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OPINION: A Middle Way on Gun Violence

Gun violence is a fact of life in America. Is there a way to stop or minimize it that will find wide support?

This opinon was contributed by Terry Butler. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.

I have found that the issue of gun violence in America is a very divisive one. This is not surprising given our nation's violent history, and I must admit I was warned beforehand by friends and others who have tried a reasonable approach to the issue that I would eventually be frustrated in any effort to facilitate a productive conversation on the matter. After a short and contentious interchange among myself and Mr. Stephen Mills and Mr. Marty Richman in which I perhaps clumsily attempted to start such a conversation, I saw the exchange had become one about the NRA and not about the problem of gun violence. I asked, in my opinion piece published in this space on 3/29/2018, what I think are important questions about various aspects of the problem in response to a letter from Mr. Richman. He answered only those questions which he saw as an attack on the NRA. Mr .Mills, in an earlier response took me to task for my seeming ignorance of the restrictions of existing gun laws. Both gentlemen made very good points and I learned something from each. But both also continued to address the issue of gun violence from their own very narrow viewpoint. One defending the NRA and the other defending his attack on the NRA. I responded in the same vein and it ended with a rather angry letter from Mr. Richman, and I now regret that response.

So I now ask a simpler and more pertinent question: Is there a middle path toward addressing the problem that leaves out the divisive politics we are all laboring under? Can we discuss workable solutions rather then extremes? It is obvious to me that not all gun owners are "right wing tin hat authoritarians", nor are all anti-gun advocates "left wing one world tree huggers". Most Americans are simply trying to pay their bills and keep afloat and have some leisure time to enjoy life a bit between workdays. We are basically law-abiding except on the fringes. By "fringes" I mean that on one hand we have an increasingly concreted underclass who resort to illegalities out of anger, desperation or just plain ignorance, and on the other we have an elite who are largely unaffected by laws ("above" the law) and have teams of lawyers to defend them if some eager beaver IRS or FBI agent jumps on some of their shadier dealings. So, I'm theorizing here, that we have a large middle bunch who pay their taxes without stealing to do so, who go to work so their families can have safe schools and streets, and who develop political affiliations often based on long-time family histories or in many cases on what they have learned in their own lives. Most Americans, I believe, could be said to be Center-Left or Center-Right and thus choose a voting stance as promoted by one or other of the two major parties we support. Both of these parties are at base as alike as two peas in a pod. Their main function is to serve business interests, mostly large corporations, though they pay lip service to "the backbone of America"--small business, and "the salt of the earth"--farmers and workers.

I'm saying that our parties now serve to divide the country more than unify it, and also that in my 76 years as an American under 13 presidents not one of those gentlemen has been one who stood strictly for the people. Some have done more for people, others less. And to my way of thinking this has to do with the way campaigns are funded. I for one knew that Obama would defeat McCain when it became a certainty that he was gaining more support from Wall Street than his opponent was--you don't have to read the polls or consult a fortune teller to understand elections if you follow the money. And strictly in my own estimation of Mr. Obama's presidency he failed his transformative possibilities because of this debt. That, and a Wall Street-beholden and GOP-dominated congress who did everything they could to thwart him. One of the great myths perpetrated by his enemies was that "he wants to take away our guns". But in reality he did nothing about them which was probably a very wise and perhaps life-saving decision for him.

We can all become aware of just how much the weapons manufacturers and manufacturers of ammunition contribute to politics by spending some time on Googling it. I did it and after a bit of search to narrow the plethora of info available to nationwide elections only I found these numbers; in the 2016 election cycle Republican candidates received $5,900,000, while Democrats received $106,000. This info and a further breakdown of the numbers can be found on the Politico website:

https://www.politico.com/interactives/2017/gun-lobbying-spending-in-america-congress/.

