How about Democrats embrace popular policies?

I’ve found the best way to understand American politics is by assuming that the Republicans are ruthless and the Democrats are inept. There’s more evidence here:

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While Republicans have made great electoral hay for decades by pushing an extremist gun agenda, the Democrats have consistently offered a milquetoast, muddled response. And here’s the rub: the polls consistently support stronger gun control.

This is low-hanging fruit. Take a popular issue and run with it. Make it into an issue upon which people VOTE.

Yes, I make it sound easy, but how could you do much worse than this:

And yes, I know there have been some recent election wins. But there’s a deep, deep hole to climb out of. And nothing is guaranteed in the midterms

In many ways this reminds me of the Medicare-for-All issue. Mainstream Democrats, Pres. Obama, and Hillary Clinton just couldn’t get themselves behind any version of it, even though it is reasonably popular – without any mainstream effort behind it at all.

Now, we can have a policy argument about gun control and Medicare-for-All. I’m convinced they’re desirable and feasible. You might disagree. Compromises on policy can be reached.

But politically, these issues can WIN. But one has to choose to try.

P.S. For the record, I don’t much care whether Democrats, in and of themselves, win anything. If a Republican embraced sound, humane policies, sure, I’d vote for a Republican. But, jeez. Trump? You make it so hard, GOP.


Gun control for Mr. Spock

On my Facebook page, in response to this post, my friend, Scott, makes an excellent point:

Ultimately, this is just another permutation of the externalization of costs (in terms of health and fiscal expenditures) by the domestic arms manufactures, retailers and rabid consumers.

When debating guns, you encounter all kinds of people. Some come across as very emotional – FREEDOM! Pry it from my cold, dead hands! – while others strike a pose of the hyper-rationalist. Gee, these very, very logical people say, if we could just discuss this whole issue *rationally*, then we’d sort it out, easy peasy.

I have all sorts of problems with this pose, but let me meet it on its own ground for a moment.

On cold, rational, microeconomic grounds, what we have here is a huge pollution problem. Some people – in this case, gun manufacturers and gun nuts – are privatizing the gains of gun sales and ownership – cash profits and psychological benefits –
while socializing the losses – cash outlays for improved security and the horror of watching children get shot to bits at schools over and over.

Classic economics would tell you this is a problem. You can’t properly price a produce or service – or social system, really – unless people bear the full costs. Gun manufacturers and gun nuts are not bearing the full costs right now. Instead, they are dumping mass gun violence pollution on all of us.

So, how do we address this? There are a variety of ways. My preferred route is to enact strict gun control like I’ve laid out elsewhere. But a tidy, economic, freedom-loving solution is to force gun manufacturers and gun nuts to fully bear the costs of their interests. Private citizens or the government could sue every link in the gun chain to recover damages. Or we could tax manufacturers for those costs. Or we could make gun-buyers purchase comprehensive insurance policies to cover all of those costs.

Bottom line, no need to get emotional about it. If you’re a hyper-rationalist and can just ignore the real human consequences of gun violence, okay. But for goodness sake, carry your philosophy and stance through to its logical conclusion. Make the gun manufacturers and guy-buyers pay.

P.S. While not exactly hyper-rationalist, this plan should also satisfy people who are very concerned with that good, old-fashioned conservative value of personal responsibility. Unless, of course, they don’t actually mean it.

Real gun control won’t be won through half measures

We are in the grip of an absolute madness on guns in the US. We get ever more insane solutions, like these gun shelters in classrooms.

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What we need is the complete criminalization of guns in our shared, public spaces; a ban on new semi-automatic sales; a lock-up for existing semi-automatic weapons at licensed facilities; comprehensive, national (not state-by-state) background checks, gun registration, licensing, and training and insurance requirements; and a limit on ammunition purchases. All sales of guns have to take place at federally licensed facilities or have to be witnessed by law enforcement, so that all of these requirements can be met. Oh, and if your gun is lost or stolen, report it, or face criminal charges.

Sound extreme?

Under this system, you still get your weapon for home protection (which I still consider a mistake, especially when one considers suicide and domestic violence); you can hunt (although, we’d need to resolve how to transport the weapon to and from the private hunting ground); and you’d get to be a gun hobbiest.

Oh, and if you’re concerned about the 2nd Amendment, let’s require all gun owners to turn out for regular training so that they can be ready to serve in a well-regulated militia.

Still too extreme? Well, it seems to me to be hardly more extreme than the gun nut vision of a country in which the only thing truly binding us together is our mutual fear of one another and our willingness to be ready to kill one another at all times. Oh, and then teach our children that distrust and to be afraid of dying at any moment by installing gun shelters in the classroom.

