I know how to fix gun violence
Posted by Euroranger on January 16, 2013
Not too many days ago, I went through this blog’s posts over the past couple of years and made an interesting discovery: for the most part, I’m getting too damned serious about shit. I used to be a less caring (read: “younger”) kinda guy and my attitude was that I’d probably be best served confining my attentions to bettering me and mine and our situation. Lately, it seems that my previous attitude is running head on into a newer “we better start thinking about saving the country” attitude more often than it did before. I’m guessing that’s probably because the situation for the country and our future seems a lot less rosy than it did just a few years ago and while I’ll get old eventually and revert to wearing Pampers, my grandkids (should my children ever exercise enough indiscretion to flirt with such disaster) will probably be wearing them too…and they’ll have a lot longer to deal with the mess we’re making right now than I likely will. Case in point is the recent debate over the role of guns in our nation in the wake of the whack-a-doo who shot up Sandy Hook Elementary School a month back. The overall knee-jerk reaction has been an increase in support for banning guns, banning certain types of guns, banning some kinds of accessories for guns and other assorted bans and things that look and sound like bans. New York state snuck a ban past their Senate in the dead of night day before yesterday that, among other things, limits gun magazines to a maximum of 7 shots, and in another provision, a therapist who believes a mental health patient made a credible threat to use a gun illegally would be required to report it to a mental health director who would have to notify the state. President Obama, just earlier today said he wants Congress to pass universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and used his executive powers to order federal agencies to make more data available for background checks, appointed a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and directed the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence. Great ideas, right? I mean, surely these kinds of measures will fix our violence crisis once and for all, right? Well, to be brutally honest:
They won’t do a damned thing about violence in general and gun violence in particular
And here’s why:
1./ The effort that pretty much everyone is talking about is directed at a class of inanimate objects. In every fatal shooting, mass or otherwise, there are but 3 components involved: the shooter, the victim(s) and the gun(s). I don’t think anyone is seriously discussing any measures regarding potential victims (well, actually, that’s not at all true but it’s not on the mass media agenda so it gets ignored). So that leaves the government and pundits to consider the two remaining aspects. Addressing one has the option of possibly being effective but more difficult to do (and philosophically problematic) while addressing the other, while easier to do, won’t likely be even marginally effective. Given that it’s our government acting, you probably don’t need a hint to guess that the government is going to focus on the easy but ultimately useless option: the guns.
Well, why won’t banning “assault rifles”, larger magazines and such work? Because criminals, by their very nature, don’t obey rules, restrictions or laws. Let’s face it: if your grand plan is to go out in a blaze of glory and waste as many innocent lives around you as possible, you’re pretty much already contemplating breaking much more serious laws…like murder. Seriously. Murder is illegal, has been for some time and the penalties for doing it can be quite severe. If you don’t believe me, look it up for yourself. Anyway, if you’re planning to murder a whole bunch of people and the illegality and the prospect for the sanctions against murder don’t deter you, what makes anyone think a misdemeanor or minor felony infraction for using a banned weapon or banned magazine is going to effect your decision? The truth is, and even proponents of these measures mostly admit such, they won’t. People bent on murder and mayhem won’t give a flying rat turd for some minor weapons law. What’s more, the same crowd that tends to think that prohibiting guns will cut down on gun violence also tend to have a large Venn diagram convergence zone with those who will tell you that the war on drugs is useless and should be abolished. Think about that moment: banning drugs is stupid, useless, expensive, ineffective, hasn’t worked and violates the right to do what you wish with your own body…but banning guns will fix everything.
So, if banning guns, gun accessories and such isn’t the answer, what is? For a novel approach, how about we address the actual issue, and that is:
2./ Consider addressing the supremacy of personal freedom over community security when it comes to the mentally ill. Not once, in my recollection, has a gun gotten up, walked over and shot the everloving shit out of some person…all by itself. In all the uncertainty there is in today’s world there is one thing you can pretty much take to the bank: gun violence always requires a person to be doing the violent part. What gun laws truly hope to accomplish is to separate certain people from guns. It’s just that their approach means that ALL OF US get deprived of our rights and separated from guns when it’s only a small fraction of us who actually need to be separated from them. That small fraction are the people who are mentally unstable. Now, I mentioned personal freedom versus community security for a reason and it’s this: have you ever seen the movie One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest? In short, it was a movie made in 1975 about a book published in 1962 about the antics of an inmate in a psychiatric ward who wasn’t really mentally unstable. The movie and book are very sympathetic to the cause of mental patients and helped form a public impetus (we’ll discuss Hollywood’s role in all this in a moment) that resulted in the ACLU filing many suits against states and mental health facilities arguing against involuntary institutionalization (read: “getting sent to the funny farm”) and even greatly weakened measures like AOT (“assisted outpatient treatment”) laws which feature preventative institutionalization and forced medication BEFORE they harm someone or themselves. Today, it’s nearly impossible to commit someone to a mental institution because they have rights. This is not altogether bad. There is indeed a compelling argument that people ought not to be deprived of their liberty if they suffer from a mental condition. That said, if you’re okay with placing the individual’s rights over the rights of the community for a safer society for all…incidents like Sandy Hook and Columbine are prices that society will pay for such largesse. However, if you are going to respond to such massacres by discussing a curtailment of a person’s rights, should it not be the rights of the people who are doing wrong that should be discussed?
