Guns: Bullet Points

Guns, guns, guns. So much going on. I thought I’d put down, in concise terms, how I feel about guns since a lot of people seem to jump to some rather inaccurate conclusions. What more appropriate way than the use of bullet points?

  • I believe owning a gun makes one less safe, not more safe. This isn’t just a hunch, it’s backed by plenty of evidence.
  • The US would be a better country if guns were:
    • More scarce
    • Harder to get (waiting periods, universal background checks, etc.)
  • I believe no one (outside of military or law enforcement) has a legitimate need for high-capacity assault-style weapons like the AR-15.
  • The epidemic of gun violence in the US is a complex problem requiring complex solutions. There is no simple fix, no one law that will change everything.
  • No, we cannot eliminate all gun violence and that isn’t the goal. We can and should drastically reduce it.
  • Gun control isn’t binary, it’s not all or nothing. So one can advocate for gun control without wanting wholesale confiscation of guns.
  • “Gun control doesn’t work in Chicago you stupid idiot moron leftie!” — Chicago doesn’t have walls, it has open borders. Indiana is right next door and it’s very easy to get a gun there. There are hundreds of millions of guns in the US, there is only so much local regulations can achieve.
  • I do not think the “No Fly List” in its current form is the way to prevent terrorists from getting guns.
  • While I’m not a fan of guns (clearly) I also don’t believe that black people should be killed by police for having one.
  • The NRA is akin to a terrorist organization at this point. It makes meaningless statements like “No guns for terrorists, period.” while impeding any real attempt at reforming gun laws. They intimidate through fear, both for politicians (fear the NRA will support opponents) and regular people (fear that the government is going to take all their guns away, and fear that if you don’t have a gun you’ll fall victim to horrific acts of violence).

This is far from exhaustive. I’ve written plenty about guns, so if you want to know more, check out the “gun” tag.

Here we are again

Here we are again. Yet another mass shooting in America, this one setting a new record as the deadliest. This time the victims were primarily LGBT and primarily latinx. While geographically distant, it still hits too close to home.

What has changed since the first mass shooting I wrote about here–the murder of 20 children and 6 adults in Newtown, CT–in 2012?

Other than a bunch of other shootings happening between then and now, well, nothing.

The same inaction in government. The same bullshit from the NRA and their brain-washed, gun-worshiping minions. The NRA, while spouting meaningless platitudes about their policy being “no guns for terrorists” continues to block any and all attempts to increase gun regulation, while stirring up fear in the masses and pushing the need for guns for self defense.

Despite the obviousness of the fact that having more guns per capita than any other country on Earth has not made us safer, they keep pushing for more and more guns, and people are eating it up.

In 2012, I eviscerated their ridiculous claim that more guns will make us safer and this all still holds true.

And gun nuts, without any evidence, repeatedly claim that gun control won’t work, that bad guys will still get guns and good guys will be defenseless. This claim isn’t based in reality:

Our neighbors to the north, Canada, have much tougher gun laws. According to the CBC, “It takes up to 60 days to obtain a firearm in this country, after registering, taking a course and going through background checks.” Oh, dear! By the NRA’s logic crime in Canada must be out of control! Is it? No. In fact, there were 598 homicides in the entire country in 2011! How about in the USA? According to the FBI that number was 14,612 last year! OK, to be fair let’s adjust for population differences.

Homicides per 100,000 population (2011):

Canada: 1.73

USA: 4.7

As of 2014 those numbers are down slightly:

Canada: 1.45

USA: 4.5

Would-be heroes are most likely deluding themselves. In 2009, ABC News did an experiment based on actual mass shooting in Illinois, testing the theory that an armed student in the lecture hall could have intervened and stopped the shooter. The theory didn’t fare well. Even the volunteer with the most gun experience was “killed” in the mock-shooting. It’s worth a watch here.

Was this a perfect experiment? No, but it should nonetheless be an eye opener for those who think that untrained civilians with guns have a high chance of successfully intervening against a bad guy with a gun. The blog post I linked above has some anecdotes of failed attempts along these lines, for example:

In February, 2005 David Hernandez Arroyo Sr. opened fire (with a MAK-90 semi-automatic rifle) at his ex-wife and child, outside a courthouse! And courthouses, as the NRA correctly pointed out, are already protected by armed security. A civilian, armed with a pistol, attempted to intervene and was shot and killed. Arroyo was able to escape from a gunfight with police, including a trained sniper, and take officers on a car chase before eventually being taken down.

Will something finally change? I wish I could say I thought so. But I’m very skeptical. However, we’re seeing more movement than before. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) led a 15 hour filibuster on the Senate floor yesterday, with support from many of his Democratic colleagues:

Senate Democrats ended a nearly 15-hour filibuster early Thursday after Republican Party leaders reportedly agreed to allow votes on two proposed gun control measures.

Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said that a compromise had been reached. Votes would be held on whether to ban people on the government’s terrorist watch list from obtaining gun licenses and whether to expand background checks to gun shows and internet sales, he added.

