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Our Problem With Guns

I totally get the appeal of guns. I’ve gone shooting on a few occasions now and I can safely say I had a great time. What they say about that feeling of power when you hold a loaded gun is true. It’s both terrifying and thrilling. It’s a power that commands an immense level of respect and responsibility. When holding a gun, I become laser focused on the task at hand and all the usual bullshit and noise that occupies my mind is filtered out. I’m well aware that failure to do so could end up with myself or someone else very dead. There are very few activities I can think of where I am so easily present in the moment. It’s overwhelmingly relaxing. I will jump at the chance to do it again.

Having said that, it’s becoming increasingly disingenuous to act like we, as a country, have a healthy relationship with guns. Mass shootings are now so commonplace that we don’t even bat an eye when hearing about them.

We live in an inexplicably fearful country. For all the freedoms and liberties we enjoy, we’re irrationally afraid of way too many things. We’re fearful of other countries. We’re fearful of our fellow citizens. We’re fearful of our government. We’re fearful of everyone who isn’t us. A fearful people is an unpredictable and irrational one. Combine unpredictability and irrationality with easy access to guns and you’re looking at outright catastrophe.

I support the right to own a gun. However, I believe that right comes with a certain level of maturity and responsibility. When you argue, for example, that cars kill people too but we don’t talk about banning cars, it shows me that you are lacking a certain respect for what that right really means. You seem to be willfully ignoring the fact that guns are deadly weapons and that is about as clear a sign as I can think of that you lack the maturity to handle one. When you kill someone with a car you are misusing the car. When you kill someone with a gun you are in fact using it for its intended purpose. It’s a weapon. Let's not play dumb about this. It was invented to gain an advantage in warfare over the sword and bow and arrow. The sole designed function of a gun is to launch a projectile at an extremely high velocity with the intention of destroying a target. That is it’s only purpose. A car was invented as a means of transportation. If you want to play that equivalency game, yes, just about anything can be used to hurt or kill someone through misuse. I can kill you by smothering you in a plate of spaghetti. No one in his right mind is going to call a plate of spaghetti a weapon because that’s silly. Insisting on it would be childish. So is equating deadly weapons with everyday items.

You've noticed I keep emphasizing weapons. That's because so many premises coming from the gun rights side of the debate seem to leave this fact out. To those who say, for example, that the reason a lot of gun rights advocates find background checks offensive is because it treats the purchaser of the gun like a criminal, I'd like to point out that you're purchasing a gun, which is a deadly weapon! You're not purchasing a blender. You're purchasing something that is designed for the purpose of killing or maiming. You could use it to effortlessly kill myself and my family if you wanted to. Forgive me for not having blind trust in you. It shouldn't be such an outrageous idea that I might want some laws in place to make damn sure you're not the type to use it in a violent fashion. I believe I have that right. I'm willing to listen to any idea, concept, premise, what have you, about gun rights as long as you don't play dumb about the fact that guns are deadly weapons. It's a concept that was drilled into to my head every time I've gone shooting. It's at the very core of being a responsible gun owner. Okay, on to other things.

Let me say this right now, I can almost guarantee with complete certainty that guns will never be outright banned in this country. It will never happen because the NRA would never let it happen, but also because it’s completely irrational. There is a middle ground solution to this problem and it involves people on both sides essentially growing up and facing reality.

We should start by admitting we have a bit of a gun fetish in this country. I think it’s entirely reasonable to say we tend to idealize guns a bit. It’s everywhere in our media. All our favorite television and movie heroes use guns. We see those heroes solve problems in exciting, visceral ways with guns. We learn about the models and attributes of different guns from blowing up our friends while playing Call of Duty. I'm not going to point fingers or even make a call as to whether this is right or wrong. That's up to you. But you can't ignore the idea that all of this might serve to remove us a bit from the real life consequences of guns and the responsibilities that come with gun use. It all looks so effortless and clean everytime we see them in our favorite entertainments. When the NRA suggests arming teachers as a measure to prevent school shootings, you’re seeing the symptoms of that warped view of reality.

The average civilian is not an action hero. Gun proficiency doesn’t come naturally and no one can really prepare his or herself for how to act in a life or death situation. Putting this kind of responsibility on a teacher is just wrong. He or she didn’t sign up for that. The idea of arming civilians as a means for dealing with threats that arise is absurd because it completely ignores the fact that to even be in a situation where someone is firing a weapon at you is so out of the realm of normal experience that there is no way to predict how you’re going to react. The same goes for actually drawing a weapon on another human being with the intent of ending their life. You can hit the shooting range all you want. It makes a world of difference when the targets have lives of their own and are shooting back with lethal force. It rattles even people with combat training. I have no earthly idea how I’d react if I found myself in such a situation. I also have no idea whether I’d have the presence of mind to do anything heroic. Neither do you. We’re conditioned to think that we’d rise to the occasion because movies and television make it look easy and, well, humans have high opinions of themselves by nature. But reality is messy and ugly. People panic. People lose control of themselves. You have no idea what you’d really do because the overwhelming majority of you have never experienced a situation that even approaches such an extreme level of stress. You have no frame of reference to realistically base your expectations on. If you’ve never been in a Sandy Hook or an Aurora, CO, or any number of recent violent tragedies, you really have no business declaring how things would be different if such and such were armed. It’s just an abstraction to you.

