Monday, June 13, 2016

Mistrust (Thoughts on Orlando)

It all comes from fear of the other. Fear turns to hate, hate to violence. We feel threatened.

This is a natural response. It helped our ancestors survive in a dangerous world. As many other natural responses, it neither good nor bad, of itself, but needs to be recognized for what it is. We need to keep those impulses under our control.

We can not do this if we refuse to recognize them within us, recognize our own capacity for doing wrong. For doing evil. This is why we have laws.

So, turning to the latest manifestation of hate and fear (not counting the presidential campaigns), we have the the attack in Orlando. Might background checks have prevented this? Possibly. The only problem I have with such checks is that they are open-ended and thus prone to abuse. Anyone can be put on a list without real reason. This does not mean I oppose them, just that I realize there are inherent problems.

And, of course, many dangerous individuals will never be recognized as such.

Assault weapon ban? There is no clear definition of what constitutes an assault weapon. Not automatic fire, as in true military weapons — that has been illegal for eighty-some years. Semi-automatic? There are plenty of legitimate hunting rifles and shotguns that use a semi-auto firing system. Being able to keep the gun on-target for a quick and accurate second shot means fewer wounded animals escaping to die painfully in hiding.

And, again, any open-ended definition of an assault rifle (it looks like a military weapon) is open to abuse.

This leaves magazine size, which is something I definitely support. No one needs 30 round clips, nor even 15. Limit them to six or, at most, eight. The pump shotgun I once owned had just such a limit — its tubular magazine had a plug to limit the number of shells it held (it could be sold with a full-capacity magazine in other states). This was something the police had asked for — “riot guns” in the hands of criminals was not exactly desirable.

This would, at least, be a step in the right direction. I am not big on disarming everyone. I have worked jobs (involving cash and late nights) where I felt more secure with a (legally) concealed handgun. I might be non-violent but I also might encounter someone who wasn’t.

Can we all learn to be tolerant, to not fear and hate the ‘other?’ I wish I could answer that. We can certainly improve — that has been done and continues, despite our setbacks. We have become better over the centuries, over the millennia, but that mistrust of what is different may always be with us. We must learn to recognize it for what it is — and deal with it.

Stephen Brooke ©2016

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