3./ Our society is a gun oriented and violent one and we should consider reeling that back some. Listen, I play video games. I’m a gamer. And I like playing video games that feature combat, things exploding and, in general, mayhem and unimaginable violence. I like action movies that feature guns and violence. That said, I like those things in moderation and don’t mold my life and my actions to comport with a world view that the way characters act in video games and movies is something to be emulated in real life. However, everywhere you turn these days, especially for children, you see violence. Now, cartoon violence (like a coyote getting outsmarted by a speedy bird and suffering an anvil to the noggin for his failure) has always been around since the earliest days of both film and television and children that grew up in those circumstances didn’t turn into a bunch of crazed mass murdering psychopaths. But that was also back in the day when kids got spanked in school, had expectations placed upon them, weren’t coddled and told they’re all winners no matter what they do and so on. In short, back then, kids were still parented and learned that actions have consequences. Not so much these days. Since we as a society have decided to not actually directly raise our kids but sort of let them free range grow up any old which way, it may be that we need to revisit obscenity laws and perhaps some small return to censorship. This, naturally, would be violently opposed by Hollywood who, in perhaps the biggest recent display of colossal irony this week, came out with a list of celebrities who think that guns should be banned/restricted when the movies and TV shows they themselves make a lavish and privileged living from glorify and exploit the violence that guns can wreak. You see, taking responsibility for their own actions would be absurd and it’s the rest of us who should have our freedoms curtailed whilst they champion their freedoms of speech and expression.
And of course that’s fucking ridiculous and, of course, because Hollywood overwhelming supports liberal and Democrat politics, the president neatly skipped over any measures that might have even hinted that Hollywood scale back their 24/7 diet of violence and guns in the entertainment they churn out for society’s consumption. So, in short, to truly curb gun violence we need to look at who it is that’s presenting the problem, address that problem and get serious about doing so while the other side blithely demands to know why we should even have a second amendment (the right to keep and bear arms).
If, after what I’ve said above, you’re still one of those people let me ask: were you one of the people who shrieked and moaned about how the Patriot Act trampled your rights? Maybe not but many did. Were you one of the ones who didn’t care for the government ordering banks to report deposits over a certain amount supposedly as a measure to curtail drug activity? Again, maybe not. Maybe you’re one of the ones who don’t care for government defined “free speech zones” for people who wish to protest. Maybe, maybe not. Regardless of how you answer on any of those, do you see the government ever relinquishing any of those restrictions on your rights? Ever seen a government spend LESS in a year than in a previous year? Even when we had the surplus not too many years ago, did you see the government go “whoops, took too much money…we’ll give that back”?
I’m going to go ahead and guess you wouldn’t like the government telling you what you can and cannot say or write. I’ll guess you probably wouldn’t like it if the police decided to pull you over and subject you and yours to a cavity search on the side of the road. Maybe if the police claimed they found you were smuggling 10 pounds of heroin in your rectum that you’d like to actually have a trial before being sentenced to life in prison? Or maybe, rather than prison, they decide to simply sell you into a life of slavery. You’d be okay with that? Maybe if you’re a woman you’d like to have a vote?
See, I’ll go ahead and guess that just because the constitution says you have a right to free speech, to not be subjected to unreasonable search and seizure, to a trial by judge and jury, to not be made a slave and allowing women to vote that you will follow that reasoning blindly and fully demand your constitutional rights. However, would you be cool giving up THOSE rights that mean little to you personally? I mean, if you’re not saying anything then losing the right to free speech wouldn’t mean anything to you personally right? If you’re not a criminal then you really have nothing to fear from warrantless searches of you and your property, right? You’re not a criminal so the right to a trial won’t affect you…so surely you must be okay with jettisoning the 5th through 8th amendments, right? And hey, since you might not be black or a woman losing the 13th, 15th and 19th amendments won’t even affect you.
But here’s the rub: suppose, one day, our dysfunctional government decides that those rights ARE frivolous and superfluous and you don’t need them. Guess which amendment represents the ultimate means to address the loss of the others. The 2nd Amendment was written at a time that Americans were actively revolting against a government that was taxing them without representation, that would seize personal property to house foreign soldiers (3rd Amendment), that forced a government on them for which the people had no say and other assorted affronts. The 2nd Amendment is the only one that not only states a right but then goes further and explicitly declares that the right “shall not be infringed”. No other right takes that extra statement but the second. That’s because the framers had only a single example of a republic to work from when they were modelling ours: the Roman republic. Know what happened to the Romans?
They knew that even as good a system as a republic could falter and the government could turn against its own people. In Rome’s case, the senate handed over power to a strong man (an emperor) when (see if this sounds familiar) they were so gridlocked and their finances so screwed they couldn’t effect a solution via their existing government. The founding fathers likewise knew that no matter how thoroughly they tried to set it up, our government can and will eventually falter…and when governments go bad it’s the people that suffer and its the people that have to do something about it. Ergo, give the people the right to keep and bear arms so that if/when the situation warrants it, they can effect change.
Just because you’re short sighted enough to want to kiss off the only right that has any chance of guaranteeing the rest of them doesn’t mean your decision is wise or even informed. There are costs to trusting people with the power to change their own government when the government one day decides it doesn’t want to change. You can’t have that ability and have it have no repercussions.
Sandy Hook was a terrible tragedy. The next Sandy Hook will also be a terrible tragedy. However, if we’re going to start voluntarily giving up our rights for the illusion of security know in advance that the government almost never relinquishes power once it has taken it. The way to reduce incidents like Sandy Hook is to identify those people whose mental state makes them more likely to commit such deeds and get them the help (or isolation) they and society both need. Until we get serious about that then the next Sandy Hook is down the road a ways who knows how near or far.
My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.