Clarifying My Position on Guns and Gun Control

“I am coming to see the middle path as a walk with wisdom where conversations of complexity can be found, that the middle path is the path of movement. . . . In the right and left worlds, the stories are largely set. ”

― Terry Tempest Williams

I have to agree with the quote, there can be no conversation searching for an agreement on moving forward towards ending a problem if both the right and left extremes are unwilling to compromise and find something in the middle both sides can agree to live with. It is only on the middle path where we can find movement towards resolution.

Guns and gun control is one such conversation I’ve had with myself and I’ve come to a position in the middle of the gun debate with a compromise that I can live with. It is as unrealistic to demand a total ban outlawing gun ownership/possession altogether as it is unthinkable for allowing everyone to own any kind. So, I can accept guns, but with reasonable restrictions.

And since a reader emailed me about my last post, “The New O.K. Corral” , and said she was unable to discern exactly what my position on guns and gun control is, to clarify for her and anyone who is unclear, and perhaps persuade others to agree:

Where I stand on guns and gun control –

I accept the Supreme Court’s decision that the 2nd Amendment entitles civilian citizens (in good stead) to buy and possess firearms for self-defense in their home. I also accept that individuals should have guns for sport (target shooting and hunting) – subject to exhaustive back ground checks for criminal convictions and mental health issues, and after undergoing rigorous training and certification in their use – and should have the right to carry a concealed weapon (subject to the same checks and training) when they’re out and about in the public.

Why self-defense?

Because of the status quo, the fact that there are bad people out there that have guns (it’s stupid to only have a knife – or less – if someone pulls a gun on you), and I believe in the principle that force should be met with equal force.

What weapons?

I am opposed to any type of automatic or semi-automatic, and believe they should be outlawed for civilian possession – both rifles (read: AKs, ARs, etc.) and semi-automatic shotguns, as well as pistols (read: 45, 9mm, etc.). I can only support bolt-action rifles, single-shot or pump shotguns, and revolvers.

Why?

Those types of guns (automatics and semi-automatics, with 10-15+ shot magazines) were originally made for the military for mass killing with a less frequent need to reload, unlike those sufficient for target shooting or hunting – bolt-action rifles (generally a 5-shot magazine), single-shot or pump-action shotgun (generally a 5-shot magazine), or 5/6 shot revolvers, all of which have (relatively) limited magazine capacity that requires frequent, time-absorbing, reloading.

And because I reject as patently absurd the premise, that while the purpose of the 2nd Amendment at the time it as written was to enable the citizenry to defend itself against an oppressive government, that it is still a valid concern today, or that we might be invaded by a foreign army that so overwhelms our military that armed civilians need to fight. Therefore, there is no reason military-style weapons need to be made and sold for civilian consumption.

Bottom line: Automatic and semi-automatics are for killing people, not sport. If you can’t hit your paper target, or the animal you’re hunting, with a single shot, you shouldn’t be allowed to have a gun. With respect to a concealed weapon, if you need more than 5-6 shots to stop and drop someone, you shouldn’t be allowed to have a gun.

So…I believe we should have the right of arms, but restricted to what is a reasonable purpose for sport, and a reasonable deterrent/defense if assaulted.

I am not so naive to think that bad people won’t still kill good people using a gun. But those I find to be reasonable restrictions will lessen the likelihood of further mass killing, which is what the conversation should really be all about.

But that’s just my opinion.

– Bill

Advertisements

The New O.K. Corral

“[T]he past and present has a link to [the] future…”

– Lailah Gifty Akita

Even though I posted “The Death of Innocence and Innocents” only three days ago, I haven’t managed to stop thinking about what happened in Florida. I wrote the following some time ago, but never got around to posting it. In light of recent events, it now seems apropos:

If you know anything of America’s cowboy past, you’ve heard about the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, between the Earp’s (Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan, with friend Doc Holiday) and “The Cowboys” – members of a loose confederation of outlaws – Ike and Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury, and Billy Claiborne, in 1881.

