Tyranny of the minority – geez it’s embarrassing

Yesterday in on of the most ridiculous Senate votes, the US Senate rejected background checks for gun sales by a vote of 54-46 — no, 54 Senators did not vote against the bill only 46 did. Let that sink in — because Harry Reid, Democratic Majority leader did not push to get rid of the ridiculous “super majority” required to do anything in the US Senate (which, he could have done) a MINORITY of US Senators rejected the most mild form of gun control legislation possible — a background check — despite around 90% of the American public supporting it.

When was the last time 90% of Americans agreed on anything in the first place? And in the second place, democracy is supposed to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority, but also supposed to protect everyone from the tyranny of the minority. Yet, the American Congress fails in both respects. How does this happen? Well, a solid campaign of misinformation from gun control opponents using one of several logical fallacies to support their fear campaign. You’d think that Senators would be ‘above’ campaigns of misinformation, but it feeds the GOP objectives of being obstructionist, even to the detriment of the American public. It’s not like this is the first time they’ve placed politics above people. We need only look at how many peoples’ jobs, program funding, and the most vulnerable have been/would be negatively affected by silliness of the fiscal cliff political wranglings as a recent example, but the list is long of how the GOP/Tea Party obstruction approach to governance has hurt Americans in the last four years.

The disinformation campaign worked though — the poorly informed in the US (i.e., a sad majority on both sides) really thought that the background check was more restricting on gun rights than it actually was. So, from the blindly GOP we see little gems like this popping up today throughout social media. SecondAmendmentBSFlag I hate to tell you all, but law abiding citizens were never at risk of losing much with this particular piece of legislation.  We already have background checks that have been in place since 1993 with the passage of the Brady Bill. It denies the privilege of owning a gun to the following people:

  • People convicted of a felony with a sentence of 1 or more years in prison
  • People convicted of a misdemeanor with a sentence of 2 or more years in prison
  • Being indicted by a crime that would carry a sentence of 1 or more years.
  • Being a fugitive from justice
  • A user of illegal drugs or ‘known’ addict
  • Being involuntarily committed to a mental institution
  • Being an illegal alien
  • Being dishonorably discharged from the military
  • Renouncing your US citizenship
  • Being subject to a restraining order for threatening a family member
  • Being convicted of domestic violence

Here’s the problem with the Brady Bill — it doesn’t cover guns sold over the Internet (because in 1993 the Internet didn’t exist as it does today… hell, we were using DOS-based email) nor does it cover gun shows. So, if you go from the most conservative estimates of 15-20% or use the figures from a 1997 white paper pointing to a figure of closer to 40% of all gun sales are not subject to background checks.

We probably shouldn’t get so hung up on the specific percentages, so let’s break the information down another way.  The ATF estimates that in 2005 (as the ‘sample’ year) it was estimated that were around 5000 gun shows in the United States with varying amounts of gun sales… but at big shows moving likely 1000 guns in a weekend. If I whip out my calculator here, that makes 5 MILLION guns (give or take a million or two) moved in the United States that require no background check at all!

Let’s also offer a couple of quick responses to slippery slope fallacy that background checks will lead to a national registry and some kind of Orwellian control over guns (yes, you people sound just that silly). Response 1: we’ve had a damn gun registry since 1993 and we haven’t seen the emergence of a national registry. That 20 years of data seems to suggest you’re just wrong. Response 2: and by far the better response… had the background check bill actually been passed, it would have literally outlawed the emergence of any kind of a gun registry and anyone attempting to start one would have faced a 15 year jail sentence for it.

Alright — all of that was for the ill-informed knee jerks who thought their world would have ended. For supporters of any kind of gun control legislation — you also don’t help when you’re misinformed either. IF the opposition gets to debate whether a national registry is a good or bad idea, then guess what we’ve already lost the conversation because we’re spending time and energy offering good arguments to a point that’s utterly irrelevant. Of course we have registries in this country associated with things like our driver’s license and change of address forms. Hell — we just passed tax day and if you filed your taxes, the government has a registry of where you live and how much money you have. Not only that, but we have background checks in an increasing number of our jobs, to get a house/apartment, credit card, or any number of things. But those don’t help to refute a well-crafted and disciplined misinformation campaign. We can’t have 50 arguments all over the place.

So, let’s come back to the point — it’s embarrassing to be an American sometimes — like days when our world education and health care figures come out pointing that the United States is falling behind developing nations. It’s embarrassing to be an American when our elections are corrupted by corporatism under the guise of the freedom of speech. It’s embarrassing to be an American when I’m trying to explain Fox News and their viewers to anyone outside of the United States. And it’s embarrassing when an old guy on the train asked where I was from and I responded and in broken English and German he jokes, “oh yeah, George W. Bush — thanks for that”. But, it’s not just embarrassing but fundamentally soul wrenching when the most basic and watered down effort at sensible gun control at a national level is defeated by a minority vote even though it’s so benign that 90% of Americans agree with it AND some people actually think it was a “win” for freedom.

