A guy I know through Facebook now (we were classmates in elementary school) offered the following post on Facebook. My reply follows.
David Posted this:
A sobering view on guns and such by Marc Cooper :
“Good for the kids. Better to see them speaking out on this than, say., Matt Damon. My followers know I have been very critical of the “gun safety” movement but not because I am a second amendment die hard ( I am not) nor because shooting is a hobby of mine. I am critical because it is politically unhinged and until now has failed miserably.
So, you might ask, what am I FOR when it comes to this issue. I will answer in descending order of political viability.
Best remedies: An urban Marshall Plan that provides education, jobs and safety to urban cores that have been abandoned and where most gun homicides take place. This also requires a bolstering and tripling of the so called safety net. NONE of this is going to happen because nobody gives a shit about poor people or kids who become violent gangbangers.
Wholesale legalization and regulation of drugs that provide support and safe haven for addicts thereby reducing much of the lethal gang violence over turf. NONE of this will happen.
Serious educational and community mental health intervention. In case you have not noticed this is a highly neurotic and tense society where depression and alienation are commonplace and wherein 2/3 of the population are quietly or loudly dependent on psychoactive drugs. NOT going to happen.
To accomplish the above we would need to recognize that we are in an Empire in decline and even declining empires are propped up by military might and spending to the continuing degradation of civil society. In case you have not noticed our community, civil, family and political institutions are in a continuing downward slide thereby generating an unknown number of very depressed, violent and dangerous people by the hour. NO sign this is about to be reversed as we have believe we are indispensable and exceptional.
Well, we are… in the wrong way. That is why comparing us to Japan, Australia or even the UK (that has mostly abandoned its empire) is absurd, The levels of social tension, alienation, everyday violence and overall decline are much sharper than in those more peaceful countries.
Second-best remedies: a national gun registry. NOT gonna happen in your lifetime. Confiscation of weapons from anybody who has been convicted of any violent crime including misdemeanors. That means a very invasive measure by law enforcement that would follow all courtroom convictions. I’ not very comfortable giving the state that much power, but in any case, NOT going to happen in our lifetime.
Reversal of current restrictions to properly audit licensed gun dealers who currently have lax supervision. This is NOT going to happen except, perhaps, on a very reduced scale.
Serious research by the CDC on the CAUSES and effects of gun violence. There is minimal funding for this already but there has been no political will by CDC mgmt to go forward. Probably with good reason as the Republican congress would most likely cut all funding if suck work began.
Third best remedies: The feds must get their act together on making criminal background checks watertight. Currently it is more or less a joke. Maybe this will happen. Real universal background checks on EVERY gun sale. Some states are closer than this than others. In California, for example, private gun sales must go through a licensed dealer and the buyer must pass the background check. In most states this is not the case. I would argue that even transfer from one family member to another would require the same check. Tighter background checks are probably coming but not on most private sales and not at all on family transfers, Even if that were to magically occur it would be replaced by a black market. Sorry but true. Still, tougher background checks please.
Concealed carry which is now under jurisdiction of state and county governments is far too lax. Background checks and much more training for CCW’s should be in place. Currently, the trend is the opposite.
Worst remedies. Indeed what I would call jacking off: any call to repeal to the 2nd amendment. Politically, absolutely impossible whatever your view. Forty percent of American households and 60 percent of rural households have guns. Get real. Moaning about Japan and Australia. Pointless and in the case of Australia not really true. Banning “assault weapons” or any other equipment as all of it is already in circulation in the millions and, in any case, account for a tiny percentage of killings. A sei experienced shooter with a run of the mill .45 or 9mm handgun can crank out 50-80 shots per minute just as easily as from an AR. I have no particular love for AR’s but they are a distraction and a bogeyman. The PRIMARY problem arising from gun violence are small, cheap handguns. If you start banning semi auto handguns you have essentially abolished the second amendment and you will turn millions virulently against you.
That brings to me to my final point: the absolute worst thing you can do to promote any sort of gun control is to continue to stigmatize and ostracize current gun owners. Most of them know how to safely handle weapons much better than non owners and while some are nutty, that is the case also among every political faction in America. The NRA has only 4 million members among maybe 100 million or more people in gun owning families. Assuming that anybody who owns guns is an NRA nut job is equivalent to saying that anybody who pulls the lever for Democrats is responsible for the corruption and Big Money that dominates the party leadership. THERE WILL BE NO SIGNIFICANT REFORMS WITHOUT SIGNIFICANT BUY IN FROM THE TENS OF MILLIONS WHO OWN GUNS. The NRA and gun extremists best thrive is an us versus them environment and, sorry, most urban liberals are as guilty of that stigmitization as are the board members of the NRA. No common ground means NO forward movement.
