Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Guns: as American as apple pie

Dear America, I have to ask you. It may be a little indelicate. It may actually make you a tad miffed with me but somehow I just have to say it. I've heard tell that honesty is the best policy so with that in mind I hope you will be forgiving and take it in the amicable manner with which it is meant; just one friend to another. Here goes.

Are you f**kin' crazy?

I am prompted to ask this question after reading the following story.

HuffPost - Jul 24/2012
Todd Canady Shoots Himself In Leg While Buying Milk At Walmart; Four Others Injured
Todd Canady just wanted to buy some milk Monday evening and was simply fumbling for his wallet at the Walmart checkout lane when he heard a loud, eardrum-rattling noise, followed by a sharp pain in the leg. At that point, the 23-year-old Dallas resident realized what happened: He forgot to put the safety on the Springfield .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol he had holstered inside his pants. The bullet grazed Canady's leg before it struck the concrete floor, causing shards of cement to fly into the air and hit one woman and her kindergarten-age daughter, according to WFAA.com.

Okay, now let me get this straight. It turns out that Todd Canady has a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Now when we talk about a concealed weapon, I'm assuming said weapon is a handgun. I don't think anybody carries a rifle as a concealed weapon. A handgun, even if claimed to be a defensive weapon, is designed to shoot people. This isn't for hunting. The United States is a bastion of democratic freedom, one of the great civilized countries of the world. The next time I visit the United States, am I to consider that Walmart is so dangerous I should either arm myself or consider hiring private security to protect me? Walmart? To buy milk?

The Truth About Guns
In the About of this web site for gun aficionados, I read the following description: "Robert Farago founded The Truth About Guns in February of 2010 to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns." The rest of the page has both text and pictures devoted to the publisher, managing editor, and various writers holding in some cases some pretty serious weaponry: semi-automatic, automatic, hand guns, and what looks to be just shy of a bazooka. (Okay, that's hyperbole but it is damn big!)

The Truth About Guns - Jul 27/2012
Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day: Todd Canady by Dan Zimmerman
“Police said that Todd Canady, 23, was in the checkout line when he fired the pistol he was carrying inside his pants.” We don’t know for sure, but we’re guessing Todd was carrying without the benefit of a holster. ... He will be enjoying... a bright, shiny new IGOTD trophy courtesy of his friends here at TTAG. Not to mention the medical bills and maybe a tort claim from the other two injured parties. And to think a good holster would have only set him back about fifty bucks. (IGOTD = Irresponsible Gun Owner Of The Day)

Obviously a web site dedicated to gun lovers is not going to take a stance against guns but to zero in on the irresponsibility of the individual. I would like to point out that the first commentator on the article; somebody called "Silver" makes an interesting point:

Well, as ever, get ready to trot out all the usual defenses for simpletons like mikey and take the blame as a community for the idiocy of one. May I recommend comparing a drunk driver to the car-owning community as a whole?

While the old saying goes, "one bad apple spoils the barrel", I agree with "Silver" that we can't paint a group with a broad brushstroke due to the actions of the few. Yes it seems like a logical statement that having a holster would have prevented this accident and that yes this particular gun owner was irresponsible.

If guns don't kill people, people do. Then toasters don't toast toast, toast toasts toast.

Nevertheless, I return to my original question. Is buying milk at Walmart so dangerous, I need to arm myself? Is the threat to my personal well-being so great, I need to be carrying a deadly weapon if not to actually shoot someone at least to give me the peace of mind that I am capable of demonstrating lethal firepower?

Personal Story
I am a 60 year old Canadian. While I have fired a weapon, a hunting rifle, twice in my life under controlled circumstances, once on a shooting range and once in the wilds shooting gophers with a cousin, I have never owned a gun. I have never owned a rifle or a handgun. I have never been in any circumstances like military service, police service, or the middle of a bank robbery slash hostage situation which would have required me to carry and use a firearm. I have always purchased milk without the need to pack heat and all my visits to Walmart have not necessitated being able to return fire.

Personal Story
A member of my family is dating an American woman. She has told me that her father just doesn't own all sorts of guns, he always carries one. Yes, he always has a gun in his car and some months ago, well before the above Walmart incident, she described to me actually going to Walmart with her Dad and he was carrying a weapon. To Walmart. Yes, Walmart. Wait a sec, is Walmart that dangerous? Have I been unwittingly visiting this store not realising that my life was in danger? What about Costco, Kmart, or Target? Costco sells big quantities of stuff. Do I need something bigger like an elephant gun?

