Tag Archives: Guns

On Raising Male Children in Gun Culture

Reading about first-graders being murdered is difficult for me. My beloved G/Son is in first grade and I simply can’t begin to consider what it would mean to me, to his parents, to the future, if my little, elf-eared, Leggo-lover were shot while learning to sing songs for the holiday concert, or painting color wheels in art, or working on two-digit addition. How would I ever go on with The Secret Garden only half-read, with so many books still to share, with nature centers unvisited, and no one to ask me for a snack of apples and cheese?

We live in the Patriarchy — a social system based, at its very core, on the notion of Power Over, what Riane Eisler called a “dominator culture,” a culture based upon rankings that require, in particular, women to be subservient to men. A culture where men’s power is enforced by fear and force, if necessary. We swim in the Patriarchy, often as unaware of it as fish are of water — who notices it? It’s always there, the background of our lives, so unremarkable as to become invisible. It’s “just the way things are.”

America’s gun culture is both an artifact of Patriarchy and one of Patriarchy’s strongest supports. Men who feel that their power is slipping or insufficiently acknowledged can always find a semi-automatic gun and reassert themselves by shooting up women and children. Politicians are afraid to challenge the gun lobby. There is apparently no limit to the number of horrific deaths that Americans are willing to endure simply to ensure that no man is ever inconvenienced in his desire to own as many guns — even guns that can kill dozens of innocents in a few moments — as possible. Americans who suggest that some gun safety provisions should be put in place are told that the answer is yet more guns: why, if everyone walked around all the time with loaded guns, everything would be fine! The insanity behind that statement doesn’t stop its proponents from repeating it like a mantra — anything to keep even the most common-sense regulations from ever coming to the floor.

The part of me that is a Nonna isn’t separate from the part of me that is a lawyer. And no one — and that includes SCOTUS — has ever successfully explained why the Second Amendment to our Constitution, which allows citizens to “keep and bear Arms,” because a “well regulated militia” is “necessary to the security of a free State,” (an arguably highly outmoded idea — otherwise, we need to start allowing citizens to keep weapons-grade uranium, and chemical weapons, and the ability to perform cyber-sabatoge of power systems) requires the regular and predictable deaths of first-graders simply in order to allow every angry man in America to assert his Power Over.

What happened in Connecticut — and in every other one of these pointless disasters — had nothing to do with ensuring the security of our country. Nothing. None of us is safe or secure when every mentally-ill, misguided, angry man can grab a gun and shoot up a school-full of our children. By definition, any policy that renders our children insecure in their very schoolrooms is antithetical to the security of a free State. And only an insane devotion to Patriarchy, to power over, to the desire for death over life, can cause anyone to pretend otherwise.

If we aren’t ready to repeal the Second Amendment (as we once gathered the courage to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment when we realized that that amendment was destroying our society), then we need to adopt sane gun safety laws that implement the Founders’ notion that keeping and bearing arms must be consistent with the security of a free State. Almost every other developed country — including Australia, which also fancies itself a wild frontier — has done so. And far, far fewer of their schoolchildren die every year due to gun violence.

And, at the same time, we need to undermine Patriarchy every chance that we get. And we get a lot of chances. Not enough, but a lot.

I raised a son in this culture and I’m trying v hard to be an involved grandparent in it and I’ve never figured out how to do either of those tasks in a way that doesn’t, far too often, allow Patriarchy to win. All that I’ve managed to do, I think, is to chip away at the edges, to try and model and instill the belief that a new world — a world based upon Power With, upon respect for women and the natural world, upon interconnection — is possible.

And, again, like Mary Oliver, too often I fail as a witness. We go to the RenFaire and buy wooden swords and shields and watch the jousting and it’s all good family fun. I read another bedtime chapter of The Secret Garden and don’t discuss the evils of colonialism or aristocracy. I buy the latest “ninja” Leggos and don’t ask enough questions about why there is only one “girl” ninja or about why fighting is the only way to solve problems.

I was thinking about this problem today as I was chopping celery and onions for crab mold for a friend’s party and rolling the sugarplums that I make for G/Son to eat on Christmas eve. (I never do this kind of cooking without magical intent; today, my intent was pretty strong.) And I remembered Derrick Jensen‘s statement that our responsibility for global warming is not, having been born in car culture, for driving a car; our responsibility is for not shutting down car culture as a whole, which is much more serious.

I don’t know how to shut down Patriarchy as a whole. But I am going to begin working much harder to find ways to talk directly about these issues with G/Son. I’m going to do magic and divination around these issues and I’m going to work more diligently to model Power With.

