A word or two on guns

I try to be discreet about where I live, other than saying that I live in the greater Portland area these days.

But given the course of recent events, I will admit that I live close enough to Clackamas Town Center that I often go there for lunch. In fact, the week before the shooting that made the mall temporarily famous, I went there for lunch no fewer than three times. One of those times, I even stopped in the food court there to eat my meal. Given the hours I work, I usually go for lunch between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m.

The following week, on Tuesday, I was revved up in my day job and so when I woke up especially hungry, I started my day out with an energy bar so that I could “get through” to lunch a couple hours later.

As a result of that energy bar, I thought about going to the mall for lunch less than I had the week before. Every time I thought about picking up some steak teriyaki that day, I put it off. “I’m not that hungry yet.” “It doesn’t sound that good today.” I wrote it off to just not being that hungry, and perhaps that I had gone once too often the week before.

“No problem,” I told myself. “I can go on Wednesday instead.”

So, sometime after 3 p.m., I harnessed up our little min-Pin and took her for a walk around the complex. As I walked her, I heard a few sirens in the distance. Then more than a few sirens. And by the time Shadow had finished her business, I even started to hear helicopters.

I asked a neighbor if they knew what was going on. They didn’t have a clue. Using my smartphone, I looked up The Oregonian and all I saw was a report of a fire in SE Portland, but I had no idea if the address was close by or far off.

Seems like a lot of fuss for a fire, I thought. Must be a bad one.

I walked back home, fed the dog her “good girl” bones for taking care of business like an obedient dog, sat down at my computer to get back to work, and decided due to the noise from the helicopters nearby, to look up the Oregonian web site on my PC instead of my smart phone.

That’s how and when I learned of the Clackamas Town Center shooting. Work was out the window for the rest of the day as I flipped on television news to learn more details. It was surreal to hear the sound of news copters on television live shots outside my favorite mall, then mute the TV sound and be able to hear the same helicopters.

Had I chosen to grab lunch at CTC that day, the timing would have been perfect to be right in the line of fire when Jacob Tyler Roberts, wearing a hockey mask and heavy black clothing, burst out of Macy’s and started shooting up the food court across from the Macy’s south location.

So, in a way, a protein bar perhaps saved my life that day. Because when I do lunch, I tend to go grab lunch first, then walk the dog when I get back. I would have arrived at Clackamas Town Center only a few minutes before the shooting began, and would have been waiting on my lunch to be prepared right in front of me when Roberts opened fire.

Now, sure… I didn’t go to lunch that day. My life was never directly in danger. But did the synchronicity of those events, the “I could have been there, in the line of fire” sense of things, mess with my head a bit? Just in terms of freaking me out a bit?

Yeah. It did.

But I felt far worse for the victims. Two adults died, and one teenage girl could have… but mercifully survived.

Also, I have acquaintances and neighbors who work there. I have heard them tell their account of being there when the mall went crazy in a bad way. I can relate very directly to the sensitivities inherent in surviving such an event.

So, I know guns are a touchy subject right now. Especially since, three days later, a much bloodier mass shooting took place on the east coast, taking the lives of 20 children and six adults. That kind of double-whammy is thankfully rare, but nevertheless disturbing.

Let me also say, I have no membership in any gun-rights group, though I do believe that the second amendment is there for a reason, and a very good one, and should not be abolished.

But do I have a taste for guns? Not personally.

When I was young, I chose fishing over hunting and concentrated most of my time learning that sport. Yet I did take part in a gun safety course in middle school, taught after-hours by the local chapter of the NRA. I did take part in rifle-based target shooting when I went to summer camp around that same period in my life.

And in high school, I went pheasant-hunting with my father one time. I was given an under-over rifle that had a .22 and a .410 built into it. I cleaned it many times.

But on that one hunting trip, I had a single opportunity to take down a pheasant my father had scared up, and even though I had it in my sights, I couldn’t bring myself to take the shot.

Not because I’m some weepy left-winger who thinks every deer harvested during hunting season is Bambi’s mom, either. It just didn’t appeal to me. I knew the moment I decided to let the pheasant fly away that I was a pure fisherman with no hunter in me.

So, yeah, I’m not even really a gun owner.

But I feel reassured by the fact that if I wanted to own a gun, I could.

