Wednesday, January 30, 2013

(Guns don’t kill people…) But Without Them, You Look Pretty Silly Yelling Bang!

After the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut petitions circulated calling for gun control, something the President acted upon quickly. Appointing Joe Biden, the President asked for some common sense gun control laws, and ways to stop violence, and the ability for criminals and mental patients to not have access to them. He asked for quick action, and now congress has begun having congressional hearings on the subject.

Wayne LaPierre once said, “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” It was an attempt to scare the general public into purchasing more firearms, equating violence with the person, rather than the tool. Unfortunately for all of us, it worked, and many people who had never been gun owners went out and purchased guns for the first time. There is a belief that guns are not the problem, and I hope in this article I can address that a little, give my thoughts as I have before, and try to address the real problems.

 

The Gun Nut

I’ve heard it a lot, repeated like the anthem for gun owners: “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” It drives me crazy anytime I hear it because it comes with an air of arrogance from most gun owners, that somehow they are defending our freedoms, or being freedom fighters, and defenders of the constitution by exercising their second amendment rights. The belief being that somehow, if people stopped buying guns, or using them, the second amendment would simply vanish. Not only is it arrogance to assume you are somehow protecting my rights, but egotistical, and self-centered, as if you are so important that God himself granted you this task.

What really gets me is the nature of the arrogant behavior, of what I would call “The Gun Nut.” I’ve accepted that there are people who live normal lives, get up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, go to bed, and get up in the morning to do it all again, and they own guns. They are normal responsible gun owning people. They don’t treat them like toys, they don’t bring them out and show them to their friends like it’s a new girlfriend, and they don’t rub them gleefully whispering, “My Precious!” But for every normal person who owns a gun, there is the antithesis, an asshole, a nutbag, who brings his gun out whenever the neighbor kids visit, or takes pictures with it, standing next to the Christmas tree, usually posing like some douchebag who thinks he is Rambo.

It is especially pathetic to see pictures of people on Facebook holding guns talking about how sexy they are, or where they’d like to stick it. You know who you are! Guess what guys, and gals. There is nothing sexy about a gun. It’s not a toy, you open on Christmas screaming your head off like a four year girl with a new dolly. It’s not a new car, you just have to take out for a spin. It’s a weapon, its sole purpose is to kill. That’s right people, forget the bullshit, forget the nonsense, stop convincing yourselves it serves some higher purpose. No, sadly, its only purpose is death.


Ever since the shootings in Newtown, I have had many conversations with people about guns, gun control, the constitution, and all the other stuff that comes with fucking with peoples toys. I saw a great quote the other day from someone that said: “Boys never really grow up, they just get bigger.” And it occurred to me, for most men this is absolutely true. I myself at times, act like a big kid, but I don’t run around with a plastic gun in my hand like I did when I was a child. What I realized is that most men have just upgraded, that they think no differently, having the mind of a child, guns were fun as a kid, and they continue to be fun now.

If this is true, and it most certainly is for most men, then why are these kinds of people even allowed to purchase a firearm? Is it simply because they are over 18 years old, so the law considers them an adult? I’m sure that makes the parents of every child shot by some moron with a gun feel a whole lot better. Now I understand the law, and I understand that when someone reaches a certain age, whether it be 18 or 21, the government gives them some privileges they would not have had as a child, although obviously in this case there are plenty of douchebag parents who put guns in the hands of small children. I recall the local news story of a small boy who was accidently shot in the face by an UZI-type gun when his father allowed him to fire it for the first time.

The gun having a tremendous recoil turned upside down in his hand as he fired, and he shot himself in the face. Do we blame the child? The parent? Apparently no one, as this was deemed to be an accident if I recall. And I wonder would this have been an accident if his father handed him a  bottle of Vodka and told the boy to drink it all? There of course, is something about guns that lead everyone to believe that if something bad happens, well it can’t be prevented, because we have to have guns! It’s nonsensical, because we don’t have to have anything. The right to keep and bear arms literally translates to the right to own and carry arms.

As I have said before, it does not say: The right to purchase a gun at Walmart, or the right to make your own gun and sell it, or anything of the sort. There is no law in our constitution that secures the right of a corporation to freely sell anything, but of course there wouldn’t be, since Thomas Jefferson himself was not a fan of corporations. No, in fact, the right of the people or militia to arm themselves is very broad, because you could take it to mean: to carry a grenade launcher, or a suitcase bomb. But I challenge anyone who thinks they have a second amendment right to carry a suitcase full of nuclear material, to walk into any federal building like all they have in there is a sandwich.

