Wednesday, September 11, 2013

When All That Remains is Fear

My idle speculations and observations on the American gun culture have never won me any friends and in fact the issue has played a large part in my combination of self-imposed exile/disownment from several members of my family here in South Carolina. Truthfully, and this will most definitely seem unkind, I have become enough of a curmudgeon already that having not to suffer through the idle chit chat of those who prance about waving “Don’t Tread on Me” flags along with episodes of holding their favorite weapon in a lover’s embrace is something of a relief. I have always been the family’s black sheep on most issues everyone else held in near total unanimity. After all these years I have actually come to relish what must be a mutant, anti-conformist gene lodged somewhere in my DNA.

While many have the idea that since the Newtown elementary school massacre I have become a hysterical ant-gun nut out to ban all civilian ownership of firearms nothing of the sort is true. Personally, I do not think a total ban will work. There are just too many damn weapons floating around this country and all someone has to do is read how badly Prohibition failed back in the early part of the Twentieth century to get an idea of what a similar piece of legislation on guns would accomplish. And while having a gun in the home considerably raises the chances of a tragic accident or domestic abuse I would be remiss if I did not mention that there are rare times having a weapon nearby has saved the lives of those about to be the victim of a crime.

So let me be clear, yes there is such an animal as a responsible gun owner. Target shooting is a sport, those that hunt often do it to put meat on the table for their families, and home protection is a legitimate concern. And in the case of full disclosure, I still own a Colt .45 semiautomatic and a nifty little rifle based on an old survival weapon designed by the United States Air Force. Both are safely stored away and have not been fired in years, the main reason I still keep them is that taking them out is a serious hassle.     

That being said and having pissed off any of my friends who do support such a ban I have to state I do not believe civilians should own any military-style assault weapons. In simple terms those weapons are designed less to outright kill a soldier and more to shred the body requiring others to care for the often critically injured person. If someone feels so incomplete without having an assault weapon in their lives such people need to proceed to the nearest army or marine recruiting station and sign up. Such training in weapons and their upkeep as they will be exposed to for years will eventually end all the romance associated with such devices. That is what happened in my case, after twenty-one years in the military if I ever have to fire another version of the M-16 rifle in my remaining years on Earth it will be too soon.

Speaking more tongue in cheek but with a serious side the only reasonable reason I have ever heard for the civilian ownership of assault weapons came from a old hippie I once knew named Phil. “Ron,” he confided in me once, “given all the apocalyptic morons running around with AR-15’s and a couple of thousand rounds of ammo buried underneath their homes the only reason I keep my AK-47 is because those fuckers scare the living Hell out of me.”

I also believe the purchase of ammunition should be closely monitored and heavily taxed. I cannot buy one package of extra strength sinus medicine without a record of the purchase being made, how anyone can go out and buy thousands of rounds of ammo like it’s toilet paper from Costco boggles the mind.

To finish up this part and get to the meat of my latest rant I also believe there should be extensive background checks along with a significant waiting period for the purchase of all firearms. The last thing would be mandatory training and safety programs for all gun owners with them acknowledging they are completely responsible for the proper use of their weapons along with being both criminally and civilly libel for any misuse. Not surprisingly because of these views  I have been condemned by both sides of the gun debate for either being out to take away the weapons of law-abiding citizens or a raging gun nut ready to shoot first and ask questions later.

My biggest problem with the current state of American gun culture comes from the near hysterical dependency members of that group place on their weapons. For reasons that cross the political and societal spectrum many in this country feel the deep need to embrace their weapons in an attempt secure their position in a rapidly evolving country.

To them civility, common courtesy, and safety have decayed to the point that they cannot go outside without openly carrying some sort of handgun. All sort of NRA backed laws and regulations now allow weapons in parks, many businesses, and very curiously, even churches all because of some vague, unnamed fear which now permeates our society. This is not a trivial change in viewpoint. I am old enough to remember when people, especially here in the south, took great pride in the preservation and enhancement of civil society.

I truly believe part of this comes in large part from the glamorization of military style weapons in movies and television which equally promotes the mindset that all problems, both foreign and domestic, can be solved with the right amount of high caliber firepower. Another factor I have heard and agree with is that the average American existence has become a daily assault of stomach turning uncertainties like job security, terrorism, and fear of the stranger. Back when your average Joe could get hired at a nearby factory and be reasonably certain he would have job for life and be able to put his kids through college things looked a lot more stable. Now throw in a changing geo-political landscape with the good old USA not necessarily the economic  and military top dog anymore and all sort of fruits and nuts start speculating about the collapse of the Republic caused by unseen enemies lurking in the shadows. Another factor related to the previous one is the multitude of conniving little agents of chaos on both the television and radio that use wholesale fear to earn a buck while undermining society as a whole. Fear is a primal instinct and the common way to counter it is by the display or use of power, and for Americans nothings says power like weapon with a high capacity magazine and a rapid rate of fire.

The problem in this approach is that you cannot build a civil society based on fear and the certain use of power to maintain order. Whatever the past faults of American society the general idea was that it would be made better through rational behavior, reason, and the spread of justice and dignity to as many people as possible. That simply cannot be done through the fear and intimidation supplied by those who base their existence on being able to carry a weapon everywhere because they feel scared of some unknown adversary. Unfortunately, civilized society depends greatly on the simple matter of trust and the idea that no matter what we are all in this together so we must get along.