It’s a sad commentary on the state of our legislative branch that a 15 hour filibuster was needed just to get the point of permitting a vote on legislation.

If passed, will these measures be perfect? Will they fix everything? No, and no. The problem is so large, deeply-ingrained and multifaceted, it will be take a great deal of time and effort to really make a serious dent, but we have to start somewhere.

I won’t hold my breath, but I will keep my fingers crossed.

 

Prayer and Guns

Guns and religion in one blog post? Yes I can! Let’s do it…

Remember a few months ago, after yet another mass shooting–I literally can’t recall which, there are so many–when America, driven largely by social media, collectively decided they’d had enough “thoughts and prayers” after gun fatalities? Twitter exploded, and the New York Daily News printed the iconic cover seen below.

kingprayer4n-7-web

This was the result of pent up frustration, sadness and fury over the current state of violence, particularly mass shootings, in the United States. Time after time these things were happening, and time after time we saw our elected officials, who could and should be doing something about it, sending their “thoughts and prayers” out to the victims and their families. It pissed us off. It pissed me off!

There is always a subset of religious folks–largely Christian, let’s be honest–who relish playing the victim. This provided an excellent opportunity. The term “prayer shaming” was born. “Our religion is under attack!” they cried out. They seemed to think they were being criticized for praying! But they weren’t. By and large, we were criticizing those who had the power to take meaningful action but who either did nothing or actively impeded attempts to do something.  Continue reading

How Not to Cover Mass Murder

I’m sure by now everyone, even my international followers (hi, guys!) have heard about the horrific mass shooting earlier this week at a South Carolina church. You may even know the name of the shooter. But how many victims can you name? Any at all?

It’s a sad truth that we remember the names of mass murderers, but rarely the names of their victims. This is, in part, a numbers game; by definition, there will always be more victims of mass murderers than there are mass murderers, so that’s fewer names to memorize. But the media also plays a significant part in this. They put orders of magnitude more emphasis on the killers than the victims. And it turns out this may be more than a sad injustice, it may be dangerous.

The video below is from Charlie Brooker–who Wikipedia calls an “English satirist and broadcaster”–while working for the BBC, in response to a mass shooting in Ireland. It was a complaint and a plea about how the media covers these events. Give it a watch (it’s only 2:48) and then join me below. (h/t to someecards, where I first saw this)
Continue reading

Uniform Code

Last night, another black male teenager was killed by police in the St. Louis area. This time, according to police, the teen was armed and fired at the officer. If that’s true–and once again, I believe all police shootings should be independently investigated–I can’t find fault with the officer for shooting. The fact that he fired 17 times tells me he’s probably not a good shot and should spend more time at the range, but that’s a different matter.

A fact in this story that will likely get overlooked–I may not have noticed it, if not for the tweet below–is that the officer was wearing his uniform while off duty and working private security gig.

And that’s a problem. Not that he was working another security job; I know cops don’t often make a lot of money (except at the Port Authority apparently, but that’s a topic for a separate post) and it’s fine putting their skills to work in another job. The problem is they do this in uniform. And it’s common.

In most cases, cops retain their police powers off duty, which is fine. But when you see an officer in uniform, how are you to know if they’re working in their official capacity or as hired help? The distinction is important! Are they enforcing the laws, or obeying the wishes of a private employer? As I stated in a previous post, you’re generally compelled to obey a police officer. Are his orders based on the law or the whims of his boss?

This is just another one of many things that should be fixed with policing in America.

On Police

I composed this entry weeks ago, and then sat on it instead of posting it. But I can’t really sit on this issue any more, now I that I see the story of John Crawford, a black man fatally shot by police in Ohio. The man was carrying a gun in a Walmart store, and police responded to a 911 call. The gun turned out to be toy, but it was apparently realistic looking from a distance. However, there are two considerations here: 1) Ohio is an open-carry state, meaning it was not against the law to carry a real gun in the store. In fact white people do it without getting shot. 2) It appears from the video that Mr. Crawford dropped the toy gun before being shot by police.

A grand jury failed to indict, and the city released a statement that “The officers followed accepted law enforcement training protocol in their response to the report of an active threat in the Wal-Mart store.” Apparently officers are trained to shoot black men after they drop their gun on the floor.

More information here and here. The video is…disturbing.

It sure seems like it.
—–
I’ve been stewing on this for while, composing parts of it in my head, and then forgetting most of them. Then as I was finishing up with work today, I saw the following tweet, and accompanying link from @redeyechicago:

And I’m sure most of the developed world heard about what happened in Ferguson, MO no long ago. And lo and behold, this tweet also popped into my timeline:

So it’s time to talk about police, I think. Police, or cops, are a necessary part of society, unless we want to live in anarchy. I want to be clear that I am not anti-cop. I appreciate the job is dangerous, challenging and often thankless. I appreciate that men and women are willing to put their lives on the line in service to society, often for sadly low pay (you don’t go into policing to get rich). And many cops are good people. I don’t say “most”, because I don’t know that to be true. I don’t that it isn’t true either; I lack facts either way. But it’s no secret that the power that comes with a badge and a gun can attract the wrong kind of people into the line of work. People like the guy in the first tweet above, if the allegations are true. And like many of the people I saw in action in Ferguson, MO.

