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February 17th, 2018

Gunshots That Echo On And On And On…(continued)

More dead children. How did it come to this? I ask myself, as a sixty-four year old American male, and also as a gun owner who believes in a democratic right to own your own firearms. Firstly, there is a Scientific American article I would implore you to read…it’s a good one…science is our friend…let’s try using some…

4 Laws That Could Stem the Rising Threat of Mass Shootings

These are good…I enthusiastically support Every One of them, and especially the singling out of domestic violence as an indicator of future bloodshed. Seriously, if the one who loved you, who you took into your arms, is afraid of you, who the hell shouldn’t be? And if a child can’t trust you to at the very least keep them safe from harm then you are not a very well adult, and to whatever degree possible you need to be kept far away from any sort of weapon.

But here we are again. How did it come to this. Well you might say it’s the easy availability of guns, but I’m old enough to remember when they were even easier to get your hands on. Before the assassination of president Kennedy you could buy them in mail order catalogues and have them delivered to your doorstep. You could walk into most any hardware store and put your money down and walk out with one. Mass shootings, especially in our schools, were simply not as frequent then as they are now. Which is not to say they never happened either. There was the notorious sniper shooting spree at the University of Texas in 1966. To my knowledge they still don’t really know why he did it. Maybe I’m not remembering it right in my senior years, but that seemed to be a horrific exception. Now it’s happening almost monthly. What happened? How did it come to this? We are not helpless. And yet…we are…so long as we can’t talk to each other. And not just on this one issue either.

Fox News. Clear Channel and the Talk Radio screamers they promote. Right wing tabloids like the National Enquirer. Stealth propaganda outlets like Sinclair Broadcasting. What you need to understand about them, at long last, is they aren’t specifically trying to promote a policy point of view. They exist to sew discord and make the common working class citizens fear and hate one another. Because that is the only way the hard right can win elections, given how vastly unpopular its policies are. They’re good at it. And we are way too good at falling for it.

I feel sometimes like I have a foot in both these worlds. Most of my friends are liberal democrats like myself. Yet when another mass shooting happens I find I’m mostly just keeping my mouth shut while everyone around me is calling gun owners child killers, ammosexuals, Moloch worshipers, et al.  And even when temperatures cool down a tad I darent speak up when someone starts yapping about this or that devil gun de jour. It’s one of those issues where actually knowing what you’re talking about disqualifies you from talking about it. But if you want to make some actual progress on getting things back under control listening to one of us who isn’t an hysterical nothing else matters NRA single issue voter might be helpful. And since this is my blog let me just go right ahead and put something out here: maybe you’re the one obsessing on guns.

Listen to me. Now it’s the AR-15. Not all that long ago it was the AK-47. Who knows what it will be next time. There are lots of semi automatic rifles that are not functionally all that different in one regard, which is is why banning just that one rifle makes no sense and won’t get any traction: ban the AR-15 and you might just as well ban dozens of others. It’s not just that one gun. But yes, in another sense you’re absolutely right…there is something unique to these sorts of weapons that you can justifiably say puts them outside the boundary of reasonable personal, sport and self defense firearms. And no god damn it, it’s not the military style plastic grips and stock. No it isn’t the semi-automatic mechanism either. No. It isn’t. You Are Paying Too Much Attention To The Gun.

The kid who murdered 17 people last week came to the school, so I’m told, with a backpack full of 30 round magazines and he fired off something like 150 rounds in the space of just a few minutes. Look at that. No…really look at it. How was that possible? The problem isn’t the rifle.

Here’s the problem:

This is what makes the AR-15, and every other rifle and handgun that uses a magazine to reload vastly more dangerous. It takes maybe a second to drop an empty, slam another in the magazine well, drop the bolt, and away you go…thirty more rounds. Or more. Google “AR-15 magazine” sometime and get properly horrified. Then reconsider. It is not the gun. Forget the gun. It is the magazines.

California, my beloved land of my birth, for the past several decades has been trying to address this in various ways, each of which the NRA kook pews have found a too ingenious for their own damn good work-around to. But it’s a good path, and I propose going all in on it; and I say this as someone who owns firearms that take magazines. Go after the magazines. Here’s what I propose:

Firstly: any gun that takes a magazine needs to either have a magazine lock or be retrofitted for a permanent magazine, such that the gun now reloads with an en bloc clip like the M-1 Garand did. Limit capacity to only what a revolver would normally have, which would be five in the magazine and one in the chamber…six rounds total. Make higher capacity magazines illegal to own on the same scale as silencers (yes…I know…republicans…) and sawed off shotguns.

But with rifles like the AR-15, and certain handguns, you can go further. See how in the photo above, the cartridges are staggered, they don’t line straight up and down. That’s one way of stuffing more into the magazine. But it also makes them fatter. With a five round limit you don’t need that, so the magazines could be thinner. I’m showing my age here but I remember when we made the switch from leaded to unleaded gasoline and they made the fuel inlets smaller on cars that only took unleaded to prevent leaded from getting in and trashing the catalytic converter. We can do the same here. Make the magazines narrower and then require all new semi automatic weapons for civilian use to have magazine wells that will only allow the smaller capacity magazines to fit inside them, and require everything already out there to be retrofitted.

Secondly: (re: California and “bullet buttons”) require anyone who wants to manufacture new magazines to get a license from the Federal government and they have to make them to spec. Because sure as shit the NRA kooks will make them that are narrow at the top so they can fit in the smaller magazine wells and fatter below the magazine well. I know how they think…as I said, I walk among them.

This buys us three things. 1) It limits the firepower of semi automatic rifles in a meaningful and practical way. 2) Simplicity. Now we’re not playing whack-a-mole trying to define what is, and what is not an “assault weapon”. It’s moot. If it takes a magazine, it Must be limited as per above, end of story. Plastic faux military do-dads or not, it makes no difference. Every firearm that uses a magazine to reload must comply. Simple. 3) Political. We are not going after your guns, we are going after firepower civilians do not need and it matters not what sort of gun it is. You have a right to own a gun. But your privately owned gun is for pleasure/sport shooting or self defense, not criminal activity, armed rebellion or terrorism. And when they start babbling about how we need our guns to protect us from tyranny, push back, Hard, with, no…the ballot box is our defense against tyranny, and then pivot to a discussion about voter suppression and gerrymandering. Because as long as every American adult can cast an anonymous ballot in a free and open election, and all votes are equal, no government can become too oppressive.

I appreciate this is not going nearly far enough for some, and way too far for others. So I have a final proposal: Show The Carnage.  

Seriously. Show the public…everyone…both sides, all sides, all the grim horrifying pictures of the aftermath. Show Everyone what a bullet does to a child’s body. Show us the dead where they lay, trying to escape. Put the images out in the public view. I appreciate that family and loved ones will not want that because it would reopen terrible wounds all over again and again. Fine. Work with them. Listen to them. Respect their wishes. But surely some will agree this needs to be seen, to be adequately understood.

Then, maybe, hopefully, enough people will stop reflexively digging in their heels and we can work with each other to fix the problem. Please? Because we are not going anywhere, except into the trashcan of history, if we can’t work together, if we can’t talk to each other.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Gunshots That Echo On And On And On…(continued)

March 13th, 2016

At The Range

This is a part of me I know some folks may find disturbing, but so be it. I like to shoot guns. I have a few of my own. It’s not like I have an arsenal or anything, just a few handguns and rifles. It’s never been that big an interest with me that I spend tons of money on it, and it was more a thing when I was a younger man who couldn’t get enough of things that go bang. And that’s really the essence of it with me, and I suspect, with a bunch of us. It’s not about Dirty Harry fantasizing or anything like it. It’s about another elemental part of the human psyche. Fire.

