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Old Enough for Guns

March 14, 2018
Rev. April 2, 2018

“they’re old enough to die for our country and vote, they should be able to buy any gun.”

I totally get the sentiment behind it, I really do…

but this recent FB post made me think. Why is it that, in our country, an 18-year-old is automatically considered mature or stable enough to be in the armed services, or even vote responsibly, anyway? Fair questions, I believe. I mean who came up with that milestone and when? In most places in the US it’s illegal for kids under 21 to buy or consume liquor, right? I’m pretty sure in Germany you can’t even get a full driver’s license until 18. At any rate, it seems that age, maturity, and responsibility go hand in hand in most cases regarding anything important that requires critical thinking and a quick rational, response. (Old enough to fight, old enough to vote? see: history of the 26th amendment.)

My understanding, according to several studies, is that it takes 24 years for the average human brain to become fully developed and reach maturity. (This seems to be a pretty standard, long-standing conclusion and I’ve not seen any studies yet to indicate the contrary.) That’s one reason car insurance premiums drop at age 25. Therefore, I’m not totally sure why we permit 18-year-olds in the armed services. Maybe it’s because clinically they still have an undeveloped ability to assess risk. Or they’re just young, strong, impulsive, easily persuaded, energetic, likely to be single, inexperienced, malleable, drawn to adventure, and otherwise somewhat disposable compared to older “productive” adults. I mean “We the people” seem to have drafted an awful lot of them against their will during the Vietnam period. Maybe it’s just our tradition. We seem to have a deep, rich history of old men sending young men (and now young women) into battle.  I mean, the 26th amendment, that lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, wasn’t passed by congress until March of 1971 and signed into law by President Nixon that July.  This  largely as a result of the mounting deaths in Vietnam of those under the age of 20 (estimated at 61% of total casualties thru 1975).

But were they all stable? Heck, I don’t know. I would assume most were. Many were very proud and willing to serve, and maybe die for their country. But I’m not sure that mental or emotional stability were even important criteria for making the cut back then.

My assumption, however, would be that a well-trained, yet emotionally unstable, immature, or psychologically compromised military person could do a lot more damage than say an emotionally unstable or clinically depressed, immature or psychologically compromised 18-year old social outcast, bullied student, or military wannabe – when it comes to premeditating the murder of a large group of people by firearm.

I don’t know, maybe instead of just killing 17 students, could the assailant have, with the right weapon and professional training, wiped out 20 or 30 or 50 innocent students and teachers? 150 was, I understand, the admitted goal of the kid recently in Florida. In fact, what we seem to be learning now is that he wasn’t deterred by death, injury, or fear of incarceration. He didn’t do it for the money. He said he just wanted to be recognized as the kid who killed the most kids in a school shooting. Imagine if he could have legally purchased an actual assault rifleBoom, dream come true, …I know, right?  …except he couldn’t legally purchase a fully automatic weapon and apparently didn’t have the wherewithal to illegally seek one out. Lazy kids these days, right? So yes, it appears that limiting access quite likely prevented this particular situation from being much, much worse than it was.

All this to say, I’m not totally convinced that military service should necessarily be an automatic pass, or reasoning, for anyone under 21 to privately purchase or own an automatic or semi-automatic firearm as a civilian.

I know, I know, “it’s not the gun that kills people”, but golly they sure seem to be awfully handy gadgets of choice if that’s the intended outcome.

Oddly, neither the white teenager in Fla, the white kids at Columbine, the white kid at Sandyhook, the white guy at Virginia Tech, or even the older white guy recently in Las Vegas, (among many other mostly white guys)  chose to murder as many people as possible by simply throwing a really big bag of really sharp knives or recklessly driving their legally/illegally purchased/rented motor vehicle, and/or igniting some creative concoction of fertilizer and kerosene. No, all the recent successful multiple homicides  seem to use, well, …guns. And not dopey guns. They buy guns that look cool, you know, like in the movies – but cheap. Like the semi-automatic 995TS Carbine. The gun manufactured to skirt the “assault weapons ban” in the 1990s – and one of the guns of choice in the 1999 Columbine massacre in Littleton Colorado. Of course the AR-15 style has been real popular over the past 20 years or so.  Today the bump-stock type device is the modern-day equivalent of making a legal gun act more like an illegal gun. Just don’t call it an assault rifle or military type weapon, cause as you can see for yourself, it’s obviously not. (The primary reason I’m told is that it’s not “switchable” from semi to fully automatic. however adjusting the trigger fingering effectively changes it from semi to auto on the fly!) Even the Sandyhook shooter guy, who used his mom’s semi-automatic Bushmaster XM-15 to kill 28 children, didn’t think he needed to go fully auto. Hell, where’s the sport in that, right? But it’s OK, these are not “assault rifles” …wink. Or like my Apple/MAC friends often like to say …”idk, they just work”. 

