I agree it's a problem for neighbors...you can't tell the ones who are going to shoot (either at you, or at something else, carelessly, and put a bullet through your kitchen) from the ones who will live out their lives without ever harming a person or someone else's property. After an obvious breakdown, we can say "Someone should have realized this kid, this person, was losing it..." But usually the things picked out to "watch for" are superficial and shared by many others. Back around the Columbine massacre there was sudden concern about kids who dressed Goth. But I know Goth-dressers (this may not be the right term, but I dunno what is) who are the gentlest, sweetest people around. Not alienated, not "peculiar," just think it's fun to dress in black, dye their hair weirdly (to me, OK? Although, since I now own a bright turquoise "big hair" wig, I should probably not call anyone's hair weird.)
Okay, I'm curious. Why do you have a bright turquoise "big hair" wig?
That's a long story. It involves A-Kon and a joke to be played on my choir director (it worked, too!) The thing is some form of polyester, I think, and very, very hot. If I were freezing in the Arctic, I wouldn't need a fur hat to keep my head warm--the wig would do.
See, my choir director and voice coach kept telling me to "think like a diva." I assure you, the turquoise big hair is solidly diva. And I had a purple (seriously purple) graduation gown from our son's high school graduation. He's very tall; on me, it sweeps the floor. I wanted to find (and couldn't) Miss Piggy ears, nose, and tiara to go with it, and cheap rhinestone-bordered glasses, but I had to go with the hair and the gown alone.
The whole rig was far too hot to take my lesson in. Under the purple robe were the jeans and T-shirt and hiking shoes; under the turquoise wig was my (now rather helmet-haired) hair. Sigh.
*nods* Once again a well-written discourse on the subject.
I've worked with military people. They treat gun ownership very seriously and know the difference between survival training and training to kill someone. Almost every one that I talked to hated the fact that part of their training includes learning to kill people. The few that didn't hate the training looked on it as "unfortunately necessary much like killing rabid animals".
I believe in gun control but I don't believe in penalizing someone who wants to own a gun. I do think every gun owner should have some form of recognized training they go through before getting a gun or to show they are responsible owners if they already have a gun. In other words, like drivers they need a license.
I haven't had survival training but I know it's more about how to live off the land and knowing how to do things without technology than it is about how to shoot other people. Self-defense from someone obviously trying to rob me is one thing but it has to be a real and obvious threat not assumed just because the other person(s) is a stranger.
Judging any one on the basis of skin colour or religion or language is obviously racist and has nothing to do with self-defense. Besides, even being Canadian, I know that the American Constitution declares all men to be (created) equal and as far as I recall there's nothing written there about the colour of their skin or the language they speak or the religion they worship making any of them more equal than any one else.
As an observer, I sometimes wonder if your politicians actually read and understand your own Constitution. I know I wonder the same thing about my country's politicians.
Do our politicians all read, digest and inwardly understand our Constitution? No. Nor the Bible, either. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was in high school, everyone had to spend a considerable time (more than six weeks, as I recall) on the Constitution and pass a pretty stiff test on it in order to graduate from high school. Now...who knows. But I can guarantee a lot of them don't understand and don't want to understand because money flows their way for not understanding.
2013-02-24 08:49 am (UTC)
My name is Karen, and I used to work for a major high school textbook publisher, so I got pretty familiar with what got left out when we converted to No Child Left Behind as the driving force in education. (Essentially anything that couldn't be claimed to teach reading, math, or science.) We regularly bemoaned the fact that that excluded everything to do with civics, the Constitution, and history that couldn't be claimed to teaching reading -- and relied on one standard, "Teaches students to understand complex texts" as our default, hating the fact that we had to do so.
In other words, I can say with quite a bit of certainty that most school districts no longer require tests on civics, citizenship skills, the Constitution, or even much history anymore.
Sandra Day O'Connor wrote a book a few years back called "The Majesty of the Law" that is supposed to explore the need for better education in the connections between the law, civics and citizenship. I've not read it yet (it's on my list), but I saw her give a pretty impassioned speech on the need for better high school education on these issues for "The Daily Show." The interview was so good, it's kinda burned into my brain.
