No Time For Politics

In the wake of the awful shootings in Connecticut and Oregon, the debate is raging once again over the appropriateness of allowing common citizens to own and carry firearms. Both sides are falling back on the same tired arguments, none of which are likely to sway anyone, nor do I think they are meant to, except in the most deluded cases of those who truly believe that their cause is so righteous that only the willfully blind could ignore it, and all it would take is the proper spin on a terrible enough tragedy to get them to see.

The fact is that both sides of the debate are using each of these atrocities, and every one that precedes them, and each one that follows, as yet another piece of ammunition in their ongoing war (and yes, I chose those words quite deliberately). They have abandoned reason and logic to fall back on fallacies and emotion. These are emotional situations, and rightly so, but the discussion at hand is not. It is one of how we order a just society, and letting that be ruled by emotion always will lead to short-sighted decision making and partisan sniping at best; at worst, I do not even want to contemplate what it could lead to, for fear of being accused of making an argument ad hitlerum myself.

First, allow me to address the “right to bear arms” crowd. As an acknowledged supporter of the Second Amendment myself, I hope that you will not see it as an attack when I say: STFU. Please. Just for five minutes. If I hear one more person say how this was a tragedy about people and not guns, or some other such bullshit, I am going to scream. This was a tragedy involving guns, just like every other school shooting, mall shooting, celebrity shooting, and every other shooting you have to get out in front of in an attempt to defend the vast majority of responsible gun owners. Notice how I tossed you a bone at the end there? There’s a reason for that. I get it. I agree. I’ll even repeat it: the vast majority of gun owners are responsible, law-abiding people. That still doesn’t do a damn thing to bring back a single one of the lost and wasted lives, or repair the shattered lives of those who are left behind. Repeat it like a mantra all you want. It. Does. Not. Change. A. Thing.

Here is the reality we have to live with: if we allow people to own guns, then the possibility of something like this happening again approaches a near certainty. That much has become obvious, and we need to accept that and stop running from it. We, as a society, have to be aware of it, and while we can do everything in our power to minimize it, it is almost impossible to prevent someone who is determined enough from getting their hands on a gun and killing people. That is a fact, and it is unavoidable.

Now, having put all that on the floor, let me speak to the gun control advocates. If I hear one more person make un unfalsifiable claim about how those kids would still be alive if we had better gun control, I will be violently ill. Aside from taking shameless advantage of a terrible situation, you’re also full of shit. Here’s an example of someone using a knife to attack school kids. Now think: do you know anyone who knows how to make dynamite? If the answer is no, come on by and I’ll introduce you to some rednecks I know. It’s not very difficult, and if you can walk into a school with an assault rifle, you can walk in with several sticks of dynamite hidden about your person. My point is not how easy it is to hurt people, my point is that a determined person will find a way, and simply waving a hand and screaming “GUN CONTROL!!!!!” doesn’t change that.

Here is the reality we have to live with: every day in this country, citizens protect themselves, their families (including young children), and their neighbors against violent offenders with lawfully purchased and licensed firearms. Handguns, shotguns, and yes, even “assault rifles”. If you take them away, you leave people vulnerable. Don’t try to claim the police will fill the gap, because the Supreme Court has made it very clear that the police have no duty whatsoever to prevent crime, only to prosecute it (and in some neighborhoods it seems, not even that). We, as a society, have to be aware of this fact, and if we take away people’s right to defend themselves, we are leaving them vulnerable. While we can do everything in our power to minimize it, we have already proven we are not willing to invest the resources even in the best of our communities to protect people against all crimes (even if we could, and we cannot); in our worst neighborhoods we would be leaving them utterly at the whims of the criminals. That is a fact, and it is unavoidable.

These, then, are the costs as I see them. I am not trying to stifle debate, I am trying to start it. Real debate, not simple sloganeering and screaming of worn-out catchphrases from both sides. It is time that everyone admit that there is no good answer, there is no simple, cost-free solution where we all live happily ever after. Maybe then we can decide which costs we are willing to shoulder, admit that we have to pay them, and move on.

And one more thing. I think it’s time we call out the real villains in all of this, and for that I’m turning over the floor to My Not So Humble Mother:

When did a discussion over the necessity of gun control become news?  The shooting at the school was a tragedy, no doubt; but using the rapt attention of folks who live off these tragedies as an audience for gun control is not reporting.  It’s the worst sort of soapbox scare tactics I’ve ever seen!

I couldn’t have put it better myself. (Now you know where I get it from. Well, half of it at any rate.)

