Am I a hippie?

The answer, of course, is no. I like showers, shaving, shoes, and my “love” is not free!

But there are lots of opinions I have in common with bona fide hippies, and sometimes I think about this. Today I thought of it a little because I was listening to The Take Away on NPR, and they were playing listeners’ comments on gun control. Ever since living in Japan, I admit I am probably what you’d call pro-gun control. The proviso to that is that I’m not in favor of every gun law out there or on the table–I’m just for better regulation of guns in general. What struck me about listening to the comments on NPR today was that so many of them were actually consistent with what I think. I’m not used to that since most of my friends and acquaintances are anti-regulation Republicans, and even Libertarians–ahem, anarchists, ahem–and my own mother is an NRA member.

I avoid talking to any of them about guns because frankly, I believe their views are rooted in culture rather than reason, and I do not like hearing their cliches and hyperbole. That doesn’t keep them from bringing the issue up in conversation (especially my mom, because she really does not give a damn that I hate talking about guns), and it certainly doesn’t keep them from plastering my Facebook feed with pro-gun jokes, memes, and articles of dubious journalistic merit. It also doesn’t keep them from bashing anyone who disagrees with them, rather than, hm, I don’t know, refuting us? Trying to?

Anyway, I suspect there are people I know who feel as I do. But guns are not something I consider polite to bring up in casual conversation. So it was nice hearing strangers on the radio say things besides, “Guns don’t kill people, people do!” or “Obama is a fascist!” You know? There were some callers from pretty conservative cities in the South, and I sort of imagined them like myself, like little islands of Can’t-We-Talk-About-This-Logically spread far and wide in a sea of My-Way-Or-The-Highway.

I understand people who hate regulation. I used to feel that way myself. I was raised by people who think one should never register all of his or her guns. I can imagine, I think, what the founding fathers were thinking about when they wrote the Constitution of the USA.

But what’s both annoying as well as scary is the antagonistic attitude that so many people seem to have. It’s annoying because it prevents edifying discourse. It’s scary because if you’re this aggressive with your [sometimes unsubstantiated] opinions, are you really going to be cool as a cucumber with a deadly weapon?

I also think about guns as analogous to cars. Both are useful to humankind, but both kill a lot of innocent people in this country every year as well. There are two points here.

The first is that cars are regulated. You have to insure yourself because it’s well known that you’re likely at some point to damage someone else’s property or body with your car. You have to have a license to drive a car because it’s well known that although a licensed driver is not necessarily a good one, an unlicensed driver is probably unlicensed for a good reason. You’re not supposed to drink and drive, text and drive, or speed. The list goes on. There are many laws associated with driving, and while they are not perfectly enforced, they are well enough enforced that fewer people die nowadays from flying through the windshield than in the days when seat belts were optional. I know there are people who say, “If someone would rather die than wear a seat belt, who is Uncle Sam to tell them otherwise?” The problem with that view is that it assumes Uncle Sam is trying to save people from themselves, which is not the case. What Uncle Sam is trying to do is save innocent people from stupid people, and to save public money.

Consider that children cannot be relied upon to make decisions about their safety, so they depend on their parents. Well, what happens when the parents do not make safe decisions? What happens when the parent does not think seat belts are really needed? In such cases, children need protection from their parents’ ignorance. Parents sometimes need financial incentives to make safer choices–the incentive here being, “I still don’t think seat belts are a big deal, but I would rather keep my money than pay a ticket.”

Also consider that people who fly through windshields typically need paramedics and police officers, who all need paychecks, and who all drive vehicles that require maintenance and fuel. So there is a significant cost to taxpayers when someone decides seat belts aren’t his cup of tea.

So a person has a choice to use a gun, and let’s not even consider what type of gun for now. A person has this choice, but it is a choice that should be regulated because it can jeopardize the safety of innocent people like children as well as cost taxpayers money that some of us think would be better spent on filling potholes (just saying).

