Archive for June, 2016

Malaysian Muslims hold placards as they protest against gay rights, outside Kuala Lumpur November 4, 2011. REUTERS/Samsul Saidchristian anti-gay rally

Obviously any time murder is committed, hate is probably a factor (at least a basic disregard of the sanctity of life anyway). Further, if you decide to shoot folks indiscriminately, I think likely the hate is more broad-based. The Orlando shooter pledged allegiance to ISIS on the night of the shooting. Certainly ISIS hates America. And they flat do the worse you can think of to those in the LGBT community. So it’s not a stretch to think that a LGBT nightclub in American was specifically chosen. (Since he’s dead and can’t ask him, I guess we can’t totally rule out that he just picked the nightclub because he knew it would be crowded and knew he could easily pull off a mass murder and that it was LGBT was coincidence. He may have even been gay himself, though even if true doesn’t necessarily preclude him from still hating the LGBT community. That said, it’s clear he was an ISIS fanboy and wanted to make it clear that this was for them, so I would assume that he would have known that the fact it wasn’t just any club but a LGBT club would score major points with ISIS.)

Some thoughts:

  • Most people are basically good and kind, but there’s still too much hate in the world. For sure, it only takes one person with massive hate in their heart for a terrible event to happen (just think, at the night club, we can pretty much assume that hundreds were there just to have a good fun time and only one was there to cause pain and death, but that’s all it takes). Still, there are also levels of hate. Some hatred is in and spread by people who would never ever shoot a place up or anything even close to that. But I think with enough hate, it kind of becomes like a petri dish that allows hate to grow. And in a very few, it grows to destructive levels.
  • Extremist groups tend to eventually reach a point that they hate everyone that’s not in the group. That actually leaves a lot of common ground between extremist groups, regardless of religion or whatever cause is bringing the group together. After all, most people are not members of extremist groups.
  • To wit, Eric Rudolph committed a series of bombings in part to ‘fight against the homosexual agenda’ while citing passages of the Bible as justification. Staff and former students of a Catholic school violently beat a gay couple in Philadelphia. In fact, assaults and murders outside gay bars are all too common. The common thread between all these seem to be violence and hate.
  • At least one Christian preacher in Sacramento and one Christian preacher in Fort Worth praised the Orlando murders. These preachers would likely be called on the fringe (though once again, it’s more evidence that the thoughts and views of those on the extreme look a lot alike). Most people have/would repudiate those remarks. However, there is certainly a larger group that think homosexuality is a “sin” and “evil”. They may say things like ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’. But it’s clear that the viewpoint is that these people are doing something wrong and need to “repent” and change. That seems to me to be one step closer to ‘needing to do something about that’ than a more ‘live and let live’ viewpoint and in my opinion, the more widespread that viewpoint is, the easier it is for somebody to justify to themselves into taking that next step to end the “sin” and “evil”.

To once again refer to something the Dalia Lama says, on a fundamental level, we are the same. I’m not sure we can ever prevent every single person from building hate in their heart, as there are many, many factors. Still, to the extent we can remove some of those factors, it seems to me that if we became more focused on what makes us all common and realize that (at least to my knowledge) no harm has ever come from love and respect, maybe, just maybe, the petri dish would be a little less fertile.

 

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Orlando

Orlando. Of course I’m referencing the worst mass shooting in this country in modern history. There are lots of discussion regarding the reasons why. Lack of gun control? Hatred against the LGBT community? Mental health issues? Terrorism? In my view, it would really be nice if it was just one thing and if we could just figure out what that one thing was and we fixed that, we would be good to go. But the real world and its people are complicated. I think most likely ALL of these factors had a contribution (though I don’t think we will ever know by how much each factor contributed). Bottom line, we have plenty of problems to work on.

I think I kind of want to write my thoughts on each….just since these are rattling in my head. First, in regards to gun control:

  • We really do need to have a discussion as a country on whether we think guns should be totally unfettered by regulation or not. In other words, is the freedom to manufacture, sell, and own any kind of gun one can imagine really worth the trade-off of safety.
  • In regards to the 2nd Amendment, that “well-regulated militia” thing has to mean something, right? If not, why is it there? At any rate, we frown upon owning tanks. We don’t let you buy automatic weapons. So we’ve established that we can have some lines drawn. It’s just a matter of deciding if the lines we’ve drawn need to be tweaked.
  • Lots of talk about “preventing” these kind of attacks, and that’s part of it. But truth be told, we are also trying to mitigate the impacts of such events too. Had the Orlando attack been 25 dead and 27 injured, it still would have been a most horrible tragedy, but many lives would have been saved too.
  • Along that vein, yes, other means have been used to kill people. That said, when a rock is used to kill 49 people and injure 53 more or when fertilizer bombs become as common as gun attacks, we probably should visit those issues too. Until then though, guns are probably the appropriate focus.
  • Gun control measures will need to be smart. In my mind, the focus should be both on who can possess firearms and the nature of the firearms themselves. For that latter, we should discuss how many rounds should you really be able to fire off at a time without reloading, and how fast you can fire a round. What should be the purpose of firearms for the general public? Hunting? Recreation? Self-defense? If all that, what is really required to meet those purposes? And should anything beyond that be disallowed? Are some of the features of current arms really for just killing people (for instance, the family of the inventor of the AR-15 says it was designed strictly as a military weapon, not for civilians)?
  • Not all gun control measures are equal. The original assault weapon ban of 1994, for instance, was flawed mostly because it focused more on cosmetic features. This was mostly due to the fact that Congress really didn’t want to wide sweeping ban on guns and tried to focus its law on certain guns. However manufacturers pretty easily got around the bans for the most part by simply modifying the models so they would be within code.
  • However, there are some measures that seem like such low hanging fruit that I don’t see why they shouldn’t be done today. For instance, closing the background check loophole seems like just common sense. Also, I find it hard to believe that high-capacity ammo magazines really serve any good purpose.
  • Unfortunately, even if we pass good gun control measures, it is going to take a long, long while to reap the benefits. We have let the sales of military-style weaponry go on for so long, the market is just flooded with this stuff. Stopping the manufacture and sale today doesn’t make what’s already been manufactured and sold go away. (We could ban certain weapons/ammo/ammo capacity outright, perhaps with some sort of buyback program…..but since the biggest fear among some is that government will “take our guns away”, that seems highly unlikely. Of course, given our history, we will be lucky if ANYTHING AT ALL gets passed.)

One final thought: Let’s just clear one thing up. The NRA is not an organization of the people. It’s an industry advocacy organization, namely the gun manufacturing industry. And that means they have a built-in advantage. First, the organization is backed by the support of the industry with $12 billion of sales a year. Second, the goals of the organization is clear. Anything that promotes the sales of guns = good, anything that might possibly reduce gun sales = bad.

In a way, there’s nothing wrong with advocating for an industry. The problem is that there’s no true counter-organization to the NRA to argue and advocate for the other side, which means the NRA has outsized influence over policy. While it’s natural for gun manufacturers to ban together for their own mutual cause, there’s no natural grouping for the other side. So instead, you get several smaller and separate counter groups organizing independently from each other. Also, it’s easy to say we need some form of gun control generally. But it’s much harder to reach an agreement on what that should look like, so the goals for counter-organizations are muddier.

But even so, we either have to make a stand and take measures to see to it that these matters are at least seriously debated (one action I’ve taken is making a donation to Violence Policy Center). Or we need to come to terms with the fact that we collectively have settled on this issue, and we have decided to be ok with having occasional mass shootings as a trade-off for keeping things the way they are in regards to guns.