Thursday, December 27, 2012

Guns and Freedom

For two weeks—since the shootings at Clackamas Town Center—my most passionate writing has been posted on online comment spaces provided beneath the dismally unfolding stories of two major gun incidents on opposite ends of the country.  Here in Oregon, the Gun Control vs Second Amendment Rights debate was already in full ugly swing when news of the Sandy Hook Massacre broke.  Though the Clackamas shooter only managed to kill two random strangers (and traumatize countless others) that shooting hit home for me. I have been to that mall, and with the Christmas shopping season upon us, the argument could be made that I might have been there that day, might have been one of the innocent strangers upon which this mixed-up kid played out his suicidal drama.

The oftenest-repeated opinion of online commenters seemed to be that if “concealed carry” folks had been present, one of those fine, upstanding, pistol-packing defenders of truth, justice and the American way would have saved the day.  They claimed the kid chose this particular mall because it has posted “gun free zone” signs at all the entrances.  He knew no one would be carrying, and he could shoot up the crowd at will without danger to himself.

I spent many hours between Tuesday evening and Friday morning engaged in attempting to talk sense into gun/concealed-carry zealots.  I don’t know why I do it—it doesn’t make any difference, doesn’t change any minds.  But when things like this go down, and people feel the need to be publicly STUPID about it, I just get possessed by that little avenging angel who sits on my shoulder waiting to call bullshit on ignorant utterance. 

·        And this my friends, is why THIS girl carries a concealed weapon. I refuse to be a victim, and if I am, I'm going down firing.  (127 “likes”)

·        Crazy people aren't stupid. Ever notice how they nearly always pick "Gun Free Zones" to start shooting? An unarmed public can't fight back. (53 “likes”)

·        Since criminals never obey the law, gun free zones really are not gun free. Gun free zones only disarm law abiding civilians.  (25 “likes”)

·        Best way to survive an active shooter who's gun has jammed. Pull out your concealed carry piece and shoot him.  (269 “likes”)

To which I replied: 

I can't believe the number of idiots posting comments about how this is a prime example of WHY we should all have guns and carry them around inside our shirts. This is not a video game, folks. It's real life. With blood and screaming and people dying. I wonder how many of you jackasses who "carry" would actually be able to do anything besides piss yourselves in this kind of situation.

I didn’t get any “likes.”  But I didn’t get any rebuttals, either.

Less than 72 hours after the Clackamas shooting, Sandy Hook became forever branded upon our national consciousness.  Another angry, mixed up middle class white kid with a semi-automatic rifle decides to inflict his angst on unarmed innocents in a public place.  Only this kid was trained on the gun.  Could hit what he aimed at without jamming it up.  So the body count was horrifically higher.  Twenty first-graders and six adult staff lay dead—along with the shooter himself and his mother back at the house—at the end of his rampage.  In the comments spaces below the articles, people were again smearing their brain excrement across the pages for the consumption and edification of the general public:

·        This makes me sick. The fastest way to stop a crazy man with a gun is another gun. I think each school should train and designate several teachers to conceal firearms on their person and use them in case of an emergency like this. "No Gun Zones" DO NOT STOP BULLETS, they make it easy for sicko's like this to slaughter the innocent.

 My reply:  Now all the jackasses are coming out of the woodwork again hollering about concealed weapons permits. You idiots! This was a GRADE SCHOOL, populated mostly by little kids. Should 8-year-olds pack guns? Should teachers? Would it have been responsible for a gun-toting adult to start a shoot-out in the middle of a bunch of small children? Get your heads out of your butts, people. We need to get the guns--at the very least the automatic and semi-automatic weapons--OUT of the hands of anyone who can pass a weak-ass background check and waiting period. The founders guaranteed the right to bear arms, you say? "Arms" in the 18th century consisted of muskets, crude rifles and handguns incapable of shooting more than one round at a time. You need to have a gun? Get one of those...

·        No, if we ban guns then the only ones to have guns will be the bad guys. Guns do not kill people, people kill people.

