A Quick Review of What We’ve Discussed So Far (there will be a quiz).
1. Enough is enough… the recurring tragedies, and the political and ideological posturing, and the futile arguments against immovable positions are insanity.
2. Logic seems to be absent from the arguments of both the “right” and the “left” on this issue.
3. Emotion, principally fear, seems to be empowering the vehemence and the intractability of both sides on this issue.
4. We all want these tragedies to end.
Definitions and Positioning: What’s in a Word.
“Gun Control” can be defined as any law, policy, practice, or proposal designed to restrict or limit the ownership, possession, production, importation, shipment, sale, or use of handguns, rifles, and shotguns.
I suggest we do away with the term, even the concept, of “control.”
First, despite our sometimes necessary illusions, when it comes to weapons, we can’t “control” squat. If you think we can, take a look at what’s happening in Chicago where they have the most stringent gun control laws this side of New York.
Second, the term “control” creates an ideological rallying point for both the “right” and “left.” The “right” almost automatically resists any kind of “control” under the sacred rubric of “freedom.” The “left” embraces “control” because without the government in everybody’s britches, we’d all act like naughty children.
I propose we use the concept of “weapons management,” to characterize any law, policy, practice, or proposal designed to organize and provide oversight for the ownership, possession, production, importation, shipment, sale, or use of handguns, rifles, and shotguns.
Let me suggest a problem statement describing gun violence as we constantly witness it.
“Armed individuals can inflict mass casualties that wouldn’t be possible without guns.”
If you all agree with this statement, let me then point out that this problem statement contains three elements and a context:
1. the perpetrators,
2. the victims
3. the weapons, and the context,
4. modern U.S. culture.
An Exercise in Profiling, the Perps:
- They are almost universally young to youngish males.
- Most of them had no criminal record before perpetrating a massacre.
- They obtained their weapons and ammunition through a combination of legal and illegal methods.
- They are emotionally disturbed individuals.
- Many displayed anti-social behaviors, even psychological problems, which were recognized by relatives, friends, even psychological professionals, before the climactic event occurred.
- There is usually a real, or perceived, “trigger” event, usually a “rejection,” by a spouse, a girlfriend, by a close relative, being fired from a job, etc.
- There is often a “target” victim, whom the perp associates with the “rejection.”
- The perpetrator’s goals usually include “notoriety,” through mass murder, and “suicide.”
- Many of them would have found other means to kill, at least the “target” victim, had guns not been available to them.
These are people who “fly below” our “social radar.”
Had they been criminals, they would have been locked up or the police may have monitored them in some manner. Certainly, existing gun laws would have prevented, or at least inhibited, them from obtaining weapons and ammunition. Perhaps, even an attempt at doing this would have set up a red flag for law enforcement.
However, since our laws and funding for mental health are inadequate in these situations, often protecting the rights of the individual at the expense of the rights of a society, and since the families often kept these issues to themselves thinking them embarrassing or shameful, and since our institutions, especially schools and universities, would rather be “politically correct,” when dealing with a disturbed and often threatening individual, rather than “socially correct,” these perpetrators remained free and undetected until they carried out their horrific crimes.
About the victims:
- They were in what they considered a “safe” place when they were attacked, a school, college campus, work place, mall, movie theatre, etc.
- There was reasonable law-enforcement, sometimes both municipal and private, capabilities where the shootings took place.
- Most were unaware of the potential danger and unable to protect themselves from being attacked.
No law enforcement effort can protect everyone everywhere. The criminal and the psycho have the advantage of surprise-where they strike and when they strike.
Nor, as a society, do we seem willing to tolerate what we perceive as the security trappings of a “police state” that carefully monitors the activities of its citizens. Airport-like security at every shopping mall? Every movie-plex? How well do you think that would fly? So, what we’re often left with is police intervention and the enforcement of existing laws when it’s too late.
- They were typically transported to the site of the shootings illegally.
- Many of the weapons used were obtained legally; so, ironically, existing gun-control laws were “enforced.”
- The manner in which weapons were obtained illegally often could not reasonably be detected by law enforcement; e.g. stealing them from a legal owner, often a family member, immediately prior to the shooting.
- The types of weapons used often have no credible “sport,” “collector,” or “self-defense” justification; e.g. 5.56 mm assault rifle with high-capacity magazines designed to be used against herds of deer staging a mass attack against a hunting blind.
One side of this debate likes to compare the U.S. to other countries, especially those in Western Europe, to claim there’s something serious perverse about how we treat guns and violent crime in the good old U.S. of A.
I’m calling foul on this one.
We’re not them!
We are in many ways still a “revolutionary society.” Our cultural myths based on our revolution from Great Britain and even our civil war (or the “War of Northern Aggression” as my good friend, the Major, insists on calling it) indicates to us that violence is a valid way to achieve a “right” when all other viable methods have been exhausted. But, since we are also impatient, we rarely exhaust all potential solutions to a perceived problem before resorting to violence. (Anybody hear of a place called Iraq?)
