Category Archives: Guns For Grown-ups

Gun Control Advocates Need To Look Elsewhere

Another mass-killing in Lafayette, Louisiana this week. Three killed, nine injured. Since 2013 there have been more than 200 such incidents.

Congress is not disposed to regulating gun ownership, and the NRA, one of the most powerful propaganda machines (and lobbies) ever, continues its doublethink argument that the only solution is more guns.

A recent Mother Jones article suggests the problem is a jaded and indifferent public. But both sides in this argument show great enthusiasm for their position, I’m not sure there’s a majority left anywhere to be indifferent.

Instead, I think the problem is the way the argument is framed. The powerful, emotionally-charged trigger words “2nd Amendment rights, and “taking away personal liberty,” determine the focus and control the direction of the discussion. But when the debate remains focussed on rights and liberties, an equally important, issue–public safety–gets sidelined.

Until the public discussion is reframed, gun control advocates will have as much chance of winning as a one-legged man in a sack race.  Maybe the change will have to wait until the conservative controlled congress has dissipated, but voters can still pick up the phone and call their representatives, asking them to refocus on the government’s responsibility for public safety, and legislate some reasonable controls on gun purchase and ownership.  In a sane world, guns would be licensed, just like cars, and for the same reasons.  But that would require a higher value be placed on sanity than “personal liberty.”

Applying for a Concealed Carry Permit in Missouri

 

Recently I decided to apply for a Missouri concealed carry permit, not so I could pack a sidearm daily, but to see how the process worked. I read the state laws Online, then dropped by the Sheriff’s office. Get your training first, they told me, then bring your certificate here and get your background check.

The Farmington area has several concealed carry training courses listed in the Yellow Pages.  The first place I called told me they provided all the handguns. “Can I bring the handgun I’ll be using?” I asked. “No, you have to use ours.” “But all handguns shoot differently. Isn’t there an advantage in training with the gun you’ll be using regularly?” “Well,” the guy said, “I thought you were interested in taking my training course, but it sounds like you want to run it.” I told him I didn’t, and hung up.

The second place I tried worked out better. I got all the information I needed and signed up for their 8 hour training course.

The training facility was a modest residence deep in the bowels of St Francois County. The instruction room was the garage. The instructors were amiable, and showed a fondness for both firearms and tattoos.  The session began with 3 instructors and 21 trainees who ranged in age from 20-something to 70-something.  There were no obvious cranks or wackos, but the guy sitting next to me looked and sounded so much like a real-life Beavis I had to bite my lip throughout the morning to keep from laughing.

Six hours of the training was classroom instruction, and it was good. Gun safety was a big part of it, but there was valuable information on shooting techniques and gear.  In one respect, though, the training was disturbing. The emphasis, the focus, was on killing rather than self-defense. Of course self-defense and the need to protect life and property came up, but in the minds of the trainers the reason for carrying a handgun was to be able to kill someone in situations where they deemed it necessary and appropriate.

One of the examples really brought this home. An instructor was describing a situation in which he had the drop on an armed intruder. Would you shoot to disable, or shoot to kill, I asked. The answer was quick and unequivocal: “you take out the threat.”  Throughout the course, killing was discussed and described in the most matter-of-fact and conversational terms.

After a lunch of pizza and sweet tea we went to the range. Qualification required 20 rounds in a human profile target. The center “X” in the target was surrounded by concentric rings with a maximum diameter of 16 by 20 inches. All rounds had to be inside that oval.  Mine were; also those of 20 other trainees. I was sitting directly behind the 21st guy. His 20 practice rounds were scattered all over the paper target and beyond. His next 20–his qualifying rounds–were less wild but still not good enough.  I saw his shoulders literally slump with his last shot.

The trainers assured us nobody every failed their course; they worked with trainees until they qualified at the range. As we trekked back to our garage classroom, I could hear number 21 still banging away at his target under the intense personal supervision of his instructor.

And that was that. In another 20 minutes, I had my paperwork done and was on the road. At the Sheriff’s office,  I got digitally fingerprinted and spent another 10 minutes on paperwork.  About a week later, my background check was approved, and I acquired my official-looking, plastic-covered concealed carry permit.

Counting the deputies and training staff, there were five people I talked with in person in the process of getting the permit. Not one asked me why I wanted a permit, or if I had reason to carry a handgun. I find that a little troubling, although less troubling than the laws in a state like Kansas, which allow someone to buy a firearm, stick it in their pocket, and carry it anywhere without a background check or any training.

