5 Quick Political Facts for Today (3/4/15)

Money, money, money, dru-ugs…and guns.  I forget how that song goes.

This drink intermission sponsored by corporate tax-dodging America!
  • GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio lays out his economic plan for the country and it’s all kinds of terrible.  Nothing overly surprising in the plan as it’s a giveaway to the wealthy and will hurt the poor and middle-class, like most GOP proposals.  Tax cuts for corporations, elimination of dividends and capital gains tax, and cuts to Medicare and Social Security to pay for it.  Please keep trumping that idea around so everyone is clear about what you want to do to us.  I’m sure that presidential run will go great, Senator Nochanceinhell!
  • In economic inequality news, David Geffen donates $100 million to Lincoln Center.  It’s great he wants to make such a donation to the arts but it’s hard to ignore the economic disparity when these donations are made at the same time the wages of the majority have stagnated for so many decades.  It must be nice to donate the equivalent of 6631 minimum wage earners’ combined yearly salaries in one shot.  The donation is great but it does help exemplify the huge difference between the have-everythings and the have-littles.
  • An appeals court has upheld a California city’s ban on gun magazines that hold more than 10 bullets.  A small victory for commonsense gun policy but the case will go through more appeals as gun nuts desperately beg for an increase in the size of their magazines.  Blah blah blah penis joke.  Bob Loblaw penis joke.  Blah blah blah penis joke.  Moving on.
  • Heroin death rates in the United States have quadrupled since 2000So odd it is happening.  It’s almost as if the market has been flooded with more heroin from the people who grow the most heroin in the world since the year 2000 for some reason.  I wonder how that happened?

The article is filled with good information until the end when this quote appears:

David G. Evans, of the Drug-Free America Foundation, blames the use of less-harmful drugs for the uptick in heroin use.

“I think heroin deaths are going up in part because the attitude has changed towards marijuana,” he said. “Kids now think marijuana is a medicine so it’s okay to use it. You get involved in a drug culture, you get high, you get addicted, one drug just seems like the other, and I think that’s a big part of it.”

Ah, the good ole Gateway Theory.  Hasn’t that myth been killed enough by academics to never bother quoting in a serious article on drug use?  It’s like finding a fossil fuel funded climate denying scientist to quote in a climate change article.  We’re better than that now, aren’t we?

  • Palestinian president Abbas calls Israel gangsters over the tax dollars they are holding from the Palestinian people.  If you read the article closely, it clearly maps out how this situation could easily (and will likely) devolve into more violence due to Israel’s horrendous action.  Israel will then “mow the lawn” again and kill more innocent Palestinians in the name of their security, despite the fact they will have caused the situation to begin in the first place.

Already many of the PA’s 140,000 civil servants have had their pay cut by around 40 percent

Gosh, why would 140k people be angry about their pay being cut nearly in half by an occupying government that just killed more than 2,000 of their people?  But remember everyone, it’s Israel that is being treated terribly by the Palestinians and not the other way around.  Just listen to their leader.  If Netanyahu wasn’t busy lying about the non-existent nuclear threat of Iran, he would be able to lie to you about the threat of Palestinians.

Countering the Right: The Kid’s Argument Against Gun Control Part 2

Continued from Part 1 here

Then a common and pertinent point made by gun advocates and worth addressing.

Now, even of those 3,371, only 37 were killed with a rifle which is barely 1%.  98% were killed with a handgun so creating gun control legislation that targets assault rifles has statistically proven to only weed out less than 1% of the problem, if you are lucky.

This point is relevant and there is no denying the numbers but it doesn’t tell the whole story of lives lost.  If we are going to take a critical look at the most high-powered weapons, we have to look at Mexico and what has gone on there over the past seven years.  As I’ve stated before, the Assault Weapons Ban expired in late 2004 and two years later former President Calderon began sending Mexican Army troops into the areas where the drug cartels had become too heavily armed for regular police.  The idea that the ease with which one can buy a weapon made solely for military purposes in the U.S. has nothing to do with the drug cartels in Mexico being so well armed is ludicrous.  A fair assessment of the effect on lives taken by these weapons would include this fact.

Well produced speech. Awful argument.

If the Afghan-Chicago comparison hadn’t been made, this next part would be the most absurd leap from reality in the speech.

