Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Final thoughts (for now) on the Second Amendment

One of the more compelling arguments, the one that generates the slick bumper sticker slogans like "When guns are illegal only criminals will have guns", is the thought that no matter what laws are passed restricting certain guns or types of magazines for guns, criminals will still violate those laws.  Certainly, that logic makes sense.  After all, there are guns laws on the books today that restrict felons from buying weapons, laws that build barriers to separate those who wish to own a gun legally from those for which a law, any law, does not matter.

To put it succinctly, only law abiding people obey the law, so no law will hinder a criminal from an act of crime or violence.  Assuming these definitions are always consistent, that law abiding citizens always obey the law and criminals do not, then it makes perfect sense to believe that only law abiding citizens are hindered when new laws are created which restrict access to guns or types of guns. 

So, if I am wrong on this account, that new, stricter gun laws are useless in the struggle to control gun violence, perhaps there are other laws just as pointless. 

For instance, all the various driving laws such as how fast you can drive, when you should stop or go, where you can park, why you must have a license and register your car, etc.  I know there are many people who violate these laws.  These criminals clearly have no respect for them, and many, even when caught and fined, perhaps even when they lose their license through repeated violations, still disobey the laws.  The only way to prevent them from driving safely, which is the intent of the laws, is to physically remove them from the street.  Ah, yes, but how to do that if there aren't any law?  Hmmm.  So, one of the functions of the law seems to be a way to punish those who do not observe safe driving practices to the point that if they continue to do so, they can be jailed, for the safety of the community. 

Or take rape.  Clearly, we would prefer that rapes never occur.  But, despite the law and severe punishment associated with this odious crime, there are still criminals who rape.  I would imagine that if a politician or political pundit claimed that rape laws are ineffective because rape still exists, still occurs thousands of times a month, there may be some outcry.  If that same person voted against further anti-rape laws because "when rape becomes illegal, only criminals will rape", he/she would be scorned, perhaps even recalled from office.

The question, the serious question we should be debating about gun laws, or any law for that matter, is whether its passage makes us safer.  Does making assault weapons illegal, making multi-clip magazines illegal, make us safer?  If you think that less weapons of this type in the hands of anyone, law abiding citizen or criminal, will reduce the chance of a law abiding citizen having his/her weapon stolen from them and used illegally, or will reduce the chance that a law abiding citizen will cross the line to criminal and use that weapon to kill, or will reduce the chance that a criminal will be able to purchase a weapon with such violent capability, then you should support such laws.  Then, if someone violates the law, there will be a legal method of punishment and justice. 

It is hard to know if gun control laws work because it is hard to know how many people who might have purchased a gun and used it for nefarious means have been stopped from doing so because of a law.  I read an interesting statistic on a gun advocacy website that claimed that a majority of criminals said they would have avoided robbing, burgling, etc, a specific home if they knew the owner was armed.  What was not asked these same criminals was if they would have avoided that home if they saw an ADT or some type of home security system in place.  Or if they knew the owners had a big dog.  I would also want to know how many criminals who did not use a gun would have used one if they knew they could get one more easily or if they knew the law against using a gun was less severe? 

As I said in my last post, America is a violent nation.  Guns, owning guns and using guns reflect our belief that might makes right.  We love stories where the oppressed rains justice done on the oppressor through vigilante violence.  Unfortunately, violence is most frequently used for reasons not so justifiable or inspiring.  We need a cultural shift that recognizes that just as might, in the form of the bully on the playground, does not make right, so having the biggest gun does not lead to right acts either. 

Assault weapons and multi-clip magazines will one day be considered weapons for killing.  Killing people.  Killing many people, all at once, quickly.  Children as well as adults.  Once it is perceived that this is their only purpose, they will be banned, and then the cliché will be true:
"when assault weapons are illegal only criminals will have them". 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Even More Second Amendment Discussion

Life is full of surprises.

Last week I posted two entries on my blog.  One was an examination of how psychology, in this case uncertainty vs certainty, effects our economy.  I was very happy with its content and expression and thought it might generate some interactions.  The other was a brief wrap up of my reaction to my local borough council's consideration of passing a resolution supporting the second amendment.  I had posted my gut reaction at the local newspaper's comments area then, after checking if my comment had inspired any feedback, responded in kind to one particular reader's reaction to my words. 