Fire. I was the kid who turned off the lights in his bedroom, threw open the blinds and raptly watched every thunder and lightning storm that passed by. The louder and closer the bangs the better. It drove mom crazy. But I knew as so long as I watched from safely inside it was okay. I was that teenage boy at the quarter mile racetrack watching the fuelers blast down to the finish line in a glory of fire and smoke. Nighttime races were the best because you could see the fire coming out of their pipes as they idled at the starting line, and then leaping into the sky as they raced down track. I was the kid who smuggled in out of state firecrackers and set them gleefully off on the fourth while my friends kept an eye out for approaching adults. I was the one who built and carefully tended the camp fires at the end of a day’s backpacking, or in the fireplace of our winter break ski shack, then watched it raptly through the night.

But I’m a geek child, not a psycho. And the geek dives into their interest with an intensity of spirit that, yes I know, can be off putting to others. But sometimes that’s exactly what is called for, especially if what lights your fire, is fire. You learn the nature of the fires you wield, and how to keep yourself and the people around you safe. I don’t want anyone getting hurt. I don’t want to get hurt. It’s no fun if anyone gets hurt. Those people who, they say, go to races hoping to see a crash mystify and appall me. What I want to see is mastery of excessively powerful engines and Newtonian forces. I want to see them surfing the fire. Likewise, I am disgusted by nearly everything I hear nowadays from the so-called gun lobby. By now I suppose a lot of people who enjoy this sport are. We’re not all Ted Nugent.

I recently got a membership at a local pistol range. At 62 I qualified for the geezer level discount which cut the cost of a year’s unlimited range time neatly in half. “Unlimited” in this context could be a tad misleading; time at the range is limited by the cost of ammo, and for one of the large caliber handguns I have, a Smith and Wesson model 25-5 (chambered for the old 45 Long Colt, cartridge. As I said, I like big bangs), it’s Very expensive. A box of 50 rounds cost me 40 bucks the other day. Another box of 50 45 ACP rounds cost 25. It’s a much more widely used cartridge. The Long Colt dates back to the black powder days. It’s the cartridge of the famous Single Action Army Colt of the old west…the one you always saw in the movies. There was actually a nicer 44 Smith and Wesson top break gun sold back then but it’s the Colt that’s the classic western movie gun.

So I had my Model 25-5 and my Colt Officer’s Model at the range this morning. And I’m writing this blog post now for the benefit of everyone who thinks all you gotta do with a gun is point and shoot. No. Just…no. You have to practice.  Bunches.  And to my shame I hadn’t.  Well…not with mine.

Visiting my brother in California, he’s taken me a bunch to ranges he’s a member at, and I’ve shot his guns there and was very pleased with myself at how good my aim was with them. But those weren’t my own guns, and it lulled me into thinking I was still good with my own, even though I hadn’t practiced much with them lately. This morning I took the Smith and the Officer’s Model to the range. I hadn’t shot either one of them in years. A friend of mine used to take me to his pistol range as a guest and back then I shot it and my other guns a bunch. But he got into skeet and I take more pleasure in shooting handguns. So I didn’t follow him into that. And for a long time my guns just sat, and got the occasional cleaning, inspecting and oiling.

So I load the Smith and take aim at a bulls eye target and half my shots initially miss completely. Eventually I figure I’m low and to the left and make some adjustments. The Smith has adjustable sights and I thought they were sighted in for me. Maybe five years ago they were. Not now. Eventually I’m putting most of my shots in the black and I move the target back some. But my groups are all over the place and I’m not happy with myself.

Then comes the Officer’s model. Every friggin shot from my first clip misses the target completely. Mind you, I’m shooting at a target only 15 feet away. Eventually I figure out I’m shooting low and to the left with this gun too and I make adjustments and finally get my shots mostly in the black again and I move the target back some. But I’m even worse with this gun than the revolver.

So I pay my bill and leave the range and in the back of my mind I’m thinking about all the morons I seem to be reading about every day now who shoot themselves or shoot someone else and it’s obvious they think a gun is just another adult toy like a fast car or sex and it’s all so Easy…you just point and shoot…just like John Wayne! No. Just…no. Jim Wright, a writer I follow on Facebook, has wisely said there are no gun accidents. He’s right. Drunk driving isn’t an accident either. You get yourself or others hurt by not following the rules. And treating guns like fetishes in a culture war (I’m using the word in its religious sense) practically guarantees people aren’t going to pay attention to what the gun actually is and that’s how people get hurt.

But I hadn’t been paying as much attention as I thought either. So I had my lesson for the day. If I’m going to keep these things in the house, I need to practice with them regularly. As I said, it’s about fire. The fun is in the mastery of fire. If I’m not going to maintain a level of mastery I might as well sell them and be done with it. Otherwise they’re just dangerous weapons sitting there in the gun safe slowly becoming even more dangerous if their owner can’t even hit what he’s aiming at. I have an alarm system. I have a shotgun. I don’t need more than that for home defense. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on At The Range

December 3rd, 2015

A Recurring Theme Of Violence

This came across my Facebook stream this morning…

times_comparison

This comparison is worth noting, but I’m sharing this for another reason. In the arguments over gun control, and people (men almost always) who commit acts of violence with guns, I keep seeing this one thing popping out at me: a history of domestic violence or brutality toward women, sometimes children, sometimes animal torture. And also this…look at how the Times phrases it: “…who occasionally unleashed violent acts toward neighbors and women he knew.” It’s like they’re describing a charming little eccentric personality quirk and not a scary indicator of a deeply rooted predatory nature that should have everyone concerned.

The NRA. its constipated culture warriors, its jittery paranoid drunken Ted Nugent following would howl loudly about it but I see an eminently reasonable basis to deny someone the ability to legally buy and own a firearm right there: domestic violence. Of course there would need to be due process, a right to appeal and have your case heard. Fine. But if that’s what you are then the rest of us have more than enough cause to be afraid of what you might do with that gun.

I’m saying this as a gun owner myself, and as someone who believes the right of individual citizens to own their own firearms makes sense in a democracy. Overall gun violence is down. But these mass public shootings are on the rise and, in my judgement, they’re showing a common theme that isn’t necessarily about religious fundamentalism. Background checks won’t prevent all shootings, but if done seriously and diligently they’d be a help. But this also needs to be taken into account: if children can’t trust you, if your lover can’t trust you, then who can? I would say this is even more telling about a person’s potential for violence than a criminal record.

Look at it in the context of the overall mindset toward women, particularly among GOP politicians these days. The shooting at Planned Parenthood and the smear campaign against it are of a piece. You would have to assume, given the number of chest thumping runts now walking the halls of congress and the statehouses, that inconveniencing people at the gun shop, who occasionally unleash violent acts toward neighbors and women, would seem baffling to them at the least, if not an attack on their rights as men. Boys will be boys… The stereotype of the gun owner as having small dick issues is crude and misses it. It’s not their dicks that are small, it’s their hearts. The gun isn’t a dick substitute. The dick is a heart substitute.

Bullies will be bullies. Guns don’t matter. I realize to many that seems an outrageous thing to say but I keep finding it to be true. They say guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Fine. But what kind of people? This ultimately I submit, is precisely why they imposed a funding ban on research into gun violence; because it is exactly what they don’t want science to pin down. They can already see themselves in that mirror. It’s not the gun that makes a person dangerous. It’s the lack of heart that makes a person dangerous. And you really see it in how they treat their spouses, their lovers, children, neighbors. There’s where it tells you that someone is not to be trusted. And maybe not just with a gun either, but also with a seat in congress. There’s the big red warning sign. A criminal background check is not nearly as telling as that is.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Recurring Theme Of Violence

November 7th, 2015

Where Did The Fun Go…?

