“Responsible Gun Ownership” Is A Myth

I’m not arguing the second amendment here. It exists. What it actually says and intends us to do as a result — that’s an argument for another blog post. The fact that any discussion about guns in America automatically becomes a discussion about language shouts volumes. But then, Americans are good at putting lipstick on pigs, thinking “All men are created equal” while institutionalizing slavery, and selling utter nonsense as “religions” that other Americans gobble up as gospel truth. We’re culturally acclimated to seeing one thing as its opposite — take Manifest Destiny. WE still tell ourselves that was a “good thing”. It wasn’t. In fact, Manifest Destiny wasn’t even a legitimate idea based on legitimate thinking. It was a myth — invented by white people to justify their terrible behavior. “Responsible gun ownership” exists in that context — a myth invented to justify… well, in this instance, not “terrible behavior”. But, behavior that can lead to terrible things happening.

It all starts with people believing a myth is real.

I’ve fired a gun before. In fact, I really enjoyed riflery the six years I got to do it when I was a kid going to sleepaway camp. I got a few NRA badges to prove it! Back then (this was the mid 1960’s), the NRA was still a “gun safety organization” and the thing I remember most from my six years of riflery, aside from the fact that I wasn’t half bad at it, was the constant refrain of gun safety, gun safety, GUN SAFETY. More than anything, the NRA-backed training I got back then imprinted the idea that guns can kill you. Even if you do everything right, there’s always the possibility that you could ONE thing wrong and you or someone could get hurt. That’s why you have to be hyper vigilant. You can never let your guard down whenever a gun is out of its locker. You have to be “responsible”.

See, I was taught “gun responsibility”. I believed in it. Just like everyone else in America, I got it into my head that while some people will only ever use guns to do bad things, most people (who just so happen to be white), only every want to use their guns to do “good things” — like hunt (debatable as a “good thing” — it certainly isn’t good from the hunted animal’s point of view) or target shoot (a perfectly good thing!) or defend themselves (a perfectly dubious thing). It’s inside that last thing — “self defense” where most of the “responsible gun ownership” mythology lurks.

For starters, it assumes something very, very dark about the rest of America — outside that gun owner’s front door. Whereas, in most other countries, it’s assumed you don’t need a gun to protect yourself from your neighbors and fellow citizens, in America, it’s “normal thinking”. Of course danger awaits outside your front door! Of course you need a lethal weapon to defend yourself — the threat outside is hell bent on murdering you! That excuse gets played regardless of which direction crime statistics are headed. The urge to “defend one’s home and hearth” isn’t based on statistics. It’s based on fear. In America, that fear is based on racism. The whole “good guy with a gun” vs “bad guy with a gun” quietly casts the good guy as almost certainly white and the bad guy as almost certainly Black. Hmmmmmm… now where could such an idea have come from?

Racism touches or has touched almost every facet of American life. Guns are no different. The whole point of our gun laws, at present, is to feed racist fear. If we could magically remove racism from peoples’ brains, here in America almost every bit of the incentive to own a weapon would evaporate. My upper middle class Jewish family — politically very liberal — still succumbed to racist fear during the riots the followed Martin Luther King’s assassination. Though Pikesville — where I grew up — was miles and miles from the parts of Baltimore that erupted in violence, my parents (and others), went out and purchased guns. They were afraid of angry Black people (angry for a very legitimate reason) coming to our neighborhood and being violent. No such thing ever happened. Did it occur in any of the angry protestor’s heads to do such a thing? Probably — but, so what?

It’s a testament to how good white people are at diving and conquering everyone else that Blacks and Jews — two groups with way, way more in common than not — could be set against each other like that. The overwhelming majority of Jews arrived in America after slavery was gone. Jews were never considered “white people” in Europe. Jews occupied the first “ghetto” — in Venice, Italy — to which they were segregated starting 29 March 1516.

