Archive for the 'Guns' Category

Shakespeare Anagram: Julius Caesar

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

The NRA put out a frightening new ad this week:

From Julius Caesar:

Good friends, sweet friends, let me not stir you up
To such a sudden flood of mutiny.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

NRA’s odd spot: you fomented furious domestic strife; the guns will not defend you!

A Few Thoughts about Guns

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Is it just me, or is all of the rhetoric about gun control getting a bit overheated?

If there are two sides – pro-gun and anti-gun – then I’d have to put myself on the side that favors more control than we have now. But the spectrum of options available to us as a society is wide-ranging, and the changes we are talking about are relatively small. There’s no serious movement to ban and confiscate guns. Nobody is proposing allowing citizens to own biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons. Where we come down is going to be somewhere very much in the middle of these polar extremes, and pretty close to where we are now.

You wouldn’t know it by listening to the bombast coming from the right, though. It’s as though all of the issues from the 2012 election have faded away, and conservatives have decided to concentrate their efforts over the one issue where they feel like they’re on solid ground. Their arguments range from absolutist interpretations of the Constitution to catchy slogans to actual threats of violence. The threats of violence in particular seem an odd strategy for convincing us that they should keep their guns, but it’s hard to stay rational once the panic sets in. When the only tool you have is a TEC-9, the whole world looks like Call of Duty. I will admit that some of the slogans use some nice wordplay. “The only thing to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Nice use of antithesis with parallel structure! And then, there’s the Constitution…

Just as the First Amendment doesn’t give you the right to yell “Fire” in a crowded theatre, the Second Amendment doesn’t give you the right to turn a traffic jam into the end of a Quentin Tarantino movie. It is true that the founders gave us the right to keep and bear arms so that we could protect ourselves from government tyranny. The only problem is that the people currently making that argument are the same people who screamed that the Affordable Care Act was government tyranny. So, Freedom-Protectors, at what point are you planning to break out the arsenal? And when you fantasize about protecting our freedoms with an assault rifle, precisely who is it that you imagine yourself gunning down? American soldiers? Uniformed police officers? Elected officials? Federal agents? Protecting our freedom sounds pretty messy.

Speaking of the Affordable Care Act, one of the heartwarming things to come out of the gun-control debate is to see the right starting to call for better mental healthcare in the wake of the school shootings. Yeah, someone should get on that. I’m thinking some kind of public option, or even a single-payer system. What say you?

So, really, most of the pro-gun arguments I’ve heard are pure nonsense, and are embraced largely for their favorable conclusion: we should be allowed to have guns. The good news for gun enthusiasts, though, is that they don’t actually need to make a case to protect guns. In a free society, the burden of evidence is on those of us who would take rights away. And most people who are in favor of guns largely have positive experiences with them. They go hunting on the weekends, or they take their kids to the shooting range. Maybe they like to do a little skeet-shooting at Camp David. Everyone has fun and nobody gets hurt. They aren’t bothering anybody, and don’t understand why they should have to make any changes in their lifestyle just because some lunatic decides to go on a rampage in a school or a movie theatre. I agree.

What we’re talking about, though, is just some simple common sense reforms, such as requiring background checks or restricting assault weapons. We regulate cars better than we regulate guns, and yeah, you can have as many cars as you want. One of the weapons under discussion is called the Street Sweeper. Whoever named that gun had a pretty good idea about what it was primarily going to be used for. We should take notice. That doesn’t make a good fundraising pitch for the NRA, though, so they talk about the government coming for your guns, a scenario that doesn’t even make practical sense let alone political sense.

Ultimately, the actual changes being proposed are slight and incremental. We can have reasonable discussions about whether or not we should do them, but doing them won’t necessarily bring about major changes in gun violence in this country. Nor will they amount to an egregious violation of civil liberties. At this point, the heat generated by the argument is mostly about culture. There is one culture that wants an armed society, and another culture that doesn’t. We’ll argue it out and then we’ll vote through our elected representatives. But in so much as it is about culture, it’s worth giving some thought about what kind of country we want to live in.