Those are my proposals. The most important ones being the ones I listed first and that will never happen. Indeed, I do not believe that any other reforms will have any real impact on gun violence. That does not mean I am not willing to give them a chance — so long as there is some buy in. I am pessimistic about lowering gun violence not because I secretly worry that somebody is going to seize any of my guns. I am skeptical and pessimistic because I see gun violence not as a cause of social decay but rather as a symptom of what has always been a violent society currently in the throes of aggravated and deepening disruption. When half the country is doped up, when two jobs won’t pay the mortgage, when black youth see no future, when society has stopped caring about the bottom 2/3 of the population and with 350 million guns in circulation, you gotta be dreaming that much of the above is going to make much difference. There are more than enough head cases out there and more than enough weaponry out there for decades to come that only a fool would expect an end to mass killings. And as ghastly and horrifying as school and church shootings are, and they are, they UNFORTUNATELY only the spectacular punctuation of a daily grind of of anonymous smaller scale homicides that should be seen for what they are: the social fabric and the body politic is running a 104 degree temperature and band aids are not gonna work. The underlying illness is a a great republic that has been decimated by the glories and cost of empire.
Liberals play a special role in this mess because better than anybody they should know the value of seeking out root causes of disease and not just dance around the symptoms. Look no further than Mexico where even Jesus Christ can’t legally buy a gun. Yet somehow some 100,000 people have been shot to death in the last handful of years. The problem isn’t gun control in Mexico… it’s rather a dysfunctional society. You get it? Adios.”
Me to Cooper through David
I appreciate the thoughtfulness here and the willingness to explain yourself at length on this matter. I see much sense here and do not like it much that such good sense produces the kind of viable alternatives you have listed. Indeed, this is a very sad and sick society and the real fixes are to be found in major adjustments to the way we live and the way we think and, as you say, the likelihood of a meaningful shift toward enlightenment is highly unlikely in our lifetimes. On the other hand, the nurturing of a more thoughtful citizenry should not be a goal that we abandon. The beginning of the Constitution recognizes that democracy is always a work in progress, the always present goal of a real democracy, a more perfect union. We haven’t spent much time or money on bettering ourselves on fronts other than the economic and technological because we all about an economic system that is all about individuals making money . It seems that there is not enough money to be made from helping people grow smarter and more able to govern themselves sensibly (there is some, obviously, or there wouldn’t be the move to privatize education) and, sensible self-government would probably cause some who benefit from the current way we live to lose some of their wealth and the power they buy with it. I could say much about each of the specifics you mention but I will do that over time in my space. Suffice to say here that the gun situation is a crisis of major proportions because, as you say, there are too many guns circulating and still being pumped into the society to hope to get control over who possesses them. It is beyond comprehension but, yet, a truth we live by, that powerful assault weapons are going to be in circulation for a long time to come, if not forever unless we allow for a police state of sorts that would make possible mass confiscation. I still believe there should be extremely strict rules governing who may possess such artillery. My preference would be that no civilian be allowed, under law, to possess such firearms, that, despite the fact that they are “out there” everything possible within the bounds of what is democratically right and proper, be done to collect the ones that are out there and, too, that no more be commercially available. I would also really like it to happen that gun violence in entertainment be sensibly curtailed so that violent death is not treated as a treat but as something (duh) destructive, ugly, and intolerable. We have inured people to the pain and suffering that goes along with people, whoever they are, being blown up and blown away. This should not happen by force, by force of law, but by the fucking idiots in the film and television industries who are willing to put the stuff out there to earn dollars without taking responsibility–or being made responsible by a public of decent people (can we hope for such) for their role in the promotion of debauchery as glorious fun. In regard to David Frieland, I agree that there is no solution to be found in Sacks’ analysis and this is a virtue as the point with which we have to wrestle, as hard as it is to recognize the validity of such, is that there is no solution or, more to the point, no solution that is viable. What we really need to get to where we should be as a decent society is impossible to do because of who we now are in relation to where we should and need to be. That said, because something appears to most sensible people to be impossible is no good reason not to try and do it, making it possible by changing the rules by which we think and by which we act and by which we behave. By the way, THIS IS THE KIND OF TALK WE NEED TO BE TALKING IF THERE IS ANY POSSIBILITY OF MOVING EVEN THE SLIGHTEST INCREMENT TOWARD A STATE OF SANITY. THANKS DAVID!