Thursday, October 22, 2015

The first step with guns is education


    Clarity can be a long time coming. I've been writing columns on gun violence for nearly 20 years, lately slipping into a kind of exhausted hopelessness, just like our politicians and public.
      But writing yesterday's column, it came to me, and since I only approach it in the column, I thought I should say it clearly. The answer isn't law, at least not now. The answer is education. Americans have a right to bear arms, but they also have a right not to to bear arms, and they need to understand where their safety lies. Smoking was banned in restaurants because people learned enough about second hand smoke that they realized how dangerous it was to employees who work in smokey environments. Americans need to be told just how threatening guns are, to the gun owners and to everyone else. How baseless the "get the drop on the bad guy" fantasy really is. How the idea that we should have guns everywhere isn't the solution to the problem, it's the cause of more problems. 
    Not that it'll be easy. We're up against impassioned believers such as in the exchange below. But education doesn't need Congressional approval. It doesn't require laws to be changed. The truth is out there.  It'll take a long time, but it's a way to start. 
     In the meantime, this is just one thread in the mass of response I got yesterday. The emails are quite long, but they'll give you a sense of things, and if you lose patience, skip to the end as the last one is a welcome surprise. There is hope. It'll take a long time. But in the end, Americans solve their problems.
Neil,
      Not really sure if you'll even read this email, but I am writing to briefly show you the other side of the coin after reading your rather narrow sighted partisan article on the so called "gun crisis". You liberals act as though people that support gun rights area bunch poorly educated redneck hillbillies who want to shoot everything. Nothing could be further from the truth and chances are the gun that was used by that 6 year old boy to shoot the 3 year old boy was not obtained or owned legally. The fact is all the gun control measures that liberals propose, which no doubt are stepping stones to a mass government seizure of guns that obama advocates citing Australia and Great Britain successes, will only succeed in disarming law abiding responsible people. The bad guys who use the guns to commit the crimes you cite in the stats will still get guns and still commit gun crime. The  difference is, if you liberals ever get your way, that the criminals will know that no one can defend themselves and it will therefore increase, as it does when they know they are in a gun free zone. Notice no one walks into a shooting range to commit a mass shooting, it happens in known gun free zones. Liberal policies keep our southern boarder wide open where drugs, guns and criminals flood across daily. The drugs lead to gangs, who use the guns in the hands of the criminals to commit gun crime. So as long as you liberals and your policies keep us in danger, we will fight for our rights to defend our families. Australia can get all the guns off of their streets because they respect their own sovereignty and don't have illegal drugs, guns and criminals flooding into their country. And by the way calling Ben Carson idiotic is really one of those "I know more than you" liberal statements that show an inability to shed the brainwashing all liberals seem to have gone through. Maybe if you and your children had been marched onto a train by a bunch of armed nazis you would have appreciated having a gun and a chance to defend your family instead of walking quietly into a gas chamber. Maybe one family could not fight them all off, but every family working together could have had a chance to prevent something like that, why else would hitler have started out by disarming the country if it would have made no difference. Besides I would have rather died fighting for my family rather than walking quietly to our deaths. And really?????? citing the French as an example of why guns wouldn't have helped, that is idiotic, haven't you ever heard of the French rifle for sale........good condition, never fired, dropped once. Doubt you have open mind enough to consider any other points of view, liberals rarely do, but food for thought. If you read it thanks for reading it, if not I'm not surprised.                                              Craig 
 

Craig --
Well, I tried to read your email, but you seem to be responding, not to what I wrote, but to your own general biases about "liberals." I think people should be educated about how dangerous guns are. You, I take it, do not. You imagine that you would have fought off the Nazis with your guns. Of course you do. As I point out, gun advocates are so passionate because they are people lost in fantasy. Generally, I try not to cross a man's fantasies. But in this case, it's too important. Ben Carson is an ahistorical idiot, and you are carrying water for an idiot, which strikes me as something worse. Still, thanks for writing.
NS  
 

