Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Tag: Murder

Mutually Assured Paranoia

MAP

“My factories may make an end of war sooner than your congresses. The day when two army corps can annihilate each other in one second, all civilized nations, it is to be hoped, will recoil from war and discharge their troops.” Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite, 1909

“The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.” Omar Bradley, U.S. Army General, 1948

John von Neumann, whose genius as a mathematician and scientist earned him a spot on the Manhattan Project, later used game theory to develop the Cold War’s Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine. Deployed in the United States by “Whiz Kid” Robert McNamara, its theory goes something like this:

With the use of nuclear armed ICBM submarines, a unilateral nuclear strike by either the United States of the Soviet Union would be met with a second strike on the aggressor, thus ensuring the destruction of both.

In a classic case of reductio ad absurdum, this folly was perfectly demonstrated in the 1964 film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. And while the ridiculous nature of this doctrine passed for foreign policy, we did not destroy the earth. Whether this is a case of post hoc, ergo propter hoc or whether MAD should be credited for carrying us through our nuclear infancy is a matter for others to debate. Either way, we can all agree that the acronym is befitting the doctrine.

Apply this now to the NRA’s dream of a fully armed America as a means of ultimate protection. Every man, woman and child carrying an AR-15 with them at all times with a pistol in their sock, you know, just in case. Reductio ad absurdum? Or America: 2013? Unlike the quote from Gautama Buddha, who said, “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared,” it seems to me that the ubiquitous availability of firearms would lead to casualties beyond imagination due to the deadly combination of man’s incendiary temper and the impossible retrieval of a bullet once fired. If this be so, then mankind is neither mature enough nor evolved enough to have firearms. If we were, we wouldn’t need them. Because we’re not, we shouldn’t be allowed them. Anything less casts us as troglodytes, monsters and condemned to live a life in mutually assured paranoia.

As McNamara later said, “One cannot fashion a credible deterrent out of an incredible action.”

Year One

blog

I started this blog one year ago tomorrow. Not that I expected anybody to read it, but as a way for me to pour burning liquid emotion onto my keyboard in hopes of having it coalesce on the screen into something resembling understanding, logic or rationality in order for me to carry on. All too often, I have failed.

My first post was simply a reposting of a blog entry made by Jessica Redfield who had escaped a mass shooting at the Eaton Center in Toronto. She had posted it on June 5th. One year ago tonight, she was one of twelve murdered and 58 wounded at the Century movie theater in Aurora, Colorado during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. Here, frozen forever, is her last Twitter post:

JessicaRedfield Twitter

Having been cast to live in Texas as a result of the world-class medical facilities at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and seeing them as the best chance we had to fight my wife’s rare and aggressive breast cancer, I had become increasingly angry at the cavalier attitude Texans have with their guns. The “Come and Take It” crowd, most of them displaying Zimmerman-like bravado (when armed with a firearm), hiding anatomic shortcomings (if shoe size is a true indicator and not some urban legend) and compensating by driving the tallest, most ridiculous looking monster-trucks legal to drive on public roads.  The shooting in Aurora drove me to write. It was a cathartic exercise.

Mixed with equal parts sarcasm, anger, depression and pomposity, I put down in words my boiling rage. A few comments popped up, although in the vast universe of the internet I have no idea how these people tripped over my little blog. And so it went. Until December 14th.

I was sitting at the hospital while my wife was being restaged when the first news reports began to flash about a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut. A shooting at an elementary school will be very traumatic for the children, I thought, assuming that the victim(s) would be adults involved in a deadly dispute of some kind. Slowly the details emerged. Children were among the victims and their numbers kept climbing. Like most of the world, I read the reports in disbelief, hoping for a clarification from the news outlets of a terrible mistake. Instead, the numbers continued to climb. More children were injured; more children were among the dead.  Like many other dates that are seared into our collective consciousness, I will never forget where I was when I heard the news. My wife and I made the hour drive home from the hospital that evening, although I cannot remember actually steering the car. That night, I shook.

The next day I told my wife that I needed to do something, anything to try to change the world in which I had sentenced my children to live. I was ashamed for my previous inaction and tacit acceptance of gun violence; I was ashamed for the country. The rest of the world looked upon America as a land populated by blood-thirsty renegades armed better than Dirty Harry with a fuse shorter than a Bruce Willis’s hair. Surely, after this mind-skewing, paradigm shift, Washington would act responsibly? Americans would demand it! Politicians would push and shove their way to the front of the line to co-sign responsible gun legislation! Unaware of any grassroots organizations and devoid of any previous political activism, I reached out to the one group I knew with a history of fighting the gun lobby, the Brady Campaign.

“I haven’t had a representative in the Houston area for three years,” said the head of the Texas Brady chapter. Roll that around in your head for a second. Houston is the country’s fourth largest city with a population of over 2 million people and the Brady Campaign has no local chapter? Hell, Connecticut has three!

And yet, in spite of my newly embraced activism, it all still seemed a little remote. I could still only partially allow myself to invite in the nightmare of what it would have been like if it had been my children. Emotionally, as a parent, as a human, it was a door I was only willing to open a crack, lest the devastating emotion behind it drown me. That all changed on a conference call.

The head of the Texas chapter of the Brady Campaign invited me to participate in a call with hundreds of other members and a guest speaker. It was scheduled for Monday, January 7th at 5:00. Because I was still at work, I stayed late and joined the call already in progress. There was a woman speaking with intimate knowledge of the shooting in Aurora. I listened intently, but removed and muted. However, as I listened, I began to piece together who the speaker was. At the moment my mind made the connection, she spoke the words that will forever haunt me. It was Jessica Redfield’s mother, and she was describing, in vivid detail, the events of that night and how, where and why her daughter had been murdered. I could no longer prevent that nightmarish door from opening. Jessica Redfield’s mother was telling me how that door had been ripped from its hinges and cast into space. Suddenly, it was all very real. I had come full circle. What I had started in July as an angry blog by simply cutting and pasting an entry from a theater shooting victim had brought me to listening to the mother of that same victim on a January night. Surreal. Emotional. Devastating. Goose bumps. Real.

I assumed I would write a few articles and make a few calls on behalf of the Brady Campaign. However, soon, word spread and I was being asked to speak at local area democratic clubs. Then I was asked to debate a state representative on a local PBS television program. (The Tea Party twit backed out at the last minute!) Immediately, armed with logic, a rational ethos and compassion, my inner Toby Ziegler/Josh Lyman/Josiah Bartlet took over. I carried photos of the Sandy Hook victims in my wallet. My speech ballooned to 45 minutes. I was able to scan the crowd, in front of whom I was soon to speak, and pick out the planted RWNJ’s itching to ask me to define an assault weapon. It became my personal goal to piss off at least one person in the crowd at each speech, although living in Texas, that was not a lofty challenge. Panel discussions followed and more speeches.

But soon, I found that while the name “Brady Campaign” got me in the door to speak, they did little else locally. I believe the Brady Campaign in Washington continues to do wonderful things standing up to the vitriol of the NRA and battling in state legislatures across the country. However, I needed to belong to something at the local level. What I found was my gender shutting me out of the most amazing group of people I had met in this fight.