So, what is the surprise?  The post about uncertainty, as of this moment, has generated 7 hits.  The one with my second amendment comments has generated 1832 hits!  Even more amazing, over 1100 of those hits have come from Poland!

Clearly, I cannot imagine that 1100 random Poles have discovered my blog.  My assumption is that one or two individuals have shared my thoughts with their friends.  To them I say, thanks, and if you would like to converse with me directly, feel free to email me at


Now, back to the discussion.

To my utmost disappointment, the United States Senate failed to pass any meaningful new gun control legislation.  In the name of "...the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed" our legislators decided that protection of the American citizenry from assault weapons and multi-clip magazines, and from the inconvenience of a background check before buying a gun, was less important than a perceived erosion of the second amendment.  I say perceived because there were no proposals which banned everyday American citizens from owning a gun for self-defense or  recreation, just a suggestion that certain guns, whose only purpose is to kill multiple people quickly be banned.  And that perhaps if we had a more universal background check, we may keep guns from those who have already committed a crime or who been deemed mentally unstable.  Common sense restrictions which equate the ability to kill multiple people quickly as a danger to society and therefore place assault weapons and multi-clip magazines in the same category as tanks, bazookas and flame throwers.

Of course, the elephant in the room is the fact that Americans are a violent people.  We rank first, by a large margin in guns owned per person (over 80 guns per 100 people), and very high in homicide rates.  Violence is not just a byproduct of our right to bear arms, but a culturally accepted means to a variety of ends, whether that end be taking something without earning it, keeping what is mine, or convincing another country than our way of life is best.

We abhor those countries that sponsor terrorism, as well as we should, but then lead the world in producing weapons.  We are a self proclaimed Christian nation that has seen the sales of guns skyrocket with the election of our first black president, along with the profits for gun manufacturers. 

And then there is the Boston Marathon bombing.  Within minutes, men and women, both civilian and police, did everything they could do to move victims to safety and protect those not injured.  Then, through an amazingly coordinated effort by federal, state and local police, one of the bombers is killed and the other is captured.  All across America, people stand and cheer, tears streaming for the victims, for justice being swift in the capture of the villains, and for the men and women in uniform who lived up to the motto of to protect and serve.

Funny, that all those people who are afraid of the government, who fear gun legislation in the belief that they may need their assault weapons in case the government comes to take their guns, funny that those obsessed with their right to keep and bear arms will be shooting the very same people they are cheering today, their local police, national guardsmen, FBI agents, etc, when we need to violently wrest our freedoms back from the government. 

Amendment II

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.

I believe I saw the "well regulated militia" in the form of our local, state and federal police in action in the events of the Boston Marathon bombing.   I believe the security of the free state, in this case, the United States of America, is what shall not and must not be infringed. 

I don't believe our right to bear arms assumes the right to be able to massacre fellow American citizens via assault weapons and multi-clip magazines.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Certainty of Uncertainty

I am happy to report that I have had many conversations with people who disagree with my views, many generated by this blog or by the opinion letters that I have had published in the past few years.  Most of these "conversation buddies" as I like to call them, are more conservative than I.  No surprise there, but virtually all of the conversations have been civil.  If regular people can discuss the important topics of the day, why can't we see more of this from our elected officials?

Anyway, one of the often quoted knocks on President Obama and his economic policies are that he has created uncertainty in the country, especially with the passing of the Affordable Care Act.  The logic is as follows; businesses aren't hiring because of the uncertainty of how "Obamacare" will effect their bottom line.  Additionally, the business community claims that the rising national debt also adds to their uneasiness about hiring.  Hence, unemployment remains close to 8%, and the economy continues to grow slowly.

For those of you who do not know this, my job with the state of Pennsylvania is currently "under review" by our state legislators.  They are in the process of deciding to dismantle the PLCB (my employer), or continue the modernization that has been ongoing, especially the last 10 years.  Many of you who are aware of this situation, have emailed me good wishes and confidence that if I were to lose my job, I would be able to find something soon.  Many people also commented that life can be like that, full of uncertainty, and that employment in the private sector is much more unstable than public employment what with all the corporate mergers and failing businesses. 

In essence, what I am hearing is that uncertainty is the only certainty in business as well as in life.

So, if that is the mantra of the business world, then what is the problem?  If it is common knowledge that the modern world is full of change, that there are no lifetime jobs anymore, that the next earthquake or terrorist attack is just around the corner, then what can President Obama do, what can anyone do to guarantee certainty? 

