Friday, December 14, 2012

Death to...Gun Culture.

It happened again today.  An armed gunman killed multiple people, many of them children.  He walked into a school and started shooting. Children.  He started shooting children with what appears to be a civilian version of a military semi-automatic rifle.

I've written about this before.  I wish I had not.

When the gun-nuts, yes I will use that term, spoke out that more guns were necessary.  They said that if everyone had a firearm, or at least, if more people had them, then the shooter in the movie theater could have been stopped.

In "If only someone else had a gun" I addressed the sheer lunacy of that argument for *more* guns.

In "Violence in the Movies and Gun Nuts" I explored why we, as a society, need to keep entertaining ourselves with violence and why we do so.

Then, in "If you want peace..." we got to consider the people who really, really, really like guns and how they are the impediment to peace in this country.

And it happened again today.

Here is what I will predict will happen next -- besides the next killing I mean.

Outraged people will cry, "Enough!" and demand the banning of firearms in this country.  They are perfectly in their right to make that statement.  I completely understand their outrage.

On the other hand...

People who are gun-nuts, the other end of the spectrum, the ones who really really really like their guns, the ones with the "I love Coffee and Guns" faux Starbucks stickers on their pick-em-up trucks, will become what they mostly already are; afraid.

They will be afraid of losing their guns.

Yes, they will be afraid.  They will cry about their Second Amendment rights. They will re-frame the exact words in that  amendment, ignoring the first few, in their justification for little or no effective controls on the massive distribution of firearms in this country.

Here are the two ways it appears historically:
As passed by the Congress:
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
As ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State:
"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."  

Can you guess which four words they insist on ignoring?

Here are some reported facts that they will also choose to ignore and ignore and ignore.

They are taken from this Washington Post article.

They will do everything to ignore the fact that, since 1982, there have been at least 61 mass murders carried out with firearms across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii. In most of those cases, the killers had obtained their weapons legally  Legally.  That's Legally.

Then there is the fact that "Eleven of the 20 worst mass shootings in the last 50 years took place in the United States."

There are other interesting bits of data in that article that, I'm sure they will ignore, obfuscate, or dismiss with Second Amendment rights hand waving.

And there is something else they will do.  They will shake their heads, talk about personal responsibility, and how the gun laws in Washington D.C. and Chicago prove that effective controls don't work.

They will also parrot that wonderful meme, so often heard, so easy to slide off the tongue, "Guns don't kill people.  People kill people," all the while ignoring that, while a person did the killing, they were holding a readily available gun to do so.

They will argue that a killer can use a knife, a rock, a car or a club, demonstrating their intellectual dishonesty as they ignore the ease at which a firearm dispatches a human life compared to their weak examples.

And it's all to defend their abject insecurity and fear.

Now, some may be insulted by this and try to distract us.  They may cry out, "I'm not afraid! I'm exercising my rights!  You can't regulate my rights!  They are immutable!"

And they will ignore that many other rights and privileges in our society are regulated to one extent or another.

The last magnificent manipulation they will attempt is to ask us not to have this conversation now, to not 'politicize' the deaths of children by wanting to talk about what to do about this.

So, if now is not the time, just when would be good for you?  Would next week be OK?  How about in January.  Would that be a good time to talk about the ease with which someone can slaughter innocent citizens in this country?  Would that be a good time to discuss the Gun Culture (it sure does exist, yes it does) and how to change that?

But basically it comes down to a very vocal and angry/afraid subset of this population that really really really likes their guns.  They really do.  They don't want any regulation on the possession of their guns.  They see this as an infringement of their rights.  They see everything as a slippery slope to losing their guns.

And that makes them afraid. It makes them afraid enough that they forget their much vaunted "personal responsibility."  What do I mean by this?  I mean that, they are so enamored of their guns and so afraid that someone will take them away, so selfish in their desire to be armed, to have these magnificent, loud, destructive toys, that they would rather see children gunned down in schools than agree to any reasonable controls on firearms.