I shan’t be gone long, you come, too.

What I Learned in Law School: Update

Thanks to Atrios and Quilt Lady, as well as to a whole bunch of wonderful people on Twitter, my essay about the Second Amendment has garnered a number of comments. Rather than answer individually in the comments section of that post, I thought that I’d respond here.

First, although commenter HD didn’t engage on the legal or factual arguments that I made, s/he corrects my use of the term “automatic weapon.” I’m happy to accept the correction, but it’s, as we say in the law, a distinction without a difference. Digby explains that:

With a few keystrokes, the suspect, James E. Holmes, ordered 3,000 rounds of handgun ammunition, 3,000 rounds for an assault rifle[,] and 350 shells for a 12-gauge shotgun — an amount of firepower that costs roughly $3,000 at the online sites — in the four months before the shooting, according to the police. . . .

He also bought . . . a high-capacity “drum magazine” large enough to hold 100 rounds and capable of firing 50 or 60 rounds per minute — a purchase that would have been restricted under proposed legislation that has been stalled in Washington for more than a year.

(emphasis mine).

The only reason anyone needs an assault rifle or to shoot 50 or 60 rounds per minute is to massacre people. Whatever you call that kind of weaponry, I maintain that freely allowing every nutjob in the country to obtain it is inimical to both “a well-regulated militia” and the “security of a free state.”

Jay Alan Babcock suggested that police departments aren’t always as supportive of gun control laws as I impled and provides several examples to support his contention. And I agree that some policemen don’t support gun control. Yet, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence did a study and concluded that:

The majority of police chiefs surveyed supported the proposed firearm control policies, including background checks on handgun and long gun purchases, tamper resistant serial numbers, and prohibiting civilians from carrying firearms in a public setting, among many other policies. Most police chiefs (62%) also believed that the government should do everything in its power to prevent handguns from reaching the hands of criminals, even if it makes it tougher for law-abiding individuals to purchase a firearm. . . . In brief, police chiefs support many potential firearm control policies that could save lives and prevent incidents of gun violence from occurring.

Other commenters said here, and in messages to me on Twitter, that it’s hopeless, America won’t do anything, and, anyway, we’d have to ban all guns in order to save lives.

I just won’t accept that we’re doomed to allow incident after incident where, year after year, innocent moviegoers, students, workers, etc. are killed and wounded. Wikipedia notes that the Virginia Tech massacre:

prompted the state of Virginia to close legal loopholes that had previously allowed Cho, an individual adjudicated as mentally unsound, to purchase handguns without detection by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). It also led to passage of the first major federal gun control measure in more than 13 years. The law strengthening the NICS was signed by President George W. Bush on January 5, 2008.

That’s the largely rural state of Virginia and that’s Republican President George W. Bush.

So I just won’t accept that America won’t do anything.

And, I don’t agree that we’d have to ban every single gun in America. I think target shooting enthusiasts and hunters can own guns that don’t shoot 50 or 60 rounds per minute. I think we can have reasonable background checks for the people who purchase guns, ammunition, and protective gear. You can call me cynical, but if the Aurora killer had brown skin and was named Mohammed, people would be in an uproar wanting to know how he was able to arm up without being detected by Homeland Security. But the people in Aurora are just as dead and just as wounded, even though the killer has white skin and is named James Holmes.

Finally, I want to thank the many other commenters who offered thoughtful points. The first step in fixing this problem is having an adult discussion about it.

What I Learned in Law School

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

There’s probably little that I can add to our great national tragedy related to gun violence. I do know how incredibly intellectually dishonest and how incredibly offensive I find it when every Xian minister in America stands up and announces that the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado is due to (take your pick, apparently their nutjob god can’t get his story straight) abortion, feminists, teaching evolution, gay marriage, the end to state-sponsored prayer in public schools, etc., etc., etc. Seriously, there’s basically no daylight between Rick Warren and the Westboro Baptist Church; it’s just a matter of degree and media acceptance.

I will say this. When I was in law school (and it was many, and many a Moon ago) I learned two important rules of statutory construction. These are rules that they teach to lawyers to help them to figure out what various laws and regulations mean.

The first principle of statutory construction that I learned was that you have to read a statue in a way that, if at all possible, comports with the purpose of the statute. Thus, if, at the beginning of the statute, it says that the purpose of the statute is to, for example, protect consumers, you have to try and interpret that statue in a way that, you know, protects consumers. So if one side argues to the judge that the statute must mean X, but X would hurt consumers, and if there is another plausible meaning of the words, say Y, that would protect consumers, the judge should read and interpret the statute in a way that will protect consumers and should adopt Y as the correct interpretation.

