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Randy Cassingham

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bullet  Are You Liberal, or Conservative?

I think a couple of stories this week will make some people's heads explode. "Confound it, Randy! Are you a heartless Glenn Beck conservative, or a bleeding heart Barney Frank liberal?!"

Yeah, well, I'm just not going to fit into one little box.

Here are the stories, from True's 6 November 2011 issue. First, the "Randy must be a conservative!" story:

The Truth Hurts

After his deputies arrested a man on attempted rape charges, Spartanburg County (S.C.) Sheriff Chuck Wright called a press conference to announce, "Our form of justice is not making it." Walter Lance, 46, he said, had been arrested more than 20 times before. "We had 20 opportunities to make sure this guy didn't rape anybody and we failed to do it," the sheriff said. "I'm tired of looking at victims saying, 'There's life after this'. I'm tired of saying, 'We're sorry, we can't keep them in jail.'" So he gave citizens some advice: "I want you to get a concealed weapons permit. Don't get Mace. Get a firearm." Wright says "It's too bad someone with a concealed weapons permit didn't walk by" when the woman was being attacked. "That would fix it." But Wright doesn't think everyone should be armed. "I don't think some people should be able to procreate," he said, "much less have a weapon." (RC/WFYY-TV) ...In time, we'll have to have a permit for that, too.

Ah, but then (in the very same issue!) there's the "Randy must be a liberal!" story:

Completely Prohibited -- Unless

Matt Epling was incessantly bullied at MacDonald Middle School in East Lansing, Mich. His last day of eighth grade was the final straw: he was given a "Welcome to High School" beating. School officials did little, so his parents decided to go to the police. But fearing retribution from his bullies, Epling killed himself rather than tell the police what happened. In the nine years since, the state's Republican lawmakers would not let an anti-bullying law through, saying it would create a "protected class" of citizens: gays. Michigan is one of only three states without an anti-bullying law; meanwhile, "at least 10" more bullied students have committed suicide in the state. So this year, "Matt's Safe School Law" was finally put to vote in the Michigan Senate. According to the proposed law put forth by Republicans, torment is not bullying if "a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction" is behind the bully's actions. The law specifically addresses "cyber bullying" -- but only if the bully uses "a device owned or under the control of a school district" -- not a student's own cell phone. Also, Republicans would only support the bill if it didn't require schools to report bullying, didn't have provisions for enforcement or teacher training, and did not hold school officials accountable for failing to act. With that, the bill passed -- 26 Republican votes in favor vs. 11 Democrats opposed. (RC/Detroit Free Press, Time) ...So if it's signed by the Republican governor, Michigan will still be one of three states without an anti-bullying law.

So I'm a Republican? Or a Democrat? I'm neither; I'm a staunch independent, which is a huge political force in the United States. According an October poll, About 34.3 percent of Americans are Republican (conservative), and 33.1 percent are Democrats (liberal). That leaves about the same percentage -- 32.6 -- as "neither one, thank you." And how many are one or the other because their parents or spouse were (or were opposite)? Plenty of Democrats vote Republican "sometimes", and vice-versa, so I believe the "true independent" share to be much larger -- larger than either party. We are sick of the "us vs them" mentality of politics. The "us" is the entire country, dammit!

(There are of course some minor parties mixed in that 32.6 percent, from Libertarians to Greens to whackjobs like the American Nazi Party, but the vast majority are independents. Like most independents I think for myself based on the issue at hand, not based on what some party hack thinks ought to be in their platform, sometimes only because the other party thinks the opposite -- "us vs. them".)

Let's Talk About the Stories

But enough preliminaries, let's talk about the stories. Bullying first. Seriously, this is the conservative response to kids being tormented to the point of killing themselves? "Better dead than red" updated to the 21st Century equivalent, "Better dead than pink"? Really? Hey, no matter that some of the kids are simply confused, and they're trying to understand their feelings (driven by surging hormones: surely you remember that phase!) That happens whether you're gay or straight. I don't know if Matt Epling was straight, gay, or thought he "might be" straight or gay. And I don't care: it's none of my business. But the fact is, he's not an aberration, considering there's more than one teen suicide from bullying alone, in Michigan alone, per year. And that piece of garbage legislation is what conservatives, who like to tout how much more "moral" they are than others, think is a solution? Really? Can anyone defend that? "Eh, so what that it will take another five or 10 years to get something through that actually addresses the problem. What's five or 10 or 20 more dead kids? Hell: they probably wouldn't vote Republican when they reach 18 anyway! Guffaw guffaw guffaw." That's not governance, that's disgusting.

Matt Epling during happier times at schoolThat doesn't mean that none of conservatives' concerns are valid, by the way. This is the country where "Freedom of Religion" is enshrined in our basic rights, after all. Any law that defines "hate crime" should certainly cover Christians as equally as Muslims, and cover whites as equally as blacks. If a group of white skinheads beat up someone solely because they're black, or Jewish, yeah, that's a hate crime. Same as if it's only because he's white, or Christian -- or gay. Does anyone really see it any other way? (I would, in fact, like to hear some reasonable and thoughtful contrary arguments; Comments are open below.)

So while this may be considered a "liberal issue," I don't see it that way: I see it as basic humanity. I adopt it not because Democrats are for it, but because it makes sense. Just like the gun story.

Guns? Are you Crazy?

Ah, the gun story. As much as liberals liked the bullying story and right on'ed the tagline there, conservatives surely loved the gun story. A couple of years ago, I wrote an essay attempting to explain "why" Americans "like" guns. I won't repeat that here, but I'm getting a little more firm as time goes by that the South Carolina sheriff is right. The "liberal" solution seems to be "call the police". When is the last time you did call the police? How long did it take them to arrive, even in an all-out emergency? Would you want your wife or mother or daughter to wait that long (assuming they even could call the police) if they were targeted by a rapist?

If you've been reading True for some time, you know that I'm pretty involved in what's loosely grouped into "Emergency Services". I was a sheriff's deputy in California; I was an advanced life support medic there too. (And I'm a medic again, here in Colorado, as well as a volunteer for the local sheriff's office.) With my radio communications background, I am their go-to guy for all radio stuff -- they can't afford to actually pay anyone to do it. And yes, I harp on the local cops that they need to learn how to use their radios correctly, because "when it comes to saving your life, your radio is more important than your gun." (Yep: I've said that to their faces. They still don't want "radio classes". They are required by law to shoot regularly, though, to "qualify" to carry a weapon.)

Anyway, we have our local radio channels going 24x7. I listen in my office, and there's a county radio in the room next to our bedroom. I know how long it takes to get cops somewhere when there's an emergency. Our county is 542 square miles. On weekdays, there are typically two sheriff deputies on duty; nights and weekends, one. There are limits to how fast someone can drive on mostly dirt roads. A typical run for me on an ambulance call is 10 minutes, but I've rolled for as long as 30, just to get there and start assessing what's up.

Get the picture? So... do I have a gun? You're damned right I do! I know I'm on my own in an emergency, and likely for quite awhile. For a cop to get to my house at any random time, I know for a fact that it will average more than 20 minutes. How many people can a maniac kill in 20 minutes? Ask the two kids who went into Columbine School in 1999 (13 dead, 21 injured), or the single gunman at Luby's Cafeteria in Texas in 1991 (23 dead, 20 wounded), or the McDonald's in Southern California in 1984 (22 dead, 19 wounded), or Virginia Tech in 2007 (32 dead, 25 wounded). And it's not just in the U.S.: one guy took out "at least" 85 people in the recent youth camp massacre in Norway according to the BBC report I read (plus 66 wounded).

What if one of those victims could have shot back, early on? How many lives would have been saved? I can tell you this: if you were trying to protect your children in one of those situations, you'd be praying for a gun. Not Mace, not pepper spray, a firearm. And you know it.

I know the "liberal" response is two-fold: 1) let "everyone" carry guns and there will be bloodbaths as citizens shoot it out in the streets, and 2) there will be accidents and innocent children will die. (OK, some adults too.) My response: 1) our openly-gun-carrying police officers don't engage in bloodbaths on the streets every day, do they? They're not better at it, either -- they're worse: studies show civilians are MUCH more likely to shoot actual criminal perpetrators (vs innocent bystanders) in shooting incidents than the police. Plus, crime has gone down in states with a "must-issue" (a concealed carry permit) law, not up. And 2) Have you gotten rid of your car, which kills a lot more children (and adults) every year than guns? Why not?

I'm not at all saying that "everyone" should carry a gun. There are rational reasons not to. When I told a good local buddy I was getting one, he said he never would. It's not because he's a liberal (and he is), but rather because he's bipolar, and if it was "right there" he could well be tempted to shoot himself when he was down. Pretty rational decision, isn't it? He figures the odds of him shooting himself are greater than the odds he'll need a gun to protect himself, so the decision is "don't get one." Who wouldn't respect that?! Yet, there is plenty of disrespect for people who do choose to get one. "What, are you paranoid or something?" No, I'm realistic. The odds of our house being a target -- of criminals or other predators, such as bears -- is high enough that I made the decision to have one handy. Just like I have several fire extinguishers handy. I'm not "paranoid" of fires, either, but it's pretty cheap insurance to have some extinguishers around "just in case."

In addition to my friend, who rationally decided not to get a gun, there are plenty of people who should not be allowed to have one, even if they want one. The mentally ill, criminals, and more. We already have those laws in place, and I favor their use. I'm in favor of "enhanced" sentences for using guns criminally; I'm in favor of enhanced sentences for those who use knives or other weapons criminally, too.

So yeah, those folks are out. For others, why not? If you were honest enough to admit you'd want a gun to protect your children in a horrible situation like those I mentioned, can you honestly say it's OK for you, but not for other honest, law-abiding citizens like you? And let's stipulate "if properly trained," of course.

Yes, even though I was an openly-gun-carrying police officer in California, when I decided to buy a gun again I didn't just say "Heck: I'm already trained!" No, I went and took a class from an expert, starting over from scratch. I asked my wife to come too (and she did). Rather than take the minimum, we went for a multi-day class that included classroom and range instruction. Sure enough, I learned (or relearned) a lot. I think it's important to get that teaching, just as it's important to be taught to drive a car: both guns and cars can be lethal weapons.

What's the bottom line here? In "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" (the "unalienable Rights" proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence), "life" comes first -- the first "right" that Americans claimed were "endowed by [our] Creator". The ability to defend one's life from violence is basic to that. Guns equalize even the weak against the strong predators (human or otherwise) that would attack us. Anything else is, literally, a case of you condemning thousands of people to death each year.

What Do You Think?

Still, in the face of all of this, I'd like to hear "reasonable and thoughtful contrary arguments" to this, too. If you disagree to either of my explorations above, you have a choice: whine or scream and stomp away (which means you have no reasonable or thoughtful contrary arguments to post), or stand up for what you think, just as I just did. Because I wrote this knowing that it would piss off both liberals and conservatives -- I know that not everyone will take up my call to think about these issues, and discuss them; plenty will, indeed, whine or scream and stomp away, even though they will have to admit, at least to themselves, that they have no reasonable or thoughtful contrary arguments to post.

We can't expect our politicians to come to a consensus and compromise if we won't do so first on these basic issues. Please do read the comments posted so far; consider the arguments made, pro and con. It's time to discuss these basic issues and come to greater understanding.


Update: Reader Reaction

There are now more than 100 quite thoughtful comments on this entry. Time for a brief summary from that crop.

From the Right

  • I consider myself a conservative.... On the issue of the bullying law, it seems obvious that this is simply an attempt by otherwise seemingly reasonable legislators to institutionalize their hate of homosexuals by claiming that passing a bill to protect ALL from undue pressures or attacks somehow gives one group which they clearly are biased against personally special status. What a load of hooey. The issue is not special status, but the legalizing of the ability to discriminate, intimidate, harass, attack, injure, and kill, or drive to kill oneself, someone they hold in contempt. What they cannot do themselves as adults, they wish to see being done by teens and preteens. As "adults" they can stand behind the shield of opposing "special status" claims, but it's just an excuse to promote hatred using that claim as a pretext. They probably would promote themselves as "conservatives" when all they seem to be on that issue are unreasoning bigots. --Tom, Illinois
  • I'm in complete agreement with you on both.

    I'm a conservative, but the Michigan legislature was dead wrong. Bullying is bullying no matter the "reason". We shouldn't need hate crime laws. If someone commits murder, I don't care why. It does not matter whether they hate the victim's race, gender, sexual orientation, hair color, or just want to kill for fun. They need to be put in jail for a very long time. The same goes for bullies. It does not matter if it is for something they hate, or if it is just to make themselves fell better by bullying. They need to be stopped or removed from the school. --Karl, New Jersey

From the Left

  • I am a registered Democrat. I do not recall voting other than for the Democratic candidates -- often simply because I considered the other candidates inferior choices. I find your discussion of both bullying and carrying excellent, esp. the carrying!

    I am unwilling to carry a weapon for several reasons. I am 81 on, and cannot recall ever being in a situation where I wished I had a weapon with me, hence I am unwilling to subject myself to such a responsibility/worry/concern. I would find life far less rewarding had I to continually make a judgment as to whether I should interfere in this or that situation.

    I cannot conceive of how I would handle the problem when I am around my eight grandchildren.

    However, I find your argument the best, the most persuasive, of ANY I've ever read. --Bob, Oklahoma

You have rational reasons that the equation doesn't come out to having a gun. That's fine! I'd never try to convince you otherwise. I'm just glad you had the chance to make the decision in the way you wanted; it was not dictated to you. That, of course, is the point, rather that what you decide is right for you.

  • I agree absolutely on the bullying issue. Nuff said.

    Politically, I'm active in the Democratic Party and almost always vote on the progressive or liberal side of issues. Haven't owned a gun since I was a kid growing up in Vermont and have no plans to get one.

    Since moving to Arkansas from urban California, I've come to see the gun issue as more complex than fits on a bumper sticker -- but most of the conversation about guns seems to come from the two extremes. I think liberals are wrong, for example, when they fail to recognize the hunting culture that put food on the table for generations in rural America and still does. However, I have trouble fitting "sportsmen" with AK-47s shooting up the countryside into that image.

    Since I have no plans to burglarize your home or rape your womenfolk, I am reasonably comfortable with you packing heat for protection, Randy. I've gotten to know you a bit over the years and feel comfortable with that. However, I worry about those people who want to protect themselves from the "Muslim hordes" or the "colored boys ogling their daughters" or the "abortion doctors" or the gay teachers "trying to convert their sons." If we could effectively keep guns out of the hands of lunatics, I'd feel a lot better.

