it’s all about context

I was out running Christmas-related errands Saturday morning when I saw a sign on the highway about the High Caliber Gun Show that was in Houston last weekend.  Evidently high-caliber gun shows go on whether or not there was a mass murder of 20 elementary school students and six adults the day before. Hey man, that’s cool. Capitalism. I get it.

Guns are fairly ubiquitous in this state. In fact, this long-haired liberal lives in a house that has guns in it. Multiple guns. (They aren’t mine, but they are in my house.) So let me get this out of the way before we go any further: I don’t think all guns should be banned. I think the majority of gun owners are responsible, law-abiding citizens who would only fire their weapons at another human being as an absolute last resort.

But after last week’s massacre (and each and every one before that), we all realize that we have a major problem in this country. A problem that stems from three things: easy access to high-powered weapons, a lack of mental health care for people who need it and a culture that promotes violence as a way to settle differences, express one’s manhood or escape a life that just didn’t work out the way it was supposed to. This post will talk about the first of that list.

As I read the Facebook comments from my friends on “both sides” of the gun debate (are complex issues really so easy to boil down to just two opinions?), it became clear that one of the problems we’re having with the gun issue is the extremism of opinion on either end. The “I’m an American and it’s my God-given right to own as many weapons as I want” versus the “Won’t someone think of the children and remove all guns from all homes.”

The people in the first group wrap themselves in the flag and tout their patriotism, as if those of us who don’t want to walk around wearing a shoulder holster are somehow less American or care less for our loved ones. The second group wraps themselves in a soft baby blanket of denial about the world we’re living in, acting as if the people who own guns are just one step removed from blowing us all away. Neither is “right,” but the first camp is way more politically active and well-funded. So the first camp is the one who’s been setting the tone for the country.

Argument #1 (and their rallying cry): THE SECOND AMENDMENT

When the Second Amendment was written (1791), guns looked like this:Pistol HawkenPercussion

They were simple, single-shot weapons that didn’t have the capability to kill more than one person at a time. In fact, in the time it took to reload the things, it would have been easy to just tackle the shooter and punch him in the head. The piece of shit who killed 20 children and six adults last week used a gun like this:

assault rifleBit of a difference, no? This killing machine shoots bullets that are “designed in such a fashion (that) the energy is deposited in the tissue so the bullets stay in.”  Wow. And it can shoot 30 rounds in just a few seconds. That’s a lot of killing. And that’s all it’s good for. Not hunting–if you shot a deer with something like this, you’d be left with pieces of meat, not a trophy to hang on your wall or steaks to put in your belly. Not target practice either–anything with a finger (human, monkey, those skinny potatoes) could fire something like this and hit a target. Eventually. No, this machine is made for killing. And that’s all it’s made for.

Argument #2: YOU CAN’T UN-RING A BELL

“There are already assault weapons and the related bullets/magazines out there, and there’s no way you’ll get them all back. We may as well keep selling them.” Bullshit. If we found out that 100 people have a jar of anthrax in their basement, that doesn’t mean we should make more and sell it to whoever wants it. Yeah, some people own scary big murder machines filled with extra-murderous bullets. Most of those people are probably as sane as any of us, and some of them are probably batshit crazy, just waiting to be fired or dumped before they go on a rampage. There’s not a lot we can do about that. But what we can do is make an effort to keep those machines out of more people’s hands going forward.

Argument #3: CRIMINALS WILL GET THESE GUNS/BULLETS WHETHER THEY’RE LEGAL OR NOT

That might be true. Sometimes. But in the case of the most recent killer, if his mama hadn’t had those guns sitting in her house, it might have been more difficult for him to have access to them. Shit, when I was 20, I had a hard time finding beer money. And if it had been more difficult, maybe he would have found a different way to express his hatred/mental illness/whatever than by killing 26 people in a matter of minutes. Instead of fixating on all those guns in his childhood home (which, I can pretty much guarantee, were accompanied by a hearty dose of paranoia meted out by the person who purchased so many high-caliber weapons), maybe he would have found a different outlet. Dubstep. Paintball. Fucking the person of his choice. Macrame. Whatever.