This post may distress some of my friends but such is life, and I have a point I’d like to make for those of us who like to play with guns. Play safely, play responsibly, but play. Target shoot, skeet, blasting away at cans you gather up on your way to your favorite shooting spot in the woods. I have something I’d like to say to all of you.

I’ve owned guns since I was in my twenties and a friend introduced me to the shooting sports. He took me to a place in the country and let me shoot his little Ruger Mark 1. A “plinking gun”, it fired the 22 rim fire cartridges you used to buy by the bricks of 500 or so, and just go out into the woods and blast away at cans set up on a wooden plank. Afterwards I developed a smallish interest in the hobby, and over the years bought several firearms of my own, some for household defense, but mostly just for fun.

For most of us who do this, it isn’t about bloodlust. We don’t want to kill anything. We are not into vigilante fantasies or Red Dawn hallucinations. There’s a primitive, elemental attraction to fire, and things that go bang. We are mostly I think, the kids who liked watching thunderstorms, and playing with firecrackers. Yeah it’s dangerous stuff, but back in the day you were given the warnings, told how to play safe, listened to the stories about what happens when you don’t play safe, and still allowed to have those dangerous childhood pleasures. It’s a different world now.

I haven’t been in a gun store, just to look around, in decades now. Some months ago a friend asked me to drive him to a gun store where he had one of the rifles he inherited on consignment. My hobby as I said, was never more than a middling interest. I can get ammo at most sporting goods stores and some department stores (I refuse to walk into a WalMart), but I don’t often need to. A lot of indoor ranges insist you buy their rounds, I suppose to make sure nobody brings in anything unsafe. I settled on a set of household guns decades ago and haven’t felt the need to buy any new ones since. My camera hobby, and my road trips demand most of my discretionary budget. But just the other day I let my friend take me to a store in my old hometown to buy a part for one of my rifles. It was depressing. And now that I think of it, it’s the same thing I noticed at the other store my friend who had the rifle on consignment took me to.

When I started my hobby decades ago, you could walk into a gun store and see a wide variety of firearms. You saw little 22 plinkers like the Ruger that got me started. You saw professional match grade pistols. There were the usual self defense weapons, but also nicely engraved collectibles and reproductions. I once bought a replica civil war revolver, fully functional if you bought the black powder, balls and caps for it. I loved that gun…it went off with a great big wizard of oz belch of fire and smoke. After about ten shots you had to completely disassemble and clean it because black powder leaves so much residue behind it will jam the gun eventually. But I don’t want black powder in the house anymore and I don’t think any indoor range even allows them (way too much smoke) so I haven’t shot that gun in ages. But some years ago, while visiting Tombstone Arizona, I saw some replica Smith and Wesson 44 caliber black powder revolvers and I was tempted. Back then Colt had started making its old civil war era revolvers again, starting the serial numbers, so they claimed, right where they’d left off. The only difference between the new and the old would have been in the way better steel and manufacturing techniques used. So one wondered if the term “replica” was even appropriate.

You saw collectibles in various finishes, some with fantastically intricate engraving and inlays, in lovely custom display cases made with beautiful woods.  Expensive commemoratives you wouldn’t dare shoot. Some of art you saw applied to rifles and handguns was just beautiful. Some of it was embarrassingly hilarious. My friend and I still joke about the nickle plated Smith and Wesson revolver we saw at one store  just outside of Washington D.C., with pearl grips and the words “SUPER STUD” engraved in gold on the side of the frame. Just saying the words SUPER STUD is enough to set us both off, even now.

You saw rifles of all kinds, shapes and sizes. One gun store I used to frequent had a Weatherby I longed for, though it was completely impractical for any kind of hunting I could possibly do here in Maryland, even were I into hunting. But the wooden rifle stock…I swear it was the most beautiful piece of wood I’d ever seen, and my mom had a nice German console HiFi that was solid mahogany (and which I deeply regret now not keeping).  No need to kill anything with it…just to wield the fire from that rifle at a paper target at a distance would have been a pure pleasure. I am not a big guy, that gun would have challenged me. But mastering it would have been Fun. But no way could I have afforded a Weatherby then, and I am not in the market for such an expensive rifle now.

The point is, you used to see a wide spectrum of stuff in a gun store. That was not what I saw when I walked into one a few days ago.

There is an understandable pushback now against sales of military style rifles. I appreciate that, even if as a gun owner myself I take issue with how the arguments are often framed. A rifle is a rifle is a rifle. It’s not how it looks, it’s how it functions. I have no problem with limiting the functionality of personal firearms to keep them from being used as instruments of mass destruction. I am very much for that. Some sorts of weapons, more aggressive in nature than defensive, are reasonably limited to the police and the military. I see the logic in limiting the number of rounds in a clip. I see the logic in keeping assault rifles, which unlike the ambiguous term “assault weapon” is a specific term for a specific kind of soldier’s rifle, off limits to private sales. If you want to play with them go join the army. But just because you replaced the wooden stock of one rifle with a plastic faux military one, that does not change the fundamental characteristics of the weapon itself. Slapping a large capacity magazine on it Does. Fine. Keep those off the market. If you like, mandate a change in the frames of rifles that take them so only small capacity magazines will fit (although I don’t know what you’ll do with all the rifles already out there…). But a rifle is a rifle is a rifle.

An AR-15 looks and handles very much like an M-16 but it is not an M-16. It’s functionality is limited so it can be sold to private individuals. Yes it can be retrofitted to bring it up to that level of military capacity. That isn’t legal except for the high capacity magazines which in my opinion should not be sold over the counter anyway, and it does not change the fact that functionally it is pretty much the same as any other magazine loading semi-automatic rifle.  Or to put it another way, the logic of outlawing sales of an AR-15 would also outlaw the sales of Any semi-automatic rifle, and I think I am reasonably allowed to object to that without being called a gun nut. People mock the argument that it’s only cosmetics that separates the so called assault weapon from the sportsman’s rifle, but that’s what it is if it does not change the functionality of the weapon itself. You’re focusing on the appearance and not the functionality.

But that’s an argument that cuts both ways too.  Which brings me to what was so depressing about what I saw a few days ago.

What I saw was almost exclusively military style cosmetics. It was everywhere in that store. Dark plastic stocks and grips mostly. The usual camouflage paint. Various patriotic slogans engraved on some of them. Some red white and blue painted frames no less. There was one rifle painted in a kind of tie-dye scheme that I thought was fun in a flippant way, but even that one could not relieve the dire seriousness of the rest of the inventory. It was all about the military look and feel. I felt like I’d just walked into a tea party open carry convention. Now instead of the shooting sports, you had preparations for some sort of civil unrest that any sane person would hope to god never comes to pass. It all seemed to be about the culture war now…with guns being the totem, the talisman, the fetish of the tribe.

I saw no plinking guns. I saw no match or hunting rifles. The only wooden stock I saw was on what looked like a WWII style combat rifle. There was a great big Don’t Tread On Me flag behind the counter. This was not the world into which I first walked into a gun store many years ago.  

Deep down inside I’m a peaceful kinda guy who just likes things that go bang. I understand those things can be dangerous. I accept the responsibility for handling them safely. I accept the responsibility for owning and using those things in accordance with the law. I accept that because they present a danger to my neighbors, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has the right, it has the obligation, to regulate their purchase and use. Our shared public spaces convey shared responsibilities and obligations.

But more than all of that, I accept that a rule of law is what makes civilization possible, and that if you don’t like the outcome of an election, you love your country by respecting the process and working within it to change things. Private ownership of firearms is a right that makes perfect sense in the context of democracy, but they not our defense against tyranny, the ballot box is. And I very much resent being lumped in with a bunch of sociopathic anti-government anarchists simply because they like to babble on and on about their right to keep and bear arms. 

