Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Some More Kvetching About Guns

Sadly, for many gun rights activists, this ridiculous graphic is an accurate representation of the Second Amendment.

What follows is a repost of a piece I wrote on June 20, 2014. I am reposting this because it's relevant, I think it's entertaining, but mainly because, between watching the clouds that were preventing me from seeing the eclipse and trying to figure out what the hell we're going to have for dinner, I didn't have time to come up with anything yesterday. I did make a couple of changes to make some of the references not so 2014, but other than that I left it alone. So here ya go.



Okay, so there's a story in Mother Jones (you can read the whole story here) talking about a group of women in Corpus Christi, Texas, who have descended on a Target store carrying their long guns in a protest to protect second amendment rights that, technically, aren't in any danger to begin with. This is just the latest in a rash of irrational, idiotic demonstrations from a group of brainstems who think that Bubba McGee and his 12 gauge are all that is standing between America, mom, apple pie, Chevrolet, God, cheap gas, and the Constitution, and the forces of evil who are so cleverly hidden on our borders that it looks like they aren't even there (hint: they're not).

Now, in the past I have tried to present a calm, rational, thoughtful viewpoint, stating my case clearly and with a great respect for the right of those who disagree to do so. This was done in an effort to elevate the level of discourse and maybe, just maybe, get the two sides to come together and reach a mutually agreeable compromise.

Well, that has been about as effective as trying to clean up post-Katrina New Orleans with a Swiffer. So now I'm taking a different approach and calling these morons out, publicly.

Look, I have a real problem with people bringing friggin' guns into Target. Or Chipotle. Or anywhere else, for that matter, that isn't a military base, a police firing range, or Wayne LaPierre's patio when he isn't paying attention.

POINT 1: The whole "good guy with a gun being the best defense against a bad guy with a gun" thing.

Now, the bad guy with the gun knows he's a bad guy. The good guy with a gun knows he's a good guy. Every other person in the immediate vicinity HAS NO GODDAM IDEA WHO IS WHO, so they are going to get freaked out, and if THEY have a gun too ... well, there are very few ways for this to end well.

The reason for this is simple: unlike Wayne LaPierre's cartoon universe, where every bad guy with a gun wears a top hat, a black cape, a handlebar mustache, and primarily uses a method of locomotion that can only be described as "skulking", most bad guys with guns look ... well, fairly normal. Eliot Rodger, before he went on his killing spree in Isla Vista, was so non-threatening that, even when his family became concerned and asked the police to check up on him, was deemed to be posing no risk to anyone. In his videos he looks like a normal twenty-something. Adam Lanza's only defining characteristic was he always looked like the really sleepy guy trying to convince his boss that he is, in fact, awake. The Aurora, CO shooter looked like a stereotypical basement nerd. So there's a really big problem with identification.

And what happens if there's more than one bad guy with a gun? Do they form a cooperative of evil, thus increasing their overall effectiveness? Or do they continue to operate as solo acts, letting their individual selfish motives prove to be their undoing, as demonstrated in many fine documentaries featuring the likes of Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, and Dolph Lundgren?

And if they do band together, is there a formalized procedure to protect individual interests? Or are their individual goals subsumed in favor of those of the collective? And, in light of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that says corporations are people, does that mean the individuals in this sinister brotherhood are protected from liability, and only the organization can be prosecuted?

This is a big problem. This "Good Guy/Bad Guy" dichotomy is not as cut-and-dried as you would think.

POINT 2: Kids and their grubby little fingers.

As anyone who has gone shopping with small children will tell you, they are master pickpockets. How many times have you been in a store, reached for your phone, only to find your three year old toddler-dialing your mother and telling her about the strange noises she heard coming from your bedroom when Mommy and Daddy were "having alone time"? And you want to be toting a rifle around with these adorable little felons?

Not to mention that, if there is more than one child with you, the level of hostilities between the children will escalate to the point of making Syria look like a traffic stop in a rich neighborhood. It is only a matter of time before one child gets pissed off enough to try to grab the rifle away from you and really let his sister have it, because OMIGOD SHE'S SO ANNOYING AND YOU LET HER GET AWAY WITH EVERYTHING AND SHE NEVER GETS IN TROUBLE EVEN THOUGH SHE WAS THE ONE WHO LET THE DOG POOP IN THE LIVING ROOM.

A gun isn't enough to stop these little monsters. You need an entire SWAT team.

POINT 3: Clumsy stupid people.

You know who you are. You're the kind of person who constantly drives around with a little flap of their coat hanging out of the bottom of the driver's door, or who calls someone on a land line phone and starts the conversation with "Hey, where are you?", or who will put their car keys in the LEFT pocket of their jeans instead of the RIGHT pocket, then spend the next fifteen minutes looking for them, or who flips someone off when they honk at you to let you know that you left your lunch on the roof of your car, or who touches a fence with signs all over it that say "WARNING: HIGH VOLTAGE ELECTRIC FENCE" because hey, ya never know.

So, given the fact that the inside of these peoples' skulls resemble, more than anything else, abandoned missile silos, empty rooms containing nothing but piles of broken concrete, pieces of ventilation ductwork, and puddles of Cold War paranoia, do you really think letting them tote around a firearm in public is a good idea? I mean, forget about the fact that they probably don't understand the concept of "keep the safety on". What about the fact that, like feral animals, they will react on instinct, lashing out at anyone or anything they perceive as a threat (which, in their minds, is limited to EVERY FUCKING THING ON THE PLANET EXCEPT RONALD REAGAN)?

