Guns, Germs, and Science: (Re)Thinking Ways to Prevent Mass Casualty Shootings

The debate over what to do about mass shootings generates heated extremes on both sides. While there is no consensus on what defines a mass shooting we will use the Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act of 2012 standard of three or more victims in a public place.

On one side are those who would do away with all firearms, seeing that as the only solution. On the other extreme are those who see the Second Amendment as inviolate imbuing a constitutional right to possess and carry a firearm anywhere they so choose.

They base both more on emotion than rational argument.

If we “must do something” to prevent mass shootings, we should act with data and deliberation. Doing something with no idea of whether it will work, and may cause more harm, is as dangerous as doing nothing.

If we “must leave the Second Amendment untouched” without similar deliberation, this is equally dangerous.

My perspective on this comes from two almost diametrically opposed positions. First, as a retired police officer, I recall the heart-pounding adrenaline rush of gun calls. Those moments of fearful uncertainty as you walked up to the driver’s side of a car you just stopped. The controlled terror working undercover buying illegal guns—often automatic weapons with silencers—from individuals who faced long prison terms if convicted. This terror is something no one who hasn’t experienced it can ever understand.

I spent twenty years wearing a ballistic vest, hoping to go home every night, as do officers today. There is no way I would have ever worked such a job without the reassuring feeling of a weapon on my hip or in a shoulder holster—both on and off duty—ready if the need arose.

This leads me to one of the most controversial misconceptions about the job. Whenever my previous life as an officer comes up, I invariably hear, “you must be glad you’re not a cop today.” The implication being the job is inherently more dangerous today than in the past.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact is the job has always been dangerous. In fact, in 1978, the year I went on the job, 100 officers died from gunshots. In 1998, the year I retired, 64 were shot and killed. In 2008, 42 died because of gunshots.

These numbers, while tragic, are meaningless out of context. In 2018, 52 were shot and killed in the line of duty, while 172 current or former officers committed suicide. If we just look at numbers, cops are more likely to die by their own hands than by any threat on the street.

This underscores the challenges of measuring threats and risks exclusively by numbers, ten second video clips, or perceptions based on anecdotal evidence at best or baseless assumptions at worse. While any death of a law enforcement officer related to the job is a tragedy, addressing the problem cannot even begin until we get to the fundamental basis and cause. 

The fact is, we may be imbuing officers with an unrealistic impression of the threat level through training that compounds the risk on the street despite evidence to the contrary. The reality is, we simply do not know.

The public is getting misleading information as well. This threat perception gets carried out to the general population which perceives an increasingly threatening world necessitating arming themselves. The threat perception becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The average citizen is now getting a bit of a peak into the daily life of cops on the street through cell phone video and so-called “reality” TV. The perspective is skewed and distorted at best, because the “reality” shows condense what may be a single incident in a week long tour of duty and combine it with others to give the impression of non-stop violent confrontations. These scenarios, particularly cell phone videos, are repeated ad nauseum. While it is in many ways enlightening, it lacks context. 

News headlines are equally deceptive and skewed. Headlines of “Another Police shooting” scream repeatedly from websites, news stations, and talks shows giving the impression it is a daily event. This is because the reality headline most days could be, “700,000 cops worked yesterday and shot no one, again” but no one would pay attention.

My other perspective—developed with the benefit of separation from the insular world of law enforcement where every person you meet is considered a threat—makes me question the necessity of carrying a weapon even though, as retired law enforcement, I can do so anywhere in the country.

I own weapons and belong to a firing range, so it is not that I have any objection to target shooting. Nor do I object to hunting. Of course, with very few exceptions, people hunt because they want to, not because they have to and people carry guns because it makes them feel safer, whether is actually makes them, or others, safer is the question.

The idea of the average American carrying a weapon because they believe it makes them safer seems counterintuitive to me as a societal benefit. It may also be fueled by misconceptions and distorted perceptions of the threat level. Most police departments allow officers to choose to carry off-duty weapons; they do not require them to because of the inherent complications of “friendly fire” incidents and liability.

Yet what I may think or believe may not be valid, and thus the need to approach this in a logical and scientific, data-driven manner.

First, let me make it clear I believe every American citizen should be able to own a firearm. While I may not see the need for anyone to own military-grade weapons (assault weapons are a misnomer, any gun is an assault weapon, it is inherent in their design), the choice is personal.

