Posts Tagged ‘rights’

Gun pride

Something else I heard on the news in the last couple of days stuck with me. The Connecticut school shooter’s first victim was his own mother, who was found dead at her home. It was (at least partly) her guns that Adam Lanza used to take another couple of dozen lives, and she was quoted as being “proud” of her gun collection.

I don’t want to make this particular comment about gun safety, as such. I have no idea how responsible this lady may have been with her collection. I have zero information on how securely the guns in her house were kept, and no reason to start criticising the way she went about trying to keep herself and her family safe.

What I do want to comment on is the use of the word “proud” when people describe their gun collections.

I think it’s a bad idea for that to be something to take pride in.

Well, maybe not in everyone’s case. There are no doubt enthusiasts of history out there, and people with an interest in their technological development, and so forth, whose interest in guns is sincere, learned, and intellectual, who find an appeal and satisfaction to studying their function, recognising and categorising them, understanding the details of their safe and proper use. That can be all well and good. It doesn’t do anything for me, but I know people who go birdwatching to a degree that bewilders me. There’s no accounting for taste, and that’s fine.

But there’s a different flavour of pride some people take in their guns, where it becomes a macho, posturing thing. In many cases, it’s a distinctly masculine way of bragging about how powerful you are, how dominant, how much harm you could do to others if you chose.

That’s an attitude that worries me.

I’m not saying you should be ashamed, or feel like a bad person, if you own any guns, or even if you enjoy owning them. And I’ll even stipulate, for now, that you’re perfectly entitled to own whatever weaponry you’ve got your hands on so far. You want to protect your family from potential threats, intruders, attackers. Sure. There’s a noble sentiment motivating what you do, I’ll give you. This isn’t about shaming anyone.

But the fact that you need, not just guns, but a gun collection to protect your family? That shouldn’t be a point of pride. If such things really are necessary for you and your loved ones to be adequately defended against the world, that’s deeply regrettable. It should be an unfortunate truth, against which you grit your teeth and grimly accept the tragic nature of reality.

At best, a gun collection should be seen as a necessary evil. I can’t see a good reason for it to inspire pride.

Would you feel as proud of your guns as you do now, if you had to use them? If a twenty-year-old tweaker broke into your home in a desperate frenzy one day, wanting to grab something he could sell to get a fix that afternoon, and you shot him dead because you legitimately feared for your family’s safety – would you be proud of what you’d done?

Or would you feel sad and shaken by something like that? Even if you were sure you’d done the right thing, the only thing you could have done in the situation, would you regret the necessity of it? Would you agree that the outcome was a terrible one, even if there was nothing else you could do to prevent it in the moment?

If it’s the latter case, I think that’s understandable. And I think you would do well to extend that attitude toward the ownership of deadly weapons in the first place.

If not… well, if killing someone who broke into your home and attacked you is something you reckon you’d feel positive about, you’re probably such a different person from me that you don’t read this blog a whole lot. If you are, I’d strongly urge you to reconsider your feelings on the value of human life.

There are also those with concerns, not about personal defense against individuals who wish us harm, but about the increased power of centralised authority, if we vote to let them take everyone else’s guns away (which, let’s remember, is not the only thing that “gun control” means, by any stretch). The gist of the argument seems to be that living in a country where the only firearms are in the hands of the government-run military and police forces is a scary notion.

And there’s a lot of truth there, but I’m also deeply unnerved by the blithe acceptance of a police force who need to be stood up to with armed violence. I mean, if the police and the army are such a threat to citizens of their own country, that those citizens need to defend themselves against them with guns… then why the hell do you have such a scary, power-mad police and military?

It’s not that I don’t think abuses of police authority are a serious worry, but surely there are other methods of recourse to deal with the problem. I’m not sure I want a police force or a military around at all if I’m going to have to carry a gun to make sure their behaviour doesn’t get out of hand.

I guess that’d be the right-libertarian ideal, where everyone is no more than a quick-draw away from ending the life of anyone who might pose a threat, so that we can all live in perfect peace under a comforting omni-present blanket of mutually assured destruction. But I’m willing to bet that, if I bothered to do the research, I’d find that the safest places in the world aren’t the places where the most people are armed and ready to shoot each other if anyone else tries starting any shit. I suspect the safest places are those where people don’t tend to own guns, and don’t think about guns all that much.

