Monday, December 17, 2012

History Lesson: Guns and Freedom

Josh Marshall has an excellent post on the impact that guns have had on determining America’s journey.

We’ve expanded our freedoms, sometimes let it recede. We’ve had major blots on in our history like the post-Reconstruction era in the South or the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II. It’s a rich and complex, sometimes tragic, but generally incredibly powerful and inspiring story. And yet in really not a single one of these cases has any government — state or federal — been pushed back in some moment of overreach by armed citizens or even affected in its decision-making by the knowledge of an armed citizenry.You could imagine a very different history in which various strong men had taken power and been deposed by violent uprisings. That just hasn’t been our history.


Has private gun ownership helped keep us free? We’ve had two centuries to look at this one. And the results make the very idea laughable.

And yet many people now believe this. And it imparts an aura of self-righteousness to their desire to stock up private arsenals, fire off semi-automatic weapons and blow shit up. That sort of ignorance is dangerous.

Just as there will always be people who believe that the world is going to end next Friday (good thing I have the day off; I would hate to be blown to oblivion sitting at my desk working on a budget transfer), that Jesus is coming back to rapture us all, that Elvis is alive, that we didn’t really land on the moon, that the sun revolves around the earth, and that Paul McCartney has been dead since 1969, there will be those who believe the only barrier between America and total tyranny is a bunch of guys running around the backwoods of Michigan in their cammie-jammies and shooting at targets with pictures of President Obama on them.  “Wolverines!”

There will always be those among us.  (And there will always be someone who will make it their life’s work to take their money.)  Ain’t that America?

4 barks and woofs on “History Lesson: Guns and Freedom

  1. What a lot of people may not know is after 12-7-41, the Japanese Navy had a clear shot at invading the West Coast of the US. The only reason they didn’t, and this is according to statements from high ranking officers from Japan, is the US citizens were all armed.

    They knew, and rightfully so, that the American people would have caused Japan to suffer a huge amount of dead and wounded military soldiers.

    Would something like that happen today, like it did back then? Who knows for sure, I don’t. But I do realize that banning guns is not the answer either.

    Maybe complete funding for mental health programs would be the answer, but the pugbags would never go for that. But hopefully someone can come up with a sane, decent answer besides “gun control.” And gun control means hitting what you are aiming at, not curtailing weapons.

  2. I agree with the quote from Edward Small: “I’m sad, confused, infuriated, and I want to do something about it. The problem is, I can’t think of anything that would actually matter.”

    Everyone wants to do “something” but nobody can seem to come up with a “something” that will actually work and also have any chance of being implemented.

    Full disclosure: I own one hand gun and several other firearms that fall under the assault weapons description. I used to be a passive member of the NRA (I paid dues and got a magazine every month) but quickly realized that, like the National Inquirer and World Net Daily, every month there was yet another new crisis du jour that would lead to gun confiscation by the jack booted thugs of the government, so I quit and now despise the NRA.

    I also have to admit that I am torn between agreeing and disagreeing with the quote from Josh Marshall:

    “And yet many people now believe this. And it imparts an aura of self-righteousness to their desire to stock up private arsenals, fire off semi-automatic weapons and blow shit up. That sort of ignorance is dangerous.”

    I do not collect weapons because I think that the government will become despotic and that my friends and I will stop them and save America. I don’t do it because I think the world will end soon. I don’t do it because of the perpetually imminent race war. I think most of those people are nuts. I collect and shoot my guns because I enjoy shooting them. I also used to enjoy blowing shit up when I was much younger. However, my fascination with guns and explosives and rockets and other dangerous hobbies is primarily with the scientific and engineering aspect of guns and rockets and bombs. To me this is the reason shows like Mythbusters, Rocket City Rednecks and the older Junk Yard Wars are popular. Jamie and Adam get to shoot guns, launch rockets and blow shit up that we can only dream about. Viewers get to shoot vicariously. Some of us get to do it for real, but our desire is not malevolent.

    All of the people I know who have and use firearms are not the people any of us should worry about. In fact, most aren’t.

    So the question then devolves to – Who should we worry about and how can we stop them from doing bad things?

    The first option is dealing with the guns:

    An assault weapons ban or hand gun ban would not do much since none of the proposed bans would make current assault weapon or hand gun ownership illegal and require confiscation. And if they did they would never pass.

    The other option is dealing with the people:

    Beefing up laws preventing felons and the mentally ill from purchasing weapons is a good idea, but as we have seen with several recent shootings, the perpetrator either had not been declared mentally ill or they obtained their weapons through someone else who obtained them legally.

    I think the reason we “…can’t think of anything that would actually matter” is that this problem is akin to the pornography problem as stated by Justice Potter Stewart:

    “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

    —Justice Potter Stewart, concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio 378 U.S. 184 (1964), regarding possible obscenitgy in The Lovers.

    After every tragedy we all retroactively “know it when we see it.” But how do we see it before it happens? Is that even possible?

    In order to stop the “wrong people” from gaining access to firearms we have to be able to define who those “wrong people” are.

    If we cannot define with some specificity exactly who we should worry about we cannot solve the problem. However, if we attempt to define the population of “wrong people” so broadly that everyone who seeks attention for a mental health issue is a suspect then we both scare people way from obtaining needed treatment and paint everyone with mental problems as potential mass murders.

    Which brings me back to the beginning. I’m still sad, confused, infuriated, and I want to do something about it. The problem is, I still can’t think of anything that would actually matter.

    Any ideas?

  3. I don’t know what “high ranking Japanese” are being referred to in the first comment above, but it’s hogwash. I was alive in 1941 and I can tell “Allen” that the belief that American citizens were all armed had nothing, zero, to do with the USA not being invaded by the Yellow Horde. And back then we weren’t all armed anyway. The war in the Pacific was a mutual stand-off until we came up with the bomb. But I do know that as I grew up there were American citizens who DID arm under the belief that that was the only way to hold off the invaders. Perfectly otherwise normal gentlemen living just down the street had a cache in his basement of ammunition and various sizes and capacity of arms just in case the Japs marched down Second Street.

    I’m surprised to read that even Joe Scarborough has rethought his previous stance on gun ownership. Is there perhaps a shadow of movement here?

    • I guess when some Admirals from the Imperial Navy, plus a couple of their Generals also said the same thing, it’s hogwash? Wow, didn’t know that. Thanks for informing everyone their words don’t count.

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