Gun Control Simplified

There was another mass shooting this week at a community college in Oregon. 10 people were killed including the shooter. 10 families mourn the loss of a loved one. 10 mothers, 10 fathers, 10 sisters or brothers will all wake up tomorrow without something they can never have back, and it has been replaced by a feeling that will never go away.

This tragedy has brought gun violence back to the front of our minds, back into our dinner table discussions, and back to the front page of every newspaper in America. For some reason the 100’s of young men and women shot and killed every weekend doesn’t spark the same type of media frenzy and outrage, but that’s another topic for another day. The fact is, we need to find a way to stop gun violence in America. Period. I think we can all agree on that simple truth, right? If you can’t get on board with that statement, stop reading…you’re a lost cause.

Notice I didn’t say that we need to arm every citizen on the street. Nor did I say that we need to take away everyone’s gun. Nope, I said we need to stop gun violence in America.

I’m going to do my best to remove politics from this debate (sounds impossible right?). But that is what we need to do. We need to find some common ground here that enforces some gun safety and restriction laws and still protects our 2nd amendment rights. It’s the only way we’re going to clean this mess up. (I’m not talking about mass shootings, I’m talking about the epidemic of gun violence in America. If you don’t believe there is an epidemic of gun violence in America, step outside of your bubble and turn on a local Chicago News Broadcast.)

 

Gun control is an important issue and I don’t want to minimize it by minimizing it, but we have short attention spans so I’m going to minimize it.

  1. Everyone in America who is of sound mind and has no history of violence has the right to own a legal firearm.
  2. There should be strict and thorough background checks to determine if someone is of sound mind or has a history of violent behavior.
  3. Background checks take time, that means there is a waiting period to buy a gun in America. (If you need a gund today, you aren’t buying a gun for the right reason.)
  4. If you are caught with an illegal firearm the penalty should be so harsh that nobody will consider ever being caught with an illegal firearm (5 years in jail sounds good).
  5. If you are caught selling an illegal firearm you should go to jail for 20 years.
  6. Nobody needs rocket launchers or Ak-47’s. Nobody.
  7. Any crime committed with a legal (or illegal gun) should carry a 5 x sentence. For example if you steal a car that would normally carry a 4 year prison term, you should go to jail for 20 years If you steal that car while in possession of, or with the assistance of a legal firearm.

*4 and 5 seem harsh, but you if are serious about stopping the sale and possession of illegal firearms in America you can do so by making the penalties so harsh that the risk is not worth the reward.

The point to these 7 simple steps to gun control in America is to make it really hard for bad people to get guns while still allowing good people to have them. If a bad guy does get a gun, we should make it so unbelievable risky to use a legal gun or to possess an illegal gun that even the bad guys won’t risk it.

There is more nuance to this issue, I realize this.  But if we peel back the onion a little bit and get the lobbyist and activists out of the discussion, it can actually be quite simple. And sometimes we tend to out-think ourselves when a simple solution is all we really need.

God bless the families of the victims and may we always remember the lives lost in Oregon this week. Senseless tragedy is senseless. Let’s find a way to stop it because it can happen to anyone, anywhere, at anytime. And that’s the scariest part of all of this.

 

THE 14TH

So there has been a lot of outrage over the last week or so about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law in the state of Indiana. A lot of uproar over a non-issue, but I’ll cover that later. My first question is: What happened to the 14th amendment? I thought this gave us all equal rights under the law. It does.

Amendment XIV

Section 1.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

That pretty-well sums it up, folks. Particularly the last sentence. “nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

There are a lot of great legal minds out there, none of which, apparently, are invited on cable news shows. It seems to me that even an average legal mind could simply rebut anyone who hinted at the notion of discriminating based on sexual orientation by saying two words: “14th amendment.” End of debate. End of discussion. End of TV show.

Which is, I suppose, why they can’t do that. They can’t invite someone on the show that would take such a direct and logical route to the end of an argument. There wouldn’t be an argument and their wouldn’t be a show, and lord knows we need these shows (sarcasm intended).

You’d have one side of the split screen screaming about how this law doesn’t discriminate and the other side of the split screen saying “great, but it doesn’t really matter. We have the 14 amendment. So this law, if it was intended to discriminate based on sexual orientation it wouldn’t hold up at the supreme court level”….and the host would be baffled. He would have 57 minutes of dead air-time to fill because there is no rebut for that statement.

My point is: Even if the state of Indiana wanted to discriminate against a gay man or woman they couldn’t. Not legally (that pesky 14th amendment again). Now can a business owner refuse service to anyone? Of course they can. It’s their [private] business and they have the legal right to discriminate against anyone they want. It’s 2015…good luck with that strategy.

Just as a point of order: Curves (the popular womens only fitness club) discriminates against men, so does Flirty Girl Fitness. Planet Fitness discriminates against “meat heads”, and Augusta National Golf Club (where the Masters are played) still discriminates against Women. Where is the uproar? Where is the picket line outside of Flirty Girl Fitness? Im outraged! ……No I’m not, I go to a different gym. I get it. It’s girls only and I’m not an 8-year-old child who got locked out of the tree house.

