Thursday, May 29, 2014

Isla Vista America

Calhouns Cannons for May 29, 2014

 As harsh as this sounds -- your dead kids don't trump my Constitutional rights."
                                               Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher

That's Joe, "The Plumber."  You remember him?  A few years ago, he was the darling of the right, the poster child of the aggrieved White Guy.  His cri de coeur comes from his open letter to Richard Martinez, whose 20 year-old son was murdered during the recent Isla Vista shooting spree.

 Mr. Martinez also had a cri de coeur of his own.  Hours after his son was gunned down, he cried out, "“Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the N.R.A.,” he said. “They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’s right to live? When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say, ‘Stop this madness; we don’t have to live like this?’ Too many have died. We should say to ourselves: not one more.”

And there it was, those perfect bookends:  A grieving father asks why we have to live like this and a reply from America's NRA-fueled Gun Culture:  Guns trump kids. Guns trump sanity. Guns trump everything.

Then, since nobody was willing to deal seriously with Mr. Martinez' key question -- "When will this insanity stop?" the collective public attention veered off  to the shooter's weird obsessions, all spelled out in his loopy "manifesto."  Instead of  America's addiction to guns and gun violence -- which nobody wanted to deal with -- the Twitterverse pivoted onto the psycho-sexual problems of the "Entitled White Male."  And before you could say #YesAllWomen, the site was a-bloom with women bearing witness to another poisonous strain running through American life -- misogyny.     

Did Elliot Roger, with his fancy car and privileged life, feel entitled to all the pretty women?  Did he blame his sad, sick life on all those women who wouldn't give him what he wanted?  Well, in short order the #YesAllWomen site was filled with testimony that Mr. Roger wasn't in the least unusual.  Called  tramps and whores, blamed for every male failure,  groped, insulted, dismissed, demeaned, harassed, assaulted, raped, killed, the  #YesAllWomen's list of daily insults and assaults was long and sad and pervasive. 

And, I have no doubt, for too many men in this culture, that list and litany was completely off their self-awareness radar.  Who, me?  As Jessica Valenti, a columnist with the Guardian US, noted: "We don't view misogyny as an ideology.  We see it as a given for young men."  Which means that as an unquestioned ideology, it continues to fly under our awareness.  It simply is a given in America.  Just like another ideology:  Our relationship with guns. 

So the collective huffing and puffing veered safely off into a related but diversionary topic --  Angry (armed) White Guy As Misogynistic Jerk-wad -- then it was time to move on.  With the final note being set by filmmaker Michael Moore. When the shooting took place, he was asked whether he would write or speak on this latest slaughter.  His reply was quite brief:  No.  He'd said all that needed to be said and now it was up to the American people to decide whether they wanted to live like this.  And unless we did that, we should "rest assured this will all happen again very soon."   

The Isla Vista slaughter took 7 lives, including the shooter.  According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, "eight children and teenagers are killed each day" in America.   Eight kids.  That's more than one Isla Vista every day.

Joe "The Plumber," would no doubt find that an acceptable tradeoff.  


Bob from San Luis said...

Thank you Ann for this well-written opinion piece, and closing with the Michael Moore quote (which I hadn't seen yet) was perfect; after the twenty children were slaughtered and no action was taken to reduce the accessibility of firearms, I was disappointed to realize that nothing will be enough to change our gun culture.

I am hopeful though that situations like those open-carry proponents in Texas who crowded into Chipotle with various rifles slung over their shoulders and most of the other customers became so uncomfortable that there was a severe blow-back and even the officials of the gun right's advocates organizations realized that they were not helping their cause, so they suggested that their members leave their long guns at home or in their vehicles.

The tragedy in Isla Vista is also a glaring example of systematic failure of law enforcement training in recognizing disturbed individuals since apparently the Sheriff's Department of Santa Barbara does not require that all deputies obtain mental health training, which is recognized as a viable skill by our own penal code.

Those who say we already have enough gun laws on the books and we only need to actually enforce them need to step up and demand that the budgets for law enforcement actually allocate and spend monies on mental health issues, not just the latest and greatest military toys that most agencies hardly ever use. When you look at the similarities of population and firearms between the US and Canada and then notice the gulf of difference in actual gun deaths, there is some hope that we can reduce gun violence; education should be absolutely necessary in order to obtain a firearm legally, and those who are in the business of making firearms should be so strictly regulated that the flood of cheap, illegal weapons can be reduced greatly.

But of course, all of this will be for nothing as long as we have a platform for those like "Joe the Plumber" to spout off about how their "rights" CANNOT be infringed or reduced in any manner at all; so "rest assured this will all happen again very soon."

Anonymous said...

Geez Bob, will you be the one to decide who is unfit to purchase a gun? Are you willing to decide who is mentally unstable enough for weapons ownership?

Who will develop the universal test to decide a persons mental capacity to own a firearm? Will that test include a blood test to rule on acceptable levels of drugs in those applying for a permit? Will there be a separate test to decide on knife ownership? Will undocumented immigrants be allowed an exemption?

What will you then do about the lawyers who will defend the rights of those you choose as unfit?

What about movies and books which vividly describe the various ways to kill? Would some form of censorship be applied to weed out those evil thoughts that could be planted in the minds of potential killers?

Maybe all guns should be removed from the public? Maybe then the authors and movie directors would have to return to swords and poison to kill the evil ones?

