Crime and Justice: For What It’s Worth

Three days of tragedy.

A tragic week in America.

There’s something happening here;
What it is ain’t exactly clear.
There’s a man with a gun over there,
Telling me I got to beware…

 

 

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

There’s battle lines being drawn.
Nobody’s right, if everybody’s wrong.
Young people speaking their minds,
Getting so much resistance from behind

…..

Paranoia strikes deep.
Into your life it will creep.
It starts when you’re always afraid.
You step out of line, the man come,
and take you away…
(from the Buffalo Springfield song, “For What It’s Worth”, ©1966.)

     TLDR ADVISORY: This article far exceeds 1,000 words, and may be lengthy for some readers. My apologies ahead of time, but please read on…

     Fifty years ago, Stephen Stills penned these lyrics in response to the “Sunset Strip Riots” of the summer of ’66. During the Vietnam era, the song was adopted and interpreted as an anti-war anthem. Fifty years later, these lyrics remain just as pertinent to the atmosphere in America as when “For What It’s Worth” was first released. During the past three days, our nation has borne witness to tragedy upon tragedy, as a direct result of both the lingering, systemic biases within law enforcement, and the public’s festering fear and anger over the outward examples of these biases.

     On Tuesday, July 5th, 2016, Baton Rouge resident Alton Sterling’s life was cut short by two police officers, who were responding to a phone-in complaint of a person threatening others with a firearm outside of a local convenience store. While we don’t exactly know what led up to it, we do know, from cellphone video that was taken of the incident, that one of the responding officers fired six shots into Sterling, at near point-blank range while both officers had Sterling pinned to the ground. The cellphone video of the incident went viral on the internet shortly afterwards, resulting in both national outrage, and the local authorities calling on the DOJ to launch an investigation. The owner of the convenience store, Abdullah Muflahi, has stated that Sterling was “not the one causing trouble” during the events that led up to the incident.

     Alton Sterling was a black man, the two responding officers are white.

     The very next day, near Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, two officers of the St. Anthony Police Department pulled over a vehicle belonging to 32-year-old Philando Castile, reportedly for a broken tail light. Also in the vehicle at the time of the stop, were Philando’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and Diamond’s four-year-old daughter. During the stop, one of the officers, Jeronimo Yanez, asked Castile for his license and registration. The officer was informed by Castile that Castile was carrying a firearm, and that he was licensed to do so. At that point, reportedly while Castile was putting his hands back up from reaching for his wallet, in an effort to comply with the officer’s orders, the officer drew his service weapon, and fired four shots into the vehicle in rapid succession, striking Philando Castile in the arm and torso. Castile’s girlfriend then began live-streaming the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook. At the time of the shooting, Reynolds’ daughter was in the back seat of the vehicle. Castile subsequently died as a result of the shooting. The governor of Minnesota has also called upon the DOJ to investigate.

     Philando Castile was black, the officer who took his life…was white.

      Then, all hell broke loose, and the world once again seemed that it was going off of the rails. On the evening of Thursday the 7th, in downtown Dallas, Texas, as a peaceful local protest against the prior two days’ killings was winding down, gunfire erupted from an elevated sniper’s nest, as 25-year-old Army Reservist Micah Xavier Johnson of Mesquite, Texas, aimed his weapon at police officers, shooting 10 from the Dallas PD, and two Dallas Area Rapid Transit officers, all of whom were present at the protest to ensure public safety. Also struck, were two civilians. As a result, four of the Dallas PD officers, and one of the DART officers, succumbed to their wounds and lost their lives. It was the deadliest attack for law enforcement since the tragic events of September 11th, 2001.

      During the ensuing standoff with the assailant, Johnson stated to law enforcement negotiators that “the end” was coming, that he was upset about the shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota, and that his aim was to kill white people, and specifically white police officers. He also stated that there were numerous explosive devices in the area. One suspicious package was indeed discovered, and Johnson was subsequently killed during the detonation of that package.

     In the aftermath of this week’s violence, a great many people are struggling to wrap their heads around what has taken place. My fine, young readers, that includes me. Just yesterday, after reading about the killing of Philando Castile, I was musing to a good friend that there seems to be a systematic “something” that’s happening in this country, and that it’s being fueled by racial divisiveness and preconceptions. On further examination, I tend to think that what ails us as a nation runs far deeper than just racial biases within the system. In fact, just a few days ago, I made the following observation on my Facebook wall;

“Is it just me, or does it seem to anyone else that, unless you’re super-rich or super-notable, we live in a country where we’re increasingly being discouraged from asking that favorite question of scientists and young children, “why?”, about the things that REALLY matter, like why we still have a problem with racial prejudice, or why our government never listens to or submits to its citizenry?

