Tuesday 12.25.12

Christmas Day.

I have not posted anything since my Royal Pregnancy post. At that time I found it kind of humorous that all of the news was focused on that subject. In fact, the other major news items at that time were about celebrities on the red carpet with coffee stains on clothing or some other trivial crap. The election was over and we were headed towards the fiscal cliff. We still are.

Then, people with guns decided to use them… once again. There was a shooting at a mall in Portland and then that shooting was quickly overshadowed by the shooting in Connecticut. All of this after what seems to be a rash of shootings since late summer. All of this and now we “need to have a conversation” about it. Not right away. Not while people are attending funerals or are still in mourning. Sometime after all of that. A conversation. I guess this must be code for we really do have a problem.

Let me go back and cover a few other things. I’ll start to sound like a cranky old man in a minute or so. When I was a kid the Vietnam War was going on. Since Dad was a history and social studies teacher, we had newspapers at hand and the evening news on at night. Like a sports score of some kind, the opening of the news each night listed the amount of casualties for the day. It was a regular thing. There was a war, people were getting killed. I really don’t remember the JFK assassination but I was aware of the RFK and MLK assassinations. The shock and feeling of sadness made an impression. People who killed people like that… not cool.

The television commercials on Saturday morning featured things like “Gung Ho!”, a weapon that really shoots! There was also this thing and these. Guns were cool. We had some game we used to play in school where we folded up a piece of paper into a triangular shape and then played football with it. After you scored, you tried to make a field goal by flicking the triangular shape through “finger goalposts” made by your opponent. We learned how to “shoot” a basketball. Hell, we even got satisfaction out of crumpling up a piece of paper and “shooting” it into the wastebasket. It was a skill, a competition. There was nothing wrong with that. We made slingshots out of sticks and rubber bands and shot rocks or hairpins. We shot rubber bands at each other. The song “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” has the following line: A pair of Hop-a-long boots and a pistol that shoots Is the wish of Barney and Ben. All skill-building for some other purpose down the road. We go to the carnival and throw balls at milk bottles, basketballs into hoops, shoot water pistols into the clowns mouth until the balloon pops. All for fun. Somewhere along the line you have to realize that this is for fun. We were told never to point anything at anyone… even a toy gun. We have been a GUN culture ever since guns were invented.

When I was older, I worked at a meat processing plant. I would be in that business for a total of about 23 years. At some point, I learned how to butcher/slaughter an animal. Most of the time we would “put a beef” down using a thing called a “bolt stunner.” A bolt stunner is a cylindrical device in which you load a blasting cap of gun powder, depress the trigger and a stainless steel bolt was shot into the head of the cattle. 3 rubber stoppers on the bolt/piston would immediately return the bolt back into the stunner. There would be a .375 dia. or so hole on the head of the cattle and this would kill it. You placed the stunner on the front of the skull or just behind the skull. There were times when the cattle were too worked up to safely put your arm and the stunner inside the kill chute. In this circumstance, we would use a rifle. To be specific, we would usually use a 22 caliber rifle. One shot in the right place would bring down a 1500 pound animal. One Shot. A 22 is a pretty small-caliber and it could do the job.

The gun was a tool. I had much respect for it and how to handle it. It was nothing to fuck around with. One mistake would be devastating. I think I learned how to shoot in Scouts and maybe a few times with my Dad. Other than that, I had been honing my target hitting skills for many years making things that would shoot something at something.

Guns are beautiful and interesting as well as very life threatening. I used to engrave guns for people, many of them for Ducks Unlimited awards and such. I used to hunt things. I used to shoot random cats when I lived out in the country. At some point I decided I did not need any guns around. I had kids and felt that there was no need to have them. I did not hunt anymore… my family hunted more than I did anyway and provided me with meat from time to time. Usually during deer seasons I was too busy processing them to ever hunt them.