I look forward to your utopia Bob, please present a rational action plan.

Sandra Gore said...

Have you read interesting connection with psychotropic drugs. Here's some links: This one a little over the top in presentation

mom said...

i have no words

Anonymous said...

Any solution will at least be as complex as understanding the problem. Not sure either are possible.

Simply imposing a universally restrictive federal law removing all hand guns from society will not stop those who have to kill. Neither will standing on soap boxes shouting emotional slogans.

Today, the families of all directly affected need time to grieve.

Tomorrow our government needs to come together and change the way the elected are financially supported and specifically eliminate any funding from and to gun manufacturers. Of course that will not happen as long as there are wars needing weapons. I just don't have any good answers or solutions. I the best I can personally do is pray for peace for the families who will forever live with these senseless acts.

Bob from San Luis said...

Anon @10:36, read the comment by anon @ 2:42, please. This is a very complicated issue and no one person has "the solution".

You mentioned "my utopia"- listen to the words of the song "Imagine" by John Lennon for an idea of what could be, but as comment at 2:42 states, without dramatic change to our political structure, the possibility of change that would benefit the majority of citizens is not coming any time soon.

I did hear something interesting on a radio show today about a couple of gun stores that started to advertise for a new "smart" handgun that could only be fired by the registered owner; the owners of those stores had death threats made against them and their families and bomb threats against their stores- they do not offer the "smart" handguns at all, thanks to extremist gun supporters who will not brook any effective changes to how weapons are made, sold or operated.

Change never comes from the top down, it is always from the bottom up. When such change occurs, if it does regarding firearms, it will most likely happen very slowly.

Anonymous said...

Somehow Bobbi, your gun facts don't ring true. "Smart" gun grips have been around for some time, so I doubt the treats were real.

Anonymous said...

I kinda like this, fits all of the Los Osos activism;

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
- C.S. Lewis

Bob from San Luis said...

Anon @ 4:39 5/29: Here is a link to an article from Reuters (a very respectable reporting agency) that details the issue of the gun store owner in Virginia who received actual death threats for planning to sell the "smart" gun technology. My facts are solid, as usual.

Evita said...

The story about the smart gun was run on MSNBC and the gun shop owner was interviewed twice; before and after the threats. He was so visibly shaken that he tried to take back what he had said in the original interview about believing it should be his right to sell the guns (made in Germany)because of our free market economy and because sales would increase. Yes,the threats were very real.

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

I saw that program too. The reason for the threats was a New Jersey law (I don't think the gun shop owner interviewed was from New Jersey) that stated if those guns became available, non-smart guns couldn't be sold in New Jersey. Something like that. The legislator that was the author of the bill was interviewed and lamented about the unintended consequences. She said that she would work to repeal the law.

Churadogs said...

Toonces: What the N.J. legislator said was, IF they repealed that law for N.J. would the NRA allow dealers to sell the guns without threats, etc. NO REPLY. Which was telling. The right wing claims to be all about competition, free enterprise, fewer regulations, blah-blah etc. so here we have a new product and when a dealer tries to sell it he's threatened by the NRA goons.

Interesting that CA. legislators are now crafting a "gun restraining" legislation that would allow people to get weapons restraining orders on people they fear are crazy/violent, dangerous, etc. much like they do with regular restraining orders, so the cops can search for, impound a person's weapons (and block them buying more) until such time as they're deemed not to be a risk. I'm betting the NRA is moving quietly against that to gut it or kill it.

Our nation has allowed itself to accept a new low as the new Norm, thanks to the relentless work of both certain "conservatives," insane gun nuts, and the NRA. We now think that allowing drunks, wife-beaters, bar brawlers, people acting out major anger-issues, the mentally ill, the emotionally challenged, and any manner of irresponsible, dumber-than-rocks people should be able to buy as many guns as they want, with unlimited fire-power, and carry those guns everywhere -- bars, churches, schools -- it's all fine. AND, as an added bonus, all these gun-toting fools don't have to take a single safety course or even demonstrate they even know how to operate this lethal weapon or are even mentally and emotionally stable. Crazier the better. Just buy and shoot. In short, the sane gun owners, and sane citizens in general have allowed a small group of looney tunes to redefine how we now have to live.

"Why do we have to live like this," is what the father of one of the recent Isla Vista victims asked. Why do we have to live like this. Because the NRA and their stooges in Congress, because the right wing benefits from all the hyped up paranoia and faux "patriotic" rhetoric (great way to raise money), and because normal, sane gun owners and normal, sane citizens have remained silent and accepted this insanity, have accepted 8 children murdered every day by guns, accepted mass killings as NORMAL.

I asked some time ago just how many people need to be slaughtered before Americans wake up, take back "normal," and redefine what it is to live in a decent society. I'm still waiting.

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

Thanks Ann for remembering better what the New Jersey legislator said!

There were some good letters to the editor in today's Trib on this issue.

It will take the bulk of gun owners who are sane and competent to find a leader to join with the non-gun-advocate leaders to get this dialed back into normalcy again the way it used to be—before the NRA went nuts and were folded into the pockets of gun manufacturers, as money often seems to be the foundation for things that make no sense.

Anonymous said...

So many good comments that I'll
shorten mine: guns and that's worth
thinking about...ok, done.