Stuff Happens

Today my friend Scott Lynch posted an article about Jeb Bush’s response to the shooting in Oregon, which was “stuff happens.” I get it. He’s caught up in NRA votes he doesn’t want to lose, but he also showed his ignorance of the situation in unparalleled ways. His friend Nathan left this video reply:

It was the best reply he ever could have given, and if you take a look at the comments on the video, there are a lot of people who agree with Nathan’s assessment. The first comment at the top right now is, “Jeb, if you’re listening, it was ‘stuff happens’ when we decided to kick your ass.”

I have friends in Roseburg and a bigger number of friends who grew up in Roseburg and moved to Portland as adults. So my heart is with all of them tonight, because Roseburg is the kind of town where that stuff doesn’t happen… as are all of the small towns that never saw it coming. One might not be surprised to hear of a school shooting in Bed-Stuy or Third Ward, but in tiny communities the fear is bigger because the reason they live in small towns is that crime is expected to be lower.

Gun control is not a sticky subject with me. I love guns, but I wouldn’t own one. I just like to buy rounds and go and rent them at the range. I like the loud crack, the feeling of the butt on my shoulder, the smell of spent rounds. To me, it is like going to the batting cages. I know within myself that I am a terrible shot, and it is more likely that I would have a gun wrested away from me than I would have a chance of protecting myself. In fact, that’s what most studies show… that you have to train long and hard to actually be able to use a gun in a high pressure situation like a home invasion. Inexperienced marksmen in terrifying situations are not calm enough to calculate a shot, and if you miss, you are likely to be shot with your own firearm.

However, I have no problem with training to be that good. I have no problem with former soldiers who carry sidearms using the proper certifications. When Volfe and I were together every day, he made a point of teaching me how to shoot, how to clean a shotgun/rifle, and all of the rules therein. With monocular vision, I am the type person that needs scattershot in hopes that I will hit something. My favorite time out on the range ever was shooting the fuck out of an old Dell computer. It was a bullet for every user with a stupid question who called me from their car.

The problem is that there are too many people like me who enjoy shooting, but do not put the time in to be excellent under pressure. For instance, I couldn’t hit a moving target to save my life. I especially couldn’t hit one running at me, especially if that person was armed as well. I know my limitations, and there are too many people who don’t and buy firearms for their homes, anyway.

I don’t think that the answer to school shooting is more gun legislation, necessarily. I’d have to read what was proposed to see whether I agreed with it…. because the things that school shooters do are already illegal. Schools are getting smart and putting real police on the grounds, ready to interrupt that kind of situation… and at the same time, putting cops in the schools leads to, unfortunately, racial profiling and kids that get into the system and can never get back out, because real cops are called in for minor infractions and sentencing is traditionally heavier on black students. It is a clusterfuck of massive proportions, because of course there need to be armed cops on school grounds. There have been too many school shootings to ignore this new reality. But where does school administration end and policing begin? When do you get sent to the principal’s office and when do you get arrested?

I went to a symposium at Howard University where Jeffrey Thames and several others spoke about this very thing- one case study was a policeman handcuffing a black five-year-old for a five-year-old sort of crime… something that when I was in school would have led to in-school suspension or being expelled for a few days, not an arrest record. And the bitch of it is that studies show that white students still get these type punishments while black students do not. This is just an editorial- you’ll have to do the research on your own, but I promise it is out there and it is frightening.

To change gears, where does mental health enter into all of this? Even people without a history of mental illness have got to have something loose in their heads if they think that shooting up a school is the right answer. How do we solve the underlying problem so that this doesn’t keep happening? Like I said, I am not sure that Congress can do anything- what these people do is already illegal.

I also do not think it is right or sane to own anything more than a handgun and/or a rifle, and I go back to United States v. Miller for this very thing. It was a case aimed at sawed-off shotguns, in which the court ruled that it was not in keeping with regular military equipment and therefore not necessary in a militia situation… the very thing for which the Second Amendment provides.

The interpretation we constructed in Con Law my junior year is that the founding fathers never could have conceived of such an instrument, and I extrapolate that to all firearms in that category. For instance, it is not necessary to keep an uzi in your home, particularly if you are not trained on its use. To me, that is a sign of mental instability all on its own. What kind of situation would possibly present itself in your home where you would need that kind of fire power? To me, that situation lives in your head, and not in reality.

The problem is not in the legislature. The problem is much deeper than that. Perhaps if mental health care were more readily available, the people that feel those sorts of threats in their heads can be talked off that kind of ledge.

If you really want a lesson in the Second Amendment, I suggest reading the Outlander series from beginning to end. It goes from the Jacobite uprising in 1745 all the way through the militias that won the Revolutionary War, and how the colonies handled militias that provided their own weapons. Particularly in the colony of North Carolina, there was no real government in place *but* the militias, because it was so wild that it was sparsely settled and people had to travel long distances for police and government, anyway.

We have to find a way to separate needs from wants, and fantasy and reality. I do not believe that can be done with a one-pronged approach. There has to be a mental health component to gun ownership, because no one is coming to take your guns, as long as you own them responsibly. And by responsibly, it means that if you have children in your house, you cannot have a way for them to get curious and get a hold of your guns on their own. Hiding the key to the gun safe somewhere in your house is not the answer, because your kids are much smarter than you think.

I also believe that gun ownership also depends on terrain. For instance, more fire power is going to be needed to protect yourself in rural Alaska than suburban Texas. If your house is being robbed, that’s one thing. If your house is in danger of being taken down by a bear or a moose, that’s another. Also, are you trying to protect your home or are you literally trying to feed yourself for an entire winter?

All of these questions might make a great interview before you buy a gun in the first place. If legislation is involved, to me it would be creating a way to talk to gun owners about what they’re trying to do with them.

People who steal guns are another matter entirely. Any law on the books is going to be broken, anyway. It is obvious to me that some of these problems start in childhood and compound. Perhaps the answer is more akin to raising healthy adults, and focusing on the way to do it right.

I don’t have a problem with guns. I have a problem with criminals…. because you know…..

Stuff happens.

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