Guns Yet Again
So there we were again, once more looking back at another pointless mass shooting. And there we were again, churning up the same old dredges of the same old arguments heading to the same, old inevitability of doing absolutely nothing.
I say this in past tense, because, at this point, most people have checked out. Few care about this stuff any more (except for the poor families who have to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives). We’re tired of being sad, we’re tired of being angry, we’re tired of no one doing anything about any of this. We have accepted the inevitable: Murder Nation is here, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
I have no more sadness in my heart for gun violence victims. I’ve cried out all my tears, there are no more. I suspect it’s true of a lot of folks at this time. At what point does that happen? What is the tipping point for tragedy when it’s no longer a heart-wrenching event and becomes a mere way of life? We can cry when the first captain of a high school football team gets killed in a texting-while-driving accident, but we don’t even acknowledge the 3000 annual deaths now caused by that idiotic practice. So many happen, it’s no longer news. Same with AIDS, same with drunk driving fatalities, and now the same with the gun violence. We cried over Columbine, we cried over the Batman shootings, we cried over Newtown. The Navy Yard? Mass murder is so commonplace now it’s no longer interesting. We’re more interested in the roster of this season’s “Dancing With The Stars”.
I may not have tears, but I do have rage. I have plenty to spare. It’s probably the result of my French-Canadian ancestry, every French-Canadian I’ve ever met has a temper that will curdle air when properly ignited. And so, with this latest travesty, all I have is my rage.
The Reason for My Rage
If there’s one thing that gets my dander up, it’s doing nothing when things need to be done. When it comes to this type of gun violence, nothing is exactly what we have done. Oh sure, some states enacted various legislation (some good, some bad, some just spackle), and some institutions & workplaces have installed metal detectors and stationed armed guards. But that’s been balanced out by other states loosening up the rules and allowing “open carry” and other things. In reality, we are at status quo when it comes to this entire debacle. Nothing meaningful has been done.
Here’s what really gets my dander up: being forced to take no action or ineffective action, not because we aren’t entirely sure what to do, but because the very deck is so far stacked, against even the IDEA of taking action, it is impossible. I think most people have run into this at some time or another. Perhaps you work for a large corporate behemoth with so many processes, controls, checkpoints, and managers/executives, that getting things done requires Herculean effort. Perhaps you’ve been tied up in a snarl of bureaucratic paperwork courtesy of your local/state/federal government you don’t see any way to get through it. Perhaps you’ve been stuck in legal limbo between two sides armed with a pile of legal textbooks yet not a shred of common sense or dignity, making prison seem like a welcome respite. In all these cases, you are not stuck because of facts, or data, or reason, but because some idiotic bureaucrat in Cubicle 7 can’t spell “cat”; some executive is too busy counting his stock options to actually read a proposal; or some state legislature wrote one law that counteracts another law for no reason beyond a suitcase full of campaign donations.
It’s this way with the gun debate.
Reason Is Not Driving This Debate
There is no “reason” occurring in the gun debate. When it comes to guns, reason has not only been subverted, it has been squashed. Squashing debate is inherently bad: it’s bad for reason, it’s bad for change, it’s bad for the democratic process, it’s bad for society. What we have here, quite literally, is a tremendous threat to our very nation and, indeed, to our very lives.
Congress Is Afraid of the NRA. This is undeniable. Time after time after time, the NRA has swept down upon Congress with either a horde of threats from their angry members, or suitcases full of cash for campaign warchests. Either way, this is awful for democracy. How can we ever make any meaningful change when our very lawmakers are so terrified by a certain lobby that they will not even consider action of any kind? This is a grotesque subversion of our democratic process (and it’s not just happening on a federal level, it’s happening in states, too). It’s one thing to say “we’ll vote you out if we don’t get our way”, that’s happened since the founding of the country. But now this fear is so invasive, some legislative bodies won’t even debate the issue. How is that good for the country?
We are not allowed to know the facts. Pro-gun forces love to say, and often rightly so, that we should not “knee jerk” our way to gun legislation. I’ve been caught on this myself, I will admit. I hate assault weapons and high-capacity clips, but I have to be honest and acknowledge assault weapons have been used in a minority of such incidents (this includes the Naval Yard shooting, despite erroneous reports to the contrary). So then why does the NRA constantly try to block research into the issue? This is not an organization that wants facts, they want to control the narrative. But controlling the narrative, and controlling the flow of information, is anathema to a free society.
