Making “Stupid” Permanent — Guns and America

A few weeks ago, I began thinking about gun control again. This is not a surprise, since the news around The Dark Knight opening and the crazy person who killed a bunch of people in Aurora, Colorado while they attempted to watch the movie. People on the Left supposedly “politicized”  the issue, while people on the Right supposedly said “nobody takes my guns”, as though people were that easily put into categories and that guns and gun control was only a political issue. As the pastor of South Church said, it’s also a faith issue. I would add it’s a human rights issue and an economic issue and so many other things.

I’m done with other people controlling the debate.  I want to take it away from being a political issue, and bring it back to what I think it is, an issue of the human condition.

After the events in Colorado, there were people online pointing out, as always, that “Guns don’t kill people, People kill people”. They went on to point out that cars kill people, but we don’t want to outlaw them. OK. But if that’s true, where is the problem and what can we do to fix that?   This whole people dying in large numbers because one person decides they should can’t go on.  To misquote Shakespeare, “the fault lies not with the guns, it lies with us”, so let’s start there. But let’s take all of the human condition into account.

People in America (the only people I know really well), have this thing with logic: If one of something is good, or useful, or interesting, then lots of them must be better! If two aspirin work well, then four aspirin must be great. If one beer is good, then a case must be excellent. If having a thousand dollars makes life easier, then having a billion must be necessary to making life easy. “More” =”better”  in America, except that it’s not in reality. As my addicted clients can tell you, killing yourself by using more doesn’t make it better, it just makes it faster. We seem to forget that here.  If, and it’s a big if, guns are ok with one bullet, then one hundred must be really be ok. If people have the legal right to have one gun, then they also have the legal right to have a thousand of them. Does anybody really need a thousand? Doesn’t it get absurd at some point? So, while it’s legally true that people have the right to own a thousand guns or a thousand rounds of bullets, there’s no real reason for one person to have that many. Even if you collect guns, how many is enough? My wife will tell you that my album collection is large enough and I can truly say it’s not, because each one is special and carries with it something unique — either put into it (creativity) or coming from it (memories). We can have a difference of opinion on this one. But with the possible problem of moving them or collapsing things under them, they are not dangerous to anyone. No one runs with fear from my house because I’ve got a record collection.  I don’t worry that my kids or our neighbor kids are going to accidentally kill themselves if they get into my stash of records. I don’t keep illegal drugs in the house for the same reason — because they are dangerous. No matter how much my  clients have the right to use them — legally  or not — if the kids get into their cigarettes, or the booze, or their cocaine, bad things are likely to happen. Why? Because kids are curious. They ask questions like “I wonder what it feels like to do so-and-such. The more dangerous things are, the more cautious we as adults should be. My records are designed to play music. A substance is designed to change your perception. A gun is designed to shoot things — or people.

Now, there are a million responsible gun owners out there, just as there are a million responsible smokers and drinkers and recreational drug users out there. But they are responsible because they know how dangerous they are. So let’s not kid ourselves. Guns are dangerous.  Responsibility means acknowledging that. Does anybody really need more-than-enough dangerous things in their house? No. While a bottle of wine might be dangerous to have in the house with kids, leaving an entire room full of bottles doesn’t seem wise. So, gun control should — at the very least — mean that no one should have more than they can keep track of.  Could we get a bill that says that passed in America? Please?

Beyond that, there’s the rest of the human condition. I frequently tell my clients that we all have times when we’re stupid. After a long day at work, I might yell at my kids because I’m upset. I’ve been known to have 10 or 20 seconds of road rage in the past. In short, I — like everybody else — can be stupid in my actions. The thing, though, is that I try not to make “stupid” permanent. My car can be dangerous enough, as the gun rights people point out. But if I’m going to be dangerous behind the wheel, I shouldn’t drive. And, frankly, on a bad day, with all the idiot drivers out there, if I had a gun in my glove box, I might be tempted to be just as stupid with that gun as I was with my car. I can pull the steering wheel back quickly enough after my brain comes back on-line, (Connecticut and Massachusetts drivers are particularly bad behind the wheel), but you can’t pull a bullet back once it’s gone. And you can’t pull back a hundred bullets after they are gone from the gun. If people are going to have moments of insanity, and we know that they can, isn’t it reasonable to say that people who are insane — briefly or long-term — shouldn’t be allowed to have them? That means, frankly, all of us, at one time or another. If you have anger problem or an impulse control problem, you shouldn’t have a gun. It’s as simple as that. I don’t mean the government should prevent you from having a gun. I mean you should prevent you from having a gun. In today’s political world, where neither candidate talks about gun control for fear of the NRA, even saying that could spark a riot. But this tragedy in Aurora could have been prevented if a mentally unstable person weren’t allowed to have guns, or grenades, or bombs, or what-have-you. In all the talk about gun rights, I never hear anything about gun responsibility when the issue is discussed on the radio. No one ever calls in and says, “You know, maybe crazy people shouldn’t have guns” or “You know, maybe criminals shouldn’t have guns”, even though most everyone believes that.Why can’t we acknowledge that to find common ground. Still, the fact is, for all our talk about it, there are probably just as many crazy, impulsive, angry people in other countries. But their laws don’t allow your average citizen to make stupid permanent. Ours do. Can we acknowledge that?

