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The Gun and the Libel

So, because I am a self-hating jerk, I was flitting around a bunch of the right-blogs yesterday, to see what horrifying inhumane garbage they had to say about the Norway slaughter.  And one of the most common threads, especially at Ace of Spades and Confederate Yankee, was a variant of “He should have tried that shit in Texas”.  Implying, of course, that a well-armed population would have cut the massacre, and any like it, well short:  a clever way to make the absurd argument that strict gun laws are to blame for massive gun deaths.

Aaaaand, cue the Dramatic Irony Department.

The timing is grimly precise, but of course, anyone with a shred of historical awareness knows that armed-to-the-teeth Texas, far from being a violence-free Enforced Politeness Zone, is home to gun killings aplenty, including three of the bloodiest murder sprees in American history (in Austin, Killeen, and Fort Hood, respectively, with a total body count of 54; and the last took part on a military base, by definition one of the most heavily armed places on the planet).

As a gun owner, I have often been annoyed at my fellow liberals who act like the mere possession of a gun is an instant death sentence, as if these inanimate objects can leap up on their own accord and shoot children in the face.  In the innumerable arguments I’ve had with people on the issue, my stock line is:  guns aren’t magic.  They are a tool that has had both a hugely positive and a hugely negative effect on society, and it’s a legitimate topic of debate which effect has been the greatest.  But they aren’t magic wands.  It’s important to remember, the same response can be used against the right-wing crazies who fetishize guns:  they aren’t magic.  Just as they can’t leap from their cases, load themselves, and shoot innocent people of their own accord, they also can’t make themselves appear where they aren’t being carried, and they can’t make the people wielding them into experts, or calm their nerves for a cool hand, or make them bulletproof, or shield them from the screaming terror that comes from watching people die horribly all around you.  Even our finest, best-trained soldiers miss shots, and that’s in ideal practice conditions; in battle, anything can happen.  The possession of a gun doesn’t make you safe from a massacre.  In fact, it’s axiomatic that the more guns people have, the more people will die from gunfire.

One of the reasons we can’t seem to have an intelligent conversation about guns and gun control in this country is that too many people on both sides of the debate don’t have any idea what they’re talking about.  But these fools who  strut around boasting about the imaginary prowess of American studs and their American guns, living in a fantasia where gun-toting patriots create a sphere of invincibility, are just spitting on the corpses of the blameless dead.

Mirrored from LEONARD PIERCE DOT COM.

Comments

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anne_jumps
Jul. 24th, 2011 02:19 pm (UTC)
Well said.
fengi
Jul. 24th, 2011 03:06 pm (UTC)
I thought you were against the annoying media use of false equivalencies, i.e. "both sides have a point" to give a pass to the extremism of one side.

You are right to admit that anti-regulation types do think guns are a magical preventive and that they aren't.

In Chicago we had the ideal pro-gun situation - a well trained legal gun owner pulled a weapon on armed criminals, and the end result is they shot him dead.

The non-fans of guns (not "anti" because most want control, not banning) do not "act like the mere possession of a gun is an instant death sentence". This is largely a strawman. Gun control advocates point out guns make violent situations - like a domestic dispute - more likely to end in death or serious injury. Guns are weapons designed to kill.

Legal gun owners and those who may resort to guns for violent reasons are not mutually exclusive groups. Nor are legal gun owners and criminals, as one doesn't need a record to commit crimes.

Most gun control advocates do not believe one can magically get rid of all guns. It's about harm reduction. Traffic lights aren't always obeyed, but it makes for a society in which getting run over is a limited risk. The same is true for people who think handguns should be kept out of urban areas.

As you admit, the only thing certain about an armed society is it's one in which more people are at risk of being shot. One can disagree about if this a net good or bad, but the number of preventable deaths makes a good argument for not.

This isn't just about violent confrontations. Not to stand up for criminals, but in a society were a death penalty trials can go horribly wrong, is it really a good idea to give individuals the power to hand out death sentences in the name of self-defense?

At times the NRA has supported changing the legal definition of self-defense to permit shooting people who appear threatening. Can you honestly say gun control advocacy is that unreasonable?

