A Murderer as Victim:  The American Blame Game

In all the vitriol, anger, and twisted logic in the debate on guns and violence in America, one vital aspect is kicked to the side, ignored and discounted; personal responsibility for one’s actions.

theymademedoitblogIn our single-minded focus on trying to explain why these things happen, and how to prevent them, we gloss over the one common element. Absent unmistakable evidence of mental incapacity–and almost every shooter who survives a mass shooting is judged competent to stand trial—the individual who pulls the trigger is responsible for his or her actions.

The fact is we may never understand why. We may never find a way to prevent it from ever happening again. We may never come to grips with America’s inexplicable fascination with guns.

We may never accept the demise of the balance of power between our early government—the one without a standing army– and an armed citizenry. Our embracing a concept no longer grounded in reality is one of the stumbling blocks to addressing part of the problem.

But that’s not the point of this piece.

The most important thing we can do is insist on personal responsibility for one’s actions. We need to focus on this from the earliest age, so the practice becomes second nature. Instead, we have parents suing school departments when their kids are taken off a sports team or barred from graduation for violating the rules.

“Oh, my poor (son/daughter) didn’t mean to break the rules, everyone else was doing it, it’s not fair they won’t get to play soccer/go to the prom/attend graduation.  I’ll sue.”

A tremendous parental example there.

The dearth of personal responsibility in America is illustrated by our penchant for blaming everyone else but ourselves for our actions. The most startling example of this is from the father of the shooter in the Santa Fe Texas school shooting.

As part of the idiotic media frenzy, which contributes to the problem, the father of the “alleged” killer said,

“My son, to me, is not a criminal, he’s a victim,” he said. “The kid didn’t own guns. I owned guns.”

A victim? The victims are the ten dead, the wounded, and their families left to suffer because of the cowardly act of a self-delusional individual without one shred of human decency or compassion.

The father said,

“Something must have happened now, this last week,” he told the station. “Somebody probably came and hurt him, and since he was a solid boy, I don’t know what could have happened. I can’t say what happened. All I can say is what I suspect as a father.” (https://apnews.com/70ba9b2e83194fbab13bb26819aed045)

The father says his son was bullied. Bullied? When did bullying rise to the level of justifying homicidal provocation?

By this logic, someone being bullied now has cause to take a gun and kill another human.

Very few people are born evil, but we all have the capacity for evil in us. Raising children to be responsible adults is the ultimate purpose of being a parent. When you fail, the darkness within can rise to the surface.

If you don’t instill personal responsibility early, self-control fails and bad things happen. It may not be the only reason these shootings happen, but it is a significant factor.

This infatuation we have with turning everything into a “syndrome,” giving it a name and using it as some terrifying boogieman is disheartening and self-destructive. Bullying has become almost as frightening as a diagnosis of cancer.

I understand there are horror stories of “bullying” that drove some to suicide. That is a tragedy. But adolescent behavior, that often includes “bullying” of others, underscores my point.

The failure of personal responsibility, by the parents and the children engaged in such behavior, is the problem. Part of this is the false courage instilled by the wall of technology. It’s easy to be cruel and demeaning in the comfort of one’s own home when texting or posting on social media. Tweets and emoji and SnapchatInstagramTwittering is a shield to cowards.

It doesn’t negate the responsibility of parents to pay attention. In our 24/7 technologically connected world, the burden is heightened.

One of the most brilliant philosophers who ever lived, my mother, summed it up in six words,

“Life’s not fair, get over it.”

We learned from her that one had to deal with life, not whine and cry, and adjust to it. Blaming others for your own circumstances is the childish way out. As one matures, you come to understand that no one has power over you unless you let them.

By the time you reach high school, one should firmly understand personal responsibility.

I know this may not be politically correct, but the way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them. Homicidal violence is never a solution, but a well-placed punch in the nose, even if you ultimately lose the fight, might go a long way to preventing a minor problem from becoming a bigger one.

I may have lost a few fights growing up, but I got my point across.

In Texas, the only person to blame for what happened is the shooter. I won’t dignify him with using his name. Making killers famous for their actions is part of the problem.

There is also the personal responsibility of the father for leaving the weapons open and unsecured. He may be suffering because of his son’s actions, but he also bears criminal liability for it.