Me:  Wake up. That "guns do not kill people" thing is so old it wears a mullet. Get a new catch phrase that makes sense when any idiot with a grudge and an automatic rifle can walk into a school and blow away twenty babies in a matter of minutes. People with guns that are WAY too easy to buy, steal, modify and load up with ammunition that only belongs in a war zone kill lots of people, like innocent little kids in a grade school, in a very short period of time. I'm pretty sure if it was one of your kids lying in a pool of blood, "Guns don't kill people" is NOT what you would be wailing as you lifted her lifeless body in your arms...

·        Just imagine if WE were armed. If this guy today knew that teachers were packing and people at malls and movie theaters were packing and they would shoot back. We don't need more gun control cause gun control always stops the law abiding citizen that is being shot at by the non-law abiding who gets guns no matter what. If WE are armed they might think twice about walking into a school or mall and opeing fire on US!

Me:  I'm sure if we were all running around packing firearms, it would have the same deterrent effect on people determined to do violence as the death penalty does...

·        Just a theory...The government with the aid of the UN is slowly working on taking away the American people's right to bear arms by using mind control of a few already unstable guys to go on shooting rampages. The government will use this shooting tragedies as examples that gun control is needed. However, we must remember that if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. Support your right to bear arms.

Me:  Dude--Better go get your tinfoil hat and start stockpiling supplies in your fall-out shelter...!

And so it has gone on…for more than two weeks.  I’ve posted something like six pages worth of comments, rebuttals, history and civics lessons.  Honestly, I wanted to write an intellectually stinging masterpiece of gun control commentary here…but I’m tapped out.  My comments run the gamut from calling out the concealed carry folks, to rebutting the time-worn maxim that guns don’t kill people, to theories on how a civilized society is meant to behave, and pointing out the errors in logic of popular arguments like, “Laws only work on law-abiding people” (what does that even mean??)

I’ve gone back to the stories and checked out the comments—a tedious practice since my internet connection is running at roughly the speed of a tortoise on Quaaludes—and there is, at last, only a smattering of new input.  Looks like the novelty has worn off, and folks have already erased this episode of “The Moral Demise of the American Republic” and gone on to the next thing—which, unfortunately, included yet another killing of innocents using a semi-automatic weapon, this time in New York, where a guy murdered his sister, set his house on fire, and then set himself up to pick off the firefighters responding to the blaze.  I just stopped by the comment board under that story on CNN, and my eyes glazed over.  Same damn crap, all over again.  Where does it end?

The brick wall erected behind the rabid gun-lovers is our own United States Constitution.  In particular, the cherished Bill of Rights, that addendum to the original document which ticks off specific rights of the people upon which the government shall not be allowed to infringe.  If only the founders could have understood the Pandora’s box they had constructed with the simple words:  …the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

The deeper I get into this argument, or set of arguments, about the “right” of private citizens to keep weapons with more firepower than could ever be necessary for their personal protection, the more I understand that we no longer have any idea how to deal with this Freedom that our forefathers secured and bequeathed to us.  And therein lies our undoing.  The root cause of all the ideological clashes, moral decay and legislative gridlock that have shaken our nation to its very core over the past couple of decades: we no longer revere and cherish our freedom.  Rather, we’ve leapt to the erroneous conclusion that freedom is meant to benefit the individual.  My freedom.  My rights. 


We have become a nation of self-centered freedom sponges.  We soak up every bit of freedom we can access and label it for our own personal use.  And then we wield that freedom like a club, and downright viciously; we pay no heed to the possibility that MY freedom to do "x" might damage or negatively affect anyone else, or deprive another person of her freedom.   So what?  It’s a free country.  Try to stop me.

Freedom is—has to be—more than that.  That kind of selfish, small-minded freedom is not worth the sacrifice of one life, much less the hundreds of thousands of lives laid down for it over the past 250 years.  I think if you had told an American revolutionary soldier that he was facing disease, starvation, blizzards and British musket fire to protect the right of Rush Limbaugh to broadcast ignorance and fear to 3 million listeners a day, he would have gone home. 

I could write another four pages on what I believe freedom really is, and how it should be taught and cherished and managed.  But not today.  I’ve written too many pages of stuff over the past few days that no one of any significance will read, and that will make absolutely no difference in the end.  But I did have this one thought, and I think it’s a valid one. 