As a way of comparison, I see no need for anyone to have a vehicle capable of traveling faster than the US’s maximum speed limit, which, believe it or not, I learned in researching this piece is 85 MPH. Why we have vehicles capable of twice that velocity is beyond me, but we do. We depend on personal responsibility and, absent that, law enforcement to ensure compliance.

Thus it is with weapons. While I may be satisfied firing my Glock 45, others may need the thrill of an AR-15, AK-47, or other weapons. It is a matter of preference, also controlled by personal responsibility and enforceable laws.

I do not see restricting or limiting firearms ownership, regardless of the nomenclature assigned to amplify their inherent danger, as either practical, workable, or effective.

I also have an innate sense that unrestricted access to weaponry and the option to carry weapons—concealed or otherwise—is either irrational or unnecessary and certainly not in keeping with the “original intent” of the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

In the period leading up to the Revolutionary War, the armaments available to the King’s Army and to the colonists were, with few exceptions, comparable. The British Army carried muzzle loaded muskets known as the “Brown Bess.” They were inherently inaccurate (rifled barrels, which improved accuracy, although dating from the 1500s, were not commonly used until the 19th century) thus the skirmish lines where the British would line up and fire volleys of rounds, increasing the likelihood of hitting the enemy.

They also had cannon, which were devastating weapons but slow to load and cumbersome to move.

The Revolutionary soldiers had much of the same armament—locally produced muskets were known as Committee of Safety weapons and bore no makers mark to avoid prosecution by the Crown prior to the start of the war—and used captured cannon to balance the battlefield.

In essence, the weaponry used by the “government” and that used by the colonists were the same. It was a level playing field. After the war, there was much concern about the keeping of a standing army (many of the founders opposed such a policy) out of fear of similar government suppression.

Thus, the Second Amendment and its reference to a “well-regulated” militia. They never expected the change in weapons, from inaccurate muskets to full automatic, highly accurate shoulder arms all the way to man-portable surface-to-air rockets. How could they? No one had even flown yet, let alone at supersonic speeds carrying sophisticated, self-guided fire and forget weaponry.

So one fairly logical conclusion is, assuming some dystopian future where the government convinces the Joint Chiefs of Staff to attack the general population, no matter how many weapons are in the hands of civilians, they wouldn’t stand a chance against a Marine Division, a Mechanized Army Tank Corps, or a squadron of F-117 or B-52 bombers.

The balance of power between the weapons in the hands of the people and those controlled by the “standing army” was long ago tilted in the government’s favor.

I would contend that those who argue the Second Amendment affords them protection from the actions of a tyrannical government are suffering delusions. They might inflict some casualties, but their success would be beyond a Pyrrhic victory.

I think that argument can be put to rest. They would be better protected from tyranny by paying attention at the ballot box and to the daily activities of government and those who serve in it.

A second argument, one that I believe is more convincing in its logic, is that most Americans who have weapons never use them to break the law. And, on those rare occasions when faced with a threat to themselves or others, actually do something of benefit to society.

If I own and use my weapon(s) within the confines of the law. If I threaten no one. If I assault no one. If I never use the weapon outside of the firing range or hunting except in an instance of self-defense or the defense of some innocent victim of crime, why should it be any concern of yours what I have, how many I have, or why I have them?

Such an argument focuses us on the real problem; those who use firearms to commit crimes and those who, through some debilitating psychological condition, need be prevented from possessing firearms.

The question then becomes two-fold. Who should not be allowed to possess weapons and how do we accomplish this goal?

The answer, to this point, eludes us. We are either unwilling or incapable of dedicating the resources to exploring the facts behind the phenomenon, committing ourselves to developing data-driven research into the causes and societal costs, and demanding that Congress and the President take immediate action such as creating a 9/11 style commission to develop solutions based on peer reviewed research.

The NRA, now diminished by its own resistance to reality, through its prior political influence, prevented such institutions as the CDC or the National Institute of Health from even studying the problem of guns as a health issue.

This lack of foundational data to measure the problem, the cost to society, and the dearth of possible solutions merely perpetuates the misconceptions on both sides of the issue. The reality may be that the overall security benefit of carrying a weapon is unjustifiable by the actual threat. It may be that carrying a weapon makes one inherently safer. It may be that the proliferation of firearms has nothing to do with the incidents of mass shootings. The simple fact is, we don’t know.

Therein lies the problem.

On the other side of this debate, is the one proffered by those who would eliminate all firearms or, failing that, limit access to what they classify as “assault” weapons. They have a compelling argument in the sense of the bloodshed and carnage which seems unique to this country.