Where the French would man the barricades in the streets of Paris; or the Brits would threaten a vote of “no confidence” in Commons; or the Germans would just come to the position of attention, shout “Jawohl, Mein Herr!” and keep on working; we form “citizen militias” in secret compounds out in the boondocks because we believe that this is the way we defeated British tyranny in 1776 (which is bunk… if it wasn’t for French intervention and a Prussian NCO masquerading as a general turning American farmers into professional soldiers, we’d be playing soccer and drinking hot tea in the afternoon and warm bitters in the evening… there’s a good fellow!)
The other issue is security, which I touched on above. We want it, but we haven’t the will to enforce it. We often distrust our own military, resent our police and loath those people who sniff our shoes at the airport. But, we expect to be safe from terrorists and criminals wherever we go.
The British have a CCTV system monitoring citizens in public places; we have a fit when the City of Chicago hangs up a few cameras to catch drivers running red lights.
So, our “physical security” in public spaces will always be “soft.” We’re willing to tolerate a pickpocket and a mugger or two, but when some nut goes on a shooting spree, half the country wants to turn New York into Airstrip One in Oceania, while the other half starts singing “The land of the free and the home of the brave.”
The Tree-Legged Stool.
Any viable effort to lessen violence in our society, gun or otherwise, must take into consideration the three legs on which any viable policy must rest to be stable and effective-the perps, the people and the weapons. Also, the surface on which this stool must rest-our society. A one, or even a two-legged stool, cannot stand. Also, each of the legs of the stool must be adapted to the base on which it must stand, in other words, what American society can reasonably accept.
Managing weapons alone will not bring about a reduction in social violence, again v. Chicago, City of. All the elements of the problem, the guns, the perps, the potential victims and our social values must be taken into consideration.
1. Create reasonable laws, policies and practices to manage weapons and keep them out of the hands of criminals, nuts and the unqualified.
2. Create a system to identify, isolate and treat those who have an emotional or psychological condition, which is potentially harmful to others BEFORE the shooting spree.
3. Restore funding to mental health programs. We have got to stop tossing potentially dangerous people back out on our streets until they actually do something that qualifies them for prison.
4. Individuals-Be aware of your surroundings when you’re out in public… don’t assume you’re safe… 999 times out of a 1,000 you are… but when #1,000 hits, the world can become very nasty in a nano-second… keep your head up… report suspicious activities… keep track of your kids… know where the exits are (you don’t have to go as far as I do and always keep your back to a wall).
5. Institutions and places where people concentrate-have an emergency plan to inform, secure and evacuate quickly… and remember… no security plan or physical security system can be any better than the people operating it… spend more money on the people than on threatening signs and the high-tech widgets.
6. No one in a society is “free.” Even in America, we are expected to obey laws and observe core moral values that seek to balance the rights of the individual with the rights of society. Safety is a basic human right.
7. Get over the “1984” attitude… timely intervention by law-enforcement professionals is the only proven method of reducing violence in the public space… and oh, yeah… it’s “public space”… you have no reasonable expectation of privacy in it… so if police-presence and monitoring, even by electronic means, prevents crime and lessons violence, I’m for it.
Okay… in case you haven’t looked, the last blog in this series was to demonstrate that most gun control arguments, left and right, have no valid statistical justification. There doesn’t seem to be any reliable, measureable relationship between
• Gun ownership and the rate of violent crime,
• Impulsive acts of domestic violence, and
Based on my survey of the sources, studies performed over the last twenty-five years on the social effects of gun ownership are surprisingly contradictory and ambiguous in their support for either side of the gun control debate. These conclusions include,
• Higher rates of household firearms ownership are associated with higher rates of gun suicide.
• Illegal diversions from legitimate commerce are important sources of guns used in crime and in suicide.
• Firearms are often used defensively.
• Police intervention effectively lowers gun crime and violence.
• There are correlations between gun ownership and gun-related suicide and homicide rates.
• There are correlations between the presence of guns in the home and suicide committed with a gun, rates of gun-related homicide and gun-related assault involving female victims.
• There is no correlation between the presence of guns in the home and rates of gun-related homicide and total rates of gun-related assault against men.
• The rate of gun availability is either neutral or associated with less gun violence.
• Based on the FBI’s crime statistics for all 3,054 US counties, laws allowing law-abiding citizens to carry a gun legally in public may cause reductions in crime because potential criminals do not know who may be carrying a firearm.
• Gun laws generally had no significant effect on violent crime rates or suicide rates.
• Keeping a gun in the home is associated with an increased risk of suicide.
• There is no association between gun ownership and suicide.
• Neither stricter gun control laws nor more liberal concealed carry laws have had any significant effect on the decline in crime in the 1990s.
I do research as part of my profession-often in Latin and other long-dead languages! But, these conflicting claims-many based of “statistics”-confuse the hell out of me!
Also, we have seen that the 2nd amendment, while according to Supreme Court decisions does protect an individual’s right to own a firearm, also allows controls and restrictions on that right.
Yet, both sides continue to shout authoritative-sounding pseudo-statistical claims at whomever will listen in order to support their position and vilify that of their opponents-and their opponents themselves. As a result, no progress is made in reducing violence.
