The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Pat Tillman, Tom DeLay and Gun Control; It's All Related

I have tried to stay political light this week, but yesterday my head almost exploded. Old news by now, but the revelations about Pat Tillman’s death are just driving me crazy. Not the fact that he died as a result of “friendly fire” (an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one… “Here come the friendly bullets, don’t worry!). Nor that the army lied to his family, we already knew that, too.

No, what almost made me sick was army Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich calling Pat Tillman “worm dirt” and implying that if his family were Christians they would be happy that he was dead and in a better place. Read the entire story and interview at

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/eticket/story?page=tillmanpart1, but here is the meat of it:

"When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don't believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing, and now he is no more — that is pretty hard to get your head around that. So I don't know how an atheist thinks. I can only imagine that that would be pretty tough."

Pat’s mother has responded to this line of thought:

"Well, this guy makes disparaging remarks about the fact that we're not Christians, and the reason that we can't put Pat to rest is because we're not Christians," Mary Tillman, Pat's mother, said in an interview with ESPN.com. Mary Tillman casts the family as spiritual, though she said it does not believe in many of the fundamental aspects of organized religion.

"Oh, it has nothing to do with the fact that this whole thing is shady," she said sarcastically, "But it is because we are not Christians."

After a pause, her voice full with emotion, she added, "Pat may not have been what you call a Christian. He was about the best person I ever knew. I mean, he was just a good guy. He didn't lie. He was very honest. He was very generous. He was very humble. I mean, he had an ego, but it was a healthy ego. It is like, everything those [people] are, he wasn't."

So, Kaulzarich has declared himself judge (best left to God) and has sunk to the lowest depths of insensitivity in his public statements about a family in grief, who has been lied to by the very institution that the insensitive one represents (and who has been one of the parties investigating the death).

This is Pat and his brother Kevin.

Pat Tillman is a hero, no doubt. He died while defending our country in Afghanistan (not in Iraq, where we shouldn’t be in the first place). If his mother’s description of him is accurate, and there is no reason to doubt her, then Pat may well be in a better place, but his family, and the American people, still deserve the truth. And the army, or certain members, should pay a price for putting the family through unnecessary grief, for using their son’s tragedy in an immoral way, and for deceiving the American public.


Once again the Christian right is giving unbelievers good reason not to enter into their faith. There is no doubt that Jesus would approach this differently. Many of you know that I am a Christian, but I (and many Christians) do not worship the same god that they do.

Then there is Tom DeLay. Accusing (or coming very, very close, using his words) Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid of treason. He says he looked it up before he came to the interview (pocket dictionary?) I laughed as he gave his dictionary definition. He should have looked it up in the CONSTITUTION. I guess Tommy boy came very, very close to recommending Pelosi and Reid be put to death which is the punishment for treason. As he sits awaiting trial why does he think anyone is listening to him anyway? Well, I guess I listened, but as least I know not to agree with him.

Tom, don’t forget what you said in 1999 about Clinton and Kosovo:

“[Milosevic is] stronger in Kosovo now than he was before the bombing. … The Serbian people are rallying around him like never before. He’s much stronger with his allies, Russians and others.” Clinton “has no plan for the end” and “recognizes that Milosevic will still be in power,” added DeLay. “The bombing was a mistake. … And this president ought to show some leadership and admit it, and come to some sort of negotiated end.”

Oh, treason, Tom, treason!!!

Then to top it all off, all on the same day, I get a local weekly newspaper in the mail, and the editor says the Virginia Tech tragedy would have been prevented if the students and/or the professors had guns. His headline reads “A Gun Could Have Stopped the Violence.” I have a better one. “Had There Been No Guns There Would Have Been No Violence” I don’t think the founding fathers had automatic weapons and Glocks in mind when they gave us the right to bear arms, although certain NRA members are actually saying that they may have envisioned automatic weapons. Laugh.

Just to get a feel of how students feel, I asked several of my classmates at UAB and my daughter who is also in college how they would feel knowing their classmates were carrying weapons. Not one said they supported the idea. In one class we had a group project part of which involved making universities and colleges safer. These are all graduate students some with master’s degrees already. Not once in our research or in our presentation did the suggestion that college students and professors arm themselves come up. This is such a preposterous idea that I find it hard to believe it is even being mentioned.

How about laws that limit the sale of automatic and semi-automatic weapons?



How about gun registration?

