Out of Control on Gun Control

What kind of philosophy is being exercised when Second Amendment naysayers condemn the whole of gun-owning Americans for the transgressions of people who by and large are not even gun owners but have appropriated the weapons?

Author Dean Scoville Headshot

Photo via Emily Stanchfield/Flickr.Photo via Emily Stanchfield/Flickr.

A former associate recently e-mailed me and chastised me for not being more vocal on the firearms front. Somebody hasn't been paying attention to my recent blogs, "The Aurora Tragedy and Off-Duty Carry" and "A Whole Village to Raise…One Madman to Destroy."

Suffice to say I own firearms and when it comes to the Second Amendment, my tastes run toward the parochial: I don't want people messing with it.

But being a professional observer of constitutional rights and a Second Amendment adherent does not preclude me from being concerned with the growing prevalence of firearm-related mass killings. Certainly, I am all ears when even those within our ballistic fraternity look at some of their gun-toting brethren askance. Such internal scrutiny and introspection affords me more comfort than worry.

I wish I could say as much for some of our more vociferous gun critics. Through a tsunami of memes, commercials, and commentaries, society's more lithic bent have declared open season on gun owners with calls for their deaths; one extended the call to all right-wingers: "Conservative extermination is the only solution. Sooner or later, it will have to be done. The time for talk is over." (In the absence of firearms, the jawbone of an ass would doubtlessly prove their weapon of choice, and readily available through their brethren). Abetting their cause, the New York Journal published a map of gun-permit holders in two New York counties. Gawker abetted the cause one further, publishing a complete 446-Page List of "All the Assholes Who Own Guns in New York City."

Is it just me, or are things getting hot in here?

As farcical as some of the inanity gets, there have been a few things that have popped up on the radar that I have glad to see and heartened to hear. Among them, a few salient truths.

High on the list and shared on my Facebook page was the following video of Doctor Suzanna Gratia Hupp's testimony wherein she chronicles her heart-breaking story of surviving the Luby's shooting in Texas and where she finds true culpability.

Then there's the appreciated candor of Jim Penman, a district attorney. Assessing the propensity for San Bernardino's less law-abiding demographic to perforate their fellow man—2012 saw the bankrupt municipality experience damn near triple the number of murders of the year before—Penman told citizens to lock their doors and load their guns as local law enforcement was being downsized. (Wonder how many hand-wringers failed to see any correlative value here...but I digress).

For his candor, Penman was met with cries for his resignation; failing that, his termination. Hundreds of years ago, Chamfort said, "In France, we threaten the man who rings the alarm bell and leave in peace the man who starts the fire." In America, it would appear that we do much the same today.

Perhaps nothing has received as much attention the past two weeks as the NRA's "Are the President's children more precious than yours?" commercial wherein the organization pointedly asked why America's children shouldn't have the benefit of the same kind of armed guardianship afforded the commander-in-chief's daughters. Obama's Dog Pound, a.k.a., our news media, tried to get our ear and the NRA's in a manner popularized by Mike Tyson, all the while alleging that it was the commercial that was hitting below the belt and unfair.

Come again? Between the pernicious paternalism of Obama's administration and its pronounced overriding concern—the safety of our country's children—isn't the question a legitimate one? This is especially true since it was an attack on America's children that provided the traction for his agenda and since the underlying sentiment of the administration's proposed gun legislation implicitly answers the question: Yes.

The silver lining in the media's spin is that it affords us an opportunity to contemplate the question of what is fair and what is just.

A common, if not wholly realized, precept of justice is that it is preferable that 100 guilty men should walk free lest a single innocent man be found guilty, the underlying principle being that you shouldn't effect a wrong to do a right. Such philosophy is part and parcel of our judicial system and the bedrock of "forbidden fruit" case law and the like.

Which makes one wonder what kind of philosophy is being exercised when Second Amendment naysayers condemn the whole of gun-owning Americans for the transgressions of people who by and large are not even gun owners but have appropriated the weapons? And in any event, a relative few?

And that relative few has become even smaller with time. Since the expiration of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 2004, murder rates have fallen from 5.7 per 100,000 people in 2003 to 4.7 per 100,000 people. by 2011. The number of those murdered by any type of rifle: 2.65 per 100,000.

Pertinent statistics aside and on a more personal note, I have long had cause to consider incidents involving semi-automatic rifles, if not before the time a fellow deputy and myself were ambushed by a man with an AK47 then certainly since. I have cogitated on the matter at length, indeed longer than Mark Twain did over the meaning of some arcane passage he took to task. I have looked at it up, down, and sideways. And still I cannot decide: Do I damn the alcohol that emboldened the suspect to open fire? Or, bless the booze that marred his aim?

As far as his weapon of choice, I recriminate its existence no more than I do that of a lawnmower, a tool that, in its unmolested state, poses no more or less of a threat.

I will grant that in an ideal world there wouldn't be a need for semi-automatic rifles. However, our world is hardly ideal—our hard-earned insight into human nature is why we lock our doors and windows, after all—and hence a greater need for pragmatic practices than asinine legislation. Unfortunately, we Americans get too little of the former and too much of the latter.

Part of me is not surprised. In his apply titled "The Suicide of Democracy," H.L. Mencken noted that, "It is the natural and bounden duty of democracy, we are told, to take care of its customers in all situations, at all times, and everywhere." He was referencing America, a land which he also referred to as a Commonwealth of Morons. As much as I would like to say he was harsh in both appraisals, I can't help but note that our country's protectors have in recent weeks been salivating over the prospect of protecting their constituents from themselves with greater zeal than they displayed towards our Border Patrol agents or our embassies.

There is hope. There is a middle ground that sees that there just might conceivably be less draconian means than the carpet bombing of gunowners to address the problem.

