Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thoughts and Prayers and Dollars and Sense

A response in four acts.

ACT I : Conversations of which I am tired, and a request.

I am tired of reading (and allowing myself to be drawn into) versions of this conversation.


Everyone else: Do you suppose we could talk about some reasonable regulations that might help lessen the number of deaths by gunfire.


Everyone else: Can you agree in principle that crazy people and children probably shouldn't have access to weapons whose only purpose is to kill other people?


Everyone else: Surely there's a way to change things so that our gun death rate isn't so dramatically huger than the rest of the world's. I don't want to take away your guns, and I'd love to hear your ideas about reasonable limits and regulations that might make our country a bit safer.


Everybody else: Well, can we at least agree that it's sad when children are killed?


I blame this inability to have an actual conversation absolutely on the NRA, which has pushed the position that nothing at all about regulating guns in any way shape or form can ever be discussed, because any restriction, no matter how sensible, is just a slippery slope only one step away from having jackbooted thugs  take everyone's guns away. I also blame the NRA not just for throwing money at legislators, but handing them a script and a strategy guide and using them as anti-gun-legislation puppets. Please, my friends-- please stop giving the NRA money. I know they don't need it (they get all they need from the gun industry), but at least it would send a message.

I am also tired of hearing from the armed guys who think that if they'd been there, they would have whipped out their piece and saved the day. I believe it's possible guys who can do that exist-- but they understand the complexity of such a situation too well to make such boastful claims. The only people claiming they would have saved the day with their own gun are people whose armed experience mostly involves a playstation. Having a good run on Call of Duty does not make you an action hero-- just sit down and shut up.

ACT II : Solving problems

After 9/11, we created an entire new security industry and protocol, banning a wide variety of objects from air travel We also re-engineered the cockpits of planes to make them harder to get into.

When one guy got caught with a shoe bomb, we started making everyone take off their shoes in airport security.

When a guy blew up a building with a fertilizer bomb, we made it harder to buy that fertilizer.

Because some people have latched onto the unfounded idea that immigrants are more dangerous than folks who were born here, we are watching immigration rolled back. We've dispatched an entire federal police force devoted just to rounding up immigrants who have cleverly hidden their lack of paperwork by becoming pillars of their communities.

We require people to pass tests and, in some states, buy insurance before they can operate a car. If they screw up, we take their right to operate the vehicle away.

Because some folks have some racist paranoia about Mexicans, we continue to seriously consider building a giant wall along the border, regardless of what we are told about the cost and the effectiveness of such a move.

We tamperproof medicine containers because someone poisoned some pills, once and killed seven people.

We make customers jump through hoops for certain medications because those same medications can be used to make meth.

We have made a whole class of people mandatory reporters, which means that if I see or hear anything to indicate the abuse of one of my students, I must tell the authorities.

Point being, we're Americans and we like to solve problems. Sometimes we like to solve problems that don't really exist, and sometimes we like to employ solutions that don't really solve anything. But it's really, really unlike us to look at something and say, "Yeah, well, there's just nothing you can do. Price of freedom and all that." Why does this particular issue require us to pretend to be helpless in a way we don't feign helplessness for any other issue? I will not pretend that this is even remotely a simple problem to resolve-- it's complicated and requires us to balance many of our constitutional rights. But "it's hard and complicated" is not an acceptable excuse for refusing to do anything at all.

ACT III : That fake equivalency argument

The pro-gun side of this covers a wide range of arguments, from things I can understand to plain old bullshit. We are, after all, a country where some folks say everyone should be carrying a gun-- but if you see a black man carrying a gun, you should probably shoot him right away. Really, is it not odd that the NRA is not there to stand up for the right of black men and boys to carry a gun (or even just seem to be carrying a gun) without facing hostility from some police?

But then there's the non-sensical fake equivalency argument.

It goes like this: "It doesn't matter if we even outlaw guns because it's people who are the problem. People kill people. If that kid had access to a bucket of gasoline  or a rock or a pointy stick, he'd be just as deadly."

This argument is usually offered by someone who owns a gun.

Someone who bought a gun.

Someone who went to buy a weapon and did NOT buy a bucket of gasoline or rock or pointy stick.

Someone who does not say, "It doesn't matter what I buy for my defense, because guns don't defend people from attackers-- people defend people."

In other words, they know damned well that guns possess uniquely dangerous qualities, qualities that make them more dangerous than rocks or sticks. Gun fans buy guns precisely for those qualities. So to turn around and pretend that a gun has no special qualities is, simply, a lie. It has them, and you know it does. That's exactly why you own one.