On December 14th of 2012 the same day as the Sandy Hook shooting in Central China a man stabbed 22 children and one adult.  Guns are not needed for mass murder.

Guns may not be “needed for mass murder” but they sure make the deed easier.  I suppose I would need an example to prove that.  Where can I possibly find one?

Wait, I got it.  I’ll use the same one given in the speech.

What is not noted here is the fact there wasn’t a mass murder in China that day.  How do I know this?  Because for an event to be classified as a mass murder, you need a few key things and those things are actual dead bodies, of which there were approximately zero fatalities in the China attack mentioned.  To which the question should be asked, what school would you want your child to have been in that day?  The one where there was a mass murder or the one where there wasn’t?

Then one last claim by the young girl worthy of a closer look.

You must also consider the fact that the majority of gun violence occurs in low income neighborhoods.  Raising the overall cost of owing a gun through higher licensing and registration fees, denies the ability of lower income individuals to protect themselves against the crime focus in the areas they live in. Passing this legislation would be discriminating against these lower income individuals who are actually at a higher risk of being victimized of crimes.

People on the right want to protect low income individuals?  When did this class war begin?

In short, the point made here gives us two options when we also consider the fact most of the violence in low income areas in places like Chicago is due to gang violence and not just random acts.  Option A: make guns easier to get so both sides are armed to the teeth and have the areas delve into mini-war zones akin to the cartel violence in Mexico.  Option B: make guns harder to get everywhere and the price goes up for the gangs to get them thereby reducing the overall level of violence over time.

Maybe we could work on giving them an option C: offering better jobs and a way to a better standard of living so gang life isn’t so appealing.

Nah, that’s crazy talk.  The answer is and apparently always will be: more guns.  (No matter how ridiculous the argument backing it up is.)

Countering the Right: The Kid’s Argument Against Gun Control Part 1

A recently posted video on YouTube has been making the rounds in conservative circles as it shows an eloquent 15-year-old girl giving a speech to Maryland legislators against gun control.  The speech is well delivered and only has one major flaw: most of her points are shoddy arguments, at best, when looked at a little more critically.

To begin, an early piece of her opinion jumps out as a stretch of imagination considering reality.

You are not eliminating guns from society but eliminating our ability to protect our lives, liberty, and pursuits of happiness.

Actually, most people seem to be doing just fine living their lives and pursuing their happiness without guns in their possession.  As has been reported in recent years, the number of gun owners in the U.S. has dropped and seems to be continuing in that direction as “the number of households owning guns has declined from almost 50% in 1973 to just over 32% in 2010.”  Not only is her claim an opinion (as is mine, admittedly) but it’s one that is weakening over time (not statistically the case with mine).

Then comes one of the most irrational claims I have ever heard in defense of gun rights.

Well produced speech. Awful argument.

And it is currently more than twice as likely for you to be killed in Chicago as in the Afghan War.  For the past 11 years and 4 months in the Afghan War 2,166 people have been killed.  Now in only 8 years in Chicago, 4,265 people have been killed and 3,371 of them were from being shot.

Wow, that Afghan place sounds like a magical land of safety for Americans compared to Chicago.  Twice as likely to get killed in Chicago?  Whole numbers are fun but completely illogical when comparing two places, particularly when the populations differ wildly.  Let’s take a look at the numbers.

I’m going to be incredibly generous here and use the highest American troop levels in Afghanistan, right at 100k, and only the given population of the city of Chicago, 2.7 million, and not the larger number of the Chicagoland area, well over 9 million.  By doing this, I’m swinging the numbers in favor of her argument just for the sake of showing how ridiculous the claim still is.

So, assuming 100k Americans were in Afghanistan during the entire period (not true), and 2,166 were killed, you get a death rate of 21.66 per 1k people.  In Chicago during the time given, you get a death rate of 1.58 per 1k.  Therefore, using the most generous numbers possible, you were actually 13.7 times more likely to get killed in Afghanistan than Chicago.  Feel free to run the numbers with more realistic estimates of population if you want but I’m choosing to be nice.

There is also the ridiculous claim that Chicago is a great example of the failure of gun control because it’s restrictive laws have not been very effective.  To which I would counter, what idiot doesn’t know how to drive outside the city limits when they want a gun?  Gun advocates do realize it was a city policy and not a national or even state one, don’t they?

