Shh…Cross Your Fingers…No Mass Shootings in the Past Few Days: Revisiting Original Intent and the Second Amendment

Since we seem to be in a lull—for how long, who knows—in mass shootings, I thought it might be a good time to revisit the Second Amendment, original intent, and the reality of risk through a complete and thorough analysis of the genesis of a “well-regulated militia….” and the level of criminality we face as a society, absent the hysteria of a post-shooting news frenzy.

(Authors note, it may be that we are not in a lull but just the latest shootings haven’t merited any news time because, meh, it wasn’t really that many victims.)

Here are those twenty-seven words that have wreaked such havoc on holding a civil discussion in seeking rational solutions to preventing gun violence in the United States.

Patrick Henry, “Give me Liberty or give me Death.”

“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.”

Clearly, something is amiss here. 50.6% of all firearm deaths occurred in six countries.

Brazil, the United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and Guatemala.

Now, not to be condescending to those other five countries, but I can’t help but think most Americans would find it hard to believe we bear a similarity to countries with major internal stability issues. Even more startling, we have a lower firearms death rate (excluding deaths from armed conflicts) than Afghanistan.

Ask anybody on the Southside of Chicago. I bet some might think they live in a war zone because of firearm violence.

There are two issues I want to address:  The genesis of the need, in the eyes of the original authors of the Bill of Rights, for citizens to have firearms and the perception of those who believe the risk of owning a gun (most firearm deaths are suicides) is outweighed by the actual threat to their safety thus the need to carry a concealed firearm in public.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on a New York case this Fall about two New York residents who were denied permits to carry concealed weapons. The ramifications of such a decision will have implications nationwide.

But first, to the issue of the origin of the Second Amendment. Context is important. The colonists, recently freed of the shackles of a Monarchy, distrusted central governments and standing armies. Having just defeated one at great peril, they feared replacing the monarchy with merely another repressive regime protected by a powerful military. Relying on the success of a ragtag group of volunteers—aided by some able French officers and supplies—the Americans saw no need for a standing army. Should the need arise for a defense of the country, or individual state, the same approach would suffice.

Thus it made sense for citizens, subject to recall as a militia, to be allowed to keep arms. But, as with all things historical, there was more to the story.

The south, already aware of the growing anti-slavery movement, was mainly concerned with a standing army that might be loosed upon them should the anti-slavery movement gain a majority in Congress and the Presidency.

None other than Patrick Henry himself—the epitome of the patriotic American—raised the genuine issue of why citizens, particularly those in the south, needed weapons to protect themselves from not just an overreaching government but from something infinitely more sinister.

In its initial form, the amendment about weapons spoke about Congress being the only entity that could activate the militia in time of war. But what if, Henry argued, some other calamities arose not from outside a state but from within? Leaving Congress the sole power would put states at risk.

He argued.

“Not domestic insurrections, but war. If the country be invaded, a state may go to war, but cannot suppress insurrections. If there should happen an insurrection of slaves, the country cannot be said to be invaded. They cannot, therefore, suppress it without the interposition of Congress… Congress, and Congress only, can call forth the militia.”

Patrick Henry https://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/a4_4s9.html

There you have it. One of the original arguments supporting the changed language, made to mitigate southern states’ concerns, was to ensure white citizens could have the means to suppress the insurrection of slaves. And if there is any doubt this right was reserved to white citizens, read the entire reference above. Not one mention of free blacks being allowed to “keep and bear arms.”

It was not the only reason, but it was a reason they crafted the language the way they did.

Don’t take my word for it. Read this excellent piece by Professor Carl Bogus from Roger Williams Law School written back in 1998.

Here’s the link to download the paper. It is lengthy, but we are discussing a rather serious topic. I think it merits at least as much time as an episode of America’s Got Talent. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1465114

Threat Perception vs. Threat Reality

People buy guns for three specific reasons: hunting, target shooting, personal protection. While the first two have some associated risks, so does riding a bike or driving in a car. It is with the last reason that the issue of perception vs. reality bears discussion.

In many states, “stand your ground” laws, designed to allow individuals the lawful right to defend themselves rather than flee from a threat, may have unintended consequences of increasing the likelihood of a violent encounter involving a firearm.

This is from a summary of studies on the effect of such laws.

“The prevalence of guns in the community means incidents like robbery and other crimes are more likely to carry the risk of gun violence. In states with “stand your ground” laws, Rand Corporation found that even minor disagreements or physical altercations carried a greater risk of turning into violent crime. In short, gun ownership does not increase safety, and the prevalence of guns directly correlates with significantly greater risk of gun-related homicides and suicides.” https://www.safewise.com/resources/guns-at-home/

When I was in the police academy, one of the instructors said something that always stuck with me. He said, “every call you go on involves a gun. Most of the time, you’re the only one with the gun, but nevertheless there is a gun in the mix.”

From that, I also knew this, guns have no loyalty; they will work for whoever pulls the trigger.