The second principle of statutory construction that I learned was that you have to read a statute in a way that, if at all possible, gives meaning to all of the words. This is often stated, in the law, as reading the statute in a way that will not “render” any of the words in the statute as “surplusage.” In other words, you should try not to ignore any of the words that the lawmakers wrote. If there’s a reading that gives effect to all of the words, that’s the one that the judge should select, over a reading that would ignore some of those words.

I’ll add the following: I’m a woman living in the 21st Century. I don’t, for sure, know what the privileged, white, men who wrote our Constitution — who denied the vote to women, who accepted slavery, and who made a lot of compromises — had in their heads. But I do believe that they meant for their Constitution to last and to be read in ways that would make it effective going forward. YMMV.

When those men wrote the Second Amendment to our Constitution, America didn’t have a standing Army, Navy, Air Force (they could never have imagined!), Marines, National Guard, and Coast Guard. We didn’t have a police force in every town equipped with tasers, drones, heat sensors, electronic spies, and the ability to nab your cell phone and entrap your friends. We can argue, as an esoteric exercise, about whether or not all of those abilities are good things, but they are, right now, facts. We, the people, have turned over to the government our need for a “well-regulated militia.”

Here’s what I do know.

I do know that no matter how many guns any one person or group may purchase, if the United States government decides to take you out, they are going to take you out. They will, literally, out-gun you. Until you can, Dune-like, employ the family atomics, (not to mention the family chemical weapons, the family heat sensors, and the family ability to cut off water) and, really, even then, you are not going to hold off the firepower of the United States government, which spends more money on weapons than any other country on the face of the globe. Maybe that’s good; maybe it’s bad. But it’s a fact.

I know that letting every nutjob in America load up on automatic weapons is inimical to the “security of a free state.” People can’t be free if they are constantly at the mercy of an armed nut. Ironically, the reaction to the tragedy in Aurora isn’t to limit the ability of crazies to purchase arms. Instead, theaters are going to limit the freedom of patrons to wear costumes. Let’s be clear: costumes. Costumes don’t kill people. Guns kill people. But we apparently can’t limit the ability of nutjobs to buy guns, so we’re going to limit the ability of free people in a “free state” to wear costumes. Some underpaid usher at a movie theatre is going to decide whether or not your pentacle, or your Goth make-up, or maybe just your beard renders you unable to see a movie. Because we can’t tell nutjobs that they can’t buy automatic weapons. And you can now surrender your bodily freedom and allow, again, some underpaid usher at a movie theatre to grope you in order to allow you into the theatre.

I know that letting every nutjob in America load up on automatic weapons is inimical to “a well-regulated militia.” Ask any police force in America what they think about reasonable gun control and they’ll tell you that they are all for it. There’s nothing “well regulated” about letting every nutjob out there buy all the automatic weapons s/he can buy.

I know that more weapons won’t help anything. Ask the police what they think about the idea that, if there were only more people carrying more weapons into theaters, we’d all be safer. Six people standing up and shooting at each other won’t make the rest of us any safer, nor will it allow the police to apprehend the real crazy. Sure, a nutjob with a knife might kill some people, but I’m way more willing to believe that some heroic people in the theatre might take hir down than I am to believe that a bunch of armed folks with fantasies of Indiana Jones running through their heads are going to make things safer as they stand up and start blazing away at each other, esp. with me in the middle or with me, standing up to run out of the theatre with G/Son.

I know that this has nothing to do with hunting. I’ve eaten meat most of my life. I don’t, personally, have a problem with someone who hunts, for example, a deer or a rabbit or a squirrel, in order to feed hir family. I can’t find a definitive difference between hunting a deer in the woods and killing a cow in a slaughterhouse, at least, no difference that doesn’t favor the hunter. But we need to understand that the Second Amendment has NOTHING to do with hunters. It protects the right of citizens to bear arms in order to allow those citizens to be drafted into a “well regulated militia.” The government already possesses the power, under the Commerce Clause and under its police power, to regulate arms used for hunting.

Similarly, this has nothing to do with you owning a gun to shoot an intruder (who may or may not be a family member; it’s usually a family member). The government already possesses the power, under the Commerce Clause and its police power, to regulate arms used for personal security, as opposed to that of a free state protected by a militia.

Could we please grow up and have an honest discussion about this issue?

Picture found here.

Update here.