If the open display of weapons in a society promoted civilized behavior places like Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and all the other nightmarish failed states dominated by petty warlords would be bastions of peace, freedom, and reason.

From NBC News:

 A mother of three who became a voice of the gun-rights movement when she openly carried a loaded pistol to her daughter's soccer game was fatally shot along with her husband, a parole officer and former prison guard, in an apparent murder-suicide at their home.

Autopsies were planned Friday for Meleanie Hain, 31, and Scott Hain, 33, who were pronounced dead shortly after 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at their brick home in this small city about 80 miles west of Philadelphia.

The couple's 10-year-old son and daughters ages 2 and 6 were home at the time, police said. The two older children ran outside and told neighbors that their father had shot their mother, neighbors said. The children are being cared for by neighbors and relatives.

Toys lay scattered across the corner lot Thursday in the tree-lined neighborhood where the family lived and where Meleanie ran a day care center. A car parked in the driveway bore a badge-shaped sticker that read "NRA law enforcement."

Worked as prison guard, parole officer Scott Hain had worked in Reading as a parole officer for the state Board of Probation and Parole since August 2008. He previously was a guard at the Camp Hill state prison, the state Corrections Department said.
Neighbor Mark Long told The Patriot-News in Harrisburg that Meleanie Hain had baby-sat for his 3-year-old son and that the couple had been having marital problems for about a week. 


Cloudia said...

Plenty guns here, but small island, different vibe. Why do you think I moved here 26 years ago??!!!
I won't freeze, and we can grow lots of good stuff here.

ALOHA from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral
=^..^= <3

Pixel Peeper said...

I think the story is a few years old, but still holds a valuable lesson: when you have easy access to a gun, things can get out of control way too fast.

Cirze said...

Heckfire, buddy.

I'm so well-known for my kneejerk librul views in my family that I wasn't even invited to the family reunion this year.

At Myrtle.


And I thought I had been pretty subtle about those snake flags.



Rose L said...

Well said, and I totally agree.

Mike B said...

Beach Bum, thanks for a really great post. I like the way you think and admire that you can be your own person surrounded by those who disagree.

Life As I Know It Now said...

Great post and I totally agree.

Akelamalu said...

Ron you talk a lot of sense my friend!

The Bug said...

My husband has guns for the same reason as your hippie friend - although his "cowboy" gun is just for fun. (I have to admit that I am a stereotypical woman & don't "get" the fascination with guns). Sometimes I think that, if this post-apocalyptic scenario actually plays out, I really should learn how to use a gun - but then I realize that I probably wouldn't be around very long anyway.

I love that you go ammo spam on this post :)

Pearl said...

We have this in common, my friend.


Mr. Charleston said...

Turn off the freaking TV and there will be no violence in your life.

Beach Bum said...

Cloudia: Yeah, I personally love the Big Island from what I have seen on documentaries.

Pixel: What is funny about this post is that I went way over my own personal line about being fair and balanced and apparently I still upset some people. Got a couple of irate emails and lost a blog follower.

Like the recent previous post this was more about civility and finding common cause in society than banning weapons although I do believe civilians have absolutely no need to own assault weapons.

Cirze: Yeah, my sister is getting married this month and I will not be going. One of my brothers is a certified right-wing, Bible thumping nut case and my future brother-in-law owns two AR-15s and talks about buying more. To say I would be out of place is a dangerous understatement.

Rose: Thanks!

Mike B: Its more complicated than that but in my area you simply do not advertise your left-leaning political beliefs. This country generally and South Carolina specifically is far closer to being run with a "mild" form of fascism than anyone wants to admit.

Life As I Know It: Thanks!

Akelamalu: Thanks!

The Bug: That quote from Phil was almost word for word. Yeah, another reason I am keeping my two weapons is because I know scores of people who base their existence on the guns and rifles they own.

Pearl: Thanks!

Mr. Charleston: As is often the case I do not understand your comment. Violence exists in this country because people have lost all common sense and have access to an overabundance of handgun whether or not I watch television.

Your Ostrich-like strategy does not solve the problem. Have a really nice Day.

goatman said...

Guns seem to be an "easy out" for many problems encountered in life.

Hey! I thought of heavily-taxing ammunition first!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I was gonna get on that "tax and track the ammo" bandwagon, too. It actually has gotten a whole lot more expensive than it used to be. We used to do a lot of target-shooting, but not so much anymore. Partly because we misplaced our illusive "round tuits", and partly because of the high cost of ammo.

But banning weapons will never work.

Great post.

Beach Bum said...

Goatman: From Mr. Charleston's asinine comment it appears I touched one of his many nerves. But yes, I fully agree with yours.

Susan: With all due respect I could care less about the current price of ammo and how it hurts the target shooter. Secondly, I clearly stated in my post that banning all weapons would not work. Although when it comes to military-style assault weapons there are twenty dead kids in Newtown who might say a ban on them is worth the effort. Have a nice day.

Marja said...

Great post Love you would like to do back ground checks and the like!
In Holland you need a licence. I think it is creepy that anyone can own guns.

Hippo said...

Damn good article. There IS such a thing as responsible gun ownership. Motives for civilians owning guns are hunting, pest control and sport.

A State that enshrines in its constitution the right to bear arms is abrogating the essential obligation of the state to protect its citizens.

It is rather like the elected body being informed that there is violence on the streets so shouldn't they deploy policemen on the streets to restore order and the reply being, no, issue more weapons to everybody and let them sort it out themselves. Anarchy.