SYNDICATED COLUMN: On the One Hand, Gun Violence. On the Other Hand, Gun Control. It Never Ends.

Image result for ar-15

On the one hand, the news that another psychologically damaged man shot 17 schoolchildren to death with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle is not news. Put it on page 27 below the fold, maybe?

On the other hand, you have to be shocked because these are kids and who do we become if we stop being shocked? Congress and the president should put their heads together and act now.

On the one hand, the Second Amendment is an essential safeguard against government tyranny. While an authoritarian state (any state) will always have police and troops with better training and arms than its enemies at its disposal, owning a weapon will give many resistance fighters of the future the courage they need to fight back.

On the other hand, the population of Americans who live in rural areas was 95% when the Founding Fathers ratified the Constitution. Now it’s 15%. Once a major source of food necessary for survival, hunting today is mere sport. Considering the daily carnage of gun violence, the Second Amendment may be as obsolete as the flint-lock rifle. Perhaps we should repeal?

On the one hand, military-style weapons like the current mass shooters’ gun of choice, the AR-15, were designed for one purpose: to kill people efficiently. Until 2008 they were banned. Why not renew the assault weapons ban?

On the other hand, people really do use them to hunt. Having been on the receiving end of more than my fair share of death threats, I’d rather defend my homestead with an AR-15 than a less efficient, less accurate gun. Sorry, liberals, but gun rights people have a point: ban AR-15s and the next step will be a push to ban other weapons. Slippery slopes are a real thing; look how the pro-life movement has rolled back abortion rights via incremental, reasonable-seeming moves like bans on late-term terminations.

On the one hand, there are 270 million guns in the United States — almost one for every man, woman and child. Even if we banned guns, how would we force the gun genie back into its bottle of death? Send government goons to kick down every door in the country to search for them?

On the other hand, existing guns could be grandfathered into a ban on the manufacture and sale of new guns (including from one individual to another). Guns would get old. They’d rust. Those used for target practice would wear out. Trigger mechanisms are often the first to go. Like the fairly effective ban on ivory, the effect would become evident over time: a nation awash in weaponry would become less so with the passage of time.

On the one hand, states like Florida seem crazy for not requiring gun purchasers to register their weapons. Florida actually bans such regulations. Cars, boats, even bicycles and cats and dogs, must be registered. Why not devices that kill people?

On the other hand, gun ownership is different. It’s a constitutional right. Automobile ownership, operating a boat and having a pet are privileges guaranteed by state and local laws. Mandatory gun registration would be no more constitutional than forcing media outlets to apply for a state license before publishing (they do this in other countries).

On the one hand, many if not most mass shooters are mentally ill. Wouldn’t it make sense to prohibit sales of firearms and ammunition to people suffering from mental illness?

On the other hand, who gets to define what constitutes mental illness? Federal law bans sales to anyone who “has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution.” New York, where I live, goes further, banning sales of guns to one “who has stated whether he or she has ever suffered any mental illness.” That’s very broad: “Heathers” and “Stranger Things” actress Winona Ryder, singer Mariah Carey, artist Yoko Ono and actress Roseanne Barr were all institutionalized. But no one thinks they’re going postal any time soon — frankly, I’d trust Winona with the nuclear codes more than Trump. The metric is also highly subjective. Gays were officially classified as mentally ill until 1987. Transgender people are still on the list.

On the one hand, people who knew him say they’re not surprised that Florida shooter Nikolas Cruz went berserk. The signs were there all along: violent Internet posts, ties to white supremacists, erratic behavior like threatening people with a BB gun. People saw something; why didn’t they say something?

On the other hand, this isn’t “Minority Report.” You can’t jail someone for what they might do. People are entitled to their opinions, no matter what they are. If you jailed everyone who acts strange or right-wing or loopy, half the country would be locked up. And anyway, who trusts the police or the government to decide which half?

