Tag Archives: Gun Control

We Can Transform Our Gun Culture

GunCultureI was inspired and encouraged by our local “March For Our Lives” event in Tacoma, and by those held concurrently around the world. A number of speakers conveyed their passionate optimism regarding our prospects for implementing “sensible gun laws.” Some cited our eventual acceptance of seat belt laws, despite tremendous initial resistance, as one example of how important change can and does happen.

And there is an even more compelling precedent for optimism. I grew up in the 1960’s. At that time smoking was epidemic. Every indoor space was visibly thick with noxious, stifling smoke. Every tabletop was marred by ashes and burns. Beaches, park lawns, and other public spaces were strewn with disgusting butts. Workplaces and restaurants were more like Marakesh hookah bars than the clean, safe, and wholesome places they are today. Smokers could not be persuaded to change their behavior regardless of the cost to themselves let alone to others. Their right to enjoy unrestricted smoking was fueled by a powerful tobacco industry and protected by a complicit government. The result was that no one, even non-smokers, could find safety from the horrific health toll that this unrestricted smoking claimed. And certainly, few people believed there was any realistic chance to challenge the seemingly unassailable right and all-powerful compulsion of so many to smoke anywhere and everywhere they pleased.

Their arguments and excuses were much the same as those used in our current gun debate. But all those who said that significant changes in our smoking culture were impossible… were wrong. And they are wrong today about the hopelessness of achieving significant gun control.

But the relatively smoke and butt free world we enjoy today, that younger people thankfully take for granted, did not come about naturally or by accident. It came about because people fought for it. It came about because some ignored all those who maintained that smoking was too ingrained in our culture, that smokers could never be persuaded to curtail their habit to any extent whatsoever, and that in any case big tobacco was far too powerful to fight.

Big tobacco, as invincible and all-powerful as they seemed, lost that war. Smokers, as uncaring to suffering as their addiction made them, did eventually accept dramatic restrictions of their previously unrestricted right to smoke. And once the culture shifted under them, dramatic and fundamental change did not take long.

So don’t let anyone tell you that the NRA is too powerful. Don’t let anyone tell you guns are not the problem. Don’t let anyone tell you that gun owners will only allow their guns to be pried from their “cold dead hands.” Don’t let anyone convince you that the world will not be a far safer place with fewer guns. And don’t accept that our goals must be limited to “sensible gun restrictions,” because by taking this very meek approach we implicitly concede that guns are good and reasonable things to own – except for say crazy people or known criminals.

Rather than enumerating who cannot own guns, we should enumerate who can own them. The right to own guns should require proof of exceptional need. Such exceptions allowing ownership can include authorized facilities who “loan out” guns for controlled sporting or hunting activities, for guns held in secure armories for the use by “well regulated” militia groups, and for people with exceptional security needs.

Lest you think that such ambitious goals are impossible, consider that New York City has largely accomplished them. A little over a year ago we moved from New York City to Washington State. Despite the far greater population density, we frankly felt safer there. This is partly due to their very restrictive gun control laws. You are not allowed to own guns in NYC unless you can demonstrate an exceptional circumstance. Their laws effectively make gun ownership the exception. This has arguably contributed greatly to reducing gun violence, unarguably made us feel safer, has been accepted by the population, and has survived Constitutionality challenges in the courts. If such significant restrictions can work there, then there is no reason to accept any less nationwide.

As with seat belts, and more dramatically as with smoking, change can happen. New York City shows us that such change can be more transformative than we may believe – even when it comes to guns. The rallies and marches today give me a new sense of optimism that meaningful and significant change, akin to our transformative changes in smoking behavior, may be on the way for our insane gun culture. We just have to keep working to make it happen.

For other blog posts on our gun epidemic, click on the Guns category on the right!

 

The Supreme Court Must Ultimately Save Us From Second Amendment Genocide

gunlawsWe are trapped in a nightmarish, escalating civil war in which gun nuts, bolstered by the otherwise sensible people who support them in this national insanity, battle against those who recognize that we can we never hope to acceptably reduce gun violence until gun ownership is dramatically reduced.

Yes legislative action can blunt the damage a bit. We could and should prohibit semi-automatic weapons, as well as deadly ammunition and large capacity magazines. We could and should improve our mental health testing and strengthen background checks. We should stop shielding gun manufacturers from liability. But honestly, even all of these would not do nearly enough. These sort of legislative actions are merely the band aids we apply since we know we have no chance to obtain the life-saving cure we desperately need. In the case of our gun epidemic, that panacea is a radical gun-ectomy to remove all cancerous firearms from private hands.

