Friday, April 4, 2014

Georgia and guns

So I almost got into a Facebook argument today. Not even an “argument,” not the way the Internet defines such things, where a stranger and I engage in deliberately inflammatory and personally insulting remarks until someone drops the H-bomb (Hitler, that is, not hydrogen). This was going to be a discussion with a friend who’s opinion does not match my own—no big deal. But, it was going to be a long post, then he’d post back, and then I’d post, and instead I’m just going to write down everything I was going to say at the start.

Gun control.

Georgia joined the numerous American states where it is legal for guns to be carried in schools, bars, airports, and places of worship. If you’re a big supporter of the NRA or the Second Amendment, this is great news. If you’re a Canadian liberal, like myself, it’s crappy. Not only from a generally humanist standpoint, in which any killing is generally frowned upon, but from a political one as well. Our current prime minister, the Harper 2000, very much likes to follow in the footsteps of the American right-wing policy-makers, so I’m worried he’ll take this latest cue to drive his majority government toward looser gun control. I like guns being restricted. I like walking into a mall and seeing nothing nastier than pepper-spray on the belts of security guards. It’s reassuring. When I see a cop, I’m very conscious of his gun: if he’s having a bad day—like his wife just left him for a guy that looked just like me—he could just draw his gun and put a pill in me. He’d lose his job, probably go to jail, but that’s of little benefit to me, as I’m dead. Boom.

Stories of LA drivers shooting at each other were a mainstay of my childhood, and that doesn’t happen if no one has guns. Someone cuts you off, they get the horn and the finger… NOT a clip full of 9mm shells. Punishment should fit the crime, and pissing me off is NOT a sin worth murdering for. (If I’m having a bad day, I may argue otherwise.)

My argument against proliferation of weaponry is NOT based on the Second Amendment. I ignore it. Not that a constitution shouldn’t be protected or followed, but a rule written a couple centuries ago should not govern current behaviour. It makes no sense. America has no slaves (outside of Wal-Mart, I mean). Women can vote. Things change, often for the better, at least when you look at the long-term. So why not weaken the Second Amendment? Why should it be sacrosanct? Sure, everyone can have a firearm, the absolute best thing available, as many as they want, as much ammunition as they can find, as long as the weapon matches the technology of 1776, the era in which the Second Amendment was crafted. All the muskets you want, and all the black powder you can carry. Go nuts.

No, my argument against guns is about safety. Sure, we have a nanny-state and a societal trend towards over-protectiveness, but saying “No machine guns” isn’t the same as booster seats and removing all the fun playground equipment. The bottom line is this: the more people who have ready access to devices of easy murder, the more likely it is people will be murdered.

It was proposed to me that gun possession might serve as a deterrent to crime. Sure, that makes sense. Who is going to be stupid enough to snatch a purse knowing six witnesses will draw iron and gun them down in a cross-fire hail of bullets? Of course criminals are known for their rational, logical, reasonable choices. That’s why they all commit crimes—just a second income—tax-free no less!—to support their lucrative professional careers. Give me a break. It’s a proven fact that criminals have statistically low impulse control. Nevertheless, I’m sure threat of punishment will be enough to stop them.

Oh, wait. Most of the really crazy places in America have capital punishment. Criminals can already face death down there, and it doesn’t seem to be stopping them, to judge by the long lists of death row inmates. Fear of punishment only stops people that already fear authority (like me—afraid of cops, remember?).

You might—just might—get a reduction in raw crime statistics, like “instead of 300 arrests, police made only 50 this month.” Some petty criminals might get scared away from trying anything. Of course, a reduction in arrests might also be paired with a sharp increase in body disposal. “After snatching Miss Jansen’s purse, her assailant was shot seventy-three times by eight Good Samaritans.” And just how many innocent bystanders were tagged in the process? Bullets go THROUGH things, including people, and that’s assuming every shot even hits the intended target in the first place.

There’s no training required to tote a gun in Crazyland, USA. Will the helpful feller next to you remember to check his sight lines before pulling the trigger on your mugger? Will he make sure they are no kids or seniors or just random pedestrians around? When we get filled with adrenaline through the “fight or flight” instinct, all our reactions get screwed up. People can panic. People WILL panic.

That doesn’t even include the guns-in-bars thing. Seriously? SERIOUSLY!?! I had a job once where I was able to view the security feeds for a local bar. In two years on the job, I can’t recall a single Friday or Saturday night that didn’t have at least one fight break out. The bouncers were on the brawlers pretty quick, but if you throw guns into the mix, what then? Are the bouncers gunning down the brawlers? Are the brawlers shooting back? Are they shooting at each other? Bars are crowded places. Even a single shooter in that environment is going to do some nasty damage.

Then there are schools. I understand the fear that a school shooting will happen again (as it inevitably will, alas). Giving teachers firearms is NOT the best solution. Increasing passive security (metal detectors, locked doors, limited entry points under constant observation, etc) will go a lot further to actually protecting kids than hiring Wyatt Earp as your principal. Do we want, under ANY circumstances, an armed gunfight in the halls where our kids are being taught?

To a point, I agree with the NRA maxim of “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” But why does that “good guy” have to be EVERYONE!! Why not just limit the power of firearms to the professionals, who are trained and taught to deal with these sorts of ugly situations? Let them handle it. Please.