Monday, July 23, 2012

Recent Events: Mass-Murder in Aurora, CO

Whenever I hear about horrifying events like this, I experience a fairly wide range of emotions .. heartbreak for the victims and their families, rage towards the perpetrators, the desire for justice, the thought and hope that if I am ever faced with a similar situation, I'll be able to make a positive difference in the outcome, and, more often than not, a sense of dread at how the government's seemingly inevitable attempt to prevent future occurrences will affect my personal freedom and that of my children.
My candle for the good
folks of Aurora, CO

While most of these are beyond my capacity to address in a way that is meaningful to anyone, the one thing I can do is to take certain steps to ensure that my family and I do not become helpless victims to some nut-bag like this in the future. Hopefully I can encourage others to do so as well.

So, what can we, as individuals, do to prevent things like this from happening again?  The answer is surprisingly simple:  arm ourselves.  That's right .. instead of clamoring for more restrictions on your right to keep and bear arms, exercise it. Learn how to handle and use a gun. Get a concealed carry license, and carry your gun wherever and whenever you can. Learn basic self-defense skills that don't rely on the use of firearms, too.  Learn and prepare for the day you hope will never come, and be willing and ready to act if it does. Teach your children these things, too. Learn, learn, learn! Your self-defense bag-of-tricks should be very large and very full.
My gun makes you safer - if I'm
allowed to carry it

Admittedly, there are a lot of people who will not see my logic. There are people who think that allowing people to carry concealed weapons is just asking for trouble.  There are people who think that disarming society in general would be a better solution.  I would ask those people a few simple questions:  If you were there, wouldn't you wish you had your own gun and the skills to use it?  How might the situation have turned out differently if just one of the other movie-goers that night had a gun?  How many of those victims would still be alive?

You see, guns are not the problem here. If they were, one would expect to see mass shootings happening where there are more guns - at gun shows and NRA conventions, for example. Can you imagine, just for one second, what would happen if this guy had shown up at a gun show and started shooting?  I can .. and I bet you he wouldn't have even gotten one shot off before being stopped cold in his tracks and nominated for a Darwin award!  No, instead, most of these massacres happen in places where it is already illegal for anyone to possess a gun: schools, workplaces, hospitals, et cetera.

I posit that the real reason these things happen is that there are few people left in society who are willing to take responsibility for their own protection, and too many laws restricting those remaining few.


  1. Hey, it's Ian.

    When I was younger, I was pretty strongly anti-gun. I still personally don't like being around guns much, and don't want to carry one, for the same reason as I don't want to play in traffic or carry a running chainsaw - they're powerful, potentially dangerous tools under the governance of fallible humans. That said, I've come to accept that people will want guns for various practical or personal reasons - for hunting, for sport, for collecting and so on. And I know that there are many people who can handle guns while maintaining an acceptable level of risk to themselves and others (nothing, of course, ever being perfectly safe).

    I don't agree with the idea of general armament as a solution to maintaining public order, though, for two reasons. First, as much as you fear - not without reason - that incidents like Aurora will precipitate poorly thought out gun control measures, I fear that incidents like Aurora will prompt many people to obtain a gun out of fear, and carry that gun and that fear with them in their daily lives. I'm sure you'll agree that, as horrifying as shooting sprees are, they're also anomalies; and despite the fearmongering in the media, violent crime in general is at a 30 year low due to factors that have little or nothing to do with gun availability in either direction. Most people will never need a gun to save their own lives or the lives of others. Many people will, however, make a mistake in handling their guns - it's simply a matter of human fallibility - and with guns, as with any powerful tool, mistakes can often have tragic consequences. (Cars are a good parallel example, and yes, I think we'd be better off if fewer people needed cars too).

