Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention.
- Molly Ivins
I bought my first letter quality computer printer in 1988.
Personal computers were not very common then, at least ownership of business grade machines, home computing was just getting started.
I had recently sold my first “real” computer, an IBM PC/XT, and upgraded to a new, more powerful Z-248, a huge behemoth of a 80286-based processor with a genuine VGA color display system that was only available to government employees and members of the military through a special government purchase program direct from Zenith.
And I decided that I needed a professional quality printer to go with it.
The personal computer printer market back then was pretty gruesome, choices were limited and none of them were good.
There was dot-matrix, which sounded like endless yards of tearing cloth (unless you also sprung for a huge monstrosity of an insulated sound-box) and reams of tractor-fed fanfold paper – every wastebasket in the 80’s was filled with eleven inch long perforated strips of paper, because that’s all you did, tear off the tractor-feed strips. That’s where all the forests went, tractor-feed strips, endless, endless miles of them. Inevitably the paper feeder would jam about every third page or so on those cheap printers, but the dumb machine would doggedly just keep on grinding away, szzzzzzzzrrrrip! Szzzzzrrrrip! Szzzzzrrriiiiiiiip. They called them tractor-feed for a reason, and if you didn’t catch the jam in time the idiot machine would relentlessly wad an entire box of paper into the stalled feed rollers like a Russian battle tank grinding inexorably through an Afghan village. Each page started out with blackish letters that gradually faded to a kind of plum-tinted gray as the ink ribbon wore out. And on the cheap 9-pin models the only available font was best described as "a cluster of spots resembling the tracks of a drunken housefly that had recently crawled through fresh dog shit."
If you didn’t want tractor-feed, well, there were Daisy-Wheel printers and Element-Ball printers, both of which were descended from a bastard mating between a typewriter and a one-lung Harley-Davidson. They were loud, clunky, expensive, and charitably described as hideously slow. Not to mention that they were extremely difficult to interface with. See, in those heady days of PC-DOS, in the Paleolithic pre-USB world of serial cables, each program had to have its own printer driver, not the operating system, the program itself, and so while you might be able to pipe ASCII text directly to the COM1 port and get a generic dot-matrix printer to hammer out unformatted text, your word processor, which was likely Word Star or Electric Pencil, might not be able to speak to a Daisy-Wheel printer at all – unless you had a specialized piece of software from the manufacturer made specifically for your particular equipment. And there wasn’t any Internet you could go download drivers from either, you had to order them, from the manufacturer, via written letter with an enclosed check, and then wait six weeks for the floppy disk to arrive via ox cart. Oh, it was a glorious primitive time, back in the wild wooly 80’s! (And just for added fun, I was living in the island nation of Iceland at the time, and the fastest form of communication was the only vaguely reliable military postal system – which 99.9999999% of computer manufacturers would not ship to, no matter what. Period).
I really wanted a laser printer, but in 1980’s those were commercial products roughly the size of a mini-fridge, bulky, temperamental, prone to catastrophic jamming and bizarre formatting problems, requiring knowledge of specialized programming languages such as PCL and an innate understanding that what you saw on the screen would in no way whatsoever resemble what would eventually appear on the printed page. Not to mention that a cheap laser printer was about eight grand beyond my price range.
And then HP came out with the Deskjet.
Laser quality printing without the laser. Inkjet technology had been around for a couple of years in industrial settings, but the Deskjet brought it down to the (mostly) affordable home market.
I bought one of the first five hundred units made by Hewlett-Packard via a money order for $999 (Plus S&H).
I had to order it directly from the company and have it shipped to a friend in the states who then shipped it to me via the APO/FPO system. When all was said and done, that printer cost me about $1200, give or take.
And it was well worth it.
It was whisper quiet and it printed crisp black Times New Roman letters on high quality paper that looked even better than the output from top end laser printers. I loved that printer. I still have it, in the original box, in a storeroom in the basement.
