Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gun Control Discussion...

Politicians are busy this season avoiding any hard discussions about the reality for the need of gun control. Nobody wants to "anger the base." However, it's a discussion that is literally the 800-lb. gorilla in the room. It needs to be had, hang the "base."

Just as an aside, the alternate definition of "base" is "lowly" -- as in "lowest common denominator." So politicans appealing "to the base" are appealing to those voters who usually are one-issue voters, vote without educating themselves, and are usually also the "vocal minority." Squeaky wheel, and all that.

There is no God-given right to own a gun. If you can cite a source in the bible that says you can own an AK-47 (or an AR-15) with an extended clip, I'd like to see that. The Second Amendment, vaunted as the 'be-all and end-all' of the gun discussion, also doesn't mention any right to own a gun conferred by God.

Actually, the Second Amendment (as ratified by the States and authenticated by then-Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson) 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.

Since so many people insist on "strict interpretation" rather than realizing that our Constitution is a living document meant to be deliberately vague for the growth of this nation, we'll go that route.

So... No "God" in that Amendment at all. There goes that argument. Then there's the phrase "well regulated militia" -- a militia, in the strict definition, is "a reserve military force that is on call for service only in an emergency." (Webster's II, third ed.) So, let's look at the last part of that definition: on call for service only in an emergency. Is your argument that you are part of a "reserve military force" so you are required to own a gun? Is your argument that there's always an emergency? That's a little paranoid. An individual is not a part of a reserve military force in 2012. In the late 1700s? Well, yeah. There were no organized police forces; the military was just being put together. People lived in agrarian areas far from their nearest neighbor, unless they lived in a town - which was usually remote from the next one. I can drive to the next town over. Heck, I can walk down the block and across one street and be in the next town. In 1787, for example, I had to get on a horse or in a wagon to go to the next town. A militia in this case was necessary because I couldn't exactly dial up the cops when someone was robbing me or breaking into my house. A gun was necessary when it was me or the wolves. A gun was necessary for me to get my dinner, since we didn't have the local Jewel 2 miles from my house.

And let's look at the next phrase "necessary to the security of a free state." Well, there's the hole in your argument. We have a police force. We have a military, and a National Guard. The "free state" is usually relatively protected. All of us go about our business unscathed, and we don't have to be worried about Indians coming around the corner to ambush our settlements. We have modern communications: if we need official protection, we call 911 and people who are actually trained in protection will come to our aid.

The phrase "the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed" is also worth some discussion. Again, no God. But if you look at this without the "crazy-eyed" notion that someone is going to take your guns away, you can see that the Founders didn't want us to stockpile our own arsenals. You may have a Constitutional right to bear arms, but do you really, really need an automatic weapon with an extended clip?

And to those who say, "Oh, if the folks on Colorado were armed, they'd have stopped the shooter"... I have 2 words for you: FORT HOOD.

If you recall, in Ft. Hood, a crazy gunman shot people on an ARMY BASE. Where they routinely CARRY weapons. And they're trained to deal with them properly: they know how and when to shoot. And still, 13 people were killed by one guy. Who had access to "the most technologically advanced weapon on the market and the one with the highest magazine capacity." He told the gun store owner, who asked a logical question ("How do you intend to use this weapon?") that he "simply wanted the most advanced handgun with the largest magazine capacity." He also was able to return to the store on a weekly basis (red flag much??) to purchase extra magazines and hundreds of rounds of ... ammunition. (Wikipedia, accessed 7/26/12) When he was finally apprehended, he had in his pockets 177 rounds of unfired ammunition in both 20- and 30-round magazines.

In a logical world, you don't need that kind of capacity. Unless you're in uniform and deployed to war, or a cop. And I'd even question the cops having that amount of firepower on a "normal" basis.

I have a crazy right-wing uncle. Otherwise intelligent, a gun collector, hunter and absolutely rabid in his assertion that this president can 'take away the Second Amendment.' Procedurally, that's not correct. A president can't unilaterally make any changes to the Constitution. Period. That's how the Founders wanted it. Amazingly, they knew they didn't want to give that much power to one person. You won't find that factoid in any talking points, though, because it's much more effective to promote the agenda that "the black guy in the White House will be taking your guns away."