If you feel so strongly that you are entitled to keep and carry any kind of arm, then you should be able to arm yourself with anything, because according to the constitution, that’s what it says. Let’s not forget of course, that the only type of arm any person could easily carry himself when the constitution was penned was a flint lock pistol, or musket. And although the founders were short-sighted in some respects, in others I believe not so much.

 

The Comma

In the case of the second amendment, as I have argued before and will continue to, it isn’t everything. Let’s look at something like the first amendment, which is crystal-clear about its intent. Certainly if the founders wanted to be cryptic, it would have been easy to make that amendment open to interpretation, but they didn’t do that on purpose, because leaving the first amendment open to interpretation leaves it open to modification, to usurpation, and that would go against the Lockean ideal for which the constitution was based.

So why then would the founders make such an error as to leave the second amendment so open to interpretation that 200 year later, it is still a hotly contested issue for debate? They didn’t! It is only cryptic, if you need it to be, to ultimately serve a purpose. If your job is to sell guns, than you want the second amendment to be the holy grail of laws, like a commandment set in stone, handed to Moses, and brought down from the mountain. Because if the second amendment is open to interpretation, then it leads people to have to choose a side.

But I believe people are simply over thinking the issue. How simple would it have been for Thomas Jefferson to add an additional clause to the second amendment stating that the right of the people to the free access of firearms shall not be infringed. If such a thing had been added, the debate is over, but no such thing was added. Instead we have a comma. Frankly, it irritates me to no end that so much is made over a comma. So let’s have a discussion about grammar, because obviously it needs to happen.


First, during the 18th century grammatical use of the comma was almost always commonplace. It has very often been referred to as being “prolific and chaotic” suggesting that it was overused. Having said that many contend that this comma is so important that by its very nature it changes the central theme of the amendment, so let’s look at it.

 

“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.”

 

So the comma can be used in several instances, for example:

  1. To separate elements in a series, i.e: The man paid for his coffee, took the cup, and drank it.
  2. The comma in use with conjunction, to connect to two independent clauses, i.e: The man was strong, but he couldn’t fight off the flu.
  3. It can be used to set off introductory elements, i.e: Although the man being of sound mind, he gave his money to his dog.
  4. It can be used to set off “added information,” or information that can easily be removed, i.e: Although the man has never flown before, a fear of heights he gained as a child, it will soon happen when his flight arrives.
  5. It can be used to separate adjectives, i.e: The tall, dark, handsome, man boarded the plane.
  6. To set off quotes, i.e: As the man sat in his seat he said, “This terrifies me!”
  7. It can be used merely to express contrast, i.e: The tacos were so yummy, but messy.
  8. And my favorite use, to avoid confusion with a pause, i.e:  Outside, two pennies lay in the grass. The confusion being apparent, if the comma is excluded.

 

So then what usage does the comma in the second amendment have if we are to adhere to grammar? Well let’s look at it again. First if this is ordinary grammar usage we can take the first and third commas straight out. And we would get a coherent explanation: “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.” However, it was ratified with the commas, and there is an easy explanation why this is so.

The first comma– between "Militia" and "being"– forces the reader to search for a verb for which "Militia" is the subject. But we don’t get that verb until "shall not be infringed" at the end of the Amendment. The second comma– between "Arms" and "shall"– sets off the verb phrase "shall not be infringed" from the preceding language; it suggests that the subject for this verb phrase is not simply "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms." The effect being, "A well regulated Militia" to "shall not be infringed" is emphasized, thus the result is read as the right of militia to be armed cannot be taken away. – Yasky Brief, US v. Emerson

Now some would argue that if the over use of commas was commonplace than it doesn’t matter because if we take them away we still have something that states that the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed. But you must be forgetting the most important part, clause one: “A well regulated militia.” Because for that premise to be accurate, you must yank that out entirely, as it’s completely unnecessary to that interpretation.

If your interpretation is such that the amendment secures the right of the people to keep and bear arms, then the introduction of “A well regulated militia,” under example three of comma usage, is unnecessary completely, because as Tench Coxe, writing as "the Pennsylvanian" in the Philadelphia Federal Gazette, 1788 wrote: “…Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves?”