    There is a tendency for most of our political conversations to gravitate to the extremes. During the 2008 campaign, I spent time on the phone reassuring Arkansans they would still be able to worship in their regular church if Obama was elected and promising that he really did not plan to take away their guns. "He'll be the Commander-in-Chief with nuclear weapons. He won't need your guns."

    I agree that we should engage in a rational discussion of the gun issue, but I worry that one side would be armed. --Earl, Arkansas

While I didn't emphasize it much, I did start with disgust in the polarization of politics, which does indeed shove each party into extreme positions. We definitely do need rational discussion -- just as you've provided here -- rather than extremism. Thanks for the example of how it's done.

From the Middle

  • Politically I have given up on being an anything-arian. I am for accountability and nothing else. Hold the government, in specific the office holders, elected or appointed, accountable for all actions taken in office. Authority must be granted grudgingly and reluctantly. When it is abused it must be snatched away at once. Be it a minimum wage screener at the TSA or the President of the United States. --Garry, Michigan
  • Randy, if you DO take one side or another, you conceal it very well. I would call you "an equal opportunity offender." Keep us thinking, friend. --Mike, Florida

With few exceptions (e.g., Zero Tolerance), my goal isn't to convince anyone of a particular side of a particular issue. Rather, I'm interested in getting people to think about issues rationally, rather than emotionally (e.g., "EEK! Guns KILL people!!"), to understand the implications of the issue. That makes better citizens, and better voters. Because we for damn sure deserve better politicians, and I can think of only one way to get them!

From Outside the U.S.

  • Regarding gun accidents, it is worth taking a look at Freakonomics. Would you send your child to a neighbor that owns a gun? would you send your child to a neighbor that has a swimming pool? --Noam, Israel

The page you link to is very short, and worth a look. I wouldn't send my kid to either house until I had met the parents and evaluated how responsible they are. But yes, that page is eye-opening.

  • Things are not too different in Spain. First issue, bullying: nothing to add to the stream of thinking that Michigan's law is idiotic and dangeorus. Then, in a general way, I always thought that branding crimes is bad. Hate crimes, terrorist, gender, family... they are crimes already, and branding them (and making a special law for it) "terrorist" had given ETA criminals a handhold to protest their "political prisoners" status in the european tribunals. And gender crimes are in the root of many false claims of violence, or worse (kid's abuse) to better a position on a divorce court.

    About firearms: it is extremely diffcult to have a gun permit in Spain. You need to be a policeman, military, or have a job with special needs jeweler, for instance). Hunting permits are closely monitiored, too. But our criminals manage to have their guns somehow... just yesterday, a 76 y.o. dude killed a woman shooting her twice after a traffic discussion. His husband and three witness were also shot at, but not hit. His unlicensed gun, a 9 mm automatic, came from South Africa. Anyone with a gun could have stopped him in a second. Not the cops, they were somewhere else. So yes, I think just like you in that issue.

    Great line of debate, Randy. A premium already, I plan to be for years to come. --Rafael, Spain

  • Randy, your views pretty much match my own. I'm one of those who in online tests generally comes out as centrist, largely because I'm on the left in some things and on the right in others. The right to self-defence is one of those where my views are absolutely firm.

    In Britain, at least, there is ample case law that says the police are not responsible for defending individuals from specific attacks; they'll try if they get to know about attacks, and they'll investigate them afterwards, but -- for fairly obvious practical reasons -- individuals have no legal expectation for a bobby to magically appear at their side when attacked. And yet we're always told not to arm ourselves -- "That's the job of the police".

    In Britain, we can't carry guns. We can't carry mace. We can't even carry a knife, baton, or anything even tenuously defined as an "offensive weapon". We can't carry anything that might give us a fighting chance against an attacker -- and let's remember, the attacker already has the choice of victim, time and place... not to mention a disregard for the very laws that prohibit law-abiding citizens from carrying arms.

    I am all in favour of legally-armed citizens (with legally-mandated training). One of the things I like about South Africa, my wife's home country, is that the right to act in the defence of self or others is absolute -- and I'm currently taking a course that (should I ever choose to settle here) qualifies me to carry a whole variety of firearms for self-defence or professional (security) use.

    In an area with lots of carjackings, burglaries, and a high rate of violent crime, yes -- I do want a gun in my house. I want a gun on my belt, a gun locked under my car seat, and a gun in my wife's handbag. I want to be able to take responsibility for my family's safety, without having to rely on police or our armed security contractor.

    Taking responsibility for one's own protection -- in whatever form that takes -- should be not only a right but a duty. --Andrew, UK

On the Other Hand, the Unsubscribes

As expected, quite a few people stormed off in a huff. They're partisan; they not only hate the other side, they can't stand it that there are non-partisans in the world. A few of their parting shots:

  • Your political slant. --Jon, Illinois

Straight up and down isn't a "slant". You'd know this if you weren't so slanted.

  • Your writing is clearly not independent. Probably not liberal nor conservative either -- just Democrat. We don't see commentary about Solindra, unemployment, OWS, etc., but you go out of your way to portray Republicans as the root of the bully problem. I've got news for you pal, the Republicans I know oppose bullies. Why don't you write about Chicago politicians? They're the worst bullies.

    Also, the first paragraph refers to conservatives as "heartless", and liberals as "bleeding-heart" -- heartless is bad, while bleeding-heart is good (in my book). Why label conservatives as heartless? And why label Glenn Beck as heartless? He is as much against bulling as you or I and he sure seems to be a good and decent human-being.

    Why portray Republicans as the bullies when they weren't the bullies that rammed a so-called health-care bill through Congress without even reading it? What about the bullies that are spending lavishly on themselves and their cronies ($500,000,000 to Solyndra) and sticking our innocent grandchildren with the bill? That's the worst bulling of all -- and if you have grandchildren (or children), you might want to stick up for them. There are plenty of articles you could write showing fraud, waste, and abuse today that our innocent grandchildren (and children) will have to pay for. And lets see how many times you refer to Democrats. --Andrew, Texas

What a paranoid position! And poor, poor Glenn Beck -- but screw Barney Frank! Who gives a shit about the other side! Yes, because I "bash" him similarly, I must on his side, not Beck's! That's an example of thinking? Yet, I have on hundreds of occasions bashed non-thinking on the left, because -- again! -- I bash stupidity regardless of party affiliation, as you've seen in more than a year of reading True.

  • Anti GOP. Fuck off idiot. This stuff is going to spam where it belongs. --Art, Alabama. USMC. Semper Fidelis. 1966-1974

"Anti GOP"? In your more than a year as a reader, you've seen that I'm not. I'm anti-idiot, whether the idiot is in the GOP or not.

  • I didn't sign on to your list to get pushed politically. I get way to much of that in the mainstream media (MSM.) --"Up", Texas
  • Political comments should be left out of your stories!! --Elanie, Nebraska

Politics is part of life -- unfortunately. So is sex, crime, and death. And when someone does something truly stupid, it gets covered in True -- though there's rarely any "pushing".

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168 Comments on This Entry

All comments in this blog are reviewed prior to being published. Spammers: don't waste your time. The posting criteria are simple: if a comment is worth visitors' time to read, it's approved. If not, it's not.


Posted by Ozz, Kentucky on November 7, 2011:

I agree 100% on the issue of firearms.

Too many people are unaware that it is a "fundamental principle of American law that a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any individual citizen." [Warren v. District of Columbia, 444 A.2d 1 (D.C. Ct. of Ap., 1981)].

That is one of the reasons the D.C. gun ban was overturned.

[Full disclosure: I am a state-certified firearms instructor licensed to teach concealed carry classes.]

---

I have no doubt that most people will agree with at least one of the story stances. The question is, what's your response to the other story?

And yes, I actually meant to include the point that it has been affirmed in the courts again and again: that citizens have no right to police protection, even in a life or death situation, which means yes: you really are on your own in an emergency. -rc

Posted by Mike - Florida on November 7, 2011:

Randy, if you DO take one side or another, you conceal it very well. I would call you "an equal opportunity offender." Keep us thinking, friend.

---

With few exceptions (e.g., Zero Tolerance), my goal isn't to convince anyone of a particular side of a particular issue. Rather, I'm interested in getting people to think about issues rationally, rather than emotionally (e.g., "EEK! Guns KILL people!!"), to understand the implications of the issue. That makes better citizens, and better voters. Because we for damn sure deserve better politicians, and I can think of only one way to get them! -rc

Posted by John, Mesa, AZ on November 7, 2011:

I agree with the Spartanburg, SC sheriff, and you, but it may be for a different reason.

I believe that my personal safety, and that of my family, is my responsibility. The police are fine for chasing criminals AFTER the criminal act is done, but for preventing the criminal act from occurring in the first place, a strong defensive posture is best.

Contrary to most television portrayals, most criminals are cowards. An armed criminal who comes up against an armed citizen protecting his property is, in my opinion, more likely to seek out easier prey.

Needless to say, proper training is a must, as well.

Posted by Michael from Oklahoma on November 7, 2011:

Thank you. I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one to feel this way and am so very tired of the 'us or them' mentality and the lack of rational thought and discourse on these complex issues that ultimately rely on individual consideration, not Orwellian 'group-think'.

Posted by Michelle, FL on November 7, 2011:

You are making an assumption that ALL Conservatives are Republicans and vice versa. One is not mutually exclusive to the other.

---

I'm not making that assumption, I'm making that generalization -- accurately. -rc

Posted by Robert, California on November 7, 2011:

Randy, I agree 100% with BOTH of your views, and I believe that there's a growing segment of the population that feels the same. There ought to be a political party just for us.

---

If there's one thing the two parties actually agree on, it's that there shouldn't be a viable third party. They'd lose their power. -rc

Posted by Nick in New Mexico on November 7, 2011:

Kudos on both stories. I find very little to disagree with, but the one thing I will say is that I am not for "hate crimes" legislation. While hatred is a vile thing and many times does lead to the commission of a crime, it is an attitude or a belief, not a crime in and of itself. It should be fought by education, not legislation. Making a belief a criminal act is a bit too Orwellian for me.

Bullying absolutely should be outlawed in our schools, and I would support any legislation to that effect, but the reason for the bullying is of little consequence to me, as you also indicated. The fact that this kid was harassed and intimidated while school officials did nothing is a travesty, it should not be a reason for any politician of any party to grandstand.

Unless there is something about this situation I'm not understanding, it seems to me that the insistence on the part of Democrats in labeling the reason for the bullying was just as much a factor in delaying and watering down the legislation as Republicans insistence that the labeling be excluded.

---

Your last point is an excellent one. My point about hate crime laws is if they exist, they should be "equal" in that one class of people should be as protected as another (Christians and whites, if attacked because of that status, as much as Jews and blacks). But I basically agree with your point there, too. -rc

Posted by Melissa, Minnesota on November 7, 2011:

I do take issue with hate crime laws, mostly due to the fact that what the new laws are criminalizing are already illegal.

Spraying a swastika or anti-Semitic graffiti? Vandalism.

Beating someone for their religion or ethnicity? Assault and/or battery.

And I'm sorry, but name-calling should NOT be a crime. When I personally was teased in high school, for being fat, or because my last name was similar to an infamous boxer, I just decided not to be friends with that person, it didn't make me want to hurt myself. I know some people don't have the upbringing that I do, to be strong enough to ignore that kind of thing, but what it comes right down to is that government can not, and should not attempt to protect us from ourselves. It is a futile effort, and can only lead to more and more freedoms being taken away.

I can just see it coming: sugar is bad for you, so government is going to protect you, and limit how much sugar can be in food, or how much a person can intake a day.

Posted by Dustin in CA on November 7, 2011:

I am a registered Republican (though my political philosophy leans more Libertarian) and I was disgusted to read the way the Republican lawmakers approached the bullying issue. (Especially disgusting was excusing bullying on religious grounds.) Better to do nothing than pass a law with no teeth.

As far as "hate crime" laws, I don't think we should make them apply to more groups. I think we should get rid of them altogether. The fascination (mainly from the left) with hate crime laws perplexes me. The punishment for a crime should fit the action that took place -- not the motive behind it. If someone rapes and brutally murders a woman because she is black, why is that somehow worse than if he just picked a random woman? If the victim is black, is it automatically a hate crime or does it have to be proven? And if so, how?

Bullying is a real problem that needs to be addressed, but any law written needs to be written with a blind eye for who the victim is. Whether someone is being bullied for their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, speech impediment, body type, hair color, name, awkwardness, etc., they deserve equal protection. Just as it was wrong to create laws biased against certain people, it is wrong to create laws biased toward certain people. Last time I checked, Lady Justice was wearing a blindfold.

Posted by Jon in CT on November 7, 2011:

My voting record would probably label me as a 'liberal' but I am 100% with you on guns. This country has a policy of disarming the victims; that just leads to more deaths. I know one local cop who calls schools 'killing zones' because no one there can fight back against an intruder with a gun. I do have a gun permit, although I am not allowed to carry a gun where I work -- in a killing zone.

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I've never noticed it in Colorado, but in other states (including New Mexico, where I was recently) I've seen signs on business doors: "No Guns Allowed per Whatever Law". OK, so the honest people won't carry guns in there -- just criminals. Great. I avoid such places as a matter of principle: the proprietor has made public notice that "Here, no honest people can shoot back" -- an invitation to criminals. No thanks: I'll choose a business who doesn't want to sacrifice me. -rc

Posted by Chris, Melbourne on November 7, 2011:

You draw the comparison of guns to cars -- cars kill more people each year. Yes, but many more cars are driven each year than guns are fired -- and it's malfunctions of the driving method that cause fatalities, while correct use of a gun is often to cause death/injury.

That said, though: I want to see FAR stricter requirements on drivers licenses. You are not *entitled* to a personal car. You should earn that privilege by proving that you can correctly master a ton of equipment moving at a hundred kays an hour. And do you see people flying aeroplanes without proper training? Certainly not. Same should be true of guns. You don't get a gun just because there are rapists around -- you get a gun ONLY if you can prove that you have mastered its use.

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I'm not sure that people drive more miles than people fire rounds of ammunition (which is a more valid comparison, I think). In Australia, sure: I'd buy that. But I'd really be interested to see the numbers for the U.S. Also, remember: guns are used much more to prevent crimes just by its presence than by firing it. -rc

Posted by Paul, Michigan on November 7, 2011:

I'm another person who agrees with your position on both stories. Cheers for independent thought.

I don't think I've ever been so ashamed to live in Michigan as I am now for what this worthless law is doing. It's actually a blueprint for how to get away with bullying. The provision excusing religious belief or moral conviction applies to those who are a "school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil and parent or guardian". So it's excusing bullying by teachers, administrators, and parents in addition to students.

