Looking for Balance

There’s an old story that a president, many years ago, told his aides that what he really wanted was a one-armed economist.  “Because,” said the president, “every economic adviser tells me, ‘On the one hand this, but on the other hand that.’ Decisions would be much easier if they only had one hand!”

I don’t know if that story is true or not, but it does illustrate an important truth: there are rarely simple answers when it comes to public policy.  As a fictional president once observed, “There are very few days with an absolute right, or an absolute wrong, and those days almost always involve body counts.”

This principle of complicated public policy may be no where as true, as it is when it comes to gun control.  So, rushing in where angels fear to tread, let me offer a few thoughts, which are probably worth about what you’re paying to read them.

First of all, let me begin by stressing – absolutely – that I support the Second Amendment.  Period.  That’s non-negotiable.  As I and others have observed, it’s only because of the Second Amendment that the Third, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth and Tenth Amendments have any teeth.

I grew up with guns.  I respect guns, but I don’t fear them.  I also don’t love them.  As far as I’m concerned, guns are tools, no more, no less.  Like any tool, if you’re going to own one, common sense dictates that you know how to use it, safely and prudently.  Like any tool, people who haven’t been around one, are likely to be dangerously fascinated by it, and likely to do stupid things with it.  And like any tool, if you need one, you need one.  Probably right then.

A hammer makes a lousy screwdriver.

All of that to say, I am not a gun-hater.  But neither would I call myself a gun nut, whatever that means.  (I kind of suspect that a gun nut could be defined as, “someone who owns one more weapon that me.”)

The fact is, good intentions to the contrary, gun laws almost never work.  This was given tragic and sad proof just last week when Chicago teenager Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was murdered after school.  She was standing under a shelter in a park during a rainstorm when a gunman came in and shot her dead.  Young Miss Pendleton was an honor student and a majorette, and just the previous week had taken part in the inaugural parade.  Police think it may have been a case of mistaken identity, but they don’t know.

She was Chicago’s 42nd murder victim of 2013; there have been more since.  Last year, there were 506 murders in Chicago, many – although certainly not all – involving a firearm.

This is tragic – of that, there can be no doubt.  But I would point out that Chicago already has some of, if not THE, most restrictive and severe anti-gun laws on the books, and those laws did NOTHING to prevent this killing.  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel said, “We have a responsibility to see a stop to this.  And all of us are responsible.”

Sorry, your honor, I gotta call bullshit on that.  Yes, we live in a violent culture.  Yes, there are lots of guns in the hands of lots of criminals.  But the responsibility does NOT lie with the even-more millions of law-abiding citizens who freely exercise their Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”  The responsibility lies with the gunman who pulled the trigger and ended a young and promising life.

I can remember when the assassinations of President and Senator Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s led to significant gun control legislation.  That legislation was driven then by the same thing driving the voices call for gun control now – raw emotion.  Passing legislation based on emotion is heady wine; it makes you feel really good for a while, but it leaves you with a terrible hangover the next morning.

Again, I ask – how many laws did the shooter in Newtown break?  Killing one’s own mother, at the top of the list.  I understand the emotion that wants to “do something” about these types of senseless crimes.  But making criminals out of legal gun-owners is not the answer.

On the other hand…

The NRA is so full of crap their logo ought to be brown.

There was a time when the NRA was a reasonable organization, dedicated to serving its members and educating the public on gun safety and gun ownership issues.  In my opinion, this is no longer the case.  Now, it’s about getting more and more people to sign up.

Back when I was in professional politics, there was one rule that I learned: If you want to understand something – anything – in politics, follow the money.

Am I the only one who’s figured out that the more the NRA can scare you, the more memberships it can sell?  The more they hype the hatred against President Obama, Rep. Pelosi or Sen. Feinstein, and scare people by talking about legislation that they KNOW is not going to pass, the more they can move people from annual to lifetime memberships.

People, do yourselves a favor – quit listening to the NRA, turn off Fox News, go outside, get a breath of fresh air.  You’ll thank me later.

First of all, nobody – NOBODY – is seriously proposing any type of national gun registration or gun confiscation.  The “horror” stories you hear about ATF agents busting in on some supposedly law-abiding citizen in the middle of the night usually have another side to them – like the guy was selling fully automatic weapons to gang-bangers or something.

Secondly, I remember back in the 90s when Congress did pass a ten year ban on assault-style weapons and high-capacity clips (for all the good that did).  The Republic still stands, and the Second Amendment survives.  And similar legislation now under consideration does not stand a snowball’s chance in Houston of passing.  So all of you reposting that stupid meme that says, “When they come to get my guns, I’ll give them the bullets,” post pictures of your grandkids instead.

