And We Expect What from Las Vegas?

One night a couple of years ago, while taking a short cut across the Las Vegas Strip, I was stopped at a police road block. At least a dozen cops and a half-dozen police cruisers had cordoned off the side street and were supervising eight or nine semis maneuvering to unload at the freight dock of some large building.

Vegas hosts a non-stop run of trade shows, but come on! Maybe you need two cops to hold back traffic for a couple of minutes. What’s this all about?

As the huge trucks slowly angled into the docks I craned my neck over to passenger’s side to see where exactly they were going. The Sands Expo Center. And below it a banner announcing the “36th Annual SHOT Show”, the world’s biggest gun and ammo show, a production of The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a “gun enthusiasts” organization based, very ironically, in Newtown, CT.

The Vegas cops were there to protect a convoy of semis [which came across what public highway with how much protection?] loaded with hundreds-to-thousands of guns and rounds of ammunition.

There is no reason to believe this week’s epic mass slaughter — again, very ironically, at a country music concert in Las Vegas — will have any effect at all on the dwindling percentage of Americans feverishly clinging to the Second Amendment as the most vital of all the words of the U.S. Constitution. As statistics tell us, while each year there are fewer Americans owning guns, those that do, like Stephen Paddock, the Vegas shooter, as with an addict, are stockpiling both guns and ammo, with eight being the current average number of guns in their personal arsenals. [As the link above notes, 3% of America’s “gun enthusiasts” own 50% of the weapons. Paddock owned over 40.]

Discussions about the fragile psychology of these “gun enthusiasts”, (the polite description often used by the non-partisan press), have proven pointless. The credible accusation that someone, mostly white males, stockpiling an arsenal in their demonstrably peaceful suburbs and out on their ranches, has serious masculinity insecurity issues only increases their conviction that they and their “way of life” are under attack. At which point, their paranoia spiking,  they rush out and buy more guns and bullets.

In a country now more heavily armed per capita than [bleeping] Yemen, and far more than any other place on the planet, there isn’t a flicker of hope that any significant gun regulation will come out of this week’s massacre. We all remember that the response of the Republican congress to the Newtown slaughter was to further weaken gun laws. [Here’s another useful set of stats, if, as The Dude says, you’re not into that whole brevity thing.]]

In a rational environment, there would at the very least be a terrorist watch list-like data base of people buying up multiple numbers of guns and the thousands of rounds of ammo so many of these killers manage to acquire. [A $5 tax per bullet might slow things down a bit, too.] There would also be a rational acceptance of the fact that — if getting killed by a psychopath is something you worry about — the chances of that guy being a middle-aged-to-older white guy far exceeds the likelihood of him being a muslim. [As close as we’re likely to get to a definitive comparison, over the 10 years from 2005 to 2015, there were  71 deaths on American soil due to “terrorism” and over 301,000 to “normal” gun violence. Remind yourself of that the next time the news kids go berserk over a “terror link.”]

But we left “rational” behind generations ago. A huge part of the American myth — powerfully abetted by pop culture — is that our “freedoms” were born out of and sustained by firepower and that male potency is directly linked, infused if you will, with threats and displays of violence. Never mind every statistic available proving that we are living in one of the least violent and threatening periods of human existence.

If there is a glimmer of hope anywhere it may be in the Supreme Court’s decision on Wisconsin’s gerry-mandering. If the court at long, long last concurs that congressional districts designed to sustain a particular party affiliation is, you know, not what the Founding Fathers had in mind, it would mean that rural politicians would have to appeal to someone other than the reddest meat of their pro-Second Amendment constituency. It might well mean that the NRA’s choke-chain on every Republican and all but a couple of Blue Dog Democrats, like Minnesota Collin Peterson, would show a little slack.

But the psycho-sensory effect of a loaded gun in the hand of a guy with a weak sense of his masculinity is so powerful it truly is a primal, primary motivation in his life.

Good luck changing that.

Why Not Regulate Guns Just As We Already Regulate A Similarly Dangerous Hunk of Steel?

Imagine you turned on the news today to learn that Group A of politicians is accusing Group B of politicians of plotting to confiscate all automotive vehicles. As evidence, Group A is noting that Group B supports requiring users of vehicles to be licensed, registered, and of sound mind and body, and opposes the use of armored tanks or monster trucks on community roadways.

In that news story, imagine that political Group A is insisting that no vehicle regulations be used.  After all, they claim, any regulation would be equivalent to, or would surely lead to, confiscation of all vehicles.

We would think Group A was delusional, even though we all adore cars and are vehemently opposed to them being confiscated. But that, my friends, is the world in which we are living, when it comes to gun control.

Gun control = confiscation meme
Almost every debate about responsible gun control regulation is dodged by gun advocates. Instead of debating proposed gun regulations on the merits, gun advocates instead claim that the mere mention of a gun regulations constitutes ipso facto evidence that guns are about to be confiscated. That ridiculous assertion has been trotted out there for decades, despite the fact that gun confiscation has never even been proposed by a mainstream politician, much less come close to being enacted.

