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Monday, April 30, 2018

Guns are a major health risk in America


GEORGE TEMPLETON: COMMENTARY
 
By George Templeton
Rim Country Gazette Columnist
 
Shooting Times
“Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot."
The Bird Hunter
It was the rainy time, before global warming, before the tall pines died from beetles and thirst, when you could not start a forest fire with a five gallon can of gas, before more than one half million acres were incinerated, when the Salt River ran and the desert mountains were covered in green, before the glow worms, snails, bats, and frogs along the Mogollon Rim expired.  It was the time when the creeks ran year round and the neighborhood kids swam in their pools.
The Christmas season was approaching, with all its hustle, bustle, traffic jams, and commercialism.  The traffic jam on the way home was miles long.  I could walk the distance as fast as I could drive.  To the West, following the freeway, the smog hung heavily in the air defining the thermal inversion layer in the air that reflected all the city noise back upon itself.  There was my neighborhood, close and convenient to all the amenities, but all the houses were ticky-tacky boxes that looked just the same and all the people waited in line thinking and feeling the same way.  Their garage doors opened and in they went.  I thought:  Is this all there is?
There must be a primeval instinct in me, to hunt for no good reason other than to be outside, part of nature, and get away from it all.  Quail season was my excuse.  They are dry little turkeys, smaller than a Cornish hen.  A few slices of bacon helps with that.  But I needed a shotgun for my wife, and they did not sell any pink ones in those days. There were no quadruple barrel shotguns for sale because two shots were enough.   In the morning the two of us broke camp and sallied forth into the wilderness armed with double barreled shotguns. 
Quail lie low and still, within the brush, until they decide you are too close.  Then, with startling suddenness the covey bursts forth in a rush of wings and sound.  You have to use both hearing and sight and start swinging that gun barrel immediately if you are to have a chance.  My timid wife, lacking aggression, was having trouble with that and I wanted to impress on her to not point the gun at me.
There are two kinds of quail, live ones and dead ones.  The live ones have learned that it is quail season.  They have a watch-bird that sits up high and scans the surroundings for hunters.  When he sees you from 100 yards away, the covey flushes.   It flies downhill at 200 miles per hour, 2 feet off the ground, while weaving in and out through the cactus.  Dead quail are in a ravine.  They slowly fly up, fighting the force of gravity.  In their attempt to escape their natural confinement, they make themselves an easy target.
We crested a large rock on a steep hill, providing a panoramic view that expanded forever.  Suddenly, birds hiding around the base of the bolder burst forth, exploding into the open space around us.  My wife said, “Shall I shoot?”  Yes!  By then the birds were receding 100 yards into the distant horizon.   Ka-boom!  I caught my wife before the recoil nearly knocked her off the rock and fifteen feet onto the ground below.  Continuing our pursuit of those birds, we hiked for miles through rough terrain.
I spend more calories hunting quail than I gain by eating them.  When the apocalypse comes, I plan on surviving by growing corn and eating bugs.  I won’t be hunting quail or defending myself from the marauding hoards of my fellow man.    
A paddle or a 357 magnum?
Should teachers have paddles?  I remember when an angry teacher whacked his student, across his spine, with the edge of the paddle to set an example for the rest of the class.  School boards should be concerned about what happens when a teacher accidently shoots a good guy.
Are teachers prepared to kill their students?  Split second decision making is necessary.  The Lone Ranger always shot the gun out of the bad guy’s hand.  In the real world one has to aim for the biggest target, the body.  It takes courage, beyond the wielding of a paddle, and composure, beyond the emotion of the moment, to risk one’s life.  Will a preparatory course in armed defense be added to the list of necessary teacher qualifications?
A defender risks shooting through the target and killing innocent bystanders.  Muzzle blast is terrific.  Firing indoors, where lighting is dim and walls reflect the sound, is a stunning experience.  You better hit your target with the first shot because you will be both deaf and blind after that.  Accuracy with a pistol requires regular practice.  Will there be a specified ordinance required for educators that optimizes all of this?
Then and Now
My gun owners guide explains, “… a gun cannot be carried concealed on yourself in public”.  Not anymore!  There has been progress, the transistor, the computer, and the internet, but social conflict and human nature remains.  At first the guns were on the battlefield, then our cities and streets, in businesses, the marketplace, the theater, next the church, and then our schools.  And along with them, “strong men”, ignorant of extreme consequences, say “As long as I have a gun I don’t have to take orders from anybody”.