As for guns, I've thought about getting one. It's less of a concern for the relatively safe residential area I live in, but I know that's no guarantee. My wife is opposed to it though. By the way, she normally votes Republican, but given the insanity demonstrated by the Republican candidates, she's voting for Obama next year. Just demonstrates she can think for herself, too!

Posted by Alexander, Silver Spring, Md. on November 7, 2011:

"Cyber-bullying" is nothing more than insulting speech. It is none of the law's business. All these laws should be thrown out under the First Amendment, and the schools should work on catching and punishing students who inflict or create a reasonable fear of imminent physical violence in their buildings. (Students rarely if ever encounter online speech in situations where it could warrant a fear of *imminent* violence.)

And if the legislature MUST regulate students' online speech, it ought to limit its regulation to the use of school computers. A student should not be subject, away from school, to any law that does not apply equally to the legislators who made it and the adults who elected those legislators. THIS is the sort of equality with which government ought to be concerned: equality of legal rights.

Posted by Betsy, Northern Arizona on November 7, 2011:

I grew up in Michigan, AND I consider myself a somewhat right of center conservative on some, not all, social issues (quite a bit right on financial issues). However, I am deeply ashamed of the Michigan legislators' actions.

In the little town where I grew up, there was wide acceptance of people of all kinds, people with disabilities, Mexicans, Native Americans, even *gasp* eccentrics. This tolerance was STRONGLY ENCOURAGED by our teachers. Has the state now gone stark-raving insane?

On the guns issue, you said it all. Thank you! My husband and I both shoot, and my husband volunteers teaching concealed carry and marksmanship. He has worked with our Air Force para-rescue HALO jumpers, and he has worked with victims of domestic violence. Even in our town of 11,000 it can take up to 20 minutes for the police to get to our house because of the layout of our roads.

And thanks for mentioning disparity of force. I'm under five feet tall. Without my Smith & Wesson (can I mention brands here?) 686 revolver, I'm at the mercy of any human or animal that outweighs me. I've seen mountain lions on my morning walk, and in the neighboring town a rabid bobcat walked into a bar ... no, REALLY ... and bit one of the patrons in the face.

Keep up the good work. Nice to know there are thinking, rational people in the neighboring state.

Posted by Mark in Longmont on November 7, 2011:

I don't own a gun, but I do agree with your sentiment. I would hope that competent gun carriers are around to take care of business if I was ever the victim of such a crime as the ones you mentioned.

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Even if you never want to own a gun (and you may have great reasons for that, and I would not argue that you "should"), for your second part to happen, you may need to fight for others to have the right. -rc

Posted by Ken, New York on November 7, 2011:

Well, when you told me "I'm gonna make some heads explode this week", you weren't kidding. :-)

I, personally, do not own a gun, for several reasons, not the least of which is 4 children in the house. Consider, for example, our oldest daughter, now 12. "Curiosity" is her middle name. When she was 2, her curiosity got her to pull the Cuisinart box off the shelf, open it, pull out numerous layers of packaging and parts, only to find a *very* sharp blade at the bottom of the main unit, which cleanly sliced off most of her thumb nail. (Fortunately, only the nail and a thin layer of skin.) Anything that could have prevented her from doing the same with a gun would have made using that gun basically impossible in an emergency.

My objection to Sheriff Wright's comments would be aimed at the fact that it sounds like he's advocating lethal force in non-life-threatening situations. (And, even if he didn't mean that, it certainly sounds like it.)

By the way, if the Constitution says you have a right to "keep and bear arms", why should someone convicted of a crime have that "right" taken away? (At least, in the case where the crime didn't involve the use of a weapon.)

As for "hate crime" laws, I also find it disconcerting that assaulting someone because of their race is a "worse" crime than the same assault motivated by the clothes the victim was wearing. I saw the story about the Michigan law in the local paper, but I haven't read the actual law. However, it sounds to me like it could be self-contradictory. It's a "hate crime", for example, to commit the crime because the victim was gay, but if "a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction" was behind it, it's not even a crime in the first place.

It's hard enough for a jury to decide intent or not (consider "manslaughter" versus "involuntary manslaughter"). Do we really need to start deciding on things like "did you do it because he was gay, or because he insulted your sister"? And, if it's because he was gay, was "a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction" a contributing factor?

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I hope your head explosion wasn't too messy! Yeah, such laws force juries to read minds sometimes, which sounds like a pretty bad idea. Sometimes, though, intent is pretty evident. As for felons, in most states they lose a number of their civil rights upon conviction. They're by definition criminals; you're advocating that they shouldn't lose their right to bear arms as one of those rights losses? -rc

Posted by Pierre, Ontario, Canada on November 7, 2011:

Hit the nail on the head both times.

And better said than I ever could! I hope you don't mind if I point people towards this URL, when I need to. Often, up here in Canada, the gun issue comes up, and people get into arguments with me. NOW, now I have a place to point them to... so they can get a competent explanation. I'd print it out, with your name and all, but, I feel uncomfortable about that, somehow.

You should do a small book or pamphlet of all your essays. I think it would be a best seller.

Thank you very much. From what I read so far, most readers are tending to agree with you.

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That's only because most of them are Premium subscribers; wait until this comes out in the free edition! Certainly you may point people here. And when I catch up with some other things, I am indeed thinking of doing a few books! -rc

Posted by Bernard in Brisbane, Australia on November 7, 2011:

Randy, it's an interesting pair of articles - IMHO, you've definitely achieved your objective of making people think about the issues.

RE the bullying, I agree totally: a law with no penalties and so many 'out clauses' is not a law worth passing. I also agree with some of the commenters that "hate crime" laws are superfluous. Either a crime was committed, or it was not. Presumably any "hate crime" elements could be weighed appropriately by the sentencing judge, as aggravating factors, without having a new law to cover these narrow circumstances?

RE the guns: you know, I lament the necessity for the Sheriff's comments, but I don't disagree with them. I'm not a big fan of the general populace having easy access to guns -- it also means the criminal element have easy access to them, along with significantly increasing the level of danger found in the home. But I also understand that, in many cases, the best defence is a good offence.

Posted by Debi, Tampa on November 7, 2011:

I'm opposed to the concept of "hate crimes" for a completely different reason than most.

My son was the victim of an attack in his school bathroom. My son, who is (in his words) White and Nerdy, exited the bathroom stall to find six larger than he boys waiting for him. They all happened to be black. One yelled "Get the white boy," another tripped my son to the ground, and the rest proceed to hit and kick him.

A teacher broke up the affair, we as parents were called and then we contacted the police. In the end we were told that there was "nothing that could be done" about the attack because while the term "white boy" was tossed out there, since he had "no lasting damage", it wasn't a hate crime.

I don't really care what *kind* of crime it was. Those children were all back in school two days later. No one was willing to address the issue because "hate crime" was brought into the conversation. The tensions over race were so high that anyone with any authority overlooked the important part... Six boys chose to attack a single, smaller boy.

If "hate crime" hadn't been an issue to look at, perhaps my son might not have had to finish out the school year with his bullies. We might not have had to move him to a new school where the administration chooses to punish bullying. And my son might also not have chosen to refuse to use the bathroom for his entire remaining time at that school out of fear of a repeat attack.

The issue is not whether it's a hate crime. The issue is whether any sort of bullying is a crime. The political dance around a person's right to be [insert religion, political background, race, sexual orientation here] keeps hindering us from teaching children the proper way to treat other individuals by not allowing harmful behaviors.

Posted by Jason, Las Cruces, NM on November 7, 2011:

I'm sure that a "Welcome to High School" beating is already against the law. So the question is, how would another law against beating people have saved Matt Epling?

Randy, your position on "zero tolerance" should be a guiding principle. Anti-bullying laws do not make kids safer. They are much more likely to be abused by mindless bureaucrats who will use the overly broad laws and reporting requirements to criminalize school-yard taunts than to prevent actual bullying.

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I agree a beating is already illegal -- that's why the parents were going to the police. It was apparently years of taunts, pushing/shoving, and other things that was the real problem: the beating "was the final straw" rather than one thing in isolation. -rc

Posted by Owen in Chocowinity on November 7, 2011:

I too oppose hate crime laws. Bullying and assault need to be punished whether done for a perceived difference, or if the victim is random. As for firearms, I don't own one because I have had 4 small children in the house and have no real use for one. I worry about those who buy a gun, and don't bother to learn how to handle it. I would like to see firearm training provided to all high school students (unless parents request exemption for a student). I realize liability concerns will not allow this in our society, but it might reduce accidental deaths, and would make a better informed citizenry. I got to shoot a rifle in Boy Scout Camp. Before I was handed the gun, I received a brief course in firearms. I learned to appreciate that it was not a toy, and required care and responsibility in its use.

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I've also taught several people how to shoot, and it always starts with talking before touching. And I'm not picking on you when I say this, but I'm not really sure how "hate crime" laws got to be such a topic here: neither story is about that. -rc

Posted by Fred, Aiken. SC on November 7, 2011:

I am a concealed carry permit holder myself. I had to get extra training above what I already had and have an extensive background check done by the State Law Enforcement Department. Why did I get this? I live in the boondocks. Getting help here is like trying to find hens teeth. On good days it take the local sheriffs 20 to 30 min to get here since they can never find the place. I believe that all persons except the mentally unbalanced and criminals should carry a gun. I also believe we should be able to carry that gun openly and not be forced to go to great lengths to conceal it.

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"Open carry" is legal in many states (I don't know about S.C., but I'm sure you do!) In some states, it's legal to carry openly even without a permit. In others, it's completely illegal even if you do have a permit. In California, I learned that you cannot have a loaded gun in your car -- a Fish & Game law. But in Colorado, a car is considered an extension of your home, and you can have a gun inside even without a permit. What differences! One does have to learn local laws before even thinking about carrying a gun, openly or concealed. -rc

Posted by Barry, Seattle on November 7, 2011:

I agree with you on both items. I am a gun-owning conservative and fully agree with the SC sheriff. "When the difference between life and death is just seconds, the police are only minutes away." I am also opposed to "hate crime" legislation, but I was shocked by the attitude of the Republican legislators in Michigan.

In most states, "assault" is a verbal action that causes a person to be in fear, and "battery" involves physical contact -- both are criminal acts and should be treated as such. As someone else said, "hate crimes" are too Orwellian -- we do not need 'thought police.'

It should not be necessary to make 'bullying' a separate crime, but, unfortunately school administrators have a tendency to ignore actual law violations, like assault and/or battery or vandalism in favor of enforcing zero tolerance about girls sharing Midol or boys drawing pictures of guns.

Posted by Scott, Des Moines IA on November 7, 2011:

I'm a study in contradictions: a registered Democrat, who works in electronic media, and also a card-carrying NRA member. Over a few years of reading and consideration I decided that the interpretations of the Second Amendment had become watered-down. Ownership of a firearm, and the knowledge and training to use it effectively if needed, is less a RIGHT than an OBLIGATION of the responsible citizen, in my opinion. When Iowa became a "shall-issue" state I obtained my carry permit, and next week I will take my second 4-day class at a firearms training institute in Nevada. If you ask me why anybody should carry a gun, the short answer is "Because you can't carry a cop."

Posted by Michael, Mo. on November 7, 2011:

I am one of those independent/conservative/Christian you seem to despise. My parents were Democrats. I never have been a member of any party and never will. Those cowards who failed to enact an effective anti-bullying law should be thrown out of office. I can remember my days in school when I too was bullied. I was always a little chubby and on top of that had to wear glasses. Can't tell you how many times I was called four-eyes. There is no excuse for this behavior from anyone. It caused me to become extremely shy throughout my schooling. It wasn't until I was an adult did I start to grow out of my shell. I missed a lot because of it. Oh, and yes I have a gun, its a .38 revolver. It is mostly for my wife because of a fear she may be raped again. She has knifes in the car stashed just in case. It is our right to protect ourselves. I just can't help to wonder why you and others insist on lumping me with everyone else. We all have different views. I assure you most of my friends with the same persuasion would find the bullying story abhorrent. Next I will be seeing the word "all" next to conservatives/christians. I do have the right to a different opinion...don't I Randy?

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You do have a right to your opinion. You don't have a right to your own facts. Where, exactly, do I say I "despise" you or people like you? We seem to agree on everything; what in the world brings you to the conclusion I "regard you with contempt or scorn; dislike you intensely; loathe you; regard you as unworthy of my interest or concern" -- the definition of despise? You're fighting an ally. Why? -rc

Posted by David Indianapolis on November 7, 2011:

I am torn by the bullying law. On the one hand, I grieve for the parents of their children and their loss. On the other hand, I personally experienced teasing growing up and I feel that it made me a stronger person.

It is hard for me to see how you can draw a clear line between teasing and bullying without zero tolerance and the issues that brings. If physical violence occurs, then it is assault and that is already a crime. There are also civil actions for libel that could be used against people who start online harassment campaigns (I am assuming here, not a lawyer!)

How is it that the school officials completely get a pass here? I feel like they were accomplices to the bullies. It seems to me that numerous crimes had already been committed but the school officials chose not to protect the boy and do their jobs. Maybe they were too busy taking aspirin away from kids with headaches?

Do we really need another law that would then be used to criminalize normal children's play and harmless behavior that helps children mature and gain strength? I would say no.

I do feel that this law as it was described is intellectually dishonest though. If you hold the position I just described, why not stand up for your belief instead of passing window dressing?

As a father of a 3 yr old who is extremely sensitive (and shares my easily teased last name) I plan to teach him self defense and other ways to gain confidence so that he will be able to stand up to bullies. Parents need to intimately involved in their children's lives and understand what they have to do to protect them.

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School officials get a "pass" because they're not at issue here; the law is, and school officials aren't part of the legislature. I do agree that they're part of the problem: if they were doing their jobs properly, there wouldn't need to be a law. Of course, the law as described doesn't address that most important aspect. -rc

Posted by Paul in Houston on November 7, 2011:

I completely agree with what you've said here, but there's an important point that I didn't see mentioned. When I went through Air Force small arms training (many years ago, during ROTC summer camp), the training sergeant told us this wisdom:

Never fire a gun at somebody unless you're trying to kill him. Do not shoot to wound. You don't have that level of control. If you're shooting, you need to be trying to kill somebody.

Never point a gun at somebody unless you're willing to shoot him. That translates to never pointing a gun at somebody unless you're willing to kill him.

Never draw a gun in a potentially hostile situation unless you're willing to fire it if the situation warrants. That means don't draw the gun unless you're willing to kill somebody.

