DEAR LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD

A Citizen’s Open Letter, Richard Paschall

Dear Leader,

There are a number of problems in the world I would like to call to your attention in case you have not yet had time to notice them.  First, there is this whole thing about poverty.  The world is full of wealth and wealthy people and yet there are those without food, shelter and medicine.  Worse yet, successful corporations and wealthy businessmen get additional tax breaks that in no way benefit the poor.  Isn’t the government for all the people?  How about a little protection for the “little people?”  There seems to be no reason for people to starve.  Wouldn’t a “more perfect union” seek to help more than the top one percent?

Credit: CC0 Public Domain from pixabay

Photo Credit: CC0 Public Domain from pixabay

We seem to struggle with the issue of providing health care to the populace.  I know you have tried to get medical insurance to everyone, but the costs are still rather high.  Other top-tier countries do not force their citizens to choose between food and health care.  Costs are controlled to a greater extent.  Also, prescription drug costs at the retail level are affordable elsewhere.  Here many people must choose if they can afford life saving medicine or pay other bills.  Does that seem right? The same prescriptions that are reasonably priced in other countries are sometime astronomical in price here.  Can you even this out?  That would seem to “promote the general welfare.”

In a nation built on immigration, as most countries were actually, we seem to have a total lack of understanding of immigration issues.  Some politicians, barely removed from their immigrant roots, block meaningful immigration reform.  Can you speak to them about that?  Maybe they do not realize that their roots are actually somewhere else, not  here.  In fact, it seems that the native population is really rather small.  We need to “establish justice.”

If children are our future and education is the most valuable component of that, can we do something to promote higher education?  Many countries provide free education as they realize the value of it.  Surely we will fall behind in the world if we do not have an educated population.  At present, the cost discourages participation or throws many students into debt for decades after graduation.  Would this not be one of the best ways to “secure the Blessings of our Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”  If our posterity is to be driven into ignorance and/or severe debt, then they are not blessed at all.

There seems to be a lot of mistrust of government, police departments and authority in general.  Can you speak to various leaders about justice and equality?  I fear we have taken steps backwards in the relationships between men and women, people of color, people of various religious backgrounds and people of different sexual orientations.  Worse yet is the use of so-called religious freedoms to justify hate.  Surely you can do something to get the dialogue back on track.  People are people.  There must be a better way to “insure domestic tranquility.”

I know you must “provide for the common defence,” but we seem to be going about it the wrong way.  Can you explain to the citizens that the second amendment was not actually handed down by god?  Since we are not living in the 1780’s and there really is no reason for all citizens to bear arms in case the states need to raise a well-regulated militia to defend themselves, we should be able to add in some sort of control.  After all, the Red Coats are not coming.  Background checks will not infringe upon my rights, I promise you.

Finally, I think programs and policies need better explanations.  Can you do a better job of that?  President Theodore Roosevelt believed that he had a “bully pulpit” and that he should use it, and use it he did.  He was not shy about going out to the people to explain himself and his policies.  Why not try to do more of that?  On the other hand, that will only mean opponents will spin the truth out of control and get more air time.  Maybe you should forget this last part.

Sincerely,
Public Citizen Richard

REGULATE GUNS — LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE

I’ve been listening to arguments against gun control since I was a kid. As a child, I didn’t understand why anyone would object to sensible gun regulations.

I mean, Wyatt Earp did it in Tombstone. Should we be doing less in Boston or Austin?

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YOU NEED A LICENSE FOR THAT

Virtually every aspect of our lives are regulated.

Without a license, you can’t cut hair or sell insurance. Drive a car. Most places, you need a license to build an extension on your house, change the wiring, remodel your kitchen, or replace your roof. You need a license for your dog. A permit to hold a parade. Or sell booze.

So what’s the big deal? Why are guns different? We control and limit more or less everything, so why are guns off-limit? The answer is obvious. They aren’t, not really. What makes guns off limit isn’t the Constitution. It’s a powerful lobby group that has caused generations of politicians to fear for their congressional seats.

