Response to Don Coulson – Times Call LTE 12/17/12

It is great that the country is trying to figure out a solution that would eliminate mass murders such as the one that just happened in Connecticut.  What is frustrating is that so many people are putting the blame in the wrong place, and that so many are shouting emotional solutions just so we can do “something”.  (Sounds very similar to the fracking debate, does it not?)  Disclaimer: I have no association to the NRA or any gun advocacy group, nor do I own a gun.

Don Coulson recently wrote to the Times Call, and his letter gives some absolutely perfect examples of the disconnect between two different schools of thought.  Let’s look at some of his points:

1 – “It is an obscenity when a country can be so influenced by money, by fear, by political manipulation, by lobbyists that it allows virtually anyone to buy a weapon meant for but one purpose: to kill another human being on a field of battle.”  He is right that it is probably too easy for the average Joe to get his hands on a gun, and there is already talk of closing the “gun show loophole” that allows guns to be purchased at gun shows without a background check.  Mr. Coulson’s flaw, though, is his statement that the only purpose of these guns is to kill another human being on a field of battle.  Were that the case, there would be millions dead now, but that is not the case.  Many (the vast majority of) people use all kinds of guns for nothing more than the thrill of shooting at targets and other sport.  I personally don’t get the excitement, but I certainly know many who do, all of whom are extremely responsible with their weapons, and more power to them if that is what they enjoy doing.  The SOLE purpose of a gun is not to kill.

2 – Your school is probably not safe. Read those words again and then ask yourself a few questions and the answer will be clear.  Is your school completely enclosed by a high chain-link fence?  Are there armed guards monitoring metal detectors at the entrances through the fence and into the property and well away from the actual school?  If there is a breach of security can the school be alerted and all doors locked before an assailant can gain entry?  Here is the heart of the difference of opinion between several issues recently that have tended to end up being divided right/left.  Mr. Coulson says my school is probably not safe.  “Safe” is a relative word, so certainly he can make the argument that it is in fact not safe.  But what does that mean?

My kids are more likely to pick up an illness because they go to school.  Does that mean it isn’t safe?

There was a fatal car accident last weekend at 66 and Pace.  Does that mean driving isn’t safe?  Or maybe that intersection isn’t safe?

There was a mass killing at a theater in Aurora earlier this year.  Does that mean that the movies aren’t safe?

As I’ve said so many times with the fracking argument, there is an element of risk to everything in life.  In this case, Mr. Coulson’s point about schools not being safe can go one of two ways.  Either he is right, and by applying that same standard to all life activities, he should be the most skittish person in the US because everywhere he goes, death could be just around the corner, or he is using an emotional hyperbole to try to make his point.  Personally, I like the odds that my kids’ school is safe.  Could someone commit the same mass murder there as they did in Connecticut?  Of course, but I feel as secure as I could in saying that they are doing all that is REASONABLE to try to minimize the risk.  That’s good enough for me…I don’t want every kid in the US having to go to essentially a prison camp to get one tiny fraction of a percentage safer than it already is.  And the lack of the things Mr. Coulson suggests are necessary don’t equate to 100% zero risk.

 3 – So the larger question is: How long are you, as a citizen of this nation, prepared to indulge this culture of swagger and “open carry”? Guns on campus, guns in bars, guns strolling down Main Street? How long are you prepared to tolerate the NRA and the chokehold it has on reasonable gun control?  Where is this culture happening and being flaunted exactly?  The issue came up at CU recently, and I don’t blame the teacher for not wanted weapons in his classroom.  But where exactly are guns being flaunted openly by citizens?  It isn’t happening.  Many people are quick to point the finger at the NRA and blame it for the cause of all things evil that are related to guns.  I tell you, you are going after the wrong group.  It isn’t the law-abiding citizens or the NRA members that are behind the trigger in these shootings (coincidentally, nor are they done with assault weapons typically, but there is another call to ban them).  And you will never completely remove guns from society.  Just the mention of it has caused gun sales to spike this week.

I do not know what the answer is, but I do know that when the issue is an emotional one, people tend to throw out solutions that feel good but do nothing to solve the problem (and perhaps make it worse).  They are also quick to place blame on persons or entities that are not causing the problem, and so silencing/eliminating them will also not solve the problem.  I saw a tweet recently that said “perfect is the enemy of good”.  While that may very well be true, “feel good” is the enemy of effectiveness.  Let’s work toward effective solutions, and not one that makes us feel less guilty simply because we did SOMETHING.

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Why So Down On Israel??

There have been several letters to the TC recently in which the authors attempt to make Israel out to be the bad guy in the middle east.  Ron Forthofer tends to write in every so often to detail the atrocities committed by Israel against the Palestinians, and recently he yet again calls for us to pressure our government to get Israel under control.   Mr. Forthofer speaks as a very educated gentleman, and his letters to the TC are usually written from a level headed perspective, but he frequently leaves out details that put Israeli responses in much better perspective.  Gary Gansar’s recent response to Forthofer did a superb job of “clarifying” all of Forthofer’s list of grievances, point by point.