(My personal belief is that there are those in business who know the truth, that it is sales and the demand for their product or service that dictates hiring.  When a company fears the loss of market share or sales revenue and determines that that loss can be eliminated via the expansion of staff, it is done regardless of what may come because if nothing else, companies can't afford to walk away from an uptick in sales just for the sake of a few more employees.  They can always let a new person go, but cannot always get back that lost sale due to slow delivery times or inefficient service.  I believe that they are not hiring because Wall Street is fine, and Main Street does not matter to them). 

And then I thought about the time in America from 1945 to 1965.  The time when the Cold War was at its height, everyday Americans were building bomb shelters in their backyards, and school kids were taught to hide under their desks in case of a nuclear attack.  What was more uncertain than that?  Yet, those twenty years saw a huge expansion of the economy via a growing middle class.  Were people worried?  Certainly.  But it didn't stop them from creating new businesses, sending their kids to college, buying new homes, going on vacations... living life. 

Even after 911, an incredibly heart wrenching event, not to mention a national slap in the face, we pressed on.  Sure, we created a housing bubble as an overreaction to our dread, but at least we didn't stand on the sideline and whine about uncertainty!!

So, my advice to anyone who hears about uncertainty in the marketplace or spouts this trite vein of reasoning is MAN UP.  This is America!  We are supposed to be the greatest nation on earth, in history, and yet we are letting a little bit of uncertainty get in our way.  If you want people to buy your product or service, there needs to be a population that has money to spend.  To all those big corporations sitting on what is estimated to be a trillion dollars, hire someone.  Get your tail out from between your legs and stop mouthing patriotism while outsourcing jobs overseas.  Put Americans before your double digit profit and you might find that sacrificing a few percentage points today might result in even bigger growth tomorrow.  Prove that America is your first priority not your precious golden parachute or multi-million dollar salary. 

In the meantime, I am going to do my part despite the uncertainty of my job situation.  I am going to invest in my kids college education, I am going to redo our upstairs bathroom, I am going to go out to dinner this weekend with my lovely wife, and I might even buy a bottle of spirits at my local PLCB outlet.  What are you going to do?      

More Second Amendment Discussion

A quick follow up to my mention that my hometown was considering a resolution that would voice support for the second amendment.  It passed this past week.  I may not have mentioned it, but I had entered an online comment attached to the newspaper article about this resolution, so today I checked to see if my comment had generated any responses, and happily, found a number of interesting discussions.  As a result, I added the following paragraph to a response directed specifically to my original comment:

Thanks for the compliment about not being foolish but just sounding foolish.  It is a bit more civil than your back and forth with Susan B,,,.  We are all Americans here, let's try to disagree without name calling because that is how our perspectives lose their sincerity.

I have often heard about our wonderful constitution and bill of rights having been divinely inspired.  Not sure if that is what you mean when you say your rights come from your Creator.  If so, you may want to read the Magna Carta which was "inspired" in 1066 (I think).  It may be the first document which put into words rights of free men.

If that is not what you meant, then perhaps you should review the life of Jesus, the greatest liberal of all.  My recollection is that he did not carry a weapon, other than his powerful example of loving one another.  If you believe that he is one and the same as our Creator, one of the triad of the Holy Trinity, then you might want to rethink your premise that only through violence, through the right to bear arms and fight those we disagree with, do our freedoms result.

And, if you really believe that freedoms can only be gained or maintained through violence, then I wonder if you would be OK with the gay community shooting up some heterosexual hangouts to win their rights to marry as opposed to their endless battle through the courts to gain their rights through legal means.  Or, perhaps you would have preferred Martin Luther King promote active, violent resistance when he marched and lobbied for equal rights at a time in America when there were separate water fountains, rest rooms and places on the bus for blacks.

Our freedoms, our wonderful freedoms that emanated from the American colonies were debated, often vociferously, by men of logic, men who owned slaves, men of abundance, men of morality.  Men, perhaps also inspired and supported by their wives who had to remain behind the scenes, but men nonetheless.  I would hope that our Creator nodded in agreement when she saw what they had done, knowing that we still had a way to go, but were on the right track.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Here a gun, there a gun

I was recently taken aback by the news that my local borough council is considering the enactment of a second amendment resolution that would, in effect, say that any new gun control legislation passed by the federal or state government would not be recognized by my little town.  I am still trying to understand if that includes universal back ground checks, but I am sure it includes a ban on assault weapons and large magazine clips.