Things need to change massively before they’re going to stop being awful. I’m rarely crazy about government intervention, but I’m having a hard time seeing the idea of state imposition of gun control laws as a more sinister prospect than the condition of the US as it currently is.

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The media continues to demand straight-forward, definitive, unchanging yes/no answers about science that’s getting really quite tricky now.

– In Germany, refusing to work as a prostitute apparently means you’re a shiftless sponger who doesn’t deserve benefits. Perhaps most alarming is that the government deemed it “too difficult to distinguish [brothels] from bars”.

Something will have to give on the confusion between religious and legal involvement in marriage and civil partnerships. The penultimate paragraph in particular is something I’ve been urging for some time.

– Today is Bill of Rights Day. Americans, I hope you’re being appropriately grateful for all your rights.

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Here, have a slightly adapted form of a brief rant I just had on Twitter.

@unfortunatalie reported David Cameron as saying: “No human rights concerns will get in the way of bringing these people to justice.” (By “these people”, he means those who have been rioting, looting, and vandalising bits of London this past week.)

Did he really say that? I’ve already got a headache, otherwise I’d bang it on something.

I’ll try an analogy. Claiming to cherish free speech is only meaningful if you defend it most strongly for speech you find vile and hateful. As Greta Christina points out, any free speech law:

wasn’t written to protect our right to say that puppies are cute and apple pie is delicious.

Similarly, we don’t venerate human rights solely for the sake of lovely old ladies doing some knitting. They’re to protect suspected criminals too. It’s so we don’t behave inhumanly to those we believe have wronged us, and who we might be tempted to see as less than human.

So if Cameron’s really promising not to let human rights stand in the way of justice, I reject any claim he might make to care a jot for either humans or rights.

Right. Ill-informed and idealistic social tirade ACCOMPLISHED. Time for a cup of tea.

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While I was offline for a month, I kept a note of any links and news stories worth commenting on. Now that I’m back, I’m aiming to post two short items a day here, about stuff that happened during my online absence, until I’ve cleared the backlog. This is one of those.

The latest British Social Attitudes survey indicates that 51% of people in this country identify as having “no religion“.

That’s most people. Only a minority in the UK, apparently, are sufficiently bothered about any particular religion to count themselves a member of it.

There’s a margin of error, obviously, and other surveys have given different results. But it’s clear that we’re a significantly and increasingly secular country.

But as the Guardian article points out, religious tolerance appears to have been on the increase in recent decades, as much as its adherence has been becoming sidelined. Christianity may be more open to ridicule than it used to be, but failure to hold a particular faith is much less widely seen as an inadequacy or inherent unsuitability for any kind of public office.

And Christmas still seems to be as popular as ever. Interest isn’t obviously waning, nobody’s trying to have it banned or renamed Winterval, and not being religious doesn’t seem to be holding people back from enjoying whatever festivities are there to be enjoyed.

Even if most people really aren’t religious any more – which it looks like will soon be undeniable in the UK, probably within my lifetime – that doesn’t need to worry the remaining religious people at all. The New Atheism movement hasn’t been working towards an atheist majority; we’ve just been trying to earn the respect, recognition, and non-religious rights that a lot of people haven’t wanted to afford us in the past.

So long as none of those same rights are lost to religious people just because there aren’t as many of them as there used to be, they’ll cope fine in the minority.

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While I was offline for a month, I kept a note of any links and news stories worth commenting on. Now that I’m back, I’m aiming to post two short items a day here, about stuff that happened during my online absence, until I’ve cleared the backlog. This is one of those.

Aggregator of awesomeness Boing Boing has been doing a pretty thorough job of documenting the exploits of the TSA in recent months, highlighting many examples of how illiberal, unnecessary, awkward, expensive, humiliating, time-consuming, pointless, and downright authoritarian and abusive the US government’s attempts to crack down on terrorism can be.

On top of all that, it looks like they’re not even effective.

We can’t know how many terror attacks, potentially on a scale that could have dwarfed 9/11, were foiled while security staff were drenching a retired cancer patient in urine, taking naked pictures of passengers with untested equipment, stealing thousands of dollars, planting white powder in people’s bags as a prank, frisking five-year-olds, or just enjoying some good ol’-fashioned ball-grabbing.

But we also can’t know exactly how many .40 calibre loaded guns and twelve-inch razor blades people have walked onto planes with in spite of all this.

If I had to guess, I’d say the second number might be a little bigger than the first.

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