This, combined with the visual acuity of Mr. Magoo and the physical dexterity of Honey Boo-Boo's mom, means that I don't trust these imbeciles with anything more threatening than a pair of mini-marshmallows, much less a device that was designed to hurl chunks of hot lead at high velocities with a extreme precision.

POINT 4: Young men with penis insecurity.

Everybody has seen these guys. They're the ones with the Ford, Chevy, or Dodge 4x4 pickup truck, painted camouflage, with enormous tires, gigantic exhaust stacks sticking up out of the bed, a ludicrously large pair of truck nuts dangling off the trailer hitch, and a sticker with a picture of Calvin peeing on something on the back window.

Look, the only reason these trucks exist in the first place is to proclaim to the world "I am the manliest of manly men with ridiculously enormous amounts of testosterone, and I am here to impregnate all fertile females in the immediate vicinity. Resistance is futile." It's gotten to the point that Ford is kicking around the idea of issuing a special edition extreme 4x4 F-150 for 2019, called "The Compensator".

So you've got this pack of younger guys wandering around, and they're feeling insecure because they think their winkies might be a bit ... underdeveloped, shall we say ... and they are easily agitated as a result, and you want to give these assholes GUNS? What a fan-freakin'-tastic idea! And after we do that, we can have their ex-girlfriends call them and tell them how much better their current boyfriends are in bed. There is absolutely NO WAY this could end badly, right?

POINT 5: Conspiracy nuts.

I was standing in line to get a table at the local diner in the fall of 2012, and I started making small talk with the guy in line in front of me, and it quickly became apparent that this was a bad, horrible, terrible idea. It started out fine ... the weather, the Red Sox ... then he started going off on President Obama, and how he's a Muslim terrorist baby-killing atheist (I didn't have the heart -- or, for that matter, the opportunity -- to point out that it is impossible be an atheist and a Muslim simultaneously), and how he was hell-bent on taking everyone's guns away so he could turn Murrica into "Amerikagrad", and by god he ain't gettin' MY guns, because that's the only way I can defend my family, blah, blah, blah.

I didn't really catch the rest of it, because by this point I was edging away slowly and quietly suggesting to my then-girlfriend (currently my wife -- love you, sweetie!) that maybe we should just order a pizza. I do think he used the word "sheeple" though ...

The point is, there is a large portion of the American population that is so paranoid that they actually believe that the President of the United States, Commander in Chief of the mightiest armed forces in the history of mankind, was so worried about a "militia" with some rifles that he was going to beat down their doors in the middle of the night so he could steal their guns, and then (presumably) have his way with their women before forcing them all to bow toward Mecca and pray to Allah. Once he has done this -- gone door-to-door in a nation of over 320 million people -- then he could claim VICTORY!

Fortunately for everyone we managed to survive President Obama's histrionics, melodrama, and erratic behavior and are now blessed with the calm, cool, rational, even-handed discourse of donald trump. No, really. Lots of people have said this to me.

POINT 6: Finally, on a more serious note ...

Look, I get that people are worried about losing their Constitutional rights, and wanting to safeguard them. I really do get that. But the thing is, there is nothing in the Second Amendment that provides a blanket guarantee of every citizen to own a gun. Consider the entire text of the Amendment:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

That's it in its entirety. It says nothing about ownership; it only says that people can KEEP and bear arms. This is akin to a police officer being able to carry his or her service weapon during off-duty hours. They don't own the weapon, but they are able to keep it because it's part of their job. This idea was confirmed by Justice Antonin Scalia in the majority opinion in District of Columbia et al v. Heller (2008), in which he pontificated for a page and a half, parsing the meanings of the words "keep" and "bear" but made no mention at all of ownership.

The idea here is that possession of a thing -- a firearm, a lawnmower, a really pristine set of Elvis Presley commemorative shot glasses -- actually consists of three parts:
  • To "keep" a thing is "“[t]o retain; not to lose,” and “[t]o have in custody” (quoted from the Heller opinion in which Scalia pulled this definition from the 1773 Dictionary of the English Language).
  • To "bear" a thing is to "carry" that thing, or to direct its use.
  • To "own" a thing is to have power of severability and transfer. It is this point that is not addressed in the Heller decision.

Similarly, the Second Amendment addresses this with regards to a militia. A member of a militia -- that is, an all-volunteer, amateur (in the sense that they are unpaid; this is not a judgement of skill level) armed force in service of the United States -- is entitled to keep his or her weapon during off-duty hours. Whether or not they actually own this weapon is not addressed. Further, given the fact that the US has had a standing army since 1812 and militias have not served as part of the national defense since then, this means that there is no officially recognized militia for a person to be a part of.

And no, a bunch of drunken rednecks shooting stuff in the woods is not a militia.

Then there's the reality that, even if you were allowed to openly carry and brandish your weapon, it would be about as effective against the nuclear weapons, intercontinental missiles, drones, tanks, fighter planes, naval destroyers, etc. as a flyswatter would be against a volcano.

These people just need to stop. Carrying a rifle into Target solves nothing; all it does is piss some people off and scare the living bejeezus out of many more. It also drives home the stereotype of gun owners as unreasonable, small-minded, slack-jawed yokels, yet again proving that a vocal minority can shape the perception in the public eye of an entire population.

I gotta lie down.

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A Path Forward

The Democratic primaries are heating up, and I am already seeing purity tests of various stripes filtering across the intertubes. Bernie ...