Crap, I’m Doing It Again

Well, add this to my continuing series of blogs written and inspired by the latest mass shooting.

Look–I’m no genius. (please, the line to chime in forms down the street) For the sake of my comedy-writing skills, my observation muscle is really in good shape. I see things, process them, look for similarities and connections to other topics and create amusing quips and comments.

There is nothing cute or funny about the Florida shootings. But part of the routine response process (“More gun laws!”/”Stricter mental health regulations!”) kind of stands out to me this time.

The true solution is going to be a compromise that’s strictly enforced on both sides.

THE GUN ISSUE–Yes, 200 years ago, our forefathers made sure there was an amendment guaranteeing the right to own weapons and protect ourselves. The majority of people who own guns do so for for target practice, hunting and home security. But, like everything else these days, guns have become a political commodity–are you FOR guns or AGAINST them? Say the phrase “gun control” and the die-hards immediately respond with “that’s the first step towards the government taking all of our guns away!” And, there we are, back at that Second Amendment.

THE MENTAL HEALTH ISSUE–Between all the social media bombardment, where our media has evolved, and let’s throw in drug abuse while we’re at it, there are a lot of unstable people out there. Some are out-right dangerous. And not just at the homeless camps, but the bullied teenager who, in this case, lost both of his parents and was living with a family that took him in out of the kindness of their hearts, not knowing the complete mental damage that had happened. Someone with a history of violence, that had been kicked out of school, who had posted on YouTube that he wants to be a “professional school shooter”…I think it’s safe to say he has mental health issues. He needed help and wasn’t getting what he needed. It seems like a pretty simple concept that someone in that state of mind should have a tag on them, somewhere, that prevents them from buying an automatic weapon that can mow people down. But in this ever-so-PC world, we can’t label someone like that because it would be violating their rights.

I probably need to re-read the Constitution again, but I don’t believe there’s a right to shoot dozens of people with an automatic weapon.

Calling on the Republicans or the Democrats to fix this falls right into the camp that there are two teams playing. We’re one nation. The NRA has politicians in their pockets: shame on them. Then again, they’re doing what the pharmaceutical, insurance and other industries do. That’s how the political game is played.

But it’s time to call a time-out in this game and take positive steps so that people aren’t sending their kids off to school and not being really sure if they’ll ever come back.

GUN PEOPLE–Yes, you have the right to an AR-15, based on that second amendment. You’ll most likely treat it with respect and only shoot it at a firing range. But here’s the deal–there’s a disgruntled ex-co-worker or an abused or battered teen planning to lash out like all those shootings he keeps hearing about.  First off, is owning that kind of weapon really that important to you?  If so, shouldn’t a special license and training be required?  You need that to drive a car.  You can’t just hop behind the wheel of a semi and start driving. You also need special training and a special license.  Notice a pattern here?  There’s also a high accountability that comes with owning a gun. Having one that suddenly disappears and is used in a crime or killing spree–that’s on you.  Perhaps if your weapon is used in a crime, you’re charged as an accomplice or face a $100,000 fine.  Maybe if you knew that could happen, that semi-automatic would be treated like gold and locked up instead of being a quick grab away.

MENTAL HEALTH PEOPLE–When people go off the deep end, it’s not them. Their minds aren’t right. In the case of this Florida shooter, dear God, how many signs do you need?  If you have parents of teenagers, ask them if they have kids at their school “most likely to go off.” I pretty much guarantee they do. They always have. A snoopy grandmother in Everett this past week opened her grandson’s guitar case and found a rifle, along with his journal plotting a school shooting. She reported it. Yes, it’s family, and it could drive a wedge in your relationship, but God knows how many lives were saved by that action.  Dropping all the concern about being PC for a moment, if you’re mentally ill, you should NOT have the right to buy a gun. Is that really so difficult? Get help. Get therapy. Eventually, prove you deserve to be able to own a gun. We don’t allow 10-year-olds to buy weapons. We have laws that try to prevent ex-cons for owning them. The thing is, we’re at least trying in those areas. We are way overdue to identify those who are struggling and even just temporarily prevent them from owning weapons.

In summary, this is a Gun Control AND Mental Health issue. Did you ever think you’d live in a world where a dozen or two innocent people being gunned down became a common event?  The frustrating part is that political parties have become packages. If you vote in this party, you’ll get this, this and this.  If you vote in the other party, they represent that, that and that.  But what if I’m for this but also want that? Get my point?  I think we’ve reached the time that Gun Control for Mentally Disturbed People has become THE issue. The one that will determine who gets my vote.

Because those who already got our votes just don’t seem to care.

