The State of My Union – An Personal Assessment
By Chris M. Barkley:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.
– John Allen Paulos
Until recently, I really hadn’t given too much thought to the opening to Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities, which remains one of the most memorable opening lines of any English language novel.
But it became uppermost in my mind when I sat down to write this particular column. I wanted to express my unease at how I look at the world and how it is balanced out by the joy of being alive in this time and place.
I paired Dickens with a quote from eminent mathematician John Allen Paulos because it perfectly summarizes the same point Dickens had made more than a century earlier. While I despair about the condition of our world, I am continuingly amazed at how aware I am and the amazing technology and we have at our fingertips each day.
On the evening of January 31st, my partner Juli and I went to see an excellent historical drama about the Pentagon papers, The Post. Staying home and watching The State of the Union Address was out of the question.
For the most obvious of reasons; the United States is currently led by a vile, anti-intellectual and profoundly stupid man. And by writing that, I want to extend an apology to all stupid people.
As we drove home, I began thinking about what was going to be the subject this column (who is intimately involved with The Post) but as I sat down to write it, I changed my mind.
This column, which is now more than a year old, was intended to be a sounding board for my thoughts and concerns about all things fannish. Looking back, I see that while there were some pretty serious columns, it seems that lately, it has been a little too top-heavy with media related reviews. So, it seems as though I was long overdue for an introspective look at something else. Myself.
My heath is rather nominal. I say rather because while I feel well enough, I have discovered after a discussion with my doctor, that I have been undergoing an extended bout of hyperglycemia brought on by my overuse of Splenda. I know how crazy that sounds but it is true. This is particularly bad news for me because I am a fanatical tea drinker and I like it sweet. Since I have type-2 diabetes, I just assumed it was safe for me to put 4 or five packs of Splendas in a 16 ounce serving. My body had different ideas. The theory is that my body, in the absence of real sugar, has been tricked into producing more sugar and insulin (with a sidecar of dopamine) which, in turn, has thrown everything out of whack.
My doctor has given me eight weeks to get my blood sugars under control or I will be prescribed to undergo insulin injections. Needless to say, my fear of needles is driving my urge to eat properly, walk and exercise on a daily basis.
Officially, I have been unemployed since April 30th of last year. I walked away from my position as the periodicals manager at one of the best independent bookstores in America I felt undervalued by the management and my boss was…well, let’s just say I lost confidence in her and let it go at that.
My current job right now is being a primary caretaker of my two-year-old granddaughter, Lily Bug. She is a delight to watch and I am quite privileged watching her growing and learning each day. She learns quickly and has an uncanny knack of showing that she is self-aware and confidently self-assured before she turned a year old, which I found a bit unusual for someone her age.
As the only child (at the moment), Lily is afforded special privileges from her overly indulgent, such as her Christmas gift of a thirteen-foot-diameter trampoline, which she lovingly calls “jumpy-jumpy”.
I’m also looking forward to her being properly potty-trained by her parents REAL SOON NOW because I would really like to put my toxic waste disposal days behind me.
Books are my life. I have sold them for over a quarter of a century and reading them all of my life. I am overwhelmed with books. I have a very bad habit of starting several books at once so my nightstand is rather swamped at the moment:
Tau Zero (1970) by Poul Anderson; this would be a perfect vehicle for a director like Kathryn Bigelow, Alex Garland or Duncan Jones. Someone should send a copy to each of them so there would be a bidding war. If you haven’t read it, it is one of the finest examples of hard adventure sf ever written.
Mary Astor’s Purple Diary (2016) written and illustrated by Edward Sorel – The Great Sex Scandal of 1936; Mary Astor was a revered character actress in the golden Age of Hollywood. Her personal life became fodder for the tabloid press when her affair with playwright George S. Kaufman was revealed because her salacious diary was discovered by her husband, Doctor Franklyn Thorpe. To say that hijinks ensued would be an incredible understatement. Woody Allen, in a rare move into literary criticism, infamously reviewed this tome for the New York Times Review of Books, which led to a backlash of virulent protest against the book editor, Pamela Paul. As Spock would say, fascinating…
The Nashville Chronicles (2000) by Jan Stuart; a lucky find at a library book sale because I had NO IDEA this book existed. Nashville is one of my top ten favorites of all time and I am enjoying this book as much as I adore Aljean Harmetz’s making of Casablanca, Round Up the Usual Suspects.
Will Eisner’s The Spirit: A Celebration of 75 Years (2015); When I started digging into the history of comics back in 1967, the very first book I came across was Jules Feiffer’s The Great Comic Book Heroes. I skipped all of the mumbo jumbo analysis that I could barely understand and dove right into the comics. The most thrilling find was Eisner’s tough talking masked man, a comic strip hero I’d never heard of before. I instantly became a lifelong fan.
Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams (2017); This is a compilation of the ten short stories that comprise the first season of the Amazon Prime series that dropped in late December.
Of course, once the Hugo nominations are announced, all of the above will be put aside to assess what I will be voting on…
There are some days that some of my most creative writing is done on Facebook. While I find it personally satisfying to get the better of trolls and other malcontents whom I verbally cross swords with, but it is very distracting and very time-consuming. I could be doing research, reading and honing my craft and so I might stand a chance of getting paid for this writing gig some day.
But I am passionate about a few things online; censorship, police relations with the public, political corruption of all stripes and most of all, gun control. The massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida two weeks ago [at the time this was written] pointedly illustrated out how polarized and partisan Americans feel about the struggle between those who strive to protect their gun rights against gun control advocates.
