Monday, June 13, 2016

Flag Day and Post Orlando Massacre

I’ve been too stunned by the attack in Orlando to fully gather my thoughts, but I ought to publish this before the subject becomes entirely politicized.  I’ve learned that after years of writing this blog and having expressed over and over again my belief that automatic weapons, the kind that was used in the Orlando massacre, need to be outlawed, that mine is but just one lonely voice. Nonetheless I must write what I think. The NRA would have you believe that this puts our nation on the slippery slope to repealing the 2nd amendment.  That slope is as preposterous as outlawing automobiles, which are simply regulated. I don’t know any responsible members of either political party who believe that the 2nd amendment needs to be repealed.  It needs updating to take modern day weaponry into account, killing machines our forefathers never imagined at the time of the 2nd amendment.

The math is pretty clear; this no one can dispute.  Pack a lot of people into a relatively small space, as in the Paris or Orlando attacks, and anyone with military designed weaponry can kill a lot of people.

Banning the sale of such weapons, making them illegal to own (paying current owners to turn them in), is not going to eliminate them.  I’m not stupid.  But they will be harder to obtain.  Go to the next level by requiring licenses and registrations for guns as we do for cars, would be another step in the right direction.  Will that suddenly make everyone safe?  Again, I’m not that stupid.

This attack in Orlando is not only about guns, it’s about the LGBT community, our way of life, and the potential it has for still hardening the line about a particular ethnic minority group.  The Islamic religion is essentially a peaceful one, and to ostracize practicing Muslims will only lead to more radicalization, the very objective of ISIS.  So this is the time to indeed rally around our flag, the very symbol of E Pluribus Unum -- that we are a nation of diversity and should celebrate that diversity and mourn for the LGBT community and for us all..

Ironically, I wrote a piece for Flag Day three years ago, which was on the heels of the Edward Snowden affair.  But I started it off with an appeal to ban automatic weapons.  It is still (in my opinion) as relevant as when it was written, so I paste it below and after that I paste, in reverse chronological order, a number of pieces I wrote about gun control.  Much repetition I suppose, but I still believe much relevancy.

Friday, June 14, 2013
Flag Day and the Electronic World

Flag Day. A time to reflect on the adoption of the flag we honor, and what it symbolizes.  In the world of 1776, it is a nation committed to freedom in its purist form.  Oceans separated us from the rest of the world, difficult for an invading army to breach that defense.

The Second Amendment, giving us the right to bear arms, was passed in 1791, a means of maintaining a civilian militia. ("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.")  At the time the flintlock musket was the standard weapon. Count on being able to fire it maybe 2-3 times a minute. Arms have evolved to the point where a deranged individual can hoard a surfeit of automatic weapons, making that one person a veritable army.

And communications used to be dependent on the mail, then the telegraph, the telephone, and now electronic everything, marrying all methods of communication from the printed word to video.  The Internet has given rise to threats that could not even be imagined by the framers of the Constitution and the Fourth Amendment.

Maybe it is time for a public debate on the issue, but the data mining being done by the National Security Agency cannot be a surprise to anyone.  Edward Snowden's so called whistle blowing merely politicizes what most suspected.

If anyone asked us the day after 9/11 whether the government should make use of private electronic communications with the sole objective of preventing any such future event, we would have merely said, where do we sign on?  How short everyone's memory is.  It is ironic that a liberal constitutional law professor -- Barack Obama -- now, as President, is carrying forth the NSA program which had been condoned by his predecessor.

The brave new electronic world exponentially enhances the weapons of guerrilla warfare, the preferred tactic of terrorist adversaries.  One does not fight this with the tactics of warfare when the Constitution was written, soldiers standing in straight lines right out in the open.  Clandestine electronic communications are fodder for equally clandestine data mining.  So, let the "debate" begin in Washington, but if it is anything like exchanges over the budget, it is liable to do more harm than good, unless there can be some consensus on an oversight mechanism that still preserves the intent of the program.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015
It Can’t Happen Here?

Unfortunately, the horror in San Bernardino has fed into all of this, “legitimizing” such dangerous rhetoric and escalating it to personal attacks on President Obama (who now has low polling numbers about keeping America “safe,” the exact inverse of what those numbers were after bin Laden was nailed) - and subsequent accusations that any call for stronger gun control laws is merely politicizing the San Bernardino tragedy.

