Thursday, March 6, 2008

Guns do not make me feel safe

I know this blog is called "Mixed Race America," and I've tried to really keep this as a blog rather than a journal--which means, I try to stay "on-point" and to write about things that fit the topic of this blog.

But I've been saddened and disturbed for the last few months over what feels to be an increase in senseless gun violence, particularly on university campuses.

I suppose that as a college professor, this cuts close to home for me--that I feel this issue because I realize, all too clearly, that what happened at Virginia Tech or Northern Illinois University could happen at Southern U. I don't know what I'd do if someone came into Southern U. and began to randomly shoot people. I'd like to think I would act heroically, as so many teachers and students did at Virginia Tech and NIU. I'm reminded, particularly, of the professors in the science building at Virginia Tech who literally used their bodies to shield students from gunfire. I hope I never have to find out how I'd react in such a situation.

And I suppose I'm thinking about this, this week, because two young women were found murdered near campus in their respective Southern college towns: Lauren Burk, a freshman at Auburn University in Auburn, AL, was shot in the head and left for dead on the side of a highway Tuesday. And Eve Carson, a senior at UNC Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, NC, a woman who was also the Student Body President of that school, was also found dead due to multiple gunshot wounds.

I know there are people who believe that if we made guns more accessible to everyone--if we allowed everyone to carry a concealed handgun, we'd make the world safer because we'd be able to defend ourselves better and that there'd be less violence, potentially, because people wouldn't know who was packing and who wasn't.

I just don't buy it. The simplest and sanest solution seems to be more handgun control.

Again, I know this doesn't relate directly to the topic of this blog. But with every news story that I read about senseless murders--especially young people--it just makes me feel heartsick. And it makes me realize that I wouldn't feel safer owning a gun. I wish more people would take away that message every time they read about a senseless murder. And there are, unfortunately, a flurry of stories in the last month about senseless murders--particularly domestic ones: a man in California murders his family in their sleep, a teenage girl murders her family in their sleep, and today in Israel, a gunman opened fire on a Jewish seminar and killed 8 and wounded 9 others.

(sigh)

I suppose there's nothing more to say to this except to hope that one day, we may actually wake up as a world and become civilized and stop this madness.

10 comments:

bayou817 said...

Auburn is in Alabama

Jennifer said...

Thanks Bayou--I meant to write AL and it came out GA because both Burk & Carson are from GA (Marietta & Athens respectively) and I think I had that in the back of my head when I wrote that.

It just seems so tragic--their deaths--and while no one is making this connection, it seems such an odd coincidence that two young women from towns about 50 miles away in Georgia end up senselessly murdered in their college towns. I'm not saying there was a conspiracy or that their deaths are related in any way. It just seems like an awful coincidence.

Cipher said...

This is where I differ from most liberal leftists. As someone who actually is afraid to shoot a gun, but who is trained in it, I believe in our rights to bear arms. The idea of more gun control is a step toward a totalitarian regime. I would be seriously skeptical of more gun control as a way to "fix" things precisely because people who will want to get guns, will be able to get them anyway. With more control means less of an ability to resist in areas and during times when it will call for it. In this way, I do ultimately subscribe to a Fanonian way to thinking, which is that revolution can ultimately be only achieved through violence. Sure, passive resistance is great to a point, BUTTTTTTTTTTTTTT when it's difficult to fight someone with passive resistance if you're being shot at or nuked. I plan on shooting back.

Thanks!

Brian Hunt said...

I think I like it when you go off topic. I come here to read your thoughts, so whatever your thinking should be fair game for your blog.

I am not a fan of guns either, but it's too late in the US for us to put the genie back in the bottle. There are just too many out there. That being said, I think that limited forms of gun control can work. I don't see the need to continue manufacturing new hand guns for anybody but law enforcement and military personnel.

Libertarian said...

Brian is right on one point-- it's too late, criminals already have guns at their disposal. The perpetrator in this case was most likely a gang member from Durham, a few of which have done a few different shootings in Chapel Hill over the past few years and even caused the cancellation of a festival with their gunshots. He didn't care about laws-- he killed a woman, for heaven's sake-- and a sign saying "You Are Not Allowed to Have Guns" certainly would not have stopped him.

That being said, I disagree with Brian in a fundamental way. Handguns are some of the most useful guns for self-defense and certainly for concealed carry. If you don't think concealed carry prevents mass shootings, take a look at the Colorado New Life Church shootings-- gunman with 1,000 rounds of ammo stopped by a female volunteer security guard, saving 700 parishioners inside the church, or the Utah mall shooting, or the Appalachian Law School shooting, or even the Israeli seminary shooting which just occurred and which was stopped by a student carrying a gun.

