Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Shocked, shocked

No, really. I was shocked today. You see, I cross-posted to Daily Kos yesterday’s thoughts on gun laws in light of the Virginia Tech massacre hoping to inspire discussion about whether it serves the left to make comparisons to the violence in Iraq, or, perhaps, just provoke a general rant-fest on the horrendous record of the Bush Administration when it comes to gun violence.

I got neither—and what I got instead was indeed shocking. While there were a couple of comments voicing general agreement with my position, the bulk of the two-dozen comments (when you remove mine) are attempts to refute (more like rebuke, actually—the comments were nearly devoid of contrary evidence) my rather matter-of-fact assertion that tragedies like Monday’s murders necessitate that America get serious and strengthen its gun laws.

I didn’t post this on Free Republic or Red State, mind you—this was Daily Kos! I would have assumed that most self-identified progressives take a dim view of those that hide behind the Second Amendment. I would have assumed that saying we need an assault weapons ban, mandatory waiting periods and background checks, and/or legal liability for those that manufacture or sell killing machines would have been a mojo-filled slam dunk.

Boy, was I wrong. Instead, I got hysterical “you want to confiscate our guns!” talk, and that old chestnut (in so many words) “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” I think I count nine different community members that argue that the proliferation of guns in America has nothing to do with gun violence! “It’s a violent culture,” “Killing people is already against the law,” “Criminals will always be able to get guns”—that’s what I get from the community that Republicans call the crazy left wing fringe of the Democratic party.

What I didn’t get was anybody to specifically address my question, which I tried to pose in several different forms. Basically, why does any private citizen need an AK-47 knock-off, or a Saturday night special, or a clip that holds 25 rounds? Why would anyone
have ever thought to guarantee a right to bear these kinds of arms?

Instead, my detractors wildly misread statistics, blame society, and feel somehow vindicated by the revelation that the angry, unstable, misanthropic loner that killed 32 in Blacksburg had purchased his Glock nine and his twenty-two legally.

How does that make it better? That a man-boy as disturbed and impulsive as this guy can just walk into a Roanoke gun shop and purchase a serious people-killer like a Glock (and people-killing is all a Glock is good for) makes it even more obvious that America’s gun laws are too darn lax!

I do not believe that the VaTech shooter would have moved hell and high water to get an illegal gun if a legal one was not made available to him; this guy was apparently too shy to speak—to anyone! And I really don’t think he would have been able to mount as awesome a rock-throwing spree or have been able to stab thirty-odd people to death.

Honestly, I find the “logic” of my critics to be insane!

Sure, I will be the first to admit that our culture has some big problems when it comes to the exaltation of violence and violent solutions to conflict (they say that a fish rots from the head, after all). And, I will go further and say that it might be possible to actually prevent many crimes of passion if this country would commit to fully funding a program of community mental health centers and an inclusive, comprehensive national health insurance program that provides for psychiatric care and counseling. But neither examining our culture nor providing access to mental health care will result in fast fixes.

Tightening gun laws—requiring registration, training, and periodic recertification, mandating longer waiting periods for the purchase of guns and ammunition, capping the number of guns that may be purchased at any given time and over the course of a year, and banning outright the manufacture and possession of assault-style weapons, Saturday night specials, and extended clips—will have a much more palpable and much more immediate effect. I feel certain of this.

It is hard to commit gun violence without a gun.

PS I am heartened by an early morning post to Daily Kos’ front page—not by Meteor Blades’ frightening support for carrying concealed weapons, but by the results of the poll he has attached to his commentary. Though not really scientific, the “sense of the community” is that almost none own a gun, and better than half say that they never have and never will.

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