Sunday, March 20, 2016

There's Gotta Be A Better Way Than Shooting Our Way Outa This

"Concerning nonviolence: It is criminal to teach a man not to defend himself, when he is the constant victim of brutal attacks. It is legal and lawful to own a shotgun or a rifle. We believe in obeying the law."--Malcolm X

New Mexicans To Prevent Gun Violence co-President and First Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe Pastor (Rev. Dr.) Harry Eberts told us today that gun violence is all about too many people having too many guns. No doubt there are too many guns in the hands of people misusing them, whether gang bangers, drug dealers, unglued people with a grudge against their mate or boss, or people with voices in their heads.  That said, many of our problems go much deeper than that. I guess Pastor Eberts never heard Tracy Chapman's song, "Fast Car" (and for the occasional literalist reading this, the car is a metaphor).

Having spent my early years, during the early nineteen-sixties, in the soon to be burned out and blighted old East Side of Buffalo, NY (Johnson Street between Genesee and Sycamore; School #39), I worry that if we don't provide some better options than now exist in our blighted cities (not to mention elsewhere in America), we can't expect much better than gunfights and despair, not only in our inner cities but more broadly in society. If not guns, maybe bricks? Sure, we need to keep people from blasting away at each other for no good reason other than to prove who owns the street corner or Walmart parking lot. But is there something better than claiming ownership over a street corner or parking lot? Like Tracy Chapman, St. Sabina's Father Mike Pfleger gets it. Although one cannot avoid agreeing on their lethality and the need to restrict guns from some, its not all about guns, but the path that leads some to solve their issues with guns. As if gunfire solves the issue...

I keep pissing off the Comment Police at NPR by reminding us that its not just guns that are misused as weapons of mass destruction in the U.S. As we bicyclists learned yet again in Tucson, an inept, reckless, impaired, or clueless fellow citizen with a car or truck is just as capable of launching mass mayhem. But I doubt we will get anywhere by declaring, to paraphrase Pastor Eberts, "...there are too many cars. Most people should not have them..." and then ask to start a conversation with motorists.  I agree there are a a fair number of people who, in my opinion, should not be trusted with either car or gun. Just as gun violence exerts direct (casualties) and indirect costs (fear, overuse of criminal justice system to solve social problems, etc), car overuse exacts both direct (crashes) and indirect (urban air and nonpoint source water pollution, poor choices in urban development patterns, stroads, suburban flight, etc) social tolls on society.  Getting society to cooperate, whether to reduce gun violence or car violence, takes more than throwing a pie in the other guy's face as means of introduction. That's where Pastor Eberts disappoints: if the pastor really wants a conversation that is outside his own bubble, he should keep the pie intact 'till later, if he really needs it. At least on this topic.

Cars and guns, if owned and used responsibly, are a manageable and low risk to others (as are a lot of things in modern, industrialized society) and a measurable asset to personal mobility and security. When owned and used irresponsibly, they (like many things in modern industrial society) and their owners are nothing but trouble, cost, and risk.There is definitely a tendency towards the Law of the Instrument (Maslow's Hammer) with both of these potentially misused devices. Maybe attacking that problem, rather than scattering blame far and wide, is a good place to start.

"If the fundamental right of self-defense does not protect Caetano, then the safety of all Americans is left to the mercy of state authorities who may be more concerned about disarming the people than about keeping them safe."  
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, in concurrence with the Per Curiam opinion in Jamie Caetano v. Massachusetts. 

Note added later: some Jihadist loons just blew buildings and people up in Brussels. Trump and Cruz would make many predominately Muslim enclaves in the U.S.a model of efficiency in creating terrorists, just as the Belgians have done. Go figure.

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