While there have been mass shootings in other countries, none come close to the number which have happened—and likely will continue to happen absent an effective solution—here.

The cost to society is something we must consider in crafting a solution. It is not an either or/zero sum game where either we ban guns or everyone carries guns. These are not solutions, they are reactions to a problem we don’t understand.

We need turn to science and rational analysis to craft options and solutions.

Much like our determination to put a human on the moon or, more recently, to develop not only effective vaccines to treat and prevent Covid-19 but to unleash the power of an entirely new approach to anti-viral medicines through mRNA, we need a national commitment to solve the problem.

The first step is getting to the heart of the problem.

Joe Broadmeadow

The human side of this story, those who are the victims in these matters—the dead and the wounded—need be heard as well.

Elisabeth Rosenthal, MD worked as an emergency room physician at a Level 1 trauma center in New York City. She wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post about her experiences and the changing nature of the type of wounds she treated. 

Dr. Rosenthal wrote,

“In the 1990s, by which time I was an emergency-room doctor at a Level 1 trauma center in New York City, I became acquainted with the damage that small-caliber handguns could cause. When I started treating gunshot victims, I marveled at how subtle and clean the wounds often were, externally at least. Much cleaner than stabbings or car-wreck injuries.

We searched for a tiny entrance wound and the larger exit wound; they were often subtle and hard to locate. If you couldn’t find the latter, you would often see the tiny metal bullet, or fragments, lodged somewhere internally on an X-ray — often not worth retrieving because it was doing no damage.

These were people shot in muggings or in drug deals gone wrong. Most of these patients had exploratory surgery, but so long as the bullet had not hit a vital organ or major vessel, people survived. No one was blown apart.

Guns and the devastating injuries they cause have evolved into things I don’t recognize anymore.

Certainly, many American gun owners — maybe a majority of them — are still interested in skill and the ability to hit the bull’s eye of a target (or a duck or deer if you’re of the hunting persuasion). But the adrenaline in today’s gun culture clearly lies in paramilitary posturing, signaling to the world the ability to bring mayhem and destruction. Add a twisted mind with the urge to actually bring mayhem and destruction, and tragedy awaits.  

Before Congress passed an assault weapons ban in 1994, Americans owned about 400,000 AR-15s, the most popular of these military-style weapons. Today, 17 years after Congress failed to reauthorize the ban, Americans own about 20 million AR-15-style rifles or similar weapons.

Why this change in gun ownership? Was it because 9/11 made the world a much scarier place? Was it NRA scaremongering about the Second Amendment? The advent of violent video games?   

Now, not just emergency rooms but also schools and offices stage active-shooter drills. When I was an ER doctor, we, too, practiced disaster drills. A bunch of surrogate patients would be wheeled in, daubed with fake blood. Those drills seem naïve in 2021 — we never envisioned the kinds of mass-shooting disasters that have now become commonplace.

And, frankly, no disaster drill really prepares an emergency room for a situation where multiple people are shot with today’s semiautomatic weapons. You might save a few people with careful triage and preparation. Most just die.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/04/07/i-was-teenage-gun-owner-then-an-er-doctor-assault-style-weapons-make-me-sick

Now before you jump to the conclusion that Dr. Rosenthal is just some bleeding heart liberal anti-gun nut listen to this. She began shooting when she was 8 or 9 years old, taught by her father who was also a physician.

For her 13th birthday, she received a Remington.22 rifle which she carried on her shoulder to school for practice on the riflery team. She enjoyed shooting.

Her time in the ER taught her this,

“…the United States has undergone a cultural, definitional, practical shift on guns and what they are for…Once mostly associated in the public mind with sport, guns in the United States are now widely regarded more as weapons to maim or kill — or to protect from the same. Guns used to be on a continuum with bows and arrows; now they seem better lumped in with grenades, mortars and bombs.

My Remington .22 has about as much in common with an assault-style weapon as an amoeba has with a human life. The injuries they produce don’t belong under one umbrella of “gun violence.”

Though both crimes are heinous, the guy who shoots someone with an old pistol in a mugging is a different kind of perpetrator from the person who, dressed in body armor, carries a semiautomatic weapon into a theater, house of worship or school and commences a slaughter.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/04/07/i-was-teenage-gun-owner-then-an-er-doctor-assault-style-weapons-make-me-sick

Dr. Rosenthal depicts the tragic, gory, bloody underbelly of gun violence and the changing nature of such in the US over the past few decades. 

I think she makes one of the most salient points when she theorizes that the increase on both the number and firepower of weapons owned by Americans may be based on two false perceptions.

