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Change is a hard thing to come by: While We’re Waiting

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Happy Tuesday, WFNY!

Or, as happy as it can possibly be, anyway. These last couple days have put me in a weird mood. Again. That word. Again. It’s so disheartening. Because, while the events that unfolded in Las Vegas are going to happen. Again. And again. And again.

We know it’s true. How do we know this? Because nobody is willing to try anything different. We’ll argue and debate the hot button political issue of the moment, we’ll post snarky things on Facebook and Twitter, we’ll rehash and spew out a bunch of statistics to support our cause, we’ll read all our lawmakers’ expressions of “thoughts and prayers” to the victims, we’ll follow the 24-hour news coverage of it for about another day or two. Three tops. And then we’ll just go back to our lives and wait for the next one. For this to all happen, again.

It’s disheartening and it makes me feel helpless. I want us to try something different. That doesn’t necessarily mean the government coming like the big, bad boogie man in the dark of night to take everyone’s guns away from them. Because we’re so gridlocked on this issue, let’s start small. There are measures that we could try to prevent just anyone from legally buying a gun in this country. I feel like any sane, law-abiding gun owner should welcome accountability. Owning a gun should carry responsibility with it.

“But Andrew, if you make it harder to buy guns legally, they’ll just buy them illegally.” Maybe. But let’s make them take the extra step to buy them illegally. Let’s make them have to figure that much out. I mean, damn. At least then we tried something. And then, maybe we can try do something about the means by which people acquire illegal guns. Yes, it’s a lot of work. Sure, it involves some oversight. No, it will not be easy. But we should be on the same side on this. All of us. Every single law-abiding, well-meaning, good-hearted American should stand together and say enough is enough. Let’s compromise, let’s lock our lawmakers in a room and make them stay in there until they’ve worked together on some steps to try to make it harder for these things to happen again and again and again.

Yet it seems like we keep saying “Well, gee, we’re never going to be able to stop every single person in this country who wants to kill a bunch of people”. And because of that, we decide to just accept status quo. When Sandy Hook happened, and we as a nation decided that even the mass killing of our children was an acceptable cost for the right to bear arms in this country, the sad reality is that any real hope for change was lost. If that wasn’t enough for us to have an actual debate and to actually try to change some things, this incident certainly won’t be, either.

Of course, things were sad enough yesterday before we learned of the passing of Tom Petty. I’m not going to pretend I’m the world’s biggest Tom Petty fan. I realized this morning that I’m not entirely certain I’ve ever actually listened to any of his studio albums. I mean, I probably have, but I don’t remember it. His passing doesn’t have the same impact on my life as Chris Cornell’s did. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t bummed about it, and it doesn’t mean I don’t like his music. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Greatest Hits album was an essentially must-own album when I was in junior high. It’s in the pantheon of all-time greatest Greatest Hits albums. It’s a nonstop onslaught of essential song after essential song.

It’s a bummer when you reach the age where so many artists in all walks of life who left such an impact on you and your peers start to pass away. But there’s an enduring strength to Petty’s legacy, and that strength is something inspiring today.

So in the spirit of not backing down, what can we as individuals who want change do? For one, we can vow to not vote for politicians who take money from the NRA. The Washington Post has a handy page where you can see which politicians in your state have taken money from the NRA. It’s not much, but as an individual, I’ve decided to not vote for anyone on this list. I want politicians who can have an open and honest debate on this topic without having to pay their debt and cower to a group that has zero interest in even talking about this issue.

Does this mean I am entirely against guns? Not necessarily. I’m just no longer interested in us doing nothing. I’m willing to budge on some of my convictions to compromise and try to come up with a solution. And if that solution doesn’t work, we can try another one. And another one after that. And just keep trying until we find something that works for us in this country.

We have the most unique relationship to firearms in the world. No country is as obsessed with guns as we are. We’re probably never going to be able to have the kind of gun control that other countries have where there is precious little gun violence. We’ve already opened Pandora’s box. But I just do not understand why so many people feel like the ability to go out into a field or into the desert and shoot off military-grade weapons which are designed for the sole purpose of being the most efficient killing machines possible should supersede trying to do some things to prevent these senseless mass killings.

