Thursday, February 21, 2013

Is Gun Control Going To Be Enough?

Yesterday in Twitter there was a discussion going on about background checks for those who wish to purchase guns. After observing both sides of the discussion I asked one of them what information did he think these background checks would contain? I did not receive the courtesy of an answer. This happens since I'm not a member of the Twitter Elite, people tend not to pay too much attention to me. That suits me fine since it gives me time to read BOTH sides of the issue and think about it to form my own opinion.

My opinion is, we need to reduce the incidents of gun violence. Whether or not gun control will be successful remains to be seen, because it doesn't address the underlying cause. The tendency on the part of those shooting other people to deal with their emotions at the point of a gun. Someone who thinks shooting others is the answer to their problems shouldn't have access to guns and yet they do. A situation that I do not believe will change with gun control and background checks because most of the shooters I've read about would most likely have passed a background check. Background checks are only going to show something if there is a history of criminal behavior or violence towards others. I believe there has to have been a conviction, not just an accusation but I may be wrong about that.

During that discussion I kept seeing a reference to keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. The persons advancing that point seem to feel that criminals buy guns at gun shows or Walmart. Uh, no. They buy black market items which are usually stolen or smuggled in from someplace else. Drugs aren't the only thing one can buy on many street corners in the United States, or any other country for that matter.Black market guns are virtually untraceable since their identifying numbers have usually been defaced. They cost more but when one is in the business of crime, price is not a problem. A background check isn't going to keep a gun out of the hands of a criminal since they know better than to buy a gun legally. Besides, how many of these people who snapped and killed other people were criminals before they fired those guns?

Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Jared Loughner, James Holmes and Adam Lanza all had something in common. They were angry, they had guns and they killed.  Let's  remember that Harris and Klebold weren't old enough to legally purchase guns, but they got them.  They were being medicated with psychotropic drugs which are known to cause rage, were these drugs a contributing factor?  Had they been old enough to buy those guns on their own, this medication might not turn up in a background check because the federal government has in place a law that protects our health information from being disclosed by any medical practitioner under any circumstances unless they have written consent from us to do so.

My other question regarding background checks is what types of crime would prevent someone from obtaining a permit for the gun? Would a misdemeanor drug possession be enough? What about a DUI? I had to be fingerprinted and have my background checked to go to work as a health aide. I could not be employed as I am if I had been convicted of a certain class of felony. I would assume that would hold true of background checks for gun ownership which brings us right back to where we are now since I haven't found any information that indicates any of the shooters I've mentioned were convicted of felony charges. However, there is a growing group of people who appear to believe that gun control and background checks are the answer. They're trying to push Congress into a vote on the issue.

I'd feel better about it if they'd think things through and be sure that any bill that passes actually has some effect on the problem. Otherwise this entire issue will become another exercise in futility. I don't think it's going to be enough to try to remove the purchase of guns, we need to address the underlying causes of violence. Otherwise people will continue to die.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Duct Tape Has A Dark Side

Sitting in my driveway directly next to my rust bucket is my daughter-in-law's vehicle. Both vehicles are gray, and very similar in shape if you don't look too closely. The biggest difference is the shape of her rear quarter panel, bumper and trunk hood. It's been smushed in by a mishap involving a guard rail. I know smushed isn't a word, but it describes the appearance of a damaged rear end being held together by duct tape as good as any real word. Better, actually.

Driving around here in the past two weeks has been interesting to say the least. I manage it by slowing myself down to 30 or so miles per hour. At that speed I can see the slushy mess that is lying in wait for me and take steps to correct the fishtailing the vehicle likes to do when driving through it. Slow speed skids are easier to correct than those that take place at 55 miles per hour. Snow tires rather than the more popular "All Season" tires help a lot too.

Anyways, her car is damaged, she's refusing to drive it, needs to drive to work so Hub has switched vehicles with her and she's taken his pick up truck while he uses her wreck. Once Spring rolls in he's going to repair her vehicle and keep it. Youngest is on the hunt for a new vehicle for his wife. I'm resisting the inclination to suggest he find an armored car or tank for her, this is the third vehicle she's damaged in 9 years. It's, of course, always the fault of something else, road conditions, deer and the lady that wouldn't get out of her way at the stop light. That accident went unreported since the lady that got rear ended actually left the scene. Possibly driving without a license? Maybe had a few too many brews? Who knows?

Back in the 1960s when I learned to drive, it was impressed upon us that WE, the drivers, were responsible for maintaining control of our vehicles at all times. Charges like "speed not reasonable or prudent" or "driving too fast for road conditions" were actual reasons for receiving speeding tickets which were adjudicated in court. Charges were seldom dismissed since the damage was considered proof of the charge. One paid a fine and a mark or marks were entered onto one's license. Too many of those marks resulted in revocation of one's license. Now it's "black ice" or "slushy road conditions" and nobody goes to court let alone receives a ticket. Now it's the fault of everything else rather than a failure on the part of the driver to maintain control of the vehicle.

