Americans and their right to kill each other


OK, so yet another school massacre has occurred. And what I’m wondering is, what idiot out there still thinks that American citizens should have the right to bear arms?

We allow the NRA to terrorize our country. You would think that the frequency of these occurrences would kind of wake people up to the fact that no one has a right to carry weapons manufactured to kill people. You would think that maybe people would wake up to the fact that the US is the biggest arms trader in the world. You would think that maybe people would wake up to the fact that people ain’t using these guns to kill deer. You would think that maybe the fear, despair, and homegrown terrorism we’ve generated right here on American soil would be enough. Enough to feel sickened enough to do something about it.

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Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

8 thoughts on “Americans and their right to kill each other”

  1. Dear Bubbler,
    While reading some of your other posts (which I enjoyed quite a bit) I came to your posts on guns. I’m afraid it’s unlikely that I could change your position on this topic, nor you mine, but I feel compelled to reply. Myself, I’m very very much for an individual’s right to bear arms. For me, a firearm isn’t for killing people. It’s a tool primarily for defending my life and that of my loved ones. I’m afraid there’s a minority that will always misuse the tools available to a responsible, law-abiding society – be it a car, alcohol, a match, a knife, a baseball bat, box cutter, or computer. A firearm is only as bad, or as good, as the person holding it. I don’t think the death of someone is any more tragic because it was perpetrated with a firearm. Murder’s against our moral and legal laws. No matter what method is used to carry it out (knife, bat, gun, etc…) the result’s the same. It doesn’t make sense to me to focus on the method – except that it makes good headlines. I’d like to see our society focus on and correct why a person would want to kill someone in the first place.
    http://www.a-human-right.com/

    Best wishes,
    Brad

  2. First of all, thanks for commenting Brad, and I want to first establish that any and all debate that we might have on this issue is purely one of goodwill, and I can always respect another position, even if I will appear to take up arms against it (pun intended).
    I see a few cracks in your position, which I feel morally obligated, as a good citizen, to point out:
    You state that a firearm isn’t for killing people, and yet you then immediately follow that by stating that you see it primarily as a tool to maim and/or kill those would kill YOU.
    Therefore, a gun is for killing, or severely maiming. Period. Let’s be clear. Whether it is a “tool” used by good guys, or a “weapon” wielded by bad guys. That’s what it’s for.
    You have also acknowledged that there’s always people out there who will “misuse” a gun in order to deliberately inflict evil upon the law-abiding world. You also note that such a bad person using a gun has the same intent as any evil-doer using a knife, a bat, or nunchuks. However, let’s also be clear about another thing: you can’t kill a lot of people at one time with such limited weapons—unless you’re Bruce Lee. With a gun, any pimply-faced teenager whose daddy has a collection can lay waste to a number of lives, as has been quite clearly shown, such as in the horrific example which led to this original post.
    Therefore, there is a lot of sense in focusing on the method, when it results, over and over again, in senseless and needless massacres.
    Again, let me go back to your argument that there will always be bad people out there who will do bad things. This very acknowledgment contradicts your strong belief that an individual has a right to bear arms, doesn’t it? Unless, of course, you specifically condone bad people carrying around weapons designed for the purpose of killing other people.

    Beyond your defense against guns, however, I do agree with the essence of your argument, which is that we can’t baby-proof the entire world from evil shit-heads who want to hurt other human beings, and that we should be looking at “why a person would want to kill someone in the first place.” I agree most definitely that this question takes precedence over idealogical squabbles over guns. However, I think that in the meantime, before we can get to the root of such a question, we also have to look at reality pragmatically, and recognize that we have a big problem with guns: it’s simply too easy for the wrong people to end up with them, and we can’t just trust people to make the right decisions with such powerful killing “tools”, not when so many innocent lives are put in jeopardy by just one rogue bastard.