Never have a gun in your possession unless... you're willing to kill somebody.

The thing that got me most was the sergeant's assurance that, in many cases where people have "home protection" guns without thinking these things through, they take the gun out in a dicey situation, unclear on whether they're willing to kill -- and the home intruder simply takes the gun away and uses it to shoot the homeowner.

If you have not taken the training AND thought these things through AND completely come to grips with the fact that this is a tool that is engineered with precision to do one and only one job -- killing -- then you do not want to have one!

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You had a wise sergeant -- and you listened well. The message I got in my law enforcement training years ago was similar, but not that concisely laid out. It's Hollywood fiction that someone can and "should" shoot to wound or knock the gun from an opponent's hand. That's not what a lethal weapon is for. I wasn't trained to "kill", though: I was trained to stop a threat. I made peace with myself that if I must stop someone (from, say, killing someone else), that they chose their path, and anything I needed to do -- including using lethal force -- was dictated by their actions, not mine. -rc

Posted by Ben of Houston on November 7, 2011:

I agree with you on both issues as well.

I find myself firmly aligned with the Republican stance on many issues, but I've found myself shaking my head time after time as the most ridiculous, round-about laws are passed to avoid nonsensical boogeymen. Even on abortion, which I can understand being a "do anything to stop" issue for those who think that it is murder, I find myself dumbstruck with the kind of laws that get passed.

I have less to say about the gun story because it's exactly the truth. However, I'd like to add that 5 1/4 inches of steel (barely legal in Texas) works just as well, and you don't have to worry nearly as much.

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I'd prefer not to be that close to a lethal threat. -rc

Posted by Jayson, Toronto on November 7, 2011:

I read and hear so much of people wanting more and more and more guns. Why aren't people looking at the no lethal alternative -- not the lame pepper spray thing but tasers. Why aren't people allowed access to these nor even discussing them? If an aggressor comes at you, a taser will put them down and with little harm and they get full repercussions of the law. A gun kills them cheating them from facing jail time. Not to mention reading the heartbreaking stories everyday of gun accidents with kids and others. More guns mean more deaths. Totally backwards logic.

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Cops have tasers, sure. They also have the fallback of a gun should it not work, and it often doesn't. If all you have is a taser, what's your fallback position? If there are two guys attacking you, which one are you going to try the taser on? There are no easy and pat solutions here -- not with firearms, either. -rc

Posted by Katie, Yachats OR on November 7, 2011:

I could not agree with everything you said more than I do. I'm sick to death of the extreme partisanship that is gutting our country and turning us into a nation of idiots.

I lived in Arizona for years, a state with possibly the most liberal gun laws in the nation (ironic use of the word liberal). Anyone who's not insane, who's not a criminal, and who can pass a class can get a concealed weapons permit or carry a side arm openly. The violent crimes are not committed by the people with permits. And the crimes that are committed using guns are not like in other places. Having lived there for almost 15 years, I never felt safer anywhere. Nothing like knowing that the soccer moms and blue haired ladies are all carrying guns keeps car jackers thinking and public assaults nearly unheard of.

On the other hand, the Michigan legislature is amoral and disgusting. They are bullies.

So much of the insanity that is plaguing us is the result of the two extremes insisting that if we don't toe a party line, we're not invited to the party at all. Depending on where you live, it's one brand of insanity or another, but there's rarely any intelligent compromise. Balance eludes us, it's always about the mud slinging, finger pointing, blame game. I hope you can continue to be a voice for the rest of us. We're standing behind you, and I suspect a lot more of us read your postings than you realize (after all, like attracts like).

As a nation we are literally drinking poison in the hopes that someone else dies.
Thanks for the rant.

Posted by Mark, Green Bay,Wi on November 7, 2011:

Independant. I vote for people who don't rant or rave and know how to compromise. I have no problem with gun ownership. A little with the Republicans in Madison, who left it to the State Attorney General to figure out how much class time citizens should have now that we have concealed carry. His decision was four hours of training. The NRA yanked the Republicans chain, as a result they voted today the AG overstepped his decision. So the upshot no more training than people think they need. This in a state where gun safety laws are mandated for hunting. I don't quite see the sense in it.

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Nor do I. I'm not sure what the minimum is in Colorado, but I think it's 8 hours or so. I took about 40, even though I already had a lot of shooting experience from my law enforcement days. It just seemed prudent. -rc

Posted by Lucas in Spokane WA on November 7, 2011:

I agree that the Michigan law is ridiculous. The idea of laws specifically to prevent bullying seems wrong to me. I'm sure there are many others like me who were both teased as a child and did their fair share of teasing. Having a name that rhymes with mucous and having a restricted tear duct made me fair game until I was about 10 years old. That sort of back-and-forth is part of growing up, and had we been criminally prosecuted for name-calling, I don't think we would have learned the lessons we did. Now, that said, what I don't think is tolerable is the escalation of childish teasing to the level of dangerous physical violence. At that point it is a crime for which there are already laws, as others have pointed out.

Five years ago when I met my girlfriend, she was anti-gun. Not to the extent where she refused to associate with me because I was a gun owner, but she didn't "believe in guns" as she put it. Two years ago she took a job working as a nurse in a correctional facility, and has since undergone an amazing transformation. Before working with law enforcement she was not aware of just how many people there are out there that commit violent crimes against others. The amount of crimes that don't make the news is staggering. A few weeks ago she got her concealed carry permit and we're planning to go gun shopping for her, after we take a safety class together. When we met, she had told me that she wouldn't be willing to defend herself or her kids if it meant having to use deadly force against an attacker, but after having her eyes opened and being dragged out of the bubble of false security she lived in, she has made a complete 180.

One last comment, to the folks that are worried about owning a gun because they have curious kids. For most kids there's a simple solution: Satisfy their curiosity. Kids are generally pretty smart. It only took one trip to the range at age 5 for me to learn that guns were capable of making very loud noises and putting holes in things (and people). Where there's no mystery, there's no curiosity.

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I was 10 when my dad did the same thing. I thought for sure he was crazy: a .22 would bounce off that cast iron frying pan and hurt us! But even that little tiny .22 went right through the metal. Very impressive, let me tell you! It taught me just how powerful even a "small" gun is, and I've never forgotten the lesson: I never touched his gun without permission (and I knew right where it was). My dad's gone now, and I have that pistol. It means a lot to me. -rc

Posted by Karl, New Jersey on November 7, 2011:

I'm in complete agreement with you on both.

I'm a conservative, but the Michigan legislature was dead wrong. Bullying is bullying no matter the "reason". We shouldn't need hate crime laws. If someone commits murder, I don't care why. It does not matter whether they hate the victim's race, gender, sexual orientation, hair color, or just want to kill for fun. They need to be put in jail for a very long time. The same goes for bullies. It does not matter if it is for something they hate, or if it is just to make themselves fell better by bullying. They need to be stopped or removed from the school.

Posted by Carl in Georgia on November 7, 2011:

I agree with you in all the specifics, and it's very gratifying to see such a thoughtful perspective go forth in print to thousands of readers. I'm 70 years old and have been licensed to carry for the last forty years, though I have never had a reason to draw my weapon in all that time. Bravo to you for opening up the topic, because I long ago tired of hearing poorly thought out anti-gun dialogue, and generally don't welcome such conversations as a result. Simply stated, I'm armed when & where I need to be; I aim to be a peaceful person, but also to have one hell of a fall back position if it's necessary. Truly, life IS more peaceful when you are ABLE to protect it.

Posted by Jack, Blairsville, GA on November 7, 2011:

I don't believe in anti-bullying laws because they don't work. They are just like hate crime laws, they are just meant to make the potential victim feel good. When my daughter was bullied in elementary school, I made an appt with the principal, went to the school and calmly and rationally discussed the situation with her. As it happened, I was the president of the PTA, a member of the School Improvement Team, and a weekly volunteer at the school so I was well known. I told the principal that if she could not prevent a repetition, to give me the name and address of the bully's parents and I would handle it myself. It never happened again. I would never have waited until my child was desperate to take action. What kind of parent waits two or three years to do something?

When I was in the sixth grade, we had a kid in school who had flunked a couple of times. He was about 14, while the rest of us were about 12. He bullied each of his classmates, one at a time. One day about 10 or 12 of us conspired to waylay him after school and beat him unmercifully. I am not recommending that, but it worked quite well. Some of our group were girls, and they really showed no mercy.

Posted by Cris, Gibraltar on November 8, 2011:

I'm totally with you. Your rationale for gun-carrying above is one of the better ones I've seen.

My father lived in England, and was paranoid about locking the house when he was in it. Pensioners get beat up during a robbery without the means to protect themselves.

When there are laws against guns, then the law-abiding don't have guns. But the criminals still do -- they don't obey the law.

I understand the US Supreme Court ruled that the police have no obligation to respond to emergency calls. Which implies you are legally obliged to protect yourself.

Posted by Richard, England on November 8, 2011:

Whereas the Norway massacre was horrific by any standards, I think it is important to realise that there is no "European" approach to gun laws. The UK has an almost complete prohibition on gun ownership but Norway has relatively liberal (in the proper sense of the term) gun laws.

Although there will be the occasional exception, statistics show, quite clearly, that there is far less gun crime in countries with strict gun laws than in countries without such strict laws.

In the USA there are 3.6 homicides per 100,000 population per annum -- nearly 700 time the rate in the UK. Even allowing for the 5 times greater population of the USA that's a pretty significant difference. (The Eighth United Nations Survey on Crime Trends and the Operations of Criminal Justice Systems)

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Of course places with strict gun laws have less gun crime. That doesn't mean they have less violent crime. When London has more violent crime than New York City, that becomes pretty obvious. See, for instance, this 2005 blog entry. -rc

Posted by David - Cornwall, England on November 8, 2011:

I am a gun owner here in the UK. Our gun laws here are very strict, the police typically don't carry guns and all hand guns are banned.

I am not in favour of changing the current laws to make gun ownership more widespread as statistics show that compared to the USA, our gun crime is low. The rare cases where a legal gun owner has gone on a spree (Dunblane & Hungerford) compared to criminal gun use, shows that the system helps to keep gun crime down. It is the basis for the argument that gin controls will reduce gun crime.

Unfortunately, you have already gone far down the gun ownership road in the USA and I suspect that everyone needs to have a gun to keep the balance. But what kind of society does that make? A policy to eradicate guns from the general population or at least control ownership and restrict weapon types may guide your society towards a safer future. Whilst we haven't got the perfect answer here in the UK, I know where I feel safer.

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Again, which society has more violent crime? I definitely feel safer here, where responsible adults have the ability to come to my aid. -rc

Posted by Earl in Arkansas on November 8, 2011:

I agree absolutely on the bullying issue. Nuff said.

Politically, I'm active in the Democratic Party and almost always vote on the progressive or liberal side of issues. Haven't owned a gun since I was a kid growing up in Vermont and have no plans to get one.

Since moving to Arkansas from urban California, I've come to see the gun issue as more complex than fits on a bumper sticker -- but most of the conversation about guns seems to come from the two extremes. I think liberals are wrong, for example, when they fail to recognize the hunting culture that put food on the table for generations in rural America and still does. However, I have trouble fitting "sportsmen" with AK-47s shooting up the countryside into that image.

Since I have no plans to burglarize your home or rape your womenfolk, I am reasonably comfortable with you packing heat for protection, Randy. I've gotten to know you a bit over the years and feel comfortable with that. However, I worry about those people who want to protect themselves from the "Muslim hordes" or the "colored boys ogling their daughters" or the "abortion doctors" or the gay teachers "trying to convert their sons." If we could effectively keep guns out of the hands of lunatics, I'd feel a lot better.

There is a tendency for most of our political conversations to gravitate to the extremes. During the 2008 campaign, I spent time on the phone reassuring Arkansans they would still be able to worship in their regular church if Obama was elected and promising that he really did not plan to take away their guns. "He'll be the Commander-in-Chief with nuclear weapons. He won't need your guns."

I agree that we should engage in a rational discussion of the gun issue, but I worry that one side would be armed.

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While I didn't emphasize it much, I did start with disgust in the polarization of politics, which does indeed shove each party into extreme positions. We definitely do need rational discussion -- just as you've provided here -- rather than extremism. Thanks for the example of how it's done. -rc

Posted by Noam, Israel on November 8, 2011:

Regarding gun accidents, it is worth taking a look at Freakonomics. Would you send your child to a neighbor that owns a gun? would you send your child to a neighbor that has a swimming pool?

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The page you link to is very short, and worth a look. I wouldn't send my kid to either house until I had met the parents and evaluated how responsible they are. But yes, that page is eye-opening. -rc

Posted by Don in Arizona on November 8, 2011:

A lot of people poke fun at Arizona and most of it is deserved. If we run low on idiots, we import some from other states.

Any non-felon can carry a gun in this state and many do, but you never know which ones. I've lived here 31 years and on the roads of Arizona I've been flipped off twice, both times by 'snowbirds' visiting from up north. They hadn't yet learned....

Robert A. Heinlein once said "An armed society is a polite society." You'd be surprised how few aggressions are worth your life.

Posted by Dan in Alabama on November 8, 2011:

While I am more conservative than liberal, I think of myself as independent.

Bullying - Some stress is needed early in life to toughen us up. That does not mean bullying. Too much stress can break anyone, especially a youngster. The Michigan law is stupid, ineffective and a waste of taxpayer money.

Guns - As a concealed carry permit holder I sure can't claim to be anti-gun. What I do think is that those who qualify for carry permits, should include a gun safety/skill/knowledge course in their credentials. I also believe that there should be a national reciprocity law, that would allow a permit holder in one state to carry in all states.

Posted by Ronald, Newark, Deleware on November 8, 2011:

Guns? I am more interested in comments about cars. As you say, they kill too. When a person commits a DWI offence, why is the car not confiscated on the spot, just as it is when a 'routine search' turns up illegal drugs in the trunk? When they are convicted of a hit-and-run-offense, demonstrating thereby profound lack of judgement, why are they not banned for life from car ownership or operation?

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A good question. Certainly gun owners caught in transgression very typically lose their guns on the spot -- at least until there's a hearing. Similarly, some states do impound the car. But in neither case do I want it to be permanent until a court determines that it's reasonable. -rc

Posted by Ken, New York on November 8, 2011:

"I'm not really sure how "hate crime" laws got to be such a topic here: neither story is about that. -rc"

I think it's because it's not much of a jump from "I did it because he's gay" to "I did it because he's gay, and my 'sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction' says that homosexuality is a sin and needs to be punished."