I guess it’s hard to nearly impossible for some folks who just don’t like guns to separate the sporting aspect of them, the fun you can have shooting them, from blood and death and destruction. I hear so much from my liberal friends about how guns are designed to kill people and that’s all you need to know about them. Well it isn’t. But that is just what I saw in that gun store too. And that’s what depressed me, and why I sat down to write this longish blog post. Everyone seems to agree now, left and right, that the only thing guns are good for is killing each other.

Now it’s all about war. The fun was gone. The fun seemed long forgotten.

I hate what has happened to my country some days…

[Edited…and edited again…sorry…I just want to make myself clear on this…]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Where Did The Fun Go…?

October 3rd, 2015

The School Shooting…(continued)

Here’s the guy who had a gun and didn’t go looking for the shooter because he knew the police might think he was the one…

had-a-gun

Full article Here.

Parker noted that he was hustled into a classroom with other students by a professor who asked if anyone was armed. He said he raised his hand and said he would attempt to protect his fellow students if they came under attack.

This was the sane thing to do. Note that he had military training. There’s a discipline that comes with that you just don’t see in the open carry zealots, which is what makes them so scary.

But also note this: it makes a case for not totally banning private citizens from carrying a firearm too. It’s even making me rethink my own knee jerk reaction about having them on a school campus. If this was typical behavior then I don’t think there would be much opposition to concealed carry. And with strict licensing, safety training and background checks I think this would be. This guy had military training. You would expect he could pass all of that handily. But it’s not typical behavior, and that’s the problem.

People with guns don’t worry me as long as there is some reasonable control over it. It’s the stunning lack of control the NRA and others are insisting is their right that worries me. No…being a hazard to others in our public spaces is not your right. They say if you have to get a license to drive why can’t we license gun ownership too. Well I still think people ought to be able to have guns in their homes or on their own property as long as they can pass a background check. But taking one into our public spaces should definitely require a license. And that license should definitely require passing a background check, passing a range safety and accuracy test and passing a test for knowledge of the applicable laws. Something I have a hunch the most vocal of the open carry idiots could not.

And even then, it should be left to the locality to decide what weapons are allowed and where no weapon is allowed. Cities for example, might decide no, you can’t carry Anywhere in a densely packed urban zone because of the danger to bystanders in such close quarters. No, you can’t carry in a subway. No, you can’t carry in a shopping mall. The localities know best where their own danger zones are and how to handle them. And if the argument is high crime zones are exactly where citizens need their means of protection the most, my reply is high crime zones are where civilization is failing and more people with guns sure as hell isn’t the answer to that. There’s a failure of society and government in those neighborhoods that needs to be addressed. Not every problem is a nail.

So here’s a situation where a law abiding man who had a gun on him knew better than to believe everything the NRA and the Ted Nugents of the world keep yapping about how more guns in the hands of citizens would have stopped all the spree killings we’ve suffered recently.  But also there was this: 

Parker noted that he was hustled into a classroom with other students by a professor who asked if anyone was armed. He said he raised his hand and said he would attempt to protect his fellow students if they came under attack.

This is why I am in favor of gun control, and why I am against outright bans.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The School Shooting…(continued)

October 2nd, 2015

The School Shooting…No, Not That One A Few Days Ago…No Not The One Before That One…

I’m going to just write some thoughts as they occur…

  • David Gerrold, who I follow on Facebook not so much for his fiction as his willingness to talk about how it is to work in TV and Hollywood, while lambasting NRA extremists wrote what I think is the right take on the Second Amendment. You see people arguing about the “well regulated militia” part and either ignoring that part about “the right of the people” or insisting that the one overrides the other. Gerrold said essentially that taken together they mean “the people” have a right to own guns, but that “well regulated” part means congress has the power to regulate them. Yes. That works for me. It makes complete sense.

    I keep bringing this up: We have the right to self defense, and to the means of self defense, but our shared spaces convey shared obligations and responsibilities. To the extent that government can require car makers to make their cars safe to drive on the public streets, make them not disgorge crap into the air everyone breaths, make everyone get a license to drive on them, and tell localities exactly how to erect signage on those streets, and what sort of markings streets must have, so that the streets are safe for Everyone to drive on, it can also limit what sort of weapons you can bring into public spaces, which public spaces must of necessity be weapon free (oh…say…courthouses…polling places…Schools!) and require licensing to show that you know how to handle them safely and that you understand the law.

    This is just common sense as far as I see it. Public space that is too dangerous for the public to use is a contradiction. It’s not a public space if nobody sane dares go there. And as to the notion that more guns makes public spaces safer…well:

  • The nutcases were babbling initially that the school was a so-called “gun free” zone, and of course, blaming that on the carnage. But it wasn’t a gun free zone after all, and furthermore, there actually Were people on campus carrying guns. They didn’t intervene for the staringly obvious reason that they were afraid the police would mistake them for the shooter if they did. Be nice if the More Guns On The Streets The Better crowd would try to understand this.

    We have the right to self defense, and to the means of self defense. That’s a right that is obvious in the context of democracy. But that’s the limit of it. The role of government is to secure our rights. And a vital part of that is a police force that keeps the peace. How anyone sees that a dozen or so armed people fighting it out on the streets with a spree killer amounts to civilization is beyond me. The police have to handle these situations and they can’t if everyone is a potential threat. At best a weapon gives you better odds at getting the hell out of there, or staying alive while ducking and covering. But you can’t do more than that or else you are contributing to the chaos of the event.

    Most of us in this life aren’t prepared to engage a shooter, even if we take our guns out to the range on a regular basis. At best we can train ourselves to handle firearms safely, hit what we’re shooting at, know what our limits are, and maybe keep our homes, loved ones and our own butts alive if the worst happens suddenly. But dealing with violent crime is the sort of specialty skill you have a trained police force for, so the rest of us can go on with the business of civilization. They keep the peace. That is their job. A country were everyone needs to bear arms to keep the peace is better described as an anarchy, not a democracy. And there’s a reason why anarchy and civilization are mutually contradictory terms.

    We have the right to self defense, and to the means of self defense. That’s a right that is obvious in the context of democracy. But that’s the limit of it. If you want to play with military grade weapons and go after the bad guys, join the army or your local police.

    And if you can’t make the cut there…take that as a lesson. Most of us can’t either. Respect the ones that can. Let them do their job. It’s a really important one.

  • I could wish I saw nearly as much passion about the recent news story of how Alabama, the birthplace of The Voting Rights Act, is once again moving to deny black Americans the right to vote, as I see now about gun control. Oh there is anger and activism on that issue without a doubt. But the anger, the take no prisoners fury, on this one issue is incomparable. And it is disturbing. There are so many of us who are gun owners, who believe the second Amendment confers a right on individual Americans as opposed to militias (one supposes not the sort of militias as the ones that came to Cliven Bundy’s defense…) to own a gun, who can be talked to about this, and worked together with to achieve some good sane sensible gun regulation. If only we could be talked to in terms other than we’re crazed gun nuts with Dirty Harry fantasies of killing people. Please. We are not that. We enjoy the shooting sports. We believe we have a right to self defense.  We don’t have fantasies about overthrowing the government. In fact, if I could point to one thing about right winger rhetoric on guns that absolutely drives me nuts it’s the notion that our guns are a defense against tyranny.  No.  The ballot box is our defense against tyranny!

    Now…look at this…

    alabama-dmv-closures
    The entire article is here.

    This is how we loose our precious democracy. The belly laugh is the same people who are bellyaching about needing their guns to defend themselves from tyranny, are the same ones making damn sure only folks like themselves are allowed to vote, or have any say in their government. Tyranny? Why goodness no…they just want Their country back is all.  So I have a question for all my liberal friends who are as heartbroken and appalled as I am at the level of gun violence in this country: What change do you think is going to be remotely possible in a nation where only republican votes matter?