In Arizona legal concealed weapons need no permit in most places, but some people lack needed emotional maturity.  We have no required cooling off period for gun purchases.  Will we create a world where the police, and the taxes to support them, are no longer necessary because everyone carries a concealed weapon?  Guns everywhere turn every disagreement into a matter of life and death and every person into a vigilante.  It creates a world where fear, machismo, and even our police stand their ground, potentially overreacting in lethal ways.
In 1994 we had a ban on high capacity magazines and assault rifles.  It was repealed in 2004.  The ability to fire a large number of bullets without stopping to reload determines the lethality of weapons.  You don’t need 150 round drums or 60 round magazines for hunting or self-defense.  The Las Vegas shooter fired more than 1,100 rounds, leaving behind 4000 rounds of unused ammo in his hotel room.  Shouldn’t we take an interest in people who buy large quantities of ammunition?
There are already more than four million assault style rifles in the possession of Americans and God knows how many high capacity magazines.  You can’t solve that problem quickly, but progress begins with a single step.   A country that plans on going to Mars should be able how to figure out how to limit the number of shots that can be fired without reloading.
Most of the gun injuries in America come from handguns, many of which are too small to be useful for hunting.  In the seventies, gun advertisements did not advocate every member of the family having their own pistol.  The public did not want the police to carry semi-automatic pistols because they were considered weapons of war and unreliable.  Public acceptance and technology have overcome that, but technology that would prevent unwarranted use has not been implemented.
Students for a Civilized Society
In 1960 students accepted a literal Bible, believed that God was on our side, church and state should be merged, and we just could not lose.  My generation believed that it would solve many of the world’s problems.
When President Kennedy and Bobby were assassinated we were awakened to the shocking reality that our lives would be a struggle.  Wars would be moral and patriotic, even with “Mutual Assured Destruction.   We knew that separate could not be equal and that the color of one’s skin had nothing to do with their character or intelligence.
When Dr.  King was murdered many claimed that it was good riddance.  A promiscuous Communist, who was unjustifiably stirring up otherwise satisfied, freed slaves was gone.  They could not see the parallel between the Exodus and desegregation.  They did not understand that King was the white establishment’s best friend.
Today’s students are discovering that the brotherhood of the gun doesn’t care if they are massacred for no reason.  “No reason” is not what their lives will be about.  They will define the meaning of the next fifty years.  To find their place, they must fight, strive, and struggle.  We must not be afraid of changes they make for the better.
The Psychoanalyst, Karen Horney, argued that children need security and freedom from fear for development of healthy personalities.  Self-interest that dwells on chasing the ambulance, adores violence, and allows terror to shape its behavior is sick.
It is unconscionable that we should reject our children, be indifferent to them, ridicule them, and become hostile to their legitimate attempts to improve their world.  We should be disgusted at the Vermont conservatives who, in response to proposed gun control legislation, gave away 1200 high-capacity magazines.  We should be dismayed by Ted Nugent.  He claims that the students calling for gun control have “no soul” and are “mushy brained”.
Firearm Violence
The bumper sticker reads, “Guns Save Lives”, but that is not the whole story.  We don’t have the facts.  If we did we would still need their context.  Given them, we should look for an explanatory theory.  But theories often reach far beyond their facts.
Guns are a major health risk in America.  A 1993 study found, contrary to the NRA’s assertion, that having guns in the home puts everyone in much greater danger.  But this is a risk that has many parameters needing scientific investigation.
Government has been reluctant to fund NIH / CDC gun injury research since the 1996 NRA Dickey Amendment was enacted.  Facts that conservatives don’t want to hear are not gun regulations, but expertise can be regarded as a manifestation of the “deep state”.  Data, that we unavoidably bring meaning to, gives them a headache.  The clever dictator knows that he has more power when he can keep his populace divided; make them think that their differences are an intrinsic property of who they are, not something requiring policy and nuance, not really driven by any philosophy.  A lack of policy facilitates unhinged flip flopping.  It is not a five-year business plan, wisely and carefully contemplated and adjusted.  It is self-interest.

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