Quick side note — the “ghetto” (it’s an Italian word), was a swampy island connected to the rest of the city “…by two bridges that were only open during the day. Gates were opened in the morning at the ringing of the marangona, the largest bell in St. Mark’s Campanile, and locked in the evening. Permanent, round-the-clock surveillance of the gates occurred at the Jewish residents’ expense.[fn] Strict penalties were to be imposed on any Jewish resident caught outside after curfew.[fn] Areas of Ghetto Nuovo that were open to the canal were to be sealed off with walls, while outward facing quays were to be bricked over in order to make it impossible for unauthorized entry or exit.[fn]

Jews fled Europe because of racism. They hoped for a better life here where (hopefully) racism wouldn’t constantly destroy their communities and steal their wealth. Fortunately for the Jews, America was already doing that to Black people by the time the Jews got here. And, while not considered white by most Europeans, Jews were just “white-adjacent” enough in America that white people didn’t make a point of taking their wealth as white people had historically in Europe. While Jews prospered, Black people struggled — as the Jews had in Europe — but also with the additional burden of slavery; Reconstruction’s failure kept slavery on the table.

You don’t have to dig down too far inside just about an gun law in America to find the fear it rests upon. And that fear is of former slaves getting guns and coming for payback. That’s the base justification. It’s irrational. It’s unspoken. But it’s there.

Ever notice how “normal” it is for right wingers and militia types to show up at right wing rallies armed to the teeth — even INSIDE government property where they’re using their arms to literally threaten legislators? Were those people all “responsible gun owners”? No one got shot that day. Good thing, I guess… are we then to measure the relative success of “responsibility” by lack of body count? No one died, all the gun owners acted “responsibly” this time. Is that it?

The difference between a “responsible” gun owner and an irresponsible one is the unexpected event. Take Nancy Lanza — mother of 20 year old Adam Lanza, the guy responsible for the Sandy Hook school shooting. By all accounts, prior to that event, Nancy Lanza was a “responsible gun owner”. I bet Nancy Lanza thought of herself as a “responsible gun owner”. Until the day she wasn’t — the day her son murdered her with her with one of her own weapons before heading out the door and murdering 26 MORE people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 20 of them CHILDREN.

One moment Nancy Lanza was as responsible a gun owner as anyone and the next — a gun violence victim. Killed in her own home by her own gun. Trying to see how the “self defense” angle fits here. No one broke in to do this to her. She set herself up for failure — and then, she set up the very community she loved and was part of for even worse failure.

And pain.

The full measure of a gun owner’s “responsibility” doesn’t occur when their gun is sitting safely inside a gun safe. The gun was not designed to do that. If you really want to know how responsible a gun owner is, you have to measure their responsibility when the gun’s outside its safe and in their hands — where it always has the potential to do real damage just by operating within its design specs.

In their defense, most gun owners will never have happen to them what happened to Nancy Lanza. But none of them can guarantee that they won’t. They can’t.

And the second they tell you they can? They’re acting irresponsibly.

If You Arm People As Part Of Their Job, You’re Inviting Them To Shoot People

I’ve spent the bulk of my career in show biz. I’ve run TV shows. Written & produced feature films. I’ve cast thousands of actors.

After hiring them, I wardrobed those actors.

It’s amazing what happens when an actor goes into their trailer, takes off their street clothes and dons the outer layer of a person sorta like them but not them. They change. If the wardrobe is unlike their street clothes? They change even more.

When you outfit a person for their work in a uniform, something changes inside that person when that uniform goes on. You belong to something bigger than yourself. Even if you’re working at McDonald’s and you hate it — the uniform changes you. At the very least, it tames your rebellious streak. You’re still there working, wearing the uniform.

Now add a gun to the uniform. Yeah, sure, we’ve “trained” this uniform-wearer into “best practices” for using that gun but let’s be real: a gun is a death machine. It’s been designed from the ground up to send a piece of hot metal flying very fast into a live target, killing it. It’s not designed to sit in a holster (or gun safe). The holster (and gun safe) were designed around them. To put them somewhere when not being used.