You know, we are close to being able to trace cattle back from farm to farm as all cattle will be registered and accurate records of sales kept in our fight against mad cow and other diseases. If we can track cows and calves and know their entire family history, why can’t we find a way to track gun ownership and sales and know a guns history? Just a thought.

How about limiting the sale of guns to mental health patients that have been declared to be a danger to themselves or others? Oh yeah, we already have that law, it was just ignored.

And while we are passing gun laws, how about one that requires trigger locks to keep toddlers from using their daddy's guns to accidently kill themselves or others?



Or, how about banning handguns altogether like Britain did after a horrific shooting years ago? The NRA has too much power to allow any of this to happen, unless the American public rises up in order to put a halt to senseless killing taking place in our schools at unexpected intervals and in our streets every day.

Time to editorialize a little. No one denies that thousands of Americans of all ages die each year from gun shots injury. This was published on Tuesday, June 25, 2002 in The Washington Post.

"For decades public health officials tried to address gun violence the way they tackled tobacco use and other leading causes of death. Former surgeon general C. Everett Koop labeled the bullet a pathogen. But targeting gun injuries can be hazardous to research. A pilot project at CDC in the 1990s to monitor firearm fatalities drew ire from gun advocates and was stopped after three years. Now all money appropriated to CDC to study injuries comes with a stipulation from Congress that the funds cannot be used to advocate for gun control." http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hicrc/nviss/news_measuringviol.htm

So the CDC, which solves health problems around the world, has its hands tied regarding gun violence because of the powerful gun lobby. You begin to think they just don't care who dies, as long as they are not denied the opportunity to be the one to pull the trigger.

5 comments:

Joe said...

I guess I forgot to tell you how it's all related. Other than showing how misguided three individuals (and the right) are, these three issues almost drove me mad yesterday.

trey said...

The right-wing response to the Va. tech incident is mind-blowing.

Yeah, I would feel much safer if all my students were packing heat.

Anonymous said...

Joe:

Thank you for allowing comments on your site. I would like to use this opportunity for discussion to address a couple of things.

First, in regards to the comment about the Founding Fathers: By the time the U.S. Constitution was written there were already automatic weapons such as the Puckle gun invented in 1718 which fired 9 shots semi-automatically, the Snaphaunce revolver, and the Girandoni air rifle which was invented in 1779 and fired 22 .51 caliber balls semi-automatically utilizing a compressed air tank in the buttstock. The Girandoni was the firearm of choice for the Lewis & Clark expedition.

These were only a few of many repeating arms that were created by small town inventors across the U.S. and Europe. Of course it was not until the early 19th century that repeating arms were in wide us in the U.S. but Austria's military started using them during the 1780s.

Secondly, regarding the sale of automatic weapons: The sale of automatic weapons (weapons that fire continuously while a trigger is held down) is regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934. This requires a buyer to go through a lengthy background check including the fingerprinting and photographing of the individual buyer and requiring the buyer to obtain permission from his or her local chief of police or sheriff. The NFA also requires permission for the transaction from the ATF. An automatic weapon is also going to cost you at least $5,000 and a $200 tax stamp. In my many years of shooting I have only seen one fully-automatic weapon outside a museum and that was owned by a local police department. They are just too expensive to purchase for most Americans.

In regards to using firearms for self defense I believe that they are important. I do not have a problem with more stringent background checks and mandatory training to purchase a firearm but I do believe that individuals have a right to self protection. The reality is that we live in a world in which there are millions of firearms floating around. Many are in the hands of those that would do others harm. If the ability of self protection is taken away from those that legally own firearms, then those that would do others harm would have no fear in picking there targets. I believe that many things could have happened to reduce the number of dead in the VT tragedy, from proper notification of events to the students to police response to the shootings. But one of the things that I cannot get my head around is that out of the hundreds of students in the buildings at the time, no one was able to bring a stop to this mass killing. People were forced to await the arrival of the police who took their time in entering the facility (out of caution for their own well-being) which left the students and teachers with no choice but to try and barricade their classroom doors and hope for the best.

I have also seen the benefit of firearms protection first-hand. As a child my father and I were vacationing at our river cabin. He always kept his semi-automatic Remington Model 11 shotgun handy as protection against snakes (having only an outhouse at the cabin it was not uncommon to find a couple of eastern diamondbacks coiled up on the commode). One day he used the shotgun to stop a home-invasion by a group of guys that had broken through a window while we were out fishing. We did not know they were inside until we walked through the door to find four adult men rummaging through the cabin. My father was carrying his shotgun when he walked through the door ahead of me while I was carrying the fishing poles. No one was hurt thank goodness but the men froze in the steps at the site of his shotgun. I do remember that the men had been armed with a large knife that they had used to cut through the screen on the window. I think I still have that knife somewhere.