  3. Thank you Bubbler – I appreciate your courteous reply and I also debate in goodwill.

    You bring up some very good points about my initial post. I’d like to start with a clarification…
    “For me, a firearm isn’t for killing people. It’s a tool primarily for defending my life and that of my loved ones.”

    I think I started out overly defensive. The piece of crap that went in to the school and started shooting people had the intent of killing people. My primary intent in owning, and at times legally carrying, a firearm is to defend myself. I would only draw the gun as a final option – ideally I won’t have to pull the trigger. I understand that secondary to this it may mean killing someone. I hope you don’t consider it splitting hairs, but for me there is a huge difference in the intent. One of the most basic of human rights is self-defense. The second to the last thing I ever want to do is kill someone. The last thing I want to do is end up the victim to some thug that has no respect for human life.

    While I understand your point that a firearm’s main function as a tool is for killing, I don’t agree that’s the only function. Thinking about it, the firearms that are most often used for killing are in the hands of governments and not private citizens. In the civilian world the overwhelming majority of firearms are not used at all. When they are used it’s likely for casual target practice – as with any other good hobby when you’re doing it there’s little room for anything else to be on your mind. Beyond that there are informal leagues and competitions ( google ‘bullseye pistol’ or ‘ shotgun trap’ or ‘shotgun skeet’). For those that are truly competitive there are the Olympics and national events like Camp Perry.

    Some firearms are used for hunting, but I agree that would still fall under the function of killing – though the intent is not for killing humans. As a side note I don’t hunt, but I think it’s fine as long as the animal that’s hunted is used as food. I don’t want to branch into another discussion, but I think that an animal that is hunted has most likely lived a better life and died more humanely than animals that are raised on some corporate ‘farm’.

    There is a very small minority of people out there whose intent is to inflict evil upon the law-abiding world. At times it’s possible for them to use simpler means to kill more people than a gun would. Let’s say using box-cutters to hi-jack some planes and crash them into a building or two or three. Or using machetes to kill and maim thousands of people as in Rwanda. Thankfully it’s not (yet) an issue in the states but suicide bombers have the potential to take as many or more lives.

    Besides the small minority with the evil intent there exists a slightly larger percentage of those that are just negligent at times. In the interest of saving innocent lives would you support putting a governor on all vehicles so that they couldn’t travel over 55 miles per hour? I’m willing to bet more teens are killed in speed related accidents than in school shootings. How about bringing back the prohibition on alcohol? Certainly there are a fair number of teens out there that abuse alcohol and then get behind the wheel of a car and cause fatal accidents. If it saved just one life wouldn’t it be worth it

    Here’s what I strongly believe: 99% of the people that make up our society are good people. That’s why on the whole our society works. Freedom can be a scary thing at times, but I trust the majority to make the right decisions. There are people out there that have no business owning a firearm – i.e. convicted felons, drug users, individuals with histories of violence or mental health problems. While there will always be bad people out there I don’t believe in penalizing the majority for the acts of the 1%.

    The deaths that have occurred in our schools are partially to blame on the failed policy of gun control. If there had been a professor or student present with a concealed firearm there’s the possibility they could have killed or contained the worthless looser. There was a time when Israeli schools were targeted by terrorists. Rather than put stickers on the doors informing bad guys that the schools were no gun-zones the Israelis began a program of armed citizen guards.
    Below are three scenarios in the U.S. that played out differently.

    – – – – – – –
    Later, at New Life Church, a gunman wearing a trench coat and carrying a high-powered rifle opened fire in the parking lot and later walked into the church as a service was letting out. Jeanne Assam, a church member who volunteers as a security guard, shot Murray, who was found with a rifle and two handguns, police said.
    – – – – – – –
    Kenneth K. Hammond, who was at the mall for an early Valentine’s Day dinner with his wife, said he first thought the sound of gunfire was construction noise but drew his gun and told his wife to call 911 when he realized what was happening.
    – – – – – – –
    Appalachian School of Law
    Upon hearing the shooting, and with the actions of one unknown to the other, Tracy Bridges and Mikael Gross each ran to their nearby vehicles to retrieve a weapon to stop Odighizuwa. Gross, now armed with a 9mm pistol, and Bridges, similarly equipped with a .357 revolver converged upon Odighizuwa and demanded that he throw down his weapon. When he did so and was approached by Gross, Odighizuwa threw one or two punches before being subdued by a third student, Ted Besen.

