Archive for the ‘Guns’ category

Annals of Responsible Gun Ownership, Part (n)

February 24, 2014

To paraphrase how my co-religionists limn the Reconstructionist movement*….

…There is no god, and Darwin is his prophet:

A Michigan man fatally shot himself in the head while he was teaching his girlfriend gun safety, according to The Detroit Free Press.

37.42

Police said that the man, whose name was not released, had been trying to show his girlfriend gun safety with three pistols. He put the first two guns to his head and pulled the trigger. When the man pulled the trigger on the third pistol the gun went off.

In the least surprising contextual note in the history of stupidity,

The man’s girlfriend said he had been drinking throughout the day while he was showing her the guns. (Via TPM)

I don’t want to make light of the core of the story: someone’s son, lover, sibling — perhaps — and friend is dead before his time and for even less reason than usual.  My sympathy to all those burdened by this loss.

The only point I’ll draw from this stranger’s death is that guns are designed to deliver deadly force and they do.  Most folks have been known to such back one too many cold ones at least occasionally.  And that is one of the reasons why even the most responsible gun owners are so until they’re not…

…at which point, someone dies.

*The actual line goes, “There is no God and Mordecai Kaplan is his prophet,” but you kinda had to be there.

Image: Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, The Suicide, c. 1836.

 

Carl Hiassen Was Right. Imagination Can’t Out-Crazy Reality: Gun Nuttery Department

February 13, 2014

Via Salon, we learn what a Colorado Republican state senator — who took office in the wake of a recall of a Democrat who favored limits on gun magazine capacity — had this to say in support of the bill he introduced to overturn the large magazine ban:

A nearly identical law has already been voted down in the Dem-controlled Colorado state House of Representatives and is certain to fail in the state Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats. But the state Senate held a hearing on Herpin’s bill all the same.

It was during this hearing that Herpin made his unfortunate remarks in response to a question from a Democratic senator on the committee.

“My understanding is that James Holmes bought his 100-round capacity magazine legally,” said Sen. Irene Aguilar. “So, in fact, this law would have stopped James Holmes from purchasing a 100-round magazine. I was wondering if you agree with me.”

“Perhaps James Holmes would not have been able to purchase a 100-round magazine,” Herpin responded. “As it turned out, that was maybe a good thing that he had a 100-round magazine, because it jammed. If he had four, five, six 15-round magazines, there’s no telling how much damage he could have done until a good guy with a gun showed up.”

Nicolas_Poussin_-_Le_massacre_des_Innocents_-_Google_Art_Project

Uhhh.

Once more, I got nothing.

Or rather — I have no idea what must take place in an allegedly sentient being’s mind that would allow that person to say such a thing.  My sympathy goes to every friend and family member of those murdered in Aurora, and insulted by Senator Bernie Herpin.

Image:  Nicholas Poussin, The Massacre of the Innocents, 1625-1626.

I Got Nothing…

February 11, 2014

…I can imagine saying to this:

“There’s necessarily no reason to open carry,” he said. “Rosa Parks didn’t really need to sit where she did.”

That’s the owner of that Beaumont, TX gun shop that sent out a signboard guy wearing a banana suit who happened to be open-carrrying an AK-47.*

Czigány,_Dezső_-_Still-life,_Banana,_Oranges_and_Fishes_(ca_1910)

I get it.

Actually, I don’t.

Wondering around the streets with a high-powered rifle is just like refusing to accept the explicit tyranny of the Jim Crow south….

Uh…

No…

WTF do you do with that?

I got nothing.

*The idea behind the banana costume, by the way, “was so he would look less alarming.”

Ponder that for a moment.

Maybe I’ve led a sheltered life, but if I saw some guy in a bright yellow cone-topped costume out on the street, gesticulating with an assault rifle to hand, I’d find that…

…a tad perturbing.

Just me, I suppose.

