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Photo (3)Usually we are light and funny on here but ooccasionally stuff happens in the world and I talk about it.  This is one of those times.

Last week a nine year old girl was on a family vacation with her parents.  Said parents thought it was a wonderful idea to take her to a gun range and let her fire an Uzi.  In doing so she lost control of the weapon and blew the head off of the guy whose job it apparently was to teach nine year olds to fire the preferred weapon of GI Joe’s premier ninja, Snake-Eyes.

Well…duh.  It’s not funny, and I’m not happy the man is dead,  but I can’t help but think, “Seems like they should have seen that coming.”

I feel sorry for the nine year old who now has to live with what happened, but she is in no way, shape or form culpable.  I hope that as she gets older she realizes that it was entirely her parents’ fault and the instructor’s fault and those facts brings her some peace.  I feel sorry for the instructors’ family as they have lost someone they care about but, again, this doesn’t seem surprising.

I know, I know, I can hear some of you saying, “But Patrick, the loss of life blah blah blah…terrible tragedy blah blah blah.”

Yeah but…no.

He. Was. Teaching. Nine. Year. Olds. To. Fire. Uzis.

What did anyone expect the eventual outcome would be?  .When race car driver Dale Earnhardt was killed during a stock car race I remember being surprised that people were surprised.  I wasn’t pleased he had died, but if you had asked me to guess how it would happen, race car wreck would have been at the top of the list.  I’m not glad this man is dead, but if you had asked me before the incident to guess how he would die, I have to think “accidentally shot by a kid” would have been right up there.   This isn’t a tragedy as much as it is simply inevitability. Inevitability that a nine year old girl has to pay for.

Please don’t think that this is “typical liberal bullshit.” I mean I am fairly typically liberal but that’s not what is at work here.  I’m not anti-gun.  I own four of them. After trips to the range my trained killer girlfriend has remarked that I am “a really excellent shot.”  None of that is a euphemism.  What I am is anti-fucking idiot and anti-the wild west, Red Dawn insurrectionist, Charles Bronson masturbatory gun fetishism that this country seems to be wrapped up in and it feels like this is simply the latest manifestation of.

Like I said, I have four guns.  I also have a nine year old.  The nine year old is generally a level headed, responsible and compassionate dude.  He also sometimes talks to television commercials and has to have the difference between fiction and reality explained to him.  Because he’s nine.  The guns aren’t at our house right now because I haven’t gotten around to getting a gun safe to ensure that the nine year old and the nine millimeter don’t have an unsupervised play date.  This separation is important to me because I am a responsible adult and not a moron who thinks a 60 pound kid can handle a machine gun that has a massive amount of recoil.

My family lives, as is the point of this whole blog, in suburbia.  Nice suburbia.  I recently went to our local Harris Teeter grocery store, specifically the pharmacy as somebody was sick with something and we needed drugs, stat.

As I stood there waiting for my prescription to be filled, I glanced over at the two sided magazine rack.  The magazine stand held 270 different types of magazines (I counted).  Eleven of them were about fitness.  Ten of them were about cars.  Eight had to do with business.  Five concerned themselves with science.

Thirty seven of them were about guns.

37!

That’s 14%!  It easily, by a wide margin, was the hottest topic on the Harris Teeter magazine rack.

I flipped through a couple of them.  They were gun porn.  High quality, glossy up close shots of barrels and hammers and firing pins, black and slick and oiled and gleaming under excellent lighting, their stats in little boxes next to them, muzzle velocity, weight when loaded, turn-ons and turn offs.

It was both totally weird and totally indicative of our gun attitude in the country.

We are a nation built on legends.  I have The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance on DVD so I know all about the idea of printing the legend.   The problem is, printing the legend is exactly what we have done.  Too often.  And now, like T2 and televisions shows, we increasingly can’t tell the difference between legend and reality.  We are a nation of people who think they are the spiritual love child of Wyatt Earp and Rambo, keeping their ranches and country safe with the help of heavy firepower.  The problem is, in real life Wyatt Earp was a feckless thug who, at best, was an average to poor gang leader and Rambo never existed.  We have a national attitude that is based of fiction and we have turned that fiction into an obsession.

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people but, to quote Eddie Izzard, the guns help.  What helps even more is the attitude about guns.  We worship them and if you worship something strongly enough and long enough you are, eventually, going to be really eager to proselytize. With bullets.  Because, in this case, “bang bang splurt” is pretty much the word and voice of god.

I don’t want to ban all guns.  For one thing, it would be impossible.  My problem is that it is difficult to generally be fine with firearms and to concurrently deal with the delusional arguments that so often pop up every couple of weeks when someone walks into a school and murders 30 first graders or accidentally shots their firearms instructor.  Let’s examine the ones that drive me the most crazy, in no particular order.

 1 -More people die every year in automobile accidents and nobody wants to ban automobiles.