  1. The world is an increasingly dangerous place and crime is increasing
  2. Guns offer improved protection

The reality is violence, in particular criminal violence in the US, has decreased for the past several decades. The reason behind this decrease is complex, yet it has been studied. We at least have some idea what works in reducing crime—economic opportunity and education being a big part of it.  

Mass shooting events are an outlier, occurring with more and more frequency, yet we cannot even agree on what constitutes such an incident let alone study with any deliberate purpose its underlying cause.

This leaves us wailing and gnashing our teeth in the dark. The emotional roller coaster climbs the incline of fearful anticipation, an incident occurs, then some in the car careen over the top screaming to ban all guns while others hold their weapons high in the air more determined than ever to hold on to them.

It is these emotionally driven extremes which clouds any solution.

First, we need to define the problem and it is not as simple as too many or too powerful guns in private hands. Then we need to determine the underlying cause of such violent behavior. We can accomplish this if we are determined enough to force those in the position of power to move forward with a concerted effort.

As long as the debate is driven by hysteria, by both the pro-gun and anti-gun factions, nothing will change. People convinced that guns make them safer and need to carry a concealed weapon will continue to do so which may compound the problem. People convinced that every gun, or at least those they perceive to be “assault” weapons, need be banned, may be ineffective in eliminating the problem.

Abraham Lincoln, in an open letter to the New York Tribune, said this about the most pressing issue facing his administration,

If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.

Abraham Lincoln

If such an approach getting to the heart of the matter, which at the moment was saving the Union and not abolishing slavery, could be turned towards the matter of eliminating the scourge of mass shootings perhaps we need to model our commitment on Lincoln’s words.

If we can prevent mass shootings without banning any weapons, we would do it. If we can prevent mass shootings by banning all weapons, we would do it. If we can prevent mass shootings by banning some and permitting others, we would also do that.

The first step is getting to the heart of the problem.

The fact is, we know we need to do find a way to prevent, as much as possible in a free society, incidents of violence. Yet the reality is we have no idea what the answer is, barely comprehend the problem, and we seem to be afraid to even ask the question.

Let’s Be Honest…

Given that the latest mass shooting—say that again out loud, Latest Mass Shooting—which follows a long line of previous Mass Shootings, will be undoubtedly followed by future Mass Shootings. Why waste any more time discussing what to do?

It’s clear from the inactions of Congress, inertia by this and previous administrations, and America’s laissez faire attitude toward reasonable action, we have resigned ourselves to accepting such Mass Shootings as unpreventable.

It’s is abundantly clear that preservation of the Second Amendment, without any rational modification to address the reality of what the right the bear 21st century arms means, is more important than any number of lives.

It is also clear we would prefer to see the glorious spectacle of camouflaged styling Americans openly carrying AR-15s and AK-47s in the nation’s capitol in a proud illustration of the Second Amendment even if that means we have to suffer through the occasional circus maximus of the two or three day rehash of hyperbole after a Mass Shooting.

Is it really too much to ask? Couple of days of wailing and gnashing of teeth and we can go back to normal. Use that time to clean our weapons and lay in more ammo in case someone makes the mistake of trying to take away our guns.

If we just accept the minor disruption of a Mass Shooting, just let it pass, we’d be better off.

We can save ourselves millions of words on blogs, save trees by not printing newspaper editorials (those that even bother to post editorials), reduce appearances by talking head pundits and outraged performances by politicians demanding actions (but never moving much beyond a demand once the cameras turn off and talk shows turn their attention back to the latest Kardashian controversy or the Royal Family Feud), and just accept Mass Shootings as another reality of life in America

Being the greatest country in the world, if there was something we could do about it wouldn’t we have already done it? Since we haven’t, and likely won’t, it must mean there is no solution. Not even for the greatest country in the world.

Let’s just redefine them as something else we do better than the rest of the world.

Let’s just accept that we will exhibit what we can only describe as temporary insanity, repeating the same useless pleas over and over again but not really expecting anything to change. We are great at many things and self-deception seems to be one of them.

Let’s just accept that even the slightest consideration of imposing things like training, licensing, and requiring insurance for individuals who wish to possess firearms will irrevocably endanger the sacred 2nd Amendment and cannot even be discussed.

A bullet is the most impartial and unbiased creation by humans in history. It kills without discrimination. It cares not for the color of your skin or the content of your soul.

Joe Broadmeadow

Let’s just face the facts.