I don’t want to confiscate anyone’s guns unless it is absolutely necessary. I have only held an actual firearm in my hands twice in my entire life. I have no problem telling anyone that guns terrify me. I’ve been stopped by police officers over a dozen times and managed to survive all of those encounters. I have no need of a gun and absolutely no desire to own one right now. I sincerely doubt I will change my mind but I remain open to being trained one day, just in case.
But over the past few weeks, I have compulsively and aggressively engaged many people on this issue, especially the overly officious people who would dismiss the survivors of the Parkland Massacre because they do not meet their narrow and dogmatic standards:
R: Yes. I have around 70 years familiarity with weapons of all kinds, weapons history (not talking just firearms, here), and literally 50 years of participation in the FAPOL (Firearms And Politics) arena. I pretty much qualify as an expert.
What they saw was horrible, but has absolutely no relevance to what they say about guns, gun owners, or gun laws – I haven’t heard one speak yet who wasn’t absolutely clueless on the subject.
When people insist on vague – or specific but ridiculous – changes to something they don’t know anything about and get wrong every time they open their mouths, it leaves people who do know something about the subject staring at them like they have their heads on backwards.
The fact that they, and other people like them, refuse to listen when you try to educate them, or correct their misstatements, doesn’t buy them any credit whatsoever – it subtracts from whatever credit they started with, and ultimately it gets them ignored as irrelevant.
ME: R, I am ten years younger than you. I have seen plenty myself. I have no problem telling you that you are dead wrong. As wrong as Johnson and Nixon were about the protesters of the Vietnam war. I could cite other examples, but you should keep that one primarily in mind. Historical movements have been started with less provocation. The kids who survived that ordeal on Valentine’s Day are now the spokespersons for an ENTIRE GENERATION who have had enough of the proliferation of guns, enough of the platitudes of politicians who have been paid off in money and influence by the NRA to do their bidding, enough of attitudes like yours, R., that weapons and the right to own and carry them are more important than their rights and their lives.
It’s all going to change R, whether you like it or not.
Change is hard. You can sit on the sidelines harping about these kids all you want.
You can’t stop them. You won’t stop them.
With their help, am I hoping they will be the vanguard of a range of social changes, and that sir, will bloody well include gun control in various forms.
Now, either you or your friends can continue to be part if the problem or you can be part of the solution. I intend to be in the right of history.
I’m supporting these kids.
Mind you, R. was at a distinct disadvantage because I was watching the recent Winston Churchill biopic Darkest Hour and I felt as though I was directly channeling him as I was tapping out this reply.
And there was this exchange:
V.L.: I believe in liberty and the constitution. The 2cond amendment and the individual right to bear arms is guaranteed by our constitution and upheld by the Supreme Court in the Heller case. As a reasonable person I’m open to some of the ideas being discussed; raising the age to 21 for purchase of certain weapons, universal background checks, banning bump stocks ect. The ‘assault weapons’ ban has zero merit. There’s nothing about guns made with black polymer that look like military weapons that make them more deadly than ordinary wooden semi-automatic rifles. It’s really magazine capacity, not the gun, that makes mass shootings more deadly. My issue with many on the left is they don’t believe people should own guns at all, or they say everyone should be allowed to own a musket because that’s what was available when the founding fathers penned the Constitution. The rationale of the 2cond amendment was a well armed militia to defend the country from a tyrannical government (which had just occurred) so the weapons of the militia should be equivalent to those of the government. I’m not advocating that citizens have access to tanks and rockets, but at the same time the 2cond amendment never had to do with hunting which is now what the left uses as the ‘need’ for guns. “I don’t want to take away Uncle John’s hunting gun”… This was never the basis for the second amendment. Murder is already illegal. Guns shouldn’t be the main focus; hardening school security should be.
To V.L.: ”Hardening school security”? What are you suggesting? Because it sounds like you’re suggesting more of a settling for a prison than school.
And, for the record, those of us who are level-headed folks who believe in some changes in the gun laws want law abiding gun owners to STOP acting like the 2nd Amendment, as written, is the most important thing in your lives. Your “gun rights” are not more vital than any human life.
We want to live in a world where guns are just as hard to buy as houses, cars and a Lear jet. That would include licensing, insurance for each weapon and regular recertification. Anyone caught without those accreditations should be prosecuted to within an inch of their lives and jailed.
THAT’S what we want. Some ideas in your post are a good start. But they don’t go far enough. Either you’re part of the problem or you’re part of the solution.
Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado stated in an interview on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition on February 27 that on the whole, we are terrorizing ourself over what to do about gun violence in America. When he was asked by host Rachel Martin whether or not the country had reached a tipping point on gun control with the Parkland tragedy, he said, “Well, there’s an accumulation of sorrow. And I think people’s hearts are just breaking, and there is a frustration now. For the first time, I keep hearing people talking about, you know, long-term Republican funders saying they’re going to fund people based on how they respond to gun safety, the introduction of gun safety laws, and that’s new. I mean, I haven’t heard that before where Republicans, who historically have been fighting for, you know, more traditional Republican goals, right? Lower taxes, smaller government, that kind of thing. Now they’re looking at gun safety as a large enough issue that it will define who they donate money to and who they vote for.”
I plan on working on posting a Gun Safety Manifesto to Change.org in the next month or so. The emphasis of the petition will be on gun safety, not “gun rights. Gun culture, either through the machinations of the National Rifle Association or other gun rights groups have had their day. Repealing or changing the Second Amendment will be on the table one day soon.
The sooner the better I think.
“Those who never change their minds never change anything.”
Dedicated to the students, faculty and administrators of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
… Of course this is posted on the day of yet another school shooting.