As this article points out, “Statistics show that more than half of the guns seized by Chicago police in the last 12 years came from other states. A University of Chicago study found that more than 1,300 guns confiscated by police since 2008 were purchased at a single store just outside city limits. More than 270 were used in crimes.”  No gun control policy would or will ever work in a major U.S. city alone when it is so easy to purchase so close to the area.  It is just as silly to pass this type of measure at the city level as it is to claim this is an example of how gun control doesn’t work.

NRA and Gun Advocates’ Bizarre and Ignorant Opposition to New UN Arms Trade Treaty

On Tuesday, the United Nations passed a new treaty regarding international trade of arms that, as UNICEF’s chief of Child Protection puts it,

“asks States to explicitly consider the risk that an arms transfer could facilitate serious acts of violence against women and children before allowing it to proceed…This is critical given that weapons are now one of the leading causes of death of children and adolescents in many countries, including many that are not experiencing war.”

But the treaty must now be ratified by two-thirds of the United States Senate in order for it to become law, a hurdle that may be too much to overcome for advocates of the resolution.  As reported by Reuters, the Senate already took symbolic action against the treaty nearly two weeks before it was even passed by the UN.  So, why the opposition?  What’s in the wording of the treaty that’s so bad?

The awfulness of this allegedly frightening legislation is tackled in the piece from Reuters by two opponents.  First, a member of the Senate:

“The U.N. Arms Trade Treaty … would require the United States to implement gun-control legislation as required by the treaty, which could supersede the laws our elected officials have already put into place,” said Senator James Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Next, a warning from executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, Chris Cox:

“We have always been clear that any treaty which does not expressly exclude civilian firearms ownership from its scope will be met with the NRA’s greatest force of opposition.”

100% accurate. Reloads with clips full of funding from gun manufacturers.

Oh, no!  The UN is going to disarm all U.S. citizens by superseding our laws!  Grab your guns and run for cover!

Or (and I know this is a crazy idea before I suggest it) we could actually try reading the words contained within the treaty itself.  If we did that, we might find out something amazing: the ignorant statements by Inhofe and the NRA show they did not read it.  If they did, they might have noticed this statement…on the first page:

Reaffirming the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system.

In other words, if your country has..I don’t know…let me make something up…let’s say, a constitutional amendment allowing the right to bear arms, that right does not change at all.  Not one bit.  The treaty says it cannot “supersede” your countries domestic laws on arms.

But just in case they skipped reading the first page, there is this on the second:

Mindful of the legitimate trade and lawful ownership, and use of certain conventional arms for recreational, cultural, historical, and sporting activities, where such trade, ownership and use are permitted or protected by law.

Again, not infringing on anyone’s gun ownership rights or rewriting the civilian firearms laws in the United States.

In fact, as noted by Reuters, we already follow the provisions of the treaty:

The United States is already in compliance with the treaty’s terms because of its weapons export and import laws, they (diplomats and activists) said, but U.S. approval could put pressure on other nations to adopt similar limits.

And if we take a look at current U.S. law on arms importing and exporting (here) and compare it with the treaty, it does appear we do have these regulations in place.

With all this being said, we should ask Inhofe and the NRA why they oppose this treaty so vehemently?

And this time, they should probably try giving answers that make it look like they have read the treaty with some distinct details instead of just automatically opposing any legislation regarding guns.

NRA Using Switzerland as Example? Not so Fast

Many opponents of any gun control measures in the United States use the country of Switzerland as an example of how guns are supposedly not the problem when it comes to number of gun deaths.  So I suppose we should have gun laws that mimic those of the Swiss and I’m sure gun control opponents would agree.  Or would they?

An article from the BBC delves into the gun culture of Switzerland and notes a few points worth mentioning at length since gun advocates would probably not be so keen to hold the Swiss as an example for proper gun laws:

Gun laws (in Switzerland) concerning army weapons have tightened. Although it is still possible for a former soldier to buy his firearm after he finishes military service, he must provide a justification for keeping the weapon and apply for a permit.

Neither of these is even remotely necessary when buying a gun in the U.S., of course.  It continues:

Mathias, a PhD student and serving officer…”And we don’t get bullets any more,” he adds. “The Army doesn’t give ammunition now – it’s all kept in a central arsenal.” This measure was introduced by Switzerland’s Federal Council in 2007.