Not everyone would have a gun, just those who wanted to and would be trained and pass background checks, of course. If you don't think that guns can save lives in a situation like this, ask the 700 people who were sitting ducks in that church and were saved by one woman with a gun who was brave enough to shoot back.

Don't blame people who say this for coming up with the solution; blame the crazy killers who kill people in the first place. In countries where people don't have guns, they have mass bombings, so even not allowing a single gun to be in existence in the US wouldn't stop mass killings.

Brian Hunt said...

I think libertarian missed a subtle point of my proposal that I didn't elaborate on. I'm not advocating outlawing handguns. I'm just taking aim at the supply. There are, and have been millions of handguns sold in the US for many decades. I think that limiting the manufacture and sale of new handguns to law enforcement and military would work two fold: It stops over supply and drives up the value of existing weapons. As a result, the weapon becomes more important to a criminal for resale than the commission of a violent crime. This effect is already present in machine guns. It is legal to own them, but new ones cannot be purchased. At $15,000 - $30,000 a piece, they really aren't used to commit crimes anymore. Why spend that much to potentially steal $100 or less? Another benefit is that once they break, they're out of circulation with no replacement.

Jennifer said...

Thanks Cipher, Brian, and Libertarian for leaving comments. Who knew this topic would result in such a lively comment thread--it really surprises me, the topics that hit people or spur people to comment.

I start there because in my lefty-liberal circles, this is almost a mantra that we take for granted--that more gun control is good. So I appreciate your iconoclastic stance, Cipher. I often feel that people will revoke my liberal card if I reveal my own wavering on the death penalty--I actually don't have a problem with the death penalty being invoked in certain cases (multiple violent crimes, particularly against children, particularly involving sexual violence), but I do recognize that the death penalty is problematic from a social value point of view.

And that's where I think I'd also start with the issue of gun control. While I take both Brian and Libertarian's point that we live in a society that accepts, as normal, the ownership of guns and the violence associated with the ownership of guns (and in Libertarians comment, the fact that "criminals" own guns and that I think s/he believes that it is therefore necessary for non-criminals to be able to own handguns to prevent "killers" to rampage on good citizens (and s/he cites certain recent examples).

My first thought, not being well versed in this discourse (the discourse of pro/anti gun control) is that for every instance of how owning a gun prevents violence, I'm sure those in the pro-gun control camp can come up with a tragic story--usually involving children--where a handgun in the home led to devastating results.

Secondly, I don't think it's just criminals firing guns. Take the NIU example, the shooter had no criminal background and I'm sure he passed the background checks and took a gun class and all these things enabled him to do what he did (although it wasn't a handgun he used, and there are, I'm sure, finer points on handgun control versus simply gun control, as Brian made clear in his last comment--by the way, although I'm not versed in the discourse of gun control very well, as a lefty-liberal, I do like Brian's last comment, which seems sensible to me--that one measure of trying to get a handle on curbing gun violence is to make guns harder to purchase. I know it's conventional wisdom, as Cipher said in his comment, that anyone will be able to get a gun who wants one, but making it harder doesn't seem like a bad thing to do to at least TRY to stem the tide of violence).

OK, back to the ultimate point I want to make.

I think, as a cultural critic, what I want to see is a change in culture. That's why I said that in the wake of these very violent crimes, especially these violent crimes connected to campus (because that's the cultural climate that hits close to home for me), I would like people to try to think about changing the culture we live in. One Virginia Tech father is taking this step--using the tragedy to galvanize parents and others to take some steps in shoring up Virginia's gun laws.

When I look at places like Japan or Norway/Sweden (Scandanavian countries) who have cultures where gun ownership is foreign and therefore violent crime is lower, I think this is what I want people to think about. And we can also look at Michael Moore's documentary BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE and his stint in Canada to think about the differences between Canadian culture and U.S. culture when it comes to guns and violence.

So without getting into issues like the second amendment (which is also problematic because you need to think about the culture and society of the 18th century to understand WHY it was written and to think about the fact that the word "Militia" is an important part of this--although perhaps Cipher would also say, ala Fanon, that when the government gets totalitarian we should be able to arm ourselves from the right wing hordes that want to prevent our revolution? (I'm winking at you Cipher!).

Where was I?

Oh yes, without getting into example after example--which I really don't have in my repetoire, I'll just go back to my original blog post sentiment--which is my own personal sentiment: guns do not make me feel safer. And I wish, as a society, as a culture, we would think more carefully about the role of guns in our lives and the ways in which, especially in a post-9/11 world, we are being controlled by fear and anxiety more than hope and progress, at least this is the message our current government wants to send to us. And I, for one, want to rebel against that message and culture.

