Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Pre-Speech SOTU Show

It's too bad Mr. Obama couldn't have used some of the footage in the long pre-speech Live from Big Bear show in his section on mild, sensible gun-control measures. And they didn't even cover some very important aspects of that terrible story comin' down, such as this one:

No one will ask Mr. LaPierre how his vaunted "give 'em more guns" solution applies to this case. Should the two newspaper ladies have returned fire? Now that would have been a really bad idea. But the fact is, as anyone with any sense surely knows, all the training in the world will not necessarily produce fire arms activity which is necessarily on the right side of murder and mayhem. Fear and fire arms are a dangerous combination. In a sense, they resulted in every case of mass murder we've witnessed over the past forty or fifty years, give or take a few cases of I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. While a lot of folks see the specific problem as reflecting the specifics of the Los Angles Police Department, it takes little more than Occam's rusty razor to perceive the general point. Indeed, to miss it is a symptom of that margin where the Religion of Baal, in the form of the Semi-Automatic Rifle and its accompanying 30 round magazine, supersedes any rational perception of events in the real world.

Of course the toil in service of illusion is unceasing. This is because there are simply no limits to what is required to keep one's eyes open, yet unseeing. If the Auto Industry had been as hip to the science of advertising back in the day, we'd not now be saddled with driver's licenses, speed limits, or stop signs. After all, criminals drive without licenses when they want to, rarely observe the speed limit unless it is to remain unnoticed in the immediate aftermath of a crime, or stop for lights and signs when it is an inconvenience. LaPierre's world is free indeed, as free as the world of a squirrel or a herd of bison, or a Lakota warrior in 1650, before anyone from the other side of the planet had made their way to the Black Hills.

Mr. Ornery Bastid makes the points well:

The argument isn't to disarm the police. The argument is that weapons convey power beyond any completely realizable power of restraint. This is actually a very conservative notion, one might say, Burkean: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We're all doomed by reality to work along that thin window ledge, six stories up, sometimes in rain and ice. What's saddest of all is to listen to the gigantic amount of dissembling being generated by our various representatives in the service of this modern Baal. Well, at least if you don't count watching Ms Giffords' efforts to clap, or the piles of slaughtered children.

[photo: The Sun, John Valenzuela/AP Photo]


Sunday Update: This post was actually prompted by the bustedknuckles post cited above. Over there, "Moe" responded to my comment (which I later expanded herein) with the retort (I paraphrase), "who's going to protect me and my family if I don't--obviously not the cops, who can't shoot straight." That's of course part of the "gun problem" we all face in a succinct nutshell. All of us are individuals, living behind our individual doors, looking out at a world that is indeed dangerous on occasion. It's very easy to imagine particular exemplifications of danger which we might well meet with a weapon. We've all seen exactly those examples portrayed over the years with better and better precision in the movies. From the widder woman standing at the door with the shotgun, to Elmore Leonard's "Kill Shot," we all thrill (vicariously) when the bad guys are thwarted. "Lookie here, Lon, there warn't no bullets." Even in that case, evil is thwarted with the help of a weapon.

The hard part is to try to imagine not just the one particular scenario, but a more general hubbub of events which carry with them many "morals," some contradicting others. The Lanza boy got his weapons from his mother by murdering her with one of them. Like Moe, she would have probably said, before the tragic events silenced her and all those children--"well, I want to defend my home against all the crime I see--we all see--on the teevee every night." Fear and ambiguity will always be part of the context. The cops who shot up that truck were not crazy. They were misperceiving. And, they were most likely reasonably well trained.

LaPierre's foolish idea, to put armed, trained guards in every school, does not mitigate every thing, only certain particular things. An armed guard might well shoot a certain, particular school assaulter. He might well deter another. And he might himself be killed or disabled by yet another. As someone noted, some school boys in Arkansas decided to sit out in the woods near a school with high powered rifles and, after calling in a false fire alarm, picked off children who were exiting the school due to the alarm. What exactly is an armed guard going to do with that scenario? Yes indeed, a citizen might well defend his home against a particular home invader or even several. And a particular citizen might also mistakenly shoot his kid coming home late and sneaking in. Both things have happened, in "real" life.

The point is just this. There's a place for some sensible restrictions on the unfettered weapons market we now have. Just as there was a place for a restriction on owning a machine gun, or a bazooka. What happens when folks like "Moe" bring up defending their homes is, our perception of the overall problem is reduced to tunnel vision. We start looking at one particular way things can happen. This kind of tunnel vision is also part of being human. Ask George Zimmerman.


  1. Mr. Bill,
    First I would like to thank you for stopping by my place and leaving your comments, I always appreciate someone taking the time to do that. Thank you also for the link.

    I will paraphrase what I said over at my place here. Until the laws on the books already are enforced to the maximum amount possible, creating new laws to legislate morality trying to justify "doing something about gun violence" is a waste of ink.

  2. I thank Mr. Knuckles for taking the time to comment here. I'm not sure if I should take seriously his argument, or if he's just expressing a sense of futility or whatever. The "laws on the books" do not at the moment outlaw large capacity magazines, for example, no matter how well they are enforced. Nor do they outlaw weapons which are plainly and obviously designed as human killing machines, e.g., assault weapons taken broadly.

    There is, in it's nature, a limit to what any law can accomplish. ANY law. There are not enough policemen to enforce laws to their maximum, and given the anarchists now running Congress and many state legislatures, there will soon be fewer due to funding limitations and the rise in fuel prices. Plenty of people will always "get away" with breaking laws. This is surely a sign that laws now existing are not enforced to the maximum possible. I can most likely get away with running the closest stop sign to my home this morning on the way to work. There just aren't enough police on the job around these parts. Our tax base isn't big enough.

    Mr. Knuckles misunderstands the point of law. In the case of new weapons legislation, nothing that gets done will change everything. In my opinion, background checks, the most likely result of the current round of effort, will do very little, for the reason that background checks of necessity will not reveal the most important dynamic in our weapons problem, namely the actual way that an individual is affected by his possession of a weapon in the course of his life. They ain't even going to administer an MMPI to each prospective weapons purchaser. They'll nontheless weed out some folks, which will be an improvement. And maybe just eleminating or diminishing people who act as mules for others will be some help. It's all about small increments, nothing more.

    This is exactly as it's been with other areas where we have legislated, such as auto safety and food safety, and legislation concerning tobacco and alcohol. And, for that matter, weapons, since it was once legal to own fully automatic firearms.

    I don't know a better answer to the question, "Well, is our gun legislation perfect as it stands, then?" If one imagines the scales of justice, and the perfect equilibrium of a moment (say, 1950), and then one adds the senseless massacre victims of Newtown, Aurora, etc., does not the scale move a whit? Our situation is just like the moment when our legislative bodies realized that perhaps we needed a speed limit, or air bags, or that motorcyclists needed to wear helmets. There can be improvements in the legislative situation viz guns. The bodies of the victims demand the effort. This is not an example of legislating morality.