Image:  Dezső Czigány, Still-life with Bananas, Oranges and Fishesc. 1910

Yo! You There! Call Yourself “Pro-Life” Do You…

October 20, 2013

Portrait_of_a_Dead_Child)_by_English_School

…Then what do you have to say about this:

A 2-year-old girl died Saturday afternoon after she found a loaded handgun and accidentally shot herself, Fayetteville police said. [via]

This latest report is not an anomaly.  Leaving aside malice — murder and random mayhem; leaving aside adult folly, when individuals supposedly at or past the age of reason self-nominate for Darwin awards; leaving aside the great gaping hole in families all over the country left by suicide-by-gun; kids, guns, and accidental deaths offer a blunt and clear test.  A neighbor said of this kid that she was “a 2-year-old baby who hasn’t even lived yet.”  So are they all.

If you think of the defenceless as deserving of special care…if you think that kids are the fit objects of national attention, of such importance that we must enact a rule of law so that such innocent lives may be absolutely protected…then what are you willing to do about the guns?

Let me be clear: I know that plenty of people who oppose abortion are horrified by American gun law and culture, and I honor that.  But lots do not, and there is a pretty fair correlation between the states that have the most restrictive abortion laws and the most relaxed legal framework for gun .  Those are the folks, those are the legislatures that I’m talking about.

Let me be clearer: my deepest sympathy goes to the family who just lost a daughter.  Doesn’t matter what their politics are. Doesn’t even matter to me what their role in the sequence of events that led to this little girl finding that weapon. Their hell is with them now and there’s nothing I can or would wish to  do to make it worse.  It can’t get worse.*

I’ll even admit that pointing to (what seems to me to be) a glaring inconsistency between anti-abortion politics and concern for the living is something of a cheap shot in this context.  The issue here is guns and the way some Americans have created a culture in which minimal moves to safer gun regimes are seen as the ultimate in tyranny. That’s what has to be confronted head on, I agree.

But I can tell you that I’m heartsick at reading story after story of babies killing babies or themselves.  And if you think children are actually something other than little adults, that they do need special attention, protection, care — and I do — then, yeah, I do think its fair to ask of anyone who presumes to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves where they stand.

That’s it.  I got nothing more on this.  I keep thinking about my boy when he was two and what I would felt had I found him on the floor…

Can’t bear it.

*This isn’t to say that I don’t favor criminal negligence charges against anyone who leaves a gun where a kid can get at it.  That’s a social sanction, and  it is vital that we as a society make it consequential to own a gun.  There’s reason they call it “deterrence.”  But as an individual?  I would never say to someone in this family’s position how sinfully dumb it is to keep a loaded gun anywhere near a kid.  They know

Image:  English School, Portrait of a Dead Child, 1624.

Things I Hate With The White Hot Heat Of A Thousand Suns

September 16, 2013

This, for one:

Gary Humes, a programs manager with the Navy, was entering the building where the shootings took place around 8:20 a.m. when he was met by people fleeing the building and warning of a shooter inside. He and more than 100 others ran to another building across the street, while others ran to the Navy museum nearby.

“I decided to go into work a little late this morning,” he said. “I guess God was with me.”” (from The Navy Times story on today’s mass shooting*).

Should we thus infer that God was not with the dead and wounded?

I’m not going to get into the problem of evil in this space.  There are ways religious believers reconcile themselves to the obvious fact that bad things happen to good people — or at least people for whom the evil outcomes are undeserved by any reasonable calculation.  There are certainly logically coherent ways to understand the presence of evil in the world as a strong indicator of the absence of deity actively intervening in human affairs.  Neither of those true statements is in play here.

Rather:  hosannas like the one above are to me the markers of failed religion.  I don’t me Mr Humes himself.  Dodging the kind of horror he did today would make anyone — me certainly – feel an almost giddy (and guilty) sense of relief.  He gets a pass from me on anything he says in the moment.  But it’s still possible to read something in the verbal formula that someone in such straits reaches for in such moments of trial.  And the “God is with me” trope — that to me is the signal of a religious culture thoroughly getting it wrong.

Or, to put it in another frame, what would Jesus say?

Aelbert_Cuyp_-_Landscape_with_cattle_-_Google_Art_Project

This, for example:

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25)

 

Image: Aelbert Culp, Landscape with Cattle,  c. 1639-1649

 

Least Surprising News Ever

September 9, 2013

Guns are to George Zimmerman as land wars in Asia are to superpowers.  Never, ever, ever a good idea:

George Zimmerman’s estranged wife called police officers to her father’s house in Florida Monday, saying the former neighborhood watch volunteer who was acquitted of murder threatened her with a gun.