If the law applies, he should be charged. If he had any sense of personal responsibility, he’d plead guilty. My defense attorney friends may differ in this but there is a difference between “not guilty” and “innocent.”

Like it or not he has blood on his hands, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for him to acknowledge it. He needed the guns for personal protection. That was important to him.

When his son turned them into offensive weapons and murdered innocent men, women, and children he hid behind excuses. Wasn’t my son, they made him do it. It begs the question about priorities.

That’s what lack of personal responsibility is, blaming the world for your own choices.

It’s time for that to change.  We can do this without changing one law, limiting any perceived Constitutional right, or infringing on anyone’s liberty.

Acknowledging your own actions, not blaming the rest of the world for your personal failures, would be a good first step.

A School Shooting and America’s Collective Sigh of Relief

You could almost hear America breathe a sigh of relief with the “good” news of the latest school shooting. The sounds of high-fives echoing from the NRA serving as a rhythmic background to the glad tidings. Their fondest dreams come true.

A gun solved the problem. A police officer shortened what could have been a much more severe situation. Just two wounded kids, one in good condition and one in critical, and a dead bad guy is a cause to celebrate.

Nothing is good about this story.

A police officer faced his worst nightmare. He had no choice but to kill the 17-year-old suspect. The personal cost to his emotional well-being is something our ‘shoot’em up, kill five before breakfast’ flooded TV and movies don’t show.

There are no Dirty Harrys on Police Departments, and if there were we’d do everything we could to get rid of them.

Killing someone because it’s your job, be it a cop or a soldier, does not lessen the trauma. You can learn to live with it, but your humanity suffers. Only sociopaths enjoy killing a fellow human.

The NRA and those opposed to any review and restructuring of gun laws will point to this with a smile and say, “see, we told you. Good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns.”

The implied message is two kids with bullet holes is better than five, or ten, or twenty.

Friendly_Fire_-_Saints_Row_The_Third_logo (1)But, like friendly fire as a cause of death in battle, those lying in the hospital might have a different perspective.

The outcome of this incident, through the brave actions of that police officer, is better than the possibilities if the officer had not been there. Let’s make sure that officer is both recognized for his courage and supported in his road to reconciliation with the trauma.

That some would take this as proof positive that guns solve violence is a sign of just how embedded the problem is.

The officer did what we expect cops to do, stop crime and prevent loss of life. The shooter is dead, understanding what drove him to such actions will be more difficult to understand but no less critical.

A seventeen-year-old should not be able to get his hands on a firearm. Laws already restrict that, but they can only go so far. Getting to the heart of the matter will take more than new rules. It will require a fundamental change in our approach to this phenomenon of gun violence.

Change starts with research and study. Backslapping celebrations of “problem solved” by a gun battle won by the good guys ignore reality. America should not be willing to merely hope for the same outcome on the next one, betting the lives of innocent victims on chance.

We can do more than be grateful for the limited number of victims here. The outcome was better than Parkland, better than Sandy Hook, better than Columbine.

It doesn’t make it a good outcome.

No law, no police force, no army of armed civilians can prevent every incident just by their existence. Until we understand the culture of violence seen here, something absent in most other modern societies, and work toward permanent solutions, nothing will change.

I, for one, see this as just as tragic as Parkland; more so, if we take this as a win.

P.S. Okay #Neveragain and we mean it, this time.

The Blame Spreads both Ways: Right and Left

First, let me clarify something. Every law-abiding, competent American has the inviolable and constitutionally guaranteed right to own a firearm(s). There is no realistic scenario in which this country should ever deprive its citizens of this right.

I, and many other Americans, own weapons. I keep them in a responsible manner. As a retired police officer, with a simple qualification through my agency, I could carry a concealed weapon in most of the US (with some exceptions.)

ReaganI choose not to. I weighed the potential for interceding in a criminal act to defend myself or others against the possibility of worsening the problem for responding Police Officers and decided the weapon is best left at home for self-defense.

This is my personal decision. Others feel differently, and they can hold that position if they accept the consequences of their actions.

In this latest flare-up of the gun debate, there is ample blame to go around for each side. The Republicans and Democrats are equally complicit in the inertia of meaningful solutions.

Fringe organizations, with well-organized public relations campaigns, impose an inordinate amount of influence on the public discourse when measured against their membership. They funnel money to the most influential politicians to ensure inaction on effective gun legislation.