There will be another Mass Shooting and we will spend more time arguing over how to define a mass shooting (Is two dead enough? Does two dead adults equal one dead kid? How do we determine what constitutes mass?) than actually considering what to do about it.

There will be an ever-increasing body count.

There will be more dead children, adults, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews, daughters, sons, grandmothers, grandfathers, friends, co-workers, teachers, students, and more and we accept that.

Ho hum… We’ve become good at prying the cold dead hands of the victims off any serious discussion of seeking answers.

There will come a time, perhaps in the near future, perhaps far off in the future, when we may change our minds about this resignation to the inevitable, but that is uncertain. 

What is certain is we aren’t done filling body bags and putting toe tags on our fellow Americans, and it would seem we are okay with it. Why not be practical? Stock these accoutrements of mass shootings in schools, churches, grocery stores, and malls to make it more convenient. And we can always order more if we run out.

Perhaps just send a bag and tag to every American to carry with them should the need arise. Issue them at birth like a social security card, the kid’s version can have color by number drawings on the outside. There will be newborn, grammar school, and a high school and college versions. We could hand them out with diplomas. 

They would be unisex, of course.

A bullet is the most impartial and unbiased creation by humans in history. It kills without discrimination. It cares not for the color of your skin or the content of your soul.

We can post signs, We Support an Unencumbered Second Amendment, No Admittance without Your Personal Mass Casualty Kit.

We need not waste one more ultimately futile moment pretending to care.

If we really want to be honest…

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Did a Comma Kill Americans? Grammar and the 2nd Amendment.

Let’s try a different approach to the 2nd Amendment.  Instead of historical analysis, let’s do something simple like a basic grammatical breakdown of the sentence.

Here is the language from the Constitution

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.”

A basic approach is to strip out both independent clauses separated by commas thus the sentence would read,

A well-regulated militia shall not be infringed.”

The meaning is unclear, thus the need for the modifying phrases which, one might argue, are subordinate clauses and thus elemental to the meaning. We need to clarify what they modify.

The subject of the sentence is “a well-regulated militia.” Everything else modifies or describes the subject.

The first phrase, “being necessary to the security of a free State,” defines the need for the subject. In different language one might say “To maintain security of a free state, a well-regulated militia is necessary.”

The meaning is the same.

Let’s look at the second phrase separated by a comma. “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” What does this phrase do? What does it change or describe? The next phrase, also separated by a comma, complicates the matter.

One method is to remove the intervening comma separated phrase and see what that reveals. Thus, we have,

A well-regulated militia the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Makes little sense without the missing language.  Let’s put it back and take out the last phrase.

“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”

Again makes no sense without the ending phrase. Suppose we add it back without the comma?

“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.”

Now it makes sense. The subject of the sentence, “a well-regulated militia,” modified by the phrase “being necessary to the security of a free state,” followed by the phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

It’s that last comma that confuses things.

If we write it this way, “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.” The meaning is clear and brings clarity to “a well-regulated militia.”

Richard Henry Lee, one of the leaders of the revolutionary period, is best known for his resolution in the Second Continental Congress where he said,

That these united Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance from the British crown, and that all political connection between America and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved….”

Lee also had said something very interesting about the right to bear arms.

“To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them…” (emphasis author’s)
Additional Letters from the Federal Farmer, 1788

Perhaps, even back then, the men who crafted the right the bear arms knew it came with responsibility and required training, thus the “well-regulated militia” now makes sense.

As with any sentence, breaking it down to its parts clarifies the meaning. The subject of this sentence is “a well-regulated militia” everything else is there to support and describe what makes up this “well-regulated” entity and the right of the people to equip themselves and participate.

“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.”

Could it be a misplaced comma contributed to the unnecessary deaths of thousands of Americans?

Who said grammar doesn’t matter?

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Deja Vu All over Again

Reposted from October 2015 and likely to be reposted again and again and again, usque ad mortem accipit nos (see, Mr. O’Toole and Mr. Needham, I did pay attention.)

Guns, Laws, and Common Sense: Not Mutually Exclusive. 

Once again we face the horror of a school shooting. The politics of these issues need be stripped away so we can devise a solution.  Time is of the essence since lives are at risk.

One idea which might demonstrate a clear intent to set aside partisan bickering and seek a solution would be for all elected officials, Democrat and Republican alike, to refuse to accept donations from the NRA, related PACs, or any lobbying group associated with the firearm industry. Much like the issue over automobile safety liability championed by Ralph Nader and the automakers buying support in Congress through campaign contributions to stop Nader’s efforts we need to isolate these vested interests in arriving at a practical solution.