I’m sorry, but from where I’m sitting, it looks suspiciously like we’re being beaten down by a system that’s been rigged against us, a system designed to keep us, for the most part, pacified.

It’s times like these that trouble me the most.”

     I think that it’s safe to say that I’m far from being the only person who feels like we live in a country where the average Joe has little to no say in how their government is run, and lives with a fair amount of trepidation of that same government. From fears over what would happen if we’re pulled over by a police officer having a particularly bad day, to being audited by the IRS, to whatever governmental mechanism that might go haywire in our particular direction, the people live in fear of the government. John Basil Barnhill stated in 1914, that:

“Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.”

     What has occurred over the past three days, is indeed tyranny.

     My friend and I also discussed the state of the nation, and whether the penchant of certain people for displaying an upside-down flag on their profiles, a sign of a nation in distress, was appropriate. She (my friend) stated that she didn’t believe that our nation was in distress…this was before the events in Dallas. When I spoke with her again after the events in Dallas, I got the distinct impression that maybe her assessment of the situation had changed somewhat.

     My fine, young readers, we are indeed a nation in distress. This distress has claimed at least eight lives in the past three days; five officers in Dallas, Texas, an angry U.S. Army Reservist, a black man in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, and another in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  This distress will, unfortunately, claim many more lives until it is alleviated. While I’m sure that there are many opinions on how this distress might find its remedy, one thing is sure; this nation is doomed to perish without that remedy, because as our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” 

“…because evils being once recognized, are half way on towards their remedy.”
(Elizabeth Gaskell, circa 1849.)

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American Rhetoric: No Fly, No Buy…Bye Bye For Now

No Fly No Buy

No Fly, No Buy

TLDR ADVISORY: This article exceeds 1,000 words, and may be lengthy for some readers…but it’s still a good read!

(At the outset of the House Democrats’ recent sit-in protest on the House floor over firearms reform, I was all for the concept of “No Fly, No Buy.” Then, however, I began to do my own digging. The more I researched, the more I discovered that this might not be such a good thing. What follows here are my personal observations regarding this piece of legislation.)

     There exist within the darkest back halls and deepest data repositories of the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ “Terrorist Screening Center”, secret lists that are not made available or accessible to the American public. These “watch lists” and “no-fly” lists cannot be readily viewed, and getting off of one is highly problematic at best. These are the lists at the heart of the Democratic push for “No Fly, No Buy.” Simply put, if you’re on the “no-fly” list, then the House Dems feel that you should not be able to legally purchase a firearm in this country.

     There’s only one…well, there are a lot of problems with this. First and foremost, many hundreds of people who are otherwise law abiding citizens, have found themselves on these lists. It’s not hard to make the list. In fact, until 2005, the TSA had been using people’s credit scores as a determining factor for placing people on the list! In other words, if your credit was in the toilet for some reason before 2005 / 2006, you might very well find yourself on the “no-fly” list.

     Oh, but that’s not the only way that you might end up being denied air travel! The Huffington Post’s Nick Wing outlined several additional ways that people have ended up on the list in a July, 2014 piece.(1)

      So, let’s just say for the sake of argument, that you’re an all-around good guy, who, like myself, has been pretty critical of the Transportation Security Administration, and its long, dismal record of mistreatment of air passengers. So, like I have, you post some highly incendiary things on social media about those jokers, including comments aimed specifically at John Pistole, the former TSA Administrator. Something to the effect of him being a mentally-deficient twat waffle, who deserves to languish forever in one of his own endless airport security lines. This could land you on the list, folks!

     Now that you’re on the list, let’s also say that the House Democrats have their way, and their “No Fly, No Buy” becomes law. Now, not only can you not take that Southwest Airlines round-trip flight to visit grandma Hazel in Duluth, now you can’t exercise your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms either, should you so choose, all because you got righteously pissed off at the ridiculousness that is the TSA at one time or another!

