Falcone's Crossroads

Where This Meets That


“Criminals are made, not born.”
These were the last words of Andrew Kehoe, found written on a sign hanging on his farm’s fence after he murdered forty-five people, including Andrew Kehoethirty-eight young children, in an attack on the Bath Consolidated School in Michigan in 1927.  The attack remains the deadliest school murder in U.S. history.

Last month, we all received a brutal reminder of how cruelly history can repeat.  My heart aches for the lives robbed in Newtown, Connecticut.  It bleeds for young parents whose closets and attics might still hide Christmas gifts that will never be opened, whose children will never again be seen but in flat pictures.  And for the whole community after such a horrendous act of cold-blooded murder.

These tragic events always raise more questions than they answer.  Here, I submit my thoughts on the matters at hand.

Sandy Hook victims

Guns and Government
I have fired a gun twice in my life, so I hardly qualify as a gun enthusiast.  Yet, I am a solid gun rights supporter.  I think that a free society can never be completely secure but that, nevertheless, erring on the side of more freedom rather than less is the most secure choice in the long run.

In 1967, newly elected California Governor Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction.”  Maybe so, but it erodes more easily than it shatters, and a society that considers itself free must fundamentally be moving either toward greater freedom or away from it.  Former Supreme Court Associate Justice William Douglas eloquently observed that, “As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression.  In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged.  And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air – however slight – lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.”

The more legislation we pass, the wider the divide between the people and liberty.  Since the mid-twentieth century, with notable exception of the civil rights movement, our society has trended steadily away from liberty.  Today, the policies of both the Bush and Obama administrations have left us in a virtual free fall away from it.

Between massive power grabs enabled by wars on drugs and terror, the gradual erosion of wealth and healthcare rights, and a politically compromised Fourth Estate, our system finds itself as much a form of modern feudalism as it does a republic.

Tragedy to Tyranny
While tragedies like last month’s massacre in Connecticut remind us of a darkness that can surface anywhere at any time, they also inspire another great tragedy, that the Establishment attempts to leverage such events to turn our trust away from our neighbors and place it instead in itself.  Fear is a terrible foe of freedom and yet one of the Establishment’s greatest allies.

The debate over gun control is not new, but it escalates with every terrible event like this.  The natural reflex trumpets the most focused action, in this case banning firearms.  Or at very least, banning automatic assault rifles.  The argument goes something like, “I’ve never seen anyone go out hunting deer with a machine gun!”  But this is a “straw man” fallacy.  Yes, our nation’s founders did acknowledge our right to kill and eat game, but the Second Amendment centered squarely on the citizenry’s protection against threats, up to and including that of tyrannical rule.

As I’ve said before, increased lawlessness is an unfortunate and paradoxical side-effect of increased legislation, and by taking on “industries with consistent demand . . . lawmakers create monsters.”  I understand the outrage caused when these military-grade weapons are misused, I really do, but the movement to see them banned is short-sighted.

I ask you to consider a different United States of America.

Obama Sandy HookPretend that as you read this post, President Obama issued an executive order to ban private gun ownership.  A limited existing black market for guns would instantly become unconscionably massive, and if you think drug dealers are well-armed, just wait until you see arms dealers!  The government would “be forced to” enact unprecedented measures to “secure” our nation’s streets, and the Bill of Rights would be “suspended”.  In response, we would see unprecedented outlaw violence.  Regardless of the genuineness of the ensuing police state’s motives, a police state would nevertheless ensue, and the public would never again enjoy freedom from tyrannical rule.

Not without a long struggle.  Fought with outlawed weapons.

Of course, this is a totally unrealistic “flip the switch” scenario (or is it?); any reasonable move to ban guns would take gradual decades of indoctrination and clandestinely subtle legislation.  But whether reached overnight or over a century the end result is the same: government with unchecked power over its subjects.

Think about it this way: the First Amendment was to protect our thoughts; the next amendment sought to protect the first.  The Second Amendment is not something “spoiled gun-lovers” cling to so they can hunt, and it’s not even simply a “right”; it’s an absolute necessity.

Does that leave innocent people vulnerable to psychopaths like Andrew Kehoe or Adam Lanza?  Tragically, yes, but thank God those people are the rare outliers from the bottom and not tyrants from the top.

Signs of the Times?
Nevertheless, these random rampages raise their own set of questions.  For example, is something wrong?  Clearly, yes, but are things really any worse than they have been before?  And are they trending even worse?  If so, then why?  And what, if anything, can be done?

