Friday, January 18, 2013

Josh Fielder on Guns

My friend Josh Fielder posted this fantastic essay in Facebook two days ago after President Obama released his new gun control proposal – a day after the National Rifle Association released a new ad targeting the Obama girls. (Yes, this is the same NRA that blamed violent video games for the Sandy Hook tragedy and then released its own mobile target-shooting game a month later.) For highlights of Obama’s proposal, visit this link.

So, here's my two cents (which will end up being closer to $1.50, I'm sure) and I'm sure I will regret posting this later, due to the "friends" I will lose while exercising my First Amendment, but here goes:

Instead of posting a meme with a picture and a falsely-attributed quote or a made-up statistic, I've spent my time researching the gun violence/gun control debate. And I'd like to talk about some of the pervasive themes I've seen lately.

First off, Hitler did not say, "In order to conquer a country, you must first disarm its citizens." In fact, Hitler made it his position to enable guns to be obtained more easily. (See this link.)

Secondly, the presidents – and I mean ALL of them – and their families receive death threats on a daily basis. President Obama did not enact the regulations that REQUIRE Secret Service protection for him and his family. If you believe your children are as much of a target as the president's children, then you have a self-inflated idea of your position in this world. (See this link.)

Thirdly, there is NO law or bill being considered that would allow anyone to come marching into your home to take your legally-obtained and legally-owned firearms. There are possible laws that are being explored that would require more responsibility on the part of the gun owner or person purchasing a gun (i.e. pass a background check even if buying a gun from a gun show dealer). If you buy a car from a dealer, it must be registered (a record of the transfer is documented). If you buy a car from a private citizen, it must be registered. If you buy a gun from a dealer, there is a record of that sale and it is registered. So how is it illogical to require the same for private sales of firearms?

Fourth, there are not more people being killed with baseball bats than guns. If you disagree with that because you saw a picture stating otherwise on the internet, then I would like to offer you the chance to buy some oceanfront property in Arizona and I'll throw in the Brooklyn Bridge for free. There is no magical solution for solving the problem of gun violence. THAT is what we need to solve. (See this link.)

We don't ban cars that are used in DUI-related deaths, but we do enact regulations regarding blood alcohol limits, prosecute people who enable a drunk driver to operate a vehicle after serving them, promote a DUI campaign raising awareness and educating drivers on the dangers of driving while intoxicated. All of which has reduced DUI-related fatalities by over 40% in a decade. (See this link.)

The media is not hiding other gun-related stories because they want to sensationalize the problem; they are simply unable to cover every gun death story because there would be an average of 80 of them each day. So they concentrate (unfortunately) on the massacres which, I think we can all agree, happen all too often.

I find the fact that more children are killed in the U.S. by guns than in the entire Middle East region very disturbing.

I find it disturbing that the NRA blames the rise in violent shootings on video games and then comes out with its own shooting video game (categorized for children as young as 4 years of age) less than a month after Newtown.

I find it disturbing that other countries spend in excess of twice as much as the U.S. on violent video games and have a small fraction of the amount of gun-related deaths/injuries.

I find it disturbing that instead of looking for a solution to a problem like Newtown, there are people wasting their time and energy trying to turn it into a conspiracy theory.

I find it disturbing that guns are the third largest killer of children ages 5-14 in the U.S.

I find it disturbing that a child in America is 12 times more likely to be killed with a gun than the rest of the "developed" world.

I find it disturbing that there are more privately-owned guns in America than the next SEVENTEEN countries combined.

I find it disturbing that all of these statistics are not discussed but fake statistics about a baseball bat death rate are plastered everywhere.

I find it disturbing that some people believe that the ONLY answer to this problem is more guns.

Banning all firearms is NOT the answer, which is exactly why it's not being proposed. This country has enacted laws that didn't work before, so they've been revised, repealed and reformed. Isn’t it ludicrous to think that we evolve as a society but the laws governing us cannot? The NRA states that the assault weapons ban didn't work the first time. Well, you know what they say: "If at first you don't succeed, f*%k it.” If armed guards are the only answer to ending school shootings, then explain the Virginia Tech shooting. Virginia Tech had an entire police department complete with a SWAT unit. Explain Columbine, which had an armed officer on staff. When discussing an end to gun violence in schools, there should be NOTHING left off the table.

Ronald Reagan, a huge gun proponent and signer of the Brady Bill, wrote to Congress in 1994 asking them to propose legislation limiting or stopping altogether the manufacture of guns classified as assault weapons. (Anyone who says "assault weapon" is a made-up term should remember that every word in every language is, in fact, made up.)

No, criminals don't typically obey laws, but we still have them. Can you use that logic to say there should be no laws at all? No.