     On its face, “No Fly, No Buy” seems like a good idea. If someone’s been deemed too dangerous to get on board an airplane in this country, then they’re definitely too dangerous to be allowed to buy a gun, right? Isn’t this a “no-brainer”? Not necessarily, if the list that we’re basing all of this on is flawed, which it is! Even the decidedly liberal American Civil Liberties Union, knows that these “watch lists” are a major Mongolian fuster-cluck.(2)

     In my own, not-so-humble opinion, (when have I ever been humble in the course of opining here!?) we need to first, fix the “No-Fly” list situation, because it is a fu**ered up situation. Hence the Republican gripe about, “trading second and fourteenth amendment rights for secret lists.” So…

     Open it up. No more Orwellian, “secret list” bovine scatology.

     I’m sure that the federal government can get a few MIT graduates to create a secure website, that citizens can log on to, like they log in to their online banking. (Hell, they’re messing with Quantum Computing, I’m sure they can write some HTML!) There, they can check the list to see if their name is on it. If it is, the website should also have a link to both an online form and a printable PDF form, for redress and removal of their name from the list. The arbitration process should take no more than 30 days. One month, for the government to either make its case for depriving you of both your Second Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights, or get your name off of the list, and let you go along your merry way as a free American citizen, with all rights and privileges thereof.

     Listen. I get what my congressman, along with the other Democrats in the House of Representatives, are trying to do. They’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. People are dying every single day from gun violence in this country, more than in any other developed country in the western world. We have a dismal (yes, that’s the second time I’ve used that adjective, so sue me!) record of gun violence and deaths, compared to the rest of our peer nations. We need to do something, however I’m not at all confident that “No Fly, No Buy” is the answer, especially when the list itself is screwed to such a high degree. I suspect that to the Republicans, and maybe even some of the more enlightened Democrats, it appeared as if House Dems were, as my wife just phrased it, “trying to make the shit smell good before shoveling it.”

      The overarching idea behind the sit-in, though, is that Paul (Lucifer) Ryan and the House Republicans weren’t even allowing debate on this issue, which is not conducive to solving these problems, and is simply a nipple-headed, right-wing elitist thing to do.

     Allow the debate.

     Allow the vote.

     Sure, the bill is going to go down in flaming death on the House floor, but at least we’re having the debate. At least we’re sussing out the problems, and trying to come up with productive solutions…and that, as one congressman said during yesterday’s sit-in, “..is a good Goddamned start!”

American Rhetoric: Some Thoughts on the Democratic Sit-In for Gun Legislation

House Dems Sit-In

House Democrats announce their “occupation” of the floor.

TLDR ADVISORY: This article exceeds 1,000 words, and may be lengthy for some readers, including Congressman Mark Walker, and the Republican leadership. My apologies…NAH!

     Today, I can say that I am proud to be a Democrat, because yesterday, I witnessed my party’s leaders make history. Starting at around 11:00 A.M. EDST, several House Democrats, led by the civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis, staged an unprecedented “sit-in”, effectively taking over control of the House floor. This sit-in was precipitated by the recent tragedy in Orlando, at the Pulse nightclub, where a lone gunman killed 49 members of the LGBT(QI) community, before being killed by responding officers.

     In the wake of this mass shooting, which has been referred to in the media as the “worst mass shooting in U.S. history”, as with previous tragedies such as Sandy Hook and Aurora, national discourse on firearms legislation and control has risen to fever pitch; however nothing of significance ever seems to get accomplished. It was this angst that prompted members of the House Democratic Caucus to take the extraordinary step of staging yesterday’s “sit-in.”

     John Lewis is no stranger to things like sit-ins. The 76-year-old Troy, Alabama native was an integral part of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s, having been one of the 13 original “Freedom Riders”, and leading the march across the Edmund Pettis bridge in Selma in 1965. If anyone in congress was up to the task of putting together something like this, it was John Lewis. According to Lewis, the sit-in was not made known to the leadership. (I’ll comment a bit more on Lewis a bit later down the page!)

     At approximately 11:00 A.M., John Lewis was recognized by the chair, took the floor of the house, and issued the following statement:

     Thus started what would eventually become a 25-hour-long protest by House Democrats, over the Republican majority’s reluctance to allow a vote on two pieces of legislation; a “No Fly, No Buy” bill, which would prevent people on the government’s “No Fly” list from purchasing firearms, and a bill to close loopholes in the background check process where it pertains to online and gun show purchases. Both of the bills that Democrats were seeking a vote on, incidentally, are bipartisan authored bills. With their intent to force the Republican majority to allow a floor vote on these bills, or be held over with no holiday break, Democrats employed the rallying cry of, “No Bill, No Break!” The Republican chair was forced to adjourn the House once the Democrats took the floor.