<face in palm>

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An open letter to rabid 2nd Amendment defenders…

Dear Rabid American Gun Owners:

I know a lot of people in the US are worked up about any limitation on what they consider to be an absolute right to gun ownership. In particular, Colorado’s new laws on gun ownership have been sending the social media world (since I’m not in the US, I don’t watch hours of US news to see it repeated everywhere else too)  into a rabid hyperbolic frenzy.

Two thoughts for you.

#1 No right is absolute.

Even something as relatively innocuous (compared to guns) as the freedom of speech is trumped by three other values — national security, justice, and safety. That means no one gets to provoke violence with their speech acts (see clear and present danger and “fighting words” doctrines), no one gets to libel or slander another person, obscenity is not allowed, and no one gets to put others at risk because of their speech acts.

It seems to me those three values would also reasonably trump an absolute right to gun ownership — even more so because inciting someone to violence doesn’t actually kill quite as efficiently and quickly as pulling a trigger. So, it seems that legislation like Colorado’s limiting the number of bullets your gun magazine/clip can hold, requiring background checks for EVERYONE trying to purchase a gun (antique and family gifts excluded), making the gun owner pay for the cost of the background check, and banning guns on college campuses are reasonable steps (by the way, most universities already have limitations on guns in dorms and on campus anyhow… this just makes it standardized) to try and manage who gets legal access to weapons…  You know, kind of like the 7-day waiting period was reasonable to limit “in the heat of the moment” gun violence that you all have gotten used to. These do not stop a law abiding citizen from owning a gun, they do try to balance the aforementioned values with the right to own a gun.

However, in watching conversations about these laws, I haven’t yet seen a rational argument opposing the laws (other than the constitutional question addressed below). Instead, I’ve seen threats of violence offered, infantile and hyperbolic Hitler references (nothing like the red herring logical fallacy), ad hominem attacks against advocates of gun legislation, and slippery slope arguments… So we can summarize the response as either language that incites violence OR logical fallacies. Seriously? I would have thought that you all would be able to form an actual logically valid and well-supported argument by now.

#2 — If you think the new laws aren’t constitutional … put your money where your mouth is

What do I mean by this? Well… pony up, join the NRA (if you aren’t already a member), and push the NRA to file suit against these laws on the basis that the new laws aren’t constitutional. That’s how we do things in the US — laws are tested against the document you all like to quote. Right now, you all have about the best possible Supreme Court  (a Conservative stacked Court) that you could have to test what you consider to be the most valid argument against gun control legislation… that it’s a violation of your 2nd Amendment rights. It’s as simple as that — let’s have the folks who are paid to interpret the constitution do their job on what, apparently, you think is the single biggest threat to our country right now.

Oh yeah… and one last thing…

Your country isn’t teetering on the edge of a dictatorship. Just because your guys lost the election twice and you don’t like the guy in office… it doesn’t mean the country coming to an end. So chill the hell out!

The NRA — hurting the argument for gun rights in the US one news conference at a time.

And yet, are we surprised?

The NRA had an opportunity to be reasonable, focus on ‘responsible’ gun ownership, and address possible solutions to people getting their hands on guns who shouldn’t. And they didn’t. As an organization, the NRA just hurt ‘gun rights’ in one news conference because it’s pushing people further apart on the issue instead of looking for viable solutions.

Well done Wayne LaPierre — douche of the day!

I finally have a ‘for the children’ argument that works… PEOPLE with GUNS kill PEOPLE

In the last 48 hours, I’ve watched the gun control vs. wild west arguments in the media but mostly in social media and I’ve got to say that I think most people defending the American approach to gun ownership have lost their freaking minds. Let me summarize their positions… we have the ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’, ‘arm the teachers’ (eek), ‘but kids in China have been injured and some killed by random knifings’, ‘we’ll lose our freedom’, ‘guns = safety’ (LMAO on that one), and a whole slew of Karl Rove’esque approaches to argumentation that take verifiable information and twist it on its head using piss poor logic to try to distort the conversation (most of these people aren’t as good at doing it as Rove and I do wish they’d just stop). But I think my favorite appeal has to be the, ‘but vulnerable people (read women and kids in most of the comments) need access to guns to protect themselves or to be protected’. Are you kidding me?  For real?

It’s funny — I’ve traveled literally all over the US and bits of Europe by myself. I’ve walked in downtown areas of many major cities by myself after dark and sometimes even late at night. From the ages of 21 – 31’ish I lived by myself most of the time. I’ve walked my dogs in urban public spaces by myself both early in the morning and late at night (i.e., the two times of the day that women are most susceptible to personal attack… and my dogs are under 20 lbs, it’s not like they’re attack puppies). I’ve seen dodgy things, even had fairly dodgy encounters, but I can honestly say that I’ve never once thought to myself, ‘damn, if only I had a gun, I’d be more secure.’

