I was walking around today looking through various store windows when a thought struck me. I was in a mall. I was walking through a section in a department store’s cosmetics area (on my way to men’s work boots, thank you very much). That’s when it struck me. Modern marketing. Now, I know nothing about cosmetics and don’t pretend to. But that’s sort of the point. As I walked through the aisle everything looked very similar or downright exactly the same to me. I know most women can tell the differences. Good from bad, cheap ones, poor quality ones, etc. That’s mostly because they’ve taken the time to educate themselves on the subject. They can tell you which brand they prefer for what. They can tell you if something is worth paying for. It’s all about educating yourself. This brings me to my point, educating one’s self in order to base an opinion or thought on fact.
At the moment in our politically charged lives there are literally hundreds of people screaming at you, demanding your attention for this or that. Mostly, people hear or see something on the news and take it as gospel. No one really has time to fact check the fact checkers. Recently, a story was put on the air in San Francisco (you can fact check me on this!), and they reported the pilot’s names of the aircraft that had a hard landing at SFO. My profession is in the aviation industry, so I typically don’t pay attention to anything the nightly news puts out in relation to my business. I’m aware that it’s mostly nonsense. This one, however, was a doozy. Despite the fact that the names of a couple of the pilots had already been released to the press, they went with the story anyway. They’re efforts to ‘fact check’ their story was to call the NTSB and ask if the names checked out. The NTSB has never, in the history of the NTSB, given the pilots names. Even in their reports they typically refer to them as Captain and Co-Pilot. Some intern answered the phone and when read the names (now, I’m guessing here), probably thought it was a joke so he readily agreed that those names were indeed valid. They not only turned out to be incorrect, but for those of you who saw the story, the names were adolescent prank names that any reasonable person would instantly (and did) recognize as just that, a prank.
So, I ask you, how reliable are any of the news sources? All sorts of retractions are made in the papers. They’re usually buried somewhere near the last page. Television news gets it wrong on a regular basis. Of course, I don’t expect everyone to learn about everything on the planet. That’s not reasonable. I can’t identify a good cosmetic from a bad one. I’m sure I’m no good at dentistry, though I’ve never tried and I certainly wouldn’t be able to run a nuclear power plant.
That sort of brings me to what I’m really working toward highlighting here. Laws. We trust our elected senators and representatives to enact laws that are designed to enhance or appreciably benefit our lives in some way. Our country was partially founded on laws that did not infringe on the freedom of the people. The Constitution was framed around that premise. Nowadays, Congress puts together ridiculously complicated and unreadable bills, then go into meetings with each other and lobbyists and rely on those people to tell them how to vote. They have largely forgotten who they work for. Further, they completely fail to educate themselves on the subject matter they are voting on. “Mr. Lobbyist, is this bill going to get me in trouble with the donating factions you represent?” That seems to be their only concern. So, we, the people, end up with this great divide because our chosen leaders rely upon someone other than their constituents and themselves to provide an opinion. How many times have you watched a politician flip-flop on a subject? They always claim that someone misled them, but now they feel a certain way after being told by yet someone else that they shouldn’t feel the way they used to. It’s all about dodging blame.
So, here’s the part where I’m going to bore you, or enrage you, depending on your point of view about a subject that I am particularly interested in. Gun ownership. There is a very large faction that believes that if we were like England we would not have all the gun violence in our country. Well, if that is going to be your gold standard, then allow me one of my own, the Czech Republic. Surprised? I was. The Czechs allow guns on a scale roughly equal to the laws on the U.S. So why aren’t there mass shootings there? They have the same guns? They have access to the same stuff as we do. By the way, England is not gun violence free. Google that sometime. In fact, recently a couple of self-proclaimed terrorists decided to hack to death a soldier who was unarmed. The police that arrived on scene were also unarmed and were reluctant to confront the machete wielding terrorists for fear of their own safety. They then had to call in a special unit that was armed before they rushed the terrorists. Their gun free policy backfired on them. So, our friends in the Czech Republic somehow manage to not go off in wild killing sprees. The statistic I saw was that their total handgun kill rate for 2010 was seven. You read that correctly, seven.
