Let’s NOT Have a Conversation

Freedom is a slippery thing.

In recent memory we, as a country, were asked to give some of it up in order to secure a greater good. Our rights to privacy were lessened so that government agencies, we were told, could more quickly and accurately detect terrorist activities. This was in the aftermath of 9/11. I have no way of knowing if the sacrifice was worth it, besides the obvious fact that we haven’t had another attack. Many of us weren’t happy about it—I know I wasn’t.

But my happiness was immaterial. A decision was made that a sacrifice was needed, because the situation called for some sort of action. Things couldn’t go on the way they were any more, after such a dreadful tragedy. It was the price of doing the business of protecting the country. I was there in New York on 9/11. I walked out of 5 World Trade fifteen minutes before hell broke loose. I’m a pacifist, but I wanted an eye for an eye. Our anger was real, as was our resolve that what happened that day should never happen again. How that anger and resolve was misused in the following years is a topic for another day.

There is only one topic today. It’s those children and the brave adults who protected them. It’s beyond words I have the ability to provide. I do not wish to diminish the grief we all feel by talking about guns. But guns need to be part of the discussion.

In the immediate aftermath of the Newtown shootings, gun advocates and gun control advocates jumped to their positions. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” “People kill people WITH guns.” Plenty of well-meaning folks suggested that this wasn’t the time to talk about the issue. Others suggested we needed to “have a conversation” as a nation at some unnamed time in the future. Still others said we should be talking about mental health, not guns.

I respectfully disagree. Now is the time to talk about it. We don’t need a future “conversation”. The issue is complex, and mental health is a part of it, but not the only part.

Here’s what I need to know from my American brothers and sisters who resist gun control: what price freedom? Is your right to own an assault weapon worth a life? Would you be willing to sacrifice it for a greater good? If your answer is “no” I’m guessing that you believe there is no connection between the availability of these weapons and the rash of mass killings we have been experiencing in this country. Our mental health system isn’t working. If someone really wants to kill, they will find a way. If you take away the guns, only the criminals will end up with them.

Nearly none of the perpetrators of these mass killings came out of our mental health system. There were signs of trouble, yes, but few of them were medicated or institutionalized. The idea that these were obviously crazy people who could have been stopped if only a psychiatrist had signed them in for treatment is a myth. These are sad, desperate young men who live on the outskirts of inclusion. We need to be able to identify them before they snap, and mental health professionals can help improve that in the future. But blaming the mental health system for their actions is a smokescreen.

If I really want to get to the Stewart’s in my town, there are various ways to do so. I could walk. I could ride a bike. I could call a taxi. But I’m not going to do any of those. I’m going to drive my car, because it’s the EASIEST way for me to get where I need to go. If someone really wants to kill, they will find a way. Agreed. And if someone wants to kill the most amount of people in the least amount of time, they are going to use an automatic weapon. That’s why our troops use assault rifles and not bows and arrows. In the recent shooting, 26 lives were ended in about two and a half minutes.

But if we make laws banning automatic weapons, next you’ll come after my other guns.

Ah. There’s the rub. You want your gun. You feel safer with it. Maybe you hunt. Maybe you just think it’s incredibly cool. Either way it’s your constitutional right and you’re not gonna give it up until they pry that gun from your cold, dead hand. You want to protect that right, so you adopt certain beliefs: that this is a fundamentally dangerous country, that there are gun toting criminals we need to protect ourselves against. That if they have the guns, we need to as well. That a few renegade lunatics are no reason to start banning guns. That it’s not the guns’ fault. And maybe you believe every one of those things are true.

But so is this. The price of the right to own a gun is in lives. That’s the cost of doing business. The price of “freedom”. Lives. Access to firearms makes it easier to kill. I find it hard to understand arguments against this statement as anything more than simple denial. Automatic weapons are made to kill quickly and efficiently. So are rifles and handguns. And they do. It is their raison d’être.

Are we willing to continue to pay that cost? Or will we change?  What price freedom?

