Friday, October 2, 2015

Mary Gets Political -- Geeky Style


I'm fatigued. I saw there was yet another school shooting in the country I call my home. I try to keep up with the going ons in the world and I care deeply when I see people being exploited or hurt or killed. But when I heard the news of what happened in Oregon yesterday, I just felt tired. And that alarmed me. I mean, I've been unemployed for the last month and a half. I have no reason to be tired. But I just wanted to see it stop happening. And to my surprise, President Obama got on the TV and voiced the fatigue I felt. It is routine. Why has this become routine?

For a long time, I looked the other way when it came to the gun debate or at least just have an internal one of my own. I saw it as a mental health issue (and yeah it is one prong of it). I guess I wasn't being honest with myself in many ways. It is also a cultural issue. And the more I think about it, the more ridiculous the "we need MORE guns" argument sounds. Let me explain in only a way a geek can.

True to my geeky self, whenever there is a mass shooting, I look back to the wisdom of Rurouni Kenshin. Shut up. I think the reason why is Kenshin is in many ways that metaphorical Good Guy With a Gun (tm!). He picks up his sword to protect the weak. That is his thing. However, he uses a reverse-blade sword to do non-lethal damage to his foes. Often, he'll break their fingers in such a way they won't be able to hold a sword properly again and if not, he'll just knock them out so the fuzz can drag them to prison.

But there's the thing about Kenshin: even he can fall victim to the sword's power. Kenshin has two personalities; kooky, spacy Wanderer Kenshin and cold assassin Battousai Kenshin.

Wanderer Kenshin

Battousai Kenshin

 Wanderer Kenshin will knock you out but Battousai Kenshin will slaughter you and think nothing of it. Battousai Kenshin comes out usually when Kenshin faces his past or when the bad guy pushes a button or two (like threatening to kill someone weak). It is an inner battle he must face.

I know Kenshin is fictional, but I feel his story best describes my feelings about the gun debate. There is one powerful quote that is in the picture of the start of the page that best describes how I feel. I kind of look at myself as a pessimist who wants to be an optimist. I want to believe that there are good guys who can neutralize the bad ones but the truth is uglier. Guns are weapons. Guns are tools to use to kill. That is their fundamental purpose. However, I want to believe that good people are out there that can and will stop when another victimizes. But such an occurrence is rare and it is not because more people don't carry. People don't understand the weight of it.

I guess what glares at me the most about the US gun debate is it lacks responsibility. Too few people who own guns seem to really understand that guns are tools designed to kill people. Yes, you can use them to protect people. But we have a gun culture that glorifies them without stopping to fully understand them.  And the sad part is people who claim to understand them are usually the ones that misuse them.

I'm not calling for a full on ban against guns because some people live in areas where it is their livelihood (I'm talking in rural areas) and things like that. But there does need to be some common sense when it comes to regulations. Do you really need more than one? Do you really need a military style weapon when you're not in the military? Things like that. I just feel we need to better educate people about guns and stop glorifying them and if you must have them go through extensive training and background checks. It shouldn't be easy. It SHOULD be a burden.

Are you prepared to potentially take a life accidental or otherwise? What if your gun falls into the wrong hands?

I have a personal relevant story to share. I served in the US Army for four years. When I was in Basic Training, on rifle qualification day I had a misfire. As I was switching out my magazine to go to the next shooting position, I didn't put on the safety and didn't clear the chamber. My finger graced the trigger and a bullet went downrange. The Drill Sergeant picked me up by the straps of my kevlar and threw me in the dirt and screamed at me. I also got smoked for about 30 minutes.

Then, I got an Article-15. I lost a month's pay and lost my rank for a negligent misfire on the range. I expected to get screamed at by the company commander like he reamed into a kid who got slapped with an Article-15 before me. But no. I sat down and he had a talk with me. He told me he had a soldier downrange who accidentally shot a fellow soldier. He couldn't live with himself for what he did and ended up getting discharged for mental health issues. The commander then said that he did not want for me to get into bad habits and find myself in a similar situation. He wanted me to remember what went wrong and to never repeat it because an accident caused by a gun or in this case a rifle is not a reverseable one. It will follow you your entire life.

He was right. Before that, I got comfortable with my M16. Maybe too comfortable. However, our chat forever instilled in me a respect and a sense of caution for the weapon I qualified on. After my hearing, I would never hold a M16 the same way again. Yes, it will protect you in dangerous situations. But you must never, ever forget what its purpose is and when you pull the trigger, you got to be prepared to face the consequences of what happens when that bullet hits the target -- whether it is the point for qualification or ending a life.

That is why the idea that "more guns on the streets will somehow make us safer" is irresponsible. Not everyone is capable of the responsibility needed to carry. And it is not just possessing the skills but the personality and the intent too. 


That is what I mean by responsibility and common sense.  And that is what Kenshin means too. He may admire Kaoru's optimism, but she uses a bamboo sword which is not lethal. He has many times throughout the series chastised those who misuse their power and their swords. People who use the argument that guns protect do not understand its fundamental purpose and probably have never shot a person. And yeah, you can become skilled in the weapon and put it to good use to protect those who cannot or will not carry. That is what military and police forces are supposed to be for.  But just like Battousai Kenshin and problems we have in both the military and police forces, you never know if you are just one quick sudden misunderstanding away of misusing it. And people need to understand that and be weary of it.

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