Instead of taking the hypothetical to its most negative and defeatist conclusion (criminals will find a way regardless, so let’s just shrug our shoulders and make it easy on them), let’s try another approach. Let’s try making it a little harder on the bad guy or the disturbed young man and see how that works out. We’ve tried it the other way, and it’s obviously not working. I wrote a post about smoking pot with a former President last week and my blog was suddenly visited by the men in black. Hows about they visit people like the Aurora movie theater shooter who bought 6,000 rounds of ammunition and four guns in the weeks before the shooting.

Argument #4: THE GOVERNMENT! WE NEED TO DEFEND OURSELVES AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT!

This is the easiest one. If you think having a stash of assault rifles is going to protect you from military drones that will shoot you while you’re sitting on the toilet, carefully clutching your gun while your eyes dart around the room, you’re a fool. I mean, to truly be able to fight back, you’d need nuclear weapons and stealth bombers, right? Annually, the US spends more than $200 billion on defense procurement and R&D. The People don’t stand a chance, militaristically. (Not to mention, to truly be a foe, you’d need to learn some hacking skills because the first thing they’ll do is attack electronically. Make your car inoperable. Wipe out communication devices. Take away your money. And your FACEBOOK!)

IT’S TIME TO CONTEXTUALIZE THE SECOND AMENDMENT.

Just as it’s no longer legal to “own” another person and women now have the right to vote, some laws evolve with the times as we evolve with the times. It’s time to put the Second Amendment in its current context, which includes a close review of the guns that are currently available to regular Joes. To be clear: I believe in the right to bear arms. I don’t believe in the right to bear nuclear arms. Or assault weapons. Or magazines that hold 30+ bullets. Or surface-to-air missiles. Or weaponized honey bees. Or Taylor Swift albums. You get the picture.

Guns don’t need to be completely outlawed. When the zombie apocalypse comes, I’ll be happy there are guns in my house. (Until we run out of bullets and have to resort to stabbing them with the broken off handle of our broom.) But there is absolutely no reason that regular, crazy old Americans should have access to as many military-grade high-caliber killing machines as they can afford. (ed. note: US civilians cannot purchase true military-grade guns, only modified versions of them, though they can purchase military-grade gear like body armor.) And when some asshole suddenly starts buying a shitload of ammunition and enough guns to outfit a small army, maybe it wouldn’t hurt for someone to check that shit out.

Finally, John Oliver was credited with this quote (though I haven’t been able to track down where he said it or if he said it): “One failed attempt at a shoe bomb, and now we all take off our shoes at the airport. Thirty-one (mass) shootings since Columbine, and no change in our regulation of guns.” I can’t say it any better than that.

It’s all about context.

16 thoughts on “it’s all about context

  1. curgen

    Excellent post! Extremely well said. I hope you don’t mind, but I will be quoting and paraphrasing this a lot. And giving you due credit.

  2. Glad you posted this It IS the time to debate this, and if we don’t start asking hard questions and challenging assumptions, we’ll never make progress.

    I think we are doing the right thing talking about regulating guns differently than we’ve done before, and about contextualizing the 2nd amendment. I have no idea how we’re going to get a grip on mental health, access to care, and talking about the culture of violence. I wonder, from time to time, how I can justify the appeal of gross, violent crime shows like Criminal Minds. I watch it. Mandy Patinkin left the show b/c he felt it was too violent. Here’s one of the things he said about it:

    “I’m not making a judgment on the taste [of people who watch crime procedurals],” he explained. “But I’m concerned about the effect it has. Audiences all over the world use this programming as their bedtime story. This isn’t what you need to be dreaming about.”

    He’s right. We do need to be dreaming about different things. But again, context. I think it is easier to talk about restricting guns than eliminating CSI and Law & Order in favor of The Waltons and Grizzly Adams. And yet I’ve heard people who are as convinced Hollywood caused this as I am convinced it was easy access to weapons of mass destruction.

    We live in a country where Congress can’t even agree to support legislation like the Violence Against Women Act without politicizing WHICH women are worth protecting. My hopes for a nuanced conversation about anything in the political realm are small. So where else do we go? How do we build a movement for change when some of the change isn’t very easy at all to identify?

    OK, long random comment coming to a close … good for you for publishing. And if people are nasty, feel free to delete their comments & tell them to get their own blog if they want to respond.

