Wednesday, August 14, 2019

MADD success offers hope for progress with gun control

Cari Lightner, 13, was killed by a drunken driver a few hours after this photo was taken in 1980. Her mother Candace went on to found Mothers Against Drunk Driving

     It was good to hear Sam Kinison again.
     The maniacal scream, that wicked giggle.
     “Such a moral push, isn’t there in this country?” the comedian says on a 1988 album. “To try to get us to behave.”
     And here let’s leave out a few obscene gerunds.
     “Don’t drink and drive,” he sneers. “God, they have made such a big deal about this, haven’t they? It didn’t used to be such a big deal. You had a few drinks, you drove home. Now you’re a ....”
     We’ll skip a pair of crude anatomical descriptions - “... child killer!”
     The crowd whoops, ignoring that the one printable accusation is often literally true. Kinison explains the reluctant necessity of drunken driving: ”We don’t want to ... but there’s no other way to get our car back to the house. How are we supposed to get home? We’ve got to drink and drive.“
     That neatly sums up the public attitude at the time. Laws were pliant. In Texas, you could legally carry a beer while driving.
     Enter Candace Lightner, whose daughter Cari, 13, was run down by a thrice-convicted drunken driver in 1980. The group she formed, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, did not find drunken driving funny. It showed America what the joke cost, the faces of the more than 20,000 Americans whose lives were taken by alcohol-impaired drivers every year.
     Attitudes changed. Laws changed. You can’t legally drive and drink beer in Texas anymore — open containers were banned from vehicles in 2001. Now driving drunk is a serious crime. No one is laughing anymore.
     Where am I going with this? After the latest mass shootings, calls for common sense gun laws grew louder. They always do, after Parkland and Sandy Hook and America’s litany of shame. Then we go quiet again.

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7 comments:

  1. My go-to example for an astonishing change for the better is marriage equality. As late as the nineties it was still a punchline.

    I’m glad to be reminded about smoking and drunk driving laws, too.

    The “click here” link isn’t working yet but I imagine you’re still sleeping the sleep of the just as I type this. It’s not hard to find the rest of the column on the Sun-Times website in the meantime.

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  2. You go for blocks & don't see smokers?
    Not the same Loop I walk through.
    They're always on L platforms, where smoking is illegal & nothing is done about it. The same with those new bus platforms on Madison & Washington. I had to run a bit to get ahead of a smoker because the wind was blowing his poison into my face, yesterday.
    And now studies show that vaping is far, far more dangerous than smoking!

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  3. I first heard Wayne Lapierre decades ago on a TV talk show. He spouted a statistic about gun owners defending themselves against crimes. The number he quoted seemed high to me so I did some math. By my calculation, if I had 10 friends, in the last 10-20 years at least one of them should used a gun to protect themselves. I realized then that the NRA was not the grassroots gun safety organization I had assumed it to be. Their 'Good guy with a gun' argument is still floated publicly while they built legislators quietly with funds collected from their members. Twice in Texas mass shooters have murdered 20+ victims without a 'Good guy' intervening. Texan political figures have not mentioned guns as a factor in either incident. That Americans have not risen up in righteous anger at this situation is proof positive that America is not the greatest nation on earth as so many proudly claim. We are a rich accomplished country but still a work in progress. The issue is in doubt.

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  4. The silliest of the non-solution solutions to mass murder is the mandatory imposition of the death penalty for shooters. "What the use of that!," I can imagine Kinison shouting, "Chances are the cops are going to kill him first."

    Other non-solution solutions are presently clogging the pipelines as well. The paranoia of the right is epitomized for me by a story about Needles, California in which a resident of nearby Nevada refuses to go visit his friend in Needles, because he can't carry his gun with him; and the inevitable result of that paranoia is highlighted by the story of the man awakened by a cop knocking on his door in the middle of the night who brought his gun to the door with him and was shot by the cop.

    It's been wonderful and heartening how our country has adjusted to enhanced dui laws, restrictions on smoking and gay marriage. This definitely should be the time to launch rational, science based and tested restrictions on gun possession and use. But I'm afraid that this too shall pass.

    john

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  5. I think of littering too. I think some of the commercials from 70's TV helped. Don't see too many people throwing garbage out their car window as before.

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    1. Hell, the embankments along the expressways in Detroit and Cleveland are always pigged-up...as are many surface streets, especially in inner-ring suburbs that have seen better days. You're just not seeing them when they throw it.

      Decades ago, too many places were filthy. Then it got better for a long time, and now it's getting worse again. Littering appears to run in cycles. Younger people appear not to give a shit about fouling their own nest, and too many other folks...especially in poor neighborhoods...don't seem to care, either.

      Some people even appear to litter on purpose as a way of to "sticking it to The Man" (or to the well-off). They attack the affluent with effluent...an attitude that royally pisses me off. Piggy slobs!

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  6. I think the difference is that it's hard to find someone who thinks driving drunk is okay or that smoking won't hurt you. When the campaigns against those behaviors arose, no one got in their way.
    Unfortunately, there is a large enough population that think guns laws are fine the way they are and they have the backing of the all powerful NRA. Things don't have a chance of changing until the GOP loses control of the Senate and the White House.
    I believe Neil's optimism lies in the belief that this issue could be enough to change the leadership in Washington. Let's hope he's right.

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