I can’t imagine the circumstances that would cause me to carry a concealed weapon; I think I’d feel a little silly. Maybe if somebody threatened my life I’d do it, but I think it’s absurd to imagine a concealed handgun would offer any real protection. There are too many variables. Would I be faster? Would I shoot straighter?  Would I even see it coming? Could I even pull the trigger?

Could Beavis?

A Bill Outlining the Requirements for Gun Purchase and Ownership

This isn’t a real piece of legislation, and I’m not a real politician, but it does present arguments for the registration and licensing of firearms. I am hopeful that some day, a real politician will turn this into a real bill, and get it passed.

 

Definitions of Terms:

“2nd Amendment Right to Ownership:” While the 2nd amendment has been interpreted as insuring the right of any individual to own any gun, it does not support the sales of firearms to individuals shown to incapable of using them safely, or to individuals who may purchase firearms with the intention of harming others.  Only individuals who demonstrate the social maturity, emotional stability, and recognition of the needs and rights of others, are eligible for gun ownership.

“Firearm” will refer to any weapon which is fired from the hand or the shoulder, using non-explosive projectiles propelled by granulated  dry ingredients that expand gas when ignited. It excludes all weapons with a bore diameter over .50 inch (unless the weapon is muzzle-loading antique)   all weapons with automatic fire capability, and all weapons capable of throwing an explosive charge like a mortar.  It excludes the use of armor-piercing or other specialized rounds manufactured by the military, for military use.

While firearms are variously defined as tools or items of collection, they are herein designated as weapons, which are characterized by their ability to kill or cause damage at a distance. Implied in this definition is the need for training to understand the safe operation of a specific firearm, and sufficient experience to make safe operation possible.

Purchase, or acquisition, will refer to the transfer of ownership from a business or private party to an individual who intends to keep the weapon as personal property.

Firearms licensing: In order to acquire a firearm for personal possession, and applicant must submit or complete documents showing that ownership of a firearm does not present substantial risk to self, family, or the public at large. These documents may include background checks to determine the presence of psychiatric problems, drug or alcohol dependency, or emotional and developmental disabilities (such as chronic anger manifest in threats or harmful behavior toward others, felony use of a firearm, history of assault, or crimes against person) which would impair the applicant’s ability to safely possess or use a firearm.

Firearms licensing also includes documentation that the applicant knows proper handling and discharge procedures of the specific firearm acquired. It is the shared responsibility of the manufacturer and the seller to provide clear instructions regarding safety and use, and it the the seller’s responsibility to present this information to the applicant in a form confirming he or she does understand how to safely operate the weapon. Instruction will include a review of the applicant’s knowledge of proper operation (for example, using inserting or removing a cartridge in the chamber of a bolt action rifle, use of mechanical safety, or loading the chambers in a revolver). This information will be confirmed through visual observation of an applicant’s performance at the time of purchase, and will be retained as a written document completed by the seller and maintained as permanent store records. The information will be submitted automatically to appropriate state and federal agencies, and provided on-demand to authorized personnel.

The permanent document will include (but not necessarily be limited to: l) Any findings that bear on the applicant’s ability to safely use a firearm. 2) Observations by a representative of the seller that the applicant has been observed safely manipulating the firearm, and knows procedures for safe carry and operation.

It is the seller’s responsibility to review all permanent documentation completed at time of sale, determine if findings include information suggesting an increased risk of ownership or use, and interrupt the sale process by contacting federal and state authorities designated to intervene in such circumstances.

If documentation at time of purchase includes no indications of increased risk of ownership, the it is the seller’s responsibility to issue the proper licensing forms to the applicant and complete the purchase. The purchaser is instructed to carry this license on his person any time he has a firearm in his possession.

It is the purchaser’s responsibility to provide instruction and information on the use of safe gun operation to all family members, child and adult, who may have access to the firearm in its normal location of residence.  Failure to do so will cause the gun owner to be liable for felony negligence charges in the event a family member injures self or others with the licensed weapon.

Licensing renewal will occur every five years, or in the event the firearm has been used in the commission of a crime or been responsible for bodily injury, assault, or property damage in the interim. Gun ownership rights may be revoked by any compelling evidence that by owning a firearm, the owner becomes a clear and present danger to self or others.

