A day of firearms in America

Yesterday, 24 March 2018, was a day of firearms. Groups of children marched in the “March for our lives,” the latest anti-gun movement. I went to a gun show, and saw families shopping together. My cousin in law in Texas taught his five year old grandson gun safety.

Earlier in the week, the police in Princeton NJ murdered a man at the local Panera, which is now covered with signs blaming everyone except the Princeton Police Department. Apparently the NRA is responsible for the lack of negotiation skills in the upscale sanctuary city.

I do not believe it is correct to say “everyone is passionate about their position on guns.” The anti-gun nuts lose their passion a week or so after each tragedy. They dig the spotlight, but the actual work of overturning the Constitution is of little interest. Personally, I find it difficult to argue with people who are arguing based on emotion, they rarely bother to learn anything about the subject and lack civility. Their self awarded moral superiority tarnishes rapidly under the light of reality.

Remington Model 12 pump action .22 caliber

So while the kids were marching to ban guns, I went to a gun show. I’ve been to many, they are common. The rifles I would like seem to be overpriced, but I did pick up some cases and ammunition. I had a nice conversation with a young man who was choosing a shotgun for his daughter. She’s eleven years old, and very slight of build, but from what her father says she is very good at Trap shooting. It brought back pleasant memories of shooting with my daughter, who was a natural marksman. I spoke with a couple of young men who were selling Remington Model 12 rifles (one I am interested in). This was the first rifle I owned, at about twelve years old, but today they sell for as much as twenty two hundred dollars. We agreed it is a dependable small caliber rifle, but they had no intention of lowering the price, which was about average among the dealers present. I had a couple of conversations with dealers and other customers about the other rifle I was looking for, the Lee-Enfield model 4 in .303 British.

Lee-Enfield model 4 .303 British

It is difficult to find the Enfield with it’s original stock, and it just doesn’t feel right with modern wood. My last one had seen service in Korea, I sold it when money was tight after my second divorce, they go for between six hundred and seventeen hundred dollars now.  I still have cartridges in .303 British, and it is the most battle proven military rifle in existence, having seen service since WWI; the Afghani’s used it to repel the Russians in the 80s. My oldest daughter could put five rounds into the ten ring at one hundred yards with it when she was twelve.

There was a nice couple selling home made soap, they had some molded into the shape of a pistol which they said they sold out of in December, and plenty of other friendly people selling gun related objects.

My cousin’s husband used the day to teach his grandson gun safety. Because that is what responsible gun owners do. Even though his guns are safely locked away, little Noah may come across other firearms as he grows up, and needs to understand how to handle them safely. Intelligent people teach their offspring to respond to potential dangers with knowledge rather than fear. There is always the possibility Noah will grow up to be anti gun (although in this family it is unlikely), but he will always be safe.

Noah learns to handle a rifle

Meanwhile, in this wonderful Democratic Republic, crowds of children were encouraged to march in protest against gun ownership. Even the Pope got involved, maybe because he realized that America is not a theocracy and wanted someone who might be listened to speaking. Fear of guns is not far from fear of the dark. The unknown is scary, and to children, responsibility is scary. Congress, who only weeks earlier were calling on soap manufacturer’s to make their products less appetizing to children, is now being asked to listen to the wisdom of children.

As the logic twists further, the goal of this movement is to tell congress to listen to children because they have not listened to adults. They have listened, just not to people proposing violations of the Constitution they swore to uphold. The path to an amendment modifying the second amendment has not changed in two hundred and thirty years. It has not been approached, rather laws infringing on the right to bear arms have faced challenges in court, and routinely failed. All that has to happen is to pass an amendment and have it ratified by two thirds of the states, then the laws can change. Unfortunately, those wishing to ban guns pass laws which criminals do not (by definition) obey. Changing the Constitution would at least keep guns out of the hands of honest citizens, but that approach has not been tried.

Panera Bread in Princeton

Following the murder of Scott Mielentz by Princeton police, locals protested bread. Had Scott been a member of a minority, the town would have burned, but because he had financial troubles he was cast as an outsider, and the police exonerated by the locals. I have no sympathy for the Princeton police, they have the money and time to be properly trained.

The facts of the event are fairly straight forward. Mielentz was suffering from PTSD, which put him beyond the understanding of a police force that has never been exposed to trauma. He walked into Panera with a handgun, which some reports have referred to as “brandishing a gun.” Everyone in the store left, leaving Mielentz alone. Police blocked the streets for blocks around the store, and schools, some miles away, were placed on “lockdown.” For five hours, the police claim to have “negotiated” with Mielentz, with his only expressed statement that he be left alone. As shift change neared, Mielentz was killed by a single shot through the window, the only shot fired during the event. Mielentz posed no immediate threat, so the circumstances of the incident must be presented to a grand jury composed of 23 civilians for independent review by state law. If there is Justice in the state of New Jersey, the officer responsible will be tried for manslaughter at the very least. But expecting justice in New Jersey is foolish.