To me, it’s simple obvious. If you can’t hold a scissors in a barber shop without a license, you should not be allowed to carry a loaded rifle in Walmart without requiring at least as much accountability.

The arguments against sensible gun control are specious. Stupid. If can’t drive drunk, how come you can walk around drunk — with a gun? I would never limit anyone’s right to own a car without good reason. Like bad eyesight. Driving under the influence. Lack of insurance. A flunked driving test. Surely we should require at least this much oversight for guns.

A COMMONSENSE GUN CONTROL PLAN

If you want to own guns, you have to pass a licensing test which makes sure you know how to shoot and care for weapons. You are obligated to keep it out of the wrong hands. Your eyesight should be good enough to hit a target. You need to pass a background check to show you aren’t a felon. Or nuts.

You have to register your guns. All of them. You are obligated to keep track of your guns, to know where each of them is. You may not lend them to anyone who is unlicensed any more than you can loan your car to an unlicensed and/or uninsured driver.

If your gun is lost or stolen, you absolutely must report it to the cops. None of that “Gee, I guess it must have been stolen” crap. You will carry liability insurance on every weapon. Should a weapon registered to you be used in an illegal act — with or without your consent — you are responsible for damages. If you don’t go to jail, you will still pay. As you should.

The nation, as well as individual states and counties can tax your weapons and refuse to license weapons deemed inappropriate for private owners. If you want a weapon deemed unsuitable, you will have to get a different license, not to mention explain why you need it.

Simple, isn’t it?

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LICENSE AND REGISTRATION, PLEASE

We license cars because cars are potentially dangerous. Which doesn’t mean we don’t own cars. Obviously we own millions of them. We try to control who drives while maintaining reasonably accurate records of who owns what. We can’t keep every drunk off the road, stop cars from being stolen, or prevent accidents.

We do the best we can. For the most part, the system works. It would work for guns, too. Equally well, equally badly. Imperfect, but a lot better than the nothing we have in place now.

I have yet to hear a coherent argument against such a plan — probably because there isn’t any. Any reasonable person can understand we need to regulate guns. Like everything else.

GUNS PROTECTING GUNS

Red Ryder BB gun

Our family weapon. It’s a classic.

When I see a story about folks who’ve gotten busted for having an arsenal and because, as my husband puts it, “they have toys in the attic,” I notice most of them are poor. Living in squalor.

They live in trailer parts, rural shacks or crumbling buildings in cities. Or in a perfectly regular house in some suburb, maybe right next door. They don’t have much, but by golly they have guns. Lots of guns. Maybe if they didn’t spend all their money on guns, they might be able afford furniture and some food in the fridge.

There was a time when Garry and I talked (briefly) about acquiring hand guns. He was working all kinds of hours in dangerous places. I was coming home from work alone, in the dark. So we checked out what a decent handgun — one that won’t blow up in your hand and will hit a target when aimed — costs.

More than 20 years ago, a reasonably good handgun from a legitimate manufacturer cost a thousand dollars or more. Maybe you could do better at a gun show or pawn shop, but we don’t know enough about guns to buy that way. How do the gun hoarders accumulate all those weapons? We couldn’t afford them even when both of us were working and earning good money.

I suppose it’s a matter of priorities and what’s important to you.

 

It seems to me — correct me if I’m wrong — these people are passionate about their right to protect their stuff and feel they need an arsenal with which to do it. But the only thing they have that’s worth protecting are guns. So they need guns to protect themselves from people might steal their guns. Have I gotten that right?

Guns to protect guns.

These whack jobs abound in every area of the country. You can find them in mountain hideaways, rural villages, big cities, and suburbs. They are hoarders, obsessed with owning more and more weapons, the bigger and more lethal, the better.

Too much fire power for my comfort and too many weirdos owning them. Their presence in my neighborhood does not make me feel safer. They are not protecting me or mine.

I want them to go far away and take their guns with them.

THE WHOLE GUN THING – I DON’T GET IT

I don’t get it. I’ve been listening to arguments against gun control since I was a child. When I was six, I didn’t understand why anyone would not want guns regulated. I do not understand it today when I am 66.

