Saturday, December 15, 2012

Target Practice **Updated**

I've talked about a lot of subjects here over the years, but I've never really addressed the inevitable topic for this weekend: the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, where 20 children and 6 adults were killed by yet another deranged gunman.

We have to do something about guns.  After events like this, the first thing we hear is “now is not the time.”

If “now” isn't the time, when is the time?  We've already had mass shootings in a college, a movie theater, a couple of high schools, and right out on the street corner where a US Congresswoman got shot in the face.  What has to happen before we have a rational talk about guns in this country?  Twenty little kids just got murdered by another psychopath.  Must we wait until some brooding nut-case shoots up a nursery?

These were little kids!  Kindergarteners and first graders!  What the fuck?

The problem is every politician in America is scared shitless of the NRA.  They know that supporting any legislation that has even a whiff of gun control is tantamount to political suicide.  And if there’s one thing politicians hold more dearly than children’s lives, it’s their own political careers.

We have a very serious gun problem in this country, where it is no longer just about defending ourselves; it’s a whole fetish.  This gun culture has been lifted to an almost sacred level, despite the tens of thousands of lives lost via bullets.

Yes, I know the knee-jerk argument: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” and many other glib bumper sticker sayings that mean the same thing.  But why do we have to make it so goddamned easy to kill so many?  Of course a person can kill another by any number of means, no question.  But how often do you hear of a mass killing with a knife?  Or a baseball bat?  Or a car or any other lethal means?

I don’t buy the frequent counter that we’d then have to ban knives or box cutters or letter openers.  A killer using any of those things can be stopped long before 5 or 10 or 20 people are killed.  That is the difference.  Only a gun allows a lone psycho to murder so many so quickly and easily.

I know, what about bombs?  Bombs can do the same thing quickly and easily. 

That’s true, but there’s also a trail.  In the post 9-11 world, it raises questions when someone buys a truckload of ammonium nitrate, or frequents bomb-making websites and chatrooms.  There are opportunities to intervene before anything blows up.

There is no intervention with these lone gunmen.  I saw someone on Facebook asking how it’s possible for a guy to get these weapons into a school.  I didn't respond, but I was thinking, “Are you fucking kidding me?  It’s a cakewalk.” 

Most schools don’t have metal detectors or pat-downs, or security of any kind.  And even if someone tried to stop an intruder at the gates, he would merely become the first casualty.

Another argument is that there should be more guns, not less, which to me is like saying the answer traffic gridlock is to produce more cars.  Too many people believe the Hollywood hype that you can have a shootout in a public place and just take out the bad guy.  The general gun-carrying public is not trained for crowded shootouts.  Sure there are some well-trained exceptions, I’m thinking ex-military, but they are few and far between.  There’s a big difference between hitting a target on a range versus hitting a single, armed target amid a swirl of chaos, noise and rushing bodies. 

There has to be some kind of middle ground between all guns and all ammo allowed to everyone all the time, and no guns for anyone ever. 

The problem is that we’re boxed in right now.  The gun lobby is right about one thing.  If guns were made illegal, the only people turning them in would be upstanding, law-abiding citizens.  Next thing you know, we’re living in a Batman movie. 

I say we have to start with re-enacting the ban on assault weapons and ammo and make it stick… no expiration date.  No one needs that kind of firepower for home protection.  No one.  Nor do hunters.  No one needs those giant ammo clips either.  The only thing these guns are good for is killing a large number of people at once.

Just because this restriction won’t solve ALL the problems doesn't mean it won’t fix SOME.  And some is better than none, when it comes to innocent lives being taken.

Further, we have to do more to regulate who guns go to, at minimum doing more than what we do to hand out a driver’s license.  I’m thinking proficiency, IQ and psychological tests.  There needs to be a criminal records check as well.  It’s appalling that we do more to check into a person who wants to operate a common device with a positive use, but is potentially dangerous, than we do with a person that wants a device whose singular purpose is to kill living things.

I don’t think there’s a chance in hell of the NRA ever letting that happen.  In this day and age, they will fight anything that comes between them and their “right” to obtain any gun for any reason right fucking now.  To them, the Constitution is made up of the 2nd Amendment, and then everything else.