Let me be clear: I am NOT anti-gun. I have nothing against guns or responsible gun owners. I served proudly in the military. I worked in armed security. I’ve hunted and enjoyed target shooting since I was a kid. I'm sure most gun enthusiasts are the same way. However, this issue should be discussed logically and rationally, and all I see are comments and pictures that are anything but rational and for the most part are just viral, inflammatory, unresearched vitriol.

The president enacted 23 executive actions today, of which only two have anything to do with limiting the availability of a category of gun or a magazine capacity. The remaining 21 deal with aspects regarding background checks, school safety and mental health system requirements and deficiencies. Will it be a perfect solution? No. Will it help? We'll see. Is it better than doing nothing? Definitely. If we keep insisting, "It's too soon to talk about it" after each tragedy, pretty soon we'll never talk about it.

Okay, so maybe it ended up closer to $2.00 instead of two cents. So shoot me.

Josh, 38, is a Virginia native who served in the U.S. Air Force at the National Security Agency for six years. The son of a sheriff’s deputy who taught him gun safety at the age of 11, Josh is a single father of two teenagers who runs a custom-made dog collar business, RBD Pet Outfitters, and promotes social, political, economic and environmental change in his spare time. He doesn’t take himself too seriously.



  1. Awesome job!! Well written!

  2. Josh, please check the FBI Homicide data. The most recent info from 2006-2010, expanded homicide data table 8. This clearly shows that in 2010 there were 358 murder victems by "rifle" and 540 murder victims by "blunt objects" ie a baseball bat. (If we must include all rifles and demonize them by saying "assault weapon" then all blunt objects can be considered "baseball bats" for this discussion.) This also does not include the 1704 deaths knives/cutting instruments but no one is suggesting we should start registering steak knives. Hand guns are involved in far more murders than rifles, yet they are not the targeted issue. Probably because hand guns are not "scary" to the masses like a black rifle. I too am a vet and have been shooting since I was 5 or 6. I regulary compete in rifle and tactical pistol matches.I have no issue with requiring registration and training for people to own guns. However Pandora's box has been opened. There are already hundreds of millions of firearms in private hands in the US. It is an integra part of our culture. Nothing the President has suggested would have stopped or prevented the recent tragedies. I truly believe only allowing responsible, trained gun owners to be armed (concealed carry) in more places, more of the time is the only thing that can limit the damage being done by criminals and crazy people with firearms. Call it "deputizing" the public with the right to protect themselves and others. We all know the police are inadequate to protect us. When seconds count, the police are only minutes away...

    1. Sorry for the spelling errors above. Hard to type so extensively on a phone.

    2. The vet who said that FBI data showed "in 2010 there were 358 murder victems by "rifle" and 540 murder victims by "blunt objects" ie a baseball bat" the page for is a very weird misuse of data. In fact, the FBI clearly states that for 2010, "Of the homicides for which the FBI received weapons data, most (67.5 percent) involved the use of firearms. Handguns comprised 68.5 percent of the firearms used in murders and nonnegligent manslaughters in 2010."

      So - what gives, viet vet?

      I appreciate your service to the country but clearly you need to learn how to interpret data. And Josh - magnificent and honest interpretation of data.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Some good points here about memes, but the following is specious:

    "Anyone who says 'assault weapon' is a made-up term should remember that every word in every language is, in fact, made up."

    First, I'm assuming that the controversial term is "assault rifle," not "assault weapon." Second, the concern about the term "assault rifle" is that it's too vague and that it equivocates, for example, between automatic and semi-automatic rifles, between actual military weapons and military-style weapons. Military-style weapons such as the AR-15 are not the same as their military conterparts. So the worry is that any law based on the term "assault rifle" will be imprecise.

    1. An assault rifle is a selective fire, either fully automatic and/or burst fire, rifle that uses an intermediate powered cartridge and a detachable magazine - that term is specific.
      Assault weapon is the vague term, being what ever an assault weapon is defined as in the latest legislation, and interpreted as by regulatory agencies.
      Assault rifles are illegal for the general public to own and have been since the 1930s.
      Unfortunately neither assault weapons or assault rifles are used in many shooting or criminal activities in general, so the proposed legislature will have little or no positive effect, just as the last AWB had little or no positive effect while in effect and little or no consequences when it expired.

    2. Bill, I urge you to read the following.
      That law, according to Mike Cooper on, defined an assault weapon as "any semiautomatic rifle with a detachable magazine and at least two of the following five items: a folding or telescopic stock; a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon; a bayonet mount; a flash suppressor or threaded barrel (a barrel that can accommodate a flash suppressor); or a grenade launcher.

      An assault rifle is a selective fire (either fully automatic and/or burst, and semi-automatic as well) rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. It should be distinguished from the US legal term assault weapons.[1] Assault rifles are the standard service rifles in most modern armies. Assault rifles are categorized in terms of using an intermediate cartridge power that is between light machine guns firing full power cartridges, which are intended more for sustained automatic fire in a light support role, and submachine guns, which fire a lower powered pistol cartridge rather than a rifle cartridge.

