Wednesday, May 28, 2014

You're Right, Guns Aren't The Problem, We Are.

We have a violence problem in America.

The favorite line of the NRA is and always has been "Guns don't kill people, people kill people". Which of course, is true, but there should be an addendum to that: If people kill people, why the fuck would you want to arm them to the teeth? The NRA position on that question would likely be something along the lines of "We live in a dangerous world, and there are a lot of bad guys with guns, and you need good guys with guns to stop them". There you go, the NRA has created both the problem, AND the solution, which creates a larger problem, and now requires a bigger, and better solution.

School shootings are actually a hallmark of America, and have been occurring for over two centuries! Even I didn't know this until I happened upon a chronological list on Wikipedia, which shows that the first recorded mass shooting was in the 1760's!

This new shooting that just happened was perpetrated by a spoiled white kid who, at 22, complained that he hadn't gotten laid yet. He blamed girls for not putting out with him, so decided to shoot up a sorority and kill as many people as he could. Other shooters have even stranger motives. All of them are killers, and all of them had easy access to guns. Heck, the new kid bought his legally, and even had the police check up on him, and nothing could be prevented.

Well, here's the thing. We COULD prevent this, if we were willing to actually have a REAL conversation on guns without NRA talking points, or hippy level naivete of ridding the world of all guns. First, let's examine the symptoms, causes, and some ways to reduce the violence.

Let's go back in time to the 1980's, when Ronald Reagan was president. Now a lot of people swept this under the rug long ago, after the GOP's beatification of Reagan into some sort of Marlboro-Man-esque political deity, but I digress. Let's look at what happened in the 1980's that actually brings us to where we are today. Namely, the mass release of mental patients.

You see, before Reagan began his reign of terror on the American political system, we had federally funded asylums for the seriously mentally ill. At one point in California's history, there were over 37,000 mentally ill patients under lock and key, kept off the streets and far away from guns or any weapons, where they received treatment if possible, and simple care if not.

Then along came Reagan, who reduced the population down to 22,000 people (a trend that has since continued rather sharply), based on some reactionary advice from doctors at the National Institute of Health, who had become alarmed that some inmates should not be held. This, coupled with ill-advised conservative policies and a party that wanted to be seen as not only frugal but responsible, ended with the asylum system all but being dismantled. This was just in California. Nationally, in 1959, there were over 559,000 individuals in state-run care facilities. That number by 1990 was 70,000 or less.

According to one doctor at the time: "Dr. Robert H. Felix, who was then director of the National Institute of Mental Health and a major figure in the shift to community centers, says now on reflection: ''Many of those patients who left the state hospitals never should have done so. We psychiatrists saw too much of the old snake pit, saw too many people who shouldn't have been there and we overreacted. The result is not what we intended, and perhaps we didn't ask the questions that should have been asked when developing a new concept, but psychiatrists are human, too, and we tried our damnedest.'' (NY Times Article, Oct 30 1984)

Since then, each year, over 30,000 Americans... 30,000 die each year due to gunfire, either intentional or unintentional. In our news media, we're often shown Mexico as an example of an out-of-control violent nation, where over 30,000 have died in the last 10 years. How on earth do we figure Mexico is anywhere CLOSE to as violent as us?

In a major way, this brings us where we are today. The lack of enforceable mental health laws like indefinite psychiatric holds, or committing another adult, combined with feverish NRA propaganda such as "The liberals want to take your guns", has had a two-fold effect. For one, those crazies who should be locked up are already paranoid enough, and are now rushing to the store to purchase firearms like they're going out of style. Nothing sells guns like good ol' paranoia and fear, and the NRA certainly loves to use these tools to market their product. Secondly, now that the USA has a record amount of personal firearms in circulation, the odds that such a crazed individual will have access to these firearms is off the charts. It's ridiculously easy for anyone, including people with minor criminal histories to get guns. Let's also not forget that all medical records are verboten when it comes to firearm background checks.

The NRA even lobbied in Georgia to allow guns in schools, playgrounds, churches, and fucking bars... The NRA wants guns everywhere so more people feel like they need guns. Someone's getting rich off of all this blood. And it ain't you!

And really, there is no good way to reverse this.

