In the week since the horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary, we’ve heard a lot of crazy ideas (as we do in the wake of every mass shooting) about how best to protect innocent unarmed civilians from nutters with guns. Today we’ll be hearing from the NRA, whose position we already know will be that “guns don’t kill people; crazy people with guns kill people.” A true statement, but one that doesn’t solve or even suggest a solution, which would have to involve keeping the most lethal weapons out of the hands of crazy people, which is a bridge too far for the NRA.*
There’s a genuine conflict here: we do have a constitutional amendment guaranteeing people the right to own guns. Clearly we aren’t going to be able to declare all of them illegal and force people to hand all of them over. Even if we could, I don’t think I would favor it – there are millions of hunters in the country and many millions more who are responsible gun owners, who keep their weapons secure and own them only for home protection. In many cases, this is an imagined need, but nonetheless it’s one that’s not entirely unreasonable and it’s a right that goes all the way back to British common law, which makes it a bit hard to argue against from a legal standpoint.
By and large, hunters and the owners of well-secured guns kept for home protection aren’t the problem. They also aren’t the ones buying semi-automatic weapons. Let’s be honest: a semi-automatic rifle or handgun is an offensive weapon designed for military use, and as such, is not an appropriate weapon to allow anyone and everyone to own. There’s a contingent of crazy that insists that one of the things the Founders had in mind when drafting the Second Amendment was keeping citizens armed in case of the need to overthrow a tyrannical government. Again, there may be truth in this – the Founders themselves had only recently thrown off a government they considered to be tyrannical, though its offenses and predations fell far short of the tyrannies we’ve seen enacted over and over again in the modern world.
Consider the context: the Founders lived in a time where the most powerful personal weapon was a muzzle-loader, which could fire off one shot every couple of minutes, or perhaps once per minute if the guy handling it was particularly adept at re-loading. It was an age where parity in firepower was possible - a group of average citizens, all armed with muzzle-loaders, would, with the exception of cannons, be as well-armed as an organized military of the same numbers.
That parity is not possible these days and indeed hasn’t been for a century or more. It goes without saying that it wouldn’t be desirable, either. We can’t very well allow every citizen the right to own and keep any variety of weapons, including but not limited to hand grenades, shoulder-fired rocket launchers, or nuclear warheads. Those are all “arms” as well, and somehow we’re able to agree that not everyone should have them and that there are no legal uses for them outside of a battlefield.
So why the hangup when it comes to semi-automatic weapons? They aren’t used for hunting, and for home protection you don’t need something that can fire off 30 – 100 rounds per minute. In fact, while handguns are the weapons most often chosen for home protection purposes, for most people, a shotgun would be a better choice, owing to less need for accurate aim (and really, just playing a recording of a shotgun being pumped would be enough to persuade all criminals aside from psychopaths to clear the premises immediately).
Once we’ve ruled out hunting and home protection, the semi-automatic’s sole use is unavoidable: it is an offensive weapon, not intended for personal defense so much as for killing the other guy. Given that murder remains illegal, it’s insane to insist that a weapon designed solely for killing multiple human beings in a minute or less should be readily available and legal to own for an average citizen. About the only purpose I’ve heard gun enthusiasts advance for which these types of weapons might have even a borderline legitimacy is that they are “fun to shoot.” Perhaps so, but the Second Amendment isn’t concerned with your personal enjoyment of any particular weapon; as such, I’d have to say that the right of crowds of citizens to not be slaughtered greatly outweighs any “fun” an enthusiast might experience in firing one of these weapons at a shooting range or elsewhere. People who have a burning desire to handle these types of weapons have the option of joining the military; outside of that, they don’t need to be handling them.
As for those who persist in clinging to the idea that they have a “right” to own these types of weapons in the event that the evil gubmint gets too oppressive what with the seat-belts and the motorcycle helmet and the required food labeling laws and so forth, add them to the mental health registry: their belief that they could, with a semi-automatic weapon, fight off the fighter jets, targeted missiles, tanks, and other weaponry in our awesome military arsenal should the need arise, clearly marks them out as both paranoid and delusional; they are precisely the type of people who should NOT be running around with powerful, rapid-fire weapons.