  4. That other "Anonymous" must be crazy if he/she can not, for one millisecond, consider that the Sandy Hook shooter DID NOT buy the weapons, his mother did, and he killed her with the very same weapons, which is ironic. Perhaps if her state had MORE gun restrictions she would NEVER have even purchased the weapons that killed her or those angels at the school. Keep that in mind.

  5. Josh, this is brilliant. You are a world champion of clarity and common sense. God bless.

  6. There are many good points. Here are some variants to consider:
    A complaint about the proposed law is that some guns would not be transferable to other family members in any fashion at all. A father could not leave his son his rifle because there is no legal means of transferring it. I am all for keeping guns out of the hands of crazy people. An across the board generational ban does not sound like a good idea to me. No one comes marching into homes taking legal guns, over time the gunned become illegal. The end result is the same, it just takes one generation to accomplish it.
    To get technical about homicide numbers, the FBI has statistics available which put the 2011 number of homicides with rifles of all kinds at about half the number of homicides with blunt objects and less than half the number of homicides which used no weapons at all, ie, hands and feet etc. The proposed ban targets "assault weapons" which are a sub-set of all rifles above, meaning that the ban does very little to address the real world numbers of actual homicides that occur. The total number of gun homicides that the proposed ban would prevent - assuming that criminals would not continue to use illegal guns - is very small.
    To the same point on mass killings; using the MotherJones compiled information of mass shootings in the last 30 years 24 of the 62 mass shootings in the last 30 years involved assault weapons. Comparing the shootings with and without assault weapons, the average number of fatalities was about close: 8.5 with and 8.5 without.
    If the goal of the proposed legislation is to lessen occurrences of and fatalities from mass shooting, the information from past shootings points to these measures not being effective.
    (to be continued)

  7. (… continued)
    I don't like it when others cherry pick numbers so it is in poor taste that I point out that the number of children killed in the US last year, removing the numbers for 12-18 year gang related homicides, is lower than the number of children killed by US unmanned drone attacks in the Middle East.
    I fully agree that that instead of looking for a solution to a problem like Newtown, most people are wasting their time and energy - in this side-track issue of assault weapons, which I would say is like putting a band-aid on a compound fracture - proposed legislation is an ineffectual set of measures which poorly addresses a symptom of a large problem which is not being addressed.
    The elephant in the room is a violent prone, overly medicated but poorly managed set of unstable and anti-social people - many young and mostly males - who brush up against treatment options (after the fact the signs of maladjusted people who were not treaded or treaded ineffectually show up) but are not treated or removed from contact with the general population. Removing assault weapons from this subset of people is a good idea, but it does not stop them. Removing assault weapons from the general public as a means to stop sociopaths from killing people is a poor plan.
    The numbers that disturb you, numbers like the 280 million guns in the US are accompanied by other numbers like 47% of US households now have a gun. Gun ownership rates have been rising in the last 30 years and now are at a peak rate, at the same time as the rates of violent assaults and homicides are declining and are lower than they were in the early 1990s when we had the last assault weapons ban in effect. In this case the correlation does not infer causation, it does an indication that more guns and more gun ownership has not increased violent assaults and homicides.
    (to be continued)

  8. (… continued)
    Many people are not comfortable with guns and gun ownership. It can color their rational thought processes. As in: banning all guns is not a rational answer because it can not be enforced. Banning assault weapons may sound like a sensible alternative but it does little if anything to address the real issue of who does mass killings and how do we stops those people from harming others. Nor will it change the real number of violent assaults with guns, homicides with guns, mass killings with guns, or death of children caused by guns.
    The Virginia Tech killings are a good example of how we are not addressing real issues and how this proposed legislation does not make us safer. Virginia Tech was the the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in U.S. history. It happened over a two plus hour period. The killer used two pistols, not assault weapons and re-loaded multiple times so magazine capacity limits would not have altered the outcome. The gunman, who finally shot and killed himself when confronted by police, still had over 200 rounds of un-fired ammunition. This was the deadliest mass shooting by an individual in US history and ban on assault weapons and magazine capacity limits would not have changed the outcome had they been in effect.
    Reagan was shot with a .22 pistol and again, the Brady Bill addressed only assault weapons, and would not have changed the outcome or even made the shooting any more illegal.
    I keep coming back to assault weapons as it is the one re-occurring theme that does not accomplish the stated goal but it does set a large and vocal segment of the population against the proposal including the positive points that if has which do address underlying problems, and may well have positive effects. I find magazine capacity limits problematic as well but not in the same class of "useless yet encouraging much opposition" like assault weapons.
    I want something done about our public safety, about violence in general and specifically killings of children and at schools. I would like what is done to actually be something productive which is why I point out what I see as some problems in this line of reasoning.