And the whole thing in Ferguson started with a police officer fatally shooting an unarmed 18 year old boy. All the facts in that case have still not been revealed, so I am not going to try to pass judgement but it definitely doesn’t smell right to me. But Mike Brown is hardly the only person to be shot to death by police. In the US alone, more than 400 civilians were killed by police in 2011. In Australia there were 6, in Germany there were 6 and in England and Wales there were 2 for the same year.
Continue reading

The People of the Gun

Guns & Ammo column backing Illinois gun law brings vitriolic backlash, costs writer his job

I don’t have the time I’d like to properly comment on this story, but it makes me sick. What sort of compromise can we hope to achieve when one side will tear apart one of their own for calmly and rationally expressing a viewpoint that deviates even slightly from the extreme?

The one thing I will point out is this response from a gun rights advocate:

I’m going to stop there. Anyone who says “I believe in the Second Amendment but–” does not believe in the Second Amendment. They are not friends, they are not frenemies, they are enemies of The People of the Gun.
More than that, whether or not these nominal gun rights supporters (e.g., President Obama, Senator Charles Schumer) “believe” in the Second Amendment is irrelevant. As stated above, the right to keep and bear arms is a natural right, stemming from our natural right of self-defense. It doesn’t require belief, faith or political justification.

“The People of the Gun”? It’s like a religious fanaticism, and it’s nearly impossible to reason with religious fanatics; rational thought doesn’t enter the picture. There’s more to pick apart in this statement, but I really do need to get back to work, so I’ll let you read the full piece for now, and try to post more later.

Never Forget!

Never forget!
I’m not speaking of the terrible bombings and ensuing chaos (and death of a police officer) in Boston last week. That’s not something anyone in America will soon be forgetting about. No reminder is needed.

I’m speaking of the people who took this opportunity to reveal how terrible or stupid (or both) they are. Particularly those who would govern us (other than Mitch McConnel, whom I’ve already covered).

Exhibit A: http://instagram.com/p/YSnkv2ssV9/

This is Arkansas State Rep. Nate Bell (@NateBell4AR). He tweeted that last Friday morning. In case that image goes away, let me transcribe the tweet for you:

I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night  cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine?

As predicted, Twitter blew up and many Bostonians responded with an answer to his question: None. Feeling a bit guilty, Mr. Bell apologized on the Facebooks (emphasis mine):

I would like to apologize to the people of Boston & Massachusetts for the poor timing of my tweet earlier this morning. As a staunch and unwavering supporter of the individual right to self defense, I expressed my point of view without thinking of its effect on those still in time of crisis. In hindsight, given the ongoing tragedy that is still unfolding, I regret the poor choice of timing. Please know that my thoughts and prayers were with the people of Boston overnight and will continue as they recover from this tragedy.

Nate Bell's non-apology on Facebook
Nate Bell 4 Tool of the Year

He didn’t apologize for the asinine content of his tweet (which he apparently did delete), but for the timing of it. Because yeah, Nate, that’s what people had a problem with. And sadly, this post has nearly 2000 “likes” on it. Less sadly, most of the commenters seem to be more sensible.

Most, not all:

You apologies sound more like a wobbly Democrat pissing on himself as soon as his liberal pals start attacking him..I thought you were a conservative Republican..Represent Arkansans not the national left wing media and their mob..Your state district seat should have a man sitting in it.. not a fumbling, apologetic kid.

Quoth one Patrick DeMent. If I had more time, I’d love to hear more about Mr. DeMent’s ideas on manliness. Perhaps another day.

And then there’s The Donald. Here are just a few select tweets from Trump, the man who would (then wouldn’t, then would?) be President:

“Next time you are waiting in an emergency room remember the Boston killer was rushed to intensive care within minutes of capture.” (link)

“The Boston killer will soon be asking for a Presidential pardon—don’t give it to him, Mr. President—hang tough!” (link)

“What do you think of water boarding the Boston killer sometime prior to allowing our doctors to make him well? I suspect he may talk!” (link)

“Make the Boston killer talk before our doctors make him better. Once he is well he will say, “speak to my lawyers.”” (link)

“If the Boston killer applies for Obama Care the paperwork will be too complicated for him to understand!” (link)

“NO MERCY TO TERRORISTS you dumb bastards!” (link)

“I hate when the news media, so afraid to offend anyone, always refers to the BOSTON KILLER as “the suspect”.” (link)

And finally: “I know some of you may think l’m tough and harsh but actually I’m a very compassionate person (with a very high IQ) with strong common sense” (link)

All presented without comment, partially because they’re unworthy, and partially because ain’t nobody got time for that!

Never forget!