So gun but no bullets.  Wonder how the NRA feels about that?  It goes further:

“Shooting instructors at rifle clubs always control who is shooting,” he says. And all ammunition bought at the club has to be used there.

“When the shooting is finished and the person wants to leave the club, the instructor will look to see how many bullets have been shot and will demand the rest are given back.”

NRA advocating that type of control?  Nope.  Yet they use the Swiss as an example of a society with high gun ownership and a lower number of gun murders than the United States.  Maybe everyone should play along and ask for Swiss-type gun laws.  Then let’s see how closely the NRA continues to uphold the gun-toting Swiss as their ace-in-the-hole argument.

Weapons Debate is Not Only About Saving American Lives

A Mexican checkpoint with heavily armed troops. The fault of the U.S. gun policy.

As the United States government gradually takes its action on the debate over weapons on the streets, another government and country of people are watching closely as to how the laws will change.  The people of Mexico have called for changes to American laws for many years now and have seen the effects firsthand of how the ability to buy such dangerous weapons with ease can turn cities and towns into war zones.

Mexican interest continues now as the debate seems to be drawing closer to some real action on assault rifles and magazine capacities.  Some comments from the Mexican Ambassador are worth noting:

“The Second Amendment … is not, was never and should not be designed to arm foreign criminal groups,” Mexican Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora told reporters last week.

The end of the (Assault Weapons) ban in 2004 impacted Mexico, he said.

“There is certainly a statistical correlation between the end of this measure and the increase in the firepower of foreign criminal groups, particular those that operate out of our country,” he said.

If we look at the timing of certain events, there definitely seems to be a lot of truth to his statements.  The Assault Weapons Ban expired in late 2004 and two years later former President Calderon began sending Mexican Army troops into the areas where the drug cartels had become too heavily armed for regular police.  Over 50,000 casualties later, the Mexican people are still looking to the United States for changes in weapons policy.

Some may argue the problem is/was the ATF’s Fast and Furious policy allowing guns to walk across the border but I’ve addressed the insanity of this position previously and will quote myself here:

If there wasn’t a problem to begin with, extremely awful policy solutions like Fast and Furious would not have been conjured, much less implemented…Let’s look at what we know.  Fast and Furious allowed roughly 2,000 weapons to cross the border.  However, the Mexican authorities have seized nearly 70,000 weapons traced back to the United States around the same time period.  How many they haven’t seized and are still in circulation is probably anyone’s guess but it’s safe to assume it’s larger than the number captured.  Focusing only on Fast and Furious is the equivalent of a watching a pack of hungry lions running at you in the wild and being more concerned about a mosquito that just landed on your arm.

For the safety of everyone, let’s hope they get changes that matter and legislation that helps damage the weapons caches of the many Mexican drug cartels who arm themselves by abusing the lax gun laws of the United States.

Believe It or Not, There is a Middle Ground in Gun Control Debate

While watching the debate over guns unfold for the last few weeks, one might mistakenly believe there are only two options given by the most extreme elements of both political leanings: a nationwide ban on all guns, knives, forks, hammers, hard cover books, and heavily starched pillow cases or an allowance of one person to buy enough firepower and ammunition from their nearest corporate retail store to kill everyone on the East Coast with no restrictions whatsoever.  Despite how comically interesting these positions are when given by the opponents of the other side, they just aren’t reality.

New polling data from Pew was released today and it gives a much better and reasonable look at what could be done on guns without invoking either extreme.  As one can see from the numbers, there are many factors the majority of the public supports that do not overextend the hand of the government to the point some gun rights activists allege when conjuring images of Nazi Germany or Stalin’s USSR.  For instance, the most popular option, a thorough background check including at gun shows, should be a reasonable change.  Are you a law-abiding, sane citizen?  You get to pass.  Are you not?  No gun for you.  Pretty simple and a step in the right direction that a clear majority seem to agree with in the U.S.

In fact, it is surprising any opposition of this idea comes from the right.  The argument against this issue seems to be the government having too much information on individuals but where was this opposition on the right when the Patriot Act was passed?  It certainly wasn’t nonexistent on the right, but also wasn’t as loud.  So, we must ask a question here: is it really okay to suspend the rights of citizens the way the Patriot Act did through spying and warrant-less maneuvers but not okay to attempt to keep the wrong people from owning dangerous weapons capable of massacres like Tuscon, Aurora, and Newtown?  The hypocrisy is obvious.