Your points are reasonable but won’t convince the entrenched. I keep thinking we need to do something abut the entrenchment itself, rather than attack their points (And definitely rather than attack they themselves.) What would that look like? I think the second reply here is closer, but not there yet.\
On the plus side, Lily Bug looks adorable.
Speaking as a fourth-(or more)-generation diabetic (Type II, managed without meds until 2-3 years ago), my sympathies, and urge you to pursue the exercise & food input approach as much as possible. I assume you’ve learned about fiber (bran, brocolli, cabbage, etc)(as good), label-reading (eg, Trader Joe’s has nothing-but-peanuts, no salt or sugar etc, $2.99), etc.
Do you know if you have sleep apnea? (If not, hopefully you’ve got medical coverage that will cover a sleep test.) Untreated, it’s a barrier to encouraging your metabolism to do the right thing. As many Filers (including myself) can testify, sleep apnea can be treated without surgery or meds, using a CPAP machine (small controlled air pump with accessories). Feel free to ping me off list for more, if you want. Again, untreated sleep apnea will make fighting diabetes (and many other conditions) much harder.
Bravo for taking on these people. If arguments like VL’s come up again, a couple of points:
* Ask for contemporary sources on the claim that the militia were intended against a central government. AFAICT, militias were mostly a substitute for a standing army, but still subject to federal rule; see (e.g.) article 1, section 8, 11th paragraph, or article 2 section 2.
* The 2nd amendment is the only place I find where the Constitution precedes a right with an excuse rather than stating an absolute; private ownership for private purposes (as opposed to membership in a well-ordered militia) is … unclear.
Lets do the sing-a-long second amendment!
Here’s where I get to air a pet peeve: “Sing-a-long.” It’s “sing-along.” I have no idea why these darn kids to-day insist on dividing “along” into two words. Maybe I will figure it out to-morrow.
I feel better now.
@Chip “Ask for contemporary sources on the claim that the militia were intended against a central government.”
Federalist #46 “The highest number [of a potential standing central Federal army] does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls . . . To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence.” Later, “. . . the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation . . forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition [of a central Federal government]”
Also, The Federal Gazette & Philadelphia Evening Post, June 18, 1789 at 2, col. 1 (in a commentary advocating the adoption of the newly-proposed amendment recognizing the right to Keep and Bear Arms) “As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must occasionally be raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow-citizens, the people are confirmed by the next article in the right to keep and bear their private arms.”
Bill: What I really want to know is how the deeply-sought after need to own the AR-15 is supposed to help stand up against/overthrow a government which owns Helicopters, bombers, drones, tanks, and missiles.
If it comes to the point where private citizens start shooting actual standing members of the government, the military may not stand by after all, and it may not stand WITH those citizens.
Personally, I think the bigger question is still: How can we put more sensible rules into place to protect schoolchildren without (inadvertently) convincing those who want to keep their guns that we’re coming to take theirs away? (Especially as inevitably some such rules may ask people to willingly surrender *some* of their *excess* guns, or to demonstrate in person what safety measures they are using with their guns, and may involve actively, not passively, penalizing those who don’t/won’t put them in safe storage under a lock and with ammunition elsewhere.)
Because I have no great fear of people owning a gun or two for obvious reasons (hunting, protection against wildlife, pest control, target shooting, sport training, professional training — I’ve done target shooting with a bow and once with a smoothbore musket, and I can attest that hitting the target is a very satisfying feeling. I know hunters, with gun or bow both, mostly the kind where the game gets hung up and turned into dinner makings (Mmmm, venison. Pheasant too, on the cases where it isn’t filled with shot…), but I don’t even *entirely* object to hunting non-endangered animals purely for sport.)
I tend to slightly side-eye people who buy a gun for protection against other humans who don’t *also* do one of the kinds of hobby shooting, if only after they’ve picked it up, because owning a gun you’ve never seriously practiced with is seriously unsafe. But gun owners and shooting range owners should agree with me there.
@Bill: against these, consider the repeated statements in the Constitution itself that the federal government may summon the militias; the notion that they are some guarantor against the feds is certainly not the absolute that the NRA and so-called strict constructionists paint it as.
@Lenora Rose: “What I really want to know is how the deeply-sought after need to own the AR-15 is supposed to help stand up against/overthrow a government which owns Helicopters, bombers, drones, tanks, and missiles.”
In much the same way that an opposition armed with similar light weaponry resisted that same government when it invaded Iraq. The opposition lost the initial battle but won the war, because winning mattered more to it than to the invader.
The problem is not that such militias cannot be effective. They clearly can. Nor am I that concerned about their simple existence. They can inflict damage but not defeat the government unless they have enough people on their side (in which case maybe they ought to win), which they do not and which I believe they are getting further away from as time passes. What does terrify me is extralegal force applied in concert with legal force, in the way that Klan vigilantes acted in concert with law enforcement.
@Lenora Rose What I really want to know is how the deeply-sought after need to own the AR-15 is supposed to help stand up against/overthrow a government which owns Helicopters, bombers, drones, tanks, and missiles.
Perhaps you don’t follow the news? Because this is exactly what has been going on for the last 16 years in Afghanistan.
If it comes to the point where private citizens start shooting actual standing members of the government, the military may not stand by after all, and it may not stand WITH those citizens.
Agreed. OTOH, if it comes to the point where the standing government starts bombing, shooting, etc. private citizens, elements of the military (both regular Army/Air Force/etc., and Reserves and National Guard) may not stand by after all, and they may not stand WITH that standing government.
