A Taste of Wrath - pt 3
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woohooligan Apr 27, 2016
woohooligan NEW! Check out our best laughs from 2016!
I think I tend to be middle-of-the-road on a lot of issues and certainly I think that's true where guns are concerned. On the one hand, people with intent often find a way around the law (oh look, it's 4:20), so we have to accept that there are limits to the deterrent effect our laws. On the other hand, if a subject is important like fire codes, traffic safety or frat hazing, where people are in harms way when dudes are jerking around, we shouldn't just throw up our hands and say "well shit, boys will be boys!"

You can also learn a lot about a culture by the laws they enact - they're a window into our collective psyche. My parents weren't quite born yet when WWII ended. Like all previous attempts at maniacal world domination, the Axis Powers also failed. In fact, Hitler married Eva Braun in April of 1945 and decided to honeymoon in a bullet in the back of his brain-pan. That same month, partisans in Italy killed Mussolini. Hirohito survived the war although due to a string of military defeats, Tojo had already resigned as Prime Minister the year before. All this makes it somewhat telling that despite the fact that Allied Powers were already winning the war, Truman decided to make the whole world collectively shit ourselves several months later when he ordered the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It's true no one can really say for certain if the world would be a better place today if Truman had been more cautious. Would someone else have developed the bomb shortly after and forced us into the same situation in the long run? Would the death toll from subsequent battles and wars been much larger without the nuclear deterrent? Would our frame of reference for understanding the danger of nuclear power been slightly postponed to Chernobyl? These are all questions that only one person can answer: Marty McFly... Okay, two if you include Doc Brown... Three if you include Clara... the Doctor... Bill and Ted... I think we're getting off topic here.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) love to say the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. This is what lead to their recommendation for handling all the recent school shootings: guns in school. (I wish I were joking.) And I think this goes back to that lesson about our collective psyche as Americans. In our scared-shittlessness after WWII, we (that is, politicians at the helm of world powers) decided that the only way to stop a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke (despite the fact that the two countries who had them were BOTH "good guys" during WWII, members of the Allied powers). We called this idea Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). We thought, based on some over-simplified game theory, that as long as we made sure we were in a constant Mexican standoff with Russia, no one would ever dare actually use a nuclear weapon. The problem is that game theories depend on those games having rigidly defined rules, and if there's one thing people are good at, it's coloring outside the lines. The cracks in the MAD philosophy started almost immediately, because in order for it to work, both sides had to avoid taking any extra measures to defend themselves against opposing nukes, like widescale bomb shelters, ABM silos, or who else remembers Star Wars? No, no, Star Wars! Moreover, after many decades of stockpiling super-massive, expensive arsenals of weapons with the intention of never using them, like a nucelar lazy-susan, our new fear is that some crazy asshole who's not constrained by government bureacracy might get ahold of those nukes. As long as they're on our lazy-susan, we feel pretty safe, but not so much if another Bin Laden or McVeigh got ahold of them and just wanted to see shit burn. And despite the fact that one study claimed a causal link between more guns and less crime, I'm similarly unconvinced by the NRA's assessment that we'll all have a happy, healthy utopia as soon as we all start arming ourselves to the teeth everywhere we go. "As long as we all live in constant fear of being shot to death by any random neighbor, everything will be great!"

And this idea of making sure that everyone is constantly armed to prevent gun violence is all the weirder when you consider what a rarity gun violence is in the first place. That's right, I said it, gun violence is rare. Here in America, where we kill each other thirty-three times as often as Israelis despite the love-fest between them and the Palestinians, in the country where gun-control discussions always get the Chewbacca Defense, gun violence is STILL rare! Of the roughly 750k police officers working in the United states, less than twelve percent will EVER draw their firearm. That's in their ENTIRE career, in a profession where violent confrontation is an EXPECTED risk! So when you consider that these are the guys who are on-call, who are immediately radio-dispatched to any violent scene, and that around the world, that twelve percent figure is considered ridiculously high (1-5% in europe, a little higher in latin America, virtually non-existent in Asia), the odds of you as an individual being the "good guy with a gun" when something goes down, is vanishingly small. So I'm sorry to tell you, Captain Militia Man, your odds of being the hero are close to your odds of being struck by lightning or winning the lottery. But I guess if not winning the lotto won't stop you from playing that, it's likely never getting to be the hero won't stop you from still spending your kids' college fund and countless hours at the gun range playing cops and robbers. Just imagine what we could accomplish if all that time and money were devoted to other things? What if you spent all that time honing a talent for laughter? Wouldn't that be something?