The signs outside Panera spoke directly to the children’s march, but I don’t suspect anyone was paying attention. “NRA there is blood on your hands” could have been crafted by my ex-wife, who ranted incessantly on Facebook after the Stone Douglas incident with the same words (with the opportunity  to respond turned off because that’s how you show how passionate you are, making statements that no one can respond to). There are a couple with AR-15s on them, which is most likely the weapon the police used. There is a sign which reads “Guns kill, not save” in which they misspelled “Police” as “Guns.” Lots of calls to end violence following a largely non-violent event. Oddly, there were no signs at the Police department.

America is a wonderful country, with a government restrained from tyranny by a perfect Constitution. I say perfect because built into the Constitution is a format for revising it. We realized people should not be property and enacted the thirteenth amendment. We realized that our former slaves were not equal until they could vote and enacted the fifteenth amendment. Fifty years later we realized that women were equal in rights and enacted the nineteenth amendment. If the populous was truly interested in banning guns, an amendment could be proposed nullifying the second amendment. So far, nothing.

In the meantime, we may react to the “gun problem” in many ways. Some will fight to ban guns, others will fight to protect the right to bear arms. I cannot think of a single instance in which a solution was reached by shouting, so civil discussions would be the best path to pursue, which requires education. Banning guns which do not exist helps no one. Banning guns based on how they look works the same. If gun owners are so stupid, how is it they understand the features of guns and the anti-gun nuts do not?

All of us need to treat our opponents with respect. Of course, if we really respected each other, guns wouldn’t seem nearly as scary, because the people owning them wouldn’t be as scary.

 

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Gun Rights and Wrongs

I am a strong supporter of the second amendment to the United States Constitution.

That does not mean I believe it is every American’s birthright to carry an AR-15 through the shopping mall.

Our right to bear arms has nothing to do with self protection, there are plenty of ways to fend off an armed attacker which do not endanger the lives of innocent bystanders. Our right to bear arms has nothing to do with hunting. Most gun owners would not have a clue about how to kill an animal, or what to do with a dead animal. Our right to bear arms has nothing to do with fending off foreign invaders, unlike Switzerland, although there are lessons to learn from the Swiss. Our right to bear arms is about our founding father’s distrust of government. In case of a tyrannical government the second amendment provides the ultimate “check” in our system of checks and balances. This is why I support the second amendment, and am instinctively distrustful of anyone who speaks about repealing it.

America is a big country, with cities more populated than some nations. A lunatic fringe of three percent would give us more crazy people than the population of Belarus or one hundred ten other countries. Nine and a half million crazy people can do a lot of damage, but they are a fringe, representing no mainstream group. It is no more accurate to judge the entire gun rights movement with the actions of a few crazy people (armed with big scary high powered weapons) than it is to judge scientists by the actions of Al Gore (armed with big scary high powered publicists). In addition to the lunatic fringe, there is the other fifty percent (or more) of the population that lacks the intelligence to understand the issue of gun rights. This group is spread evenly between pro gun rights and anti gun rights groups.

I saw an interview with a woman following a demonstration by the “Open Carry Texas” group. Open Carry Texas members carry long guns, usually “assault rifles,” in public. The woman said “I don’t know if the person with a gun knows how to use it.” I know. They don’t. There is no reason to carry a long gun for self defense. By applying the wrong tool to the task, you are demonstrating that you do not understand the tool and/or the task, so no, you do not know how to use the rifle. You are a danger to others. Using the incorrect interpretation of the “Stand your ground” laws that is prevalent, I would have reasonable fear that you are a danger to my life and would be entitled to use lethal measures to remove you as a threat.

Back to Switzerland. With a population of under eight million and a mandate for gun ownership, they possess 45 guns per 100 people compared with America’s 88 guns per 100 people. In Switzerland firearms training is mandatory. In America the rate of homicide by firearm is 2.97 of every 100,000 people, in Switzerland that rate is 0.77 of every 100,000 people. Now factor in that the rate of homicide by firearm is slightly higher in Switzerland (72%) than in America (60%) and you see the problem is not firearms, it is violence in general. We have forty times their population, and one hundred sixty times their homicides by firearms, while we have fewer homicides by firearms as a percentage of total homicides.

Homicide Rates in Switzerland and United States per 100,000

Homicide Rates in Switzerland and United States per 100,000

We are a violent society. Ending gun violence might cut our homicide rate in half, but I am not sure a murder victim cares how they are murdered.

Perhaps if we were to teach respect for human life, our homicide rate could drop by half without infringing on a basic constitutional right. Perhaps if we were to infringe on that right in ways other than banning weapons, ways that would remove weapons from violent or unstable people, we could reduce our homicide by firearm rate by seventy five percent. If we did both of these things, it would appear we could reduce our overall homicide rate to fall in line with the level of “Civilized” we wish to project.

Contrary to the rhetoric, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is not a good guy with a gun. All it takes is a good guy (or girl). If we would arm our children with confidence and self defense tactics, they would be less likely to be victims of violence, and more likely to be able to end violence.

Or we could just argue about things we cannot change, and keep killing each other.