But the total war scenario is so remote, and so many things would have to happen between where we are, and there, that to talk about it is (I hope) completely a gedanken experiment. Real-world situations where armed citizens resist (a much more localized) tyranny are more likely, and have in fact occurred already: The Battle of Athens TN.
Personally, I think the bigger question is still: How can we put more sensible rules into place to protect schoolchildren without (inadvertently) convincing those who want to keep their guns that we’re coming to take theirs away?
One way would be to quit promoting as candidates people like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who have openly praised the Australian model of gun confiscation. In addition, they could quit passing confiscation laws that confiscate guns.
@Bill: I’m perfectly aware that the final argument of the average bugfuck crazy gun nut is “Or I’ll kill you”. I’ll still vote as I please. If they don’t like it, fuck ’em.
@John A Arkansawyer @Bill: I’m perfectly aware that the final argument of the average bugfuck crazy gun nut is “Or I’ll kill you”. I’ll still vote as I please.
If this is specifically in response to something I said, I don’t have the faintest idea what it is. Vote as you see fit. If you live in Chicago, vote early and vote often.
Regardless, the “bugfuck crazy gun nut” does exist, but to characterize him as “average” is wrong. If you are my friend and affectionately call me a “gun nut” because I own multiple firearms, that’s okay — I’ve certainly been called worse. But if you think that gun owners by definition are gun nuts (in a more pejorative sense of “nut”), that’s wrong. I’m law abiding, the people I know who own guns are law abiding, and the people with whom I shoot are law abiding. Further, they are the first people to reject unsafe gun practices, and to demand that law-breakers and other prohibited owners not be given access to guns. Those are “average” gun owners (or, “gun nuts”, if you prefer).
And that’s not just self selection of my circle of friends. Concealed-carry permit holders in general are far less likely to break the law than the average person. People who go through the arduous and expensive process to own a fully-automatic weapon simply do not commit crimes with them. If a person is law-abiding without a gun, they don’t become “bugfuck crazy” by getting one.
Ummmm, yeah, Bill, citing an incident that involved thefts of Tommy guns and bombing government houses with gasoline and dynamite — instead of, oh, I don’t know, calling in state election monitors and having a PEACEFUL election — doesn’t really make you look much like a reasonable discussion participant.
From the article you cited:
How about let’s NOT foster the conditions that would encourage making “the McMinn County Revolution into a habit”?
Afghanistan is not, however much US (and other) military forces occupy it, actually a territory that is part of the US. What a military force can bring to bear on its own citizenry is both vastly more (Based on logistics and troop deployment) and plausibly vastly less (Because people are much more likely to refuse to execute an order to shoot at or drop bombs on their own homeland)
In general, though, the idea of buying weapons entirely to protect a citizenry against its own government is an extremist fantasy that should by no means be used as a mainstream argument for widespread gun ownership. Isn’t it? I know it’s specifically triggered by the well regulated militia part of the very amendment, but it also seems like a pretty weird thing to stockpile weapons against.
Particularly since so far, those weapons are being stockpiled to protect the second amendment from any and all comers, not the entirety of the constitution and amendments and country built around it. So far the only thing guns seem to be being collected en masse to guard against government intervention on… is guns. Nobody is outright stockpiling guns to defend their right to drink unpasteurized milk, or the right of newspapers to print the truth without interference, or the right to vote, and surprisingly few are doing it to protect their children. (Note: **Stockpiling**, not simply owning.)
Bill: You clearly know your guns and gun culture. SO I’m curious about our common ground.
Do you consider the following to be problems?
– Children accidentally discharging weapons stored in their house
– mass shootings
– Increased risk of suicide attempts and suicide completion when a gun is available*
– People having their weapons stolen and used against them or others in a crime?
If not, why not? If so, what solutions do you propose?
Are there weapons you think shouldn’t belong to private citizenry? Are any of these weapons currently legally available in the US?
What would you consider GOOD reasons to take away all or even some part of someone’s gun collection?
Note, these are genuine questions, not mockery.
* Suicide attempts, as well as successful suicides, decrease without easy access to firearms. Not only do fewer people shoot themselves, people tend not to look into alternate means, since most of them take more time, effort, or pain.
@Bill: I am unable to classify several of the people I know and value and in some cases love and their attitudes towards guns as anything but bugfuck crazy.
Perhaps you live in a bubble, or perhaps you are acclimated to crazy. I’ve been both those places and understand how hard it is to know when that’s what’s going on. I saw the likelihood of the right-wing crackup coming with the rise of the Tea Party and saw so many of the same pathologies I saw at the end of the New Left coming too.
@Lenora Rose: If someone buying a gun had had to wait a couple of days to cool down before getting into their hands, I probably wouldn’t have been at a memorial service this month for a kid not quite twenty-five who woke up one day and decided to buy a gun and blow his brains out right then and there.
But guns are important and can’t be regulated. It’s not like they’re speech or assembly or journalism. You have to work at it to kill someone with those.
Damn, what a world: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnU8oTQ7qGg
I am forcibly reminded here of Jamie Gilt. You may remember Jamie — she ran a website called “Jamie Gilt for Gun Sense”.
You may also remember her because she was shot in the back by her own toddler son, after she left one of her guns loose in her car. Just one day before that incident, she had been boasting on her website about teaching him to shoot. Her TODDLER son.
I’m also reminded of the three students who were injured just last week when a teacher (a reserve police officer) accidentally fired his gun during a public safety class at a high school in California — and of the school resource officer who accidentally fired his gun in a school in Virginia, also this past week.
And these people were all “law-abiding gun owners” who were supposedly knowledgeable and responsible.