Some think that repeal of the Second Amendment is a cure. But the reality is that we are so collectively obsessed with guns that we will never repeal our Second Amendment, no matter what the cost in lives. We could parade piles of bullet-ridden corpses down every American street every day and we would still stubbornly insist that no cost is too high to ensure our god-given right to bear arms. And even if we did, removing this right would do nothing affirmative to limit guns. States would only be free to pass their own similar gun-protection amendments.

But I think there is one slim hope that we are not sufficiently considering. That hope is the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, with the stroke of one landmark decision, could reinterpret the Second Amendment so as to not only open up legislative options but to force legislators to enact them. Keeping a sensibly interpreted Second Amendment in place would be far more valuable than simply repealing it.

To refresh your memory, the Second Amendment states that “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.” This is an extremely vague statement. Our forefathers made much of their writing intentionally vague so that future courts could reinterpret them in the context of their changing times.

Certainly times have changed with respect to guns. Since this amendment was ratified in 1791, guns have obviously grown in destructive power like the growth of a fire-cracker into a nuclear weapon. The population and our proximity to each other have also grown dramatically. The days of hunting as a necessity are long past. And the number of guns, as well as their destructive power, has grown millions of times over.

Yes, I know that just back in 2008 the Supreme Court ruling in Columbia v. Heller tremendously strengthened Second Amendment protections. Although that ruling was actually very narrow, it has been extended to justify the most generous interpretation. It can be argued that this ruling was as indirectly disastrous for sane gun reform as Citizen’s United was for campaign reform.

But the Supreme Court can, should, and does evolve on important, deeply held issues. It seemed that the Supreme Court had spoken clearly against civil rights in Dred Scott v. Standford and Plessy v. Ferguson. But they did eventually do the right thing in Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia.

If our system is to work at all, we must not give up on the Supreme Court. We must hope eternal that at least one conservative member, in light of our exponentially deteriorating situation with regard to guns, might be willing to agree to subtle but dramatically consequential changes in our interpretation of the Second Amendment.

For example, the Supreme Court could rule that the phrase “a well regulated militia” is key and that it requires a far more limited distribution of weaponry. They could rule that the definition of “arms” must be far more restricted than our current interpretation. They could rule that “infringement” does not mean anything close to the current carte blanche in place now. They could clarify that their ruling in Heller does not justify extreme gun protections nor does it speak against sensible gun control.

Is this likely? Of course not. Is it possible? It certainly is and the impact of such a ruling could be huge. What we must do is not give up on this avenue even as we simultaneously pursue others. We must find justifications to bring a never-ending stream of cases before the Supreme Court to give them opportunities to put forth a modern, ethical, and rational interpretation of the Second Amendment. We could ask them, for example, to rule whether our current lack of gun control might actually violate our Second Amendment right to a well-regulated militia. We could ask them to rule whether it is consistent with the Second Amendment to allow certain weapons to be available for sport purposes only when provided at an approved facility.

Who knows, there may be a Justice right now who might now be willing to bend on this issue, if only given one more opportunity to make such a ruling. In any case, the reality is that until they do our Second Amendment genocide will continue to worsen.

Reinterpreting, not repealing, the Second Amendment is our best way out of this gun crisis that we have brought upon ourselves. Neither voters nor the repeal of the Second Amendment will force lawmakers to control gun proliferation. Just as with slavery and segregation, only a Supreme Court ruling can both allow and force them to do so.

 

Proud Member of the NRA (National Raptor Association)

BirdOfPreyI am a proud card-carrying member of the NRA. My father and my grandfather were members of the National Raptor Association as well. My great-granddad owned several hawks and a falcon that he used for hunting back in the day so it is a matter of tradition in our family. My collection currently includes a goshawk, a kestrel, two owls, and a buzzard as well as several dozen other magnificent predatory birds.

It makes me so frustrated to hear people who know nothing about birds of prey continually bash those of us who care so deeply about them. I truly love my birds and handle them responsibly. I should not be punished if some less responsible owners allow their birds to prey on cats, dogs, and other house pets. The answer to raptor attacks is not more regulation, but better enforcement the regulations we already have on the books. Raptor owners should voluntarily take classes on raptor husbandry, learn how to handle their raptors responsibly, and keep them well-secured in an approved aviary when not hunting. But families should take responsibility as well and protect their infants and young children with natural cover. Or else they should obtain their own protective birds of prey to repel hungry attacking birds.

VelociraptorI also own three velociraptors that descended directly from the line that were rescued from the destroyed Jurassic Park facility – the first one. These are the original birds of prey. Wingless, yes, but ancient raptors nevertheless. They are potentially dangerous but that is why it is so important that they be kept only by responsible owners like myself.