But since we have to do something, what compromises would we be comfortable making? An assault weapons ban is problematic right out of the gate because of the language. Based on how “assault weapon” is now defined, most handguns are considered assault weapons. But a ban on civilian use of military style assault RIFLES with the large capacity magazines and all the bells and whistles is not something I have any sort of problem with. It’s not my place to decide this for you and there are compelling arguments going both ways, but consider a few things. Is your belt fed 50 cal really going to be an effective tool for home protection? Maybe that’s an extreme example. How about your M-4 Carbine? These weapons are undeniably impressive to see in action, even more so to use in a recreational setting. I can see the appeal of owning one from an enthusiast‘s standpoint. But for home defense purposes, they’re ludicrous. You’re likely to do just as much if not more damage to your own property and several of your neighbors’ properties as you will to any home invader.

It’s disingenuous to claim you own these kinds of weapons for such purposes. If you’re really being honest, I think you’ll have to admit you own them because you find them to be impressive machines and you like using them recreationally. I certainly hope you don’t claim to have this kind of firepower to defend the country against invaders or an out of control government because when you do, you sound insane. There’s a whole lot more to being a soldier than simply being able to fire a gun. If you’re our last line of defense against an invading army, we’re screwed. And as far as defending the land against the government, the people you’ll actually be fighting are our men and women in uniform, be that law enforcement or military. There’s no secret army waiting in the wings. Senators won’t suddenly turn into Agent Smith from The Matrix and attack. Police and military IS the government. It’s our fighting brothers and sisters. You can’t be supporting our troops with one breath and stockpiling weapons to take them down with the next. It makes no sense. Besides, they’re better trained, better armed, better organized, and they have an Air Force and a Navy. Protecting our country and our Constitution is THEIR job. They train for it. It’s what they do. If you jump in, I guarantee you’ll be doing more harm than good.

Personally, I don’t see the need for lethal force in home protection because I personally don’t own any items whose value outweighs a human life. The percentage of home invasions where the perpetrator is simply there to harm you and your loved ones is very small. Even if violence is their sole intent, a powerful handgun is far more effective than an assault rifle in close quarters. Most break-ins are for robbery purposes and people generally don’t resort to robbery unless they’ve exhausted a whole lot of other life options. I don’t think someone deserves to die for that but I’m not going to decide morality for you. It’s just something to think about.

”A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The men who founded our government were extremely well educated and worldly people. They understood that being able to look after one’s own self-preservation was one of the most basic of human rights. But they also understood that letting the criminals and the mentally disturbed have weapons is CRAZY. They were endeavoring to form a more perfect union and this sort of behavior is completely incompatible with that. There needs to be policing. That’s what that whole “well regulated” part is about. The founding fathers chose those words carefully (and this is still, admittedy, a loose interpretation of their intent). I’d like to own a gun someday. And when I go to purchase it, I’ll be perfectly fine with submitting for whatever background checks are needed and waiting as long as is necessary for those checks to be completed. If you need a gun RIGHT NOW, that’s exactly why you shouldn’t have one.

I think any responsible gun owner should be completely comfortable with enforcing background checks, waiting periods and closing the gun show and private sale loopholes. After all, it's also their safety that's being considered. Why wouldn’t you want to have sensible laws when it comes to obtaining something as dangerous as guns (again they're weapons)? Yes, criminals will find ways to get guns illegally because most of what they do is done illegally. It’s what makes them criminals. But you can't tell me that these safeguards won't stop at least SOME of the red flags from obtaining guns and even just stopping some will save lives. If you think that your need to be able to get yourself a gun the very second you want it, whenever you want it is more important than stopping even one Sandy Hook from happening, well, shame on you. You've let your fear completely override your reason.

If you exercise the right to own, you should also be adult enough to handle the responsibilities that come with it. That’s really all anyone is asking. None of these things seem outrageous to me. Guns are getting into the wrong hands with far too great a frequency these days and if gun rights advocates can’t be called upon to help come up with real solutions, others who may be less sympathetic will be more than happy to. You should be mature enough as a gun owner to respect that your ownership rightfully gives many others pause. One would think you’d be the first in line to ensure it’s tougher for the wrong people to get those weapons, simply because it reflects very poorly on you and your recreational choices when they do. No one should be able take away our freedoms but at the same time we need to start developing a level of responsibility that’s worthy of them.

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