It seemed that whenever I was asked to speak, so too was a rotating posse of equally exorcised and like-minded members of the Houston chapter of the newly formed Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, or just Moms Demand Action. These women were phenomenal. Educated, passionate and ready to go toe-to-toe with any gun rights wing nut, this group of similarly accidental activists bolstered my spirits and strengthened my resolve. Fuck not with a mama bear protecting her cubs, lest you unleash her limitless wrath. Enrage 100,000 of them and I pity the NRA. In short, they were the grassroots organization I longed for. I longed to be an “honorary Mom.”

We saw each other everywhere. From speech to speech, there they were. They were on-stage at a rally on the steps of the state capitol in Austin where I managed to get into a verbal confrontation with a RWNJ who tried to crash the proceedings (with his young grandson in tow). They were at a protest outside the Houston-hosted, annual paranoia jamboree (officially known as the NRA Annual Conference) where, again, I got to piss off a different RWNJ. It was there that I saw Neil Heslin, father of Jesse Lewis. Jesse was just one of the 20 children murdered at Sandy Hook. I stood ten feet from Mr. Heslin and wanted to speak to him, but my brain could conceive of no combination of words that could pacify him or rally him. What could I say that didn’t sound shallow, condescending or meaningless?  His eyes conveyed a pain, a hollowness that seemed to match the emptiness he must have felt inside, an ember and ash hole where his heart had once lived, a void which Jesse once filled.  I also saw Erica Lafferty, daughter of Dawn Hocksprung, principal of Sandy Hook and one of the first killed on that still inconceivable day. Ms. Lafferty had the same look of pain, but also a sense of fury behind her eyes that I wanted to bottle. And the Moms were there at a press conference with United States Representative Sheila Jackson Lee outside the Rothko Chapel commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and beseeching the Senate not to filibuster the Manchin-Toomey amendment. This was a cause with character (and characters). I was not alone in this. There were now faces and voices with which I could bond.

And so, it has been one year since Aurora and 217 days since Newtown. The challenges that lie before us are still all there. Washington is still lethargic and paralyzed. The Texas legislature has passed 14 laws weakening gun laws. Countless assault rifles have been sold to those paranoid “patriots” convinced that the president will come knocking on their door to confiscate their guns. And the American public, with their fruit fly length memory and fickle attention span have moved on to other more current atrocities, shifting their outrage to a new target, resigned to the fact that their demand for gun control legislation (within the confines of our instant gratification society) was not fulfilled.

 Brady Fact Sheet

It has been one year since Aurora. One year, but for me, this is only Year One. We haven’t done enough. But we are not alone and we are not dissuaded. In a country awash in guns, there will be another mass shooting. Americans will again display their transient outrage and, maybe, Washington will listen. It is a long road through an unfair and uneven process, but change will come. We will be here fighting for those who cannot. And when change does come, ask yourself, “What did I do?” Let this be your Year One.

Jesus Shrugged

Jesus Shrugged

Six months ago today a young man with a history of mental illness, knowing his mother owned a legally obtained arsenal, shot and killed her, took these weapons designed to obliterate human flesh and proceeded to an elementary school where he shot his way in, murdered six dedicated educators and blew the faces off of 20 terrified six year old children with between 3 and 11 bullets each.

The fact that words could ever be arranged in this order, in one run-on sentence, capable of painting a scene of horror beyond Hollywood’s imagination (or sense of propriety) should have shocked us. Neither Edgar Allan Poe nor Stephen King could (nor would) conjure up a story with this plot, so sick is the premise. And yet, this sentence describes America in the 21st century. Worse yet is the reaction we had. We did nothing. “Pray,” our politicians told us. Any other solution is a knee-jerk reaction, anti-American, unpatriotic and unconstitutional. We allowed the seeds to be planted years ago by the NRA (and others) which today have blossomed into the paralysis we see in Washington, the evisceration of existing law and the flooding of America with firepower and an absence of responsibility.

While neither Hank Reardon, Dagney Taggert, Jim Taggert nor any other characters in Ayn Rand’s myopic, self-centered, Gold-is-the-new-God, dystopian, It’s-all-about-Me, fantasy have children, the rest of society seeks a balance between personal and societal advancement. Personal responsibility, the overriding theme of Atlas Shrugged, is rewarded in personal wealth. This shallow, simplistic idea only works in the abstract world of fiction. In reality, we are all part of an ant colony whose success or failure depends not only on our own participation and success, but on the participation and success of the other ants.

And in spite of this, the Tea Party (the new Republican party of Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio) seeks to add Atlas Shrugged as the new, New Testament. The King Ted version of the Bible. Jesus Shrugged. God, guns and screw everybody else. I’ve got mine, you get yours. You’re on your own. Come and take it. Molon Labe.

181 days have passed since the (still incomprehensible) horror took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Spineless Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, afraid for their NRA rating (and the cash that accompanies it) and catering to the dullest, most simplistic but vociferous, absolutist, “patriotic” constituents, snubbed every attempt to clutch rationality from the jaws of paranoia and closeted racism, lied about imaginary gun registries, drove up gun sales with inflammatory rhetoric, ignored tear-stained relatives, friends or victims of gun violence declared “victory” for the Second Amendment and chuckled as “King Obama” lost. It is if any battle is worth political annihilation of the republic as long as this president loses, topic (or victims) be damned. How very patriotic.

Gun ownership in this country is down to less than one-third of households and yet gun sales continue to climb. If fewer people own guns, but guns continue to sell, it can only be surmised that the same people are buying more guns, which begs the question, how many guns can one shoot at once? It seems to me that the NRA needs to team up with doctors to develop an accelerated evolutionary path for these “patriots” so they can grow additional index fingers with which to pull triggers. Anything less is unconstitutional and against their God-given right as guaranteed under the Second Amendment and conferred upon them in the new, new testament.

America’s best days are ahead of it, but only if we stop trying to live in the past.

Six months with no action. Shame on Congress, shame on us.

Two Videos, a Picture and a Question

Simple post today. Just two videos for you to view and think about and one picture for you to think about and answer.

Here is the first video:

How Many More Rounds?

If that didn’t move you, you have no pulse.

Here is the second:

Deja Vu

Now a question. How many more presidents, Republican or Democrat, will have to reorder those words and give the same speech with the same emotion and sincerity before we demand Congress does something? Before we demand that the “gun culture” in America is a failure that does not provide security to its citizens and that we embrace legislation similar to other industrialized nations who neither suffer our gun caused carnage nor understand our acceptance of it in the name of some bastardized definition of freedom? How long?

Now a picture for you to consider:

NRA Terrorist Organization

Discuss, debate, ruminate and then ACT. Now.

David and Goliath

David and Goliath

Say what you want about the NRA (and I’ve said a lot), but their strength is in their organization. They are big and bad because they are organized. With a historically Pavlovian and rabid clutch that froths at the mouth and considers victory to be anything President Obama loses, they are armed to the teeth, stand ready to denigrate any opposing position and contribute readily to the NRA coffers. Meet Goliath.

