Thursday, February 28, 2013

I think we need to take this one....

Recently I was listening to a pro-gun advocate and I thought of the scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when Arthur returns to the Knights of Nee with the shrubbery.   Having completed the task they then ask him to cut down the largest tree in the wood with a herring.  The absurdity of the request is that you can’t cut down a tree with a fish.  It isn’t the right tool.  What it reminded me of was the often repeated notion that the shooters in the recent mass shooting would get access to weapons or use something else to accomplish their task.  I don’t think that is true. 

For example, pro-gun advocates cite a series of 10 attacks in China over the last 3 years.  The attacks were done in schools with knives, hammers, and cleavers.  However over the course of 10 attacks the death toll, while tragic, was only 25 and injured only 115.  Meaning that in these 10 attacks the total victims were about that of only 2 Aurora shootings, if these were done with the weapons that are being used today by mass shooters here in the US the tolls could be more like 125 dead and close to 600 injured.  The tool of choice does play a role. 

How do I also know the tool plays a role?  Because pro-gun advocates have testified to that.  Speaking to Congress and even members of Congress have said that the need of a AR-15 style weapon for self-defense is necessary if the attackers coming into one’s home are well-armed.  This suggests that Vice-President Biden’s plea to get a shotgun would not be enough.  I find it odd that a particular gun is required by these advocates because it has more killing power, but they also say a gun is just a tool and won’t kill on its own. 

But we also know that isn’t true.  Within days of the Newtown attack stories about guns were everywhere.  One shooting that struck me was a husband and wife in a crowded restaurant just having dinner.  The man carried his handgun in his pocket and while fishing for his cell phone moved the gun which went off shooting and injuring his wife.  There was no intent to fire the weapon, but it went off.  Guns fall over, get caught in something, and many other scenarios where accidents happen.  Children find their parents, grandparents and neighbors guns and they wind up firing them killing and maiming others all the time.  It is a serious issue that is made worse by hysteria that leads to people carrying when they normally don’t.  Yes, human error in each case plays a role, but the gun as a tool is dangerous in the wrong hands or even in the simply distracted hands. 

We can allow guns but maybe work on the delivery of the bullets to the chamber, making it harder to shoot off dozens of rounds without reloading.  I think the idea of limiting magazine sizes is a good one.  Again some gun advocates say that changing a magazine is as easy as breathing, it takes less than a second or two.  I know we see that in the movies, but in real life we see things differently.  When, in 1993, the LIRR shooter killed 6 people there were many more potential victims.  However, what happened was he had to reload and was jumped during the process.  Stopping to reload gives potential victims a chance and law enforcement or security an opening.  I am not sure the people on that train that day would agree that limiting access to large clips didn’t save their lives.

I am not for banning guns.  I believe that the founders understood that then, as now, guns were a right and a necessity for many.  However, I agree with the court that restrictions on certain weapons are a Constitutional step we can take.  I won’t propose where to draw the line, but I will say that beginning with background checks and holding gun owners responsible for the carnage of the weapons they buy could be a good start.  Ending straw purchases with overwhelming penalties for gun shops or gun shows that make it easy to get hands in the guns of criminals also might curb the proliferation of weapons that only can be used to kill many at a single time. 

Now I know the argument, banning those weapons means that only criminals will have them.  But here is the thing, people who are criminals can get access to guns now, putting road blocks up might not stop them but slow them down but the mass shootings are not being committed by criminals.  Take every mass shooting in the last decade and virtually every gun started as a legal purchase; there was hardly a blip on anyone’s radar to stop the guns getting into the hands of the shooters.  Enforcing any all the gun laws we have would not have stopped Aurora, Wisconsin, or Newtown.  However a simple extra step or two in the purchase of weapons might have stopped two of them. 

Now I know the argument that if we would have stopped all sales of the AR-15 or other weapons used in the attacks the people involved would have bought them on a black market.  While again the Wisconsin shooter would have had access to illegal weapons through his white supremacy contacts that kid in Aurora, Newtown and other places likely could not have found who to turn to for such a weapon.  Would you know where to go in your town to buy a weapon you can’t buy at a gun store, outdoor store or even Wal-Mart?  Seriously, these guys weren’t hardened criminals or evil geniuses; they were angry kids with a vendetta against real or imagined slights in life.  Like Presidential assassins and guys like the Unabomber they are reacting to a world they feel has no place for them and want to leave a mark.  They are the least likely to prepare for and most likely to surprise us by their actions.  How many of you have dreamed of opening up on those that have hurt you in life?  Made fun of you for being different?  Took something you thought was meant for you?  When the fantasy crosses over is when we become dangerous.  How do we stop that?

I, again reiterate, don’t think gun ownership is the problem, nor do I think private ownership should be banned.  But I do feel that we as a country have the responsibility to do what we can to make sure guns of any kind do not find their way into the hands of the wrong people.  We have the legal authority, the 2nd amendment is not written to totally tie the hands of the government as the court has told us.  It is where we make the stand that is important.  Visions of a post-apocalyptic landscape as painted by some in the gun lobby do not help the conversation, nor do the lies on the right or the hysteria on the left.  We need a comprehensive approach to this.  But let’s start with the idea that guns are designed to kill and some are designed to kill a lot of people very quickly.   Let’s include in the discussion the reality of issues of self-defense and that for some a gun is a tool needed for protection or sustenance.  However if the argument from the pro-gun lobby is only more guns, if the argument is that the government is corrupt and coming to get us, if the argument is that guns are evil and should all be melted down to make statues of angels, then we are all lost and the arguments go nowhere.  Congress is debating this with testimony from interested parties.  From what I have seen of this I have very little hope.  But if we being either gun owners or anti-gun advocates come together and make a proposal that makes sense, if our conversations are real, honest and open, and if we listen, truly listen to the other side we can truly make a difference and teach our political leaders something.  I see shades of it.  I would like to see this done before the next special report happens. 

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