Monday, January 21, 2013

Blasting Away 2 (Reloaded)

Blue Tree in Mist - Drane Highway, Osceola Mills, Pa.

Voice of the Mountain

by Shawn K. Inlow

It is fitting this morning that we return on Martin Luther King Day to the issue of gun violence in America.  This convergence fills me with mixed emotions from personal experience.  

Two things:  One is that I had a co-worker when I was a police officer that would proclaim it "James Earl Ray Day" on our station.  This is something you only see on white supremacist websites.  I would like to think this was an isolated form of racism.  But, especially early in my career as a police officer, I used to quietly, miserably, count the racist jokes I heard every year on Dr. King's day.  Over the years the insults grew less - or maybe I quit noticing - so I was hopeful.

The other thing is that our local school district does not honor Dr. King's holiday, per se.  The kids are excused today for a teachers' in-service day that perhaps saves face.  But the kids do get the opening of buck season off.  What we honor in our society and how we honor those things matters to me.  These anecdotes, for me, inform about the culture where I live.  Race and gun violence have long been issues chained together.  Never more apparent than today.  I don't mean to hijack the issue of gun violence with an overt discussion of race.  But, given the day.  Well.  Let's talk.

After the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre, the issue has been thrust on us again in perhaps even a more pitiful way and the issue is at the top of the national debate.  The state of New York has just enacted a number of measures, being close to the latest tragedy.  President Obama, working through a well rounded panel, has presented some recommendations. 

HERE is a quick breakdown of what the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 is about.  Some key provisions:

The act requires background checks in all gun transfers between private parties except immediate family.  It more strictly defines assault weapons and bans them, along with high capacity magazines, and grandfathers in existing weapons which are subject to registration and regular re-certification.  It also tracks ammunition purchases in real time, allowing large volume purchases to be flagged.  The law also requires mental health professionals to report patients they deem likely to cause serious harm to themselves or others.

These are perhaps the toughest and most comprehensive gun laws in the country and they make sense.

THE PRESIDENT'S PROPOSALS to Congress have quite a bit in common with New York's approach including two elements that National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre called for:  providing armed officers in schools and addressing mental health issues.

The Mountain feels it is double talk for the NRA to come out guns blazing against President Obama's recommendations when President Obama seems to have taken the NRA's recommendations seriously.

If you click over to the NRA SITE you find a political ad that feeds into the NRA narrative of us against them.  The "Stand and Fight" campaign nowhere admits that the Obama plan calls for putting $150 million dollars into hiring officers in schools.  The campaign nowhere acknowledges that the President's plan takes seriously a mental health approach to the problem of gun violence.  These are elements that the NRA has called for and that the White House has agreed with to some degree.

But over on the NRA site you get no such signal.  You can sign up to "stand and fight."  You can join the NRA.  And, oh yeah, donate.   The NRA could be helpful here, but they're choosing not to be.  In my view, the organization is supposed to advocate for the second amendment, is supposed to educate and is supposed to promote gun safety.  Instead of being a part of the solution, they're capitalizing on the issue by sowing the seeds of division and anger.

According to Gallup, 92% of Americans favor strengthening background checks.  62% favor a ban on high capacity magazines.  To be fair, Gallup shows more mixed signals on other permutations of the question.  Here's a Reuters poll taken after the Aurora, Colorado, massacre by republican pollster Frank Luntz that shows NRA members and gun owners in general favor strengthening background checks.  I'm sure there are thousands of polls on the subject now to choose from.  My point is that the NRA and its members may slightly disagree on the issue of tougher gun laws.

Look.  You have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms.  But you know what?  People who choose not to own or carry a gun also have a right not to have their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness terminated.  It goes both ways.  There is a middle ground.


  1. Thank you, Shawn, for this well written article that still conveys the spirit of 'middle ground' and hope. At least that how I read it. That we as a society have come to this low point pains me greatly.

