Saturday, February 13, 2010

Alabama On My Mind

It is an odd world; the very first blog post I ever tossed into the maze of the interwebs was about the Virginia Tech shootings. That was on April 21, 2007 over one thousands posts ago. Welcome to Ground Hog's day Pt II, February 13, 2010. Other than tweaking a few facts and the odd comment, it is the same thing all over again; only this time it is worse.

From that blog post nearly three years back. "Universities are not supposed to be armed camps. Professors and Administrators really should not have the requirement of packing heat as part of their jobs. Is it really that hard to get students to turn their term papers on time? Are you telling me that besides being an expert in Aristotelian logic professors need to qualify with an Uzi? So instead of sniping at each other with words, the Professors can now snipe at each other with Kalashnikovs? This is supposed to be an improvement?"

It is a frightening thing when sarcasm and hyperbole become reality; when life imitates art. That is what happened in Alabama just a few days back. A professor decided to plead her tenure case with a handgun. Three dedicated educators are no longer with us. Three others were wounded. The professor in question, Ann Bishop, now faces capital murder charges.

What turned a seemingly mild mannered College Professor in to an alleged killer is anybody's guess. It turns out this is not her first incident with firearms. She accidentally shot her brother with a shot gun, and killed him, before. (The story was first uncovered by Boston Papers and has now even reached over the seas to the BBC)

We live in a cowboy culture; our nation is super-saturated with small arms. At the time of the V.T. shootings there was one handgun or rifle to almost every U.S. Citizen. With the run on ammo and small arms after the 2008 election, it would not be surprising if the ratio is now near one-to-one. Statistically speaking every U.S. resident older than a toddler is now packing heat. Seriously, is this any way to run a society?

This is a plea for some kind of sweet reason to enter our discussion. Please, exactly why on earth would a college biology professor need or desire to be in possession of a handgun? What is the logic? Is there some kind of new criminal gang that has infested college biology labs that I don't know about? Is this gang tearing around sleepy neighborhoods, stealing cats and dogs at gun point, so they can supply their dissection labs? Have I missed something?

Of course there is a Second Amendment right to bear arms, the Supremes made that point painfully clear when they struck down D.C.'s handgun ban. Still, that right resides in the need for a well trained militia. Common sense also dictates that some citizens should not bear arms because of mental incapacity. Common sense would also hopefully dictate that while small arms may be allowed, other weapons are not. Even the rigidly right-wing ideologues of this Supreme Court would hopefully nix the idea of ordinary citizens dashing about with RPGs during their Sunday strolls. There is the overarching notion in the Preamble of the Constitution that mentions insuring domestic tranquility after all.

Let's drill down a little deeper on the subject of domestic tranquility. Small arms by their very nature are antithetical to any kind of tranquility, domestic or otherwise. They are designed with one purpose in mind; to cause grievous harm and or death to living things. A bullet discharged from either a handgun or rifle will tear through any flesh and bone it encounters in its travels. It will do so until it uses up all the kinetic energy supplied by the propellant that sends it on its way. Even a relatively small caliper slug like a .22 can and does kill. Larger caliper ballistics will, of course, do much more damage. There is no real escaping the fact that small arms only real function is to put a hurting on living things. The bullet is rather catholic in its destructive arc; it will just as soon end the life of a loved one as it would a deer. Hunting may be a sport, but have no illusions, it is a blood sport. If you have a good day hunting, some critter is going to have a very bad one.

As it is with hunting, so is it with "self defense." The defense offered is actually a brutal offense. A properly deployed small arm beats just about any other weapon out there, other than another small arm. It is, at least psychologically, the upper hand in any conflict. The problem is Psychology is not real life. Use of force in the real world is a very dicey proposition. It is a matter of situational awareness. It is a matter of crisis management. It is a matter of mental clarity and snap decisions. It is definitely a matter of practice with the weapon. It is a matter of emotional maturity. It is a commitment to a type of responsible behavior that most people seriously lack. Case in point, any Yahoo who decides that s/he can run around with a side-arm taped to his leg during a protest needs to have all of his weapons taken from him or her. That person is totally lacking in the seriousness required of small arms ownership. That person is a danger to himself or herself and others. That person is a base fool, and should not be allowed to handle any object sharper than a dull crayon.

Many times the ownership of small arms is an example of the difference between can and should. Can you purchase a small arm? Yes, Visa, Master Card, Amex, Discover, Cash, and check accepted; have fun, come again. Should you own a small arm? Probably not. The weapon is more likely to turn on you the owner than it is to protect you. Either the bugler will steal it from you while you're out of the house or the Robber will get the drop on you with their weapon. Either way you lose. 

More importantly having that weapon is death and destruction just waiting for a low point in your life. It can and will be used on a cheating partner. It can and will be used to end one's own life. It can and will be used as an out-of-control expression of disappointment, loss or revenge. It can and will take a momentary bad patch in a life, and turn it into complete disaster. In a few short minutes Ann Bishop was transformed from a disappointed tenure candidate into alleged mass murder. Can we all agree that that was not a good thing? Can we at least, perhaps, maybe, revisit our attitudes about guns? There just has to be a better way than this.

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