Thursday, April 19, 2007

My Particular Perspective on the Gun Issue

This is a very long rant that is somewhat rambling as a quickly written stream of consciousness. I respect all divergent opinions, but it is unlikely I will be moved from my entrenched position. The Virginia Tech senseless destruction is a tragedy, and I am moved in a variety of ways. I have had comrades killed by mines and other horrific ways in my relatively short life. In perspective, violence in this country has been reducing fairly consistently for the last 15 years, and McVeigh did much more damage without a gun. A truly disturbed mind will find a way. That said, guns are too accessible to people that shouldn't have them. In this rant I will only talk in broad conceptual terms on this issue as the specifics of any incident do not need to be characterized one way or the other by me. In broad political terms I view this rant as a realistic assessment, it is unrealistic to assume the present government or society will retain it's present stability over time. All governments, empires, and social structures rise and eventually fall in a tumult of transformation. (Disclaimer ends here)
In response to the thoughtful critiques on the the gun issue posted by kungfuramone and dolce vita, I feel comfortable throwing an additional perspective into the mix. Growing up in the mountains during the 1970's, I have a different attitude toward guns that is convoluted in its own way. My father was born in the suburbs of Kansas City, he specifically moved to Oregon to live as a kind of nostalgic mountain man. As a consequence, I was virtually born with a firearm in my hand hunting in the woods from a very young age. My cousin was confronted in his house at age 15 by a burglar and pulled out a gun to hold the would be thief at bay while he called the cops. My mother has been in situation where she has had to threaten scary individuals in woods at gunpoint for her own survival, shoot an aggressive bear, coyotes preying on our herds, among numerous other incidents. We even had legitimate cattle rustler issues when I was young. In the area where I grew up, small children have been taken by cougars from the front yard. My family has a full scale arsenal that includes a variety of guns (rifle and hand), it makes Sasha's arsenal look small. Gun ownership has been a part of my life and was fundamental in terms of my identity formation. I only bring this up because a very large segment of the population (mostly rural) identify themselves in this way. The US govt is not as stable as people think, eventually this government will fall and be unable to provide security as internal divisions tear it down, when that happens I don't want the remnants of the government to have a monopoly on firearms. As an expert military marksman, I personally find the concept of firearm combat repugnant, it is for the weak and cowardly to try to level the odds. Guns are too often used by the weak and disturbed to try to impose their pathetic wills on the world. Wars should be fought in single hand-to-hand combat, warlike politicians should have to take their life into their own hands and stand face to face with their enemies - there would be fewer wars!
That said, in rural areas, there is a distinct distrust of governmental interference regarding increasing restrictions on water rights, property rights, hunting regulation, and a myriad of other traditional aspects associated with rural life. The slippery slope of regulation has been increasing over the last few decades, regardless of what anyone says. I know from first hand experience my rights are more restricted now than they were years ago. There are more laws in all aspects of life, speech is more restricted, property rights are no longer secure, the thought police are becoming more prevalent. Today I could not say certain things that could be said before 9/11 without sending up security flags, people are monitored everywhere, the rise of the PC thought police try to correct aspects of speech and thought. When I was young I was assured in grade school these rights would never be infringed upon, that was the great lie associated with the American system. The old liberal mantra I was indoctrinated with in grade school was "I might not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." That has been completely eroded and corrupted into imposed conformity of thought in the last 20 years. My parents generation was taught to question everything, and US education reached it's height in the 1950's and 60's. This ignited the social movements of the 1960's that created great upheaval for the ruling order. Since then, education has been deliberately dumbed down to make a more ignorant and malleable mass lacking analytical skill. This present populace is easily controlled by sound bites in the 24 hour news cycles that provide no context or substantive analysis - it's all emotional rhetoric and gut reaction to events without consideration of all ramifications.
Gun control advocates need to realize many elements of the rural populace will oppose gun regulation at all costs, no argument will sway this position. The incidents like Virginia Tech do not usually occur in the heavily armed rural areas (the recent exception being the Amish school incident that did not require a gun), they occur in the suburbs and cities with people that do not have any familiarity or respect for the serious effects of firearms. I knew the devastating effects firearms could have on an organic body first hand from a very young age. I was drilled daily with the real consequences of pulling a trigger, in terms of destructive capacity, safety, and personal responsibility for the action. Urbanized children rarely have these experiences, and the pressures of a crowded urban life magnify the anti-social behaviors of dysfunctional whack-jobs like this most recent mental meltdown. As a result, I would be willing to increase gun restrictions in urban areas and make it a localized regulation issue within a federally monitored database akin to New York City restrictions. Regulations can be overhauled to try to continue to close gaps in the system, but under no circumstances will I yield the basic rights to have access to a wide variety of modern firearms. In large populations, a certain amount of aberrant personalities is inescapable, and the pressures of urban life magnify the dysfunctional consequences when these crazies lash out. Gun violence will never be eliminated in this country, people need to realize Europe has a different culture that cannot be replicated here, and an attempt to ban guns is completely impossible and politically dangerous due to extreme backlash. Criminals and crack-pots can always get guns, just like drugs. I want access to guns, because you can be sure criminals have them, and I also don't trust the police due to my personal experiences with corrupt cops. The government is also not worthy of my trust or respect, I will not rely on the govt to provide security for my family.
The fear of the slippery slope of governmental infringement on rights fueled the recruitment abilities of the militia movements of the early 1990's, allowing an unfortunate increase in dangerous reactionary movements. This increasing governmental regulation over the last few decades has created a situation where largely urban lawmakers are ignorantly making laws without understanding the animosity this creates in a politically powerful segment of the population. This segment of the rural population composes much of the remnant of the land-owning frontier settlers tied to the mythology perpetrated on the American psyche in historical representations involving the building of the country. The power of this propagandist mythology is often underestimated in the present day, it will not be undone in our lifetime. Unfortunately, the backlash created by the increasing governmental regulation in rural areas has given the corrupt corporate right wing elements of the country an issue they can exploit for political purposes. Hence, gun rights were tied to urban gun violence for political manipulation by both the right and the left.
The ultimate problem is that gun rights have been politically merged with urban gun violence. This situation has fueled the polarized the political environment along the Red State - Blue State lines that have paralyzed the political dynamics of the country. The backlash against much of the gun legislation attempted by President Clinton in the 90's (I've personally heard Clinton state how misunderstood this issue is) contributed heavily to the election of the ignorant Yale cheerleader and his gang of reactionary thugs we presently have in executive power. Even though the rural segment of the population is shrinking as the cities grow, they still have landed interests that make their political influence relatively higher in sparsely populated areas. As a result, no significant gun reform is likely to occur in our lifetimes. To attempt to do so is presently a waste of political capital by the left. In this sense, kungfuramone is correct because most people do not understand how heavily armed the U.S. population is - guns are so ubiquitous in the U.S. society it is completely impracticable, and largely untraceable. The government couldn't take away the guns without a full scale revolutionary revolt of a heavily armed population. There are not that many soldiers or police. Maybe in the future the attitude will change, but not now. The mentality for a large segment of the population is simple, the right to guns is worth more than any number of Virginia Tech incidents - no ideological arguments will persuade otherwise. This is not meant to indict any opposing view, and for my own personal reasons I do consider guns to have caused more ill in the world than almost any other invention. However, I will not have a government have a monopoly on their usage. This government will eventually collapse and what will emerge in the power vacuum will make our present administration look like peace loving doves of the highest order. It will require a heavily armed alternative group to combat the reactionary and revolutionary armed elements left and right that will eventually make a grab for power when the decayed corpse of our present government falls into the dust bin of history. Forgive this endless digression!