Then there’s the racism that lies under the surface. We’re just supposed to assume that the (White) person fighting for gun rights is a ” law abiding citizen”. You think I’m kidding? Have you ever heard the NAACP call for gun rights? When that man shot Trayvon Martin, was there a press release from “Hispanics for Gun Rights?”. No. It’s because people who make a big fuss about their “Whiteness”  like to insure their gun rights, with the vague understanding that they will be used to keep “those people” away from the house. Can we acknowledge that White Supremacists seem to care more about their gun rights than others seem to? Can we acknowledge that their intent is to scare people to “stay in their place”? Can we acknowledge others are scared of them with reason?

Now, about White Supremacists and the Constitution — or militia people:  can we acknowledge that they might actually be right about the Second Amendment? Our freedom was won, our Revolution was begun by people who overthrew the oppressive government with guns. If we are going to take seriously the right to Liberty won by our forefathers, and “militias being necessary to a democracy”, is it too far off to put the two together? No. When governments get as oppressive as the King was in 1776 (see my blog on the Declaration of Independence for my daughter if you want to see how oppressive they were), then historically we, as Americans, have revolted — with guns. But realistically, are things anywhere near that bad? Not even close. Not even close to close. Paying taxes — with or without representation — doesn’t really compare to having people camped out in your house with their army, or starving people, or not allowing them to set up courts. The Tea Party has got it all wrong. Paying taxes isn’t real oppression, it’s just paying taxes. Can we acknowledge that, too, while we’re at it?

The last thing I’d like to say is that I think shooting people is immoral. I think when God, and Jesus, and pretty much everybody else in religion say, “You shall not kill”, they meant we shouldn’t kill each other. I think it’s immoral to maim each other. I think it’s immoral to threaten each other. And, given that, I think it’s reasonable to take away anything that allows for that to happen. As it stands, you can get into more trouble in some states with a bad child seat in your car than you can for carrying a gun. Does that seem a little perverse? It does to me.

Still, I’ll acknowledge I’m a “dyed-in-the wool” pacifist, and there’s a more subtle argument for pacifism. In addition to killings making the criminal’s stupidity permanent, killing others makes the pain permanent. If you kill someone, it takes away the possibility of change. It takes away the possibility of redemption for the person who was stupid in the first place. I don’t miss Osama Bin Laden yet, but I’d be happier if he spent the rest of his life doing community service for the families of his victims than he be dead. He’d clearly never run out of work, and he’d have a trial where he’d face his accusers — the way we do things in a real democracy.  His death lets him off easy.

So, yes, people may need to have guns to hunt with. I can acknowledge that, though I wouldn’t do it. And yes, I can acknowledge that some people like to shoot at targets. But, beyond that, can we at least acknowledge that beyond that, there’s no real use for guns, or 100 round “clips” of bullets. We look  absurd to people in other countries about guns because we are. Can we at least limit the absurdity and stop making”stupid” permanent?

Peace, (and I mean it)









4 thoughts on “Making “Stupid” Permanent — Guns and America

  1. John, One of these days I would love to sit down and actually speak with you on a myriad of topics. I see some in your blog that I agree with outright, but I also see some generalizations as well as things that I see as essentially the straw man arguments of the left. The right has straw arguments as well, so that is not meant to be a slight on your points of view just a commentary on this blog.

    Since I am not ready to write a whole blog in response to your blog, I won’t comment point for point…but some day I would love the opportunity to have a beer and talk.

    The short response is this…the people that say “you’re not taking my guns” aren’t necessarily doing that just because they are passionate about keeping all those guns (although the collectors are likely that passionate). This country has a habit of slippery slopes and legal “precedents” that can easily undermine rights. Someone who doesn’t own an assault weapon, nor have any desire to own one may still not want the government to have the right to ban them. Remember the intent of the 2nd amendment was to ensure that the citizenry could defend themselves against a tyrannical government. The government has access to assault class weapons, so if the citizenry doesn’t the intent of the 2nd amendment is blunted. Now, I don’t think we are at the point of having a tyrannical government, but it probably only takes a generation or two to get there again. So, that may be why you see some constitutionalists being passionate about the 2nd amendment. Just a thought.

    Switzerland has one of the highest percentages of gun ownership in the world, and one of the lowest occurrences of gun related violence.

    I don’t own a gun, and I am not a member of the NRA or anything, but I also don’t think more gun laws are the answer. We could enforce the existing laws better though.

    • Sean:
      Beer’s on me. I’d love to. I have come to respect your point of view, though “agree” might be too strong a word ; ) (Did you read the sermon posted last week? I thought of you as I wrote it.) In any case, I’d love to have people actually dialog in this country and get something accomplished. I tried to be as nuanced as I could here, but I’ve got to think there’s a middle ground somewhere. There used to be, and I miss it in politics. Thanks for both reading and responding.

      Talk soon, I hope.



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