Back then, I was the envy of every techno-geek that I knew. I owned the only affordable personal laser quality printer in the entire nation of Iceland (Ok, it was a small country, but, damnit, I was a god. A god of nerds, sure, still… I’m just staying. A God).
There were, however, some problems.
The ink wasn’t exactly permanent. Get it wet and it smudged and smeared and ran. Damp fingers would do it. Sneeze on a printout and your text would end up looking like it had a case of the measles. And it was slow, not Daisy-Wheel slow, but slow, the specs said four pages per minute but it was more like two pages a minute, on a good day. It was supposed to hold a hundred sheets of paper, but it would jam if you loaded the paper tray higher than seventy-five. It didn’t like cheap paper, you had to spring for the good stuff. And it went through ink cartridges at a ferocious rate.
Despite that, the Deskjet Model 1 was damned cool gadget for its time.
A year later HP came out with an upgrade, the Model II. I didn’t buy one of those, but in 1989 they released the Deskjet 500. Then the 550. Then the 550C, the first color version that would print pictures – that I bought. And I didn’t have to order it from the factory, they sold it right in regular stores, like diapers and toothbrushes and frozen waffles.
In less than five years the technology of ink-jet printers went from primitive to fully mature, from four pages a minute in draft mode to twelve pages a minute in laser quality mode. From black and white to photographic-quality full color. From $1000 to $200.
Twenty years later and I own a commercial grade office “document center,” a photo quality color laser printer that can crank out a hundred double-sided pages per minute in full waterproof glossy color indistinguishable from the pages of National Geographic. It’s also a high-speed high-density scanner, duplex collating copier, fax machine, and data storage device with onboard processing, it’s networked via a broadband Gigabit wireless interface running an encrypted internet connection that I can print to from anywhere in the world via any device including my phone, it holds four full reams of paper – and it cost me less than my first HP Deskjet (not a lot less, mind you, but a bit less anyway).
And there’s nothing particularly unique about it, the technology is ubiquitous, anybody can own one, it requires no god-like specialized knowledge to setup or operate.
Yeah, yeah I hear you say in that voice you use when your eyes are starting to glaze over in a technobabble coma, thanks for that trip down the dusty forgotten dead ends of Memory Lane, Nerd Boy, what’s your point?
I’m just wondering at the state of the art.
The current state of the art, the one that includes relatively primitive 3D Printer technology. Technology that was designed to produce cheap plastic prototypes and one-off designs. Technology that predictably is now being used to crank out single use disposable handguns.
At the moment those printers are clunky and slow. The weapons, and other products they produce, are little better than a homemade zipgun and just about as accurate. Anybody who actually tries to fire one these things, outside of a testing lab under very specific safety protocols, is putting themselves at risk of serious injury and/or death.
At eight grand for a cheap 3D Printer, they’re a bit beyond the average consumer – but only a bit, and only for the next very few years.
And by now you have, of course, figured out what this essay is really about and you, like me, are wondering just where that technology will be in, oh, say, twenty years.
Scratch that, make it five.
Very likely in much less than five years, inexpensive 3D printer technology will be able to rapidly produce on-demand fully serviceable, reliable, accurate, and cheap handguns.
And it will be available to basically anybody, you, me, kids, the sane and insane, criminals and terrorists and gang lords, anti-government types of all political persuasions, the Occupy Movement, your local militia in their raggedy-assed camouflage, angry loners itching for attention, seething psychotics under the lash of their pet demons, scorned crazy ex-girlfriends and abusive drunken wife-beating husbands.
And won’t that be fun?
Oh, and those plastic guns? They will also have the added benefit of being undetectable, untraceable, and disposable.
See they were designed to be that way, available to anybody and undetectable without expensive sophisticated scanning equipment – like the body scanners employed by the TSA in our airports, i.e. equipment beyond the range of most police departments, businesses, and school districts.
See, that’s the whole idea.