True, more people die in car accidents.  However comparing car deaths to guns deaths is intellectually dishonest in several ways.  The most obvious of these is that the purpose of cars isn’t to kill things.  Car deaths are an unhappy side effect of the automobile’s intended use.  Killing things actually is the purpose of guns.  Gun deaths are the guns actually doing what they are supposed to do.  If I build a machine that is designed to chop off hands, I can’t say my machine is completely hunky-dory because people sometimes accidentally get their hands chopped off in doors and nobody wants to ban doors.  Well, I could, but I’d be a crazy person.

 2- If you take away guns people will just find other ways to kill each other.

True.  But you are going to make it a lot harder.  Firing a gun is ridiculously easy.  Firing a gun accidently is also ridiculously easy.  The example everyone uses is knives, as in if the guns disappeared, knives would take over.  Google “how many accidental stabbings were there last year?”  You know what comes up?  Nothing.  Occasionally someone gets stabbed accidently, of course but not with enough frequency for Google to even automatically fill in the query for me.  You aren’t going to inadvertently beat someone to death.  If you want to advertently beat someone to death you are going to have to work a lot harder.

 3-If you ban guns then only criminals will have them.

I’m not advocating banning guns, but even if I was, this is a weird argument.  It is literally an argument against making anything at all illegal.  Yes, if you make owning a gun illegal only criminals will have guns.  It is the state of illegality that literally makes someone a criminal.  If you made cupcakes illegal, only criminals would have cupcakes.  Because they are illegal and owning one makes you a lawbreaker.

The extension of this argument is that regular citizens need their guns to protect themselves against the criminals.  Okay, I accept this.  But I don’t think you need an Uzi.  There aren’t roving bands of motorcycle mutants circling my townhouse ala-the Road Warrior armed to the teeth with teeth mounted mini-guns.  Just gimme a shotgun.

 4-The Bill of Rights says we get to have guns.

First of all, just because it is in the Bill of Rights doesn’t mean it’s unchangeable.  I’m no Constitutional scholar but I do know what words mean.  The right to bear arms is in the second amendment.  To amend something is to change it.  You can’t champion the Constitution and the Founding Fathers without acknowledging that one of the first things they did was say, “Sometimes we are going to have to change this shit in order to deal with the real world.”  So saying you have to always, without fail, until the end of the empire have the right to a gun because it is in the 2nd Amendment is pretty ignorant.

But yes, as it stands, it says your right to bear arms should be impeded.  It also links gun ownership to the maintenance of a well-regulated militia.  Granted, a lot of guys in militias are the same guys making the arguments I am arguing against but you and a bunch of your buddies drilling out in the woods in preparation for Helter Skelter does not a well-regulated militia make.  As I type this, T2 is outside with his buddies practicing Nerf gun tactics.  That doesn’t make him Chesty Puller. So please, militia guys, give it a rest.  Speaking of…

 5-We need guns to protect us from the government.

This is the craziest guns are so awesome they should be the prize in cereal boxes argument of them all.  You aren’t going to beat the United States government.  You and your buddies aren’t going to overthrow the tyrannical regime that you consider the United States of America to be, no matter how little you like its duly and democratically elected leadership.  You are a crazy person.  At best, you are going to hold out for a few days while news helicopters circle your home.  Best case, you surrender.  Worst case, you are so crazy you refuse to surrender and your house and family get burned to the ground.  Congratulations on your pyrrhic victory.

6-You can’t even make us register our guns.

This is the worst one.

You can’t make us register our guns because then the government can take them away, I guess is the reasoning.

First of all, see above. You aren’t going to win.

Secondly, the aforementioned amendment doesn’t say anything about registration.  Having to register your guns doesn’t impinge on your right to own one.  You know how I know this?

Because I have to register my car (cars again!).  It’s actually a bit of a pain in the ass how difficult it is to register an automobile.  I do it though, because I like owning a car and because at the end of the day it is a small price to pay so as not to have to ride a horse everywhere.  Having to register them doesn’t stop me from owning a whole garage full of vehicles if I want.

Why should owning a gun be any different?  If once every couple of years I had to go in with my four guns, or five guns, or fifty guns, pay a couple of bucks each to have their existence confirmed, their serial numbers recorded and my ownership of said gun linked with that serial number.

What would that accomplish? I am glad you asked!  It would solve the “only criminals have guns” issue from up above.  Now, only criminals would have unregistered guns.  Get caught with an unregistered gun? Congratulations, you are going to jail for five years.  Get caught committing a crime with an unregistered gun? Welcome to life in prison, no parole.

It doesn’t get rid of the guns, but getting rid of the guns was never my point.  There are too many of them anyway, it’s not practical.  What it does do is make gun owners accountable. Why should I, a law abiding citizen, have to be held accountable?  Because that’s what being a law abiding citizen means!  Being a citizen means doing your bit in order to help civilization as a whole.  It means voting and paying taxes and generally doing what you can to make your civilization better.  In doing so you make it harder for the people who are up to no good and that is simply an extension of why you wanted the gun in the first place!

 

Whew!

I know you all agree with me, because I am so right and wise.  We’ve done good work here today, people.