Here’s the thing: the Second Amendment says you have the right to own and keep a gun. It doesn’t say what type of gun, and none of the guns in production today could have been anticipated by the Founders. If pistols were available in the late 1700′s, they had only recently come on the scene; certainly there was no gun at the time capable of firing more than one shot without being re-loaded. The Second Amendment could be interpreted as the right to own a more modernized version of the single-shot firearms available when the Amendment was drafted, and nothing else – if we had a sane majority on the Supreme Court or in our political discourse. Instead, we’ll probably spend the next weeks, months, and perhaps even years listening to ridiculous suggestions about how we can turn every public space into an armed camp to “protect” us against armed lunatics who should never have access to weapons in the first place, instead of dealing with the issue of having too many, too powerful, guns floating around. Already ruled out is the idea for a real ban on semi-automatics such as the one used in last Friday’s shooting; we are told that even a ban on future sales of these weapons would do nothing to take care of the estimated 8 million of them already in citizens’ hands. In other words, a buy-back program coupled with hefty fines for anyone caught with one after the deadline for turning them in, as was successful in Australia, is off the table. We don’t know what number of murdered children would be required in order to even begin a serious political discussion about taking this very reasonable step, but the correct answer to the question is obviously ”> 20.”
I’m not going to belabor the transparent insanity of the suggestions being put forward by those who value cold hard steel more than young children’s lives, but I will briefly recount them. First there’s the camp who believes that the answer to mass shootings is more guns. According to these fine patriots, if all of us were packing heat, some citizen-Rambo would pick off the crazy guy with the gun before the body count gets too high. Never mind that never, not even once, has an armed civilian stopped a mass shooting by taking out the gunman. There have been a few times in low-profile cases where an off-duty policeman, former Marine, or other individual with career training in handling firearms stepped in and stopped a bad guy; there are about as many similar cases in which the would-be hero either almost shot the wrong guy or determined that an innocent bystander would be at risk if he took the shot. In other words, thanks to these guys not being average civilians with guns, the gunman was stopped without harm to innocent parties. Substituting the average citizen into these scenarios, most of whom have had nothing like the extensive training of police or members of the military, the likelihood in these scenarios is that even more people would get shot in the crossfire, law enforcement arriving on scene might mistake the hero for the bad guy, and so on and so forth. That’s all true, but beside the point, which is: your right to own a weapon designed for offensive purposes does not trump MY right to not live in the Wild West or an armed camp. There’s nothing in the Second Amendment to suggest that it trumps the express goal of the overall document, which I will remind the brethren, is to:
“…insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty…”
I feel that continuing to indulge the fetishes of a fringe group of maladapted, insecure and fearful people endangers or denies all of the above goals to the great majority of people in this country.
Then there are the proposals to turn schools into windowless bunkers patrolled by pistol-packing teachers and other school personnel. This one is interesting primarily because it’s being advanced by the same folks who insist teachers are a bunch of overpaid incompetent boobs – but you can count on them to handle a gun around your kids every day!
We’ve heard again how “an armed society is a polite society,” for all values of “polite” which equal “being afraid to say anything out of fear that the gun-toting Cletus at the next table in the bar might disagree.”
The final, the piece de resistance of dumbassitude, goes to one Megan McArdle, formerly of The Atlantic, now decamped to The Daily Beast (Tina Brown sure knows how to pick them, doesn’t she?), who suggested that we should teach children in this situation to rush the shooter. Because, according to Megs, it will unbalance him and throw him off if a bunch of people, even small ones, are running at him from different directions. It’s also a sneaky way of blaming the victims – in this case six- and seven-year olds – for failing to save themselves when a guy who had no business with any type of gun managed to get his hands on a very powerful – and legal – one.
That’s an awful lot of flailing FAIL to go through to arrive at the conclusion that the only thing that CAN’T be part of the problem is the gun itself, despite the fact that in these mass shootings, the gun is a tool performing the function for which it was designed, and that function is an illegal act for civilians.