Suicide is tragic in itself but is nothing new.  These modern suicidal rampages, however, from Colorado to Connecticut, force the macabre question: what ever happened to simple suicide?  The note? The device? The discovery?   It’s one thing to fall into such despair as to not want to go on living, but what drives this passion for taking so many innocent people in the process?

Clearly, gross mental illness plays a role, but what feeds it and inspires such collateral devastation?  Is the graphic realism and rewards-system of modern video games to blame?  Does the promise of instant celebrity play into the warped logic of these perpetrators?  Could the pervasive electronic wave transmissions in which we bask today or perhaps the modern scrambling of our circadian rhythms play an insidious role in the way our brains work?  Is our society’s entire mental health paradigm just so woefully inadequate?  Or all of the above?

Mutsuo ToiIn 1938, 21-year-old Mutsuo Toi killed 30 people, nearly half of his small community, including his grandmother and himself.  His stated motive was revenge over the way he felt his neighbors treated him after he was diagnosed with tuberculosis.  As for his grandmother, he wrote that he killed her to save her the disgrace of being a “murderer’s grandmother.”  An interesting twist in this story is that the authorities were concerned about Toi beforehand and revoked his gun license prior to his rampage.

While video games certainly played no role in Toi’s massacre, his depraved assault compares with modern recurrences.  I’m not sure what media coverage this case got at the time; nor can I attest to the coverage given to Kehoe’s Bath School massacre, though the absence of the 24-hour news cycle assures that neither case received a fraction of today’s attention. Nevertheless, I think the cases are useful in illustrating that the nature of these massacres is unique neither to this generation nor this geography.  And while both cases were recognized at their time as unprecedented in scope, I doubt they were unique in concept.

Modern Mass Murder
Such tragedies today are magnified and publicized more pervasively than at any other time in history, which can aggrandize them disproportionately to events past.  This fact doesn’t diminish the tragedy of the Newtown massacre as much as place it in some historical perspective; it is not the first and, sadly, it won’t be the last of its kind, regardless of what legislation gets passed.

We Americans have a tendency to both flatter and condemn ourselves in a historical context.  We believe our current society should be more civil than those “more primitive ones” before, and because it is not, we assert blame on violent video games and movies, dissociative social media, and the like, instead of accepting the law of averages in our own nature. Frustratingly, context (including capabilities and proportion) and publicity are the only true variants across history.

Murderers today are, as they have always been, murderers.

Assessing Lessons
I again quote Governor Reagan, when he said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”

Don’t get me wrong: that such tragedies have precedent doesn’t immunize them from thorough analysis for lessons to be learned.  For instance, does it make practical sense to maintain a level of “lockdown” at public schools, including a police officer on the premises at all times, as suggested by the National Rifle Association?

With “Big Brother” policing intersections for speeders and red light-runners, armed officers should have extra bandwidth available for more focused protective duties.  On the other hand, where does that road lead, and could police be guaranteed to only protect against violence in the schools rather than inflict violence of their own?

In lieu of an outright ban, perhaps we should consider the wisdom of issuing licenses based on certain training achievements.  After all, my driver’s license doesn’t qualify me for taking the controls on a Boeing aircraft, and not all restaurants can attain licenses to serve liquor.

Four hundred years before Christ, Plato observed that, “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.”  Whatever alternatives we consider – including maintaining the status quo – offer more wisdom and security than an outright ban.

My two cents.  What are your thoughts?


9 comments on “Guns

  1. pouringmyartout
    January 10, 2013

    I hate the gun issue. I can see both sides. I don’t have one, but maybe people should be able to have them. But not a basement bunker full of assault weapons. In the spirit of the Constitution, I say that people should be allowed to own as many muzzle-loading muskets as they want.

  2. Grande Falcone
    January 10, 2013

    That’s a good point, and probably one example of why Jefferson advocated a new Constitution be drafted with every generation.

  3. Ron
    January 10, 2013

    Truth lies somewhere in-between. Don’t actually know of anybody trying to completely outlaw all guns. But let’s move forward as a nation, let’s adapt. Were drunk driving laws the same 30 years ago as they are today? No. Are there fewer drunk driving fatalities? Yes. The mindless far right needs to stop trying to hide behind the outdated 2nd amendment and work to come up with a solution.

  4. Grande Falcone
    January 11, 2013

    My hypothetical scenario was hyperbolic to illustrate gradualness of legislation, the proverbial “slippery slope”, and plays into Justice Douglas’s statement.

    Assault rifles are a “sensational” focal point for politicians to bluster about, but the danger they truly represent is a drop in the bucket. The Establishment takes these outlier extreme examples and promotes them to status quo (i.e., abortion cases where “the life of the mother was in danger” represent something like 0.01% of abortions performed).