I’d love to hear from both sides on this. If you oppose any changes to the process of legally purchasing guns in this country, why? If you support change, what things are you doing as an individual to try to make change in this country? I’m genuinely interested in hearing more from all sides of this debate. Only then can I, personally, make a more informed stance and be more knowledgeably proactive on it.

Regardless of where you stand on this issue, I stand with you as an American. I’m in no way saying I’m right. I’m just being honest on how I feel today as a person who is simply tired of seeing these type of killings happening and us losing our resolve to try to make change. I’m not saying take all our guns away. I’m just saying let’s start with the first step and put more accountability and responsibility into the process of legally purchasing weapons in our country.

Anyway, that’s all I have today. No sports, because the Cleveland Browns are the Cleveland Browns and I just don’t have the heart to talk about that today, too. So please, enjoy the rest of your day at WFNY and just be good to each other.

  • Garry_Owen

    Who’s trying to “position” people? I’m not saying this should be a government objective. It’s about individual freedom, not governmental establishment. Ergo, individual expense.

    As for experience, I guess I don’t really care. A gunman intent on killing innocents isn’t checking resumes on the bullets flying at him. And the number of people in these situations with prior experience in these situations is, like, pretty close to zero irrespective of whether they have the ability to defend themselves.

    I do recall the officer at Pulse, and I’m glad he was there. It didn’t work, no, and none of this is a guarantee – just a chance at survival. Mateen was a motivated terrorist. But it might have worked, and at least that off-duty officer took a chance. Better to take that chance than none at all.

    And not to defend those people you criticize (and I give no second of my time to internet memes, unless they pertain to the Browns), because I don’t know these people and don’t care, but “if you don’t want to be a victim, carry a gun” is a far different proposition than “everyone must carry a gun.” There’s always an implied choice.

  • Allen P

    So to help me understand, under what Constitutional priciple is the government allowed to enforce safety training and licensing for drivers? I’m not trying to equate them, rather just trying to understand where you’re coming from.

  • Garry_Owen

    Complex question, but a fair one. I’m not sure I know, definitively, but my hunch (and I’m completely spitballing, here) is that it is based primarily on the 10th Amendment, regulation of drivers and automobiles being a wholly “state” not “federal” issue. But, with the individual states being subject to the Constitution, I would assume that the basic principle is rooted in the Preamble, which has always been used to justify governmental regulation on matters of social welfare: “promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

    The sticky situation with arms is that it is expressly carved out as an individual right by the 2nd Amendment that “shall not be infringed,” meaning that neither the federal government nor the individual states have the ability to infringe it, though both/all have to some degree or another, and some more than most. Indeed, as a “sacrosanct” Constitutional provision, the right to keep and bear arms has been infringed quite extensively – but there is always a constitutional basis for doing so (or at least the courts have found one). That is my question – and I honestly do not know the answer, not being a 2nd Amendment scholar – but whatever the answer is, that answer has to be rooted in an interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. I’m not saying it can’t exist, I’m just curious what it might be (but the Preamble cannot supersede the Amendment).

  • Garry_Owen

    Sorry. I missed this reply earlier. See what I just said to Allen P re the Constitutional “how.” In short, I don’t know, but it has to be rooted in an interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. And courts certainly have found 2nd Amendment justifications for infringing on the right to keep and bear arms.

    We definitely agree on the political will and the inability to actually have a conversation (though I think you and I are doing okay on a microcosmic level).

    Regarding some of your other points, I certainly don’t have the answers. I can tell you what I think.

    Does restricting the number of guns a person can own violate rights? I’d say, probably, on the basis of being an overly broad and arbitrary application of a non-Constitutional regulatory principle (whatever that principle might be). It may also violate the 4th Amendment, given a particular circumstance.

