Tuesday, December 18, 2012

To Comment Seems Obscene

Home defense
I don't want an AR-15 or any of its derivatives. In fact, we don't have a firearm in our house, although I do have a bolt-action .22 caliber rifle stored at my brother's house.

I don't want to kill anything. Of course, I kill flies, and other bugs. I kill other vermin like mice and rats and moles. I will be forced to kill, or to phrase it more benignly, euthanize, my little Boston terrier sometime soon, I fear.

We live in a rural area. We lock our doors. I suppose we have enemies, but so far, none of them have threatened our personal well-being. I feel safe, all in all, without ADT, Life Alert, or an AR-15. 

I also believe in our Constitution. I find it almost supernatural that a group of elitists, many slave-owners, were able to fashion an elegant document that has been the foundation of the world's supreme democratic republic.

And I recognize that the 2nd Amendment, what is popularly regarded as the "right to bear arms" although it doesn't mention AR-15s, is a fundamental part of that document.

But I also believe that something gone awry in society, and I have my own opinions about the causes. 

I think of this: when I was a teenager in 1950-60, a person could walk into a store and buy off-the-shelf an M1 or M1 carbine, both military weapons circa WW II and Korea, the then-equivalent of the current military M-16 or M-4. In fact, I carried and was responsible for a working M-1 rifle during high school ROTC in El Paso, Texas. 

But I cannot remember a mass shooting until the man climbed the tower at the University of Texas and killed several people with a hunting rifle with a telescopic sight. It was later discovered he had a brain tumor that had changed his behavior. Of course, as a teenager, I knew people dead from firearms. A suicide. A murder over a love affair. But I don't remember any fear of firearms, or firearms in the hands of disturbed and potentially dangerous people.

I do know that the ACLU and other groups working toward the expansion of individual rights took action that closed down many mental institutions that housed ill people then. I suppose neither the ACLU or others attempting to do good then considered the influence of the 2nd Amendment and the proliferation of semi-automatic weapons with 30+ round magazines. But now, thankfully, most people with severe mental illnesses are (supposedly) medicated and left to live free in society. 

But many of the recent shootings have been carried out by people who are not in their rational minds, who are not using medications that would allow them to live relatively useful and happy lives. Of course, that might be said of any mass murderer. I don't know the solution. 

I only know society has changed. Millions play at violence, the sort of play that thrills but seemingly has little immediate consequence. Millions sit hours in front of video screens thrilling some atavistic genetic instinct for violence by playing with the ironically named Call of Duty or some other pretend military adventure while a only few good men (and now women) have the presence and desire and the passion to don a uniform and carry the flag in places where the bullets and blood are real.

I know on a rational basis a firearm is a morally neutral inanimate object. Granted, a knife, for example, even a MAK-7 military assault knife, can be used in a kitchen or in a shop while a firearm exists for no other reason than to inflict death. And specific types of firearms—meaning in this case, the AR-15 derivative desired by so many who fear so much from government or individuals—are meant only as people-killers.

Society has changed. As a child of the Eisenhower era, I tended to see the world in black and white, only evolving lately to recognize that we are frail and troubled creatures who should be slow to judge one another, slow to inflict pain or distress on one another. Yet I do know that there has grown a dynamic in society that presupposes excuses and focuses on rationalization in response to events or personal actions rather than the absolutes of demanding personal responsibility. And I believe in personal responsibility. 

We are saturated by violence both in media, if it bleeds, it leads, and in entertainment. And the experts rationalize that this culture of violence has no influence on those in society who are damaged or ignorant, or easy to manipulate. 

And yet those same experts earn comfortable fees from corporations to craft advertisements to persuade masses of people to spend dollars on products or services. 

Both points cannot be true. If advertising sells, pervasive violence affects change in the individual and in society. 

We cannot live in a culture of violence and expect that the weak and damaged will not resort to violence. We cannot live in a culture where Call of Duty addicts teenagers and Taken or Man on Fire draws millions to theaters to construct a fantasy of power and revenge, and not expect that ethos to be reflected in the broader social arena.

Is the 2nd Amendment outdated in such a culture of violence, in a culture where the fragile, the damaged, and the deranged circulate among us?

I do not know. I do know a firearm is a morally neutral object that can often be obtained by emotionally damaged people. 

All I know is that if I grow so fearful as to think I need a firearm for protection, I won't waste money on an AR-15 derivative and believe it makes me safer. I know enough about firearms and about my ability to use them that I will be safer with a shotgun.

And if the Illuminati, the Tri-Lateral Commission, or the U.N. send their black helicopters, F-16s, and Abrams tanks, the shotgun will be about as effective as the AR-15.

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