The other side consists of a patchwork of dedicated and passionate activists from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence to Moms Demand Action to Americans for Responsible Solutions to Preventing Newtown and including a myriad of locally organized groups focusing on federal, state and local issues relating to gun violence. Meet David.

The chasm that exists between these sides cannot be bridged by debate. One side deems compromise as a “slippery slope” toward an infringement of “God given” rights (as if the Constitution and its amendments were somehow belched from a burning bush onto stone tablets) while the other continually feels the need to genuflect to an unalterable second amendment while ignoring that the solution required is a national one and not provincial, and constantly engaged in a meaningless argument with the opposition that ultimately leads nowhere but to further division.

The NRA will never negotiate nor compromise on anything when they have the high ground (to use a military analogy, if not a moral one). Nor does it have to. Goliath will never bend when David is only armed with a river rock. The solution lies in the organization, assimilation and merging of the various gun control groups into a well-funded, well-oiled machine with a reach capable of touching the highest offices in America and a grassroots organization fervently motivated to affect change.

There has been precious little discussion of this happening however and that does not bode well for the movement. Inroads need to be taken to merge the organizations and their coffers into one cohesive giant with a war chest ready for battle. The nation’s gun addiction needs a national solution. Too many times have we heard that Illinois has strong gun laws but there is daily carnage in Chicago. The same argument goes for Washington, D.C. and now for Massachusetts with people questioning how the Boston Marathon bombers got their guns. Only when these groups speak with one voice and carry a large enough boulder to damage Goliath will he pay attention. Only when the message is crystallized and the messenger big enough will Congress blink.

This is not an insurmountable challenge. In fact, while the patchy gun control groups realize their strength in numbers (90% of Americans want stronger background checks) but weakness in fragmentation, the NRA is suffering a previously unheard of fragmentation within its ranks. High profile members are publicizing their departures from the group. Members are speaking out that the NRA does not speak for them. There is a disconnect between the leadership and the rank and file. So too, other groups are commanding attention, such as Gun Owners of America and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (based in, of all places, Newtown, Connecticut).

In effect, momentum can be achieved on two fronts. First David will get stronger by the coalescence of the various gun control groups while Goliath will weaken through the fragmentation of its membership and the membership’s uneasy acceptance of its leadership.  These two tectonic shifts may result in Congress “showing some guts” to address gun violence in America. We know how the story ends. But, only when Goliath feels threatened by an equal will it negotiate. Only then will America realize that we do not have to accept daily gun deaths in deference to those preparing for some fantasy, tyrannical government overthrow. Only then will David raise the first amendment to equal footing with the second. Only then will logic and compassion replace paranoia and paralysis. Only then.

Texas George (or Administering Medicine to the Dead)

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Speaker John Woods, whose girlfriend was murdered at the Virginia Tech massacre listens to John MacLean perform his incredibly moving tribute to the children of Sandy Hook Elementary called Six. Photo credit: Austin Dowling

To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture. Enjoy, sir, your insensibility of feeling and reflecting. It is the prerogative of animals. And no man will envy you these honors, in which a savage only can be your rival and a bear your master.       

Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, March 21, 1778

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he were sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

                                                Joseph Heller, Catch-22, Chapter 3, 1961

The gun “debate” in the United States pits two sides against one another which could not be more different had they hailed from different edges of the ever expanding universe.  One side uses rationality, compassion and fact, believing that life is paramount and government’s supreme priority is the defense of its citizens. The other side uses paranoia, fear and hyperbole, gets exorcised at the words “tyranny,” “Obama,” and “confiscation,” and is armed to the teeth to defend themselves against the very republic which they claim to love. Logic would tell you that the fight is not fair. Logic would suggest that reason and compassion would reign over hysteria and fear. Logic would be wrong.

This country finds itself at a moral crossroad at a time when it also intersects with a political movement bent on a systemic abdication of empathy in favor of some financial utopia; an Ayn Randian egoism on steroids. Let us assume that the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party was formed with the intention of restoring the federal government’s financial ledger. Let’s also ignore that the ledger wasn’t upended in the first place by Republicans plunging us into two wars based on specious arguments and bloodlust following 9/11. Place into that caustic mixture a society where the internet has led to more granularization of beliefs and less debate and compassion, a youth with the responsibility memory of a fruit fly and the belief that there is a cosmic “reset” button on life, a proliferation of 300,000,000 guns with no oversight because of a lobbying group with rabid members who salivate at the concepts of “tyranny” or “confiscation” and cannot hide their racial/political hatred for our sitting president and would burn the country down to see him fail and you have a toxic environment where compassion and logic are trounced by hysteria and hyperbole.

Nowhere is this confluence of concepts more evident than in Texas, a state being torn from the safety of republican clutches and turning purple before our eyes. While the cities are democratic strongholds, the rural areas are staunchly red.  Unfortunately for Republicans, the urbanization of the country, combined with the influx of citizens relocating from democratic northern states and the burgeoning immigrant population arriving from the south clash in a cultural maelstrom which will result in a blue Texas. Once that happens (and assuming California and New York remain blue), there is no mathematical formula that wins Republicans the White House. The only question is when Texas turns blue, not if.

In the gun debate the lines are equally color coded. Red states love their guns. Blue states don’t.  Which leaves Texas in the unenviable position of being the stage from which we all get to watch Republicans pander to the NRA and their rabid, and predominantly white constituency, who ignore the impending tsunami in hopes of returning to the “glory” days of the wild west where guns were plenty and white men ruled the world. Everywhere there can be seen the angry clamoring for this return to Mitt Romney’s 1950’s America. “Secede” bumper stickers jockey for placement on pickup trucks already adorned with Browning logos, Keep Christ in Christmas clings, and that little imp peeing on the words “Gun Control” next to a picture of a cannon and the Greek words Molon Labe (Come and Take It).

Lawmakers, both on the local, state and national level from Texas enrobe themselves in the American flag in order to conceal the Texas flag they truly wear, as if one is not part of the other. They are increasingly suspicious of the United States Constitution and make legislative overtures ignorant of the Supremacy Clause in feel-good measures enabled to allow Texas to enjoy the fruits of the US Constitution a la carte while simultaneously ignoring the burden borne equally by the 50 states to uphold the union.