It’s funny how conservatives are always saying we need more “Constructionist” judges, (as in interpreting the Constitution exactly the way is was written).  Obviously, this doesn't apply to the 2nd Amendment, or else everyone would have the right to a single-shot musket and powder horn.  But where’s the fun in that, right?

Maybe one day we’ll see some politicians grow a pair and take on the gun lobby to try to enact some kind of common sense limitations.  And granted, any attempts to rein in automatic weapons and large clips will take time to produce the desired effect.  And in this age of immediate gratification, any delay in results will be portrayed as failure, in order to justify a return to the way things were.

In the mean time, our little kids are getting slaughtered at school.  There’s some more of that “American Exceptionalism” for you.  Yee haw.

Late Update: My dear friend Cassie sent me a link to an article that makes many of the same points I made, only better and more clearly.  Granted, that bar is not set very high, but I'm glad to know that I'm not off base here.  Check it out by clicking here.

30 comments:

  1. Bluz, my suggestion is we stop making bullets for three years. Then tax the shit out of them after that. Then only manuf. bullets for hunting weapons and small arms fire. The second ammendment doesn't mention bullets. When they come after guns, people will hide them and there are millions of guns out there.

    Then stop the selling of rapid fire guns. Only deer rifles and small fire arms can be sold. This won't completely stop it but slow it donw.

    Then print millions of bumper stickers and give them out for free. Have them say FUCK THE NRA.

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    1. I don't see why that wouldn't work, (other than because of gun lobbying efforts.) The bullets and clips would get used up eventually... That's the lack of instant gratification I was alluding to.

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  2. Another thought about the bullet manufacturers and jobs lost. We could subsidize the bullet makers like farmers, pay them to not make bullets. It would certainly be cheaper than paying the farmers not to farm.

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    1. That's the American Way, isn't it? Too bad the money would go right to the factory owners, rather than the workers. That's the Republican Way.

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  3. Framers of our Bill of Rights never intended a powerful bully lobby, the NRA, to hold us hostage to the Second Amendment. What "militia"? What "security"? What "free State"? We live in terror of the next wackaloon with a gun. Yes. Muskets and powder horns might slow the carnage until the "well-regulated militia" arrives.
    Until the long overdue laws kick in, let's start a MADD-like organization, MOTHERS AGAINT GUN GOONS INVASION. MAGGI

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    1. The NRA: Compensating for penile inadequacy fear since the country was born.

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  4. I've fired one weapon in my life, a M-16 A-1 rifle when I was in the Army. I haven't shot one since. Don't need to. What's the point?

    A three year old who lived in the houses behind mine shot himself in the face after his dad left his gun sit on the counter for no more than 3 minutes. True story.

    I'm constantly afraid that I'll be shot at work. Is there a term for that in the psych world? I mean, how often do we get pissed off patients? A lot. How many times are the family members equally nuts? A lot. How many metal detectors do we have? None. You can go into any hospital at any time, and most entrances are not guarded or even manned. Our employee entrance only requires to swipe in on the weekends and at night. So M-F from 6AM to 11PM anyone has access through our discrete employee entrance.

    Why should congress really care about gun control? They have to be patted down, go through metal detectors and have secret service. We common folk do not. We're left to fend for ourselves with the crazies.

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    1. You know, I'm surprised we don't hear about more hospital shooting, especially how things can get so emotionally high strung in there. I mean, it happened on ER all the time. Just ask Bagger... He was there!

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    2. Don't worry, there was one today.

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  5. I agree that an across-the-board ban would be wrong- criminals will still find ways to get guns. The assault rifles shit should be completely illegal. Some gun enthusiasts(my brother included, sigh) will argue that taking these away is a slippery slope to unraveling our democracy. But I think I'd rather take the leap of faith that we will not turn into a dictatorship by banning assault rifles, and keep these and 100-round clips away from the psychos.

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    1. Yes, the ever-popular slippery slope argument. The thing is, it's only a possibility. To not take action to address a dire problem because of something that MIGHT happen is the height of irresponsibility and selfishness.

