Monday, June 13, 2016

Fifty Dead

I don't have anything to say about the latest massacre except that this is the world we live in now. Boil together gun rights fanaticism, respect for the political freedom of all but the most vocal and committed revolutionaries, and our ongoing involvement in the mess that is Middle Eastern politics, and things like this are bound to happen.

And I expect them to keep happening because everybody interprets them according to previous ideological commitments. Trumps says, see, we need to keep out Muslims; liberals say, no, the problem is intolerant hate of the kind Trump foments. People for gun control say this proves we need tougher laws; people who love guns say, no, it means we need more good guys to carry weapons everywhere. Neocons are saying that we need to remove the root of the problem by destroying the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, since its prestige convinces people around the world to swear fealty and carry out terror in its name. Those with pacifist leanings say, no, what we need is to get out the of Middle East altogether so nobody there has any reason to want to kill us; as long as our drones keep blowing up people's families, the survivors will keep attacking us.

Since no dramatic change in our policies has enough support to be carried through, we are doomed to keep going much as we have been. We will continue to combine lax gun laws with strong protections for personal liberty, such as the liberty to hang out on jihadist web sites. We will remain involved in the Middle East but we will not send a big land army to conquer the Islamic State. Various factions will continue to promote both tolerance and hate. And madmen, political or otherwise, will continue to get guns and open fire on their neighbors.

9 comments:

pootrsox said...

And we will continue to have politicians and religious zealots world over who find GLBT people excellent targets for channeling hatred.

However "political" Orlando was, it was also a pure-and-simple hate crime.

G. Verloren said...

I agree that the odds of anything changing seem bleak, but the real disgrace is that we absolutely could deal with our shooting problem - we just choose not to. Too many people in this country simply value the lives of their fellow humans less than they value their special privileges, conveniences, and luxuries.

We're the only developed country where this happens with any regularity. All our international colleagues have sensible laws on gun onwership and usage.

By and large in these countries you can own guns, and you can use them for sport shooting or even for home defense, but there are proper legal controls in place, including things like registration, taxes, licences with requirements of proof of competance, carry and storage restrictions, et cetera. Places like Germany require you to have a stated purpose for the weapon's usage and impose limits based upon that - if you own a rifle for target shooting, you need to be belong to a government accredited and regulated shooting club, and effectively the only place you can use the weapon is on the range, as it needs to be disassembled and placed under lock and key at virtually all other times.

These are sensible restrictions. There is absolutely no logical reason to allow people walk into grocery stores with loaded assault rifles strapped to their backs, as you can legally do in Texas. There's barely any reason to allow people to own anything other than longarms for sporting purposes - handguns and automatic weapons are purpose built for murder and war, not for hunting and target practice.

Exceptions of course need to be possible and need to be made - for example, issuing special restricted licences for historical or military weapons collectors or similar - but in general, it should take a large amount of effort and lots of double checking and safety redundancy before a random citizen is allowed to own an assault rifle for no particular reason.

But until certain people start to care more about people being gunned down than they do about the ease with which they can buy and employ guns, nothing will change.

David said...

Yes, all that has to happen is for tens of millions of Americans to suddenly change their deeply-held worldview! It's so simple!

G. Verloren said...

Of course it's not simple. But like the abolition of slavery and the institution of universal suffrage, it's societal progress that desperately needs to happen, and that makes the cause to change those minds a fight that must be fought.

I mean, what alternative is there? Sit idly by and continue to let it all happen?

Throwing up our hands and saying, "It's just too complicated!" is lazy, selfish, and idiotic. We put a man on the goddamn moon for no other reason than a handsome and charismatic president gave a naively idealistic speech at a time when we had a rivalry with the Soviets; but seeing an average of two mass shootings a month for most of a decade, suffering more of them than the rest of the entire rest of world combined, and having not just innocent people on the street but even schoolchildren and kindergartners gunned down in cold blood - somehow that's not enough motivation to get some new laws written up and some government funding and programs set up for enforcing them?

And you know what? Screw those tens of millions of Americans who don't want to give up their special privileges to protect the alienable rights of others to life itself. We abolished segregation despite tens of millions of Americans objecting. We gave women the vote despite tens of millions of Americans objecting. We can damn well push through gun control laws despite it all too.


Sure, they'll call into question the legality and the constitutionality of new regulations - but then they'll lose. Banning gun ownership is unquestionably unconstitutional, but implementing regulations on ownership absolutely is not - we already HAVE regulations, they're simply too lacking at the moment and need to be shored up.

Sure, they'll fight back against it through willful disobedience. When women and blacks were given the vote, people tried to deny them that right - but in the end they lost, because we simply kept up the pressure and didn't allow them get away with it.

Sure, they'll even resort to abuse and open violence. But who cares? When people tried to fight back against desegregation through violence, we called in the national guard and had them escort children to school. Why is this any different? We have the single most expensive and powerful military in the world - even if an open insurrection erupted in defiance of the law, it would be trivial to put an end to it.

So perhaps the problem isn't the tens of millions of Americans who love their guns more than life itself (or at least the lives of innocent people and children). Perhaps the problem is congress and the courts and the government at large being unwilling to carry out these changes. And they absolutely could - just like they carried out the changes which introduced universal suffrage and criminalized segregation, despite massive popular resistance. Maybe we just need to find the right way to incentivize them.