Reducing the effect of lobbyists in government would go a long way to restoring faith in the broken system.  Decisions like Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission558 U.S. 310 (2010) have taken away the will of the people and placed it in the hands of those with large amounts of money to buy a government of their choosing.  Both Democrats and Republicans stand with their hands out and their souls for sale.

This influence leads to the demise of rational discourse and fosters moronic public position pronouncements.

The cry of “why punish law-abiding Americans when this is a mental health issue?” is a convenient mask to the reality. “If we take guns from law-abiding citizens, only criminals will have guns” is the other favorite.

Both are disingenuous.

One because any attempt to impose more restrictions on gun sales is blocked by the same groups and the other because the Parkland Florida shooter, like most of the others, had no criminal record.

Keep in mind that Dylan Roof, the church shooter in Charleston, SC, was judged competent to stand trial. While he clearly has mental health issues, he was still capable of knowing the difference between right and wrong.

Finding a balance between regulating access to firearms with adequate control over those with “mental health issues” and due process is no easy task. Which is not to say it is impossible.

We already have regulations that control handgun sales; age requirements, background checks and waiting periods. Each of these may need improvement in their effectiveness, but they have a demonstrable effect on keeping guns out of the wrong hands.

Laws prohibit most from owning fully-automatic weapons. These restrictions are in place because of the inherent deadly nature of such firepower. There is a measurable difference between a bolt action rifle designed to hunt and a weapon that fires with each pull of the trigger from a high capacity magazine.

Both are deadly, yet differ through the inherent nature of their purpose and capability.

The law can both recognize the need to restrict access to a specific type while protecting access to others.  Just like we do with automatic weapons or short-barreled shotguns.

Both sides block any meaningful progress in their extreme positions. Some would like to ban all weapons, and some would relax all regulations. One side sees disarming all citizens as the solution, and the other sees arming them as a protective measure.

Nonsense.

Millions of Americans, myself included, have been around guns our whole life and never once considered killing someone at random. With 300 million guns in civilian hands, outlawing guns would just create more criminals through no fault of their own and tear this country apart.

To say we can place no restrictions on the type or capability of firearms available or require licensing, registration, and demonstration of competence to have such weapons is equally foolish.

This is more than an issue of banning guns or restricting rights. It is a complex social issue. One element is the decline of personal responsibility for our actions. We’ve assigned a psychological cause to unruly behavior and medicated ourselves out of personal responsibility. That is a problem that will take decades to correct.

Another tendency is to use the “what about…” argument to derail the discussion.  Some argue a quantity issue; drugs and cars kill more people than guns.  Or they inflame the issue by tossing in other social issues i.e. abortion.

The argument that the relative number of deaths by guns is somehow less deserving of our attention is ridiculous. Or that we are ignoring other issues and focusing exclusively on guns. More nonsense.

And, since most supporters of gun rights wrap themselves in the Constitution, they forget that the law is well-settled on abortion rights. Why is one constitutional aspect inviolate and the other subject to review?

Those who would ban guns are no better. They trudge out gerrymandered statistics to support their cause. The number of shootings in schools is inflated to include incidents on school property when no students were present or those that occur near schools.  Why?  Isn’t one incident of a single death in a school shooting enough to spark action?

Our immediate problem is obvious. There is a fire raging in this country. We are nothing but paralyzed spectators to a blaze consuming our fellow Americans. We stand around looking for who started the fire, rather than putting it out.

Prevention, our long-term goal, is more elusive than most would admit. And more critical. Addressing this problem will take a combination of immediate, yet measured, actions and working toward long-term prevention.

We have a choice. Fight the fire and save lives, or wait until there is nothing left and we’re all firing Kalashnikovs in the air to celebrate.

Suffer the Children #Neveragain: Time for Rational Discussion

Time to hold rational discussions on solutions to gun violence, supporting the efforts of the #neveragain movement, and using the power of their youthful enthusiasm to keep the issue in the forefront and craft intelligent solutions.

Let me preface this by saying every law-abiding, competent citizen has the right to own a firearm. This piece is not intended to advocate for the confiscation of weapons. It is meant to stimulate rational discussion on how we can minimize the likelihood of another situation like Parkland, Florida or Sandy Hook in Connecticut.