So, yeah, tell me another one. But if you get me started, I’ve got plenty of studies showing just how much guns do NOT actually keep people safe.
Is it the same report that said that concealed-carry permit holders were more likely to be involved in offenses involving death? Seems likely. Anyhow, people with concealed-carry permits have been involved in 29 mass shootings the last 10 years.
I don’t know what study Bill was referencing, but you may be thinking of this one –>
Michael Siegel et al. 2017. American Journal of Public Health. Easiness of Legal Access to Concealed Firearm Permits and Homicide Rates in the United States.
— “Shall-issue laws were significantly associated with 6.5% higher total homicide rates, 8.6% higher firearm homicide rates, and 10.6% higher handgun homicide rates, but were not significantly associated with long-gun or nonfirearm homicide.”
Or possibly this one –>
Violence Policy Center. 2017. More Than 1,100 Non-Self Defense Deaths Involving Concealed Carry Killers Since 2007, Latest VPC Research Shows
According to their tally, concealed-carry permit holders have been involved in 31 fatal mass shootings since 2007. Definitions of “mass shooting” vary, so it’s no surprise that your number is just a bit different.
Bill, please note that I am NOT saying that concealed-carry permit holders are evil or careless as a group. I am simply saying that holding a concealed-carry permit does not automatically make a person either responsible or safe to be around.
I was thinking of this one:
Otherwise, I do not really understand why people bring up this study. Do they think it is the carrying of concealed weapons that makes someone more law-abiding? Or that a person who is refused to carry a concealed weapon will automatically start to commit more crimes?
Aha, a new one on me. Thanks for that!
To be fair, and just to clarify a bit, that study does not say that license-holders are committing more of the serious crimes than non-license-holders. What it actually says is that when they do commit crimes, the license-holders tend to commit the more serious ones. And it provides some huge reasons for the difference in criminal patterns, like the fact that most violent crimes are committed by men under 30, while most license-holders are middle-aged and with a high percentage of females.
Interesting numbers, though.
The reason Uncle Sam has all my vital statistics(possibly including my shoe size) is that I inherited a BAR(Browning Automatic Rifle) from one of my uncles. That level of licensing might be overkill for every gun but it sure has kept them from being used in crimes.
@Bill: your cite alleging confiscation links to a story that NY is enforcing its existing laws against large-magazine weapons. Given the Supreme Court’s slant, why has nobody tried to get the law taken down? Could it be that even SCOTUS recognizes that there is no legitimate use for these weapons? Your reading of the links on Clinton and Obama is … overwrought; as described in those stories, the Australian program was a buyback, not a confiscation.
@Contrarius Ummmm, yeah, Bill, citing an incident that involved thefts of Tommy guns and bombing government houses with gasoline and dynamite — instead of, oh, I don’t know, calling in state election monitors and having a PEACEFUL election — doesn’t really make you look much like a reasonable discussion participant
Did you read the article? They requested election monitors from both the governor of TN and the U.S. Attorney General. They got nothing. They tried monitoring the election precincts on their own, but “At 9:30 A.M. Walter Ellis, a legally appointed GI representative at the first precinct in the courthouse, was arrested and jailed for protesting irregularities.”
As to whether or not I’m a reasonable discussion participant, I’d hope that would be based on how I say things (am I polite? do I support the things I say with evidence?) rather than what I say (does it offend Contrarius’s sensibilities?)
@Lenora Rose In general, though, the idea of buying weapons entirely to protect a citizenry against its own government is an extremist fantasy that should by no means be used as a mainstream argument for widespread gun ownership
My own “mainstream” argument for gun ownership is that guns are fun to shoot. Making small groups of holes in a piece of paper at the other end of a range is a challenging and enjoyable activity. Also, I prefer, should my house be broken into again, to have an option other than hide in the bathroom and hope the police can arrive quickly (they won’t). As to whether I should be allowed to do that, and to own guns of my choosing — what business is it of yours, or anyone else’s? So long as I don’t shoot at people, or threaten them, as a free person I should be able to own guns without your permission. You do your thing, and don’t bother me, and I’ll do my thing and I won’t bother you.
As to armed resistance to the government, again I say that we are so far from that situation that I don’t really think about it, except in an abstract way. If the troops came through the neighborhood saying “We are collecting guns. Turn them in or be arrested,” I don’t know what I would do. The calculus would involve 1. What is the risk to my family if I’m arrested? 2. Can I keep one or more without getting caught? 3. What kind of example do I set for my son — obey bad laws, or conscientiously break them?
My hope is, that the fact that over a hundred million of my neighbors are also private gun owners would keep that scenario from ever happening.
And that is the “resist tyranny” reason for owning guns — not so that you can use them against the government, but that the mass ownership by the citizenry keeps the “oh shit” scenario from ever coming. It’s like defensive gun use statistics — you don’t measure them by counting justifiable homicides, you measure them by all the times a burglar is scared off when his intended victim racks his shotgun and hollers “get out of my house! I’ve got a gun!”, or even by the “This house defended by Smith and Wesson” stickers on the windows.
Do you consider the following to be problems? [list]
Yes, I do. And in my own case, I mitigate some of them by having my guns locked in a safe. My house has been broken into twice, and before our son was born, we kept a loaded pistol in the nightstand. Now we get by with a burglar alarm and signs. When he moves out, I’ll probably get the pistol back out (and keep the alarm and signs).
Re: suicide, my family enjoys pretty good mental health — I don’t worry about that too much. I worry much more about our physical health. We are both overweight and sedentary. Cancers run in our families. Either my wife or I am much more likely to end up dead from one of those than from shooting ourselves (or each other). You prioritize your risks and move on.