  1. Guns (and various other diabolical weapons) have been used to murder a million civilians in Iraq. The money to pay for all of these weapons is also obtained at gunpoint. Anybody who refuses to fund these illegal wars is harassed and eventually hired thugs dressed in matching blue costumes and armed with tasers, clubs and guns are sent to kidnap you and lock you inside a cage. Attempting to defend your property or your person from this assault will result in violence – including getting shot. The same is true if you try to escape the cage in order to return to your family and your job. You will likely be shot.

    And all this just for refusing to fund an illegal war……

    This is despite the fact that the publicly visible instigators of the mass murder campaign known as ‘the Iraq war’ (Blair and Bush) have already been convicted of war crimes under the Geneva Convention. (You might think we’d be allowed to not fund it as a result).

    Yet there has been little outrage in the media for these horrific murders and maimings and no talk of ‘gun control’ with respect to limiting the ability of the genocidal psychopaths in government to arm themselves using everybody else’s stolen money.

    Of course, in reality our taxes do not really pay for these weapons and these wars though. If we were ever charged for these acts of genocide in the moment (literally with a weekly bill landing on our doorstep or an immediate increase in taxation) no one would pay. There would be a revolution within a day.

    Instead these wars are paid for by the government taking out more loans and printing more money. Future governments then recover these debts (plus interest) over time by taxing future generations.

    And so it is that the mass murder of children in the middle east is paid for by the future earnings of other children the same ages living thousands of miles away. This is how governments prefer to do things. They steal from children – literally across time and space itself – in order to pay for the murder of other children. If this makes you feel sick in the stomach, at least you know you are still a human being with a critical mind and a heart. It SHOULD make us vomit, not wave flags and ‘vote’.

    For these acts of mass murder to happen the dead children and grieving parents (or the dead parents and grieving children) must also never be shown on TV. The murder committed by governments must become abstract in the minds of the population…. and one of the best ways to achieve this is to make the murder committed by civilians to become hyper real and in your face every day.

    Ex US secretary of state Madeleine Albright is on record saying the murder of 500,000 children under the age of five was an acceptable price to pay to achieve US political policies. She didn’t flinch. She didn’t burst out crying. As far as we know she was not being bullied and wasn’t addicted to violent computer games at the time. In terms of dead child body count 500,000 dead children is about 18,518 times more evil than the recent shooting.

    My mac’s dictionary defines ‘terrorism’ as: the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.

    That definition would include just about every government policy ever imposed onto society (at home and abroad).

    In reality, there is no such thing as an abstract dead child. All dead children were once real children.

    There is also no such thing as ‘foreign policy’, or ‘politics’ or ‘governments’. There are only PEOPLE interacting in the world. Some of us peacefully and some of us using violence.

    “The voices in my head told me that it was OK to murder these children”

    “My political advisors told me it was OK to murder these children”

    There is no difference, in the end. Neither are valid justifications for murder.

    Every day evil is defined for us by the media. Stabbings, shootings, carjackings, robberies. But every day evil is also being excused by the media. Often evil is portrayed as being good by the media.

    Sticking to the harsh facts might be regarded as an over-simplistic approach by some, but it’s certainly something we might bear in mind.

    If Obama suggests disarming American citizens we can at least bear in mind that he routinely orders drone strikes on Pakistan which have a 98% civilian death rate. That is to say 98% of the people killed will be civilians, presumably many of those are children. Obama can’t not know this. There are no abstract dead children, only real dead children.

    Finally, we can look at history. Hitler was quick to disarm the German population. And very few in Germany could see what was coming. They were too busy being pumped full of hate and fear in equal measure. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned in there somewhere?

