22 December 2012

Finding sense in the senseless

An unspeakable tragedy unfolded while I was on the road to Washington to see my kids a week ago last Friday. My own son, William, is 9, and so the attack on an elementary school hit particularly close to home for me. So many young lives taken, so many brave teachers lost, and one psychopathic killer, undeserving even to be mentioned in the same breath as his victims. At times like this, my Christian values forget that I deserve Hell myself, and the grace freely given to me is hard to come by for this dude. All theological indications are that the shooter has been in Hell about a week now, and I find that comforting. A just and holy God is allowing him to suffer the fate his sins deserve, while my own sins are covered and hidden mercifully from me by the sacrifice of Jesus, whose birth we will celebrate next week. I’ll overlook the theological implications of the children and teachers, not that it’s unimportant, but simply because it’s not my point at the moment.

Coming as it did on the heels of another senseless shooting here in Oregon, the usual suspects of liberal wackjobs and conservative wackjobs have taken to the airwaves and fiber-optic lines to tout their “answers” to all that ails us as a nation that allows such events as these take place. Being right about everything as I am (What? You don’t think you’re right about everything? What do you think you’re wrong about and if you think you’re wrong, why don’t you change?), I have the answers. Most of you won’t like them and that goes for both sides.

First, although I am staunchly conservative, I have long advocated certain common sense gun controls. I am not a member of the NRA, since I find some of their positions extreme. I am also not an adherent of the delusional approach that banning all weapons (why only firearms?) will result in homicidal individuals repenting of their evil schemes because they can’t legally get hold of a gun, or else will, in the words of the great philosopher Archie Bunker,
resort to pushing people out of windows. Banning all firearms only guarantees that people who obey the law will be armed with nothing more dangerous that their keys, helpless sheep until LEO can arrive. Guns must continue to be legally available to most (not all, most) law abiding citizens. Banning firearms only guarantees that when a shooter appears, the innocent will always be outgunned. A number of years ago, this was proven true when The Los Angeles Police Department found itself outgunned by a couple of bank-robbing thugs armed with ILLEGAL fully automatic AK-47s and body armor. Where were the police in Newtown? Where were the police in Clackamas? The same place they always are: covering too much territory with too few officers. They are neither omniscient nor omnipresent. They play the odds, which until last week said crowded shopping malls contain only shoplifters and elementary schools contain only little kids who snuck in with Dad’s pocket knife. As a civilian, I must take some responsibility for my own safety. For me, I decided that means carrying a handgun.

Taking my legally obtained firearm out of my fully registered, law abiding, properly trained, multi-time fingerprinted and background checked hands makes no one safer except a potential assailant.

My gun may save your life someday because I took the time and expense to obey the law and prepare for the unexpected. My firearm is no threat to anyone who is not a threat to me. It also means that I have spent time thinking about what to do if I find myself in the position of the Clackamas shoppers or the Newtown teachers. I am observant in public. I am watching the people around me, looking for someone who looks odd (besides me), people behaving strangely, looking out of place. I know what to do, how to (and how not to) approach a shooter, when it is absolutely necessary to use my weapon, and when I can use it without putting people in greater danger. Nick Meli apparently used just such a thought process, if his story is true (I’ll grant the possibility that it isn’t). I think about the angles, how to minimize the potential for someone behind the shooter to be in greater danger than they already were should I miss. Although I’m not a half- bad shot, I know I’m responsible for everything that bullet affects from the time it leaves my gun until it stops, and I know that in any event, if I must discharge my weapon, even if completely justified, life will forever change. But not everyone can or will take these precautions, and therefore some simple, common sense limits to the 2nd Amendment must exist. Here’s what I think they should be.

1. Ban ONLY full-auto firearms. Oh wait, they’re already banned. Somehow, a decent number of these are in human hands outside the military. How is this possible?!? Don’t these criminals know that such weapons are illegal?? What part of “criminal” do you not understand? Think a “gun-free zone” will do the trick? Do they have unicorns there, too? Think Lanza or Roberts would have even seen such a sign, let alone obeyed it? Cold-blooded murder is a more serious felony than gun possession. If they were willing to violate the first, more serious law, why would they hesitate to break the second, relatively minor law?

2. Require any person owning a gun to register said weapon, complete a background check, and a low cost, easily accessible, eight-to-forty-hour gun safety course (the longer and more comprehensive, the better, within reason).
This one’ll make the NRA have fits! You should be able to demonstrate familiarity and proficiency with your weapon or leave it at home, period. If you cannot properly and safely handle a firearm, you have no business handling one at all. Every permit holder I know prays to God he/she never has to fire their weapon outside a range. But the fact is the fastest way to stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun.

