Monthly Archives: December 2015

San Bernardino Follow Up

After some forthright discussion from the previous post, we’ve done two edits.  One, is to spell San Bernardino correctly, as incorrect spelling immediately removes one from being able to criticize the good old USA.  We are wearing the Typo Dunce Hat for the hour, to make up for it.

The second was to remove the quoted number of 355 active shootings in the US in 2015.  The number, quoted by many news outlets, including the NY Times and MSNBC is bullshit, so we’ve pulled it.  This article  explains it well.  We don’t mind admitting the error and find ourselves in good company in inadvertently distributing crap data.  Every media outlet did that day, so we will suck it up and say sorry about that.

The discussion set off some thinking however.  Not about gun control, gun ownership, the NRA, or the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution.  Those things are almost parenthetical to the San Bernardino outrage.  What it comes down to is how we protect the innocent, uninvolved bystanders.

Here’s our construct and we’ll be broad in our definitions, if only to keep from getting bogged down in trivia.

There is a difference between Criminals and Crazies.  Criminals do not want to die in the commission of their crimes:  Death ruins the cash flow, as a dead bank robber can’t rob more banks, break into more houses, or even up the score with a rival gang over turf, drug deals or protection.

Criminals tend to threaten the innocent bystanders until they get what they want and then want to get away quickly.  Even solo criminals, let’s say serial rapists, only want to perform the act, then run away to do it again.

Crazies we have to define.  A Crazy perpetrator of some kind of violent outburst doesn’t care if they live or die.  They want to kill innocent bystanders, or the uninvolved as a way of demonstrating their belief in whatever might be their issue.  It could be religious, it could be mental illness, it could be grudges over something said or done by a group to them, or about them.  A major defining characteristic is the desire to NOT run away after doing whatever they feel is appropriate as revenge.

There are always exceptions to each broad group, and one exception does not disprove the entire construct.  (If we could manipulate a deck of cards to have the 3 of Clubs squirt warm water in your face once, would you believe that every 3 of Clubs, anywhere in the world, at any time, would be gaffed to squirt water in your face?  If you do, then you’re missing the arc of the discussion and should stop reading now.  No discussion is ever 100% perfect in all situations, all the time.  Lighten up a bit, OK?)

Criminals use firearms, regardless of length, caliber, mag size or styling, as a way to threaten the victim to do what the criminal wants them to do.  Hand over the money, give us the keys to the car, or stop selling your drugs on our turf.  The threat of violence is the determinant, but that often doesn’t work with other criminals.  Criminals, generally, are not skilled or trained to use firearms effectively in a crisis situation under pressure.  That’s when you get into rounds flying everywhere and innocent bystanders being shot because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, which is what we want to prevent.

Crazies want to kill or wound as many as possible using their weapons as the determinant.  A suicide vest doesn’t mean much until you actually detonate the vest and kill innocent bystanders.  Threatening to blow yourself up for a half-hour is frightening, but until you do it, or you pull the trigger on the firearm, you’re just a crazy with a dangerous problem and the potential to cause mayhem.  The cops might even be able to talk that kind of crazy down, or disarm them, rendering the situation harmless.  Police have the tools, training and expertise to tell the difference between a potential crazy and a real crazy.  A real crazy explodes or starts shooting with no warning, the objective being to use whatever weapon has been selected, starting now.

In both cases, legislating the tools used for the threat or action, does nothing.  Criminals are not concerned with the niceties and responsibilities of gun ownership.  Crazies want something that will help them kill more, faster.  An axe is great for splitting wood or splitting somebody’s head open and the change from utility tool to weapon takes less than a second.  It’s like licensing ownership of a pair of pliers because someone could, conceivably, use pliers to not only fix the light in the hallway, but also to rip off someone’s nipples in a violent sexual assault.

What we want to control is the ability to readily inflict harm on many innocent bystanders.  An axe or a pair of pliers doesn’t have a mag, but firearms do, which is where the danger to the innocent bystander comes in and why we have to have a sanction on the illegal use of this specific tool.

(Yes, single-shot black powder firearms don’t have a mag.  Potential mass-shooting victims could take public transit to safety if the attacker is using a musket.)

Which brings us to how to manage some of the situation.  For criminals, we proposed something called the Double-Double in November 2006.  The short form is that if you commit a crime with a firearm, the sentence doubles and no parole.  Discharge the firearm?  The sentence doubles again.