The “printable” gun you’ve heard so much about in the press lately, was designed by a guy named Cody Wilson. He’s the founder and director of Defense Distributed, a non-profit organization dedicated to the development and distribution of open source templates for the 3D private manufacture of guns, so-called Wiki Weapons. Wilson is a Texan, and law student at the UT School of Law, he’s also a self-described crypto-anarchist.
If you don’t know what that is, a crypto-anarchist, it’s most accurately described as a Big L government-hating Libertarian, a guy who embodies the mindset of eugenics, i.e. survival of the fittest and to hell with everybody else else.
So far Wilson has complied with US law at every step of his design process, up to and including getting a Federal Firearms License and removing his designs from Defense Distributed’s website following a cease and desist order from the State Department- not that the take-down actually matters in any fashion whatsoever at this point. The designs are out there and they’ll never be erased.
As I mentioned, Wilson is not big on government, any government. If reports are accurate he apparently embraces the ultra-libertarian idea that all people are sovereign unto themselves (at least those strong enough and mean enough anyway, the rest, the weak, the unfit, according to libertarian philosophy are sheep fit only for slaughter or slavery). He believes that government should be no larger than community sized and disposable whenever you don’t agree with it.
Wilson has publically stated that he believes any human being should be able to possess any weapon of any kind at any time – up to and including weapons of war, including nukes. If you’re familiar with Vernor Vinge’s Peace War universe novella, The Ungoverned, Wilson sounds a whole lot like an Armadillo (and if you don’t know what the hell I’m on about here, don’t sweat it).
The basic idea behind Wilson’s printable gun, the Liberator (named for the cheap handguns air-dropped by the WWII Allies to the resistance in Occupied France), is to make guns so easy to manufacture, so easily available and so widely available, that any human being can access them at any time – even being able print disposable guns out at will whenever and wherever they want. Kids, criminals, you, me, everybody.
Very likely, given the probable course of the technology’s development, the relentless and hectic pace of Moore’s Law or one of its many variations practically guarantees Wilson’s vision of the future will at least in some regards come true. It’s nearly inevitable at this point.
Now, home manufacture of guns is nothing new. Any competent machinist with a decently equipped metal shop and few basic milling machines can build a far more accurate, more powerful, and far safer weapon than Wilson’s pathetic plastic pea-shooter. Likely they can’t do it more cheaply, but that’s just a quibble. Before gun manufactures and their various pet legislators flooded the streets of America with cheap and widely available handguns, criminals and thugs used to make their own homemade zipguns on a regular basis.
But to do it well does take specialized knowledge and a particular skill.
3D printing doesn’t. Using Wilson’s free open source template and the increasingly cheap and available printer, anybody can make a single use, untraceable, throwaway gun.
If you can operate a smart phone and plug in a TV, you can make a gun with about as much effort as it takes to download and print out a recipe for tuna casserole.
And that’s the thing. Right there.
3D Printers use technology adapted directly from inkjet printers and CNC (Computer Numerical Control) milling machines. Using a three dimensional electronic blueprint, they build up fine layers of plastic one on top of the other. They can create infinitely complex shapes far easier and with much less waste than standard injection-molding or heated vacuum-forming techniques allow. The current state of the art means that the 3D printer doesn’t produce a finished product when creating a complex device like a gun, rather it makes each individual component and a human being assembles those into the final machine. Future generations will likely make complete products, ready for use.
The technology is exciting. Beyond guns, it is being used to literally transform manufacturing – and more, much more. For example: scientists have used 3D printing technology on a limited basis to actually make human body parts. In a decade or two, very likely we will be able to literally print out replacement organs, literally printing with living cells.
Ironic, isn’t it? That the same technology that one day may preserve and extend human life is being used right now to make tools for ending it?
Ironic that a guy with Cody Wilson’s talent would rather spend his days creating tools to destroy human life instead of making it immortal?