Shellie Zimmerman called police shortly after 2 p.m. Monday, said Lake Mary Police Chief Steve Bracknell.

Zimmerman hasn’t been arrested and officers were at the house trying to determine what happened, Bracknell said.

Arthur_Devis_-_John_Orde,_His_Wife_Anne,_and_His_Eldest_Son_William_-_Google_Art_Project

Early days, could be a misunderstanding, have to hear both sides, she probably had him down on the linoleum in fear for what little frontal lobe capacity he may have, yadda, yadda.

I don’t have words left for how utterly stupid American gun policy is.  But on this one?  The only surprise here is that Zimmerman beat my internal over/under on how long it would take for him to go back down this road.

Oh — and if I’m Shellie Zimmerman, I’m looking long and hard at research like this. [PDF]  No snark here; this kind of thing is (literally) deadly serious.

Image:  Arthur Devis, John Orde, His Wife Anne, and His Eldest Son William, between 1754 and 1756.

For a Good Time on the Intertubes — Today!

May 22, 2013

It’s that time of the month again — the third (usually) Wednesday, when I do my Virtually Speaking Science gig.

This afternoon at 6 p.m. eastern time I’ll be talking again to Naomi Oreskes, historian of science and co-author of Merchants of Doubt,an account of how a small(ish) cadre of cold-war scientists became hired guns for Big Tobacco and the anti-climate change brigade.

Naomi and I spoke in 2011 about the threats posed by the spread of “scientistic” argument — the use of a science-like language, couched in the rhetoric of disinterested skepticism, to obscure critical knowledge for public audiences.

Well, flash forward a year and a half, and we come to an America in which we have experienced years of devastating drought, superstorm Sandy, this week’s tornado, and the breaching of the 400 ppm atmospheric carbon threshold, and it’s time to talk again about the cost of denialism and the misuse of perceived authority by our still-thriving doubt peddlars.

Brueghel,_Pieter_I_-_Christ_in_the_Storm_on_the_Sea_of_Galilee_-_1596

The tornado provides a great touchstone in fact — as Naomi and I have been emailing back and forth on the question.  What’s happening is that there is a growing body of increasingly firm research on the impact of climate change on all kinds of circumstances.  Changing and possibly deepening patterns of drought are pretty clearly on the table.  A boost in the number of severe hurricanes too.  Significant ice melt and sea level rise too. But what will happen to tornado patterns as climate change proceeds is still unclear.  So what to make of that lacuna?

Here’s my take (not to put any words in Naomi’s mouth):  If you are a rational person, you say we need more research on that particular concern, but the broad pattern is clear:  human-driven climate change is in progress and it is causing a host of changes that directly conflict with the way we’ve rely on our built environment and on all the things we do (grow cereals in the midwest, e.g.) needed to keep our societies going.  And we’ll get back to you on the twisters, asking you to bear this thought in mind:  if you are a betting person, how much do you want to wager on the possibility that increasing the amount of heat trapped in the lower atmosphere won’t kick up some extra nasty storms?

We won’t confine ourselves to climate and the weather, by the way.  Merchants of Doubt has given me a frame for looking at a lot of news, and I see the same desire to conceal useful knowledge the doubtists serve in the somewhat different technique of simply blocking research that might be used to produce inconvenient truths.  See, e.g. the NRA – led ban on research on gun violence and the  the recent Republican proposal to forbid the US Census from doing anything but a decennial count, thus eliminating, among other things, our ability to measure unemployment.

So come on down.  Listen live or later here.  Y’all can head over to the Exploratorium’s Second Life stage as well if you do that virtual world thing.

Image:  Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, c. 1596.

Oh Brave New World…

May 6, 2013

…that has such people in’t

(via)

A 3D printable plastic handgun is now (more or less) available.

As the linked article suggests, there is a nasty possibility of having the thing blow up in your hand if you use too-powerful ammunition…but still.

Talking Points Memo is also on the story, with a gussied up video that adds swelling music and shots of WW II bombers to the mix.  They grabbed this quote (warning – do not read while eating lunch):

“I recognize that this tool might be used to harm people,” Wilson said, according to Fox News. “That’s what it is — it’s a gun. But I don’t think that’s a reason to not put it out there. I think that liberty in the end is a better interest.”