One other point, I am a firm adherent of the Mark Twain adage there are “Lies, damnable lies, and statistics,” yet we need to put a perspective on things. Accurate numbers about guns are difficult to come by due to inconsistent or non-existent licensing or purchase tracking. But most agree there are 270-300 million guns in civilian hands.

However, only 37% of Americans own or report having a family member who owns guns. The shocker is, 3% of Americans own 50% of all guns.

guns

The NRA touts itself as the premier organization standing for American gun owners. I am not trying to demonize the NRA. They have every right to advocate for their position, some of which I agree with, but their membership is five million Americans out of three hundred million. They are not the voice of America on sound gun policies.

The NRA is a fringe group representing a small fraction of gun owners and a smaller fraction of American citizens. They are a squeaky, well-funded, well-organized, wheel.

The NRA also showed the fundamental callousness it bears toward deliberate and considered discussions. In a recent speech at the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC), NRA representative Dana Loesch said,

“Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it. I’m not saying you guys love the tragedy but I am saying you love the ratings,” she added. “Crying white mothers are ratings gold”.

She may have a point, but not the one she’s going for. The implication is America isn’t concerned when it’s gun violence against minorities, there is some truth in that. The troubling part is that the NRA will play off that for its own agenda. If they can derail gun regulations by capitalizing on institutional racism, so be it. Not their best moment.

For now, we can leave the NRA out of this. Some things must be understood. Amid all the wailing and gnashing of teeth by those who value their “right to bear arms” over their obligation to take part in finding solutions, I think it is time to reevaluate the Second Amendment in a world of high-capacity semi-automatic weapons designed for one purpose, killing humans.

Every single weapon designed by humans had one primary function, killing other humans. While many served a dual purpose, such as hunting food, since man first bashed the skull of an adversary with a rock the primary use of weaponry is protection from, or attacking, enemies and killing them.

We’ve become very efficient at it.

The firearms available to the common man during the adoption of the Second Amendment were single shot, slow reloading, notoriously inaccurate, limited-range muskets.

That is no longer the case.

Every firearm is dangerous. There is no rational argument for allowing weapons in the hands of untrained, unlicensed, untested civilians. Particularly those that hold twenty or thirty round magazines. If the main argument is because I want it, it’s my Constitutional right, it underscores the selfishness that permeates our society.

It would be amusing, if this were not such a serious matter, how many Second Amendment aficionados embrace the Second Amendment and decry some of the others like the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent or the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment as they scream to impose the death penalty even before trial.

We have laws limiting the capacity of shotguns used in hunting, through a simple physical modification, to three rounds in the weapon. If we are so concerned over conservation of fowl, why not the same concern over humans?

Such limitations are starting points, not the end solution. Long-term solutions to the angry and violence-prone society, the lack of support for teachers in schools, the “hooray for me and damn everyone else” attitude of many, will take time to change. Fixing complex social issues is the long game. We need more immediate solutions to address the issue of firing rates, capacity, and availability.

The genesis of the Second Amendment arose from the fresh experiences of the colonies facing the tyranny of a king enforced by a standing army. The British Army was the point of the spear, suppressing dissent and rebellion.

The founding fathers, fearing a comparable situation, wanted to ensure there was a balance of power. One aspect is a “well-regulated” militia. A citizen force they envisioned as a buffer against government tyranny.

The authors of this Constitution held an intimate understanding of the King’s army as a weapon of suppression. Their emphasis on minimizing the powers of the Federal Government to times of great need; wars, rebellions, etc., shows their concern about all-powerful federal authority backed by a standing army.

The Bill of Rights, now well enshrined throughout the land by many Supreme Court decisions, initially applied solely to the Federal Government. Societal progress changed it to apply to all government entities. To adopt a “strict interpretation” of the original Constitution as inoculating it from change is disingenuous, and incorrect.

The very process of amending the Constitution, incorporated by the founding fathers, is considerable evidence of their envisioning a different future with different concerns. And, men such as James Madison believed the fear of suppression by the Federal Government to be overblown.

In The Federalist No. 46, he wrote,

Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes.

One must read this document in its entirety to see Madison’s point. While recognizing the historical context in which fear of a powerful centralized government evolved, he also argued the structure of the new American government differed from Europe by prohibiting any “royal” entity and putting the power to select government representatives in the hands of the people.

As a side note that supports my point of the fluid nature of the Constitution, the original construct of those eligible to vote and hold office was white, male, landowners. The original language, with later amendments and court cases, amended and adapted to the realities and progress of society.