Interesting list of US school shootings dating back to 1764, Note that not all resulted in fatalities.

Obviously, there are many other gun related homicides in the US that are not always multiple killings but do also involve non-whites and minorities. These appear to happen primarily between specific individuals or groups of individuals and involve other types of crime besides simply murder. These seem to be effectively contained to minority and impoverished communities – particularly large inner-city areas in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. This seems to be a somewhat different problem.  There doesn’t appear to be many, reported incidents where gangs or drug criminals randomly enter heavily populated areas like schools, theaters, churches, clubs, and shopping malls just to indiscriminately kill large numbers of people with illegal (or legal) guns.  And since they’re somehow pretty effectively oppressed and corralled in impoverished areas, these criminal, domestic, and self-defense homicides don’t seem to spark much outrage or call to action on any national scale. Not by the NRA or anyone else for that matter.

Many can agree with activists that it’s not only fully automatic assault rifles that create such carnage. In fact, often times, it’s not fully automatic any thing’s. We’ve heard repeatedly that “AR does not stand for assault rifle” (usually followed by some whiny, derogatory expletive). OK, fair enough. I get that. I know, it’s practically a glorified BB gun, right? No wonder the Florida kid could only kill 17 students before disappearing into a crowd. Apparently, something as lame as an AR-15 and a high-capacity magazine was all he could legally buy. Maybe he ran out of money from his paper route, I don’t know. But that’s OK cause AR doesn’t actually stand for “assault rifle” …ya moron libtard dumb ass (or something to that effect). Besides, don’t we realize there’s some desperate kid in Alaska that has to shoot multiple mischievous boars from 300 yards to protect his crops and property?  …ya moron libtard dumb ass (or something to that effect).

But it doesn’t seem that these particular gun enthusiasts, responsible for the recent killings (because no one suggests they were “crazy liberals” who went off script with guns), were all that deterred by the prospect of dying or personal injury either. No, historically most are white males (who knows why), who seem to either take their own lives or provoke suicide by authority following their tantrums. Conservative, Liberal? I don’t know.  They do seem to adequately know how to effectively acquire and operate semi-automatic guns, and some also kill close family or friends before and/or after their episode. So, I’m not convinced that the only way to stop someone with a gun is by someone else with a gun. Or at least not until it’s way too freaking late.

OK, maybe if the Phys Ed Coach, School Custodian, Band Director, and Algebra Teacher were secretly packing their concealed carries, would they have had the presence of mind and more nerve & skill to run toward and kill the student shooter than say the trained police deputy who took cover outside as the massacre unfolded in Florida? I doubt it. Heck, the cop resigned his job the next day following the incident. Maybe we should require all cops to get teaching certificates? Nah, that’s just weird.

And speaking of arming teachers, how much do we pay these armed, trained, educators who are supposedly going to line up to both teach and protect our kids with their lives? (Bueller, Bueller, Anyone? Bang!) I look back on my public-school experience and cannot recall a single teacher or staff who I believe could have handled any weapon responsibly and effectively enough, especially in a situation like this. (Except maybe old Coach Schwanger, he was pretty bad-ass).  Oh, I could maybe imagine one or two who would have gladly played a wannabe cop by having access to a real gun especially with a little bump in pay. But seriously, not one. Nope, not in a million years, snowflake – not without a little red cap on the tip of their barrels. Oh, who are we kidding? Even the white middle-class communities in my area rarely or easily pass simple operating levies needed to keep classes afloat. Heck, most folks around here don’t get really outraged until someone suggests cutting the football program.

I do think it’s highly more plausible that a teacher could over-react and shoot a disruptive student reaching for a cell phone (as if that’s never happened with trained professionals in the US). Or worse, be over-powered by some strong, impulsive, emotionally unstable, immature or psychologically compromised student in the classroom – placing everyone in immediate compromise.  Heck, who’s to say a teacher cooped up with a room full of rowdy ninth-graders all day might not go off the deep end and loose control themselves if given the access?