As I expected you do not have an open mind to others points of view, and nothing in what I said states that I do not believe people should be educated on the dangers of guns or that I did not respond to your article and you are wrong on both counts. I believe that in the hands of a well trained person who owns and maintains a firearm is not dangerous. Guns are dangerous in the hands of reckless criminals who fully intend to use them for evil. The laws and restrictions proposed by liberal politicians would do absolutely nothing to change that, because criminals do not abide by laws and the point of our wide open southern boarder, highlights the fact that illegal guns will be readily available on our streets and in the hands of criminals. A car can be dangerous and have the same effect as guns in the hands of reckless and lawless people, like drunk drivers who kill innocent people all the time, but there is no liberal agenda to ban cars. Responsible gun owners are educated and trained to handle firearms safely, just like responsible drivers. As someone who has likely never owned or operated a firearm I highly doubt you should be a source of reference on how a person trained to use firearms would react. I have had the unfortunate experience of having someone break into my house while my family was asleep. I grabbed my 12 gauge and engaged it where the intruder could hear it and the sound of my 12 gauge shotgun sent him running, and had it not and he proceeded any further into my house he would have gotten a full 12 gauge round square in the chest, because my family comes first. Sorry if yours does not and I feel sorry for you that you don't think enough of yourself to have the ability to defend your family by any means necessary, besides would you have a problem with someone beating an intruder down with a bat, what is the difference? The real fantasy is that someone who has never owned, been trained on or even seen a real firearm has any idea what someone who has fired one many times and is well trained to use one would do. Your narrow minded thought process is imagining yourself in that situation knowing you have no idea what your doing or talking about and therefore would be unable to use it. The fact is that firearms are used by citizens across the country everyday to defend their homes and families, but the media will not report on it. I'm sorry but you come across as an angry liberal who has no idea about the subject he is rallying against and sounds out of his league talking about it. Why did hitler disarm germany if it would have made no difference and no I'm not saying I would have single handedly fought off the nazis, but I am saying I would rather die defending myself than marched quietly without a whimper, and you who has never fired a gun can not say what I who has fired one thousands upon thousands of times, and is well trained to use one without fear and with tremendous respect would do, you are the one who lives in a fantasy.


Craig--
Hmmm, I should probably not respond. Because it's a waste of time, at least for me. But you're just making stuff up, because it sounds right to you. For instance, you write, "You who has never fired a gun." 
What makes you say that? Attached is a photo of me firing a gun, at the FBI range in North Chicago. I have fired many guns. Another one of those facts that you might have trouble wrapping your head around. 
It isn't my job to fix the world, person by person. And yet, it's hard to see such a bolus of delusion and not reply. 
One more thing -- really, responding to you is like eating candy; it's hard to stop. When you refer to a "liberal agenda to ban guns," that's another hallucination. Seven years of Obama has lead to absolutely nothing on the gun front. Not only aren't liberal changing gun laws, we don't even have hope that gun laws might be changed. 
But I'm just curious. Can you really not perceive that?  Thanks for writing; answer my question if you can. 
Best,
NS

          I assumed that would be the end, but there was one more email, which just goes to show, if you treat people with respect, they do begin to come around, sometimes.