Re: theft and use — I would feel horrible if I had an unsecured gun stolen and it was used to hurt or kill someone. I try to be responsible in my ownership. I wish others would do the same. But if some hoodlum steals my neighbor’s gun and shoots a 3rd person, it is the hoodlum’s fault, and not my neighbor’s. And the way to prevent it is not to keep my neighbor from owning a gun, but to deal with the hoodlum.
Re: mass shootings — they are horrible. But they are declining in number, and in the grand scheme of things, when you look at how many people die from them, compared to other causes, they are relatively minor. If your goal is the prevention of deaths, a hypothetical set of gun control laws that would perfectly and completely end mass shootings (whatever those laws might be) would be far less effective than, say, banning motorcycles.
What guns should private citizens be allowed to own/not own? I’d probably draw the line at crew-served weapons. If you routinely load, operate and maintain a gun as an individual, I can see no principled difference between a single-shot .22 and a Thompson submachine gun, or a punt gun, or Barrett .50 cal. This also falls in line with what I think the founders wanted.
Good reasons to take guns away? Misuse. Using one to break the law, to harm someone, or threatening to harm someone. Negligent ownership (allowing the incompetent to access a gun). Routine impaired (drunken) possession.
Any time someone gets shot, it is a tragedy (even if they had it coming — I presume armed felons legitimately shot by police had mamas that loved them). But the idea that every tragedy means a law must be passed to prevent the possibility of it occurring again is just wrong, to my way of thinking. We have enough gun laws, and new ones will affect law abiding people much more than they will criminals. Austin Rollins shot a couple of people in a school in Maryland Tuesday, despite:
Maryland’s registration of guns and requirement of a permit to own;
Its universal background check;
Its one-gun-a month limit;
Its prohibition on magazines holding more than ten rounds;
Its very restrictive permit to carry system;
The Federal creation of “gun free school zones”
Its prohibition on handgun carry by the underaged;
and the presence of armed police in the school.
Short of complete and total confiscation of all guns, which I hope you’d agree is simply impossible in America, for many reasons, I don’t know what new gun laws could be put in place that would have prevented it.
Lenora, I’ve written so much in response to your questions because you seem genuinely interested in a discussion, rather than scoring points or establishing some sort of moral high ground. I appreciate that. (Cf. Contrarius above.)
@John J Arkansawyer I am unable to classify several of the people I know and value and in some cases love and their attitudes towards guns as anything but bugfuck crazy.
How do you mean “crazy”? Are they a danger to themselves, or to others? If so, have you talked to authorities about getting them committed or evaluated? If not, why not?
And if they aren’t “crazy” by the above definition, do you simply mean that they get enjoyment out of guns that is beyond your understanding, and it bothers you, but they don’t actually present a threat? If that’s the case, may I suggest that you focus your energies on learning not to let the eccentricities of others bother you.
That should be the reaction of non-gun people to gun people. If they are dangerous, speak up. If they are not, live and let live.
@Contrarius (again) I am sorry for Jamie, and for her toddler. She was negligent, and a tragedy resulted. That sequence of events (negligence => tragedy) happens every day, in ways usually unrelated to guns. It is a fact of existence. And banning bump stocks, or magazines with 10 or more rounds, or registering ammunition purchases, or raising gun ownership ages to 21, won’t change that.
But what’s your point? A police officer had a negligent discharge in a school — do we ban cops from having guns? Ban schools from having cops? Do you judge and regulate my gun ownership based on his foolishness?
Re: The law-abidingness of concealed carry permit holders.
The same sets of data get repeated in many articles. Here is a good summary:
Police rate of misdemeanors/felonies == about 1 per thousand cops per year.
Permit holder rate == about 1 per 10,000 per year
(the rate for the general population is much higher)
@Hampus I was thinking of this one:
A quote from the abstract of the study you linked:
“CHL holders were much less likely than nonlicensees to be convicted of crimes”
This is exactly the point I was trying to make.
@Chip Hitchcock Your reading of the links on Clinton and Obama is … overwrought; as described in those stories, the Australian program was a buyback, not a confiscation.
If you owned a firearm on the prohibited list, you were required, on pain of imprisonment, to turn it in. It was mandatory. The fact that you were paid for it does not mean it was not a confiscation.
Summary: I believe law-abiding people have an absolute right to own the tools to defend themselves and their homes from whatever threats may come. The fact that the threat may be the government does not change that.
There are many gun control laws in place right now. The do not prevent people from shooting each other, singly or in groups. Nor will new gun laws.
This post represents several hours. It has sucked the gun control debate out of me for a while. If you respond, there’s a good chance I won’t answer.
I’m not competent to issue a medical diagnosis and everyone here should know that.
By “bugfuck crazy”, I mean the one who I’ve known for over a decade and like a great deal who also told me last week about Building Seven at the World Trade Center, the one I’m related to and have known all my life who wants me to know about the Rothschilds, and various other related forms of political bugfuck crazy.
The bugfuck crazy threats they perceive are among their stated motivations for needing the guns. It’s a weird mix of power fantasy and powerlessness fantasy.
Nothing I’d dream of depriving someone of their liberty over. Just plain ordinary star-spangled glitter-soaked bugfuck crazy. I hope that’s all it is.
Funny how there were fewer mass shootings when the assault weapons ban was law, and they ramped up dramatically once it wasn’t any more.
This argument amounts to: Since the laws don’t prevent all shootings, then laws are no good. It’s a stupid argument — it doesn’t take into account that the right regulations decrease, rather than eliminate, bad outcomes.