    Second, I think that by focusing on guns as the major issue here - whether in the direction of public armament or gun restriction - we lose sight of all the other things that had to go wrong for this to happen. There are ways of making our society safer and more secure that have nothing to do with guns one way or the other. By this point, we know a lot about the kind of person who goes on a shooting rampage, and the kind of events in their lives that produce them and the kind of behavior they exhibit before the end. Why not focus on training citizens and law enforcement to recognize these signs? Why not treat depressed and disturbed individuals with a better system of mental health care? More pointedly, why should we blame the victims of this crime for not being prepared to fight for their lives at a moment's notice? Let us not forget they were victims - they died because the perpetrator decided to kill them, not because of any failing of their own. There's nothing wrong with being prepared for many situations, but it's far more difficult in the moment to decide what's going on and how to react than it is to criticize after the fact. Some victims were confused by the sounds of gunfire from the film, and some thought that firecrackers were being set off. If it had turned out not to be a shooting - and in most situations anyone will be in, that situation will not be a shooting! - would you have criticized the rashness of a nervous armed citizen who decided to fire their gun for no good reason? That is the kind of thing you invite when you tell people to be ready for the worst. It's not the guns, it's the fear.

    I don't think you would like a society where even someone like me feels compelled to carry a gun.

    1. Ladies and gentlemen, my good friend and frequent political adversary, Ian, and with a fine example of how to express an opposing viewpoint. Well done, sir, and I hope you are doing well.

      This time, I really only have a few points of contention, and they're not terribly significant. I'll address those, and it's safe to assume that if I don't touch on something then I either agree or don't care enough to bother arguing.

      First, your assertion that the dip in violent crime has little or nothing to do with gun availability is possibly flawed. I understand that correlation does not indicate causation, but it does allow us to point and whisper, "hey, look over there!" With that in mind, consider that the number of legally-owned firearms has increased significantly, especially over the last 4 years. At the same time, violent crime has continued to go down. Further, in jurisdictions that have adopted a "shall issue" or "no permit required" stance on concealed carry (MI, VT, AZ, FL, etc), violent crime is significantly lower than in areas the don't allow concealed carry (de jure [IL, DC] or de facto [NYC, NJ, MD, areas of CA, etc]). Couple that with the fact that the list of cities with the highest crime rates corresponds nicely with a list of cities with the most strict gun control laws, and you start to hear that whisper .. at least, I do.

      You assert that many people make mistakes when handling their guns, and often with tragic results. On the surface, this is true. However, many more people make mistakes when driving, drinking alcohol, and a host of other activities that are considered acceptable by society. We learned that prohibition of alcohol didn't work, and we're slowly learning that prohibition of drugs isn't working either. What makes people think that prohibition of firearms will work, then? If you actually analyze the number of firearm accidents versus the numbers of accidents involving other dangerous equipment, you'll find that legal gun owners are some of the safest people out there. And well they should be - with great power comes great responsibility, right?

      Ok .. so your second paragraph was pretty freaking awesome, an d I just want to clarify one thing. I was in no way blaming the victims of this crime. Rather, I was attempting to reveal that the laws that disarmed them at the door, supposedly for their own good, didn't help at all, and may have made things worse. From what I've been able to gather, the theater was a "gun-free zone," or to use the terminology I prefer, a "helpless victim zone."

      Finally, I'd like to point out that I didn't stop at "get a gun." I also said things like learn how to use it. Get other training, too. Perhaps, though, I didn't emphasize it enough, so let me make it clear now. If you're going to carry a gun, you are also going to bear all the responsibility that comes with it. You should get all the training and practice you can. You should, as you said, learn how to recognize dangerous situations and know when it is ok and when it is not to use your gun. Finally, firing your gun at a person is your absolute last resort, and should only be done where there is no other viable way to save your own life or that of another person. You should also be trained and instructed on how to recognize when that line has been crossed. If you are not willing to bear this responsibility, then don't have a gun .. just don't try to tell me I can't have one when I am willing to bear the responsibility and get the training.

      Also, you're still welcome at my house when the zombies rise.