Monday, January 10, 2011

Sorry for the gap

But the first week of school is an annoying, fun, fascinating, boring, difficult, easy time for me (listed by preference of my multiple personalities). Simple truth is my teacher and student self have so much to do to make everything start on the right foot that I spend all my down time literally down. And yesterday, I spent two hours on the floor raising money for the Jewish Braille Institute before realizing I was sitting badly and my bulging discs had pinched a nerve. ALL that said, I really need to talk about Giffords.

My dear friend (known as big bro, though he's younger than I am), Ed Braun, is a brilliant literary critic, scholar, and gunsmith.

Yup, some of us folks in the ivory tower like guns--myself included: I learned how to fire a weapon in the Naval Academy and was an expert at the M16 but just barely passed on the 38 because I became afraid of the kickback and began counteracting it. The outcome: I had perfect shot circles in the berm.

All that aside, Ed is truly a brilliant guy. Brilliant to the point of that slightly mad part of genius. He decided to start building guns a few years ago and then to apprentice himself to a gunsmith. I'm not sure where in the process he is, though I do know that even when he started he showed the same promise he shows with everything he starts.

And here's what Ed has to say about what happened in Arizona this week (from his facebook page):

AZ has been progressive the past 4 years instituting particular rigors for not only firearms ownership, but concealed carry, including into various previously barred institutions, such as universities. *It should also be noted that not only are some of the most prestigious open enrollment weapons training facilities in the country are embedded in AZ, but the majority of high end custom firearms shops and gunsmithing schools. Previous stands for CCW permits included not only a thorough background check by extensive local, state, and federal agencies, but furthermore required no less than 20 hours training by at one of said previously state and nationally recognized shooting academies. The full extents of that certification program eliminates not only questionable individuals, but likewise serves to act as a redflag pending any future efforts to purchase various weapons as it shows up in any NICS background inquiry.
However, in April, 2010; Gov. Jan Brewer repealed her previously installed system in favor of concealed carry without a permit pending individual locations. Yet the obviated problem remains--discerning certified CCW holders versus the armed Joe Q. Regardless of what she thought she was doing, Brewer cost her constituents millions garnered with the previous system and now a congress woman

I have a lot to say about this, but I think the most important thing is the end. Until April, Arizona, a state that is rather Western in its outlook (meaning that in general it's high on the state's rights and conservative far right wing "right to build a militia" attitude fount in many Western states), almost to the point of Alaska and Texas in its belief in seceding from the union as a working option, had the best system for gun control.

The system was not about infringing the rights of Americans to keep and bear arms. It was about empowering any person who wished to own and or carry arms to know how to use them safely. The system required education, it required screening, and it highly encouraged more education as an outcome.

If you screen out the crazies who are looking, intentionally to be dangerous by making sure they meet a set of requirements for weapons ownership and use, you take the first step in keeping what happened in Tuscon from happening.

Second, if you train anyone who wants to own a weapon in its safe use as well as its mechanism, you take the first step in keeping weapons from being used in kid play and accidental deaths.

The system Brewer canceled was the best possible balance between rights and security, and in keeping with the idiotic political climate we live in, she failed to take training before she shot it dead.

Worse, this shooting is now causing people to consider shooting the freedom of speech--if not to kill, at least to maim.

In March, Palin said Gifford's congressional seat was "in the cross-hairs." Palin is now trying to rollback the meaning of her own stupid rhetoric (no, it wasn't a weapon's cross-hairs...), and worse, people are now reacting by suggesting that we take away the right of people to publicly threaten using stupid rhetoric.

The solution, folks, is not to roll back Palin's right to be a public idiot, to say dangerous things, or to publicly show her own violent tendencies. In fact, I'd rather know about her stupidity, her threat to others' safety, and her violent tendencies than have to guess who would have said the ugly violent thing.

The solution is not to disallow all persons from keeping and bearing arms. Because there are millions of gun owners who are using their weapons properly and who are NOT a threat to anyone in society--not even those with whom they have political disagreement. 

The solution is to educate. It is to screen. It is to make sure that weapons are controlled, as is their use, as is their ownership.

The more we push against people's rights to speak freely (even if they speak poorly and express violent tendencies), the more we push against people's rights to carry arms, the more we push against rights in the name of security, the more we push our centrist allies on either side of the political spectrum to their furthest point of extremity.

Extremism in ANY form and from any political side is danger. Silencing the fringe elements of our society only empowers them as they go underground and find safety in darkness. 

I know that most of the people I know are wishing for the best for the congresswoman and the 7 others wounded, as well as for the families of those wounded and those dead (including a 9 year old). Let's also wish for some intellect from those we have elected in dealing with the legal and systematic errors that allowed this to happen.