Obama_gun_control_confiscation_memeIf you really think President Obama, who has been President for seven years now and only has one year left in his term, is a gun confiscator, wouldn’t you think he would have confiscated by now? Don’t you think he would have done it in the first two years of his presidency, when his party controlled the House, Senate and White House?

Obviously, no one is going to confiscate guns, because there is no political support in America for confiscating guns. It hasn’t happened, and it’s just not going to happen.

We need to put those confiscation delusions to rest before America can have a reasonable debate about how to responsibly regulate guns.

A Familiar Regulatory Framework

How should America regulate guns?  My approach is simple: Let’s regulate guns similarly to how we regulate cars and trucks. Both motor vehicles and guns are hunks of steel that pose relatively little public danger when used responsibly, but are extraordinarily dangerous when used irresponsibly. For that reason, society keeps motor vehicles legal, but we regulate them to reduce the risk of harm.

Therefore, we should regulate guns just as we regulate motor vehicles:

  • Users should be licensed.
  • Users should have to pass a basic safety related test in order to get a license.
  • Users who are not physically or mentally equipped to safely operate the equipment should not be licensed to do so.
  • There should be rules for safe use of the equipment.
  • Users who don’t use the equipment responsibly should lose their license.
  • Each piece of equipment should be registered.
  • Equipment registration data and user licensure data should be readily available to law enforcement officials to help them enforce laws.
  • The equipment should be able to be used in many parts of the community, but not in all parts of the community.
  • The equipment should be required to have locking devices to help the user secure it from theft and use by minors and other unlicensed citizens.
  • The equipment should be required to have reasonable safety features.
  • The equipment makers should be held liable for failure to produce safe equipment, just as every other manufacturer is.
  • Equipment that is unnecessarily dangerous to the community shouldn’t be legal.

That’s what American society does with cars and trucks, with relatively few complaints or abuses, and that’s what we should do with guns.

Would applying the motor vehicle regulatory model to guns stop every accidental shooting, murder, mass murder and suicide? Of course not. Just as regulated motor vehicles still are dangerous, regulated guns would still be plenty dangerous. But just as motor vehicle regulations limit the harm caused by cars and trucks in society, gun regulations would limit the harm caused by guns in society.  It would make a difference.  It would make things less bad.

So let’s have an honest debate about that familiar and successful regulatory model.  And for once, let’s have the debate without getting side-tracked by ridiculous delusions of confiscation.

If Only We Really Were Terrorized

Lambert_to_the_SlaughterAs President Obama was preparing to give yet another eulogy for a mass murder by one of his constituents word was coming in of ISIS maniacs chopping the head off a man in France and slaughtering dozens of people on a beach in Tunisia. I’ll let you guess which of the two killing sprees will be universally described as “terrorism” and which has not.

Oh sure, since the Charleston church slaughter, there has been the usual attempts by the usual people to attach the “T” word, with all its emotional weight, to this latest incident of psychopathic gun play. But it hasn’t stuck, and it won’t the next time a white male American maniac — who may or may not have been given a high-caliber revolver and a few 40-bullet clips of ammo by his father for his 21st birthday (a rite of passage into American manhood) — exercises his Second Amendment rights in a grade school, a church, a movie theater or (wait for it) a football stadium.

Americans are now so inured to these mass shootings they have all but completely lost the ability to shock or upset us. Despite the vastly more likely possibility that we will be gunned down by some pathetic nitwit armed with a small arsenal he bought off the internet or out of some guy’s trunk in a WalMart parking lot, the freakout fear factor about “terrorism” simply doesn’t register. Who among us even thinks about it as we buy a ticket to “Jurassic World” or settle in for a show biz sermon at some mega church? The answer is: Practically no one.

Terrorism of the kind that makes us demand elected leaders “do something about this, now” applies only to dark-skinned foreigners. Scrawny white creeps spraying innocent folks with bullets are merely, “disturbed individuals” who skipped their meds. So instead of freaking out over how people like that can buy assault rifles and all the ammo they want, the conversation, abetted by a media terrified of upsetting conservative gun fetishists, turns instead to … the Confederate flag. A symbol rather than a lethal reality.

Contrast the impassive response to our bi-weekly mass murders to the number of people you know or hear about who devote time every day digesting and imagining the horrors of ISIS jihadis running amok in Times Square or the Mall of America.

Point being, one could be described as a rational fear. 300-plus million guns, no end of mentally disturbed time bombs lurking in every city and suburb and no real restraints on their ability to arm themselves any time the urge compels them vs. organized fanatics on the other side of the planet.

Of course, when, not if, some “ISIS inspired” nut job actually does kill someone here, the ensuing media meltdown — think of CNN and FoxNews with their hair on fire — will insure that everyone connected to a TV set is scared witless by the return of terrorism to our shores. At that point, more billions will be spent and more Constitutional freedoms gladly shucked away to prevent anything of the sort from happening again.

