Archive | February, 2018

It Seems So Simple

21 Feb

Why aren’t firearms the answer to everyone’s personal security? What could be easier, buy a gun, stick it in your pocket, purse or glove box and eureka you are safe from violent crime. Easy as pie, right? I’m not so sure.

No matter who you are, should you ever need to defend your life from a violent attack, with or without a gun, it will be the single most stressful, difficult, overwhelming event of your life. To use a firearm predicably and effectively in such a circumstance you need to be extensively trained, mentally prepared, and you need to practice on a regular basis. Carrying and being prepared to use a firearm in self defense or the defense of another is a massive responsibility that is all too often taken for granted. In addition, If you make a mistake in this paradigm, the best case scenario is that you are the only one who is hurt. At worst, you injure or kill an innocent who happens to be in the line of fire.

The first time I ever drew and fired my sidearm on duty (and not at the firing range) was in defense of a fellow officer from an attacking dog. At least one of the rounds I fired missed the dog and ricocheted off the pavement and towards a nearby home. After the threat was neutralized and after I made sure my partner was safe, I was nearly overcome with the fear that my errant round may have injured someone in the home. We immediately ran across the street to check on the occupants. Luckily no one, including the children in the home were injured, but the outcome could easily have been much different. If someone had been injured or killed, I would have been solely responsible and I would have lived with that mistake for the rest of my life.

It’s a problem that everyone seems to envision the average gunfight in the most simple unambiguous terms. Instead, real life is much less likely to present a clear and present danger or circumstance. None of the shootings I’ve been involved in have followed any kind of script or easily predicable pattern. Most happened unexpectedly, blindingly fast with visceral and surreal violence. Each shooting happened whether I was paying attention or not, they happened at night and in the pouring rain and in dark houses or backyards. Sometimes they happen when you are injured and fighting for your life. They never happen at the well lit grassy firing range or with any kind of warning or time to prepare. Even those that occur in the tightly controlled environment of a tactical scenario, are startling and unimaginably stressful.

Now I’m not saying that you should be required to train like a street cop or SWAT team member to defend yourself with a firearm, but given the stakes, even if everything goes exactly right, why would you feel confident with anything less.

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Smoke and Mirrors

19 Feb

I don’t know why those who oppose greater restrictions don’t simply say, I love guns instead of giving a bunch of non-sensical reasons for why they don’t believe in gun restrictions/laws. Phrases and arguments like, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” are diversions that have no place in a rational discussion. They are headlines, soundbites and memes that provide nothing in the way of thoughtful analysis. Any reasonably intelligent person knows that the gun all by itself isn’t the problem, rather the combination of a gun and a human being creates the potential for a problem. In this equation the gun is the predictably inanimate object and the human is a behavioral wildcard. The danger to society occurs when you combine an otherwise very predicable killing tool with the extremity, pathology and unpredictability of human behavior. Thus, it would seem that any rational discussion must include solutions that address both factors. Focusing on mental health ignores the fact that all gun deaths/injuries are not perpetrated by the mentally ill. Moreover, most of the recent discussions I’ve seen does little to address the problem while simultaneously stigmatizing a group of people who have an illness and who often desperately need societies help instead of mindless, stereotypical condemnation.

Another argument that rings false to me is that firearm purchase, possession and use is protected by the 2nd Amendment. To be clear, I don’t doubt that the 2nd Amendment protects this right, what I doubt is that this is actually why most want to keep and/or continue to acquire firearms. Maybe I’ve been living in a bubble, but I don’t actually know anybody who lives their life, to any noticeable degree, as if the government is getting ready to eradicate all of our rights. Most people I know, get up, go to work, raise their children and generally contribute to the stability and well being of society. They are not stocking up their survival shelter, and plotting to overthrow the government. They may not like government generally or politicians specifically, but they are not seriously expecting to start a new government, at least any time soon. Frankly you couldn’t get most people to run for office or show up at a city council meeting, let alone plot a coup. So, when I hear an otherwise rational, employed, tax paying, husband/wife, talk about the need to have an AR-15 in case the government decides to take their rights away, I find it hard to take them seriously. While I’m sure there are those that actively and honestly hold these beliefs, I think they are a fringe element. I think that in most cases it is simply a popular and handy rhetorical device and not a substantive argument.

But back to my original point, absent all of the BS, firearms are valuable tools, that have much in their favor. Clearly they are ideal for hunters and while I don’t hunt, I know many who do and they do so for reasons that benefit society, wildlife and our environment. Simply shooting for fun or in competition is an activity that has taught many children discipline and good judgement and I have personally enjoyed both activities immensely. Guns, marksmanship and hunting are often the well loved glue that binds families, not only to each other, but to their ancestors and family history. Guns are beautiful, marvelous tools and even works of art and engineering that reflect some of mankind’s greatest craftsmanship. Guns in the hands of the soldier or peace officer are a symbol and tool of freedom and order. Guns are also a deeply engrained symbol of our independence and shared heritage. I think that all of these reasons argue strongly against any overreach or unconstitutional firearms seizure and the failure of the gun lobby to focus on the real reasons we should protect firearms possession and use has created an environment where the two sides seem so far apart that it seems as if nothing will ever be accomplished.

Why Not Put Up A Stop Sign?

18 Feb

Regarding the notion that gun control laws won’t do any good because some (or only the law abiding) won’t obey those laws I would suggest the following:

I don’t think we enact laws expecting a particular degree or guarantee of compliance, rather after identifying an act or behavior to be prohibited or encouraged, we draft a law hoping that it will achieve a degree of compliance sufficient to achieve the intent of the legislative or administrative body. The law is thus a demonstration of our desire as a discrete society to declare what type and manner of order we wish to impose on the otherwise unfettered freedom of each citizen or visitor.

Take for example, a simple stop sign. Does a law place a stop sign at an intersection expecting that every car will stop? No, in fact, we can reliably predict that many will not stop. Should this predictable non-compliance have prevented us from enacting the law? Has this predictable non-compliance resulted in more deaths from traffic collisions? If we examine the root causes of running stop signs, will those underlying factors be a good reason not to have stop signs?

We enact most laws to improve our lives or make us safer. A law also ensures that there are both consequences for its violation and a chance for the violator to explain their act or failure to act and avoid these consequences by way of due process. When a needed law is not enacted, society is saying that you are free to engage in that particular behavior; to use my example, if an intersection does not have a stop sign, you may drive through without stopping. By failing to enact gun laws that make us safer our society is saying that we believe that our illusory need to protect ourselves with guns is more important than the lives that are constantly and tragically lost to gun violence of all types. While I understand the subjective and anecdotal nature of my personal experience, I also can’t ignore the fact that in over 3 decades of carrying a weapon every time I left the house I have never had to so much as remove it from its holster, at least off duty.

I’ve owned and been around guns my entire life and I carried and used guns in a professional capacity for much of my working career. I have always been fascinated by and enjoyed both collecting and shooting them. As a child and a young adult, I can also recall the seductive power they exuded. I’ve also nearly lost my life to a gun and experienced the emotional and intellectual turmoil of having to use a gun to take the life of another human being.

I also have many good friends and family members that responsibly hunt, own, use and carry guns and they are all wonderful people who I will always love and respect. But as much as I love and respect them, I am saddened by my conviction that their affinity for a physical thing or activity and their unwavering opposition to any reasonable regulation is more important then all of the lives that are being lost each day, each day we debate whether we should be erecting a stop sign.