Why is the former a "hate crime" while the latter is a protected form of speech?

Posted by Bobbi in MA on November 8, 2011:

The Michigan law is horrible. I first read about it a week or so ago and I honestly thought I was reading something from The Onion it was so ludicrous.

My gun issue isn't with people owning them for protection. It's with the NRA saying anyone should be able to own any kind of gun. Sorry -- assault weapons aren't necessary for anyone outside of the military or law enforcement. Outside of those two groups, anyone who has one is pretty much up to no good. When it comes up that assault weapons should be banned all of a sudden our founding fathers intended that we should be able to turn someone into hamburger in under 10 seconds. The "all or nothing" attitude is as insane as "zero tolerance" policies.

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There is no valid definition of "assault weapon", which makes it difficult to ban them. It sounds like you're talking "automatic" weapons (machine guns); they are already highly regulated at the federal level. As for that "type" of weapon in general, the argument I've seen for them is this (and explored a bit in this blog entry): the Second Amendment isn't about hunting or self-defense, it's about what went on just before the Constitution was written: the Revolutionary War. The point: citizens are entitled to military weapons for the purpose of fighting the government should it stop being a true representative of "The People". Some Americans (not including me) feel that we're already at that stage. -rc

Posted by Jared in Kansas on November 8, 2011:

I agree with you on both respects. I am a conservative, and am opposed to the gay lifestyle, but to "Beat the gay out of them" is completely insane. That goes for any reason. I wonder, if harassment or bullying is a punishable offense at work for adults, why shouldn't it punishable at school for students? It's the same atmosphere and the same concept. To protect the bullies and let them continue is just letting a criminal go free. If they can be taught at a young age that what they are doing is wrong, they will be much less likely to do it as an adult. A little common sense will go a long way.

Then there's the other end of the spectrum. Bloodbaths? Gimme a break. There's an old saying: Outlaw guns, and only outlaws will have guns. It's true. Permits and restrictions are necessary, and safety classes should be, but denial of guns to everyone because of a few idiots? Sounds like political correctness to me. A little common sense will go a long way. Anyone sense a pattern here?

I think its the extremists on both ends of the spectrum that are dragging this country (and this planet) down the crapper. A little understanding and cooperation goes a long way.

Posted by Tom, Decatur, IL on November 8, 2011:

Not sure I can agree with all the people who think that we don't need laws about bullying. With the social networking that is available now, bullying goes beyond verbal encounters in the schoolyard and gets spread around and seems, in some cases, to become coordinated verbal attacks. On the other hand, short of trying to bring libel charges, I don't know how it can be controlled. I do agree that if it escalates to physical attacks the perpetrators should be charged with assault; let's not try to bring in hate crime or excuse it for religious reasons. (Maybe we can go after the Michigan legislators because "God tells us to do so"?)

Living in Illinois, I can't do concealed carry. I have to get a firearms owner identification (FOID) card to buy weapons or ammunition, but I am not aware of any training required before I do so. We recently had a case here were a man was killed because someone tried to teach his wife how to shoot a .45 -- in his backyard, in a city, at 4 A.M. (Alcohol was involved.) A round went high and hit a man watching TV. The police report indicated the tree being shot at had many bullet holes in it; at least one of these obliviots had done this before. This is the type of thing that anti-gun advocates point at. I don't know how one can give a good pro-gun response to this.

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There are drunk idiots with guns, just like there are drunk idiots with cars. Because some people drive drunk, should you lose your car? -rc

Posted by Ed, Pittsburgh on November 8, 2011:

Why are people talking about hate crimes here, when the issue is bullying? They are basically the same thing. People don't bully people they love. They don't rape, rob, etc. people they love. All crimes are hate crimes. "Hate crimes" motivated by prejudice are no different than crimes motivated by robbery, etc. As others have already mentioned, assault is already illegal. We don't need new "hate crimes" laws to outlaw these acts. In the same way, we don't need new "bullying" laws to outlaw harassment and assault, since they are already illegal.

What seems to be one motivation is a lack of respect by our government for the double-jeopardy protections of the Fifth Amendment. They create new statutes so that if they cannot get a conviction under one statute, they try again under another. Look what they did to those cops in the Rodney King trials. Double jeopardy protection was meant to protect against being tried twice for the same deed, not the same statute. One of many ways in which our government has no respect for our constitutional rights.

You point out that one needs to know local laws before carrying a gun. So, for example, if I cross the border from Pennsylvania into Ohio, I need to check Ohio's laws, even if I am compliant with Pennsylvania's laws. This is absurd that this should be necessary. There should be a single law that affects everyone in the country, so we don't need to worry about these things. Wait a minute, there is such a law! It's called the Second Amendment. It states that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed". EVERY gun control law ever written, or that ever could be written, including requiring permits, training, background checks, etc. infringes on the right to keep and bear arms. EVERY gun control law is unconstitutional! If our government respected our constitutional rights, the law of the land would be universal, since the Second Amendment would be universally respected.

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The Constitution also gives us the right to vote, yet we take that right away from felons. Why should that not also apply to gun ownership? -rc

Posted by James, Mexico on November 8, 2011:

I can see your point on both issues, and I tend to agree -- with the caveat that your arguments are not universal.

I know you like to say things like "And it's not just in the U.S.: one guy took out "at least" 85 people in the recent youth camp massacre in Norway according to the BBC report I read", and it's true that there's a chance of some psycho going on a mass shooting spree in all countries. I haven't heard of any similar shootings in Norway. Back in 1996 Martin Bryant killed 35 people in Australia in one of the deadliest mass murders of the century -- but no other mass shooting spring to mind.

So while these tragedies can happen anywhere, they happen far more often in some countries than others. They happen so regularly in the US that they've really stopped being news, which is disturbing. That regularity changes the equation -- simply put, the chances of being around some psycho on a mass murder spree is far greater in the US than in many other countries, so maybe the lives saved by carrying guns in the US would offset the lives lost through accidents and drunken shootings -- but I think the equation is different for many other countries.

If I was somehow forced to live in the US I might consider carrying a gun, but in Australia the idea is ludicrous.

As it happens I live in Mexico, and over the past few years the security in the nation has worsened to the point where my wife and I are discussing getting a gun for protection; no decision has been reached, but five years ago it wasn't on our minds. So the balance of the equation can change.

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I agree the concept isn't necessarily universal; I am necessarily colored by where I live. But I didn't want this to be solely a U.S. issue, as I tire of (for example) readers in the U.K. smugly saying "We don't have your gun crime issue HERE!" Perhaps gun crime isn't as big of an issue, but violent crime is. Take away the guns, and people will use knives. Take away knives (as the U.K. is doing now), and criminals will turn to chains, or stones, or sticks. The real issue isn't guns (or knives or sticks), but violence. To remove guns and say "See? We fixed it!" is bullshit. The actual problem has not been addressed, and in the meantime more problems have been added (e.g., the ability of the small and weak -- most often women -- to fight back against thugs -- most often men.) -rc

Posted by Ed, Pittsburgh on November 8, 2011:

Okay, your point about convicted felons is well taken, as long as we are talking about while they are serving their time. Those who violate the law give up their rights, other than the rights intended to protect the accused and convicted (Fourth through Eighth Amendments). However, once they've served their debt to society, their rights should be restored. Do they have their voting rights permanently stripped, or only while they are in jail or on probation? The same should apply to their Second Amendment rights. If restoring their voting and Second Amendment rights when they finish serving their time is too dangerous, then perhaps their sentences should be longer.

I know it's not germane to the gun questions, obviously only the guards should have guns in prisons, but what is the justification for stripping a convicted felon of his right to vote, anyway?

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Beyond the scope of this page. But do you really want (say) a multiple rapist to get the right to carry guns when he finally finishes his third term? If so, I want to know when he's getting out, so I can be sure to carry my gun.... -rc

Posted by Lynne, Portland, OR on November 8, 2011:

I don't understand -- I do, actually, as it must have been an aid during our evolving status as humans facing danger in the wild -- why do humans have to make everything a dichotomy? Why does Randy or anyone else have to be a raving conservative or a loony liberal and nothing but?

Guns are tools. Now that I have PTSD I can't have a gun, because constant hypervigilance means I instantly over-react to situations wherein I am being bullied, and I know I mustn't go killing snotty clerks at the DMV or neighbors who drop their cigarette butts in my yard.

I want to see us grow out of our need to arm ourselves against our neighbors; meanwhile, the idea of law-abiding citizens carrying guns really doesn't bother me at all.

Guns are great equalizers. One bullied kid kills himself; another returns to school with an arsenal and offs the bullies. In both cases the "blame" lies with the adults who were too focused on two-inch pen knives to notice hostility in the hallway.

If I had children, I'd homeschool....

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While the dichotomy you describe might be something we developed over time, there have been eras in recent history where we overcame it, and that's part of the point of this essay. I'm definitely not trying to convince everyone to buy a gun. I'm trying to get them to THINK -- consider the arguments based on reality and rational discussion, not fear (from either side: "Obama is going to take away our guns!!!!" is just as stupid). We can do it, and we can do it without the "us vs. them" mentality. -rc

Posted by Shawna, Oklahoma on November 8, 2011:

One point that people seem to be missing in the story about carrying guns is I think the sheriff is also pointing out the fact that our judicial system is flawed. The man they arrested for rape had 20 other arrests before (not mentioned if any of them were also for rape) and was still walking about free as a bird and ended up brutalizing a woman. If you carry a gun and kill the bad guy then you've not only helped yourself, but you've helped all of us.

Posted by Ed, Pittsburgh on November 8, 2011:

"Beyond the scope of this page. But do you really want (say) a multiple rapist to get the right to carry guns when he finally finishes his third term? If so, I want to know when he's getting out, so I can be sure to carry my gun.... -rc"

Perhaps you missed this:
"If restoring their voting and Second Amendment rights when they finish serving their time is too dangerous, then perhaps their sentences should be longer."

In other words, if they are too dangerous to have the rights of law abiding citizens, then they should still be behind bars. Truthfully, though, I think rape should be a capital offense. I think pretty much all violent crimes should be capital offenses, especially rape and murder. Nobody who is a known danger to society should be loose, with or without a gun, neither should they be in prison living off of our taxes. A length of rope or a guillotine... That would make the point moot.

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I did miss that -- my apologies. Thanks for the clarification. -rc

Posted by Paul, Michigan on November 8, 2011:

Ed from Pittsburgh wrote: "I think pretty much all violent crimes should be capital offenses, especially rape and murder."

That would be a bad idea. If all such crimes were capital offenses, there would be nothing to stop someone who committed a violent crime from committing murder. After all, they've already done something for which they can be put to death; might as well get rid of the eyewitnesses….

Posted by Richard, England on November 8, 2011:

Whereas it is obviously going to be true that there will be more gun crime where there are more guns and it is possible that the absence of guns will mean that those intent on causing harm will find some other way to do it if they can't use a gun, I do not accept that restricting gun ownership makes for a more violent country -- which is your implication.

I have heard the comment "There is more violent crime in London than there is in New York" on many occasions -- but the problem with the statistic (which I haven't yet been able to trace) is deciding what is "violent crime"? Murder by firearms is easy to identify but generalised "violent crime" is not so easy.

It's easy enough to choose statistics that prove your case and I could quote the WHO statistic for the annual number of murders committed by youths which, in the USA, is 8226 and in the UK 139, the USA having a commanding 688 times more. (WHO 2002) But if we choose the statistics for rape, the USA does better than the UK with only 0.4% as against the UK's figure of 0.9% - bettering the UK by 125%. (UNCRI 2002).

The perception of safety is a very dodgy statistic, I suggest. I feel safer in London than I do in New York -- but that's a belief, not a fact.

The other problem with these statistics is that they are usually quite old and things may have changed.

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I did not say, and do not believe, that "restricting gun ownership makes for a more violent country." I'm saying that the issue is violence, not guns. As long as there is criminal violence, there needs to be a way for innocent victims to defend against it. I'd rather my wife carry a gun to defend herself (she is quite small) than a knife, which requires her to get up close and personal with an attacker. -rc

Posted by Derek in New Mexico on November 8, 2011:

Randy says: 'We are sick of the "us vs them" mentality of politics.'

I agree. And perhaps it is shorthand, but I see a bit of "us vs them" in the this article's title, and in phrases like, "Seriously, this is the conservative response to kids being tormented to the point of killing themselves?" and "As much as liberals liked the bullying story..."

Easy labels are a big part of the "us vs them" rhetoric, but as Randy knows, and as these comments have shown, the labels don't fit well, nor do they reliably describe how people will react to these stories.

I hope people will begin to demand more intelligent actions from all our politicians, and stop reelecting them when they do stupid things.

Posted by Jeremy, San Diego, CA on November 8, 2011:

I think that is a valid car based-comparison...

"There are drunk idiots with guns, just like there are drunk idiots with cars. Because some people drive drunk, should you lose your car? -rc"

However, I don't think the earlier one "have you gotten rid of your car" is valid. I also dispute your further use of rounds fired vs. miles driven. I am well aware of the statistics of car fatalities, but I will keep my car as it serves a vital purpose in my life, several times a day.

After 40 years of life, I have only wished I had a gun a few times in my life, and retrospectively am very glad I didn't. If all the gun owners in my area had reason to use them 2-3 times a day, I'd probably move.

This doesn't necessarily mean I am against gun ownership. After getting a sense of what you feel are appropriate measures to grant one a concealed carry permit, I think I am in agreement.

Gun laws are tricky. Pretty much everyone agrees that we can't let people who are going to use the guns for crime or stupidity have them, but we diverge pretty quickly as how to make that happen. The stats comparing this country to that country or state to state are all fundamentally flawed. I think there are some studies that look at what has happened to specific metro areas after gun laws have changed one way or the other (maybe even from one of Randy's links) but that is a very big, complicated subject.

My biggest area of debate is in the personal decision. I really appreciated the words from the drill Sgt. regarding being ready to kill someone. I think too many people have the fantasy that they will flash their piece inside their jacket and everyone in the room will suddenly become compliant. I think guns are very ineffective at preventing personal attack, as so few occur with adequate warning. If an attacker can touch you, it is probably too late to use a gun. All the best skills to really protect yourself have nothing to do with guns, and can be learned in less time that many feel is appropriate to learn how to own a gun. I honestly don't think that a rapist is considering the possibility that a potential target is carrying a gun, or potentially capable of defending themselves hand to hand. The ones that are thinking it through are extremely dangerous. I guess I agree with Randy and others that you need to think of your own protection and what is right for you. You also need to know all the options, and really think through what your risk level is, to come to the best solution.