The shootout was ostensibly over town marshal Virgil Earp’s law that forbade firearms within the town’s limits and how the Cowboys refused to surrender theirs when they rode into town. Virgil deputized Morgan, Wyatt and Doc, and together they went and confronted the cowboys at the town’s stable. (History also records that the Earp’s and Clanton’s had had previous run-ins, there was bad blood between them, a long-standing feud, and neither side trusted the other to play fair – especially the cowboys, if they were unarmed. Google all involved, and you’ll find there wasn’t much difference between their individual histories, they were all disreputable; horse thieves, murderers, card cheats, brothel owners and more, not withstanding the fact that the all the Earp’s were town, county, territorial or federal lawmen most of their careers.) The Earp’s won the 30-second shootout. Billy Clanton and both McLaury brothers were killed, Ike and Claiborne ran. Virgil, Morgan and Doc were wounded. Wyatt was unharmed. (Footnote: Five months later Virgil was ambushed and wounded, and Morgan assassinated – believed to be in retribution for the O.K. killings, by members of the outlaw confederation. Wyatt, now a US Deputy Marshal, formed a federal posse with another of his brothers, Warren, and along with Doc – who’d recovered from his wound – rode down and killed those they believed responsible. Wyatt went on to become a millionare from gold mining in California, and died peacefully in 1929, known as the “toughest and deadliest gunman of his day”.)

But, I digress.

The link of that past to today? What was at issue then is what we, today, call gun control. Gun control is a touchy subject nationally. Some want the right (and in some jurisdictions, have it – and it has been proposed to allow it nationally) to openly or concealed carry a loaded handgun (many Americans – mostly rural ones – revere our “Wild West” heritage) while others (mostly those in urban areas) want to ban guns altogether, everywhere.

What is not an issue – it’s been decided by our Supreme Court – is that citizens have the right to legally buy and possess firearms for self-protection (at least in their homes), according to their understanding of the 2nd Amendment to our national Constitution. Any prohibitions – banning certain types of guns (e.g., machine guns) or persons having possession (e.g., ex-felons) – is up to Congress or each state or locality to decide, including concealed weapons).

Back on July 8, 2016, I wrote and posted “Guns and Self-defense”, where I defended the right of self protection, both legally and morally. Nothing has changed there.

(And you may want to do a little research on what is the best self-defense weapon. Hint for home-defense: virtually all experts say a handgun is next to worthless, a pump-action shotgun is the best – for a variety of reasons. Look it up.)

What is more to the issue is how easy it is to obtain a gun legally (albeit only slightly more difficult than obtaining one illegally on the street). And the types of guns civilians can legally own (such as military assault styles, such as semi-automatic AK47s and AR15s).

The link from both the past and today to the (near?) future. The following may foretell:

http://digital.olivesoftware.com/Olive/ODN/TheFresnoBee/shared/ShowArticle.aspx?doc=FRB%2F2017%2F12%2F28&entity=Ar03700&sk=FDB50D30&mode=text

The article speaks to how foreign terrorists (ISIS) are instructing our domestic variety use our lax, permissive laws governing gun purchase/possession to terrorize, to kill us. But it is equally applicable to non-terrorists who nonetheless are determined to kill for their own reasons. And there is little to nothing we seem willing to do about it, the political divide is too wide, the American public is almost equally divided on gun control/restrictions and no restrictions, there is no consensus to act, and if ever there should be, to what extent.

Because of this inertia and the plethora of guns, and possession both legal and illegal, we are having a reprising of the O.K. Corral, fought on the streets, in shopping malls, places of worship, in our schools, between the good guys and the bad. Because Americans are unwilling to call for meaningful gun restrictions. For the present, it would seem that the bad guys are winning.

I am not so naive as to think that so long as there are guns out there that the bad guys won’t be able to acguire them (most guns used in crimes are stolen from people who legally own them).

But, future historians will record if we finally did something to stop them from getting ahold of those capable of mass-murder.

And if the “Wild West” ever ended.

– Bill

Divining the Universe

A man said to the universe, “Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe, “The fact has not created in me a sense of obligation.”

― Stephen Crane

And yet, despite that, we still try to figure things out, how did the universe begin, what makes it tick, where is it going.

Take its beginning. The Big Bang. It’s thought one wee clump of energy, so small and dense that it defies comprehension, infinitely smaller than the point of a pin, suddenly exploded all on its own and burst out in all directions (and creating all the elements that become stars, planets, you and me – energy has no mass, but massive energy can create physical mass. It’s an E=MC^2 thing). And where did that first clump of energy come from, how could it be?

No one really knows.

Or what makes the universe tick. Gravity is a big factor, it’s what holds things together. We’ve thought that the Earth generates gravity that pulls us down and keeps us from flying off into space (what with the Earth spinning around at 1,038 mph at the equator); now they’re saying it’s more like gravity is a force beyond the Earth that is pushing us down onto it. Pull? Push? Both? And there seems to be more gravity in the universe that can be accounted for when we total up all the matter we think there is in the universe. But we can’t see it, so we call it Dark Matter. Calculations say it accounts for 5/6th of everything. Could that be?

No one really knows.

