Tag Archives: newtown

The Third Way

Front and center in the debate-storm over American Gun Policy is a standoff between variations on two polar opposite opinions:

  • Arm Everyone, as a deterrent to those with intent to do harm/crime
  • Disarm Everyone and remove the tools of these violent acts

We can see this in action between Piers Morgan and Larry Pratt.

On the first point you have a technological solution to the fear of victimization.  In the second you have a technological solution to the fear of perpetrators.  It is vastly more complex than that, but that is the bold heading that I see above each.

There is one obvious problem with the “mo’ guns, less crime” argument, not counting the statistical reality that it does not work at all: It does nothing to address the psychological impact of surrounding very young children with armed “teachers”.  Much of the experience in formal education revolves around developing a working concept of authority and independence.  An armed teacher is symbolizing a very different kind of authority figure.  Full stop.  The argument also falls flat when looking at the reality of armed intervention by regular citizens (vigilantism).  For every successful deterrent there are many accidental shootings of friends and family, like the one in Oklahoma that happened on December 18.  I encourage anyone to stop using Google for “Asian Ass Porn” for just a minute and search for “accidental shooting“, and feel free to add your city or state.  The results are shocking.

On the “less guns, less crime” side you have a very different set of issues.  First, there are a staggering number of assault weapons in the hands of Americans at this point in our history.  Sales of AR15-pattern rifles surged after the presidential election of 2008, and at each and every twitch of anti-gun sentiment since.  Freedom Group (parent company of Bushmaster) turned out more than 1-MILLION rifles (multiple makes) and sold 2-BILLION rounds of .223 ammo in the past 12 months.  That is one company of many.  I have personally witnessed the lines of gun buyers “getting theirs” before some threat of a “gun grab”.  The sales spike in AR15 weapons in the immediate aftermath of the Newtown shooting should stand as a monument to our priorities as a society.

The second problem with technological solutions is that the human animal is an “apex” tool builder and tool user.  Time after time we are shocked by both highly technical solutions, and the highly crude but effective solutions, that mankind turns to when faced with a “problem”.  A “gun ban” is not as simple as some promoters of the approach would make it seem.  As well as some gun-ban approaches have worked in other countries like Australia and Japan, they didn’t have a 0.88 gun/capita ownership rate (which I believe is a low estimate in the US), and they didn’t have the NRA pushing a mantra with the words “cold dead hands” front and center.  As well, if you think the armed massacres we have endured are bad, wait until you have an endless stream of armed resistance faced by Federal agents.  If you think I am joking you would do well to get out of the house more often.  I’m not saying that restrictions won’t be effective, but I am saying that they won’t be easy and they have the potential of sizable blowback.

Not to lay the whole debate on numbers, but this is widely accepted as accurate data.  I wish there was a better overlap of countries in the two graphs.  I will work on finding a better dataset and report back.

firearm-OECD-UN-data3

gun_ownership_rate

So what about the “third way”?  The third way is to rearrange our priorities as a nation, with a greater focus on physical health, mental health, fiscal security, jobs, and overall wellness.  If you know anyone who has sought mental health treatment the odds are that they found very limited resources, long waits for treatment, and inadequate treatment once they made it in the door.  They also may have feared the social and professional stigma of having been treated for a mental illness.  If they ran the treatment gauntlet, they may have encountered a system heavily biased towards pharmacological intervention.  That may or may not have provided any kind of real relief.

We also have issues with the role of simulated and glorified gun violence in our culture.  The lack of realistic depictions and a “reset button” mentality toward killing aside, the greater message is “eliminate, not negotiate”.   The widespread dispersion of this culture through television, cinema and video games makes it difficult to assess causation since it forms a kind of background noise.  Still, you would not be faulted for thinking that a generation with heavy exposure to first person shooter gameplay, and access to real assault weapons, might be on a playing field biased towards gun violence.

Once again, we are in a nation with massive social and fiscal issues, and great damage inflicted as a result, and our socio-political system is proving to be too broken to move toward a solution.  I hope that the bigger issue of “emotional infrastructure” gets a fair hearing in the coming months.  I dare to dream, knowing that it is not much more than shadows of what could have been.

Silence of the Wolves

Less than two weeks ago you didn’t have to look far to hear the NRA squawk box holding forth on the relationship between a national tragedy and a national call for better gun regulation:

Eleven days ago—since when two mass shootings have taken place, this one in Newtown and another earlier this week at a shopping mall in Oregon—the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) president, referring to yet another shooting, bemoaned the media “[seizing] on the back of this national tragedy to try to piggyback their anti-Second Amendment national agenda right on top of the back of the national tragedy and try to force it on Americans all over the country.” Mr LaPierre, like the NRA’s Twitter page, has been silent today.

