Friday, December 21, 2012

What to think?

The gun debate that is coming out of Newtown is causing me to reassess what I think about gun ownership.  But I have to go way back to lay the background.  And I’m writing this as much to clarify my own thinking as I am to share my thoughts.  I’m prompted to do this because I’m watching the NRA press conference to respond to Newtown.  Their position seems to be that if the problem is guns then more guns is the solution.

I don’t like government and particularly I don’t like heavy handed regulation.  I’m a strong believer in allowing gun ownership and unregulated ownership at that.  But obviously the extreme that the US has enabled isn’t working.  So what to think? 


For a long time I have been concerned about the increasing police state that borders us to the south.  I used to laugh about the various levels of policing that we see in Mexico.  At the bottom of the ladder in Mexico are the Transitos.  They ride around in beat up pickups with beer bellies and bad uniforms.  In theory their role is to police local parking and traffic regulations but I think over time their role likely has been to shake down the locals and the tourists.  At the other extreme is the highway patrol.  They have really nice fast black cars.  They wear spiffy uniforms.  They are uniformly jocks with mirror sunglasses.  In between there are various levels of state and federal policing as well as the army.  You’re never far from some form of police presence in Mexico.

But the situation isn’t much different in the US.  We see local sheriffs and state troopers.  Along the borders we see the green and white border patrol vehicles as well as Homeland Security’s presence.  Behind the scenes there is the FBI and the National Guard and that’s not even mentioning the plethora of private security firms that are very visible.  At the root of it all there seems to be an attitude that you can enforce public safety so by extension if the public doesn’t feel safe you need to add some security personnel.  When I hear the term “gun culture” that’s what it means to me – the concept that armed men carrying guns can enforce public safety.  If the public isn’t safe then obviously all that is needed is more armed men carrying guns.


This morning I heard the NRA spray accusations like the bullets from an assault rifle – the problem is the media, the problem is government and the problem is bad video games.  The solution – according to them - is more men with more guns.  We used to call that M.A.D. – mutual assured destruction and to be fair, the US won that contest because they were prepared to and capable of raising the M.A.D. stakes until the USSR went broke.  Is that how we want to solve the gun crisis?  Keep raising the stakes until the bad guys go broke?  Is that even possible?

I don’t know what the solution is but I don’t think putting armed men in every school is wise or even possible.  When you overlay the gun crisis with the debt crisis even if you think putting another policeman in every school is a solution its not economically possible.  And that’s not even getting into the risks associated with gunfights in the corridors.   I think what the NRA was actually advocating was civilian vigilantes patrolling the hallways which is really scary. 

What I had hoped to hear from the NRA was some reasoned response that included a concession.  Surely nobody believes that 30 round or 100 round clips are necessary.  I know its a slippery slope when you start regulating what can be sold but 60% of the public thinks that high capacity clips need to be banned.  If the NRA had come out with that level of concession I think they would have strengthened their position.  As it is they just look stupid. 

So I started this piece by saying I needed to lay the background and then I wandered all over the map.  I don’t have a solution but I’m 100% certain the solution isn’t a heightened police presence and gawd help us all if the solution is more vigilantes.  The older I grow the more thankful I am that I was born north of the 49th parallel.  I have tremendous respect for my American neighbours but you guys have a lot of things to sort out over the next 5 years.  Good luck with that process.

On the bright side it looks like the Mayans were wrong.

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