Thursday, March 07, 2013

Just Another Crazy Day

OK.  Today started with Senator Rand Paul going after President Obama, demanding that he clearly state that he would not use drones to kill non-combatant Americans in the U.S.  Duh!  Senators Graham and McCain chastised Paul for raising such a stupid issue; it would be "murder", after all.  This is further confirmation that Rand and his father, Ron, must have lived where there was some sort of funny stuff in the water.  Saying that, I give  both of them an excuse for positions that, in a totally healthy person, would be considered insane.

To top off my day, a good conservative friend forwarded me an email purporting to quote a very derogatory editorial about President Obama that was published in the liberal Washington Post.  The email pointed out that even the WP had come to its senses about Obama's non-fitness for the job.  The piece contended that Obama got all his educational opportunities through affirmative action, that he did not have any experience worthy of being a president, and that his associations with his former pastor and Bill Ayers were proof he was a socialist or worse - all of these being "warmed-over" accusations from the 2008 election.  Trouble was, the editorial WAS NEVER IN THE WASHINGTON POST; it was a screed from a right wing web site.  Several of my otherwise very bright conservative friends also bombard me with baloney like this, stuff that they get and forward without ever checking out.  You'd think that an editorial that seems too good to be true - a WP editorial trashing Obama - would get just a little scrutiny from these folks, but when you agree, it's easy to swallow something hook, line, and sinker.  Hitler used baloney like this to take over Germany, though, and that's why I will never overlook the repetition of a big lie.

Last, but in a more positive vein, it appears that President Obama's meetings with some congressional foes may pay off.  We need a big deal that addresses entitlements and the deficit, including some tax code reforms that target high income people.  Maybe, just maybe, we could be on track to get one.  Compared to how things looked two days ago, that would be crazy, too.

p.s. Watched, for a few minutes this afternoon, a TV program about a "militia" that believes the federal government has overstepped its constitutional authority.  The militia, which includes a lot of fat guys with guns of various sorts, is drilling and practicing a fake ambush.  I have two things to say about this.  First, we have a Supreme Court to decide what is constitutional and what isn't.  Second, if these yahoo's ever engaged in armed conflict with the U.S. government, I'd be perfectly happy if President Obama (or any other president) used drone missiles to blow them away.  Remember President Washington and the Whiskey Rebellion?  Same story.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Gun Control - a Necessity

Two things we know about recent mass killings: the perpetrators had mental illness and they used "assault weapons" to maximize their carnage.  Two things we know about guns:  40% of gun transactions are now conducted without a background check, and there are few controls to ensure mentally ill people cannot buy guns.  Just this week, a woman with severe mental illness killed her two little grandsons with her pistol before killing herself. Haven't we had enough?

I like guns.  They do a great job of what they are legitimately asked to do, whether it be target practice, hunting, or protection.  I've used them for the first two, and my dad carried a .38 to work because he went in very early and parked in a downtown parking garage with no security.  I was once asked if I wanted to be the officer in charge of the 101st Airborne Division's marksmanship team, which I declined.  I've enjoyed firing .45's, M-1's, M-14's, AR-15's, light artillery, and a number of civilian-type rifles, pistols, and shotguns.    So, I know a lot about guns - but I don't love them.  My experience has ingrained in me the idea that they are very dangerous and, therefore, they must be controlled.  Even the Army understands this; every weapon is accounted for, they are never taken home, and their use in "practice" is strictly controlled.  Why, then, do we allow guns to be bought and sold in this country with no more control than if they were children's toys?

I can't accept that the 2nd Amendment prevents reasonable controls over guns, and I believe the Supreme Court has also accepted this position.  How gun enthusiasts, and the NRA, can claim reasonable controls are  unconstitutional seems not worth the debate.  Yes, we have "the right to bear arms", but all of our rights are limited - we "can't yell fire in a crowded theater" for instance.  Our government is prohibited from taking our guns from us without due cause, but they are not precluded from exercising reasonable controls over them.

So, what is "reasonable" when talking about a tool that can be, and often is, used to kill someone in an instant from a distance?  To me, reasonable controls consist of four things:  first, every firearm in the country should be registered with the government at the state level, and all state databases should be accessible by the federal government; second, all citizens with felony convictions, orders of protection, or under treatment for mental illness should be denied access to guns by their being included in a national database until taken off by a judge; third, all transfers of guns should be recorded permanently in the state databases and be accessible by the federal government; and, lastly, those convicted of any crime involving use of a gun should be subject to a mandatory prison sentence.  Penalties for possessing an unregistered gun should also be non-trivial and never plea-bargained away.

Why don't we already have these controls, which most other civilized countries already have in place?  Like most other important questions, the answer is found by "following the money".  There is a giant industry in the U.S. centered around guns and desperate to maintain its sales and profitability.  It goes to extreme lengths to protect its place in our society, constantly publishing false information and engaging in scare tactics.  Chief among these tactics is the "confiscation" argument"; registration will result in confiscation.  Nothing would be further from the truth, as this would be in direct contravention of the Second Amendment as now interpreted by the courts.  Hey, if we don't register guns, why bother to control cyanide or C-4?  All are equally dangerous in the wrong hands.

So, I consider politicians who oppose gun control to be complicit in the murders that result from the uncontrolled sale/transfer of weapons.  With about 300,000,000 guns already possessed by U.S. citizens, there's no doubt that gun murders will continue for the foreseeable future.  However, I believe that reasonable controls would reduce these deaths by thousands every year.  How much is each one of these lives worth? Well, many politicians have determined their price, and then banked it.