Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Of fallacies and firearms

It's no secret that the furor over gun control given recent events has overshadowed even the economy as the issue at the forefront of most people's minds.  Violent acts against the innocent, especially children,  shock us out of our complacency turning even the most apathetic into fair weather activists. 

So it's no surprise that the cause du jour on capitol hill is stamping out those things perceived as encouraging the worst aspects of humanity.  Perhaps more correctly, the lack of said humanity.  
Guns, video games and violent movies are easy targets with many proposing removal or strict regulation could provide society with a kind of pacifism vaccine.  Others see such action as an erosion of  civil liberties and further evidence of the heavy hand of big government. 

They're both wrong...

If you believe in the rhetoric of the NRA you probably think the government is somehow just over the next hill coming to take away your right to defend yourself.  Their defense is distraction suggesting that perhaps the opposition got one thing right. 

Click Here for TV Deals!Yes of course!  It's those violent video games, says the NRA, that turns normal human beings into inhuman murderers urged on by the virtual bloodbath that is Starcraft 2!  The opposition is quick to point out, however, that nobody's ever been murdered by a video game no matter how violent.

The opposition is no better, however.  The proverbial baby is thrown out with the bathwater seeking to eliminate all that is perceived to be unpleasant or an affront to civil society.  To them, the government may be imperfect but its judgment ultimately superior for the sake of the public good.

The problem with regulation for the "public good" is that it often treads on civil liberties.  Look no further than internment camps detaining Japanese-American citizens during World War 2.  Of course most people aren't aware of history past Ronald Reagan's presidency so a more recent example may be in order.

There were laws put in place for the "public good" not so long ago that allow warrant less wire taps and searches under powers granted by the ironically named "Patriot Act."
All ammunition (no pun intended) for the Tea Party crowd. 

I'm going to attempt to bring this all together for you so bear with me.

First, the biggest fear of gun advocates is government "interference" with the ownership of their weapons.  They feel that government regulation seeks to eventually leave them defenseless and subjugated to an oppressive regime. 

The most extreme of the group will stockpile quantities of assault weapons in preparation for the coming "showdown."  They also frequently cite the second amendment to the Constitution as well as the Declaration of Independence as the foundation for their beliefs.  The right to obtain any weapon they choose without obstruction is to their mind central to a constitutionally protected right to overthrow an oppressive government.

Two major, glaring problems with those lines of reasoning.

First, all it takes is one well placed shot from a shoulder launched missile and your little revolution is over.  That's assuming they even bother to send troops and instead just have a drone take you out.

Second, there's a flaw in their logic concerning the constitutional basis for their position.  The Declaration of Independence was written as a response to the oppression of King George on the colonies not the United States.  You can copy and paste if you want but you can't cite the original for your position. 

Turning to the Constitutional argument.  The Second Amendment allows citizens to defend themselves from an invading foreign army via an organized state militia otherwise known as the National Guard.  That's it folks, nothing more, put those A-Team and Rambo fantasies to bed.

Nobody wants to be defended by an unruly band of weekend warriors running around humming the theme to the Green Berets.

Does anyone actually believe that any government document would be written with a provision to allow its own overthrow?  Sorry, but expecting constitutional protections from the very government you oppose is utter nonsense. 

One more thing, extremists are generally not good students of history and forget that there would never have been a United States without help.  Countries like France and Spain provided money, munitions and even troops to the fledgling nation.  Admittedly born more out of a hatred for Britain and economic opportunism than any great magnanimity. 

With British warships effectively blockading all major ports and choking commerce the American  revolution could have been nothing more than a skirmish without outside help.  Great Britain could have simply starved the rebellious colonies out much like the UN uses economic sanctions to punish rogue states. 

So unless you've got some superpower-sized assistance lined up, best forget your revolution and put your guns back in the trophy case.  Of course I'm probably completely wrong so I invite you to find the nearest mountain cabin from which to plot your revolution.  Let me know how that works out for you. 
Hey, at least you'll get your 15 minutes of fame on CNN before they move on to the latest Kardashian fiasco.

On the other side of the aisle, the expectation of the ideal violence-free society resembling something out of a Woodstock hallucination is equally flawed.

