Tag Archive for gun control

Status Quo vs Change

I am constantly bewildered by our lack of interest in social change. It is clear to me that critical thinking or even common sense is of little importance. I am not talking about the natural kindness of most Americans, but the advertised model that everyone buys into and which is controlled by groups like the National Rifle Association, American Medical Association, NBA and other powerful lobbying organizations. As a progressive, I am constantly frustrated by the general public attitude of non-concern over being manipulated by the powerful few.

No matter what the issue is (gun control, health care, election reform or monetary reform) there appears to be this roadblock promoted by money, power and greed. The public has been conditioned to accept the status quo, whether out of self-interest, fear or apathy. Questioning our image is not a popular endeavor. After all people like to hear positive statements even if they know they are only superficial. Americans want quick fixes and dislike delving into root causes or upsetting popular perceptions.

The recent mass murder in Aurora is only one example of America’s infatuation with pretense; obsessed with individuality and freedom of choice. It appears we can’t have discussions about substantive issues or look objectively at other developed countries solutions to social problems. Our rationale for not embracing change is totally illogical. Why would we let common sense interfere with our time honored American tradition of blowing something up or disturb our Wild West mentality?

Two of my favorite quotes by David Kennedy (Stanford historian) relate to this subject: “Before history can teach, it must challenge and even discomfit” and “While history is remembered backward, it is lived forward.” Perception is not reality. Hype and image may be good marketing, but lousy realism.

The Fantasy of Absolute Safety

Ira Chernus

The following first appeared in Huffington Post and is reproduced here by permission of the author.

My son was spending the night in Aurora, Colo., when all hell broke loose just a few miles away. He wasn’t in the Century 16 theater. But he might have been; he loves those opening nights. And there wasn’t a thing I could do to protect him.

I’m a professor at the University of Colorado (though not on the campus where James Holmes studied). I’ve surely had quiet students who were deeply troubled but, like Holmes, drew no attention to themselves. So there wasn’t a thing I could do to help protect them.

The movie theater “was supposed to be a safe space,” as Monica Hesse wrote in The Washington Post. But now it feels like “no space is safe; maybe that’s what’s shocking.” Surely that’s what’s shocking, I’d say. Yet a moment’s reflection tells me we can never make our public or private spaces absolutely safe — neither for our children, our students, nor ourselves — no matter how desperately we want to.

We could make our spaces relatively safer by one simple political decision: No civilian should have military style weapons — AK-47s, semi-automatic rifles, or the Glock semi-automatic pistols so favored by mass killers.

There’s only one problem: Political reality. It isn’t just the clout of the National Rifle Association, which is real but over-rated. A bigger problem is that this is a democracy, and a majority of us do not want stricter gun control laws. The number of Americans favoring stricter gun laws has fallen by nearly half in the last half-century.

That shocking statistic reflects the long post-’60s rightward shift in the national mood. “Gun control” is widely seen as an idea by and for liberals. By now less than a quarter of us will wear that badge. It’s impressive that even 43 percent of us would support the liberal cause of “gun control.”

And the number who want guns laws eased has risen even more dramatically since 1990: from 2 to 11 percent. Yes, even in this conservative era a mere 11 percent of us want less regulation of guns.

What’s more, support for specific gun control measures — waiting periods and background checks for gun buyers (even at gun shows), banning assault weapons, registering all guns with local government — remains very high. A slim majority even support limits on the number of guns a person can own. (Most gun owners have several, and most mass killers are caught holding many guns.)

So here’s the real political problem: Ask people about specific, common-sense gun control measures and they strongly approve. Ask them about “gun control” in the abstract, and a growing majority says no, though almost half say yes. We, the people as a whole, want controls but we don’t want them.

When nations, like individuals, try to go in two directions at once they get paralyzed. That’s where we are on the politics of gun control.

Our national contradiction is an old story. On the one hand, we’ve got a tradition as old as the U.S. itself: If you want to be safe, get a gun; if you want to be absolutely safe, get a lot of guns. That’s why Americans once built forts and stockades and included the right to well-regulated militias in the Constitution.

Since World War II, we’ve made our quest for absolute safety our number one national priority by far, under the banner of “national security.” That’s why we built a nuclear “shield” of tens of thousands of bombs that can each destroy a whole city. It’s also why we have a military nearly as big as all the rest of the world’s militaries combined.

Now we call it “homeland security.” We’ve enshrined it as our sacred national myth. And that’s why, with the eager help of the military-industrial complex, we are awash in a sea of military weapons — a sea that on tragic occasions turns to blood in our own homeland.

Yet we also have another tradition as old as the nation itself, inscribed in the very first words of our constitution: to provide for the common defense, which most of us now take to mean absolute safety. The longing for absolute safety is certainly as strong, and probably stronger, among conservatives as it is among liberals. Across the political spectrum most of us want stricter specific gun control laws, which we expect will keep guns out of the hands of “evildoers” at home just as we hunt down and annihilate the “evildoers” abroad.

We’re caught in a crossfire of competing cultural traditions and beliefs that make it very difficult to mobilize the public in any clear direction when it comes to guns. Paralyzed by our ambivalence, we can’t mobilize for political change. So we leave it easy for anyone to get weapons of mass slaughter.

The result: a growing fear that no space is safe any more, that at any moment our longing for absolutely safety could be shot to pieces. Fear is even more paralyzing than ambivalence. When Americans do manage to act on their fear, their most common response is to chase the fantasy of safety by getting another gun, or at least allowing others to get more guns. Fear will override common sense most every time.