She didn't speak to guns issues, (and it's dangerous to attribute views to others outside of what they say) but she always struck me as someone who thought through both sides of issues, whichever side she was on. From what she did say, I imagine that a better education into the morality and ethics of guns rights versus the responsibilities of guns ownership would part of that education she felt was so important, both because it's such a hot-button issue (and she seemed to want students to more fully understand the crucial issues facing our society) and because, as part of the original Bill of Rights, it's acquired a rather sacred status to people who can only count to ten.
Big mistake on the education front, and my state--being a major textbook buyer--is one of the reasons. Every student should be taught the Constitution, preferably not all in one rushed class headed for a exam, but over the years, in every American History class. Citizens need to know it, know its history, know what political pressures shaped its conception and completion, and know why and how it's changed.
As an USAian, I know that the Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal. The Constitution is the document that says that slaves count as 3/5ths of a person for purposes of determining state population for the House of Representatives, without giving them the franchise of course.
2013-02-24 12:01 am (UTC)
Freedom from idiots with firearms
Very well written. For those who wish to "defend" their home with handguns or worse, I have these questions to ask of you.
1) Have you been trained in urban combat? If not are you willing to accept full responsibility for those who you wound or kill because you fired first and made excuses later?
2) Do you know how powerful the ammunition is you purchased for your weapon ? How far will it go after you fire the round off? How many walls and homes or bodies will it penetrate before is runs out of enough kinetic energy to no longer do harm?
3) Did you buy the gun because it looked big and "bad" or did you buy the gun that would do what you wanted it to do, just powerful enough to effectively stop an aggressor before they did harm to you or your family. Are you taking classes in urban combat and training on a regular basis so you handle the situation when it comes up. If you went for the big and bad option, and are not taking classes in home defense and maintaining skills, please look in the mirror and you will see a first class idiot who is a danger to themselves, their family and their community.
4) Are you prepared to face the fact and live with the responsibility that you may have killed an innocent person or one of your family members or their little friends may have been injured when they found your weapon and god forbid the too often inevitable happens?
Just some questions to ask before you decide to dive into the NRA Kool-aid swimming pool.
Again thanks for a great posting
2013-02-24 03:04 am (UTC)
Re: Freedom from idiots with firearms
You must identify yourself or I'm going to delete this otherwise reasonable set of questions. I understand that some people can't post to LJ except as "Anonymous, but you can give a name and location in the body of your comment. Please do. The clock is running.
2013-02-24 08:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Freedom from idiots with firearms
Sorry, I forgot to write that in the post. I am Ed and I live in Frederick, MD.
2013-02-24 09:01 pm (UTC)
Re: Freedom from idiots with firearms
2013-02-26 08:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Freedom from idiots with firearms
I saw that post and my response to it was YES! Well said. I was saddened that you kept the comments closed, but I understand why with a topic like this, comments could end up as a flame war firestorm.
Years ago I use to play the live action game of Laser tag. Everyone would be outfitted with a helmet, sensor vest and light gun. It was a high stress urban combat game where is was shoot or be shot. I lost count of how many times I shot friendlies because all I saw was a bad guy coming at me with a gun when in fact it was someone on my side. Needless to say I was never in the military or received any urban combat training and it showed by my penalty count at the end of the game.
If you are going to purchase a hand gun for home protection then PLEASE! for the sake of your family and neighbors get training. After you are trained, go back often for refresher courses. It takes time to train military and police forces to do their jobs. Even then sadly, accidents happen. Just because you have a gun does not mean your house is protected. Protection involves not just owning a gun, but also a plan where everyone knows what to do and where to go incase of an emergency.
Just a further two cents from Ed in Frederick, MD
2013-03-01 03:50 am (UTC)
Re: Freedom from idiots with firearms
At the time of that post, I was in a thick crush of obligations and had no time to moderate comments. Hence, leaving them closed. I feel that I owe the regulars here (and visitors for that matter) a civil atmosphere in which to comment and read...and if I don't have time to moderate a hot topic, then I don't allow comments because unmoderated "discussion" will inevitably turn nasty.