Our family has a Red Ryder Daisy BB rifle with which we shoot paper targets. My son inherited his father’s target 22. It’s a pretty thing. Holds a single shell and is intended for competition target shooting. My son keeps it clean, oiled, and unloaded. I assume it works, though no one has used it in a long time.

Red Ryder BB gun

I like target shooting and I’m a good shot. I’ve never killed anything, not counting bugs … and you won’t get any apologies from me on that score. If insects stay outside, that’s okay with me. In my domain? Bugs get as dead as I can squash them.

But the whole gun thing. The fascination with guns, the passion for them. The belief that we need to have them because if not, “they” will take away our freedom? Who are “they” and what exactly do they want? I don’t know about you, but I don’t have anything much that anyone would want. Frankly, if you want it that badly, geez, just take it. I’m not going to die for anything I own. They’re just things.

WHAT FREEDOMS DO YOU WANT?

At the risk of asking a stupid question, what freedom are “they” coming to take away? My right to have a blog? Is this blog so important that someone is going to bring the swat-mobile to stop me from posting? How about my right to take photographs? Does anyone care that much? The right to pay my bills? You can have that freedom. Please, take it. No guns required. My right to own a car? That’s pretty well-regulated already. Watch TV? Charter Communications owns me. Feel free to take Charter Communications, however. Just leave me WiFi.

How about phone calls? I’m in thrall to the cable company and AT&T already. Could the government be worse? I tend to doubt it. My calls — and yours — are already monitored by the NSA. Seriously, exactly what freedoms are “they” going to take and why would “they” bother?

Virtually every aspect of life is regulated. You can’t cut hair or sell insurance without a license. You can’t own or drive a car without a license, registration and insurance. Most places, you need to get a license to build an extension on your house, change the wiring, remodel your kitchen or put up a new roof. You need a license for your dogs and cats.

We aren’t connected to town water or sewage, so we pay whatever it costs to keep our well healthy and our septic functional. If they ever put in city water and sewer, I’m sure we’ll be required to hook up and pay some ridiculous amount of money to do it.  With all the perils, I prefer my own water. As of this writing, the air is free. If someone figures out how to regulate it, I’m sure they will. And sin. That’s free, but there’s always (heh) syntax.

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So what is such a big deal about requiring gun licensing and registration? We control and limit citizens’ access to pretty much everything. Why are guns sacred? Don’t talk to me about the Constitution. We have reinterpreted the constitution to align with the realities of modern life over and over again. There is no reason guns can’t be treated the same way as anything else.

The arguments against sensible gun control are stupid. If we control who can drive a car and how that car can be driven and there are a staggering number of traffic regulations enforced with considerable vigor, why can’t we exert at least as much control over weapons? You can’t drive drunk, how come you can walk around drunk with a gun? To whom does this make sense? Not me. I’m flummoxed by the illogic.

I would never want to limit my right — or yours —  to own a car, unless there’s good reason. Such as eyesight so poor you are not able to safely operate a vehicle. Or your having been arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or being unable to pay for at least minimal insurance and registration. Or you can’t pass the driver’s test. It would be irresponsible to give licenses to blind, drunk, or incapable drivers, wouldn’t it? How could equivalent oversight not be appropriate for guns? Seriously?

Butch Cassidy’s gun sold for $175,000.

MY “SO SIMPLE IT’S ALMOST STUPID” GUN CONTROL PLAN

To own a gun, you have to pass a test to make sure you know how to shoot and care for a weapon. You become obligated to keep it out of the wrong hands. You need to be able to see well enough to properly aim a gun and be able to hit a target. You need pass a background check so we know you aren’t a felon or a dangerous wacko.

You have to register your guns. All of them. You must know where they are and you may not lend them to anyone. If a gun is lost or stolen, you must report it. You need gun liability insurance on every weapon you own that contains a firing pin. If a weapon registered to you gets used in an illegal act, causes harm to others — with or without your consent — you are responsible for damages. If you don’t go to jail, you can still wind up in court.