To continue the theme of my question: Do we as Americans want this kind of important public safety issue left up to financially compromised politicians? Is it not time to widen the discussion to bring the voice of the people into it and stop letting groups like NSSF (The Firearms Industry Trade Association), the NRA and the The Gun Owners of America, all organizations who both lobby congress with more with millions besides contributing millions to gun friendly politicians campaigns? These are only three sources for the many millions spent on promoting guns in our country, and the NRA is actually mild compared to some of them who see "global Deep State plots to take guns away from law abiding citizens".

There are solutions to the problem but they can't be accomplished without the political apparatus and a populace willing to make their opinions known. Yes, there are background checks, regulations of purchases, licensing of vendors laws etc. on the books. But they are ludicrously under-employed. Its a fact that there are crooks out there selling guns to other crooks without any oversight or impediment. Isn't it time we tasked our representatives to at least hold public discussions to find out what Middle Americans, both gun owning and gun hating, really want our gun laws to look like?

Isn't it time for a National Cooperative Association for people who hate gun violence and want it to stop?

Terry Butler, Hollister

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About:
Terry Butler (Terry Butler)

Retired. Former pro photog. Now artist/writer. Horses, hiking, boating, camping.

Comments

Since I am mentioned in this piece I want to make it clear that I support enforcing all existing laws that actually have an impact on reducing gun violence and all violence and those that reasonably can be expected to do so in the future provided my constitutional rights are protected.

My reaction to the previous piece or comment was that the NRA, of which I am a member, was called a racist organization - it's both prejudicial and wrong and, obviously, does not have a thing to do with reducing violence. 

I also support mental heath programs designed to reduce the terrible rate of suicide in the nation and many of the suicides are with firearms.

All that being said, the devil is in the details.  As with ALL hot-button issues on all sides of the political spectrum some of the laws are there for go and some are there for show, not because they actually do anything - especially if they are not enforced.

As with all laws, individuals have a right to the presumption of innocence and due process.

Ok, Mr. Butler, if you have some ideas please bring them forward.

Marty Richman

  

  

Submitted by Tod DuBois (John Galt) on

The tobacco companies were held responsible and adapted, the opioid companies and association are on the way to being held responsible, I see the only path to solving gun violence is to make the industry (NRA and Manufacturers) and owners responsible. It seems clear that liability insurance is necessary and financial responsibly tied to the greatest advocates, owners, and industry in general. They as an industry and user group should be responsible for solving the problem. 

Thank you for rejoining the fray Mr. Richman. I will only ask you, please, whenever you mention the writer of the letter terming the NRA a racist organization, to clearly state that it was not me. I ask this in order to avoid the recurrence of our discussion's devolution into name-calling.

I will further ask those who wish to remove all guns from the hands of law abiding citizens and who are, in my opinion, chasing moonbeams, to open their minds to reality. I will also ask those who say "the Government" and the "Deep State" controlled by Zionists, Communists, Clinton (choose one), Putin, the Pope or perhaps alien invaders, to approach the web as a tool and not as a basis for furthering paranoid fantasies.

I ask only those people of good will--gun owning or not-- who are appalled by our Nation's seeming inability to rationally approach the issue to try to bring intelligence and diligence to the discussion and together work toward a solution.

 

It was not you and you will not see me with a tin hat, I'm not a conspiracy monger; people can be bad enough as individuals, God forbid what happens when those with bad intentions - religious fanatics of every stripe - get together.  We've seen that movie...   

Today's headline from Statista, "Suicide Rates Have Risen Sharply Across The U.S." and opening paragraph "New data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that suicide rates have risen steadily in nearly every U.S. state from 1999 to 2016. In 2016, 45,000 people took their own lives, an increase on 2015's 44,193. Suicide rates went up more than 30 percent in half of the country's states since 1999 with North Dakota (57.6 percent), Vermont (48.6 percent) and New Hampshire (48.3 percent) recording the highest percentage increases up to 2016."

When looking at all age groups suicide by firearm exceeds homicide by firearm almost 2 to 1.  Homicide by firearm leads in only two age groups, 15-24 and 25-34, young people are notoriously more violent as a group than older people.  I have asked myself, do young mass-murderers have a death wish or are they just deranged?  What about when they act in groups such as at the Columbine High School massacre?