Good post, Elizabeth. In my country, we only have a right to bear arms for game-hunting, under a strict license, so I appreciate your opinion on these more civil matters. Though I've been informed (more than once) I "can't have an opinion on something I don't understand", your words have touched virtually exactly on how I feel about it.
Because we ranch, guns are tools. The training that our family imposes on it's offspring not only involves proper carrying, cleaning, loading and unloading, and demonstrating target competence, but the cleaning of animals shot (skunks, excepted), packaging and freezing, as well as cooking.
We have no objection to background checks; we think it is sane. It would make sense to require the same sort of classwork and testing that are required for a concealed carry license for all sorts of firearms.
We do believe in keeping guns and ammunition secure and away from children until they can be totally supervised....for years. This is also very important if anyone close to us is going thru a period of depression or loss.
Your mention of "a period of depression or loss" is important--for one thing, many people who are not classifiable as mentally ill go through temporary periods when they have impaired judgment. That's why it's advisable not to make major decisions within six months to a year of losing a spouse, for instance. The same impaired judgment that makes someone sell (or not sell) the family home after a spouse dies is the same impaired judgment that block their memory of how far the bullet can travel if you're shooting down-slope. I worry less about "crazy" people and more about those who are temporarily impaired but don't/can't recognize it.
Another thing I would like to see (the NRA blocked what existed) is serious data-collection on every gun-related death, with examination of the circumstances. The NRA likes to claim that "thousands" (and sometimes "tens of thousands") of lives are saved by non-professional, civilian gun owners killing criminals. We have no data to show that's the case--nor data to show it's not the case. We have no data because the NRA did not want these data collected and collated, and convinced enough members of Congress. (Ideally, we'd have hard data on every gun-related death and every gun-related injury, including long-term sequelae (like Giffords brain damage, or a friend's amputated leg)...but let's start with the deaths.)
Personally, I'd like to know how many gun-related deaths per year, and where. Then of those, how many were suicides? How many were intentional homicides? How many were confrontational with another gun-user? (In other words, two people shooting at each other.) How many were provably random shootings (drive-by type) and how many were targeting specific individuals? How many gun-related deaths caused by law enforcement were, on further investigation, unnecessary? (The handicapped man in the wheelchair in Houston, shot dead because the police officer thought he had a gun--when he had a ball-point pen--is clearly an unnecessary death. Likewise hte mentally ill woman shot in Austin some years back because the policeman had been told she had a knife--she did not.) How many were defensive (claimed, like Trayvon Martin's killer) and how many were proved defensive (homeowner shoots home invader)? How many were unintended occurring in the context of hunting, and how many of those involved a) another hunter, b) anyone else. In how many gun-related deaths were alcohol use and/or drug use a contributing factor? In how many gun-related deaths did the shooting occur in the context of domestic violence? In the context of an argument? In how many gun-related deaths were children involved as shooters or victims? Did the gun used belong to someone in the child's family? Etc.
I think of guns as power tools.
The very thing that makes a power tool desirable--its speed--makes it possible to make devastating mistakes in an instant. For this reason you only use power tools when you are in full command of your best judgement, and can focus completely on the power tool from beginning to end. Then you disable the power tool twice over (turn it off *and* unplug it, or remove the ammo *and* the firing pin) and lock it away in the workshop. I don't have anything against power tools (except a healthy and rational concern about the damage they can do) but there are whole classes of people who should not be messing with power tools. Children. (Who can be taught to use some power tools under close adult supervision, but who shouldn't just have them lying around handy.) Drunk people. Someone in the grip of strong emotion, like someone who is having a fight with a spouse or someone who has just been fired. Because they don't have good judgement.
And when it comes to most power tools, people are sane. We don't have to make laws against strapping your chainsaw to your hip and waltzing into a kindergarten. We don't have to have rules against slinging your nail gun off your shoulder and walking into a bar. Nobody would leave their table saw switched on and running in the living room in case a burglar broke in. But something about guns--and I'm thinking it's the NRA campaign to convince people that guns are magic amulets against crime--just turns some people's brains off in that regard.