“Those who do not learn history, are doomed to repeat it” George Santayana

In light of the recent spike in mass shootings, the usual hysteria from both sides of the issue ensued. We have those that propose to eliminate all firearms. They lack any realistic proposal or plan for accomplishing such purpose, We have those that choose an unsupported interpretation of the Second Amendment that prohibits ANY laws that restrict or control private, non-militia related possession of weapons regardless of the nature of those weapons.

What we don’t have is rational discourse or commitment to do more than chant slogans or repeat tired and meaningless historical failures. The pattern is familiar. Incident, outrage, prayers, virulent accusations back and forth, search for rational motivation to irrational behavior, relapse into forgetfulness.

The cycle of response to such incidents is the classic process of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Except we replace acceptance with resignation to the insolubility of the issue because it is not simple.

One of the things I find most frustrating about opinions in this country is the lack of foundation upon which most people base their argument. I am willing to bet many of the staunchest supporters of the right to own firearms have never read the Second Amendment. I bet the same holds true for those that hold the opposite opinion.

They chant slogans and rhetoric without any fundamental understanding of the complexities involved.

For those of you so inclined to explore issues with a sense of logic and fullness of examination, I invite you to read a dissent by Justice John Paul Stevens (a Republican appointee by President Ford) in the case DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. HELLER (No. 07-290) 478 F. 3d 370, affirmed.

Take the time to read the case, but here are some selected quotes

“The Second Amendment was adopted to protect the right of the people of each of the several States to maintain a well-regulated militia. It was a response to concerns raised during the ratification of the Constitution that the power of Congress to disarm the state militias and create a national standing army posed an intolerable threat to the sovereignty of the several States. Neither the text of the Amendment nor the arguments advanced by its proponents evidenced the slightest interest in limiting any legislature’s authority to regulate private civilian uses of firearms. Specifically, there is no indication that the Framers of the Amendment intended to enshrine the common-law right of self-defense in the Constitution.”

“The view of the Amendment we took in Miller (Miller, 307 U. S., at 178. )—that it protects the right to keep and bear arms for certain military purposes, but that it does not curtail the Legislature’s power to regulate the nonmilitary use and ownership of weapons—is both the most natural reading of the Amendment’s text and the interpretation most faithful to the history of its adoption”

“Since our decision in Miller, hundreds of judges have relied on the view of the Amendment we endorsed there we ourselves affirmed it in 1980. See Lewis v. United States, 445 U. S. 55, 65–66, n. 8 (1980).3 No new evidence has surfaced since 1980 supporting the view that the Amendment was intended to curtail the power of Congress to regulate civilian use or misuse of weapons. Indeed, a review of the drafting history of the Amendment demonstrates that its Framers rejected proposals that would have broadened its coverage to include such uses.”

“With obvious purpose to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of such forces the declaration and guarantee of the Second Amendment were made. It must be interpreted and applied with that end in view. “The Militia which the States were expected to maintain and train is set in contrast with Troops which they were forbidden to keep without the consent of Congress. The sentiment of the time strongly disfavored standing armies; the common view was that adequate defense of country and laws could be secured through the Militia—civilians primarily, soldiers on occasion. “The signification attributed to the term Militia appears from the debates in the Convention, the history and legislation of Colonies and States, and the writings of approved commentators.” Miller, 307 U. S., at 178–179.

What is clear is that the Second Amendment does not prohibit the states from enacting legislation to impose controls on the private, i.e. non-militia related, possession and use of firearms.

Now let me be clear, I do not oppose private ownership of firearms. I am not opposed to hunting, not opposed to recreational shooting but I think we all must acknowledge the risk that firearms pose to society.

Which leads us to access to firearms. If the NRA is so strongly supportive of the so-called “right” to bear arms, why would they be opposed to stringent regulations regarding purchasing and carrying these same weapons?

If the claim that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is true, then let’s ensure those “people” that obtain firearms do so honestly, are qualified to do so, and maintain that qualification. The goal being equal protection for everyone.

Here are my modest suggestions for dealing with the issues.

