Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Where Do We Go From Here

I have taken to checking my social media not long after I wake each morning. On Monday I saw a friend from Las Vegas check in that she was okay. I was confused, was there a weather incident, an earthquake, or something worse. It was something worse. A man decided that he wanted to kill as many people as possible for some unknown reason and bullets struck almost 600 people with 58 of them fatally. And so we continue to live in a world where killing people is easy and part of our normal life. There have been more mass shootings (4 or more deaths) than days of the year in 2017. This is where we are. I listened yesterday to my neighbor who is a prosecutor talk about visiting the scene of one of the record setting murders in Indianapolis, and having to tell a child her uncle, a young man, was dead. It was heart wrenching. Yet this happens every day across our great nation.

We are a country that was born by gun fire, settled by gun fire, committed atrocities in the name of growth by gun fire, defended freedom by gun fire, supported the innocent by gun fire and frankly saved the world by gun fire. We wrote into our founding documents the right to own guns because the founders thought it was an important tool, not for hunting but to fight off tyranny. While the words say "well-regulated militia" the idea was that all able bodied men would rise up to be that militia and in the recent Heller decision at the Supreme Court, this right in the 2nd amendment was considered an individual right. No militia necessary. For some that is meant to say it is a free for all, but if you read Heller there is a strong caveat in it that was written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. “like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” It is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Scalia, know as the uber-orginalist often voted on cases as if the ink on the Constitution was not yet dry. He focused on, much to my dismay at times, on an 18th century world view and not where we are. He didn't want to interpret the Constitution as much as he wanted to use it as a caliper against the cases in front of him. Yet he saw in the 2nd room for limitations and that is where we need to be having a conversation. Where to we set limits to fire power while maintaining our 2nd amendment rights?

This discussion is not about memes and talk radio. This isn't going to be settled on late night TV or in ads from the NRA (I have a lot to say about those guys at another time). We have to settle it politically and to think that in the wake of the deadliest civilian shooting ever is not the right time you are saying you don't want to talk about, but are happy with the nonsense vomited out by both pundits and so-called experts and ignore the reality of the situation. That is criminal level malpractice. I know several members of Congress owe their seats to particularly the NRA, which advocates not for gun owners but gun makers, but even those that aren't seem to want to avoid the issue for fear of being attacked by the mouthpieces of those who make and sell weapons. There are also those who are opposed to unrestricted access to weapons and accessories who seem to not want to have a serious conversation but use ignorant language and positions. This is not how we get things done.

So let me suggest some things:

1. The number of guns owned is not relevant. I know it sounds horrible that there were almost 50 guns that this man owned but there are plenty of people who own tons of weapons. Saying no one needs these weapons is a terrible argument because that is not anyone's call. If you have a number of weapons you think someone should be allowed to own, let us know. Then argue why that is a legal position. This is a distraction from the real issues.

2. As Scalia said we can place limits on the 2nd and one that comes up immediately after this attack is the so-called bump-stock. Making a semi-automatic weapon fire much like an automatic. Outlaw those. Simple. Some may argue the enjoy using them for target practice. I can argue many things here, including the unreliability of automatic fire when it comes to hitting a particular target, but what you want is not a legal argument. If it were no one should be arrested for anything.

3. Stop saying that gun control is a slippery slope to weapons confiscation. You sound stupid doing it. I don't care who you are. It is virtually impossible to take personal weapons from the population and I don't see anyone arguing this who has any legitimacy in public life. (and if your reaction is the old Sen Feinstein quote from 60 Minutes you look even dumber).

4. Stop saying that it isn't the kind of gun you would hunt with. I agree if you go hunting deer with a semi-automatic weapon you are either a really bad hunter or you are a psychopath who just wants to kill animals and not really wanting to hunt for game or sport. But that is not why we have a 2nd amendment. Owning a weapon is not about hunting, and protection for some is a real issue. Again I feel that if you build an arsenal for fear of the government you may be over the moon a little today, but in the end the founders basically said that it is the reason to have the weapons freely in the hands of individuals. And that leads me to the idea of muskets versus AKs. The 2nd amendment was written, in part, to protect against well-armed tyranny. Evolution of weapons is not relevant to the conversation. Yes the founders would be appalled by what happened in Vegas and couldn't full fathom it, but they also didn't want an unarmed citizenry in case a despot took power. Having commonly used weapons is implied in the right.

Congress can do more and should but just saying that is not enough. Here is what I think they could wrestle with, do hearings on, take votes and force a national conversation based on the facts and situations of today within the context of the 2nd amendment.

1. Outlaw the ability to turn a semi-auto into virtual full auto. With a broad law that covers everywhere.
2. Return to banning weapons sales to mentally ill.
3. Have a full and public hearing on suppressors (known as silencers) and what their impact might be.
4. Continue buy back programs.
5. Engage a special commission on basic rights education. Bring in people with a variety of opinions and then put together curriculum to use in school systems. If we have public schools they should be for the public good. Teach people accurate information about the rights as they stand.
6. Prosecute fully anyone who uses a gun in the commission of a crime.
7. Media should stop making these shooters into folk legends. The Vegas shooter didn't snap, he isn't a retired real-estate investor and professional gambler. He is and was a homicidal maniac. If his name was LeRoy Washington or Abdul Mohammed the stories would be different.

There are many more things we can discuss. Gun culture is a problem, in urban neighbors where guns are badges of honor, in my town where I eat breakfast at a place where 10% of the people open carry and some with questionable holsters, and online where wanna-be heroes tout their arsenal and pretend to be soldiers. (One comically ran from the Vegas shooting when the firing started).

We have a problem, but the noise around it is drowning out what we can do. Or as Mich McConnell suggests we should just sit back and relax, take a breath and hope that next week another person doesn't decide that killing 70 people might be a good idea. He know knows how to do it.

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