Personal Story
I was recently discussing the Walmart story cited above with a cousin. He told me of visiting Wisconsin on holiday a few years back with his girlfriend. The two of them visited a pub for a nice lazy brunch and got into a friendly chitchat with some of the locals, a trio of young ladies all in their twenties. All three of them admitted to carrying a weapon in their purses. What? Is Wisconsin so dangerous you need to be armed to order a beer in a pub? Is the incidence of robbery or rape so high in this state that a woman has to be ready to shoot to kill in order to sit unmolested in a public establishment? Am I going to be polite to you not because I'm a civilised person and a nice guy but because I know you are capable of blowing my head off?

The 2012 Election
I reported on the official platform papers of both the Democrats and the Republicans. While both parties support second amendments rights, there are some differences in the wording of such support.

The Republicans
see my blog: The 2012 Republican Platform: Are ya scared yet?

Republicans uphold the right to defend yourself. Americans must have the right to own guns, store ammunition without registration, get permits to carry firearms and to carry firearms. They are against restrictions limiting the capacity of clips or magazines. (page 13 of the official platform paper)

The Democrats
see my blog: The 2012 Democratic Platform: yes you still can

We recognize that the individual right to bear arms is an important part of the American tradition, and we will preserve Americans’ Second Amendment right to own and use firearms. We believe that the right to own firearms is subject to reasonable regulation. We understand the terrible consequences of gun violence; it serves as a reminder that life is fragile, and our time here is limited and precious. We believe in an honest, open national conversation about firearms. We can focus on effective enforcement of existing laws, especially strengthening our background check system, and we can work together to enact commonsense improvements – like reinstating the assault weapons ban and closing the gun show loophole – so that guns do not fall into the hands of those irresponsible, law-breaking few. (page 18 of the official platform paper)

In comparing the two policy papers, I see that the Republicans want no gun control while the Democrats feel some controls are warranted. When I see that the Republicans support no restrictions on limiting the capacity of clips or magazines, I have to ask myself what they are preparing for, Armageddon? Is the next, well the first, zombie apocalypse just around the corner? Has the Umbrella Corporation perfected its virus? (To the uninitiated, I am making a humorous reference to the "Resident Evil" games and movies.)

Final Word
As I read over the various articles about the second amendment, this famous or infamous edict about the right to bear arms, I notice that judges, constitutional scholars, and the National Rifle Association are battling it out as to the rights and freedoms of an individual. I'm not sure there will be a clear-cut winner any time soon but I would like to come back to the original story which prompted me to write in the first place. You, America, and maybe not all Americans but some, want the right to carry a weapon into Walmart when you buy milk. I can't help thinking that there is a far greater issue at stake here. I'm not talking about your individual freedom to do whatever the hell you want; I am talking about why you want to have a weapon in Walmart in the first place. Seriously. Are you walking around all the time worried, no scared about God only knows what? A terrorist attack? A crazed psycho mass murderer? The evil federal government bashing down the gates of your Waco compound?

When I looked at the web site The Truth About Guns, specifically the About page with its pictures of the various people who work for the site, I couldn't help thinking as person after person was shown holding some honkin' big gun, that the mentality of the Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry or Man With No Name, the lone hero against the bad guys, against the evil system or against the entire world is very much alive in the psyche of the United States culture. Don't f**k with me because I'm a dangerous badass. How about don't f**k with you because you're a crazy Looney Tune with a gun for God's sake.

The average child will watch 8,000 murders on TV before finishing elementary school. By age eighteen, the average American has seen 200,000 acts of violence on TV, including 40,000 murders.
- Norman Herr, Professor of Science Education, California State University

In my blog Carnography: Vegetarians need not apply, I take a more detailed look at violence and its impact on our society. As well as above study by Professor Herr, I look at studies which correlate the violence seen on television and the level of violence in society. Dr. Brandon Centerwall in the Journal of the American Medical Association writes:

if, hypothetically, television technology had never been developed, there would today be 10,000 fewer homicides each year in the United States, 70,000 fewer rapes, and 700,000 fewer injurious assaults.

Monkey see monkey do? People want to emulate Dirty Harry? I love James Bond and I sometimes imagine myself wearing a tux, driving fast, taking on five bad guys at once, and getting the girl. Yes, I'm a legend in my own mind. But I only wear a tux at weddings; I don't drive fast; I'll call the police on the five bad guys, and I'm still working on the girl. I've heard a single red rose goes over well although maybe I should impress her with the concealed weapon I have in my shoulder holster. It has a big barrel. (Sorry, I couldn't resist saying that.)

