Wednesday, May 31, 2017

In Lieu of Wearing Orange on Friday

Friday, 2 June is Wear Orange Day (it is Saturday in Santa Fe). This started in response to yet another senseless shooting in Chicago, as explained by Mike "The Gun Guy" Weisser. It has since spread far and wide and while most gun owners will cringe at supporting such a day, I think, as I have said before, that we need to find common ground between the firearms owning fraternity and those who see firearms in a negative manner. The vast majority of gun owners in the U.S. are honorable, law abiding citizens and should not be tarred with the brush of gun violence carried out by that subset of gun owners who see a bullet as a solution to all their social ills. But we will only escape the tar on that brush if we work to reduce the scope of the problems.

 I'm not sure I will wear orange because I gave all my hunting clothing to my brother in law back in New York State when I moved to Hawaii a quarter century ago and being a good Catholic, the idea of wearing orange is an anathema. That said, I am sympathetic to the cause. I do have, however, a traffic control vest in blaze orange with some yellow retroreflective tape. Maybe....albeit that would be pretty tacky.

The cultural appropriation by the gun violence prevention community of wearing orange is somewhat misplaced (although I am all for more "cultural appropriation"), since the vast majority of gun deaths and injuries in the U.S. are deliberate while blaze orange helps protect hunters against the rare hunting accident.  I can live with that. The main idea is to cut down on senseless gun violence. How to do that is the million dollar question. I've been quite critical of some of the stuff being bantered about in these parts, including the background check bill introduced by our own representative. That said, here are some suggestions.

1. The four rules of gun safety are critical. These are:
First, the gun is always loaded until you personally verify it is not. Accidental shootings are signs of negligent handling.
Second, never point a gun at something you don't intend to shoot. Dumb, dangerous things happen and bullets don't have a reverse gear.
Third, keep the finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. Refer to previous rule.
Fourth, be sure of your target and what is beyond the target (hence, the wearing of orange to make hunters stand out against the background.

2. I will add my fifth rule: social gun safety. If you are angry, drunk, drug impaired, suicidal, or otherwise short on one's normal social inhibitions against violence, either self-directed or otherwise, lock up the arsenal. If you don't have social inhibitions against violence, don't own guns.  In that regard, I think the domestic violence restraining order gun removal bill that Gov. Martinez vetoed was a good bill; her veto was incomprehensible. The bill was generous in that it let someone store a gun with a friend or a gun shop until the order was retracted rather than having the police seize it, and had due process written in. As far as suicide, bullets are pretty universally effective at turning out the lights, so anyone who really wants to contemplate suicide, as George Eastman did with a clear head as he became increasingly infirm, should be sure of their intent because there ain't any going back.

3. In New Mexico, property crime and residential burglaries are common, especially in our larger cities. If you have guns, make sure they are secured when you don't need them and make sure if a burglar wants your guns, he has to work his ass off to get them. Even in Los Alamos. I had a chat with Albuquerque Police Chief Gordon Eden and he told me that burglary, not gun shows, was by far the biggest conduit of guns to criminals in these parts. That's the real problem with widespread gun ownership in America: there are more guns to steal and fall into the wrong hands.  Those conduits mentioned by Chief Eden include residential burglaries and the occasional high profile smash and grab of guns in gun or pawn shops. Commercial gun stores should have decent security systems to deter theft. This is a legitimate social concern and indeed, some government oversight of gun shop security is completely consistent with Heller. Private homes are a different matter. Perhaps in that case, a fat state tax deduction for anyone buying a robust gun safe (and hopefully using it) should be what our legislators work to pass. The cost to the tax man of a gun safe tax credit is dwarfed by the costs to the state (or to loved ones) of a homicide or the long term medical care of a gun violence victim. Its too bad government is so mentally stovepiped.

