Cowboys

Dear Editor:
Perhaps the most obscene aspect of the San Bernardino massacre was seeing the pictures of the assault rifles that were used by the perpetrators. For these, along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, had been obtained perfectly legally.
            It hardly matters to me whether the purchaser was an intended terrorist or a plain-old law-abiding citizen. Why are such weapons legally available to almost anyone in the United States? What do they have to do with hunting? What do they have to do with sport? What do they have to do with self-defense?
            Do we really expect to see men and women carrying such weapons to work in case some disturbed or fanatical person invades the premises? And would they be sufficiently trained so that their efforts at defense wouldn’t wreak more collateral damage than the intended damage of the malefactor?
            Meanwhile, I would think a far more effective long-term strategy for dealing with terrorists and other malcontents is opening our arms in friendship rather than shutting down our borders to immigrants or arming ourselves to the teeth against the minuscule percentage who might still wish us ill.
We do after all have a huge professional contingent of FBI and police and others whose job it is to deal with the outliers. And to all appearances they have performed superbly in keeping us safe since 9/11.
If perfect safety were sought, none of us would ever get into an automobile. And maybe none of us would if each automobile fatality were given the kind of nonstop publicity every mass shooting receives. I think the only way I have preserved my own sanity is by simply not having a television and otherwise limiting my media exposure to circumscribed episodes of responsibly reported news.
We would also save vastly more lives if we funneled some of the resources currently directed against terrorism into enforcing highway safety. Consider also some statistics. “A study of 626 shootings in or around a residence in three U.S. cities revealed that, for every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings … (Kellermann et al, 1998). … Individuals in possession of a gun at the time of an assault are 4.46 times more likely to be shot in the assault than persons not in possession (Branas et al, 2009).” The U.S. has by far the largest rate of accidental childhood deaths by firearm of developed countries. (http://library.med.utah.edu/WebPath/TUTORIAL/GUNS/GUNSTAT.html)
I have therefore reached a novel conclusion about what is really motivating the American public to become universally armed. It is not safety we seek. This is the home of the brave, isn’t it? It can’t be they we are so scared that we need a gun to go to the mall. Anyway, that pretext was exploded when a modest proposal to keep people on the no-fly list from obtaining weapons went dead on arrival in Congress.
So what we really want is not security for our family, but a shoot-out with the bad guys! This is the American way. We, or a large proportion of us, have chosen to forgo peaceful policies and compassionate values that would also serve the instrumental purpose of preventing most acts of violence by evil-doers, in favor of a modus operandi that preserves the fundamental right to have gun fights.
We have made the world safe for mass violence.
Respectfully submitted,
Joel Marks
December 2015

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