In the jargon of the social media… WTF!
One of my research sources characterized the arguments of one of the sides in this debate as being “without any rational support and based totally on emotion.” I agree! But, as soon as you get over attributing that characterization to the “other guy,” allow me to suggest that it applies to both sides of this question. And, that is the key to understanding the vehemence and intractability of the debate.
Certainly, as we have seen, the arguments on both sides can be characterized as logically flawed as they cherry-pick facts and statistics to support what is in their mind an unquestioned (and seemingly unquestionable) prejudgment on the issue. Seeming-reason postured to support a predisposition… always a “C-” if tried in my class.
In my opinion, this entire mess is just the effect of a visceral and emotional response to the issue of gun-violence in our society. Which, I must say, is quite human and natural. Gun-violence against innocents is tragic and horrifying!
Now, let me try to talk you down from the ledge on this.
We’ve been taught from the short-pants and jumper days of our education to avoid our emotions when making professional judgments.
I say crap! It’s not possible!
Let me share with you what I tell my students in my classes on ethical problem solving. First, always identify and recognize emotional responses to a situation. Unless this happens, critical thinking about why these reactions take place and how they may affect judgment is not possible.
Second, emotions aren’t bad! They’re the psyche’s way of instructing the mind what it should be careful about in any situation. But, emotions have to be moderated, and that is impossible unless the emotional influence is recognized.
For example. Fear is often the mind’s way of telling the body to be careful… writ large! But, it’s not necessarily a gut-order not to do something.
I’m terrified of heights. I can get spells of vertigo just watching a movie about mountain climbing or standing on an el platform. But, when a young-buck in the Rangers, full of testosterone, I went to “rock-climbing school” in Colorado. My fear of heights was definitely there and it made me careful… very, very careful… in fact to this day I use the “three points of contact” rule just climbing stairs… but it didn’t stop me from rappelling down twenty-story cliffs with my buddies… had some fun… nice views, I must say. But, I still won’t get close to the windows in the Sears Tower observatory.
It is not at all surprising that people have an immediate and primal emotional response to these increasingly frequent situations where some psycho with an armory stuffed into a duffel bag goes to a seemingly safe public place, killing and injuring scores of people… often children… the scenes of wounded victims… dazed and despairing first-responders… enraged parents and relatives… shocked onlookers… hammered into us by a sensationalist media.
Since we have a natural affiliation to others-call it compassion-the sight of this mindless slaughter of innocents is gut-wrenching. Anyone who is not profoundly affected emotionally by this should check into the nearest clinic for the care of sociopathic disorders or immediately apply for employment with the Department of Motor Vehicles… and the two are not exclusive.
Then, the realization that this could happen to someone we love, or ourselves, at any time, causes a sense of helplessness, the fear of victimization. And, this fear drives us to strike out at that which we believe causes it. And, for many of us, this is the guns!
So, this fear causes people to accept any reasonable-sounding justification for the limitation or eradication of guns in our society. If the guns go away, we’re safe. There’s nothing to fear. Just make them go away!
For those of you, who think I’m just sniping at the left with this fear thing, let me lay that false supposition to rest. Fear is also driving the vehemence of the right on this argument.
The recurring mantras on the right for free and unencumbered access to firearms is that it reduces crime and prevents government tyranny. Neither of these assertions is worth a damn!
First, most gun violence is gang-related; it’s criminal on criminal (or, unfortunately, on those who have to live in the battle-ground neighborhoods). For these criminals, gun laws are irrelevant.
Having armed civilians on the streets isn’t going to affect gang-violence at all. So, statistically speaking, if all law-biding citizens started packing like Wyatt Earp and all the muggers left Dodge for fear of their lives, what are we talking about as far as a material reduction in violent gun-related crimes?
A far as an armed citizenry keeping the Federal Government in check… Oh, Please!
As my good friend, the Major, who hails from the great state of South Carolina, reminds me, the futility of that position was proven over a hundred fifty years ago by a little something we call the “Civil War.”
If the government wants to “tyrannize” you, they have an army, navy, air force and numerous alphabetic government agencies like the FBI, ATF, NSA, IRS, et al. to get the job done. If Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia couldn’t keep the Feds out of Richmond, do you think that a bunch of good, ol’ boys dressed in camies with thirty-odd-six hunting rifles and .357 Magnums are going to make much of a difference?
Even for a paranoid New Yorker, this is just crazy!
What the proponents of these nonsensical arguments do feel is helplessness against what they perceive as rampant crime and helplessness against the perceived tyrannies of “big government.” This again is distilled into fear.
So what do the right and left have in common over this issue?
Both sides want to see a reduction, if not an eradication, of these massacres that are facilitated by firearms. Also, a reduction in violent crime, in which guns play a significant role. Finally, a fear and helplessness relating to the possession of firearms and violence.
The difference? One side is convinced that arming themselves is the answer; the other that disarming everyone is the answer.
I’ve already admitted my own fear! I’m afraid of being in the wrong place at the wrong time when some nut decides that it’s time for “suicide by cop” and wants to take a few dozen innocents along. Or, when some ne’er-do-well with a “Saturday-Night-Special” decides a fat, old guy is a soft target.