Additionally, I recently read a letter to the editor of a paper I occasionally read in which the letter writer posited that we need more guns in the hands of good guys, so that we could counter the effects of guns being wielded by those in the bad guy category.

Obviously, I will never understand the logic that states the more guns there are, the less crime there will be.  I do understand that a rationally thinking criminal will avoid a house or victim if they know that home or victim has a loaded gun aimed and ready to shoot them if they intrude.  And I do know of potential victims who avoided being victimized by fighting back, either by the presence of a gun, a big bat, or a vicious looking dog.  I do not discount that that there is a certain amount of protection that is granted if someone is known to carry a loaded weapon.   

But how does the gun know the shooter is a good guy or bad guy?  I have seen futuristic movies in which a gun will not work unless it is fired by the owner's whose palm prints have been recorded in the gun's memory.  But even then, what if the good guy up until now gets really pissed off and shoots his wife?  It is not uncommon for the victim of a deadly shooting to have known the killer.  Do we assume that they deserved to be shot because they know bad people, or is it possible that good people make poor decisions, including when and how to use deadly force.

I have heard it said that if someone wants to kill you, they will, so assault weapons bans are not needed.  But if someone wants to kill a bunch of people, why do want to give him/her the perfect weapon to do so?  I would much rather be attacked by a maniac with a knife then someone with an automatic weapon.  In fact, I just read of an incident where a crazy did just that, and he wounded a bunch of people.  Wounded.  Not killed.  I am sure if he had the same weapon as the Sandy Hook Elementary attacker did, the number of hurt would be higher and the wounded term would say killed.

And then there is the concept of death by friendly fire.  This is the awful event where a soldier is killed by one of his own troops.  Happens very frequently, not because the accidental killers are bad guys, but because war is hell, as they say, and under the stress of the intense activities of an actual battle in war, mistakes happen, decisions are not always well considered, and good people die at the hands of other good people.

What is ironic about my town council debating the second amendment resolution, is that about a year ago a police officer in our area killed an unarmed man in the middle of the day.  The man was certainly not innocent, and was certainly perceived as a threat to the public at the time.  But many wondered why deadly force had to be used, if wounding or even stunning the victim might have been more appropriate.  That perhaps, the officer, a suburban officer who may have never, and might not ever fire his weapon again in the course of his police career, might have acted in the heat of the moment.  A good guy who got caught up in a moment that ultimately cost the life of a man who was not bad as much as mentally unstable.

Finally, if more guns make us safer, does that apply to the ultimate gun, a nuclear weapon?  Should we supply all our friends, all the good nations with a nuclear weapon?  If so, who are our friends and which are good?  We trade openly with Saudi Arabia and China, are they friends who we trust with a nuclear weapon to not use on us, or just acquaintances who we are OK to give our money to but not a nuclear weapon.  How about Germany or Japan.  Friend?  Just 60 years ago, they were certainly not our friends but I think we trust them now.  But what if 60 years from now they are no longer our friends?  Do we get back the nuclear weapon under some sort of return policy once-friendship-is- dissolved waiver?

I know, I am moving into the realm of the absurd.  But frankly, the idea that only good guys should have guns seems as absurd to me. 

Bad guys get guns and use them against the innocent.  Let's do all we can to keep guns out of their hands by enacting universal background check legislation, and requiring all gun owners to register their gun upon purchase and loss, to wait at least 5 days before getting a gun permit so good people are less likely to make poor decisions in the heat of the moment, and require all gun owners to attend a safety class so they know how to handle, store and fire their weapon safely.  It is no more than we do to get a driver's license.

As for assault weapons and multi round magazines, make them illegal as soon as possible.  Their only purpose is to kill large numbers of people.  Add them to the ban on grenade launchers, flame throwers, tanks, and all the other weapons of mass destruction that, frankly, shouldn't be allowed anywhere but which are grudgingly accepted to be necessary for war.

And, for those who believe that the second amendment is at stake, wake up.   There are no proposals, no laws in consideration that will prevent Americans from owning a gun.  The second amendment is not under attack.  As my brother likes to say, follow the money and you will find that it is big munitions companies that are filling the airwaves with these stories, this entire red herring of Obama taking away our guns, while they rake in obscene profits; and while American citizens, including the innocents at Sandy Hook, are killed.