But I digress. The irony of people like Cody Wilson no longer surprises me, thus is the perverse nature of so-called libertarians.
Just like the evolution of text printers, within a few short years, cheap 3D printers will be able to use a variety of raw materials, not just plastic, to create complex and durable goods – including much more advanced weapons.
But that’s the nature of technology.
All technology, all of it, embodies both benefit and bane.
It’s how we choose to use technology that makes the difference.
And you can’t put the Djinni back into the bottle.
The technology is out there in the public domain and it is too useful, too exciting, too valuable, too empowering, too laden with possibility and promise, to abandon.
It can not be suppressed, even if that’s actually what we wanted – which we don’t.
With less money than I bought my first inkjet printer for, I can build myself a 3-axis CNC milling machine that will precisely sculpt wood and plastic in my workshop to an accuracy in the sub-millimeter range. For a double that, I could build myself a 3D printer accurate enough to produce Cody Wilson’s Liberator. Of course, being a professionally trained gunsmith, I could make a much better weapon without benefit of CNC/Printer technology, and for less money, and it wouldn’t blow up in your hand on the second shot. But I could only make one at a time, and I couldn’t teach you how to do it without a lot of effort.
But I could build you a printer, and then with the right raw materials you can make all the guns you like.
And if I can do it, anybody can.
There has been talk of safeguards, i.e. forcing 3D printer manufacturers to include a software block that prevents the machine from making gun parts or certain shapes. Won’t work. Can’t work. Total waste of effort. The mere suggestion shows a complete lack of comprehension with regard to the actual situation. Any teenager can jailbreak an iPhone or bypass their parents’ nannyware with ease. Any shade-tree mechanic can hack the chip in their truck. Chinese, Iranians, and Anonymous burn through their government’s firewalls with impunity – and the only way to prevent it is to squat in the Dark Ages like North Korea. DRM is a joke, as is the utterly ineffective regional encoding on DVDs. Any blocked software will either be circumvented in short order or erased and replaced with easily available freeware – if you don’t know how to do it, just ask any random fourteen year old.
Mandating software blocks is a complete waste of time.
So what am I saying here?
That homemade plastic guns are an inevitability?
That’s exactly what I’m saying.
You can’t put the Djinn back in the bottle.
However, will the proliferation of printed guns make the world any more dangerous than it is now? I mean really?
Hell, last week in Kentucky a five year old boy shot his two year old sister to death with a rifle he received as a present for his birthday. Five years old and he got a 22 caliber rifle for his birthday. And the rifle was apparently kept loaded and unlocked without any form of safety or child control, leaning up against the wall in the family’s dinning room. When the mother looked away “for just a moment” the kid naturally picked up the rifle and shot his sister. Authorities called it an “accident.” Speaking as a certified firearms instructor, there’s nothing accidental about this incident at all. There’s nothing surprising about it any way, shape, or form. Anyone with even a modicum of experience around children and/or guns could have told you exactly what was going to happen.
These people left two children and a loaded gun together in the same room.
That’s not an accident, that’s negligent homicide, manslaughter, pure and simple.
The parents however won’t be prosecuted.
Because there’s no law against leaving your kid and your loaded gun unattended in the same room (though, personally, I think a clever prosecutor could make a case of child endangerment).
Dead kids are just the price you pay for freedom, right? Right?
The following comments appeared under a Yahoo! News article about the shooting. I can’t find the link again, so you’ll just have to take my word for it without the reference:
This isn't a gun case, it's a parenting case. I wouldn't leave my 5 year old alone with a bottle of bleach, either. The only reason this made news is to brainwash the masses. If the child had drunk a bottle of bleach and died, it wouldn't have made the news. As for the mom, she made a mistake, as all parents do, and she'll pay dearly for it for the rest of her life, having lost her baby.
Mom made a mistake. Shit happens. Kids die. That’s freedom. Just don’t let it affect me.
