Friday, January 11, 2013

Don't Confuse Me With Facts, I've Already Made Up My Mind!

File Under: With Both Barrels

The first major "gun control" law (since the Second Amendment) was enacted in 1934, with the idea to curtail the activities of criminals like George "Machine Gun Kelly” Barnes who had run amok (and ironically didn't obey laws) during the economic downturn of the depression and the reign of the equally bad Prohibition laws. However, until that time, with certain exceptions, anyone who could afford them could legally procure with limited difficulty what anti-Second Amendment legislators now call "assault weapons" (i.e. the Thompson Submachine Gun or "Tommy Gun"). In fact, there was a time you could order a shotgun, likely comparable to the one Bowe Cleveland used to wound his fellow student, from a Sears & Roebuck catalog – no I.D., no background check, no wait, no FFL ...right to your front door. Using the data aggregated by the author of this Wikipedia entry I estimate that between 1776 and 1934 at least 5 recorded instances of students bringing guns to school with the intent of committing a crime or killing someone (other than his or herself) occurred. That is 5 surviving reports in a span of 158 years with just one gun control law, just a smidgeon of common sense and a modicum of moral decency. In the just 79 years since 1934, some additional 6 Federal level gun-control laws (not counting the State laws) have been passed by Congress. What has been the sum total effect of these 7 Congressional acts, which endeavored to supersede the wisdom of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America? Between 1934 and 2013 (almost half the time), over 85 additional incidences of violent attacks and murders perpetrated by students in or near institutions of learning – 17 times as much death with 7 times as many regulations as caused in the entire preceding 158 years when all we had was just the Second Amendment as our guide.

Clearly, we have legislated our way to a safer, more secure country where we have stronger values, a deeper appreciation for life, more involvement with the lives of our children, and better ability to intervene before a crisis as evidenced by the hundreds more tales of jilted lovers, disgruntled ex-employees, deranged mental health patients, jealous colleagues, who willfully decide to become criminals and commit the vast majority of these crimes – using students and teachers as targets. I find it personally shocking to note that some of the most tragic school killings, and indeed the actual most deadly school killing in United States history, were not only perpetrated by those sworn to protect students (school administrators, police, military) but also were not carried out with firearms at all. Furthermore, the assault on “assault weapons” is ludicrous. In all these stories unless the “student” had either A) actually served in the military and had access to a military variant firearm or B) had circumvented the law in a criminal fashion to illegally acquire a firearm they could not otherwise legally own, the vast majority of these attacks or deaths occurred by common arms designed for hunting, sport, and personal defense.

A firearm is a tool, just like a hammer is a tool. A carpenter would not use a sledgehammer to drive a nail nor would a homesteader use a framing hammer to drive a wedge through logs. Moreover, simply possessing a framing hammer does not make one a carpenter nor does having a volt meter make you an electrician. Military firearms do not turn civilians into killing machines, they are tools to help highly-trained soldiers protect themselves while they efficiently perform their duties and complete mission objectives. As we have become less agrarian, hunting has become less of a luxury, personal defense more of a concern, material science has changed, and aesthetics has changed – so too has the design of civilian firearms changed. Many of the firearms in highly-publicized shootings for aesthetic or ergonomic purposes had been made to look externally similar to military variants, but in no way functioned internally like military style arms. The firearms that most law-abiding citizens can easily acquire are in actuality comparatively very inefficient for the purpose they are sold – protecting you by wounding someone else. They require an IMMENSE amount of time, training, and money to become proficient at mastering the mechanics of their safe use so that you can instinctively call upon those skills in a crisis. This begs many questions. If firearms do not make it easier to kill people, why do so many people die in these school shootings? These criminals didn't knife their victims, they used firearms – certainly that means firearms need more control, right?

No firearm is a fully self-aware, autonomous walking death-ray with mind-control abilities. Until someone loads it, points it at someone else, and pulls the trigger that firearm is an inert device of no harm to anyone. It is the individual who is lethal, the human brain that is dangerous. Why are school shootings so tragic, why is there so much loss of life? The handgun may have limitations but the criminal has several advantages working in his or her favor – the biggest is that you are following the law while he or she is not. Despite the first “school shooting” in America occurring in 1764 and hundreds having occurred since, the notion that we are safe and secure anywhere persists. Teachers come to school to teach and students come to school to learn, armed with nothing but their experience and imaginations respectively. That puts them at a disadvantage when a criminal comes to school to hurt them if no one is prepared to protect them and no one has developed a plan of what to do when someone starts shooting. Even when you examine tragedies like the Fort Hood shootings where you had a psychiatrist (not exactly a full-time soldier) pitted against politically unarmed individuals he was able to create significant loss of life before someone with a firearm stopped him. That was a United States military base (the largest in the world), how much more poorly would college students and children fair against a deranged, homicidal lunatic intent on causing as much death and destruction as they possibly can? In these shootings, did a lot of innocent people die because the shooter used a scary military look-alike firearm or because the shooter carefully planned the attack and was using the untrained/unprepared children of suburbanite yuppies as targets? Common sense obviously says it is the latter. Finally, humans are easily damaged and without fast, appropriate medical care can succumb to their injuries relatively quickly in the aftermath of a shooting while emergency medical teams wait for law enforcement to secure the crime scene – this is true if the victims are shot, stabbed, or harmed in any other way.


Anyone with criminal intent, the impetus to commit violence, and the means to act it out is a danger to someone unwilling or unable to defend themselves: children, the elderly, or the mentally-impaired. A machete wielding obese, asthmatic with arthritic knees could commit a mass murder if his victims are weak and unarmed. However, they are of limited threat to an educated, prepared, and well-armed individual. A military style firearm is just for shock value. If one wanted to cause a massive loss of human life you could in today's economy: walk into a car dealership and with no money down walk out with a new car, buy a few items you found searching the internet, turn your new car into a bomb, plow into a crowd of people at a public place, and detonate the bomb – having spent far less money than you would have for a military look-alike firearm and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and killing more people than in any shooting spree. Moreover, no one would call for increased regulation on automobiles.

In the wake of tragedy, especially one that we have allowed to happen over and over for more than 200 years it is easy to feel angry. It is easy to feel angry because anger is a lot easier to deal with than guilt. You want to point that anger at someone or something other than yourself, and an easy target is one that cannot fight back on its own. Do not however allow your guilt or your anger to cloud your reason: you are willfully participating in the discourse of your disarmament and IT WILL BE TO YOUR PERIL. Gun-control and the assault on so-called “assault weapons” is really simple. Innocent people have been dying for a very long time.  The legislature is unconcerned about public safety, they do not care about you. They are only concerned with stripping you of your ability to defend yourself and not from criminals – from them. Why? Our government is seeking to strip us of our last line of defense against tyranny enshrined into our Constitution guaranteed by the Second Amendment, so that one day when they turn their guns on us we will be as defenseless as those 20 doe-eyed children at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Gun violence requires all of our involvement to find an immediate, lasting solution. Perhaps any real insight and a beginning of an answer can be found in the last written words of 1966 University of Texas murderer, Charles Whitman:

“I don't really understand myself these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately (I can't recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts. […] Maybe [mental health] research can prevent further tragedies of this type.”

Note: The title of today's blog was inspired by this photograph on a Facebook page.

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