Posted by Phil, Gilford NH on November 8, 2011:

I'm almost completely with you on the Michigan pro-bullying law. (No, that was not a typo.) It is no better and no more excusable to beat someone up or kill them because of your religious beliefs than for any other reason. If it is a crime to beat someone up because he's black, or because he parked in front of your driveway, or because you're having a bad day, then it should be just as much a crime to beat hm up because your preacher told you God hates gays.

However, I don't believe in hate crime laws. Because it's no WORSE either. If you beat up my neighbor three doors down, I don't care if you beat him up because he's black, because he likes the Dodgers, because he votes Republican, because you believe birth control is a sin, because the voices in your head told you to, or because you believe in a god whom you believe hates him. (And you'd have a hard time convincing me that there is a practical difference between the last two.) The point is that YOU BEAT HIM UP when he had done nothing to you. THAT is the crime. Your particular motivation is irrelevant; it neither excuses your crime nor aggravates it. This is one of the greatest dangers of "hate crime" legislation: they tiptoe into the very sticky field of criminalizing thought.

What's worse, the larger the number of classes of "protected" citizens we create, the greater the risk that we ourselves may get in an altercation sometime and suddenly find our lives turned upside down because an overzealous prosecutor or a vengeful relative -- or our opponent -- decided that some class of Protected Citizen applies and therefore it must have been a hate crime. It's hard enough to prove a physical negative! How on earth do you prove that you're not prejudiced against gays, or blacks, or Muslims? What if you are prejudiced against Muslims, but you keep it to yourself and scrupulously do not allow it to influence your actions, but he swung first and now claims that you started the fight because you hate Muslims?

We need to stop being distracted by the "hate" and focus on the crime. And a crime, is a crime, is a crime. Whether you hated the person you assaulted, feared them, or committed the entire assault in coldly clinical detachment is completely irrelevant.

(That said, I also firmly believe that any so-called "religion" or "church" that institutionally teaches that kind of hatred needs to be suppressed as the dangerous, violent cult that it is, for the safety of society as a whole.)

As for the Republicans in the Michigan legislature? I don't have sufficient words of disgust for them. They are beyond vile. These are the kind of scum that we need to keep as far away from our seats of government as possible.

The most terrible part is that that does not make them unusual among our "representatives" -- or at least, not nearly as unusual as it should.

Posted by Jim - Washington State on November 8, 2011:

It's the same old deal. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. And yes I own a gun and no I have not killed any one.

Posted by Barry in Renton, WA on November 8, 2011:

Ed in Pittsburgh asked: "If restoring their voting and Second Amendment rights when they finish serving their time is too dangerous, then perhaps their sentences should be longer."

Most states do not allow convicted felons to vote unless they go through a process to have their civil rights restored. Some states are now restoring voting rights after the sentence, probation and any required restitution is completed, but those states are still in the minority.

The loss of the right to possess a firearm (felon in possession) is a federal law as well as state law and that right can only be restored by a pardon for the crime (or crimes) committed. I think is overly restrictive for non-violent felons, such as fraud or tax evasion, but it is very appropriate for violent felons.

Locking a person up for life for a robbery or violent assault would be considered 'cruel & unusual' punishment, but taking away his right to possess a firearm is appropriate.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on November 8, 2011:

I didn't comment earlier since I basically agree with both of Randy's positions. Funny how two people in general agreement can still so radically disagree in the minutiae, but that's an entirely different topic. Bottom line, over the years, I've found that MOST people in this country are NOT middle of the road. They're a little left of center or a little right of center, and even then, they may lean a little left while being right of center. Or vice versa. The ONLY value I've seen to registering one Party or the other is for voting in the primaries OR to select a candidate that you know little about. It's more than just the President, and even more than just your Congressman or Senator. There are your state legislators, governor, and beyond that, your city government, county, judges, even DOGCATCHER. Do you know the political details of every single one of them? I don't.

I'm ranting, but permit me to continue. It's not the President that's splitting the country, politically. Nor is it Congress. They're doing what they've been doing for at least 50 years that I've been watching. I blame the Press. They make their business on sensationalism, and the extremes are guaranteed to rile most of population to some degree. People on the internet are now free to say what common sense and courtesy would not permit in person. And from the safety of anonymity comes the loudest of the lunatic fringe. Compared to a couple hundred million eligible voters, the thousands of lunatic fringers may seem overwhelming, but they're still a tiny percentage of the total. I hate to quote somebody like Spiro Agnew, but he was right about the Silent Majority.

Sadly, both of our last two Presidents have relegated their authority by the power of the internet, and have played to the political extremes of their Parties, and both have exacerbated the problem by blaming the opposing Party for their own lack of leadership.

As for the specific topics mentioned here, I have several different types and styles of firearms, depending on what it is I want to do with them. I hold a CHL and in all these years, I've never even had a need to display my weapon. It's insurance, nothing more. Interestingly, and contrary to popular belief, Texas has not been an open-carry state since 1879.

Randy made mention of businessess that post signs that licensed firearms are not welcome. I agree with him in that making businesses or schools "gun-free zones" doesn't actually make them gun-free zones. If it were so possible, then all banks would only need to post signs making them robbery-free zones.

As for the gay/religious issue, I remember the city of Royal Oak trying to pass local legislation around 1990 that landlords could not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, creed, gender, age, or sexual orientation. Royal Oak was all in favor of that legislation except for the sexual orientation part. The legislation was overwhelmingly defeated on that basis alone. Better to deny equal protection to SEVERAL classes of people than to grant it to [GASP] one unpopular class. Why, if I extend common courtesy to gays, people might think I'm one of them! Horrors!

Posted by Bruce, Lo-Cal So. Cal. where the money is plastic & the people are too on November 8, 2011:

"Hate crime" legislation is stupid: why is it relevant if someone was killed, etc. because he was blue, worshipped cats, has sexual relations w/ polar bears or what have you? The crime is the crime: just doing a better job of prosecution & punishment is all that's required.

Bullying was less of a problem back in the good old days when parents [& teachers] could beat children for doing wrong. Now, the give Johnny a timeout, which just gives him time to contemplate how he will prosecute his next attack on Timmy... ::)

About personal defense: just remember that when seconds count, the police are at best minutes away....

Posted by Rafael from Spain on November 8, 2011:

Things are not too different in Spain. First issue, bullying: nothing to add to the stream of thinking that Michigan's law is idiotic and dangeorus. Then, in a general way, I always thought that branding crimes is bad. Hate crimes, terrorist, gender, family... they are crimes already, and branding them (and making a special law for it) "terrorist" had given ETA criminals a handhold to protest their "political prisoners" status in the european tribunals. And gender crimes are in the root of many false claims of violence, or worse (kid's abuse) to better a position on a divorce court.

About firearms: it is extremely diffcult to have a gun permit in Spain. You need to be a policeman, military, or have a job with special needs jeweler, for instance). Hunting permits are closely monitiored, too. But our criminals manage to have their guns somehow... just yesterday, a 76 y.o. dude killed a woman shooting her twice after a traffic discussion. His husband and three witness were also shot at, but not hit. His unlicensed gun, a 9 mm automatic, came from South Africa. Anyone with a gun could have stopped him in a second. Not the cops, they were somewhere else. So yes, I think just like you in that issue.

Great line of debate, Randy. A premium already, I plan to be for years to come.

Posted by Don, Kennewick, Washington on November 8, 2011:

I had written a lengthy essay to include in the comments section on this story. Fortunately for you and all your readers (!) I chose to whittle things down a bit:

Since when is it someone else's responsibility to try to redefine the Constitution? Of course, we have personal responsibility; that's what our nation was built on. That's why we each need to carry a weapon, and know how to use it. You're right-on, on this one.

I have mixed feelings regarding the Michigan issue. On the one hand, it's horrible for a boy to feel so oppressed and bullied that he takes his own life. I can't imagine the grief his parents struggle with every day!

On the other hand, I find it incredible that someone, somewhere along the line didn't help him and the many others in a similar situation learn to have a bit of backbone and self-belief. Before you jump my bones about being judgmental and so forth, I too was terribly bullied, emotionally and physically in my late elementary and early junior high years. Interestingly, when I fought back in self-defense, I was the one hauled into the vice-principal's office and threatened with suspension. PC was alive and well in 1966, just not as blatantly as in 2011!

There really is such a thing as personal responsibility. Do we -really- need to slaughter the Constitutional guarantee to freedom of speech? I'm just wondering aloud here.

Posted by Ernie, Sydney Australia on November 8, 2011:

I agree with your position on both stories.

I grew up in Michigan and was bullied throughout elementary and middle school and it wasn't until I stood up for myself that the bullying stopped. At the same time I was brought up in a christian home and the mere thought of suicide was a sin, so it never crossed my mind to end my own life.

But you have to be aware that a mere 10 years ago the michigan republicans decided that the nickname for residents had to be changed from Michigander to Michiganian. If they could think that was a good thing, why wouldn't they think a nonsense law such as their anti-bullying thing would also be good?

Posted by Graham in the UK on November 9, 2011:

I disagree with your stance on the gun article. Of course, we come from different traditions, and there are other differences as well (even in rural areas, like where I live, the UK is much more densely populated than the US). But my main concern is ethical: the sheriff appears to be saying that the law has failed people and they need to take the law into their own hands! I am amazed that any citizen of a civilised country could support such a view -- particularly one with such a historic commitment to constitutional rights. Even though he included some favourable comments on guns, I am really surprised at you, and the many comments here, supporting his position.

Our rights are safeguarded by the rule of law, not by individuals using weapons to enforce their view of what their rights should be. We need to strengthen and support use of the law, including the cases where possibly guilty people get away with it, in order to have the protection of the law for our own rights.

If I understand correctly, your constitution guarantees your right to carry a gun. But I do not believe it includes a right to use that gun to take the law into your own hands.

---

The sheriff isn't suggesting vigilanteism. That would be illegal and immoral. What he is trying to drive home is that the function of our police is to investigate crime and -- the failed part -- to attempt to jail predators who commit those crimes. There is no ability of the police to protect everyone from harm. Defending oneself is each citizen's responsibility. That has, in fact, always been the case, and has been affirmed by the courts again and again: there is no right to police protection. The sheriff is reminding us of this fact, not that we can or should hunt down people we think are guilty and shoot them. That's an absurd overreading of what the sheriff said. While I don't doubt that some whackjobs have gotten the message you suggest, I certainly haven't seen any comments here to the effect of "Great! I've wanted to hunt down some graffiti artists and shoot them!" So with that clarification, please tell us what your disagreement is. -rc

Posted by Mike from Dallas on November 9, 2011:

Mind if I jump in with some clarification about vigilantism and "taking the law into your own hands"? As a kid, I heard that ONLY the police (or bona fide government law enforcement agency) had the authority to even investigate crime. The only exception was given for governmentally licensed private investigators, and even they were still limited in their scope. Of course, I couldn't help wondering about newspapers and their "investigative journalism," but then, 1st Amendment freedom of the press protected them from any criticism. Mind you, these were my impressions as a kid some 50 years ago.

Still, there was that nagging concept of Citizen's Arrest that no one seemed very able to explain, except that it's better to avoid it. And then I heard one phrase that made me learn more about the subject. Since U.S. law is established by government of the people, by the people, and for the people, then We, the People, ARE the law and, by extension, have the authority to enforce it.

Just as the police are only law enforcement, not judge nor jury, neither are the people anything more than only law enforcement, not judge nor jury, which would constitute vigilantism. In fact, even the police have been charged with vigilantism when their actions exceed their lawful limits.

So, why was Citizen's Arrest so difficult to define? The most important aspect is that authorized law enforcement enjoys Qualified Immunity. As long as the police operate in Good Faith, in other words, not operating deliberately against the law, they are immune from lawsuits that would tie up or bankrupt their resources from disgruntled criminals. Citizens do not have such protection. If a suspect suffers a broken arm by a citizen intent on detaining him, the citizen may well face a civil lawsuit for excessive force, and the expense of proving otherwise falls upon the citizen.

As a martial artist, I face that threat just as severely as I would for using a firearm to protect myself. In either case, there is only one justification for using such force: when the only other option is death, dismemberment, or other bodily injury. Even then, it's probable that I'd face a jury. If all I'm facing is a robbery, armed or unarmed, able to defend or not able, it's not worth a jury trial to protect my wallet. The few dollars in it just aren't important. I'll throw my wallet away from me so a mugger will focus on it, giving me time to run away. Kinda sucks, but that's the price I'm willing to pay to live in a society that doesn't govern my every action for my own good or protection.

Posted by Damon CA on November 9, 2011:

Regarding Republican versus Democrat, I have never voted. Moreover, I never will as I believe that voting -- the mechanism by which people seek to rule over others (by proxy) and control others' property -- is immoral at its core.

Republican versus Democrat is a shell game. It is a MacGuffin. They do not matter, and merely obfuscate issues. There are individuals (you and I) and the state. There is private property -- and here, I include self-ownership (i.e. you own your body) -- and aggression against said property. That is all. Any act of aggression against a person's property is immoral. From this, you can guess where I stand on the right to do cocaine, solicit a prostitute, or carry a firearm.

If anyone reading this is interested in further study of liberty, property, etc., I recommend starting with the following authors:

Ludvig von Mises
Murray Rothbard
Hans-Hermann Hoppe
Robert P. Murphy (for economics)
Lysander Spooner

Posted by Dave in Illinois on November 9, 2011:

I consider myself an Independent with Liberal leanings. I have a gun for the reasons that Randy cites. I have no desire to carry it concealed, but I see nothing wrong with having a secured, loaded firearm in the house for protection of my family and my property until authorities can arrive.

As a former elected official and volunteer emergency service provider I feel that personal protection in the home is important, especially in rural areas such as mine.

Posted by Richard, England on November 10, 2011:

I'm sorry if I misunderstood your comment. However, you did write, "...Of course places with strict gun laws have less gun crime. That doesn't mean they have less violent crime. When London has more violent crime than New York City, that becomes pretty obvious...."

I felt it was fair to infer from your statement, "...When London has more violent crime than New York City, that becomes pretty obvious..." that the "obvious" you were speaking of was that fewer guns meant more "other" violence and that the situation in London proved that.

But as I also suggested , the statistics for "violent crime" are not reliable unless one can be clear just what "violent crime" is. "Murders by fireams", on the other hand, is a pretty unequivocal statistic -- and it is a fact that strict gun control leads to fewer murders by firearms.

I am not, by the way, anti-gun. I used to shoot regularly and, indeed, won prizes for my ability. What I am against is the almost uncontrolled possession of firearms -- as happens in the USA and in far too many other countries.

