Monday, December 31, 2012

Guns, Guns, Guns

The bodies of the innocent children and teachers in Newtown, CT hadn't begun to cool before people started pointing fingers and placing blame about the causes of the shooting and how to prevent new ones. There was also the token moonbattery from people who look for a conspiracy under every rock, and can't accept that sometimes Bad Things Just Happen. The most significant part are the calls for new gun control laws, apparently much more ambitious and draconian that what was passed in prior decades. Essentially, anything that fits even remotely into the "assault weapon" category will be registered, banned from further sales, and "grandfathered in," so that when a person dies or wishes to get rid of the rifle, it will be turned over to the government.

Of course, there are quite a few problems with that idea. Does easy access to guns make it possible for a mentally unstable person to kill easily? Maybe, but plenty of mentally unstable people drive cars (road rage, anyone?). Do the actions of a miniscule number of people justify banning items that are safely and lawfully used by the other ninety-nine percent of people who own them? People might point toward violence in the inner cities and suggest that guns should be banned because of this, but will miss the point that drug prohibition fuels most of the violence there (in fact, if you factor out drug-related gun violence, our murder rate is fairly modest).

The other side of the coin is that gun bans are likely to meet with massive non-compliance and there is where things might get "interesting" (in the same way a shipwreck is "interesting"). The "militia movement" got a real boost back in 1993 when the "Brady Bill" went through, and attracted even more interest and membership in 1994 when the first "Assault Weapons Ban" was signed into law. Only the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 cooled enthusiasm for it. Things were considerably different back then -- the economy was still relatively on track, and we did not have the polarization and sense that things were starting to go "terribly wrong." Whatever his other failings, Bill Clinton was a good politician and was not "tone deaf" to what people were saying, unlike what seems to be the rule with both parties in Washington lately.

These days, we have talk of the "fiscal cliff," two (currently dormant but potentially radical) social movements in the form of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, painfully high unemployment, an economy that cannot get going again, a president who insists on "change" at a time when people are trying to "endure," real inflation, no way to value assets like real estate or stocks, the end of retirement, pick something. Trying to add gun control into the mix -- when most people tend to see their guns as the only real form of power or security that they have -- is at some point going to have a predictably and ugly result as people start talking to each other and agreeing that they will not follow the law.

Will all that talk lead somewhere? I don't know, just as I don't know if gun restrictions will have much of any effect on mass murder or if the proposed laws will survive the process of getting passed, or if they will survive a court challenge. However, it seems there is real potential there for people to completely disengage from active citizenship, and to being re-adopting the "militia mindset" of the nineties. I'm not talking about being generally frustrated with the situation in Washington, joining the Tea Party or OWS, etc, but actually considering the use of violence or real domestic terrorism as a "last resort." The fantasy of gun owners rising up against an oppressive government in a 1776-style affair is silly, but consider what effects there would be on the stability of the country if some people began shooting first and not bothering to ask questions later. Would entire regions simply decide to go their own way? I don't know, but significant changes in a nation usually come when people feel they are out of options, and it would be one step further down the road to social collapse.

As for readers of this blog who are looking for practical advice regarding firearms, if you already have these kinds of weapons and want to sell to avoid future hassles, the market is pretty hot right now. Insanely hot, as a matter of fact. If the laws pass and you keep any weapons on the list, even money says that they will eventually be confiscated anyway in a few years, after a mass shooting or two with a "legally registered weapon." On the other hand, the genie is out of the bottle and passing a law banning guns will by default only change the behavior of those willing to follow it. Criminals will eventually find it harder to acquire guns and ammunition, but I don't think it would be realistic for there to be any net effect on availability for at least a generation or more. Keep in mind, though, that the point of the Leibowitz Society is both to study our ongoing collapse and to preserve knowledge through the next Dark Age, not to get into random gunfights, so take that into consideration when doing your planning.

Finally, I just want to point out that these events should remind us of the value we place on the lives of those around us. Don't be a stranger, too. While we are often limited in what we can do to help others, turning away from people who are "on the edge" and ostracizing them may be a contributing factor in what they choose to do. Be connected and be involved in your community, and remember that love very often drives out hate.