The second point about guns and cars is that both threaten life. Do we care? This is the point: Do we? Where is Pope Francis? He could write about this better than I can. Our culture lacks respect for the dignity of life. Part of it is that we do not all agree on what is dignity, or we cannot agree on what is life (I am not only referring to abortion, but also to cases such as Terry Schiavo’s), or some of us are more cautious about certain slippery slopes than others. Part of it is also just either not knowing or not really caring that replying “LOL” to that text right now, while cruising 75 mph is actually putting other people’s lives at risk. Disregard for one’s own life is one thing. But part of living in a society is you don’t get to disregard other people’s lives! Or at least in my utopian dream that’s part of living in a society. But we constantly prioritize our desires and impatience over other people’s right to live.

Every time someone decides she’d rather drive home drunk than pay for a cab —

Every time someone answers a text message while driving —

Every time I speed —

Every time you try to talk on the phone, smoke, eat, and shift,  all at the same time! , in traffic —

These actions put our convenience, amusement, peckishness, and impatience above all else. We say to ourselves that nothing will happen, but the truth is that car crashes happen all the time. Fatal car crashes are not rare. And often it is not the foolish driver who dies.

When that guy in the white Camaro ran a red light at high speed a couple of years ago, I hated him so much because I realized this. Because his actions said, “Your husband’s life is not as important as me having a bit of fun.” Of course this is an example of someone disobeying the law, but certainly we all know that more people would run red lights if they weren’t afraid of a fine.

What I’m getting at is that people are selfish. I am not being high and mighty about this because I am not an exception, although part of my religion is trying to be less selfish and more life-affirming everyday. I have driven under the influence before, and that was wrong. The answer is not to defend my “right” to make a wrong decision though; the answer is to accept the consequences, and–Jesus said it best–“sin no more.” That is it. I cannot imagine that I will ever drive a vehicle like that again. For me, that is because my conscience has grown. But for others, conscience can be silenced (alcohol can do that, of course), and sometimes the law is just that one thing that makes somebody say, “You know what, I can’t risk getting caught doing this.” Their motive is selfish, but the result is the same: everybody is safer. This is what laws are for.

With guns, it is no different. If manufacturers could get away with selling faulty guns, some of them would (The Jungle principle). If some gun shops could get away with selling guns to anybody, they would. Since we already know that guns can be gotten illegally even under current laws, then some will say that is proof that gun laws don’t work. Don’t they though? Is the Camaro driver proof that traffic laws don’t work? No. Gun laws do not prevent every nutjob from getting a gun, but they do prevent some nutjobs from getting them. That is better than nothing when we are talking about people’s lives.

We need gun laws because people need gun laws when their consciences fail them. We need gun laws so that when a person cannot buy a gun legitimately, he has to ask himself (a) Do I need help? and (b) Since I cannot acquire a gun lawfully, is it worth it to risk getting caught with unlawfully purchased gun?

I’m not going to get into the hyperbole and fear of “One World Government,” or “New World Order,” or the other things that I’ve heard about from many of my anti-regulation acquaintances. I will also not get into how I interpret the Second Amendment. I’m not even going to address my friends’ logical fallacies. There is so, so much more to this issue, but all I want to say in conclusion is this:

What is more important: abstract rights or the lives of human beings? What is demonstrably harmful about restricting gun ownership? Are you certain that our society would not be safer with fewer guns? Have you ever lived in a developed country with strict gun laws?

3 thoughts on “Am I a hippie?

  1. I see where you are going with this. It is a position I held in the 1990’s. I won’t tell you my age then because it is not relevant. I want to ask some questions because the answers to these helped shape my understanding that I currently share.

    My questions to you are:
    What laws exactly would you enact that are not currently in existence?
    Is there a lack of regulation in the process of making weapons that exists when making cars?
    Do you understand why the states were originally against having a central militia and only relented if the militias were run by officers of the local states?
    Do give an example of the difference between a privilege and a right, and why this was important to the framers of our constitution?