 

 

 

 

Cars Revisited

It makes perfect sense to me that guns should be licensed for the same reason motor vehicles require a license: they are both dangerous weapons that require skill and training to use safely.  Anarchists, extremist Libertarians, and wackos who put personal liberty above all else might argue otherwise, but unless one rejects the notion of a common good, or envisions a democratic government with no sense of social responsibility,  letting someone buy a car and drive it off the lot without first having documented through a licensing process they are able to do so is nuts.

And yet, a perfectly incompetent person–free from training and expertise–can purchase a gun at a Missouri gun show and leave. A person who has the capacity for murdering others can purchase a gun without fear those homicidal tendencies will be discovered. A gang member can buy a gun for gang-related purposes,  and if you want to buy an assault rifle to slip across the Mexico border to some murderous but well-heeled drug dealers, you can acquire your product in Missouri (or just about any other state), and git’er done.

These opportunities suggest the presence of societal insanity, diseased morality, and  the behavior of children in adult bodies who believe that gun ownership makes them safer and more powerful.  This cherished illusion of the pro-gun extremists is so shallow and out of touch with how things actually happen in the real world, it scarcely deserves the status of a fantasy.  In the real world, there is no assurance a gun-toting teacher will get the drop on an armed intruder, win a shoot-out, and save a classroom full of defenseless children. There is a very real chance an untrained family member can acquire the family firearm and cause injury. There is a high probability that when a sufficient number of This Gun Is An Extension Of My Penis, concealed-carry dudes are contained in a restaurant or saloon, one will eventually find just cause to shoot another, most likely an unfortunate who symbolically threatened his penis, or appeared to have a bigger one concealed under his jacket.

Nevertheless, Missouri recently enacted legislation which promotes the exact opposite of responsible gun licensing (read the hyperlinked editorial). It makes it easier for convicted felons to acquire firearms.  As the St Louis Post Dispatch editorial suggests, this came about because state politicians feared the gun lobby.  Common sense, attention to statistics, and a concern for the common good–the welfare of others–did not prevent it.

Instead, common sense and statistics got hijacked by a pro-gun constituency that promotes a world-view in which shooting other people is a good way to solve just about any problem that might arise. Fear-mongering often helped drive this world-view, as did a variety of marketing strategies that associate guns with personal power, security, or social status.

As I write this, the extremist pro-gun constituency has considerable power, but you look at the way politicians genuflect to the NRA, you can’t help but sense a subservience prompted by a desire for political gain, and fear of political loss.   Eventually, after a few more years or a few more decades of preventable murders and accidental deaths by firearms in the hands of those who shouldn’t have easy access, this will change. The idea of licensing guns because they are dangerous, in the same way cars are dangerous, will become more attractive.  Eventually, I’m certain, there will be reasonable controls on gun ownership because the majority of voters who recognize the need for licensing will overwhelm the shrill minority who oppose it.

Firearms licensing can’t come too soon for me. I understand it will not prevent all gun-related deaths and injuries. More is needed, especially  a change in the gun-violence culture that so easily rationalizes the use of guns for solving problems, and the overthrow of the covert gun manufacturing lobbies that drive the NRA.  Or maybe those things have to come first, before gun licensing can happen.

In the meantime, drive safe and don’t get shot.

 

Guns For Grown-Ups

indexAre gun ownership, open carry, and concealed carry,  rights under the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution?  Both sides of that issue have passionate supporters, and they often view each other as adversaries, even enemies. But there are some issues that both sides have to agree on:

  1. Firearms are essentially machines that require skill, experience, and mental stability,  to use properly.
  2. A firearm in the hands of someone  without skill, experience, or mental stability,  is dangerous.

 

Guns have to be licensed, for the same reason cars are licensed: each is a complex machine that requires training and skill to use safely.  And there is a larger issue: some try to strap their courage around their waists, or intimidate others with a big barrel. Guns become a projection of character and personality, and often it is the gun that projects the weakness or flaw. People who have a diminished sense of self-worth see guns as a source of strength, chronically angry people see guns as as a way to inflict their anger on others, and adult children see guns as a way to look grown-up.

It would be absurd to give  a 9 year old child permission to drive an automobile without training, and yet every day, guns are sold to people who may be less stable and trustworthy than a healthy 9 year old.  The result: thousands of murders and violent gun-related crimes, and dozens of mass-murder tragedies, each year.

