Here’s another swanky benefit of our out-of-control gun culture: university professors should be aware that their students might shoot them.
The Texas state legislature voted last year to allow students to carry concealed handguns into classrooms, dorms, just about anywhere on campus, a practice with roots to when Socrates taught Aristotle.
If students packing seems like a bad idea to you, imagine how you’d feel if you were a professor. There’s nothing quite like the free exchange of ideas when everyone is armed in math class.
How about armed Texans in classes that teach Arabic, or Islamic Studies, or Hebrew, or evolution? Some good times ahead. The academic chilling effect seems pretty obvious. One wonders how many brilliant teachers will move to campuses in less-armed states, and how many researchers will avoid Texas for creating an academic environment incompatible with academics. It is possible that overall Texas will become even dumber.
Public universities in Texas are grappling with how to implement the measure, which gives some flexibility to the institution. For example, the University of Texas at Austin will not allow guns in dorms but will allow them in classrooms, because somehow that makes sense. Libraries and cafeterias,maybe.
Sporting events? Suck on hot lead, visiting team!
If having armed students seems like it would pretty significantly alter the college classroom, you need look no further than the University of Houston. The university’s faculty senate held a meeting recently with a Powerpoint presentation aimed at assisting faculty in adapting to the new gun-toting normal. Here’s a slide:
The slide stops just short of advising profs to wear kevlar to class, or to lecture from behind bullet proof glass or, in the language of Texans, simply pack bigger guns. Like the faculty parking that sets them aside from the kids, maybe teachers could be issued fully automatic weapons, while the kids were limited to semi-auto only, assuming that does not violate the only Amendment in the Bill of Rights Texans seem to be aware of. Grad students could get special firearms training to better prepare them for a life in academia. The concept of defending one’s thesis in front of a faculty committee takes on a whole new meaning.
Wacky comparison: The military does not allow open-carry on most bases outside of war zones, and during training does not allow guns in barracks and classrooms (outside of weapons training.) Even in war zones, every soldier has received extensive training in his/her weapons, and is punished swiftly for safety violations. In some ways, you could say Afghanistan may be safer than Houston. Yi hah!
I love my readers, and want you all to have a safe 2016. So here’s some advice, assuming you don’t want to be murdered by your police: move to the UK. Or China. Or Australia. Or pretty much anywhere else.
In all of 2011, British police killed two people. In 2012, one. In 2013, a total of three shots were fired by British police, and no one was killed. In the last two years, a total of three people lost their lives because of British cops, bringing the total number of citizens killed in the UK to all of seven in the last five years.
Look at it another way. Since December 14, police in America have killed 60 citizens. It took English cops 25 years to do what American cops have done in the last two weeks of December.
Or another way. On average, British police kill around two citizens a year. American cops kill more than that every day.
Or another way. Since Christmas, police in our Homeland have killed 14 people. In the week since Christmas, American cops have killed twice as many people as the British police have killed altogether since 2011.
Or another way. Since 1990, police officers in the United Kingdom have killed exactly 58 people.
Yes, yes, some killed were truly threatening a life. But it seems even factoring that in, the numbers are wildly out of proportion for two societies so similar in terms of socioeconomics, rights, judicial processes and so forth.
But we know the truth, don’t we — it’s all about guns. British police for the most part are not even armed, in large part because their entire population is not packing as if WWIII is about to erupt in Podunk, Texas.
It is us, and the way we choose to live. And more and more the way we choose to live is dictating the way we will die. So if that’s exactly what you want, please vote not to change anything in 2016.
More than one a day.
That is how often mass shootings (four or more people wounded or dead) occurred in the United States this year. Including the worst shooting of the year (so far), which unfolded only yesterday in San Bernardino, a total of 462 people have died and 1,314 have been wounded in such attacks these past eleven months.
And now, the pundits, from Fox to Maddow to the guy next to you at the bar will rumble through the same old arguments: we have to do something but the Second Amendment and it’s the damn NRA but background checks wouldn’t have stopped them and I’ll need to arm myself for protection and it is all just that these get so much attention and the Internet but right-wing hate and wait until it happens in your community and so forth and so on and, wait, did you see CNN, there’s another active shooter…
Active shooter. The endless stream of mass shootings has birthed its own vocabulary. Active shooter. Long guns. Lock down. Ongoing situation. Device. Tactical. Person of interest. Americans with little previous knowledge of weapons now know the caliber of various typical active shooter long guns.