Are any of these things likely to happen? No!
Do I believe that gun laws and controls have any relevance to nuts and criminals? You’re kidding, right?
Do I have confidence that local law enforcement is clairvoyant enough to prevent it? No… The ACLU would never allow clairvoyant law enforcement.
Is the fear real and sometimes compelling? Hell, Yeah!
The fear remains… the fear is real!
Recognize the fear in this issue of gun-violence… this is what robs the national debate of any logic… this is what fuels the vehemence of the exchange.
Recognize the fear in ourselves… moderate it… or the entire debate is reduced to shouting slogans at each other through a bullhorn… recognize how frightened we are by gun-violence and then we can begin talk to each other sensibly.
Some years ago, in marriage counseling, the counselor was trying to teach me and my “ex” (by this characterization you can tell how well this went) how to argue constructively.
The issue, according to the counselor, was not that married couples should never disagree, that would be an impossible expectation, but that when they do, they should have a “system” for resolving their disagreement constructively. One of the elements of arguing constructively was to allow each partner to clearly annunciate a position without interruption, attempts at a counterargument, attacks or defense.
So, let’s pretend that the right and the left are in a somewhat dysfunctional marriage called the United Sates and are trying to resolve this gun issue.
General Terms of the Debate on Gun Control
“So, Ms. Left-Right, please share with your husband what your issue is with guns.”
“Thank you, Dr. Gleason. I’ve been trying to get my husband over there to listen, but you know how those macho types are about their guns! Do you mind if I call you Ray?”
“I know you’re upset, Ms. Left-Right, but please don’t go on a personal attack. Just look at your husband tell him why you’re upset.”
“Well… Okay… I’ll try… but I don’t think he’ll listen. First, most violent crimes are committed with guns, so restricting gun ownership will reduce the number of violent crimes. As we see all the time on the news, armed individuals can inflict mass casualties and that wouldn’t be possible without guns. People think guns make them safe, but I think crime victims, who have a gun, are in more danger than an unarmed person because a criminal might kill an armed person in self-defense. So, crimes that would have been less harmful become more dangerous with guns. Impulsive acts, like suicides and crimes of passion, are more likely when a gun is available. Besides, all this stuff about the constitution is nonsense. The 2nd Amendment is about organized militias, not a bunch of guys running around the woods in camouflage and assault rifles. With laissez-faire, legalized gun ownership policies, guns have a greater chance of falling into the hands of children, resulting in tragic accidents. And, we all know that terrorism and school shootings happen because guns are available.”
“Is that all you want to say, Ms. Left?”
“Yes… that’s it, Ray… I mean, Dr. Gleason.”
“Well, thank you… I know that wasn’t easy for you. Now, Mr. Right, can you explain to your wife what your position is on this issue?”
“God… I can’t believe that crap… the 2nd Amendment!”
“Okay, Mr. Right… like I said to your wife, no attacks, please. Look at your wife and tell her why you believe that gun-ownership policies should be tolerant.”
“Okay… I’ll try… but it won’t do any good… the Supreme Court consistently says the 2nd Amendment protects the individual’s right to gun ownership. The Founding Fathers understood that guns in the hands of citizens are a protection against tyranny by the central government. Banning guns is one more step closer to socialism and totalitarianism. Besides, laws restricting gun possession just don’t work! Criminals always find ways to get guns, and that leaves law-abiding citizens defenseless! Besides, when criminals don’t know if their victim is armed, crimes can actually be prevented by gun ownership. And, remember what happened with prohibition… bootleggers… organized crime… banning guns will just create a lucrative black market for guns for criminals. Besides, woman should be on board with this! Police are often too overwhelmed to protect all citizens from violent crime. Women, the elderly and other vulnerable folk have no means of self-defense from murder, rape or other violent crimes without guns. We already have reasonable gun laws. Just enforce the ones we have! More restrictions or an outright ban is not necessary!
General Arguments Concerning the Relationship of Firearms and Social Violence, or “Liars, Damned Liars and Statistics.”
“Okay… that’s a good start! I know that wasn’t easy for either of you. So, Mrs. Left-Right, please explain to your husband why you believe guns need to be limited and rigorously controlled.”
“Okay, Dr. Gleason! I looked up the Brady Campaign website. You know, they were involved in the Million Mom March and they’re dedicated to creating an America free from gun violence. Wouldn’t that be wonderful! No, more little children hurt and killed! They want all Americans to be safe at home, at school, at work, and in their communities. And, they believe that a safer America can be achieved without banning all guns.
“What a bunch of crap…!”
“Please, Mr. Right, let your wife speak… you’ll get your turn!”
“Thank you, Dr. Gleason! He always does that when I try to explain why I feel the way I do!”
“You know there’s no such thing as ‘always.’ Now please continue to explain to your husband why you believe in what the Brady Campaign stands for.”
