Ren's Ramblings & Writings

Contemplations on things tangible and intangible

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Letter to President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Governor Hickenlooper re: gun control

December 30, 2012

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Re: gun law changes

Dear Mr. President:
Thank you for all you do!  I would like to offer my thoughts on this issue. I know you have what may seem like an insurmountable effort in front of you to find some reasonable resolution.  I know first hand, since, as a former republican (more of a centrist, depending on the issue) and a gun owner, I encounter a lot of hostility and disagreement when I try to find middle ground between progressives and conservative gun owners-my husband included.  There are so many, many facets to this issue, not just 2nd Amendment rights and not just gun access.  It is a very big puzzle, of which there only seem to be a few pieces on the discussion table. NO TRAGEDY is a simple, one-issue ordeal. Every situation must be analyzed.  Mental health practices and services. ammunition access laws, background checks on private sales, and, yes, the DATA ON THE DEFENSIVE USE OF GUNS must also be considered, though, admittedly, I have had a hard time trying to find what I believe to be credible statistics  Actually, the few credible sources I discovered indicate that criminal gun use is more prevalent than defensive gun use.  Never-the-less, to be fair, we must acknowledge that guns sometimes do save lives and property, and we must try to find a way to evaluate ALL pieces of the larger puzzle.
·         I am a gun owner, and believe that gun owners have a duty to be part of the solution to prevent tragedies. It is not enough to scream about 2nd Amendment rights, as that amendment was created during a time when militia members had to bring their own weapons to battle, and there was no such thing as an automatic of any kind.  ‎"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."  It was also to be "well-regulated" and "necessary;" in that time, to be armed was to own a musket, which took time to reload, and shot one musket ball at a time.  We have a military and law enforcement now. We did not have a well-sourced military or law enforcement when this law was ratified. And I do not buy the argument that our weapons have grown as the reach of government has grown, since I doubt that most of us could agree enough on a definition of tyranny to come to a conclusion that the government has become a tyranny.  Furthermore, even if citizens could agree on a definition of tyranny, the idea that citizens could use the 2nd Amendment to get control of the government is absurd at best.  Times have changed, technology has changed, so the laws must change.  Gun owners must be part of the discussion, and the solution.
·         School is for academics. The NRA does not represent the individual gun owners, but most gun owners don't know this-the NRA represents only the gun manufacturers.  Teachers are the experts at their life-calling: teaching.  I'm sure some are skilled shooters as well, but let them do what they are the experts in.  Law enforcement officers are the experts at what they do, but I do not want them in school buildings.  In addition, we have to keep things in perspective-schools are still the safest place for our children in this country, which atrocities like Newtown make us forget.  "Schools are [still] among the safest places for children and adolescents in our country, and, in fact, crime in schools has been trending downward for more than a decade."  Other things to consider with regard to arming teachers:

  • Will we pay them hazardous duty pay if they're going to be expected to defend they way police and soldiers do?  Apparently some people already believe our teachers are not worth the little we pay them now.
  • What is to stop educational staff from “going postal” on students or having their firearms wrestled from them and used on them and the class?  There is a reason why ZERO fire arms are allowed in prisons-because, those weapons can be taken and can be used to cause more harm than good. Even in the military, unless you are a military police officer, or are in a combat zone, you are FORBIDDEN to carry a firearm on duty-even when we perform 24 hour, or security duties. It's so easy to just say "let's arm everyone," but I am a gun owner and a shooter and I believe that nothing is that simple.  
  • Who is going to pay to arm and train teachers?

·         This is a complex issue -I am not trying to shift the conversation to Aurora; I want to make the point that all events will be complex, investigations will be ongoing, and that there are likely to be multiple issues contributing to the event, not just the shooter's access to guns. For example, in the Aurora shooting,
"What must be cleared up first is that there is a difference between the state and municipal laws and the rules set by the Century 16 movie theater where the grisly shooting took place. The theater had a ban on walking in with firearms, and also on concealed carry permit holders from bringing their guns on the premises. The theater’s rules were quite restrictive, but did not prevent the shooter from committing the crime anyway."
"Aurora’s municipal laws disallow having a concealed carry for a “dangerous weapon,” discharging a firearm if not an official member of law enforcement, and having a loaded firearm in a vehicle. While the shooter broke all of these laws, they also prevented law abiding citizens from shooting back and stopping him."
SCC’s national spokesman, David Burnett, said after the Colorado Supreme Court decision to allow concealed carry on college campuses, “Gun-free policies are an open invitation to psychopaths. Signs on the doors are an unenforceable lie that only robs licensed citizens of their ability to defend themselves. Until colleges can guarantee our safety, they can’t criminalize self-defense.” Gun Laws State by State-CO
     We must realize that crimes have in fact, gone down since 1990 (in general). I like comedian John Fugelsang’s statement “If more guns made things safer America would logically have the lowest murder rate on Earth.  In the long run, even gun owners, we must question the claim that guns make America a safer place.