On the one hand, if anyone deserves to die, it’s Nikolas Cruz.
On the other hand, what kind of society executes a “broken child,” possibly autistic, almost certainly emotionally damaged, absolutely wrecked by the recent death of his mother, his last surviving parent?

How does killing a killer send the message that killing is wrong?

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is co-author, with Harmon Leon, of “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” an inside look at the American far right, out now. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

CORRECTION: This piece has been corrected by the deletion of “because it’s the 18th school shooting so far this year, ” from the first sentence. I fell victim to a widely disseminated, now known to be untrue, statistic. Please see The Washington Post here for details.

20 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: On the One Hand, Gun Violence. On the Other Hand, Gun Control. It Never Ends.

  1. I knew it – Ted is a God! Specifically, a Hindu God possessed of many hands. 😀

    And he’s right on all of them. I, too, straddle that fence. I own guns, but I do not carry them around with me. I’m against the gun culture we’ve got, but I do embrace the one I grew up with (rural US, “responsible gun owners,” hunting … but not worship, paranoia, and overt threats to minorities.)

    Cars can kill people, so we register them and track them closely. We demand that drivers be licensed, tested, and fully insured. If they show themselves to be unable to drive in a safe, sane, manner we pull their licenses. I see no reason why we can’t handle guns in the same manner.

    Remember, Guns don’t kill people – people with guns kill people.

    • “Cars can kill people, so we register them and track them closely.”

      Cars are now being used as weapons of terror to mow down pedestrians.

      I haven’t heard of a driver’s license being pulled because of a background check gone bad.


  2. I was dealing with insomnia last night and this idea came to me. Many Cultures have had human sacrifice rituals. Today the reverence for the 2nd Amendment demands the sacrifice of people being killed by guns. We are not so far from those “‘primitive” cultures and their rituals. Instead of dealing with making this country better for all, addressing the pain of men in this deindustrializing economy, these mass killings are our culture’s outlet.

  3. For my assault rifle (in reality, I don’t own one or any other firearms ; I do, however, possess two old single-shot air rifles left me by a chap with whom I exchanged apartments more than three decades ago), this is the way to go. I especially like the idea about tanks at a discount ; about time the 75 year-old record for tank battles established outside of Kursk back in 1943 was erased !…


  4. The recently deceased Robert Parry explained that the 2nd Amendment was hardly intended “an essential safeguard against government tyranny.”
    (The article link is in a following post.)

    In fact, it was precisely the opposite: a method to put down insurrections (e.g., like Shay’s and Whiskey Rebellions for which the fledgling nation had found itself poorly equipped to handle)

    On the practical side, the 2nd amendment may give “resistance fighters of the future the courage they need to” mere be blown into dust. (At least the ones who haven’t already been pulverized by the system predatory capitalism.)

    Note, also, that the recent Heller decision from SCOTUS only “protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm (singular) [my addition] for traditionally LAWFUL (my emphasis) purposes, such as self-defense within the home”

    I know nothing in US law that suggests that violently overthrowing the government (however deservedly tyrannical) is lawful.

    I urge perusal of the BODY of the constitution, i.e., that to which the amendments are attached, in which the intended function of the “well organized militia” mentioned in the amendment is clearly stated.

    Scalia (may there be a hell in which he can rot) wrote the above-referenced Heller decision. Anyone interested in a perfectly horrific example of legal hand-waving (perhaps “false justice”?) should consult his fantastical dismissal of the purpose of the said militia set forth in the constitution proper.

      • From what I have been given to understand, falco, the militia clause was included in the first ten amendments to the US constitution largely as a device to assure southern slaveholders that the militias they organised to keep the slaves in place would not be abolished by a federal government dominated by northern interests….

        Robert Parry is sorely missed….


      • Hello Henri,

        I am familiar with the notion that the 2nd amendment was a concession to southern slaveholders.

