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MUSINGS FROM THE TREADMILL OF LIFE

It’s been a while since my last post, not because of lack of interest, but because I got caught on what I like to call the treadmill of life…that one-foot-in-front-of-the-other pace one gets locked into while doing that which must be done…work, family, household chores, more work, more family, more household chores…I’m sure you’ve all been there. I am perpetually amazed at how many grains of my allotted sand runs through my personal hourglass of life from when I get onto the treadmill to when I wake up and step off for a bit to look around and actually pay attention to what transpired since the last time I stepped off. Looking at the date of my last post, it’s already a bit north of three weeks since last I took a reckoning. Let’s see what transpired.

My last rant came just after the Supremes (let’s say the Diana Ross member) found a way to validate Obamacare as a tax. I guess the biggest news since then was the massacre that took place in Aurora, Colorado at the opening of the latest “Batman” flick, at the hands of an orange-haired bit of sludge who decided to play the Joker. A truly sad bit of news that has already been perverted into: a media circus, inclusive of the obligatory and erroneous left-wing attempt to tie the shooter to the Tea Party in particular and Republicans in general; an invitation to revisit the debate over the merits of gun control; an open debate over why some of the movie-goers at the midnight show were infants and children; and, the vagaries of the soon-to-be-pleaded “insanity” defense, as that notion is decided under Colorado law. In other words, a panoply of matters for me to comment on. So here goes.

I’ll start with the incident itself. Whenever some nut does some perfectly awful deed that makes the news, Mo invariably asks me, “What was he (or she) thinking?” My response is always, “I don’t know, because if I did, I’d be just as sick as they are —as would you if you understood them.” An apt point I believe. You can’t truly relate to acts of savagery of this sort, unless you too are a bit savage, no? Fortunately, just because an act is irrational, doesn’t mean it the actor gets off by pleading insanity in the ensuing criminal prosecution, as there is a legal standard for determining one’s sanity or insanity, which I’ll discuss below.

Although I can’t imagine what this slime ball was actually thinking when he acted, I note from what has been reported thus far that there’s a lot of attendant detail that suggests to me he spent quite a bit of time in preparation for the actual perpetration of the deed; and, was expecting to get a bit of publicity when he did it. Thanks to a media that basks in the afterglow of atrocities, the miscreant has already garnered more publicity than he ought to have. But it does highlight one of the dilemmas of a free society. People have a genuine need and right to know when someone in their midst is perpetrating violence. The opportunity cost of such elucidation to society is that the headline seeking turd gets exactly the publicity he or she sought by doing what miscreant act they did. The main stream media can be counted on to provide absolutely no self-restraint, and will therefore pursue surviving victims, the families of same as well as of those who perished; family, friends, teachers and co-workers of the perpetrator; and, a panoply of talking heads for whatever commentary might be garnered. In the age of twitter and picture taking telephones, the main stream media is actually beaten to the publicity punch by spectators who have the right equipment and want to be a part of history — thus we can count on published tweets and You-Tube broadcasts of the action, shortly after it takes place, and sometimes as it is actually happening. Sort of makes you wonder about people, and why they appear to have such a disproportionate interest in news about violent crimes over perhaps more apt but less titillating news about the economy, government and the world at large.

In attempting to answer that question, I pondered about what other indicia of our interests as a society were out there that might provide a clue. To no surprise to me, the first two notions that came to my mind were movies and sports, both forms of entertainment that offer a sort of voyeuristic window to violence. Certainly boxing, wrestling and the other full contact sports offer the spectator a view of seemingly “controlled” violence that satiates some part our basic human interest in such. This is clearly not a novel notion, nor one fomented by Hollywood movies, as the Romans filled up the Colosseum several thousand years ago with spectators there to witness mortal combat between Gladiators and a mix of early Christians, wild animals and other Gladiators. Baseball is not as overtly violent as football, yet the fans enjoy watching a ninety mile an hour fastball whizzing just past the nose of an opposing team’s batsman, or a hard slide into second base with spikes digging for the bag; and, the occasional brawl between teams. You can find comparable action that goes on in hockey, basketball and most other allegedly non-contact sports. We apparently enjoy it.

