Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Wednesday, March 21st, 2012.

Guns Don’t Kill People; Paranoid Whackjobs With Guns Kill People

firearms, Trayvon Martin

Steve M has been blogging up a storm about the shooting of Trayvon Martin, but for now I just want to riff a bit on this post and also Jesse Taylor’s post on paranoia.

Over many, many years I’ve attempted to communicate to gun, um, enthusiasts. I do try to be fair. For example, I give the 2nd Amendment the same expansive interpretation I give the rest of the Bill of Rights. Sometimes liberals don’t want to hear this, but in fact the 2nd was assumed in early American history to protect an individual right (for white men, anyway) to own firearms, the militia clause notwithstanding.

I’m not really anti-gun. I grew up in a rural culture in which the menfolk would, from time to time, gather up dogs and rifles and go out to the woods to shoot forest creatures. The menfolk in my family rarely actually killed anything, as I remember. But the point is that I don’t faint away at the sight of a firearm, and I’m not opposed to people owning firearms.

However, I have big issues with the idea that anybody should be able to carry a concealed weapon anywhere he wants. And my issue is that a big chunk of humanity doesn’t have the sense God gave mushrooms. People who are frightened, panicked, startled, angry, drunk, stupid, or whatever, are not people I want to have “locked and loaded” in my neighborhood, thanks much.

And then there are the Fox News viewers who have been commenting on the Martin case. I assume most of these people are law-abiding citizens, meaning they’ve never been convicted of a crime. But how many of these hate-spewing bigots would you like carrying concealed weapons in your town?

In my conversations with Gun People I have seen over and over again that they divide humanity into two types of people – “criminals” and “law-abiding citizens.” And the latter, the LACs, are seen as noble and sensible people who would never, ever, shoot anyone who wasn’t a “criminal.” Gun People assume that the only reason we Not Gun People are nervous about guns is that we think that more “criminals” will get guns and use them to commit crimes.

But that has never been my concern. My concern is that a large part of the people I have met — pretty much all of them, actually — who are all fired up to carry guns wherever they want appear to have serious anger issues, if not outright paranoia. If I could vote on which people I would trust to carry a concealed weapon, it would not be them.

I’ve even communicated with whackjobs — sorry, but that’s what they are — who cannot understand why it’s a really, really bad idea to have loaded guns within reach when there are small children in the house. They thump their chests and say they will teach their kids to leave the guns alone, which tells me they have no actual hands-on experience raising children (even if they have children). Even “good” children do things they know they aren’t supposed to do. But the consequences of raiding the cookie jar or getting the handgun Dad keeps under the bed are quite a bit different.

Last week in Washington state three children were shot, and two died, because they got their hands on loaded guns adults kept for self-defense. In one case, a three-year-old shot himself in the head with a gun his father kept in his car. In another, a 7-year-old girl was shot and killed by a younger sibling, also with a loaded gun kept in the family van. In those cases, the adults were in compliance with all firearm laws, and no charges were filed.

If you’ve got small children, you go around putting caps on unused electric sockets and keep the Draino out of reach. Yet some people refuse to acknowledge that maybe a loaded gun is at least as dangerous to small children as Draino. Like I said, they lack the sense that God gave mushrooms.

And then there’s the National Rifle Association. Current leadership has whipped up paranoia among its members to keep those dues coming in. So potentially violent paranoids with guns — albeit who are not “criminals” — now have their own lobby. And Florida’s “stand your ground” law is the fruit of that. Jesse Taylor writes,

An expansive self-defense doctrine turns the expression of paranoid activity into a socially acceptable, excused form of vigilantism. Hunting down and murdering a teenager visiting his father because he “looked suspiciously at houses” and “walked slowly” – teenagers being known, of course, for their otherwise purposeful, focused strides – becomes a he said, he dead proposition. The paranoiac who fixates on black youth is protected, because feeding a certain form of majoritarian paranoia bears rather awesome political fruit.

The issue is not simply that a non-black man has a problem with the existence of young black men. It’s that the law in Florida is structured in such a way that the former can use the latter for target practice, and says nothing so long as one is afraid of 140-pound teenagers for the right reasons.

I’d like to point out one more wrinkle in Trayvon Martin’s case. The evidence we’ve heard about in news stories makes it clear that Zimmerman followed and confronted Martin, and that Martin had tried to get away from Zimmerman. Yet Zimmerman claims Martin assaulted him before he fired. I am skeptical, but let’s assume that’s true.

Didn’t the unarmed Martin have a right to “stand his ground” also? A much bigger man, a stranger, had been following him and then confronted him in a belligerent manner. Martin had even tried to get away, but failed. If it turns out that Martin did land a punch or a kick on Zimmerman before he was killed, didn’t he have a right to do that? Or does “self-defense” only apply to people with guns?

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