There have been only a handful of Americans killed by terrorists, but no one throws up their hands and says there is nothing that can be done. A multi-trillion dollar “homeland” (no one but the Nazi’s even used that term prior to 2001) security complex was created, and we take off our shoes at the airport and tolerate — no, welcome — the NSA spying on everyone of us on the off chance it might help.
And despite the fact that there is no evidence that any of that has ever stopped a terrorist, we blithly accept that it “might have” or that “we’ll never know if the security measures dissuaded a terror attack; the easiest ones to stop are the ones that never occur.”
Yet at the same time we are still accepting something as illogical as if you buy a gun at a shop you are subject to a background check while if you buy a weapon at a gun show there is no background check. Yet statistically there is less likelihood of mass killings in states that require more comprehensive background checks for all handgun sales than in states that do not. We register drones with the federal government but not weapons.
If there was one terror attack a day in America, you can be assured no one would throw up their hands and say “but what can we do.” Instead, the president simply goes on TV (again) to state the non-statement of “The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world.” Kinda material that writes itself.
And don’t say it — if more armed people were the answer to shoot back, then America would be the safest place on earth. There are some 300 million firearms already out there.
It is the NRA. It is a lack of background checks. It is a mental health problem. It is all of those things. But it seems more and more the underlying problem is we simply don’t care anymore. A new normal too readily accepted under the falsehood that there is nothing that can be done.
Serial idiot Lindsey Graham, among too many others, stated that if only more people in Paris had been armed, the tragedy would have been lessened.
He echoed a popular right-wing meme in America, that “all it takes is a good guy with a gun to defeat a bad guy with a gun,” and that therefore any form of gun control in these United States would render us more vulnerable to attack.
Such statements ignore multiple realities, one of which is that a bunch of would-be vigilantes would go to nightclubs and restaurants always armed, and that their blasting away inside a dark, crowded place in the midst of a panic would not kill more innocent people than the terrorists. Many people, for example, dramatically overestimate their own skills, never mind the accuracy of a handgun at distances of more than a few yards. Add in accidental shootings, deadly overreactions to things that are not threats, amateurs unsure who the bad guys are killing each other, stray rounds and that fact that many people in nightclubs and restaurants have had a drink or two, and you have a recipe for even more danger, not less.
But before we even worry about that, let’s enjoy the hypocrisy of this: it is perfectly legal in the United States for person on the FBI terrorist watch list to purchase guns and explosives, and many of them do.
Who in America other than terrorists cannot legally buy guns. That list includes felons, fugitives, drug addicts and domestic abusers. Fair enough.
But not terrorists (unless they are also felons, fugitives, drug addicts or domestic abusers.) A report from the Government Accountability Office hilighted by the Washington Post says at least 2,043 known and suspected terrorists in the United States legally purchased firearms between 2004 and 2014.
“Membership in a terrorist organization does not prohibit a person from possessing firearms or explosives under current federal law,” the Government Accountability Office concluded. This includes persons on the FBI’s consolidated terrorist watchlist. Note that records for 2011 and 2012 are incomplete “because of a programming error the FBI subsequently fixed,” according to the GAO. So no one really knows how many terror suspects legally bought guns over the last 11 years.
A bipartisan bill offered this year (the “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015”) is strongly opposed by the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA states the bill is “aimed primarily at law-abiding American gun owners,” and that the bill was “sponsored by gun control extremists.”
Yes, yes, there are ways to purchase guns illegally on the street, and legally at gun shows, that bypass background checks and any other controls, so any would-be terrorists can still pick up some semi-automatic iron as needed.
At the same time, however, that our First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights are being stripped away in the name of freedom and security, perhaps it is worth also taking another look at what might be done with the Second Amendment at the same time.