The only people enjoying this debate, other than the new member division at the NRA, are gun dealers and ammo manufacturers.  They can’t keep up with the demand, and they are jacking up the price to exorbitant levels, because people are panicking.  Follow the money.  The more scared you get, the more money they get.

If I were someone who did a lot of target shooting as a hobby – which I enjoy, by the way – but if I did a lot of it, I’d be really annoyed at the idiots who are buying up ammo by the case, and tripling the price.

Here’s another thing: the current fascination with “assault weapons” really bothers me.  I may be wrong, but it seems to me that many of the people owning these rifles have watched too many violent movies.  Have the integrity to ask yourself this question: why do you want that particular weapon?  Its styling and accessories reveal that it has one purpose, and one purpose only.  Not hunting.  Not target shooting.  Not looking cool on a wall.  Its function is simply to kill people.  Personally, I wouldn’t mind if they banned the damn things, but I know that’s not going to happen.

Sometimes I think they honestly see themselves as a Rambo or John McCain figure.  Or they’ve seen “Red Dawn” a few too many times.  Too many violent, first-person shooter games, where you can blow away as many bad guys as you want. pause the action while you go get a Coke and microwave some Hot Pockets, then come back to the mayhem.  Shooting without thinking.  Killing without consequences.  It’s no wonder we’ve go so many mass shootings in this country – we’ve raised at least two entire generations of gun-toting children who think it’s a game.

Okay, this column is already longer than I meant for it to be.  If I didn’t offend you, I will try again some other time.  Meanwhile, please consider this: In my opinion, we don’t have a gun problem in this society, as much as we have a relationship problem.  What I mean is, when we see violence as the answer to any problem, when we lose our empathy for others, when we place our personal gratification ahead of loving our neighbor – then we have lost our sense of being in relationship with others, and they become only targets.

And that does scare me.

13 thoughts on “Looking for Balance

  1. You wrote:

    “Here’s another thing: the current fascination with “assault weapons” really bothers me. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that many of the people owning these rifles have watched too many violent movies.”

    I own three weapons that Sen. Diane Feinstein would classify as an “assault weapon.” Two are long guns and one is a handgun (semi-auto that holds a “large capacity” magazine).

    You are wrong, and largely full of the same brown stuff you accuse the NRA of being full of.

    One of my “assault rifles” is an expensive target rifle used for High Power rifle competitions. But it looks “scary” to ignorant people.

    My second “assault rifle” is a Colt AR-15 carbine. It is arguably the best possible weapons for home defense:

    Who Needs An Assault Rifle?
    http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/who-needs-an-assault-rifle/

    My last “assault weapon” is a Glock 19. Passed my shooting test with it a week ago to get a concealed carry license.

    lwk
    http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/

    • Thanks for reading my thoughts, and sharing yours. As I said, I’m still looking for balance. In the meantime, my default is to come down on the side of personal liberty and individual responsibility. God bless.

  2. I must say, you offended me only twice. But, knowing you and having been a class mate I bet I’ll get over it! Funny, I had only shot a 22. rifle in Summer Camp (not Christian: Boy Scout) many years ago. My first real experience was in Marine Boot Camp. And in Boot Camp I was scared when we were crawling under barbed wire during live machine gun fire and explosives during an exercise. If you were to panic and rise up……a recruit was subject to serious injury or death. I only experienced the death of another human being after the Academy in Nov. 1980. (And many times since) Mostly traffic accidents, and some that died as a result of gunshot wounds. I agree with your article and most of your opinion. You remind me of what a preacher might think from the Kiamichee Mountaine (mis-spelled). I too believe in the 2nd Amenment . I am not a member of the NRA. Yes, we must love one another and also defend the innocent. The Innocent would include The Constition and The Bill of Rights. The enemey is from within.

  3. Dusty,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I think you’re right on target with just about everything you said. I would, however add a slightly different opinion about your thoughts on “assault weapons”. I think you are addressing you comments mostly to AR-15 style rifles.

    I would submit to you that AR-15 style rifles do in fact have a VERY versatile function as both hunting and target rifles. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll compare the AR-15 to the Browning BAR semi-automatic hunting rifle, the Remington model 742 and the Winchester Model 100. All have the EXACT same type action, but the Browning, Remington and Winchester have a very long and heavy stocks and barrels, rendering them almost unusable for anyone other than a full grown and reasonably strong adult. The AR, on the other hand, is much lighter, shorter, and has an adjustable length stock making it the perfect hunting rifle for smaller adults and youth. Those very characteristics are what make the M16 and M4 fully automatic weapons the choice of so many military and police units.

    I share much of your concerns about video games and violent movies, but I truly believe that for most sportsmen there is no more versatile sporting rifle manufactured today than the AR-15 style weapons in calibers ranging from .223 to .308.