Does this mean I'm joining the ranks of those who, on completely understandable outrage, cry, "Enough!  Ban all firearms!  Enough!"

No, it does not. I don't think it's practical or feasible to do so.

Twenty-seven people died today.  Twenty-seven people.  Of that, at least 18 were *children*.  Children.

The only thing that needs to die is the Gun Culture in this country.

I'm calling out the gun-nuts, the NRA, the gun-lovers, the gun-rights-advocates, to step up and help do something about this problem.

I'm not expecting an answer any time soon.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

If you want peace...

"If you want peace (less violence in our society), work for justice."

Now this isn't a platitude or an attempt to be flippant.  I don't assume to know the solution to gun violence in our country but I'm confident I know the nature of the problem.  It's only thought debate and discussion that we can find effective solutions.

Why so much gun violence in this country?

The reason why weapons are out there is people are afraid.  They are afraid of many things.  It's reasonable, at some time in your life, to fear violence from someone (crazy neighbor that you can't move away from, stalking ex partner, drug addled relative, or just a high crime neighborhood like the Central District).  At those times, it makes sense to be able to protect yourself in the most reasonable way for you possible.

Now, there are plenty of professionals and civilians out there who have a measured, serious, and objective relationship with firearms.  To this person, they are tools.  They are not objects of affection or delight.  They are necessary parts of a larger picture, be that picture serious and necessary hunting for food, actual sport, or the use of weapons to defend someone from imminent threat of grave bodily injury or death (generally in the hands and the responsibility of law enforcement.) These people look at firearms one way; they are to be respected, but not loved.

But the problem is, most of the people who really really like guns, the people who collect, the ones who are strident NRA members have a different kind of fear.  They are afraid someone will take their shiny toys away. They are afraid of being mugged in Bellevue Square Mall.  They are afraid of the Muslims (hell, all brown people).  They are afraid of -- someone, anyone who will take way their security.

And on top of this...

They really, really, really like guns.  They like them in a way that surpasses the normal fetish for anything else.   I've met people who like motorcycles, power tools, bake ware but I have rarely met watch-nuts who loves their watches like some gun-nuts love their guns.  I've been around these people.  I've worked with them, served with them and, for the most part, had to work with them.   Some of them are nice people.  Some of them I trust.  But I have seen some of the most idiotic and disturbing behavior around firearms from the very people that claim to be "responsible gun owners."  Their affection for firearms clouds their judgment way too often and, the problem is, they either don't know it, or ignore you when you point it out.

Like the so called "security professional" who thought it was funny to turn weapons "off safe" in the weapons rack of the security control point (our office) in Iraq.

Or the two "security professionals" who decided to get into a yelling and shoving match, including the chest bumping, while carrying sidearms.

And that's that problem. It's so emotional.  We are up against a group of people that love guns.  They love them in movies.  They love collections of them. They love cowboys. They love violent video games.  And yes, some of them sleep with them under their pillow.  Seriously.  It's a deep deep culture of fear and violence and it's built on good guys vs bad guys, protecting yourself from perceived threats (some not at all real), and a machismo that poisons our society.  Half of them are afraid and insecure and the other half have a inflates sense of self-described Walter Mitty heroism that is undeserving of the true meaning of the word "hero".

Hence my thought of, "If you want peace, work for justice."

It's only when our society is just, where people are truly free, where the income inequity is gone, where the police treat all equally, where justice is equal to all, no matter their station, that we will eliminate fear and violence from our society.  It's only by eliminating the necessity for so many firearms in our country that we can whittle down their numbers to the fetishists and, hopefully, train them to love something else, or simply wait them out and breed them out of our society.

But like I said, the solution is not obvious.  It can be found, though.  The solution to any human created problem can be solved by humans.  But it's only by admitting there is a problem, by looking it square in the face, that we can take the next step.  That step is being willing to discuss and debate the issue openly and honestly.

That is the only path out of the woods and into a society where firearms are irrelevant.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Violence in the Movies and Gun Nuts

In the wake of the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, I'm starting to reconsider how useful it is to support any movie that plays so much on gun violence.  That is: why see them in the first place?