Which side are you on? The litmus test is not the Sandy Hook school shooting. It’s not Aurora or Tuscon or Columbine. We’re all against random shootings of innocent people. The real litmus test centers on the events of February 26, 2012. That was one year ago tonight. That was the night that George Zimmerman shot and killed Treyvon Martin.

That much is certain, but the details are still murky a year later. That didn’t seem to matter so much at the time. People on both sides of the debate rushed to judgement before all of the facts were in. Did a trigger-happy gun nut racially profile a black kid and then shoot him? Or, is it true that a vigilant neighborhood watchman bravely defended his person and his community from a dangerous thug who attacked him without provocation? Or is the truth somewhere in the middle? Where it always, always is.

In the examination of this particular incident, it matters a great deal. This is a real case. One person is dead, another is on trial for his murder. A jury will have to weigh the evidence and make a serious deliberation to make sure their determination is just. But in a more general sense, it doesn’t really matter what happened this one time.

There is a more generalized version of the incident that has played out in the media and in the imaginations of everyone who has a purely political stake in the outcome for the past year. In the real case, we want to know facts, details, evidence. In the imaginary case, these things are a distraction. They take the case further away from what we need it to be. Because when the case remains general, we can imagine all of the possible angles and discuss how we feel about them. It’s not hard to imagine each various interpretation of this one incident being true in another similar incident. What we’re really arguing about is the sum total of all of the possible permutations of the event. What we’re really arguing is about the next time. I can’t tell you what to think about that, but I can tell you what I think.

I’m not really afraid of bad guys with guns. Maybe I should be. Studies show that people who tend to be more fearful skew conservative, so maybe they feel like they really need to protect themselves against bad guys with guns. For my part, I feel like there are so many other things out there that are going to get me first that I really don’t put it high on my list. So, I don’t live in fear of bad guys with guns. What terrifies me beyond belief is good guys with guns.

Good guys come in all shapes and sizes, and I don’t like the idea of them all carrying guns. There are so many more good guys than bad guys, and with a wider range of skills, judgment, and common sense. Some people carry a gun hoping they will never have to use it. Other people carry a gun with a hope that they will. And then there are the mistakes. Recall the vice president who shot his friend in the face while hunting. Recall the heroic athlete who fired four shots into a bathroom door. Choose your favorite statistic about guns kept in the home. It turns out that introducing a new gun into a situation is almost always a bad idea, unless you are well trained and have strictly enforced rules of engagement.

George Zimmerman was supposed to be a good guy with a gun. Whether he turned out to be or not depends on your culture.

Danny and the Death Ray

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Once upon a time, there was a small town that was attacked by space aliens.

Why this one town should be attacked by space aliens was unclear. But what was very clear was that these were space aliens, and they were attacking.

The townspeople fought off the space aliens as best they could, but… come on, space aliens. They knew that more drastic measures would be necessary.

They gathered together, pooled their resources, and built a giant Death Ray right in the middle of the town square. It was three stories high if it was an inch, and thicker than any tree trunk in the southern woods. And, believe it or not, the Death Ray did the trick. The space aliens were sent scurrying back to their own galaxy, or wherever it was they had come from in the first place.

The people rejoiced. Their ordeal was over, and it was all thanks to the Death Ray! They left the weapon in the town square as a monument. The townspeople decorated the Death Ray all the colors of the rainbow. Parents would bring their children to come see the Death Ray, and tell stories about how it repelled the space aliens. The children liked to imagine themselves at the controls of the Death Ray, firing on the aliens and saving the town again and again.

Mind you, the Death Ray wasn’t perfect. It was a quite an advanced piece of technology to begin with, and it was a pretty impressive thing to be built in a small town. But every now and then, the Death Ray would discharge a stray beam, sending an unexpected burst of destructive force into some random part of town. Usually, it didn’t do much harm, but occasionally it would hit one of the townspeople. Good old Bob who worked at the town market was the first to go. Some time later, little Sally Jenkins was also hit. Ironically, the third victim of the random shots was a drifter named Ray.