More later…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The School Shooting…No, Not That One A Few Days Ago…No Not The One Before That One…

February 2nd, 2015

Why I Hate The NRA…Part The Upteenth…

This came across my Facebook stream just now…

morons at target practice

More Here.  This is incredibly idiotic. As a gun owner I cannot fathom…I am actually at a loss for words…as to how anyone who has ever shot a gun cannot grasp the level of danger here.

In my younger years, a friend of mine and I would go to another friend’s house to shoot our guns in their backyard. But they lived in the sticks, far away from anything and we could do that safely. There was a county law prohibiting shooting within a certain designated distance from any home or structure. And they had lots of property surrounding their home. Enough that we could just walk far enough away from the back of the house to be legal, and still be on their property.  At the edge of the cleared area was a fence and over that a forest that went on for miles. My friend and his often went hunting back there. I knew it as a place where we could blast away to our hearts content and not bother anyone.

I remember quite well as we fired at various targets propped up on a board in the backyard…cans, bottles, plastic jugs…the sound of our bullets ricocheting off trees in the woods behind the fence. I’d be there with one of my .45s and I’d touch off a round and if I missed we’d listen for the sound of the slug bouncing around in the forest off one tree and then another and then another…bip…bip…bipbipbipbip… It was a warning: just because you’re aiming at something that doesn’t mean that’s where your bullet is going to stop. It can take a bounce and then it might go anywhere. This is why the law was you couldn’t be shooting anywhere near another structure and never mind which direction you’re pointing.

I remember once we were shooting at a stack of empty soda cans we’d propped up on a large piece of scrap metal. One of the folks living there was a welder and we found something in the yard we thought we could use to raise the height of our targets. I was shooting my single action .45 with rounds I’d hand loaded with soft lead bullets. I took a shot and missed and immediately felt something brush up against my right leg, looked down and saw several shards of lead embedded in my blue jeans. The bullet had hit the piece of scrap metal and fragmented and some of the fragments had bounced back at me with enough force they almost penetrated my pants leg. Occasionally the lessons you learn are non-fatal. We never propped our cans on anything bullets couldn’t easily punch through at that distance after that.

That target shooting so close to other people’s homes (look at that photo again) is much too dangerous is something anyone who has ever shot a gun in their lives should know. But of course this isn’t about guns, let alone public safety, it’s about culture war…

So Florida law is cool with this. The cops are not cool with this, but tell me there’s nothing they can do. The city attorney says he can do nothing. The NRA threatens any town that dares try to pass an ordinance against this. And best yet, crazy governor Scott made certain in 2011 that any public official trying to pass a local ordinance or otherwise prevent this would be removed, fined $5,000 and barred from using public resources to defend him/herself.

They’ve degenerated down to outright idolatry now. Guns have become the new crucifixes of the right, the fetish you keep close to protect you from evil spirits and wave at the heathens to keep their demons away. And their sins are so many it isn’t enough that Jesus died for them. Their neighbors have to die too.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Why I Hate The NRA…Part The Upteenth…

October 20th, 2014

Useful Idiots

This came across my Facebook stream just now…

the difference

This.

IMO the constitution does confer a right to individual citizens to own their own firearms. IMO the right to own your own firearms is an eminently democratic right. I own a few myself, though I’m not an NRA member (have you Seen the people they endorse for public office??).   And every time I hear someone babbling that private gun ownership is a check on government power, that it was intended by the founders to prevent tyranny, I just want to scream.

The ballot box is our check on government power! Without that America is a lost dream of liberty and justice for all and it won’t matter how many guns you own.  How can anyone seriously think a disorganized armed rebellion can possibly succeed against a government that has, never mind the shear force it can bring to bear on a situation, the vast array of intelligence gathering technology it can put to use. They weren’t shooting everyone right and left in East Germany during the cold war.  They didn’t need to.  They just watched…everyone.

It is pure absolute genius how the tyrannical right manipulates this issue so they can keep chipping away at access to the ballot box. Do you approve? Do you think they won’t come after your vote too? Do you think that when Those Awful Other People can’t vote anymore you’ll finally get your country back? Lenin had a way of describing people like you.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Useful Idiots

May 21st, 2014

A Wee Question…

I’ve said this before, much to the distress of some liberal/progressive friends, but here it is again: I have no problem with private gun ownership, I see it as an eminently democratic right, IMO the second amendment does confer a right to individual Americans to own guns, and yes as a matter of fact I own a few myself. And I take responsibility for owning them seriously as I do my automobile. I obey the laws. I concern myself with safety. And I have nothing but contempt for people who use them recklessly, even if they’re not actually breaking the law. That goes for guns, automobiles…anything people use that can do harm to other people.

I’m an American liberal. I believe that public spaces convey public obligations. From respect for the environment to seemingly mundane day-to-day things like traffic safety, the common public spaces we share together are a mutual responsibility…and at minimum that means they are safe to use.   Or to put it another way, the common ground that is too dangerous to occupy is more properly called a Battlefield.  The last time the shared common spaces of Americans became battlefields we called it a Civil War and it killed more Americans than all our other wars put together.

As a liberal I go even further and insist that even the private workplaces must be at minimum safe to occupy too, since we all need to work to earn a living. I grant that some occupations are very dangerous but also very necessary for the good of all.  That said, working in a fast food restaurant, let alone eating in one, does not strike me as one of those occupations.

So I hear Chipotle wants customers to not bring their guns inside their restaurants. So while I’m shrugging my shoulders and and thinking to myself, so much so reasonable, and moving on apparently other people are bursting veins and threatening boycotts.

What the hell is wrong with you? Just…what the hell is wrong with you? No…Seriously. What the hell is wrong with you?

If Chipotle said they wanted gays to stay out of their restaurants because Jesus! you’d be dog piling on it like you did Chick-fil-A. You’re bellyaching that same-sex marriage is going to destroy civilization….

…Does This Fucking Look Like Civilization To You!

They say guns don’t kill people, people do. And that’s true. It’s always the person. The idol is always false. We give meaning to our material objects, they don’t give meaning to us. A weapon, any weapon, finely, skillfully, beautifully made, by a master craftsman, is a noble thing. Until the moment a runt gets their hands on it. Because runts don’t build civilizations, they tear them down so they don’t have to know what runts they are.  But let it be said that, unlike those two, not all runts look like they’ve spent their entire lives in mom’s basement.  These guys for instance, bear a heavy responsibility for the decay of American society…

All these voices on the right bellyaching about Morals and Traditional Values, and Social Decay and really they don’t give a good goddamn about any of it. None of it at all. They get up on their stages in their suits and ties and slicked down hair and they wave the flag and talk about law and order and it’s all bullshit.  Behold the new minutemen at the battle of Chipotle!  I have a question…

Thank you NRA for turning a pastime that brought pleasure and even taught a few values to thousands of Americans into an idol for anti-government troglodytes. Thank you for turning the basic democratic right to own your own gun into a totem for ignorance and hate…the very things that kill democracy. You don’t love this country. You don’t even love guns. What you love is power. You loath the peace and prosperity and brighter future Americans have always sought, if it means everyone can have a share of it too. You’d rather it all came crashing down into anarchy and chaos if it means everyone can dream the American dream too, not just powerful white men.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Wee Question…

July 11th, 2013

The Vigilante Or Civilization…Pick One

Digby:

The facts show that George Zimmerman armed himself with a gun loaded with hollow point bullets and ended up killing an unarmed teenager who was just out buying some snacks. How that happened is disputed but to me it’s obvious that when you strap on a gun, go looking for trouble and end up stalking and killing an unarmed 17 year old, you’ve done something wrong.