It’s astonishing that anyone thinks it’s convincing. It’s the same as arguing that people kill each other even though there are laws against murder, so clearly the laws are useless and we shouldn’t have any.
Of course it is the neighbours fault if a burglar stole his gun. A responsible owner should have a burglar safe weapons cabinet. It is misuse, as you said. The same kind of misuse as pointing a weapon towards someone, regardless if unloaded and safety on.
If you own a weapon, you show that you are responsible enough to own a weapon.
Bill: This gets long because I interspersed your quotes. Bear with me.
Which I have already said I agree with as a perfectly sensible hobby. I prefer a bow, but that kind of goes with the SCA thing.
Again, since you practice with your weapons, and practice safe storage, not something I have an issue with.
Mostly true. I am not a law maker or law enforcer and I’m not even in the same country.
But I admit, I would start to consider it my business if I knew my immediate next door neighbor kept a lot of guns, often loaded and in easy access rather than in safe storage, and particularly kinds which could easily shoot through a few walls before they stop. And I would feel reassured if I could report this as a violation of some kind – not to get his guns taken *away* or end his hobbies, but to get him fined and obliged to start putting them unloaded and cleared, in locked cabinets. I too have children.
Assuming you apply this consistently to any other social topic and not just to whether you shoot guns and I shoot arrows, I see nothing to argue with. (And as far as I can tell, you have.)
Is that *really* the only thing you imagine keeps that from happening? That the existence of too many people with guns is why the military won’t confiscate them? Not that law enforcement is not the military’s job? Not that anyone who put forth such a law in such plain terms – all guns, everywhere, to be confiscated — would have their proposal voted down bipartisanly, and be voted out the instant they could be, if not asked to resign early. Not that a lot of people would protest in every non-violent form possible if someone tried that level of intervention? (And that’s likely what would happen in *my* country…)
I will observe as gently as possible that, now that you have a much greater thing to protect from intruders, you have now decided the gun itself is sufficiently dangerous and risky that you have deliberately reduced your overall protection.
Personally, I think this is responsible and sensible of you as accidents happen more often than intruders do, but I nonetheless note the observation.
Except… bad things happen to good people. That solves the problem for your house, in its current state, but not for the veteran up the street with PTSD, or the person who lost their job and has been unemployed for 2 years solid, or… sadly, I worry that solutions that work for one family in good mental health are not what laws are written to worry about. (Neither are they written for the extreme and rare cases of full on psychopathy, but there is a balance point, and it’s not usually “I’ve got mine”)
I certainly agree that the hoodlum, not the neighbor, is guilty of shooting someone. But is the neighbor not guilty of improperly securing a firearm, which may not be a full on felony, but I believe is in the legal code in many locations?
Deal with the hoodlum how? If they haven’t yet broken a law, or been caught doing it, there’s not a lot that can be done. (Well, there’s a whack of crime prevention that can be done from early childhood, most of it essentially identical to alleviation of poverty or racism, and providing legal opportunities for people with seemingly dead end prospects.)
You could keep your neighbor from bragging in public that they keep their gun loaded in the nightstand or their rifle against the stairwell wall, or make sure the gun rack isn’t visible through a window. Those sorts of things can lead to their house being targeted.
Do you think there being inspections of gun safes, or fines for reports of improperly stored weapons, have no effect on the likelihood a gun is stolen in the first place? (And before you counter it with something silly, no, there are no inspections or fines for improperly storing food in your own home… only in stores, restaurants, and food services, where there is a potential danger to public health thereby. ANY gun is a potential danger to public health where my own raisins are only a danger to me. And I have seen education efforts covering proper storage of food for safety directed at private homes. Have such education efforts helped gun owners secure their weapons better?)
False equivalence. Motorcycles have transport as a purpose, and death as a sidelong risk. Mass shootings have two purposes – death and terror.
Nobody is asking for gun control laws that perfectly end mass shootings, either. Nobody thinks that is possible. But reducing them from one a week sounds nice. There must be some way to reduce them that still allows target shooters to shoot targets, hunters to shoot pheasants and deer, farmers to shoot raccoons, and people to stow a few away in their gun locker in their private home for emergencies.
I would agree that “routinely load, operate and maintain a gun” is an excellent standard for ownership. I would also accept “No longer routinely loads or operates, due to circumstances, but did so for long enough that even physical infirmity wouldn’t keep owner from being more responsible and able than laypeople, and wants to maintain and keep as a treasured possession or memory”
What about non-gun related offenses? DV or aggravated assault convictions? A temporary hold after being charged with any violent crime, until the court case is settled?
What about an actual diagnosis of mental health issues? And which mental health issues (Not all of which carry the same risks)
Domestic violence so far is a clearer indicator of someone likely to use a weapon in a deadly fashion, up to and including mass shootings, than diagnosed mental health issues are, but mental issues increase the risk of smaller assaults including suicide and familicide.
… which is why nobody has said so. Not here, not in any other gun control discussion I have ever heard.
POSSIBLY true, though to be blunt, some so-far-law-abiding people are also people looking for an excuse to shoot someone and get away with it, or otherwise a bit too gung-ho.
I don’t know enough about what the Maryland shooter’s background, or Maryland law, or where and when he acquired his guns, or what warning signs he was giving, to comment knowledgeably on that specific case. It may be that this *is* one of the ones that would have occurred no matter what. Those exist, too, and nobody asking for gun control has denied that they do. People get shot here in Canada, too, and in Australia and Europe, even now. They just get shot at rates noticeably lower per capita than in the US.