David said...

G., you seem upset. You also seem to be projecting a ferocious civil war over an issue whose purpose is, ironically, the prevention of gun deaths, and where very few people on the pro-gun control side feel as you do--that this is an issue worthy of civil war. You're also pretty quick to dismiss anyone who would disagree with you as, and I quote, "lazy, selfish, and idiotic." Except most of us aren't in agreement with you but too lazy, selfish, and idiotic to act on it. We actually disagree with you. There is no situation I can realistically imagine where I would support your program. I'm not a gun owner and don't agree with gun rights fanatics much either. But pre-insulting anyone who might disagree with you does your cause no favors. If you actually care about it, a different tack might be in order.

G. Verloren said...

Upset is a bit strong of a word, though not entirely inaccurate. But then, when you wholesale dismiss my previous commentary outright by being condescending and sarcastic with your snide "It's so simple!" mockery, maybe you should expect people to be at the very least annoyed in their responses.

I outlined what I believe is the only reasonable course of action open to us - introduce legislation that would more fully regulate - not ban - firearm ownership, bringing it it line with all the other major developed nations where this sort of thing almost never happens. I also lamented that I think this relatively simple fix isn't going to happen any time soon, because of cultural hurdles.

And then you come along and decide to be flippant and insulting about it for no apparent reason. You blithely dismiss a reasonable suggestion with the rationale that "it's too complicated", and fail to offer any kind of alternate suggestion, or indeed any meaningful sort of input at all. Can you perhaps understand why that might upset someone? Especially since this is quite literally a life or death situation?

You think I'm calling you lazy, selfish, and idiotic? No, you've got it wrong. I'm saying your argument is lazy, selfish, and idiotic. There is a huge distinction there.

Saying, "we shouldn't better regulate our firearms because it's too complicated" is a pretty dumb sounding excuse in my mind, given the fact dozens of other developed countries have managed it without great issue, even ones with histories of overwhelming militancy. I'm not dismissing people who disagree with me - I'm dismissing your dismissal for being transparently thoughtless, meaningless, and insulting.

And no, obviously I don't advocate civil war - nor do I think one is remotely likely. I do think the craziest and most extreme gun rights advocates might well resort to acts of violence, but I firmly believe any such action would be doomed to failure as soon as they began. Resorting to violence would be damning to their cause, alienating the majority of Americans. And as with the absurd "militia occupations" of Oregon and Texas, such events would almost certainly come to a close not with a bang, but with a whimper.

The one thing you've properly understood is that I'm upset. I'm upset because people are being murdered senselessly on a regular basis, and though we could almost entirely prevent it merely by making a modest effort which dozens of our contemporaries have managed, certain self entitled special interest groups fight tooth and claw to obstruct any measures which might help lower the body count, because they don't wish to be inconvenienced in their pursuit of a luxury "sporting" hobby.

So I'll ask you to excuse me for being upset that this is all still, decades down the line, happening. You'll have to excuse me for not responding better to your flippancy, sarcasm, and irreverence. People are dead, more people are going to be killed, and you're being insulting and inflammatory in the wake of it all, so you'll have to excuse me for not having the patience or calm to respond to your toxic, unhelpful anti-conversation with more grace and poise.

David said...

On second thought, I wouldn't say you seem upset. You seem enraged. I'll admit my comments were snarky and self-indulgent. But snide, flippant, insulting, thoughtless, meaningless, toxic anti-conversation? I had no idea. Clearly, to paraphrase GLADOS, the test results indicate that I am a horrible person.

Giving that I was poking at you for saying the matter was simple (and I really did only think of it as poking), I can see why you would think that I was saying the matter is too complicated for solution (which is probably true enough, and if pointing out the complexity of something is a little uninspired intellectually, I wouldn't say it was necessarily selfish, lazy, or idiotic). FWIW, that is not main position. My main position is that it seems to me gun owners's claims are a defense of *what they see as* their rights. I'm not sure they're right about the second amendment, but I think any fair-minded person would have to admit the meaning of that document is not exactly straightforward. In any case, I think there should be room for a presumption that anyone claiming that they are defending their constitutional rights deserves to have their claim taken seriously, and the default position should *perhaps* be that they should have their rights.

Did the Jim Crow South claim they were defending their constitutional rights? Absolutely! Do I think they were wrong? Absolutely! And I certainly think the country considered their case long enough before deciding to reject it. In the end, a lot of the rejection in fact resulted from the extreme behavior of white southerners (cattle prods, church bombings, murder) which the nation more or less as a whole decided was unacceptable, just as it was the extreme actions of southerners in firing on Ft Sumter and so forth, that ultimately tipped the whole balance against slavery. That is the way these things often ultimately work, for better or worse.

Have we reached the point of the gun lobby's version of the attack on Ft Sumter? Time will tell, though I doubt this one is it. I see that that frustrates you.

leif said...

and this is why i like visiting this blog. adults, to oddly quote tom jones, act their age, not their shoe size.

leif said...

i'll self-correct before someone has to do it for me. that's prince. tom jones just re-performed it.