So, I respect guns and respect gun owners who use them in a responsible fashion. They have their place. I completely understand the feeling of shooting a target – the feeling of power and success and skill. You can still feel that way with a gun but you don’t need a fucking machine gun to achieve that feeling.

The NRA was silent for a week after the Connecticut school shooting. Friday, they spoke. I knew they were going to speak as they had announced it a couple of days prior. At some point on Friday I remembered this and looked it up online. The first thing I found was the transcript of the speech. I read it. I read it again. My first impression was that this was written by some grumpy old man… the  “Stay off my yard” kind of guy. Then I watched the speech. Wayne LaPierre’s delivery confirmed what I thought I had read. I was quite under-impressed by his call for a good guy with a gun to fight off the bad guy with a gun. More guns. You are fucking kidding me, right?

No, they are not kidding. I was so disappointed with what they had to say. In the couple of days prior to the speech, I had thought about all of the things they COULD have said. I figured it would be a great way for them to come out looking GOOD and RESPONSIBLE and that after, NRA membership would soar. They could have agreed that there was a problem. They did not even have to call it a problem as that would maybe suggest they were at fault. They could have said that we need money for entitlement programs that target mental health. They could have called for more education on guns and more education on how to survive without a gun. The cigarette manufacturers offer help in quitting smoking, why can’t the NRA show you how not to go into a school and kill a bunch of kids. They could suggest additional taxes on the sales of certain guns and ammunition – with that revenue going towards education or mental health professionals. There must be something other than just putting more guns into the hands of more people.

While all of this was going on and since then… some dude shot up a bunch of people in Pennsylvania and another guy set up a hit on random first responders to a fire in New York. Merry fucking Christmas. We need to “begin to have a conversation”… We need some immediate legislation that covers many aspects of what leads to the deaths of innocent people. What is involved? What leads to it? I predicted that one unfortunate outcome would be that someone would suggest that because these people – people like Adam Lanza who at some point was known to be mentally “different” in some way are able to get away with the things they do/did – the fault would be with mental health professionals who certainly must have failed in their attempts to deal with those individuals. Since my prediction, the NRA guy from Chicago has said as much.

I go to a movie. The movie has a crap load of car chase scenes. I leave the theater and get into my vehicle. Other than the big cherry coke I had in the theater, I’m not hopped up on anything… no drugs, no Redbull, nothing. Yet, I feel like driving in a more aggressive manner. I don’t know how people feel – people who have a shit load of guns – right after a shoot-em-up film. I have played video games and killed monsters and aliens and other things. I’ve Duck Hunted in a video game. I also have a social life and don’t ever just sit in a room in my fantasy world of whatever the fuck goes on in a fantasy world.

I think that there are an awful lot of contributing factors… movies, video games, mental instability, and people who want to impress upon you that if you give up the smallest of freedoms, it is only the beginning of taking away all of your rights. People like the NRA and their 2nd amendment stance. I don’t really think that our forefathers considered the type of weaponry we have available to us at this time. I don’t think they ever thought of things like movie theaters or shopping malls or schools with hundreds of children or that some deranged individual would ever take it upon themselves to walk in to one of those places to murder a bunch of people. I kind of think they were talking about defending ourselves against England at the time.

We need to have a conversation for sure and we can’t wait to have this conversation as some other unknown mentally unstable individual with access to deadly weapons carries out the next deadly attack.

A woman came in here one day for a shoot (photo shoot). As we exchanged the regular “hello” small talk, I noticed she was wearing a gun on her hip. I mentioned it… probably something like “Wow, you have a gun.” She pulled it out and started to hand it over to me, explaining it was some kind of Glock. I refrained from handling it saying no thanks. I asked why she carried a gun. She replied “because I can.” I asked what she did with it… what she shot. She told me that she had shot a real estate sign a few days prior. Really? She put the gun away and that was that. I don’t imagine there’s a lot of meat on a real estate sign or that many real estate signs are a threat to our well-being. I could be wrong.

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