     One of the more significant hurdles that the Democrats had to overcome, was the absence of media coverage of the sit-in protest. This was due to the House Majority’s control of the cameras and microphones in the House chamber. The Republican leadership had these shut off when the chair adjourned the House, much to the chagrin of the Democrats. No worries, though! As it turns out, there’s an app for that! Enter “Periscope”, and social media feeds from Congressmen Eric Swalwell (D-CA 15th), Scott Peters (D-CA 52nd), and Beto O’Rourke (D-TX 16th). Because of this, C-SPAN was able to broadcast the sit-in in its entirety, albeit with the occasional video glitch due to the nature of streaming video from a smartphone.

Jim Costa

My congressman, Jim Costa (D-CA 16) speaks.

     During the day-long sit-in, several Democrats took to the podium at the front of the House chamber, rallying their fellow Dems and outlining the many reasons for both the sit-in, and the need for tighter laws on firearms purchases, with the pictures and names of the many victims of gun violence in America as both their backdrop, and constant source of motivation, along with signs reading, “Disarm Hate.”

     The Republicans, led by House Speaker Paul Ryan, eventually used a parliamentary procedure to call an early recess, then left for the July 4th break in the wee hours of the morning, without even an acknowledgment of the issue. In fact, Speaker Ryan referred to the Democratic sit-in as merely a “publicity stunt.” This left the Democrats basically on their own in D.C.

     John Lewis and the House Democrats ended their sit-in at around noon on Thursday, the 23rd of June, with Congressman Lewis stating that their “struggle” was far from over, vowing to return from the holiday break and once again take up the issue. Lewis was the last one to speak. What began with Congressman Lewis, ended with Congressman Lewis, that courageous and noble gentleman from Georgia’s 5th congressional district.

     I find myself left with both a strong sense of pride in my party, and an equally strong sense of disgust at the statements and behavior of House Republicans. At various times during the Democrats’ occupation of the House floor, Republicans alternately heckled, laughed at, and yelled at the Democrats on the floor. During all of this, however, my party’s representatives maintained an overall sense of decorum and restraint. They did us proud, getting into what Congressman Lewis referred to as, “good trouble.”

     One of the more ironic things that came up during the protest, was when Southern Baptist preacher-come-Congressman Mark Walker (R-NC 6th) attempted to engage in a bit of “whitesplaining”, tweeting that;

Calling this a sit-in is a disgrace to Woolworth’s. They sat-in for rights. Dems are “sitting-in” to strip them away.

     I think that it’s a pretty “twunt” move, presuming to tell a civil rights icon about the civil rights movement, especially when the significantly younger Walker wasn’t even born until May of 1969, almost ten whole years after the Woolworth’s lunch counter protest.

     Once again, I am a proud Democrat. I’m proud of my party, proud of my congressional rep, and proud of my President. I also have my own opinions on things like the “No Fly” list, disallowing people on that list from purchasing weapons, and closing loopholes. Instead of going into that here, I’ll pen individual articles on each one, links to be found here soon! (Suffice it to say that this particular piece has indeed migrated towards the “TLDR” end of the spectrum!)

     #SickAndTiredofBeingSickAndTired #NoFlyNoBuy #CloseTheLoopholes #DisarmHate

American Rhetoric: The War Within

sig_sauer_hip_holster

“Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war”
(Antony, from William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, Act 3, Scene 1. Circa 1601.)

     (Part two in this series on the Gun Control debate. Part one can be read here.)

     There is a war being fought within the borders of this nation. It’s a protracted conflict between two diametrically opposed forces; the law-abiding citizenry, and violent criminals with little to no regard for the sanctity or value of a life. There are several things driving this conflict; addiction, greed, desperation, poverty and disadvantage being among the impetuses. As long as there is crime, there needs to be some way to effectively counter it. Sure, there is law enforcement, however in this second decade of the 21st century, economic downturns have resulted in a decrease in manpower and a corresponding increase in police response times. When an armed assailant attacks and seconds count, the ability of the citizenry to keep and bear arms can often make the difference between life and death.