Gun-related violence is complicated, and there is no single solution,  It may take decades of public education and legislation to see a significant drop in gun-related crimes. But the starting point is clear: create a licensing program that would screen out those who present a high risk of violence, and mandate reasonable levels of skill and training.  That might mean a background check, for mental and criminal red flags, plus written or oral testing at the sales counter to confirm the buyer knows safety features and how to operate the gun.

Today, the National Rifle Association can bully and intimidate politicians and the general public feels  threatened by “gun control.” It’s hard to find a politician willing to support gun licensing or background check, but these do exist in other European countries.

Licensing is one step on a long road to greater public safety.  But within America, there is a culture of gun violence in which physical violence and the use of guns is normalized.  In this culture gun violence is bonded to manliness, power, and even patriotism through fantasy-heroes like John Wayne  and Zero Dark Thirty , and solving problems by killing is not just reasonable, it’s exciting.  When gun violence is glorified and violence is considered the first solution in conflict,  other ways of problem solving are ignored or discredited.

CAN THE GUN CULTURE GROW UP?

https://i1.wp.com/static3.businessinsider.com/image/523dfc606bb3f7b3627f9ae3/fired-pro-gun-writer-speaks-out-after-being-banished-from-guns-and-ammo-magazine.jpg?resize=474%2C355It would be difficult for anyone in this country to get through a single day without encountering at least one reference to firearms.  Gun stores, media coverage of the latest shooting,  TV shows about gun-toting heroes and gun battles–guns are so deeply woven into the fabric of American society that you can’t get away from them. Sometimes this is not a bad thing.  Hunters and collectors of guns pose little risk to public safety.  Homeowners (like me) who keep a firearm for self-defense, and know how to use it,  are exercising their 2nd Amendment right in a reasonable way.

But there are problems. One is that gun violence is glamorized and sanitized, so that shooting somebody conveys an illusion of excitement and a sense of power, but none of the pain or suffering.  Partly this comes from a lack of first-hand experience (few have ever shot someone else, or witnessed a shooting), and partly from the way gun violence is always portrayed in the media.  A TV handgun doesn’t kick, will not destroy your hearing when fired indoors, kills villains but only wounds heroes, and will magically put a pullet in a running bad guy 50 yards. Scripts determine what the experience of being shot by a gun looks like. The victim can fall dead instantaneously without a sound, or writhe on the floor in agony, but the script victims of gunshot wounds are always two dimensional and can be made to disappear by turning off the TV or walking out of the theater. The viewer experiences none of the real panic or suffering that comes from a gun assault and a bullet wound.

If this changed, would the public still be as supportive of uncontrolled firearms distribution and ownership?  What if most people–most voters–had a clearer and more realistic understanding of the consequences of gun violence, and of a bullet wound?  Public education, and public school education, can make a difference. Look at smoking. Look at drunk driving.

The solution is not so simple as standing up in front of a high school auditorium and showing slides of gunshot wounds, although visual aids like this would have a part to play. What’s needed is a national effort, working with congress and the public schools. I can imagine gun shot victims presenting their own experiences to a high school audience,  or a talk by a policeman who has had to use deadly force.  I can imagine a chapter in a public school textbook on sociology titled, “Gun Violence in America–What It Really Means To Shoot Somebody.” And I can imagine a public education campaign designed to make gun violence both real, and wrong. Wrong, as morally unacceptable, devoid of compassion, and the least responsible ways to resolve a conflict.

There are safe gun, and gun control, projects and initiatives out there, the problem is they are fragmented and can’t present a message that is strong and consistent across state and regional boundaries. And, unlike the NRA, they have little political support.  The safe gun and gun control organizations, therefore, run about like a room full of unschooled Chihuahuas, while the doors to the Press and the legislature are guarded by the ferocious Pit Bull of the NRA.  Gun safety and gun control initiatives  need to be organized at the national level, working with congress public education.  It’s happening now,  with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, but success has to be measured by progress of bills through congress,  vocal support from  politician, and a significant drop in gun violence.

Public School curricula are seldom open to casual modifications, but If community attitudes become less tolerant of gun violence school superintendents and state boards of education may grow ears.  Congress is notoriously slow to pass legislation that addresses public safety issues. But they have, in response to public pressure. In a decade or two, much of the glamor and romance attached to gun violence could get washed out of America’s gun culture.

 

KIDS…

Somebody’s keeping track…