|The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Braindead Stupid
||[Jan. 18th, 2013|01:11 am]
First the ritual disclaimer, before the hysterical foaming at the mouth gets started. I own guns. I come from a family that owned guns, that were good shots, that hunted, and guns were carried in my grandfather's hardware stores. There were rules about guns--a culture (not limited to our family) of gun safety, of responsible gun ownership, gun use, gun maintenance. And in my household, particularly, there was a culture that denied "accidents" as a way of evading responsibility. "Accidents don't happen: they are caused." And the cause was, my mother insisted, 99% of the time human error--carelessness, laziness, forgetting to follow the rules, or letting emotion get the better of you, so that in anger (for instance) or excitement you failed to be mindful of safety. I learned the rules of responsible gun ownership and use before I ever touched so much as a BB gun. It's always loaded. Always look past your target--know what's beyond it, to the limit of the range of your weapon and ammunition. So I own guns, and I know how to use them, clean them, store them. I have killed animals with one of them, and butchered and cooked and eaten those animals. I'm not anti-gun.
What I am against is gun-hysteria--the hysteria of the people who've been jittering from foot to foot waiting in lines to buy more and more guns and ammunition in the last month: the downright paranoid hysteria that has been bred and fed for the sole purpose of profit--from scaring people into thinking they "need" a lot of guns right now to protect themselves from mostly-imaginary dangers. Dangers which--if they exist (and some of them do) will not be ended by having guns, because (as numerous people with actual experience in tactical situations have pointed out) a firefight with dozens of shooters who are not trained in such things will end up killing and injuring more than the original "bad guy." (Especially in the dark. Once you've got more than one muzzle flash going, you don't know which is which.)
What I am is angry with the people who have been deliberately fueling the hysteria...because it profits them to have all those lines of frantic buyers for their wares. That includes the NRA, which at this point is nothing but a shill for arms manufacturers. Which has, over the past 25-30 years, repeatedly blamed victims for getting shot, rather than shooters for being irresponsible, careless gun owners. My first awareness of this came in the mid 1980s, when the NRA spoke in defense of a hunter who'd shot a woman hanging up laundry in her back yard. She, the NRA said, should have realized it was hunting season and been more careful. (Right--like clothes shouldn't get dirty during deer season?) The hunter was not responsible--she was. http://bangordailynews.com/2008/11/14/news/bangor/twenty-years-ago-two-shots-rang-out-forever-alteringlives-and-laws/
Over and over again, the NRA has spoken out in defense of shooters, blaming innocent victims for being careless...or, if the shooters were actually committing criminal acts, blamed them for not being armed and defending themselves. And they did it again in the Newtown tragedy. No expressions of sympathy, of compassion...just the crass and unfeeling comment that if only the staff had been armed, or armed guards posted, those children would not have died. If only everyone had guns, and always had enough guns with them, all the bad guys would be instantly shot, with no collateral damage, and all the good guys would be safe. That's essentially what the president of the NRA said, in his comments on the tragedy..
The evidence is against this self-serving idea....there were armed guards at Columbine High School and they did not prevent the massacre. Even well-trained, experienced law enforcement personnel sometimes miss--and the bullet goes somewhere other than into the intended target. Even well-trained, experienced law enforcement officers and military personnel sometimes drink too much, get too angry, and shoot someone in the course of an argument. Even "good guys"--fine upstanding lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers, police officers, business owners--have pulled their guns and shot a family member (commonly a spouse, ex-spouse, present or ex-girlfriend) or friend in a rage. The presence of guns increases the chance that guns will be misused in the course of any emotional scene. Holding a gun increases the chance that the person with the gun will assume anything in someone else's hand is another gun. And that includes people with training.