Thus it makes sense—given the increasing number of people seeking permits to carry guns, combined with the number of states which have no limitation or permit requirement to carry a concealed weapon—the number of violent encounters involving firearms will increase.

What once may have been a threatening argument, pushing and shoving match, or street brawl, now turns into a free-fire zone.

I can’t help but believe that many of those who see carrying a concealed weapon as a valid measure of protection subconsciously want something to happen. If for no other reason than to justify their choice.

Here’s a link to an analysis of multiple studies of stand your ground laws. In every instance, under every study, the prevalence of such laws increased the likelihood of a firearms death or injury, and not always for the “bad” guy.

https://www.rand.org/research/gun-policy/analysis/stand-your-ground/violent-crime.html

Sometimes the perception of a threat far outweighs the reality. While violent crime has declined over the past several decades, the perception of violent crime has increased. We can attribute much of this to the non-stop saturation of media coverage—both traditional and social—and the limited in-depth analysis of crime and actual risk.

Given we put so much emphasis on the “founding fathers” words—such devotion to the past borders on religiosity, it is like our national religion—we must be zealous in our pursuit of understanding them in the context of their times.

And our equally religious faith in the sanctity of the Second Amendment bears a thorough and dispassionate analysis to measure its benefit compared to the risk.

One cannot choose which facts of history to accept and which ones to ignore. The link between the “right to bear arms” and protecting white slave owners from a slave insurrection cannot be severed. It is a fundamental part of the overall analysis.

We also cannot ignore the actual level of criminality and the threat to personal safety simply because we may perceive that threat to be greater than its actuality. Just because we are fearful something could happen doesn’t make it more likely, or real.

What we do need is to dispassionately examine the risk/benefit of carrying concealed weapons. Before we march blindly into a practice we believe will make us safer—under the guise of defending our inalienable right to bear arms—but may put us and society at greater risk, we should be as confident as possible we are forging a sound doctrine.

It may be every law-abiding citizen carrying guns would make us safer, or it may be a self-fulfilling prophecy that all those guns will kill us.

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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.

Somebody Give Me the Words

I like to think of myself as a writer. Words have always come easily. Often, it seems I couldn’t stop them even if I wanted to.

But today I have no words. Today, I must ask if someone, anyone, can give me the words. Help me.

How do I find the words?

How do I find the words to comfort the next parent of a child they sent off to school and had to pick up at the Medical Examiner’s office?

How do I find the words to comfort a seventeen-year-old girl whose biggest concern one moment was the color of her shirt and the next moment seeing her best friend’s blood staining the once perfect color?

How do I explain to a group of high-school seniors that their most memorable moment in school will be their terror at the sound of weapons firing, people screaming, and the coppery smell of blood and death?

How do I find the words to explain to the world how great America is when we let our children die for a concept no longer grounded in reality?

How do I find the words to make people understand our unwillingness to seek a solution to the violence that plagues this nation?

How do I find the words?

The truth is there are no words, no prayers, no political slogans, no constitutional arguments that will do this.

So, we have a choice.

We can either find the will to seek a solution or accept the reality it will happen, again and again and again, until we become so numb to the horror we no longer notice.

Then our lack of words, like our inertia in finding a solution, will say it all.

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‘.

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.

 

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.

 

Some Inconvenient Truths

Here are some of the inconvenient truths within the terroristic end-of-the- world we-have-to-kill-them  before they kill us nonsense arising from the media driven hysteria surrounding the criminal act in San Bernardino.

Syed Rizwan Farook, the male half of the criminal duo, was an American citizen. Born to Pakistani parents who, by all accounts, lived here legally.

He travelled, under a passport of the United States, to Saudi Arabia and returned with a woman, Tashfeen Malik. Subsequently marrying her.

He was estranged from his father because of his parents divorce. He apparently had selective adherence to who needs to die according to the Quran

Farook, as a citizen of the United States of America, exercised his Second Amendment rights and purchased weapons.

A whole bunch of weapons. And ammuntion. And other things protected by that untouchable Second Amendment.

So far, everything he did was well within his rights as an American.

And as someone who was not American, so well said, “There’s the rub…”

His mistake, in the eyes of the hysteria gripping this country all out of proportion to the perceived problem, was being Muslim.

They are all EVIL if I believe what I see in the reaction to this horrific act.

Those that hold the Second Amendment as inviolate have a problem.

They have to choose between an absolute right of Americans, absent a criminal record, to buy as many firearms and as much ammunition as they want, or acquiescing to a limit. Or worse, monitoring.

I have a more modest proposal.

Let’s just eliminate Muslims. They are obviously the problem. Even those that were born here. They’ve been bred to hate us.

They worship the wrong god.

Their book, the Quran, is filled with hatred.

Unlike the good book. The several thousand versions of the Bible.

They need to be eliminated from the earth. They are a scourge upon our planet. They are not American.

As Pope Urban II so well said when he launched the first crusade. “Tear that land from the wicked race and subject it to yourselves.” He just didn’t realize he was talking about the good old US of A.

