middle brow | citizen how \ 16 feb 18 /

don't make me a target.

michael ian black. who you might know from the genius *wet hot american summer* movies. commented yesterday that mass shootings happen because "boys are broken". i happen to agree with a lot of what he said in his twitter storm. but mostly i agree with his comment that "until we fix men, we need to fix the gun problem".

gun crimes are out of control. mass shooting are bad, and traumatic, and memorable. for some, they're unforgettable. but they represent only a small fraction of the gun crimes committed yearly in the US. most gun incidents involve one shooter and one victim. and they happen in a quick moment from a hot temper. whether they escalated from some trivial insult. or in the heat of a dramatic moment. or in self defense. many are even accidental. but one thing is clear: no matter how many *responsible gun owners* are out there, we are not, as a whole, sufficiently responsible for the gun laws that govern us.

and we're certainly very well-equipped for situations like this one! 

take lobbying, for example. for years and years, lobbying was a black box. and many people. even, perhaps, most people. lobbied lawmakers appropriately. but often lobbying turned into full on bribery and resulted in really bad, inefficient policies and wasteful spending.

the problem was not with lobbying per se, though. lobbying is very useful. lawmakers can't possibly be expected to know everything about every bill that comes before them. and lobbyists help lawmakers understand the pros and cons of passage.

but unethical lobbying is clearly problematic. nowadays, we have strict ethical rules related to lobbying. at both the state and federal level. if an individual so much as speaks to a lawmaker about passing a particular law, that individual has to register as a lobbyist. and there are all sorts of disclosure rules associated with such registration and lobbying activity. 

it's true, bribery still happens. and spending isn't perfectly efficient. and good lobbyists now have to spend more time complying with transparency regulations. but the bad behavior has ebbed enormously.

or take painkillers. opioids aren't all bad. they can be used responsibly to assuage all sorts of pain. under doctor supervision. and while most people use them safely and never become addicted, some irresponsible men and women abuse them. 

nevertheless, we have an opioid problem in america. and we're all ready to throw everything we can at it. including writing new laws and regulations that make it harder for irresponsible people to access the drugs.

an easy retort: ha! what a shitty example! you're making our argument for us! we have pages and pages of laws punishing drug possession and use. and it still happens! but the point here is not that stricter drug laws end drug abuse. though it probably reduces it. the point is that, because we've lost too many young lives to drug addiction, we throw everything we can at the problem. that includes earmarking funds for treatment and prevention. and writing strict laws restricting possession and use.

or take speeding. generally speaking, most people are really responsible drivers. when i was 16, though, i drove a full size '87 ford bronco. [aside: i've been dreaming about it ever since it was decommissioned.] anyway, i had to take the highway to get to high school. i-80, in fact. the great open road. filled with semi trailers and gun lovers. (!) and other kids like me driving to school. and shit... we made a ball of it. i can't think of a single day that i didn't see some other car whose driver i knew on the way to school. and immediately, i'd inch up as close as i could to their bumper, while driving 80mph, and wave. and then the race would ensue. [another example, by the way, of how boys are broken.] and we'd hit 100 in seconds. and if i ever thought i was losing ground, i didn't hesitate to pass someone on the shoulder. and i prided myself of having more stones than any other high school race car driver. by waiting until the last possible second to get onto the exit ramp. 

now. can you guess what my driving record was like? i was too irresponsible to drive a car. i shouldn't have had access to one. and i got ticket after ticket. until my license was suspended. and my insurance would no longer cover me. and i had to start over, so to speak.

sure, this is anecdotal. but were there no speed limits, you can bet your ass there'd be a lot more people like me. causing unnecessary accidents. causing unnecessary death. and the cars themselves certainly wouldn't be to blame; the drivers would. but that wouldn't mean that imposing speed limits was pointless.

so very many unoriginal men and women will parrot the infamous NRA response to this point: the problem isn't with the guns or the gun laws. it's with irresponsible gun owners. the problem is the people. and our culture. and they're (partly) right! something about our culture makes us more susceptible to gun violence. but... could it be... our... gun laws?

laws governing the use of an instrument change the behavior of the user of that instrument. naturally. and, moreover, they change the culture around that instrument. they form the perception of it as a tool. not an accessory. or a source of power. or control.

laws are a meaningful part of every culture. and since our culture appears to be rotten, we should consider changing the inputs. 

what does this mean for you? make friends with someone in the NRA. honest. make friends with them. and convince them that their future as a gun hobbyist depends upon stricter gun laws. convince them to pressure the NRA to stop standing in the way of gun research. that this position is so very cucky. that it represents fear by the NRA that we'll all learn how effective gun control is. and that the profitability of the companies that provide so much of their funding would suffer. make it clear to your NRA friend that he or she is just a pawn in a game to make some super-rich executive super-richer.

i wouldn't expect them to take so kindly to such. but, then again, you probably have much more grace than i do.


i ended a few memos with the below quote. it seems timely today. 

"[some humans] were well known for their disposition to provide help in emergencies. this disposition went to the heart of their conception of society, as a duty-bound relation between strangers. their charitable behavior was a way of emphasizing that strangers are just as important as friends -- because all of us, in the end, are nobodies. by devoting yourself to the distressed stranger you make it clear that you too are a stranger in this world. you reaffirm the distance between yourself and others, by showing that the motive that binds you to society is one of impartial justice and objective duty. the charitable relief of strangers was simply another aspect of [human] reserve."