Cody Wilson, who created computer code that will allow someone to 3-D print a handgun, is trying now to use the First Amendment’s right to free speech to assure his Second Amendment right to bear arms.
And he has to sue to the U.S. Department of State to do it.
A Plastic Gun
3-D printing allows the use of plastics and some metals to create three dimensional objects, using an off-the-shelf “printing device” and computer code. You can create the code yourself if you are smart like Cody, or you can buy and download the code from a smart guy like Cody if you are not as smart. The printer takes that code and builds up the object, layer-by-layer (watch it work.) The tech is amazing, and is even being used now on the International Space Station to fabricate spare parts on demand.
Two years ago Cody posted online what is believed to be the world’s first computer code to create a 3-D printable gun. Wilson’s files for what he called the Liberator, a single-shot pistol, were partly a statement about freedom in the digital age and partly an assertion of his Second Amendment rights.
Enter the State Department
A few days after the plans for the Liberator were put online, the State Department ordered Wilson to remove them, threatening him with jail and fines for breaking rules on the export of military data.
State informed him that by posting his files online he may have violated a complicated set of federal regs, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which seek to prevent the export of sensitive military technology. The regulations are pretty heavy stuff, aimed at stopping the export of classified military hardware, weapons of mass destruction, that sort of thing.
It is unclear that the intent of the regulations was something to do with 3-D printing of a single shot handgun. It appears that, in panic, the Federal government looked through its books for a way to stop people like Cody, and could not come up with anything else without violating the Second Amendment. Hence, the call to the State Department to step in as pseudo-law enforcement.
Note also that no terrorists have been stopped. Wilson removed the code from the web as ordered, but not before it was downloaded 100,000 times. It thus exists forever in cyberspace. And while Wilson is no doubt a clever lad, he is not the first/last/only person to know how to program a 3-D printer.
Wilson Fights Back
Wilson’s first move against State was to spend two years and thousands of dollars on lawyers to him file paperwork to comply with the ITAR regulations. State, for its part, took no action on Wilson’s case (Wilson’s attorneys claim State is obligated to issue a ruling in 60 days and just did not.) The State Department also did not respond to Wilson’s queries that it has no authority to regulate his actions inside the United States, where he believes the Second Amendment applied.
And so Wilson moved to the next step, filing suit via his company in May against the State Department, claiming that its efforts to stop him from publishing his plans amount to a prior restraint on free speech.
Basically, Wilson is trying to use the First Amendment to protect the Second. Pretty sure that is a first.
Wilson’s initial response from the judiciary was not warm. In August, a district judge denied a preliminary injunction against the State Department’s order, stating that any potential violations of Wilson’s Constitutional rights did not outweigh the public interest. Wilson filed an appeal to that decision and the case will be next heard by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Regardless of one’s thoughts on weapons, the issues here are Constitutionally significant, testing the depth of the First Amendment in the face of ever-expanding technologies, as well as the balance between individual rights and public good. The latter test has always been how the courts have judged limits on free speech (“shouting fire in a crowded theatre.”)
This one has Supreme Court written all over it.
The killings in Isla Vista by one misogynist thug represent a terrible loss of life, most killed with a gun. Of course people can die so many ways, and the Isla Vista murderer managed to stab three people to death and run one down with his car. Still, the focus is and should be on the quickest, easiest way and thus most dangerous way to kill a lot of people: guns.
Joe the Plumber
Enter Joe the Plumber. You remember Joe, right? He was a pathetic, semi-employed, non-union plumber from Ohio that pathetic Republican candidate for president John McCain plucked out of a pathetic crowd in 2008 and tried to make a pathetic campaign meme out of. Working man, pull up by his bootstraps, that old garbage. Joe (which isn’t even his real name) had a few minutes of faux-fame alongside the other sideshow to that freakish campaign, Sarah Palin, and both more or less crawled back into the mud from whence they came. Or should have.
For reasons quite unclear, people still feed and diaper Joe the Plumber, interview him, and perhaps even listen to him. And for a reporter desperate for some new angle on America’s latest mass murder, what better to do than look up ol’ Joe for a comment. Here’s what Joe said:
I am sorry you lost your child. I myself have a son and daughter and the one thing I never want to go through, is what you are going through now. But: [sic] As harsh as this sounds – your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights. But the words and images blaming “the proliferation of guns”, lobbyists, politicians, etc.; will be exploited by gun-grab extremists as are all tragedies involving gun violence and the mentally ill by the anti-Second Amendment Left.