And you get people stuffing power tools down their shorts and hurting themselves. You get people snatching up handy power tools in a an hour of deep frustration or despair, and killing themselves, or a spouse. You get toddlers finding a power-tool and injuring or killing themselves or someone else.
It frustrates the hell out of me--a mood that is not improved by having someone so timid they can't go shopping without a weapon call me a sheep for facing the same imperfect world barehanded and never thinking it was hard.
WHen I was reading about the NRA wanting guns on college campuses, I remembered another statistic: that 40% of college students binge drink on the weekends. Not a good combination.
Not at all a good combination. I thought exactly what when a gun club at UT was bragging that they sure would prevent any shootings there if only they were allowed to carry guns around all the time. And I looked at the obvious frat boys and remembered what I know about frat boys...no, college students should not be carrying weapons around campus and keeping them in frat houses. Even without weapons they manage to kill each other.
Thank you for as usual a well reasoned and thoughtful post. It is frustrating for outsiders (I'm British) to see some of the NRA rants that appear to go unopposed, although I'm sure we get a selective view of the debate. We have a very different relationship with guns in this country, partly because such a small proportion of the population live in the country where they may have a legitimate use, it does make it hard to understand what appears to be the obsession of so many Americans with guns. Our reaction to Dunblaine (where a class of primary school children and their teacher were killed with an automatic handgun) was to ban the owning of automatic handguns.It is easy for us to forget that some guns are a tool which people need in certain situations.
It is shocking that you - as a nation, I'd rather you as an individual kept to writing, knitting and so on - don't gather the statistics on gun deaths and injuries, but it does seem to fit with a mind set that is closed to evidence that in any way contradicts it's beliefs. We have them too.
You can't understand it on the basis of "logic" but you could if you understood our history, so different from yours.
Gun ownership by other than the wealthy (often landlords) in England was uncommon: people might train to use guns in militias, but the guns themselves were owned by whomever raised the militia.
Gun ownership in the American colonies was not limited by class, and with colonists living right on the frontier, with obvious need for a firearm, both for hunting and for protection, there was initially no attempt to prevent the colonists from having a personal firearm. As colonial militias developed (because needed protection wasn't given...one of the complaints of the colonists) individuals brought their own personal weapons (rather than having standardized weapons handed out to them by someone in authority.) When an emergency came up, each man headed for the assembly point with his own firearm.
This led to the mindset that owning a weapon was necessary (and it was, in a sense) and that groups of men each carrying his own weapon could be effective as self-organized militias. In fact, some of these self-organized militias weren't very effective, and the American Revolution was not won by such means, but with the aid of standardized arms and better training, plus some hired troops (just as the English hired troops to fight the colonial armies.) But the memory and the myth were already so strong that owning one's own weapon became connected inextricably to winning independence from England. It was at the core of the revolutionary mindset: not the aid from France and the negotiations that made it possible, not the enmity between France and England, not the French fleet...but the Minute Man in homespun with his own musket he'd used to shoot bears, or hunt deer, or kill marauding Indians.
When the British did attempt to disarm the colonists--when they destroyed the local militia armories, for instance--this reinforced the idea that dispersed weapons offered the only means of resisting tyrannical government. To put it bluntly: you don't have a revolution in your history...the English Civil War was an incident in your history, and then you invited the monarchy back. We had a revolution, and won freedom by it. That is a huge difference, for good and for ill. Those who, for whatever reason, consider government dangerous by very nature, and who from their history draw the lesson that private ownership of weapons is a necessary protection against tyranny, demand that private arms be legal. Hence the Bill of Rights and the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
It's perfectly understandable that you don't get it--you cannot feel it in your bones because it was never there. I can, because it is.
