A look behind the blades of grass
By: Joshua Gideon
Isoroku Yamamoto is attributed to the quote, “You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.” Although it is disputed if he actually said this, the premise behind it seems to have been considered by many governments who have debated what an invasion on mainland United States would look like. The popular theory is that because we are a nation with relatively lenient gun laws, it would be too costly for an organized Army to engage our armed citizens. This was certainly true in the early 1940’s.
In the 1940’s and 1950’s, the firearms business was booming. A firearm was more than a tool at that point; it also represented victory, freedom, and democracy. Military service members returning home from war with their guns and war trophies were met by people who honored them and wanted to learn the skills they had picked up in battle. Many were eager to teach the skills they had learned to others. As a result, farmers and city folks alike were familiar with maintaining and shooting their firearms. Gun ownership surged and average citizens began purchasing multiple firearms with some having large collections. Marksmanship was taught in schools and clubs. What was behind every blade of grass was a man, woman, or child with excellent marksmanship skills and well maintained firearms. More than that, they had the courage to back it up. If an enemy force invaded, it was a culture that would not wait for permission to bring the fight to the enemy.
Fast forward to today. What does it look like behind the blades of grass? Certainly there is no doubt that there are plenty of guns in the hands of private citizens. Pew Research on June 4th, 2013 produced a report estimating there are 270-310 million firearms in the United States http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/06/04/a-minority-of-americans-own-guns-but-just-how-many-is-unclear/). More recent articles have estimated 310 million may be underestimating the amount of firearms in the hands of private citizens (http://dailycaller.com/2014/11/04/gun-ownership-by-the-numbers/). Either way, the numbers indicate at least one firearm for every person living in the United States. However, that’s not the whole story. Those numbers also indicate that only about 37% of households or about 1/3 of the population own these firearms. This seems consistent with the average number of firearms those who have them say they own. I will however state my disclaimer that I believe this to be a low number. Even if it is slightly higher, my point will still be relevant.
So let’s take these 310 million firearms. From my experience, firearms owners today do not have the same knowledge and skill as was once common in our culture. Let me explain. As an experiment, I checked out the listings on Armslist.Com. At that time there were roughly 75,000 firearms listed. Running key word searches such as “never been fired” and “barely used” or “less than 50 rounds through gun” on all the listings returned about 25,000 listings. Now this is not a scientific study, but I have observed this for many years. I see collections of firearms in mint condition with no rounds through them. I have students showing up to my classes with firearms that they have never fired (Some of them with missing parts and unable to fire). I constantly see firearms that have not been cleaned or properly lubricated. The more I observe the more the evidence piles up that many who own firearms do not maintain them well. I believe a lot of this comes from lack of training as well as a culture that does not seek out answers until they have a problem. Then they are only a YouTube video away from an answer. (Why be proactive when you can be reactive with YouTube?) Preventative firearms maintenance and firearms readiness is not something our culture today is accustomed to doing.
Combine this with the trend of the DIY gunsmith, building their own AR’s in their garage with the guide of a YouTube video, and my confidence in what is behind each blade of grass falls quickly. I know people who are making a decent living repairing these AR’s that were made with cheap fragile parts prone to breakage or are so poorly built they can’t hold minute of barn door accuracy. I wouldn’t trust many of these firearms to deer hunt.
On the side I mount and sight in scopes for people. It’s a hobby for me and helps me keep my skills up. This is a service that people two generations before me would not believe was needed. Sadly, this knowledge is not common and many who attempt to do it themselves bring a mess to me (and others) to fix. I have seen anything from bent tubes to scopes mounted sideways and backwards. After several boxes of ammo trying to get their gun sighted in, they throw in the towel and hire me to help. Thankfully I am not alone, but there are fewer and fewer of us with this skill than there were in generations before us. This is just one small example.
What is more disturbing is the condition of the collections of firearms owned by generations before us and handed down to current generations. Sadly many of these firearms are not being maintained. If you doubt that, go to an estate auction and see what kind of condition the family gun collection is in. Many of them are rusted or broken relics of their glory days before they were locked away in a musty closet or safe. The new owners either don’t have the knowledge or the sense of necessity to maintain them better.
Yes, there may be a gun or two for every person in the mainland United States. However, how many of those firearms are we able to fight with? Furthermore, how many citizens today have the skills to maintain them, manipulate them, and fight with them? We are at a point in time where we have some amazing instructors in the firearms world. I have had the privilege to train with so many of these top tier instructors. In spite of all the amazing instructors spread around the country, your average citizen simply doesn’t train. I have tried setting up classes with these trainers, only to be told by gun owners that their classes are too expensive or they just don’t have enough time to take a class. Many gun owners would rather buy the latest gun, gun gadget, or hoard ammo that they will never shoot than invest in the knowledge and skills to use what they have. I am afraid too many of our gun-owning brethren are simply investment owners of firearms and ammunition.
My fellow gun owners, this should be a wake up call. What is behind the blades of grass today isn’t what was behind them generations before us. We need to be encouraging our fellow gun owners to seek out good training. We should brag less about the new gun we purchased and brag more about the training class we attended and the new knowledge and skills we gained. We need to encourage proper maintenance of firearms and bring back the idea of firearm readiness. We should all have a fighting firearm that is well maintained, reliable, and ready at all times. A firearm you can depend on and trust your life and the life of your family to its ability to function. We need students of the gun. Those who are learning skills in context with not only civilian defense but also the defense of civilization around us if we are called upon to defend it. More importantly, we need people that know the difference between the two. Those behind every blade of grass need to have the courage to act if that time comes. That courage comes with confidence in your gear and training.
Behind every blade of grass needs to be an American with pride, courage, skill, and preparation to take up arms. An American who will place themself behind the protection only a blade of grass can afford and stand between the enemy and the people we hold dear to our hearts.
If you are one of those with firearms in questionable condition or haven’t taken a training class in the past year, get help and fix it now. I have hope that with a growing ownership of firearms the culture will get stronger and those who own firearms will own them with the responsibility in which our forefathers ensured through the 2nd Amendment. Let’s make those who wish to do us harm on our homeland see that behind the blades of grass we are not just a population of gun collectors but skilled marksmen and fighters who will make the cost of fighting us more than they wish to bear.