A simple robbery, if convicted, goes from a 4 to 7-year sentence to a 16 to 28 year-no-parole, served-consecutively sentence.  Criminals, being somewhat clever, would recognize that being near a firearm is not good for business.  The Double-Double has nothing to do with gun ownership, the 2nd Amendment, or the right to defend yourself.  It has everything involved with making it unattractive to illegally use a tool that can rapidly involve many innocent bystanders in a bad way.

For the crazies, we can’t stop them from legally buying firearms (San Bernardino), ammonium nitrate fertilizer and fuel oil (Oklahoma City), drywall screws (Tuesday in Beirut by a bomb maker) or schedule 40 pipe from Home Depot.  Even with all the background checks you can imagine, you can’t predict what is going on inside their brain.

Remember what the motivator is for criminals or crazies:  One wants to do it again, the other wants to do it once.

At least we can control some of the mayhem, by controlling the criminals, making the illegal use of a tool punishable by a very long stretch in prison to discourage the use of a tool that can very easily harm many innocent bystanders.

The crazies?  We can’t control unless we’re willing to go over to a complete surveillance society, with the police watching our every move, everywhere, for suspicious intent.

This we don’t want.

San Bernardino

We’re going there and there’s going to be all kinds of backlash from all sides about this.  So be it, but before you decide to respond, do read to the end.

The bones of the story are common.  A pair of people decided to shoot up an event, killing 14 and wounding (so far) 21 others.  The police responded and the two ‘active shooters’ were killed.

Did the killers have some kind of grudge, or get into an argument, or some kind of beef, then go off and wreak some revenge?  Not clear yet if it was a couple of people going “postal” to use the old term, or if there was a political thing happening.

Was it a terrorist act?  We don’t know yet, that’s still under investigation and we won’t know for certain for several weeks, if ever, with any certainty.

Were the killers Muslims?  Well, there names weren’t Jones or Smith, somewhat foreign sounding, but he was a US citizen by birth and she was his wife by marriage, possibly from Saudi Arabia, or thereabouts.

Some media are saying they were devout Muslims, but we haven’t seen the evidence.  We suspect the evidence is a good headline.  Odd how you never see a headline that another killer was a “hair-trigger Lutheran”, a “tightly-wound Hassidim” or a “slack-ass Sunday Catholic”.  You never heard media say “Eric Rudolph, the possibly German, radicalized Baptist…”  Just sayin’

Were the killers radicalized somehow?  That’s still under investigation and will take a long time to make some kind of determination one way or another. CNN is quoting unnamed law enforcement sources that one of the killers was ‘radicalized’.  We’ll likely never know, even if we agree on whatever the hell ‘radicalized’ means.  Not making excuses here, but “unnamed sources” are sloppy reporting.  I can report, right now, that “unnamed sources” suspect that you (yes, you) have engaged in rough sex with penguins several times.  Until we can put a name and a context to the accusation, it’s bullshit.

Did they use legally obtained weapons to commit their acts?  Yes, they did.  Perfectly legal long guns and handguns, with lots of ammunition along with the home made pipe bombs which are not legal.

Were the various media outlets guessing at a lot of things during their coverage?  Yes, the media were guessing, some more than others.  (I was home from work and watched this all unfold live on CNN and KTLA, only a few minutes after things started happening.)

Which is our way of saying, we don’t know jack-squat right now.  Be assured that various groups are pointing to this incident to prove whichever point they feel they must push to the fore to hijack the discussion.

The real discussion is when did so many people decide that the only way to solve their problems was to shoot up the place?  Be it an elementary school, a movie theatre or an office party, the go-to response for settling grudges or curing untreated mental problems seems to be mass shootings.

Is it the way for the loners and losers and axe-grinders to have their fifteen minutes of fame, as they die in a hail of police gunfire with live coverage from a news team in a helicopter?

Is this what America has become?

We used to have a lot of admiration for the US.  America did big things for the right reasons, to let the huddled masses yearning to be free to make their way, through hard work and little luck to get their slice of freedom and prosperity.  America treated the sick, protected the weak and helped those with difficulties, without hesitation, almost everywhere in the world.

Slack-jawed, knee-jerk reactions from every corner of the political spectrum obscured by alternating fist-pumping and hand-wringing is the norm, when it deigns to interrupt the relentless pandering in the media to making stupid people famous.  All wrapped in a flag that used to mean something profound, strong, kind and safe.

San Bernardino isn’t about Muslims, Immigration, Guns, Foreigners, Politics or even Jihad.  It’s about America being afraid, all the time.

America used to be a good thing.  It isn’t any more.  You need to fix it.