A gun’s safety vs unsafety has to be measured against zero gun while the gun is in someone’s hand. No gun = zero chance anyone will get killed, maimed, wounded or disabled by the gun. Gun = yeah, all those things could happen. It’s a roll of the dice whether they do or not. And let’s be really, really real: “responsible gun ownership” is a myth gun owners (who want to be responsible) tell themselves.

Nancy Lanza — mother of Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza — thought she was a “responsible gun owner” right up to the very moment her son blew her brains out with one of her guns. We know what he did afterwards. With those “responsibly owned guns”.

I’m not arguing second amendment yes or no. If we’d just abide by the amendment — the words AS WRITTEN say “gun control” (the militia gets to decide who gets to “keep and bear” — not own — those arms). I’m just saying guns are damned dangerous. I have receipts.

And if you put a dangerous object at the hip of even a very well-trained person (a “responsible gun owner” type), the dangerous object remains dangerous and unpredictable. Putting literal Live & Death into anyone’s hands invites them to play with Life & Death. Throw emotions into it and it’s hyper volatile. Consider how racist a lot of those emotions are — of course there’s a killing spree. We set everyone up for that exact failure.

But then, policing began as a racist endeavor in America. The first police forces evolved from slave patrols formed in the 1820’s. They’ve always been armed — and those arms were meant to kill, maim or cower.

Nothing has changed.

If, inside your head, you’re a hammer, every problem becomes a nail.

Rayshard Brooks died because two Atlanta cops woke him (he was asleep, drunk, in his car outside a Wendy’s) then, when he ran, shot him. They shot him because he’d grabbed one of their tasers. He fired it — over his shoulder — as he ran at them. Tasers, even police have routinely argued in court, are not deadly weapons.

The Atlanta police returned a non-deadly (and wildly fired) taser shot with deadly fire. Into Rayshard’s BACK.

If you hand a racist a gun, the gun will find its way into the racist’s hand at the worst possible moment. And the racist — justified by his wardrobe — will use that gun to splatter another sidewalk with his racism’s result: more death, most of it black or brown.

Why on earth would the people being subjected to such horrific violence want to keep PAYING for it through their tax dollars? Why on earthy would anyone disgusted by such behavior be forced to pay for it — when it’s not the “policing” we want.

We need to (metaphorically) defund how we think about policing. That will cause us to de-fund the myriad ways we’ve militarized policing. That, in turn, will finally turn policing away from its racist roots in America and toward something genuinely fair, community-based and entirely productive. There are civilized countries where police walk among the people they’re policing without guns at their hips.

It’s do-able. It’s being done.

That needs to be us now.

“Responsible Gun Ownership” Is A Myth

Let me burp up a cliche first: “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. I believe you, 99.99% of gun owners (I’m trying to be super generous here): you want to own and handle your firearm responsibly. The last thing on earth you want is an accident or a tragedy happening because of you and your gun.

But, you see, the problem is — you HAVE that gun in your possession. Your right to have it isn’t being questioned here (though, frankly, the Militia needs to step up and do its damned job regulating (as per the second amendment) who gets to “keep & bear” (not own — it does not say “own”) arms. We’re starting from the proposition that (as per the current mis-reading of the second amendment’s pretty simple, straightforward words) hell, you can have as many guns as ya like!

The basic fact about any gun is that it has been designed to send a piece of hot metal flying through the air at great speed into a living target so as to kill it. That’s why it’s such a great war tool – and hunting tool. It sends pieces of hot metal into living targets so as to kill them, see?

They are literal death machines. I’m not passing judgment when I write that. I’m simply staring a fact. This is a machine designed to cause internal damage to living things. You can fire a gun at a tree as much as you like. It wasn’t designed to do that. Hell, you want that tree dead? Get a saw. It’s more appropriate.