But such calls have gone on for years with fierce Republican and NRA opposition.  I do not naively believe that better gun control laws and enforcement would magically eliminate such tragedies, especially in the short term.  But I do believe that the Second Amendment, which was written in the days of musket rifles and flintlock pistols, needs serious updating.

At that time, we needed an armed militia and also the founding fathers believed that an armed citizenry would be deterrent to the rise of a despotic government.  The world has changed since then, weapons of war unimaginable to our forefathers, and, now, mostly in the hands of the military and law enforcement.  To make some of the same weapons legitimately available to the citizenry no longer serves the purpose of protecting us from a despotic government as the military will always have superior weaponry (is an converted AR-15 adequate protection against a tank?). The proliferation of automatic weapons just further endangers us all, giving us a false sense of security by just having one in our closet.

No, this is a country of laws and checks and balances and we have to depend on our tried-and-true institutions as well as the much maligned (by Trump in particular) fourth estate to keep our government transparent and trustworthy. If some fringe element threatens us in our homes and public places, we need better intelligence to prevent it and rapid response law enforcement to protect us.

Fully automatic weapons (ones that operate as a machine gun) need to be banned, and guns should be registered just like a car, an equally dangerous thing.  That means getting a license, passing a rigorous background check and license renewals (a gun owner having to report if it is sold, just like a car).  Guns for self defense, hunting and target practicing are understandable but how can one argue that an automatic weapon is needed?  Certainly not for hunting (where is the sport in that?).  Do we really want our neighbors to be totting an automatic weapon citing Florida’s ambiguous “stand your ground” law as a justification?

Will that keep guns out of the hands of the “bad guys” as the Republicans like to call them?  No, but it’s a start and of course the devil is in the details of how such gun control is administered.  Senseless to get further into it here – I’m merely expounding an opinion.

Friday, October 2, 2015
Carly Sidesteps

Switching gears to one of the major issues of our times, gun control.  I’ve written about this topic before and it is sad that we make no progress in this area and now, still, another mass slaughter, this one at the Umpqua Community College in Oregon.  CNN now reports that the police have identified thirteen (!) weapons connected with the murderer.

As President Obama wearily declared in his news conference, these incidents have become routine in this country and our response is routine:  commiserate with the families and do absolutely nothing to diminish the problem.  Thank you NRA and its obedient congressional cronies.  

I’m no Pollyanna when it comes to this subject.  People should have the right to have registered weapons for target practice and hunting, and for self protection (with licensing akin to getting a driver’s license, testing etc.), with stringent background checks before any weapon could be bought.  Assault weapons should be banned.  Would those steps eliminate the problem?  No.  But it’s a start.  On a macro basis, it is a cultural problem (just look at popular culture which glorifies violence and guns), as well as educational and income equality feeding the problem. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014
Weekend Thoughts

Can you imagine the effrontery of what Georgia's legislature euphemistically calls the "Safe Carry Protection Act"?  Just ask any parent of a child who was at the Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter.

Georgia "Cracker" takes on a new meaning. Crack! Pow! Rat-tat-tat!  To what extreme and at what cost of lives do we take the interpretation of the Second Amendment?  When the Second Amendment became part of the Bill of Rights the reigning weapon was the Musket, accurate perhaps up to the length of a football field, and if you were experienced, perhaps you could get two shots off per minute.  Compare that to today's weapons.  Is that what our Founding Fathers meant, the right of every citizen to carry AK-47s which can fire 600 rounds per minute with a maximum range of 30 football fields?

Georgia takes this to another level. Bring your gun to your favorite bar, have a few drinks, and shoot 'em up!  Then, go to church with your fellow gun-toting religious zealots and pray!  And, bonus time, give a gun to your kid to take to college!

Georgia now joins twenty two other infamous states with some form of "stand your ground" laws as opposed to eighteen states that have laws imposing "a duty to retreat," seemingly a more civilized law that puts the burden on the threatened individual to avoid deadly force where reasonable (like getting the f**k outta there!), only resorting to deadly force where unavoidable, such as being in one's home during an armed home invasion.

I've written about this before, ad nausea. Here's but one of several on the subject that makes the point.  It just seems that in the wake (sadly and certainly no pun intended) of the Newtown, CT tragedy, the NRA has simply put state governments in its powerful lobby cross hairs (pun intended).  Frankly, although I support the second amendment for hunting and target practice, it's dispiriting that we can't have stronger laws to outlaw automatic weapons and institute laws that mandate registering weapons as we must register automobiles (which can be equally lethal).  It's a stain on our legislative resolve (or lack of it to be precise).