In the movies we see the most fantastic military-style weapons deal out measureless blood and gore. Audiences applaud it all, because they trust that the good guys on the screen will end up with their absolute safety restored. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way in real life — not even in movie theaters.

The root of the problem is our dedication to the fantasy of absolute safety and security. The sooner we recognize that as our national fantasy and stop arming ourselves to the teeth in pursuit of it, the safer we all will be.

Concealed Carry: “Not on my watch”

Gun guns and more gunsLet’s see. How does it go? “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” People do kill. No question about it. And sometimes the killing that people do is justified, is in self-defense.

And on March 22nd just such a killing occurred. The Colorado Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee KILLED House Bill 1205 on a 2 to 3 party line vote. And some people consider Democrats to be wimps, unable to pull a trigger when it needs pulling.

Concealed carry permits would have continued to exist under the bill, but anyone who met the criteria to carry a concealed weapons could have done so without a permit.

The bill would have allowed carriers to operate on the honor system, to police themselves.

Well isn’t that special. Who knew that an honor system was all that we needed. Look at all the money that can be saved. No cops. No jails or prisons. No prosecutors. Or even defense attorneys. And that’s just on the criminal side of things. Everyone will simply be good. All we have to do is tell them what’s right and what’s wrong and PRESTO, all’s right with the world.

All sarcasm aside, this writer and this publication gives a big shout out to Colorado’s Senate Democrats. HB 1205 was extremely wrongheaded.

We often look to our leaders in the law enforcement field for their opinions on crime and crime prevention. Fortunately Boulder County has a Sheriff worthy of that confidence. Sheriff Joe Pelle pressed the importance of local law enforcement having the ability to revoke concealed-carry permits of anyone they believe is a threat to public safety, as is the case with current law.

Unfortunately some sheriffs are blinded by second amendment absolutism as is the case with the Yuma County Sheriff. Fortunately, our law enforcement heads close to home have more common sense and wisdom.

In 2010, Boulder County rejected 98 applications for concealed carry permits and revoked 10 more. That’s 108 people that would have failed the honor system that HB 1205 proposed. We in Boulder County are safer because of the current law. All Coloradans would be safer still if concealed carry permits weren’t “handed out like candy.”

But don’t expect Republicans to give up on their armed and dangerous legislation. They have proposed bills like HB 1205 before. They will do it again. We can only hope that one day they won’t act like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker or U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The former believes he is a law unto himself and has defied a court injunction. The latter believes that a bill passed by the House of Representatives alone is sufficient to become law. How’s the constitutional thing workin’ for ya, Pubs?

“From my cold dead hands”

Self-appointed 'deputies' are the LAST thing America needs

It is troubling that there are those who consider HB 11-1205 as simply a matter of policy with differing and equally valid opinions. The entire gun issue, whether open or concealed carry, never seems to address the underlying motivations. There are two and they are both alarming.

During this past election, voters should have been paying attention to such statements as “second amendment remedy” that were freely proposed as suitable political options. Clearly most voters weren’t, or the outcome would have been different. At the root of this “second amendment remedy” is the genuine belief that Americans should take up arms against their government if elections and policies aren’t to their liking.

This was tried once before. It was called the Civil War. And it didn’t work out well for the Confederacy. Or for those who lost life or limb.

This proposition is fundamental to the Tea Party and apparently to a majority or more of Republican elected officials, whether they voice it or not. Rarely (if ever) did you hear this rhetoric denounced as unacceptable – and indeed un-American. Yes, the American Revolution notwithstanding, the overthrow of a legitimately and democratically elected government is Un-American and Un-Patriotic.

Because armed rebellion is acceptable to the gun-obsessed, they believe there should be no restrictions on the number and kinds of weapons that should be allowed. Recall that a Republican-dominated federal government refused to reenact the Assault Weapons Ban. Neither should there be permits to own them according to this ideology. HB 1205 is a step in that direction.

The other rationale is that guns are needed for self-protection. I won’t delineate all of the evidence the debunks that necessity. Many have done that before. The issue that is not discussed is the psychological underpinning behind the self-protection axiom. Those advocating it see those around them as potential enemies to be eliminated if given cause.

Why would this be such a prevalent perception? It’s based on the emotions that these individuals carry inside of themselves. They know that they are potentially violent and they project and transfer the same onto those in the world around them.

As a consequence, these people are a clear danger to the rest of society. Fortunately we seldom see people openly carrying guns as we go about our daily lives. But what about those who conceal their weapons? A law enforcement individual in Longmont once told me that “the State of Colorado hands out concealed carry permits like candy.” And what about those who may conceal a weapon without a permit? Undoubtedly they exist. They may have rejected the validity of the state requirement. They may have been rejected because they failed a background check or other critical conditions.

Only law enforcement has access to the list of those authorized to conceal carry. The rest of us are at the mercy of God and good fortune should one of these individuals decide that it’s time to take out an enemy or enemies.

Whether politically motivated or a matter of mental derangement, we saw the results in Arizona not long ago. The press has covered the precautions that members of Congress are now taking to minimize risks going forward.

But the need for precaution is manifesting itself much closer to home. There are some in our community whose stability could rightfully be called into question. As a consequence, the Longmont City Council meetings now have an on-duty armed officer present. Some of the precautions that are taken are not unlike those that might be seen with the Secret Service, all be they much less intense.

I call on the rational members of the Colorado State House to vote down HB 1205 and on the Colorado Senate to let this bill die in committee should it be passed by the House.