Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Another day

Another day, another shooter going off the rails.  Sunday, just a few days ago, a couple ambushed two police officers, then while hiding in Wal-Mart killed another man (more on that in a bit).  A week or so before that a mass shooting involving a crazy guy, before that more school shootings, and so the story goes.  It now appears we have hit the mass or news worthy shooting every week.  Next it will become a daily event, laws will be passed, people will raise hell about these new laws, resentment towards the government will rise, and eventually shootings will start to come down.

I try to stay away from this topic, I really do.  I dislike talking about it, I am a gun owner, I do support the right to keep and bear arms.  This always leads to a conversation where people get angry, and I am left in the middle of two groups of people.  Most of the time, both sides blast me, and well it sucks.

Like my liberal counterparts, I see solid background checks and sensible restrictions as viable.  When someone talks about an assault weapon ban, I can find some ground with them, so long as the definition is strong.  It should be clear cut, it should describe the weapon to be banned exactly, and "its black and looks like an M16 or AK47" just does not cut it for me.  Here is what the previous ban looked like:

    Semi-automatic rifles able to accept detachable magazines and two or more of the following:
        Folding or telescoping stock
        Pistol grip
        Bayonet mount
        Flash suppressor, or threaded barrel designed to accommodate one
        Grenade launcher mount

    Semi-automatic pistols with detachable magazines and two or more of the following:
        Magazine that attaches outside the pistol grip
        Threaded barrel to attach barrel extender, flash suppressor, handgrip, or suppressor
        Barrel shroud safety feature that prevents burns to the operator
        Unloaded weight of 50 oz (1.4 kg) or more
        A semi-automatic version of a fully automatic firearm.

    Semi-automatic shotguns with two or more of the following:
        Folding or telescoping stock
        Pistol grip
        Fixed capacity of more than 5 rounds
        Detachable magazine.
 Other measures such as high capacity magazines, were also part of that law.  And for the most part I didn't have a problem with it, but many considered that vague.  What about rifles and muzzle loaders that had a thumb hole in the stock?  I know at least one person who said that his rifle would be illegal to purchase as a result of such a ban.  But here is the thing, I already own mine, an AR I have in pawn, a 1917 Winchester I am restoring to military issue status, a Mosin Nagant, of which two have bayonet lugs, and the AR with a threaded barrel for a flash suppressor.  What happens to those three rifles?  Not a single thing.  I already own them.  So a new ban comes along, and guess what?  Everyone who already has them will keep them.  The bad guys will ignore the law, and they will have them.  Very little changes.  But just the same, we need to do something.  So pass the law, stop more of these firearms from getting onto the streets legally.  Increase penalties for selling them privately, or using them in the commission of a crime.

Obama for his part wants new laws, and that is great.  We need to ensure that the mentally ill do not have access to firearms.  We need a background check system that has a national database of people who have been deemed mentally defective, a database of people who have been arrested for domestic violence, and all the other disqualifies someone from owning a firearm.  I will go one step further and say that the paperwork that people fill out needs to be upgraded.  As best as I can recall (because I do not buy that many firearms), it hasn't changed since I bought my first handgun in 2007 or so.  That is right, to the best of my knowledge the paperwork to purchase a firearm hasn't changed, and that is supposed to be a test to show you are half way sane enough to own one.  But here we go to buy a gun, I fill out a form I have filled out at least once every two years for the past seven years, I give my drivers and CCW permit to the shop owner, he goes in the back, I mill around, and he makes the call.

Ah, the call.  Hello, I am running a check on a Mr. John Stephens (other pertinent information).  Yes he is buying a Remington 16 gauge shotgun.  Model X, serial number ~insert number~, okay thanks.  He comes back, writes down some numbers on the form, puts it in a folder and gives me the shotgun and receipt and sends me on my merry way.  Ten minutes at worst.  Sometimes, they carry it out of the store for you, you know just in case you have a round or two in your pocket.  I find that amusing, I really do.  I am safe enough to sell the gun to, but you don't trust me not to use it against you in your own store.  Now this process is different depending on your state.  Some states it is a three day wait on specific firearms, check in your area. 

We can definitely do better on background checks.  But there are other issues, which Obama does not seem willing or able to address.  While he is correct in saying that the US does not have the market cornered on the mentally ill, these people can easily walk into a shop and buy a gun.  Of course they can also do as the Sandy Hook shooter did, and murder someone or otherwise steal them.  The mentally ill people of this country seemingly get a pass.  When they go off their meds, or end their treatment, we have no way of knowing how they may react.  As many shootings show us, the mentally ill are more dangerous when they have access to firearms.  Really someone who is mentally ill, or in treatment should not have firearms.  Some disorders can never be cured, and only treated.  Depending on the disorder, they shouldn't have firearms.  Sorry, but I do not want someone who is having delusions carrying anywhere around me.  That voice in their held might tell them I am an alien overlord or something (and that is not a stretch), and the last thing I want is that person deciding the world would be infinitely better with me not in it.

While many statistics I hear say that gun violence is down, I don't feel that it is.  It has just changed from gang violence to more domestic and spree violence.  There are many factors involving these two types of incidents.  First I blame the current economy.  More depression, more theft, more violence induced by stress, all tied to the economy.  When things are going well for the majority, crime trends downward.  When people are living comfortably, there is less stress, less domestic violence, less troubled home lives for teens, who are already going through a rough time.  Stress affects people in strange ways, each mind is different, unique to the person.  While I tend to stew, my father blows his stack.  I deal with stress fairly well, but I internalize it, he does not deal with stress well, and externalizes it.  People are a mixed bag, the problem is when people under large amounts of stress finally do snap they either become depressed and suicidal, or they explode shoot up a bunch of places, then turn the gun on themselves feeling they have made a point.