In other words, is the constitutional debate really about the right of the individual or is it more about fantasizing about being a movie character? I don't want to walk out my front door and be so scared of God only knows what that I feel compelled to arm myself. I don't want to go out to buy milk and feel it necessary to return fire. Unless I change jobs, like join the CIA or become a Mafia hit man or get sent off to war, I don't want to live in the Wild West or "think" I live in the Wild West and have to be armed to protect myself. If I need a concealed weapon to buy milk at Walmart or to get a beer at my local pub, I think we collectively have a far far bigger problem to contend with.


References

Sandy Hook, Gun Control and the "right answer"
I am not a gun enthusiast. I don't own a gun; I have never owned a gun. If the government took all the guns away, I personally would not be affected. But I don't play golf. I don't really like golf so if the government came along and shut down ever course in the country; I personally would not be affected. However I do recognise that would be draconian and would most certainly protest along with every golfer. And as with golf, I would question the government taking all guns away. That sounds draconian. Do we tar and feather every gun enthusiast because of a single nutbar? If you will excuse the pun, that sounds like "overkill".

“An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.”
- Robert A. Heinlein, Beyond This Horizon

Wikipedia: Second Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Second Amendment (Amendment II) to the United States Constitution is the part of the United States Bill of Rights that protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights.

Wikipedia: District of Columbia v. Heller
District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), was a landmark case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects an individual's right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes in federal enclaves, such as self-defense within the home.

University of Missouri-Kansas City
Exploring Constitutional Law: A Right To Bear Arms?
The meaning of the Second Amendment depends upon who you talk to. The National Rifle Association, which has the Second Amendment (minus the militia clause) engraved on its headquarters building in Washington, insists that the Amendment guarantees the right of individuals to possess and carry a wide variety of firearms. Advocates of gun control contend that the Amendment was only meant to guarantee to States the right to operate militias. For almost seventy years following its cryptic decision of U. S. vs. Miller in 1939, the Court ducked the issue, finally to resolve the question in its much anticipated 2008 decision, District of Columbia v Heller.

Wikipedia Gun violence in the United States: Gun ownership
In 2004, 36.5% of Americans reported having a gun in their home and in 1997, 40% of Americans reported having a gun in their homes. At this time there were approximately 44 million gun owners in the United States. This means that 25 percent of all adults owned at least one firearm. These owners possessed 192 million firearms, of which 65 million were handguns. The number of American homes reporting have a gun in their homes is down from 46% as reported in 1989. Philip J. Cook suggests that increased numbers of female-headed households may be a factor in declining household ownership figures.

Wikipedia: Gun violence: Homicide
Firearm homicide rate per 100,000 population
Columbia = 51.77%
Guatemala = 18.50%
Mexico = 3.66%
United States = 2.97%
Canada = 0.54%
England = 0.12%

Google image search: Walmart open carry
Good lord! Actual pictures of people shopping at Walmart with an "open carry" weapon.



Wikipedia: Happiness Is a Warm Gun
"Happiness Is a Warm Gun" is a song by The Beatles, featured on the eponymous double-disc album The Beatles, also known as The White Album. It is a John Lennon composition, credited to Lennon–McCartney.

Writing and inspiration
According to Lennon, the title came from the cover of a gun magazine that producer George Martin showed him: "I think he showed me a cover of a magazine that said 'Happiness Is a Warm Gun.' It was a gun magazine. I just thought it was a fantastic, insane thing to say. A warm gun means you just shot something." The reference, whether or not intermediately from the magazine, was one of many 1960s riffs on Charles M. Schulz's culturally popular saying, Happiness is a Warm Puppy, which began in the Peanuts comic strip and became a widely sold book.


my blog: The Beatles: Happiness is a Warm Gun
Video, lyrics, links to further info

2012-09-12

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2 comments:

Charlie said...

So, William, I suppose you don't fasten your seat belt until those few milliseconds when you know for sure you're going to be in an accident.

Are you even interested in the reasons WHY people choose to carry a firearm? Or do you just get your kicks ridiculing them?

William Quincy Belle said...

I'm not sure that Charlie understood that the first line of his comment answered my question. Yes, America is so dangerous, I must be ready at anytime to return fire. I know there is a chance I can be in a traffic accident therefore I always wear my safety belt. Charlie is suggesting he carries a gun because his life could be in jeopardy at anytime. Fair enough. And Charlie is confirming that America is so dangerous I am risking my life every time I visit the country.