Now that public massacres like the recent one in Aurora, CO, arrive with almost semi-automatic regularity to prompt a few days of public keening, prayer and opportunistic platitudinous funeral orations by politicians and preachers, I feel less lazy in dusting off my “gun piece” and capping off a few new touches to “make” your day. [It’s impossible to address this subject without encountering one un-intended pun after another.]
Anybody with half a brain knows that the Second Amendment to the Constitution was meant for militias and not for dimwitted men who have a compelling need for what could be called “ballistic male enhancement.” Of late, as evidenced by the number of armed gun holes that have found presidential town hall meetings as desired venues to wield their 9mm weenies, the political power of the NRA is proving to be the salvation of the angry white male who cannot abide female liberation and their loss of gender entitlement to the employment market.
So, we now have in many states something called “open carry,” which means you can carry pretty much any loaded weapon out into places of such extreme danger as town hall meetings, malls, churches, just about anywhere where a granny with a lethal handbag loaded with her prescriptions, or a mom bearing down on you pushing a stroller with homicidal intent might be threatening your already compromised manhood. In a protest group outside Phoenix there were at least a dozen armed men, one with an AR 15 assault rifle (obviously in fear of being attacked by a battalion of Taliban). Local police said none of the armed men was arrested—obviously they were not referring to “arrested development.”
Anybody with two-thirds a brain can discern that all this justification for bearing arms for “personal protection” isn’t about lurking terrorists, or street thugs, but about a deeply sublimated personal cowardice. We love to hear the logic those stories about how, if all the students at Columbine or Virginia Tech had been armed the “perps” (a term they love to use, always it’s the other guy who is a perp) might have been dispatched before doing such harm (their hypotheses are always rendered as certainties). Great, so let’s increase the potential number of armed unstable people and maniacs and live in a society where everyone, and no one, is afraid to say “Sir, this is a line for ATM and you just stepped in front of me,” (answered with “Go ahead, make my day”).
The brutal fact of the matter is that people who reason this way are already whacky. The world they envision would make a Quentin Tarantino movie look like Sesame Street. This is the sort of reasoning that responds to any reasonable attempt to regulate firearms with the mindless mantra that “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” Wow, let’s take a time out and consider that profundity for a moment. How about, OK, but people with guns find it a lot easier to kill people they want to kill than people who carry, well, let’s say, rubber duckies. Although a rubber duckie could be employed to choke someone to death, it doesn’t have the capability to spray ten rounds a second around a classroom or a McDonald’s. Attacking someone with a rubber duckie is non-lethal hand-to-hand combat. Picking people—or a president—off with a telescoped high-powered rifle from two hundred yards is an act of supreme cowardice. No one ever heard of a “drive-by choking.” If the Columbine killers ad gone into their classroom and challenged their classmates to a fist fight to the death they would probably have had heir asses handed to them. Splitting means and ends is a rhetorical trick only a dimwit that spends too much time a gun shows would buy. Guns do kill people, more efficiently, more remotely, with greater certainty and in greater numbers. That’s what they are made to do.
The problem is that your average gun-hole* accepts no reason to limit the type, availability and right to carry firearms. To them, as they circulate their militia newsletters and hole up in Montana, the world is a place where Al Qaeda, UN black helicopters, the IRS, illegal aliens, or Janet Reno are ever threatening to force their women to have abortions, make them pay taxes, or worst of all, take their guns away. Their cognitive state pendulums between paranoia and victimization. Mind you, these brave, camouflage-wearing, “rootin-tootin, six-shootin” cowboys are not quite ready to head over to Iraq or Afghanistan for some real danger. No way. Those “rag heads” over there don’t intimidate as easily as your average cable news reporter. They don’t spend all their time cleaning and fondling their weapons (insert masturbatory allusion here) but take them into places of real danger.
Much speculation circulated during the presidential campaign that an African-American president might not make it as far as mid-term elections before joining Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy. The list might be longer had the aim been better of those who fired guns with intent to kill at TR, FDR, Truman, Ford and Reagan. Amazingly, Mr. Obama, although too soft on gun control, gets no credit from the gunholes, who insist that he is bent on disarming them. Emboldened by Obama’s timidity** and the violent rhetoric and scarcely-disguised racism of the Palinistas and looney right wing media—and assisted by legislators who, with political guns to their heads have taken the Second Amendment to the ludicrous level of “open carry”—the gunnies have brought their swagger and intimidation to the town hall. Why, when confronted and asked, bring a lethal weapon to a political rally, they arrogantly answer, “because we can, and because it is legal.” Given that in may states it is relatively easy to obtain a permit to carry loaded concealed hand gun the amount of “legal” firepower that might be brought to a public event is inestimable.