I have to wonder if the author of that comment would feel the same way if the five year old had been pointing his gun at their children. Let’s ask the parents of Sandy Hook, shall we?
...and thousands more people die from car accidents....want to take autos away too?
No. But as I explained in the first installment of this series, I do want autos regulated, and registered, and the operators required to have training and to be held accountable. And when they demonstrate an astounding level of negligence, especially when that negligence results in the death of other human beings, I want their right to own and operate a vehicle terminated, period. I want them held accountable.
Now, why should a gun be different from a car?
Because a gun is designed to kill people, shouldn’t we hold gun ownership to a higher standard?
If not, why not?
Yes, rule # 1 is make sure all firearms are unloaded, but people make mistakes. So you want to lock the parents up so the 5 year old is an orphan? Great idea, lets just lock everyone up who makes mistakes, its not like our jails are overcrowded or anything.
Folks, this was an "accident". You know accident's can happen. I look at intent, knowone wanted this to happen. The article stated, the gun was NOT supposed to be loaded. The guilt will be enough punishment. I don't believe in locking everyone up.
Too bad that so many are making negative remarks about the parents. This is not a time to do this. I agree that the parents were wrong in giving the child a gun and for not keeping it locked up. So sorry for the family and friends, this is tragig.
Funny thing, the same folks who are staunchly pro-gun, and are consequently willing to dismiss this incident as a mistake, are very often the very same people who declare themselves pro-life and are perfectly willing to lock up abortion doctors – or shoot them.. Why is the life of a fetus in the belly of a liberal worth more passion and effort than the life of a child killed by gun violence (and no, I don’t, in fact, know if the commenters are actually pro-life, I’m asking a question based on well-established demographic statistics. Ask around any NRA convention, see how many pro-choice types you find. There you go).
Why are these same people willing to dismiss the shooting of hundreds of children per year as “accidents” and the unavoidable result of freedom, but not do the same for Benghazi?
Hey, I’m just asking.
You have to look at intent. Their was none. Accidents happen all the time, (car accidents, gun accidents etc..) That is the way life goes. The gun was not supposed to be loaded. We can all learn to be more careful, but bad things are still going to happen sometimes. [sic]
Oh, well, a learning experience. Well, that makes it okay, I guess. Intent. That’s what matters. Bad things happen. Just like drunk driving. Or that abortion doctor and his house of horrors. Or Benghazi. Or handing your kid, the one with Asperger's and a behavioral disorder, the combination to your gun safe. Again, let’s ask the Sandy Hook parents how they feel about their learning experience, see how much comfort it gives them.
Obama wants gun control - what about parent control? We don't need more laws, we need more citizens with armed with common sense who are responsible.
Ah, the wishful thinking solution to gun violence. That’ll be helpful. If only people weren’t irresponsible. If only.
Maybe we could pray for a pony too while we’re at it, a magic pony that can fly and shoot rainbows out of its ass.
So what. The mother has already broken the law just as if she let her 2-year old unattended by the swimming pool -- she is guilty of gross negligence in the care of her kids. So what is this article all about -- the story of a moron mother or another ultra liberal attempt to push their anti-2nd Amendment agenda using any means possible? Let's just take advantage of another tragedy by pulling on emotional strings. Hey you effete liberals, you wanna play big daddy to the max? Well,instead of taking guns away from law-abiding citizens maybe we should take kids away from moron parents. Better yet, we could sterilize all parents whose combined IQ scores are less than 200 (but that would wipe out a good amount of your voter base wouldn't it?).
So what? A five-year old killed a two-year old and obviously, obviously, it’s a liberal plot to take away our guns!
What exactly is the argument here? Gun ownership must be unrestricted, but reproduction? That’s fair game for regulation, right? We can’t stop crazy people from owning guns, but we can sterilize the ones we don’t think should have children. If stupid people don’t have kids, kids won’t kill each other with guns. After all, the Constitution grants you the legal right to bear arms, but makes no mention of bearing children, does it? Is that about right?
