Thursday, January 31, 2013

I am still alive... and my two cent worth on the gun debate

Sorry about not writing much but the weather has been uninspiring (I’ve only been out once on skis and once on snowshoes and the thermometer when I awake over the past week has gone up and down like an elevator.  Last week, we had a minus 11 degree morning followed a few days later by a plus 51 degree morning…  But let’s not talk about the weather.
There is something else I have been meaning to write about…  A few weeks ago, I was driving to our capital city for a meeting and listening to NPR.  The guest on the show was Bruce Levine, the author of The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South.  At one point, in the interview, Levine was asked what would have happened to slavery if it hadn’t been for the Civil War and he suggested that it might have continued as an institute into the 20th Century.  According to Levine (and I think he’s right), it was the hardline position of some Southern politicians to defend slavery as an absolute right (for the owners) without any discussion or compromise that resulted in the ending of the institution.  Had they been willing to compromise, Levine noted that most abolitionists in the north would have accepted a gradual freeing of the slaves that would have taken place over decades. 

This got me thinking, not about slavery but about gun rights.  It seems that this week the gun debate has moved back into the forefront for a short while as Congress has kicked the other hot potato (budget deficits) down the road a bit.  I wonder if the hardline position by the National Rifle Association, who seems so bend on refusing background checks and on the right to sell assault weapons and others that are not needed for hunting or personal safety, will actually backfire.  Will they box themselves into a position like the Southern slave owners, which will eventually lead to a greater loss of rights?  I should acknowledge that I am a gun owner and am proudly NOT a member of the NRA.  While I have no plans on “giving up my guns,” I also think we need to be reasonable about who has access to weapons, where we can be in possession of such weapons, and what kind of weapons make sense for us to own.  

When I was in Utah had had a column in the local newspaper and I satirically wrote about a gun proposal that was being debated (and eventually passed) in the Utah State Legislature.  Maybe in a follow-up post, I’ll share with you some of the responses to both the column and to the whole debate as it related to the University of Utah. 

Published in The Spectrum, St. George, Utah, January 18, 2002.

Our legislators are at it again.  Since I moved to this state eight years ago, each session of that body, which gathers in Salt Lake during the inversions of winter, tries to outdo each other in liberalizing our gun toting laws.   This year, they’re trying to insure our right to tote guns onto the campuses of our state’s colleges and universities.  This they thought had been worked out back in ’95, when they passed our current gun toting laws.  Since then, there have been battles over whether or not private groups can prohibit the on-site possession of firearms.  Guns are allowed, according to our Attorney General, in universities.  But our colleges and universities are in violation of the law.  All but one college have rules prohibiting students, faculty and staff from toting guns into classrooms, libraries, cafeterias and sporting events.  This gross miscarriage of justice will be a thing of the past if certain legislators have their way.

Earlier this week, Bernie Machen, president of the University of Utah, was called upon the carpet of our state legislature in order to explain why the U is breaking the law. Machen must be a true liberal for he believes academic debates need to be settled with logic and discussion and not the caliber of a sidearm.  Personally, I thought our legislators had more pressing business at hand, such as finding tax cuts in a season of deficits.  And I’m also sure that Machen had better things to do than to sit in a stuffy room and talk about how gun toting students and professors stymie academic debate.

I’ve never had a concealed weapons permit, though I do own a few guns from my squirrel hunting days.  Now maybe I’m a bit naïve, but it seems perfectly clear why we should not allow guns at institutions of learning.   After all, in elementary school I joined all the other boys singing little limericks about the demise of our teachers. We didn’t need to be tempted with the means to carry out such childish thoughts.  And then there was the time in college when a cross-eyed professor transposed my “A” with another students “F.”  I’m sure the other student thought it was manna from heaven, but it was a good thing I didn’t have a gun handy when I opened my transcript. These thoughts may seem silly, but an incident at Weber State in 1993, when a student at a disciplinary hearing pulled a gun and began shooting, remind us of the danger of weapons in inappropriate hands.

If our state legislators are so bent on us all toting arms, they should watch the world news and learn about difficulties the new Afghan government has controlling a country of armed citizens.   Or they should watch video footage from Somalia where everyone has a gun and lawlessness reigns.  If the reason to tote a gun is to provide us with the ability to protect ourselves, these countries are examples of what such protection, when carried to extremes, is worth.

Guns have no business being in our schools, colleges and universities.  I say this as an old squirrel hunter who still has a few guns safely locked away.  And unless there is a reason, that’s where they stay.


  1. Ha, no wonder you are now in Michigan. What did the Utahians use to tie you to the rail.

    On the slavery issue, myself I'd say if it lasted until 1880 that would've been the outside of it. I'd even say 1870.
    Events had overtaken that economic form twenty years earlier with the removal of the Corn Laws in the UK. This released the Canadian imports -->Released the vast underclass into the UK cities and also caused huge migration to the Northern US. Most of this was completed by 1855. Since the Corn Laws were Tariffs on many more things than simply grain. They opened Egypt and India to the production of stuffs usually shipped from the South.
    In the ignorance of those days the Southern Gentlemen had no clue what was causing their ills. Why the power in the US had moved north.
    One of the easiest ways to catch this is to ask yourself if it would be cheaper to feed and keep a slave or a share cropper. And the reality is it's the share cropper. It's this 'crofting' innovation from Ireland and Scotland that gave any economic life to many of the Southern States by simply changing the papers and shifted the cost.

  2. interesting...i like how you link the two and it does make you wonder...i def think we need greater background checks for gun owners...its rather scary...i have a second cousin who should not have a gun but got an assault rifle last month...

  3. I just read this in a book about Lincoln yesterday but he actually proposed to the border states that they could still own slaves but would gradually be phased out over decades and the official end to slavery would be January 1, 1900.

