and violent death is. I don’t refer only to gun-control advocates when I say this.

Of course, I support the right to keep and bear arms, and I encourage every law-abiding American to consider owning a gun for self-defense. Unless you are in one of the high-risk groups — convicted felons, people with serious depression or other mental illness, or people with substance-abuse problems — or live with someone in those high-risk groups, having a gun available to you has very little downside. If someone breaks into your home or if you are attacked on the street, being armed is a clear advantage.

Yet I find myself looking at the enormous amount of money that Americans have spent on buying guns and ammunition since Obama was elected, and I scratch my head a bit.

If you are buying a gun because you fear a totalitarian society, that decision makes some sense. (I consider that a low-likelihood, severe-consequences event.) If you do not own a gun and are afraid that you may have difficulty buying one in the future, that makes some sense. (This is also a low-likelihood event, but again, with severe consequences.) What makes less sense is the person who already has a gun, but has been buying several more guns and lots of ammunition.

What are the most likely risks to your life and property? Is it criminal attack? Unless you live in one of a few dozen extraordinarily dangerous places in the U.S., crime is practically noise compared to your real danger of death.

In 2011, there were 14,612 murders and non-negligent manslaughters in the U.S.  Scary, yes. But there were 597,689 deaths from heart disease — an American is 41 times more likely to die from this than murder. There were 574,743 cancer deaths, so you are 39 times more likely to die of cancer than murder. Throw in strokes, chronic lower respiratory disease, and diabetes — all diseases which are at least in part preventable by lifestyle choices — and the total death toll is more than 1.5 million — or 103 times more likely than being murdered.

Guns prevent not just murders, but also rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults. But the same is true for lifestyle-choice illnesses: even if you do not die from them, there is a lot of other cost and hurt. Before you die of heart disease, cancer, or diabetes, it can take weeks to years before the end comes, and the outpatient, hospital, nursing care, and hospice expenditures will often demolish the assets of even a relatively wealthy person. All the robberies and burglaries of a lifetime will seldom inflict the economic losses that one really serious illness does.

Once you have enough guns to provide the likely security benefit, it makes more sense to focus on preparing for health risks. Which makes more sense: spending $600 on another 9mm pistol and a couple of hours of range time each month, or spending $600 on a treadmill and spending five hours a week using it for the rest of your life? Which makes more sense: accumulating enough ammunition and survival equipment to deal with World War III, or developing the self-discipline to eat healthy food in healthy portions?  (Of course, what constitutes “healthy food” has been the subject of considerable serious debate of late; the movie Fathead makes the argument that the Department of Agriculture’s “food pyramid” rich in carbohydrates was more about reducing government surpluses than about public health. Increasingly, studies suggest that carbohydrates are the biggest problem, and that animal fat is not the evil once assumed.)

I’ve spent most of this essay berating the “I need 18 handguns and 14 rifles and 8000 rounds of ammunition to be safe” crowd. To be sure, gun-control advocacy for public safety is far less rational. The gun-control crowd tries to sell gun restrictions as a public safety measure, and yet for the vast majority of Americans, gun control, even if it worked as promised, is focused on very nearly the least important problem.

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All Comments   (37)
All Comments   (37)
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It certainly makes good sense to be in good shape as well as own guns and sufficient ammo. Ideally it is good to be fit, well trained in martial arts (particularly a combo of MAs like Brazilian jui jitsu (BJJ), wrestling, and Thai kickboxing), be well trained in firearms (handgun and carbine courses), and have at least a basic set of defensive firearms as well as a good supply of ammo.

Currently I study BJJ, practice with my firearms as much as possible, and like to camp and hike as a hobby. I prefer hobbies that teach useful skills, hence I opt for BJJ over tennis and shooting over golf.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
How is it you can deal out the "carbohydrates are the biggest problem" line, and link to a study that is about sugar and refined flour? Carbohydrates encompass a lot more than refined sugars and white flour. It would be just as sensible to say "studies suggest fats are the biggest problems," and cite as the support an article about manufactured transfats.

But yes, animal fat is still the evil it has been not assumed to be, but found to be by scientific research. If you want heart disease, eat what gets deposited into arteries throughout the body: Fat. All healthy, slim populations have eaten basically the same kind of diet: High in a starch foundation and low in meat and fats.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is actually quite a bit of work that has been published that suggests that animal fats are not especially bad for you. Too many calories is a problem, and populations that eat low fat animals (hunters) do not generally have problems with being overweight. The Agricultural Revolution seems to have been a mistake, both because we started growing starches and domesticating animals, producing fatter meat than we hunted.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
The problem is that the study of nutrition has in large part been based upon junk science. And I don't buy that all healthy, slim populations have eaten high starch diets.