  3. gun owner

    I’d like to start out by saying that I AM a gun owner who is an advocate of reform on this issue. Now that that’s out of the way:
    The half truths MUST stop. The weapon shown above is not, as implied, a fully automatic weapon. It is EXTREMELY difficult (to the point of impossible) to obtain a fully automatic weapon in the US. That weapon (civilian model-“military grade” guns can’t be purchased) fires once per trigger pull. It is no more dangerous than a semi automatic hunting rifle…just far more dangerous LOOKING. The bullets cannot magically cause a deer to disintegrate. It can still be used for hunting. It’s effective fire rate is determined by the skill of the shooter, not the gun.
    That said, high-capacity magazines are a HUGE issue. In the hands of someone unskilled, changing a magazine can be slightly time consuming. There is no need for a 30 round magazine while hunting. If you cannot hit your prey in 10 shots (hell, 2, really) it has run off and you’ve missed your chance. I’ve yet to hear a logical argument for high cap mags.
    If people believe that we can be protected from our government with this…um, not so much. If the argument for foreign invasion is made…if our military has failed, you may as well have a slingshot…that’s how good it’ll do you. Point conceded.
    Yes, this weapon, when made for the military, is a fully automatic/selective fire gun. NOT THE SAME THING YOU CAN BUY AT DICKS.

    It truly bothers me to see something so well written have this one fatal flaw. We cannot have discussion based on memes and half truths. All of the facts must be in the open.

    I could link a half dozen hunting rifles that don’t look menacing, like the one above, but use the same bullets, take the same magazines, have the same effective fire rate, but aren’t considered assault rifles, and most people don’t object to them. Other than look, what’s the difference? Neither side can keep arguing with half truths. Guns can be dangerous in the hands of bad people. Guns can be dangerous in the hands of those who don’t know how to use them. Guns without bullets are useless. The amount of Sudafed is regulated…but bullets…nah, buy all you want??? That, folks, can be problematic.

    Now, for thorse of you who’ll say I’m an idiot and it’s easy to obtain a fully automatic or selective fire weapon, here’s a link on the steps that must be takent have an APPLICATION for the purchase of them: http://www.ehow.com/how_4454981_buy-automatic-weapon.html

    1. I never said (nor do I care whether) the gun the killer used was fully automatic. I said the gun can shoot a lot of fucking bullets at one time. Thirty, if my internet-provided information was correct.

      My beef isn’t with guns that require sustained finger pressure versus guns that require the repetition of short pulses. I don’t think the outcome is much different either way, other than the latter potentially causing a cramp in the finger of the shooter, whose comfort I really don’t give a shit about. Both options can do a lot of killing in a short amount of time. If there are innocent looking hunting rifles that can shoot a shitload of bullets like the gun above, I don’t like them either.

      And I don’t know what Dicks is. I’m guessing it’s a place to buy guns? If so, that’s rather funny.

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by. Good luck posting on other random stranger’s gun-related blog posts. (If you ever come back this way, you should check out the rest of my blog. I usually talk about dog farts, food, booze and other wonders of life. Things that are way more interesting than this shit.)

      1. gun owner

        I will check out your other posts…but again…if you pull the trigger once, you get one bullet. You also didn’t respond to the hunting comment.

        The amount of bullets it can fire in a short period of time is determined by two things: first, the skill of the shooter. Second, the number of bullets in the magazine. Notice that I didn’t say “the type of gun”. It seems to me that you save a problem with both capacity magazines…which was exactly my point to begin with. A 9mm semi automatic pistol is capable of the same rate of fire as the gun you pictured…but holds less bullets.

        My other point was that the American government classifies an assault weapon by look, rather than functionality (folding stock, pistol grip, etc). An assault weapons ban would be a token more, not a real one.

        I’m sorry to beat a dead horse, but I feel like knowledge is the key to a meaningful discussion. Without it, it’s as productive as two people speaking different languages with no translator.

        How have you never heard of Dicks Sporting Goods?

        1. If you pull the trigger once, you get one bullet. If you pull the trigger 30 times in a row, you get 30 bullets. If you’re the person being shot, I doubt that the milisecond delay between bullet one and bullet two would give you enough time to think, “Hey, that’s not an automatic weapon. I’ll be fine!” You’re still screwed. My point is that having a magazine with 30 bullets–whether you pull the trigger once and hold it down or pull the trigger 30 times in succession–is bullshit. A point I think you agree with, so I’m not sure why we’re still talking about it.