While firearms are often the method of suicide, I believe the blossoming numbers indicate that there is something going on that we're missing.  In 2016 2,700 Americans in age groups 15-24 and 25-34 committed suicide by suffocation (I assume most by hanging); 5,800 with firearms.  Is that a firearm problem or a mental health problem? I believe it is low self-esteem and depression.  How can we reduce that 'violence"?

Marty Richman

Submitted by Tod DuBois (John Galt) on

How can we reduce that 'violence"? Simple, make the owners, manufacturers and the NRA liable for those deaths. Then we'll get some action that works. It's not even about rights anymore, it needs to be about liability. 

Dear Mr. DuBois, thanks again for your input.

Here is a link to everything you need to know about the current immunity of the gun industry as generously provided for them by our sworn representatives in the US Congress in 2005.

Though your idea is indeed valuable, in no way is it "simple" given the corruptive power of gun industry lobbyists.

http://lawcenter.giffords.org/gun-laws/policy-areas/other-laws-policies/...

Submitted by Tod DuBois (John Galt) on

Terry, I'm confident that "our sworn representatives" = "we the people", therefore the people have chosen and accepted that gun violence is okay. In order to get that to change either that violence needs to reach more people and change their position (the current path we are on) or we use logic to convince people to change (unlikely). The link you sent was interesting, I'm glad that my brain still functions, sometimes I wonder. 

Submitted by Richard Tompkins (rdtompki) on

Gun manufacturers do have liability for defective products.  A gun manufacturer is no more responsible for the act of a criminal than an auto manufacturer is responsible for the act of a drunk.  If you want to talk responsibility what about big city administrations who do nothing useful to improve conditions in the crime ridden inner city?

Making it harder to buy a gun legally will do nothing to prevent the illegal trade in firearms.  More bizarre laws, and California has plenty, only serve to make de facto criminals out of law abiding citizens, but do nothing to deter real criminals.

Each new gun law provides a feel good moment for the left and great publicity, but does nothing to solve the enormous problems facing California.  A catch phrase, "Common Sense Gun Laws" comes to mind, does not a solution make.  

.Dear Mr. Tompkins, I guess you just caught up. And I thank you for responding, but I fail to see the connections you attempt to make here.

Guns are not autos. Autos are made to fulfill a function far different than that of guns. Accidents will happen with either, but murder and mayhem occurs far more often with guns than with autos. It is specious to suggest that someone bent on harm will buy an auto in order to perpetrate a personal injury crime, an act which is common with gun violence offenders. The auto industry is held to stringent safety standards for their product. The weapons industry has no such strictures. When you buy a gun, legally or illegally, you are not required to be insured, which in and of itself is a vetting process not required for gun ownership. In fact, a person who has had sufficient DUIs to have had their license revoked is not unable to legally buy a gun.People undergoing certain medicated treatments are not allowed to drive, but they can purchase a weapon.

Your references to "Big City Administrations" and "the crime ridden inner city" somehow smack of a class oriented view of gun violence. The facts are clear however; most gun violence is committed in homes among families and friends and are not confined to geographical boundaries. There is as  much, and more, gun violence in Suburbia as there is in "the Hood" and more in the Bible Belt than anywhere else--an area where gun ownership is considered to be a "god-given" right.

Have we seen any instance of mass shootings that rival Parkland, Las Vegas, the Florida Night Club or Sandy Hook ( to name a few that readily spring to mind) occurring in any "inner city"? Please tell me if you have an answer. .

 

 

 

Terry, while I appreciate that your concern for public safety is genuine, I think that the inputs you get (your own, mine, and others) just goes to show what a difficult subject this is.  In this set you - rightly - say that firearms and automobiles are two different things, but then you go on to talk about liability insurance which is a state, not federal, requirement.  OBTW, many states do have tough safety requirements for firearms some of which make sense (loaded chamber indicators) and some of which don't (magazine interlocks which are actually a safety hazard) and some of which do not apply to law enforcement (I guess they never have accidents even though they are human).