     I have a friendly acquaintance who owns and operates a pharmacy in my small hometown of Madera, California. Brian Lee and his mother Sophia were working in their family-owned pharmacy one particular evening, back in early January of this year, when two armed men entered through the rear door of the business. These two men did not say word one; they didn’t ask any questions or make any demands. They simply began shooting. The one detail note that they failed to consider, was that Brian also owned a gun. In the moments that followed, Brian was able to retrieve his gun from behind the counter and return fire, forcing the assailants to flee the scene. The firefight resulted in the demise of one of the two perpetrators and an injury to Sophia’s leg, from which she is making a rapid recovery. (1) (2) (Had Brian, a law-abiding business owner not had a legally-owned firearm, both he and his mother would now be dead.)

     When we begin to discuss the “militia” in modern-day terms, we first need to come to a consensus of what it is. In my opinion, the militia should be defined as a body of trained, knowledgeable, able-bodied armed adults, who can effectively respond to immediate threats to life, limb and property with as equal a force as is being exerted, up to and including lethal force if necessary.

     Allow me to pause here for a moment, and clarify a few items. First of all, I am not advocating for or endorsing vigilantism. I firmly believe in the role of law enforcement to serve and protect, because that’s what we pay them to do. What I am saying is that in situations such as Brian Lee’s, situations which happen all too often in fact, that there are obvious benefits to having a firearm handy. Second, disarming the innocent will not do them any justice; it will only serve to leave them helplessly waiting on a police force with increasingly deplorable response times.

     So, how do we facilitate the “regulation” of today’s militia? First, we need to come to an understanding of what regulation means. According to the “Websterword” definition:

reg·u·la·tion: noun, /ˌregyəˈlāSHən/
1. the act of regulating: the state of being regulated.
2. a : an authoritative rule dealing with details or procedure.
—b : a rule or order issued by an executive authority or regulatory agency of a government and having the force of law.

     Another definition can be read in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller (554 U.S. 570 (2008)), which held that:

“[t]he adjective ‘well-regulated’ implies nothing more than the imposition of proper discipline and training.”

     If we’re talking along the lines of regulation, the first thing that we need to agree on, in my humble opinion, is universal background checks. No reasonable person should want someone with a criminal history of any sort to have ownership of a firearm. Likewise, if a prospective gun owner is an upstanding, law-abiding citizen, what should they have to fear from having that verified during the ownership / registration process?

     The next thing that needs to be put into place is mandatory training certifications. Every single gun owner should be required to satisfactorily complete both a gun safety and and “active shooter” course. These courses should be priced reasonably, so as not to deter gun ownership in any way. By requiring these courses, the regulating authority ensures that the “militia” is knowledgeable in matters of gun safety and maintenance, and also laws and procedures governing the use of force.

     Another idea that has been floated in various circles is the possible imposition / requirement of psychological evaluations. Once again, this might not be such a bad idea, given that those comprising the “militia” should be of sound mind, as well as sound body. Satisfactory completion of these evaluations, which should also be reasonably facilitated, could be a requirement within the aforementioned certification process.

     These are just suggestions, my fine young readers, ones that I find reasonable and relatively unobtrusive. While we definitely don’t need a gaggle of vigilantes running the streets and taking law enforcement into their own hands, we do need more educated, trained and honest citizens who can, at a moment’s notice, defend what we have worked so hard to attain. If it t’were me unarmed and under attack, I’d want Honest Joe Citizen across the street who sees me being attacked…to be packing and ready!

American Rhetoric: Once More, Unto The Breech

rifle_breech_300pxw

Breech: noun \ˈbrēch\ (from the Merriam Webster dictionary)

3. the part of a firearm at the rear of the barrel.

     “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” These words are from Shakespeare’s “Henry V, Act III”, circa 1598. With the alteration of a single letter however, they become entirely applicable for our purposes; as we’re about to dive headlong, once more, into the national argument regarding gun control. I call it an “argument” for the mere fact that an argument is exactly what this is. It is not a debate, or even a national dialogue. What we have instead is more akin to the proverbial “pissing contest”, with each side engaged in recriminations, finger pointing and other judgmental words and actions. On the fringes of the conservative right, there are conspiracy theorists who insist that their guns are needed to protect themselves from a government gone awry. On the opposite end, are the ultra-liberals who insist that, since guns kill people, they need to be banned completely. Various politicians in the halls of power are also taking sides in the argument, with some going so far as to propose increasingly restrictive measures on gun ownership by the law-abiding citizenry.