Unfortunately, none of my brilliant point and counter point above addresses the actual issue.  I included them in this post because they hit on some of the arguments that always arise any time there is a shooting in this country and in a post largely about inevitability it seemed inevitable I would have to address them,  but they don’t get to the heart of the problem.

The gun instructor didn’t get killed by and thus emotionally damage a nine year old girl for any of the reasons I listed above.  He got killed in large part because we have built a country where the reasons I listed above are considered valid arguments and are used because guns are as much a religion as anything to do with Jesus or Allah.  He got killed in large part because he and the girl’s parents bought into the ridiculous narrative we have built around guns in this country, a country in turn built around guns.  He got killed in the largest part because everybody involved was way more caught up in their gun fantasy than they were with the reality of physics and common sense.

Our attitudes have to change.

I’m not sure how we do it. I’m trying to raise kids in a country that is so addicted to firearms that it is willing to twist the bounds of reason in order to justify its own obsession.

Laws are relatively easy to change but attitudes…I’m not sure how we do it.

I look at the magazine rack at my grocery store and wonder if it’s possible.

 

2 thoughts on “Loaded

  1. Well written, Patrick. I agree with the lot of it. For me, I summarize the “problem” with lots of guns in a society (in general) as the “when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail” situation. A guy cuts me off in traffic: he’ll respect my gun! Someone yells at me and gives me the finger: show him my gun, that’ll learn him. I heard a noise outside: get the gun, just in case, oops, sorry kid. My perspective is kind of “outside” and while us Canucks can get a bit preachy and self-righteous when this topic comes up, there is a genuine, sincere “what the heck is going on down there?!? Why are they like that?!?” vibe that is with few exceptions, the norm for what you’ll hear people say up here. I think the part that freaks us out is that the US and Canada are so very, very similar in many respects. Probably more alike than any two other western societies on the planet. Despite the fact that we have a horrible tendency to pat ourselves on the back about most of the things that make us different, the guns thing is probably the one that confuses and scares us the most (govco healthcare second). It’s kind of like if your beloved brother, who always treated you and others well, life of the party, generous, etc, is found to be a compulsive wife-beater. It freaks us out, really, really badly. When it happens up here there are waves of “OMG! Are we catching it from them!?!?!” (which again, is really self-righteous) but still underlies the confused fear mentioned above.

    Anyway, that got rambly. Love the post.

  2. I agree with most of what you have here and disagree with some of it, but I’ll throw in my two cents as a lawyer who’s done some gun rights work.

    There’s plenty of debate on how to interpret the Constitution, but pretty much everyone agrees that when the meaning of a word changes over time, you stick with the meaning of the word at the time it was put in there. In other words, organic shifts in the English language do not become part of the law. So, for example, the phrase “the press” now usually refers to journalists and news companies, but at the time the First Amendment was written (“freedom of…the press”), there really wasn’t any such thing: the word “press” then referred to the printing press. We sorta broaden that to mean “forms of mass communication”, so the government can’t restrict access to the airwaves or Internet, but journalists don’t get any special protection under the Constitution just because a word in the First Amendment has come to mean “journalist.”

    You’re right that the Second Amendment refers to “a well-regulated militia”. But the words “regulated” and “militia” don’t mean the same thing they meant then. “Regulated” didn’t refer to rules or laws controlling them, it meant “trained and equipped.” And “militia” didn’t refer to crazy dudes living in the woods or to the National Guard (which is the post-Vietnam version of the old State Militia system), it referred to “potential soldiers” (meaning all able-bodied men between the ages of 15 and 60). In other words, the phrase “well-regulated militia” doesn’t mean “civilian warriors who are tightly restricted by government rules”, it means “potential soldiers who know how to use, and have access to, guns.”

    What does that ultimately mean? That the Second Amendment was meant to protect access to firearms for everyday people so that they could defend themselves and their communities. You’re totally right that we could remove or change that language*, and maybe we should put some clarifying rules in about what the extent of those rights are. I’d be on board for that, though it’s not clear which way most people would want that to go (sure, it might allow registrations and background checks, but it also might protect concealed carry rights).

    I’ll also provide something of a defense on #3, since I think you’re not being entirely fair by saying that’s an argument against banning anything: it’s an argument against banning things which are 1) highly desirable; 2) relatively easy to obtain/hide such that the ban is difficult if not impossible to actually enforce; and possibly 3) themselves helpful in carrying out crimes and also in preventing them. That narrows the field considerably. I say #3 is potentially true, because I think this argument also applies to drugs. It doesn’t apply to all weapons (the bans on automatic weapons has been pretty effective), but I think it applies to the statistically most dangerous ones, handguns, which are also the ones most useful in self-defense (I’m not sure shotguns are really all they’re cracked up to be for home defense, and they’re all but useless outside the home).

    * – While it’s true that the Bill of Rights are technically amendments, they were adopted almost simultaneously with the Constitution and were explicitly part of the bargain that got several of the States to sign on. So in some sense, they are more core to the document than other Amendments.

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