---

It is "obvious" that if there are no guns in a society, there will be less gun crime, yes? That doesn't mean there's less violent crime, since the violent will turn to other weapons -- as London proves. -rc

Posted by Ralph, NY on November 10, 2011:

When I read the story "Completely Prohibited...." it really incensed me. I too am an Independent and need to take issue with your comment about it being a conservative issue. I would imagine since only 3 out out 50 states are either without bullying laws or have laws such as described in the story, I believe it should be more of an ignorant issue. After all, there must have been conservatives in the other 47 states that supported more intelligent bullying laws. It boggles the mind how supposedly intelligent people (emphasis on supposedly) can author or support a piece of garbage legislation like that. Perhaps the only cure for that is to have them suffer the kind of loss these other parents suffered for the same reason so they could see the what they have caused. And as a parent, I wouldn't wish that on anyone, but something has to make them open their eyes.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on November 10, 2011:

"I am not... anti-gun... What I am against is the almost uncontrolled possession of firearms -- as happens in the USA."

I really wish I could remember the name of that U.S. Senator who, in 1969-1970, made the comment, "I believe in Freedom, but in moderation." It beggared the art form of adapting famous phrases, such as, "Damn the torpedoes; moderate speed ahead." Or, "Give me liberty or give me moderation."

Freedom, in moderation, is nothing more than Privilege, granted at the leisure of the government, and as easily revoked. I also wonder why the UK and Australia are SO incredibly concerned with gun proliferation in the U.S. Canada, I could understand, due to proximity.

Posted by Richard, England on November 10, 2011:

"...I also wonder why the UK and Australia are SO incredibly concerned with gun proliferation in the U.S. Canada, I could understand, due to proximity..."

I can speak only for myself and a few friends, but I can tell you that I am concerned about the proliferation of guns and gun violence in the USA for the same reason that I am concerned about malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa and starvation in most parts of the "Third World".

I am concerned about the needless loss of human life which could so easily be prevented were humankind to work together. Control firearms in the USA and you will save hundreds of lives every year; donate a small amount of money and effort and you will save thousands of lives presently lost to Malaria in Africa; distribute food and clean water effectively and you will save the millions of lives presently lost through starvation.

Compared with what could, and should, be done to save human life, the bleatings of the pro-gun lobby in the USA are very small beer indeed.

---

I also tire of "the bleatings of the pro-gun lobby in the USA," which is why I'm trying to bring some intelligence to the debate. I would prefer this discussion centered on that. -rc

Posted by Ozz, Kentucky on November 10, 2011:

I find it interesting the number of people from the UK who dismiss the US gun rights so easily, as well as those in the US who slam the Brits. The thing is, most of the Brits have never actually experienced what it is like to live in a land where the good guys can fight back, just as many of those in the US are not familiar with a land where only the outlaws have guns.

I am a British citizen. I was born and raised in the UK, and lived there for the first 31 years of my life before moving to the US, where I have now lived for 12 years. I have first-hand experience of both extremes. I know which I prefer.

It is no coincidence that most of the rioting we see from the OWS movement, etc. occurs in locations where guns are banned.

In fact, until the Arizona massacre in January of this year, every criminal shooting in US history in which more than 3 innocents were killed, occurred in locations where guns were banned.

Posted by Sarah, Portland OR on November 10, 2011:

The anti-bullying law is ridiculous. With so many exceptions, it amounts to nothing. I am generally good at seeing both sides of an argument but I cannot fathom how anyone would say it is ok to bully if the bullier has a strong moral conviction. If we turned it around, those same lawmakers would not like it: terrorists, especially those who are willing to die in the act, have very strong moral convictions regarding their actions (or I would assume they do). Yet the fearmongerers want us to demand every terrorist, potential terrorist, or even person the same race as a potential terrorist (which actually could be ANY race, but we know that isn't the actuality of it) is stopped, harassed and persecuted. It seems like a clear case of a person "can have a car painted any colour...so long as it is black." Ie, as long as you agree with me, you are entitled to your own beliefs.

I have been a subscriber (sometimes free, sometimes paid) to This is True since my freshman year of college in 1999. I I enjoy the opportunities for critical thinking and especially hearing the voices of others thinking carefully about issues. Thanks for so many years of a great publication!

Posted by Marc, M.D. Chicago burbs on November 10, 2011:

I learned to handle guns as a teen. Later, reinforced by full course when I volunteered for US Navy [Marines] - 1 year in CA; 1 year in RVN. Owned a gun as a teen, but had none when my kids were young, and I lived in a city. Besides, I was a surgeon dealing with too many GSW victims and was mildly anti-gun. Later, I got into the field of cosmetic surgery. A friend with a similar practice to mine was shot by a patient for "giving patients 'false Aryan beauty.'" [90% of his practice actually dealt with correcting facial deformities in children]. My name was on the list of intended victims. I now have weapons in my office and at home for protection.

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Sad that you had to do that, but yeah, sure can't blame you! And this is my basic point in action: it's often objectively rational to need to defend yourself. Here's a real world example.

Posted by Ray in Albuquerque on November 10, 2011:

So we solve both problems at the same time. Train kids about guns -- how to use them, how they work, and, yes, how they kill (i.e. take them hunting). Then let kids take guns to school. It worked when I was a kid.

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This fascinates me: I've heard similar comments before. I'd love to hear more detail about your taking guns to school. What did you do with them there? Did you learn safety, marksmanship, or what? -rc

Posted by Richard, England on November 11, 2011:

I am sorry to labour the point, but your most recent reply to me, "...It is "obvious" that if there are no guns in a society, there will be less gun crime, yes? That doesn't mean there's less violent crime, since the violent will turn to other weapons -- as London proves. -rc..." would only make complete sense if it were true that there is more "violent crime" in London than in New York.

But as I tried to say, the definition of "violent crime" is itself very suspect. As I noted, the most recent statistics I could find made it clear that there are rather more rapes in London than in New York -- but there are massively more murders (with all kinds of weapons) by young offenders in New York than in London. Rape is violent crime; murder is violent crime. Which statistic are we going to use to prove the point we want to prove?

I would very much like to see some statistics on "violent crime" that both define the term and properly quantify the results.

---

Agreed. -rc

Posted by hubert, wyoming on November 11, 2011:

I thoroughly enjoyed your article on guns. As a long time instructor, 38 years in the military and NRA, I believe as you do. Some people shouldn't have guns and all who get one for self defense need to have adequate training. Both my mother and myself have saved ourselves from maim/murder by having one at the right time to induce the assailants to go elsewhere. Hence the saying "Better to have and not need than to need and not have." Thanks for your unemotional and well rounded article. Tough to refute logically.

Posted by Bryce, Lago Vista, TX on November 11, 2011:

I'm in a mixed marriage: she's liberal and I'm conservative...BUT it's my wife who pointed out that "An armed society is a polite society".

Posted by Bo, Indianapolis on November 11, 2011:

First, my thought was, "Right, on, Sheriff"; then, the Liberal on my other shoulder gasped, "Guns? Oh, no." And then I realized both sides are right (not "have valid points" -- but "right"). So, what is the problem? Go back to the root of this story: the same guy gets out of jail right away 20 times??!! (So does Lindsay Lohan, btw...) Your blog needs to be about the break-down of our entire justice system, and the scarcity of jail-space. Solve that, and we can all nurture our own thoughts on guns in peace.

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Actually, my blog is about getting people to think about these issues rationally, not with emotional knee-jerking on either side. "The media" has inflamed this issue, rather than led the discussion (as I argued way back in 1998). I'm just trying -- again -- to bring a little balance to the public debate. -rc

Posted by Hubert, Wyoming on November 11, 2011:

The old old book of Exodus commands us to use deadly force in defense of our family if the intent of the intruder isn't known (darkness). Those who would deny their fellow citizens the right to defend their very lives are held in utter comtempt by myself and share in the crime by allowing the criminals free reign. My fellow Reservists were slaughtered at Ft Hood because of government regs prohibiting them from exercising their right to defend themselves with adequate weapons (conceal carry). They paid the price for the "gun haters" agenda. And nobody in the federal government ever apologized for their unnecessary deaths or took responsibility. Just the usual more drills by the fed police and the usual laments of "How did this happen?"

I used to be a "liberal" out of college but a tour in the Marines showed me there are men of evil and only force will stop them. "A conservative is a liberal that has been mugged." A gun is just a tool and, like a car, can be used for good or bad purposes.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on November 11, 2011:

I also hate to belabor the point, but violent crime, at least in the U.S., IS defined and the numbers are available on the DoJ.gov website, or more specifically, the FBI.gov website. The FBI maintains a Uniform Crime Report (UCR) database with a multitude of reports for crime in the U.S. Local and state law enforcement agencies are mandated by federal law to provide such information to the FBI for tabulation. I don't know if the UK has a similar reporting requirement or database or, if so, whether it's publicly available for comparison.

Through the years, though, what I have found is that there is more to the discussion than simply the number of guns or ease of availability. Japan is held as an example of few guns and a low gun death rate. However, Japan is also a culture of centuries of violence-enforced social courtesy. Even though the samurai no longer exist, the culture is ingrained. In the U.S., centuries of pioneer history has ingrained a culture of violence (hostile indigenous population, untamed wildlife, food, and even hostile members of the same community due to lack of local law enforcement), a culture of which we are not ready to surrender based upon promises of others.

Violence does exist in the UK, especially in London. One may attempt to excuse it by whatever reasons, but the simple fact is that it still exists. Simply identifying one or two causes, and attempting to eliminate those, will not erase the cultural inclination toward violence. Only the methods will differ.

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Which is pretty much my point. Thanks for putting it in other words; some will understand the point better that way. -rc

Posted by Garry, Dearborn Mi on November 11, 2011:

Politically I have given up on being an anything-arian. I am for accountability and nothing else. Hold the government, in specific the office holders, elected or appointed, accountable for all actions taken in office. Authority must be granted grudgingly and reluctantly. When it is abused it must be snatched away at once. Be it a minimum wage screener at the TSA or the President of the United States.

Posted by russell, Beijing on November 11, 2011:

For guns: The problem is, the US is not homogenous. I grew up in suburban Connecticut, and I can say in the suburban east guns should be outlawed. Friends of mine had a regular spring chore of digging shotgun pellets out of their garage, and another friend raised donkeys until they finally decided it was not fair to the donkeys, since every few years (illegal) hunters would shoot them.

On the other hand, I also have friends in rural Arizona, and in that section all Randy's arguments are valid. This is what makes this issue difficult -- there are (in my opinion) many places where guns should not be allowed, but also many places where the arguments for outweigh those against. Making one law for the entire country will get it wrong for many places, and outlawing it in some places while allowing in others would be simply unenforceable.

What I would like to see is a pro-gun advocate (NRA type) at least admit that the anti-gun forces have reason for their arguments too. This is not a case of one side right, one side wrong, it is one where pros and cons of each side need to be weighed.

Also, I would like to see better training requirements *and enforcement*. All the problems in my town growing up were caused by irresponsible and illegal gun use, but there was virtually no enforcement of hunting laws. Citing laws which are never enforced as proof of responsible gun ownership is pretty self serving. If guns are allowed because of need in the rural west, I would like to hear a workable plan for how they will be handled in the suburban east, where "hunters" often don't have the time or money to go where hunting is legal.

As for hate crimes -- the reason for a special category for hate crimes is that the victims are intended to be more than those directly affected. Burning a cross on a minority's lawn is a message to *all* minorities in the area not to get too uppity. I don't believe it is appropriate to treat it in the same way as doing donuts on the same lawn should be. I do think once the laws exist they are applied in cases where they do not really apply.

Posted by Stuart (Cary, NC) on November 11, 2011:

First of all I want to state I am a conservative and a Christian. I would not want any anti-bullying law to define bullying as expressing an opinion or protesting against homosexuality. However, torment should never be acceptable against any individual.

I may be wrong, but I wonder if the Republican disagreement with the bill has more to do with defining a new protected class (i.e. ethnicity, gender, religion, country of origin, etc...). Their disagreement may be due to not wanting to add sexuality as a protected class, believing that it is a choice. I am not looking to start an argument about whether it is or isn't, but to state that reasonable people may disagree whether it should be added as a new 'class'. I would hope that none of those that opposed the initial bill believed it was ok to bully anyone.

As a rule, I am opposed to any hate crime laws. A violent crime against someone is a hateful act. Do we really want to punish someone MORE for what they were thinking or for their beliefs when they commit the crime?

---

You misunderstand. The Republicans don't have "disagreement with the bill" as they wrote it -- and that's why they voted for it. They can't whine about "protected classes" being included in a bill that they wrote themselves. I haven't read the bill's entire text, but I'd be surprised if there are any specific "classes" being "protected" in it. -rc

Posted by Karl in Los Altos on November 12, 2011:

Great essay. I also identify as "neither", though I agree with "the liberals" more often than "the conservatives".

The Michigan bullying law? Worthless, of course. I read all the comments so far, and I don't recall anybody disagreeing. Bullying laws in general? I'm not sure. If the bully is committing what would be considered battery in an adult environment, then punish them, of course. If he or she calls the target by an unwanted nickname -- which I believe is legal when adults do it, within limits -- then on what grounds do we forbid it on the playground? I think we have to take a look at *why* adults tend not to do it (even when legal), and then somehow apply that to the kids.

Another thought: Laws named for a victim are almost always bad.

Guns? I pretty much agree with what you've said. I don't carry a gun myself, and I haven't had any training in how to handle one; I wouldn't mind correcting both of those, someday.

Scott in De Moines: Thanks for the "Because you can't carry a cop" line. I'm definitely going to steal that.

Randy, how would you feel about citizens carrying guns into a bank? A courthouse? An airport? (I'm not trying to trap you; these are honest questions.)

---

I have carried a gun into banks, a courthouse, and an airport. The latter two often have secure areas where armed people enforce a no-weapons policy, often for very good reasons (and I have never violated such a policy). The very pro-gun folks want a nationwide permitting scheme, which would include carrying on airplanes in between states. I have not studied those proposals, and thus haven't formed an opinion on them yet. I do, at least, understand the point. -rc

Posted by Richard, England on November 12, 2011:

I possibly didn't make myself 100% clear. Mike from Dallas suggests that "violent crime" is defined on the FBI website -- which is true, but that is half my point. There are several definitions -- one being here. But what I was seeking was a comparison, by country (or city since it was New York and London whose crimme statistics were being discussed). Randy, normally a very thorough researcher, claims that violent crime was greater in London than in New York and I would like to know exactly where these statistics came from. I have often heard them bandied about -- but anyone can quote statistics (even those that they have themselves made up on the spot!)