Read more: Here

So, where is LaPierre and his rhetoric after two more “major” tragedies?   Uh, they shut down their Twitter and Facebook accounts is where they have been.  In addition to Clackamas and Newtown, buried in the newsfeed noise, have been a host of other gun-violence episodes in the past 72 hours, and a foiled plot to attack an Oklahoma school involving guns… and because we ‘murrikens loves us some ‘spolzhuns… bombs.
I find LaPierre’s statement to be particularly disingenuous.  Note that the NRA will exploit virtually any piece of “evidence” that they can frame as supporting their positions.  I can’t remember the NRA failing to exploit tragedies in nations where there is strong gun control (Norway, anyone?) or at least the assumption of strong gun control, as evidence that gun control doesn’t stop tragedies.  Yet the NRA has the balls to tell others to remain silent on the same issues.  The NRA is simply on the wrong side of this argument.  Instead of using their supposed expertise and their very real and extensive membership base to craft sensible and effective gun legislation, they have chosen to be the Vatican of Firepower.  They got what they need, and plenty of tithers feeding their organization, and they aren’t going to listen to any outside information.  The occasionally venture out onto their balcony to issue directives at the masses, and then skulk back into the shadows.  Dialogue is for the losers.
Much like the ramblings of halfwits like Mike Huckabee, LaPierre is answering a question that nobody asked, ever.  The NRA is a firearms industry protectionist lobbying group masquerading as a civil rights organization.  Real civil rights recognizes that justice is often a process of give and take, and that there are two sides to the process.  If your side is all “take” and no “give” then you get stasis, not progress.  Sadly the NRA is content to play for stasis because the chessboard is heavily weighted in their favor now.  Note that this is much like the GOP playing for stasis now that the wealthy and corporations are paying historically low taxes, if you were looking for a current events analogy.  They both use that current advantage to generate more and bigger donations from their respective bases.
To wrap on a personal point of reflection: I used to think that the NRA was a 2nd Amendment organization, and my response on why I would be a member was “because I wish every part of the constitution has an organization of that size and power”.   And I really do have that ideal as an example of “things that would be good”.  As well I listened hard to the replies in those conversations and did a lot of research to see if the NRA was really about the Constitution.  I won’t say there was none, but what there was lacked any real substance beyond propagandizing.  I had to come around, though it isn’t that far, to the realization that the NRA’s attachment to the 2nd Amendment is purely window dressing.
Extra Credit: the folks in Vegas might say that the odds are very high that when we do hear from the NRA it will be a brief nod to the victims, and then right back to the equivalent of a Papal Mass.  Any takers?

Each Tragedy is an Argument for Gun Control

In what is becoming a kind of trend, Reason and Politics has written an entry in response to today’s tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.  Josh wrote a piece that I could have written almost verbatim and it would be entirely accurate.  Please give it a read.

I grew up around guns, was educated on their destructive power well before being educated about their use, and as a result did not grow up as a “gun nut” or even a “gun romantic”.  My father was involved in competitive target shooting with the US Army, and that was the tradition I was handed.  We weren’t hunters, plinkers, or military enthusiasts.  We were paper-punchers, specifically practicing the discipline of “bullseye” shooting.  Around here it is represented in the main by 50-foot indoor gallery competition with .22 caliber pistols.  It is the firearms equivalent of the chess club.  But even from that small bore tradition, I have had to do a lot of soul searching about my relationship with a sport, a technology, a government, and a group of psychotics called the NRA.

An NRA membership was a requirement for membership in my local range, and I didn’t think much of it 15 years ago.  Then I started getting their political mailings, and I honestly looked for anything other than fear mongering in their propaganda.  I found nothing of any use.  I have engaged some NRA type folks on the topic and it was frighteningly like reading those mailings… a lot of hot air and fear-baiting and basically zero facts.  Also, zero tolerance for discussion. A hard line, no debate ideology.

Like almost every other aspect of my life, I believe in voting with my voice, my wallet, my feet, etc… And with the NRA I voted with my wallet when two years ago I made the conscious decision to let my NRA membership lapse, and now my voice.  The spectre of an assault weapons ban is, and I don’t think this is breaking news, the prime motivator of many NRA members and the NRA leadership.  The main reason, I believe, is because they couldn’t win an honest debate on the issue.  Same for magazine capacity limitations and barrel length and automatic fire capability, and so on.  What the NRA is saying is that despite being powerful enough to snuff out all attempts at regulating guns in the United States, they fear that once they yield on any point it will cause a domino effect of regulation.  Their supposed show of strength is actually a show of weakness.

Each individual needs to make their own path through this tragedy.  I make the choice to start walking the walk as well as talking the talk.  I hate to say that I am not even sure where to start on engaging a progressive and effective route toward gun control.  I know that it doesn’t mean a wholesale firearms ban.  I also know that in the US of A we are kinda stupid and everything ends up being some kind of “all or nothing” debate.  As long as both sides remain extreme on this issue there will be no effective legislation.  Sounds a lot like our fiscal cliff showdown, unfortunately.