You want a human being dead? They tend to move around. Guns work better on them than saws.

When you purchase or take possession of a gun, you are assuming ownership of a death machine. Own that fact, gun owners. Don’t get emotional about it. Just own it. FFS — if ya can’t be responsible enough to own “what you own”, you’re probably not responsible enough to have a death machine in your hands.

Anyone can be “responsible” when the death machine is not in their hands — when the death machine is locked up in a safe. Except, the death machine wasn’t designed to sit, locked up in a safe. It was designed to be taken out and fired.

Take the gun out of the safe and fire it — THEN let’s talk about whether or not you were responsible, responsible gun owner.

Hey, to repeat, I absolutely believe that 99.99% of the time, you ARE acting “responsibly” with your death machine — no one died. Good for you! You “dodged a bullet” that time.

Remember Nancy Lanza? Adam Lanza’s mom? Nancy Lanza, everyone thought — Nancy especially — that she was a “responsible gun owner”. And, by every definition that we use (“responsible gun ownership” being a created thing that we get to define ourselves), Nancy Lanza WAS a “responsible gun owner”.

Until she wasn’t. Prior to December 14, 2012, none of Nancy Lanza’s guns — and she owned lots of them; she collected them, prized them, treasured them — had ever killed anyone. As far as we know, they had never even hurt anyone. Until the morning of December 14, 2012, Nancy Lanza was “a responsible gun owner”.

And then her son Adam — who grew up in this “responsible gun owner’s” home — learning “responsible gun owner” culture and values — took several of his mom’s weapons, killed her as she slept and then went to the nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School where he — irresponsibly — murdered 26 people, most of them children.

“Responsible gun owner” until “not”. Nancy Lanza probably STILL doesn’t know how irresponsible a gun owner she was in reality.

That’s the bigger problem for those of us who DON’T own a gun — and don’t tell ourselves how responsible we are — we don’t know when the “responsible” gun owners will suddenly stop “being responsible”. We don’t know when they’ll fail — and neither do they, ya see.

We already have to live with the fact that there are PLENTY of “irresponsible” gun owners out there already — people who don’t care if, when, how, AT WHOM their guns are fired. We know we can be at the wrong place and wrong time at ANY time when our fellow citizens own firearms and suddenly decide to open fire at us without warning. Because they’re angry. Or broke. Or psychotic.

That’s why I avoid walking in dark places where irresponsible gun owners might lurk. I can’t do much about them hunting ME though. We can all relate to how animals feel when, suddenly, your day gets ruined by a human with a gun who — for some reason you can’t fathom — won’t be happy until you are dead.

Can’t do much about what I can’t anticipate. It’s the gun violence that can and does flare from the “responsible” gun owners that hurts most. That never has to happen. Those guns should never hurt or kill anyone. If those guns had stayed in their gun safes…

See what I’m saying?

The moment a gun owner took the gun into their hands — THAT’S when things got dicey. Children should never die because they found a hand gun in mommy’s handbag. People at the mercy of their own darkness should not have access to guns when therapy, love and perspective are their darkness’s enemy. A moment of intense (almost always male) rage shouldn’t find resolution by pulling a literal trigger.

We will never — ever — get rid of guns in America. That’s wishful thinking. Magical thinking even. The best we can hope for is actual “responsible” gun ownership.

That can’t begin though until “responsible gun owners” admit that there’s no such thing. They’re “gun owners” plain and simple. Whatever happens after that?

Nobody really knows.

The Gun Lobby Is Holding The Second Amendment Hostage

How big a pile of bodies does there need to be? I always wonder when another of these terrible tragedies — and we just had two (count em – TWO!) mass shootings within 12 hours (El Paso and Dayton, OH with 29 people dead so far) — how would one of the people resisting gun control react if one or more of THEIR loved ones ended up on the growing mountain of gunshot victim bodies?