We don’t have to put up with this crap. We can insist on reasonable gun laws which both protect the rights of sportsmen and people to be secure in their homes while recognizing that some weapons have no place in civilian society. We can insist on background checks for any sale or trade of arms at any venue. We can insist that gun buyers be required to register their weapons, and that they demonstrate that they’ve completed some sort of training on safe handling and keeping of firearms, in order for those weapons to be legal. We can insist on not just a ban, but a buy-back program designed to get most of the most lethal weapons out of circulation. We can insist on a law that imposes heavy fines upon people found to have those types of weapons after a specific buy-back deadline. It won’t get them all off the street, but getting 75 – 90% of them would be a good start. Sure, criminals will continue to get these types of weapons – but it’s not criminals who have been shooting up our congressional meet-and-greets, our movie theaters, our houses of worship, our malls, and our schools. Criminals use guns primarily to help them obtain money or other goods illegally – they aren’t interested in shooting little kids, or really anyone else, unless it furthers that goal. Crime is down overall, while mass shootings are up, and none of the gunmen in these cases have been hard-core criminals. If these types can’t get their weapons legally, they’re not likely to get them at all.
Finally, we can insist that the right of the majority for domestic tranquility trumps the right of a vocal minority to own a tool for which there is no constructive legal purpose.
In closing, I’ll note that I lived a full third of my life in a home that was a virtual arsenal of guns. My father was an avid collector – mostly of military-issue guns from WWI and WWII – and other military paraphernalia. He didn’t have any semi-automatics, because he was more a collector than a “mah gun gives me POWER” fetishist. I have no idea how many guns Dad had, but when they were auctioned after his death almost 20 years ago, they went for over $75,000. In short, it was a lot of guns. He wasn’t a hunter and he rarely took out any of the guns and fired them. He did occasionally target practice at a gun range or other safe location, and for a time, he headed up a group for teenagers wanting to learn target shooting. The entire time I lived in the same house with him, I never saw a gun lying around unattended. In fact, I never saw a gun unless he had it out and was in the same room with it. If I had seen one out, I already knew that I wasn’t to touch it. I learned how to shoot, but also knew I was never to have a gun in my hand unless my Dad was there and had handed it to me.
But the guns were a constant menace anyway. When we lived in Georgia, he stored his collection in an attic space that was fairly easy for him to access, and which he kept securely locked. After the move to Arkansas, he had no appropriate place in the house to store them, and so for the last 15 years of his life, they were packed away in crates that took up one end of the family room. We were instructed from a very young age to never tell anyone about Dad’s guns. They weren’t even insured, because Dad didn’t want anyone knowing about all of them. His fear was more about robbery than government. So I grew up surrounded by an arsenal, which didn’t make me feel any safer; we were far more likely to be murdered by gun thieves than by anything else.
After Dad died, the guns worried me even more, because now my Mom was alone in the house with a commodity eagerly sought-after by criminals. She contacted an auctioneer with some expertise in weapons, and within a year of my Dad’s death, the collection was auctioned off in Illinois. It provided a great sense of relief to all of us.
Just a few years after my Dad’s death, a gun collector in a town about 40 miles away went missing with his wife and young daughter at the same time his gun collection went missing. Some months later, the family’s bodies were discovered in their vehicle, submerged in an abandoned flooded gravel pit. The crime was eventually traced to white supremacist Chevy Kehoe, after his infamous shoot-out with Ohio police. Proceeds from the theft went to fund terrorist activities, including bombing a government building. Just a few months after Dad’s death, there was another robbery in a town only 75 miles away. No one was murdered in that theft, but the proceeds from it went to fund the Oklahoma City bombing. The trail of violence and terror from the flood of guns in this country doesn’t end with the guns themselves.
Before Dad’s collection went to auction, Mom offered each of us the chance to select anything we’d like to have. I didn’t choose anything. Even one gun in close proximity would make me feel less secure than not having one.
*The NRA held its non-apologia before I was finished drafting this post; as expected, the guns aren’t the problem. It’s the mentally ill; better to compile a list of them than to stigmatize people who want to own deadly weapons by forcing them to register them. Video games are the problem; that’s why all those kids are dead.
Mom and I had a discussion a few days following the Sandy Hook shootings. She said this event was finally going to change things; I was less sanguine. But something about that press conference felt like a Schiavo Moment. At one point, LaPierre is actually advocating for armed volunteers to police our schools. The insurance premiums to cover the risks associated with having armed non-employees on school property when children are present…well, he didn’t offer any advice on where schools should go for the millions of dollars that would be required for that, should anyone be stupid enough to take such a dumbshit idea seriously and try to implement it.
