Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech and the Debate on Gun Control

There's a lot to talk about in regards to the Virginia Tech shooting that happened early yesterday, but I want to get into just one aspect of it, namely the political back and forth on gun control.

I caught a few minutes of Rosie O'Donnell on "The View" this morning. She was talking about the shooting, reiterating her support of a near-total ban on guns (though she did say she wasn't for taking guns away from hunters, but I'm not sure where she draws the line exactly). Tonight on Charlie Rose, I listened to Brian Williams reporting via satellite from Virginia Tech, relating a question he asked the President today about where we are on the gun control debate. In essence, he asked if the rights of gun-owners should supercede those of students to a safe and secure learning environment during what, as Williams kept saying, "should be the best years of their lives." Shortly thereafter a Washington Post reporter talked about a lawsuit the gun lobby brought against the Virginia University system not long ago targeting the University's prohibition of all weapons from campus, saying it violated the 2nd amendment rights of teachers and students. An unnamed gun lobbyist went on to say, in light of what happened yesterday, that the incident proved that their lawsuit was right. Had the teachers and students in those classrooms been armed, it never would have gone as far as it did. It seems both Rosie and the unnamed gun lobbyist are living in their own fantasy worlds.

When Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold picked their way through the halls of Columbine High School with assault rifles, I thought that was a fairly clear-cut case for the banning of public ownership of automatic machine guns. The siege in North Hollywood not long after made the case more succinctly. What possible reason, after all, would a person need a street sweeper-style machine gun for? Or armor-piercing bullets? For the impending declaration of Martial Law and all of the so-called "jackbooted thugs" marching down Main Street demanding subservience to a New World Order? It seems that many of the most virulent gun-advocates on the right are possessed of a deep-seated paranoia that leads them to advocate really bad policy.

But yesterday's violence was done with two handguns, not assault rifles. Where then is the law-making impulse of government to direct itself? Should we then ban all public ownership of handguns? Maybe we'd do that as well as we've managed to ban all sale of heroin and coke, or alcohol during Prohibition. How long after that would some maniac kill another 33 people with a hunting rifle (didn't that happen once in Texas?). What would our governments decide to do then? Ban all rifles? Maybe I'm being simplistic here, and the only real advocates for wholesale banning of all guns are folks like Rosie O'Donnell and some others on the left, but I'm not quite sure where gun control arguments logically enter into the debate after this most recent violence. The killer bought both of his guns legally, waiting out the 30-day waiting period meant to weed out crime of passion shooters. He was of age and he had no flags on his background. These were clean buys. He was not a citizen, per se, but he was a legal resident, which, as far as I know, confers many of the same rights. Maybe the guv'mint could make a law making it illegal to sell to a non-citizen, but what would that do? Make it more difficult for a non-citizen to buy a gun and go on a rampage? That would do really great at making sure something EXACTLY like this never happened again.

What happened at Virginia Tech yesterday was senseless and isolated. It doesn't seem to be indicative of some larger trend, nor does it illuminate some fixable flaw in the system that can be addressed by our elected officials. Bad as it is, this incident seems like a horrific act of gun violence that defies fresh debate on the pros and cons of gun control. I think there's much more debate to be had about guns -- regulating gun shows, requiring child-proof trigger locks on handguns, etc. -- but yesterday's violence moves the debate forward only minimally.

Anyway. Blah blah blah. More tomorrow.

9 comments:

harwell said...

Hate to be the first nerd to point this out so early in the morning...but it's Virginia TECH, dude. Not the Virginia Military Institute. Had it happened at VMI that would've been a whole other debate.

But I think you make a good point. For every person who sees this as an obvious and tragic reason why guns should be severely limited in this country (and I believe the prime minister of Australia has already publicly said as much, while touting his country's own strict laws and basically just asking for a terrible act of gun violence to occur now), there will likely be just as many who see this event as the precise reason they need a firearm to protect themselves from the likes of disturbed college students. The debate is old and tired and as long as people can manufacture a need for owning a gun, there will be those willing to fight to have that need legally protected. If John Wilkes Booth shooting Lincoln isn't enough to change the 2nd amendment, this kid from Virginia Tech won't be either.

I don't mean to suggest that trying to decrease the odds of guns falling into the wrong hands or accidentally firing isn't a worthwhile cause; It's an admirable effort and has no doubt saved lives. But the debate needs to move further.

How do we help people not choose violence? Isn't there much, much more we can do along these lines and actually do this WITH the support of the gun lobbyists and 2nd amendment loyalists?

JudgeHolden said...

Yeah, other than laziness, not sure why I kept on with VMI. I fixed it though.

But you're right on this. I think part of the reason some people have used this occasion to restart the gun control argument is because we don't know any other framework with which to talk about guns. You are either for guns or against them. And whenever something really terrible happens with a gun, some are compelled to condemn all guns and others are compelled to defend all guns. I don't know what, if anything, ought to be done because of this Tech shooting, but I'd appreciate hearing some new ideas and some new arguments.

harwell said...

Oh, I see. You change your error and make NO notion about the correction so that my comment makes me look like an imbecile.