We could revamp our mental illness laws to make it easier to contain the madness, but that's going to take a lot of money people don't feel like spending in lieu of NFL stadiums, road projects, or job creation. Not to mention herding the cats that make up Congress to actually pass a bill. We'd need to fully fund our asylums and bring back sanitariums. We'd need to hire qualified staff to run these places (they're not cheap either). So yeah, we could roll back the damage Reagan did, if that damage wasn't truly at the core of the GOP base right now. GOP are obsessed with the 1st Amendment (more over, obsessed with the right to say insane and offensive things, and get seriously butthurt when you disagree with them), and the 2nd Amendment, because clearly Obama's plan is to disarm everyone and unleash a cloud of poison gas to kill all people who aren't lock in step with his shadowy agenda (yes, this is sarcasm folks).

We do however love to criminalize things. Pretty much any thing that society disagrees with, we will put people in prison for it. From drugs, to sex, to debt, to profanity, to whatever pisses us off collectively, there is a sentence for it. But if you're crazy, you can kill someone and go to an institution, where, if you show progress, you'll someday be freed. We'll put a kid in jail for 15 years to life for having a joint in Texas, but a mass murderer can cop 'insanity' and likely never see a life sentence. That make much sense to you? Me either. But we can't actually criminalize being crazy. Crazy is often mistaken for free speech, political speech, or just plain ol' trolling. There's your 1st Amendment right there, and much like the 2nd, these are not going to be changed. There are many mentally ill patients in jail and prison, which could also tie into why we have such an increase in violent and insane crimes - the patients are literally running the asylums.


What to do, oh, what to do?

Well, there are some sensible alternatives to draconian measures. Secure your weapon, for one . Nothing makes me personally more outraged than someone who can afford an AR-15, yet not the $200 safe to keep it in. Nothing makes me angrier than to hear that a careless adult left a pistol laying around, where a toddler gets it and shoots someone. This happens almost every week. The main argument against this is 'what if someone's in my house and I have only a split second to grab my gun and fire?' Well, that's one hell of a specific scenario to be worried about, I'd say, and if you have advanced knowledge of an impending home invasion, I'd say have a damn party. And really, if you're living in the kind of neighborhood where you're seriously worried about this, and you have kids, move. Nonviolence and avoidance is 100% more effective than standing your ground. Things can be replaced. Lives cannot.

Or how about a mandatory clean mental bill of health before you fill out a gun application? Oh, but that paperwork! Another Obama plot to know the insides of your brain! Fuck... I need a tin foil hat to keep out the mind probes! Paperwork is the tool of the devil (bureaucracy)! They're databasing us so they can put chips in our heads to track us, so if we rise up and fight for the South again, they can just flip that kill switch and BAM we're all dead! Yeah, sadly, this idea would never pass due to the sheer amount of fucking paranoia already spread by the NRA and Wayne LaPierre. Sigh.

OK then, America, how about 'smart guns', that only fire when you have a Bluetooth enabled watch that identifies you as the sole owner, thereby releasing the safety? Well the creator of these received numerous death threats from NRA blowhards who are 100% convinced that ANY gun-violence mitigation is an assault on their penis size 2nd Amendment rights. Guess technology is out of the question, eh guys?

I guess it's Americans themselves that are the problem...

This is not a problem in any other country but ours. We go to war over around 3,000 deaths on 9/11 and kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Afghans, and Pakistanis in retribution, but we kill over 30,000 of our own each year with guns alone and do the opposite of something, we go full bore reversal of control laws. That doesn't even include all the other stupid shit we do to ourselves, like smoke cigarettes, our alcohol problems, our love of sun-tanning and skin cancer, polluting our water tables, killing the atmosphere with smog and carbon, and wiping out entire ecosystems to pump oil.

We are our own worst enemy, any way you slice it. From violence to bad diets, to our propensity to elect fucking complete idiots to public office, or our lust for juicy scandals, we really don't care about ourselves much, do we? Perhaps that's the actual problem. Americans have a huge lack of empathy for anyone outside their social circle. If it doesn't happen to you, after all, why should you give a shit? Because it can, it will, and it will keep happening until we actually begin to give a shit about each other. You might be one of the very lucky, as I have been, to go through life without a serious tragedy like this happening. But when I see it happen to others, I don't scoff and say "That could never happen to me". I imagine it was me, or someone I know. And that's empathy.

Start by helping the homeless. Treating the disturbed. Giving to charity. Feeding the hungry. Tackling inequality. Improving education. Improving access to medical care. Make housing affordable.

I give a shit about you. Let's start there, ok? I care about your right to live, be happy, be successful, and not be assaulted, shot at, badgered for your beliefs, or discriminated against. That's where we need to begin, but first you need to STOP LISTENING TO PUNDITS, POLITICIANS, AND PIG-FUCKERS FROM THE NRA. Start listening to your damn self, you know what's right and what isn't.

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