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Say, Can You See?

Oh say, does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave
O’er the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave?

Not according to Wayne La Pierre of the NRA, it doesn’t.  He has a vision of a nation imprisoned and afraid, an America I simply cannot recognize.  His call for a new security regime with armed guards posted at every school, every place where the vulnerable cringe with fear from gun violence, has drawn detractors from every corner of the country.  That’s only reasonable, of course.  But I have to thank him for starkly painting the picture as to exactly where we are going if there is not a change of some kind.

A school in Connecticut, a church in Pennsylvania, a trap set for fireman in New York – every week it seems there is another event or two.  The corrosive action of fear creeps in like rust, never sleeping and eating its way gradually to our core.  A change must come because this is intolerable.  The change, however, must not just be one of law.  The change has to be one from deep inside us as a people.

gun-controlThe LaPierre plan calls for fighting gun violence with more guns.  It ignores the simple fact that many infamous shootings, including Columbine, Fort Hood, and Virginia Tech had trained, armed men posted who could not prevent the spasms of violence.  The press conference was drenched with denial and as unrealistic as it was horrific.

The responses have come from the most usual quarters, especially in the form of new laws to regulate guns.  But it has also generated poignant and thoughtful alternatives from Michael Moore and even Rep. Ron Paul, who said “School shootings, no matter how horrific, do not justify creating an Orwellian surveillance state in America.”  Both men, who rarely agree on much, agree that the problem is not with guns as much as it is with something very deep in our culture.

What are we so terribly afraid of?

There is little doubt that the horrors that we confront so constantly will create new laws of some kind.  Some of them will be useful reforms that will save lives when things go horribly wrong, such as banning clips of more than 10 rounds.  Some will be difficult and unrealistic, such as attempts to ban the largely cosmetic differences that constitute an “assault rifle”.  I have come to believe that it is time that we regulate guns the way we do cars – requiring a license to own one and registration for every weapon.  This may sound like a bizarre reach, but it comes from how I have come to see the problem.

Laws, by themselves, do not prevent terrible behavior.  Where decency fails and people do awful things to each other there is usually a call for more laws – as if we live our lives by first consulting an attorney with every move.  When what we need is more appropriate behavior laws might comfort those who were victims, but they rarely change much on their own.  They are only useful to the extent that they push a reset button of some kind and encourage decency and thoughtfulness.

To some extent, the problem we face is similar to drunk driving.  Cars are useful things in and of themselves, and drinking, while fraught with problems at the extreme, helps people to come together and get beyond their everyday anxiety.  Put the two together and there is a serious problem.  Some years ago a cultural change had to be made when the death toll started to rise, and new laws were the start of that – but only the start.  Bars had to change their behavior and encourage the use of cabs, and eventually companies like Anheuser-Busch got into the promotion of safe drinking.  It would have been better if people had simply stopped driving while too far over the limit on their own, but it was not happening.

Similarly, “Guns do not kill people, people kill people.”  But guns in the fists of the deranged, scared or very angry make the killing far too easy.  An ordinary citizen would never do such a thing and should never have their rights curtailed, but a change must be made.  The ultimate change is cultural, and a new law should encourage that change.  We must remove the ideal that violence, particularly with guns, solves problems.

Some may bristle at new laws, but encouraging the right behavior is important.  If nothing else, the hardware is one thing but the training and will to use it are another – this is not about guns but how they are used.  Universal registration will encourage the proper training and personal examination that is necessary to use them properly in a time of terrible crisis.

No matter what, the line has been drawn clearly.  Are we going to remain prisoners of our own fear or are we going to do something positive?  The NRA has taken their position, and proven that they have nothing to say of any importance in this debate, which is pathetic and unproductive.  But thinking people understand what needs to be done and we all need to examine just what that means.

We can do that and remain true to our rights and our roots.  In fact, I think those are the instincts that will help us the most as we bravely work to understand what it means to be free.

