Thursday, December 20, 2012

Maybe now

By Capt. Fogg

Maybe now's the time. The NRA has taken a serious body blow and in general, the American public is losing faith in the extremists of the GOP and its ability to solve our problems. A CNN poll shows that a majority, albeit a small one, thinks the GOP is too extreme and I don't think we need a poll to show that the National Rifle Association, its frequent unindicted conspirator, is aware that it has blood on its hands. The nation's largest and loudest gun lobby all but turned out the lights and pulled down the shades for 4 days after the Newtown incident and had nothing to say as 300 protesters arrived at their headquarters on Monday.

They have scheduled a news conference for tomorrow and have announced that:

The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.

Wouldn't that be nice, but while that remains to be seen, I'm given to wonder if the changes they propose and proposed by others will be meaningful as well, or as is often the case, haphazard, oblivious to facts and doomed to be ineffective at best.

What I'm hearing and reading rather confirms my worries. My incompletely documented opinion is that most bans aren't effective because they weren't designed to be. Ineffective by design and ineffective because they're unenforceable, many make things worse. Looking at the Volstead Act and our "war on drugs" I see massive increases in crime and harmless people having their lives ruined. If a ban is what we hang our hopes on, a ban without further characteristics, we'll be as successful as Reagan's "just say no" billboards or Ford's "WIN" buttons were. If we refuse to recognize the primary goal that no weapons at all should be inside an elementary school, we'll get bogged down with descriptions and characteristics that most of us are painfully incompetent to handle.

If we let the discussion revolve about ballistics and rates of fire, around plastic gunstocks over wood or barrel length, over gas- or recoil-operated actions and magazine capacity, we're going to pass more nonsense and walk away dumb and happy until some other crazy bastard pulls another trigger, or God help us, lights a fuse or opens a canister of ricin.

Diminishing the influence of  the powerful, fear mongering NRA, at long last, will not be all that we need if we truly want to protect our schools (or theaters and shopping malls for that matter) unless we shed some of the self-righteousness we sometimes share with them and take an honest look at our own "meaningful contributions." Do we share that "more of the same stuff that didn't work" and that "we didn't think of it so it's no good" attitude? Do we steadfastly repeat party lines and refuse to consider inconvenient and contradictory facts as the economic extremists at the Tea Party do? Do we draft laws that will address other forms of mayhem we haven't thought of yet or do we, as Generals are accused of doing, fight the previous war?

Times have changed. When my parents were in elementary school one could buy a Thompson submachine gun, the infamous Chicago typewriter, at the local hardware store, but there wasn't much demand except from the gangs and the company would have failed if the Army didn't buy some. As far as I know, nobody was shooting up schools with real, honest-to-Thompson assault weapons. Now they're illegal, although many don't yet know it or admit it, but demand for things that look like them is soaring. I can ask why we are different now, but I can't answer the question. I just have to accept that we are.

Congressional gun rights supporters are suddenly willing to talk gun control. So will it be substantive gun control or will congress pull off another fast one giving us some paper that they call gun control but is designed to do nothing? Will we fall for the usual sophistry and sleight of hand a longer waiting period or another toothless ban? Will we make a fuss about gun shows despite knowing that the guns used in these sprees were bought at licensed gun shops? Will we continue to create straw men and indulge our fantasies and stereotypes? Face it: for 50 years we've refused to face it and have enthusiastically and fatuously blown it. Let's not blow it again.

So maybe it's the time and the season. It's surely not the time to do nothing or reprise our failures. I hope we can do it right. I hope to hell we can avoid the extremist and not always useful language we're hearing from so many sources. I hope we can address the question of why current policies have fostered or allowed a real reduction in aggravated crimes yet haven't had sufficient effect on "amok" crimes, suicide-by-cop crimes where the deranged perpetrator isn't concerned with remaining alive or was seeking to die in the process. This isn't time for shouting and screaming, wailing and mourning or for listening to hysterics. It may be time to listen to people who are used to dealing with suicide  bombers and terrorists -- who are weapons experts, security experts and perhaps even psychologists  -- and tune out the scared and angry amateurs like you and me.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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