“Well, okay… on their website, the Brady campaign has some absolutely horrific statistics. Like, thirty-two Americans are murdered with guns every day and a hundred forty are treated for a gun assault in an emergency room. Every day on average, forty-one people kill themselves with a firearm and forty-five people are shot or killed in a gun accident. It’s a national shame! The U.S. firearm homicide rate is twenty times higher than the combined rates of over twenty countries that are our peers in wealth and population. And the real tragedy is an average of eight children and teens under the age of twenty are killed by guns every day. Firearm homicide is the second-leading cause of death, after motor vehicle crashes, for young people under twenty. And, my husband’s always complaining about government spending, but he refuses to accept that medical treatment, criminal justice proceedings, new security precautions, and reductions in quality of life are estimated to cost U.S. citizens $100 billion annually. And, I don’t know what’s going on with these NRA morons and the politicians they have in their pocket because nine out of ten Americans agree that there should be universal background checks for gun purchases. Our current background check system only applies to about 60% of gun sales, leaving 40%, like online sales and purchases at gun shows, without any background check.
“What a bunch of crap! ‘Nine out of ten Americans agree’! where did those numbers come from? I think the Brady people are making this crap up!”
“They wouldn’t do that! They posted on the internet!”
“Now… now… remember what I said… no attacks! Mr. Right, do you have something to say about your beliefs?”
“Damn right I do… ‘Nine out of ten Americans agree’! I did some research on the Cato Institute site and they say the claims that easy access to guns causes higher crime is contradicted by the facts and by reason. For example the claim that thousands of children die annually in gun accidents is false. In 1997, the last year for which data are available, only a hundred forty-two children under fifteen years of age died in gun accidents. More children die each year in accidents involving bikes, space heaters or drowning. So you liberals want to make bikes illegal?”
“Yeah… yeah… sorry… this crap about gun shows being responsible for a large number of firearms falling into the hands of criminals is also false. All commercial arms dealers at gun shows must run background checks, and the only people exempt from them are the small number of non-commercial sellers. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, at most two percent of guns used by criminals are purchased at gun shows, and most of those were purchased legally by people who passed background checks. But, the claim that states that allow citizens to carry concealed weapons have lower crime rates than those that don’t is true. Thirty states have right-to-carry laws allowing private citizens to carry concealed weapons, and they have, on average, a twenty-four percent lower violent crime rate, a nineteen percent lower murder rate and a thirty-nine percent lower robbery rate than states that forbid concealed carry. In fact, the nine states with the lowest violent crime rates are all right-to-carry states. And, those who say waiting periods lower crime rates are wrong. Numerous studies conducted before and after the Brady bill was passed in 1993, consistently show that there is no correlation between waiting periods and murder or robbery rates. Florida State University analyzed data from every U.S. city with a population over 100,000 and found that waiting periods had no statistically significant effect. All this stuff about ‘lower murder rates in foreign countries prove that gun control works’ is crap. The facts show that there is simply no correlation between gun control laws and murder or suicide rates across a wide spectrum of nations and cultures. In Israel, for example, a license to possess guns is available on demand to every law-abiding adult, and guns are easily obtainable. Israel also allows widespread carrying of concealed firearms, and yet, according to Dr. Arthur Kellerman, one of the foremost medical advocates of gun control, Israel has ‘rates of homicide that are low despite rates of home firearm ownership that are at least as high as those in the United States’.”
“Israel! Who cares about homicide rates in Israel! I want gun-nuts to stop murdering children in Connecticut!”
“Please, Mrs. Left-Right… what I hear is that you both believe that you have statistics to support your opinions, but the statistics seem contradictory. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“Well, I don’t know…”
“Well, if we allow the numbers both of you presented, there doesn’t seem to be any reliable correlation between gun ownership under our current laws and gun-related violence. Both sides are just yelling their own numbers at each other.”
“But, it’s just common sense! More guns, more…”
“Now, Mrs. Left-Right… you chose to argue statistics and so did your husband. The way this is supposed to work is that the data indicate a reasonable theory. What we need to avoid is only empowering data that seem to validate what we already believe.”
“Now, I’ve read a few articles on the subject myself and, although higher rates of household firearms ownership are associated with higher rates of gun suicide, the rate of gun availability seems neutral to or associated with less gun violence. In fact, if I hear both of you clearly, gun laws are largely ignored by criminals, so gun laws alone are not effective in keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.”
“That’s why they call them ‘criminals,’ right honey?”
“Well… I guess… but, if we have strong gun laws, we can put these people away longer.”
“Yeah, but by then the damage is already done…”
“Okay, Mr. Right, once you start with the ‘Yeah Buts’ you’re getting confrontational. I don’t think we’re ready for that yet. Now let me ask you, Mr. Right, do you have any problems with background checks?”
“Oh, hell no! I don’t want guns in the hands of nuts and criminals.”
“Okay… good… you found common ground on two points, gun laws and background checks. I think we’re making progress. Yes, Mrs. Left-Right?”
“Well, even if I accept that, I don’t know how these NRA-nuts can claim that the 2nd Amendment guarantees Americans’ right to carry assault weapons and automatic rifles. That’s just crazy! The 2nd amendment only applies to formalized militias, like the National Guard!”
That Pesky 2nd Amendment.