Or I could take a moment to stop stroking my own ego and suggest you become a doctor. Globally in 2002, intentional injury (which includes not only mano et mano violence but also war and suicide) accounted for less than 3% of ALL deaths! The vast majority of deaths in that year were caused by often preventable medical conditions like cardiovascular disease, parasites and cancer. Granted, I am talking to Americans here, and who wants to be treated in the ER by doctor Yosemite Sam?

And to be honest most of us are far more willing to accept death from preventable disease because at least in that case it's usually not murder and even if the guy didn't bring it on himself, we like to think that what could be done was done.

Whether we want it or not, the world changes. So if we want to keep up, we have to change with it. When the second amendment was drafted, it took an average of a minute or two between musket shots to pour and tamp the powder, etc. Musket balls were far less accurate and far less dangerous than today's guns.

But as true, red-blooded Americans do, instead of dealing with changing times by using our brains, we decided to go with braun, calling on Congress to ban any attempt (at least by the CDC) to scientifically examine the causes of gun violence. Apparently the NRA feel that their position is so weak, it is incapable of standing up to scrutiny, so they're just going to take a page from the tyrant's handbook and silence any dissent. How's that for a peek into the American psyche?

But it's not like we don't know where this leads... If you're worried about ISIS in Iraq, then you should probably know that WE gave them easy access to a lot of their guns when we took out Hussein. In fact, the CIA has been arming and training rebel groups around the world for 70 years and recently reported that it doesn't work. But of course, who wants to stop playing the lotto, am I right?!

So if the CIA can't effectively train fighters in other countries, why would the NRA think we can effectively train school teachers to use guns to protect their schools?

I suspect if this were still 1776 and we were talking about muzzle-loading muskets, I'd probably trust a twelve year old in an emergency situation... but a twelve-year-old with a single musket shot every two minutes is a far cry from that same kid with a Glock that fires eighteen rounds in four seconds. That's honestly not much different than the way we treat other things. I think most of us would let a twelve-year-old handle a sharp knife, but we probably need an extra measure of confidence in them before we'll let them handle a chainsaw.

But improved gun technologies aren't the only new danger in the world. In fact, I've come to think that the most dangerous tool available today is the Internet. A gun requires that you be physically present in front of your intended victim, but you can launch a smear campaign on Twitter that ruins someone's life while sucking mojitos in your Jaccuzi. And if your campaign is particularly effective, there's even the chance that someone else might use that gun on your behalf. Even if no shots are ever fired, getting strangers to make death threats seems to be disturbingly easy.

So what do we do? Are we going to take the next page from the Cold War handbook? Mutually Assured Shaming 'Till UR Beaten And Tortured Excessively? Which reminds me of that other reason gun-rights advocates give for their interpretation of the 2nd amendment: revolution. Honestly, I think if you're stockpiling guns not for self-defense but because you're expecting to have to revolt, then I think you're behind the times. If it comes down to it, it doesn't matter how many AR-15s you have if the government starts rolling out Abrams tanks. No longer are guns the weapon of choice for combating despotism and government corruption, that would be WikiLeaks. (EDIT: Or after the 2016 US presidential election, maybe stick to Twitter?)

Truthfully, I don't know what to do about all our problems, but I do know this: You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.
"A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined..."
- George Washington, First Annual Address, to both Houses of Congress, January 8, 1790

"Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why would we let them have ideas?"
- Joseph Stalin

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maarvarq Apr 28, 2016
This story
amuses me in a way in that a planetful of "rugged individualists" who not only habitually go around armed to the teeth (they essentially farm dinosaurs, so their handguns are anyone else's military ordnance) but also drink alcohol that makes scotch look like lemonade in comparison, and the whole planet is supposed to be totally peaceful ... which in my estimation would last until the first drunken Saturday night when essentially all hell would break loose. Gaze into the mind of a Libertarian who wanted to make it legal to shoot politicians.
woohooligan Apr 28, 2016
woohooligan Ha! I love that this is available for free online as an audio book. I'll have to listen to this!
Jim May 3, 2016
Nationalities query - You said the Israelis and Pakistanis lovefest, surely you mean either Israeli - Palestinian or Indian - Pakistani?
To the best of my knowledge Israel and Pakistan have no real specific interest in each other.
woohooligan Yep, I meant Palestinians. Thanks for catching that, Jim. :)
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