Meanwhile, while we wait for the first beheading in Disneyland or some other strategically chosen symbol of American infidel-ism (I’d skip Las Vegas, personally), we will calmly observe, with appropriate head-shaking and mutterings of practiced dismay, the regular and routine slaughter of our fellow innocents by characters who look pretty much like us.

Some of the stunted response to this self-inflicted terror comes out of sheer resignation. Gun control forces have accepted that given Republican and blue dog Democrat control of Congress and their fealty to the NRA, no good will ever come of pushing for tougher legislation. Post-Sandy Hook, red states generally loosened gun restrictions while blue states enacted only marginal new controls. Congress, as usual, was an embarrassment.

As Ronald Reagan used to say, “Government is the problem.”

Until someone or some influential entity figures out a way to castrate the NRA, to the point where the quivering fence-sitters dare to vote against gun nut interests and survive their next election, nothing will change.

All in all it’s a case of how we’d be better off if we really were “terrorized”.


Why Are Cops Still Using Real Bullets?

Lambert_to_the_SlaughterOne facet of the current outrage over hyper-aggressive, racially-focused police work isn’t getting much attention, but it keeps rolling back in my alleged mind. It’s this: Why, in 2014 USA is the average beat cop still exercising “lawful” force with live ammunition?

The spate of demonstrations and high emotion surrounding the Michael Brown and Eric Garner and Tamir Rice (the 12 year-old in Cleveland) incidents will subside soon enough, replaced in the public’s attention by some new atrocity, Christmas shopping or speculation of what Leonard DiCaprio was planning to do with 20 supermodels. But until then it’s worth asking the question, “Why haven’t police departments been required to transition to non-lethal ammunition?”

Its been an established fact for decades that the average cop goes his/her entire career without firing their weapon. Obviously, firearms are standard issue equipment for the exceedingly rare incident where the cop confronts some truly lethal perp/psycho. But even then, in those remarkably rare moments when a lone cop or two is caught by surprise, the preferred outcome is to render the suspect immobile and pack him off to jail for the courts to decide his fate.

In the (even rarer) case where the police are in pursuit of an indisputably violent, gun-wielding offender, a situation where back-up is usually called in, it isn’t impossible to switch over to a “live” gun stashed in the cop car … or just let the SWAT team take over.

Without question, the usual suspects, the NRA and its most ardent, imbalanced, gun-fetishizing supporters will howl that replacing death-dealing bullets with rubber bullets (which stun and hurt like hell, especially at short distances) or chemical darts is a new low in lunatic, liberal criminal-coddling, a neutering of the last barrier of flexing machismo between the thug class and the huddled, fearful masses.

The response to that, as always, should be “[bleep] them.” That crowd is as unstable as any street “thug”.

Polling shows a wide gap between what white America and black America think of aggressive policing. And yes, it does matter that the former has almost no experience with an insecure cop freaking out at the sight of you, or getting hostile when asked why the hell he’s getting in your face? For blacks, even suburban professionals, that’s a common occurrence, and one that gets exponentially worse in predominantly black neighborhoods.

This situation wouldn’t be as bad if the average police force had a better pool of police candidates to choose from. But you get what you pay for. At standard salary rates, cop shops don’t exactly have the luxury of culling through the cream of decision-makers.

The cop who killed little Tamir Rice in Cleveland, blasting away before he even got out his car, was regarded as so dismally ill-equipped to make good decisions he was let go from a small town force before catching on with Cleveland’s finest … which never looked at the details of his work history.

I quote his previous commander’s assessment: “ … he would not be able to substantially cope, or make good decisions, during or resulting from any other stressful situation.”

Put bluntly, the guy was/is fundamentally unstable and in a sane world should never have been issued a gun permit, much less given what amounts to a license to kill.

Ditto Darren Wilson in Ferguson. A reading of the grand jury testimony paints a fairly clear picture of an insecure tough guy wannabe, his swagger bolstered by the goods on his hip. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of doubt left that Wilson incited the confrontation and then panicked when Brown (unwisely) told him to “[bleep] off.”

But had he, or the dimwit in Cleveland been firing rubber bullets or chemical darts, no one involved would be dead today, and the courts could have gone about their usual business of … exonerating the cops.

As for Eric Garner’s chokehold death on Staten Island, where would that story be if the cops weren’t on an arrest quota, a la “The Wire”? The guy’s back selling cigarettes. Write him a ticket and find something better to do.

The NRA’s Political Silencer

“You’re using this tragedy to your political advantage.”

That’s the standard line used any time a politician discusses ways to reduce the odds of tragedies like the Batman massacre occurring.

It’s a very effective way to silence all debate, because no one wants to look like they’re insensitive to the victims. The NRA and its supporters know this, which is why they use this rhetorical weapon with AR-15-like speed and repetition. Continue reading