There, indeed, is the rub.

No doubt some took those words to heart. Damn straight, this in ‘Merica. Screw them!

There are Americans that wave the flag, clothe themselves in the Constitution, and believe in a divine right to the freedoms of this country who would so quickly deny the same benefit to others by virtue of their embracing a different religious doctrine.

It’s not like we’ve never done it before.

They would do this because a few within Islam embrace violence.

Islam is not alone in those of the faithful that prefer the sword to a peaceful tolerance of difference. The Westboro Baptist Kooks come to mind.

What happened in California was a criminal act. If inspired by a god, that says more about the danger of believing in gods then some would care to admit. What matters is not the reason they acted the way they did, but the fact that they committed a crime and did it intentionally.

I am glad the cops ended it the way they did. I’m glad they had the training, tools, and courage to do so.

I do not want anyone to determine someone deserves such a response by the police simply because they are Muslim.

If those so quick to post and tweet and blog and Instagram ever bothered to understand the way the American justice system works beyond what they see on television or the movies, they would understand that the court does not care what religion you adhere to.

It does not matter what you believe.

It does not matter what god you worship.

As a matter of law, your faith is meaningless before the court.

What matters is evidence. Does it prove you committed the crime?

There was a time in this country when being black was an automatic guilty. That fact continues to haunt justice in this country.

Do we really want to add the color of your faith to the problem?

If you are comfortable with the government deciding what beliefs are dangerous, whether or not you act on them, you are a fool.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who are willing to trade freedom for security, will have neither.”

I say, “those that are willing to trade someone else’s freedom will someday find themselves losing their own.”

I have no qualms with the way Mr. and Mrs. Farook left this mortal coil.

I thank the officers that did what cops do, running toward danger when everyone else runs away. They are the best example of the greatness of America.

I do not want them turned into an American Gestapo, seizing people by virtue of their heritage rather than their actions.

But the inconvenient truth is an American citizen, born here, raised here, exercised his sacrosanct Second Amendment right.

How do we fix that without becoming a disciple of Big Brother?

Selective Outrage

Once again this country is subjected to a dramatic incident of violence. In the rush to be first, the media outlets broadcast a constantly changing cacophony of half-truths and rumors.

Compounding the problem are the bloggers and reporter wannabes in their insular  agenda-driven worlds.

They were practically salivating at the conveniently ethnic origin of the suspect’s name. Whether it has any bearing on the truth or not.

Better to be first, than right.

The inevitable outcry by competing interests will flood the broadcast, print, and social media.

“More Gun Control!” “Less Gun Control!”

“Take away guns and only criminals will have guns.”

“Stop the Insanity”

“Guns don’t kill people, GMO’s do”

They’ll be the usual talk from the opposing political views that either this whole thing is Obama’s fault, or this is the consequence of interpreting the Second Amendment as inviolate.

And then it will fade away. The headline will be replaced, as it always is, by some other tragedy or scandal.

What happened in San Bernadino is a tragedy. A sad example of how much mankind has to go before they can truly be called civilized. Whatever fruitcake philosophy compelled these actions, be it a misinterpretation of religious doctrine or simple prejudice against those who are different, is repulsive.

How we respond will either set the course for positive change or doom us to an uncertain future.

Many will focus solely on classifying this as terrorism and incite the country to use its powerful military forces and bomb something, anything.

Somewhere else of course.

Nothing like the satisfaction one gets from watching the video of a cruise missile launch or a night-vision view of a target being obliterated.

But that will only mask the underlying problem.

The real tragedy here is that we fail to notice this is happening almost every day in our cities. In Chicago for the month of November this is what we apparently missed in the FOX, MSNBC, and CNN headlines.

Thirty-two people were shot and killed

One hundred and sixty-six were shot and wounded

That’s almost two hundred people and that’s just one city. That sounds like the statistics from a war zone. I dare say it is more dangerous to walk some neighborhoods in Chicago than it is in Kabul.

America can, and should, be better than that.

The necessary discussion on dealing with the very real problem of violence in this country will never happen as long as it is headline driven.

Be it a rational approach to firearms, the issue of racism or the propensity toward violence to settle differences, we need to use our intelligence and common sense here.

Not emotionally driven hyperbole.

We need to focus on the underlying problem. It is critical to the survival of this country. More so than idiotic causes that politicians so love to use to divert us from the real issue. The solutions are not easy, they are not found on Facebook and Twitter. They require thinking and courage. Surely there is an abundance of that in a free country.

Many good people turn to prayer at a time like this. But as the Dali Lama so well said,

“We cannot solve this problem only through prayers. I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking God to solve it. It is illogical. God would say, solve it yourself because you created it in the first place.”

Whether you believe or not, doesn’t matter to me. Whether you care enough to think this problem through and seek a solution does.

And one last point. You know who ran toward the carnage and danger when everyone else ran away?

Cops.

There are some dramatic images of the courage demonstrated by the officers involved. It would be nice if more people understood that is what cops do every day. And appreciated it.