Beyond the Ted Nugent’s and Alex Jonses’ of the Loon Star State, it is also home to other less colorful, but potentially more damaging (and entertaining, were it not people’s lives hanging in the balance) due to their lawmaking potential. These include:

  • Governor Rick Perry whose solution to gun violence following the sickening murder of 20 first graders in Newtown Connecticut was to pray and who is wooing gun manufacturers to relocate to good-ole-boy Texas.
  • Attorney General Greg Abbott who has advertised in New York newspapers for New Yorkers upset at the impending sensible gun legislation to relocate to good-ole-boy Texas where EVERYBODY has at least one gun and “gun control is when you use both hands.”
  • US Rep Steve Stockman who invited twisted has-been rocker Ted Nugent to the State of the Union speech in violation of all common decency and decorum in front of the families of Newtown in attendance, and who is also pursuing the “persecuted” gun manufacturers to relocate to good-ole-boy Texas. As a member of the House, he has pledged to prevent any gun legislation from being voted on. A true patriot.
  • State Rep. Steve Toth, (a minister) and Tea Party sycophant who in the weeks following Newtown held a “Gun Appreciation Day” on the steps of the state capital in Austin and has introduced his version of cafeteria style US Constitution adherence legislation called the “Firearm Protection Act” prohibiting local law enforcement from implementing federal gun laws. He appreciates guns and protects firearms. Did I mention he’s a minister? To bastardize the murdered John Lennon’s quip “Guns are bigger than Jesus.” Welcome to the Church of Glock. This is also the same “representative of the people” who cancelled his appearance on a local PBS television show when he found out he had to debate me, a “far left wing radical!” You see, he wants to represent the people, just not talk with them.
  • US Senator Ted Cruz, another Tea Party twit who joined Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee (and 11 other senators) in a ridiculous filibuster designed to prevent any gun legislation from being voted on by the senate. He claims he will do whatever is necessary to defend the Second Amendment, which is Tin Foil Hat language for “I’m going to do everything I can to prevent the “libtards” from starting down the path toward registration and confiscation.” Again, they defend the gun and every nutjob’s right to them with callous disregard to the carnage caused by these “good, honest, law abiding Americans.”

Here is a breakdown of the campaign funding various Texas legislators have received from the NRA since 1990:

Legislator

District

Party

Amount

NRA Grade

Ted Cruz

Junior

Republican

$      9,900

A+

John Cornyn

Senior

Republican

$    17,850

A

Louie Gohmert

1

Republican

$    11,450

A

Ted Poe

2

Republican

$      9,500

A+

Sam Johnson

3

Republican

$    23,450

A

Ralph Hall

4

Republican

$    25,450

A

Jeb Hensarling

5

Republican

$    20,900

A

Joe Barton

6

Republican

$    47,948

A

John Culberson

7

Republican

$    22,550

A

Kevin Brady

8

Republican

$    17,500

A

Al Green

9

Democrat

$             –

F

Michael McCaul

10

Republican

$    19,500

A

K. Michael Conaway

11

Republican

$    11,000

A

Kay Granger

12

Republican

$    13,950

A

Mac Thornberry

13

Republican

$    27,450

A

Randy Weber

14

Republican

$             –

A

Ruben Hinojosa

15

Democrat

$             –

D

Beto O’Rourke

16

Democrat

$             –

N/A

Bill Flores

17

Republican

$      7,000

A

Sheila Jackson Lee

18

Democrat

$             –

F

Randy Neugebauer

19

Republican

$    16,950

A

Joaquin Castro

20

Democrat

$             –

C

Lamar Smith

21

Republican

$    30,750

A+

Pete Olson

22

Republican

$    12,450

A

Pete Gallego

23

Democrat

$      1,000

A-

Kenny Marchant

24

Republican

$    10,750

A

Roger Williams

25

Republican

$      2,000

AQ

Michael Burgess

26

Republican

$    13,150

A

Blake Farenthold

27

Republican

$      4,500

A

Henry Cuellar

28

Democrat

$    18,350

A-

Gene Green

29

Democrat

$    12,950

A-

Eddie Johnson

30

Democrat

$             –

F

John Carter

31

Republican

$    22,450

A+

Pete Sessions

32

Republican

$    64,000

A+

Marc Veasey

33

Democrat

$             –

B

Filemon Vela

34

Democrat

$      1,000

AQ

Lloyd Doggett

35

Democrat

$             –

F

Steve Stockman

36

Republican

$      1,000

A

The total here is almost $500,000, and this counts only the contributions made to those currently holding office. It does not count the amounts contributed to unsuccessful candidates or those who previously held office. It does make me wonder why the NRA would spend so much money in a state so gun hungry as Texas.

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Former Virginia Tech student and EMT Kathy Staats who responded to the shooting there on April 16, 2007. Photo credit: Austin Dowling

Which brings me to Texas George. You see, there was a Gun Sense rally sponsored by Moms Demand Action at the Texas capital in Austin last weekend. Hundreds of people attended to listen to the reasoned and compassionate speeches of victims, family member, first responders and legislators. While one young woman, a volunteer EMT at Virginia Tech who responded to the mass shooting on the morning of April 16, 2007, relayed to us her attempts to secure an oxygen mask to a student whose jaw had been blown off by a bullet and who later died, a local genius who called himself Texas George walked up to the front of the crowd holding a sign with the nonsensical message “Stop Gun Ban.” As other people in the crowd tried to get in front of him to block his asinine, attention seeking stunt, I noticed the sickest part of this display. While he held the nonsensical sign in his right hand, he held the hand of his no more than 6 year old grandson in his left. Two thoughts rang through my head. First, how insensitive and callous to bring your grandson to such an event where his grandfather was being berated and shouted down (by me in addition to others), but that his grandson was roughly the same age as the 20 children blown apart in Newtown, Connecticut. And while that juxtaposition played around inside my head, the most poignant image of that day would have to wait for me to see it the following day.

Texas George

Texas George and his inane sign. There are 300,000,000 guns in America. What gun ban?

The image below shows my child standing behind a woman holding a sign denouncing the murder of 8 children a day in America.  My initial (and eternal) pride in seeing my son stand up for something he believes in and which saves lives gave way to the sick feeling that slammed into my stomach when I linked the message about children to the sight of my child. Something I will never forget and something Texas George, Ted Cruz, Steve Stockman, Steve Toth, Rick Perry, Greg Abbott and any other defender of our “God given” right to blow away any of His creatures will never understand. Joseph Heller’s protagonist would question everybody’s sanity in this drama. Logical discourse with these people is like administering medicine to the victims of Newtown.

My son, Cameron (left) and his friend Austin listen to speeches while a woman holds a poignant sign.

My son, Cameron (left) and his friend Austin listen to speeches while a woman holds a poignant sign.

JL Glasses

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Lives

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s advertisements in New York newspapers.  Manhattan is 1 hour and 20 minutes from Newtown. Mr. Sensitive.

Disgusting

Disgusting

Clicking on the link led people to a his website that had the headline, "More Money for More Ammo."

Clicking on the link led people to a his website that had the headline, “More Money for More Ammo.”

This guy is the poster child for why rabid gun rights people are precisely the ones whom we do not want owning guns.

Not sane enough to own a rubber band, never mind a firearm.

Logic, rationality and sanity have no place in a debate with people who have a Pavlovian response to the sight of an AR-15 or become exorcised to the words “Tyranny” or “Confiscation.”

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Skipping over the grammatical errors for a moment, Texas State Representative Steve Toth will introduce a “Firearm Protection Act” and attended a “Gun Appreciation Day.” Good priorities.  He protects and appreciates guns, not children.

FPA Press Release

We’re the greatest nation on earth, as long as you can live long enough to enjoy it.

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Good Gun Control

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This is why we must act. If this doesn’t get you off the couch, nothing will and we deserve what we get.

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Sandy Hook Elementary School Victims

Carl Sandburg’s unpublished poem on the way the Second Amendment can silence the First.