But none of this is the point. The point is that if we wanted to end this debate we could. The 14th amendment allows us to do that; and the rest is just rhetoric. I know the news has to broadcast the “news”, but if anyone with 1/2-a-brain ever wanted to end this discussion they would. But they don’t. Neither do the LGBT activists, they need the debate to stay relevant. They need the “plite” to be real.*** They need the air-time.

And for the record. The hobby lobby ruling doesn’t discriminate against the LGBT community, women or anyone else. It upholds the constitutional rights of any US citizen (or privately held corporation) to freely express their religious beliefs. This isn’t an anarchy. Nobody is required to work anywhere they don’t want to work. And corporations aren’t required to hire anyone they don’t want to hire. It’s pretty simple, folks. (and last time I checked a “benefits” package wasn’t mandated; if you don’t like the package offered by your employer you’re free to leave and work somewhere else…this isn’t a safety issue, guys. It’s a benefits package)

For example: I don’t personally like the way a popular Chicago restaurant (which will remain nameless) treats their patrons; they are particularly crass and disrespectful. This is their schtick and it works for them. I think it’s absurd, but it works for them. As a result, I don’t work there nor do I eat there. I also don’t picket their store-fronts or declare outrage on my social media pages. I simply don’t work or eat there. If enough people feel the way I feel they will be out of business. If not, I have one less place to eat in Chicago. Either way, this is a free country and that’s how free markets work.

That said- If you don’t like the new law in Indiana, chances are you don’t know the actual law and you’re relying on the OPINION or interpretation of your favorite talking head. I suggest you do two things:

  1. Read the damn law. Or at least the summary of it. Not someone’s [biased] opinion on the law. And if you can’t bring yourself to read for 15 minutes today, flip the channel to the other side of the debate. Hear both sides of the argument at least.
  2. If you still don’t like the law (you have no earthly reason not to), don’t go to Indiana. Don’t cheer for the Hooser’s next time they are on TV and boycott watching games the Indianapolis Colts are playing in.

But for the love of god stop spewing fake-outrage (especially when it’s based on partial truths and fabrications) on your social media pages. It’s clogging up my timeline and I’m here to see pictures of my friends babies, not your frivolous, unfounded arguments.

*There is no doubt that the LGBT community is discriminated against. Racist bigots are out and they are ugly. No argument there. But legislation isn’t the place to fight that battle. We can’t legislate against what people think. Changing laws won’t change hearts and minds. The world is getting smaller and information, love, and exposure to people that are different than themselves is what will change hearts and minds. The fight isn’t a legal one. Its a social one and in case you haven’t been paying attention…we’re making progress.

End of rant.

THE UNEDUCATED ANTAGONIST

The uneducated antagonist is not confined to a race, religion, political affiliation, sexual preference, social class, gender, or any other sub-sect of people that exists.

When did Americans become so out of touch with the facts and become so obsessed with pushing an agenda no matter the cost ? I don’t know, but I don’t like where we are or where we are headed. The most recent example is, of course, the reaction to the tragedy that took place in Ferguson, MO a few months ago. We did not wait to let the justice system run it’s course, rather we all but convicted Darren Wilson of murdering and unarmed black teenager without so much as a second thought to his guilt or innocence. That part didn’t matter.  A dialogue had been created by a few very influential folks that took an unspeakable tragedy and turned it into an opportunity to push a social agenda that would largely benefit themselves. Not the family of Michael Brown of the community of Ferguson, MO, only themselves.

Unfortunately these are the folks with the loudest voice on the largest platforms. They have reach most of us don’t, and are getting more and more irresponsible by the day. In this particular case it was the leaders of the black community, democratic politicians, and the liberal media. This was an opportunity for the likes of Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton to be relevant and boost their influence. That is not to say Mr. Jackson and Mr. Sharpton are bad guys. They are not. They are doing good work in the inner city to help the black community every day- even when the camera’s aren’t on. That doesn’t exonerate them, however of their actions over the last few days, weeks and months. Their choice to use incendiary language when speaking to the Ferguson community was a factor in how the community reacted when the decision of the grand jury was announced last night. It was not the reason, but it was no doubt a factor.

I am not here to attack Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton, or the liberals in the media. It is simply the most recent example of a much larger issue. I can recall numerous occasions when Republicans, the conservative media, and leaders of hateful caucasian groups have been just as (or more) guilty as Jackson and Sharpton are here. My point is that we as a society need to be aware of the underlying and often unspoken bias that accompanies much of what we hear on TV. It is our responsibility to listen to informed opinion, read, research the facts, engage in meaningful conversation and form our own independent opinion. If that opinion happens to coincide with that of a particular news anchor, politician, or social leader- great. If not, we need to challenge those views and voice our own [informed] opinions as respectfully and honestly as we expect from others.

The only thing worse (in the context of this dialogue) than news outlets, social leaders, and/or politician pushing a selfish agenda are those of us that lap it up like kittens. At least the media can point to their mandate to gain viewership to sell advertising and leaders of communities can sight their insatiable need to stay relevant and influential as the reason they chose (or are forced) to act the way they do in cases like this.

