Sunday, December 02, 2012

Gun Mania - or is it Insania?

Among all the things I ponder when I'm wondering about the world, this has been the year of the gun.  There are gun channels on TV, ads for gun stores large and small, and lots of killings with guns in the news.  It's hard to pass a day without hearing or reading a reference to guns in America, and many of them are affirmations of the efficacy of guns.  But on a personal basis, I've been surprised by how many of my friends are becoming enamored of guns.  Three examples will preface my concerns about the emerging gun culture in peaceful suburbia.

First, early this year a friend asked me to be a reference for his New York pistol permit, to which I acquiesced..  "Why do you want a pistol, I asked?"  "For protection", he said.  I asked, "Do you know anyone, personally, who ever needed a pistol to protect him from a threat?"  "No", he said, "but you never know when those people might rise up and threaten you.  I want to be able to defend my home".

Not too long after that, I walked into a conversation about guns after church, in the fellowship hall.  Two members, both friends, were discussing pistols.  I said, "I was once an MP who carried a .45 automatic.  My sergeant told me that the most likely outcome if I pulled it would be that I'd get shot. The fact is, bad guys are more prepared for violence than good guys."  The response?  One of my friends said, "Well, if we ever have to revolt against the government, we need to be armed."  All I could say was, "Obviously, you haven't thought too much about what arms the government would employ against you if it came to that."

Last night, at my old ambulance corps' holiday celebration at a beautiful country club, a 60-ish woman with diamonds on ears, fingers, and wrist crowed about her recent experience at a gun club.  She had taken the club up on a "Woman's Day" experience with long and short guns, and she fired several of them during the familiarization process.  More than anything, she was impressed by how nice everyone was to her.  When I asked her why she needed a gun, she said "It's a dangerous world.  When we looked at (expensive) new homes our agent steered us away from areas he thought were dangerous.  And, when I go to the car wash and there are (low class) guys around, my NRA sticker will give them reason to leave me alone."

I'll be clear:  I own three long guns and I know how to shoot them; they all have caused animal blood to flow and I have no qualms about those many experiences.  Moreover, I can envision extreme circumstances where I would use a gun on another person.  I don't hate pistols or long guns; they are just tools to me - very special purpose tools.  However, I believe guns of any sort are a terrible solution to conflict and a very poor choice for defense by a non-professional.

What do my friends have in common?  They all are highly educated and successful, and they live in an extremely safe suburb.  They face no obvious threats, they have no experience with guns, and they don't know anyone who's needed a gun to defend themselves.  So, why are these basically good and rational people so interested in guns and defense?  Simple.  They listen to conservative talk radio.

It's not the guns that bother me as much as the ideas that Americans need to be fearful of others who, given the chance, would "get them", or that Americans should be fearful of own own government attempting to become a dictatorship.  Conservative talk radio, and to some extent, TV and the internet, seem to have succeeded in creating a mindset among many that they are truly threatened by their fellow citizens and their government.  Consequently, owning guns might be a smart response - "self-defense" seems to be intrinsically logical and right.

From a practical standpoint, "self-defense" with a pistol or long gun is very dangerous for anyone who dares to attempt it.  When one raises the level of a confrontation, one elevates the risk of being the one who is seriously injured or killed.  Collateral damage is also a big risk in any armed confrontation.  In some cases, even, the gun owner becomes the instrument of their own death by accident or suicide, and many incidents of gun violence occur when family disputes get out of control.  Guns, close at hand and loaded, too often result in unintended consequences for their owners.

From a societal standpoint, the mere idea that armed responses to threats are reasonable contributes to a lessening of actions to resolve conflicts peacefully and within the legal framework of a civilized nation.  It brings to mind the societies where guns are everywhere and death is commonplace - the means allows the ends to occur all too frequently.  Sadly, the increase in fear, the increase in personal weapons, and the more common acceptance of guns providing reasonable solutions to problems has the potential to significantly raise the level of violence in our country generally, as it already has in many of our inner cities.

All this said, I'm not a big fan of a blanket gun ban.  I'd much rather see gun sanity - guns should used for sporting or work (e.g., hunting, target shooting, and ranching), not for misguided attempts to enhance personal safely or to deter imaginary threats from the government.  However, sanity is not a staple of conservative talk radio, so my friends and many others seem to be headed down the insane lane where the major beneficiaries are the gun dealers and the losers are those inadvertently or purposely killed by legal guns.  Is it possible to overcome the fear-mongers in the media?

Friday, November 02, 2012

Great Sarcasm

I was trolling the internet today and came across this.  It's pretty great sarcasm, and I've got to admit it strikes a chord with me.  Just thought I'd pass it along for fun.

"Republicans top 10 issues this election .

1. Democrats have not yet paid off the huge national debt that Republicans have created.
2. Democrats have not yet stopped all the wars that Republicans started.
3. The poor have too much money
4. The rich do not have enough money
5. All Americans will soon have access to medical care
6. The President will not admit that he was born in Kenya
7. Women still have control over their own bodies
8. Only a quarter-billionaire like Romney can realllly understand the struggles of the middle class.
9. Democrats have not yet turned the United States into a fundamentalist controlled Christian Theocracy.
10. The President did not veto the law of supply and demand resulting in higher gas prices."