Yes, Again

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People have told me I’ve said enough about guns and the pain they cause in our country, that I have made my point and I should move on to more pleasant and useful matters. The truth is, I have written about gun violence so many times over the last several years because it’s an issue I feel passionately about, it is one that has touched me personally, and one that continues to touch me professionally. You can read some of my prior pieces here, here, here,  here and here. 

Turns out, there is no ‘enough’ with guns. There is no measured rationality. It is an emotional thing for Americans. Here, the gun is more than a gun. It is more even than a phallic symbol, as Dr. Freud might have observed. The gun is our nationally-worshiped idol, as historian Garry Wills suggested here.

The adolescent revolutionary wet-dream fantasies of the  ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ crowd, the Oath Keepers, white supremacist militias and other wannabe Rambos keep feeding our national obsession and growing our civilian national arsenal.

Responding last week to increasingly urgent calls for the meaningful reform of gun regulation by the healthcare community, itself in response to yet another mass shooting, the National Rifle Association (NRA), just the latest in a long line of organizations which make their livelihoods from the misery of others, a diabolically effective lobbying organization for arms manufacturers, told emergency and trauma doctors: “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane.” [emphasis added]

“Do you have any idea how many bullets I pull out of corpses weekly? This isn’t just my lane. It’s my f— highway.”
– Dr. Judy Melinek, San Francisco forensic pathologist

Doctors, many of whom have very deep experience with the business end of the whole gun-worship thing, were having none of it. Thousands took to social media (with the hashtag #ThisIsMyLane) to post their experiences and photos of their masks, gowns, shoes and floors, blood-splashed from victims of gun violence.

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Here’s what I’ve personally seen in the past year:

  • The victims of mass shootings at a UPS delivery facility, YouTube headquarters, a high school and a local barber shop;
  • Countless shooting victims of lower-profile incidents;
  • Their blood, everywhere;
  • Their frightened, angry and grieving families;
  • Our doctors telling brand new widows that our staff did all we could but that their spouses died anyway;
  • Those widows, along with their children and extended family members screaming with anguish;
  • Our nurses desperately looking to colleagues for emotional support after too many hours of too much death;
  • A 13 year-old kid, who was sitting next to his dad when he was shot, shaking with fear and anxiety, refusing to leave his dad’s side even when he needed to go into the CT scanner;
  • A high school student sitting by himself in our emergency department, having just heard that his classmate and friend had been shot dead, saying over and over through sobs, “What am I going to tell my sister? What am I going to tell my sister?”
  • Our social workers trying to help families, insane with grief, through the first hours after a loved one has died.

And as we Americans purchase ever more guns, call for ever more people to be armed, supposedly for self-protection, arrange ever more gun-friendly playdates with neighboring militias, as mercenary spokespeople like Ann Coulter and Dana Loesch continue to purposefully inflame their audiences, the bloodthirsty maw that is this country looks for its next victims.

Stop writing about guns? Fat chance.

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My Case Against the NRA

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This is not a critique of gun owners. I know a great many people who own firearms. Without exception, they know their weapons and how to care for and use them, and are quite serious about safety.

Nor is this a statement about gun control, nor a discussion about the limits of the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution. I have previously written at length about both. You can read three previous posts about guns here, here and here.

This post is strictly about the National Rifle Association (NRA), its methods and indefensible positions on matters of public policy.

Here are some of the association’s most venal policy initiatives:

1. In 1994, the NRA opposed legislation to outlaw teflon-coated bullets, called “cop-killers,” because they are specifically designed to penetrate the body armor commonly worn by police.

2. Starting in about 2007, the NRA wrote and pushed for the adoption of legislation in several states that forced the owners of businesses and land to allow their employees and others to carry firearms onto their private property, even if they expressly denied their permission to do so.

3. In 2010, the NRA supported allowing people on the federal government’s terrorist watch list to buy firearms and asserted that preventing them from doing so would infringe on their 2nd Amendment rights.

4. In 2010, and over the strong objections of the nation’s law enforcement community, the NRA introduced federal legislation (through one of their more dependable toads, Rep. Todd Tihart of Kansas) that severely restricted the information the public was allowed to see about the sources of firearms (i.e., the identities of specific dealers) used in crimes.

5. The NRA has consistently opposed requiring background checks on the sale of every firearm in the US, using the back-door mechanism of so-called “private” gun sales (e.g., at gun shows).

6. The recent position of the NRA’s executive director, expressed mere days after another mass murder of innocents, namely putting armed guards in every American public school, is atrocious for its stupidity and cluelessness as well as its venality.

It’s completely clear that the NRA acts as the political agent of death merchants (i.e., arms manufacturers), not to secure and protect the rights of individual gun owners. How my smart, responsible, gun-owning friends can continue to support with their dues the NRA’s filthy work in consistent opposition to public safety is beyond me.

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Gun Control: A Modest Proposal

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Here’s how I’d characterize the American gun control debate in a nutshell: (1) Gun control advocates say unrestricted ownership of firearms, especially military-style assault weapons, makes us demonstrably less safe. As evidence, witness an unending string of mass shootings. (2) Gun supporters, led by the National Rifle Association and manufacturer industry organizations, say “Tough shit.” The 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution gives us the right to own whatever we please.

There are a lot of people – and I’ve heard too many of them on radio, speaking in response to the Newtown massacre – who believe the US Constitution’s 2nd Amendment means Americans can own any sort of firearm they feel like without restriction. That’s a position of no little controversy. Looking at the text of the 2nd Amendment (above), I would disagree. I believe it’s plain the Congress wanted to provide some specific context to the 2nd Amendment that gun fanatics conveniently ignore.

Specifically, the amendment opens with this insight into the Congress’ frame of reference:

“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state…”

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So, a few things from that. First, the Congress thought of private ownership of firearms as within the framework of a “well regulated militia,” like these guys (see above). I don’t believe they intended gun ownership to be separate from that framework, or they would not have included that specification in the text of the amendment.

Second, think about their frame of reference as to firearms.

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Yeah, like the one this guy is holding (above). This is the kind of gun the Congress knew of and had in mind, the kind of gun that’s now romanticized and even fetishized in rallies and collateral for pro-gun organizations. I’ve heard too often these last few days how personal and unregulated gun ownership is all that stands between we citizens and the rise of totalitarian government control.

As if.

Two things pro-gun spokespeople seem to hold sacrosanct: (1) their reverence for the original intent of the writers of the 2nd Amendment, and (2) their belief that the 2nd Amendment guarantees them the unregulated right to own whatever firearms they want.

So, I hereby offer a compromise proposal.

Let American citizens buy as many guns as they want, as long as they look like the guns the founding fathers had in mind when they drafted gun supporters’ most holy 2nd Amendment.

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I feel safer already, don’t you?