Would they still hold firm to their “belief” that the “Founding Fathers” wanted this — in fact, they enshrined their desire for mass murder in America in the Second Amendment? Would they kiss their child, wife, husband, relative, friend for the last time with a sighed, “Oh well — at least we still have our gun rights”? I bet a lot of them would. The money means much more to them than human flesh including their own.

Of all the amendments to the Constitution, the Second’s the only one where we argue (and I’ll get argued with for sure) about how certain words meant different things back then. That argument goes “Back then, ‘well-regulated’ meant ‘in good working order’ so the amendment means everyone should have all the guns they want and they should all be in good working order.” Oh, okay.

Funny thing though, the words “well regulated militia” also meant back then what they mean TODAY. The second amendment frames guns from the point of view of “A well regulated militia” — “being necessary to the security of a free State…”. Words two & three are not talking about the “arms” mentioned later, they’re talking about the “militia” right next to them.

A “militia” is “a military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency” or “a military force that engages in rebel or terrorist activities in opposition to a regular army” or “all able-bodied civilians eligible by law for military service”.

So — if we strip all the bullshit away from the linguistic gymnastics, we get a very simple concept. An ORGANIZED assemblage of able-bodied citizens — who will be obligated to FOLLOW REGULATIONS — and if they’re WELL-REGULATED, that sounds like there are LOTS of REGULATIONS — as to WHO will actually get to KEEP and BEAR those the militia’s arms.

Oh — that’s another thing the 2nd Amendment clearly says. Members of the militia (the Amendment doesn’t say who gets to be in the militia and HOW the militia deals with its membership; it leaves that to the militia, I guess) get to “keep” and “bear” the “arms”. It does not use the word “OWN” — a word that was just as available as “keep” and “bear”. “Keep” is different from “own”. I can “keep” a car, for instance, that I do not own. I can’t keep it forever, of course. But, under agreed-upon circumstances (I pay my lease every month), I can “keep” the car.

Same goes for “bear”. One does not have to “own” a gun to “bear” it.

The Second Amendment does not say anyone gets to “OWN” a gun. It just doesn’t.

Now a terrible truth. No one’s taking back all the guns in this country. It just isn’t going to happen. But we do need to revisit how it is that we were lead down a path toward such deadly bullshit. Hey — if the state militia in, say, Texas, says “Every psychopath who wants a gun can keep and bear one here in Texas” then so be it.

But, if the militia in, say, California says — “You can have a legitimate hunting rifle and a handgun even — but both must be registered with the state and you must be insured for liability in order to keep and bear that gun. You must pass a written test and a shooting test to keep and bear that particular weapon. You must demonstrate some sort of “gun responsibility” by “safing” that weapon in your house (the caveat being that there IS no such thing as “gun responsibility”). And crimes committed with guns must be punished with a little extra juice because the perp violated a particular trust that we placed in them.

It is absurd that 99% of Americans must walk around knowing that at any moment at any place another American — whose decided he hates everyone not like him — can go HUNTING for them. That is what happened yesterday. It’s what happened at Las Vegas and Pittsburgh and San Bernardino and Parkland and Sandy Hook and Columbine. It is what happens EVERY DAY in America. Ask any woman who’s been terrorized by a gun-toting abusive husband/boyfriend.

Throw in a little white supremacy and we’re talking a veritable smorgasbord of gun violence. Every day.

And it all starts — started — with the language being hijacked. The Constitution’s Framers weren’t perfect. They kept slavery around after all — and we’re still dealing with that fact. The Framers weren’t always precise. But they did build an amendment process into the system they were inventing. They understood that the document itself would need revisions and therefore a little reinvention. When they revised the document to address weaponry — they wrote what they wrote.

And they did not write what they did not write. Let’s start this conversation on a level playing field — where we all agree what the amendment actually says. By “we”, I mean people who can read (without imagining words and definitions for them). Let’s start by having the correct argument and not an utterly bullshit one meant to distract.