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If you are tired of accepting this carnage as the price of “freedom,” click on these links to begin acting with reason and compassion:

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At the very least, click here to make the promise:

We Are Better Than This

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The Beggin’ Strips Dog from the NRA: “More Guns! More Guns! More Guns! More Guns! More Guns!”

Wayne LaPierre and the NRA came out from hiding on December 21st to do the only thing they could following the Newtown, Connecticut school massacre, blame everybody else. One week after the crime that to this day I can only allow into my conscious thought for but a few moments at a time, while church bells rang out across the country and moments of silence rolled like black bunting, and while a man in Pennsylvania was shooting and killing three other people, Wayne LaPierre bowed his head, shook it side to side in disbelief and wondered what it would take for America to finally get with the program.  Guns don’t kill people, so everyone should have one (or at least one). Well, everybody except the mentally ill, who, as we all know, glow a bright purple and make a whistling sound when they think bad thoughts making them so easy to recognize.  Because it would be so much easier to legislate the human mind rather than the tools of death to which they have free access.

No, Mr. LaPierre and the NRA blame video games, because, as we know, only “crazy” Americans play violent video games.  I sure feel comforted by the fact that none of the 4,000,000 members of the NRA play violent video games. It’s also comforting to know that these violent video games are only played here in the United States. No other country plays video games, therefore, THAT is the reason why they have faaaaaaaar fewer mass shootings. But wait, there’s more!

 Mr. LaPierre and the NRA blame music for all of the blood being sprayed around America. And here I thought music was the aural representation of the various moods and feelings that humans of which humans are capable.  No, it’s the devil’s music.  And, again, this “evil” music is only played here in the United States.  No other country listens to our music, therefore, THAT is the reason why they have faaaaaaaar fewer mass shootings.  But wait, there’s more!

 Mr. LaPierre and the NRA blame movies and television.  Of course, these evil movies and television shows are only shown here in the United States.  No other country watches our movies or imports our television shows, therefore, THAT is the reason why they have faaaaaaaar fewer mass shootings.  But wait, there’s more!

 Mr. LaPierre and the NRA want armed police/volunteers/security at every school! Let’s forget for a second that there was an armed patrol at Columbine High School, that there were armed security personnel at Virginia Tech and that there damn sure were a few gun-toting people at Fort Hood. But, no, we are force fed more drivel and fortune cookie philosophy, such as, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

 The Second Amendment was created in order to protect the people through “well-regulated militia.”  We have that in every state.  It’s called the National Guard.  To assume that the founding fathers thought it a good idea for there to be 310,000,000 guns in America in 2012 is preposterous, delusional, ill and, as we have seen, deadly wrong.

 I do agree with Mr. LaPierre on one point. During his segment on Meet the Press with David Gregory, he said, “You can’t legislate morality.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.  However, because of that very fact, shouldn’t we attempt to legislate the tools of death afforded to the immoral? And while Justice Scalia sleeps soundly (somehow) knowing he has single-handedly eviscerated public safety in favor of a dubious interpretation of the second amendment, the testosterone flooded troglodytes wave their bible in one hand and their American flag in the other while we continue to bury victims.

 Now the NRA parades out ex-Marine Joshua Boston and his letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein.  It reads:

 Senator Dianne Feinstein,

 I will not register my weapons should this bill be passed, as I do not believe it is the government’s right to know what I own. Nor do I think it prudent to tell you what I own so that it may be taken from me by a group of people who enjoy armed protection yet decry me having the same a crime. You ma’am have overstepped a line that is not your domain. I am a Marine Corps Veteran of 8 years, and I will not have some woman who proclaims the evil of an inanimate object, yet carries one, tell me I may not have one.

I am not your subject. I am the man who keeps you free. I am not your servant. I am the person whom you serve. I am not your peasant. I am the flesh and blood of America.

I am the man who fought for my country. I am the man who learned. I am an American. You will not tell me that I must register my semi-automatic AR-15 because of the actions of some evil man.

I will not be disarmed to suit the fear that has been established by the media and your misinformation campaign against the American public.

 We, the people, deserve better than you.

 Respectfully Submitted,
Joshua Boston
Cpl, United States Marine Corps
2004-2012

So, let me get this straight, this ex-Marine, who has sworn an oath to protect the United States of America, will voluntarily be committing a crime by not registering his arsenal should the California Senator’s bill be enacted? With defenders like that who needs enemies? But somehow, although we have a 100% volunteer military, we are supposed to genuflect to any person in uniform as if their opinion somehow weighs more than anyone else’s.  Brainwashed by the spoon-fed NRA, the ideas of “confiscation” and a “tyrannical” government bleed through this letter.

On January 3rd, Kurt Eichenwald of Vanity Fair posted the following article:

 As news of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary played out around the country, the mantra from the gun-rights folks was fairly consistent: now is not the time to discuss how the government should deal with controls on firearms. It’s politicizing tragedy to talk about it, they whine.

O.K., I’ll agree. Let’s not talk about policy when it comes to Sandy Hook.

Instead, let’s consider the San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre in 1984. Following the shooting of 40 people at that time, gunnies also said it was too soon to discuss new firearms laws; it would politicize the shooting at a moment that should only be about remembrance, you see. So let’s do it now—28 years is long enough to wait.

Or we can talk about the 21 people shot at the post office in Edmond, Oklahoma, two years later. Or the 35 at Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California, in 1989. Or the 20 that same year at Standard Gravure. Or the 50 at Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, in 1991. Or the 14 at Lindhurst High School in Olivehurst, California, the year after that. Or the 25 on the Long Island Railroad in 1993. Or the 15 at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Or the 29 at Thurston High School.

Or Columbine. Or Virginia Tech. Or Tucson. Or Aurora. Or Clackamas Town Center, just three days before Sandy Hook.

Or any of the senseless mass murders that have left behind piles of the maimed and murdered—the elderly, students, children, shoppers, worshippers, moviegoers, diners, workers, and even a member of Congress. One young woman—Jessica Ghawi—missed a gun rampage while shopping at a mall by a matter of minutes, only to be killed weeks later at the Aurora movie-theater massacre. Almost 1,000 innocent Americans have been shot in the last 30 years in these bloodbaths. And at each instance, the National Rifle Association and company try to shame us with this “not the time” argument so that we can’t discuss adopting laws to protect ourselves; eventually, the horror recedes, we move on with our lives, and we walk out into the world never knowing whether our heads will be the next to explode after being struck by a madman’s bullet.

Enough. We talk now. And my position is going to be direct: America needs to repeal the Second Amendment.

Now, before gunnies run for their weapons and belch out that tiresome and frighteningly violent malarkey about prying their firearms from their “cold, dead hands,” let me be clear: I believe that people have the right to arm themselves. The concept traces back to English common law, which is how it made its way into the Constitution. The problem is, for a variety of reasons, the Second Amendment has been twisted and bastardized in ways that could never have been conceived at the time of the nation’s founding. Just look at what has happened in states so far: the Michigan legislature passed a law allowing folks to carry concealed weapons in day-care centers, and Ohio is going forward with its plans to allow guns in the garages at the state capitol. The right, they claim, comes from the Second Amendment.