Tell me again, who was it that used forced sterilization on people they deemed politically undesirable? But Obama is the Nazi, right?
Question: who decides? Who decides who can have children and who can’t? This guy, the Yahoo commenter?
Color me slightly dubious here.
Why is it that those who repeatedly call for responsible gun ownership are so, so, very reluctant to actually put their money where their mouths are? In other words, don’t bother to tell me about responsible gun ownership if you’re not willing to enforce that idea by force of law. Could it be that they are not, in fact, responsible gun owners after all?
Folks, we need to stop asking “How damned stupid can you be?” Some of these folks are taking it as a challenge.
In Detroit last week a teenager killed himself during a game of Russian Roulette.
Russian Roulette. Seriously, who does that?
In Oregon teachers were shocked and frightened damned near to death when two masked gunmen burst into a meeting at the school and started shooting.
Turns out the whole thing was a setup by the school administration, the “shooters” were firing blanks and the idea was to … well, fuck, I’m not exactly sure what the idea was – unless it was to determine if any of the teachers were packing concealed heat like the NRA wants, because that would have been hysterical, right? When the armed teachers started shooting back I mean. With live rounds.
You talk about a learning experience – here’s an abject example of why amateurs and fuzzy headed NRA gun droolers should be the very, very last people teaching school security or handling weapons around children. Nobody with any professional experience in Tactical Survival Training would ever, and I mean ever, mix active shooter simulations with the possibility of live fire. The use of simulated munitions, blanks, simunitions, must be in a carefully controlled and rigidly managed training environment – and yes, I have extensive personal experience in this area. There’s no more egregious violation of basic weapons safety protocols than this incident. Whoever authorized this evolution is criminally stupid if not actually insane.
The number of ways this could have gone horribly wrong are too numerous to count.
Meanwhile, down Texas way, retired firefighter and all around bad neighbor, Raul Rodriguez, tried to use the state’s stand your ground law to get out of capital murder charges. See, back in 2010, Rodriguez shot and killed Kelly Danaher, a thirty-six year old elementary teacher. She was having a birthday party and Rodriguez didn’t like the noise. So he confronted Danaher and two men in Danaher’s driveway. When the unarmed trio told Rodriguez to shove off, he called police and told the dispatcher, "my life is in danger now" and "these people are going to go try and kill me."
Then he declared, "I'm standing my ground here."
And then he went back to his neighbor’s house and shot the unarmed Danaher down in cold blood and wounded the other two men.
Then he bragged to his friends how he’d never be convicted because Texas has a Stand Your Ground law and as long as you kill the other guy, you’re home free.
To give the state of Texas its due, Rodriguez was convicted of murder and sentenced to forty years in prison last week – why he didn’t get life or even the Texas death penalty I’ll leave as an exercise for the reader.
Advocates say that Stand Your Ground wasn’t intended as a free license to kill, but it seems not everybody got the word.
And as long as we’re in Texas, I suppose I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the NRA’s national convention of batshit bang bang craziness.
Even the annual Adult Video Awards Show in Las Vegas can’t hold a handful of sanitizing gel to the staggering amount of public masturbation, ejaculation of bodily fluids, copious drooling, and general ass buggery that a bunch of rednecks climaxing over a couple acres of guns generates.
They were all there too, all the crazy people who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a gun, all in the same room together.
Glenn Beck wasted no time in invoking Hitler and the Nazis, beating the same old dead horse into rotten scraps while waving a rifle ala Charlton Heston over his head, raving on about shadowy conspiracies and the evil Obama.
Sarah Palin rode her favorite hobby horse around the stage, declaring that the elite lamestream media would never let a Republican president get away with what Barack Obama has done in his push for new gun laws – which is what again, exactly? Ask for a national dialog? Ooooh, that America hating bastard!
