Thursday, 5 October 2017

Well, it Happened Again


Spoiler alert: I think it's time - beyond time - that the US stopped deluding itself that guns are not part of the problem, and enacted sensible limitations on who can own what sort of guns, and how many of them.

It happened again. Not that it matters, at all, but this time in Las Vegas. A "gunman," for reasons that remain at the moment not known, took a cache of guns and massacred a group of innocent, unsuspecting people.

Newtown. Charleston. Orlando. San Bernardino.

This time, Vegas.

I'm not inclined to use the name of the man responsible, but an otherwise "ordinary" man this time has killed 59 people at a country music festival, and injured hundreds more. 

So we as a nation react, as we always do, with thoughts and prayers, and questions of "why," and finger-pointing. Inevitably, one side will offer that this time the US will get serious about gun control. Just as predictably, the other will fire back (pun intended) with arguments about how guns don't kill people, that only a "good guy" with a gun can stop a bad one, how many times a gun is used to prevent crime, how the outcome could have been different if only someone in the crowd had been armed.

In 2012, at Christmas, the nation woke to the horrible story of a "gunman" entered a school full of small children in Newtown, Connecticut and systematically obliterated 20 helpless children. Mostly kindergarten and grade one students. All were six or seven years of age. It was a story that almost uniquely left me feeling genuinely shaken.
A weekend has now passed between us and the horrific shooting in Newtown, CT.  The images of crying, shaken young children will not soon be forgotten.  And the thought of little five and six year old, lifeless children with unopened Christmas presents and named stockings forever awaiting a return that will not come, spending the weekend pending crime scene investigations to be completed is too terrible a thought to consider.
Predictably, the discussion has turned to what to do about this.
I would self-identify as a pretty far-to-the-right conservative.  Not a libertarian, per se, but in that general ZIP code.  And I have to say, listening to my political fellow-travellers talking about this, and in particular, the possibility that we may finally, FINALLY get some sort of sane gun control policy is a journey into madness.
In the end, nothing was done. The "guns don't kill people" crowd carried the day.

Then, 2014, in Santa Barbara, California, a 20 year old male ("man" does not apply) decided that writing his grievances in a 'manifesto' was not enough, so off to the campus he went, where he shot, stabbed, and crushed (with his BMW) a score of his classmates. 
Another needless day of violence and blood-shed in the US.  Like Newton, CT before it.  Or Virginia Tech.  Or Columbine.  There are again candles, and stuffed animals, and flowers.  There are more crying families and friends.
The US, plain and simple, has a violence problem.  It's obvious that, yes, it is far, far past the time that Americans accepted sensible, rational rules about gun ownership.  Requiring law-abiding citizens to have a licence to own a gun, and limiting the amount of ammunition they can purchase is not "gun grabbing."  The Second Amendment guarantees people the right to own guns and to defend themselves.  But this ain't 1750 on the frontier.  The Constitution was not written by God himself, nor was it given to Moses.  It can (and has been) amended to reflect the times.  The Second Amendment itself is testament to that.
It's undeniably true that a gun is an inanimate object; it can no more kill a person by itself than can a broom or a tin of soup. For that matter, neither can a bottle of arsenic. I get it.

But it is beyond dispute that, a person like the individual who opened fire in Las Vegas, if he did not have his arsenal, if he were even limited in what he could have gained access to, many of the 59 people he slaughtered would be alive.

If you cannot accept that basic fact, then you are beyond reach.

I know the arguments about the Second Amendment, and I agree that people have the rights granted. I don't go in for the sophistries about "well regulated militias," nor the collective vs. individual rights. But the Constitution has been amended two dozen times. It's not an act of God. And it's not 1775 anymore.

We do not need to arm ourselves to the teeth against a tyrannical king half-way round the world. Black helicopters are not coming. And even if they were, you and your handguns are not going to stand a chance against them. 

The government have actual, trained soldiers. They have tanks. They have, well, black helicopters.

Red Dawn was a movie, as I said before. 

I used to live in France. Yeah, I know. Cheese eating surrender monkeys and socialism. According to the CIA fact book, in 2015, there were 682 murders in all of France. In the city of Chicago, there were 751.

To put things in perspective, there are 65 million people in France. Chicago is a city of just over 2 million.

And France has among the highest rates of murder in Western Europe.

Obviously, there are other factors at play, but can anyone seriously deny that access to guns is a significant factor? 

It is way, way past time to look at real solutions here. And it's not arming every "good guy" and putting him in a school. Charles Bronson is dead. Sorry.

The question is this for Americans: How many dead are we willing to accept as part of the bargain for our right to keep and bear arms? How much blood? 

Yes - the NRA and their political handmaidens in the Republican party are correct that gun control means giving up some measure of our freedom. Of course it does. Giving up the right to drive 200 miles per hour means giving up some measure of freedom as well. ANY law means that someone won't be able to do something that he wants.

Yes - passing gun control will not "solve" the problem. People will still have access to knives. They will still have the option to drive their late-model Buick into a crowd on the sidewalk. Gun control is not going to cure evil people with murder in their hearts. Laws against murder haven't done that yet. Should the lack of a perfect solution block any step towards reducing the problem?

I'm not a lawyer. I've not read all of the Federalist papers. But it seems like a pretty simple equation to me.

You have the right to keep and bear arms. Agreed. A lot of people have been killed because of that right. People who today would be alive.

Is it worth it? Is all the killing really worth you maintaining the ability to stockpile dozens of weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition? Is your right worth all that blood? THAT really is the question here. It's that basic. Because part of the bargain is this: Your right to own (sensibly and responsibly) any number of guns and any amount of ammunition guarantees that we will be having this discussion again. 

Don't pretend that it won't happen. Deal frankly with the fact that it will. 

Please. Think carefully.

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