Freedom, Power & Responsibility

Some (most?) Americans take their right to bear arms very seriously. Dwuno, my Dutch/Indonesian mentor had taught me in my late teens that trust ought to be earned, not to be given freely! It startled me then, but since I have slowly come around to this idea that freedom like trust are powers that ought to be earned. My renter from Nigeria explained to me how in his culture friendship is tested with incremental bits of information. As I see it, American culture on the whole is very immature and has not currently earned the right to the freedom and demonstrated a level of resonsibility to carry arms for individual use. While some rights ought to be free (fresh air, clean water, food? shelter? health care?) other rights such as to bear arms ought to be earned, meaning controlled. Extensive background checks, classes and tests seem not too much to demand for the priviledge to carry any kind of gun, but especially an automatic weapon. Sign on to the petition to Ban Assault Weapons powered by

Recently I passed by a neighbor's house with an open door that invited a view on a man that loaded a rifle, shortly after an announcement of a contest to a viscious hunt down of coyotes, organized of course by a gun shop. The one to kill the most would be rewarded with a semi-automatic weapon! This scene near my home of a man with rifle in hand in a cluster of homes known to deal in drugs (last remains of my gentrified 'hood) was not exactly reassuring.

I learned only earlier this year that non-concealed weapons can be worn legally, as Bobbie did when he played his guitar on the plaza on his birthday. Bobbie wore a real, kinda cute, tiny gun he had worked in to his belt buckle himself. The wild west mentality surely is alive and well here in the Land of Enchantment and the USA as a whole.

Only the other day an 18 year old, supposedly good kid, got arrested after an observed exchange of illegal drugs (dope and 'shrooms) again in my 'hood. They found a stolen gun on him. For this supposedly good kid to carry a gun with plenty of ammunition just proves my point of a wild west mentality that seems to dominate US culture. We have got to change a mentality where violence seems an acceptable means of solving problems, interpersonal, intrapersonal  or international ones.

Personally I have no use for guns, but I am all for learning about self defense and non-violent tactics for de-escalating conflict. I would welcome more stringent arms control along with easier access to mental health care and the monitoring of those that insist on their right to carry weapons. Drivers need their cars registered and have to pass tests so should gun owners. Some argue that anything can be made in to a weapon, but I believe there is proof that in domestic violence there is more damage in households that keep guns. Some argue that guns, like drugs, will always be available illegally. Yes, probably, the point is to make it harder to get them in to the wrong hands. 

Meanwhile my heart goes out to those affected by the Connecticut shooting this morning that killed as we know so far 20 school children and 7 adults. Condolences can be expressed here.

Some shocking figures have emerged: 

April 16, 2007. Virginia Tech became the site of the deadliest school shooting in US history when a student, Seung-Hui Choi, gunned down 56 people. Thirty-two people died in the massacre.

February 12, 2007. In Salt Lake City’s Trolley Square Mall, 5 pe
ople were shot to death and 4 others were wounded by 18-year-old gunman Sulejman Talović. One of the victims was a 16-year-old boy.

October 2, 2006. An Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster, PA was gunned down by 32-year-old Charles Carl Roberts, Roberts separated the boys from the girls, binding and shooting the girls. 5 young girls died, while 6 were injured. Roberts committed suicide afterward.

March 25, 2006. Seven died and 2 were injured by 28-year-old Kyle Aaron Huff in a shooting spree through Capitol Hill in Seattle, WA. The massacre was the worst killing in Seattle since 1983.

March 21, 2005. Teenager Jeffrey Weise killed his grandfather and his grandfather’s girlfriend before opening fire on Red Lake Senior High School, killing 9 people on campus and injuring 5. Weise killed himself.

March 12, 2005. A Living Church of God meeting was gunned down by 44-year-old church member Terry Michael Ratzmann at a Sheraton hotel in Brookfield, WI. Ratzmann was thought to have had religious motivations, and killed himself after executing the pastor, the pastor’s 16-year-old son, and 7 others. Four were wounded.

July 8, 2003. Doug Williams, a Lockheed Martin employee, shot up his plant in Meridian, MI in a racially-motivated rampage. He shot 14 people, most of them African American, and killed 7.

September 15, 1999. Larry Gene Ashbrook opened fire on a Christian rock concert and teen prayer rally at Wedgewood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX. He killed 7 people and wounded 7 others, almost all teenagers. Ashbrook committed suicide.

July 29, 1999. Mark Orrin Barton, 44, murdered his wife and two children with a hammer before shooting up two Atlanta day trading firms. Barton, a day trader, was believed to be motivated by huge monetary losses. He killed 12 including his family and injured 13 before killing himself.

April 20, 1999. In the deadliest high school shooting in US history, teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Kiebold shot up Columbine High School in Littleton, CO. They killed 13 people and wounded 21 others. They killed themselves after the massacre.

"...(1999) the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center examined 37 school attacks involving 41 student assailants from 1974 and 2000. They found a disturbing mix of mental illness and inaction:

— 93 percent of assailants exhibited behavior that caused a school official, parent, or law enforcement officer to be concerned before the attack.

— 81 percent of assailants let at least one person know that they were thinking of or planning an attack.

— 78 percent of the assailants “exhibited a history of suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts.”

— 66 percent of attackers were known to be real threats by at least one person; in nearly every case, the person who knew this was a peer, friend, or sibling.

— 34 percent of the assailants had a mental health evaluation prior to the attack.

— 17 percent of the assailants 'had been diagnosed with mental health or behavior disorder prior to the attack.'"

 "I'm sick of this. I refuse to live in a country like this, and I'm not leaving." Michael Moore

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