As someone who used to despise what I called the "cowardice of the gun loving culture", where violence was easy and less risky to the person wielding handguns I have to look back at my journey.  In short, I felt that handguns make violence *easy* for the aggressor. They are at much less risk than, say, using a knife, a club, or your bare hands.  True, a handgun can be used to defend yourself from the imminent threat of grave bodily injury or death (grandmother against 200lb rapist).  I have no problem whatsoever in their use to equalize force and for defensive means.  Everyone, no matter who you are, has the right, the responsibility even, to defend themselves from violence.

I never was drawn to violence.  I was a target of it many times in my youth.  I became a skilled martial artist for many reasons, the first one being my own survival.  As my journey continued I became more and more competent at many types of non-firearm weapons.

It was during this time that I disliked guns intensely, though I was quite capable in their use from a layman's perspective.

Then I started thinking about defending others at being, dare I say it, a "professional" at it.  I became a police officer.  That meant I had to carry a firearm.  It was part of my profession.  I thought I'd make a good officer.  Actually, I did make a good officer.  At the same time, the corruption in my department was too much to bear.  I left.

Later, I brought those hard won skills to bear as a private security consultant (mercenary) in Iraq.  My job was to protect others from violence at the hands of insurgents.  If I could keep the bad guys away from the warehouses where all the trip flares, mortars, mines and grenades were stored, I might stop a few IED's from killing people.  I did a good job there too, before returning home.

But all through this journey, learning the way of competence with a firearm, I was never a gun nut.  I inherited my father's collection and, over the years, slowly disposed of it.  In retrospect, I should just have destroyed the things instead of selling them.

So, back to gun violence in our culture and specifically in the movies.

I see trailers for gun violent movies all the time and I've become less and less enamored of them.  Sure, there are movies where guns are part of the story but, here's the rub; they aren't the main character.

I think that I may start avoiding movies where firearms are basically the main characters, or main supporting characters.  I've done that with video games. Why not movies?

I'm not a gun nut and never wanted to be.  They are tools to me -- nothing more; used for specific purposes and situations.  I've never really 'liked' guns and I will confess to not totally understanding those that do.

And I'm OK with that.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

If only someone else had a gun...

This article has been updated on July 23rd, 2012, due to a secondary event that is relevant.

On May 30th, 2012, Ian L. Stawicki, walked into to Cafe Racer about 11 AM. and opened fire with two semi-automatic handguns. Six people died that day, including Stawicki, who turned a gun on himself as police cornered him in West Seattle.  He lived long enough to be transported to the hospital, where he later died.

On Friday, July 20, 2012, James Holmes, dressed in body armor, and carrying multiple weapons, ambushed a crowd in a movie theater.  He killed many -- shot many more. He gave himself up to the police shortly after.

After both tragic incidents, when many are asking, "How could this happen?  How can we make sure it can't happen again?," I hear the different sentiment too.

"What if someone else would have had a gun? They could have stopped the killer."

This article will not address the violence in our society, our cowboy culture, our ongoing affair with the firearm, it's popularity in the movies, gun control, gun banning, or how guns provide us with 2nd amendment solutions when things don't go our way at the voting box.

I'm not wading into the RKBA, the 2nd Amendment, or Gun Control. I'm not going to do it.  That path lies a morass of madness, insecurity, and defensiveness.

I'll address one thing, just one thing. It's something I've heard time and again, on Facebook, in comments to articles in the paper, by talking heads on the so called news programs, ever since these shootings.  I've heard it said different ways but, the meaning is the same.  Whenever any shooting happens, I hear this statement, usually in defense of legal concealed carry.  It's always the same statement.  It's always misplaced.  It's wrong and I'll tell you why.

"If someone with a concealed weapon was there, they could have stopped this man."

I know that it has been said that the media never reports on the incidents where someone uses firearms successfully in self defense (actually they do from time to time).  It's been said we never hear about it.  