Overall, we can find a middle ground on this debate.  A letter from a hunter appeared over the weekend on the Atlantic’s site that is a good start for sanity on gun control.  One of the most important points from the article is this:

My son is just a baby now, but when he’s old enough, I want him to get to experience all of this (hunting) himself. The good news is: he can, even if we enact strict laws requiring background checks and waiting periods and banning high-capacity magazines. In fact, those laws could help keep him safe in the meantime.

When sane and rational measure such as some mentioned in the Pew poll are suggested, another insane and irrational counterpoint is always made: this is a slippery slope to an outright ban on all guns.  Anyone who believes this, however, just isn’t paying attention.  We have seen so many massacres both in and out of schools since Columbine but the only major change on guns that has happened since then is the expiration of the Assault Weapons Ban.  Massacres occurred and gun control measures were actually lessened during this time.  The amount of victims it has taken to ignite the debate to this point should be a pretty good indicator that no outright ban on guns will ever happen in the United States.  The slippery slope argument is simply fantasy conjured by conspiracy theorists.

Ultimately, we can find middle ground on this debate to make the country safer and it seems some measures might be put in place doing just that.  The change will not happen tomorrow but we will all be a little safer once these new laws have taken their effect over time.

The Illusion of Safety and Its Effect on Reasonable Gun Control

When we are faced with the horror of a tragedy like the shooting in Newtown, our reaction is to seek protection from similar events in any way possible, whether rational or irrational.  One of the common occurrences after these type of attacks is the increase in gun sales which inevitably follow the murder of so many.  The recent killing of elementary school children and their teachers has been no exception.  Gun sales have spiked and those that have made the purchase believe they have ensured their safety.  But have they?

The answer is actually ‘no’ and has been for quite a long time.  The first data I can recall seeing confirming this was in Barry Glassner’s The Culture of Fear published in the late 1990s.  More data has been researched and released since then and this article does a nice summation of some more recent research efforts.  A few points from it tell much of what needs to be stated:

Having a gun in your home significantly increases your risk of death — and that of your spouse and children.

And it doesn’t matter how the guns are stored or what type or how many guns you own.

If you have a gun, everybody in your home is more likely than your non-gun-owning neighbors and their families to die in a gun-related accident, suicide or homicide.

Furthermore, there is no credible evidence that having a gun in your house reduces your risk of being a victim of a crime. Nor does it reduce your risk of being injured during a home break-in.

The health risks of owning a gun are so established and scientifically non-controvertible that the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement in 2000 recommending that pediatricians urge parents to remove all guns from their homes.

Notice that the recommendation doesn’t call for parents to simply lock up their guns. It stresses that the weapons need to be taken out of the house.

These points speak for themselves but another factor concerning gun-owning and the belief of defense should be addressed.  The idea of self-defense has been used as a means for selling the more powerful automatic and semi-automatic guns intended for military purposes.  This is the true problem with American gun culture and it needs to be changed.

Owning handguns with relatively small clips for home defense or even some larger guns for hunting purposes is not an unreasonable position and one I could find agreement on with most people.  But this somehow gets extended to covering more powerful guns that are now typically used in these mass murders.

In terms of the selling of these weapons of mass destruction, there is a simple question that should be asked of all.  If you are a parent or are planning on being one and you had a crystal ball that told you an AK-47 being sold this morning was going to be used this afternoon in an attack on your child’s school, what would you do today to stop the sale of that weapon?  Let’s take it one step further.  Let’s pretend you had the power to ban all automatic and semi-automatic gun sales permanently beginning that morning.  What would you do?  With the answer to this being obvious, another question must be posed.  Just because the next child victim is not likely to be yours, why do you not support the banning of these powerful weapons and their accessories anyway?  Is the other child’s life and the impending grief of the parents not worth the effort?  Is this only important when the child is yours?

There is another aspect of the faulty belief about guns being great for self-defense that should be noted.  We have been led to believe through movies and TV shows that having that gun will mean we’ll react and stop any unnecessary deaths from occurring.  In other words, if we just had the gun, a little bit of training and target practice, we would be ready for the crazy shooter.  In fact, one could say a shooter would be out of luck if they ever attempted to commit mass murder around armed and trained personnel.  Just one problem.  It has been done and the shooter was successful.