Here is the reality we have to live with: So long as “if it bleeds, it leads” is the mantra that drives “news” reporting, then the message that is being sent is “if you want to be famous, kill people”. So long as editorializing (on both sides of the aisle) replaces honest discussion of the issues, we will never have a meaningful debate, nor will we ever come to a place where we can have any sort of comity in our neighborhoods, in our malls, or in our schools. That is a fact, and it is unavoidable.


11 Comments on “No Time For Politics”

  1. Excellent post, I am going to share this one.

  2. Fahad says:

    Bob, you say you want real debate but at the same time you want everyone to admit, outright, at the onset, that there is no real answer. I find that a tad bit problematic.

    You can’t deny that the statistics that compare gun violence rates across countries are troubling, to say the least. You can’t deny the fact that parts of the country that have some control laws experience less gun violence on average. You can’t deny that if you have guns at home, you or someone you live with is at a higher risk of getting hurt by the same guns. These are facts that if you were to deny would make you look like Karl Rove.

    In one of your other posts, you say guns kill people in the same way that cars and bad cooking kill people. I think that’s a very bad analogy to make, sir. The point of a car is to transport you from point A to point B. A crash is a corruption of the experience. The point of food is to give you nourishment. The cooking itself being subpar is, again, an intended corruption of the experience. The point of a gun, however, is to kill. Plain and simple.

    Bob, you’re right. The second amendment doesn’t lay it out perfectly. But it doesn’t define “arms,” either, does it? So why couldn’t you own a tank or a jet fighter, or a surface-to-air missile system, or even a nuke? Because there’s regulation by none other than the federal government. Why can’t assault rifles be treated the same way and regulated?

    I’ll leave you with a thought. If someone was to break and enter into your children’s school, your wife’s place of work or your mother’s, God forbid, would you rather they be wielding a knife or a gun? You say that outlawing guns would make no difference at all, but I find that to be a very defeatists attitude. We stil have fatal car crashes – should we say that the speed limit makes no difference?

    I’d like to hear your thoughts on these points. Cheers.

    • Bob Bonsall says:


      You make some excellent points, and when I say there is no perfect answer, that is not to say there is no real answer. I am only asking that people stop pretending that there is an answer without costs. For my entire adult life the debate seems to have consisted of both sides talking past each other, pretending that they can have their cake (or guns, or world peace) and eat it too. There is no such animal. Everything comes with a price, and it is time that we admit that. That is what I ask, nothing more and nothing less.

      Gun violence rates across the country are troubling to be sure, but that cannot be attributed solely or even in the majority to lawful gun owners, who last I checked (and it has been a few months) were the largest segment by far of gun owners. You can’t deny that the worst shootings have taken place in places that guns have been specifically banned (public schools, shopping malls, theaters), thus showing that the very nature of the problem (crime) is antithetical to the solution (laws). These are facts that if you were to deny would make you look like Al Gore.

      To say that guns have no purpose other than to kill is to make the same sort of one-dimensional assumption as my post is arguing against, and denies any sort of meaningful debate. A gun is a tool that does one thing, and does it very well: it creates a projectile going at high velocity in one direction away from the shooter. The purpose to which it is put, whether to hunt game, target shoot, or kill innocent people, is determined by the person holding the gun. Plain and simple.

      As far as citing federal regulation in an attempt to sway me in argument, I’m afraid you’ve made a poor choice in dealing with a libertarian. 😉 There’s a lot of things that are regulated or banned by the federal government that I take issue with the government having involvement with, but fortunately none of the items you cited (in fact I would rather no government have nukes, but that’s because I trust them even less with nukes than I do most of the people I know). That having been said, I have recently posted about a discussion in which my wife and I talked gun control legislation, and I am actually willing to accept some reasonable limitations. One item of note: I was listening to NPR last night, and as I recall it was the assistant head or the head of the BATF who was on. He said that at the range the most recent shooting took place, it wouldn’t have mattered if the shooter was using the assault rifle he was carrying or one of the two pistols he was carrying. This from a man who also said, in the same interview multiple times, he did not own nor ever intend to own an assault rifle. For whatever that’s worth.

      Here’s the thought I’ll leave you with. If someone was to break and enter into your children’s school, your wife’s place of work or your mother’s, God forbid, would you rather they be wielding a gun or have dynamite strapped to their chest? Would you prefer that your wife or daughter have to walk down a dark street at night alone with a can of pepper spray or the option to carry a gun? I’m not saying everyone, or even most people, should go armed (I myself do not own a firearm, nor do I intend to). I just believe people should have that choice, for several reasons.


      • Fahad says:

        Should people have the choice to buy stinger missiles, too? Where do you (personally) draw the line?