I've tried low fat diets and low carb diets, and I know which works best, from personal experience.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
So, if we refuse to comply with the healthiest diet and exercise regime imaginable, it's irrational for us to go out and buy and learn how to shoot a home firearm because my husband goes away on conference occasionally leaving me at home alone with our 3-year-old?

And I don't know of too many people with large firearms collections who bought them in order to hoard them against doomsday. I do know hunters who use different guns for different critters, enthusiasts who collect guns like some people collect memorabilia or who just plain like to shoot them and like a variety to experience. If that's so wrong, then I was a fool for collecting and running large collection of high-priced cichlid fish instead of looking after my health.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
No, and I was very specific that it makes perfect sense to have a gun for self-defense, but there comes a point where stockpiling guns and ammo makes less sense than working on improving your health.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't want a gun.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Fine, don't buy one.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
For those interested about FATHEAD, it's still on youtube I think.

The gist of his health argument is that saturated fat, based on the Lipid hypothesis, is innocuous. High-glycemic-index foods spike your blood sugar, which spikes your insulin, and overtime leads to insulin resistance. Elevated Insulin dampens fat cell release, so fat cells have to grow bigger to consistently release enough fat to keep your cells from starving. It's a control system response.

Cardiovascular disease (atherosclerosis) isn't directly caused by cholesterol. Inflamed & damaged arteries are brought cholesterol to help heal, by HDL and LDL, which are necessary and good carrier proteins. The oxidation of these carrier proteins at the site is what creates the plaque. Further, the main culprit is LDL "type B" which are smaller, denser proteins. And raised LDL type B comes from carbohydrates, not meat/grease/fat.

So carbohydrates spike blood sugar and make your body fatten itself to feed your cells, and they raise for LDL type B levels, which are most vulnerable to oxidation at inflamed arteries. (This is why antioxidants and anti-inflammatory medication are linked with reduced cardiovascular disease).

The movie constitutes this guy 'proving it', by eating nothing but fast food for 30 days while limiting his carbohydrate intake. He lost more weight than his calorie deficit predicted, and achieved higher HDL and lower LDL levels (this documentary was focused on debunking "Supersize Me", and on that level at least, it fully delivered.) Whether you believe his health explanation is up to you.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
And interestingly enough, statins seem to reduce heart disease not because they reduce blood cholesterol, but because they are an antioxidant.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
You're right, I don't need 18 guns. I only need one. That doesn't mean I don't want 18 or a lot more guns. I've always loved guns. I guess it came from growing up watching Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, the Cisco Kid, Dragnet, M-Squad, Combat, the Rat Patrol and who knows how many other shows like them. I'm not what you would call a gun collector, I'm more like a gun accumulator. Most of my guns were acquired because I saw one and thought to myself gee, that's different, I like that. I'm sort of like the home for unwanted guns, the ones true collectors would turn up their noses at.

I was once asked to do a little talk to our VFW post about guns. As I was thinking about what to say I remembered a call from our post commander, a Navy Vet, asking if anyone in the post at the time knew how to break down a 1911 .45 Auto for cleaning. He had just bought one from a Vet's widow and had never handled one.

I decided to do my little talk on how to handle the gun you found in your grampa's trunk that had been sitting in the attic for 50 years. I brought in five or six handguns I had from around the turn of the century, a top-break revolver, an old colt double action, an automatic, a bolt action rifle, and a couple of others. I then showed how to check each type to see if it was loaded and what to do if it was. I had a dummy round chambered in the Automatic just to stress the point to check the chamber after you had removed the magazine. I got quite a reaction when the dummy round hit the floor when I worked the slide. I also stressed that if you aren't comfortable checking it yourself to either bring it to someone that is or get them to come to you.

