Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Good Guys, Bad Guys, and the NRA

Screen grab from the dashcam video that shows the moment Philando Castile was shot
This truly was the shot (or shots) heard round the world. Almost a year ago, Philando Castile was shot and killed for a broken taillight and for reaching for his wallet. Prior to this, nobody had any idea that these were capital crimes.

The NRA, usually a reliable source of batshit crazy quotes from Wayne LaPierre, has been conspicuously silent on this case, apparently because the 2nd Amendment rights they are so fond of "defending" don't apply to black people, or something.

It comes down to a simple point: your right to have a gun does not supercede anyone else's right to not have it used against them.

What follows is a republish of an article I wrote about a year ago, shortly before this event took place.

July, 2012: a man walked into a theater in Aurora, Colorado and opened fire after setting off tear gas grenades, killing 12 people. One of the weapons used was an AR-15 assault rifle.

December 2012: 20 students and six teachers were executed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The weapon of choice? An AR-15.

June, 2013: Five killed and four wounded at Santa Monica Community College by an AR-15.

October, 2015: At Umpqua Community College in Oregon, nine people were killed by an AR-15.

December, 2015: An AR-15 was used to kill 14 people in San Bernardino.

June 2016: an AR-15 was used to kill 50 people (so far) and leave 53 more wounded in the largest single mass shooting event in United States history.

Omar Mateen purchased the gun used in the Orlando nightclub shooting legally. American-born al-Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn said in a video that encouraged followers of al-Qaeda to take advantage of the lax gun laws in the United States, "You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?"

If I want to get on a plane, I have to make sure my bottle of mouthwash is less than three ounces, and I have to submit to a full-body scan at the airport, and remove my shoes, and if there is anything more complicated than a toothbrush in my carry-on bag I might be hauled off to a back room somewhere to be interrogated about who I know, how long I've known them, what's my religion, why am I going where I'm going and what am I going to do when I get there and when am I coming back, and if I start to get annoyed because all of this nonsense is causing me to miss my flight this only serves to cast more suspicion and I could end up in a CIA black site.

If I want to buy an assault rifle, though, all I have to do is show up at a gun show, and the only question I will have to answer is "debit or credit?"

This is all because the National Rifle Association, one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, and dedicated to serving the lobbying needs of the gun manufacturing industry, has somehow transformed the Second Amendment from ensuring the functionality of a "well-regulated militia" to protecting the (non-existent) right of every man, woman, child, dog, cat, gerbil, and some species of invasive plants to own whatever type of gun they want, and to carry them openly in places like Chipotle, Target ... but, ironically, not at the national convention of the National Rifle Association, where firearms are banned from the inside of the building in which it is being held.

The thing is, the right to own firearms is not Constitutionally protected, and this has been reinforced by none other than Antonin "Fuck the Public, They Don't Know Shit" Scalia in Heller v. District of Columbia (2008). Scalia expounded for pages about the precise definitions of the words "keep" and "bear" as they applied to the Second Amendment, and at no time during this exposition did he mention ownership. His opinion holds that the average citizen has a Constitutionally protected right to "keep" arms (that is, to have them in his or her possession), and to "bear" arms (that is, to put them to use), but never to own them.

This is like saying my neighbor has a Constitutionally protected right to "keep" and "bear" my lawn tractor. Under Scalia's definition, my neighbor has the right to keep it in his garage, and to use it whenever he wants to, but it's still my goddam tractor. To extend this analogy, and to apply Scalia's reasoning to the question of firearms, I have a right to keep a gun in my home, and I have a right to use it for self-defense, hunting, etc., but at no point is my right to actually own the thing -- to claim title to it -- Constitutionally protected.

Of course, in light of the horror in Orlando, this is all Monday-morning quarterbacking. Because of our lax gun regulations (thank you, National Rifle Association!), Omar Mateen was able to legally purchase a military-style assault rifle, and then use it to kill 50 people and injure over 50 more. And even as I write this, there are those on the right who are trying to shift the spotlight away from gun regulations and shift it toward their favorite target of ire:

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, in his weekly bible verse tweet, posted Galatians 6:7: "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." This was later deleted, and the PR firm hired by Patrick after the shitstorm provoked by his tweet claimed that "the tweet was pre-scheduled."

Donald Drumpf, ever the master of thoughtful, informed commentary, tweeted "What has happened in Orlando is just the beginning. Our leadership is weak and ineffective. I called it and asked for the ban. Must be tough"

Drumpf also tweeted "Appreciate the congrats for being right on Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!" Still waiting for him on that last one ...

There have been multiple calls for increased vigilance -- against mental illness. Granted, anyone who would do something like this is a sick fuck, but when the plague has already been unleashed you focus on eradication first and prevention second.