If we are to assume that it’s meant to be taken as such and there is no reason not to believe it isn’t, than the first clause again becomes entirely unnecessary to the rest of the amendment, and should only be reduced to: “ Being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” And if we read it like this, its interpretation fits a whole lot better with the NRA interpretation than what is actually in the amendment.

The problem we have with this scenario is that it would have been easy to do this, after all, its easier to read, less to write, and easier to understand. But the founders did not do this, Jefferson did not write it as such. Because of this, and the usage of proper comma grammar, we can deduce the introductory element: “A well regulated militia” is necessary to the overall amendment, and the first and third comma clauses are not meant to be separated at all. Because of this, and the fact that Thomas Jefferson was an accomplished author, lawyer, statesman, and teacher, we can assume he knew what he was doing with comma usage.

I would also ask everyone interested in knowing what a militia in the context of the 18th century, actually was, should read the Madison Resolution, June 8, 1789. As it clearly documents what a militia is, and it’s not a gun toting citizen, or an army of gun enthusiasts. It should be noted that these discussions were the initial beginnings of state ratification of the second amendment, and it’s clear in these meetings the defined intent of the militia was in the absence of a standing army, a group of armed, well trained, citizens would exist for the common defense of the people. So we know that it’s clear the intent was that a militia was necessary only in absence of a standing army for defense, and as I have already explained, and what is backed up in the documents, the militia being necessary would be allowed to be armed.

 

Transcendent Purpose

Jefferson was among other things a philosopher and aware of many of the teachings of philosophy. One of which is transcendence. Transcendent purpose teaches us that objects serve a purpose that can go beyond the purpose for which they are created. We have invented many things throughout our history, all of which were designed with a specific purpose in mind. Objects don’t merely appear without a purpose only to be given one. It is this extraordinary usage for which the philosopher would call transcendent purpose. Because for example a hammer could be used to open a bottle, rather destructively, however we invented a bottle opener to serve this purpose, thus the hammer’s purpose is to be a hammer: to imbed nails into wood, or other materials for the purpose of building something else. And the bottle opener, can I’m sure, be used to jab into the flesh of an apple or yank a staple from a piece of paper, but that is not its purpose.

It is inherent in the object the purpose for which it was created. A table is a table, and a chair is a chair, one does not sit on a table, for which a chair would serve its purpose. And so when someone repeats the statement so derisively coined by Mr. LaPierre, “Guns don’t kill people, people do,” they fail to understand the nature of the nonsense of such a statement. For what purpose do guns exist, if not to kill? Like the hammer, you could open a bottle with a gun, and like the hammer, destruction would ensue, however like the hammer, that is not its purpose.

When I talk to others who get defensive over the issue of guns and the second amendment, it is most often when I talk of banning something like the assault rifle that someone objects stating, “Banning guns won’t stop people from being killed,” which is usually followed with something like, “You could kill someone with a kitchen knife, should we ban all knives?” And again, these statements are nonsensical because although the knife can certainly be used to kill someone, that is not the purpose for which it was created. The problem that any gun owner should consider seriously, is not whether any other object can be used to kill, serving an alternative or transcendent purpose, but rather that a gun is used to kill serving the purpose for which it was designed.

Now what I have realized lately is that you cannot have a serious conversation with a gun owner about gun control, because like the blinders of a religious person, the gun being their God or false idolatry, gun control becomes like the science that is telling them evolution is real, the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, and there is no magic invisible sky daddy watching over them. They have no choice but to argue in a contradictory nature, because to rationalize the reality that they own something that was created to kill and that it could be used to kill, is too much, instead merely spouting off regurgitated NRA bullshit like its scripture.  If the gun is not meant to kill, but only meant to be for defense, than it has a transcendent purpose, however this fallacy presumes that you negate its original purpose.

In effect, the NRA would have you believe that bushmaster .223 semi-automatic assault rifle you own is equivalent to a cap gun that merely maims its victims. Now do I believe everyone believes this? Absolutely not, just like I know not everyone buys the bullshit that comes out of the mouths of creationists. There are plenty of people out there who know exactly what their gun can do, and are willing to do it, if necessary, and that is the crux of the problem, now isn’t it? Because one cannot have a serious debate about violence in relation to guns and with a serious face, state the necessity of guns as a means of stopping violence, when the ability to dissuade said violence is predicated on an act and mindset that is and would be violent.