11 thoughts on “Say, Can You See?

  1. I can think of a lot more laws we could pass, starting with serious regulation of bullets. No one needs to have 200 or more bullets on them and a responsible gun owner will not be limited by this. You do not need 200 bullets to go hunting or for target practice ect.

    • Ammunition regulation is something I have trouble contemplating, because people could still go from store to store. I want any new laws to be ones that are hard to get around and are thus respected. That’s hard to contemplate, frankly, but we can put our heads into it.
      I still want whatever happens to be more about changing the culture and not just laws. The NRA has shown that they are part of the problem – given that all they have to offer is more armament.

  2. The NRA is a sick, evil organization, but one the pols have great respect for, or at least fear of. I’ll never forget being in the Delaware Senate when the new President of the NRA came in to be feted. The way they sucked up to him was enough to make a camel vomit. These NRA jokers have not a word of objection to the creation of a police state–NDAA, etc–so the idea of schools full of “official” guns does seem like something they could promote.

    Personally, I do think the level of gun violence in the US is a symptom of too many guns as such, and a sickness of our culture. Look at Canada–very similar to the US, at least superficially, but with only a fraction of the murder rate, etc.

    • Thank you for that story. It makes me sick just to think about it, frankly. We have to overcome the NRA if this is really all they have to offer.
      So how do we change the culture? I don’t know, honestly. Michael Moore has had a lot to offer on this and I respect his thoughts. But we have to keep it up. Something is wrong at the very core of who we are, IMHO.
      Thank you again, I really appreciate what you have to say here.

  3. You’re not one to leave this up to the people in power I know, but I am willing to wait to see what comes out of this before I judge anything. Feinstein in particular has said she’ll have legislation & I want to see what that says before I get too excited. If that turns out to be nothing or is killed then we can talk about what comes next.

    • That’s fair given that the proof is always in what we actually get done. I do think we have to push this because the politicians can’t get it done on their own – they need pressure all around. But if you want to see what is proposed and what we need to get behind I can see that. Let’s be ready for a fight in either case, OK?

  4. Whether gun violence is a cultural problem or not does not matter anymore, the time has come for serious restrictions on guns and bullets as far as I am concerned. It may be hard to create a definition of an assault weapon that will hold but we have to do it and keep after the manufacturers who get around the definitions one piece at a time. Make it not worth their time to gear up production. This has to stop and it is totally ridiculous that we are not even trying to curb the violence. Maybe not all the laws will help but we have to do something. And the idea that we can have police everywhere is totally ridiculous, I agree.

    • Interesting take, but a game of cat and mouse with manufacturers of guns seems like a lot of effort. More than anything, I want to encourage responsible gun owners to back away from the NRA and work with each other.
      Laws can only go so far – although an outright ban on all guns would be interesting. I can’t see it working, however. Let’s see where this goes.

  5. Actually, I don’t think drivers license-style gun licensing would be a stretch at all; we’ve been talking about exactly this in our house since Newtown, and I’m finding others of like mind as I surf online. The hardline NRA-ers would fight it, but I have to believe, with the public trouncing that organization is taking now, that they will become a minority (if they are not already). If this last election tells any story, it’s that noisy, narrow-minded, arrogant types can bellow all they want, but the rest of us are sick of their behavior and are not interested in going backwards. The best, longlasting changes this country has made throughout its history eventually came to pass because of progressive, “liberal” thinking, and I believe this will be true as we start facing down the 2nd Amendment.

    • Thank you. It’s good to know that this isn’t such a radical idea anymore. I think we should speak in clear, calm voices about the need to simply get a handle on what we are doing and start turning the volume down a bit.
      Here is the 2nd Amendment in its entirety: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
      Note that this is not an unqualified right, like freedom of press or speech. The need for order (regulation) is spelled out clearly. IMHO that’s what we need to push for – more order. I can’t see that this would be unconstitutional.

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