Monday, December 17, 2012

the discussion

OK, so folk actually seem to be beginning to have the discussion about guns that is WAAAAYYYY overdue.
Here's the problem... many are beginning with misinformation.  The NRA has done their job well.

Here are a couple of untruths that they have floated out there and are clearly just not true.

"People need to have guns in their homes to be safe from home invasions."  Every study, let me say that again, every study has shown that households that own guns are significantly more likely to have a family member die of gun violence than homes without guns.  There are lots of other factors including age, gender, number of people in the household,  and type of gun but the bottom line is always true, if you have guns in your home, someone in your household is more likely to die of a gunshot than if you do not.

"If more people were armed, then someone could have stopped the shooter."  See the above.  Add the statistics that consistently show show that the more guns in an area, the more gun deaths.  States that have higher gun ownership have higher numbers of shootings.  Conversely, states with stronger gun laws and/or lower gun ownership have fewer homicides or suicides by gun.  Again, the stats all show that more guns means less safety, not more.  Please think about this further.  If teachers came to school with guns, eventually a child would get access to one and we would see a tragedy.  Even under the best of circumstances where police returned fire in August at the Empire State Building, by-standers were hit by fragments of bullets shot by trained police officers.  Imagine if 15 by-standers had pulled out their guns and began firing.   How many innocent by-standers would have been shot then? Think also of the states where there are stand your ground laws.  An individual feels threatened, whether justified or not, and instead of retreating, pulls out a gun and shoots.  Someone dies.  Without the gun, the individual retreats. Finally think of those places in the world where virtually everyone is armed - Somalia, Afghanistan, you get the picture.  Is that really the kind of place we want to emulate?

"If guns were illegal, only criminals would have guns."  Of course, the statement is not true.  Law enforcement personnel would still have guns.   Military would still have guns.  And if guns were outlawed, production stopped,  and those extant confiscated and destroyed, eventually even criminals wouldn't have guns.  That is obviously not going to happen, but fewer guns would mean fewer available for criminals too.  More importantly,  the implication here is that somehow having a gun makes an individual less likely to be a victim of a crime.  It just is not accurate. 

"The real problem is people, not guns.  If the crazies didn't have guns, they'd still kill people in some other way."  There is a degree of truth in this... but only a degree.  Violence still happens without guns, but it is pretty difficult to kill 27 people with a knife or a baseball bat before someone is able to stop you.  Yes, we must address a culture of violence and even more importantly, we must address issues of mental illness.  In the meantime, lets remove the tools of violence.

"We need guns to be able to stand up and revolt against tyrants at home."  This argument is the one that actually runs closest to the 2nd Amendment, but it is also the most ridiculous one.  Are we really expected to believe that untrained individuals could mount a revolt using the kinds of guns that are in circulation against a military like the US has?  Look at the difficulty Syria is having against a third rate military with third rate equipment and imagine sending civilians against helicopter gun ships, jets, missiles, tanks, armed drones, and the best trained, most well equipped, military in the world.  This statement betrays such a profound lack of trust in the American system that I don't know quite how to even address that part.  I trust the system.  I trust the checks and balances.  I trust the American people to not allow things to get so far that a revolution is necessary.

Now we can have a real discussion about guns.  They make some people feel safe.  Is that a good reason to sacrifice our children?  As of my writing this, there have been over 94,000 people shot in the US this year.  Is that a price we want to pay for a feeling of security, especially one that is not borne out by any of the facts?  Some people like to hunt or target shoot.  Fine, what kinds of weapons and ammunition are necessary for those sports?  And what are reasonable restrictions regarding those weapons and ammo?  Doesn't it make sense that the regulations are at least as stringent as for driving - a class, a written and practical test, a license that must be periodically renewed, age requirements for gun use, registration of all guns, periodic inspections of all guns, safety regulations regarding gun design that is strictly enforced...  Some folk appreciate the artistry in some guns and like to collect objects of beauty.  OK, then for collectors, maybe no ammo?  There is the 2nd amendment.  Yes, there is, but what does it reasonably mean in our society today?  When it was written, a musket shot one ball and then had to be reloaded, taking up to a minute per shot for an experienced musketeer and significantly longer for a person who was not an expert.  The weapons were also extremely inaccurate.  We just aren't talking about the same thing here, so how does the amendment apply?