So we are left with a problem, and it’s not one that anyone who owns a gun would like to talk about. That just the existence of a gun, creates an air of violence merely by its being, because its purpose is not and should never be consider transcendent, because a death caused by a gun, is a gun that has served the purpose for which it was created.

So what is the answer then?

 

Are You A Smoker?

I don’t believe you could get rid of every gun in existence without a prohibition that turns the gun into a public offense, as for example, public smoking has become. A well marketed campaign could be used to simply ostracize those guns owners into turning over their guns, or destroying them merely by the act of making gun ownership unsavory. If there people that can convince someone to buy a car they don’t need or a widget they’ll throw in a drawer and never use, and there are, then we can presume that in the right hands anything can become an object of public dissent. In a matter of a decade, gun ownership would go down to the point where you just never hear about it, or see them. But while supply and demand would certainly begin the slow reduction of gun sales, it would not stop the intent of a person who is crazy to walk into a store and still buy a gun.

For this we need laws, and that is what these hearings occurring in Washington now are meant to address. How do we make things safer for everyone without infringing on the rights of others?

I encourage people to watch these hearings as there is a lot of stuff from both sides, although Mr. LaPierre is particularly loony and by himself an argument for gun control.

I was particularly moved by the statement of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head by a nutcase. With a lot of difficulty, in her brief statement, she made her words clear: “Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard but the time is now. You must be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you.”

I was also recently appalled to learn that at the Legislative Office building in Hartford, hearings on gun control were being discussed, when a father of one of the slain children at Sandy Hook elementary stood and asked, “Why Bushmaster assault-style weapons are allowed to be sold in the state?” only to be heckled by some gun nuts. “The Second Amendment!” they shouted in response. Neil Heslin, the slain child’s father went on later to say, “There are a lot of things that should be changed to prevent what happened. That wasn’t just a killing, it was a massacre.,” holding a portrait of his dead son in front of him.

I have a particular problem with assholes with respect to someone who is grieving. Not only is it coarse, and crude, it is disrespectful beyond anything I could imagine. I am and have always been an atheist. I may take jabs at religion, but there are things I do not do, and one of them is most definitely being disrespectful to the grieving. It’s unconscionable that someone would do such a thing. In my life I have known many people who have died, and I have been to many funerals, much of them being in a church with a mass or other ritual for the dead. Never once have I ever laughed or cursed, or heckled someone for their beliefs during such a service, nor would I. Why? Because I’m a civil human being with thoughts, emotions, and empathy.

If these asshole hecklers had a child die from stomach cancer or something, would it be equally appropriate for that father to then heckle the asshole because his child died? “HAHA! Cancer! Seriously, who still dies from that?” It’s not nor will it ever be appropriate, and the fact that this even happened shows an utter disconnect these kinds of people have with reality, because in their world a piece of steel is more valuable than a human life, and as long as this is true, you can never have a serious discussion, because that requires that both sides are sane.

 

In Conclusion

In conclusion, the argument that gun nuts make, that argue the contention of rights over life, devalue the right of life, the only right for which there is complete absolution, as John Locke would say. We cannot address the notion of violence as a serious reducible thing without a reduction in guns, because by their very nature it is these kinds of people who harbor violent intent, whether they would admit to it or not. The two are synonymous, thus violence and guns are on equal footing, one exists because of the other, and one cannot be reduced without reducing the other.

With respect to reducing the nature of the violent man, more people need to be screened for mental illness, and these people should never be allowed to purchase a gun. And by that same token, a reduction of this would by its nature be a reduction in guns, because the violent nature of gun violence at the hands of the violent would become unnecessary, as such those acts of violence would cease, and those guns would also thereby cease.

You can control guns, and you can control violence, but its not something that can be fixed easily or quickly, and must be addressed seriously over the next few decades. If we are to be a nation of people who want to be known taking the moral high ground, we must first address our fascination with violence, because we cannot hope to convince the world that we are above reproach, and a nation to be admired, when we cannot protect even the most innocent of our population from senseless death, and a need to be violent.

 

“They say that 'Guns don't kill people, people kill people.' Well I think the gun helps. If you just stood there and yelled BANG, I don't think you'd kill too many people.” ― Eddie Izzard

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