    I'm mixed on the gun issue. I do own some guns and I also am proudly not a member of the NRA like yourself. I disagree with the NRA stance of not making background checks mandatory and uniform. But I'm not sure I want to go all the way to banning assault rifles. I still think that a person in good standing and who passes exceptional scrutiny should be able to own one. I don't think I want to own one but if someday there was a forceful takeover of our country or part of our country, those that do have them might be valued people. Saying that, I wasn't too disappointed when we did have a ban on them.

  4. I'm not a gun person at all, but I hope the debates are productive, Sage.

  5. My feelings on the gun issue are much like yours. I left the NRA back in my 20s because of how hardline they had gotten, and it's gotten worse since then. I own guns and want to keep owning them and using them responsibly, but some reasonable controls are not out o fthe question.

  6. I understand the need for debate, and I understand the need for guns. It's when the two needs are combined in confusion we get civil war. I'm confident this country can sort it out peaceably this time.

  7. A reasonable stance. I'm becoming convinced the NRA doesn't really represent gun owners at all, but exists to serve the gun-manufacturing lobby. Most of the hunters I know have no trouble with the rules that restrict number of shotgun shells in a hunting weapon....why would anyone need guns with magazines holding 100 rounds?

    Nice blog you have here.

  8. I don't understand why anyone needs 100 shots, either. If your aim is that bad, you shouldn't be allowed to own a gun.

  9. In no way does the NRA represent the mainstream gun owner. They represent radicals and the firearms industry. I also don't think the "gun control" folks have a clue relating to what is really happening. For one thing, ALL true assault rifles have the ability to fire on automatic. NONE of these look alike assault rifle clones have that ability. It's already against the law.

    I own guns and love guns, but I'm not a member of the NRA. Although I do agree with their stance that an armed person in every school is a good idea. Many cities have already been doing it for years. It works. As long as that armed person is not merely an armed security guard. If so, that will be the first person shot. A trained military person or policeman type, with a pistol is more than a match for a kid, or whack job, no matter what kind of weapon they have.

    Except for the expanded magazine capacity of an assault "type" weapon, an average hunting rifle is EVERY bit as dangerous as the ones some people want outlawed. Put a scope on that hunting rifle (which most have) and it is MORE dangerous.

    There is a need for some gun control and much of it is already in place. In my state, the laws are already as strict as what is now being proposed.

    The U.S. has the most guns per capita in the world. Switzerland is 3rd and Finland is 4th. Yet, incidents of violence involving firearms in those countries is almost non-existent. On the other hand, there are other countries with very low guns per capita rates, but VERY high levels of homicide. It’s clearly a PEOPLE issue, not a GUN issue. So how about we start filling our prisons with violent crime criminals instead of "soft" drug convictions. There are still people serving life sentences for simple possession in a couple of state.

    The truth is that the lowly little .22 caliber bullet kills more people EVERY year than any other caliber, yet there is no discussion at all about banning them and they aren't nearly exotic enough for the news media to grab onto.

    You’d have to be a pretty astute news hound to know this (even if you lived there), but there has been a major gang war going in Chicago for about 18 months and several hundred people have died because of it. To the best of my knowledge, the subject hasn't even been reported even a single time in the news here. The number of people killed related to gang violence in this country each year DWARFS the number of Americans killed in Afghanistan and Iraq during the same time period. Most of these gang related deaths occur in particular parts of certain cities. Most murders in those gang areas aren't even reported on the news! However, we all know what would happen if murder anywhere near that scale occurred in other parts of the same cities. There would be military personnel patrolling our streets and seriously putting an end the gang problem.

    Do I need an assault "type" rifle? No I don't. Do I need an 18 round magazine on my pistol? No I don't. However, if I'm a law abiding citizen and these weapons would NEVER be used for anything other than self protection and range shooting. Why can't I have them? I should be able to, BUT, I'd give up that right if I thought there was a snow ball's chance in the Sahara that criminals wouldn't still be able to get them.

    There is only one group of people that I think shouldn't EVER be allowed to have guns. That is the group of whack jobs who think they should be armed to protect themselves from the government.

    As I said, the politicians on both sides are HUA on this issue. As somebody above said, reasonable controls are fine as long as they actually relate to the problems we have.

  10. I was on a jury a few years ago for the trial of a man who killed a visitor to his home with a handgun. (A dispute over drugs.) He clearly meant to "protect" himself - he put the gun under the couch and awaited the visitor. The visitor came, an argument ensued, and the vistor was shot in the head and killed. The man who shot him was an Atlanta city fire fighter. He and his wife had brought home a new baby that day and his other child was sleeping in the next room. He ended up being convicted of voluntary manslaughter and going to prison, but owning that gun changed his life. And a man died. Very sad for all involved. I was chosen for the jury because I don't have any guns and never will.

  11. When I was researching this topic a couple of months ago, I discovered America has, by far, the highest rate of gun-related deaths of any developed nation. And it's not even close. It was stunning. And sad.

    I think, like most things, it all comes down to money. I would guess assault/high-capacity/automatic weapons make much more money for gun manufacturers and retailers than a shotgun.

  12. I know this is a tough debate, I've written my letters to all our house members, my son-in-law does this for a living and he and some fellow employees were down at the Capitol here giving their 2 cents actually more than a dollar of support. I hope they do better with the background checks, and my daughter has her carry and conceal permit and those that want to should have that right. (They aren't giving up their guns either!) What fires me up is that if they ever DID take all of our guns away, it won't stop what has and will happen again in the hands of those that want to shoot people. Those individuals don't really need guns either, if they want to murder someone. Some how we need to work on eliminating those evil ones, out of society. That's where we need to focus!