Of all the policy domains in the United States, firearms policy seems to be the most divisive. One side holds dearest the interests of communities living in peace, the other holds dearest their individual rights to bear arms per a Constitutional Amendment that is at the core of the (white) American identity.
Here’s the thing: The safest firearms owners are the ones who take firearms ownership the most seriously, as a responsibility — versus simply a right (or worse, just another consumer product experience, like makeup or power tools). They are also a significant percentage of those who practice the most. From personal experience, I’d argue these are the majority of the folks I see at ranges when I go, but I have yet to see any actual data—and I doubt much ethnography is done at gun ranges.
Practice, requires ammo.
The progressive San Francisco League of Pissed Off Voters calls Proposition 63 “Gavin Newsom’s Vanity Gun Control Prop,” with an “Ugh, Fine!” endorsement. That’s not terribly persuasive. So, I wrote this to persuade those on the fence, to please vote No.
My primary beef with Prop 63, is that incompetent bozos can still own weapons they have no business owning in the first place. That any asshole can still get a semi-auto anything, without mandated training or proof that they take their responsibilities as a firearms owner, seriously. No, I don’t think the founding fathers believed everyone should have access to become Rambo, who has the $600 to buy a crap AR at Walmart. The spirit a law was written-in when interpreting a 200+ y/o law from another societal era, matters. Offset printing that granted unlimited access to words and ideas, was the revolutionary technology at that time. Not 3D printing.
With driving and vehicle ownership, there’s enough ritual involved in becoming a vehicle owner and a earning a driver’s license, that once most folks become drivers there’s a balanced sense of responsibility with the feelings of empowerment. Buying a gun? Not at all—and with the fantasies film and immersive media help bloom within our imaginations, it’s regrettably too easy for a self-imagined Rambo to buy the requisite tools to act on an obsessive vendetta. Those obsessive vendettas are also rarely byproducts of a diagnosed mental illness, let alone a concern for folks in treatment for mental illnesses they’re living with. In fact, folks living with mental illness have been statistically established to most often be victims of violence, not perpetrators. So—blocking from firearms ownership those among us who’ve responsibly sought therapy for obsessive thoughts, paranoia, or anger, is mostly just counter-productive and in denial of how the dangerously angry folks among us, actually operate. They’re not in databases neatly flagged with DSM-5 codes. It would be awesome if things could be that easy.
The bullet-button law, is—gah! It does not take that much time to work around, when I’m in planned situations; and in the unplanned everyday ones, it’s just a fumbly pain in the ass. As an AR owner, I still can’t remember if I need to drive in California with my AR’s magazine removed, or snug in the lower receiver; in a locked case, or out in plain view. I also feel it’s safest to store my semi-automatic firearms with the firing pins (or whole BCGs) stored in a locked, wholly-separate/hidden location, from the rest of the assemblies—and my ammo, in yet another separate/locked location. Yet lawmakers unfamiliar with firearms ownership, believe goofy trigger locks any skillful 12y/o could pick, are the safest practice. Macro-view: legislation that’s both ineffective with hindering the people we all agree should not be in possession of firearms, and is akin to fingernails on a chalkboard to responsible, law-abiding owners, has to quit being the norm. Screechy creechy noises that have been slowly adding-up for the past 20 years. An adaptive-path around a blockade imposed by the NRA, decades ago.
The bigger issue at stake, is that both sides need to work together on major, real, substantiative change. Desperately. Which I do not say as an excuse to squeak past this one bill while projecting an insincere optimism a better one can be drafted, next time around. Today the two sides could not be farther apart on things, or more disgusted with each other for how un-empathetic both sides have been of each other’s interests. Prop 63 I posit, will only widen that gap. I don’t see it as “a step” towards change. I see it as being very, very damaging to the morale of a much bigger conversation towards systemic change, that must happen.
The core personal concern I have with Prop 63 is that I don’t trust the DOJ to have a system built to mitigate its proposed process, that’s adequately secure against hacking — and as a firearms owner, I don’t want my identity information in the crosshairs of hackers. I also sometimes purchase large quantities of ammo for friends, when we gather for planned outdoor shooting gatherings, and I can’t trust the rules for the system Prop 63 proposes to create, to not flag that activity as suspicious. As a techie, neither are random concerns, but ones established from years of observing our government incompetently handle all things infosec (or as they say, “cyber”).
Fellow Liberals: Sorry, you guys (we!) are being smug and self-rightous towards firearms owners. Firearms owners: the firearms misuse in our country IS a major problem, and no — mass shooters, stalkers, and domestic abusers, would not just commit their crimes with knives, bats, or cars. Our AR-10s and pimped-out AR-15 sniper rifles serve us, the owners (yes, I adore the AR platform and a tight setup, too) as little more than TOYS. For those of us with merited needs to own high-powered/high-capacity weapons designed for use in combat fields to protect soldiers, we are few and far between… what is wrong with requiring the owner/operator of those firearms to earn a time/commitment-involved, merit-based license to own weapons designed for combat efficiency?
No self-respecting trucker would want joe-blow to own a Peterbilt; Liberals, hear that, and understand that the antagonism from the NRA and Conservatives against even regulating combat-grade firearms, has so much to do with how far we’ve pushed them to their edge and disrespected their (our!) lifestyles and needs, to meet needs and values established by the other side. See two paragraphs above; envision that tiny piece of down stuck in your underwear, itching your butt all day long, that you cannot seem to find or be able to remove. Yes, I straddle both sides, and like a kid in the middle of a divorce — I’m tired of seeing the two sides fight like this! Mom and dad, you used to both love each other, wtf?!
I wrote about this issue initially, for The Bold Italic in 2014. In that article (toned with more snark than I’d like, but it was a piece for a magazine that wanted the snark) I spoke to the bigger issue, and to the ongoing trend to attempt progress with these piecemeal bits of change. I ask folks to please check out that article if they’d like more of my thoughts on what broader firearms reforms might look like. We need to pivot our priorities now, though—and not only vote down Prop 63, but also get real (and loud!) with our State Representatives and our Federal Representatives—and with the NRA organization—to get the ball rolling making real, systemic change, happening. Now.