    We are synchronous in the way we value life. This to the point where I am against the death penalty, abortion, euthanasia and, generally war. That said, I was fully in support of Lincoln’s moving our country into the bloodiest war in our nation’s history. I also believe Truman made the right decision that ended WWII. I don’t know how either felt about their decisions, but I imagine the decisions haunted them.

    In this manner, I do not trust our ever expansive government. History has shown us that every society that has had oppressive governments have had strict gun control. I liken those who believe in gun control in modern day to the loyalists in the era of the American Revolution. These are people who are generally good, and would help someone out if a fire broke out, a tree fell on the house, etc. The place we diverge is the very place in which we view human rights cease. Loyalists were more trusting of a central government, and the revolutionaries decided that they want to control their own destiny.

    I think anything less, especially in this day of mass execution as a political exercise (i.e. various Middle East countries and the Philippines), is a risk to a larger amount of lives being lost in the short run…over and over again. Pick any country in South America and you can see the truth in this.

    We should not go too far down this rabbit hole, though. As badly shaken as I am by our government’s’ recent impinging on the US Constitution (ie: compelling someone to buy a product), I think there will never be any serious attempt at controlling guns on the side of Democrats. This is why you are seeing them, at best, recite only slightly stronger versions of current law or, in Obama’s case no real suggestions at all. It is a historical loser for the party, but it is a rallying point for fringe elements.

    Please take no offense. I am trying to engage beyond hyperbole. I know you saw my posted memes, and although I posted them by accident (I usually save them for my political FB page), I stand by them, because they were pretty astute.

    I have been wrong before, though. I just prefer to be wrong as a free person.

    1. I am not ignoring your comments, but I’m not going to address them all. Not only would it take a long time, but I don’t really want to use WP as a forum for a debate. Otherwise, I would share my post on FB.

      Let me say three things though, as clarification more than anything. The first is that I didn’t see any of your gun posts besides the one I commented on. I think everyone, including myself, was reasonable there. You don’t need to think of censoring yourself for me, that’s for sure.

      The second is that it seems you think I’m in favor of federal gun control, and possibly banning guns altogether. That’s not what I’m talking about at all. First of all, it’ll never happen. Second of all, I’d be happy with tightening gun laws in my own state. Call me crazy, but unless it is unequivocally a matter of human rights (like slavery) or a matter that affects people everywhere (climate change), I don’t really care what the people of Utah or Virginia or whatever state besides mine decide. I might think they have crappy laws, and I don’t want to move there, but that’s okay. There might be people in those states who feel they’re getting a bad shake, and that’s what the courts are for deciding, and that’s also okay with me.

      The last thing I wanted to say is that I actually view this issue much as I view abortion. Privacy issues are the main reason why we don’t have a law that says only women who were raped can have abortions (which most people think). Privacy issues are the main reason we can’t really keep guns out of sick people’s hands (that and our background checks are not done consistently or well). The point is that laws won’t change anything. They may have effects, but they do not have solutions. Solutions only come with a great mass change of heart. Only a change in people’s attitudes will lead them to peaceful behaviors. The thing about this is that ‘no man is an island.’ Not to take away from the responsibility of the various murderers for their own actions, but they *have* been produced by *this* society. Not the UK. Not Canada. Not made in China. Made in USA. Something about the way we view guns, life, freedom, other people in general, is helping shape these individuals. It seems like if we ever change as a society to value non-violence, social justice, health, and life itself more, by that time, we will already be producing fewer ‘psychos,’ for lack of a better word.

      In the mean time, however, I’m for tougher gun laws in my own state. I don’t think that would make me less free.

      1. hope it did not infer anything untoward. Just curious where the thoughts came from.

        I do think there might be something to comparing relatively old countries in europe and asia compared to the colonies in the psyche of its inhabitants toward the overall approach towards guns in the culture.

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