Neil,
       Rest assured it is not a waste of time to respond to my emails, your article has generated a healthy civil debate between two people who don't know each other and have opposing views, but may be able to find common ground in the end. I want to start by thanking you profusely for responding at all, I have a ton of respect for that. I have written to other writers and have never received a response, I guess that's why I didn't expect to get a response in the first place. Secondly I guess that I came out "guns blazing" (no pun intended) because I thought I had one chance to say it all and that would be it, because I did not expect to get additional responses, and for that I am again very grateful as well. Now you are absolutely right, I should not have assumed that you have never fired a gun, I do apologize for that, that is not typical of me and I was wrong. I guess that would be rooted somewhere from the fact that most of the people I know in life being from Chicago are in fact liberal (yeah I know big surprise) and we of course get in heated political debates because we are all political junkies, but are also in the end all good friends and although I am outnumbered I love and respect them all as friends and wouldn't change a thing about them. And in those debates I find them to be often angry and passionate about their various causes, as am I. In particular though when it comes to the gun debate, the people I often debate have never seen a live firearm let alone used one and often have no idea what they are talking about, and so to answer your question, I guess I made an incorrect assumption that anyone against guns has never been trained to use them, and for that I do again apologize. Clearly you have had some training so will you not at least concede that people who are properly trained and know how responsibly own and maintain a firearm,  should be allowed to continue to do so. I am particularly sensitive to that because my family was in fact saved by my firearm and I don't want to think of the things that could have happened if I didn't have it, I get overly sensitive and I say things I don't mean on this subject because of that experience in my life and I am also sorry about the other things I said about you defending yourself and your family, also very out of character for me and I apologize. I have three beautiful daughters that  I do not want see become a crime statistic. It just seems to me that the policies put forward by the left target (again no pun intended) responsible law abiding gun owners rather than the illegal guns that are responsible for the horrible crimes we see. I see liberal political pundits portray conservatives raving lunatics who want to shoot children and in fact the exact opposite is true. I also feel very strongly that obama's boarder policy has opened up out streets to even greater amounts of illegal drugs, guns and gangs all in the name of getting votes. And his response is to target law abiding people. You must concede I have a point. Something else you should know about me is that I am not a raving right wing lunatic, I am a physician and surgeon and I specialize in limb salvage surgery. I work hard to prevent amputations, in mainly patients with PVD and diabetes, but it unfortunately also puts me on the front line of the other end of the "illegal gun problem". I am a patriot who loves this country and everyone in it, my brother served in Iraq and I always try to be a good person who does the right thing. I don't think you wasted any time in writing to me and I really am thankful that you have. You may not have changed mind on the gun debate, but you have reminded me not to make assumptions about people, which is something I do pride myself on, so thank you and you can hang your hat on that. I hope that maybe you can see that there is more to the gun debate and that people like me are just as saddened and horrified by the illegal gun violence these days in America, especially in our great city of Chicago, it hurts inside because I love this city so much, to see what is happening here. We just disagree on the cause and solution. Maybe a better title of your editorial would be "Case symbolic of U.S. illegal gun crisis" and that would get some attention on both sides of the isle. I am glad you choose to engage me on this topic and hopefully we are both learning something. One of these days both sides have to figure out how to come together because the country is becoming more and more divided and it isn't good for us. I have to say I have a ton of respect for you and will now be a regular reader of your work.
Cheers,
Craig
Craig --
Well, that's more like it. Remember, I'm not suggesting we change laws at all. Just that we educate people as to the risks so they can make their own decisions.
I thought I might post our exchange on my blog. Would you feel ill-used if I did that?
NS 


28 comments:

  1. I wonder if it ever occurred to Craig that his "life-saving" 12 gauge shotgun could probably have been replaced by a cough, a shout, a call to 911, or even a creaky floor. Burglars aren't usually seeking confrontation of any kind.

    john

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  2. To address just one of Craig's points, if one of his daughters came across a bat that was at the ready for self-defense, she would be unlikely to accidentally harm herself or others. I wonder how securely his gun is stored that he was able to access and engage it so quickly. The whole guns/cars apples/oranges fallacy doesn't really merit addressing.

    No doubt we'll hear from the Ghost today. Has anyone else noticed a great resemblance of his posts to those of the Advocate of the Anti-Christ? Coincidence, perhaps.

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    1. I assume they're both Dave the Wave, a specter from two years back who had a similar nonsensical tone.

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  3. Interesting exchange, Mr. S. He must have said it's okay to print the email.

    Coey, I thought that Ghost also sounded like Robbie the Robot at times.

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    1. No, he didn't respond. But I asked, and actually don't need permission. The expectation of privacy when sending emails to a newspaper is very low. I did remove his last name, as a kindness.

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  4. It is probably true in most cases the burglars don't want confrontation. Plus if burglars do get caught with a gun sentencing is much worse. How ever the person being robbed doesn't know if a burglar is carrying or not. I doubt very much that your suggestions would work if a burglar had a gun I am not against having a gun for self defense However there is probably just as good a chance that a family member would be accidentally shot as in the case of the 3 year old. It would be interesting to know how many people have successfully defended themselves from a burglar or other threats.

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  5. Joe Nocera, columnist at the New York Times, had a blog titled Gun Report which ran once a week in 2013 and 2014. Check it out. No commentary, just the stories from newspapers throughout the country.

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  6. What's interesting to me is that his first couple messages don't really address the point of the column much, but are largely anti-gun-control boilerplate. He keeps referring to "illegal guns". What difference would it have made to the 3-yr. old or the 6-yr. old in the column whether the gun was legal, or not? Is he suggesting that nobody who obtains a gun legally enables a similar tragedy? Uh, 'cause that's not the case.

