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.

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

  1. TellMeYours First says:

    Quote in section 1: “…allows virtually anyone to buy a weapon meant for but one purpose: to kill another human being on a field of battle.”

    I think you misunderstood. The author did not mean that the sole purpose of all guns is to kill on the battlefield. He meant that certain guns are built with that as a sole purpose – and virtually anyone can obtain one. Think AK-47, Bushmaster, M-16, etc. These have virtually no sporting/hunting value. They were designed solely as killing machines for combat. (In fact, Bushmasters were originally marketed solely for the military and police.) Sadly, just about anyone can get one.

    Quote in section 3: “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).

    A. I agree the vast majority of NRA members are law abiding citizens. For the most part, they are people of good conscience and reasonable thought. That’s why polls (Pew, Gallop, Johns Hopkins, etc.) found that a 75% majority of respondents who identified themselves as NRA members support universal background checks, which would close the “gun show loophole.” Yet the NRA opposes it. The sad fact is that the NRA is not really run by, nor does it truly represent, its mainstream membership. It is, and always has been, run by and for the gun manufacturers and their lobby. The NRA’s scare tactics and anti-government rhetoric even caused President George H. W. Bush, who had been a lifetime member, to withdraw his membership because of Wayne LaPierre’s outrageous statement that agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are “jackbooted thugs” who harass gun owners. Bush took the comments personally and resigned with a hand written letter on White House stationary.

    B. A Bushmaster assault rifle was used in the Sandyhook massacre. Closer to home at Aurora, a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 was used in the theater massacre. “M&P” is the designation for “Military and Police” (an assault rifle).

  2. Mr. Coulson, for years, has shown a propensity to be the classic sky-is-falling chicken little, a very scared old man. No matter the subject, he takes the delusional paranoid extreme position of what something “could” lead to. I recall this asinine letter and ignored it like all his previous screeds. If he represents the thoughts of even 20% of the populace, we’re in more trouble than I previously thought.

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