Tim Hunter

Watch Me Scatter the Crowd

Jeff Koterba cartoon for January 10, 2013 "Guns"

It’s easy. All I have to do is say, “So, how do you feel about guns?”

Immediately, everyone will scurry over to their corner of the argument. The anti-gun crowd will say we need more restrictions or to outright ban them.

The pro gun crowd will remind you that Nazi Germany did their best to take guns away from private citizens.

The anti-gun folks will say that our current gun laws don’t work.

The pro gun folks respond by saying that the laws on the books just aren’t being enforced.

The anti-gun people say that there’s a mental illness factor and that people with such conditions shouldn’t be allowed to buy guns.

The pro gun people say if you prevent them from getting weapons, you’re infringing on their God-given right to have a firearm. And that just possibly might cut into their rights.

There’s talk of doing something. Chests are thumped. Fingers are pointed. Accusations are made. Holier than thou’s are anointed.

And then, it goes quiet. We mourn. We try to move on. We’re thankful that it wasn’t one of our loved ones wasn’t killed or injured. For a good day or two.

Then, a few days later, it happens again.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Albert Einstein gets the credit for that one, even though there’s no proof he ever said it. But, no matter.

I have friends that are on both sides of the argument. Here’s my stand.

I was raised a Ronald Reagan Republican, campaigned for Richard Nixon and remember going back to visit cousins in South Dakota where kids could earn some money in the summer by shooting gophers. You’d see them poke their heads up, fire and miss, and they’d continue looking until you got a second shot. For every tail, you’d get a nickel.

Kids on the farm grew up with guns. For generations, guns were a part of the world that you really didn’t give much thought to. When we were kids, we played “war.” I remember a note going home from the schools, suggesting to parents that kids probably shouldn’t be watching that “Combat” show on TV. All that violence.

Then, the next day, we’d be out with our pop rifles that you cocked and made a shooting sound as you played war. It was the next step after the GI Joe doll thing, which I never really got into.

Even in my younger years, I remember having one of those Roy Rogers trick hats, that you took off, squeeze the brim and a Derringer pistol would spring up and fire a cap.

Guns were there, a part of life, but I never, ever imagined gunning people down in real life. Wasn’t even on the radar.

Over the years, I’ve seen guns do their damage. JFK, RFK, Martin Luther King, and so many others. A lot of neighborhood kids that played War got a chance to live it during Viet Nam. Fortunately, the one year I was eligible for the draft, my number was up in the 200’s and things were winding down.

Yes, it’s a different world and I don’t know how many of these blogs before I’ve used to tell the story of when my position on guns changed. But it happened when a classmate of my son came home from school one day. The 7th grader got off the same bus Ty was on, he walked home, took a rifle out of his parents’ unlocked gun cabinet and did the unthinkable.

That was when I cleared things out. I owned two rifles and I took them both down to the Bothell police station for meltdown or whatever they wanted to do with them. Just didn’t want them around.

For those who feel they need to have their guns, prove you deserve the opportunity and lock them up, or be completely responsible for anything done with them. We’ve just experienced our second school shooting in a week by people who wanted to punish innocent people and enjoy a little bit of instant fame. The nut job that did last week’s shooting in Seattle had visited Columbine, like it was a shrine of how to do that kind of thing.

It’s time to risk infringing on the gun-owning rights of the mentally disturbed people who stand behind the second amendment to say they have the right to shoot a bunch of innocent people and then kill themselves.

I’m pretty tired of it.

There, I’ve said my piece. Others will chime in. Chests will be thumped, fingers will be pointed, and accusations will be made.

Then it will go quiet again. Until the next time.

At the current rate, sometime before the weekend.

Tim Hunter

OK, I’ll Take A Swing

Every now and then, much like our political parties, an issue comes along that divides our country beyond reason.  If you believe in the others point of view, you’re instantly an idiot.  If you try to compromise, you don’t have commitment to your ideals.

Such is the topic of guns these days.  Now, more than ever, we need to define the rules and enforce them, because having a depressed walking into a school and just shooting kids is simply not allowable.

I tend to find myself in the middle of a lot of these debates. I want to understand both sides and then decide how I think.  It may be on one side or the other, or completely in-between.  For example, on the matter of guns, I just don’t think I need to have one in the house to feel safe.  Sure, there may come that one time in a million where I may regret that theory, but to me, the drawbacks far out-weigh the benefits.

So, we have two definite sides–the Second Amendment people, who don’t want their right to bear arms infringed–and the “Get rid of all the guns” people who don’t want them, but also don’t you to own one.