Monday, January 20, 2014
"Existential Illegitimacy"

There have been twenty mass shootings since Obama became president and he is helpless to do anything about it without the complete cooperation of Congress.  After the shooting in Newton, Connecticut, only a few miles from where we lived for twenty plus years, there was a ground swell (verbal only) in Congress to do something to control the sale of certain automatic weapons, but by the time the NRA got finished with their lobbying campaign, that effort was AK47ed to death.  Explain that failure to the parents of the children slaughtered.

Thursday, January 17, 2013
You Call That a Gun?

Florida airwaves are chock full of reports of surging gun sales and crowded local shooting ranges before the sword of Damocles (Obama) comes swiftly down.  Interestingly, or tellingly, it is the sales of the AK47 type of military weapons that are selling most briskly and at record prices, soldier citizens plunking down $1,000 or more for their favorite assault weapon.  Apparently, their rationalization for needing a military weapon is, well, for their inevitable confrontation with the US Military.  These particular stalwart supporters of the Constitution (a.k.a. conspiracists) "know" of clandestine government plans to send troops door-to-door to confiscate their booty.  The problem with that is if they are harboring AK47s, perhaps the military might come knocking on their doors with a tank?  Now that's a gun!

In a more serious vein, it's about time after all the empty talk that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is brought into the 21st century.  The framers of the Constitution could never have envisioned what now constitutes the word "arms."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Running Through the Jungle

That jungle is here. The U S of A. The conservative mind would like us to believe that we'd all be safer carrying a weapon (or at least, "feel" safer). When John Fogerty wrote (and the Creedence Clearwater Revival recorded) his prophetic 1970's, Run Through the Jungle, it was thought that, along with many of his other songs, the jungle he was referring to was Vietnam. Wrong. It was his plea, still unanswered, that some gun control sanity transpires -- here. The lyrics refer to 200 million guns -- then the population of the United States....

Run Through The Jungle

Whoa, thought it was a nightmare,
Lo, it's all so true,
They told me, "Don't go walking slow
'Cause Devil's on the loose."

Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Woa, Don't look back to see.

Thought I heard a rumbling
Calling to my name,
Two hundred million guns are loaded
Satan cries, "Take aim!"

Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Woa, Don't look back to see.

Over on the mountain
Thunder magic spoke,

"Let the people know my wisdom,
Fill the land with smoke."

Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Woa, Don't look back to see.

Now, only forty years later, there are 300 million people who could be armed, locked and loaded. Wouldn't you feel safer?

And toward that end, in Florida we have "Stand Your Ground," Yeehaw!!!

With the tragic killing of unarmed Trayvon Martin, by a "crime watch volunteer," George Zimmerman, Florida's "Stand Your Ground" provision has proven to be the gun-slinging cowboy's best friend. This NRA supported measure says "a person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony." "Reasonably believes?" Does a hooded black youth give cause to "reason?"

Life imitating art? It conjures up the Bertolt Brecht play, The Exception and the Rule, a parable for these times, in which a merchant hires a coolie to help him cross a desert to close an oil deal, but near the end of the journey, when the exploited and abused coolie offers his boss some water, the merchant mistakes the gesture for an attack and shoots him dead. He is put on trial but acquitted as the court concludes the merchant did not know the coolie meant no harm and therefore the killing was pardonable. If the one with power kills, he may do so merely out of fear. One has to be armed to have that power and Brecht saw that as an issue in class warfare.

Let's escalate this insanity further. Guns in classrooms. The Colorado Supreme Court recently upheld a state law that allows residents to carry concealed weapons, finding that the University of Colorado's campus gun ban violates the "law." Colorado is not the only state with such a law and guns are not the only "approved" concealed weapons. In some states such weapons "may" include one or more of the following: Brass knuckles, Slingshots, Martial arts weapons, Knives, Swords, Spears, Daggers, Clubs, Electronic dart guns, Blackjacks, Sand bags, Razors. Sounds like a scene from West Side Story or Blackboard Jungle. Or something out of Medieval "Fechtbuchs." Including "sand bags?" Ouch

Will we EVER learn?