As written, though, the amendment has nothing—nothing—to do with modern America. Worse, it is the biggest mess of verbiage in the whole Constitution, making its actual meaning almost impossible to discern. We need to get rid of it and try again with an amendment that makes sense.

On the Subject of Grammar

Let’s start with the words that now exist. As adopted by Congress, the amendment reads:

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.

But is that really the amendment? Check out the version of the Bill of Rights held by the Library of Congress, and compare it with the Bill at the National Archives—they’re different. The one at the Archives was passed by Congress, while the other includes the words and punctuation ratified by the states and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson. It reads:

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.

Still a grammarian’s nightmare. But notice that the comma between “militia” and “being” has disappeared. Rather than being a set of two syntactically nonsensical fragments, the version ratified by the states is much simpler: a dependent phrase, one that under the typical rules of grammar would qualify the independent clause that follows. In other words, just with the removal of the comma, the relationship between the words in the amendment becomes much clearer.

Unfortunately, the courts have tended to shrug off the difference in punctuation, instead attempting to define the amendment based on the grammatical train wreck passed by the Congress. So, how does the Supreme Court deal with the fact that the version of the amendment it relies upon is incomprehensible under any normal rules of grammar? It punts.

In the landmark case of District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008, Justice Antonin Scalia, in what may be a first from the Supreme Court, essentially ruled that the opening words of the Second Amendment could be ignored. They did not, he argued, qualify the independent clause that came after (as would have been obvious if the version of the amendment adopted by the states had been used). Rather, Scalia opined, the words were just a preface, a little bit of throat clearing by the framers before they got down to the business of defining gun rights.

In his ruling, Scalia calls the first half of the Second Amendment a “prefatory clause.” (To get a sense of how grammatically atypical that concept is, run those two words through Google. The vast majority of the entries are quoting Scalia.) The independent clause—about the right to bear arms—is the operative one, Scalia says.

“The former does not limit the latter grammatically, but rather announces a purpose,” Scalia writes. “The Amendment could be rephrased ‘Because a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”

That’s right. To explain the meaning of the supposed prefatory clause of the Second Amendment, Scalia—who holds himself out as a strict textualist of the Constitution—felt the need to rewrite the Bill of Rights. And this incompetently written phrase does nothing to expand or limit the scope of the amendment, he says; essentially, the words have no purpose. Nowhere else in the Constitution does this supposed blaring of trumpets announcing the about-to-arrive relevant portion appear.

Even with Scalia’s tortured logic, though, the words “well regulated militia” and “free State” are too specific to be dismissed as something the nation’s founders just threw into the mix to be, I don’t know—dramatic? So what do they actually mean?

Well, that’s another problem. The term “well regulated” doesn’t denote today what it did then. It’s an archaic phrase that is the equivalent of “well trained.” And a militia is either an army made up of ordinary citizens rather than professional soldiers or a military force like the state National Guard that can be called up at any time.

Then, “free State.” Some gunnies seem to translate these words to mean “a free country,” as if it were a generic term. They’re wrong. The word “State”—capital S—appears throughout the Constitution, and it always refers to the individual states that make up the United States. At the time of the writing of the Constitution, each state had its own militia of citizens, and the fear was that a federal army would disarm them. In essence, since the states didn’t trust the federal government not to abuse its power, the Bill of Rights guaranteed that these militias would maintain the weaponry needed to defend themselves against encroachment by a federal army.

So, how does Scalia’s argument about the prefatory clause make any sense? Really, it doesn’t. Using the “because” that he added, let’s look at how the Second Amendment would be written using the modern terms and the structure ratified by the states:

Because a well-trained army of ordinary citizens is necessary for the security of the individual states that constitute the United States of America, the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.

Now, the first half of the amendment starts to make sense. Not only does the supposed “prefatory clause” have meaning, it actually—as would be expected—serves to define the words that follow. Not in a way I think is appropriate; I don’t believe that only Americans who serve in state-sanctioned militias should have the rights to weapons.

So, Which People Should?

“The people.” That’s the simplest phrase in all of the Second Amendment, but even those two words can lead to mind-numbing debate about what in the world the Founding Fathers meant.

Scalia thinks he knows. Since he tosses out the “prefatory clause,” he doesn’t have to acknowledge that the framers were writing about militias. Instead, to get to his desired outcome, he once again creates a definitional netherworld that doesn’t stand up to the scrutiny. While ignoring the first half the Second Amendment, Scalia decides that he can use other parts of the Constitution to define the second half.

“In all six other provisions of the Constitution that mention ‘the people,’” Scalia writes, “the term unambiguously refers to all members of the political community, not an unspecified subset.”

Specifically, Scalia cites freedom of speech, protection against unreasonable search and seizure, protection of rights not enumerated in the Constitution, and the powers of the states. And all of those, he points out, apply to everyone.

Slow down, and let’s examine this closely. Let’s assume Scalia is right—which he isn’t. There are no subsets of people; all members of the political community have the right to bear arms. Just like all people have the right to speak, etc.

A week ago, I saw a man on a street corner who was clearly mentally ill, jabbering something irrational about the government. That man could not be stopped from speaking; like everyone else in this country, he is protected by the First Amendment. And if the police wanted to search the boxes the man was carrying, they couldn’t. He is also protected by the Fourth Amendment.

But if that same man walked into a gun shop, the owners could lose their dealer’s license if they sold him a weapon. Why? Because he is part of a subset of people whom voters and their representatives have decided do not have the right to guns.

It’s that simple. Scalia is wrong because Scalia is wrong. If all people, with no exceptions, have the right to bear arms, as Scalia maintains, then this mentally ill man could buy a handgun. So could a convicted felon. And so could my 18-year-old son. Hell, kids have freedom of speech and the right against illegal search—by Scalia’s logic, my 15-year-old should be able to waltz down to Walmart and pick up a nine millimeter.

But the problem with interpretations like Scalia’s—one long shared by the N.R.A.—is that what has long been widely accepted as reasonable exceptions to the category of “the people” can be tossed aside too easily.

Indeed, the N.R.A. has fought successfully to expand the meaning of those two words so that even those people who have been found to be a danger to others can get a gun. Yes, the gun-lobbying group has fought on behalf of gun rights for people diagnosed with mental illnesses. Second Amendment and all that, they chirped, as if James Madison fretted about arming the type of person often left to die in chains in colonial America.

After the Virginia Tech shooting—the deadliest in American history—Congress momentarily seemed to emerge from its gun stupor and passed the N.I.C.S. Improvement Amendments Act of 2007. When it was introduced, the legislation called on states to submit mental-health records to national databases maintained by the F.B.I., which would be paid for by the federal government. Sounds reasonable.

But no, the N.R.A. manned the barricades for the rights of those who can pose the most danger to the rest of us. This, they told legislators, was a matter of defending the Second Amendment.

