Monday, December 17, 2012

Something Little, Something Big About Violence

As individuals, as elected officials, and as a nation, we can start with the most obvious — no sympathy or allowance for any self-absorbed whiner saying having to press a gun's trigger once for each bullet it fires takes away liberty. The right to life and safety far trumps any such lunacy.

Ryan and I shall talk (almost certainly rant) about massacres here, guns and violence tomorrow, Tuesday, December 18th at 2:30 PM on Left Ahead. You can catch that live at this URL or later back there, on Left Ahead, or our iTunes page.

Fast enactment of better gun registration, licensing and of course re-instituting bans on assault weaponry is an essential component, but nothing like a panacea.

Cultural Change

We have done this before, or rather we are still in the process of completing the transformation in such cultural areas as racism.

I'm old enough to have grown up in times and places of legal racism here.

Up here in Boston, we could and did pretend. Because public schools were nominally integrated, because in theory anyone of any race or nationality could legally buy any house or rent any apartment, we liked to say we were not like Alabama or other Deep South states. That was crap.

I heard locals in the 1960s say that Negroes (as the term was then) chose to live with their own kind. That was the reason the city was so obviously segregated in all aspects. Before the infamous busing ruling to compel school integration, neighborhood schools (bad in black ones/good or better in white) were assigned by geography, which was in reality race and for most, destiny.

We are over half way to changing that in and throughout the South.

Sure, it took laws, Presidential action, and other compulsions. What eventually changed though was American attitudes. When two factors squeezed the complacent racism, we started getting better. First, we saw that Congress, the Executive Branch, and even states would not allow overt racism. Second, folk of various races got to know each other, as schools, jobs, housing and all aspects of life opened.

I remember in the late 1970s sitting down in what had been a typical bar in Beaufort, South Carolina...definitely not a fern bar for the emerging Yuppie class. Three rural sorts, all middle-aged white men, were drinking beer. One used the N word in passing to disparage a black man he knew. Both of the other guys scolded him for it. Now that's change that lasts and goes deep.

Climbing UP the slippery slope

This is the simple road map for violence here. It is at once simple and extremely difficult.

An effective ploy of the NRA and other gun absolutists is that any restriction at all of guns or ammo is the end of our Constitutional rights under the Second Amendment. More crap, that.

They have led and pushed the nation down that very slippery slope of inaction and the of reaction to even the most sensible regulation of mass-murder weaponry. We need to crawl up that slope and back to the safe and sensible life we want. We won't come back into the sunlight of reason and compassion quickly but we have to do it.

We can grunt and ignore the mass-murder-gun types when they say this or that law would not have prevented the Sandy Hook murders. They are oblivious to both the necessary tweaks of law and the deeper cultural shift necessary. Let them stick with their literal specifics. Sadly, they are limited to such thinking and Americans must leave them behind as we're doing with racists.

The toughest part won't be the laws and regulations. It will be transcending centuries of pioneer-era, wild west times, and even more modern Rambo mentality. Yes, we have definitely been a gun-centric, violent country. Many of us are self-indulgent fantasizers about weapons. We want to have the power and tools to kill many fellow Americans and in a very short time. We state with apparent sincerity that this is for self-defense, that it is our inherited freedom, and that we are the exceptions to the reckless monsters who kill tens of thousands of Americans with guns every year.

The pretense is that we understand gun safety, we keep our weapons locked and unloaded, we never use or even touch our guns unless we are hunting, target shooting, or protecting our lives from criminals. While stats show a totally different story, these fantasies are widespread in a nation with one gun in circulation for every adult and child.

No you absolutely do not need and should not own an automatic or semiautomatic rifle or handgun. No you absolutely do not need clips or magazines that hold 30 or 100 bullets. The only reason to sell or possess those outside the military and constabulary is to enable mass murder.

Say it, members of Congress. Do you favor mass murder or oppose it?

Pass reasonable laws forbidding assault weapons and magazines. That's a start.

You likely will slink away after that. That's probably the best we can hope from a gormless, gutless group of legislators.

Yet, it's a start, one that worked superbly so far for Australia from 1996 after its most recent gun massacre. Among the industrialized nations, Australia had a similar guns-equal-liberty mentality until those restrictions on the most extreme mass-murder tools. They got better. Yet no one confiscated their hunting, target, and protection rifles, shotguns and pistols. That same would happen here, if only the Prez and Congress do the minimum.

Longer term, we need to aim for a world where macho gun behavior and mentality is not popular or even accepted. When Americans ridicule those who talk cowboy or Rambo about guns, we'll be getting there.

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