        If my mother was walking down the street and if somebody approached her suspiciously, she’d probably fire (if she had a gun). She very jumpy, you see, and so are a lot of people. Now, this person could well just be harmless, even if they were on drugs. It could even be a prank by someone you love (a father killed his son a few months ago because he looked suspicious). You don’t know, and so the answer can’t be to shoot. Or maybe I have a different view of the world.

        I asked you if you would rather that the person be carrying a gun or a knife, and you replied with a question of your own. At the heart of your question is the assumption that we cannot reduce the number of firearms in this country, which we absolutely can. That is why I said that believing that we can’t do that is fatalistic, deterministic and defeatist.

        There’s still a question waiting to be addressed, Bob. Knowing that accidents and fatalities will happen regardless, would you ban speed limits?


      • Bob Bonsall says:

        Should people have the choice to buy stinger missiles? It’s a good question. I try to balance that one in terms of personal liberty, the chances they could seriously acquire one, and the likelihood they would actually do harm with it, and at the end of the day I would have to say no. I would draw the line at stinger missiles to be sure. But as far as personal aircraft go, I do not intend to ban people from owning those, and considering that most personal aircraft available today exceed the military aircraft used in WWI, the question starts to become slippery again. At what point does technology start to catch up with the law? When does “banning” things become obsolete or counterproductive?

        If your mother shot someone because she was jumpy, she’d be criminally liable for the act. That being the case, I would hope she wouldn’t carry a gun. I do not believe we should issue guns to everyone, nor am I in favor of everyone running out and buying a gun right this instant. I do not own a firearm myself, nor do I intend to, because I do not have the proper skill set to handle it responsibly. That does not in itself negate any other person’s having the proper skill set to do so. As far as “I’m not sure, better shoot”, that is the completely wrong view point to have while carrying a firearm, and nobody that I know who does carry a firearm ever has that mindset. If they pull their weapon, it is because they are concerned. If they aim, it is because they are certain. And if they are wrong, they will be brought up on charges, same as anyone else who misuses any other tool in a violent way.

        I answered your question with my own not because I believe we can’t reduce the number of guns in this country, but because I believe the number of guns in this country is a red herring. The number of guns is not the problem; the violence is the problem. Yes, we can reduce the number of guns in this country, you are certainly correct about that. But it is disingenuous to say that the guns are creating the violence, just as it would be disingenuous to say that the guns are not contributing to the commission of that violence. I am not being fatalistic when I say that reducing the number of guns won’t fix things; I am saying it is no good to treat the symptoms without treating the cause.

        Knowing that fatalities and accidents would happen regardless, would I ban speed limits? Considering I have not seen any studies that control for such things as increased seat belt use and improved safety features in cars that really show how much speed limits actually prevent accidents and fatalities (although I am open to such a study), I would point out that some European cities have completely done away with ALL traffic controls (including speed limits) and are having fewer accidents and fatalities. Here’s the thing, Fahad. I believe that policy is not morality. There is no right or wrong. There are simply trade-offs. Sometimes it’s an easy choice: if you kill someone, we put you in jail. Sometimes it’s a much harder choice: how much are we willing to pay to keep the roads clean? But at the end of the day, we have to make these choices based on facts, not emotions, wherever possible. Otherwise what we end up with is a cure worse than the disease.

      • Fahad says:

        A few additional questions:

        * Are you also against the criminalizing of marijuana?
        * Are you opposed to Iran getting a nuclear weapon? (you did say that people [and by extension, their government] should be allowed to choose)
        * Of the mass-shootings in the US, how many have been stopped by a gun-owning bystander?

      • Bob Bonsall says:

        Always glad to answer questions!

        * I am completely against the criminalizing of marijuana.
        * I believe I also mentioned I am not comfortable with any government having nuclear weapons. Frankly I don’t trust governments with anything more dangerous than a ball of string. So yes, I am opposed to Iran getting a nuclear weapon, but I am opposed to anyone having them.
        *To the best of my knowledge, none of the mass-shootings in the US have been stopped by a gun-owning bystander.

        Now a few questions of my own, if I may.

        *Are you opposed to government restrictions on free speech? What about hateful speech?
        *What percentage of mass killings in the past ten years (the rough period of time since the expectoration of the assault weapons ban) on US soil have been the result of a firearm? How many of the deaths (by percentage) have been caused by a firearm?
        *How about the last 15 years?
        *Of the mass-shootings in the US, how many have taken place in a place where people were NOT prohibited to carry a firearm in the first place?
        *How much of the gun violence in America (by percentage) can be attributed to people who bought and registered their guns legally (and thus would be reduced by changing the laws)?

  3. juneeb says:

    It seems redundant to agree with opinions which mirror my own, but–here, here! (I never imagined I would be in print, even quotable, at that!)

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