The big news

There was a shooting at a school in Philadelphia. As I write this first draft, it happened just two hours ago.

It is the only story being covered on the ABC outlet right now, I’ve had the TV on for about twenty minutes and have learned the following important facts;

(1) Two fifteen year old children are in the hospital with gunshot wounds.

(2) The firearm has not been recovered.

(3) Three “suspects” were involved, one is in custody, the others remain at large.

(4) Without a script, dead air is more informative than the news media.

Seven different reporters, five locations, interview with parents, a registered nurse, and the chief of police and the most surprising thing was how many stupid comments were made.

Let’s start with, “We don’t know if the gun went off intentionally or not”. Guns don’t have intentions. Guns don’t just “go off”. It is illegal for people under the age of twenty one to possess a handgun, and illegal for anyone to carry a gun inside a Philadelphia school. So what we know that someone intentionally committed the crime of possessing a handgun, and intentionally committed the crime of bringing that firearm to a school. Anything that happened at the school with that firearm happened intentionally.

From a parent, “What am I concerned about? I’m concerned if my kid was shot, if it’s not my kid, I’m not concerned”. Okay, maybe not stupid. Honest and insensitive most assuredly. Stupid was asking a parent what their concerns are outside a school where a shooting has taken place.

From Police Commissioner  Charles “The pointy end of the bullet goes in first, right?” Ramsey, “Kids aren’t supposed to have guns at school”. I’ve written about Commissioner Ramsey before. His last job was Chief of Police in Washington DC, so he doesn’t really understand much about gun laws. Kids aren’t supposed to have guns at all, Chuck.

From the reporter at the home of the suspect in custody, “We don’t know how he got from the school (at 5201 Old York Road)  to his home in the 2200 block of Bucknell”. My guess? He walked a block to the Logan subway station, took it to Snyder Ave, caught the 79 bus to 24th St, and walked a block home. The bigger question might be how a kid from South Philly came to be enrolled in a school in the Logan section, but the route is obvious to me, and I haven’t lived in Philly for three years (when I did, I lived off Snyder Avenue).

From the Registered Nurse, “Both children were wounded in the arm, and while hospital officials have said they are not life threatening injuries, they could still be life changing injuries”. I just got back from Philly, we were at a concert today, but I was tempted to drive back just so I could strangle this idiot on camera. Yes, it could be good, or it could be bad. Flipping a coin would tell me as much. Life changing? That depends on the victim, but assuming the child is moderately sensitive, yes, their life has been changed.

The important part of the story is that two children, in the gymnasium after school, suddenly found themselves in the hospital, which was fortunately only two blocks away, being treated for gunshot wounds. Secondary to that is whether the shooter and gun are in custody. After that I’d like to know what the weather will be tomorrow. Unless anything else important happened in the fifth largest city in the United States, you can tell me about that. But hours on end covering a one minute story? Seriously?

As the evening progressed we found that one of the “children”, an eighteen (not fifteen) year old  female student, had been wounded in the bicep and released from the hospital three hours after the incident. The other victim, her seventeen (not fifteen) year old boyfriend, had taken the bullet in his shoulder and as of Sunday (the shooting occurred at 1530 on Friday) was still hospitalized.

The shooter was identified as a seventeen year old student and was charged as an adult. He surrendered to Police with his attorney at 1300 Saturday.  His attorney said “I’m saying it’s not intentional and we’re not admitting any fault on his part, he’s a good solid kid and you’ll see he has no prior record. He stays out of trouble and he’s been cooperating with police. Thank you very much”. Because, you know, for a seventeen year old to not have a record just indicates how exemplary a student he is, don’t most people have a record by the time they’re seventeen? I can understand the unintentional part, the illegal handgun loaded itself and chambered a bullet before it crawled into his backpack and then jumped into his hand. Shocked by its sudden appearance, the young man just had enough time to say “what is this?” before the gun released its own safety and pulled it’s own trigger. </sarcasm>

The suspect who had been arrested in South Philadelphia was cleared, he had been misidentified (by the same school security officers who missed a gun entering the school) and had been in another part of the school at the time of the shooting.

The other students who had been sought had been cleared of any involvement.

And now, Monday evening, the plot thickens. Another person is being sought by police. The eighteen year old who sold the shooter the gun. So this “good solid kid” didn’t bring a gun to school, he was buying a gun. From an eighteen year old, at school in the gymnasium. The transaction was apparently caught on tape.

So instead of answers, I have questions. If two kids hadn’t been shot, would anyone have ever followed up on the sale of a handgun between teenagers on school grounds? Maybe the same security officers who identified a fifteen year old who had been in a different part of the building and missed the gun entering the school would put down their doughnuts and suddenly do their jobs?

There is still no information about the gun being recovered. Maybe it was, and the less than competent media has failed to report it, or maybe it’s still floating around, waiting for an opportunity to accidentally shoot a few more people.

Guns are not nearly as dangerous as stupid people. We do not need more gun laws, we need to enforce the ones we already have, and fire the people who fail to do so.