    As for “well regulated,” this is one of the reasons that I am of the minority opinion on my side of the aisle that the 2nd Amendment can and probably should be revised or refreshed, as we don’t even have a common basis for understanding precisely what it is that we’re talking about. My hunch is that “well regulated” was a colloquial term used in the context of colonial militias/standing militaries that has become lost on us, particularly given that the idea of “government regulation” as we know it now was not a thing back then to any degree whatsoever. I would not at all be surprised to learn that the term had a common basis with the phrase “regulars,” as used by the culture of the time – which then could mean anything from formal structure to modern technology and training. I could see the temptation on both sides to favor one or the other possibility (and it could be something entirely different!). It’s as tricky as trying to figure out why we still call soldiers “privates” and “generals.”

    As for the NRA and the fear of entrenched interests on the Court, I’m actually fairly unconcerned, either way. Sure, the NRA may have had as much influence in getting Gorsuch appointed as, say, Planned Parenthood had in getting another Justice appointed (I make no claims, just wanted to use equally despised and equally probable bogie men for both sides), but once these Justices take the bench, their views tend to be their own, and there isn’t much at all that influences them outside of their own convictions (which certainly could fall neatly in line with either the NRA or Planned Parenthood). While I do believe that the Justices can be and are as biased as any human being is, any fears of proxy representation of special interests is, I think, unwarranted.

  • WFNY_DP

    “But it might have worked, and at least that off-duty officer took a chance. Better to take that chance than none at all.”

    I should reiterate that I agree with this sentiment. I hope it didn’t sound otherwise. It was more in an effort to get at the crux of my position that “more guns” doesn’t always equal mitigation.

    With respect to “positioning” people, I’ll concede that’s a hyperbolic example on my part, but it speaks to my argument; if we’re not relying on people “trained” in this kind of situation (e.g., police/SWAT) because it’s not feasible for them to be everywhere all the time (“positioning”), we’re relying on the good intentions of the average citizen carrying a gun. Maybe, instead of relying on two less than desirable options (because in either case someone is shooting up a place indiscriminately), we can work as a society to mitigate the personal issues that lead to these types of events while also making it tougher for those people to carry them out as well.

    “A gunman intent on killing innocents isn’t checking resumes on the bullets flying at him. And the number of people in these situations with prior experience in these situations is, like, pretty close to zero irrespective of whether they have the ability to defend themselves or not.”

    Likewise, the bullet from a gun fired by the average well-meaning citizen in a crowded nightclub/active shooter situation doesn’t check the credentials of the body it’s about to enter and obliterate. My contention is that this, in many cases, might make things *worse* or offer unintended consequences.

    For example, if someone in Pulse beyond the off-duty cop was carrying and managed to shoot Mateen, but him/herself also killed four innocent people, are we just accepting that as “collateral damage” and moving on? Does that person as (presumably) NOT a member of the state/law enforcement bear any responsibility to the families of those people, or does he/she get a pat on the back and move on?

    I realize I’m getting pretty far into the weeds, but I believe that if we’re going to consider making the entire country an open-carry zone in the name of “security” these are discussions we need to have and we need to be willing to take them to extreme and unlikely ends, since we’re seeing the same on the other side of the ledger from the mass shooters.

  • Garry_Owen

    All good points. I’ll close by saying that there just isn’t any evidence whatsoever that well-meaning armed citizens will make these situations worse than they are. Indeed, in Las Vegas, there were (reportedly) numerous armed people in the crowd/vicinity. None, that we’re aware of, drew weapons or fired rounds or injured any others. (Of course, we don’t know everything.)

    But if Pulse is the example, and that off-duty officer accidentally wounds or kills a civilian (or 4) but also stops the massacre before it occurs or curtails it before it gets out of hand – and this is the math that nobody likes to do, but also relevant in discussing extreme and unlikely ends – I think an unpleasant but rational argument can be made that it would be acceptable collateral damage (but again, there is little evidence to suggest that collateral damage on this level would occur). If that armed cop is instead a civilian, then he/she is absolutely liable for any such “collateral damage.” It is a risk of this brand of individual liberty, and one that every concealed weapon carrier is, or absolutely should be, aware of; indeed, it is the primary reason that so few concealed weapon carriers ever draw their weapons in even very bad situations.

    I’ll let you have the last word, my friend.