Monday, February 3, 2014

The Shooting Triangle

Shooting Triangle

If you get the Albuquerque Journal, you might have read Leslie Linthicum's Sunday piece, Gunfire Resonates in Roswell in Uncommon Way, about the recent Roswell school shooting.  Rare in the aftermath of these events, Ms. Linthicum tells us we have the chance to respond with "intelligence, nuance, and grace". Usually, we respond with finger pointing, accusations, and calls from the NRA to arm ourselves to the teeth or calls from their opponents to disarm ourselves and restrict gun ownership. Most of the time, the rest of us watch and listen as these opponents shout past each other.
The Fire Triangle

I had a simple thought on this topic, and it mirrors that old idea of a fire triangle. To start a fire, you need fuel, oxygen, and heat. To get a shooting, you need a gun, a gunman, and "heat", i.e., an unrestrained action that most of us would not commit. To avoid a shooting, one needs to only cut out one leg of the triangle just as you would cut out one leg of the fire triangle. One doesn't need to ban fuel just as one doesn't need to ban guns. One does need to eliminate that lethal combination of all three legs of the triad.

One can start at any apex. Start with the gun. If you don't need a gun or are not trained or qualified to use one in self defense, don't own one or keep it securely locked up for those hunting or target shooting trips. I'm not in the camp of those who say we have an unqualified need for more good guys with guns, just as we don't need more untrained firefighters at the fire station or untrained cops on the beat. Its a hard job that requires a lot of training and mental preparation. If you are not ready, don't go there.

Its a little more difficult to eliminate the more fallible human. But that goes to things like more careful evaluation of parole or its conditions and how we treat mental illness and family dysfunction. It also includes more comprehensive but reasonably administered background checks to screen prohibited purchasers from the market. It means tougher penalties and vigorous prosecution of straw purchasers, as recently discussed in the National Catholic Reporter.  It preferrably means family and individual control on access, and personal responsibility. If we had more self control, Big Government would have less to do. Unfortunately, the days of easy access to firearms, especially by schoolkids, needs to be examined critically. My brother keeps his guns locked in a safe so unqualified hands cannot reach them. That's a far cry from his and my own youth, where the school bus would drop us off and we would grab the guns and go hunting. If you are having a party where the liquor flows, its time to lock things up. If you are having a tough time of it due to job, family, or personal issues to the point of worrying about yourself, turn over your weapons to a trusted friend or family member or give them the safe key. Eliminate the human compulsion by eliminating yourself from being armed, even if only temporarily.  I don't like to suggest waiting for a restraining order to be filed, because that means the match is already lit.

Finally, the heat. Seems to me that in this day and age, the first thing a lot of people resort to when emotions heat up to a festering boil is a weapon, whether it be angry words, fists, or more lethal quantities such as a shotgun or AR-15. When the heat is on, its time instead to make sure one of the other two elements of the triangle are missing until the heat passes. One's first action should be to walk away and begin a count to ten, or make a call to a trusted friend or the family priest. Not a run to that bedroom drawer or gun case.

I'm not sure how we accomplish this gun analogy to avoiding fire, but instead of always concentrating on adding or subtracting guns, maybe we ought to look to all three corners of that shooting triangle instead of only one of the corners. Few of us have no fuels in our homes. We read newspapers, live in wood structures, and have wood burning stoves. Most of us own matches. What we eliminate is the catastrophic combination

 Eliminating guns is a hot button issue that raises rather than lowers tempers. All we really need to do is control that lethal combination. Maybe we will have more luck.

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