(Technically, I do have a single pistol that my father, who served in World War 2, let me have as a keepsake. It’s kept in a safe place and probably hasn’t been fired since the 1940s when my father brought it home from Europe with him. And so far as I’m concerned, it’ll stay that way. I keep it purely as a reminder of my father’s military service.)

I’m not someone inclined toward gun ownership, personally.

Yet, once again, I feel reassured that if I wanted to own one, I have the freedom to do so, if I ever change my mind. Not that I expect to. But it is reassuring.

In wake of the Clackamas Town Center shooting, and the tragedy in Connecticut as well, the nation is talking once again about banning some, or perhaps even all, guns.

That, I oppose.

Why?

Look, we know the typical talking points on both sides, so I don’t have to restate them, do I?

“Guns are evil.”

“No, people are evil … guns are just a tool and if you take them away, evil people would use something else.”

On and on.

What I will say is this: both sides are arguing off-point most of the time.

To the gun-banning liberals, I’ll just say this: Show me a gun that, unaided by any human wielder, starts shooting up someplace, and then you’ll have a point that guns are evil. Get over that bit and start honestly arguing your real point: that, yes, it’s a tool, but you consider it a tool too dangerous to be owned. It might be a harder sell, but it’d be worlds more honest.

Also, show me how keeping guns out of the hands of those who obey the law prevents those who don’t obey the law from using guns, and again, maybe you’ll have an argument that makes sense.

But in the case of Jake Roberts, all his artillery was stolen. So shutting down the sale of guns, or banning semi-automatics, or restricting clip-sizes, or whatever else you think is a solution, would not have prevented Roberts’ rampage.

Make smarter arguments if you want to make your case, and stop arguing as if guns act on their own, without a person pointing them and pulling the trigger. Because right now, you really all sound silly. And stupid.

And, to the gun-loving, NRA-member conservatives, I’ll just say this: stop acting like every incident of violence is no big deal. This time, most of you kept silent for a respectful amount of time, and that was good. But to then suggest we all revert to a combination of the Old West and a police state, where there are a lot more guns being wielded, just comes off badly and makes you look like rabid dogs.

Yes, historically, you’re right: the second amendment isn’t just about hunting. It’s about giving the people an ability to overthrow the government, should it become unjust.

But let’s get real: the government now has nukes, tanks, way more firepower, and now even unmanned drones. Even if every citizen carried an Uzi on them, it would not ensure us of the ability to overthrow a corrupt administration. So let’s stop it with all the dialogue suggesting that’s even possible. It’s not.

What you should be doing is arguing for the right kind of reforms, reforms that might actually deter gun-related violence, but from a wiser perspective.

Since the other side’s solutions are often off-target, don’t just argue about law-abiding citizens having the right to their guns: instead, argue in favor of smarter penalties, stricter enforcement, and other such solutions that might actually reduce the frequency of someone from walking into a mall or a school and shooting up the place. And stop blaming scapegoats like movies and videogames in the process, please. Stay on focus and on topic.

If the left’s ideas are wacky and off-target, than propose better solutions than them. Someone has to.

And to both sides, I’ll just add one more thing: Everyone on both sides wants to talk about solutions that will “prevent another tragedy like this from ever happening again.”

Which sounds right and good and noble.

Except, of course, that it’s impossible.

Long before guns, someone atop Mount Sinai once offered this bit of advice: “You shall not murder.”

Great law. Right idea.

And yet people still murder.

Truth is, those who are murderous, are murderous.

Those who set their mind to kill others, will find a way to do it.

Tragedies that result in the loss of innocent lives will never cease in this world, because there will always be those who indulge in selfish, life-robbing actions.

In other words: things like this will happen no matter what laws we pass, no matter what Constitutions we either uphold to trash, no matter how armed or disarmed everyone in general is.

Sometimes, people just choose selfish, evil actions over selfless acts of kindness and good.

That won’t change in this world, in this life, ever. That idealism is reserved for the world to come.

So maybe we should all get off our respective moral high horses about “my ideas will prevent this from ever happening again.”

Because if God saying, “Thou shall not murder” doesn’t result in the end of all murder… no other laws will, either.

The rest is about trying to increase safety and reduce risk.

But nothing, no law, will ever ensure complete safety or eliminate all risk. It just won’t.

That is what we all have to learn to accept and deal with. Only then can our dialogue become truly productive.

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