Saturday, December 15, 2012

Appropriate blame and timing

It's been a long, long time since I've written anything here. With multiple projects going on at all times and so many web platforms screaming for attention, it's not always easy to stay engaged. But now it's time to unleash many thoughts in a single stream.

As you can imagine, the events in Connecticut's Sandy Hook elementary school are upsetting, but what's more troubling is the reaction of so many people. Immediately the partisanship showed through on social media and everyone blamed something for what happened. I doubt parents of the murdered children were on Facebook that day, but had they been the last thing they'd want to see is arguing and bickering. I also find it repulsive to see a single status that asks for prayers for those killed and then calls for the shooter's head. Violence should not beget violence, end of story. What he did was disgusting and pure evil, but vigilantism solves nothing. You're free to hate him, but not free to unleash that hate in the form of violence.

It's no secret that I have a far right lean in my values. I'm not afraid to admit certain liberal approaches. For example, while I have personal conservative feelings about lifestyles, I also recognize that not everyone is ME and their life is not MY life nor my place to run their lives. I wouldn't want someone to tell me I MUST do what they do so I can't tell them to stop whatever it is they do.

I digressed a bit. I'm conservative. I am a gun owner. I maintain a few things:

  • A gun will never fire itself and must be in the hands of someone willing to use it to be dangerous, just as a parked car never ran someone over.
  • A good, honest, law abiding citizen isn't a potential murderer the moment there is a gun in his hand.
  • A criminal is likely to commit a crime even if the gun is removed (the psychology of criminal minds tells us this).
  • A gun is only dangerous when used dangerously and not respected, just as ignoring ocean warnings for rip tides and undertow makes water dangerous.
  • Owning a gun is not a law or permission. It is a CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT. The right to bear arms is as inalienable as freedom of speech. And before you tell me that freedom of speech isn't harmful or dangerous, look at suicide statistics for children who have been bullied or verbally terrorized.
Some, none or all of the above may be true. I maintain all of those belief firmly. They aren't necessarily facts, although I believe them to be. I hold them to be self-evident truths, but don't expect everyone to see them the same way. As they are very personal and strong thoughts, they are, however, beyond contestation. You can disagree with my thoughts, but not tell me they are wrong.

That brings me to the next point. The outrage over people's beliefs and thoughts on social media sites has reached new heights lately. The typical scenario is: User A shares a belief. User B berates User A for thinking that. User A defends his or her claims and delivers a disclaimer that they are just personal thoughts and opinions. User B disregards latest disclaimer and prattles on about how their own opinion is fact. User A publishes a warning that anymore personal attacks will be met with consequences to their association/friendship. This is the fork in the road. It either a) dies on the vine right then and there or b) it continues until they part ways. What is missing from the whole thing is a mutual respect for personal opinion.

Back to the issue at hand, people are screaming for gun control. How many things are illegal? How many of those illegal things do people still do? Since when has setting laws actually curbed illegal behavior? Shouldn't we focus on health, information, understanding and some more compassionate forms of prevention. Anyone with a child knows the difference between screaming "don't ever do that again" and sitting and chatting with explanation and disappointment in their voice. I'm not suggesting we lecture criminals and tell them we are disappointed in them, but it's the idea that stern prohibition never works. Speaking of prohibition, remember the 1920s and alcohol. That worked well.

The point is that no matter what you do, evil will exist. People will be crazy. There is no protecting everyone from harm and lunacy. If you ban guns, you've reduced a method, but not solved the crazy. Is it true that it's easier to kill someone with a gun than a knife? Sure it is, but someone who walks into a school or a movie theater and kills a large group of people has an intent to do harm that no law is going to stop. Take away the tool and they will find another tool.

And from a technology perspective, did you know that for less than $10,000 someone can buy a printer that will print a physical gun? 3D printing is on the rise and getting more powerful. No single person is going to spend that kind of money, but that's not expensive for the right person looking to manufacture and sell them. And that's fledgling technology. When 3D printing matures these printers will be in everyone's homes.

To make matters worse, the social media world took to their keyboards and found the guy that did it and shared his profile all over the place and threatened him. As it turned out, it wasn't even him. It was his brother. The actual guy was already dead at that point. Then they thought they found him again, on Twitter this time, and went on the attack. For the 2nd time it was the wrong guy. 

One final point about skewing data. I saw a list over and over again yesterday in the aftermath of the CT shooting. It listed several countries and their gun death rates. It compared them all of the U.S., which had way more deaths than anyone on the list. However, it was raw data. There's a reason Denmark has less gun deaths than the U.S. It's a fraction of the size. Who has more speeding tickets? The guy that's been driving for 35 years or the guy that's been driving for 1? Get real people? Without accounting for the size of the country and population, there's no way those numbers make sense.

By now, many people are thinking that this is just the ramblings of a conservative asshole. I know it. That's ok. Then tell your story, the true story. Use real numbers. If I'm getting it wrong, then get it right.  You want to say that now is the time to change, then do it the right way. Blame the appropriate cause and pick the right time. There's no harm in waiting a day before getting political. There's NEVER harm in taking a moment to choose words.

Yesterday was tragic. Everyone that screamed from the rafters about some blanket policy solution made it worse.

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