This year, for Christmas, maybe for my birthday, perhaps just out of the clear blue sky, I think maybe I'd like — my very own howitzer.

Okay, I'm kidding. I don't particularly want a howitzer. For one thing, I don't have a great deal of experience with field artillery; for another, there's no good place to keep one in the house, and I'm not about to leave it outside exposed to the elements. Nor is it especially good for self-defense, unless there's a howling mob coming up the driveway.

Still, I subscribe to Robert A. Heinlein's dictum that "an armed society is a polite society," and I am nothing if not polite, so being armed to the teeth (or at least the gums) strikes me as a sensible precaution to take. It's not that I feel threatened, particularly: the crime rate in this part of town is not all that high, and I do have other security measures at my disposal. But while ordinary profit-oriented crime is comparatively easy to deal with, today we have Complete Wackos running around loose, and Complete Wackos tend not to be scared off by hidden perimeter alarms and visible NRA stickers.

Moreover, quite apart from their tendency to shoot up places — especially places which have foolhardily declared themselves "gun-free zones," the practical equivalent of announcing "Shoot us, for we are unarmed" — Complete Wackos tend to inspire two things of no value whatsoever: bathetic blubbering from the touchy-feely types who plead for more understanding, and self-serving twaddle from the professional gun-grabbers who claim with a straight face that disarming all the proper upstanding citizens will serve as an example to criminals, or some such preposterous nonsense. Both groups enjoy a wholly-undeserved mea