My little talk went over pretty well even if I do say so myself and I did get a couple of calls after asking if I could check out the guns they had laying around. You would be surprised how many guns are out there in the hands of people that have never even thought of using them. They just got them from family or friends that have passed away or stored them away and forgot about them.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Eh, it is best to have more then one gun. You want a good defensive handgun and a good defensive carbine, and it is best to have two of each. It is also good to have at least one good .22, and a shotgun might be good to have as well. And then a dedicated big game rifle depending on where you live. So 5 - 7 guns will cover most of what you might need.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
The author commits a primary logic and rhetorical error in argument construction by basing it on "need" and who is the proper arbiter of "need." When it comes to rights and individual choice, the word "need" is non-operational. If the author makes his personal choices on the logic and data presented in the article, then that is all fine for him. However, that does not empower him to make choices for others or to ask the government to use that logic to enforce those choices on others.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Where did I suggest that the government should make these choices for you? I have spent a fair chunk of the last 20 years writing law review articles (cited in both D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago) arguing against the government telling law-abiding people what guns they can own.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
If your doctor, especially cardiologists and some other specialists, is honest with you, he or she will admit that healthy life-style choices are not nearly as important as being lucky enough to inherit good genes. My father died of a heart attack at the age of 39; I am now 66, and, yes, I have cardiovascular problems, but my mother lived to be 98, and several of her relatives lived into their second century, so I have some hope of living a normal lifespan. I do not worry excessively about what is supposed to be a healthy lifestyle because every time I do, some study or other, comes out saying exactly the opposite.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Genetics is part of it. My recent heart surgery was because of a birth defect. But choices: diet, exercise -- they matter a lot too.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I work in the medical field and know professionals from many different specialties. None of them would say luck is more important. We can always find exceptional anecdotes like running guru Jim Fixx, who died at age 52. (Running is one of the less healthy exercise regiments, because of the compression it creates in the ankles, knees, hips, and lumbar spine.) However, medical professionals agree that looking at statistics--not anecdotes--the evidence is clear that people who have reasonable exercise and diet will generally live longer, and with greater quality of life.

Getting back briefly to the untrustworthy government scenario, who's going to be more valuable to the common defense, a couch potato gun owner or the one who exercises regularly? Considering that the best strategy doesn't survive first engagement, there's a need for endurance, flexibility, reflexes, etc. The person who eats and exercises reasonably will more likely survive.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
As I said, only if a Doctor is honest with you..........
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
While some gun owners are the 'It's mine! All mine!' sorts of hoarders, others are stocking up in order to ''share the wealth,' when TSHTF.

As for butter and fat? Do the low protein, low fat/no fat, high carb diet for a year and get back to me on that, will ya? See how you feel. I want to know your diabetes is progressing.

50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
My grandfather lived a long life having eggs, bacon and potatoes every morning. He enjoyed his coffee, cigars, whiskey and beer. He never said no to my grandma's delicious Welsh pastries. What I know of his diet is enough to make MY cholesterol go up. Yet, he made it to his ninth decade. I have the feeling that the commercial processing of food and the stress that government and employers put into our lives by design, are more responsible for heart disease and other ailments. I am almost convinced that if we find a way to move back to an organic, human-sized economy we will be living our years much better. I am trying to do that in this the last third of my life.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
We can all find exceptional anecdotes of people who had poor lifestyle choices living to great age. While, I'm glad for your grandpa, let's not use him as an excuse to see if our own lifestyle choices may help us. There is some evidence that poor lifestyle choices account for as much as 2/3 of preventable disease.

http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2012/02/doctors-lifestyle

A growing medical specialty is "Lifestyle Medicine."

http://www.harvardlifestylemedicine.org/

It's not unreasonable to consider prevention cheaper than intervention. Look at concealed carry: States with liberalized carry laws have less violent crime, and that saves society billions annually.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, the "lifestyle" advocates can always dredge up statistics to support their arguments.

That means nothing to the guy who follows that advice, lives a "clean life", and dies of cancer or some other disease at 45.

I repeat; it's the luck of the draw and inheriting good genes.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Funny, then, how second- and later-generation east Asians (from Japan and China, for example) in the United States follow their slim, healthy, long-lived parents, who eat diets based on rice and vegetables and little meat and fish, getting their genes, but turn out to get fat and unhealthy on American diets centered on meat, dairy, and junk foods. Same genes, consistent worse health after the change in diet.

Gene advocates can always dredge up anecdotes, a grandfather or great aunt or whoever, who survived a life of bacon and eggs and unfiltered cigarettes and bourbon. But population studies show that it is lifestyle, not genes that are primary. Genes may predispose or "load the gun." But lifestyle actions will either leave those genes (if they exist at all) inactive or pull the trigger.

And the guy who gets cancer at 45 is an irrelevancy.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
my point was that my grandpa lived a nearly stress free life, had no problem paying the meager taxes imposed on him, and had a reasonably happy family life. Many said he aged considerably after the death of his first born who died at 24 of misdiagnosed diphtheria. Today we must avoid unhealthy excess in all fronts because our quality of life (stress, toxin intake, etc.) leaves much to be desired and we don't want to make it worse.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
By the way, he carried a loaded Colt 45 most of his life. It was part of his occupation as a law enforcer. I've heard that he sent a few bad guys straight up to meet their Maker. He also hunted. Until I was 20 years old his rifle and shotgun could be seen not far from my grandma's kitchen table. He passed away in the 1950's after seeing the world change forever, not for better.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
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