Look, as a practical political matter, for anyone interested in pushing back against this madness and divisiveness and fear-mongering, we MUST stake out what will be seen by opponents as an extreme position. We shouldn’t be bashful about what we truly want or hide behind half measures. The nature of our system is such that we will never get 100%. I can accept that. What I can’t accept is ceding half the ground before we’ve even begun to fight. Not anymore.

2nd Amendment extremism for the 1st Amendment

A note to the lunatic, NRA-type 2nd Amendment absolutists out there. Here are some ideas I have on how to exercise my absolute 1st Amendment rights.

Given my rights under the 1st Amendment, I will stand outside your home on the public street shouting obscenities all night long. Neither the state nor you have the right to cut me off. Oh, and I will use a bullhorn, because the tool doesn’t matter, only the right to use it.

Given my rights under the 1st Amendment, I will get all of my friends to peaceably assemble around your home, also shouting obscenities all night long. Using bullhorns. We will also march everywhere you go. There is nothing you can do about it under our absolute rights.

Given my rights under the 1st Amendment, I’m going to start a religion. Like those good, old-timey religions, it will require human sacrifice. There will be nothing you can do to stop it under my absolute right to religious freedom.

Given my rights under the 1st Amendment, I’m going to start a newspaper that publishes every day that you have joined this new religion and that you have the sacrificed the most people. Doesn’t matter if it’s true, because I am asserting my absolute right to a free press.

Now, I’m sure you and maybe even some unpatriotic libtards will object to my interpretation of the 1st Amendment. Something about setting reasonable limits on time, manner, or place on the exercise of our rights, or some other such nonsense.

But I know, in the end, 2nd Amendment NRA-style absolutists, that you will join me in defending our 1st Amendment rights against these grave attacks. I look forward to your support.

Time to demand more

After the Parkland shootings – and, of course, Newtown and so many others – I’m tired of conversations about halfway measures on gun control.

I’m tired of only discussing things like background checks, waiting periods, closing gun show loopholes, etc. (These seem to be the top priorities of most established gun control groups, it seems to me.) It’s time to change the conversation.

Instead, I want a complete criminalization of the possession of guns in our shared, public spaces. Ultimately that should include regular (non-emergency) law enforcement personnel, but as a bridging measure, we might have to let that stand.

That said, it might seen odd, but I’m actually fine with the ownership of powerful personal firearms. People have hobbies – even dangerous ones. But they should be kept at federally (definitely not state) licensed and monitored facilities. The high-powered weapons should not be allowed to leave those facilities or transported by the civilian owners themselves. Also, ownership of ammunition for these weapons should be strictly limited.

Among the more common restrictions on gun-owners (in some states) – like licensing, background checks, etc. – I would also require comprehensive insurance policies (likely expensive) and annual training programs and psychological evaluations.

Per the Second Amendment – “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” – I would also require any gun-owner to sign up for mandatory national duty. This could be designed similar to the National Guard – or be part of it.

Here’s where I go wobbly: the possession of handguns and non-semi-automatic (hunting) rifles in the home. The home being a private space, I can let that go for now, and hunting is a valid sport, in my mind. But in either case, there should be strict limitations on the ownership of ammunition.

As I said, it’s time to change the conversation and thoroughly criminalize the arming of our public spaces.

Oh, and while I’m at it, we’re going to have to be willing to make this personal. We have to call people who are unwilling to do what is necessary to protect the American public immoral or even evil. The time is now.

Teachers as gun control advocates

Here’s an interesting idea in the gun control fight – a nationwide strike by teachers. But one commenter said this is a lot to ask of teachers. I agree. They didn’t sign up to be gun control organizers. They signed up to educate our children and give them a better future. Sadly, they and the students are too often the targets. I would contribute to a strike fund to help teachers and their families. Maybe a portion of it could be used by the teachers to run tutoring sessions for the kids likely to fall behind. This all seems extreme and complicated, I know, but desperate times. How much easier would it be for Republican politicians (and some Democrats, too, by the way) to stand up to the NRA and the gun extremist supporters?

In the wake of the Parkland shootings

Today I have become something I never thought I would: a single-issue voter. I will never vote for a candidate that doesn’t support strict gun control legislation, even if that means withholding my vote.

As an atheist, I don’t usually use this word, but anyone who supports our current gun laws or advocates for looser ones is evil. It’s hard to walk back that word, but I’ve had enough of school shootings and a hyper-armed society.

You’re not free if you fear for your child’s life or your own. We share our freedom in our public spaces. Once your freedom impinges upon mine, it’s gone too far.

The best solution to mass shootings and gun violence is to restrict personal firearms and ammo. Period.