Genepool said...

The idea of making guns harder to purchase would do little to curb violent crime since the majority of violent criminals obtain their firearms through less than legal channels.

The whole idea of gun control is not to inhibit the process of purchasing a weapon by those qualified to have them, it is to keep criminals from getting them easily and to also prevent "heat of the moment" type crimes. I was quite pleased when they initiated the 7 day waiting period for that very reason.

As for the idea of abolition, I could use Australia as an example of how that did NOT work. Home invasions became the crime of choice practically overnight.

Existing laws are up to par for controlling the purchase of new handguns IF they were being properly enforced. Pity that is not always the case. Even so, limiting purchases to law abiding citizens who follow the law in their acquisition of firearms would not be of benefit to anyone.

What should be considered is punishing people who do not properly secure their weapons so that they share liability if a improperly stored gun gets stolen and is then used in a violent crime. THAT would keep guns out of criminal hands better than more laws that criminals don't follow anyway.

My two cents.

spartakos said...

Hello...I stumbled across your blog while looking at a different issue (and while I'm at it, let me complement you on it), but wanted to chime in on this issue.

I'm pro-second amendment (just to get that out there), yet I'm totally behind you on the topic of reducing gun violence in America. I don't deny America is terribly violent, and that a lot of that is violence is done with firearms. I think the major difference of opinion is how to deal with it...what's effective, and what's appropriate/acceptable.

You said:
"we live in a society that accepts, as normal, the ownership of guns and the violence associated with the ownership of guns..."

Why do you feel their is automatically violence associated with the ownership of guns? I know numerous gun owners who are not violent people; they have never committed any acts of violence, let alone with a firearm. I myself, despite owning several guns, have never even struck another human being in anger.

I don't deny there are far too many people with a shockingly casual attitude towards violence in America. I simply deny that this is automatically associated with owning guns.

You wrote:
"I would like people to try to think about changing the culture we live in. One Virginia Tech father is taking this step--using the tragedy to galvanize parents and others to take some steps in shoring up Virginia's gun laws."

I would also like to change the culture we live in...but I would like to change it to a culture that does not equate firearms with violence, or indeed, equate all violence...I don't believe the use of firearms in law-enforcement or self-defense, for example, is the same as the use of violence in crime. I would like to change it to a culture that acknowledges guns as tools, and that opposes violence on moral and ethical grounds.

But...do you feel legislation is the most effective means of changing our culture? Are gun laws the best way to teach people that violence is wrong?

You said:
"When I look at places like Japan or Norway/Sweden (Scandanavian countries) who have cultures where gun ownership is foreign and therefore violent crime is lower, I think this is what I want people to think about."

I agree...but I also want them to think about places like Switzerland or Finland, where gun ownership is not foreign at all, but violent crime is also lower.

You said:
"And we can also look at Michael Moore's documentary BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE and his stint in Canada to think about the differences between Canadian culture and U.S. culture when it comes to guns and violence."

While I detest Mr. Moore and feel his documentary was shockingly inaccurate, I do agree with him on one point...there is a marked difference between attitudes about guns and violence in America vs. Canada, and this is worth exploring.

But in the end, that's what I feel will make the difference...looking at cultures, attitudes, and education...not laws. This kind of thing can only be changed from the cradle, not the courthouse.

All of the above refers mainly to effectiveness...but I also wish to touch on appropriateness.

I believe the second amendment exists for a reason. I believe the mention of the militia was not intended to limit the right of arms to a select few, but to encourage all people to be trained in their use and keep and bear them wisely. And I don't believe it is the purpose of a government to limit one of the most fundamental rights of humankind: to defend oneself, one's family, and one's homeland.

I'm sorry guns don't make you feel safe. But while gun control might make you feel safer, it's unlikely that it would actually make you safer.

I thank you for your time, and wish you well.

So without getting into issues like the second amendment (which is also problematic because you need to think about the culture and society of the 18th century to understand WHY it was written and to think about the fact that the word "Militia" is an important part of this

Jennifer said...

Hi Spartakos--thanks for stopping by and leaving such a long comment.

I don't have the time, currently, to respond to all the provocative points/questions you raise, but I will say that I do believe that changing the law, as part of our culture, is a step that I feel would be good. But that certainly, changing our culture and doing it through education would be of paramount concern.

I will refer to my longer comment in response to "Libertarian" and say that my own gut level feeling is that I would be safer with gun control. We can debate whether this would lead to more security or less--but our feelings are our feelings--not necessarily based in rationality but based in belief/faith.