Monday, December 31, 2012

time and debate

It's time.

I'm a ways into Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature and confusion is settling into my thoughts. It appears his proclamation is that we are living in a safer world than our long-ago ancestors.  It's clearly true, and not much of a voila! moment, when you crunch the raw numbers, or rate of deaths per 100,000, in various gatherer societies versus the Leviathan-controlled peoples of civilization, but that's not really the point, is it? I certainly don't measure the safety or security of my life and family against the hunter/gatherer's historical numbers. It's measured against my neighborhood and my society. What does this matter? Well, if our goal is too simply be safer from violence than those that wandered the Serengeti then we could probably kicked up the violence and still be winning. But, that isn't what we want, is it?

Guns have long been an issue: as tools of directed violence, accidental harbingers of death, purveyors of death crossed (inter- and intra-) families and lovers, and the most efficient of suicide options. They have also, in ways we generally care less about, provided safety to neighborhoods, countries, and peoples. What they have never been is a remedy for crime or violence. Not once; not ever. The love of, and number of guns, won't change - and why that's important to me is because I have to begin to look at this issue the same way I force the illegal immigrant / anti-immigration crowd to start at the point we are at: 11-20 million people in our country. We won't ever 'round them up' and remove them from the country, so holding that as any serious starting position is not even a reasonable option. Rounding up 295 million of 300 million guns in America isn't a serious position, either. Laws and regulation have done nothing so touting the passage of such laws (by the anti-gun folks), or talking about laws in place (gun folks), is neither here nor there. What does change things in America is the mounting desire of people to do away with (often) what we at one time see as normal or sane, but eventually decide fails to represent the society we choose to live in. Laws and screaming about guns won't change anything, your neighbor and my neighbor will change everything

When X was in a bar exam review course there was an issue reviewed concerning domesticated animals vs. non-domesticated animals and how the law applied to each. What was your responsibility when it came to securing your animals (either type) against damage they might do if set loose in a town or village, or if Jimmy McBobbin from next door stuck his arm in the cage? The debate partially held forth by the students, instead of simply determining your liability if your herd of goats (domesticated) ran roughshod, was exactly how one draws a line between domesticated and non-domesticated. Law students attempting to perfect their study were filled with questions such as: "What about if I owned a tiger?" Is that domesticated if it's in a cage", or "What if I'm keeping javalinas in my backyard?" The instructor had to go to great lengths to point out that within the confines of the bar exam you won't be debating with yourself if the animal is domesticated or non-domesticated, because it will be painfully obvious. You would simply be asked to determine the law based on whether the animals got loose, the dumb kid next door stuck his arm in your hyena cage, or if you needed to build a fence or cage. The domestication issue would be clear, such as: "You own five Bengal tigers and are keeping them in your garage at your apartment complex...", or "You own three laying hens and have them fenced in in your backyard." Right - Bengal tigers not domesticated: Hens domesticated. Don't get too crazy on assessing which is which, it'll be obvious.

What does this mean? When you look at guns you can divide them into those that are 'domesticated' and those that aren't. For people that want guns for self defense in the home, fine. For those that want guns for sport/hunting, fine. I'm like to start there. When the question is asked on our societal bar exam we'll know the answer. A pistol in your home? Self defense. A shotgun in your home? Self defense or hunting. A rifle? Sport (not great for self defense, but good under the sport heading).*** An AR-15 with a 50-bullet clip? Not. (See Bengal tiger above.) We know the answer when someone says they want a semi-automatic weapon with the ability to lay down 100 rounds in 100 second. The answer is no. Our goal should be to make owning and buying those types of weapons something that we don't accept as a society, law or not. I don't want the guy living next door to me to have that type of weapon anywhere near me. I honestly don't want it anywhere near him. The amount of killing that can be done in a limited amount of time is a problem. How about we try to fix that first?

I've come a ways on guns over the years. I once preferred them to be outlawed completely, but I can see how people feel the need for self defense in the home even if I can't understand it, nor see how something that is as likely as getting struck by lightning, gets into people's head. I can't argue them out of that position. What I can offer are options that allow both of us to live in a world where your choices are the tools of violence, and mine aren't - I think I should get a head start.

*** And, keep them in your house. Truth be told, the kind of person who feels the need to carry a pistol around, strapped to his ankle, hip, or thigh is generally, based on most of my 'acquintances', is struggling with dick envy. Sorry, I had to say it. I don't need you out patrolling the streets to protect me and mine. Thanks.

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