        The references to the Militia in the body of the constitution follow and are consistent to the 2nd amendment as concession to the South:

        “Article I Section. 8.
        The Congress shall have Power …….
        To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; …

        To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress; …

        Article II Section. 2.
        The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States … “

    • A Black man was brought to trial for shooting officers of the law at his front door, and found to be innocent by virtue of the officers’ white robes worn and the burning cross they carried.

      This is from (I believe, since I don’t own the book):”Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms” by Nicolas Johnson

      The possibility of defense against the government may belong to a time long past, but defense of the home against law officers acting outside of the law may still prove valuable.

      However, if the purpose of the law is extinction of a race, then nothing is lost by death in armed resistance instead of the merely passive submission to the inevitable.

      Dead is dead is dead when once one is dead.

    • Hi Henri,

      Thanks for the Dunbar-Ortiz article.

      The question “where would we be without the ‘bear arms’ clause of the 2nd amendment” was the key.

      The answer: essentially in the same place because that clause (and the text of the body of the constitution to which it is amended) was the result of a culture of white colonial genocide not a cause.

      Without that clause we could be in a similar (or worse!!!) situation. One can envision a mechanism like the one that started with an obscure 1886 scrivener’s summary note on a court case that ultimately led to the SCOTUS ruling that corporations have the rights of the biological persons.

      • Indeed. The only difference is that the «right» to own semi-automatic rifles, etc would not then be (falsely) defended as inherent in a mythologised constitution, but rather as something about which «[w]e are all of the [same] opinion»….

        Of course, a culture in which if someone in a foreign land pisses one off, they are threatened with «obliteration» (Ms Clinton) or «fire and fury» (Mr Trump) has its domestic consequences as well….


      • Hi Henri,

        I’d say use of the terms “obliteration” and “fire and fury” about other countries by USA “leaders” ARE the domestic consequences of the same ingrained culture of white colonial genocide.

        I’ve written in these, and other, threads that His Hairness in simply a logical, if horrific consequence of the society … hardly a cause of anything. (except perhaps a continuous barrage of rambling tweets, a sort of mental flatulence.)

        HRC’s theatrical threats are no more original than … hm, hmmmm … oh, yeah …
        Barry Goldwater!!!

  5. Mass murders are a symptom of a sick society.

    The impact of Reagan’s rollback of The Great Society began to have a felt impact during its continued rollback of the Clinton years.

    This is when mass murders began their rise from rare to commonplace.

    Martin Luther King Jr. decried the perverse American culture of war, and his reward was the abandonment by his own board of directors during the last year before his murder.

    MLK was correct in my estimation. Until Americans lose the culture of killing, innocents will continue to die by violence irrespective of national borders that hate will not recognize.

      • “Bowling for Columbine is a 2002 American documentary film written, produced, directed, and narrated by Michael Moore. The film explores what Moore suggests are the primary causes for the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999, and other acts of violence with guns.”

        More at Wikipedia

  6. One of the things I like about you is your ability to equally bash both sides of a position. Keep it up.

    I only have 2 points to make:

    1) The number of “School Shootings” is actually far less than the folks at Everytown claim. If you define a school shooting as someone entering school property and shooting it up. Their definition is much broader. Their goal is to inflate the numbers and make bad sound much worse than it actually is. If we had had 18 true school shootings, as defined a few sentences back, don’t you think they would have made the news?

    2) Hunting isn’t the only “sport” use for firearms. There are many and varied shooting computations across the country. Everything from bullseye matches to long range precision to semi-tactical run and gun events like 2-gun to cowboy action and a host of others. It’s a major sport that nobody hears about. Almost forgot Olympic decathlon.

  7. Simple solution.
    Remove metal detectors at Congress, White House, Supreme Court, to start with. Give some 100 congress members, 30 Senators, and 4 Judges guns of their choice


    As we arm the teachers with gun to protect children at school, we will also eventually arm DMV staff, other government staff, checkout registers at grocery shops, reception at hospitals, then massage parlors, barber shops and all other places.

    Already we have armed guards standing in front of Costco stores in California. We are getting there!.

    Long live freedom!