Edited at 2011-07-24 03:09 pm (UTC)
ludickid
Jul. 24th, 2011 05:42 pm (UTC)
1. I'm not trying to give a pass to the extremism of the gun nuts. What they're doing is far more harmful than the silly attitudes of some anti-gun liberals. But that doesn't mean the latter group doesn't exist, or can't be discussed.

2. I can't respond to a lot of your arguments because they are addressing points I did not make.

3. The condition of causing many preventable deaths is not de facto an argument against ownership of something. If it were, we would have long ago banned alcohol, cigarettes, and automobiles, all of which kill lots of people. We have, however, sat down and had semi-reasonable discussions about those things; we have performed a grim but necessary calculus and agreed that the number of auto accident deaths per year are an acceptable amount in exchange for having a privatized, mobile society. What's more, all those things are highly regulated -- and the ever-increasing regulation of automobiles has led to an ever-decreasing number of traffic fatalities, to the point that, in the last few years, gun deaths, which have always been exceeded by auto accidents, have surpassed them, even with more cars on the road.

This is exactly what needs to happen with gun control: a serious and straightforward debate about the social and individual costs, followed by heavy regulation. Now, of course, the main reason this isn't happening is because of the N.R.A. and the pro-gun lobby. But there's also an intransigence on the part of some liberals, who find the whole subject so unpleasant that they have a knee-jerk response (in my experience, at least) to discussing important considerations, such as the benefits -- and I think there are some -- of an armed populace, or the fact that the majority of gun deaths are and have always been suicides, making the statistics somewhat static at a certain point and therefore resistant to regulation.

4. To reiterate, I am a gun owner, but I do not support the N.R.A. I think it does almost nothing but harm politically (though, practically, it is a good source of safe and valuable gun training, which is vitally necessary to an armed society), and it is 95% responsible, with its profitable knee-jerk opposition to even the discussion of gun control, for the lack of an intelligent conversation about the subject. It also promulgates the nonsensical idea that Democrats are out to ban guns, which does a lot of political harm. Nothing I said above should be taken to mean I support them. I'm not trying to create a false equivalency.

5. I think death sentences should ONLY be dispensed by individuals in the name of self-defense, and it's BECAUSE the government is so bad at it. I am unwilling to grant the government the power or the authority to kill its own citizens. I'd much rather trust them to investigate and punish those who wrongly kill in the name of self-defense than to operate a justice system that dispenses death, a process at which they have proved extraordinarily incompetent and unjust. Even if all of them were completely unjustified, the number of private citizens who kill people in self-defense doesn't begin to approach the number of people who are on death row. I'd far rather abolish the death penalty and leave folks the remote chance of defending themselves against a criminal than leave things as they are.

6. Nowhere did I say gun control advocacy is unreasonable. I've never said that, and I never will say that. All I said was that a lot of liberals treat guns like they're magical, and overreact to the mere discussion of the subject of gun ownership. The fact that, in so doing, I got you to accuse me of thinking gun control advocacy is unreasonable -- which is absolutely untrue in any way -- kind of proves my point.
tawdryjones
Jul. 25th, 2011 12:44 am (UTC)
Hey, thanks for talking about this. I realized that I did have a knee-jerk reaction that guns = death (usually the death of the guy holding the gun who will inevitably find himself out of his element and starting a fight he can't finish). I needed to be reminded that it's not cut and dry all the time.

By the way, why do you have a gun? What kind of shooting do you do?
ludickid
Jul. 25th, 2011 12:52 am (UTC)
I have several guns, for several reasons. I like them, and I like shooting them (I do most of my shooting at a gun range across town, and occasionally way out in the Hill Country). They make me feel safer when I'm on long road trips. I've never had to use one in self-defense, and I doubt I ever will, but I have been in situations (more than one) where I'm pretty sure that letting another party know that I was armed dissuaded them from attempting a serious crime. There's the old cliche that I'd rather have one and not need it than need it and not have it. And, of course, I'd like to be able to kill myself quickly if the need arises.
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ludickid
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PROPRIETOR

Leonard Pierce is a freelance writer wandering around Texas with no sleep or sense of direction. If you give him money he will write something for you. If you are nice to him he may come to your house and get drunk.

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