    There are so many falsities in the first email that it's not worth the effort to even address them. Most interesting is the reasonableness of the final email and the concession that "I get overly sensitive and I say things I don't mean on this subject". When one needs to specifically point out that "I am not a raving right wing lunatic" and offer his credentials as a surgeon, he might consider the relative efficacy of what he's said previously. And the reasonableness resulted from the facts that a.) you provided evidence that you had fired a gun and b.) you took the time to respond civilly to this gentleman. I've fired a gun, as well, but if I hadn't, would that make me incapable of understanding statistics or reading amendments? But certainly, NS, you deserve credit for your familiarity with guns and your willingness to engage with folks who take issue with what you write.

    I guess I agree that one should try and take hope from this exchange, but the nature of the first email, given the facts presented in the last one, is rather discouraging, IMHO.

    As for Ben Carson, here's something I saw that folks might find illuminating. A factual essay by somebody who had Carson for a commencement speaker, which includes this pithy fake quote from humorist Andy Borowitz, referring to a made-up surgeon: “When people found out I was a brain surgeon they would always assume I was some kind of a genius … Now they are beginning to understand that you can know a lot about brain surgery and virtually nothing about anything else.”

    http://www.salon.com/2015/10/21/ben_carsons_dangerous_god_complex_the_commencement_speech_i_wont_soon_forget_partner/

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  7. I find it interesting that your correspondent compared guns to cars, without noting the regulations and protections we put in place regarding access to cars and driving. Just to name a few: driver education classes, permits with 9 month waiting periods, a driver test (written and road), licenses for drivers that expire and must be renewed, eye exams for seniors and others, mandatory insurance for the driver, license plates for the car... wouldn't it be nice if we had some parallel regulations for guns? Andrea

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    1. Cars are not a protected right. Everyone who owns a firearm should be instructed on how it operates and should practice with it frequently. Most responsible gun owners do. However any regulation standing in the way of acquiring a means of protection for you or your family should be abolished.

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  8. Even though I'm not pro-gun, I too wrongfully presumed that NS hadn't fired a gun unless it was for a newspaper story.

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    1. Interesting how that false assumption changed his tone, but I'm not surprised. A while back I made the mistake of answering the phone (something I seldom do because of telemarketers) to find a stranger ranting about an anti-NRA letter I got published in one of the newspapers. I listened to what Jakash aptly termed anti-gun-control boilerplate for a while, but when he said that I wouldn't think the way I do if I knew anything about guns I began ticking off the weapons I had handled over 34 years of military service, active and reserve, and he abruptly hung up.

      On an incidental subject, nobody particularly cares to defend the French because they eat snails and can be rude to foreigners, but, having read quite a bit of military history, I find the usual allusion to their so-called cowardice annoying. More Frenchmen died at Verdun 1914-18 than we lost in both World Wars. And they were badly outgeneraled in WW II, but you can't say they didn't fight bravely. They lost over 200,000 men in that conflict.

      And finally, I'm not a Jew but if I were, having read a fair amount about the holocaust, would find Dr. Carson's theories about how they might have saved themselves, beyond offensive.

      Tom Evans

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  9. Sorry but firing 50 rounds at the FBI Chicago HQ doesn't give NS any authority on guns or home self defense. He probably fired the standard FBI service weapon and was given a tour of the building or what we in the Army would call a dog and pony show.

    Hate to say it but I have to-Hitler did disarm the German public. Direct Quote-This year will go down in history! For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!”

    6 million Jews were killed in the Shoah. Suppose 1/6 of Jews were armed and shot at the SS. Suppose 1/4 of those Jews hit an SS soldier. 250,000 dead SS. Is that so far fetched?

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    1. Yes, it's complete fantasy. Because when the Storm Troopers kick in your door, you don't shoot them and have them kill your family on the spot. You surrender. The Holocaust happened because Jews couldn't imagine it, and the oh-that-they-had-guns argument that Ben Carson cooked up and people like you buy show that people STILL can't imagine it. Which is apt, because so much of gun passion is based on hysterical imaginings of glory. But it's still frustrating, James Martin, to see it in action.

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    2. Oh, and the FBI range wasn't the ONLY time I've fired guns. I think I'm going to dredge up the Steinberg Family Goes Shooting columns from 2007. So tune in next week.