I cannot begin to imagine the pain you are going through, having had your child taken away from you. However, any feelings you have toward my rights being taken away from me, lose those.
Leaving aside the simple insensitivity of speaking that way to grieving parents whose kids were just murdered by a loon allowed to own multiple handguns and carry 400 rounds of ammunition in his car, my hat’s off to Joe for turning a tragedy around and making it all about him. Classy.
In addition, though Joe likely don’t read no much no more, the Second Amendment is about the only part of our Bill of Rights that hasn’t been gutted post-9/11. Right to privacy? Ask the NSA. Freedom of speech? Check with jailed Occupy people. Right to a fair trial? How’s that going Chelsea Manning? Nope, nobody is grabbing any guns Joe. Repeat after me: It. Is. All. In. Your. Head. Now stop mixing oxy and vodka shots, ‘Kay?
What Joe missed was the chance to decry how “nothing could have been done about this.” Yeah, sure, the cops checked the shooter out ahead of time, but, well, they didn’t search his house or look at his social media as if he were, you know, a brown Muslim. And those reports about him being mentally ill. Well, sir, that’s no crime either.
What could have been done? How can we as a nation reconcile this terrible tragedy with what Joe the Plumber had to say?
America as No. 1
To start, it is sadly clear America has a lot of mass shootings. 15 of the 25 worst mass shootings in the last 50 years took place in the United States. In second place is Finland, with two entries. Since 1982, there have been at least 61 mass murders carried out with firearms across the country. It seems to be getting worse: there have been at least 21 during the last six years. School shootings seem an American speciality. The number of such incidents in the U.S. was only one less than in the next highest 36 countries combined. Americans die from violence in general, and gun violence in the specific, at higher rates than pretty much anywhere outside of actual war zones.
It’s the Guns, but It isn’t Just the Guns
There are many other countries where guns are abundant. There are also examples of mass murders by the mentally ill around the world. But it seems that the two only collide with, well, such violence, in the United States. For Joe the Plumber, Joe, relax. No one is going to take your guns away. Americans will continue to be able to purchase whatever kinds of firearms they wish, in any quantity, and with any amount and type of ammunition. The nation barely even throws gun control lip service any more, even after (another) mass shooting.
The Second Amendment long ago swerved so far from the Founder’s intent, “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” that it no longer seems to exist within today’s context of the Bill of Rights. The confluence of huge corporate interests represented by the NRA, carpetbagging politicians owned by the NRA and frightened people protecting their own fears ensures this amendment alone will forever stand untouched. The guns are not going away.
So that leaves us. Why are we so violent? Why, after a workplace slight or a turn-down by a woman, is the go-to move for too many Americans to pick up a gun and slaughter unrelated and innocent people? I hate to end this way, but I don’t know why. I want some sort of gun control, but I know while it is necessary, it won’t be sufficient. I wish I knew why. I wish I knew.
I normally in this space have a lot to say. Sometimes it is a lot to say about important things, sometimes it is a lot about nothing.
I am at a loss at the deaths of children and their caretakers in Connecticut. Another crazed gunman. Another mentally ill man whose solution was murdering innocents, using the weapons of war we sell on the Internet to literally anybody in America. How many this year? The Aurora Batman guy, the Oregon guy, who can keep track?
Obama is, pardon, dead wrong. Today is the day to talk about gun control, though yesterday would have been better. Gun control won’t solve all problems, no law can. But when faced with horror like this you start, you do something goddammit, you don’t shed a tear and cluck your tongue and change the channel. For God’s sake– for our children’s’ sake– we have thrown out most of the Bill of Rights in the name of a phony war on terror, why can’t we interpret the Second Amendment in light of our present day?
You can love your children, or you can love your guns more. We as a nation have gone, quite simply, insane. May God help us, because we obviously have no interest or desire to help ourselves.