     Quite often, I hear and see firearm advocates bring up the second amendment to the U.S. constitution, specifically the part which talks about the “right of the people to keep and bear arms.” Conversely, I seldom see the first part mentioned. Yes, my fine young readers, there are actually two parts to the sentence which makes up the entirety of the amendment. As ratified by the states and authenticated by one Thomas Jefferson, the amendment reads as follows:

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

     There are a few important aspects to this that need to be considered. First, the framers of the “highest law of the land” did not speak “Yoda”. (George Lucas wouldn’t be born for another 153 years!) Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume that one part of the sentence has everything to do with the other, and vice versa. Second, there has been more than a fair share of debate with regards to the founding fathers’ intent when they wrote this amendment, going up to and including in the chambers of the Supreme Court.

     What follows here are mostly my own opinions on the issue. Please understand that I am by no means an expert (an “ex” being a has-been, and a spurt being a “drip, under pressure”!) on constitutional law, so I can only opine within the scope of what I know. That being said, the key idea that I can see already is one of a “well regulated militia” and what that entails, especially within the scope of the “here and now” as opposed to 200 years ago.

     In the 1790’s, firearms were a part of American existence. Not only were they used for hunting, but also to protect the homestead from hostile elements, which included the recently displaced Native American population, their sometime allies, and predatory animals that threatened crops and livestock. From an early age, young boys were handed a rifle and taught how to use it, clean it and keep it. Girls on the other hand, were more often relegated to keeping house, sewing, nursing and other things that were considered “woman’s work”. (How often do we hear that phrase used for household chores anymore? I apologise if that term sounded chauvinistic, but that was the way of things in the 1700’s.) Should the fledgeling nation come under threat, the framers of the constitution knew that there was a body of arms experience that could be drawn upon.

     What was / is a “militia”? In short, it’s a body of non-professionals that can be called upon in the event that the nation’s professional forces are not equal to the task of defense on their own. Of course in today’s society, there are a few very significant differences; women are now as equal to the task of defense as men, and our nation has a long-standing, completely volunteer army. In light of the latter part, one has to wonder if the very idea of the “militia” even applies in the new millennium. (If the concept of “militia” does still apply, then women should definitely be counted as a part of it. They (women) stand to lose just as much as the men do when their freedom is threatened!)

     In the 21st century, what exactly constitutes a threat to the “security of a free state”? The answer to that question can be summed up in one word; crime. Violent criminals are an ever-present threat to the security of our peace and freedoms. Over 200 years since the ratification of the second amendment, and the threat is no longer the one from without…it’s now the threat from within. It is with this threat in mind, that I would opine that the concept of the “well regulated militia” remains as valid today as it was yesterday.

     This seems like as good of a place as any to break for discussion. In the following article, I will attempt to expand on some ideas regarding the “regulation” of the militia, and how that applies to gun ownership.

American Rhetoric: The Gi-GUN-dous Elephant In The Room

Peeling back the surface debate...

Peeling back the surface debate…

     Lately, I’ve been getting very weary of the rampant over-simplifications plaguing the national debate on gun control. For instance, the left’s assertion that “guns kill people”. To my way of thinking, this is over-simplifying an otherwise complex issue. Guns kill people like pencils fail tests…and, since guns kill people, they need to be banned. (I should give you, my fine young readers, some modicum of “fair warning” at this point. This article is about to go into “SOAPBOX” mode, and might even flirt with the “TLDR” envelope!)

     Let’s say that I snap an icicle off of the eave of my house, and stab someone to death. Or, you drive your car over a patch of black ice on the highway, and slide off of a cliff. Oh crap, ice kills people! Let’s ban ice. Anyone who makes, manufactures, imports or sells ice will now be guilty of a felony. (I’d love to know which judge will issue the arrest warrant for GOD…)

     I grab a rock, and bludgeon someone to death. Oh crap, rocks kill people! We’d better ban all rocks. (What about the one we LIVE on? You know, the big BLUE one, which falls toward the sun, but has enough angular momentum to maintain an orbit?) Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, typhoons, hurricanes, floods…Oh crap! Nature kills people! A ban on NATURE?

     I grab a Louisville Slugger, and clock someone across the temple, resulting in their death. Oh crap, baseball bats kill people! Ban all baseball bats! (There goes the national pastime!)