Our founding fathers owned raptors and they never specifically said that velociraptor ownership should not also be a cherished, protected right. They knew that all raptors are an essential part what makes our American culture so exceptional. Raptors are the only thing protecting our citizenry from housebreakers and totalitarian governments. If we allow the bleeding heart liberals to restrict our velociraptors today, they’ll come after our American Eagles tomorrow. The claim that my velociraptor is far more likely to rend the flesh from me and my family is as absurd as are false beliefs in global climate change or evolution.

Of course I feel tremendous sorrow for the thousands that were lost in the original Jurassic Park massacre. I also pray for all those devoured in Jurassic Park 2, 3, 4, 5, and the many people shredded every day by velociraptor attacks across the country. But this is a small price to pay to protect my god-given right to bear raptors. Such unfortunate events should not be politicized to push for onerous and unnecessary raptor-control legislation. Raptors aren’t the problem. Velociraptors don’t kill people, people kill people. If those intent to do harm didn’t use a velociraptor, they’d just gut hundreds in mere minutes with their own teeth and claws.

In fact, statistics show that murder by raptor is actually higher in states and countries with strict anti-raptor laws. This proves that the only answer to a crazy person releasing a hunting party of raptors into a concert venue is a true American hero with his own raptors – like Chris Pratt in Jurassic World.

Look, I’m not crazy or unreasonable. I do support some commonsense restrictions to keep raptors out of the hands of those who would use them to do harm – like the mentally disturbed, Blacks, and Muslims. But just don’t try to pry my beloved velociraptor’s jaws from my cold dead hand, or I’ll sig em on you!

Thank the lord that the NRA is here to safeguard our god-given rights as true patriots and god bless the United States of America!

 

WE HAVE NOT YET BEGUN TO SHOUT!

gunPresident Obama’s press conference after the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon yesterday set the right tone – one of barely contained anger and frustration. In appropriately subdued Presidential tones Obama screamed as passionately as he could for people to get angry and make their voices heard by our leaders.

Later in the day, when Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders gave his obligatory post-massacre interview on the Chris Hayes Show, he also conveyed evident outrage but his message was substantively less compelling:

Condolences are not enough, we’ve got to do something, we have to stop shouting at each other, we need sensible gun control legislation, and by the way we need to significantly improve mental health services.

Don’t get me wrong. I will vote for Bernie. You should vote for Bernie. He is the only one with any inclination to make substantive positive changes to the status quo. But in statements like this even Bernie merely reiterates the endless feckless calls for “sensible legislation” and again diverts the focus toward mental health. This is nowhere near the level of outrage and action that even the President understands is warranted and necessary.

Look, I’ve railed against guns for going on 40 years. I’ve argued with family, friends, associates, and even random strangers whenever the issue of guns has come up. I write impassioned articles whenever I can (see here). But none of these even begin to “shout.” These are all attempts at rational, reasonable debate about sensible gun control legislation. But here’s the thing. Calls for sensible gun-control legislation have never worked and never will. Any “sensible” regulations accepted by the killing-industry would only be those that actually do nothing at all.

Bernie, here is what shouting looks like…

BAN EVERY FUCKING GUN IN AMERICA! MAKE IT ILLEGAL TO MANUFACTURE, SELL, OR OWN ANY FUCKING GUNS WHATSOEVER! COLLECT THEM ALL UP AND MELT THEM INTO SCRAP AND DROP THE SCRAP DOWN A PIT THAT LEADS INTO HELL. FUCK THE RIGHT OF HUNTERS TO SLAUGHTER WHATEVER FEW NOBLE BEASTS REMAIN ON THIS PLANET. FUCK THE DISTORED AND PERVERTED AND ARCHAIC SECOND AMENDMENT. FUCK THE IDEA THAT GUNS ARE PATRIOTIC. FUCK THE ENTIRE GUN INDUSTRY AND GOOD RIDDENCE TO EVERY FUCKING GUN MANUFACTURING JOB. SUE OR PROSECUTE EVERY FUCKER THAT MANUFACTURES OR TRAFFICS IN GUNS EVERY TIME THEY ARE USED TO CAUSE HARM!

Now that is shouting. See the difference Bernie? The upper case and profanity kind of give it away. Perhaps now you can see that we have not actually yet even begun to shout. But we need to start. Unless we take the most extreme position, and unless we shout that extreme position in every hall of government and on every street, gun-lovers and their merchants of death will never give so much as an inch. The only way we can make any changes is if we are so extreme about gun control that they must crawl to us with hats in hand in the hopes that we might give them an inch. Maybe, if they can pass the background checks and mental health exams and buy sufficient liability insurance and jump through every other hoop we can think of, maybe we will let them keep a gun locked safely away in their house.