  4. Thanks for your thoughtful response, Ben. I will try to give a just as thoughtful reply:

    Your perspective on guns is based, fundamentally, on one main concept—that of guns as self defense. This is an interesting idea, because it brings some other questions to mind, such as: at what point does “self-defense” turn into a volatile offense? For example, someone carries around a gun in case of a random act of terrorism at their local Quick-E-Mart. But what about when they get in a fight with someone after they’ve been drinking, and after taking some punches to the face and groin, they shoot them down? Isn’t that self-defense?

    The fact is, “self-defense” is not such a clear concept as one would make it seem. If someone is attempting to rape and murder your wife and kids, yes, of course, you should shoot down the bastard. What about when it’s only your personal property that is in jeopardy? Someone is trying to steal your wife’s purse. Does that entitle you to shoot them? Some would argue yes. But what about when the situation isn’t quite so cookie cutter clear? What about when you are simply blinded by anger?

    OK, hunting, target shooting, etc. Guns can be fun for the whole family. But does one keep a loaded gun sitting on the coffee table? No, you hide it from junior, cuz he might hurt himself. And you put the safety on. Because guns are not just fun—they are dangerous. It takes the necessary education and training to wield a gun.

    You made a point about traffic and alcohol, and whether we should install governors or prohibit alcohol. No, we shouldn’t, no more then we should make all guns illegal. (But we should have MUCH stricter tests to obtain a driver’s license.) However in regards to weapons, let’s take the example of the box cutters on the plane. After that tragic occurrence, as travelers on planes, we have had to forfeit some of our personal freedom in order to be safer. We are now much more thoroughly screened, and not allowed to even take on our own damn water. It’s annoying. But we put up with it, because it’s for the greater good, and we know it.

    As you noted, the misuse of guns might be proportionally small in terms of the populace, but when you compare the statistics of firearm abuse in the US to other modern nations, it’s rather alarming. The fact is that while in an ideal world we could all carry around guns and things would be hunky dory, in reality many people simply cannot be trusted with a highly lethal weapon.

    I have nothing against hunting, nor using a firearm in a recreational manner. What I am opposed to is the ease with which anyone who wants to can obtain one. I think that what is apparent from the level of firearm use in crime here in the US is that we need to give up some of our personal liberty in regards to guns for the greater good.

    In my personal opinion, for your personal safety, and for the safety of your family, a gun is not the best option. In fact, it only brings a new element of danger into the household, because children getting into their daddy’s gun collection and shooting themselves or each other is nothing new. Yes, those incidents could be argued as rare, but that does not diminish the danger that bringing your gun home represents.

    There are ways of defending against those who would harm you or your family without resorting to enhanced machineries of destruction. When it comes to the psychotic individuals wielding arms in public schools or malls, I don’t see how arming US against THEM is bettering the chances of my survival. Because when does THEM turn into US? These “psychotic individuals” are people’s KIDS. They shouldn’t have access to shotguns. They shouldn’t have access to pistols. Nor should most people.

    The only people I trust with guns are hunters. Hunters who kill and eat the meat, not just for “sport.” In my opinion, these are the ONLY people who should be able to acquire guns. And not pistols. Just hunting guns. I’ve never understood people who claim they own a pistol for “hunting.”

    This is an interesting debate, and I’m glad you made me think more about it. There are still a lot of points to delve further into, as I’m sure you’ll have a lot to respond to from your perspective on what I’ve just outlined.