Digby goes on to say “To me, the carrying of that gun morally requires that he be held liable in some way for the unarmed Trayvon’s death”, but there is where I often part company with my fellow liberals on the issue of guns: I am fine with the concept that you have a right to own a gun and defend yourself with it. In fact, I consider that right to be a fundamentally democratic thing.

What isn’t are things like vigilantism and racism.  These are poison.  They are poison to the person, they are poison to the nation.  This case is positively dripping with racism that nobody in the corporate news media wants to look closely at, because we’re all supposed to be beyond all that now. Except we’re not. Zimmerman’s suspicion and fear of Martin only makes sense in the context of Martin’s race, his sex, and his age. There is literally nothing else there but those three things. Zimmerman stalked that kid because of those three things, and his rational for killing an unarmed teenage boy who was out buying snacks can only seem plausible due to those three things. Fear the black male, and especially, fear the young black male.  Look, for as long as you can stomach it, at the breathless agreement that Martin posed a threat to Zimmerman’s life, solely on the basis of Zimmerman’s say-so, and the ephemeral signs of a fight on his face and head.  That was no beating.  You want to see what a beating looks like, look at the photos of recent victims of gay bashers.  But it’s simply an accepted fact in certain quarters of the country that Zimmerman’s life was threatened. Were Martin white it would not matter what the race of his stalker would be, other than if his stalker was a black man he’d already have been convicted and on Florida’s death row. Picture it: a white teenaged boy stalked by a strange man, fights back and is found shot to death. Would anyone doubt the adult male had done something horribly wrong?  Why is it never considered, that Martin was standing His ground when Zimmerman confronted him? Well, of course a young black male has no such right.  Racism was always at the rotten core of this.

But if Zimmerman was a racist, he was also a vigilante and if you approve of vigilantism anywhere outside the pages of a comic book you are no friend of civilization let alone democracy.  All those people waving around the second amendment as a defense against tyranny are no defenders of democracy…if anything they are the useful tools of anarchy.  The gun is what you need when the the peace is broken, so the first thing, the basic responsibility of the believers in civilization and democracy is to preserve the peace.  That means the rule of law and the ballot box as the agent of change.  Peaceful disobedience, where the conscience requires disobedience, and responsibility for ones own conduct toward your neighbors.  Responsibility.  What a concept, that.  Zimmerman acted like the gun came with a badge and they don’t. But more than that, he acted as if he had character enough to bear the wearing of a badge and it’s sickeningly obvious he is no such person.

However this trial turns out, if nothing else this case really raises a lot of questions about the kind of nation we are, or should want to be. So many virtuous moral all-American values types cheering on what Zimmerman did. It’s been a while since I’ve been this completely disgusted. Digby’s right, what would be a just punishment for what Zimmerman did isn’t obvious, but what is staringly obvious is that he did something terribly, horribly wrong. A teenage boy went out for snacks and never came back home, because Zimmerman saw a young black man somewhere he thought a young black man didn’t belong, and took that matter into his own hands.

[Edited slightly…]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Vigilante Or Civilization…Pick One

June 24th, 2013

Let’s Have A Conversation Past Each Other

A Facebook friend posted this graphic a short while ago…

Some days I think I’m the only person in the world who sees the various factions in the argument over gun control talking past each other so…Devotedly.  Actually, yeah, people do talk about banning the private ownership of guns, usually in the context of saying that it would be impractical at this time or that, like a lot of other idealistic notions it just isn’t practical, so let’s do what we can today.  In other words, gosh wouldn’t it be nice if nobody had guns.  Well, some of us think not so much, and we’re not all Ted Nugent crackpots or Moloch worshipers.  So what some folks insist The Other Side should be paying attention to is “we don’t want to take all your guns away” and the what other folks are paying attention to is that “at this time” or “because it isn’t practical” and so it goes.

Yes we can talk.  We can for sure talk about how wonderful a world where nobody but the government can own a weapon, and no I am not an anti-government crank, I am a liberal FDR democrat and I believe that our best defense against tyranny is the ballot box and if you don’t use that wisely your damn household arsenal will not save you and I don’t care how big it is.  I am a liberal FDR union supporting social safety net defending equality for all Americans democrat and I don’t see how rendering the common man and woman defenseless improves their lives much.  However I Can see how sensible regulation of firearms does.  But of course sensible is in the eye of the beholder.  Convince me.

Yes, we can talk.  We can talk about what sensible gun regulation is.  But to have That conversation it would be helpful to hear some general agreement that the second amendment does in fact confer a right on individual citizens to own guns.  No more of this “what part of ‘well regulated militia don’t you understand’ crap. What part of “the people” don’t You understand. How about: “We agree people have a basic democratic right to own their own firearms. But like a lot of basic democratic rights that isn’t absolute either.  Freedom of speech for example, doesn’t mean you can shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.  It doesn’t mean you can slander someone without there being consequences.  The right to own a gun isn’t absolute, and especially so where our commonly shared public spaces are involved.  Simply requiring a background check does not infringe on your right to own a gun, it just means that right comes with the responsibility to be peaceful and law abiding.  Everyone has to be that.  Simply restricting the capacity of ammunition clips does not infringe on your right to own a gun, it just means that your gun is for your personal protection not for criminal activity, waging armed rebellion, or terrorism.  Simply restricting weapons fit only for military uses to just the military does not infringe on your right to own a gun, it just means if you want to be a soldier you need to join the Army. But yes, you have a basic second amendment right to own a gun.” Yeah…if only we could have that conversation. But it isn’t just one side of the argument that isn’t interested.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

January 31st, 2013

Still Not Getting It…

…and probably never will.  Mother Jones tweeted just now (as I am typing this…):

In 2010, nearly 6x more women were killed by husbands, boyfriends, and exes w/ guns than by armed male strangers.

Yes.  And what do you think this means?

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Still Not Getting It…

January 19th, 2013

Memo To The NRA…

…next time, schedule Gun Safety Day Before Gun Appreciation Day.

There ought to be some big national organization out there that provides firearm safety courses.  Give them a call if you need help with it.

by Bruce | Link | React! (2)

January 18th, 2013

Speaking For Myself

Josh Marshall posts a letter from, as he puts it, the Non-Gun People…

Speaking for My Tribe

I’ve been thinking of writing some version of this post since the days immediately after the Newtown shootings. It overlaps with but is distinct from the division between people who are pro-gun or anti-gun or pro-gun control or anti-gun control. Before you even get to these political positions, you start with a more basic difference of identity and experience: gun people and non-gun people.

So let me introduce myself. I’m a non-gun person. And I think I’m speaking for a lot of people.

It’s customary and very understandable that people often introduce themselves in the gun debate by saying, ‘Let me be clear: I’m a gun owner.’

Well, I want to be part of this debate too. I’m not a gun owner and, as I think as is the case for the more than half the people in the country who also aren’t gun owners, that means that for me guns are alien. And I have my own set of rights not to have gun culture run roughshod over me…

Go read the whole thing.  This is the kind of conversation I have been wanting this country to have about guns. Marshall recognizes there is a cultural element…a Tribal element…to it, that makes communication among the factions hard. He’s reaching in to examine how that tribalism is making it hard both for him, and for those he lumps into the Gun Culture, to talk to each other.  This is good.  Before you can fix a problem, you need to understand it.  You can’t make policy in a democracy when people can’t talk to each other.  Well…you can…but not good policy.