Hollywood movies and their television counterparts have made billions over time by peddling a variety of violence — war movies (initially conventional, now in space too); Westerns (offering gun duels and Indian massacres); and, a panoply of offerings that offer murder and mayhem as the central plot, recently involving an assortment of super-heros and villains roughing each other up. The “Batman” flick where the violence de jure was perpetrated is splendidly typical of these offerings.

When you consider the multitudinous numbers of spectators who view these flicks and sporting events, as compared to the relatively small number of miscreants who actually go out and mimic the portrayed violence, it is difficult, in my mind at least, to say there is a causal connection between the two. I suspect miscreancy long antedated both Hollywood movies and the Colosseum.

War, the ultimate exchange of violence, has apparently been around since our species started forming into separate groups. We have a number of them going on about the globe presently, but none strike me as having been inspired by either a Hollywood movie or a sporting event. Nor are they the product of a popular vote to wage one. The populace is induced into warring by a relatively small number of politicians who decide to pick the fight. To fight back when attacked is instinctual. My point, as it relates to my present topic is that we live in a relatively violent world, yet, the bulk of the populace is generally law abiding; and, with few exceptions, not prone to massing together and waging war on neighboring communities. That leads me to the notion of gun control.

Gun control is a classic confrontation between individual rights and governmental regulation under its police power to legislate for the health, safety and general welfare of the populace. At the core of the logic of it’s proponents is the notion that a disarmed populace will not be able to perpetrate the violence attributed to firearms. Based on that same logic, and published statistics from the US CDC, a ban on motor vehicles will save roughly 4 times as many lives than a total ban on firearms, as that is the present ratio. You will pardon me, but neither the logic nor the statistics show any rational connection to the real issue.

The fact of the matter is that as is the case with having a voluntary income tax system, the only people who register their guns, (and don’t cheat on their taxes) are those who are law abiding in the first instance. In a country where we cannot, or more aptly, will not, secure our borders, it strikes me as kind of dopey to think that disarming the populace will result in anything other than more violence being perpetrated on them than already exists. Criminals don’t register guns, or usually buy them through legitimate vendors. Don’t believe me? Which political sub-division of our country has the highest murder and violent crime rates per capita? That’s right, Washington D.C., which can boast rates nearly 4 times the National average and also has the strictest gun control laws on the books, or at least did so, until the Supremes decided District of Columbia v. Heller. I’m sure they’re scrambling to keep things restrictive.

Like it or not, gun related violence is disproportionately identified with the same common elements: young gang members, drugs and lower socio-economic urban environments. At the risk of being labeled a racist, I note the U.S. Department of Justice statistics show blacks commit 7 times as many homicides as do whites, even though they represent only 13% of the total population. Does that make gun control advocates racist?

As usual, in my curmudgeonly view of reality, lost in all this debate over gun control is the historical perspective of what this is really all about. We are a nation born out of armed revolution against a tyrant. The inclusion of the right to keep and bear arms in the Bill of Rights to our Constitution was not an accident and is totally and logically connected to the notions of inalienable individual rights intended to be secured by that document. We have a right to protect ourselves, our family and our property from unwanted intrusion by those who would do harm to same. A gun in the hands of a person defending life or property against such intrusion is a great equalizer.

Politicians, the well-to-do and senior corporate executives rely on the local police for protection no more than they rely on the local subway system for transportation, which is to say, not at all. They have armed body-guards to accompany them to their meetings and their homes. The populace has cell phones to call 911. In New York City, the police response time to such a call is roughly 8.4 minutes. Think you can avoid an intruder for that long? If you are accosted on the street, well, you’re not going to get the call off until it’s over, if you’re still in shape to do so. Compare that to the 1400 feet per second response time of a .44 magnum round fired at the perpetrator.