I would rather understand at this point. Gun lovers also seem not to want anyone shot, but surprisingly few of those that tend to be seen on NRA ads or news media (And I admit that news media likes to pick the loudest voice not the sanest) seem to want to do anything at all about it, not even encourage gun locker use or encourage people who own guns to go out to the target range more and shoot at targets (in my world, preferably shaped like deer or quail or circles instead of ones shaped like people). YOU seem like a much more mainstream sensible gun owner and therefore I want to take advantage of that to actually *get it*.
My follow-up comments and questions here are towards that end (Aside from a few that are trying to point out your own knee-jerk straw people), and I really really hope none of them make you feel attacked.
The most reliable indicator of an NRA poster child here in western NY is the yard sign calling for the elimination of the NY SAFE Act. Wikipedia has a rundown of its provisions, which apparently seem onerous to some. Not to me.
If US citizens went straight to violence every time their first complaints got ignored, our country wouldn’t have lasted nearly this long. If at first city hall ignores you, try, try again. Raise a ruckus. Get your complaints in the papers. Don’t rush off and steal the Army’s tommy guns, or dynamite the jail house.
It is based on *both*, of course. To give an extreme example: the most polite Nazi in the world is still a Nazi.
And this is a reasonable excuse, as long as the dangers inherent in gun ownership are kept in mind. Many people enjoy risky hobbies.
Here’s where we get into gun owners ignoring the facts.
In fact, gun owners are much more likely to die of homicide than non-gun-owners; and gun owners are much more likely to be shot by an armed assailant than non-gun-owners. Guns do NOT keep you safe — it is self-delusion to believe they do.
A couple of examples:
Dahlberg. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2004. Guns in the Home and Risk of a Violent Death in the Home: Findings from a National Study. —
— 1. guns in the home doubled the risk of dying by homicide in the home, and significantly raised risk of homicide outside the home as well.
— 2. raised the risk of dying by suicide in the home by about 10 times.
American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. Risks and Benefits of a Gun in the Home (a lit review) —
— “The evidence is overwhelming for the fact that a gun in the home is a risk factor for completed suicide and that gun accidents are most likely to occur in homes with guns. There is compelling evidence that a gun in the home is a risk factor for intimidation and for killing women in their homes.
— “There is no credible evidence of a deterrent effect of firearms or that a gun in the home reduces the likelihood or severity of injury during an altercation or break-in.”
Kellerman, Journal of Trauma. 1998. Injuries and deaths due to firearms in the home.
— quoted directly from the study: “For every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.”
— “Guns kept in homes are more likely to be involved in a fatal or nonfatal accidental shooting, criminal assault, or suicide attempt than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense.”
Branas et al. American Journal of Public Health. 2009. Investigating the Link Between Gun Possession and Gun Assault.
— people in possession of a gun are 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those who don’t own one.
It is my business because your guns endanger me. It is a public health and safety issue. Ignoring the risk doesn’t make it go away.
In almost every one of the mass shooting cases, the family is “shocked” and “disbelieving” that their son/grandson/nephew could have done such a thing. Same with suicides — the family is usually shocked that it could have happened. The fact that you don’t worry about it much has little to do with the risk of it actually happening.
Have you never heard of “attractive nuisances”? Have you never heard of “responsible ownership”? If your neighbor owns something dangerous, it is your neighbor’s responsibility to keep that dangerous thing out of the wrong hands.
This is absolutely FALSE. In fact, the number of mass shootings has jumped significantly in the past few years.
In fact, there are around 300 mass shootings in the US every year (definitions for “mass shooting” vary. In this case, mass shooting = four or more people shot). See the Gun Violence Archive website for specific data.
And guess what — of all those mass shootings, in previous debates I’ve had with gun owners, nobody could come up with more than ONE example of a mass shooting that was actually stopped by a “good guy with a gun” (meaning John Q Public as opposed to some variety of safety officer). And that singular incident happened 20 years ago.
Big difference between guns and motorcycles: motorcycles have a constructive purpose (transportation); guns don’t.
I am continually flabbergasted when gun nuts come up with this sort of declaration. Just. Really.
The founders wanted everyone to own a muzzle-loader so they could take part in militia exercises without the government having the burden of supplying their guns. Muzzle loaders for all!
One problem with current gun laws is that they are piecemeal — state by state — so that guns from permissive states can easily be transported to stricter states and so on. We need consistent federal laws across the nation.
Another problem with current gun laws is enforcement. As we’ve recently seen with both the FBI and military failing to report on people who should not be allowed to purchase guns, we need more money and effort to improve enforcement of existing laws.
And third — no, you’re never going to prevent EVERY gun crime, just as we’ll never prevent every theft or every rape. That doesn’t mean we get rid of all laws. What we do is we make it as hard as we can for the criminals to get those guns, and we try as hard as we can to make every gun owner be a RESPONSIBLE gun owner.
I already very clearly stated my point: the point is that having a concealed-carry permit does not automatically make someone into a safe or responsible gun owner. **Believing** you are safe and responsible does not make you so.
See my previous post on this subject.
It appears that the difference in crime rates between non-permit-holders and permit-holders is largely a matter of demographics. Most common, low-level crimes (simple assault, burglary, etc.) are committed by young men, while most permit-holders are middle-aged. Therefore, it’s natural that the permit holders are committing fewer crimes.
Nope. As the article clearly stated, you could also sell it out of state.
Here we have the problem of self-delusion again. Gun owners who make this argument steadfastly ignore the actual facts. The fact is that owning a gun actually puts you at MORE risk, not less.
And it puts the rest of us at risk as well.