The habit of blaming has become so bad that a local school superintendent is being blamed by some of the teachers for the death of a youngster on his way to school. She chose not to delay school opening for a couple of hours until road conditions improved. This accident happened the day after 16 adults lost control of their vehicles and closed a major state highway for hours. Mind you, I drove to work both of those days on those same roads without mishap. On both days I drove those roads shortly before the accidents happened. The speed limit on those roads is 55 miles per hour. I left for work earlier to allow me the extra time the trip needed to accommodate the road conditions I knew would exist. Road conditions which would not allow me to drive at speeds much higher than 30 miles per hour and sometimes not even that fast.

You can tell me how lucky I am, or decide I lead a charmed life. I don't see it that way. I see it more as a decision to accept that actions have consequences and that there are times when those consequences can be fatal. Life doesn't have built in guarantees that accidents won't happen to me, I just want to assure myself that I have done the best I can do to avoid causing damage. Driving safely is a choice that we can make and sometimes making the choice is as simple as slowing down. We all live longer that way.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

On Drones, Due Process, and Dead People

I'm continually amazed, and not in a good way, at the cookie cutter, black and white attitudes of my fellow citizens. On any issue there seems to be a black side, a white side and lines drawn that are delineated by whatever pundit one tends to idolize. Sides are stamped out, perimeters are fortified so that nothing can leak through from the outside. There will be no melding of black and white to create gray. That's just not going to happen.

There is a window of opportunity which happens before a person's mind is made up. Once that window closes, any further examination of an issue is nothing more than allowing entrance of that which confirms the decision already made. If you don't believe me, take a good long look at the GOP representatives sitting in Congress. Despite evidence to the contrary they believe they have their feet on the right path. They have their very vocal supporters who affirm that belief through their activism online at Facebook, Twitter or whatever social media they choose to use. I am told they are the minority, however, they seem to be loud and committed to their purpose. The fact that voters reelected President Obama by overwhelming numbers is apparently just a fluke in their minds. That too should prove my point about the window of opportunity and what happens once it's closed. Despite the wide difference in ideology between Conservatives and Progressives, that closed window is also a problem within the Progressive community.

While Conservatives appear to focus on National Defense and keeping Wall Street grifting, Progressives focus on social issues and the subject of injustice. Neither side is overly concerned about Jobs and the economy in any real way, but that seems to be a downside of the closing of that window. Neither side is overly concerned about the 22 veterans a day who are committing suicide. I don't expect Conservatives to care much, I am surprised by the lack of concern on the part of Progressives. Especially the blogging Progressives with their large number of followers and their reach.

Their issue seems to be the due process that was denied (they think) to al-Awlaki and his son when President Obama put him on a "dead or alive" list which resulted in the use of drones which found their target. The issue has again come to the fore over the leak of a white paper which defines in essence how to use drones to kill our enemies. The fact that the man had joined and was actively recruiting for a terrorist organisation would lead me to believe he was an enemy, but without due process according to the intelligentsia, how are we to know for sure?

Sadly, his son also died. I'm inclined to place the responsibility for that on his father, the Progressives aren't. They want it squarely on President Obama for his decision to take out an AMERICAN CITIZEN WITHOUT ACCORDING HIM DUE PROCESS UNDER THE LAW. OMG it could happen to any of us at any time or in any place including our own homes. Call me an Obot, but it seems to me that among the rights and RESPONSIBILITIES of the President is that of keeping the NATION safe from terrorists? When there is evidence that someone hates and is actively working against Americans, does the President gamble that it's not true? See? al-Awlaki had already been arrested and tried in absentia in 2007 for fomenting against the United States and other foreigners. The Yemeni government did that. He spent 18 months in jail and once released apparently didn't show up for his court date which necessitated the in absentia part. Despite the fact that it didn't happen on American soil, would you not call that a part of the due process to which he was entitled? Imagine the screams from the US if al-Awlaki had caused something akin to the 9/11 attacks on our soil?

When it comes to acts of war or terrorism, you pay your money and you take your choices. That's the harsh reality of war. However, when you send men and women off to kill or be killed instead of using drones for the job, you are creating a group of loyal American men and women with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Something our government, until President Obama ordered the VA to address, was unconcerned with.

While Progressives are screaming about the injustice of the lack of due process, and the use of drones, 22 veterans are committing suicide every day. That's almost 1 every hour. Despite the long standing evidence that PTSD exists, the VA and the government that funds the VA did nothing to assure these soldiers that they had access to mental health professionals. Even with the presidential order to increase the number of mental health professionals available to these people, the VA hasn't been able to keep up. With so few professionals available the waiting lists are still, 2 years later, far too long. And the Progressive outcry over the injustice of this is....crickets. And the death toll from it far surpasses the number of deaths caused by drones.