This idea that anyone should be able to get any gun he wants instantly with barely a moment's background check means that most of the people so eager to run out and buy guns and more guns--are not well-trained and experienced in tactical situations. Take these guys: your typical (from my experience) over-excited, under-experienced, irresponsible gun owners. Notice that they aren't kids: they're 45 and 53 years of age. Notice that they aren't persons of color (for those of you who might think like Ann Coulter.) They're white guys. Middle-aged white guys. They managed to shoot up houses, missing killing people by sheer blind luck...and shot up houses not because they were defending themselves, or defending their property, but because they were braindead stupid...too stupid to know that "a field" is not a proper shooting range, that aiming downhill is not the same thing as shooting into the ground, that a paper target does nothing to stop a bullet in its path, and that their combination of weapons and ammo could kill someone twice as far away as the houses they hit. Also they were drinking while shooting, which lowered their already not-very-stellar intelligence even more. "Hey, Bubba, hold my beer and watch this."
And this is the kind of person that the NRA insists should not only be able to buy all the guns and ammo he wants, but be allowed to claim "It was an accident, Officer" if he ups and kills someone. Because after all, there's no reason a shooter should be held responsible if some careless ordinary citizen, maybe in the kitchen making coffee or getting a glass of milk and some cookies for a grandchild, gets between that shooter's bullet and its final resting place in the microwave. This is the kind of person that Greg Abbott, our state Attorney General of Texas has invited to come on down. (Speaking of braindead stupid ideas. Like we don't have enough of that kind here already. )
Now some people will tell you that some or most NRA members don't agree with their leadership...and if that is true, fine...but if that is true it's time for those members to grow a pair (of what, I don't care--it depends on gender, after all) and either walk out of the NRA taking their money with them or take back their organization from the sleazeballs that run it now. Sitting silent while letting their numbers be used to pressure elected officials is cowardly. Despicable. It's also time for elected officials who disagree with the NRA to grow the same or alternate pair, refuse NRA money, kick NRA lobbyists out of their offices, and start exercising some common sense.
No, the American people are not safer because drunken bozos can have assault rifles. Leaving aside the occasional mass shooter, the presence of high powered firearms and a boatload of ammunition in the hands of drunks, people on mind-altering drugs, people with anger-management issues, people who are paranoid about anyone who doesn't look like them, and so on and so on, does not make any of us safer. They aren't going to make good guards for the local school (do you really want these guys guarding your kids?) They are not going to pop up from nowhere and save you from a burglar. They aren't going to rescue you from bank robbers or someone who goes postal in the supermarket. They don't have guns to contribute to the safety of the community--they have guns to have fun with, as if they were toys. They shoot because it's fun. They'll do stupid things with them, like the guys in Ohio. They won't kill you on purpose (unless they're a mean drunk and get mad when you ask them to stop putting holes in your house) but you'll be just as dead, if you catch one of their bullets.
Common sense. Private citizens do not need this kind of firepower. Those who think they do are buying into the conspiracy theories and paranoia--and making the arms dealers rub their hands in glee at the profits rolling in. Anyone who buys any firearm should prove proficiency with it and knowledge of both safety rules and the applicable laws and discuss the situations in which they might use it. They should show that they know how far their pistol/revolver/rifle/shotgun shoots with whatever kind of ammo they're planning to use and what thickness of wall it will penetrate. They should show that they know how far that is in various kinds of terrain. The military doesn't just hand recruits a loaded weapon and say "Here--go learn to shoot this somewhere on base." They take recruits to the range and put them through a careful period of training--not just so they can shoot an enemy, but so they don't shoot each other, kids at play, or the base commandant by mistake. It is perfectly reasonable to restrict access to these deadly weapons if someone has a history of explosive behavior, drunkenness, drug use (including, for some classes of drugs that affect judgment, prescription drug use.) It is perfectly reasonable to hold shooters responsible for their acts. The Second Amendment is not a license to kill.
Common sense...uncommon, as is often said. But needed in this, nonetheless. Not hysteria. Not paranoia. Not the arms dealers' propaganda. Just common sense.