So the N.R.A. started poking holes in the bill. First, the group succeeded in limiting the definition of those with mental illness to only people who had been tossed in a mental institution or found by a court or other official body to be a danger to themselves or others. Even if a psychiatrist reasonably believed a patient could pose a threat, nothing could be done to keep a gun out of that person’s hand. A medical diagnosis isn’t enough.

Once the definition was weakened, the N.R.A. went after the restrictions barring the mentally ill from possessing guns. In the past, anyone banned from having a gun would always be banned, a concept that makes sense given the frequency of relapse among the mentally ill. With the N.I.C.S. amendments, thanks to the N.R.A., that was no longer true.

The key to that was a program jammed into the legislation called “Relief from Disabilities,” which allows even people who have been institutionalized or deemed to be a danger to themselves or others to buy guns again. The way it works is this: sometime after meeting the law’s standards of being too mentally ill to own a gun, a person could petition a court, claiming to be all better. If the court agrees, well, lock and load.

After the N.R.A. wedged that rule into the books, the group then went to its ground game, making sure that the states that had to enforce this law didn’t bring too many mental-health experts or too much proof into the mix.

Take Idaho. After the new law was signed, a group of law-enforcement and mental-health officials—you know, experts—proposed that the courts should be required to have “clear and convincing” evidence before ruling that a person diagnosed with a psychiatric illness was allowed to buy guns again. On top of that, the group wanted what would seem to have been a requirement of the law—a recent mental-health evaluation of the petitioner. But the N.R.A. made sure that proposal died.

Instead, rather than experts, folks who know very little about mental health would be making the judgment call. The law passed in Idaho dropped the call for a psychiatric evaluation and set the standard of proof at the much lower “preponderance of evidence.”

A report in The New York Times last year summed up the results:

States have mostly entrusted these decisions to judges, who are often ill-equipped to conduct investigations from the bench. Many seemed willing to simply give petitioners the benefit of the doubt. The results often seem haphazard.

Hearings could be no more than a few minutes long, the Times found. In one instance cited by the paper, a man who was barred from coming to the grounds of a local V.A. hospital out of fear he would hurt someone was allowed by a court to buy guns again. That could never have happened before the N.I.C.S. amendments. But at least a hearing was held. A number of states still don’t submit the psychiatric information to the N.I.C.S. system at all, meaning that the mentally ill are free in those locations to purchase a MAC-10 semi-automatic pistol or any other gun for sale.

So, while the politicians in Washington celebrated the passage of the amendments as a giant leap in preventing another Tucson, the N.R.A. told its members—presumably the mentally ill ones—the truth: their ability to buy guns had just gotten better, not worse.

After the House passed the N.R.A.-backed version of the bill, the gun group issued a message to its members with the headline “‘NICS Improvement Amendments Act’ Not Gun Control!” And for those who didn’t get the point, the body of the message was explicit.

“In several ways this bill is better for gun owners than current law,” the message read. “Rest assured that if the anti-gunners use this legislation as a vehicle to advance gun control restrictions, NRA will pull our support for the bill and vigorously oppose its passage!”

Rest assured, the N.R.A. got what it wanted. The term “the people” now includes the mentally ill.

What Arms?

Think about this for a second: Most of the mass murders of innocent civilians over the last three decades have been committed by people with guns that they lawfully obtained and owned. These rapid-fire, semi-automatic (and earlier, automatic) weapons with high-capacity magazines and speed loaders—guns that serve no purpose other than to hit the largest number of targets as quickly as possible—were purchased by these future killers as easily as they might buy a six-shooter.

Plenty of gun opponents have pointed out the obvious: that the Founding Fathers could never have envisioned the kinds of “arms” that exist today—Washington, Jefferson, and the rest had never even seen a bullet. Musket balls for guns that required constant reloading were the “arms” of the day. The modern bullet—a conical piece of metal in a tube that contained a propellant in its base—didn’t come along until the 19th century.

Concealed weapons? Largely impossible. A robber breaking into a house with a gun? Only one shot available before reloading required.

But that rational point leads some to the ridiculous notion that no arms should be available other than those that existed in the 18th century. The Constitution has to evolve with the times; no one would suggest that television stations and radio networks were not guaranteed freedom of speech under the First Amendment simply because they were means of communication unavailable in colonial times.

Let’s stick with that analogy for a second. Back in those days, I could stand on any street corner and argue for change to my fellow citizens (ignore, for now, the complexities created later by the obscene Alien and Sedition Acts). Today, though, I can’t just start a television or radio station. That’s because there is a limited broadcast bandwidth, and the government has an interest in making sure the airwaves do not become so cluttered that no one would be heard.

So, even though I have freedom of speech, I can be arrested if I decide to broadcast my speech on my own radio station without obtaining a license from the government. No reasonable person could contest that, even though such requirements mean that Congress has passed a law limiting an individual’s ability to speak to as many people as possible. If the absolutist arguments employed by the National Rifle Association were used here—let’s say by the National Speech Association—there is no doubt that broadcast licenses would be deemed unconstitutional by the group and its members.

What does this mean for the Second Amendment? The same thing. The evolution of weaponry—just like the evolution of means of communication—has created a state interest that didn’t exist before. When the Bill of Rights was written, no one owned a MAG5100, 100-round magazine for an M-16. The concept of a mass slaughter carried out over a matter of minutes was incomprehensible.

Just like with the state interest created by the need to preserve the broadcast bandwidth, the appearance of new technology in the area of guns has created a significant risk to other citizens that a government must take into account. Times change. Government has to change with it. The framers never intended to convey a right that gives any American the power to wipe out dozens of people in a matter of seconds.

As Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson said in 1949, the Constitution is not a suicide pact. We do not all have to risk death at a movie theater or at a restaurant or at work because of a fealty to a bunch of words. And before the patrio-philic jump all over me, just know that Thomas Jefferson agrees. As he wrote in 1803:

Strict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation.

The meaning of Jefferson’s comments, as I see it, is that the right of my family to live trumps some vague, tortured interpretation of a single garbled sentence that has been interpreted in ways that are contrary to the interests of many citizens. We need to fix it.

The question, of course, is how. Here’s my suggestion.

Because the Second Amendment is an incomprehensible mess, because too many lobbyists have argued that it is an absolute protection of actions and items never considered at the time of our nation’s founding, and because there is a clear state interest in protecting the lives of its citizens, the words must be removed from the Constitution.

But, and this is the important part, the right to bear arms must be preserved.

This is not a contradiction.

Once the Second Amendment is gone, a new amendment, one that takes account of the realities of modern times, should replace it. I think such an amendment should read something like this:

The people retain the right to keep and bear arms, subject to reasonable restrictions deemed necessary by the Congress and the President to secure the lives and well-being of others.

O.K., I’m no James Madison, but that makes the point. The courts, obviously, would have to rule on what is considered “reasonable”—an extremely open-ended word that would allow for the amendment to evolve if, say, someone in the next century invents a Glock that shoots missiles. I don’t, however, think that a case could be made arguing that the possession of cop-killer bullets is reasonable.