And where the universe is going. We’re told it’s ever expanding outward (from the force initially generated by the Big Bang) into an empty and infinite space. Infinite? Empty? Well, if we can’t see anything beyond what we can see, it could be. Or not. And what’s fueling it’s ever increasing speed, that overcomes the forces of gravity that would want to slow things down? Has to be something, even if we can’t detect it. So we call it Dark Energy. Could that be?

No one really knows.

Back to the beginning. Some speculate that that highly condensed little clump of energy that went “Bang!” might well be the product of a Black Hole. Not that anyone has ever seen a Black Hole, but we have seen dust, gasses and whatnot swirling around points in space with ever quickening speed, only to seemingly disappear down an unseen hole (think of bath water going down the drain – you can see the water swirling around the drain’s opening and can only assume, because you can’t see it, that there’s a pipe below to swallow up the swirling water). It’s posited that all the matter swallowed up is torn apart into atoms and compressed by gravity into indescribably small, dense clumps of energy. Does a Black Hole ever fill up? Does some of this highly compressed energy get farted out of the bottom of the hole to keep it from filling up? One theory says yes, and that little fart becomes the Big Bang of another, new universe. And, given the billions and billions of Black Holes we guesstimate are in our own universe, that’s a lot of new, other universes, all side-by-side (just like individual soap bubbles sticking together in your bubble bath. It’s called the Multiverse, multiple parallel universes. Could that be?

No one really knows.

But imagine, what if? Mathematically, an infinite number, some totally unlike ours (with their own laws of physics, like Superman’s Bizzaro World, htraE – Earth spelled backwards – where everything is opposite to what we know), to some similar to ours, to some identical with our Earth with maybe another you (who maybe living the life you always dreamed about, or maybe the one you’ve always feared). Given the umpteen billions of Black Holes over the 13.8 billion years our universe has existed (and however many billions old that parallel universe’s Black Hole that farted ours, and so on back…and so on to come.

Heady stuff. And my guess is that…

We’ll never know.

Because the universe has no obligation to tell us.

-Bill

The Death of Innocence and Innocents

“Dreams of innocence…depend on a denial of reality that can be its own form of hubris.”

– Michael Pollan

Back in the South when I was young, it was a right of passage for a boy on his 12th birthday to be given his first gun, almost universally a .22 caliber bolt-action or 5-shot magazine rifle. (And I don’t mean in just those hillbilly pockets in the rural Deep South; I grew up in the northern South, the wealthy and highly educated D.C. suburb of Arlington, Virginia.)

Accordingly, on my day, with my father’s blessing, an uncle gave me my first rifle and a membership in the National Rifle Association (NRA), with the proviso that I take lessons on how to use it.

That wasn’t a problem, as I was a Boy Scout and my troop had a rifle club. About 20 of us would meet weekly at the local high school after school to use their underground shooting range, under the tutelage of one of the boy’s father who was a certified NRA instructor.

So, once a week, every week, as an 8th grader, I would walk the 3/4 miles to my Jr Hi with my rifle slung over my shoulder and with a pocket full of ammo, enter the school and store my rifle in my school locker, then, after classes, walk with it again on my shoulder some 2 miles to the high school for instruction and practice. And I got very good at it, attaining Expert level.

No one on the street, ever looked twice at me carrying a gun. It wasn’t an unusual sight to see a boy toting a rifle, be it a .22 or a BB gun, usually headed to a nearby woods to plink at cans or whatnot as we were wont to do. The school knew I and others had guns in our school lockers only because a teacher or administrator at some point saw one of us and asked casually what we were doing with a rifle. Our explaination was sufficient.

It was an age of innocence, now dead and forgotten.

Now, it’s a new age, now when a kid brings a gun to school, it’s all too often children who are dead. Pray they’re not forgotten.

Children cut down by the numbers, as young as 6 and 7 at Sandy Hook Elementary 10 years ago or as teens at Stoneman Douglas High just the other day. And they are not the only schools, the only victims, in these past many years.

Nor are schools the only places of mass shootings in the U.S. Nor have there been only a few. In fact, in the last 7 weeks there have been 30 mass shooting – about 4 a week – half ending in deaths and/or injuries.

I posted “Oh, the insanity of it all!” on October 6, 2017, on the proliferation of guns in America, and how by that date there had been 273 mass shootings in the past 279 days – virtually 1 a day – and wrote, “The insanity evidenced in America today is sufficient proof that Americans are anything but rational.”

In his reaction to the Stoneman Douglas school shooting, our president opined that the reason it happened is because the shooter is “mentally disturbed”. He hasn’t responded to questions about the need for further gun control or why this gunman was able, at 19 years of age, to legally purchase a gun – and not just a bolt-action .22 for target shooting, but a semi-automatic AR15, that has only one design, that of killing people – before he was even of legal age to buy a beer!