Still, three random accidents, tragic as they were, seemed a small price to pay for having such an awesome piece of weaponry like the Death Ray in the town square. Sure, everyone missed old Bob, and it was hard not to feel for the Jenkins family, but it wasn’t every town that could boast such a marvelous display of power. The Death Ray was what made the town special. Some people were even talking about naming the town after the Death Ray, though not everyone could agree on how the new name would be spelled or pronounced. Others didn’t like the idea of changing the name of the town at all.

In fact, there was a small group of people who wanted to dismantle the Death Ray altogether. Nobody paid them any mind, of course, but they were usually pretty vocal at the Town Council meetings. Usually, folks just rolled their eyes and waited for the speeches to be over. And the group was always the most vocal just after the town had suffered one of its losses to the Death Ray. The townspeople didn’t appreciate that; if ever there was a time not to talk about the Death Ray, surely it was just after it had killed someone. How could you have a rational conversation about the Death Ray when emotions were so high? And even at other times, dismantling the Death Ray was just not a topic for polite conversation, not if you loved the town.

Until one day, when the Death Ray happened to fire a shot into the local hospital, which created a disaster unlike any the town had ever seen. Now, the idea of dismantling the Death Ray seemed worth discussing. Before this, most people had not considered the idea that having a malfunctioning Death Ray in the town square could be so dangerous, but recent events had made the fact undeniable.

The townspeople gathered in the Town Hall. For the first time in years, every seat was filled! The people were angry and wanted to vote the Death Ray right out of the town. Speaker after speaker warned of the dangers posed by the Death Ray. The town seemed to come together like never before.

The last speaker was a young boy named Danny. Danny had been listening to all of the speeches, and couldn’t believe his ears. His whole life, he had been taught to love and honor the Death Ray. He explained, in passionate tones, how the Death Ray was the town, and any attempt to dismantle it would undermine everything the town stood for. He understood that people were emotional about the hospital, but this was not the time to be carried away by our emotions. The space aliens could come back at any moment, and when they did, the town needed to have that Death Ray. Besides, he noted, Death Rays don’t kill people; people are killed by Death Rays. The townspeople could not argue with this logic.

Danny insisted that dismantling the Death Ray was not the solution. Instead, he proposed building a Safety Shield, so that the next time the Death Ray had a random discharge, the beam would hit the Safety Shield instead of the hospital. Everyone loved the idea, and voted overwhelmingly to keep their beloved Death Ray. Some people suggested simply turning the Death Ray off, and then turning it on again if the space aliens returned, but of course nobody paid them any mind. Folks just rolled their eyes and waited for the speeches to be over. Eventually, anger over the destruction of the hospital faded, just as Danny had said it would, and life returned to normal.

The citizens of Dethravia never actually got around to building that Safety Shield, but this didn’t really seem to matter very much at all. Danny had saved the Death Ray. Danny had saved the town!

Shakespeare Anagram: Macbeth

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

From Macbeth:

I have no words;
My voice is in my sword, thou bloodier villain
Than terms can give thee out!

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

A surly school shooter. So morbid, vivid, violent, inhuman…

Today, we grieve. Then, we act.

I’m in.

Shakespeare Anagram: Love’s Labour’s Lost

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

From Love’s Labour’s Lost:

But come, the bow: now mercy goes to kill,
And shooting well is then accounted ill.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Does it seem too ice-glib to loudly back gun control this month?

Well, when can we?

Shakespeare Anagram: Timon of Athens

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

From Timon of Athens:

If wrongs be evils and enforce us kill,
What folly ’tis to hazard life for ill!

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Sarah vilified the wrong Arizonian to followers, bluffly deflects kills.

Context here and here.