3. All firearms transfers must be documented, and that includes person-to-person and gun show purchases/trades. I don’t like this one. It’s inefficient and expensive. But I have to admit the so called “gun show loophole” must be closed.

4. Taxes paid from legal gun and ammo sales can be used to fund the infrastructure to implement the required registration process and lower the cost of mandatory training. Ammo must be freely obtainable upon showing valid ID. Without ammo, a handgun is a paperweight, a rifle is a baseball bat. I’m not concerned with the type or amount of ammo someone wants to buy. If they can pass the background check and training, let ‘em have it. Now, here’s where my own logic poses a problem. While I believe a person should be allowed to own any gun (except full-auto), including so called “assault weapons (I’m thinking mainly of the widely avaiable AR-15 and the
AK-47, perhaps the finest, most reliable rifle ever invented), I do NOT advocate being able to CARRY said weapon in public. And since any high-powered rifle is wholly impractical for home defense, why would anyone need to own such a weapon? Unless……..

5. …the anti-gun-registration folks are up in arms (no pun intended). “This is the first step to government confiscation of all guns, like Hitler did in Germany in the 1930s!” Godwin! You lose! Seriously, if the government decides to take your guns, they will. “Over my dead body!” Yes. Probably so. And they’ll be okay with that. You can’t hold off the whole army. If they come after your guns, they’ll leave with them, and with you dead or alive, it won’t matter much to them either way, they’ll still leave with them. They might pay a heavy price, but face it; they can confiscate your guns if they want to. The best defense against that is to elect people who believe like I do (campaign contributions can be sent to me via PayPal). :^)

6. Home defense depends on immediately accessible firearms. I have a pump-action 12 gauge loaded with #6 shot and a 9MM Makarov. They are loaded and within easy reach EXCEPT when my kids are here. It’s my understanding that both the Oregon and Connecticut shooters stole their weapons, or in any case, obtained them without the owner’s permission. A homeowner simply cannot allow this to happen. Part of being a responsible gun owner is preventing unauthorized access to your weapons. Common sense dictates that a home defense weapon must be available immediately for defense, but other, non-immediately essential weapons should be secured as best you can (nothing is 100% safe from a determined thief).

7. Uniformed, heavily armed law enforcement personnel should be required at all public buildings, including schools(I started writing this several days before the NRA’s press conference).
Private institutions such as stores, malls, and private schools could be given assistance to provide such security at their discretion, but if they choose not to, they are responsible for the consequences of their actions/inactions. Of all the stupid things you want to raise my taxes for, this is one I’ll take.

8. Background checks must be streamlined and simplified for most persons, so that the vast majority of persons can be quickly and easily approved. At the same time, there must be a way to flag profiles of people who have had minor run-ins with the law or sought or been recommended for treatment for mental/emotional illnesses. There should be a minimum 48 hour waiting period, and I’d prefer 5-7 days. For private sales and gun shows, the firearms could be turned over to a local licensed gun dealer or the senior county LEO to complete the transfer for a small fee.
Flagging a person should be kept confidential except for the flagee, and should NOT by itself be grounds to deny ownership. It’s just a safety precaution to allow cases where there are clearly no apparent reasons to deny ownership/possession to proceed quickly, while non-slam dunk cases get a little more attention. That won’t stop all the nuts, nothing will stop all the nuts, but it’ll stop some.

9. Law abiding citizens should be able to “opt-in” to a registry to permit more freedom to obtain weapons and ammunition, similar to the TSA’s frequent flyer idea. If you’re willing to register, voluntarily providing more information to LEO, you can. “WHAT?? Give the government a list of everything I own and any time I buy more??” See number 5 above. I’ve been fingerprinted something north of a half dozen times, and background checked at least 5. I have nothing to hide that would stop anything short of #5.

10. MENTAL HEALTHCARE!!! Why in the blue hell are we so worked up (from either side) about mandatory abortion pills when 20 year olds are aborting 5 year olds??? This is another one of the very few cases I’ll agree to pay higher taxes. At the same time, mental illness is not, by itself, a “get-out-of-jail-free” card for criminals.
Just because you’re nuts doesn’t automatically mean you didn’t understand that you were murdering people. We will never be completely safe. Anywhere. There’s just too many Lanzas and Robertses and Loughners. Law enforcement can’t keep everyone safe all the time. But a little common sense can go a long way toward making everyday life safer for us and more difficult/dangerous for criminals. Just my two cents. Keep the change.


Tim Gibson said...

Excellent Steve! I couldn't agree more. You've brought up several points I hadn't thought of. Spencer for Congress!!

Titansfan said...

Very interesting and thought out piece. I don't agree with every point but do agree with the overall message.