Maybe it’s because the NRA contributed over $30 million to his campaign. As the NRA has to many senators and representatives over decades (and is the reason I quit the NRA 50 years ago) to ensure that Americans have easy access to guns.

Maybe it’s because he and our other national leaders are too mentally disturbed themselves to understand that something needs to be done to control and restrict who can obtain a gun and what type of guns civilians can possess.

Their hubris in denying the reality that, irrespective of a murder’s mental health, it is guns that kill, and if they think they are innocent of duplicity, and denying their individual and collective complicity in not doing something about it, they are just dreaming.

We, as a people, have lost our innocence and it’s the innocents who are dying as a result.

– Bill

Treason

“The first duty of a leader is to make himself be loved without courting love. To be loved without ‘playing up’ to anyone – even to himself.”

– Andre Malraux

Too bad Malraux’s admonition isn’t heeded by our “leader”.

Never in my 70 years on this Earth have I ever seen such a needy, insecure First World leader, with the possible exception of Richard Nixon. Usually, such adolescent insecurity for the need of attention and affection has been the realm of Third World tyrants, like North Korea’s wannabe demigod Kim Jong Un, or any of a number of past Banana Republic-esque dictators.

Ironically, Trump, whose words and deeds demonstrate he wants/needs and (more importantly) expects love and adoration – and loyalty to himself above all, especially – from everyone, seems to go out of his way to offend just about everybody who doesn’t hold him in the same high esteem he has for himself. The only ones who seem to love him equally to himself are the ones he courts, those hapless souls who revere him.

He has no qualms dismissing and denigrating those who he believes are his enemies, those who refuse to pay him homage, like he recently did to those in audience at his State of the Union speech who did not stand and applaud his self-agrandizing boasts of his (to him, laudable) accomplishments, minimal though they be.

He says they are traitors. He seems to believe, that as the nation’s leader, to not love him is to not love the nation.

I’m reminded of the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes, by Hans Christian Andersen: Two weavers tell the emperor they’ve made him a suit of clothes that will be invisible to all who are stupid and disloyal. After they strip him naked, they mime “dressing” him in his new suit and then lead him out to be seen nude in public. Everyone oohs and aahs, proclaiming how beautiful the new suit looks (not wanting to look stupid or disloyal to their emperor), except for one small boy who saw the emperor for what he was, and cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

The underlying message of the story is that, not only were the people stupid for not calling out the emperor for being naked, but that the emperor was more stupid for believing he wasn’t.

I’ll stand and applaud the boy, “traitor” though he was, for speaking the truth about his emperor.

Because I can’t applaud Trump. Because I can’t find any redeeming value in him as a leader. He certainly isn’t playing up to me or courting my love, by playing up to himself or his sycophant toadies. (Yes, I know, sycophant and toady mean the same thing, it’s just the double usage here expresses maximum distaste.)

Like the boy, I see our would be emperor for what he is, a borderline pathological narcissist.

I guess that makes me a traitor.

I can live with that.

– Bill

Celestial Omen?

“Star light, star bright,

The first star I see tonight;

I wish I may, I wish I might,

Have the wish I wish tonight.”

– Nursery rhyme

This morning just before sunrise here on the west coast was a triumvirate lunar event – a blue/blood/super moon, the first such happening in 35 years. Ever since our first cognizant homonid ancestor laid awake one night looking up at the dark sky over the African Savanah and saw a shooting star (and probably thought to himself, “Mafubba! What was that?”) the nightly Heavens have held a certain fascination containing both fear and hope, omens of doom or portents of boon.

For some, to be caught staring at a full moon is to invite insanity (whence the term, lunatic. But you have to be a little daft already to believe that). Some believe treason is afoot with a blue moon (blue as used here is a corruption of the original sound-alike belewe moon, meaning “betrayer” moon – being the second full moon within a single month means days have been stolen from our lives. But I suppose they also see conspiracies in everything else). Some who subscribe to certain Biblical apocalyptic beliefs see the blood moon as a sign of the end of the world coming (overlooking the fact that there have been red moons ever since the moon’s creation a few billion years ago, none in conjunction with the end of all times, but I suppose sooner or later one might and thus allow them to smuggly say, “Told you so!”)

And then there are those who believe “mooning the moon” – dropping trow and presenting their bare posterior to the full moon – will bring a monetary blessing (I suppose there’s no harm in trying!)