Congress seems to have an affinity for regulation.  Problem is, it's usually for the wrong things.  Classify Marijuana as a controlled substance and they create a booming illegal underground market.  Relax FDA regulations and late night television is crowded with ads for lawyers participating in class action lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies. 

There used to be an assault weapons ban but it was given an expiration date like a container of milk.  I suppose that was so they'd be safer when they became legal again...

The problem with regulation is that it's black and white when there should be shades of gray and vice versa. 
Remember when congress managed to give away 700 Billion dollars to bail out Wall street interests in 2008?  You'd think that kind of investment of public funds would have some kind of oversight, right?  Not only was the 3 page bill passed with virtually no accountability for the recipients but with specific language to prevent it. 

LC65E77UMThere were regulations passed to be overseen by the newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but the agency is largely toothless in its enforcement.  It's forced to depend on the good graces of the entities it monitors.  The foxes are assumed to be on their best behavior in the hen house.

Of course, a lobby-fed congress being necessary to the security of the state...  Yes, I did it, I ripped off the second amendment for that.  And why not, it might as well be in the bill of rights. 

Deregulation of the financial markets over the past 3 decades created a fertile environment for the Wall street sideshow.  A performance that resulted in the world's economy coming to the brink of collapse.  Still, even in a period of time short enough to match the average attention span lobbyists keep congress from passing meaningful reforms in the financial market.

 So can we actually expect congress to pass meaningful legislation about anything?  Their history is to either provide toothless agencies hampered by legislative loopholes you can drive a truck through or to disenfranchise an entire segment of the population.

I'm personally frustrated by the reactionary politicians that cause this mess.  They're always on the lookout for the quick fix that'll play well to the short attention span of the constituency.  You need only look at the recent Republican Presidential campaigns for evidence.  They actually tried to use current economic conditions to unseat a sitting president, for example. 

Never mind that the country was still recovering from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  To the Mitt Romney's and Ben Quayle's, the economy should have recovered in 90 days.  Let's also not forget about the congressional logjam fueled by ideologies that only served to further delay any recovery.
What does all this have to do with gun control?  Simple, it's not about the subject, it's about the process.  We'll either get overreaching legislation or nothing at all. 

My proposal?  Quit blaming the straw man.  It's not the guns, video games, or violent media causing these bloodthirsty rampages. No, It's a flawed system easily taken advantage of by a disturbed individual at a gun show.  It's the unsecured weapon in the home of a troubled teenager.  It's not incorporating technologies into weapons that only allow them to operate when keyed to a specific owner.  So called Smart guns have been in development for the past decade by the way but adoption's been blocked by groups like the NRA citing privacy issues. 

We're required to be tested and licensed to operate a motor vehicle.  That vehicle is required to be registered to operate on the public roadways.  At any time law enforcement can, for cause, stop you if they suspect a violation of the law. 

Most of us accept those conditions to participate in our daily commute.  Why then should there be an issue with registering a device whose very design is intended to harm?  Now, don't try to paint me with a broad brush for that.  I really could care less what kind of firearm you own so long as you're willing to take responsibility for it. 

You can be sure that if you blow the front of my house off with a military surplus RPG, however, I'm going to be showing up at your door.  I would not, however, suggest that you couldn't have it rather just that I and everyone else knows that you do. 

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Does that mean the police are going to show up every time somebody's house gets blown up by a rocket?  Probably, but it comes with the territory. 

It's no different than the police escort you'll get every rush hour because you happen to be driving an "arrest me Red" Corvette.

It comes down to taking personal responsibility for your actions.  If you don't want the government interfering with your "rights" then you're going to need to join civil society and ditch the Rambo fantasies.
We're never going to completely eliminate the possibility of a determined psychopath causing another Sandy Hook no matter how strict our gun laws are.  There is a better chance of heading it off, however, by requiring gun owners to take personal responsibility for their actions.  That comes from measures like registration, background checks, training and smart gun technology.

I'm putting the onus on you, not the government, not the entertainment industry nor the NRA to solve the problem of gun violence.  You're the one with the guns.

Status Quo is Latin for "the way things are" and it's not going to work anymore.  Change will happen and it's best to have a say in it unless you're comfortable with someone else doing your thinking for you...

Yeah, I didn't think so...