This constituency is less interested in usurping our rights and in addressing the problem. It recognizes that the mass shooting phenomenon is the result of a confluence of many disparate factors, any one of which is fair game for correlative value, few of which leave quite the forensic footprint as a .45 round.

The liberals' conclusions might be more forgivable if it wasn't reflective of their clear bias. One wonders why they fail to apply their "cause and effect" logic where the nexus is more evident and the responsibility to entities more tangible, such as the death of a border patrol agent by a firearm placed in his killer's hands by the U.S. government.

Otherwise, it is not only fair game to note the role firearms have played a role in tragedies, but to fixate on them, as well. In doing so, they are following their government's lead in spinning that Klieg light where they will and leaving everything else in darkness.

To my mind, any attempt to address this phenomenon would obligate soul-searching from both ends of the spectrum and the kind of dialogue between them that John Stuart Mill would have approved of—one that was candid and conducted with an eye toward seeing things from the other's perspective. Such dialogue would ask hard questions of both sides.

Questions such as:

• What can be done to get school attacks scotched in their formative stages? (In most instances, perpetrators of such attacks articulated their intentions to others who failed to act on the information.)

• What low-cost measures can be adopted to help dissuade or mitigate such attacks? (This would include my suggestion that active/off-duty/retired law enforcement personnel be allowed on school grounds as their schedules permit, a suggestion that may soon be realized in the form of similar proposals that have since been made.

• How can school classrooms be designed or retrofitted with greater security enhancements? (Might large sliding doors located on opposite sides of a classroom accommodate a mass exodus of students? What manner of electronic monitoring and remote access can be installed? Are security vestibules rendered bullet-proof?)

• Do I really want to bond with my emotionally and mentally compromised loved one through firearm usage? (Might I suggest this may be no less dangerous than availing some hellbent soul a "shopping list" of available firearms such that printed by the newspaper?)

• How many of these attacks have taken place in "right to carry" states? (My bet: Damn few, if any.)

• What practical effect would the limiting of magazine capacity have in active shooter incidents? (I would have both sides review Dr. Gratia Hupp's 's testimony.)

• If psychologists and other doctors are correct that there is a growing number of autistic children, has there been a corresponding increase in those afflicted with Asperger's Syndrome? (Short of a Philip K. Dick-inspired solution, is there anyway to identify the potential for violence among such souls? And is the distancing of A.S. support groups from the Adam Landa case of constructive benefit for anyone in the equation?)

• What manner of security measures need to be taken to ensure that the mentally ill are identified and availed adequate medical treatment? (For decades we have dropped the ball in dealing with the psychologically disenfranchised. Might it be that instead of a call to disarm, what we're witnessing is a clarion call to address our country's mental health crises?)

• How can society better mitigate the potential for some to become desensitized to violence or programmed to act on it?

• What can be done to prevent them from accessing forearms?

The solutions are found in the answers to these hard questions. But unfortunately, Our culture is addicted to the notion of a quick fix.

In much the same way that Confederate troops would send sham deserters to the northern side to foster beliefs favorable to their own cause, our federal government is today using ideological filigree to take advantage of the gullible who would hang their hopes on some panacea, while at the same time taking the liberty to encroach on our own. The upside is that they serve as a reminder of Ben Franklin's wisdom that those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. The downside is that they are usurping our freedom, as well, in their slow but sure adumbration of our Second Amendment rights.

In New York, little in the way of temperate wisdom was applied in the drafting of a new maximum capacity law, one that was implemented with such zeal and haste that, as initially drafted, New York police officers were not exempted thereby rendering them both outgunned and outlawed.

But just as it was looking like cops might be obligated to march suspects off to jail at needle-point, someone decided to address at least that part of the problem, an overture I would characterize it as "putting lipstick on a pig" were it not for certain porcine pejoratives that long ago attached themselves to our profession. Nonetheless, the legislated outrage remains otherwise intact, leaving civilians and retired cops screwed and serving as an unnecessary reminder of the kind of short-sightedness our esteemed legislatures enjoy a monopoly in.

Short-sightedness is something I know about.

The afternoon I was leaving for Shot Show, I heard our dogs barking in the back yard. Suddenly, the barking was eclipsed by a high-pitched "YIPE-YIPE-YIPE!!!" that scared the hell out of me. Not knowing if one of them had gone Cujo on the other, or a neighbor's dog had fallen victim to one of their two-pronged attacks. I sprinted through the back door like George Brett out of a dugout—complete with a Howard Dean scream—and alighted from the porch.

That was when I was attacked by the edge of a firepit.

No spike strip has ever been better deployed or more effective in curtailing its target's progress. I went sprawling in the yard, stifling my own "YIPE-YIPE-YIPE!!!" as well as a few heartfelt expletives and never even identified the source of the canine trauma (when I did open my eyes all I saw were my two none-the-worse-for-wear dogs regarding me with 'WTF...?" expressions).

To be candid, if I'd seen some other poor bastard do the crash and burn on videotape, I'd have probably busted my ass laughing. As it was, I'd only busted my ass.

As in the case of our elected officials, the episode served as a redundant reminder. For in addition to performing a cost-friendly alternative to dermabrasion and electrolysis it reminded me that, while I was generally capable of handling crisis situations wherein I was not emotionally vested, I am still capable of allowing my less reasoned emotions to get the better of me. That sometimes it is preferable to have cooler, less emotionally wrought minds address pressing situations. Because when passions are aroused, judgments are impaired.

Our government leaders would be well advised to remember as much as I hate to think that those most out of control should be in control of our welfare. For if their intentions come to pass, my suspicions are that their actions being taken may save some lives but will cost many others.

And here I will close as I have to make a plane for D.C.…

I am scheduled to testify in support of legislation banning firepits.

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