  1. Background checks for all firearms purchases
  2. Automatic relinquishment of all firearms upon conviction for any felony or possessing a firearm while intoxicated with a lifetime ban on ownership.
  3. Mandatory licensing of all persons owning firearms with annual renewals (we require hairdressers to renew their license more often than a gun permit)
  4. Seven-day waiting periods for any purchase (pistol, long gun, or shotgun)
  5. Minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years for any criminal act committed while in possession of a firearm, 20 years for the use of a firearm during the commission of a crime. (Perfect opportunity to empty the prisons of non-violent drug offenders and replace them with gun violators)
  6. Mandatory drug screening for all firearms licenses
  7. Mandatory liability insurance for all gun owners.
  8. Remove the product liability protections of weapons manufacturers to come in line with all product liability law. This is a biggie.  See  Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act PLCAA is codified at 15 U.S.C. §§ 7901-7903.
    This prohibits gun manufacturers and dealers from liability. We can sue companies for making soap look like candy, or food service companies for serving scalding coffee, but not weapon manufacturers for producing an inherently dangerous and easily misused product.  It strains credulity.

The other argument is that those that commit these acts suffer from mental disabilities. While this is certainly an aspect of the case, most of those charged with these crimes ultimately stand trial. They may have exhibited irrational behavior but it does not rise to the level of diminished capacity or being unfit to stand trial. A character flaw is not a defense to criminal behavior.

Take all of the tax revenue from the sale of firearms, ammunition, licenses, or any firearm related items and direct it toward access to mental health treatment. Sounds like the proverbial win-win to me.

Here is another rather interesting read, http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No2_KatesMauseronline.pdf

The article dispels certain misconceptions about weapons and the dangers posed and underscore others. Remember knowledge is power, some would prefer to keep us in the dark. Don’t let that happen.

This is a dangerous world. It would seem to me that the American people, if they truly believe this to be the greatest country on the Earth, are wise enough to recognize we have a problem in this country and an obligation to deal with it. Isn’t it enough that a parent worries about things that can happen to a child without adding sending them off to school involving a calculated risk?

There are many smart people in this country, unfortunately very few run for office. We need to encourage intelligent dialog to deal with the problem of gun violence, not useless pandering to a select few.

Some would suggest that arming everyone is the solution. I think about that whenever I see images from other countries with everyone firing AK-47’s in the air and driving Toyota pickup trucks with anti-aircraft weapons.

I do not want to live in an America that is nothing more than an armed camp. The idea that we can eliminate all risk is silly, life is full of uncertainty; the idea that we cannot find a realistic solution to such a serious problem is nonsense. All it takes is for all of us to pay attention, understand the truth, and demand that those in position to find solutions do so or face finding a new place to live and a new job away from Washington DC.

The Folly of Prayer vs. Guns

Here we are, just a few days out from the latest mass shooting, and what have we learned? A systemic failure allowed the shooter to buy firearms. He escaped from a mental health facility. He was court-martialed, imprisoned, and then dishonorably discharged from the Air Force for a conviction relating to domestic violence.

There’s a possibility of a rape case. Murky and unclear on what happened.

We also learned that bump stocks, the accessory which acted as a force multiplier in Las Vegas converting a legal semi-automatic weapon into what was essentially a full-auto, are once again for sale. This contributed to the high casualty count in Las Vegas; just a short time ago and we’ve already forgotten.  (http://money.cnn.com/2017/11/01/smallbusiness/slide-fire-bump-stocks/index.html.)

This restarting of sales, despite now long forgotten long-winded speeches on the floor of the House and Senate to ban such items, boils down to one thing; profits matter more the people.

The company that sells them, after what they must have considered a respectful pause (perhaps it was 58 days, one for each of the dead) ramped up sales again understanding the short-term memory of Americans and the inertia that is our government.

Plz godAnd just like Las Vegas and the incidents before it, scenes of prayers and candlelight vigils with imprecations to “Almighty God” for his compassion and intervention inundate the media.

Let’s get one thing straight. Not one prayer, in the history of the world, has ever prevented anything from happening. No matter how sincere the individuals gathered in prayer may be, not one prayer ever worked.

Now I know there be wailing and gnashing of teeth by the religious who’ll say I cannot know for certain what prayers worked. Nonsense. I saw hundreds of thousands of people, sincere people, pray after each mass shooting incident. While I wasn’t privy to their words, I can make an educated guess that many prayed for God to prevent such incidents.

God didn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t.

It underscores the wasted energy and placebo effect that is prayer.  Even my friend and co-blogger on the Heretic and the Holy Man, Kent Harrop, concedes that prayer is not enough. (https://greenpreacherblog.com/2017/11/07/when-prayer-isnt-enough/)

Although he still sees the value in the effort, I disagree.  People prayed to end each and every war. Followed by more wars. People pray and the world continues to turn.