Palin a longtime NRA member drew a standing ovation when she reminded the crowd that her son Trigg’s name is short for “trigger” (like the horse, I guess) and her new nephew’s middle name is Remington (probably in homage to William Remington, blacklisted liberal economist and designated by Tailgunner Joe McCarthy as a communist suspect. If I had to guess, I mean).
Ted Nugent predictably shit his pants in public, his comment aren’t worth repeating, you’ve heard them all before.
Wayne Lapierre engaged in his usual wackiness.
“They are coming after us with a vengeance to destroy us and every ounce of our freedom. It's up to us, every single gun owner, every American to get to work right now and meet them head-on."
LaPierre than declared that the recent background check legislation in Congress got the “defeat it deserved!”
Funny thing, though, the NRA used to be for background checks, but that was when a conservative Texan was in office. You know, right after a crazy man shot Ronald Reagan. That’s different though, I guess.
Every opinion poll, every single one, shows that the vast majority of Americans, somewhere between seventy and eighty percent want tighter control over gun ownership – including background checks.
There are roughly three hundred and fifty million Americans.,
There are about five million NRA members, about 70,000 of which showed up for the convention in Texas.
That means the folks cheering LaPierre are a fraction of one percent of the population. But somehow they think they represent the rest of us. Then again, modern conservatives have never been good at math and science (or grammar and spelling) so I suppose the reasoning follows.
Be that as it may, the convention loudly cheered gridlock in Congress, and the resulting lack of any effort to address gun violence.
And nothing will be done, because nothing can be done.
I hate to say I told you so, but, well, I told you so. I did.
And so, here we are. Back to where we started at the beginning of this series.
Look out there, look upon the upturned wild-eyed fevered faces of the people waving their guns and cheering for Wayne LaPierre and tell me that you’re surprised. Look at the fact that these people, seventeen percent of Americans, fifty percent of Republicans, according to recent polls, think that armed revolution and overthrow of the United States government by force of arms is the only way to get what they think they want.
You still think that some plastic gun will make the world any more insane, any more bang bang crazy?
So, what do we do?
Do we embrace the fatalistic NRA mindset? I.e. dead kids, gun violence, random slaughter are just the price you pay for Freeeeeedom?
Do we give up? Do we just say fuck it, fire up the 3D Printers and open fire?
Do we march on Washington, waving our guns, and shoot down those we don’t agree with like some third world shithole and their revolution of the week?
Do we end the argument by killing those we disagree with? Like Iran? Or Somalia? North Korea? The Soviet Union?
Is that what you want?
No, of course not.
What we do is talk about it, like rational adults. And there are far, far, far more of us, the rational ones, on both sides of the political spectrum than there are of the bang bang crazies. If you need proof of that, look at the falling popularity of those senators who moved to obstruct discussion and debate last week. My own cowardly asshat of a senator is one of them. And he damned well lost my vote, if he won’t stand with his fellow Democrats in Congress he sure as hell can’t be trusted to stand with me.
Now, I, like you I suspect, don’t really know if the failed legislation would have changed anything or not, whether it would have made the world safer. Whether or not it would have preserved our Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms while keeping guns out of the hands of crazy people. I do find it hopeful that it was proposed by a bipartisan group of Senators, seems they can work together as rational adults when they want to. I don’t know if it would have worked, but the legislative process of the United States government was blocked by a bunch of selfish, self-centered assholes who are more concerned about their own reelections than the safety of the people whom they are supposed to represent.
Here’s what I do know for certain: our government was designed around conversation, around discussion, around compromise and debate – not on obstruction. The Founding Fathers, who are so frequently invoked by the gun lobby, were a diverse and fractious lot. Some of them hated each other. And yet, and yet, they managed to sit down and hammer out the compromise that eventually became the Constitution, the United States itself.
If they can do it, if they could do something so monumental as design a country from scratch, these petty jackasses should be able to handle something simple like background checks.
If you’re not willing to compromise your sacred beliefs in service of the country, then you have no business in government. Period.