          Regarding your hunting comment, I had to rely on the wonders of hunting forums for information on using a .223 for hunting. It seemed many hunters have a problem with it. Quotes like, “he did a heart shot and it totally messed up the deer.” I got the sense that using that kind of gun for hunting was an asshole move, and I also got the sense that this is a regularly debated topic among people in the know. So my comment stands.

          I checked out, and subsequently corrected, the “military grade” statement. Thanks for the clarification.

          I hope the next round of gun bans are based on function and not form. We all wait with bated breath to see what happens next. We won’t all be happy, whatever it is. But at least we’re all talking about it.

          Oh, and I just looked up Dicks–we don’t have them in Houston, though they are in Texas. I guess it just never came up. I don’t do a lot of sporting goods shopping when I travel. Actually, I don’t do a lot of sporting goods shopping period. See earlier comment about dogs/food/booze being main topics of interest.

          1. gun owner

            Ha…and here I thought that Dicks were everywhere (pun completely intended)! Completely agree with bans based on function (and, furthermore, a ban on high capacity magazines), but, like most legislation in the past 8 years, it’ll be symbolic, meaningless, and make no difference.

          2. Joe

            In most states you cant hunt large game (Deer, Elk, Prong Horn) A small semi auto .22 would do you just as good for (rabbit, Squirrl, Cyote) and cost a lot less to shoot.

          3. gun owner

            Joe, you are incorrect. Most states limit large game, but do not prohibit it. In some states, you can hunt bear. There are restrictions as to where, when, and how many. In most states, you can hunt deer and elk (in states that have an overpopulation of deer, there is not limit to the number you can shoot). Some states require that you purchase ‘tags’ for each animal you shoot, in addition to a license.

            Although the bullets (from a .22) are close to the same in size, the power behind them would not be enough to hunt big game.

            This is the type of information that I consider half truths, and degrades the conversation. Of the states, all 50 give a limited number of ‘big game’ permits, and 49 of them require a lengthy safety course.

          4. Joe

            Gun owner – I ment, you couldnt hunt large game with a .223 it is a varment gun.
            And for the little stuff a 22 will do you just as good.

  4. Well, that back-and-forth seems to have worked out amicably. Miss Crystal, as you know, I am in the middle of a series on my Blog right now and in spite of the monumental nature of this latest outrage I don’t want to stop the flow of the narrative to post up something that is being better handled by others, and in particular by you with this post you have put up here at Fight Stupidization.

    Am I for gun control? I don’t know. I don’t give it much thought. I know that when my second child was born and my seven-year-old came to live with us I sold my rifle and my shotgun and put my pistol in my safe. A year later I noticed that life in the safe and general neglect had resulted in some rusting on the pistol so it was also sold. I just did not think it was a good idea to have firearms in a house with male children in it. So…I guess I do believe in gun control.

    That was almost twenty years ago and I have not thought about guns much since, except when that naked guy chewed up that homeless guy’s face in Miami. I started worrying that maybe I needed a gun. But then I remembered that i almost never see naked men on the streets around here and spent the money on bicycle parts instead.

    For all of the gun crowd I would ask for links or verifiable stories of a citizen with a firearm defending a helpless crowd from a lone gunman. If such a thing has ever taken place I haven’t heard of it. Home invasions seem to be the only time you hear about a gun coming in handy, and even then the stories are usually a little suspiscious as in the homeowner knew the invader or knew someone who knew the invader and maybe the homeowner was not all that innocent.

    I don’t know why I can’t make short, succinct comments. But I’ll try:

    An excellent post, Crystal, timely and well written and highly charged! Good job!

    tj

    1. Tim Joe, it was refreshing to have a conversation with a stranger about a highly charged topic and have it not degenerate into name calling or anger on either side. ‘Twas a rare experience indeed.

      After watching all the self-righteous back and forth on facebook, with people running toward each end of the spectrum and holding on tightly, I thought I’d try to find some middle ground. And also include a couple of moments of levity. I’ll be back to regular programming with the next post.

    2. gun owner

      New Life Church in Colorado Springs, there was a 71 year old man who stopped a robbery in FL, Pearl High School Shooting in 1997, the recent shooting at Clackamas Town Center in OR (shooter was confronted by man with gun, took cover, and committed suicide).

      There are others, but it’s funny how you never hear of such things…just the bad.

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