    I don’t know what the answer’s are, but banning weapons based totally on appearance has proven NOT to work.

    don comedy

    • Hi Don, I must say, you raise some good points I had not fully considered, at least about that particular firearm. Thanks for reading. Hope your family is well. Dusty

  4. Duncan,
    I also agree with a lot of what you said but a few points. First, I have seen you try to use a hammer as a screwdriver! Lol. Just kidding. What Obama is proposing for “universal background checks” would evolve to registration of ALL firearms. He is tryng to pass this with executive fiat. I also believe that there was some backroom dealing going on with Feinstein. She is introducing a bill that would ban 158 different weapons. By her own admission, she choose those weapons by looking at pictures of them and declaring that they “look” scary and should be banned. I do not belong to the NRA but I do think they make a number of valid points. If all weapons were to be registered, ONLY law abiding citizens would be in that database. The journal PROVED how dangerous information in the hands of loons can be. They put MANY people in danger with their idiotic map. As you say, A gun is only a tool but there are are many in this country standing on the caskets of children trying very hard to take these tools away. Can you believe that Sylvester Stallone no less came out in favor of assault weapons (a vulgar misnomer by the way). Think about this scenario: We have had two attempted break-ins in the last three weeks. That is a fact. One was rummaging in Mehgans car at 3am when I went out and stopped him. 3 weeks ago someone tried to come into the house also in the middle of the night. Had Mehgan been here alone with Madi and that person broke a window and made it into the house she would be terroized. With a small clip in a handgun in her shaking hands she would be very lucky indeed to hit anything even at close range. a seven round clip would very likely be useless. In an AR-15 type weapon with a high capacity clip, she would have a much better chance of defending here and her daughter. I doubt she could even pump a shotgun! In that scenario I would WANT my daughter to have the right tool for the job. You say I should shut off Fox news and go outside for a breather, I submit that though Fox news is often biased and fomenting, they also bring a lot to the table that the rest bury. I could counter rhat MANY should shut off MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and it’s ilk and think for themselves for a change. I honestly believe that if the American people knew how insidious our government is and how little they care for the hard working men and women of this country, there would be uprisings the like of which haven’t been seen since 1776 and 1864. This has gone on much farther than I had planned but you know me!
    Love you brother
    Mike.

    • Hey old friend, Thanks so much for taking the time to read and reply. I respect your views, and I think we would agree on most points – as I said in the blog, by and large, gun laws do nothing but make criminals out of law-abiding citizens. As for Sen. Feinstein, I don’t worry too much about her “dream” legislation – it’s not going to pass, and as much as he might wish he could, the president cannot just issue an executive order to make it so, since current federal law expressly forbids universal registration. Anyway, I hadn’t heard about y’all’s run-ins with would-be break-ins – I’m glad you’re all okay! We miss you, and think about y’all often. Take care, Dusty

  5. Dusty,
    I really appreciate you opening this subject up for discussion. It’s important to have a respectful dialogue on these kinds of topics. I sincerely hope no one has unfriended you. Here are a couple thoughts to add to your blog and the thoughtful responses you’ve received so far. First, for every action, there is a equal and opposite reaction. Diane Feinstein and others closest to Obama are political ideologues, Progressives, Marxists and Communists and would eliminate the 2nd Amendment if they possibly could. They’ve said so. Feinstein urged all Americans to just turn in their guns. The NRA doesn’t scare me, but, Feinstein’s rhetoric does. The NRA according to their own words was created first and foremost to defend the 2nd Amendment. The other stuff you listed, gun safety and ownership are sidebars for them and yes, they need money to function just like any other Washington lobby. We are still a capitalist country, at least for now, and a lobby group is not bad and not illegal. If you don’t agree, then you should work to change the laws and eliminate all lobby groups. Second, there is no such thing as an “assault weapon.” That term was coined by the liberal media to scare people away from owning certain firearms. Anything can be used as an “assault weapon.” If you don’t believe me, let me introduce you to my assault baseball bat. By using the term, you fall prey to the MSM’s definition of firearms. Control the language and you control the argument. Third, turn off Fox? Maybe. I haven’t seen Fox in two years. If Fox goes then you must turn off ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC/Pravda and it’s mentally challenged little brother MSNBC. A lot of crap comes out of their news divisions as well. Oh, and don’t forget those bastions of balance RT (Russian Today) and Al-Jezzerra–Thanks Al Gore. I read the other responses to your blog today. You have many intelligent, well-informed friends. You are very blessed. I am envious.

    Lisa

    • Dear Lisa,

      First of all, I’m very glad to number YOU among my “intelligent, well-informed” friends. And you’re right – I am blessed. And I’m thankful to FB for allowing you & me to reconnect after so many years. I’m sorry we were out of touch for so long.