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    3. "Is that so far fetched?"

      In a word, yes.

      In 5 sentences: "The Jews of Germany constituted less than 1 percent of the country’s population. It is preposterous to argue that the possession of firearms would have enabled them to mount resistance against a systematic program of persecution implemented by a modern bureaucracy, enforced by a well-armed police state, and either supported or tolerated by the majority of the German population." ... "The failure of Jews to mount an effective defense against the Waffen-SS in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943 provides a good example of what happens when ordinary citizens with small arms go up against a well-equipped force. The uprising in the ghetto possesses enduring symbolic significance, as an instance of Jews’ determination to resist their oppression. But the uprising saved few Jewish lives and had little to no impact on the course of either World War II or the Holocaust."

      At length: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/15/opinion/ben-carson-is-wrong-on-guns-and-the-holocaust.html

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  10. A new book by Thomas Snyder titled "Black Earth: the Holocaust as History and Warning" a follow-up to his earlier "Bloodlands," reveals the Holocaust to be a much more complicated phenomenon than usually thought. A fair proportion of the six million Jews were not loaded onto trains and gassed by the Germans but simply murdered in eastern European countries by their longtime neighbors, sometimes acting without German supervision. Their options for defending themselves, with or without guns, were extremely limited.

    Tom Evans

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  11. That said, the Pistols-Could-Have-Saved-the-Jews trope is a perfect example of the kind of glory fantasy that passes for argument on this subject.

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  12. The Gun lobby just grasps at straws to justify their position.

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  13. I tried to read those e-mails, but my lids grew heavy after a while. I did spot this: libruls don't want to give uo their cars. But car is useful, whereas a gun is seldom so. You go places in cars, transport stuff in cars, etc. etc. With guns you shoot stuff, which is seldom productive.
    But oh dear. There I go, using logic, when this is, of course, an emotional issue for gun lovers.

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  14. Look I took an unpopular position and talking about the Shoah is always controversial. That said if the Warsaw Ghetto uprisings did so much with so little had they had more guns would they have been exterminated. Yes. Would they have taken tens of thousands of SS with them ,Yes!

    There is a nation in the Middle East called Israel and the only reason the 6 million Jews there are still breathing after 67 years is well........guns.

    We're never going to agree with each other on this issue. I believe in guns for personal protection and I don't trust government period. I'm by no means a militia man I just cherish American freedoms like spee h religion and free enterprise. And there are radical groups that were around in the 60s and are around today that despise everything the American flag stands for and if God forbid the economy really tanks like the Great Depression anything could happen. I'd rather have a gun than wish I did.

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    1. "I don't trust government period."

      "I just cherish American freedoms like speech religion and free enterprise."

      If you don't realize that the government, which includes the police, military and judicial system, has done far more to establish and protect those freedoms than individuals rhapsodizing about the importance of their personal guns ever have, then you're just as radical as the groups in the 60's that you despise.

      Regardless, you're welcome to cherish your guns along with your freedoms. Neil's posts yesterday and today were about the fact that many, who'd rather have had a gun than wish they did, have suffered tragedies where their loved ones were killed by their own guns, rather than those of criminals or the evil gubmint. If you'd like to attempt to refute the actual point of the posts, you'd have to try again, 'cause you haven't come close in either of the comments you've made above.

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    2. My personal problem with people wanting guns because they don' trust the government is that I can't imagine a duly elected government in this country being so tyrannical that I would prefer being ruled by people who hold that anti-government view.

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  15. Mr. Martin, you are paranoid and your logic is twisted. It's doubtful you care about the Jews so much as just trying to make a point, which doesn't make sense.

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  16. It seems to me guns have achieved a religious aspect in this country. How dare any refuse our right to free and easy access! The collateral damage of these weapons is dismissed as necessary to support their religious right to arms. The victims of gun violence somehow serve their obscene vision. More guns, not less!

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  17. You were too patient with Annie. She overreacted on that Metra thing and acts like she has ptsd. Maybe she does need counseling.

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  18. Tom, DeGaulle was still an ungrateful, arrogant, narcissist.

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  19. For your AT&T post from the other day, go to their FB and send them a private message complaining. They'll kick it up to a higher cust. serv. dept and better than waiting on phone.

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