·         As a gun owner I think it's our duty to regulate and be safe-law enforcement does this, the military does this, and even public gun ranges control access and shooting privileges.  There is not a military installation where you can have your personal firearms in your quarters or on your person without registering them that I am aware of, and we should consider how few attacks there have ever been on military installations.  Even state conceal carry laws do not apply on federal installations, so service members who happen to have permits may not conceal-carry on the installation.  Only the installations that permit hunting allow anyone to transport firearms in their vehicles, and those firearms must be registered on the installation, to the best of my knowledge.

·         We must look at the state of our culture -I was reading recently about the spike in gun sales after the Aurora shooting and then again after you won reelection- buyers often tend to be of the mindset that they're in constant danger (despite the fact that violent crime is down compared to past years) and because they also believe that after every shooting, every democrat will use the event to take away all guns, when that has never happened.  We are using anything we can to justify buying guns we may not need and may not have the money to invest in.  My husband told me that several of his soldiers wanted to buy guns after your reelection, based on lies and rumors, even though you had made clear you would never take away all guns-my husband had to council those young soldiers that even though they want to impulsively buy guns, they can't afford to do so and must prioritize their bills.... see what insanity and lies do to people?  

·         We must be careful when it comes to mental health issues.  If we decide to make this information public, who will decide which people and which diagnoses are safe and which are not?  Will laws be made deciding that ALL with current medical diagnoses of certain conditions are ineligible to own firearms, even if they truly pose no threat? There are millions of people across the country who own some sort of weapon, and who need help with something in the mental health realm, but who are law-abiding and who value life.  Also, once we drag someone's mental health issues into the public realm, we jeopardize their jobs and livelihood.  I am not saying we ignore this issue, but I think we must analyze every aspect of it from all angles-with doctors, mental health professionals, gun owners, legal representatives, and progressives, and victims and every sector represented as part of the discussion.   This is so very sensitive.  We also let go of archaic beliefs that we don’t interfere with others’ business; we must find a way to better help those around us who are struggling.  

·         We must discuss hate groups-the guy who shot innocent people at the Sikh gurdwara (temple) in WI (This shooter used only a 9mm hand gun).  Should we deny fire arms to all who are members of faith/race-based hate groups who are known to be aggressive historically?  I don't hear anyone screaming for bans on weapons to KKK members or other white supremacist group members who "could" behave in such a deathly way, though, I would guess that these members are more likely to cause destruction than most typical people.  I recall reading about soldiers who were arrested in Georgia for plotting a coup d’ etat; I understand that you receive many, many threats yearly.  Don’t these things blur the line between patriotism and terrorism?  Are guns making us safer?  I honestly cannot say that guns are making us safer when I look at Representative Gabrielle Giffords and all those who were with her who suffered and died.  And Loughner did not even use an assault weapon but managed to injure and kill nearly 20 people.  People seem to forget that (intentionally-on purpose?) Loughner caused nearly as much harm using just a pistol.

I want to address one more thing that may or may not be on your mind regarding gun crime, or any crime.  I keep seeing references to putting bibles “back” in schools:

School is for academics. Home and religious locations are for learning religious beliefs of any kind.  Atheists make up less than .2% of prison populations.  Those with no particular religious preference total less than 11% of prison populations. Christians make up over 80% of inmates. Religious prisoners (of all religions) total 89%... 

In addition, the vast majority of hate groups in the USA are faith-based, mostly Christian (see Southern Poverty Law Center). It isn’t just the KKK or the Westboro Baptist church that use the bible to justify their awful hate and fear-mongering and terrible activities.  Look at the many well-known (notorious) religious figures and politicians, as well as the Rush Limbaughs, the Mike Huckabees and Pat Robertsons who all justify their hate-mongering on the bible, which I believe they scarcely understand.  They surely don't know true biblical history, or the history of the biblical countries where the Abrahamic religions originated.  The fact that so many people still think of Christ as a white guy is flabberghasting!  The point is, I do not believe that putting one religious book in schools is going to solve our problems-in America, The Melting Pot, no one religion's book should be in tax-payer funded schools-I get to choose what religions my kids are exposed to-and I definitely do not choose the hate-mongering that is rampant among people who call themselves Christians but surely do not know what Christ stood for.  I also do not choose the constant misinterpretation and misapplication of scripture, knowing that so many who scream about their bible don't even know what it truly says. 

Someone told me that the bible promotes hope… how does teaching discrimination to our children, how does teaching them to hate a group of people promote hope?  Christ promoted hope. Many Christians today, and incorrect and hateful biblical interpretations, do not.  The bottom line is that public schools are funded by taxpayers of every religion and spiritual and non-religious belief and tax money shouldn't be used to promote only one religion.

I grew up in a hunting family, am a retired veteran married to an active duty soldier who has more than 22 years, and I enjoy shooting when we can.  I enjoy shooting the M4 semi-automatic-it is honestly a lot of fun to shoot.  I even like having larger capacity magazines (who wants to reload after only a few rounds?)  I appreciate having a freezer full of meat as it is healthier and reduces the grocery bill.  