Let's do away with the NRA lies and have a real discussion.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Gun Violence

I'm writing out of frustration and grief and won't think this through as carefully as perhaps I should...  so just some random thoughts...

Evidently some right wing preacher has already commented that God didn't step in and stop the murders of children because "God doesn't go where God isn't welcome," i.e. public schools.  What utter, utter nonsense.  I really don't even know how to respond to this idea except to say that it is ridiculous.  This is obscene.  This is blasphemous.

I'm frankly waiting to read the crazies who say that Obama planned this as a way to take away their guns.    And then there will be the slightly less crazy who will say that this is exactly what Obama was hoping for so he could take away their guns.  It hasn't happened yet (that I'm aware of) but I fully expect it.

I do hope that our leaders see this as a final impetus to do real gun control reform.  Yes, I know "guns don't kill people, people kill people," but it is pretty difficult to bring about this level of violence without a gun.  And yes, I know there is more going on here than just guns.  We obviously had a very troubled young man... who never would have been able to perpetrate that degree of violence without guns.   I have read the 2nd amendment - "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."  Frankly, I see nothing in that sentence that says anything at all about any person who wants a gun having the right to go out and purchase one.  It is well past the time when we need serious and significant regulations regarding the ownership of guns, of ammunition, and of the production of both. 

These children and adults did not have to die.  We can choose to make it next to impossible for this type of violence to happen again or we can allow groups like the NRA to continue their ridiculous propaganda and give in to their completely irresponsible ideas.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

another world

I have one of the most amazing commutes in the world.  I blogged about that drive once before with some photos here.  It is a 35 mile drive from my home to my job.  The first 9 miles of my drive are across the Santa Ynez valley and then over the Santa Ynez mountains using the Gaviota Pass until I run right into the Pacific Ocean.  About the next 20 miles are along the Gaviota Coast, a gorgeous and almost completely undeveloped coastline with the ocean on one side and the mountains on the other.  There are a few ranches on the mountain side including one with llamas, but mostly it is rock and chaparral.   The road weaves closer and farther from the ocean but for most of that stretch, it is very close to the water.

It is a California highway so I rarely drive it much under 70 mph.  That means that I get glimpses of incredible beauty but rarely get to savor them.  Today was one of those days.  As we came through the pass, the sun was shinning brilliantly.  There are multiple oil platforms visible from the shore, all of which are a minimum of 3 miles from the shoreline.  Some 22+ miles out are the Channel Islands.  Often the islands are obscured by fog.  Today, there was a fog bank we could watch moving across the ocean, slowly enveloping one after another of the oil platforms.  I caught a glimpse of what I think was a whale spout and then a bit of the back of a whale submerging into the water.  I have seen whales from my car at least 2 other times and possibly 3.  A number of times a year I see a pod of dolphins swimming by.  Watching the surfers on their boards always makes me think of the surfers and swimmers who have been attacked by great white sharks in the area.  Once or twice a week we see scuba divers putting on their equipment to dive and I wonder what amazing things they will see.

I look both left and right, mountains and sea, and see beauty and wonder both ways but today I was struck by the realization that I feel comfortable on the land.  That is where I live.  I understand the mountains.  I know there is danger there - rattlesnakes, mountain lions, bear, the possibilities of dehydration or a fall, or even getting lost in the wilderness, but it still feels familiar.  The ocean... that is another world altogether, just feet away but completely foreign to me. 

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

We put our Christmas tree up yesterday.  The house is full of the scent of fresh pine...


we have two cats