Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Posts Tagged ‘gun control

Through Thick and Thin

with 6 comments

Well, my gun control posts got a lot of comments. Not surprising, it’s a topic that people tend to have strong opinions on. However it looks like long time commenter Steve finally got pushed over the edge and will be finding new blogs to comment on. I’m not sure why he hung around so long, he usually vehemently disagreed with just about everything I wrote. In his final comment he claimed I had a serious mental defect. I resent that. My mental defects are comical and preposterous, there’s nothing serious about them at all.  I’d say he’ll be missed, but I doubt it. I will however be writing more about gun control, in my researches I discovered that “fact lite” describes a tremendous amount of what is written on the topic by all parties in the debate. Even the serious (there’s that word again) research is often badly tainted by ideology. Lastly, the research by its very nature is statistical and thus easy to manipulate to get the desired results, consciously or unconsciously.

I guess the thing that gets me about the gun control “debate,” is that it’s like health care. Despite the fact that by every measure the USA has the most expensive and least effective health care system in the developed world, millions of Americans are convinced we have the best health care system in the world. And by the same token, despite a level of gun violence that dwarfs that of the rest of the developed world, millions of Americans are convinced there is no problem. When I was young wilful ignorance wasn’t considered a patriotic value, now it’s a point of pride. Jesus wept.

Speaking of consciously manipulated: Missouri Votes Kids Shouldn’t Have To Study Evolution, Climate Change, Or Anything Gay. This is wrong on so many levels. Education is for broadening the mind and exposing children to different perspectives so they can use the brains God gave them for what they were intended. Channelling a child’s education into “ideologically safe” areas is the ultimate admission that a philosophy can’t stand on its own merits. If Fundamentalists really believed that Evolution was false, shouldn’t they welcome it in the schools so that their children can discuss it, see its flaws, and point them out to others? Why are they afraid to expose their children to ideas they disagree with?

Atomic bombings. This week was the anniversary of them. I’ve written a  number of posts about them. I wasn’t up to it this year. They tend to be controversial. That’s being diplomatic. Another topic where many or most Americans have learned propaganda substituted for history and fact. The fact is that under the laws of the era, they were terrible war crimes. They played little or no role in the Japanese surrender. They served no military purpose. They were opposed by the US military, Eisenhower and MacArthur were against them. There was no need to invade Japan, they were already beaten. Potential American casualties of a million in the planned invasion of Japan were made up by the Truman administration to justify the bombings after the fact (ignoring the point that it’s a war crime to kill any civilians in order to protect your soldiers. They are noncombatants, that means soldiers aren’t allowed to shoot at them.) And Japan had already been trying to surrender, they would agree to anything as long as we agreed not to prosecute their emperor. A condition we granted them anyhow. This is one of the best examples of how patriotic hypocrisy works in a nation, where people justify terrible crimes committed by their government, while casting terrible aspersions on the crimes of other nations. Probably a good thing Steve left, he’d be having a heart attack and a stroke now.

Yeah, I use religious language and imagery frequently. I’m a free thinker. Isn’t that a contradiction? From some perspectives I suppose. It would be more accurate I suppose  if I used “hypothetical-Jesus wept” or “hypothetical-God bless.” I think God and Jesus are myths, but I still live my life in such a way that if I die and find myself at the gates of Heaven, I’ll be able to look them in the eye. Why would anyone do anything less? So I don’t have a problem with using them as a literary device, and as a way to speak to people who do believe in God. That would be a lot of people, including the majority of my friends and family. I imagine a Jesus (or Moses or Buddha or whoever) who would be appalled at some of the stuff done in their name. Any religious person who can’t find common ground in there somewhere is a fool or a liar.

There are a lot of fools and liars in the world. Science has in fact shown that people can lie to themselves. Try to think about that.

(The above image has been shamelessly copied from Facebook, whoever holds the copyright is waycool. I like it because of the sentiment, and I like it because it is an interesting photograph. I’m gonna be posting more  photographs soon, brace yourselves.)

