For the first time in a long while I am going to wade back into the Gun Control debate.
I do not do this lightly or wantonly, and I also realise that even among liberals, the natural constituency to discuss these matters, such discussion is fraught with pitfalls.
We have a group here called RKBA. It's members are somewhat loud, somewhat shunned and rarely engaged. That is mainly because of previous experience, mine and others, which has rarely been positive.
Yet I find most of the members of that group to be entirely friendly and personable outwith that one debate. The thing is, no one disagrees that we have a problem in America with crime, and the fear of crime. How we address those issues is the crux of the matter.
Cards on the table .... I do not like handguns. The members of the RKBA Group know this and we made our peace. I would like to see, one day, a complete ban on handguns, but it won't happen simply by trying to make laws.
I made my own declaration right there, upfront and unambiguous. I did so that no one reading this Diary has to work out my hidden agenda. It is not hidden.
No one who has been paying attention can fail to understand that citizens (and lawful permanent residents) have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. The SCOTUS has said so, and short of them changing their minds, or a constitutional amendment, nothing will change this.
Arguing about the wording of the 2nd Amendment, about what constitutes a militia or any other parsing of words will make not one jot of difference. It doesn't matter any more how we choose to interpret the 2nd, because the SCOTUS has interpreted it, and that is that. If any of you has a case that might overturn Heller, then feel free to pursue it. Meanwhile, it is what it is.
In this Diary I have absolutely no intention of paying any heed to the rantings of those we might be tempted to refer to as "Gun Nuts". Responsible gun owners are not any kind of "nut", and such terms ought never be applied to the folk likely to comment in threads on this site. Indeed, in my own life I have a friend who is armed if he is awake. In all the time I have spent with him I have never seen a gun, and he has never discussed it. The other day he had to draw his weapon and point it at a bad guy. His badge, and handcuffs did the job in the end, but the whole episode disturbed him a good deal. He represents the finest of the responsible gun-owner.
Whether one supports gun-ownership or not, what is patently clear to all is that there are too many guns in our society, and too many are held by entirely the wrong people. This is a problem we have as citizens and residents. It affects us all to one degree or another. If you become a victim of a gun crime, or an accident, then clearly it affects you more than most.
Like all problems faced by society, we should be able to discuss it rationally, and find solutions. The control of guns seems to be unique among America's problems in that no side of the debate can muster an effective argument that is accepted by the other side.
So my first plea would be for us to stop trying to re-write the constitution. Quit telling our liberal friends that the SCOTUS got it wrong (even if they did), because that dog won't hunt any more. Equally, the supporters of gun-ownership would benefit from not simply re-stating their rights! We know you have the right to keep and bear arms. You do not have the right to walk the streets carrying a gun. You do not have the right to own any gun you take a fancy to, nor do you have the right to "stand your ground". There may be laws that allow you to do those things, but they are State and Federal Laws, which can be changed.
While we are on the subject of rational discussion, can we also agree that the NRA is little short of domestic terrorism? They are not advocates for the rights of gun owners. They are the sales arm of an industry that simply does not care how many Americans die, as long as they can sell more guns. This is not controversial. They operate by whipping up a climate of fear ... They sell their wares through terror.
We are oft tempted to blame the gun ... "guns kill people" ... predictably this is met with "people kill people", and we never get past it. Last time I checked "to kill" was a verb .. a doing word, and guns are inanimate objects that are not capable of doing anything. The truth is that "people with guns kill people". If it were the case that only the bad people were killed, then maybe the argument could end right there. As we all know, it frequently isn't just criminals who are killed, and even many of the criminals that are killed did not deserve the death penalty for what they were trying to do.
When we talk to our fellow liberals about guns the most common rationale for ownership, and concealed carry, is that of self-defense. I find it hard, even given my opposition, to counter this argument. Who would deny a person the right to defend themselves? It is not a reasonable position to take and it will never be accepted. Not by liberals and certainly not by anyone else.
My second plea would be that we refrain from statistics. There are no reliable statistics that serve to bolster either side of this argument. None. For every chart, link, authoritative source or any other statistic that I can find, those who disagree with me can, and do challenge them with their own charts, links and authoritative sources.
The only statistics that matter in this debate are that there are too many guns. Too many of the wrong people find it pitifully easy to get them, and too many people are dying. We would all like to see those numbers reduced. In the meantime, those wishing to protect themselves in this manner will continue to exercise their rights, and continue to oppose all those who they feel are not understanding their position.