But here’s the restriction I really want to impose: force all gun owners to purchase liability insurance. That’s required for owning a car, despite the fact that such a rule could be deemed by the unreasonable as being an impediment to constitutional protections of interstate commerce. And, unlike government, the one thing insurance companies know how to do is assess risk.

You want a semi-automatic assault rifle? O.K., says the insurer. Where are you going to store it? Who else will have access to it? Your insurance won’t apply if someone else is firing it. Have you been trained? Do you have a license? You want another one—well, your rates just went up. And by the way—you have to notify us if you have been deemed to have any psychiatric problems, because we might cancel your policy. Then, just like with a car, people who want to carry around their gun have to have their insurance card on them at all times. And folks who have a gun without insurance? Well, that’s when the government steps in and deems it a felony.

These are just ideas, and there are plenty of others worthy of debate. But, unfortunately, so long as this “Second Amendment” mantra can be thrown into the gears to stop all reasonable conversation, a real discussion will never take place.

Some gun owners—some—will rage about this idea, saying that they have the right to protect themselves. Well, so do the rest of us—the right to protect ourselves from them.

Is it me, or does the latter article have the essence of both reason and logic whereas the former has the odor of the Unabomber?

We can debate the specifics of each splinter of this issue until the sun explodes, but at what price? Machismo gentrified or more coffins? More AR-15’s or more birthdays?

What price machismo? We are better than this. And as the NRA’s position is to dig in their heals and accept no government action, I offer the opposite.  Melt them all.

Cut!

Movie Board

Action!

“Captain,” said the Chief Engineer in the third bulkhead of Titanic, standing in eighteen inches of north Atlantic ice water, a mere ten minutes after her hull was shredded by the unseen iceberg, “we’re taking on water! What do you want us to do?”

“Take on more water!” replied Captain Smith.

CUT! Wait.  That’s not what happened. That would be stupid.

And…ACTION!

“Stand back you people,” said the Second Officer, pointing his revolver at the crowd surging toward the remaining life boats, “I will shoot the next man to rush forward.”

“No you won’t,” bellowed John Jacob Astor IV, pushing his way toward the front of the crowd. All at once, every member of the crowd cocked back the hammers of their pistols.  Suddenly, the ship righted itself, the gash in her side healed and she maintained her top speed through iceberg-pocked waters toward New York.

CUT! That’s even dumber than before.  That didn’t happen.

Take it from the top. And… ACTION!

“Iceberg, straight ahead!” the hypothermic lookout cried, perched in the crow’s nest high above the gleaming wooden deck below.

“Be calm, my son,” said Jesus, who was standing next to him. And with a wave of his hand, the iceberg melted away and no harm ever befell any of the passengers. They all lived happily ever after and God called them home after a long life and with no pain or suffering.

CUT!  What’s going on here? None of that happened! The ship hit the iceberg, panic ensued, the ship sank and 1,514 people died horrifically painful deaths.

Ah, but there’s the problem.  We’ve all become victims of subscribing to a Hollywood script.  We all believe that we’re at various stages on our own hero’s journey and that everything will end with a storybook ending amidst a symphonic crescendo playing in the background. We die, roll credits.

Reality knows no script.  Reality kicks you in the teeth, waits for you to shake it off, then kicks you in the nuts when your head clears, then hands you a bouquet of roses.  No rhyme, no reason. That’s life! And to presume that there is some cosmic game plan in which you feature in a starring role is both delusional and dangerous. My son’s philosophy professor, Galen Strawson wrote Against Narrativity in 2004. To read it is to appreciate the danger our civilization faces living in this miasma.

2012 in America has been ruled by the gun.  We’ve seen 13 mass shootings this year alone. If we were “stunned” on February 21st at the shooting in Norcross, GA, where four people were killed, plus the shooter, we looked away. If we were “aghast” on February 27th at the shooting in Chardon, OH where three were killed and another two injured, we barely stirred. If we were “upset” on March 8th at the shooting in Pittsburgh, PA where one was killed, plus the shooter and seven were injured, we looked down. If we were “angry” on April 2 at the shooting in Oakland, CA where seven were killed and three injured, we mumbled. If we were “disappointed” on April 6th at the shooting in Tulsa, OK where three were killed and two were injured, we barely noticed. If we were “caught off-guard” on May 30th at the shooting in Seattle, WA, where five were killed, plus the shooter and one more was injured, we changed the channel.  If we were “outraged” on July 20th at the shooting in Aurora, CO, where twelve were killed and fifty-eight were injured, we clicked “Like” on Facebook to send a prayer. If we were “distressed” on August 5th at the shooting in Oak Creek, WI, where six were killed, plus the shooter and three more were injured, we asked “why?” If we were “troubled” on August 13th at the shooting in College Station, TX, where two were killed, plus the shooter and four more were injured, we shook our heads.  If we were “disgusted” on September 27th at the shooting in Minneapolis, MN, where six were killed, plus the shooter and three more were injured, we turned the page. If we were “concerned” on October 21st at the shooting in Brookfield, WI, where three were killed, plus the shooter and four more were injured, we barely blinked. If we even noticed on December 11th the shooting in Happy Valley, OR, where two were killed, plus the shooter and another was injured, we kept quiet. But, if we were not apoplectically pissed-off and sick to our stomachs on December 14th at the shooting in Newtown, CT, where twenty-seven were killed, plus the shooter and an unknown number were injured, we deserve nothing better.

Ours is a society of instant gratification married to an inexplicable faith that when times get tough we can just throw our hands up in the air and assure ourselves that our future is in God’s hands. God will protect me.  This pursuit of gratification and surrendering to faith leads to a society that abdicates personal responsibility and any uncomfortable consequences of our actions.

The gun enthusiast espouses that if everybody had a gun, we would all be safe. If every moviegoer in Aurora had brought their popcorn butter glazed Glock with them, the shooter would have paid the price for threatening “civilized” society. In fact, almost every expert agrees that if there were more guns at the scene it would have erupted into a muzzle flash blinding shooting gallery of bullets exploding everywhere and more injuries and deaths. By this same logic, why don’t we pass out nuclear weapons to every country? Don’t I feel safe now!

Texas has proposed that allowing teachers to carry concealed guns will reduce the number of school shootings. Wrong! Also in Texas (surprise), a gun dealer is offering discounts for teachers! Our knee-jerk reaction to gun horror is always the same.  After Aurora, gun sales went up in Colorado.  Gun sales in Connecticut are up now, too.  “Take on more water,” said the Captain.

Our ship will not right itself, the gash in her side will not heal itself and God will not materialize and melt the iceberg.  We are responsible for our own actions and a required participant in the construction of society. To pass off responsibility to God or to a 200 year old, purposely vague document and its second amendment is to sail with our hands off the ship’s wheel and our eyes closed while we accelerate through the dangerous iceberg-laden waters of life. Who wants to sign up for that cruise? I’m tired of watching rational people rearrange the deckchairs while the ship goes down.

Now is the time to act. Now is the time for lucid voices to be heard. Damn the testosterone addled, myopically stunted gun zealots and the impotent, self-serving government representatives. Raise your voice, drown out the din of gunfire and demand civilization be civilized. If not us, who? If not now, when?

And… Action!