The only thing I agree with about this uncle is that he's equally as rabid about gun safety. His guns are stored in a locked safe. His ammunition is stored in a totally different safe. He hunts, but usually with a bow and arrow, because "it doesn't give me an unfair advantage against the animal." When asked about semi-automatic weapons and hunting, his comment is, "Why would you want to ruin the meat?" He hunts for food, not for trophies.

I'll give him that. But otherwise, he's kind of a crazy-gun-guy and is determined to have an arsenal. Some of his weapons are historical in nature, but quite a few of them are modern weapons. Be that as it may, every year, he requalifies through a gun safety course. And he makes sure that his hunting buddies, and his family, also do that before he'll go anywhere near them with a weapon (like to the shooting range or to hunt).

We need to address the very basic gorilla (maybe a chimp?) -- you don't have to "restrict" the ability to own a gun. But you do have to regulate it. People with mental problems do not need guns. People with criminal records do not need guns. People who amass arsenals need to have a chat with authorities. These are common-sense regulations. They will help keep people safe.

In the movie theatre, one politican said that "if everyone was armed, it would've been over." OK: picture this. Darkened movie theatre. Assailant in full body armor. He tosses tear gas. Crowded and closely-packed area.  People pull out guns, they're blinded by tear gas, and they randomly shoot. C'mon, use logic. How much collateral damage would've occured? And how could an amateur actually shoot a guy in full body armor?

I owned a gun. A .357 magnum 6-shot. I sold it, because it became more gun than I would ever need. I was a decent shot. But I truly believe that only my crazy uncle or perhaps my brother (who taught me to shoot) might --- just might have been able to make that shot.

When I was studying criminal justice, one of our instructors, a former police officer, gave us "Shoot, Don't Shoot" training. Even those of the students in the law enforcement track were unable to reliably complete the training. Our instructor said something that's stuck with me to this day: "Even well-trained cops can screw this up. Shooting someone is forever.  What you do with a gun will haunt you all of your days."

I don't want that responsibility. I don't really want my neighbor to have it either, because I'm convinced that most of us civilians not only "couldn't hit the broad side of a barn" but we're not psychologically ready to make that grave decision to pull the trigger with the realization that what we're doing is forever. Not that all my neighbors are nuts. They're just civilians. They're untrained. They haven't been in the position to have to shoot in self-defense. And I don't think they understand the permanent nature of firing a weapon at another human being.

That doesn't even count the people who really do have psychological issues. If you're on medication for a psychiatric disorder or ailment, you don't need a weapon that could kill you, permanently maim you, or hurt someone else. You just can't deal with it. Period. Cold hard fact.

If you're a criminal, even if it was a "non-violent" crime, you've abrogated your right to have a gun. You broke the law. You're done. Period. Cold hard fact.

If you do decide you need a gun, you really do need to get training - and not from some clerk wanting to make a sale. You need to have real training in what you're getting yourself into. Buy only the gun you need. And normally, honestly? That's a rifle to hunt with and a handgun if you feel like you need the protection. And neither of those needs to be an automatic with a large magazine.

If you want to go the "carry" route, then let's do away with "concealed" carry. Wear it proud, folks. Why have a criminal "think" that you "may" be carrying. Own it. But be prepared that statistics show that a person wearing a weapon has a better-than-even chance of having his or her weapon used against them. Do you really want to be shot by your own gun?

The politicans have to grow a spine and address the 800-lb. gorilla. It needs to be done because we're already almost "out of the news cycle" where we'll forget what has happened in Colorado. Tell me honestly, did Ft. Hood even cross your mind till I wrote those words? Nope. Because we're easily distracted by shiny objects. Our politicians and news media have made us that way. We don't bother to do our own independent thinking and we rely on "authorities" to tell us what to think and what to say.

The Founders, I'm sure, wanted a thinking nation. A nation unafraid to deal with the tough issues. And a people brave enough to know when to say "Enough" -- and make a brave change to ensure the fundamental safety of all of us.

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