It’s not just the CDC that’s the problem: the NRA has pushed for & received legislation making investigating gun crimes almost impossible. This infuriates me to no end: here the NRA says stuff like “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”, yet they actually hamper criminal investigations through the legislation that the cowed-under Congress approved. That’s right: the NRA and the rest of the gun lobby are accomplices in murder by limiting access to the necessary information to investigate crimes. So forgive me if I say a big “bite me” to any pro-gun individual who cries “persecution” when there’s a tragedy like the Naval Yard shooting: if you support the NRA, you are an accomplice because of the hamstringing of the ATF and other law enforcement bodies.
Here’s another way the NRA is an accomplice to crime: they fight background checks. They like to say “criminals shoot people” but don’t even pretend to prevent criminals from getting guns. They say “the system doesn’t work”, but instead of using their extensive influence (remember: Congress is afraid of them) to improve the system, they are trying to kill it. You don’t try to kill things that you like, you try to kill things that you don’t like. It is beyond the realm of gullibility to even suggest the NRA supports keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.
The Death of Responsible Gun Ownership
In my earlier blog post on this topic, I ranted about the idiocy of civilian ownership of high-capacity/high power firearms. Instead of simply rehashing that, let me take a different tack, and rant about plain and simple responsibility, and how this controlled narrative is preventing us from approaching gun ownership responsibly. Put simply, the gun industry has convinced us to move away from responsible gun ownership. Entirely. It comes down to three things:
Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People
I’ve hated this slogan from the minute I saw it. What the gun lobby is doing here is quite insidious: they are using an age-old propaganda technique by redefining a gun. A gun nowadays is just another inanimate object, like a blender or a table or a paper clip. This takes away the seriousness of gun ownership, takes away the need for responsibility in the ownership. It’s just “a thing”, not a thing that was expressly invented to kill. If it’s just a thing, then it’s no big deal to own one, and, therefore, no big deal to sell one. If it’s no big deal, then we don’t need to check out people who want to buy one or need to keep records of who bought one. We can make them as common as blenders, tables, and paper clips.
It’s a Fundamental Right
I’m not going to debate the meaning of every clause in that badly-written Second Amendment (seriously, it’s written like shit, compare it to any other sentence in the Bill of Rights). But here’s how repeating this “fundamental right” stuff over and over hurts responsible gun ownership: if it’s “fundamental”, then we shouldn’t even try to reign it in. There it is, it’s fundamental! Fundamental means “applies everywhere in every circumstance.” So we can’t raise objections to anyone owning one. “Um, should Weirdo Bobby own a gun?” “Well, it’s fundamental” :throws up hands:. Assinine.
All Guns Are Equal
And then we have this last one: all guns are guns so they’re all OK. It’s no longer guns for hunting, or guns for personal protection. It’s now a whole class of guns that have nothing to do with either. But they’re all OK, it’s all “no big deal”. If a gun is just a “thing” and not a “weapon”, then we can have bigger “things”. We have higher-powered blenders, right? But here’s my problem with that: by continuing to allow these weapons to be manufactured and then owned by the civilian population, more will be manufactured and owned by the civilian population. Doesn’t that bother anyone? People like to say “only criminals will have guns”. And there is truth to that. But how are guns getting to criminals? They were buying them. From stores! Only 15% or so are acquired from theft, the rest are simply bought. Sure, bought under the table, in secret, with accomplices, but bought nonetheless. So if you want to be able to buy assault rifles, you have to accept the responsibility that criminals can now buy them, too.
Why I Blame
This is why I directly blame the gun lobby and most vociferous of the “guns should be unrestricted” advocates for any mass shooting out there: the redefinition of a gun as a “harmless object”, the notion that gun use is “fundamental”, and the free availability of guns whose only possible purpose is to murder a lot of people has guaranteed that we will become Murder Nation. It is unavoidable at this point.
If you would only use your power an influence over Congress and the States to convince lawmakers and shopkeepers that these are dangerous weapons requiring sane controls; if you would only advocate that rights, although fundamental, must also be used responsibly; and if you would agree that there are a class of weapons with no practical civilian use, thereby banning their outright manufacture (you can’t steal that which does not exist), I would not be as much of an asshole towards you.
But you want irresponsibility. And that I cannot tolerate.