Times have changed. We have the largest (in prowess and power) standing military in the world. As I have often said, should a President ever convince the military to attack the civilian population to suppress dissent, the civilians wouldn’t stand a chance.

We have the Posse Comitatus Act (United States federal law (18 U.S.C. § 1385) which specifically prohibits the use of the military to enforce domestic policies, except in times of national emergency.

It is interesting that it applied only to the United States Army and, in 1958, amended to include the US Air Force. The US Navy, and by its inclusion in the Department of the Navy, the United States Marine Corps (apologies to my Marine friends and family), has specific regulations interpreted to make it applicable to this branch.

Which leaves us whether the intended purpose still applies in the realities of our country, i.e. a standing army and the level of firepower, today.

I contend the primary purpose has been made moot. The founding fathers never envisioned a time that the government should take weapons from otherwise law-abiding citizens. It doesn’t mean they never intended to limit the government’s authority to put in place regulations and conditions to ensure this right to possess weapons is as well-regulated as the once necessary militia.

The founding fathers also incorporated provisions for the Constitution to adapt to the future of a world they could not imagine. Slave owners Thomas Jefferson and James Madison recognized the ever-changing world in which they lived. They authored one of the most potent documents to ensure no other Americans ever face the tyranny of a King and devised a firm, but fluid, Constitution on which to base government. They recognized the country would need to adapt to the future.

Slavery was abolished because rational humans recognized the inhumanity of a practice once allowed under our Constitution. Time marched on, circumstances and conditions changed, and the Constitution changed with it.

The case most often cited as supporting the strict interpretation of the Second Amendment, District of Columbia v Heller, holds thoughtful dissenting opinions which offer guidance in crafting new laws imposing reasonable restrictions that could pass constitutional muster.

Justice John Paul Stevens (a Republican appointee of President Reagan if it matters) wrote,

“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.”

In US V Miller (1939), the court upheld a federal law prohibiting the interstate transportation of machine guns (automatic weapons) and shotguns with a barrel length under eighteen inches. This case and the limited number of related decisions does not establish a clear, unambiguous court precedent as some claim.

Instead, it offers a window of opportunity for a well-crafted law, given proper deliberation and consideration, to reduce mass shootings facilitated by the widespread uncontrolled access to semi-automatic weapons and protect the rights of the overwhelming majority of law-abiding citizens who own firearms.

There are simple measures we can take with little likelihood of a constitutional challenge.

Measures

  • We do not let 18-year-old “adults” buy alcohol. But on one’s 18th birthday, you can walk into a “Guns ‘R’ Us” and walk out with an AR-15, multiple magazines, and a case of ammunition. By imposing this “waiting period” until the 21st birthday, it gives us a three-year window into adult behavior. Any criminal behavior which would prohibit firearms ownership is no longer concealed behind sealed juvenile records.
  • Fund and fix the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Congress created the system with bi-partisan legislation to centralize records checking for firearms purchases. Since firearms and ammunition travel in interstate commerce, the legislation should be changed to force states to comply. Mandating state participation and funding the program is critical. President Trump’s proposed 2019 budget reduces funding for the system despite widespread support from anti-gun groups to the NRA.
    In most cases, these shooters had no criminal record. They were angry, bitter, emotionally immature loners. They had known behavioral issues. In Parkland, information was available to several law enforcement agencies including the FBI. We must adapt the NICS database to include such information and require law enforcement investigation.
  • Annual qualification and demonstration of the ability to handle the weapon. We require barbers, manicurists, and massage therapists to be licensed. Wouldn’t it make sense to do the same for owning a firearm? In some states, there are handgun safety courses which amount to little more than telling them which end to point at the target.
    That someone, simply by reaching a certain age and lack of a criminal record, can buy and walk out with a dangerous item like an AR-15, shotgun, rifle, or pistol without the least bit of training or licensing, is insanity.
  • Individuals with Concealed Weapons Permits must meet, at a minimum, the same standard as law enforcement officers. We should consider psychological testing modeled on military recruit testing. Since we are licensing individuals to be in the public arena with concealed weapons, isn’t it logical to test more than their ability to shoot at paper targets?
    The main argument against testing and licensing is the big bad government will know I have a gun, which is nonsense in our connected world of bots and tracking cookies. A government intent on finding gun owners could do so with a few keystrokes, or perhaps hire Russians to do it for us.
  • End the sale of high-capacity magazines. Limit single time ammunition purchases to a single box of rounds and report multiple purchases made within a 7 day period.
  • Mandatory liability insurance covering any unlawful or accidental injuries or death outside of their residence.
  • Mandatory safe storage requirements for firearms left in a private residence whenever a licensed firearm owner does not occupy it.
  • 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.