Everyone knows I haven’t thumped a bible in many years.  I cringe at the misuse and the misinterpretation of the passages in that hallowed tome…fume at those who would inflict literal translations (of cherry-picked passages) on our 21st-century society in order to control, enslave or frighten us into conformity with their ideas of God and spirituality.  But that does not mean there is no wisdom contained within the pages. 

The verse that came to mind today came from a most unexpected source—the apostle Paul.  Not generally a favorite among women of strong spiritual opinion.  But as I thought about freedom, and the warped notion of it under which we currently function, I thought of 1Corinthians 13:4-8.  If you don’t recognize the numbers (which I wouldn’t—I had to look it up…) it is the passage that begins with, “Love is patient…”

It occurred to me that if you substitute the word “freedom” for “love,” the result will be a rather stunning accounting of what our freedom really should mean to us.  It would read like this:

Freedom is patient, freedom is kind. Freedom does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 Freedom does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Freedom does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Freedom never fails.

This does not look anything like the freedom we preach and hoard today.

But it should. 


  1. I wonder if it really came down to it how many Rambo wanna be's could actually kill someone. And none of them seem to realize that the last thing the police need to deal with in a crisis situation is who are the good guys and who are the bad guys here.

    the only use I can see for folks with concealed weapons is to act as rear guard and information source. Get people to safety, stand between them and danger and get use either your phone or someone else's to get accurate information to the police.

    My uncle was an LA cop and a US marshall. He never fired his gun outside of the firing range.

    He was and is a guardian in the true sense of the word. We need more guardians and fewer loundmouths. And frankly I see you as a guardian or trying to be.

  2. As I think of the insane idea that we all need to be packing guns, I can't help but think how this invites more tragedy. Just imagine the Aurora theater if several movie goers opened fire on the shooter as everyone else was running around in the dark. Surely the casualty count would have been higher.

    I also can't help but believe that many of these gun carry advocates don't begin to have the proper respect for the weapon. We are desensitized by the images we see every day on television and in movies. How many gun deaths does the average person "witness" in a year? Those who support lax gun laws can't possibly have an understanding that they could take a REAL life, perhaps an innocent life by over reacting or poor judgement or lack of skill, or god forbid, in a hot headed argument. Have they stopped to think about how easy it would be to make a mistake and what it would be to then have to live with that mistake?

    We deserve better. We deserve to be able to go to the mall or a movie and NOT have to wonder how many people around us have a weapon. The availability of automatic weapons has begun to create a terrorized society. You can never assume you are safe in any public place. Allowing everyone to be armed anywhere just ups the chances of an eruption of anarchy. We can't really be stupid enough to allow that...can we?

  3. Send what you've written to me. I'll read it and be glad to.

    "We must overturn so many idols, the idol of self first of all, so we can be humble, and only from our humility can learn to be redeemers, can learn to work together in the way the world truly needs. Liberation that raises a cry against others is no true liberation.

    Liberation that means revolutions of hate and violence and takes the lives of others or abases the dignity of others cannot be true liberty." Oscar Romero. Subsitute the word freedom for liberty and it still works.

    There are too many idols of self right now. Each crying "worship me, worchip ME, WORSHIP ME"until you almost can't hear anything above the din.

    But there are certain still, small voices out there that slip through. Bless you.

  4. My mother, a flaming liberal, worried about gun control and the risk of the nation becoming a police state. My son seems to worry about the same thing. I'm not sure how gun ownership would prevent a police state if such a thing were to ever happen to us in this country. But it seems to me we really need to do something that enables true freedom for all and also limits our ability to acquire guns, particularly semi-automatic. There was a good article in the NY Times last Sunday: "Anatomy of a Murder-Suicide" by Andrew Solomon that you will appreciate if you haven't already read it.

  5. I submit that having an arsenal in your basement--including all the automatic and semi-automatic weapons you could come up with--would not stop a tank roaring up your driveway and running over your house. People who stockpile weapons just in case the military decides to take over the country aren't really thinking straight. They are just really, really paranoid. Personally, I think it seems more likely that all these idiots that stockpile weapons and speak so viciously against the government and the president would attempt a raid on Washington...