More recently, Pierre Ardans wrote to the TC to rebut Mr. Gansar’s “support of the Zionists”.  Generally when one uses the Z word in a letter,  you can bet it is going to have a very anti-Jewish bent, and Mr. Ardans’ letter was no exception.  Among Ardans’ points:

“Now, Israelis occasionally fly over the concentration camp of Gaza to drop bombs, sometimes on military types, but mostly on civilian women and children.”  Really?  Does anyone in their right mind truly believe that the Israeli’s are targeting civilian women and children in any of their offensives?  Certainly there have been women and children killed, but when those launching rockets at you are using homes, schools and other civilian areas as launching grounds, is it any surprise?  Ardans makes it sound like women and children are the intended target, and nothing is farther from the truth.  The true terrorists, as he labels the Israelis, are those using women and children as shields, and that sure isn’t Isareal.

“…we don’t celebrate the deaths of 3,000 innocent Americans killed on 9/11. True, we don’t. But the spies sent by Israel to record the event who were using Urban Moving Systems as a cover for their activities certainly did.”  I hate to use the phrase “tinfoil hat”, because it is such an overused cliche so casually thrown around these days as nothing more than a name calling device, but I still can’t help but think it applies here.  If the willful targeting of women and children didn’t make Ardans lose all of his credibility, this Israeli spy comment certainly did the trick.  It amazes me that anyone still actually believes what he’s saying here.

Finally, Ira Chernus writes in with a letter about Hanukka.  I’ve seen his letters before and know where he tends to go with them, but he also appears to be very knowledgeable in such matters and I was interested to get a little history lesson from him.  He did well for about half his letter, until he mentioned that no middle eastern country could even threaten Israel and its mighty nuclear arsenal.  True, Israel could probably make any middle eastern country uninhabitable if it chose to, but to say none of them could (or is attempting to build an arsenal that could) harm Israel is hogwash.  Iran in particular comes to mind.  Never underestimate the power of crazy fanatics in large numbers.

This statement by Chernus, though, got me:  “Even the leaders of Hamas, often called the most militant Palestinian party, have been saying for years that they are ready to have a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, living side by side in peace with Israel.”   Mr. Chernus must have misunderstood the recent statements by Hamas leader Kahled Meshaal when he said “We will never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation and therefore there is no legitimacy for Israel, no matter how long it will take.”  The leaders of Hamas certainly do not want peace with Israel, regardless of how much Palestinian sympathizers may claim so.  Israel most definitely would like to live in peace, and if given the opportunity (ie. stop lobbing bombs at them into civilian areas for starters), they are not going to go after the Palestinians simply because they want to see their destruction.

It has been sad to see all the anti-Israel rhetoric lately, although the letters stated above all come from people who have held their beliefs for quite some time.  It has been amusing, though, to see the likes of Sean McCoy tweeting recently about his unwavering support for the Palestinians.  He almost seems as out of touch and paranoid as Mr. Ardans, but I suspect he is simply trolling in this case.  The middle east situation is a ticking time bomb, and I fear one day it isn’t going to matter who was right and who was wrong, because the entire region will be trying to recover from a catastrophe that will pale in comparison to Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Boycott ’em All!

I’ve seen a few articles recently calling for boycotts of businesses whose CEO’s made comments about scaling back hours so they wouldn’t be subjected to new healthcare laws.  Recently, Papa John’s and Applebees were in the spotlight, with one particular article almost cheerfully pointing out how business has declined at those restaurants since the election.

People have called for boycotts of these places, but if business gets so bad that stores have to be closed, is that really better for those people working there than it would be otherwise?  I’ve never understood that mentality.  It is the same with striking union workers…wonder how former Hostess employees are feeling just before the holidays?

Is there any question that when the government places more mandates on what an employer HAS to provide to employees, there will be businesses that are going to manipulate things in order to remain profitable?  Certainly there are some “good” businesses that will do all they can to create a good working environment, and that of course is the right thing to do to a point.  But everyone runs their businesses differently, and some feel the need to make sure a more comfortable level of income is attained, which is completely within their rights (or should be).

The beauty of a job is…if you don’t like it, you are free to find another job.  Doesn’t mean it is easy, but no one is holding a gun to your head saying you must work in what you consider miserable conditions.  What you consider miserable, another person may find right in line with what they want.  Employers should have a lot of flexibility to decide what they will provide, and if it isn’t competitive, they will not be in business long.  On the other side of the coin, if they are forced to make concessions that they cannot afford, they will also not be in business long.

In spite of this, I say keep boycotting.  Some of these places were getting too crowded anyway, and maybe a few self righteous activists who decide that they should stay home won’t be such a bad thing for the rest of us.  I could sure go for some breaded mozzarella sticks right now.