OldJail-300-72

The nation, as well as individual states and counties can tax your weapons and refuse to license weapons deemed inappropriate for private owners. If you want a weapon that is considered unsuitable, you will have to get a different license, not to mention provide an explanation.

Simple, isn’t it? We license cars because cars are potentially dangerous; you can kill someone with a car. All this regulation doesn’t mean we don’t own cars. Obviously we own a lot of cars. We simply try to control who is allowed to drive and keep track of who owns what. It doesn’t mean we can keep every drunk off the road, prevent all accidents or stop joy-riding kids, but we do the best we can.

I have yet to hear a coherent argument against this plan — probably because there isn’t any. Guns should be regulated like every other dangerous thing.

Protecting your guns with your guns

2012_09_gunbust2

When I see a story about folks who’ve gotten busted for having an arsenal and because, as my husband puts it, “they have toys in the attic,” they consistently appear to live in squalor.

Case O' Guns

They have guns, lots of them. If they didn’t spend all their money on guns, they might be able afford a decent place to live, maybe some comfortable furniture and food in the fridge.

lotsa guns

These are the people who are passionate about their right to protect their stuff. But the only thing they have that’s worth protecting are guns. They need the guns to protect themselves from people who might want to steal … what? Guns.

They have guns to protect their guns because everything else they have is trash.

I was pleased to see in L.A., the “guns for groceries program is going well. It is always nice when there’s a small outbreak of rationality. Or maybe it’s just a sign of a difficult economy and the realization that “eating lead” is not all that yummy. And there are so few good recipes for bullets.

I know there are plenty of people who hunt, own guns to a purpose, compete in gun-related sporting activities and don’t spend the equivalent of the food and electric bill on yet another gun. I’m talking about that special breed, the arsenal folks, the “you can’t have too many weapons at any cost” crowd who are as likely to turn up in the middle of an eastern city as the south, west or anywhere else. The nuts are everywhere and there are far too many of them for my comfort. Some of them even appear normal, which worries me more than those who are blatantly batty. If they look and act just like any regular person, I can’t even avoid them.

Why? A question with no answer.

My husband wants to know why a kindergarten teacher in a quiet Connecticut suburb owned two 9-mm hand guns and a semi-automatic rifle. He wants to know why are there no checks for mental stability for gun owners or background checks in most states to make sure that the purchaser is not an outright criminal.

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I want to know how come a relatively small number of gun nuts are able to hold our entire nation hostage. I’m pretty sure the majority of Americans don’t believe that anyone who wants one should be allowed to own an arsenal. Most people have more sense that.

I don’t think people who hunt are the problem, either. I don’t hunt, but I don’t feel I can consume meat while simultaneously objecting to someone else shooting a deer. I am not sufficiently hypocritical for that. In any case, hunters usually respect weapons, were often raised in homes where hunting is a tradition and guns are not considered toys … and they don’t use semi-automatic rifles or assault weapons for deer hunting. Or any other kind of hunting.

So who are these people who have so much more power than their numbers or any commonsense, logic, or reason suggests? Why do they seem to own us? My gut tells me to follow the money because beneath and supporting every evil, somewhere  there’s money involved. Usually a lot of money.

Why do we allow private people to buy these weapons? Why are they not held liable for the damage their weapons do, regardless of who is pulling the trigger?

GUNS-1-popupWhy do we have less oversight of guns than of motorcycles? The odds of a motorcycle killing anyone but its owner are small compared to what a gun — any gun — can do.

Why? Anyone have an answer? Because my husband and I are pretty smart people, well-educated and reasonably sophisticated. He was a reporter for a lifetime and has seen more of these massacres than anyone should ever have to see. I read, research, and spend a lot of  time looking for answers.

But neither one of us has answers this time. We just have questions. There are a lot of questions going around. Maybe it’s time to start formulating a few answers.

Slaughter in a quiet suburb

Yesterday, while putting together awards, a too-long deferred project, I happened to click onto WBZ radio, Boston‘s CBS affiliate. The events in Newtown were just being broadcast. They didn’t know exactly how many children and adults had died. The massacre had just ended — to the degree that such tragedies really ever end. I’m sure that for all the families who lost loved ones, it will never end. There’s no “over” for the slaughter of innocents.