ACT IV : The Depressing Finale

We've already had this conversation, many times. At the point our leaders and their financers decided that twenty small children were a level of violent death they could live with, the conversation was pretty much over. Watch our politicians today-- the basic playbook is to just offer thoughts and prayers and stall with blowsy hot air issuing from the mouth-hole of a sad-face mask, and keep that up until the next shiny thing happens, because history at this point tells them that public outrage doesn't have legs, won't last, doesn't represent a real political threat to any of them.

Pieces like this aren't about changing anything. They're about venting and dealing with the anger and fear that comes from seeing one more workplace like mine, students like mine, teachers like me, torn into bloodied victims by the intersection of many, many problems. It matters what all those problems are, and it's important to track each one back and follow the path it made and ask, could we have stopped this somewhere.  But the fact remains that at this end of that spider web of paths, we find all those problems converging at the end of a gun.

They say the devil has many tools, but a lie is the handle that fits them all. Well, in America, we have many unresolved issues, but a gun is the tool that makes them all worse. Racism, mental health, poverty, crime, isolation, bullying-- every issue is real in and of itself, and every issue gets worse when easy access to a gun is thrown into the mix.

I always imagined that if I became a single-issue voter, the issue would be education. I now doubt that. A politician's position of guns has become a measure of his or her character, a display of just how craven he or she is, an indicator of how far he or she is willing to put personal and party concerns ahead of the actual lives of constituents. If these scenes of carnage, the real-time tweeted terror of youths and children, the senseless loss of life-- if none of that prompts you to tears and a determination to do something, then you are not someone I want representing me at the state or federal level.

This is not okay. None of this is okay.

Also, one more thought (Act V)


  1. I taught special needs children for over twenty-five years. I usually take time to compose thought out posts, but sometimes a vent is required. I've already hoarsened myself with a few minutes of Primal Screams. No need to print this if you don't see fit. Thanks for the oppotunity. Universal background checks (including military discharge, if applicable) for all firearms more powerful than an air gun. Bullet "fingerprinting" for each rifle and handgun to accompany registrations Limit external clips to eight rounds. Federal data base of all such registrations 18 years of age minimum age for ownership of firearms. Mandatory trigger locks for all firearms. PL/PD insurance requirement for each firearm owned. Three month waiting period from time of purchase to possession. Public carry only in locked case in auto to and from range or field. Transfer of ownership of a firearm should be at least as legally bound as the sale or transfer of an automobile. Felony conviction with substantial financial penalty and/or prison time and a life time ban on ownership of a firearm for violations of any of above.
    And %*#& you, NRA. And if you support the NRA’s jack-booted, knee jerk opposition to any of these, %*#& you, too.
    Yours truly

    1. sounds very sensible to me....but the gun people will still cry foul. We live in a society that values individualism and selfishness. Until that changes, we will never be able to get rid of the guns.

    2. Thanks edblisa, I agree, but I'm not looking to get rid of guns. I just think they should be available only to very responsible adults and expensive to keep.

  2. Act 2.5: "New restrictions won't work because... (a) criminals will still get guns; (b) there are already too many guns out there; (c) all of the above."

    I can't believe I just realized this, but in that moment the gun-lovers have conceded that guns are in fact the problem. "It's too late to solve the problem" means there's a problem. Criminals are already here, but they can be more dangerous with the guns they so desperately want (which is another version of your point about why gun-lovers want guns).

  3. The "good-guy-with-a-gun" folks are right. If Dawn Hochsprung had had a loaded weapon sitting on her Principal's desk, she could most likely have taken down Adam Lanza in a few seconds.

    And the beauty part is, that gun would never pose any other danger. I mean, it's not like school principals ever deal with situations which might turn deadly if someone had immediate access to a loaded weapon. School principals never encounter depressed, enraged, angry, illogical, mentally ill, or frustrated parents - ever. They certainly never have to contend with anxious or irrational teenagers. And obviously, school personnel themselves never have any mental or emotional problems that a gun might exacerbate. So the *only* use for that gun would be to thwart a school mass-shooting. Brilliant, isn't it?

  4. Peter, you do the best righteous rants.

    I blame the politicians more than the NRA. What Paul Ryan just said about this makes me feel like punching him in the face. To me, people like Ryan are mentally deranged and dangerous.

    1. Paul Ryan most definitely is dangerous. If he had his way, his Ayn Rand way of thinking would get rid of every social good created since the Great Depression. That would be OK for him because HE and his family wouldn't be affected....but screw all those other people. The people who believe all this MAGA crap have NO clue what it was like to live during the depression. I don't want to hear condolences and thoughts and prayers because that just doesn't sound sincere coming from anyone's mouth anymore. I want to hear that politicians will do what they have been elected to do and stop catering to the interests of big business and the likes of organizations such as the NRA. Talk is cheap....I want some action.