And they have made a point, their point, which is often as disturbing as their minds are.  The Vegas shooters thought they were starting the new revolution against a corrupt government.  Now, they tripped across an armed citizen, which was killed.  Some see this as a failure, and it was.  He was not prepared for the possibility of a second armed person laying in wait.  I have also heard that the armed citizen exchanged fire with one of the shooters, and possibly wounded the shooter.  I don't know if it is true or not, I haven't found anything other than pro-gun websites stating that Wilcox exchanged fire.  So, yeah, you can claim Wilcox saved the day, and maybe he did, but it cost him his life.

There is something else about firearms that I have often lamented, a lack of education about them.  I took the required firearm safety class to get my CCW permit.  It was a joke really.  I don't blame the guy who taught the class, I blame the NRA who created the class.  Watch a short video, handle an unloaded firearm, watch another short video, talk about gun safety, watch a third video, break for lunch, watch a final video, go to the range, do not shoot the instructor and hit the target down range, get your piece of paper, go to the sheriff fill out the paperwork in a shall issue state, and wait.  It was lacking.  All it taught was how to properly hold and site a pistol, and to not point a gun at something you didn't want to destroy.  The safety portion was minimal in my opinion.  We spent maybe ten minutes on it.  Thankfully, I had been around police officers and military people for decades, so I knew these things before hand.  Sum total, what I have learned from police and military far exceeded the NRA gun safety class.  In a bit of irony, the safety class I took for my CCW permit was or is still the same class you would take for a hunting license.  Major issue for me.  Carrying a loaded pistol in a store or elsewhere, is not the same as carrying a rifle in the woods. 

Finally, and this is where I really catch crap.  The second amendment, while a right as defined by the constitution, is nothing more than a privilege.  I have the right to own firearms, but if I am irresponsible, I will loose that right.  It can be taken away from me.  See the problem, a right and a privilege are two different things, and this nation has them confused.  I do not have the right to eat, to healthcare, or to own a home.  I have the right to own as many guns as I want.  I do not have the right to drive, that is a privilege.  But I have the right to own guns.  Lets look at a country that has gun control mechanisms that work, Canada.  +Skallagrim lives up there, and while I only watch his videos, he seems to be on it (and if you like swords, he is your man).  Hopefully if I am mistaken about the laws up there, he can straighten me out.  As I understand it firearms are all licensed.  Some carry a restricted label which requires a specific license to own and use.  IE You can own something like an AR15, but can only use it in certain areas, and has a capacity limit (a shooting range).  Other firearms that are not labeled as restricted can be used for home defense, hunting, target shooting etc.  Along with that, I believe they have magazine capacity limits, and some other rules and regulations.  It would be best for one of our Canadian friends to explain it to us, because I am probably making numerous mistakes. 

But here is the thing, they actually have decent mental health care up there, again someone like Skallagrim or another Canadian can correct me about that.  They also are allowed to own firearms, just as we do here.  The thing is, they see it for what it is, a privilege and a responsibility.  We need better background checks, and we do not need 15+ rounds for a pistol, and 30 rounds for a rifle.  We really do not need bump stocks so we can fire a rifle in burst mode or fully automatic.  I am not saying we need to go back to revolvers or single shot rifles, but if you cannot hit the target with ten rounds, or you find yourself in a situation where you need 19+1 rounds, you might need to evaluate your personality or your environment, and change whichever seems to be the issue at the earliest possibility.  Honestly, we need to take care of the causes, and place mild restrictions on the tools.  Yes, I am for the second amendment, but I am also for respecting others, I am for being a responsible owner of firearms, I am for common sense.  Something so many of my fellow second amendment supporters are not.  They see no problem carrying an AK47 into a store, ignoring that people in that store do not know them, or their intention.  You could be the next spree shooter, you could be looking to rob the place, or you could just be some asshole walking around with an AK47 because you can.  One day someone will react, tragically it will, we are going to have a major shooting in some store between one of these open carry idiots, and a CCW holder idiot, and some poor children/teenagers/adults are going to get caught in the cross fire.  The result of this will be exactly the opposite of what so many people hold dear to.  Eventually, we will loose the privilege to keep and bear arms, it will be an outright ban, or it will cost far too much to own one.  People will blame the government, but it will be the idiots of the pro-gun side that are to blame.  They refuse to acknowledge that this privilege comes with a responsibility, just like ownership of a car, or a home.  Often these idiots preach personal responsibility, but refuse to accept it when carrying a pistol, or hording tons of rifles.  Yes, I probably have too many myself, but keep in mind, I collect old WWI and WWII bolt action rifles.  I collect them because of their history, just as some people collect books, records, and artwork.  The difference between my gun collection, and your DVD collection is, mine is lethal, so I treat them as they are, I keep them locked in a real safe, not a cabinet that can be broken into with ease.  I occasionally take them out for some shooting at a range, because I enjoy shooting paper targets.  Some people use guns for hunting food, some use them in the same way I do.  But just the same, it is a privilege, and until we are responsible for our own actions, until we address poverty and mental health issues, this argument will remain.  Which is a tragedy on top of all the others.  Dead children, dead parents, mental health issues, poverty, and many other issues will just keep adding to the tragedy in a never ending cycle that will leave us with nothing but bitter arguments and hurt feelings.