The problem, as I see it, is that there are some rules in place, but not enforced.  Additional rules would be nice, but if we’re not enforcing the ones we have now, the new ones better have teeth.  The popular trend these days is to say, “Let’s ban the automatic rifles!  That’s the problem!”    Well, that’s A problem but far from the only one.  The kid shot in Atlanta the other day–handgun.  Most of the gun-related murders–handguns.

Let me say the obvious and put it out there.  There are several groups of people out there.  Let me identify them for you:

The 2nd Amendment Crowd—These are the ones blinded by the words written over 200 years ago.  OK, our forefathers gave you the right to own a gun. Done.  In their time, that would be a musket or a pistol.  Buy one.  Or a couple.  Now, automatic weapons that our military created to kill lots of people during war?  Look, you don’t really need one of those and you better dare not ever use that to go hunting and then call it a sport.  But, if you insist, to own one, you need to go through some serious training and pay for a specialized license to have one.  You can’t just get behind the wheel of a semi-truck and start driving.  Yes, you already have a regular driver’s license, but you need a special license to operate one of those.  That kind of thinking.

The Anti-Gun Crowd–These are the idealists, who think that banning every weapon will solve the problem.  It worked great for alcohol and marijuana, so it’ll probably work on guns.  To these folks, I’ll point out that 27 people were killed in Egypt last weekend in a soccer riot.  To me the solution is obvious:  a ban on soccer balls!   No soccer balls, no games, no riots.  Perfect.  If normal, responsible people are not allowed to own guns, they’ll still be around.  You just won’t like the people who will have them.

Everyone’s Rights Have to Be Protected (Except For the Gun Owners)–To me, this is the biggest stumbling block in the process.  The whack job who killed all those kids in Connecticut had mental issues.  It sounds like he had a mother in denial who was doing her best for the son she loved, but it just wasn’t enough.  So, she paid the initial price, but because this emotional wreck had access to guns his mother bought “for protection” (really….3 of them?) he just took ’em to the school that ticked him off and starting shooting kids.  Mental illness is real and comes in an incredibly wide range of intensities.  If you have issues, I’m sorry, but for the safety of everyone including yourself, it’s just not sensible to put a weapon within your reach.  Take it to the Supreme Court, please, but our mega-PC, don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings attitude has resulted in increasing numbers of mentally unstable people having access to weapons.  How dumb is that?

And, the golden rule that will apply to every weapon you buy—-YOU are responsible for whatever happens with that weapon.  If you don’t know where your gun is and someone commits a crime with it, congratulations—you’re now an accomplice.  Owning something as powerful as a firearm is a huge responsibility.  You wouldn’t just lay it down on the street and say, “I wonder what will happen now.”  If you have a weapon, you need to know its wear-abouts.  YOU are completely and totally responsible for locking it up and being absolutely sure it’s secure.  Period.

Several of the murders committed in the Seattle area lately were by people who never should have had access to a gun, but did.  A guy just last weekend got mad at his girlfriend, went to the bar where she was at and shot her.  The gun never should have been in his hands.  He was a felon.  So, where did he get it?  Get that person’s name and have them arrested.  Don’t want to tell us?  No problem, that’ll be an extra 15 years on top of your sentence if convicted.  Yes, it’s bonus time.

The point being, we just can’t continue like this.  We’re going deeper and deeper into uncharted territory and we can do our best to control it, or just let it happen and be victims.  There are lots of examples in history of why that isn’t a very good idea.

If you’re anti-guns, push for real reform for those who abuse the right.  If you’re pro-guns, lay down enough rules so that those who obey them can have the guns they so desperately need to feel safe.  I don’t have nor claim to know how to solve this problem.  In my mind, I try to tear things down to basics.  A child should never have the last thing he remembers being a crazed gunman shooting at him.  A little girl should not sing at a presidential inauguration, only to be gunned down a week later because she was in the wrong place in the wrong time.

  • Got a gun?  It needs to be registered, you need to keep it locked up and you are the one responsible for what happens to it.  It’s that simple.
  • Want a gun?  All of the previous requirements, plus a required first-time owner’s class.  I promise, it won’t hurt.
  • Missing a gun?  Report it, now.  I mean now!  If you wait until tomorrow, and it’s used to commit a crime tonight, get some change of address cards at the Post Office.

I know gun-owners; I’ve been a gun-owner;  I’ve lost family and friends to shootings, both random and deliberate.  I’ve had way too many people in my life decide to end it all with the convenience of a gun. Maybe it takes 57 years of living on this rock to realize how you feel on some topics, but I’m there.  We need less political grand-standing and more doing.  If writing this has caused you to even give the issue a little bit deeper thought, it served its purpose.

Please, everyone—take responsibility and get this situation under control, for our kids’ sake.

Tim Hunter