You’ll notice that not one proposal suggests taking weapons from those who legally own them. Any such suggestion is foolish when one considers the number of firearms in the US (300 million) or that turning otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals will solve the problem. Adequate safeguards for private weapons ownership and storage, through civil and criminal enforcement, to minimize the risk of stolen firearms is common sense.

Some firearms owners will complain about the cost of such licensing, testing, and storage requirements. Hardly a valid argument. We require auto insurance, driver’s licenses, and a host of other controls on matters of public concern. These are similar and sensible measures.

I think it safe to say most gun owners are as disturbed by these incidents as those who oppose gun ownership. It’s the intransigence of a few wrapping themselves in the Second Amendment of the Constitution, without a fundamental understanding it is not inviolate, that creates us versus them toxic environment.

I am not naïve enough to think these will solve the entire problem, but it is a start.

These measures are prophylactic. They do not deal with the fundamental question of why these incidents are happening. Mental health issues may be a contributing factor compounded by these readily available weapons. Although many perpetrators who survive have been competent to stand trial they knew what they were doing was wrong. Their actions were deliberate and premeditated.

Advances in neuroscience may offer the best solution as we gain an understanding of the causes of such behavior and ways to identify and manage it.

For now, the why eludes us.

Please do not suggest that taking prayer and god out of schools is the reason. For those faithful in Emmanuel Church in Charleston, prayer didn’t stop Dylan Roof from killing nine innocent people. If it can’t stop it in church, where everyone believed, what is the likelihood it will work in the mixed environment of school? The prayers offered since Sandy Hook and other incidents have prevented nothing.

This incident in Parkland Florida has sparked a change. No longer will the usual “waiting period for the anger to fade” tactic of those who would prevent any regulation of firearms work. This generation of students now in school was born after Columbine. Their typical school day consists of concerns for the possibility they may never get to the end of the day.

Where our generation enjoyed recess, and sports, and walking the halls with our friends, this generation practices “active shooter” drills.

Where our generation’s biggest concern was who might win the Friday night football game, they must worry about finding a safe place to hide from bullets.

When a serious discussion of arming teachers, putting volunteers with guns in schools, and turning schools into an armed camp happens, something has gone wrong. While some of these; active-shooter drills, and better securing of buildings, are reasonable they are Band-Aids on a bleeding artery.

What’s next, ballistic resistant school uniforms?

The most ludicrous idea yet is arming teachers. If a man with a pistol can kill thirteen people at Fort Hood, a military base filled with highly trained soldiers with all sorts of weapons, do you think Miss Math Teacher will be better equipped? If you do, and you own guns, give them to someone sane.

If the weight of evidence about the original intent of the Second Amendment, granting citizen’s the right to protect themselves from a tyrannical government and a standing army, has been made moot.

If the nature of weaponry now available to the average citizen far exceeds any rational necessity but rests entirely on “because I want it” attitude wrapped in archaic rationale.

If we only discuss this issue for a brief moment, then let it fade into the past willing to wait until the next incident.

Then it is time to rebalance the “right to bear arms” against the obligation of society to protect itself, and its children.

If kids can’t go to school without worrying that a fire alarm may be the last sound they hear before they die, we are a long way from the America of my youth.

P.S. There’s been a flood of postings on social media attacking the kids leading the charge in the #neveragain movement. There is no better evidence of the lack of reason and disingenuousness of those who refuse to have an intelligent discussion on the problem of gun violence. Such tactics are abhorrent and despicable.

We may be on the cusp of seeing a repeat of the student-led protests Vietnam in the 1960’s, and good for them.

One of the saddest facts about America is that we’ve always been better at killing ourselves than any enemy we ever faced. Time for things to change.

In 1941, this country faced an external threat and met it with the determination of what’s been called “the greatest generation. Perhaps we are on the verge of a new generation’s greatness.