    After the events in Sandy Hook, CT I have become rather silent and have disconnected from all (my) media sites. There are times to take a stand, and there are times to sit and reflect upon one's course in life.
    The recent gun debate (which does not resemble a debate) mirrors the state of our union, with our non-skills to reason, to humbly aid one another, to compromise, to make the highest good (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness for all) the main criterion for our decisions. It also demonstrates that we can't solve one issue independently and disconnected from all others. We won't find a compromise on gun control or any other problem while standing on the grounds of ignorance and hatred.

    Lately, it seems that literally everything we touch turns swiftly into a contest. Are we all really that scared that another person/group could have a wiser solution?
    We are on a descent. Free-falling from Grace. As it happened so many times before in the history of mankind.

    I didn't have much to add to your blog, yet I thank you for making this statement.
    These days I feel shame.
    I believe that we all will need to rediscover how we want to take a stand, and then hold our own light bravely, even and especially in the dark.

    1. Well, before you wind up standing on a street corner with a "The End Is Nigh" cardboard cutout draped over your shoulders, you should at least consider the "debate" you see in the media is the one they want you to see to keep you tuned in between commercials. Just because the loudest and most flamboyant people get the most coverage does not mean that the vast majority agree with their viewpoints. Don't get roped into a media firestorm and suppose you're getting accurate information.

      The Pro-Gun-Control people I've seen don't have a realistic grasp on a solution to the problem, and worse don't understand even fundamental facts about the firearms they hate so much, and even less about the culture that embraces them. They want to be seen as victims.

      The Anti-Gun-Control people I've seen can only be described as paranoid and deluded fear-mongers or corporate puppets who have a vested interest in raising eyebrows to create profits, both from gun sales and from ad revenue (Yes, I'm talking about you, Rush). They want to be seen as victims.

      Well, we're not victims. And the country isn't collapsing, and the government isn't going to herd us into concentration camps, and nobody is advocating murder, and we are certainly NOT falling from grace because Piers Morgan and Wayne LaPierre don't see eye to eye. Just because all you can hear are idiots doesn't mean that we're all idiots.


  2. There is middle ground, I'm all for fixing the NICS system, better background checks, better security, etc. However anytime the word "Ban" is introduced into this discussion it no longer becomes about finding middle ground. The Second is quite clear, it was written to guarantee American citizens had arms to fight a tyrannical government, all one needs do is read the writings of the founders. To claim anything else is to be dishonest or uninformed.
    Every time I hear about new gun control measures I think about Japanese Americans herded into camps during WWII and how the US is not above tyranny. With current attitudes concerning folks of middle eastern descent and the political climate in that part of the world it could happen again. I would like to think that it wouldn't but I can't be sure. What I do know is if it started, I want citizens to have the arms available to fight back, to protect their neighbors. Even the presence of those "Evil Black Rifles" helps keep the government in check.

    There are ways to prevent gun violence, and then there is gun control like has been proposed. Remember the key word of "Gun Control" is not "Gun"..... it's "Control"

    1. I almost can't believe I'm about to say this, but... I agree with Wilson...

      Gah, that feels weird typing that.

      That is not to say that I feel we'll be herded into concentration camps or anything, but I agree there are many things that can be done to curb gun violence. But banning assault weapons isn't going to do squat. First of all, there's too many of them out there to begin with, so banning the sale of them will only increase their value and desirability for people who otherwise wouldn't want anything to do with them, but they'll still be available. Secondly, drug dealers (who are overwhelmingly responsible for gun violence in America anyways) don't care if they're allowed to have a MAC-10 or an AK-47 anyways, so a ban only affects people who are legally acquiring them.

      And a 10 round restriction on magazines? Give me a break. My Glock 17 9mm pistol came with two 17 round magazines OUT OF THE BOX, and I have several magazines for it that hold 33 rounds. Your standard Ruger 10-22 magazine is 25 rounds. Criminals and psychopaths don't count ammo! You think that having a 10 round magazine would have stopped Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris? They were making pipe-bombs, for crying out loud! Psychos don't care, they'll work out a way to do as much damage as possible. The 10 round-magazine restriction is a political propaganda piece that imposes authority, provides a false sense of security, feigns a rational response to a tragedy, and does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to curb gun violence.