Written by unitedcats

August 10, 2012 at 7:25 am

Can we talk about gun control?

with 25 comments

Sadly, not in America. The gun lobby delivers so many votes to the GOP that no national debate is possible, and has millions of Americans not only convinced that gun violence isn’t a problem, they are convinced that any and all attempts at gun control are part and parcel of liberal plots to confiscate American’s guns. Yes, Obama, who passed more pro-gun legislation than his predecessor, is secretly planning to use his second term to take away American’s guns. That’s right on up their with some progressive’s belief that in his second term Obama is going to show his true liberal stripes and actually fulfill the failed promises that got liberals to elect him in the first place. As an aside I think it’s fascinating that so many people are convinced that Obama isn’t really who he appears to be. I strongly suspect that the endless propaganda the past few years about how Obama isn’t a real American, wasn’t born in America, is a secret Muslim, etc. is driving these beliefs. I’m not sure there’s ever been a president who was so widely thought to be hiding a secret agenda. Kennedy maybe. However, even if gun control won’t be discussed in Congress, where they are too busy discussing vagina control, I can discuss it here.  Here then are three modest proposals for reducing gun violence in the USA:

1. Buyback programs. This is where a government agency offers money to people who turn in guns for disposal. People voluntarily turning in guns for disposal, who could possibly object? Gun nuts of course, who insist that this is both a useless waste of money, and a step towards total gun confiscation. The argument being that criminals aren’t going to turn in their guns, so how can this help? It helps because it gets crappy guns out of the homes of people who don’t want them and don’t know how to store them, let alone use them. Think widows whose husbands have died who left a pistol. These are the sorts of guns that get stolen by burglars or found by children with tragic result. Or how about parents who confiscate a gun from one of their kids. Or any number of situations where a gun is removed from a home where it didn’t belong and was just an accident or a murder waiting to happen. There’s a problem with getting a gun out of circulation, especially if it was circulating in the wrong hands? Criminals may not turn in their guns, but that doesn’t mean their relatives, spouses, or partners won’t turn them in.

2. Education. I see no reasons why public school children shouldn’t be taught about the hazards associated with guns. The equivalent of the Red Asphalt movies about the hazards of driving would impact some kids. And there’s nothing wrong with kids being taught the basics of gun safety. Don’t point it at people even for fun, store them properly, don’t leave them loaded, etc. Yes, some progressives will claim this is teaching kids about guns, the same way that some people claim sex education will make kids want to go out and have sex. Both are full of it. Kids will have sex, and they will encounter guns, better they know the risks and how to avoid them than to pretend that ignorance is safe.

3. Magazine control. I’m sorry, but there is no legitimate sporting or self-defence need for a semi-automatic gun that can shoot a hundred rounds without reloading, give me a fucking break. What, a herd of rabid deer is going to attack a hunter? And as Mr Holmes just demonstrated, they most certainly can be misused. Sure criminals will be able to find them, but why make it easy? And if they aren’t legal, manufacturers will have no reason to make them! That will reduce the number in circulation dramatically, making it that much harder for criminals and the insane to get them.

That just scratches the surface, but it would prevent some shootings. The real problem is a culture of violence and a gun cult mentality that pervades a huge section of the population and is impervious to reason or facts. Just do a google image search for “gun control,” it’s scary. Cartoon after cartoon promoting absolute silly shit about gun control. If taking away guns caused crime, Canada and Europe would be plagued with crime. Instead, they have trivial levels of gun crime compared to the USA. It’s complicated though, and America’s problems with violence are deep rooted and not due to the availability of guns. And of course not only does rejecting gun control get votes, it also makes money for Hollywood. Damned if I know how to address that issue though, we’re kind of a sick culture when it comes right down to it.

On the plus side, a wonderful video  just came out of Hollywood. The first step to solving a problem is to admit there is a problem, this video gives me hope, enjoy: The most honest three and a half minutes of television, EVER…

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Since I’m promoting discussion of gun control, hopefully the copyright holders won’t mind me using it. Credit and copyright: Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence. Coming soon, something more upbeat, maybe a post on Syria.)

 

Confessions of a Gun Nut … and the Lies of the NRA

with 10 comments

I admit it, as a young man I was a gun nut. I mean, yeesh, it was easy. Walk into a store, give them money, walk out with guns and ammo. Drive out to the desert and shoot everything in sight, how could I resist? I didn’t, I must have fired thousands of rounds through dozens of guns in my day. Even worse, I was an irresponsible gun nut. There were times and places where I should not have been shooting, and there were times and places where I stored or used guns in a terribly unsafe way. I can recall two accidental discharges where it was only a matter of inches and a terrible tragedy would have resulted. So I was a lucky gun nut, I grew up and became a responsible gun owner before something terrible happened.

I look back now, and yes, it was too easy for me to get guns. And some of the guns I was able to easily get were dangerous or completely beyond any reasonable sporting or self defence need. And the “education” I was required to get in order to buy and use these guns was a joke. There were reasonable and practical laws and regulations that would have made me a much safer gun nut. I wasn’t some lunatic who was determined to get a gun and kill people; and if I had been, yes, laws and regulations wouldn’t have stopped me.