As Bob Dylan prophetically sang,

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin‘.

A “Pander” Bear as President

Trying to understand knee-jerk irrationality from someone who has turned it into an artform is a waste of time. If the word “pander” did not exist, it would be invented to describe Donald Trump.

PandaAt his “listening session” with the student and teacher survivors of Parkland, Trump clutched his speaking points cue card and, in the end, almost seemed genuine in his concern. Later, he announced what amounted to monumental proposals from a Republican White House, banning bump stocks and raising the legal age to purchase all firearms to 21.

And then the NRA and other pro-gun advocacy lobbyists came calling.

But fear not, Trump made new announcements.  We would arm teachers, and the NRA were great Patriots defending America and let me rethink my earlier proposals. Apparently, he did a better job “listening” to the NRA.

I am not trying to demonize the NRA. They have every right to advocate for their position, some of which I agree with, but their membership is five million Americans out of three hundred million.  They are not the voice of America on sound gun policies. The NRA is, in essence, a fringe group representing a small fraction of gun owners and a smaller fraction of American citizens. They are a squeaky, well-funded, well-organized, wheel.

After his brief moment of rationalism, Mr. Trump put his short memory loss front stage. He’s like a five-year-old telling one story about a broken window to his mother and a different version to his father, never expecting them to compare notes.

I know many will disagree with this, and I look forward to hearing from you, but I would offer this as a suggestion. Since you will disregard my take on our President, perhaps you’ll believe it in his own words.

Here are two books portraying Mr. Trump in his own words. One he says he wrote, The Art of the Deal, and proclaimed it underscored his suitability for the Presidency (although co-author Tony Schwartz has a different perspective.)

The other is based on an extensively researched profile done with Mr. Trump’s cooperation by the New Yorker magazine and later turned into a book by the reporter, Mark Singer, called Trump and Me. Keep in mind, the New Yorker profile was written long before anyone considered Mr. Trump as a serious candidate for President.

Actions reveal character. Words offer a window into the thought processes. Comparing the two unveils the truth. If you take the time to read these books, as I did, your perspective may change.

The one thing that jumped out at me was the number of business associations Mr. Trump held with former Soviet military and civilian government officials dating back into the 1980’s and 1990’s. A troubling sign casting a shadow on the “no collusion” mantra.

But wait, there’s more. I’ll leave it to you to decide for yourself. Don’t take my word for it. (as if you would 😊)

I will put the links to the books here. I hope Mr. Trump appreciates the bump in sales.

The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump

Trump and Me by Mark Singer

As a bonus, here’s what the co-author Tony Schwartz has to say about the book

P.S. While you’re at it how about reading some of these books? Click here to help a starving writer.

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Biblical Solutions: Calling all Virgins

Our nation is embroiled in a search for a solution to the problem of gun violence. As much as I hate to admit this, perhaps the answer lies in our vaunted Judeo-Christian tradition.

Maybe the solution has been here all along, but in our rush for the toys and pleasures of modern society; cell phones, Cable TV, drive-up fast food, America’s Got Talent, semi-automatic weapons, we’ve lost sight of the obvious.

All we need do is look to the Bible for the answer. Thoughts and Prayers, while comforting, are not enough. They are just a part of the solution.

They are the warm-up act for the real petition to the Almighty. The full invocation seeking holy intercession requires one more simple gesture.

The sacrifice of Virgins.

In the Old Testament, it tells us 37 times the Lord loves the pleasing aroma of burning flesh. Look it up; some are even in the red words.

It is the missing piece for a divine solution to our problem.

Think of the possibilities.

We can hold it twice a year on special holidays, Christmas and Ground Hog Day. Add one more memory to childhood.

We can have a torch run and a contest for the chance to “light the fire.”  Jose Feliciano’s version of “Light My Fire” can be the soundtrack.

We can have corporate sponsors. “This year’s sacrifice is brought to you by Armalite.” Sort of a mea culpa for contributing to the problem.

We can have a food truck contest. Nothing like barbecue at the Barbecue.

We would make it humane.  We’re not barbarians.  It would give us something to do with all those Opioid painkillers Big Pharm couldn’t dump on America.

We can use a combination of wood and all that new coal we’ve been mining since the rejuvenation of the coal industry.

Selecting the Virgin could be the next Mega-hit, kicking my 600-lb Life to the curb.