However, as you eluded to in a recent interview, Americans must seriously reflect on these issues. The common ground for gun owners and non-gun owners is that not one of us wants the innocent to suffer and die to guns.  We need to build a foundation for solution on that common ground.  You have your work cut out for you on this issue-with hostility likely from both left and right sides of the issue.  There seem to be few willing to compromise and come to the middle.  As a centrist, I trust you will evaluate every piece of this puzzle and I will support the reasonable and rational conclusions your team comes to.

Reverend Renée L. Ten Eyck


Vice President Joe Biden
Governor John Hickenlooper

Udpdate January 5, 2013

 I've been watching, and re-watching "Michael and Me," a documentary  where nationally syndicated radio and TV talk show Larry Elder makes significant arguments for private gun ownership.  His focus is the issue of self defense. There are very significant statistics, and, since we MUST look at every aspect of this issue, I recommend this documentary wholeheartedly, as a summary of information that is critical to the gun-law discussion.  

Some of the key points of this documentary include the following:

-Census surveys have some data on defensive gun use

-some of the reasons people who have used their guns defensively do NOT report their defensive gun use include:
               1. they're not sure if their own possession is legal in their district (this I can see, since though I own guns, I'm not entirely certain about the local laws and how they apply to different situations)
               2. people are not sure if their defensive actions would be viewed as defensive or would be considered legal in their jurisdiction.
              3. people are not sure if they could be jailed while their case is investigated

 -Paxton Quigley states that not only is there a psychological fear primarily among women, but there is a social norm that believes that guns always equal violence, are ONLY for men, and it is not lady-like for women to own them  (another female commenter states afterward that guns need to be demystified -women are not typically socialized to learn guns, unlike riding bikes, where we are all taught to ride, regardless of gender)

-People without guns can still die by them, and a ban on guns will not stop men from raping
-framers of the 2nd Amendment were concerned with tyranny, though early on the colonies prohibited slaves and free blacks from owning guns.  During the Civil Rights era, violence by the KKK and police was common. Pacifist civil rights workers were killed.  KKK frequently terrorized civil rights workers and oppressed the black community, frequently with the aid of local law enforcement (or at least their silent acquiescence );  in Alabama black church leaders began to organize, and started to acquire fire arms.  During one event, a white mob formed when they discovered that the black leadership had been organizing.  The police stood aside doing nothing until they discovered that the black church community had firearms-they protected the mob. 

-Number of kids under 10 years are killed in homes with guns: 50
-Number of kids under 5 who drown in bathtubs, toilets or buckets: 115

-Why should an off-duty cop be the only "wrong guy" a robber encounters-why shouldn't ALL citizens have the right to be the "wrong guy?"

-Rosie O'Donnell spoke out against guns, wanting them confiscated, but has an armed body guard for her children.  Most citizens cannot hire armed guards.  Why do only the wealthy and notable get to have armed defense?

-Among the gun owners with permits, most behave very well-there are very few permits revoked.

-Roger McGrath talks about the Old West:  
         1. the Old West was one of  our most law abiding periods (contrary to Hollywood and popular belief).  The Old West was only wild in certain areas-most communities were very courteous.
         2.  most men and many women were armed.
         3.  the citizenry often handled criminals

-The Bradley bill has not stopped criminals, yet it is not a law enforcement tool

-Statistics show that gun registration has no affect on crime rates (should we be looking at whether something makes a difference)

-bans on the Saturday Night Specials (cheap hand guns, the 'poor man's gun) means that the poor and low income cannot defend themselves, though they are law abiding and value life.

-Gun prohibition =dictatorships (or path to it).  1928 Germany bans firearms; 1933 Hitler used the existing laws to disarm his opponents and Jews and set up his plan to eliminate Jews.

There is a good book by John Lott, Jr., "The Bias Against Guns: Why Almost Everything You've Heard About Gun Control Is Wrong" and there are many other sources of credible information that is necessary to consider in this discussion.  We cannot afford to leave any piece of this gun-discussion puzzle out of the equation. 

Update January 6, 2013
Comment seen on Facebook, reposted Courtesy of the Christian Left (and an important point to consider:
"Conservatives, getting rid of the welfare system because some people take advantage of it, is like getting rid of the 2nd Amendment and banning all guns, because some people use them for their criminal purposes."
 This does not change the fact that gun owners have an obligation to be part of the solution, and that times have changed since the ratification of the Constitution.  But we are all obligated to analyze every aspect of this issue-every angle, every existing piece of legislation and its effectiveness, and we must understand the fact that the Adam Lanzas are not career criminals; they're crazy and we may not be able to predict them, or prevent their acts of violence.
 January 10, 2013
"You can't sell a car to a friend without letting the government know you've done it. Do you think it should be easier to sell an automatic weapon to an acquaintance than a vehicle?" — John Fugelsang 
I agree with the premise that "if guns make us safer, America should be the safest country in the world," but I also agree that "those without guns can still die because of them."

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