My point here is that restrictive gun ownership laws don’t work. They are a nice political battle cry, but in the end, they don’t actually have an appreciable effect on overall homicide rates. There are more violent gun deaths in Chicago where you’re not supposed to have a gun, than anywhere in the U.S. No one wants to discuss that, they all simply want an emotional response to the object. It is the object that seems to scare them, not the actual people with the thing. This is where I get pretty disgusted with law makers.
Not long ago (there is a You Tube video to back me up on this), one of the leading gun control advocates was writing a bill to limit magazine capacity. She is from Colorado and her name is Diana DeGette. I suppose that if what she thought was true really was true, then her magazine limit bill made some sense. However, she had no idea what she was talking about. She proudly proclaimed that her bill would eliminate the old magazines due to attrition. Because she hadn’t actually educated herself on what the working parts of the object of her hatred were, she had no clue about what her bill would and wouldn’t do. She just assumed that magazines, “are like ammunition, once you shoot them, they’re gone”. Of course, that isn’t even close to true. For those of you that don’t know, a magazine is a refillable box that houses ammunition. Once the ammunition inside is expended, the magazine can be ejected, refilled and reinserted. So, here we are, the people, relying on this hapless person to write a law to presumably appreciably affect the safety of our lives. The end result is that her basis was incorrect; therefore the desired result is not achievable.
Then there is the argument of what constitutes an “assault rifle”. When I was in the United States Army, the weapon that we were handed in basic training was an M-16A1 battle rifle. Even the Army didn’t refer to it as an assault rifle. So, the media, (remember those guys that don’t do a lot of fact checking?) decided somewhere along the way that they would call this enigma an “assault rifle”. Our politicians are very effective at ‘spin’. Using language to invoke a particular reaction from the listener or reader. They soften language, they use words to get your attention, they lie, they’ll do whatever they think will get you to think like they do. Both sides do this. No one is immune from this form of smoke and mirrors.
With that in mind, think about what these politicians are using to define an “assault rifle”. Does it have this feature or that, does it have this capacity of that? None of which really make any sense. A .22 rifle can be made to look exactly like a 5.56MM M-16A1 battle rifle. So, the defining difference all other things being equal would be the caliber of the round. Not the way it looks. In fact, a .22 would have a far greater magazine capacity because the rounds are so much smaller than the 5.56. I have no desire to get shot, a .22 can kill you if aimed in the right place, but if not in the right place then the likelihood of being lethally shot with an evil assault rifle looking .22 would be far less than getting hit with a 5.56 round. There’s a reason the Army and Marines generally use 5.56 and 7.62 rounds and not .22’s.
Having said that, the premise of banning an “assault rifle” is akin to asking if you’d rather be bitten by a rattlesnake or a cobra, the end result is the same. It sucks. So, two weapons firing the same round are equally lethal. The round is doing the damage, not the way it looks. This is the old book-by-its-cover rule. Would you rather be run over by a Ford or a Volvo? Would you rather get stabbed by a kitchen knife or a hunting knife? It’s all the same. The object, by the way, in all of my stupid scenarios, has to be controlled by a human to do anything.
So, that’s where we end up. The fallible and imperfect human being. While everyone is shouting, “we’re all equal”, that’s horsepuckey. I’m no doctor. Couldn’t be one. I can’t stand the sight of blood (especially my own). But, there are some that it doesn’t bother. If we were all equal, then we wouldn’t marvel at NFL, NBA and baseball stars, race car drivers, actors and actresses, this list goes on and on. So, we’re not equal. We each have our own individual strengths and weaknesses. Some have physical gifts while others have mental gifts. Some people are creative, while others can tear apart a diesel and have it back up and running in no time. These differences seem to be where the breakdown begins. Facts, not feelings, not pronouncements and not someone’s version of the facts. We get fed these sugar-coated stories all the time from the media, but rarely do we actually get the facts. My perception of the facts in discussing this case is that the last several mass shootings that everyone is so upset about were all done by mentally unstable people.
Shouldn’t that be our focus? Not the rattlesnake or the cobra?