Focusing on the most recent tragedy sometimes overshadows the ones of the past like the shooting at Fort Hood.  A crazed man walked into what should be one of the safest places on Earth when it comes to the idea of self-defense with guns, an Army base.  He still killed 13 people and injured more than two dozen more before being subdued.  This exemplifies the biggest misconception about having a gun and it being the best line of defense in these situations: the maniac will always get the jump on everyone.

It reminds me of a particular scene in the Vietnam War movie, We Were Soldiers.  When training with the new helicopters (at the time) for battle, the soldiers are learning to simply get out of the chopper safely.  Mel Gibson’s character decides to surprise one group by standing near the door when it lands.  As soon as he gets close enough he grabs the first guy, who was in charge of the rest, and says he’s been hit.  Now he asks the next guy, “What do you do?”  The second guy hesitates and Gibson informs him he is hit because he waited.  In other words, it’s all about reaction time when these situations occur.

Now, pretend you’re armed and walking somewhere with your child next to you.  Suddenly, a madman pulls a gun and starts firing.  His first bullet hits your child and his next target is you.  Assuming it is an automatic, you would be hit before you were even aware of what had happened.  Let’s assume it’s not, just for the sake of the self-defense argument.  Let’s say the recoil is long and he is slow to aim giving you just enough time to pull your concealed weapon and fire.  Just one problem.  If you hesitate, even for half a second, the shooter will get you.  Which brings us to the misconception here.  You are a parent and your child has been shot.  Your reflexive reaction of looking at your child in horror and realizing what you just lost has now gotten you killed.  Your gun did nothing and your family will now bury two.  No one knows how they may react in these situation but it is likely not in the heroic manner we all want to believe.

Once again, you are not any of these fictional characters last time I checked.

The idea that owning a gun automatically means you will react in the best possible way during a terrifying situation is lunacy and hubris at work.  It is not the best answer for combating violent crime in the United States (declining, by the way) and never has been.  What we can do, however, is take reasonable steps to make sure the most powerful weapons capable of such destruction are not so easily available to anyone in the U.S.  These weapons and other accessories meant for military purposes, such as the thirty-plus round clips, have no place in a civilized society and deserve a permanent ban.  In fact, a reasonable question that should be asked is: if you are involved in such an attack, how well armed do you want the madman to be?  (I previously addressed the misconception of everyday criminals being so well armed in the event of this type of ban.  Read here.)

We have endured so many tragedies but it seems there may be hope to finally change things for the better.  When these debates go on in the coming days and weeks, just remember the earlier scenario about saving your child at their school.  If you would do it for your own, why aren’t we doing it for everyone’s kids?

A Reflection on Newtown Tragedy: What Will We Learn, If Anything?

As we move another day away from the tragedy in Newtown, we must ask ourselves what we have learned from this event and will anything change?  It is a question that must be asked considering this is not the first time we have been confronted with a massive loss of life due to the gun-happy culture that pervades the United States.  When we have been hit like this before, very little, if anything at all, actually changed in terms of trying to ensure the safety of the average citizen.  So why would this be any different?

I’m not here to argue that guns or drugs or violence on TV are bad things and we should do away with all of them once and for all.  I have plenty of friends and family who own guns, mostly for hunting, and have been responsible in their approach to ownership.  But we have reached a point where we must address an element regarding guns: what is too dangerous for the public?

Arms?

Many gun advocates will, of course, refer to the Second Amendment and say the Founders never intended for there to be any restriction on gun owning.  But the problem is the Founders did not envision the weapons we own now and the destructive power they contain.  There are more elements to this argument but let’s just focus on the shear power of guns for now.

The point about the Second Amendment that must be addressed is the language included within.  The word “arms” is all that’s referred to in the Constitution.  This could be taken as anything that is a weapon should be available and legal for the average citizen to own.  So, nuclear bombs are fine?  But they aren’t and I’m sure most gun advocates would agree is a good thing, for instance the views expressed by one infamous gun advocate in the documentary Bowling for Columbine.

WMDs in America.

But if we accept certain “arms” are too dangerous for just anyone to have then the next step in this debate is the realization the word “arms” is now subjectively defined by each and every individual.  Which begs the question, are there guns that should be deemed too dangerous and even considered weapons of mass destruction?  After last week’s tragic shooting, it’s hard to argue they aren’t.