This is the kind of horror story that leaves you with questions that can’t be answered. Even if you know everything there is to know, you still couldn’t make sense of it because it doesn’t make sense and can’t make sense. There is nothing sane, sensible, reasonable or explicable about it. What could possibly make someone — anyone — think murdering children is an acceptable or sane response to anything? No matter what dark secrets or strange thoughts are tangled in the head of the kid who took all those lives … nothing makes it more understandable because our minds reject any answer. There is no reason good enough. Nothing makes it comprehensible nor should it.

I can and will say that had the shooter not had guns, this would NOT have happened.

I do not care how treasured our “rights to bear arms” is to Americans. This is exactly what is wrong with having guns, so many guns, in so many hands. However true it is that guns don’t shoot themselves, the fact is that if they were less accessible to everyone and there were more controls on them to make sure that those who own them understand the responsibility that comes with owning deadly weapons — like the need to keep them out of irresponsible hands — many deaths would not occur. If the same young man had to take whatever weird revenge he sought with a bat or even a knife, he would have been stopped long before the body count had grown so godawful huge.

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Morons at play

Guns don’t kill people all by themselves, but in the hands of people, guns do a lot more damage than the same person could do without guns. These were legal, registered guns.

Why a kindergarten teacher had an arsenal at home where she also had one (more?) mentally ill children is another one of those questions that can’t be answered. Personally I think if all guns disappeared tomorrow and we were reduced to throwing rocks at each other, it would be a better world. Since that’s not about to happen, at the very least, regulating guns so that those who own them are required to keep track of them (how many guns just “disappear” only to reappear as the weapon at a crime scene?), some degree of mental stability has to be established before being allowed to own them, anyone who owns guns has appropriate means to secure them and knows how to properly maintain them … these are minimal sensible requirements. Soldiers aren’t just handed weapons to use indiscriminately. They are taught how to use them, maintain them, and woe to any soldier who just happens to “lose” his weapon.

Yet in the private sector, most states have no requirements other than your ability to fill out a form and wait a few days. Most illegal guns didn’t start out that way, either. They were legal when they were bought … but they roamed to other pastures. If there are simply fewer guns and those who have them are required to account for their whereabouts on a regular basis, secure them when not in use … in short, to be at least as responsible with their guns as they are with their cars for which you are required to take a test, have a licence and registration, and maintain insurance … there would be fewer horrors like that which took place in a quiet Connecticut suburb.

How can we allow mass murder by deranged gunmen and then turn around and say we don’t need gun control? I actually saw posts on Facebook blaming it on not having enough guns. So, now we should arm children so they can shoot each other in schoolyard disputes? That’s your answer? I saw other posts pointing out that we’ve banned school prayer. And you figure that a prayer in the morning would have prevented this tragedy? Really? Has prayer prevented war? Genocide? Plague? Not that I’ve noticed.

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God gave us brains to use. God gave us a conscience to guide us.

In all ten of God’s commandments … nor in anything that Jesus said … is there anything indicating that good people should own weapons. Quite the opposite, actually. Our constitution says that our citizenry is allowed to maintain militia and guns to protect the population, not that ever Tom, Dick, and Jane can have a personal arsenal to use as he or she feels inclined, with no restrictions, no oversight, not even an insurance policy.

It’s outrageous and it’s wrong. If we don’t start to use brains instead of that knee jerk reaction that “Oh my God, the government won’t let me buy an assault weapon! That’s outrageous!” there will inevitably be more of these mornings where families are burying their dead and wondering how it happened. If you want to know how stupid people really are, check out this disgusting website. If you suspected we let insane idiots own arsenals, this website will confirm your worst fears.

It happened because a mentally ill kid was able to get his hands on guns and instead of acting out in a non-lethal way, he instead murdered his family and all those other people too. That’s what happened. Why did it happen? Because we didn’t stop him, that’s why.