If we can’t talk about it, about this and other difficult subjects, if we can’t talk about it in a rational and reasoned manner, we will never find the answers.
And we’d better start talking about it.
We’d better start figuring out how to deal with it.
Because sooner or later, likely sooner, those cheap shitty plastic guns are going to appear, they’re going to be made in bedrooms and basements and garages. And pretty soon after that, the advancing state of the art is going to ensure that anybody who wants one is going to be able to make basically any kind of weapon. And by the time that happens, we’d damned well better know what to do about it.
Given the restive state of the nation, were I a member of congress I’d be making a real sincere effort to find solutions.
Because given the restive state of the nation, were I a member of congress, I’d be damned concerned about who those undetectable, untraceable, disposable plastic guns are likely to be pointed at.
We need to sit down now, right now, and figure out how to deal with the inevitable future.
Congress’s job is to hold the nation together, to preserve the union, to place country above party, courage above partisanship, to lead by example.
Their job is nothing less than to preserve the republic against the coming of night – not to tear it apart. That is the very essence of the oath they swore, the oath that I swore.
The truly ironic part of this whole thing is that if they were doing their jobs, there would be no market for those plastic guns in the first place.
It’s about time they wised up to the situation.
Addendum 1: Every time I write one of these, I hope it's the last. But it never is, there's always another massacre. Always.
The Seven Stages of Gun Violence
The Bang Bang Crazy Series:
Part 1, What we need, see, are more guns, big fucking guns
Part 2, Gun violence isn't the exception in America, it's who we are
Part 3, Sandy Hook, the NRA, and a gun in every school
Part 4, More dead kids and why we have laws
Part 5, Gun control and a polite society
Part 6, The Christopher Donner rampage, they needed killin'
Part 7, Still more dead kids and let's print our own guns!
Part 8, Let's try blaming the victim, shall we?
Part 9, Armed soldiers on post, sure, nothing to go wrong there.
Part 10, Big Damned Heroes!
Part 11, Two in the Bush
What do we do about it? How do we change our culture of gun violence? Bang Bang Sanity
Addendum 2: As noted elsewhere, I’ve been around guns my entire life. My dad taught me to shoot when I was a kid – in fact the very first gun I ever fired was my dad’s prized black powder .75 caliber smooth bore Civil War trench piece when I was about four years old. I still own my very first gun, bought from Meyer’s Thrifty Acres in Jenison, Michigan, for me by my dad when I was fourteen years old – a lever action Winchester 30-30. I got my first deer with that gun. I grew up shooting, at home, in the Boy Scouts, hunting, target shooting, plinking, with friends and with family. Thirty years ago I joined the military and spent my entire life there. I know more than a little about guns. I’m a graduate of the Smith & Wesson Rangemaster Academy, the nation’s premier firearms instructor school. I’m a certified armorer and gunsmith. I’ve attended pretty much every boarding officer and gun school the military has. I hold both the Expert Pistol and Expert Rifle Medals. I’ve taught small arms and combat arms to both military and civilians for nearly thirty years now. I’ve fired damned near everything the US military owns, from the old .38 revolver to a US Navy Aegis Guided Missile Cruiser’s 5” main battery – and everything in between. I can still field strip a Colt .45 M-1911 pistol and put it back together in under a minute, blindfolded – I happen to own several of them, along with numerous other semi-auto pistols and a number of revolvers. I used to shoot professionally and in competition. I helped to design, test, field, and fire in combat US Military weapons systems. I’ve spent my entire life in places where gun usage is extremely, extremely, common. I have a Concealed Carry Permit. I’m an Alaskan and I typically carry a gun in the wilds of Alaska on a regular basis. I am neither pro-gun nor anti-gun, a gun is a tool, nothing more. If you feel that I’m ignorant of guns, or that I’m anti-gun, or unAmerican, well, you’re welcome to speak your piece – just so long as you can live with what comes after.