There is little doubt a difference in weaponry used makes a major difference in the outcome of potential attacks.  Take the knife attack that occurred in China on the same day as the Newtown attack.  22 children hurt but none died.  Which means we are paying a price for our lax gun laws by comparison.  President Obama addressed this reality with two pertinent questions:

We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?

We are used to the idea adults will give their lives for freedom through wars and protests that sometimes turn violent but are we truly just going to accept our children should also pay the same price?  It is highly likely the U.S. will see another shooting spree in the future and also likely one will occur in a school.  If the weapon is less powerful, the victims will have a better chance.  So what’s the price we are going to put on the additional victims of the next tragedy because the weapon is so powerful?  To take the question one step further, if you are a parent, which school would you have wanted your child in last Friday?  The Newtown school or the Chinese one?  The answer is obvious.

Justification?

The next step in this debate is justifying ownership of these weapons by the common citizen.  The onus of this justification is, of course, on the advocates of gun-owning and they have typically gone to a few commonly made arguments.  The first is that the weapons are needed in the event someone they don’t like takes over the government, turns the military on the populace, and needs to be removed.  Just one major problem.  If it is accepted the average person shouldn’t own the powerful weapons used by the government, what good is, say, an M-16 going to do for you against a drone armed with missiles thousands of miles in the air?  How about against a tank?  Battleship parked off the coast?  TV guided rocket fired from hundreds of miles away?  You get the picture.  This justification is irrelevant in this day and age and no longer has any business in this debate.  Only the most psychotic would believe they could stand a chance against that type of weaponry.

Another argument is that gun collecting is a hobby and should be treated as any other hobby.  Two problems with that.  First, what if Cuba decides nuclear weapons are a nice hobby that other countries participate in and they want some as well?  Are we comfortable with that?  Didn’t think so.  The second problem is weapons of mass destruction are not like other collecting hobbies like butterflies or baseball cards.  Last time I checked, there weren’t a lot of mass killings due to a stamp collector psychologically snapping and gluing stamps on dozens of people which then led to their deaths.  When one of these hobbies becomes as dangerous as gun collecting, we can address what needs to be done.  Until then, gun collecting is in a class by itself and should be addressed as such.

One last argument used by the gun owners is car accidents cause more deaths than guns.  True but the key here is the word accidents.  When someone dies because of a car, the vast majority of the time it is an accident and someone probably broke a traffic law at some point along the way.  When someone dies due to gunfire, it is not always an accident.  In fact, you could argue what happened was entirely intended, including the performance of the weapon itself.

The major difference here is there are reasonable laws surrounding automobiles while the laws surrounding guns are, in some cases, downright ludicrous.  Before we set foot in a car, we must be a certain age, have a valid drivers license, and have the proper insurance.  Then we must obey speed limits, stop signs, yield signs, traffic lights, school crossings, have our emissions within the law, drive on designated streets and within designated lines meant for automobiles, not drive under the influence of any substance that inhibits performance, etc. etc.  This is, of course, after the car maker has already followed many regulations in terms of gas mileage, safety belts, air bags, brakes, and many others just to get the car on the road.

How many lives would these gun laws save?

The idea that guns have the same type of reasonable regulations is simply not true and a perfect example is the state of Arizona and the scandal known as Fast and Furious.  The situation became a scandal heavily due to the state gun laws in Arizona:

Customers can legally buy as many weapons as they want in Arizona as long as they’re 18 or older and pass a criminal background check. There are no waiting periods and no need for permits, and buyers are allowed to resell the guns.

To say this type of laissez-faire environment on weapons of mass destruction is even remotely reasonable or comparable to the regulations on automobiles is insanity.  Using the comparison of auto deaths to gun deaths as a justification for putting such destructive weapons on the street so easily makes no sense whatsoever and does not stand up to any actual scrutiny of the position.

The Fantasy World

Let’s face it, a big part of the reason we have such an unreasonable gun culture is the idea we need them for self-defense because a situation may present itself where we need to suddenly turn into Rambo.  The obvious counter to this thinking is these situations just rarely ever happen and the real-life Rambo stories are virtually non-existent compared to the number of tragedies.  Some people buy their guns thinking they are going to be the hero but this just isn’t the case and is becoming even more unlikely.