So, at midnight, when this, lawfully, well armed piece of snot entered the movie theater populated by several hundred Batman fanatics, seeking to do harm, how many of his potential victims had a sidearm to terminate his violence prematurely? None. How many cops were just outside, ready to jump in and protect the innocent? None. Compare this to a news clip that was making the rounds just three days prior. A pair of adolescent miscreants, one with a bat and another with a handgun, entered a Florida internet cafe, and started a hold-up. How many innocents got hurt? None. Why? Because a seventy-something codger pulled out his sidearm and commenced firing on the pair. They went to hospital then to jail. Our politically correct society doesn’t keep statistics on how many robberies, rapes and murders didn’t happen because an armed civilian pointed a handgun, shotgun or rifle at a would-be perpetrator, who discovered retreat was a better option than some hot lead in his or her torso. I suspect if an accurate tally was ever taken, it would take your breath away.

At the opening of the last paragraph, I noted that the Aurora miscreant had lawfully acquired his weaponry. That should not become an excuse for imposing stricter gun control laws, as there are rogue cops who have used their lawfully acquired weapons to perpetrate violent crimes, and that is not a rational basis for disarming the police department. A person intent on doing harm will find a way, with or without a gun. You can load a bottle with gasoline, stick in a rag and light it and cause all kinds of mayhem. We don’t ban sales of gas in cans to avert the possibility — sometimes we need a reserve in our car and sometime we need gas for a mower or other power tool.

Nor am I advocating arming the entire population by political mandate. Gun ownership is a right which you can choose to not exercise. If the sight of a gun makes you squeamish, by all means don’t own one. You might feel differently when you find yourself looking at one pointed at your head or abdomen, but it will be too late to do anything about it for that encounter. All I advocate is that law abiding citizens, with no history of violence or criminal record be allowed to purchase and possess firearms without any significant government intrusion.

What constitutes “significant government intrusion?” Some would argue that having to register a weapon at all is such. I understand their concerns, insofar as it relates to the potential to have some despotic political figure declare martial law and have the local police or federal troops come take them away, for reasons having nothing to do with protecting society at large. Yet, the closest we ever got to such a scenario was in a movie, “Seven Days in May,” and it didn’t work. Accordingly, registration and a background check strikes me as a reasonable governmental intrusion into our right to own weapons. After that, to me, all bets are off. Urban, suburban or rural, if you pass muster, and want to walk around with a weapon on your side or in your shoulder holster, go for it. Criminals have the presumption of innocence, why shouldn’t law abiding citizens?

So, included in the viewing audience on the night of the massacre, were an infant child and a six year old girl, the latter of which died from her wounds. I ask myself, “Why were these children at a midnight movie to begin with?” I have no good answer. When seeing a Batman movie at midnight is more important than hiring a sitter and putting your child to bed, your priorities are misplaced. But I admit to being a curmudgeon and actually believe children should have a regular and strictly enforced bed-time, which is something short of midnight for those under 16.

That leads me to the likely plea of insanity by the perpetrator. I see no need to employ the term “alleged” as there is no doubt as to who did the shooting, where, when, and how many he killed or injured. All that remains is to determine whether he was legally responsible for his act, and that turns on whether he was legally “insane” when he acted. In Colorado, a defendant is legally insane if he is “so diseased or defective in mind at the time of the commission of the act as to be incapable of distinguishing right from wrong.” I will note here that such a defense, whether it is an affirmative one (to be proved to a jury by the defendant) or a regular defense (which must be dis-proved beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution) is actually pretty rare in practice and more intricate than the simple wording of the provision might imply. For instance, if the perpetrator were blind drunk or hopped up on drugs when he or she acted, you don’t get to the defense as the voluntary impairment, even if it included the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, precludes the right to invoke the defense.

In my opinion, the booby-trapped apartment the would-be Joker left behind, is suggestive of a person who had a very clear view that he was embarking on a mission to perpetrate bad, and intended to do more of same when the cops came to get him. Frankly, acquiring the weaponry lawfully, along with the ammo also suggests to me a consciousness of right and wrong. Time will tell.

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