Regarding British gun ban: Britain has seen a sharp increase in violent crime since the gun ban and a large increase in the numbers of cases of people caught with weapons (http://www.crimestatistics.org.uk).

Another country to look at is Switerzland. Due to mandatory military reserve duty 5.6% of the populace keeps a fully-automatice assault rifle in their home. And due to a long-standing tradition of marksmanship it is estimated that 40% of the populace owns a firearm. However the country only sees 40 murders per year using firearms. Half of these crimes are committed by asylam seekers.

Maybe the use of guns in crime has less to do with guns themselves but rather the culture in which they are distributed?

Joe said...

Trey...I bet you would feel safer! Yeah.

Anonymous...You knnow a lot about guns and I respect you for that, and for sharing. I have no problem with gun ownership, especially "traditional" guns like shotguns and hunting rifles. I own some. I used to be pretty good at trapshooting, and good with a pistol.

Certainly you are right also about the culture in which guns are used to commit crimes. So do you have a solution or suggestion to reduce the availability of guns to would be criminals? To change the culture of violence that is promoted by our president (war rather than diplomacy)and our media and entertainment industry without stepping on free speech? Why does the NRA refuse to support any legislation that might make gun ownership safer and keep guns out of the hands of criminals?

Anonymous said...

Joe:

Thanks for the comments, complements and questions.

I think that instant backgrounds checks are good, but the current thoroughness of the type we have in place is lacking. As I stated in the earlier part about full auto purchases, there is a more thorough background check that is performed. If the thoroughness of the full-auto check could be applied to the instant background check it could cut down on a lot of legally purchased firearms used for illegal activity. Mental health conditions that would classify someone as a danger to himself or others should also be included in the background check (for those afraid of medical privacy issues the gun seller is only told if you can or cannot purchase the firearm, not the specific reason for your denial so medical info would not be made available to them).

I also believe that all first time gun owners should have to go through a safety class much like a hunter has to when getting a hunting permit in the state of Alabama. Many states require a safety and practice course for carrying a concealed firearm but Alabama does not.

I think that the violent culture in America is directly tied to the media (using media as a broad term). You could go back 130 years to the dime novels that glorified old west gunslingers to the action and gangster films of today that show that power is obtained through the use of force. Many kids see these things and think; hey I want a 9mm so that I can be as cool and powerful as whatever character they see in a movie or TV. It doesn’t take long for these kids to grow up to be angry, armed 20-something men. In a culture where violence is glorified you only breed more violence. Of course it would be impossible for the U.S. to say that you can't put more than 5 deaths into so-and-so directors next war movie.

Again, I think that Britain is a good example to look at. They have, since 1997, outlawed the purchase of handguns. However, they have seen a sharp spike in violent crime and an upsurge in the use of knives in attacks. Britain has a media that churns out movies as violent as ours and they also have sub-culture groups of skinheads, soccer hooligans, etc. to a degree that the U.S. does not see. Recently British doctors have proposed limiting the sales of knives and British politicians have proposed installing metal detectors at schools to keep kids from bringing knives in.

Look at Switzerland. They have a culture that is more diverse and accepting of other nationalities and religions. Now I must admit I had to look up some info just now on Swiss film and while I have visited Switzerland I do not claim to be an expect on Swiss culture. Not a lot to find in the way of action films except some stuff about skiing. They also tend to look at firearms as sporting and military tools rather than a kick-butt action accessory. And their violent crime is very minimal.

As for the NRA I don't have much for them. They take too much of a hard-line stance on guns and view any changes as a threat to the second amendment. Improving backgrounds checks doesn't threaten second amendment rights, requiring a safety lock with every new gun purchase doesn't affect it either (although most handgun manufacturers supply them voluntarily now with new purchases). But they still lobby against these types of things.

Is there an easy answer to stopping violence? No. I think the best solution is for a more inclusive and tolerant attitude with the opportunity for open discussions that do not break down to name calling and hate and less glorification of violence. I don't see the latter happening anytime soon but I think the U.S. is making progress in many areas related the former.

Thank you again for letting me voice my opinion. Most bloggers won't allow for different opinions on their sites. I am truly greatful.