Thursday, February 22, 2018

I'll Retire to Bedlam

Ebenezer Scrooge, in Charles Dickens memorable novella, uttered the equally memorable phrase "I'll retire to Bedlam" when he thought everyone he was talking to had gone nuts. In the wake of the Parkland, Florida shooting, I wonder if its time to do the same.

While NRA Exec. Director Wayne LaPierre gave a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference that would have left Bedlam inmates feeling quite sane by comparison, Democrats in Ohio wrote a bill that would, if passed, define innocuous, 22 rimfire rifles from the ninteen-sixties such as the Marlin Model 60 or Remington Nylon as terrifying "assault rifles". Indeed, if that is the case, we all need to retire to Bedlam.

On a more sane front, Garry Wills once penned that he thought we worshipped guns too much, comparing them to the Old Testament god Moloch. Here is his piece, written shortly after the Newtown Massacre.

Here in Bombtown, at least Stephanie Nakleh tried to be reasonable in suggesting that New Mexico should not relax its standards on concealed carry. Unfortunately, she was unaware that its not a problem. So here goes.


Stephanie Nakleh has long been concerned with lowering the level of gun violence in New Mexico and for that we should thank her. However, when she acknowledges our Senators for rejecting national concealed carry reciprocity, she has missed some important information. Ms. Nakleh states reciprocity would force "...New Mexico to accept the concealed-carry standards of every other state—making it easy for residents in neighboring states like Arizona, with very weak laws, to carry hidden, loaded weapons in New Mexico...".  As it happens, we already accept Arizona's concealed carry license.

According to the New Mexico Dept. of Public Safety, New Mexico accepts concealed carry licenses from the following states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota,  Oklahoma, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Basically, from half the states in the union. So concealed carry reciprocity would not affect us much. Further, existing reciprocity agreements have never been documented to be a problem. So-called "concealed carry killers" are rare, other than on anti-gun web sites, while most of our gun violence perpetrators in New Mexico are home grown bad guys, sometimes felons in possession, revolving door criminals, domestic abusers, or disaffected youth.

Part of the reason the gun debate never gets anywhere is that both "gun violence prevention" and "gun (owner's) rights" advocates are often not fully engaged in learning the devils in the details, but rather, repeat uncritically each side's political talking points. That was one reason last year's background check bill never made it to the Governor's desk as the bill's friends and lobbyists failed to convince key Democrats, in a timely manner, that they should support a compromise bill. So a useful bill died in committee. I still think progress can be made if we could ever agree on two things. One, to stop moving the goalposts (a key concern of gun owners) and two, to compromise with the other side. Both sides have to recall the Rolling Stones song: "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you find, you get what you need".

I'll throw one thing out. Gun rights come with gun responsibilities. It has always worried me that military derived assault-style rifles designed to control a battlefield, and which can easily be modified to hold more rounds than I typically shoot in a month, are so easy to buy, even for an 18 year old with emotional issues.

We know that in general, a person's brain development goes on into the mid-twenties; most school shooters are not yet in their mid-twenties and no two individuals are alike. Perhaps we need to look at some statistics on who is misusing these guns and re-evaluate who can purchase or possess these rifles and certain other arms, TBD, in an unsupervised situation. I have a hard time thinking anyone will get their wish and have these rifles nationally banned, even if New Mexico tries to ban them (state bans have so far been upheld in Federal appellate courts). More than ten million of these rifles are in private hands; virtually all are held safely. So instead of a ban, should we consider some permitting system that could screen out higher risk or immature individuals while not penalizing the vast majority of owners who are not dangerous? Those who own such weapons can be required to ensure children and teens cannot easily access them unsupervised.

The interest balance of risk vs rights is the point of discussion and as far as I am concerned, each side's moral absolutism is not helping us get anywhere. "Guns and Bibles" indeed seem to be a cultural divide as much as tangible objects. As David Brooks recently opined in the New York Times, its long overdue for both gun rights and gun violence prevention folks to sit down and respect each other. Only then can we listen rather than just talk.

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