But I also feel the dangers of easy answers to hard problems...I believe the South was wrong to break away, and not only because slavery is evil. Throwing a tantrum and storming out of the room or pulling out a gun to shoot the other guy is not the way to handle a disagreement. This nation has not ever truly healed from its Civil War, and the myth of the gun-toting individual hero who won't "bow down" to government--who hates government for imposing any reason on his free will--who wants to drive on any side of the road he damn well feels like (my great-grandfather preferred the middle) keeps the mythology of guns, untrammeled free will, and easy just war alive.
Failure to gather statistics on gun deaths and injuries is a deliberate political move by the NRA and the gun industry: like the tobacco industry, they're fighting a potential loss of profit with emotional fervor. It's supported by those who don't want to know the facts because they already know what they believe, but the amount of money being poured into political campaigns sure doesn't help.
I think part of the trouble is that many of the pro-all-guns-in-all-ways people live in places like you describe -- where they probably raise their children to respect guns, take them out hunting, etc. But many of the let's-limit-guns people live in cities.
In my city, I have never seen a gun used in a legal way, unless you count seeing it strapped to a police officer or a security guard's belt. I've never seen any regular resident carrying or owning a gun in a safe way. NEVER. I have seen kids carrying guns under their shirts, in the waistband, tied to their ankle, and in their backpack. They've told me (I'm a professional journalist) that they're carrying the gun for "protection" by which they mean that when another kid whips out a gun, they plan to do so too.
I have seen many adults who display guns in their living room as art pieces -- hanging on the wall, not locked. I don't know if any of those guns are loaded. But in those cases, the adults have told me that they bought the gun for "protection" -- by which they means when a robber breaks in, they're gonna shoot him.
Yet in so many of those cases, I'm there because the gun was used by a resident of the house to kill or injure another resident. It was grabbed in the heat of the moment, out of rage. When the person might have grabbed a bat or a kitchen knife, both of which might not kill, they instead grabbed a deadly weapon...and all too often killed.
And in too many other cases, the gun that was so proudly displayed was stolen, and I'm knocking on their door because the police have just traced a murder weapon back to this address...where the gun was stolen days/weeks/months ago, maybe reported, maybe not, and no, they had never locked it because they didn't have children, or they had trained their children not to touch it. They hadn't thought anyone would steal it.
These are serious problems, and I worry that maybe the strongest opponents to gun restrictions just don't understand the problems here because they live in a different world.
At least in my state, many city and suburban dwellers (overwhelmingly white and affluent) are also pro-gun. First, because some of them mentally think of themselves as living in a "wide-open" state, even if their 4 BR McMansion is cheek by jowl with neighbors on land that used to graze cattle or raise cotton. Second, because, to be blunt, they're racist and have fallen for the paranoia that tells them "those people" are going to be invading their homes and they need guns for protection...lots of guns, lots of ammunition. True, they have no clue how easily a bullet will go through the outside walls of their house and hit someone in a car, riding a bike, etc. But they don't feel safe, and they surround themselves with guns for that reason.
Country people are widely varied. The old-timers are generally (not always) understanding about gun regulation--they see their firearms as tools for dealing with varmints, or hunting meat. An assault rifle isn't the right tool for that; they don't have them. They don't anticipate gunfights. They see the logic in regulating firearms, just as they see the logic of regulating which side of the road you drive on...they themselves are safe gun owners (and drivers) they think, but the other guy needs some guidance. But some others are pro-gun/anti-regulation. These are often but not always people who moved out to the country specifically to do what they wanted (it's their dogs that run livestock and sometimes attack people; it's their garages where meth is made and their meadows were pot is grown.) Of course they insist that all government is bad.
I'm horrified at the thought that some Americans are turning their kids into child soldiers which is a tragic problem in some African countries. And I don't think the North Florida Survival Group has heard of armed drones or the other weapons at the disposal of our law enforcement and military. Nor do they seem to be aware of the history of rebellions and uprisings that have occurred in the history of the United States. None have succeeded (except the American Revolution).
Lastly, the best term I've heard to describe the NRA True Believes is 'gun fetishists'.
It horrifies me, too, whenever children are brought up into cultures of fear, paranoia, hatred, etc. Adding guns to it makes it worse, increasing the chance that those children--older, and as adults--will see guns as the solution for any problem they face.