too much typing—since 2003


this is my rifle, this is my gun

The horrific hunter murders in Northern Wisconsin prove that the NRA is right about one thing.

(I break the paragraph here to allow readers to cope with their shock at reading that sentence coming from me.)

And that one thing is: gun laws can never be a panacea for gun violence. One reason, of course, is that under pressure from that same NRA, communities and governments are loathe to write gun restrictions that might attract the NRA's attention. So, for example, here's a webpage from a self-described "gun nut" about the weapon the shooter used (or one close to it: I'm not an equipment geek). (Note that no mention whatsoever is made of using such a weapon for hunting.) Now, here's the interesting thing: even this gun nut (who, despite the obnoxious tough-guy right-wing bluster evident on this page, is actually a pretty thoughtful and intelligent guy) agrees that (a) those convicted of violent crimes involving firearms should not be allowed to own or possess guns, and (b) such persons should suffer the most severe penalties (he favors the death penalty, which I don't because - ironically, given Mr. GN's views - the judicial branch cannot achieve perfection and therefore inevitably will kill innocent people).

So here's a paragraph from an account of the killings (from the Los Angeles Times):

"Police in St. Paul and Minneapolis have had contact with Vang [the man accused of the killings] several times in recent years. In the last 18 months, they responded to two domestic disturbance calls to his house. And on Christmas Eve in 2001, he was arrested for felony domestic assault after his wife told police he had threatened her with a handgun. He spent two nights in jail but was released when his wife declined to press charges, according to Minneapolis Police Officer Ronald Reier.

"'We have nothing in our records that would ever indicate he was capable of the level of violence we saw in northwestern Wisconsin,' said Officer Paul Schnell of the St. Paul Police Department."

First: "nothing in our records"? So, a history of domestic disturbance, involving threats with a gun, doesn't constitute some sort of warning sign? I suppose for Officer Schnell, the key thing is that those actions couldn't have indicated such a "level of violence." But then again, what could - except for, in fact, that level of violence?

And perhaps the problem is this: Had Vang wandered into a liquor store waving his handgun and threatening people, with credible witnesses, I'm pretty sure (lawyers can correct me) that he's committed a crime for which he'd be arrested (and likely convicted) regardless of whether some of the witnesses, or some of the threatened victims, wanted to press charges. But somehow, domestic violence is treated differently, and requires such pressing of charges. To me, if you threaten someone with a gun, and there's sufficient evidence to establish via the legal system that you did in fact do so, you should go to jail - even if the victim doesn't want to press charges.

In other words, to return to my opening paragraph: maybe - and I say "maybe" - I might be willing to trade off my general support for (at the very least) gun registration if such restrictions were traded off for laws that made brandishing a gun in a threatening manner itself a criminal act (except in self-defense), independent of whether anyone so threatened wishes to file charges.

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