    I used to take karate in order to learn self-defense. At a certain point, I realized that if someone really wants to shoot me, then they will. The most that I can do is simply live my life in a manner that avoids placing myself into situations where I am in danger. That entails being self-aware at all times, and aware of my surroundings. If someone wants to threaten my life, there are usually signs before such an event occurs. If someone is going to steal my wallet, there’s usually a group of 2 or three, and I tell, if I’m paying attention, when there’s someone approaching me from behind while another approaches from in front. There are ways to circumvent this situation. Similarly, if I’m in a bar, and someone is getting drunk and wanting to fight with me, I can head off this negative energy coming my way before it erupts in physical harm. In other words, there are methods of self-defense that are purely mental, even spiritual, in character. And how one chooses to live one’s life is all a part of that. Because as we both can agree, the problem is rooted in humanity.

  5. Bubbler,
    In reply to your question of when self-defense turns into a volatile offense I can only comment on my training and the laws in Ohio, but I think it’s safe to assume that the rest of the states will have similar laws in place.

    Use of a firearm is only permitted to protect from death or serious injury (breaking of arm or leg bones, or rape for example). It is against the law to use deadly force to protect property, so there is no justification to shooting someone for stealing your wife’s purse or a music cd from your car. Getting punched in the face and groin does not justify deadly force. I myself don’t drink alcohol, but if you are drinking it’s against the law to be in possession of a firearm. It’s also against the law to carry a firearm in an establishment that serves alcohol (in Ohio anyways).

    (As a side note, I think one of the major problems with our society today is that some people are not able to differentiate between insult and injury. In the extreme are radicals that would kill you for drawing a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad. The more mundane is the student who feels the only recourse to bullying is to lash out by killing their classmates. )

    You mention the possibility of being blinded by anger, but knowing that you’re going to jail if you fire the gun is pretty sobering. From my training and talks with a couple of attorneys I’ve come to accept that I’ll be under arrest and sent to jail even in the event of justifiably using my gun in self-defense (this is less likely if you’re defending yourself in your home). While I’m not crazy about the idea of going to jail I feel confident the stay will be short-lived once the facts of the incident come out. And in comparison to being dead, a couple of hours or days in jail seems like a bargain. Firing the gun without the justification of protecting yourself from death or serious injury and now you’re talking about years in prison.

    When Ohio was debating whether to allow concealed carry I remember people against it saying that it would turn into the Wild West and the streets would run red with blood. These same people made predictions that shootouts would occur over minor traffic incidents. It just hasn’t happened and people have been very responsible about it. This has been the same case with the other states that allow concealed carry. Wikipedia has a good article on concealed carry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concealed_carry) and states there are currently 39 states with “shall issue” laws.

    While I don’t have children I do feel a moral obligation to secure the firearms I have. To this end I have a pretty heavy safe to store them in. Anyone that considers owning a gun needs to factor in the cost of safely storing it. And I agree with you totally that handling a firearm requires the necessary education and training. To obtain a concealed carry license in Ohio it’s necessary to take a twelve-hour class that includes topics such as firearm operation & safety, the laws governing the use of deadly force and 2 hours of range time where basic proficiency must be demonstrated.

    You mention giving up personal freedom in the interest of the greater good, but I’m wary of this for a couple of different reasons. First, I think it’s a slippery slope. I have little trust that government would stop making laws that would continue to infringe on personal freedoms. It would be the result of some people trying to baby proof the world. And I think it’s catering to the lowest common denominator.

    In the example of traveling on a plane you’re in a pretty controlled environment. Everyone goes through a metal detector. Everyone has their luggage screened. The world outside of this controlled environment is a different matter. To effectively implement a ban on handguns you’d be looking at a police state. There are a fair number of drugs that are classified as illegal and yet our enforcement efforts and decades long ‘war on drugs’ has not able to prevent their trade and use. I have no reason to believe a handgun ban would be any more effective.