    But the issue runs deeper, to a fundamental philosophical question of whether liberty is a legitimate endeavor or not. It comes with its dangers, but I believe its promise far surpasses its failures.

  5. Tom
    January 11, 2013

    Well thought out. I’m sure that waiting a few weeks to make this post has allowed some of the emotion to be replace with logic, althought I must say that every time I see that picture of the victims I get choked up. I tend to agree with the others that commented – seems like there is an in between. I have no desire to ban guns and think there is nothing wrong with owning a handgun, hunting rifle, or shot gun. I do question the wisdom of allowing people easy access to high capacity assault style weapons. In some cases I’m willing to trade some freedom for another freedom of security/confidence, although maybe that’s a very naive argument. In the end I suppose that what we saw last year was the epitomy of evil and as long as our humanity exists humanity will exists somewhere deep down beside it.

  6. rosesnearrunningwaters
    January 11, 2013

    Very well throught out and written. I personally am against guns but I am realistic and know that this is not the only cause of such horrible instances. As an nation we can bicker all we want over whether it is video games, mental illness, or weapons themselves but in the end I believe it is one thing. A lack of morals and of moral obligation. As a whole our nation’s morality has declined. Abortions happen daily, people can sleep around as much as they want and just take a pill to avoid “consequences,” marriages can be torn apart without a second thought, we cannot say “Merry Christmas” in schools or other public places for fear of offending someone who doesn’t believe in Christ. We need to get back to religion, back to spirituality, to morals. To teaching children the ten commandments, taking them to church…and not to just play on an ipad or gameboy! Praying in the home, monitoring the things our children watch, play, read, etc. Turning back to God is the only way we will see peace and a true, positive difference in our society.

  7. Grande Falcone
    January 11, 2013

    Thanks for the input Tom and Roses.

    Tom, I agree about the wisdom of allowing “easy” access to such weapons. I’ve seen studies that say it’s easier for high school kids to get illegal drugs than it is for them to get beer, because of the way it’s regulated. That’s why I wonder if different levels of firearms should be licensed based on graduated criteria (i.e., training achievements, meeting safety certifications, etc.), but it’s sticky. The government could invoke additional taxes that increase with certain weapons specifications and appropriate those tax revenues in some “marketable” way, but then there’s there’s the counterargument that the government is making it harder for poor people to afford weapons than rich. Who knows, but I think the honest debate needs to happen after a total ban of such weapons is fully removed from the table.

    Rose, interesting angle, and I don’t disagree. I don’t think a society so willing to dismiss life as a non-fundamental right can be all that surprised to see the value of life diminish. Unfortunately, mankind has done much to taint the essence of religion, and Christianity is no different. Take the Westboro Baptist Church, for instance; absolute mutilation of the Christian calling and yet that’s what comes to mind for some when they think of Christianity. They mistake us for haters instead of lovers, and the tragic truth is that many of us do, in fact, use faith as an excuse to hate instead of a reason to love.

    Fundamentally, the beautiful thing about America is the right for people to practice according to their own beliefs (or lack thereof) without threat of violent repercussion. That leaves us Christians perfectly within our rights to live within our calling of loving those who hate us, and if we collectively carried that cross as called, then we would be well on our way to changing the country as you suggest.

    Meantime, here’s another post you might enjoy: https://grandefalcone.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/hell-on-earth-the-religion-of-politics/

  8. Gloria Briscoe
    January 18, 2013

    I feel the Gov. should make mental health people be posted like criminal’s so when they do a back ground check it shows they are mental. I know this is where the people who take their meds its not fair. But I had a son I lived in feir of him doing something to me. I worried about him killing some one.It was a brick off my chest when he died so I didn’t have to worry any more. But also if I could have had the right to put him in a place so people would be safe I would have. But no he was 46 years old & I couldn’t. this happened in 2007 he died in the streets of Atlanta. Then in 2011 my daugther was by polar I know it’s not spelled right but u know what I mean. she would tell her husband she was going to shoot him 2011 in 30 of May she shot herself in front of him instead. Now if I could have helped her I would have. I had a lot of things happen with her also so I do know where I put the blame on the cots in Mental health I could right a book on what I went through with my kids. Guns are not the answer maybe shorter clips. I had a talk with len Walker at the American Legion about mental health over dinner one night.

  9. Pingback: Sandy Hook Conspiracy? « Falcone's Crossroads

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This entry was posted on January 10, 2013 by in Philosophers' Row and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , .
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