What is your excuse ?  Why do you feel the need to take an uniformed position and dig in so far you are incapable of hearing reason ? Why do you feel such a pull toward a particular group that you are willing to disregard common sense and science ? Why is it that we create social divide at every opportunity ? And once divided, why do we fee such a desire to lash out at those with a different point of view ?

These are questions we all need to answer for ourselves. But in the meantime: Take a minute today to listen  to someone with a different opinion than yours. Take a look at the facts in front of you, not the rhetoric presented by those with an agenda. Before lashing out at someone with a different point of view, take a pause and make sure you’ve first got all the facts and second, form a response that could potentially change their minds rather than just attacking who or what they are.

 

No True Bill

Over a period of 100 days, 12 jurors heard more than 70 hours of testimony from 60+ witnesses and produced more than 1,000 pages of evidence. Their decision was not to charge officer Darren Wilson with a crime. A decision reached by 9 whites, 3 blacks, 7 men and 5 women. A decision reached in the face of extraordinary public pressure and media bias.

The members of this particular grand jury (which was formed long before Michael Brown was killed on August 9th 2014) were asked to determine if Darren Wilson acted within the parameters of his duties as a police officer when he shot and killed Michael Brown. In light of irrefutable forensic evidence that either proved or disproved the varying eye witness accounts, the members of the grand jury concluded that Officer Wilson had not committed a crime.

That is a hard pill to swallow for many people. For more than three months they watched the media exploit this tragedy to bolster their ratings. They heard anchors irresponsibly report half truths and rumors as if they were facts so as to create a narrative that pandered to their viewers. I’m not surprised though, this is what the news media does now; It doesn’t matter if you’re on the Right or the Left, if you watch CNN, FOX or MSNBC your preferred media outlets reports the news through a lens that speaks directly to you, for you. I digress.

Here are some pretty irrefutable scientific facts about the Michael Brown shooting that should (if you’re someone who is willing to base your opinion on fact and common sense rather than allegiance to an organization or pride) tell you all you need to know about why the grand jury didn’t decide to bring charges against Darren Wilson:

  1. Michael Brown had just committed strong-arm Robbery and was being now being questioned by a police officer who had recently heard his description over the radio (this goes to state of mind and motive to attack an officer).
  2. There was an altercation at/inside the police vehicle where two shots were ultimately fired, one of which struck Michael Brown in the thumb.
  3. Michael Brown was never shot in the back.
  4. There was a trail of blood that ran 25ft past where Michael Brown finally came to rest in the middle of the street.

Why are these important facts ?

The fact that Michael Brown had recently committed a crime that he thought he might go to jail for begins to explain why he decided to be confrontational with a police officer. Had he not recently broken the law, and as a result feared going to jail, it is likely that this situation never would have escalated to a shooting and certainly wouldn’t have escalated as quickly as it. Without such an expedited escalation, other officers what have been able to arrive on the scene and (presumably) better control the situation.

The fact that there was an altercation at/in the police vehicle leads any rational thinker to conclude that Michael Brown was the aggressor. Ask yourself these questions: How could a man, not looking for a confrontation possible get into a fight with someone sitting inside of a vehicle ? Couldn’t that man simply stay at a safe distance from the car ? Wouldn’t that force the person in the car to exit the vehicle in order to proceed with a fight ? Of course it does. Physical evidence of an altercation taking place at/inside the police vehicle clearly suggests that Michael Brown reached inside the vehicle to engage Officer Wilson in a physical confrontation. Two shots were fired from inside the car, one of them striking Michael Brown in the hand. It was this shot that (presumably) caused Brown to back away and even run from the vehicle.

Conflicting eye witness accounts leave us with only speculation as to what happened while Michael Brown was running from the police vehicle. Was he being shot at ? Was Darren Wilson ordering him to “freeze” or “get on the ground” ? Only Darren Wilson knows the answer to that question. What we do know (from forensic evidence) is that Brown was never shot in the back. We know that at some point he stopped running, turned around, and started making his way back toward Officer Wilson. Some have described this as a “charge” others as a “run” (both of those accounts came from anonymous african-american witnesses who were too scared/intimidated to speak to the media).

However the action is being described, evidence proves that Brown was moving toward Officer Wilson, prompting Wilson to shoot Brown several times in the chest, arms, and finally the head which presumably caused Michael Brown’s death. We know this because there is a trail of blood that leads 25ft + beyond where Michael Brown eventually came to a rest in the street.

These are facts. These are not things that can be refuted. They can however, and surely will be argued. Those arguments would be unfounded by facts and should not be taken seriously nor should the people making those arguments. If I hear (or read) an argument founded on facts that alters my opinion I’ll be the first one to edit this text to reflect such a change.

Until then, I encourage people to look at the facts. If you don’t have the time or inclination to look at the facts, I encourage people to tune into a news cast that doesn’t reflect their already strongly-held views. Listen to an apposing opinion, don’t just hear it, actually listen to it and try to understand it. You don’t have to agree with it, but at the very least understanding the apposing viewpoint will bring even more clarity to your beliefs.