What we require is action. And in our capitalist society, economic action produces results. To change things, to motivate Congress and your fellow Americans to come to grips with the problem of gun violence, you must hit them in the pocketbook.

If profits matter more than people, there lies opportunity.

But what about the Second Amendment and the sacred right of bearing arms? It is a difficult aspect of America to reconcile. But, this article in the NY Times does a good job of putting the heart of the problem in perspective. Our willingness to allow easy access to high-capacity weapons is what differentiates us from the rest of the word.  You cannot stop someone intent on causing harm, but you can limit the means available for him to do so. (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/07/world/americas/mass-shootings-us-international.html)

The Second Amendment provides the right of self-defense to all citizens.  To interpret that to mean carrying concealed weapons to and fro in society is a stretch. To interpret the Second Amendment to mean there can be no limitation on weapons possessed by a citizen, or the amount of ammunition, magazine capacity, or other factors is a fallacy. We already do it to a certain extent, albeit minimal.

The latest shooting underscores the issue.  Aside from the fact he shouldn’t have been able to buy the weapons in the first place, he went to that church with fifteen magazines and fired over Four Hundred and Fifty rounds.

There is not one logical, rational, or legal argument to support an individual owning such level of firepower.

That is the risk of adhering to a strict, inviolable Second Amendment. Safeguarding innocent lives should trump any such interpretation.

To argue that the Second Amendment prevents ANY restriction on possession of firearms is nonsense. It is an argument supported by the NRA and those members of Congress on their payroll, and it must end.

Now, there will be a chorus of voices shouting, “but an Armed American Stopped the carnage.” “If not for him, more would have died.”

If we end gun violence with gun violence, we enter a never-ending cycle. An infinite loop. A zero-sum game. If we accept this, we must resign ourselves to future incidents.

There is one common denominator in most incidents we see from our home-grown shooters, domestic violence. And the history of our dealing with this issue is one fraught with inconsistency and failure.

We have prisons full of non-violent drug offenders, yet treat those who commit domestic violence in a much less serious way. Will jailing all those convicted of domestic violence solve the entire problem? No, but I think it a better use of prison space than someone caught possessing marijuana.

Until we recognize domestic violence as a warning sign and deal with it, i.e., lifetime ban on firearm ownership, forfeiture of all firearms, these incidents will continue.

Until we impose reasonable limitations on magazine capacity and quantity and type of ammunition, these incidents will continue. To kowtow to the argument that AR-15 type firearms are necessary for hunting and limiting weapons capacity infringes on Second Amendment rights is idiocy.

I have no issue with anyone of sound mind owning firearms. I have no issue with anyone owning an AR-15 if they choose that as a weapon for hunting or self-defense. I have an issue with the availability of bump stocks and no restrictions on owning high-capacity magazines and enough ammunition to fire 450 rounds in a church.

On the argument that an armed citizen was the answer to ending the problem, such a philosophy frightens me. The qualifications for getting a concealed carry permit are a joke. There are minimal requirements to show not only the ability to fire a weapon but the wherewithal to judge the circumstances under which identifying and firing on a target is necessary and prudent.

Here’s an interesting point, most Police Department, particularly in large cities, tell their officers not to resort to using their weapons off-duty unless necessary.  The reason? Responding officers face not only dealing with an armed suspect but sorting out the good guys from the bad guys. Just look at the number of “Friendly fire” incidents where cops killed other cops. Add minimally trained civilians into the mix, and it is only a matter of time before a cop kills or is killed by a well-intentioned civilian. Thus, compounding the tragedy.

There are no easy solutions to these problems, but motivating Americans to do something about it may lie in my earlier point. Money talks. If the NRA isn’t willing to compromise, stop supporting them. If Congress doesn’t listen, stop contributing. If companies sell unlimited quantities of ammunition, stop patronizing them.

If we can sue automobile makers for defective products, if  we can hold tobacco companies responsible for a “legal” products bad side effects, if we can sue McDonald’s for selling hot coffee, all of which has made things safer, then why not gun and ammunition makers?

If we do not work toward a solution to the problem, resign yourself to future similar headlines. If you want to waste time praying, have at it. But know this, it will fail, and more innocent people will die because we are unwilling to face our responsibilities.

One definition of insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different result. That’s the history of prayer in ending these incidents. Hold your faith in any manner you chose, but human intelligence and effort are necessary to solve this problem.

It’s been a while since I sat in a church, but I read all the books. I recall these words, God helps those who help themselves.

Time for us to do something, save praying for the World Series where no one dies.