BACKFIRE ABOUT GUNS
This post is going to be about gun regulation by the end, but first I have some other stories to tell. When I was an Animal Control officer and had guns pointed at me, that was one thing. My boss at the time was Mike Burgwin, who had been a cop in Martinez, CA, a tough town. His guiding theory was that human behavior is on a spectrum, a sliding scale you might say, and anything you can do to push people towards the peaceful law-abiding end — away from violence and disruption — was worth doing.
I’m reading a chapter about how to move human behavior. The first example is the problem of hotel/motel people trying to their clients to leave their room keys at the desk instead of absent-mindedly putting them in their pockets and taking them home, which was expensive since the room locks had to be replaced.
So someone began attaching something that wouldn’t fit in a pocket to each key. Some had to use something big and heavy enough that people were eager to get rid of the key by leaving it at the desk. Maybe you’ve used a service station bathroom key with a big wooden paddle on it, or even a length of pipe. Or a nicer example is reminding people who borrow a pen by attaching a big bright fake flower to it. That could backfire if the flower is so pretty that one is tempted to take it!
The next example of escalating prevention is stopping at intersections. Way out on the Montana prairie, it would make sense that occasional minor roads should stop when they encounter an interstate, but the problem is eliminated by overpasses. It is the deer and antelope who have the problem.
Where traffic is heavier, stop signs are put up. Cops write tickets for those who fail to stop or who interpret stop as “pause”, which Montanans call a “Texas stop.”
There is one intersection I pass often that is next to 44 entering I-15. It catches drivers so unawares that whole families have perished, so there is a system of flashing lights as well as signs. Some intersections require stoplights. We have only one stoplight in Valier where the Cut Bank Highway crosses 44. It is red for the smaller road and yellow (yield) for the bigger highway, which confuses some people.
Enter tech solutions: cameras by the stop signs that detect failure to stop or even speeding. The evidence results in a ticket. The motel/hotel problem of room keys also has a tech solution: card access. If people don’t turn it in, the formula for opening can be changed. Some also have the advantage of recording how many times and when the card is used. Great source of information for solving murder mysteries, which are always educating the public.
Which brings me to guns. Murder mysteries, Westerns, and war stories are constantly educating us about guns in ways that grab watchers, usually because they are atrocities. That’s where all these aficionados get the idea that an AR15 is a sign of potency, control, and winning. By the time they’ve drunkenly sat through shows where war weapons are described, trafficked, and wielded, they’ve absorbed a lot of subconscious convictions that are simply merchandizing. The gun can cost over a thousand dollars. That’s my monthly income.
For a guy with a teeny penis and a nonexistent set of relationships, it’s a great compensation. Better than Viagra, which will give you a bad headache while you look for a partner. And you can show off the gun to other losers, male or female. There’s an aura of secret power that inflates someone who’s living in mom’s basement. Better than a change-o super alternative identity out of comic books.
But it’s like a really fast car: the more powerful the instrument, the better the operator needs to be in terms of understanding, reflexes, and proper places to use it. It does not make the operator smarter, give him or her better judgement, or improve his or her character. It only pushes gun ownership towards the law-defying, destructive, out-of-control end of the spectrum of human behavior. The NRA doesn’t want you to think about this, because look at what guns have done to their behavior!
Hardly anyone thinks about ways that guns COULD push people towards better behavior. Using long guns for hunting is an example that could teach people to rely on strategy, thinking, and not shooting without making sure of the target. Assuming this is meat-hunting, not trophy hunting with a guide ready to back up the shooter.
This can also be corrupted by snipers, as in war, who are highly technical, trained and competent. A tavern braggart in Valier, a guy with a bad temper and bad judgement, used to say he was a sniper, but no one believed him. I’m confident that intel organizations have lists of people trained to be snipers. They don’t brag.
Statistics tell us that a great many gun deaths have nothing to do with trying to prove someone is macho. One is the thousands of children annually killed by accident, either because they played with guns or were present where there was shooting that made them into “mushrooms,” incidental bullets powerful enough to penetrate walls to kill babies in their cribs.
A former student of mine tells about a period in Heart Butte when horseback delinquents shot into the teacher housing, so that children had to lie down in bathtubs. They were easy to find since there were so few people who could afford guns, much less ammunition.
On NE 15th in Portland at the house I grew up in, there was a period of gang shooting when my brother could take his morning cup of coffee out to the street and pick up a handful of casings. They favored hand guns. Or a shotgun. They were not skilled.
Where are the stories about the annual tens of thousands of gun suicides that happened on impulse simply because the means of death were present, a crossroads with no stop sign? Where are the stories of how they or others realized that this was a life-changing moment that would affect lives for many years?
I’ve been watching “Criminal Minds” with Mandy Patinkin on Netflix. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criminal_Minds It was a hit show for fifteen years and ended at the beginning of 2020 because of low ratings. Instead of glorifying guns, it made the point that the human mind is the best weapon and that too much violence is overcompensation for something missing in a human life. Maybe it’s time to revive the franchise. At the very least it would be a good time to interview Mandy Patinkin about why he left the show.