Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Firearms Fight

I have been trying to put my thoughts together about the gun control issue, and every time I try to write about it, I end up deleting half and starting over. I just can't order my thoughts, put them into any kind of coherent whole.

I grew up with guns in the home. Like many of my contemporaries, each of us boys had a 22 cal semi-automatic rifle, which we often dragged out to take potshots at ceramic conductors on top of telephone poles (sorry about your lost phone service...), or to bag a porcupine or two. My dad had a 20-gauge shotgun which would definitely have ruined your day. We boys found his old navy 38 hidden in the speaker, and would sneak it out sometimes when our parents weren't home.

So I know guns. I'm not averse to hunting, I don't hold candlelight vigils for an elk. I know that most gun owners are responsible folk. I think shooting is fun.

But I have seen the other side of the coin, as well. In junior high, one of my friends killed his little brother when playing with an unfamiliar gun which he thought was empty. Another friend's father was shot and killed in a bar fight. And I found the body when one of my best friends used an Enfield to shuffle off this mortal coil. I had to sit there while the cops checked to see if the brain matter under my car was also on the car.

The one thing I am sure of is my anger over some of the lies, distortions and fear-mongering I've seen over the last couple of months. It's an issue in which people have invested a lot of emotion, sure. This is understandable, perhaps, and can even be admirable at times. At times....

But some of these Internet jugheads sound like they couldn't find their way out of a wet paper bag. Unfortunately or otherwise, most of these numbnuts are on the NRA side of the argument, and the thought of some of these dickheads running around with high-powered weaponry scares the bejeezus out of me.
{see this video} http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-v1UXFMzl0

I'm not picking sides. Really, I'm not. Nor am I attempting to belittle the pain felt by the families of the victims of Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Columbine or other mass shootings, or the genuine concerns of people on both sides of the issue.

OK, where to begin....

"It's a semi-automatic!"
Semi-autos have been around for a long time. All of our 22s when I was a kid were semi-autos. That just means that you don't have to jack the next bullet into the chamber; the expanding gas of the previous shot expels the casing and allows a new cartridge to slip into place. Any pistol that isn't a revolver uses the same system.

"It doesn't matter how large the clip is."
Well, actually, in the context of these school shootings, it kinda does. Being able to shoot 35, 50, or even 100 shots with hardly a pause makes it much harder for anyone to rush the shooter. And really, is it so hard to reload if you're target shooting or hunting? Frankly, if you can't hit it within 10 shots, maybe you shouldn't be shooting in the first place....

"Arm all the teachers."
Oh, man, this is wrong to me on so many levels. I'm a teacher, and I want to focus on teaching. I don't want a pistol banging against my hip as I reach out to write on the board, and I certainly don't want teachers leaving guns in desks, where students could possibly get their hands on them. Not to mention the danger if a teacher ever went postal. I'd rather see locking steel-reinforced doors with bullet-proof glass installed. Nor do I want to see armed guards standing by the doors or patrolling the halls. This adds to the stress of most students, and is not conducive to a relaxed learning environment.

"Ban all assault rifles, and confiscate all in circulation now."
Have you any idea how many weapons there are in the US now? I don't know how many of them are assault rifle style, but good luck finding them all. Banning any further sales is doable, confiscation really isn't.

Regarding universal background checks, the NRA says "If you take away our guns, only the criminal will have guns." This one doesn't even make sense: universal background check doesn't equal confiscation. It does, however, make it more difficult for convicted felons or people too pissed off to wait a week to easily buy any weapon they want by merely going to a gun show. Key word - easily. Why make it easier for them?

Speaking of waiting, why is a one-week cooling-off period such a problem? This is a major purchase, with a lot of responsibility attached. I would hope you've planned out the purchase of a firearm and didn't just decide that you have to have a gun right now.

Speaking of the NRA, did somebody hand out idiot pills down there? The inflammatory rhetoric, the off-base comments, the callous insensitivity, the pick-any-out-of-context-statistic-you-want. If I didn't know better, I'd swear they were trying to help the President by pushing away any middle-of-the-roaders who can think:
"Are the President's kids more important than yours?" "When his kids are protected by armed guards at their (school)"
Wow, are you kidding me? My kids aren't high-profile targets for every terrorist/fruitcake out there. The president's are. I can guarantee that first kids have been watched over very, very carefully indeed since 9-11 (since Lindbergh).

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." - the 2nd Amendment
I like this amendment, truly I do. But the key phrase is " well regulated". I remember when the NRA taught gun safety classes, and most owners either took them or taught their own family members. Many can't be bothered today. There certainly isn't any drilling on the village common.
Nor is this 1776, where the colonists had access to firepower equal to the British. Times and weaponry have changed. The difference between what any person could get and the weaponry available to the military ensures that any insurrection without the support of the military would be outgunned, indeed. And the thought of private ownership of M1A1/2 main battle tanks or Cobra gunships, as one pundit opined, is frankly horrifying.
The 2nd Amendment ensures our right to bear arms, which we may use for self-protection and to hunt, but without a total collapse of the US government or defection of a majority of the military, I don't see how it could overthrow tyranny.

One final thing:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
This means that whether you agree with them or not, both the gun nuts and the peaceniks, the conservatives and liberals, the religious of any denomination and those who are not have the right to state their opinions or to "petition the Congress". Shouting over others with differing opinions, insulting, flaming and even threatening them goes against the very Constitution many use as support for or against their opponents arguments.

And the people's Representatives do have the right to amend the Constitution, if a majority of Americans so desire.

Some statistics, most of which I gleaned from the FBI.

*Privately owned firearms in the U.S. - 270 million
88.8 guns per 100 people
*Government owned firearms - 3,055,000 (firearms only, this doesn't include grenades, artillery, tanks, Aegis destroyers,etc)
*Police owned firearms - 897,000
*15,240 homicides in 2009, 9150 of which used firearms
32,560 suicides in 2005, 17,000 of those by gun
*AK47 market price in the US - $500
AR15 - $1300 and up, depending on the bells and whistles
*The annual value of small arms and ammunition imports to the United States is reported to be US$1,585,242,738 (2009).

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