Oh, and it’s not because I don’t know how to shoot. I grew up with guns, passed gun safety courses, and used to be a bit of an “Annie Oakley” type — give me a handgun, rifle, shotgun, and even a bow and I could hit my target from about any position (except sitting down… couldn’t ever really shoot that well that way). So, why have I never wished for a gun to keep myself safe? Not because I have some foolish sense of invulnerability, but because I’m situationally aware and believe that violence begets violence. I’m also pretty confident that with adrenaline, I make a pretty good accounting for myself in a risky situation.

But you know the thing that makes all of those things in the US MUCH more risky? The fact that the dodgy assholes could have guns. Here’s a scary number for you — in ALL of the industrialized world, 80% of the gun deaths are in the US. The fact that handguns are so readily accessible. The fact that in, 2009, for example that approaching 70% of all homicides in the US were committed with a gun. The fact that there are roughly 300,000 crimes committed with the aid of guns in the US each year. The fact that in just 4 years (2006-2010) almost 50,000 people were murdered in the US with guns... that’s the equivalent of wiping out my hometown or the undergraduate population of the University of Texas all in just 4 years.

So, would I trade our situation for the strange knife attacks in China or dogs, or any of the other weird ass excuses used by gun sympathizers in the last 48 hours to try to justify that some people are violent assholes, regardless of the weapons available to them? You’re damned skippy I would, especially for the CDC’s stated 500 accidental gun-related deaths of children in the US each and every year.

Oh yeah — and should I mention the fact that the CDC also has found that the good ole USA has a murder rate of children that’s 5x that of 25 other industrialized countries COMBINED. With relation to guns, it’s shocking…. American children, under 15 are 15x more likely to die of gun-related causes than kids in the other 25 industrialized countries COMBINED, gun-related homicides are 16x more likely than the other countries combined, firearms suicide rates are 11x higher, and unintentional gun deaths are 9x higher. And while we are a violent country (our child homicide rate for non gun-related murders is still 4x higher than the other industrialized countries), the difference even between the gun murder/death rates and non-gun death rates is pretty shocking.

So, I’m pretty confident when I say that if we take guns away, Americans living in the US may be able to send their kids in public without worrying they’re going to come home in a body bag. I’m not going to worry about nutsos with knives or packs of feral dogs quite yet… I think we have a much bigger fish to fry. PEOPLE WITH GUNS KILL PEOPLE — both on purpose and by accident. We fool ourselves into thinking that we’re ‘safer’ because we can also buy guns to protect ourselves. We should not aspire to live in freaking Deadwood (i.e., a metaphor for the old west for those who didn’t get it). We should aspire to live in a society that is more safe and secure. There is no if, and’s, or buts — guns kill. Reducing firearm ownership/ access empirically leads to less violent societies.

That’s it. That’s why there should be no real discussion on this. This isn’t lying with statistics or trying to make weird comparisons to a string of strange knife attacks against children in a repressive society. This is the cold and simple reality — it’s empirical, it’s not emotional. We need to think rationally and the only rational response is to reduce firearms, better regulate them, and maybe trade in our useless war on drugs for a much more productive assault against assholes having guns. I understand that for the last decade Americans have become anti-intellectual — that reasoning and logic have become foreign to us as a people, but it’s time to stop watching the shadow people dancing on the walls, walk out into the sunlight, and think rationally.

Now, can we pull our heads out and stop having stupid discussions about all of this? It’s really exhausting. I get stuck listening to ‘for the children’ arguments about shit that’s stupid or just doesn’t matter all of the time. How about we actually talk about the safety of our children and do something for them now?  Because, statistically speaking, each day we wait is probably going to cost at least one more kid their life.

Aren’t we all tired of being sad for mass shootings?

For the second time this week, Americans are dealing with yet another mass public shooting. This time, more than 20 are dead — most of them kids. I have a very simple argument — everything Americans and American policy is doing on this issue is being proven to be fundamentally wrong over and over and over.

Look — as sad as the shooting in Connecticut is, and it is devastating, aren’t we all tired of being sad for mass shootings? At some point, perhaps those who make arguments about the necessity of the second amendment, the need for a ‘strong militia’, the horrors of a society that would limit (or eliminate) guns, how freedom requires guns, that in a society that limits/ bans guns only ‘criminals’ get them, and my personal favorite ‘guns don’t kill people, people do’ will have to concede that this shit is just unacceptable.

Clearly everything that Americans/ policy do right now just doesn’t work. As a society the US has violence problems and as a society the US fails to take appropriate legal precautions because of the same old crap arguments listed above. So, Americans and the rest of the world will have to watch the violence time and time again until we decide what’s more important — a safe society or a gun-toting society because clearly the two aren’t working together.And, sorry, but on this one I’m tired of having the conversation and being reasonable and open to other opinions. Until someone can propose a solution with proven effectiveness (with adequate and diverse expert sourcing), I’m just not interested.