      "Run, he's got a gun!"

      "Ah, don't worry. He can only get ten of us!"

      Gimmie a break...

    2. Also let us not forget that every time gun control measures are passed in the United States the folks that end up on the receiving end of additional violence are urban, poor minorities. The Aryan Nation would be proud.

      (Historical side note..... up till the National Firearms Act of 1934, every single gun control bill was AIMED at keeping firearms out of the hands of those pesky Blacks, Latinos and Indians. Anyone ever hear of Wounded Knee?)

      I think that will be my new response to folks who argue for additional gun bans. "So you want more gun control? I didn't know you hated brown people?!?"

  3. Thanks, Shawn for a thoughtful and well put together statement. I pray that we can listen to one another, try to understand the other's point of view without fear, so that we can arrive at some sensible solutions. The more we can listen, and understand each other without reacting from a position of fear of loss, the easier it will be to get some sensible solutions to this vexing problem of gun violence.

  4. When Shawn Wilson and Matt Hertlien are in agreement I do fear that "The end is Nigh". That being said, the current craze of knee jerk anti gun legislation will serve little to no purpose without enforcement of our current laws.
    Our ever witty and often misinformed Vice President the other day stated that we don't have the time or resources to prosecute those "who lie on a form" in regards to background checks. More laws are a feelgood measures at best, and if we're not going to enforce the current ones just an onerous waste of time. Case in point, the quickly enacted restrictions placed on LEGAL gun owners by the state of New York. In their haste to do something the NY legislature passed a sweeping law including limiting magazine capacity to 7 rounds. Now, much to their chagrin they realize that they didn't exempt Law Enforcement and are faced with re-crafting the legislation or making every LEO's sidearm illegal.
    Criminals will never concern themselves with gun laws (or any other laws), willy nilly regulations and new laws only serve to limit the freedoms of, and penalize the law abiding public..
    Perhaps it's time that we look at the societal side of the gun violence issue and perhaps start enforcing our existing laws with a little more vigor.

  5. TW

    Good points, especially about New York State inadvertently causing all their cops to be outlaws. True fact. But I will take issue with the existing laws argument. The NRA is consistent in trying to weaken the existing laws and then are fond of saying, "Why don't we enforce the existing laws?"

    The police are only as good as the tools they have and the existing laws are either too weak or too inconsistent and prosecutions for gun violations decreases. It's hard to make your case. For instance, gun rights advocates have successfully neutered the ATF. Who, now, might get their first full-time director in six years. Also, the CDC is not allowed to study (that is IN the law, but it could be changing) and the ATF is not allowed to collect and share the data it sees, making it hard for us - on an organizational level - to "see" where the data leads. It's a blind cop shooting at a moving target.

    In my Jan 2 post, I linked to a very deep, authoritative article on the "Fast & Furious" case that takes a long time to read but is really educational. It rings very true from my perspective in law enforcement. I strongly recommend it because it is a textbook case of how enforcement (especially in the worst place possible to have the problem, Arizona) is next to impossible. It shows you this idiot hammerhead agent who won't play on the team and doesn't follow orders, who pays for a straw purchase of guns and then goes on vacation without entering his material into evidence or interceding the guns which eventually killed a fellow agent. And yet THIS is the same agent who came out publicly on CBS and alleged the scandal he, himself, caused. The scandal about 1 dead agent. Nobody thinks the 47,000 dead across the border is an issue at all.

    This exposed the wickedly weak laws which allow as much straw-purchasing of guns as the guy on food stamps has cartel money to buy and his giving them without a background check to anyone he wants right in the gun store parking lot. I mean, currently, a person on the U.S. Terrorist Watch List is good to go in America for gun purchases.

    The problem, as you say, is the "willy nilly" regulations. The regs need to be standardized and the legislature needs to take the handcuffs off the enforcement agency.



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