Saturday, October 3, 2015

Fading Into The Background

Well, here we are again. Another senseless mass shooting by an armed asshole. The only information that is confirmed is the number of victims and their names.

Predictably, partisans on both sides of the gun control argument have blown the dust off of their pet sayings, trotting them out for public consumption while the dead are still laying where they fell. It doesn't seem to matter what the facts are, or even that the facts are yet to be ascertained. Gun deaths mean whatever the speaker deems them to mean, regardless of the awful human suffering that results. "See, that's what I've been saying" uttered in hundred different ways, meaning essentially nothing.

America wants easy answers, and painless solutions to gun violence. If only we... What? I'm listening. What is your solution? Prohibit private ownership of firearms? Longer prison sentences for gun crimes?

Much is made about comparisons to other countries. Finland's statistics often come to the fore, their yearly gun deaths fewer than a hot weekend in Chicago. Australia apparently confiscated piles of guns in the not so distant past. Cast the net wide, examine other culture's laws and extrapolate them to us. Simple.

Sure. America has different laws because the American experience has been different. The Second Amendment was written, in part, to permit gun ownership as a check against tyranny. Whatever conclusion one draws in 2015 after yet another mass murder, it is an inescapable fact that the Founders believed the right to keep and bear arms was intertwined inextricably with individual freedom. Those who believe that "the greater good" trumps the liberty interests of free, law-abiding citizens may have a point, but their comforting saying conflicts with the Constitution adopted to govern the United States.

But, the Bill of Rights is not a suicide pact. Thomas Jefferson believed that the gift we were given - self-government - is handed to each generation to do with what they will. The Constitution doesn't belong to Jefferson, Hamilton or Washington. It belongs to us, and it is up to us to determine its parameters.

"A well regulated militia." Antonin Scalia thinks that guns can be regulated consistent with what the Framers believed were reasonable limitations. Nonsense. To semi-quote Big Pappy - This is our frickin' country, and no one is going to dictate our freedoms. Not even the stilled voices of a generation of geniuses who started this incredible journey now nearly two hundred forty years ago.

Well regulated. What does that mean? It has meant that felons may not legally purchase or possess firearms (pro tip - they do, anyway). It means that children can't have handguns without their parent's permission. "Gun free" zones (which may or may not be analogous with "shooting gallery) are legal, if not exactly sensible. The question of whether gun ownership is subject to regulation was answered before the ink was dry on the Constitution in 1789.

"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it." A smattering of gun owners (and some individuals who are just plain contrarian) believe that no law restricting their right to purchase, possess and wield a firearm is legitimate. Others would restrict firearm possession to only those law enforcement or military actually engaged in their duties.The middle ground begs for its own advocates, but we are loathe to discuss what the middle might look like when posting stupid stuff on social media represents our version of "discussion" or "thought."

In Oregon, their Supreme Court recently ruled that a police officer may not ask a citizen lawfully detained if they are armed. In New York City, the ideologically adolescent mayor has severely limited the aggressive (and thoroughly legal) tactics employed by NYPD that made their city among the safest in the world. On the one hand, people scream for laws severely restricting gun ownership, and with their next breath express loathing for constitutionally-permissible tactics that produce proven results.

I am a simple street cop, trying to get to the end of my career in one piece. I'm game for any solutions. There is no indication, today, tomorrow or in the aftermath of the next mass murder, that Americans have the stomach to face facts - that there are some firearms too dangerous for the average person to own, and that some individuals have demonstrated their inability to keep and bear a salad fork, let alone a gun. There is zero hope that some persons, believing that cops are thugs, will ever understand that it is the energetic, effective enforcement by well trained officers of laws already in existence that make us all a little safer. Or, if you please, that gun right absolutists will ever agree that regulations on who and what do not foreshadow martial law and cattle cars headed for prison camps.

So, law enforcement will still practice the skills that end mass shootings while the casualty numbers are still in the teens. We will make the family notifications. We will sit and listen to the cell phones of the dead ring, as loved ones pray urgently that their family's greatest nightmare has not come to pass. And we will wonder when our fellow citizens will listen to us when we say...

Enough is enough. We need to talk. You...all of you...need to listen.

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