Which highlights the first and possibly the biggest lie the gun lobby uses to derail discussion of gun regulation. The claim that “criminals and lunatics will be able to get guns no matter what the laws.” True. As far as it goes. The problem with this “argument” is twofold. If a law makes it harder for criminals and lunatics to get guns without taking away law abiding citizens rights, that’s a fucking problem? Arguing that criminals will always be able to get guns so gun regulation is useless, is literally saying “we should make it as easy as possible for criminals and lunatics to get gets.” Excuse me, but that’s fucktard insane. As Mr Holmes and many like him have more than amply demonstrated.

Secondly, and more insidious, the “criminals will get guns” argument completely ignores the fact that a tremendous amount of gun violence does not involve criminals or lunatics. More than half the gun deaths in the USA are suicides, over 15,000 deaths a year. And there’s more 20,000 accidental gunshot injuries in the USA every year, including over 500 deaths. Again, if laws and regulations might make some of these suicides and accidents less likely, there’s a problem with that? Wait some are saying, if someone is going to kill themselves, they will find a way, how can gun control prevent those deaths? Listen closely, because this is something that a lot of people don’t want people to know gentle reader. A lot of human behaviour, and that most certainly includes suicides, is impulsive.  It’s not planned, it’s not premeditated, it’s just a spur of the moment combination of opportunity and impulse. We know this, both from people who survive suicide attempts, and from the fact that when “suicide magnets” like the Golden Gate Bridge are made suicide proof, local suicide rates go down. And, obviously, a certain percentage of homicides have to be impulsive events as well.

And let’s look at the accidental deaths thing a bit more. A lot of these are children. Again, if we can reduce these deaths without infringing on anyone’s rights, what the hell is the problem? In fact (look it up,) the gun industry has managed to  insulate itself from most simple product safety law. It’s, literally, as if the automobile industry was able to prevent mandatory safety glass or seat belts. A great example, the Ruger company for several decades until the seventies manufactured and sold “Old Model” revolvers. These were revolvers built to a nineteenth century design. They were simple, they were elegant, they were beautiful … and if jarred or dropped, they would fire. At least 600 deaths, many children, have resulted from this company’s decision to market an unsafe gun. To this day they have avoided being required to recall them. Americans have a right to buy unsafe guns? Give me a break.

Speaking of infringing on rights, the NRA and it’s supporters ignore the fact that a few years back the Supreme Court ruled that the second amendment means that Americans do indeed have a right to bear arms. They continue to rant (yes, that’s the word) about how liberals and/or Obama are going to somehow confiscate American’s guns. Can’t happen without changing the Constitution, and that’s not about to happen anytime soon. Their hysterical preaching encourages Americans to buy and stockpile guns and ammo. One would think they were just a shill for the gun industry. Actually, that’s exactly what I think. I’d call them a prostitute for the gun industry, but that would be an insult to prostitutes.  They do everything they can to glorify guns, and wrap themselves in the flag while they are at it. The NRA was once a fairly responsible organization, I know, I was a member for years.

And while on the topic of glorifying guns, Hollywood has a lot of blood on its hands too. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the single person gun massacre is a late 20th century phenomena in the USA. Endless movies glorifying gun violence, and more importantly, glorifying retribution on your enemies by getting mad and shooting a bunch of them is a central theme in Hollywood. A meta-study of 5,000 studies looking at the the link between media and violence found that all but 18 of them found some linkage, and 12 of those 18 were funded by media interests. Sure, normal healthy people aren’t going to run out and shoot people because of violence on TV or in the movies, but not everyone is normal and healthy! Basically it’s a fact that media violence plays some role in inspiring real world violence, monkey see, monkey do.

My point, is that gun violence encompasses a vast array of violence with multiple and complex causes. It’s  simplistic and wrong to claim that guns are the problem, though frankly not as simplistic and wrong to claim that guns aren’t part of the problem. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” may sound all righteous and holy, but how the hell does that translate into “We shouldn’t do anything to keep guns out of the hands of lunatics and criminals?” It doesn’t of course, and there’s all sorts of things that could be done to address the problem without infringing on anyone’s rights. Which will be the topic of a upcoming post.

And yes, I decided to post this blog today because of yesterday’s mass shooting in Wisconsin. The details aren’t all in yet, but we do know that Wisconsin has some of the most permissive gun laws in the nation.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. That’s a recent cover of the NRA’s magazine, which used to be called “The American Rifleman” back when it was a reasonably responsible organization. Replace “election” with “organization,” and it describes the contemporary NRA quite nicely.)

Written by unitedcats

August 6, 2012 at 8:03 am