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  6. I completely agree with your post and everyone's comments. I think there is another component to these shootings....mental illness, that you alluded to when you suggested more rigorous screening of gun purchase applicants. There needs to be more access to mental health assistance in this country and it's time to remove any stigma about getting help. I don't know what causes someone to suddenly snap and go off the deep end and massacre innocents. But I'd like to think that some of these people maybe would have been stopped either by getting help or by being on someone's radar.

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    1. Unfortunately, in order to get help, a person has to A) acknowledge that they need help and B) agree to get it.

      It would certainly be nice to fix the root cause, but it seems pretty unlikely. In the meantime, we can address automatic and semi-automatic weapons and large ammo clips right now. Results will take a while and we'll have to be patient, (which is not our country's strong suit) but how is anything going to be fixed if we do nothing? Our present course is not working.

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    2. You'd be amazed at how many people WANT the help but can't get it. They closed so many psych wards here in Pittsburgh alone and they're left to fend for themselves on the streets. When Mayview closed a few years ago, we have been overrun with psych patients that we aren't capable of caring for, simply because we're not trained. But they come to us, because, frankly, they're desperate for help. They just have no way of paying for it, which is sad.They should be taken care of.

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  7. There's no easy answer. Ban guns tomorrow? I have 2 shotguns, passed down from my grandfather and are completely legal, but the govt doesn't know they exist. How many other guns are out there like that? Ban ammo? Most shooters reload their own ammo and the real gun nuts have years worth of stock.

    I know you mentioned that you thought it unlikely, but I believe this individual would have created a catastrophe without guns.

    Whatever the answer is, it needs to happen soon because it will take a generation before the affects are truly felt. As a hunter and gun owner I'd like to see much stricter penalties for existing gun laws and a ban on semi-automatic rifles and military grade ammunition.

    In all the talk about the tragedy, I stumbled across this blog. The blogger is a mother of a child similar to the shooter. She talks about how little help there is for her child. http://anarchistsoccermom.blogspot.com/2012/12/thinking-unthinkable.html

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Rich

      I don't think that "banning guns" is going to go anywhere. It's is a time for pragmatism rather than blind idealism. As you say, there are far too many guns in the field for a ban to mean anything. That's why there should be some kind of rational measure that addresses mass killing situations, like doing something about automatic/semi-automatic weapons and high capacity clips, like you said.

      Obviously, with all the material currently in play, it would take a generation to have an effect. But that's the reason to act right now rather than putting it off yet again. How many more innocents have to die?

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  8. Every year, 100,000 people are shot. 30,000 die. Every year it happens all over again.

    On 9/11, 3,000 people died and we invaded two countries.

    Many other countries (Japan, Switzerland, Israel) have very strict gun-control laws, low levels of gun deaths, and -- shock -- remain thriving democracies. People should have a higher regard for the resilience of America's democracy. It does not need armed protection to survive.

    Heck, 70 percent of NRA members support things like background checks on ammo purchase, closing gun show loopholes, and limiting large-capacity clips.

    Hopefully, this will break the log jam and cause changes in our politics as 9/11 did.

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    1. It must be that other 30% of the NRA that vehemently opposes every single limitation to complete gun freedom, from assault weapons to Teflon (cop killer) bullets, because of that infamous slippery slope.

      If what you say is true, it's time for the 70% to take control of their organization, and help get some common sense rules passed.

      Tough times, buddy... Thanks for being a voice of reason, both here and at Carpetbaggery.

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    2. Unfortunately, the 70 percent don't control all the money the NRA donates to political campaigns.

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  9. I don't usually comment on your political posts, as I abhor politics and the vitriolic discourse that usually comes with it. But I totally agree with everything you said. This tragedy has rocked me to my core, being the mom of 2 elementary school aged kids. And I just cannot fathom a society that does not understand the need for a limit on assault rifles. The 2nd Amendment was created to limit a newly formed govt by having a checks and balance system through the citizenry. It was also a much different society back then, where this was probably necessary. The complete blind and unwavering adherence to the wording of this amendment in this advanced society is ridiculous and myopic. Nobody's trying to take away your toys, boys. We are just trying to protect our children. Please let the current society and govt DO that.