    Outside of a very controlled environment I don’t believe in forfeiting my personal freedoms beyond their current limitations. How does disarming me make me safer from psychotic individuals? If I abdicate my right to self-defense who do I hold responsible for it? The police? If there were any possibility of that happening they’d be preventing the crimes before they happen in the first place. The police are reactive the greater majority of the time. Sure, they’ll be there to take the report after I’m stabbed. And they’ll do their best to find the person that did it as they can fit it into their current and future workload. But the fact of the matter is that they’re under no legal obligation to protect me. In the several instances where this has been taken to court it has been found that the police are a service to the community and are not legally liable for the well being of the individual.

    I do agree with you that if someone truly means you harm you’re at a big disadvantage. And I also agree that a person’s primary strategy for confronting violence should be awareness of surroundings and avoidance when possible. However, if it were always that easy we wouldn’t hear about these tragedies. I (obviously) believe that having a handgun greatly increases my chances of survival. To disarm me puts me totally at the mercy of the psychotic – leaving me with the choice of throwing something at the crazy or crawling into a fetal position and hoping that they get tired of harming people.

  6. Alright, so, I’ve had a shift in perspective on guns, in certain respects. Part of this has been prompted by the reasonable and thoughtful terms of debate on your side, as well as by some random occurrences in my own life.

    Several nights ago I was perusing the web and came across a video of a lecture (by a dude who needs some more practice in public speaking) on 5 dangerous things that we should let our kids do. The guy’s point was that we are extremely overprotective of our children, to the point that kids are being shielded from potentially empowering and pivotal developmental experiences. I think he’s got a good point, which can further be applied to our entire nation, adults as well as children. While the attempt to render the world safer is laudable, at a certain point, we must be allowed to take responsibility for our own choices and actions, and to learn from them. At what point this transition of responsibility occurs, of course, is entirely up to debate. But he brings up one interesting correlation, which is that of Inuit children who learn to wield sharp knives in order to eat from the time of their infancy. Most parents would never let their children within arm’s reach of anything so dangerous as a knife—however, at some point a child must learn how to utilize and respect activities and objects that both empower and endanger.

    I thought of how Inuit children learn quite early on how to deal with sharp knives, and I correlated this immediately with my observations on the chaotic free-for-all traffic in South America. Even despite the nearly non-existence of enforced traffic laws, the traffic is remarkably seamless, for the reason that people learn how to adapt to the higher speeds and danger. Also, children—and even dogs—learn from a young age to deal with the extreme and everpresent danger of cars which will not stop for pedestrians and drive erratically. This is not to say that this situation is ideal by any means. It is rather to note that people can adapt to danger much more flexibly than we often give ourselves credit for.

    Further linking to this idea is your observant linkage between the ineffective ‘War on Drugs’ and gun law. I have already detailed my thoughts on the inefficacy of rendering drugs illegal, and so it was not such a gigantic step for me to make between drugs to extending the same legalistic outlook on guns. Guns are legal, though subject to stringent laws, as they should be.

    So thus, I refute my passionate and hasty pronouncement made in the original post above, in which I asked “what idiot out there still thinks that American citizens should have the right to bear arms?” I am now that idiot.

    I do not refute my perspective on the inefficacy of guns for the sole purpose of self-defense. However, I do recognize that guns, however dangerous and contributive to atrocity, are representative of the whole of technological advancement: increasing our inherent range and empowerment, but also increasing our ability to inflict harm. Such is the delicate balance that all steps in evolution draw into flux.

    Humanity must learn how to respect and live alongside of its dangerous advancements, just as the Inuit child learned to wield a knife to eat her fish. If we can not learn to rightfully wield and respect our tools of power, then that is the pathology of our species. But how else are we to learn other than by figuratively playing with fire, burning ourselves in the process, and finally, taking responsibility for ourselves both individually and as a society?

  7. As an addendum to that last comment, I want to note that I still consider the proliferation of black-market guns amongst American criminals and youth to be an issue that needs to strongly be addressed. Illegal guns are simply much too easy to come by. Any ideas on addressing this issue, or alternative approaches?

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