Readers, we need to show this country what shouting really looks like. We need to shout so loudly and with so much vitriol that the gun industry shits their pants and finally becomes willing to accept a modicum of social responsibility and accept a bit less profits.

Link this article to join my “WE HAVE NOT YET BEGUN TO SHOUT!” anti-gun movement and show our leaders and the gun-industry what shouting really sounds like.

POST-DEBATE ADDENDUM

The first Democratic Debate was held last night and Bernie doubled-down on his “stop the shouting” rhetoric. His hypocrisy on this issue is incredibly disappointing. His entire brand is the red-faced chest-thumper calling for us to get angry and shout our outrage on a wide range of issues he cares about. But when it comes to the blight of guns, he admonishes us to calm down and stop the shouting. Bernie, we are going to keep shouting until even YOU cannot ignore us!

Yosemite Sam on Target

Gun-related murders, particularly mass murders, continue to rise in America (see here).

yosemitesamBut gun spokesperson Yosemite Sam reminds us that guns don’t kill people. After all, as hunting enthusiast Elmer Fudd points out, even if there were no guns those kwazy wabbits would just murder you with carrots. Wile E. Coyote, acknowledged expert on absurdly dangerous weapons, adds that even without guns some deranged Tasmanian Devil could run amok hacking preschoolers up with an Acme™ turbocharged meat cleaver. The entire cast of Looney Tunes agrees that the obvious and best solution to the plague of too many guns is yet more guns in the hands of animated characters who really, really love to shoot them. They maintain that in their cartoon-view, guns are not actually the problem anyway. Mental illness is the real problem.

I could not agree more with our Looney Tune friends! Mental illness is the real problem and we should focus our attention on that. Even though so-called real-world “scientific” studies have shown that there is no correlation whatsoever between violence and a history of mental illness (see here), anyone who shoots up a school or movie theater must obviously be mentally ill. And what does “correlation” really mean anyway? No, clearly mental illness is the problem, not guns. Case closed!

So then the only real question is how to identify these mentally ill people BEFORE they rip through an abortion clinic using their legally-purchased semi-automatic weapons supercharged with Brownells™ high-capacity magazines. Hmm. Let me think a second… could there be some factor, some objectively measurable indicator, that clearly flags individuals as mental health risks to society? Anything at all?

I know! How about we red-flag people who buy semi-automatic weapons with high capacity magazines as dangerous risks by virtue of mental illness? Clearly, people who are so paranoid, pathologically fearful, and sociopathic that they feel compelled to buy semi-automatic weapons with high-capacity clips – especially if they buy many of them – are mentally ill and need help. Maybe we should “register” them somehow so we can “monitor” their activities and administer appropriate mental health services.

hunterWe should be reasonable about this of course so that those few non-crazy gun owners, or at least those few crazy but harmless gun owners, are not unduly monitored thereby wasting our surveillance capacity. We should restrict our high-risk group of crazy gun owners to those who buy more than, say four mass-murder machines. High capacity clips should earn them a double-red flag status.

How many people would this high risk group include? I took the liberty of doing some back-of-napkin calculations. Roughly 24% of American adults say they own at least one of the estimated 310 million guns in circulation in our country. So, out of a total 245 million adults that means that 59 million of us are gun-crazy. Of those, 48% own 4 or more guns. That means that roughly 12% (30 million) of Americans are profoundly gun-crazy. That list would be whittled down to the subset of those that own four or more high-capacity modern non-hunting weaponry who are therefore profoundly and dangerously gun-crazy.

This “registration” and “monitoring” of high-risk mentally ill individuals is clearly quite doable. Not only are these mentally ill gun owners readily identifiable simply by tracking their gun purchases, but the numbers are manageable too. The terrorist watch list monitors over a million people. Amazon manages upwards of 300 million customer accounts. We routinely issue and manage hundreds of millions of driver’s licenses without breaking much of a sweat. So clearly monitoring our population of profoundly and dangerously mentally ill gun owners is well within our capability.

So let’s start a movement. We don’t want to unfairly blame guns when mental illness is the real problem. So let’s focus on that and provide the mental help needed to all those individuals flagged as mentally ill by virtue of their insane gun ownership. Maybe we could start a White House Petition. Let’s force the government to help these mentally ill gun owners to get the help they need and the intervention they require.

Pro-gun is pro-murder.