Presented without further comment, this story, also now up on TPM.

And this one.

And…hell, wait half an hour and there will be another tragedy to report. (At somewhere north of 50 gun suicides per day, that’s a reasonably non-hyperbolic time period — to say nothing of gun violence imposed on others.)

The nuts, Civil War revanchists, and simple thugs who drive gun policy in this country are a danger to themselves and everyone else.  Demographics are getting them too...but not nearly fast enough.

May 2, 2013

Outsourced entirely to Charles P. Pierce:

If your “way of life” involves handing deadly weapons to five-year olds, your way of life is completely screwed up and you should change it immediately because it is stupid and wrong. (And, again, also, too: goddammit, “learning to use and respect a gun” means at least knowing that the fking thing is loaded when it’s sitting in the corner of the parlor like it’s a damn umbrella stand or something, and we should talk about that part, too.) It is not in any way “normal” to hand a kindergartner a firearm. If a mother from the inner-city of, say, Philadelphia did that, and the kid subsequently shot his sister to death, Fox News never would stop yelling about the crisis in African American communities and the Culture Of Death, and rap music, too. If your culture is telling you that children who have only recently emerged from toddlerhood should have their own guns, then your culture is deadly and dangerous and that should concern you, too. If your culture demands that, in the face of a general national outrage over the killing of other children, your politics work to loosen the gun laws you have, as they apparently did in Kentucky, then your culture is making your politics stupid and wrong and you should change them, too. I do not have to understand these people any more, and it is way too early in the day to be drinking this much.

Portrait_of_a_girl_with_gun_and_hound copy

Image:  Portrait of a girl with gun and hound, after the style of Joshua Reynolds, 18th or 19th century

“You Can Keep The Gun” — Guest Post

April 29, 2013

What follows are friend-of-the-blog Jim Bale’s reflections on our recent bad days in Boston, Cambridge, Watertown and environs.  He picked up the loathesome suggestion by an Arkansas state rep who misunderstands so much about both Boston and the concept of society that I could come up with nothing but sputtering obscenities.  Jim, a better man, has something much smarter to offer.

______________________

Jim Bales here, with thanks to Tom for the loan of his soapbox.

During the hunt for the Marathon bombers, Arkansas State Rep. Nate Bell (a Republican) tweeted:

I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine?”

Nonchaloir (Repose)

He followed with an apology for the timing of his words, but not the words themselves.

 

I sent him the following email (his contact information is at http://www.arkansashouse.org/member/256/ )

Dear Representative Bell,

I am fortunate to have had multiple opportunities to visit the beautiful state of Arkansas, and to spend time staying with friends and relatives in your state. I was taken aback to read your tweet that you wondered “how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine?” I was then saddened to read your apology for “for the poor timing of my tweet earlier this morning.”

What you don’t seem to understand that your words themselves are offensive and ignorant, no matter when expressed. I urge you to take the time to reflect upon your words, and try to wrap your head around the fact that the good liberals in Boston (and I am one of them) recognize that only a fool believes that a personal firearm is a magic talisman that makes one safe.

Our safety is based on our recognizing that we are a Commonwealth that our individual well-being is strengthened by our commitment to each other, through our words, our deeds, and our taxes. We put our tax money into training and equipping our law enforcement officers. We put our trust and our support behind them. We don’t try to do their job for them, and we understand that possessing an AR-15 cannot magically make us invulnerable.

And so, because we have faith in our law enforcement officers, we did not cower in fear behind a firearm. Rather, we calmly stayed home, were alert, and stayed out of the way of our brethren in law enforcement.

I urge you, in your capacity as Member of the House of Representatives of the great State of Arkansas, to review the support your state gives its law enforcement agencies, and (if necessary) vote to increase taxes to ensure that the good people of Arkansas can reasonably enjoy the same level of faith in those agencies as we in Boston (and Massachusetts) enjoy in ours.

Trust me; having competent, well-trained and well-funded law enforcement is far more reassuring than holding an AR-15!

Image:  John Singer Sergant, Repose, 1911.

 

Best,

Jim Bales

 


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