Guns, Politics, and Friends

A friend, who is a gun advocate, shared on Facebook a photo from Uber-American. So I looked at Uber’s page. What I found was a lot of irrelevant and unworkable solutions, and a lot of Obama-bashing.

(abbreviated): Which sign will prevent another tragedy?:  No Guns Allowed or Staff Heavily Armed and Trained

Another friend ‘liked’ a picture suggesting that people like I are a “special kind of stupid” for thinking criminals will obey gun control laws.

You actually think criminals will obey gun control laws?  You're a special kind of stupid, aren't you?

These are my friends.

No, I don’t think criminals will obey gun control laws. It would be especially stupid to think that I do, and I know my friend, despite liking the offensive comment, doesn’t really believe that.

What I do believe is that some of our mass murdering lunatics would have preferred fully automatic weapons but used assault rifles because they couldn’t get their hands on automatics. In most cases you can actually kill more people with a semiautomatic, but the thrill of pulling the trigger and spraying a room with bullets must be something that a suicidal lunatic who plays too many video games dreams about. And in some cases an automatic weapon is better so why not have a weapon that gives you a choice? The answer is banning certain weapons works. And don’t bullshit me with examples of illegal drugs or prohibition. People like their guns but not with the force of chemical addiction, and rifles are harder to manufacture and distribute in little packages.

Maybe you disagree with some of my reasoning. Hell, maybe I’m wrong. But let’s at least agree that calls for banning assault rifles aren’t based on expectations of murderers obeying the law.

“Special kind of stupid” applies to some of the nonsense on Uber-American’s Facebook page, especially the post about Obama’s tears being fake because he wiped the outside corner of his eyes instead of the inside. I’m not saying that Uber is stupid and not everything on his page is stupid. But a lot of it is. One popular stupid comment is

Why don’t we just replace teachers with former military and arm them.

One Answer: because there aren’t enough ex-military members who want to be, or are qualified to be teachers. Many are very qualified, and we already have an active troops-to-teachers program. The program makes sense because military personnel are among the few people who can look at what a teacher gets for his or her sacrifice and think it’s a good deal. But troops to teachers can’t replace all teachers and if we start requiring teachers to be handy with guns then we’re going to loose a lot of good nose-wipers and people who can explain how the Pythagorean theorem applies to lengths of arcs.

We can have intelligent conversations about gun control and gun rights, but we each have to be willing to acknowledge some of the points made by our opponents and stop knee-jerking with idiotic responses and thinking the other side is stupid because they didn’t think of our own idiotic zingers first.

The right-wingers who aren’t railing against existing automatic weapons bans and the left-wingers who generally support gun ownership can have intelligent conversations about the definition of “assault rifle” and what the founding fathers meant by “arms”. But too many of us think we’re only dealing with extremists and idiots on the other side because we’re not willing to tread in uncomfortable territory and hear what the other side is actually saying. Instead we just listen to our favorite pundits and slam artists calling our friends “special kind of stupid” because of things they never even said. And the result is tragic.

It’s OK to Defend the White Guy

Three innocent Black people were murdered by two White men in an unprovoked hate crime in Tulsa. Two years prior, the father of one of the murderers was killed by a black man after the father knocked the black man down with a stick for making threats against his daughter. In the comments of a story about this horrible crime, I disagreed with a commenter who said the father had it coming, and found myself arguing against people who I might normally agree with and being “liked” by people who I might not “like” in return.

Being progressive doesn’t mean always defending the Black guy. It means looking at the facts and not jumping to conclusions. It means not retaliating against people just because they remind you of others who did you wrong. It means not convicting unless you’re sure beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime, while at the same time trusting facts and logic to guide you towards getting it right more often. And it means considering mitigating circumstances, even if the subject is a crotchety old White man beating a Black guy with a stick.

Edit: I added “by two White men” in the first sentence for clarification.

Update: Soon after I added “White men” I read that Mr. England is Native American. For now, I’ll leave my words up there as written.

Arrest George Zimmerman

I try to understand all sides of a story, so I looked through headlines about Trayvor Martin and George Zimmerman. I tried to find what the hard-core right wing sites, like Breitbart.com were saying. Perhaps Trayvor Martin was caught stealing candy from the checkout aisle while his Mom was paying for groceries. Perhaps he was sent to the principal’s office in 6th grade for disruptive behavior. Perhaps he got into a fight with a White kid in high school. But the only headline I found on Breitbart was “Media Labels Hispanic Man White in Shooting of Black Teen”. If that’s the best the right wing can come up in their mission to accuse the liberal media of being unfair to White people then Trayvor Martin must have been an angel.

Oddly enough, the best defense for the delay in arresting Zimmerman comes not from the hard right but from NPR. And the reason for the delay, according to NPR, is not that anyone thinks George Zimmerman is innocent, but that Florida’s outrageous “Stand Your Ground” law makes it difficult to prosecute anyone who claims self defense as a motive for an apparent murder.

In theory, Florida’s miserable and dangerous law, which has been adopted by 16 other states (according to the NPR story), is a double edged sword. In theory, someone who kills a White person could claim “self defense” just as easily as someone who kills a Black person. But I think supporters of the law are not so much Whites looking to kill Blacks with impunity, but rather White people who believe that Black people already kill Whites with impunity. They feel under siege in a world where liberal judges feel sorry for Black murderers and refuse to punish them for anything. If you ask them why there are so many Black people in prison, they might conclude that Black people are so murderous that even though we only incarcerate a tiny percentage of them, it’s still enough to skew the prison population. They knew a Zimmerman case would come up, but they feel it’s better than letting Black people run around raping and killing their daughters. These people aren’t White supremacists, they’re Orks who believe the lies of supremacists and the suggestions of right wing pundits and politicians.

Thanks to these paranoid, gun-slinging Orks, we have laws in seventeen states that encourage the murder of innocent young men.

With the crazy law in place, there are complications which make arresting Zimmerman tricky. But I still don’t believe the “Stand Your Ground” law is enough to let Mr. Zimmerman remain free. It seems almost certain that Mr. Zimmerman chased Mr. Martin and instigated some kind of conflict, and it appears that Mr. Martin was not a threat at the time of his death. The case might not be as easy as some think it is, but I find it hard to even imagine that a good investigation can fail to find enough evidence to take a disturbed and dangerous man like George Zimmerman off the street.

There is a petition (probably one of many) for the proper investigation and prosecution of George Zimmerman. Hopefully this will not only pressure investigators in the Zimmerman case, it will also pressure lawmakers to reconsider laws which encourage the murder of innocent people like Trayvor Martin.

Update, March 25: I said the right wing media couldn’t find any dirt on Trayvon Martin. That was true at the time, but now we know that Mr. Martin had been suspended from school. I still don’t see how that justifies Mr. Martin being hunted down by Mr. Zimmerman.