“That’s just not true, honey! The 2nd amendment establishes an absolute right to gun ownership.”
“Okay! Just hold on a second, Mr. Right! In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court did hold that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. And, in McDonald v. Chicago, the Court held that the 2nd Amendment right of an individual to ‘keep and bear arms’ applies to the states.”
“So, I’m right about the 2nd Amendment…”
“Well, Mr. Right… not quite… District of Columbia v. Heller also stipulated that this right is not absolute like you claimed. It left a wide range of gun control restrictions remaining ‘presumptively lawful.’ These include prohibition on carrying concealed weapons, on gun possession by felons or the mentally retarded, on carrying firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings. It also allows local government to impose ‘conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms,’ to prohibit ‘dangerous and unusual weapons,’ and to regulate firearm storage in order to prevent accidents.”
Where We’re At… as they say in Chicago
“We’re just about out of time for this session. Let me try to summarize.”
“First, we agree that the statistics linking gun ownership to rates of violent crime are contradictory.”
“Next, we seem to agree that restrictive gun laws do not necessarily reduce gun violence.”
“The old bromide, ‘just enforce the laws we got,’ doesn’t seem an effective answer to the recurring gun-violence in our society. Unless our law enforcement efforts become somehow clairvoyant, it will be business as usual, and that seems to allow a level of gun violence that is unacceptable to all of us.”
“We agree that background checks for gun ownership make sense. None of us want guns sold to criminals or those who are not qualified to use them in a safe manner.”
“Finally, we agree that the 2nd Amendment does not ensure unrestricted gun ownership for individuals. There are a number of restrictions on gun ownership allowable by the courts.”
“When we meet next week, we’ll try to understand what is the root of this disagreement.”
As the “mad prophet of the blog-ways,” allow me a Howard Beale moment, which I believe many of us at this moment are ready for-and rightly deserve.
I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!
Or, perhaps I should assume a calmer, more reasonable tone, and simply paraphrase the pseudo-Einstein that doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result is insanity.
The latest media-driven, socio-political maelstrom over “gun control,” featuring a star-crossed cast of clowns and idiots, including the NRA, Republicans vs. Democrats, Conservatives vs. Liberals, gun-toting red-necks and the urban elite is ending as usual “not with a bang, but a whimper.”
In other words, Congress has done nothing except produce dozens of indignant and inane sound bites for the media.
As we wait for the next heart-breaking, media-driven tragedy involving quick-loading, high-capacity magazines, secret caches of handguns and assault weapons in a home, a crowded public place, a gun-toting sociopath who should have been institutionalized had anyone paid attention to the now obvious signs but shot himself in the head before the police could get to him, dozens of slaughtered innocents, weeping and angry relatives on talk shows and before congressional sub-committees, flocks of trauma counselors descending on the survivors and talking heads jabbering endlessly and inanely on network and cable news, let’s take a deep breath and as calmly as is possible in this issue look at some facts.
Look… I know I’m not sounding very compassionate here. Believe me, I have an inexhaustible supply of empathy for the victims of these senseless crimes.
But, I am sick to death of the media carnival that turns tragedy into a ratings grab, the attempts at celebrity by the “experts” and “specialists” on news talk shows, and the same recurring and useless rhetoric, which does nothing, solves nothing and demonstrates the idiocy and lack of courage of those who have the power and influence to actually effect the “change” that the president and members of congress yammer about when it’s time to convince the gullible, the indifferent and the dupes to re-elect them.
If reasonable people cannot get beyond the rhetoric of the “machine”- the media, the NRA, Congress, Special-Interest Lobbyists, the White House, the gun industry, gun-control extremists-we doom ourselves to witness these events repeat themselves ad infinitum.
So, as reasonable people, who are willing to calmly, completely and with an open mind examine these issues and the facts informing this situation.
Confessio pro bona animae.
At the risk of alienating part of my audience, I acknowledge that I’m a gun owner, but I don’t hunt and I’m not an NRA member.
Since the 1990’s, I’ve owned a Colt M1911A1 Cal. 45 Automatic, which was my personal sidearm as an Army officer. Recently, I purchased a Sig Sauer P928 9mm pistol. I also have a concealed carry permit.
Up until recently, I owned the forty-five simply because… well… I simply owned it. I carried it professionally in the Army as part of my TA-50 field uniform, and I qualified annually with it as part of my deployment readiness and training. Since retiring, it remained locked away, but recently I have looked at it as a potential means of home defense.
The P928 and the carry permit are a bit of a sea change for me. At the risk of being Juan-Williamsed, I think things seem to be getting… well… scary out there. I don’t know if it’s a matter of fact or a matter of fact blown out of proportion by a sensationalist media, but public safety seems to be less safe publically these days with senseless and random shootings in movie theaters, malls, offices, schools and anywhere people gather.
I don’t think for a second that anyone’s “out to get me”! My shrinks assure me that paranoia is not one of my issues. But, the fact is that I am getting… well… old. (My Medicare card arrived in the mail this week!) As I learned in Street Smarts 101-growing up in New York City-my age makes me appear vulnerable to criminals intent on street violence and looking for an easy mark. A target.