The main reasons we shouldn’t arm teachers are probably the same reasons we don’t routinely arm mall cops with anything more deadly than a radio. Like prison cells, I think the effective goal is to keep all firearms out of the populated area to begin with – if security and saving life are indeed what’s important.

Of course, we could assume that some, if not many, of these particular gun enthusiasts may suffer from mental defect, depression, anxiety disorders, or took too many recreational drugs, too many psychoactive drugs (or not enough psychotropic drugs). But some of these killings also seemed well planned over days, weeks, months, maybe even years. These gun enthusiasts were obviously not totally “out of it” to the point of not being able to think, plan, and execute. IDK, maybe all these multiple homicides were committed out of some immature, impulsive rage or inherited family temper/anger condition (combined with too many or not enough drugs). But what does seem certain, however, is that in every instance these particular massacres involved, well, …a gun – most often a legally purchased semi-automatic gun (and sometimes with a legally purchased bump-stock device and high-capacity magazines as in the Las Vegas massacre.)

Now I don’t think there is anything wrong with teaching our kids how to safely shoot or hunt, at any age, if you’re the responsible adult both supervising and securing the only keys to the gun locker and ammunition. But, just maybe, the kids shouldn’t have independent unsupervised access, or be able to purchase or possess an automatic or semi-automatic weapon until they are 21 years old. That way, at least, a mature parent could take the legal responsibility and punishment if their “trained” kid has a mental or emotional break, seeks out the guns they’ve become intimately familiar with, and slaughters a bunch of innocent people. And I bet if, like automobiles, licensed gun owners had to carry mandatory high-risk liability insurance, the premiums and deductibles would be rated by age. Premiums could also be calculated by the capability of the gun (just like a high-performance sports car.) And, like auto insurance, would be substantially higher at 18 or 21 but drop significantly at 25 years of age. You know, just like a licensed driver owning a real car with either a manual or fully automatic transmission. (Because lots of people are killed by cars too, right?) Then that way, when some citizen exercises their right to “go off their rocker”, for any reason, and shoots up their workplace before killing themselves for example, the property owners and victims could at least get significant damages awarded quickly – maybe even by the close of next business day! (Imagine the creative Geico commercials for that coverage.)

I know, I know, “it’s not the gun that kills people”, but golly they sure seem to be awfully handy gadgets of choice if that’s the intended outcome.  Of course, that’s like saying “it’s not the abortion that kills millions of unborn babies…”. Why on earth regulate those or make them illegal? Simple logic, right? But that’s probably a whole other post.

That’s like saying “it’s not the abortion that kills millions of unborn babies…”

Many are quick to publicly, and loudly, and sometimes obnoxiously defend everyone’s 2nd amendment rights, the NRA, and youngster’s rights to guns without question. I get that. They’re passionate, it’s really important to them, they feel threatened, and they have every right to speak up and protest (or just keep repeating some “fact” or tagline they picked up on in social media). I mean, don’t know many, if anyone, conservative or liberal, who don’t support or defend a “well-regulated militia“?  What I don’t understand is that they can also be some of the most obnoxiously cynical and vocally condescending individuals about how our young adult generations, especially millennial and post-millennial/GenZ (those born in early 2000s), are immature, unmotivated, lazy, irresponsible, and even stupid – at least compared to when they were kids. So why on earth let these kids purchase guns while they are under 21 years old? There’s an irony and disconnect here that’s legitimately difficult for me to reconcile.

A reasonable age and competency requirement for fully & semi-automatic weapons, performance accessories, and high-capacity clips are not threats to any mature, competent, American adult’s constitutional 2nd amendment rights in this country.  It’s just a common sense, starting point.

One thing is impossible to dispute. Aside from all the many other complex details that our post-modern, western culture can and should consider to help control this problem, none of these deadly shootings could have ever happened without a gun – often legally purchased by young, immature, and sometimes mentally compromised individuals. In each case, one could argue that they could have just as easily ILLEGALLY acquired a more powerful, fully automatic weapon.  But they didn’t. Instead, they choose to use what was legally available to them.  Had these weapons NOT been easily and legally available to 18-year-olds, it’s reasonable to assume they just might have chosen to use knives, smaller capacity firearms, or maybe reconsidered their kill plan altogether.  And first-responders such as the deputy in Florida, may have had a better chance to neutralize the problem faster with minimal loss of innocent life.

From → life

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