What I'm going to address here is the supposed hypothetical heroic actions of an ordinary citizen (even with some training), when faced with a incident where a mad gunman walks into a coffee shop/bar/restaurant/theater/et-al and starts shooting people.

On what is my opinion based?

Lets start with my credentials: I have been a sworn officer of the law, a former member of a combat communications squadron in the United States Air Force, and served in a professional security capacity (mercenary) in Iraq in 2004.  I've been shot near and shot at.  I've heard bullets whizzing by merely feet away -- yes, you can hear them. I have extensive defensive tactics training, always scored in the highest brackets in firearms marksmanship tests, and always performed very very well in simunitions (simulated ammunition that really really hurts when you are shot with it) and mock scene exercises.  I've been the hunter, the hunted, the surpriser and the very so very surprised.  I've "won" and I've "lost". I can tell you, the losses are quite humbling.  I have hundreds of hours of training plus hundreds of hours of exercises and practice.  I used to carry all the time -- I mean all the time. I'm practiced at it.  In short, if I am armed, and facing someone in a battle, I stand a pretty good chance of prevailing.  

Put it another way, one of mindset, one that speaks of intent, "I will prevail."

Now let's address the subject more directly as if a person were talking about themselves with, "If I were there with a concealed weapon, I could have stopped this man."

Yes, I've heard this.  Want to know my answer?  The one I sometimes share with the speaker?

My answer to them would be, "I doubt it."

They always look at me with the most puzzled, sometimes hurt, expression.

Why did I say that? Am I trying to provoke a confrontation?  Am I trying to demonstrate some superiority on my part, or some deficiency in theirs?  Why is that my response? This is why.

It's simple. Unless I'm provided evidence to the contrary, I doubt the person who is making the statement has the training and the experience to engage an armed assailant in a crowded, chaotic, environment.  

Why do I doubt it?  I'll address these three simple points.  So...

You're That Good, are You?

If you have spent any time training, it's shooting at paper targets at the local range.  It's highly unlikely you have participated in any actual combat training. This means training where you are moving, finding cover, acquiring targets, and shooting accurately. Sometimes, during that training you are being shot at, it's dark, maybe an instructor is screaming at you.  Sometimes you have to shoot with your left hand instead of your right.  Shooting paper targets, even those that have nice cartoon characters of thugs holding guns, at a gun range is very different than a live moving person. Let's not even talk about a person who is actually armed and may be returning fire.  That's returning fire at you.  You.  How is your shot grouping now?

You're Always On?

Are you really always on guard?  Really?  You always sit with your back to wall, your face towards the door, and your head on a swivel?  You now where all the exits are.  You have identified concealment and cover because you know the difference between the two.  You never turn your back to anyone, not even for an instant? Because that is how long it takes a determined and planned assailant to draw and fire.  You are always carrying and always in a manner where your firearm is available?  You never carry anything in your gun hand?  Ever? You have actually practiced drawing from your concealed carry method and have engaged targets at a range? By the way, most ranges prohibit this behavior and for good reason.  

You are Ready to Stop an Attack (that usually equals killing someone)?

You are really thought about this?  Really?  You have sat there, and gone through the mental exercises of killing another person.  You've walked through the preparation, the actual act, and the aftermath?  I say this because, if you aren't prepared, you will likely fail in engaging the assailant or, even worse, put others at risk with your firing.  I've seen this happen, first hand, in simunitions training, where recruit police officers failed to engage and were "killed" by our helpful volunteers from the department SWAT team.

I can tell you this is not easy. Should I tell you about the dreams I had where I was in a life and death situation, facing another gun, and my dream brain would not let my gun go off?  I'd pull the trigger in the dram and it would just "click".  Nothing.  It took about a year before it went "BANG" and I saw the effect of me actually pulling the trigger in dream space.

So you have thought about this.  You have thought about killing another human being.  How do you feel about that?  Seriously.  