And here I would like to put down my first marker sign: For all the same reasons I cannot speak for Gay People, though I am a gay man myself, I cannot speak for this Gun Culture he speaks of, though I own guns, though I take pleasure in shooting them, though I believe the second amendment confers a right to the people, not just to well regulated militias.  I suspect he’s talking about a stereotype.  I actually can speak to how that works; there are gay males who outwardly seem to fit perfectly the Hollywood/FRC/NOM flaming swishy limp-wristed lisping girly boy club haunting faggot. But a stereotype like a shade of skin or a religious belief does not tell you anything about the person within, nor does knowing that a person is gay, or Asian, or Muslim, necessarily tell you anything about the person within.  People look to stereotypes for justification, not clarity.  I don’t have a gay lifestyle simply because I am gay any more than I have a gun culture because I own a gun.  I have a life.  But try to tell that to someone who can’t see the people for the homosexuals.  And if by gun culture Marshall means he doesn’t want the lunatic right running roughshod over him…hello…I don’t want them running roughshod over me either.

This is good:

More than this, I come from a culture where guns are not so much feared as alien, as I said. I don’t own one. I don’t think many people I know have one. It would scare me to have one in my home for a lot of reasons…

He goes on to say that in the current climate people seem reluctant to say they think guns are scary and they don’t want to be around them.  That’s one big part of the problem we have talking to each other about guns.  Not the guns are scary part so much though.  Guns are dangerous.  They have to be.  They’re weapons.  It is not completely irrational to be afraid of them.  Point of fact, I would say it’s irrational to be absolutely unafraid.  Some degree of fear that isn’t immobilizing is a good thing if it reminds you to pay attention.  I am afraid of my table saw, I’ve witnessed a table saw nearly slice someone’s hand off.  Every time I step up to mine to do some work I pause and reflect on what can happen if I am not careful.  Will this be the time it happens…? Same thing with my guns.  Every time I lay a hand on one of mine I pause and think.  This thing could kill someone.  And even more so than the table saw…Much more so…the gun is a weapon; it is supposed to be dangerous.  The table saw is dangerous, but that is not its purpose.  The gun’s purpose Is to be dangerous.

There is a completely logical connection between Gun and Dangerous.  They are weapons.  It is not naive to be afraid of guns.  People should not be reluctant to say so in this conversation.  It isn’t naive and it isn’t simplistic.  It’s a completely normal reflex to have about weapons.  If anything it is naive to expect people’s fears not to be a part of this conversation.  Where fear mucks it up is when it gets in the way of knowledge and understanding.  This is the sort of thing that really irritates the hell out of me, and I suppose most people who have experience with firearms:

But remember, handguns especially are designed to kill people. You may want to use it to threaten or deter. You may use it to kill people who should be killed (i.e., in self-defense). But handguns are designed to kill people. They’re not designed to hunt. You may use it to shoot at the range. But they’re designed to kill people quickly and efficiently.

Charitably, this is the sort of rhetoric that comes from “…a culture where guns are not so much feared as alien.”  Uncharitably it is manipulative rhetoric, and the sort of thing that quickly destroys trust that the conversation is being held in good faith.  Handguns are not designed to kill people.  A soldier’s rifle is designed to kill people.  By nature and design a handgun is a defensive weapon.  It has not the range, the accuracy or firepower of a long gun.  It’s useful as a defensive weapon for the person holding it and that’s about it.  The only instance where a handgun can function as an aggressive weapon is where an attacker knows their victims are unarmed and unsuspecting.  But if the complaint about handguns is they’re more easily concealed, which makes it easier for an assailant to get close enough to be dangerous, I have a photograph I took back in the 1970s, a couple days after a period of unrest in Washington D.C., of a group of youths, one of whom was carrying a sawed off shotgun under a very lightweight jacket.  He was holding onto it through a hole in one pocket.  You would never have known he had it on him until he swung it up in your face.  All it takes to make a long gun easily concealable is a hacksaw, and then you have a weapon of much greater force than any handgun.  I own a 30-30 lever action rifle, the bullets it throws bear more force than the ones coming out of Dirty Harry’s 44 magnum, and it is an old cartridge design…the first meant for smokeless powder.  Long arms are aggressive weapons.  Handguns are defensive weapons.  That is their nature.

And here’s where tribalism and the stereotype of the Gun Nut and Gun Culture get in the way of communication.  Just my saying these things makes me a gun nut in some people’s regard and their eyes glaze over.  I know too much about guns to be a normal person.  I must be an NRA goon.  But no…I simply enjoy shooting.  I enjoy it enough that I have become familiar with guns.  I appreciate that some folks simply don’t want anything to do with guns, but a big part of the problem of having this conversation is people talking past each other and loosing trust.  You may not like guns, but when you say a handgun’s only purpose is killing people, those of us with experience with guns hear that as a backdoor argument for banning all guns.

We “gun people” should recognize that “non-gun people” have completely rational reasonable fears and issues with guns in the public spaces, and we should have those same issues actually.  Guns are dangerous.  “Non-gun people” need to get past their Gun Nut stereotypes.  I will admit that given the efforts of the NRA and Ted Nugent, that is very very difficult.  But we are not all of us unreachable on this issue.

I don’t hunt…did it long ago to get it out of my system, to see and understand those ancient passions within me, so they would never take me by surprise.  So…been there, done that.  I don’t shoot because I want to kill anything.  But I went to the range with my brother last month while I was visiting, and enjoyed myself thoroughly all the same.  It isn’t always about blood lust.  In fact, for a lot of us I would imagine, it’s about that eminently human joy in wielding fire.  I enjoy firecrackers and lightning storms and watching Myth Busters blow things up too.  I don’t go out to the range with those human silhouette targets you often see…I hate silhouette targets.  I am not about killing things.  I am precision hurling little slugs of lead at unreasonable velocities with the fire in my hands.  The targets my brother and I practiced on that day were round metallic bulls-eyes of various diameters, placed at various distances.  You could hear it when you hit them, and there were several sets with very small round metal dots you had to hit to flip up, and when you got them all flipped up there was one square one at the end you hit to drop them all back down again.  I was pleased to find that even with guns that were not my own but my brother’s, I was pretty good at hitting things squarely.

I think it’s fun.  Your mileage may vary and that’s fine.  But yes, there is another aspect to all this gun play that is serious and needs to be talked about among us Americans, and that is that guns are weapons, they are dangerous, and while I recognize an obligation to my neighbor’s safety and to the common welfare, I also believe I have a right to defend myself from violent attack, and that means I must also have the right to possess the tools to do that.  I don’t ever want to be put into that position, Atrios’ comment that all gun owners have vigilante dreams is ignorant.  When I think about what I might have to do with one of my guns I think about how to prevent it from getting that far.  I have a household alarm system, we have a neighborhood watch, and this kid who was bullied all through junior high stays alert when he’s out and about because keeping my eyes open for trouble was drilled into me long, long ago.  But there it is…that irreducible bottom line.  I have a life, I’d like to hold onto it a while longer thank you.  I have a right to bear a weapon in self defense.  But I completely agree that right is not unconditional.  There is always that little matter of the common welfare.  Public spaces, convey public obligations.

Arguments about the meaning of the second amendment are not trivial, but there is a point being missed when cardboard revolutionaries yap about private ownership of guns balancing the power of the state against the individual.  No.  The ballot box is our protection, our check against the power of the state. Those who advocate the gun over the ballot box betray the American Dream.  That is the old way of kings and armies and strongmen, not the way of democracy.  But there is another argument to be made here.  If I am not allowed the means to defend myself, if I must instead rely on the state, utterly, to defend me, then I am not so much a citizen, as a subject.  I don’t think you can get many people to buy into that notion, hence the effort to convince people that owning a gun makes them less safe.  Yes, yes…and owning an automobile makes you less safe too if you don’t bother learning to drive.