Enough is enough. It’s time, and well past the point, for us to stop allowing the radical, the paranoid and the profiteers to dictate what our policy will be. They can only get away with it again if we don’t speak up and demand that they accept responsibility, and the limits to freedom that it sometimes requires in the real world.
Thanks to a post over at TBogg’s, I somehow got sucked into a discussion that involved Kardashians, and somehow in the course of googling, turned up this awesome video of three grandmas watching, and commenting on, the Kim Kardashian sex tape. It’s pretty fucking hilarious, as you’ll see:
I was blissfully unaware of Kardashians up until a couple of years ago; after seeing them splashed on the covers of every trash celebrity magazine at the salon every time I went in, I finally asked, “who are the Kardashians and why does anyone care?” The girl who did my hair, Nula, who hails from Queens, said, “Oh, they’re just a bunch of hoors.” I thought that was funny as hell, especially when about a year later, Kathy Griffin, commenting on our brain dead media’s coverage of Kim Kardashian’s wedding (“The Kardashians are our version of royalty“), said “I think they’re more like our version of a family of dirty whores.” On a later Griffin special, she described having to do some event with the Kardashian mom after having described them as “a family of dirty whores,” which just made it funnier.
Of course, having remained blissfully unaware of the Kardashians for so long, I didn’t know that the whole dirty whore thing wasn’t just hyperbole for the sake of humor, because I didn’t know that their whole claim to “fame,” such as it is, spun out of Kim Kardashian making a sex tape with a C-list rapper, which then somehow got “leaked” (my money is on Kim herself or her mother as the leaker). So, yes, dirty whore it is.
I’ve never seen the tape itself, of course, which probably makes the grandmas’ blow-by-blow even better.
There are a lot of these three grandma videos – I’ll be posting more.
If we can get an advance copy of this into Glenn Reynolds’ hands, he may just put it on an endless loop and NEVER BLOG AGAIN:
Actually, this is a documentary short about a guy who’s making a stop-action robot porno. The full-length feature film won’t be available for some years to come, if ever. But as one reviewer noted, “A robot horse getting buttf*cked? That’s relevant to ALL MY INTERESTS!”
There’s plenty of teh funneh in just the little clip above, too – particularly when he pauses for a moment after picking up one of his creations, then just bluntly states its purpose.
This week’s search terms include…
not furry sick bastard
(several other porn search terms, both with and without clothes, often involving toes, that are too vulgar to repeat even on this site)
(except for this one. I have to repeat this one) bill maher huge penis
rick perry looks like a used car salesman
thomas kinkade not worth it
… and my personal favorite … bacteria bridge club.
Jaffner, I told my youngest son today that he needed to grow out of his flatulent sense of humor, but I must admit that this blog of yours brings out the puerile in me.
Because this just makes me laugh…
It gets worse, folks — choad is a top winner, toe-sucking sisters are prominent, and giant walking penis makes an appearance. What was the person searching for “sister smells like ashtray” hoping to find? Surely the mom Googling Fraggle Rock birthday cakes was in for a surprise.
Courtesy of Gen. JC Christian.
Alternate porn-y title: “Rick Perry gives his all as he wrestles a giant foot-long into submission.”
You gotta admit, he looks like he really knows his way around that thing.
Have you noticed that none of your bullshit is showing up in the comments?
Feel free to continue wasting your time. As for “last one to utilize this,” all you are “utilizing” is our spam filter.
Everyone has covered this already but I’d just like to add to the chorus of those cheering for a job well done. Here’s hoping that other states will soon follow suit. Who knows, Arkansas might even get there in another 10 years or so.
In tribute, thought I’d post one of my favorite scenes from Angels in America. We watched it at the beach (though I fear Beth might have preferred to spend those nights playing Scrabble, as much as she enjoyed it) and I was reminded once again of this one particular line, which may be for me the most moving line from anything I’ve ever seen. It comes at about 3:40 into the clip, and it’s spoken by the 18th-century prior Prior:
Isn’t that great? There’s something about that line that’s just so…ineffably sad. For me, I get the same feeling from it that I get from those Nat Geo specials detailing how the earth, solar system, and sun will die. You know, just a very sad feeling that everything that is and has been will be gone without a trace, with no one to remember it all. Kind of the ultimate nostalgia. Sure, it’s billions of years away, but it is sad-making to ponder.