So, as I told my good friend, the Major, the other day, I don’t my last conscious thought in this life to be, “If I had the ability to defend myself, this wouldn’t be happening.”
I’ve been handling weapons professionally since I was eighteen. They were the necessary tools of my trade as a ranger and infantryman. The army “qualified” me in a number of weapons-rifles and pistols-and weapons systems required in my profession. When the Army “qualifies” someone in a weapon it means not only its correct usage-how to shoot straight-but also in its safe and appropriate usage.
In the 1980’s, when I was part of an Army team assisting civilian law enforcement agencies in New York and Ohio, I attended federal and state law-enforcement training, in which I was drilled in the legalities and morality of the application of deadly force. I qualified multiple times on law-enforcement combat ranges.
In short, although I am quite capable of the effective application of deadly force, I am unlikely ever to do it outside the law and beyond a reasonable application of morality.
I’m certainly not “impulsive”-in fact, my dear wife suspects that my mean-time-to-respond to anything is about three days. This is especially true in anything relating to the use of deadly force.
And, let there be no doubt, any use of a weapon is deadly force.
The Nature of the “Beast.”
Despite rhetoric from the NRA, firearms were not invented for sport or hunting. They may be useful in these things, but they are by design anti-personnel devices. They were designed to kill people. They always have the potential of being deadly to others when used.
Despite the rhetoric from the liberal-left, firearms are not inherently evil. They’re just machines, tools. Any “evil” done by a gun is a result of the intention or carelessness of the user, or the inability of users to understand-or care-about the consequences of their actions.
As much as I hate to sound like I’m agreeing with the NRA mantra, people kill people… guns just make them better at it.
As we have seen, unfortunately too often, firearms can exacerbate the potential harm intended by individuals and greatly increase their lethal capability. The usage of firearms against another is always potentially deadly. They can extend the range of any intended harm from arm’s-length to hundreds of meters. They are efficient, effective and fast killers.
Also, firearms have the potential to facilitate impulsive and imprudent acts.
And, once used, their effect cannot be annulled, cannot be recalled.
Despite what we thing the 2nd Amendment of the constitution guarantees, firearms should never be permitted to be in the hands of the unqualified, the irresponsible, the criminal, the sociopath, the psychopath, the insane.
My inference is that any reasonable effort to reduce gun-violence must include not only the guns themselves-availability and type of weapon-but the individuals who have access to them.
Please note-Like Tom & Ray’s Puzzler, the blog is taking next week off. The lunatic who writes them is immersed in evaluating high school research papers for the sake of his check and his immortal soul.
Two weeks from now, the Blog will present Part 2- “Terms of the Debate and that Pesky 2nd Amendment.”
Now for something completely different!
When I’m not teaching high school, writing novels and blogs, this is what I do… Medieval Lit!
This is from an article that I’m writing on Marie. Welcome to my “inner-Nerd”!
“Marie de France” is the title given to a late twelfth-century writer of whom practically nothing is known. To her, scholars attribute a collection of twelve Breton lais; a translation of Aesop’s fables, Ysopet; a translation of Patrick’s Purgatory, Espurgatoire seint Partiz; and a life of St. Audrey, La Vie seinte Audree. Our knowledge of her name and origins are derived from these writings. In the closing passages of Ysopet she declares, “Marie is my name; I’m from France (Marie ai num, si sui de Fraunce.” (Ysopet, Conclusion, v 4). Again, in her conclusion of the Espurgatoire we read, “I, Marie, have memorialized the book of Purgatory (Jo, Marie, ai mis en memoire / le livre de l’ Espurgatoire:” (vv. 2297-8). Finally, in the opening passage of the lai, “Guigemar,” she writes, “Listen, my Lords, to what Marie says, who in her time is not forgotten (Oëz, seignurs, ke dit Marie, / Ki en sun tens pas ne s’oblie” (vv. 3-4). Marie’s French origin is also indicated by her writing in a form of Francien.
It is generally believed that Marie lived in England and was associated in some manner with the royal court, perhaps even by blood. Her lais are dedicated to an unnamed king, whose identity is commonly conjectured as being either Henry II of England, or his son, Henry, the Young King, with whom he briefly co-reined.
En l’onur de vus, nobles reis,
ki tant estes pruz e curteis,
a qui tute joie s’encline,
e en qui quer tuz biens racine,
m’entremis des lais assembler
par rime faire e reconter.
(In your honor, noble king, who are so worthy and courteous, before whom all pleasure bows, and in whose heart all good takes root, I undertook to assemble these lais and to retell them in verse (Prologue vv. 43-8).
Marie’s Ysopet is dedicated to a Count William, the theories of whose identity include William of Mandeville, a counselor of both Henry II and Richard I; William the Marshall, reputed to have been the foremost knight of England, serving Henry II, Richard I, John, and Henry III; or William Longespée, an illegitimate son of Henry II.
Pur amur le cunte Willalme
le plus vaillant de cest reialm,
m’entremis de cest livre faire
e de l’Engleis en Romanz traire.