Stars alike always fascinated our ancestors, and the myths about them are as varied and numerous as there have been cultures, but one has it that the number of stars equals the number of earthly souls alive and that a shooting or falling star (what we now know is a meteor) is the sign of someones death (is the practice of wishing upon a falling star originally the wish – hope – that it isn’t ones own imminent death being announced?) Or another, that a star streaking night after night across the heavens (what we now know is a comet) is a divine sign pointing in the direction of some miraculous event unfolding somewhere on Earth below.

Not to be outdone by nature, we modern humans have added our own “stars” and some of those launched satellites transiting our Earth are visable by the naked eye (I remember laying in our backyard in 1962 watching the very first Telstar move across the the night sky).

So I wasn’t surprised to read about a new proposed “star” launch, one which will actually imitate an actual star (and not serve any other purpose, such as communications, spying, or for astronomical viewing):

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/29/despoiled-earth-artificial-stars-ruining-space-humanity-star

The purpose of the “Humanity Star” is to “shine…for nine months (as a) reminder to all on Earth about our fragile place in the universe”, after which it will burn up upon re-entry into our atmoshpere.

It will become a falling star. Which leads me back to that belief that a falling star is the sign of someones imminent death.

Instead of the star representing a single soul, the Humanity Star represents all of mankind. In its fall, will it foretell the imminent death of all mankind?

Given our state of increased saber rattling and nuclear tensions, that would be the ultimate irony.

“Star light, star bright,

When I see that star that night;

I wish I may, I wish I might,

Have the wish I wish that night…

That it won’t be so.”

– Bill

Our Dysfunctual Congress – Will the Adults Please Stand Up?

“There is an appropriate and necessary difference in the balance of power [in productive relationships, and]…there should be no power struggles…just [a] deep connection [of] trust, and respect between people who sincerely care about each other. In disruptive [relationships]…immature adults…seek to dominate others (one-up)… In [such] relationships…manipulation abounds. Especially when they start to feel out of control.”

― Tim Clinton

In any relationship – among two friends, husband and wife, employer and employee – there is always an element of differences between the wants or needs of the two and the subtle (sometimes more forceful) jockeying for position of which is to lead, which is to follow, when decisions have to be made. As pointed out in the quote above, to have a productive outcome in a relationship both must have respect for each other and the trust that each will sincerely care for and not abuse the other; otherwise the relationship will devolve into a power struggle for domination, with each trying to manipulate the other to gain control, if for nothing else than to win.

No where better to see an example of a disruptive relationship than that of the US Congress today. There are obvious differences in wants between the extremes of the two parties, who act as immature adults not trusting, not respecting, not caring for each other, manipulating whenever, whoever and whatever necessary in the attempt to dominate the other and take or keep total control. Such is the nature of the beast called politics.

And the mature adults, the centerists caught in the middle who have trust, respect and care for each other – and the American people they serve – are derided and demeaned by the extremes as traitors. I wrote in my post “The American Political Playground (or, Overcoming the Abyss) [July 18, 2017] that I wondered, rhetorically, “Are there any adults left?” (There are, of course, and Senator Lindsey Graham (Rep., SC) is currently the most obvious among them in his attempt to mediate between the extremes and engineer a realistic solution to the dysfunctional goings-on over the current budget dispute – and every other issue – in the Congress. I wish him and the others like him – in both parties – success.)

When strong feelings between two friends, a married couple, or employer and employees, threaten to dissolve the relationship, intervention with the intent to bring the parties back together and reconcile their differences with a mutually satisfactory solution is the role of a mediator.

I have some experience as a mediator, having taught such skills as proper meeting management, interpersonal communication, problem solving and conflict resolution between management and union for a federal agency, and facilitated their negotiations. I’ve also been a mediator for a local Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP), also known as Restorative Justice, where juvenile offenders are often referred, to avoid court proceedings, in an attempt to have the victim explain to the offender how their life was impacted by the offense, for the offender to understand the consequences of their action, and to make a mutually agreed upon restitution to make the victim whole again. That isn’t easy and sometimes it’s not possible and the offender winds up facing a judge.

Likewise, friends cease to be, married divorce, companies fail.

The key element in any resolutional agreement is that both sides must be willing participants, willing to try to work together to find common ground, to work out their differences, to find a happy compromise both can live with.

Sometimes all one can do is hope for the best, but expect the worst.

And with our political divide, can it get any worse? I hope not. But it will need more than one adult in each house of Congress to mediate the divide.

Call or write your representatves and tell them to get onboard or get out of the way. Failure to compromise is not an option. Too much is at stake. Now’s not the time for immature one-up-manship games.

– Bill