The ancillary benefit of securing the family arsenal is just as important: keeping the kids from blowing their own, or each other's heads off until you, as responsible parent, teach safe and responsible gun handling to your brood when the kids are old enough to understand how to handle a firearm safely (for me, it was about 12 years old). I don't know if there is a single age to do this but parents have to make sure they cover this issue well.

4. Defensive gun use should be a last resort, not a routine option. De-escalation is something anyone who carries for self defense must learn and not the hard way. If you have any thoughts of needing a gun for self defense (and think about this carefully, since there are pros as well as cons of arming yourself and the jury is out on the effectiveness of going armed, even if you don't believe David Hemenway's research), take the New Mexico concealed carry class offered at multiple locations in New Mexico even if you don't want the concealed license. The class material is really good and the emphasis on exercising your situational awareness and shooting skills as well as understanding the law are all very important.

Aside from the logistics and statistics, one has to also ask if a "go it alone" mentality of carrying a gun rather than  working on a safer society is a good thing. Not that those are mutually exclusive ideas, but the left v right politics seems to have broken down that way. Living in a society where watching your back is not a constant necessity is a good thing.

5. Finally, we need to find ways to seek out common ground on gun violence reduction rather than polarizing the discussion so it becomes worse than it is already (and that goes for both sides of the discussion). Frankly, a lot of gun violence is pretty localized to violence prone subcultures, as researched by Andrew Papachristos of Yale, so blaming the firearms community as a whole for gun violence is like blaming all motorists for chronic drunk drivers. As Mike Weisser has said, the vast majority of gun owners will pass the BATF 4473 test or we wouldn't own guns. But keeping guns away from high risk cohorts will take some compromise, perhaps grudgingly, on the part of the rest of us.

But violent subcultures only address part of the story and dealing with other parts of the puzzle often means carrots such as NMTPGV's work getting teens to sign a pledge of nonviolence rather than concentrate on sticks (laws and enforcement). Meanwhile, Susan Sorenson at Penn has studied guns in domestic violence; her research shows they are used to effectively terrorize more than to shoot. Intervention to eliminate domestic violence is critical, even more so when weapons are involved. So is getting motorists to refrain from road rage, especially when packing heat. Guns are the most lethal tool but they don't alone explain the motives for acting out.

We need to recognize that frankly, some folks should not own guns until they can live up to the responsibility of having them, and those of us who can be trusted with firearms need to find solutions rather than argue incessantly with The Other Side. But finding common ground might be the hardest thing on this list to do as well as the most critical. Buy your opponent a cup of coffee, i.e., at least make the attempt to engage (I got started on this by having lunch with Miranda Viscoli). When we only hear our echo chamber talking, whether it be Everytown or the NRA, we hear half the story. Someone from rural Vermont where the crime rate is miniscule sees firearms differently than someone in Albuquerque or the South side of Chicago. Those folks need to talk to and understand each other's points of view.

Be safe out there, and as I tell bicycle folks in their context, be a valued and trusted ambassador from the gun community.

 Miranda Viscoli of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence in the Santa Fe New Mexican 

Greg Camp: Real Solutions (to gun violence)


Weer'd Beard said...

Great post, and one I think one that covers a lot of goals that are high on the list of most 2nd Amendment advocates. I could quibble on some minutia, but one must not let Perfect get in the way of excellence, plus even at like-minded social gatherings you'll find many quibbles over different opinions.

My one issue is your statement about the 2nd Amendment advocacy groups working together with the "Gun Violence Prevention" groups for a common goal.

Any non-biased 3rd party would see that the intersection of our two stated platforms (not singling out any one group from either side) is 90% the same. We want safer societies and less death.