No one knows how many concealed weapons are being brought to political rallies and town halls, but if reason does not return and weapons detectors and extended perimeters are not created and enforced we might have to start practicing saying “President Biden.” Amazingly, the triggering event (forgive the pun) is the debate over health care in America, the only (economically) developed country to shamefully leave a sixth of its people without any care at all and allow most of the rest to be subject to the greed of insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Curiously, these armed intimidators circulate among protestors brandishing signs about mythical “death panels” in the health care proposals when that firearms account for nearly 54% of suicides! Who needs death panels?
The irony is that the gun-holes have become the great internal and ubiquitous threat to public safety that they putatively fear. What they seek is the equivalent of the tenuous wall of safety that exists in nuclear proliferation—Mutually Assured Destruction.
Instead of gun control, here is the logic of Mr. LaPierre of the NRA:
“The best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. And just knowing there’s a good guy with a gun around—a cop, a guard, a soldier, and yes, a law abiding citizen with a gun—makes us feel safer because we are safer. That’s why we need more freedom and a lot less government. That’s why our Second Amendment rights should be expanded, not diminished. And that’s why, right here in this hall today, I call on Congress and every state legislature to empower the American people to ensure their own security by enacting legislation to grant all law-abiding Americans the right to carry a firearm for personal protection.”
He’s NRA alright; a Non-Rational A**hole. What we will become is a society that lives in self-induced mutual suspicion and fear of one another’s armament, open or concealed. Maybe the genie cannot be put back in the bottle. A restaurant filled with fully armed patrons is little different than fully nuclear nation states; it only takes one shot fired to detonate the MADness. The fact is that nearly 25 Americans are murdered every day (almost 9,000 a year) by people with guns (not counting the ones accidentally killed by guns or who use a gun to commit suicide (that would bring the number to over 32,000.
America has reached the nexus of social changes such as a demographic profile dominated by people of color and immigrants (including an African-American president), compressed and seething undercurrent of racism, and a growing un-regulated and disorganized “militia” of armed and angry white males seeking expression for their “diminished manhood.” Allowing gunholes to strut their inadequacies amidst paranoid protestors, a goading right-wing media, and a gun culture that callously fuels their fear of disarmament is a formula to produce a society at war with itself.
Let me take one last shot with something anecdotal, with something from a conversation with a gun-owning acquaintance. When I asked this gentleman why he wants to carry his 9 mm weapon in Florida (California does not have an “open–carry” law), he related to me that he did not want to become “the victim” of some criminal’s gun.
“Okay,” I said, “neither do I. But what are the chances––given that you are a law-abiding individual intending to carry a gun for protection, that is defense rather than offense–against someone who is going to be offensive with his weapon. Not good.”
“Better than if I were unarmed,” he responded. And then perhaps he is partially right about this; if he gets a chance to “be first,” which just might put him in legal jeopardy, or to effectively draw his weapon and respond in a manner that would allow him to “stand his ground”*** and be allowed to legally be the first to fire. It’s always more complicated than some imagined quick draw shootout in old Dodge City. The fact is, the bad guy is almost always at an advantage. Indeed, if the bad guy recognizes that you have a lethal weapon, it just might prompt him to make sure that you are good and dead and cannot use it.
When I answered him with these hypotheses he was unconvinced. “I still don’t want to be told by the government that I cannot exercise my Constitutionally-guaranteed right to protect myself. You’re just hypothesizing; you can’t prove anything.”
He was right, so I tried one more approach. “Yes, I suppose that I would have to kill you to absolutely prove my point. So let’s just say for purposes of illustration, but with concession to empirics, that I want to kill you. Remember that most homicides are committed by people who are known to one another, so I probably would have little problem getting close enough without arousing suspicion your part. Am I going to try to achieve that with a gun? Well, maybe, and since I know you I might even be able to get close enough to get your gun and kill you with it. But that doesn’t really seem necessary, I am the person who is intent on committing homicide and you are my unsuspecting intended victim. I don’t think I need a gun. All I need is my opportunity, an opportunity that will neutralize any chance you have of defending yourself with the gun you are carrying.”
I could tell that I had his attention. So I continued. “So let’s say that I just wait for my chance and one day I follow you as you go to the mall and I wait until you have to take a leak. I come in and join you, standing by the urinal, doing my thing, and then I casually slip behind you, grab your head, and snap your neck with my bare hands. You hit the floor never having gotten a hand on your gun and, embarrassingly, with your other . . . ah, gun, still in your “cold dead” hand. A stranger could have done that just as easily. You’re gun it is neither a deterrent, nor a defense––just a false sense of security.”
He just stared back at me. “You know, in Florida you talking like that is sufficient threat to shoot you under the ‘stand your ground’ law,” he said coldly.
I guess that is where the Second Amendment would trump the First Amendment.
© 2009, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 7.25.2012)
*I am not referring here to many responsible gun owners who are true hunters or target shooters or people who keep a firearm for home protection.
**He decided, presumably to allow greater firepower to someone bent on dispatching him, to let the assault weapons ban lapse.
***The law now in several states, such as Florida, where this very scenario place into the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.