We are fed the sensationalized version of the United States through the media and believe the worst is always just around the corner.  But it’s not and the facts are continuing to prove that.  The violent crime rate in the U.S. has dropped nearly ever year for the past two decades and it seems likely this decline will continue.  The likelihood you will need a gun because you are caught in a tower at your wife’s office Christmas party when a group of well armed thieves break in to steal $500 million dollars is pretty slim and the idea this should justify the ease in which people can buy such dangerous weapons is lunacy.

But this argument is typically followed by another point that does not make sense when looked at critically.  “Well if we aren’t able to get the dangerous guns then all the criminals will have them instead because they will be easier to get.”  Really?  How does that play out in your world exactly?  This idea is pure nonsense and is only fueled by the movies we see which have distorted reality.  Criminals have these weapons now because they are easy to obtain.  If a reasonable restriction or even a (highly unlikely) ban was placed on them, the supply would ultimately diminish.  If the supply diminishes, the guns that do exist are more expensive, harder to obtain, and less likely to fall into the hands of the common criminal.  It’s just basic economics that when the supply goes down, the price goes up and your common purse snatcher is not going to have the dough to make such a purchase.  The thought that they would somehow be easier to obtain for criminals is not in any way true and could only come from a right-wing economic thinker who has no grasp of basic economic principles yet erroneously believes they do.

See these fictional characters? You are not them and never will be.

One final point branching off the last one is the fact we are allowing guns to be bought so easily and the effect is the killing of children.  Not enemy soldiers or criminals or rebels or terrorists but innocent kids.  You can buy a gun for your home or to carry on your person but you cannot give them to your kids and no one wants teachers to be carrying while teaching so schools will always be an easy target for a psychopath.  If we allow the most destructive guns to be easily sold in order to find their way into the hands of the mentally unstable, we put our kids at risk.  By not acting or saying we cannot change things, we are placing the blood of any future victims on our hands.  Placing reasonable restrictions on weapons or reassessing our view of guns as weapons of mass destruction is a step we could take to save a life in the future.  Doing nothing means we have put a price on that life and have deemed it unworthy of logical action.  Take a look at your child and ask yourself if that price is worth it.

Stating there is nothing we can do is simply cowardice rearing its ugly head once again, just as it has after so many other tragedies in America.  Have we learned anything yet?

Romney and Obama Silent on a Big Issue in Third Debate

An article in the CSM points out one of the more surprising realities of the third presidential debate: a complete failure on both candidates’ part to mention the drug war in Mexico and the 60,000+ casualties it has claimed in the past six years.  One quote from the article sums up the bizarre nature of this issue and is a reflection on the American media’s attention span:

Mexican academic Sergio Aguayo added, using a more commonly cited figure for Mexican deaths: “They talk about a humanitarian tragedy in Syria (30,000 deaths) and still don’t say anything about Mex (some 60,000). Will they?”

There are lots of elements deserving blame for the failure to address this issue by the candidates.  One is most certainly the media.  The old adage of “if it bleeds, it leads” will always apply but with one caveat.  If it bleeds slowly, it never leads and sometimes doesn’t get the attention it deserves.  There is no doubt the number of deaths in Syria are happening at a quicker pace than Mexico.  But not by much and not by enough to completely ignore the most devastating issue of the country on our southern border.

Debate #3
Debate #3

Another factor is the controversial nature of two domestic issues connected with the Mexican Drug War, the U.S.’s gun and drug policies.  The third debate was about foreign policy so no surprise these issues did not come up.  But both are directly connected with the violence in Mexico and having a debate about the drug war there must include a look about the causes at home.  Unless some reasonable changes are made to these policies, the violence and body count will continue to escalate because of our turning a blind eye as a nation to the Mexican population.

One last obvious aspect to blame would be the moderator of the debate not asking a specific question about the Mexican Drug War.  We could blame Mr. Schieffer but let’s not forget one reality about politicians.  They answer the questions they wanted asked of them and not always the actual question that was asked.  Which means the increasing violence and civilian casualty count in Mexico is so far out of the minds of both candidates that they can spend an hour and a half on foreign policy and not mention it once.

We are left to wonder what the body count in Mexico would have to be to get some attention in a presidential debate solely on foreign policy.