I will note caveat #1 is the "Gun Violence Prevention" movement is focused as their name suggests on "Gun Violence", while our side is concerned with violence as a whole.
#2: While they now call themselves "Gun Violence Prevention" groups, there has been zero effort to step away from the goals and agendas of the Gun Ban movement of the 80s and 90s, or even the Handgun Ban of the 60s and 70s. People from these groups will get insulted if you call them "gun banners" and make sure to never use "Gun Ban" or "Gun Control" in their verbiage, but the agendas are all the same, and most advocacy groups are top-down organizations run by one (Michael Bloomberg being the most prominent Monolith) or several people (The Chicago Joyce Foundation, or the Brady Campaign notable examples) who give marching orders to paid lobbyists and volunteers, and overall these groups have never met a gun control law they don't like. There has never been a law pushed by somebody that has been considered fruitless, overbearing/draconian, or in violation of the 2nd Amendment, tho every group pays lips service to the US Constitution.

Also the major gun control groups in this country have NO means of grassroots change, while the NRA being a lumbering behemoth still runs on free elections, and has been changed by grass roots in the past.

There are also no secrets in the 2nd Amendment side, I can't think of any who hold closed meetings, further there are countless channels, blogs, and groups open to free discussion of the issue from the 2nd Amendment side, yet there is NO discussion to be held on the gun control side.

Weer'd Beard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Weer'd Beard said...

Pt 2: Sorry for being so verbose

Lastly the 2nd Amendment groups are only getting less and less partisan, not only as the last blue-state holdouts are getting their, often Jim Crow era, gun control legislation stripped either by legislation or legal action, and from the increase in gun ownership for Self Defense and civil rights reasons, vs Hunting and sport as it was in the recent past, the inclusion of urban and sub-urban populations owning guns and getting concerned with how the government views them, even more specifically the growing number of women and minorities that are becoming gun owners is shifting a paradigm that was dominated by Rural Conservative White Males, to a demographic body that more resembles the overall population of the country.

Meanwhile the anti-gun movement is almost exclusively people who identify as "Progressive Democrats".

To sum up my points, It IS possible for both sides to work together, but a MASSIVE olive branch needs to be extended by the "Gun Violence Prevention" side, specifically as a means to get me to type that term earnestly, and without the scare quotes.

While I may be biased given my noted side on the issue, I would argue no such olive branch is needed from the 2nd Amendment side, as they are noted to be on the side of US law (if the 2nd Amendment was such a stumbling block, it could be changed, as we've amended the constitution several times) and overtly state that our political goals, are to reduce ALL violence in America (which includes, but is not limited to gun violence), as well as suicides, and accidents. There are also massive amounts of safety training, as well as groups that cover the legal issues of self defense (every one will always state that it is also ALWAYS a last resort, and numbers on self defensive gun use, vs number of people harmed or killed by armed citizens shows that even when that last resort happens most of the time shots aren't fired....further the number of people who are armed, and the number of people who actually USE their firearms for defense shows that while some may puff up their chests and speak with bravado, people are NOT carrying guns because they're looking to shoot people)

Meanwhile what does the other side offer? Mike Weisser teaches safety classes here in Massachusetts....through the NRA. Really the only thing you'll find from the other side is the way to prevent gun violence is to have less guns.

That view is mutually exclusive to not only our side, but to federal law, meaning that unless there are MAJOR changes to the gun control groups there will be no working together.

Further, I was just in Atlanta, and I attended the NRA Annual Meeting as credentialed press (while I am an NRA member, I have never attested the NRAAM as a member, only as press) and I took time out from my work there to cover the Moms Demand Action protest.

It could easily be argued that these are the two behemoths of both sides of the issue (no argument can be made about the size of the NRA, if you concede that there is NO distinction between Moms Demand and Everytown for Gun Safety, I think the argument is equally as moot) and the NRA meeting lasted 3 days and had 180,000 attendees, the Moms Demand Protest lasted 40 mins and gathered approximately 200 people.

Given numbers like that I don't see any reason to bothering with the "Gun Violence Prevention" groups, or whatever they want to call themselves, as they have been dying off since the 1994 Assault Weapons ban clearly changed public opinion on the 2nd Amendment and the stated goals of Gun Control advocates.

Khal said...

Thank you!