     I take a No. 2 pencil out of my desktop caddy, and run it right through someone’s temple, into their brainpan. Oh crap, pencils kill people! Ban all writing utensils! (Millions of grade school kids will LOVE this one!) No more kids doing classwork with pencils and pens, they all have to use computers now. But wait! I grab a computer tower off of the desk, and slam it right into someone’s cranium, knocking them dead. Oh crap! Computers kill people! Ban all computers! (There goes my access to YouTwitFace!)

     I strangle someone to death with my bare hands. Oh crap! Hands kill people! Let’s cut off everyone’s hands! (Great, now no work gets done.) Then, I kick someone to death with my booted feet, now that my hands are gone. Oh crap! Feet kill people! Cut off all feet! (Great, now no one goes anywhere, and even less work gets done than before.)

     Does everyone see where this is going? Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Even my nine-year-old daughter gets this concept. (I know she does, I asked her.) Since it’s people who are killing people, do we ban people? No, because even the idea goes so far past ridiculous, that it’s ridiculous! Still, since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, as after every national news-making school shooting, (Columbine, West Paducah, etcetera,) the liberal politicians go into “ban mode”.

     The problem that I have with every mention of a ban on this weapon or that, is that the vast majority of people committing gun-related crime in this nation are criminals. Do the powers-that-be honestly think that criminals care one iota about gun control laws? They don’t even care about the people that they’re killing with those guns, so go ahead, ban every single weapon on the market. Criminals will still get the guns and commit the crimes, while honest, law-abiding citizens become defenseless.

     Now. That being said, (and this is the point where I turn my pen, being mightier than the sword or the gun, toward the neo-conservatives on the right!) I’m also pretty disdainful of people who spout this rhetoric of needing things like AR-15s to…how do they put it? “Defend ourselves against the government”? I think it’s high time for a reality check here. Could someone please tell me what chance that little AR-15-armed Joe Citizen has against things like Reaper UAVs and FA-22 Raptors? You see, the U.S. armed forces enjoy and exercise a nice advantage in any battle, a thing called “air superiority”. Point made, my fine young readers?

     Aside from that, could someone please tell me for what reason could an honest, everyday law-abiding citizen actually need something like an AR-15 or an AK-47? These types of weapons are geared for one thing, and one thing only; making war. Take it from me, a six-year Army veteran. The only real advantages to these guns are offensive in nature; full-auto and three-round-burst modes sacrifice accuracy for quantity, and are for the purpose of laying down covering fire. In addition, having a higher muzzle velocity and / or a greater maximum effective range is not a home defense consideration, either. No, I suspect that Joe Neocon’s true motivations for hugging on to that assault weapon (we’re about to get into the use of that term as well!) are based in his wants, as opposed to his needs

     “Assault Weapons”. This seems like a fairly nebulous term, bandied about by the politicians and the media to describe a wide array of gun types, depending on who is trying to apply the term. When the average person contemplates the term, things like AR-15s come to mind. When politicians apply the term, they tend to use a different standard, which includes almost every semi-automatic (which describes just about every pistol and rifle being manufactured these days!) weapon on the market. This is where I have an issue with government. If people like U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein have their way, the citizenry would indeed be disarmed, while those who care nothing about gun control laws…the criminals, remain armed, and still quite dangerous.

     Here at 947 words, I should attempt to get around to the true subject of the debate, right? It’s the real “elephant in the room” that no one seems to want to address; the human element. You see, making the assertion that “guns kill people” and not that people kill people, is like blaming the pencil for failing the test, or blaming the light saber for the killing of the younglings in the third installment of the “Star Wars” saga. No, just like anything else, it takes a person to wield that weapon, and the motivation of that person to take that life. That’s what we as a society should be addressing, not engaging in this misguided attempt to contravene the second amendment of our constitution.

     If only our government paid attention to history, they would recall the lessons learned during Prohibition. The government tried banning the device, without addressing the real issue…the human issue. Their approach worked so well in fact, that we now have two amendments to our constitution dealing with alcohol, the second one repealing the first one.

     That’s the point here. The issue of gun control is not a simple issue, and does not have any simple remedy, because the true nature of the issue is just simply…not that simple. It is a complex issue, because we humans are a complex bunch. Maybe instead of attempting to disarm the citizenry, our government should be looking at the ways in which it deals with things like law enforcement, justice, the prison system, mental and physical health and other human aspects of the debate.

To be continued!