You're suspect, Crane. Suspect...

harwell said...

Whoa. Same time commenting. Get out of my head, Crane!

Anonymous said...

Ideas for solutions.

1) Ban War - then you ban the legitmacy of killing people, then you ban the profiting from selling arms and you make any type of offensive aggression illegal.

2)If you Ban War then you will inevitably have to dismantle the modern notion of a nation state - as this infrastructure for the last 2,000 years has been the main reason for man's inhumanity to man. Whatever "evil" impulse there is - the notion of a nation state excacerbates it. So, isn't it ironic that everyone wants the "state" to create more laws to solve the problem? And, come to think of it -people want to keep guns just in case the state turns against them. Easy solution- GET RID OF THE STATE - Anarchists have always been in my opinion about 100 years ahead of everyone else in terms of the innate and ethical understanding of living under a social system that makes choices for you - and in turn turning you into silly putty in its hands.

3) Banning the State - will get rid of class divisions and the structutal problems it creates: famine and poverty, crime, and alienation and broken communities/families which is what fosters and perpetuates people that do things like the Virginia Tech Massacre.

4) People need Self-Management, grass roots democracy, taking responsiblility for the collective and individual liberty of everyone around them. You don't get this from a uber-individualist credo of narcisstic materialism and consumption. Sorry, you can't pursue this around the globe and then ask for states to solve your problems. It's just not in their nature to do so. They are instruments of control and coercion, they have a monopoly on violence and are the only legal entities to lawfully partake in such.

Our problems are deeply systemic in the society and human evolutionary development. Arguing about the minutae such as the pro or anti gun legislation is a joke.

Moreover, this kid was mentally ill, isolated, alienated - and had major issues. I'm sure - in the 60's - when there was more collective solidarity among the students and power was starting to be shared with the terrible heriarchal structures of academia - something like this would have had a better possibility of being caught before thae fateful act occured.

You see, all of these may seem to be extreme measures or ideas and sure to be blown off - but at the core - this is the fundamental debate. Let's face it.

- PAPA

Anonymous said...

The main reason gun control advocates fail in the debate is because they have no idea what they are talking about, and this article is a prime example

Here is a summery of the factual errors the article contains:

"When Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold picked their way through the halls of Columbine High School with assault rifles, I thought that was a fairly clear-cut case for the banning of public ownership of automatic machine guns."

Neither Harris nor Klebold used automatic machine guns or "assault rifles" during the Columbine Massacre. Furthermore, the manufacture and sale of automatic machine guns to civilians was effectively banned in 1986. Automatic guns made before the ban are tightly controlled.

"The siege in North Hollywood not long after made the case more succinctly"

The North Hollywood shootout took place in 1997, two years BEFORE the columbine massacre, and involved two career criminals who were using ILLEGAL weapons. They already violated many gun laws before their attempted bank robbery and shootout with the police. No new laws would have stopped them.

"What possible reason, after all, would a person need a street sweeper-style machine gun for? Or armor-piercing bullets?"

"Street Sweeper" is the name of a shotgun, not a machine gun. So-called "armor peircing bullets" are really just high caliber ammunition which can be found in common hunting rifles. Police soft body armor (which partolmen use) is only made to stop pistol rounds, not rifle bullets. Under this author's deffinition, all rifle ammo would be considered "armor piercing".

Also many lawful citizens enjoy shooting automatic weapons (made before the 1986 ban) for sport. As someone who has used them before, I can assure you they have a lot of sporting appeal.

"how long after that would some maniac kill another 33 people with a hunting rifle (didn't that happen once in Texas?)."

The incedent you are reffering too is most likely the University of Texas massacre in 1966 by Charles Whitman. He did use a rifle, but he only killed 16 people, not 33.

"I think there's much more debate to be had about guns -- regulating gun shows, requiring child-proof trigger locks on handguns, etc. -- but yesterday's violence moves the debate forward only minimally."

This is because gun control advocates never do their homework and use facts to support their argument. As long they continue to make false statements that could easily be corrected by minimal reaserch, the debate will go nowhere.

Anonymous said...

Ideas for solutions.

1) Ban War - then you ban the legitmacy of killing people, then you ban the profiting from selling arms and you make any type of offensive aggression illegal.

Are you fucking stupid? you ban war you need to de militarize and once we do that then what beg the other nations to do the same? they would just takeover the united stats. also, more gun control is not a solution that will only make it harder for honest citizens that would use guns to defend them selves to get them v.t was tragic but i dont any amount of gun control would have stoped him. people that have good uses for guns are stoped by gun control bad people can get by them with ease. more guns less problems.

Anonymous said...

Are you fucking stupid? you ban war you need to de militarize and once we do that then what beg the other nations to do the same? they would just takeover the united stats. also, more gun control is not a solution that will only make it harder for honest citizens that would use guns to defend them selves to get them v.t was tragic but i dont any amount of gun control would have stoped him. people that have good uses for guns are stoped by gun control bad people can get by them with ease. more guns less problems.




who ever said this dos have a point but with fewer guns in the us people wont get them as much

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