Of course, like athletes having to pass drug tests, the aspiring sacrificees (if that is a word) would need certification to ensure we have a “virgo intacta.”

Male virgins cannot participate since it would be difficult to confirm their status, although you can usually tell by looking at them. Funny how life has made it so easy to place women at the forefront of our sacrificial needs.

If Virgins are too painful a choice, we might consider trying to sacrifice a member of Congress or the loser in the Presidential election.  Undoubtedly among them are no virgins, certainly a harlot or two, but would God care if the “aroma” of the burning flesh is not “fresh meat?”

It might bring out the vote. We’d kill two birds with one….never mind.

Then again, now that I think of it, for the offering to be compelling it must be meaningful. Abraham’s almost sacrifice of his son serves as a guideline. Nobody would grieve Roast Member of Congress or former candidate.

Isn’t the main act in the second half of the Bible a hint at what we need to do?

At the very least, sacrificing a virgin reduces the death toll to a tolerable level. I mean, isn’t one or two killed a year better since we can’t stop it all? If there is something to this Judeo-Christian tradition, isn’t the Second Amendment an inspiration from God?

tumblr_myjjelip4j1sum3xmo1_500Maybe it was on the stone tablet Moses dropped as he backed away from the burning bush? (I might be mixing up my Bible stories, but you get my point.) Because, if it was a Commandment instead of an Amendment, you anti-gun weenies might feel a bit foolish.

Go ahead, mock my idea. But think about it. Not one civilization where the practice of Virgin Sacrifice took place ever experienced a school shooting.

What more proof do we need?

 

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.

Gun Control: From a Different Point of View

So it would seem the latest nut case with a gun and no conscience is, wait for it, an atheist. As if this explains his actions. He shot up a church and killed innocent church-goers out of his disdain for religion.

Or so the many have said on our newest dimension, social media. As tempting as that is, I’ll leave it alone for now.

Within hours of the attack, we have former classmates, anonymous military sources, unnamed law enforcement providing tantalizing, and unverified, details of a deranged individual of weak and cowardly character.

He’s not a Muslim, he didn’t scream Allahu Akbar.

So far, neither ISIS nor any other terrorist group adopted him, so he doesn’t fit our preferred mold of terrorist.

He didn’t get in on a visa lottery, that’s inconvenient.

We are left with the reality of a “mental health issue.”  Even Mr. Trump got this one right.

The rush to find a rational explanation for this irrational behavior, i.e., blaming his atheism or other external factors, masks the real issue; lack of health care, including mental health resources.

And here’s another inconvenient truth, initial reports say armed American citizens took action ending the entire episode. They acted before law enforcement could because that is the reality in such a small town. If that turns out to be true, the argument for gun control as a solution to these episodes fails.

But, the necessity of access to mental health resources, and better screening of individuals who present with mental health issues, and own firearms, is underscored.

On what we will do about it, I have little hope. Cutting access to a basic human need, health care, seems to be a favorite of this administration and his Congressional lap dogs.

Gun control advocates and the NRA have a common enemy, crazy people with guns. If these groups fail to achieve a compromise in addressing the problem, you can rest assured another nutcase is sitting in front of his TV, cleaning his AR-15, loading his magazines, and planning his entry into the record book of mass killings.

P.S. If you need further proof of this man’s mental instability, he decided to shoot people in Texas! EVERYBODY has a gun in Texas. No further evidence is necessary.

Where’s the Anger? Where are the Tweets of Outrage?

A Shooter, by another name, would be a cry for action. Change Stephen Paddock’s name to Ibrahim Bin Laden and the entire country would be screaming for something to be done. There would be unity in attacking the terrorists. This terrorist looks back at us in a mirror.

Instead, we get this from the Twittering President. My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!

He joins a chorus of voices calling for “prayers for Las Vegas” when every single prayer to prevent such incidents failed.

And, of course, there is the usual posturing about the Second Amendment.

The problem in this country isn’t guns.

The problem in this country is ignorance.

Until we deal with the growing mental health crisis, the lack of access to health care, and the proliferation of an attitude that I can do whatever I want without consequences or consideration of others, we face more of the same.

Guns are merely the method of choice. Until we as Americans come to terms with our propensity for violence, nothing will change. Every prayer ever prayed, no matter how sincere or well-intentioned, is a Band-Aid on a severed artery.