      I think you’re right about Feinstein, et al, and their desire to gut the Second Amendment. As I said in the original blog, what the libs don’t realize is that it’s only because of the Second Amendment that most of the others can exist.

      As to my rant against Fox News – you’re right about the bias of the other networks. I guess my complaint is how many people don’t want to acknowledge the bias that Fox has, perhaps because it’s telling them what they want to hear. You’re absolutely right about this being a capitalistic society (for the record, I think that’s a good thing, at least until the Kingdom of God comes in full!) – in my opinion, Fox spouts the rhetoric that it does to reach their target audience, plain and simple. I think if people want to watch Fox, that’s fine, just don’t let it be their only source of news & information. In fact, I DO watch Fox sometimes, but I also watch CBS & CNN. I draw the line at MSNBC, though!

      RE: your “assault baseball bat” – another good point. I think I read somewhere that more people are murdered with hammers than with firearms. Don’t know if that’s true, but it’s plausible. Do we need “assault hammer” legislation? Or to require extra liability insurance for homeowners who own hammers? The stupidity of such notions is self-evident.

      The fact remains, I am opposed to most gun control proposals, mostly because of their utter futility. They simply don’t work, as the murder rate in Chicago proves. And whether the liberal commentators want to admit it or not, I agree that the Founders DID desire to give citizens the power to protect themselves from tyranny. My point in writing was to recognize that regardless of the president or the Dems in Congress, many of those seeking to ban weapons are not motivated from an evil political agenda, but from the sincere (but misguided) desire to stop gun violence. Good idea. Bad solution.

      Finally, I appreciate that the discussion on this HAS been respectful, and that no one has “unfriended” me over it – I was being mostly facetious, but these days, you never know. Thank YOU for your good thoughts, and for taking the time to write. As another friend once said to me, you & I may not get to visit much in this world, but when we get to heaven, please save me about ten thousand years, so we can have plenty of time to catch up then.

      Take care,
      Dusty

    • Lisa wrote:

      “The NRA according to their own words was created first and foremost to defend the 2nd Amendment.”

      Actually I think they were formed by former Union officers back in the 1870s (I a not looking it up, just from memory) to promote rifle practice. Looking back at the Civil War they were appalled at the apparent horrible marksmanship of Union troops in that war. That was their initial agenda.

      Of course back then they hadn’t read the book “On Killing” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (see the description on Amazon) where he tried to find out the truth about killing and war. Basically what he found out is our conception of how war worked in the past was largely a myth.

      Most people cannot kill another person, even to save their own life. There is something inside most people that prevents it without very special training (to disconnect the mind and make killing an automatic reaction). That training by the way, may go a long way to explaining what we call PTSD.

      Is interesting reading. Highly recommend it. You will never see a war movie the same way again after reading it. 🙂

      lwk

      Who Needs An Assault Rifle?
      http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/who-needs-an-assault-rifle/

  6. Interesting thought. I do recall reading somewhere that one reason the South won so many battles early in the war was because even though the Federal troops had generally much better weapons technologically, Southern soldiers were generally much better marksmen – probably thanks to the fact that so many had grown up with firearms and were used to hitting what they aimed at. And as many have pointed out, hitting what you aim at is real gun control!

    dg

    • A lot of theories have been given. Early in the war I don’t think the North had any real great technical advantage. Firearms were very similar, and some Southerners had pretty good British manufactured weapons. The Southerner tended to lack shoes more than good guns.

      According to Grossman soldiers on both sides tended to miss a _lot_ more than they hit. He believes that often the soldier would aim above and deliberately fire to miss – almost impossible for his fellows to detect. Of course there was a musket found at Gettysburg that had been loaded 7 times (but never fired – one load of powder and a Minie ball on top of another – seven total). The guy probably got killed.

      The interesting thing about Grossman’s book is not how many were killed on either side or who won a particular engagement, but how few were killed given the tremendous number of rounds fired. Even a blind person could probably do better firing at a mass of hundreds of soldiers less than a hundred yards away. 🙂

      Fortunately according to the research of Dr. Gary Kleck in most cases of self defense the would be aggressor is scared off by an armed victim and no shots are fired. That is probably a very good thing, because most of those people intending to defend themselves might not be able to actually pull the trigger with the front sight on someone’s chest.

      Another interesting thing that Grossman found out is the small percentage of people who can kill fall roughly into two groups. Sociopaths obviously on the criminal side, but on the other side those who are not apparent sociopaths and who can kill tend to be some of the most successful people in society. He gives examples of people who killed a lot in WWII and came home to be company CEOs or bank presidents, etc.

      Like I said – the book is interesting and will not reinforce the stereotypes many learned from movies. 🙂

      lwk

      Who Needs An Assault Rifle?
      http://free2beinamerica2.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/who-needs-an-assault-rifle/

      lwk

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