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    1. Ah, so that means you usually disagree with me but are holding back, for the sake of civil discourse. I’m good with that. Otherwise, please feel free to point out that I’m right.

      Just kidding… thanks for your level-headed response. I do think we have to take context into account with the Constitution and try to find a middle ground, where it’s no longer quite so easy to slaughter innocent children. We just have to stop yelling from extreme positions and have the will to move a bit. It’s the only way things can get done.

      Or, we can just keep killing each other, pointing fingers and perpetuating the cycle of tragedy.

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  10. I am still trying to figure out how I feel about gun control, mostly because I don't know that much about the different types of guns, how hard it is to get them, etc. Did that guy use an assault weapon? And what the heck classifies as an assault weapon?!

    I like your dad's idea, though. And I do think we have to make it really tough to get guns. But if this guy had not been diagnosed with a mental illness, what would have stopped him from buying a gun? I am also not sure if the mom is to blame; I mean if the kid was just "odd," that may not have been enough of a reason for her not to have guns, but I don't know. We have a couple of kids at school with autism/aspergers. They have outburst but have never hurt anyone. Still, I don't think there should be guns at their house because you never know.

    Cassie's comments just depress me. And to take it one step further/to one of your comments, what about the people who need help but refuse to get it? Many of those people are ticking time bombs. That scares me more than just about anything in this situation.

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    1. I’m no gun expert, but this is my understanding. Semi-automatic means the gun will fire once for every time you pull the trigger, without re-cocking or anything. You just squeeze’em off. Fully automatic means you can hold the trigger down and bullets will continue to fire. I believe both would be considered “assault weapons,” but I’m not sure how specific that term is.

      The school shooter used a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle for which he had a number of 30-round clips. He also had 2 other handguns with him, but never fired them.

      I’m not sure what we can do about the mental health aspect of the situation. I never read anything about any of these recent shooters where they were seeking “help” of any kind. And as long as this is still America, we can’t go around locking up every moody, sullen teen-aged boy… we’d run out of room in no time flat.

      I think we have to take the 2nd Amendment and give it no more reverence than we do the rest of the Amendments, which we have tugged at and pushed and stretched freely, to suit our ever-changing world. We need to do something about these weapons of mass murder… “WMMs,” if you will. There is no legitimate civilian use for these things and we make it entirely too easy to obtain.

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  11. I do think people get a little too "don't take away my 2nd amendment rights," which I don't think is what too many if any are asking for. But people also need to realize that times and people change. Just because something was in the constitution, does not mean it needs to stay in there forever or at least remain unaltered. If there were no changes, women, blacks and people from 18 to 20 could not vote. I don't know if I am saying we need to change the amendment (add a new one?), but I too don't get the need for the assault weapons either. Thanks for your explanation!

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    1. I think it should be open to interpretation, just like the rest of them. Free speech isn't absolute... we can't libel, slander, or yell 'fire' in a crowded theater. There's no reason the right to bear arms has to be completely unregulated, but for the maniacal, single-minded pressure of the NRA and its adherents.

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  12. I have been pretty sick for the last two weeks, and haven't kept up with your blog. But I'm back now, and wrote my own post on this subject, if you care to check it out. I was married for 11 years to a man who collected weapons. He had a hair-trigger temper and if I had stayed married to him, he probably would have eventually killed me. Guns have no place in the hands of mentally ill or mentally damaged people. The sensible and caring people of America SHOULD DEMAND ACTION ON GUN CONTROL! If not now, when? and if not us, who? The NRA has held Congress hostage for way too long. Here is something for your readers to ponder: A man carries a bomb in his shoe onto an airplane, and now everyone in America has to take their shoes off at the airport.

    NOW IS THE TIME, SO LET'S DO IT! To hell with the NRA!!

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    1. Now all we need are 60 senators with enough backbone to defy the NRA.

      Oh, and welcome back!

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  13. Great post Bluz. I was talking to my husband tonight making many of these same points you mentioned. There is no need for people to have assault rifles.

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    1. I always knew you were a smart one... Must be a same-birthday thing.

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