    • Chuck Kelso
    • December 17th, 2012

    Well written and thoughtful, as usual. But, of course, I can’t completely agree…. First, a matter of semantics: automatic weapons are completely illegal in the US. What this shooter (and others) used were were semi automatic. Automatic means pull the trigger once, and continuous fire. Semi means the trigger has to be fired for each shot. Not a big deal, I know, as they are both much faster than a musket. The thing is, these weapons have been around for about 80 years (especially semi auto hand guns). These psycho mass shooters are a fairly recent development, however. The question is, “Why?” The answer seems to be we are breeding these sociopaths in our society, for what ever reason…. lack of religion, lack of morals being taught, sensationalist 24 hour “journalism”, violent entertainment,…. the list is long, and a combination of all of these factors is likely. I don’t know the answer. And while we can ban assault weapons (or all guns, for that matter), there is nothing we can do about the MILLIONS that are already out there. And, making guns illegal will only effect those who actually abide by the law. I know it is cliche’, but it seems logical as well: “If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns”. It is extremely difficult to own a hand gun in NYC or Washington DC, legally. But how many deaths by hand gun occur in these places every day? The problem may have something to do with the availability of guns (which is pretty impossible to solve, for the foreseeable future), but the bigger issue seems to be our society and what we create.

    • Keith Mueller
    • December 19th, 2012

    My heart broke like yours did when I heard of the shooting. It happened very near the church my wife and I attend in Connecticut. We waited several anxious days to finally learn that none of the children killed were from our church, but it hit very close to home for us.

    But the solution is not further infringement on our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, further aiding those who desire to completely disarm and control all Americans — and they are unscrupulous enough to use this tragedy to do so while playing on our sympathies. Remember: the primary purpose our founders included the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights was not to protect us from foreign invaders, but to protect us from our own government. They were all astute students of history, and so they knew that a disarmed people is a helpless people. That has been true in the past and remains just as true in the present — today over a billion unarmed Chinese people are at the mercy of their government because the government has all the guns. The problem is not guns. The many shootings in our country are symptomatic of a much greater and fundamental moral problem, which all the anti-gun laws can not and will not solve.

    When I was in grammar school and high school in the late 50s and throughout the 60s (I graduated in 1970), school shootings never crossed our minds — such a thing was incomprehensible. During those decades we started every school day with Bible reading and the Pledge of Allegiance. Could such a little thing have a dramatic effect on student behavior? I have no doubt it did. But our foolish representatives have outlawed those practices — in direct violation of our First Amendment rights — and now they will attempt to further outlaw our Second Amendment rights. More tragedies will happen, and more laws will be passed and enforced until all Americans are completely disarmed and as helpless as the Chinese.

    As tragic as the murder of 27 people is, it is nothing compared to the millions of brave Americans who will die when they try to resist disarmament. You think that’s extreme? Remember: Hitler, Stalin, and Mao executed tens of millions of their own people to acquire and maintain their power — many of whom had initially hailed them as great deliverers, only to find they were great tyrants. But it was too late, for all three of those leaders of those three nations understood that one of the crucial steps toward unchallengeable power and controlling the people was disarming the people. History is full of many other examples of such tyrants; those three are only the most glaring. And please note: I’m not talking about some barbaric age of the distant past; the regimes of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao all happened in the “enlightened” 20th Century — the latter two in my lifetime and that of the Baby Boomers.

    Often quoted, the words of philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist George Santayana (who died in 1952, the year I was born) merits inclusion here: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

    What’s the price of freedom? Eternal vigilance — coupled with knowledge and wisdom — and a lot of hard work.

    Here’s some additional thoughts by Morgan Freeman on what happened in Newtown:

    “You want to know why? This may sound cynical, but here’s why.

    It’s because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine? Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.

    CNN’s article says that if the body count “holds up”, this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer’s identity? None that I’ve seen yet. Because they don’t sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

    You can help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news.”

    And one final thought from a Pete Seeger song: “Oh, newspapermen meet such interesting people. They wallow in corruption, crime, and gore.”

    Keith Mueller

  2. I have not responded to any of the above purposely. I laid out my opinion, and you are free to lay out yours. I would only correct the Morgan Freeman quote by saying it was proved to be a hoax.

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