(For the love of Count William, the bravest of this kingdom, I endeavored to write this book and translate it from English into Franch (Ysopet, vv. 9-12).
Marie seems to have been well versed in the languages of twelfth-century northwestern Europe, certainly those languages which would have swirled around the Anglo-Norman royal court that ruled England and much of western France. In her lai, “Bisclavret,” a tale of a werewolf written some seven hundred years before the vampire vs. werewolf craze that seems to possess young people today, she demonstrates some knowledge of Breton and Norman-French.
quant de lais faire m’entremet,
ne voil ublïer Bisclavret:
Bisclavret ad nun en bretan,
garwaf l’apelent li Norman.
(As I attempt to compose some lais, I don’t want to forget Bisclavret. Bisclavret is the name in Breton; the Normans call it Garwulf (vv. 1-4).
In her introduction to the lai, “Laüstic,” she demonstrates some linguistic virtuosity.
Une aventure vus dirai,
Dunt li bretun firent un lai;
Laüstic ad nun, ceo m’est vis,
Si l’apelent en lur païs;
Ceo est russignol en franceis
E nihtegale en dreit engleis.
(I will tell you a tale, of which the Britons composed a lai. Laüstic is the name, it appears to me, they gave it in their land. This is “rossignol” in French and “nightingale” in proper English
Marie’s knowledge of English is further evidenced in the conclusion of her Ysopet as noted above, and later in that passage, she states,
Li rois Alvrez qui moult l’ama
le translata puis en Engleiz
e joo l’ai rime en Françeiz
si cum gel’ truvai premierement.”
(King Alfred who loved [the book]greatly then translated it into English, and I rhymed it in French as I originally found it (Ysopet, Conclusion, vv. 16-9).
Finally, Marie was probably well versed in Latin. In her prologue to Espurgatoire seint Partiz, she alludes to the writings of both Augustine and Gregory, long before those Latin texts were available in convenient Penguin translations. Furthermore, scholars believe that Marie’s source for Espurgatoire was a Latin text. Finally, Marie tells us in her prologue to her lais,
Pur ceo començai à penser
D’aukune bone estoire faire,
E de Latin en Romaunz traire;”
(For this [reason] I began to think of composing some good stories and translating from Latin into French (vv. 28-30).
Marie’s collection of lais are a sequence of twelve “Breton lais” written in a Francien dialect in octosyllabic couplets. Although individual lais are found in five different manuscripts, only Harley 978, a thirteenth-century manuscript housed in the British Library, preserves all twelve. The sequence of the collection, as presented in Harley 978, which scholars assume reflects Marie’s intention, are a short prologue, “Guigemar,” “Equitan,” “Le Fresne (The Ash Tree),” “Bisclavret (Werewolf),” “Lanval,” Les Deus Amanz (The Two Lovers),” “Yonec,” “Laüstic (Nightingale),” “Milun,” “Chaitivel (Unhappy One),” “Chevrefoil (Honeysuckle),” and “Eliduc.” The length of the lais range from “Chevrefoil,” 118 lines, to “Eliduc,” 1184 lines. All the lais are “narrative,” in other words they tell a story, except possibly “Chevrefoil” which, although it alludes to an episode from the tales of Tristan and Iseult, may represent a “lyrical lai.”
Marie’s texts are commonly referred to as “Breton lais,” a type of text that is more difficult to define than it is to recognize. The most unmistakable characteristic of this genre, if indeed the form has the rigor to be characterized as such, is self-reference; the text declares itself a story told, or sung, by the ancient Bretons or a narrative that occurred in ancient Brittany. Other than that, they closely resemble the chivalric narrative, “medieval romances,” in that they relate the deeds and interests of the chivalric class; they focus more on the individual than on national groups; and thematically, they relate stories reflecting the problems of love, marriage and morality in chivalric society. They are typically written in verse, rather than prose. They are “short,” rather than “long.” Thematically “simple,” rather than “complex.” They seem more comfortable with Celtic myth and the land of faery than with Christian doctrine and heaven. They are typically “narrative,” but they often allude to a descent from ancient Breton song, so there might have been a tradition of lyrical lais, now lost, of which Marie’s “Chevrefoil” is a possible remnant.
 In the twelfth century, the term Fraunce would most likely signify the area of modern France surrounding Paris.
 Marie’s characterization of the French language as “Romaunz” has always fascinated me. I believe that this is one of the earliest evidences of this usage. Certainly, this is how the chivalric narratives acquired the name Romance, but Marie here is referring to a language not to a genre. She characterizes the tales themselves as lais. Originally the term “romance” referred to texts written in French, eventually to tales written in languages other than Latin. However, if the Old French term refers to the language of the Romans, lingua Romanorum, in contrast to the Germanic languages of the tribes that invaded the Roman province of Gaul, using this term to describe languages other than Latin is a bit ironic.
 A “lyrical lai” would be a text whose purpose is to evoke an emotion rather than to tell a story for some thematic purpose. Think of it in a manner similar to a sonnet or, for the lais “sung” by the ancient Bretons, modern song lyrics. Unfortunately all the sheet music from the twelfth century has been lost.