Over on redstate.com, Jay Caruso pens a column in which he maintains that "If the shooter were a Christian? All we'd have heard all morning was how Christianity spurred the shooter to commit acts of violence against gay people. But the shooter was part of a radicalized form of Islam that THROWS GAY PEOPLE OFF ROOFTOPS TO THEIR DEATH. So the left instead chooses to blame the NRA. Typical." Actually, Mr. Caruso, it's not that it's typical of the left, it's of people who follow the rules of logical thought ... something with which, apparently, you only have a cursory acquaintance.

The left-wing blogosphere is all astir over the fact that the National Rifle Association hasn't commented on this story ... not at all surprising, if you think about it. Say what you will about the NRA -- they're evil, soul-sucking scum; Wayne LaPierre is the illegitimate love child of a diseased possum and Mr. Hyde from the Bugs Bunny cartoons (actually, there is a disturbing resemblance there) ...
Wayne LaPierre
NOT Wayne LaPierre. Or so he says.
 ... and so on -- they ain't stupid. Anyone with the common sense of gravel, when they are fronting an organization such as the NRA, knows that the best course of action in a situation like this is to sit tight, shut up, and wait until the President says something that can be twisted around so that you can blame him for everything.

None of this, however, addresses the real problem, which is that access to guns is simply too easy. I'm not saying, as some idiot parrot at the Right Wing Shriek Factory will be quick to claim, that we should confiscate firearms. First, the public would never stand still for it; second, it is but the first step to a police state; and third, the logistics are just unworkable.

What I am saying, however, is that we need to do the following things:

Repeal the Second Amendment.
Amendments can be repealed; we've done it before (the Twenty-First Amendment is an explicit repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, aka the Volstead Act, aka Prohibition). This doesn't criminalize guns. It simply removes this near-mythic status of Things Protected By The Constitution that preents anything of substance from being done to regulate them.

Regulate guns.
I can't buy a beer without being able to prove that I am twenty-one years of age (depressingly, nobody has asked in decades). Yet guns are being marketed to children ... cute little pink rifles for girls that fire actual bullets. For some reason, a fizzy beverage with 5% alcohol is deemed to be more of a threat than a machine that is designed expressly for the purpose of hurling chunks of hot lead at high speeds into other living things so that they aren't living things any more. This is patently absurd. Not only do we need full background checks for all gun sales, including the cute little pink ones, we also need to require that anyone purchasing a gun be properly licensed and insured. Which brings me to ...

Require gun owners to be licensed, and require guns to be registered.
Libertarian types as well as NRA shills will immediately squawk that this is the first step toward confiscation. Of course, that's like saying that, because my house faces northwest, a step out of my front door is the first step to Toronto. Requiring gun owners to have a license, which would serve as proof of training and expertise, is not unreasonable.

And actually, I am going to use right-wing "logic" here. A few years ago Pennsylvania passed a voter ID law, and a conservative friend of mine tried to make the argument that I shouldn't be upset about it because I already had the ID, so what's the problem? Using that same logic, the vast majority of people who would be subject to this licensure requirement would be able to get said license with no issues, so what's the problem?

As far as registering weapons, it has nothing to do with confiscation, or the paranoid ravings of right-wing nuts who think that Obama is comin' to take yer guns. All it has to do with is identifying the weapon and the owner in the case that it is used in the commission of a crime. Again, if you never use your guns illegally, and you always know their whereabouts (for example, a gun safe in your home), then what's the problem?

Require gun owners to carry liability insurance.
Sure, in cases like the Orlando shooter (who was killed by police), he probably wouldn't have had insurance anyway. However, contrary to what the NRA and their ilk would have you believe, just because something doesn't work all the time doesn't mean we shouldn't even bother trying. Using that logic, David Ortiz would never get up to bat because he strikes out occasionally, and if he can't spank it out of the park every fucking time then what's the use?

With that being said, requiring gun owners to carry insurance gives them an economic incentive to ensure that they are not used for nefarious purposes. In addition, it's a free-market solution ... and I thought conservatives loved it when the market is the solution, rather than government.

Repeal the Second Amendment.
Yeah, I already said it. I know. It's that important.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution is archaic. It no longer fits the needs of our society. It is a low-technology 18th century edict that is not at all appropriate in our high-tech 21st century world. It may have served a purpose when governmental tyranny was a real concern, and the weapons used by governmental forces and the weapon owned by a plantation owner in Virginia were equivalent. That is no longer the case. Joe Six Pack with an AR-15 going up against the United States Army is roughly the same as trying to control a tornado with a flyswatter.

The long and short of it is, we need to make it extremely difficult for people like Omar Mateen -- or Adam Lanza, or James Holmes, or Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, or Christopher Harper Mercer, or John Zawahiri -- to get guns. These are all people who were known, for one reason or another, to be a risk to those around them, either through mental illness (Lanza, Holmes) or religious fanaticism (Farook, Malik), yet they were still able to purchase, legally, enough firepower to slaughter 116 people collectively and injure another 149 people.

That's 265 people. Two hundred sixty five dead or injured because Congress allows itself to be bullied by the NRA.

Repeal the Second Amendment. Regulate guns. Granted, we won't be able to stop them all, but each life saved by these measures will more than justify them.

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