Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Gun Control

I don't plan to advocate for gun control in this post, but I used that title to point out just how terrified we seem to be of that phrase.  Maybe it is our revolutionary ancestry or the figment that our home arsenal is what stands between us and government servitude, but removed of paranoia, most of us agree with it.  Most of us agree that a hobbyist should not be permitted to own a Stinger RPG or a functioning M1 Tank (with due acknowledgement that some of my dear commenters may disagree on both counts).  That's "gun control", but we all see it as common sense.

This aversion to "gun control" has drawn our conversation sideways.  We appear interested in talking about anything BUT "gun control", because "guns don't kill people, I do".

Let's look at some of the non-gun control ideas that we've heard over the last few days:

1. Arm Teachers:  This is the single worst idea I have heard in my entire life, and I say that as someone who had friends in college who really really REALLY liked the Jackass TV show.  If we don't hear this idea for another 100 years, it will be too soon.  First and foremost, teachers may not want to carry a firearm, go through weapons training, and have the necessity of such a weapon creep through their thoughts as they are drafting a lesson plan on Charles Dickens.  Second, we put scissors that can't cut cardboard in schools, yet we feel that adding a deadly weapon is ok?  I don't care what kind of lock-box you put around that gun, there will be carelessness met with ingenuity that will cause tragedy.  Finally, and this will be a repeat theme, I think it is foolish to suggest that more guns is the answer to a shooting.  In an attempt to take down the Empire State Building Shooter last August, nine bystanders were hit by crossfire bullets or bullet fragments from ricochets in the course of the following gun-fight.  Those were trained police officers.  Replace them with scared move-goers or teachers and you should not expect much better.

2.  Additional Security at Schools:  As I'm sure I've mentioned before, I taught a year of high school at Dunbar in Washington, D.C.  There is a metal detector and an armed security guard at the main entrance, with all other entrances locked.  It was a nightmare.  A single student could hold up the line for up to ten minutes as the security guard and the student try to figure out what is making the poorly maintained metal detector (see "school infrastructure") go off.  My best students were late, sometimes not getting to class until there were 10 minutes left in the two hour seminar.  Sometimes half the class was late when the "metal detector was down" and the security guard had to use a wand or pat down every student.  Notably, the same people who advocate for this type of security mumble "the terrorists won" every time they have to take their shoes off at the airport.  Without getting too fluffy on you, modeling schools after prisons has an effect on their ability to learn.  The entire arrangement screams "You are unwanted", "You are dangerous", "You are scared".

Plus, there are many reasons to believe that additional security is a safety blanket without substance.  Think of Fort Hood.  Do you think a security guard who spends most of their day telling high schoolers to take butter knives back to their car, and the other part of their day reading paperback novels, will be ready for an assailant who is mentally prepared to shoot?  Not a chance.

3.  "Mental Health":  We all agree that the mental health system in this Country is inadequate, but I think we overlook the idea that this issue is as much of a sticky wicket as "gun control".  Quash the personal freedoms of the few for the safety of the many.  It is the same problem with different clothing.  Many of the drugs used for schizophrenia have terrifying consequences, including immobility, aphasia (inability to speak/loss of consciousness), and malaise.  In other words, our medicine is not where we would like it to be to "treat" mental illness without wiping out the person underneath.  Our resources can be better ($$$$) and our safety net stronger ($$$$), but trying to sanitize the public from the dangers of mental illness is like trying to catch a butterfly with a tennis racket.  How do you identify the dangerous?  How do you balance the liberty of someone who has not yet committed a crime with the security of the populace?  Another view on the "I am Adam Lanza's Mother" post from yesterday is that this woman is putting forth a slanderous version of child abuse.

More importantly, why is the liberty of the law-abiding mentally ill so much easier to give away than that of law-abiding gun owners?

I don't pretend to have answers and would again recommend cautious deliberation.  As my friend Bobby Allen has written on his newly formed blog, it's ok not to have an answer for everything, especially when it is something as difficult to conceptualize as the cold-blooded murder of 20 children.  But let's not take anything off the table arbitrarily.  Let's not tell people they can't talk about certain things because we disagree.  If we back ourselves into self-created alleys, we will support stupid laws that harm without benefit.

And maybe there is no response.  As unacceptable as that may seem, it is perfectly reasonable.  Free societies bear the burdens of freedom.  That idea disturbs me greatly, but it doesn't make it wrong.

Have a great Tuesday doing what you love.