Let's say all these points are true.  Let's say you are good, you are always on, and you are prepared and you have wrestled with the ethical dilemma of taking a human life.  

You think you are that good, huh?

In 2009, in Parkland, Washington, Maurice Clemmons, a convicted felon, walked into a coffee shop and gunned down four armed and experienced police officers.  Would you even begin to think of an argument where you claim they weren't good, weren't on and prepared?  Would you argue that you, on your way to work, standing at the counter, paying for your coffee, would be better prepared to face someone like Clemmons or  Stawicki?  How about if you were sitting in a dark movie theater with a fist full of popcorn in your gun hand while Holmes, dressed in body armor, starts killing people around you?

So no, I doubt a single armed would be citizen hero would have made much difference in this scenario.  I doubt even two, sitting at a table, sipping coffee, talking about the weather could have responded in any way that mattered when Stawicki walked in and opened fire.  I doubt even a few in that movie theater would have mattered.

Who would be shooting at who, in the darkness or the chaos?

This isn't the movies.  You/they (the so called Good Guy With The Gun) aren't some action hero. 

Does this say that one should'nt try to stop an attacker?  I'm not arguing that one should not.  I'm pointing out that you need to have an honest assessment of yourself and your abilities before opening your mouth on this issue.  Should someone try to stop a killer?  Sure.  I know I'd try my best.  

I don't know where the answer to this problem lies. I hear all kinds of intellectually weak and dishonest arguments on both sides of the fence regarding gun violence in our society.  What I do know is that we have to change the culture of violence in this country, the worship (literally) of the gun, and the ability of dangerous people to access and use weapons against our fellow citizens.

Based on my experience, my training and my examination of the issues, I do know this.  The statement that all we needed was a lone hero, a legally carrying individual added to the equation and all would have been well is not based in any objective reality.  I know that argument is based on many things but I don't see how it is based on any real facts.

"If someone with a concealed weapon was there, they could have stopped this man."

No, you have it all wrong wrong.  The problem is not that there should have been more firearms at Cafe Racer or in Aurora, Colorado.  The problem is that Stawicki and Holmes had them.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

National BBQ Day

I don't know the source of this picture.  It was being passed around a social network site, with the included caption.  I had to look up the information on who this was.  I didn't know James John Regan.  Someone did and it seems that she loved him and misses him very, very much.

I see article after article on site after site about the best things to do on the holiday.  Which events to go to, which parks are open, which shows to see, what sales are happening, and which BBQ sauce is best on your prize ribs.

I hear Budweiser is on sale too, with a special deal on full racks.

So, as you go about your holiday on Monday, or if you don't read this until you get back from your vacation, I ask you not for any real sacrifice.  You see, no sacrifice you can make, no observation, no flag flying (even if you fly it correctly and store it correctly afterward), will approach one fraction of what James John Regan paid and what she pays in this picture.  However, you can do something.

Saying, "thank you for your service," is nice, but it isn't really enough and it isn't what I'm asking you to do.

This is what I'm asking you to do.

As you go about your weekend, in the most powerful country in the world, looking for the best deal on the lastest iPod, picking up that new living room set at Ikea, or cutting that awesome deal on the new car, or even just a full rack of Bud on sale, do one thing.

If you have not lost a friend or family member in these wars I ask you to consider something.  Think about why Sgt. Regan was where he was.  Why did we (you and I, through our proxies in the government) send him to Iraq and Afghanistan?  Think about why his life had to be taken by an IED.  Spend a minute or two thinking of what was going through Mary McHugh's soul as she lay on James' grave at Arlington National Cemetery.  

We go through our busy lives, working, paying our taxes, complaining about our taxes, fighting over politics, raising children, consuming what the corporations tell us to consume.  I wonder what our country would be like if we all considered the questions above.  I wonder if we would be quick to go back to shopping when we hear of another death of an American citizen in a foreign land.  Would we stop and think, "is this enough?  Is this too much?"

Would we?

If not, why not?

Now, where is that BBQ sauce I picked up at the QFC sale on Tuesday?