That line isn’t why I chose the clip, though. I picked this one because I like it best – love the ghosts of the prior Priors, and also, there’s something so very 80′s feeling about the whole dance scene, and I thought it was interesting for that reason given what just happened in New York. Kind of gets you casting your mind back to where things were then as opposed to now. What a long, long way things have come in 25 years.
Now, I’m gonna get up on my soapbox about something that’s bugging me. Friday night, immediately following the news of the vote, Rachel Maddow added “President Obama doesn’t agree with what New York just did.” And on his show, Bill Maher was talking about how Obama isn’t as progressive as the majority of Americans on this issue, since recent polls show support for legalizing same-sex marriage at around 53%.
This is unhelpful. First of all, Rachel Maddow is damn well politically savvy enough to know that, had Obama’s position during the campaign been for the M word rather than civil unions, he might well have lost Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, Colorado and probably several more. Because he did win those states, we now have a repeal of DADT and a justice department that opted not to defend DOMA. Furthermore, he has done nothing to discourage states from taking action to legalize same-sex marriage, and he has not publicly spoken out against same-sex marriage other than saying “I don’t support it, I support civil unions” during the campaign (and perhaps he’s said it since, but still…). So I find the “the president does not agree with what New York just did” to be kind of a low blow, actually, and really inappropriate to the joy of the moment. Ms. Maddow, I am surprised – mostly because I don’t think that you, yourself, really believe that President Obama opposes same-sex marriage.
Then we’ve got Bill Maher knocking him because he’s still not made a statement in support even though a majority of people polled said they were in favor. Again, Bill Maher is savvy enough to know better. 53% is a majority, true, but it’s not a huge one, and we know that young people are overwhelmingly more supportive of marriage equality than older people are. We also know that some areas of the country are much more progressive in their attitudes – the northeast, the west coast – so you have to figure that these are big factors in finally pushing sentiment over the hump into majority approval.
The problem is, young people often don’t vote. So while they might think it was really awesome to hear the president say he supports marriage equality, if his saying so turns some older voters off, it’s a net loss of votes. Also, you can’t win the presidency with just the northeast and the west coast. Obama is going to have to be able to pick up a few states in other, more socially-conservative regions to win re-election. Just hearing Obama say he’s supportive won’t in and of itself change anything vis-a-vis marriage equality – but it could cost him a state or two, enough to throw the election.
If I was Rachel Maddow, I’m sure I would be offended by not having the vocal support of the president, and gays and lesbians have been told “we just have to wait a little longer” for at least the last 20 years. It has, I’m sure, become very old.
But if the choice is between having the warm & fuzzies because the president said something you wanted to hear him say, and things like DADT repeal, non-defense of DOMA, and steady progress, unmolested by the feds, in the states, the latter is a damn sight better than having a president who wants to propose constitutional amendments spelling out second-class citizenship for our gay and lesbian brethren.
I think Obama should have his feet held to the fire on this, but not until after the election. He’s delivered some of the goods already, but we have to be mindful of political realities. Does anyone on the left really believe that Obama opposes marriage equality? Because I don’t. I think it’s political expediency when he says otherwise, and though I’m not a huge fan of political expediency, it exists because sometimes it’s both helpful and needed. Besides, I’m not sure exactly what he, alone as president, can accomplish on this issue. Not much, I fear. As such, I can’t see the point in demanding that he say what we’d like to hear, particularly if it allows someone from the Clown Car Party to win in 2012.
Someone, somewhere, posted a link to this video in comments on one of the blogs I read sometime in the last couple of weeks. Sorry I can’t remember who it was to give proper credit:
Following links from the video, I found this most excellent website, which looks like it was abandoned some months ago. Still lots of snarky goodness there, though.
Back in my day, we didn’t HAVE the ShoutyFace or Twitter, and these folks were known as “posers” (or “poseurs,” which was the poser term for “poser.”)
Now all you kids get offa my damn lawn!!!!