Friday, June 17, 2016

You Have Rights? So Do I.

Recently I was part of a thread on Facebook in which one person commented "We don't need to repeal the 2nd amendment; there's a very good reason that it's in the Constitution. However, no right is absolute and that includes gun ownership. We need to ban killing machines that are too readily available and have real national vetting of people who want to own guns. It's just common sense."

This person makes a good point. There IS a very good reason why the Second Amendment was written into the Constitution. The problem is, that reason is no longer relevant. The original intent was to protect the right of citizens to own weapons when our national defense strategy consisted of all-volunteer, amateur (in the sense that they weren't paid; it is not a comment on skill level) militias. However, militias are no longer part of our national defense, being replaced by a professional standing army. In addition, weapons technology in 1791 that was available to citizens was roughly equivalent to what was available to armies ... breech-loaded matchlock smooth bore rifles, with comparatively short ranges and subpar accuracy. Compare that to modern times ... there are some pro-gun types that actually make the claim for citizens having access to every weapon the government has, including nuclear weapons, fighter planes, and submarines in addition to the usual panoply of firearms (these people are, almost without exception, completely batshit crazy).

In the 21st century, there is absolutely no reason for Constitutional protections for firearms. The Second Amendment has been used as a shield by the National Rifle Association every time one of these events takes place (and they take place depressingly frequently). Each time there's a mass shooting, pro-gun activists spout the same tired old lines:

  • It's not the gun, it's the shooter. Guns don't kill people, PEOPLE kill people.
  • It's a mental health issue.
  • It's proof that more people should have guns. If someone had been armed, then that person could have stopped all this.
  • More people die in car accidents than by guns. Does that mean we also ban cars?

... all to avoid the obvious issue, which is this: THERE ARE TOO MANY GUNS IN THE UNITED STATES.

So let's unpack these one at a time.

1. Guns don't kill people. People kill people.

On the surface this sounds like a reasonably accurate statement. After all, guns are inanimate objects and do not possess free will. They are simply tools, and their effects are simply directed by the operator.

What this fails to address, and it's a big point, is that guns are DESIGNED to kill. You don't point a gun at someone as a joke (unless you're a complete fucking moron, that is). Someone with a gun is a lot more effective at killing than someone without one. The idea that a gun lying on the floor isn't going to kill anyone by itself, while true, is also patently ridiculous as an argument. It's like saying "It was the pond that got you wet, not me pushing you into it."

2. It's a mental health issue.

Again, reasonable on the surface, and in many cases it is very true -- after all, someone walking into a school and shooting a bunch of five and six year olds is pretty much guaranteed to not have all the lights on upstairs. However, saying that does not excuse the fact that there are other issues at play, such as ease of access to high powered weapons, or a culture that glorifies violence and belligerence and trivializes peaceful means of resolving conflicts. And when you hear it coming from the NRA or their ilk, it's a safe bet that it's a distraction. After all, someone with mental health issues could take YEARS to improve, and imagine the profits that would go to the gun manufacturers in the meantime.

3. It's proof that more people should have guns. If someone had been armed, then that person could have stopped all this.

Right. Let's think about this for a second.

Let's say you're in a nightclub with around 300 of your closest friends. It's loud. It's dark. It's crowded. All of a sudden, you hear something, but because it's so loud you're not exactly sure what it is. You realize it's gunfire when people around you start screaming and panicking, running for whatever exit they can find. You, being a highly trained and remarkably unflappable individual, pull out your fully legal and licensed gun for which you have a concealed carry permit, and start looking for the shooter. You spot someone with a gun taking aim and squeeze off a quick shot, taking him out. Ah-HAH! Got him! You start to make your way over to the shooter to make sure that he no longer is a threat, when a bullet suddenly rips through your rib cage, turning vital organs into jelly in an instant.

What happened was, you weren't the only good guy with a gun. You shot the other one, and when the real shooter saw that he decided to take you out as you represented the greatest threat. Now that both good guys with guns are out of commission, the shooter can proceed with what he was doing ... only now that he has not only your weapon but also the other guy's, he has even more power to unleash mayhem.

This also assumes that someone in this situation with a gun will be able to remain calm enough to assess the situation and respond calmly, instead of reverting to instinct and running like hell. This natural flight response is incredibly difficult to overcome, which is why the armed forces spend months training it out of people. The vast majority of people, when faced with this situation, will do one of two things:

  • Freeze.
  • Run like hell.

Almost nobody will say "Hmmm. Looks like an active shooter situation. Let us assess the situation and quickly, yet carefully, plan our next move."

Saying that the solution to our gun problem in this country is more guns is like saying the solution to cavities is more sugar, and anyone who suggest that maybe you should brush your goddam teeth once in a while is infringing on your rights.

4. More people die in car accidents than by guns. Does that mean we also ban cars?

This is one of the most ludicrous statements out there, especially since it seems to resurface at least 50,000 times every time one of these things happens. So I am going to type this is all caps, in a large, bold font, with a lot of white space around it, so the more feeble-minded and/or slow members of the pro-gun community can get the concept:

CARS KILL PEOPLE WHEN THEY ARE USED OUTSIDE OF THEIR DESIGN SPECIFICATIONS.

Got that?

Let's explain.

First, we'll take a look at cars (or hammers, or screwdrivers, or baseball bats, or whatever the excuse du jour happens to be). When used properly, an automobile is perfectly safe. It is only when it is used outside of its design specifications (going too fast for conditions, being inattentive behind the wheel, running red lights, mechanically unsound, that sort of thing) that they become dangerous.

Now, guns.

When they are used as they are designed to be used -- that is, aiming at something, pulling the trigger, and hurling chunks of hot lead at high velocity toward the target -- they are extremely dangerous. Maybe not to the operator, but definitely to anything -- or anyone -- who happens to be downrange. Conversely, when a gun is used outside of its design specifications -- shooting rocks instead of bullets, say, or using the butt of your pistol as a hammer to build a garage -- it's a fairly safe bet that it's not going to end well for either the operator or the gun itself. However, and this is the important point, that doesn't stop it from being dangerous to anyone nearby.

The entire argument that "more people die from accidents involving than guns" is about as ridiculous as saying that "Sharknado" was a documentary and that constant vigilance against airborne sharks is required.

The Second Amendment is a favorite shield for the pro-gun lobby. Any time any sort of gun legislation is proposed -- even something as innocuous as "let's not let anyone who is suspected of being a terrorist buy a gun," or "whaddaya say we tell people that, if they have a conviction for domestic violence on their record, they are not allowed to buy a gun," or even something as simple as "howzabout we limit the capacity of the magazines people can buy for their firearms" -- the National Rifle Association (and the conservatives they have paid for in Congress) immediately start bleating about how there might be one person on the suspected terrorist list who is there by mistake, and if we don't let that person buy a gun then Murica ain't Murica no more, and that atheist Muslim dictator Obummer is gonna come and take mah guns, dammit.

And yes, I put "atheist Muslim" in there on purpose, because someone actually made that claim, and couldn't understand -- even after I explained how one could not be both an atheist and a Muslim -- why I was laughing so hard.

To them, the right of one individual to be able to get weapons at any time supercedes everyone else's right to not get shot and killed. For people who claim to honor the intent of the Founding Fathers, this seems to be highly hypocritical, especially when you consider that it's right there in the Declaration of Independence: "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."

Last time I checked, it didn't also say "unless that guy over wants a gun REAL BAD."

It comes down to the following point: your right to have a gun does not supercede my right to not have it used against me.

I gotta lie down.

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