I believe there is one area with wide public support - criminals should not have firearms.  The question is how do we do that without punishing or over-burdening the rights of law-abiding citizens?  Right now we violate them in droves and send them back to prison, but that "deterrent" is not working. 

Using the auto example for fun, this minute the technology to prevent an intoxicated person from starting a car exists and is occasionally in use, but it is not a safety requirement for the general public, yet 10,000 people a year die in alcohol-related traffic accidents (if you believe that DUI is an "accident."),

I admit I do not have any good ideas on criminals, I do have many on suicide prevention, but it means changing the public attitude on mental heath and restoring self-esteem to individuals.

Marty Richman

Marty we meet again over this important topic. Thanks for your response. I'll admit I'm neither a gun enthusiast knowledgeable about current advances or a person who reads the laws pertaining to them in detail. I appreciate your calm way of pointing out my mistakes. As you say, my focus is on safety issues for society as a whole and not those regarding gun handlers themselves.

I've seen a few high-tech solutions bandied about in various articles--one in particular I thought was interesting is a fingerprint recognition system to link the gun to whomever buys it originally and then with each step in any chain of sale--obviously malfeasance would find a way through that also. But in practical terms, we simply need to make the sale and ownership of weapons capable of doing great harm a highly regulated part of our culture.

I hope you know I'm not addressing you when I say no one needs an assault rifle to protect his home, nor does she need to wear a 45 strapped to her leg when she goes out to dinner. You can hunt and shoot just fine with rifles, shotguns and pistols. Its a matter of self image and not a matter of concern for the safety of society as a whole. It's the same as a guy with speakers in his grille blasting hip hop in the park, or a Harley rider with extremely loud pipes blowing past you in traffic or a monster truck guy tailgating you with intimidation because you drive carefully. It's "look at me, I'm a badass".

. I know I'm going to catch a bunch of hate for saying these things, but that response from gun fans is part of how they see the dialogue. There's no give, only belligerence. Talking about crime in the inner city while ignoring endangered school kids is just selfish paranoia. Let's ALL grow up.

I don't see the majority of supporters of the Second Amendment as "ignoring endangered school kids" at all, that's just inflammatory and insulting rhetoric and does noting to address the issue; they typically see a different set of problems as the cause and a different set of answers as the solution.  It's like the argument about using the A-bomb during WWII; your "right answer" might not agree with a lot of other people's "right answer" if you and they see things from a different perspective.

In the end there may not be a right answer - it's all in the eye of the beholder.

Marty Richman

Marty I'd love to have someone explain to me what gun lovers find so compelling about the second amendment. It has always seemed to me to be based on a fear of government takeover. Is that correct?

If that's the case, shouldn't they spend some time strengthening protections on all civil rights and not just one? I'm not suggesting that there aren't gun lovers who are not concerned about erosion of privacy and the growth of a shadowy intelligence community and other things to fear about governments in general. I'm simply saying that a healthy community needs to care for everyone regardless of station. If "bad guys" or "mental defectives" are killing innocent citizens with military type weaponry, it seems to me the first expedient is to control the whole flow of availability of those weapons from manufacturer to end user. Instead, in a situation similar to the current crop of politicians who protect a dangerous president not because they think he's a positive influence on our nation, but because he's "their guy", second amendment enthusiasts just won't talk about improving a defective system in order to create a sane gun control policy.

Please tell me, if you will, what second amendment absolutists are afraid of and describe to me why a right to own automatic weapons is more important than unprotected people's lives.

Submitted by Robert Gilchrist Huenemann (bobgh) on

I have stayed out of this until you made your snotty little comment about "dangerous president" and your crap about "automatic weapons". It is obvious that you are a zealot who will not yield the last word. Fine. I will not give up MY second amendment. You can pry my SEMI automatic weapons out of my cold, dead hands. Not that you are intellectually capable of grasping the distinction.

Submitted by Robert Gilchrist Huenemann (bobgh) on

I have looked at the list of commies that provide you with your propaganda. ACLU? Chuck Schumer? What a bunch of losers.........

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