If you want to argue that police are trained in the use of firearms why shouldn’t anyone who wants to own a gun also have to go through training…I would agree with you.  If you want to argue that you need a license to drive a car, why not also license gun owners…I would agree to a point.  When you take your car onto the public roads, the public has every reasonable right to require you to demonstrate you know how to drive safely before you’re allowed on the highways so that you are not a danger to others.  Public spaces convey public obligations.  No man is an island on I-95.  The same can be said for bearing a gun in the public space.  First prove you know how to handle a gun safely.  First prove you understand the relevant laws.  I could be convinced that training on gun safety, and demonstrating an understanding of it before a purchase is allowed is reasonable.  I think licensing carrying a gun in public the same way we license automobile drivers is completely reasonable.  I agree there are public spaces where guns simply should not be allowed, period.  Like…oh…courthouses…hospitals…Schools.  I get that urban crime argues for carry permits, but I also get (and I think my fellow gun-people need to get) that densely populated zones aren’t swell places for firefights to break out.  It does not greatly bother me that I can’t carry a gun on the streets of New York City.  What I don’t find reasonable is the position that since guns are dangerous nobody should be allowed to have them.  And what I don’t get is why this became a left verses right argument.  The welfare of the common man and woman is not greatly improved by rendering them defenseless.

If Marshall wants to draw a distinction here, I would suggest a more useful one than between non-gun people and gun people, is that between democrats and oligarchs, between those of us who believe in that liberty and justice for all thing and those who think the world would be a fine place if the everyone knew their place.  Yes, yes…free people own guns…but not because they own guns but because they are free.  And free people cast ballots too.  Ask some of the people busy waving their guns around since Sandy Hook if they believe in the right to vote.  Then ask them what they think of all the voter suppression that went on in the last election. There’s your problem.  I saw it driving through Texas last month, on the way to California, in literally dozens and dozens of billboards advertising military style and SWAT firearms.  This business about “assault weapons” is mostly misdirected, but contains an element of common sense: the difference between a six or seven round clip and a hundred round clip is the difference between a weapon of self defense and an weapon of aggression.  In my opinion you can draw a line between them, on the basis that self defense is a right and aggression isn’t.  But there are those who do not accept that aggression is not a right.  Not all of those are criminals in the usual sense.

There’s the problem.  This argument isn’t about guns.  The violence racking our country isn’t about guns.  It’s about “Who is my neighbor?”  It’s about the culture war.  It’s about tribe.  Guns Don’t Matter.  Some nights I fear we are working ourselves up to another civil war.  What matters is that Americans can’t look into each other’s faces, and see a neighbor whose life is precious too. Guns Don’t Matter.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Speaking For Myself

December 20th, 2012

Our Molochs, Ourselves…

Fred Clark, one of the most completely decent people you will ever read online, posts a link to this column by Garry Wills that makes me want to throw up my hands and give up on any chance of reasoned discussion concerning guns, let alone violence, in the land of my birth and my heart…

Our Moloch

Few crimes are more harshly forbidden in the Old Testament than sacrifice to the god Moloch (for which see Leviticus 18.21, 20.1-5). The sacrifice referred to was of living children consumed in the fires of offering to Moloch. Ever since then, worship of Moloch has been the sign of a deeply degraded culture…

You just know where this is going…

The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily—sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometimes this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year).

…and with that I just want to say I’m Done! Done will the lot of you.  Hurl yourselves at each other with your lizard brains rattling at full throttle, I just don’t fucking care anymore.  There will be no rational discussion of guns Or violence in this country in my lifetime obviously.  Or as Wills says without any apparent irony…

The fact that the gun is a reverenced god can be seen in its manifold and apparently resistless powers. How do we worship it? Let us count the ways:

1. It has the power to destroy the reasoning process.

Sure did a number on yours didn’t it Gary.  You could wish those first and second commandments were a tad more exact.  There are no other Gods…Period!  Idolatry is a lie.

Also…I really meant what I said in number nine! But…no.  We always have to take this argument into culture war territory.  Always.

Here’s the thing about idolatry…when you worship an idol you are surrendering what makes you human to a piece of stone. But point your finger at the idol worshiper if you like, attacking that piece of stone as if it were a god-object is the same thing as worshiping it. By tearing it down you are acknowledging it has power.

No. The power is within. The power is always within. Actually Gary, guns Are mere tools, bits of technology, and a political issue we really need to discuss.  But that political issue exists in a context of a culture that is astonishingly violent and discussing the one without the other is as pointless an exercise in generating hot air as I can imagine.  If you could reach around that rattling lizard brain getting all offended at the other tribe’s god to the part that’s capable of reason and empathy you could see that.  But idolatry has made you weak.  You think that if you can just smash the idol it’s power will be gone, but unfortunately Gary it is not Moloch you are dealing with but human beings, and the fault dear Brutus is not in our guns, but in ourselves. Guns. Don’t. Matter.

I posted a wee rant on Facebook the other day, about Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin and his one last swing at gay people before leaving congress.  I wanted people having this argument about “the gun lobby” to please notice something.  Yes, they are part of the problem, but not because they defend the right of citizens to own guns. So long as people keep thinking of them as a gun lobby they are missing it. This man, Todd Akin has their lifetime ‘A’ rating and the NRA supported him in the 2012 elections Even After he began yap, yap yapping about “legitimate rape”.  So women can own guns, but not their own bodies?  No…just, no. That simply isn’t how people who are genuinely concerned about freedom, individual rights, and “big brother government” think.  They are not that.

Can we please stop the idol worship and look at this…really look at it.  They are not a gun lobby, they are a right wing political action committee that pushes people’s buttons about government taking their guns away to get right wing extremists elected.  Guns are to them, as the bible is to the Family Research Council. They are tools the right uses to drive people to the polls and vote against their own interests.  So is abortion.  So is The Homosexual Menace.  So is the Angry Black Man.  So is The Illegal Immigrant.  That is how idolatry works.  That is what it does to otherwise rational human beings.

Why are we such a violent society?  Well…the right certainly has its opinion about that:

Top Conservative Publication: Shooting Occurred Because Women Ran The School

National Review, whose in-house editorial suggested Newtown was the price of the Second Amendment, published a piece on Wednesday from anti-feminist Charlotte Allen suggesting the reason the shooter was able to kill so many students was because Newtown was a “feminized setting”…

Actually, if our culture wasn’t so out of balance when it comes to male verses female leadership it would probably be a whole lot less violent.  Which is almost certainly why the hard right (religious and secular) is so relentlessly against female leadership.  There’s the problem.  Or at least a big part of it.  Men must either dominate women or be emasculated by them. What does this right wing trope accomplish other than making males more aggressive?  Yes, we can and should talk about sensible restrictions on firearms and firearm ownership.  But can we talk about this too?  Because if we can’t nothing, Nothing we attempt to do regarding gun control will do any damn good whatsoever.  Nothing.  And it’ll just be wash-rinse-repeat every time another horrific crime of violence happens.

So long as we are busy fighting a culture war of the right wing’s making, that only the right wing benefits from, discussions about the roots of violence just aren’t going to happen.  It’s a win-win, not for the culture of guns but the culture of hate.  Please…just stop.  And…Think!

A lot of the people you see (I’ve seen and talked to myself) at gun shows are or were once blue collar union workers, who have been systematically cleaved from the democratic party over this one issue by the NRA.  A lot of them, not all of them certainly, but perhaps a critical mass of them, could be won back if democrats would bother talking to them, and not screaming at them that they’re responsible for the deaths of 20 children, let alone that they are Moloch Worshipers.  Those people have children too and they love them very much.

Also…I really meant what I said in number nine! The first person dragged down into the gutter when you lie about your neighbor, is you.

[Edited some for clarity…]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Our Molochs, Ourselves…

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