Yet even though we hold these truths to be self evident, any attempt to discuss a rational approach to tackling the problem is simply met with obdurate opposition. In the way of political arguments since time immemorial, gun owners see any suggestion for control or regulation as "the thin end of the wedge", "a slippery slope". A slippery slope to where? Less guns? I'm okay with that yet we do have to recognise that cooperation is actually required. We have tried prohibition before and it lasted but a few years during which time the population basically turned criminal, and there was such chaos that we ended up amending the constitution ... because that can be done!
As with alcohol, gun ownership is too deeply buried in the American psyche to be challenged in this way. Banning something is rarely the best response, because governments govern by consent, and that consent will not be given however rational the argument.
What I suggest we do is approach this from the other direction. If we can tackle the reasons that people feel the need to be armed, then maybe they will feel the need a little less. If our population at large wasn't living in fear of violent crime, then there
might be less imperative to walk around our streets packing the latest Glock and Wesson.
I hear about "American Freedoms" quite a lot. Generally it brings an ironic smile which probably doesn't go down too well. Ironic because America is a society living in fear. Fear of a knock on the door, fear of being attacked, fear of government even though you elect them. Fear of crime and criminals. So fearful that people buy guns, which means that you also have to be fearful of a simple parking lot dispute. You are scared to let your kids out, or let them walk to school because it's a dangerous world. Don't try to tell me that you are not scared, because you are prepared. It isn't true. I don't believe you. You have given in to the fear and decided to meet it with more violence.
Politicians are guilty of trading in the fear, and the media is equally guilty for exaggerating the risks and perpetuating the myth. Our leaders will not even discuss the subject because they too live in fear ... fear that their jobs might be on the line if they dare to do the right thing. Those, by the way, are not the politicians that we need. We do not send them to Washington to get re-elected, we send them there to govern ... yet they too live in fear.
It would be reasonable to be scared if we lived in an apartheid South Africa, or Somalia, North Korea or any number of violent, oppressive regimes around the world. But we live in America, the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. And we live in fear. Where is the freedom to live free of fear? What happened to that? When did we give up the right to go about our business with the simple expectation of returning home unmolested? Responsible gun owners have taken a view on the society they live in, and chosen the path they are following. I don't have an argument with that, but I do think that they too are entitled to live free from the need to arm themselves to cope with a society that is either failing to protect them, or leaving them with a genuine concern whether well-founded or not.
We are not just letting down the victims of gun crime, we are letting down responsible citizens because despite several armies of law enforcement, prisons filled to bursting point and the wealthiest economy on the planet, we still are unable to make the citizens feel safe.
We need to stop blaming gun owners, especially the ones we most frequently discuss matters with because they are not the problem. The RKBA crowd here also needs to realise that we are not trying to take away your guns, we are trying to take away your need for your guns. If that is the thin end of a wedge that leads to taking away all handguns, it will not be a problem if the reasons you feel the need to own them has been adequately addressed.
This is no short term ambition but, like everything else in life, we do have to start somewhere because the consequence of not doing so is quite unthinkable. More death, more victims, more fear.
"A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step" Sure it's a cliche. It is oft cited because it contains the truth.
In my life many of you know that I ride a motorcycle. Sometimes I ride it one thousand miles or more in a single trip. Despite that being clear evidence of my inner insanity, people often ask how I manage to do it.
It's really simple .... I almost never think about the entire journey. I think about the next intersection, next traffic light. The short stretch of highway before the next gas stop. After a while, traffic light by intersection, the miles have piled up. Along the way I meet obstructions, diversions, construction ... lots of construction. Each of those obstacles is met, and ridden around.
When I started driving it was considered perfectly normal to go get falling down drunk then drive home. The carnage this caused had to be addressed, and it was. By a combination of carrot and stick, and education, attitudes to drinking and driving changed. What was seen as acceptable became less so, and ultimately society viewed that activity as criminal.
Violent crime is reducing, in this country with all of its guns, and in other countries without the guns. Guns do not reduce crime, even if they reduce the fear of crime. Whether that reduction in fear is justified is quite another matter. The money you spend arming yourself is little more than a hidden tax. You pay for law enforcement, and it is failing you so you pay again to defend yourself. That is completely wrong. The thousands of dollars many people spend on personal protection could buy your family a vacation, or boost your pension, or be put to any number of better uses if you were being appropriately served by the people you are electing to do just that.
Tackling the causes of crime, and the fear of crime is the way to address gun control. Sure there are measures that should be taken, regulations and laws that need to be passed, but that should go hand in hand with a concerted attempt to reduce the fear. We will not achieve one without the other, and the atmosphere of mutual mistrust will not be quick to dissipate.
That is no excuse for not trying.
7:59 AM PT: Here is a novelty .... We have a Gun Control Diary with a Recommended tag that has been recommended evenly by the RKBA Group members and those opposed to handgun ownership.
We have to start somewhere :) Thanks for the Recs!