I did some more research and found that homicide (by all means) in the USA was 5 per 100,000 in 2009 (slightly down over that decade). In the UK the comparable figure was 1.7 per 100,000 (again slightly down over the decade)-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate I realise this is a Wikipedia summary but the sources are given and seem good.

I have been unable to find any international comparisons for violent crime but I did find this quote "...The reported US violent crime rate includes only Aggravated Assault, whereas the Canadian violent crime rate includes all categories of assault, including the much-more-numerous Assault level 1 (i.e., assault not using a weapon and not resulting in serious bodily harm). A government study concluded that direct comparison of the 2 countries' violent crime totals or rates was "inappropriate".[43]...."

If the US figures are based on a tighter definition than are the UK figures (as is certainly the case between the USA and Canada) then clearly any comparisons would be pointless. If someone can point me at some proper comparisons of like for like crime statistics for London and New York then I will happily consider them; without such data I must disagree that London is a more violent city overall than is New York (and yes, I have been to both cities).

Homicide, on the other hand, is unambigious and a much better standard of comparison. I have been unable to find any statistics that place the UK above the USA in homicide rates -- all show its rates as being much higher than the UK or, indeed, the rates in any European country.

The pro and anti-gun arguments have been well-aired in this forum and I have made my views clear; I believe that the uncontrolled possession of firearms -- especially handguns -- leads to a massive increase in homicides and all the statistics prove that beyond any doubt. Again, if anyone can quote me statistics that prove the contrary (not anecdotes about an instance where are person's possession of a gun had prevented a crime -- we can all find those) then I will re-examine my beliefs.

For those who wish to learn more about this subject, this is an interesting site - http://www.angelfire.com/rnb/y/homicide.htm

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After a quick search, I easily found a brief 2008 report from the New York Sun, which notes that "Londoners are six times more likely to be robbed or assaulted than New Yorkers". The report is based on a 116-page follow-up to a 2000 study done by the New York University's Schack Institute of Real Estate, the Urban Land Institute, and -- yes! -- London South Bank University. While the brief didn't define what "assault" means, I'd be willing to bet the 7-volume study does. -rc

Posted by Tom, Wood River, IL on November 12, 2011:

On the guns issue, yes I'm in favor of expanded gun ownership and training in the usage thereof. And I consider myself a conservative. But not a lockstep type at all. I like to think for myself.

On the issue of the bullying law, it seems obvious that this is simply an attempt by otherwise seemingly reasonable legislators to institutionalize their hate of homosexuals by claiming that passing a bill to protect ALL from undue pressures or attacks somehow gives one group which they clearly are biased against personally special status. What a load of hooey. The issue is not special status, but the legalizing of the ability to discriminate, intimidate, harass, attack, injure, and kill, or drive to kill oneself, someone they hold in contempt. What they cannot do themselves as adults, they wish to see being done by teens and preteens. As "adults" they can stand behind the shield of opposing "special status" claims, but it's just an excuse to promote hatred using that claim as a pretext. They probably would promote themselves as "conservatives" when all they seem to be on that issue are unreasoning bigots.

Posted by Andrew, UK on November 12, 2011:

Randy, your views pretty much match my own. I'm one of those who in online tests generally comes out as centrist, largely because I'm on the left in some things and on the right in others. The right to self-defence is one of those where my views are absolutely firm.

In Britain, at least, there is ample case law that says the police are not responsible for defending individuals from specific attacks; they'll try if they get to know about attacks, and they'll investigate them afterwards, but -- for fairly obvious practical reasons -- individuals have no legal expectation for a bobby to magically appear at their side when attacked. And yet we're always told not to arm ourselves -- "That's the job of the police".

In Britain, we can't carry guns. We can't carry mace. We can't even carry a knife, baton, or anything even tenuously defined as an "offensive weapon". We can't carry anything that might give us a fighting chance against an attacker -- and let's remember, the attacker already has the choice of victim, time and place... not to mention a disregard for the very laws that prohibit law-abiding citizens from carrying arms.

I am all in favour of legally-armed citizens (with legally-mandated training). One of the things I like about South Africa, my wife's home country, is that the right to act in the defence of self or others is absolute -- and I'm currently taking a course that (should I ever choose to settle here) qualifies me to carry a whole variety of firearms for self-defence or professional (security) use.

In an area with lots of carjackings, burglaries, and a high rate of violent crime, yes -- I do want a gun in my house. I want a gun on my belt, a gun locked under my car seat, and a gun in my wife's handbag. I want to be able to take responsibility for my family's safety, without having to rely on police or our armed security contractor.

Taking responsibility for one's own protection -- in whatever form that takes -- should be not only a right but a duty.

Posted by jack griffith, venus, tx on November 12, 2011:

The issue is NOT 'we need more jail space'.

The issue is we are locking up the wrong people. Why lock someone up for a couple of joints? The War On Drugs is a failure. Didn't we learn anything from Prohibition? IE it did NOT work.

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I could write an entire essay on that too! And I did five years ago: War on Drugs. -rc

Posted by Theodore, Beaverton, OR on November 12, 2011:

As a faithful Catholic who is also an independent, I often feel pressured by the left and right wings to vote against my religious beliefs. Thank you for an article for the OTHER 34%. My response to the stories you picked: I think you're more pro-life AND pro-choice than any of the government officials in either story. Which is the way we should ALL be, right?

Posted by Bruce, Pennsylvania on November 12, 2011:

My reason for refusing to carry a gun are simply that I believe it is not in my best spiritual interest to kill someone under almost any circumstances, and, if I have a gun, I might be put in the position of being expected to use it. The next reason is that accidents happen, or some kid might get a hold of my gun. For those that quote the bible or profess to be Christians, it is always the Old Testament that they quote. The New Testament clearly states, by Jesus, that there are new rules now, and it is not what you should do. If you claim to be a Christian, you should not be supporting guns, or you are not following your own religion.

Posted by George, Ontario, Canada on November 12, 2011:

I'm Canadian. I don't own a gun. It's much more difficult to own a handgun up here than it is down there, and we don't have a constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms.

My opinion is that owning firearms should be a conditional right, like driving a car. Look at Switzerland. Everyone in that country owns a gun, and it's one of the most peaceful nations on the planet. Swiss gun ownership isn't so much a right as an obligation. Everyone in Switzerland is a trained member of the national militia (although the country doesn't have an army by international treaty).

Your phrase "if properly trained" hits the nail right on the head. I wouldn't pick up a gun without taking a firearm safety course and committing to regular range practice. There are a lot of responsible gun owners out there, but there are also a lot of people who handle their guns carelessly, leading to accidents -- and "accidents".

People have no problem with driver's licenses, permits to operate heavy equipment, and strict certifications for electricians and other tradesmen, whose actions could be deadly if they act incompetently. It should be the same for firearms. Everyone has the opportunity to qualify, but there have to be standards for safe use.

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I learned to drive in California, where it was drilled into us very carefully that we do not have a right to drive. It is a "privilege" which can be revoked. A right is a very different thing, and revocation should be done very carefully. Many states, for instance, revoke one's right to vote in elections (or, for that matter, possess guns) upon conviction of a felony. It can be argued that this isn't proper, or that the right should be restored at the completion of one's sentence (and has, in this very comment thread!) But we should be careful to differentiate between rights ("endowed by their creator") and privileges ("granted by the state"). -rc

Posted by John, Idaho USA on November 12, 2011:

I so agree with you, Randy, on the issue of independent thought and not letting the people who claim to speak for all liberals or all conservatives dictate your beliefs. This is a time-honored form of mind control: first sell people on a label, then tell them what it means ("If you are a patriotic German you must hate Jews." "If you are a good Christian you must come with me to Guyana and drink poison.") The talking heads on Faux Noise (er, Fox News), MSNBC, etc. first sell you on a liberal/conservative label (and the other side are all idiots who hate America) and then tell you a long list of positions you must hold to qualify for that label, which have nothing to do with liberalism/conservatism.

One excellent example is the global warming debate. Regardless of which side you're on, the question is a scientific one, and has nothing to do with liberalism or conservatism, but there are lots of people who try to convince us otherwise.

Sadly, you seem to have fallen into that trap, Randy. You say "About 34.3 percent of Americans are Republican (conservative), and 33.1 percent are Democrats (liberal)." Your parenthetical definitions make it appear that you have accepted the notion that all Democrats are liberals and all Republicans are conservatives. Thanks to the sales job of the cable networks, that is becoming increasingly true, but it is not universally true, has not traditionally been the case, and need not be so in the future, if people will start thinking for themselves.

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I do not accept your criticism. I didn't make up those labels, which are, in fact, generally true. I included the parentheticals for foreign readers, who may have no idea what a "Democrat" or "Republican" is. Do you know, for instance, whether a "Tory" is generally more conservative or more liberal? You can be sure British readers do. To condemn me for helping them to understand our politics is bullshit, while ignoring the point. -rc

Posted by Norman from Burnsville NC on November 12, 2011:

How can people see one of these stories as part of a liberal agenda, and the other as part of a conservative one? Both these stories are about violence perpetrated against people perceived to be weaker, either through gender, age, or stature; and the what the appropriate response is to this violence. Following the Michigan legislators' logic, laws criminalizing sexual assault are just creating a protected class of people -- women. Following the law enforcement officials recommendation, any assault should be responded to with the possibility of deadly force.

We have come a long way as a civilization, and most people now see sexual assault of any degree as a gross violation of our moral and legal code. Unfortunately, we are not yet at the same place with bullying. Legislators, school officials, even parents and others still think that bullying is just part of growing up, that it makes us tougher, that it teaches kids about the reality of life, and that there is nothing that can be done about it. This is simply not true. Abuse is abuse, and is never appropriate or acceptable. Any one, any where, any time.

Posted by jack, venus, tx on November 12, 2011:

Not Christian to carry a gun? Luke 22:36, Jesus told the disciples to sell their coats and buy a sword. One disciple said they had 2 and Jesus said that's enough. (Not only does he expect you to carry a gun, he expects you to carry a backup too. :) )

England plays w/their stats too. Killings by the IRA are NOT counted as murder, they are terrorists acts.

In fact, there are 10 counties in the US that have horrendous murder rates. If you eliminate those 10 counties from the stats, our rates are not out of line w/other countries.

What about the murder rates in Mexico -- that has tough laws. What about the murder rate in Switzerland -- that has more guns (including fully automatic rifles).

The majority of murders are NOT committed w/guns. 80% are killed w/knives, clubs, rocks or by hand.

The gun is a great equalizer. A 100# female cannot stand up to a male w/o a gun.

Guns are use 5 times more frequently in the US to stop/prevent a crime than used to commit a crime.

Posted by Bob, Oklahoma on November 12, 2011:

I suppose I'm a liberal, and I am a registered Democrat. I do not recall voting other than for the Democratic candidates -- often simply because I considered the other candidates inferior choices. I find your discussion of both bullying and carrying excellent, esp. the carrying!

I am unwilling to carry a weapon for several reasons. I am 81 on, and cannot recall ever being in a situation where I wished I had a weapon with me, hence I am unwilling to subject myself to such a responsibility/worry/concern. I would find life far less rewarding had I to continually make a judgment as to whether I should interfere in this or that situation.

I cannot conceive of how I would handle the problem when I am around my eight grandchildren.

However, I find your argument the best, the most persuasive, of ANY I've ever read.

---

You have rational reasons that the equation doesn't come out to having a gun. That's fine! I'd never try to convince you otherwise. I'm just glad you had the chance to make the decision in the way you wanted; it was not dictated to you. That, of course, is the point, rather that what you decide is right for you. -rc

Posted by John Atlantic City, NJ on November 12, 2011:

I am surprised at your seeming support of hate crime laws. These laws declare that illegal activity be punished depending on the reasons behind the activity. A savage beating is a savage beating, whether the perpetrator is taking your money or hates you for the color of your skin. A "hate crime" is a punishment for what a person thinks. That is the beginning of a very slippery slope. Once you start determining punishment for the supposed content of a person's thoughts when they commit a crime, what is to stop the thought itself from becoming the crime. When does hating a particular group become a crime? When does hating a particular individual become a crime? When does disagreeing with the government become a crime? To paraphrase somebody smarter than I: "if you can't measure it it's not fact, it's opinion." You can't measure someone's thoughts, nor should you try. All you can measure, and all you can punish, is their actions. Defining some crimes as "hate crimes" is probably more dangerous than the crime itself.

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I did not support, nor decry, "hate crime laws". I did point out that Michigan's proposed law was not an anti-bullying law, but rather partisan posturing that ignored the stated purpose of the law: to address what happened to Matt Epling. Why would you read anything more into that? That's a pretty full plate already. -rc

Posted by Paul, Michigan on November 14, 2011:

And now there's this article in the New York Times about felons getting their gun rights back.

For the TL;DR crowd: many people who have been convicted of violent crime are too easily getting their gun rights restored.

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"TL;DR" = "Too long; didn't read" (for those who don't know). Indeed, it is a long article (5 pages), and I only glimpsed at the first page, but the first example was a spectacular failure: the guy even had mental problems (in addition to two felony convictions). A great example of someone who shouldn't have a gun. -rc

Posted by Ken, New York on November 14, 2011:

Bruce (Pennsylvania) said: "For those that quote the bible or profess to be Christians, it is always the Old Testament that they quote. The New Testament clearly states, by Jesus, that there are new rules now, and it is not what you should do."

Jack (Texas) replied: Luke 22:36, Jesus told the disciples to sell their coats and buy a sword. One disciple said they had 2 and Jesus said that's enough. (Not only does he expect you to carry a gun, he expects you to carry a backup too. :) )

Yet it is the Old Testament (Isaiah 2.4) that says: "And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."

So, even there, it's not a clear-cut "Old-vs-New" type thing.

Posted by Casey, Stoneham, Ma. on November 14, 2011:

I agree with both stories. The biggest fear the current government has is armed citizens. We all should have concealed carry permits. The only reason I don't, is the price of a gun in this country.

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I don't see any evidence that the "current government" has a huge fear of armed citizens -- not when Obama signed the law overturning the ban on those with carry permits from carrying in National Parks. -rc

Posted by Karl, Tujunga, CA on November 14, 2011:

I tend to agree with Sheriff Wright about carrying guns to protect against criminals. As long as violent criminals are being given 20 bites at the apple, you should have the right to keep from being the 21st apple.

I agree that the "anti bullying" law in Michigan is a mess. I suspect it's the mutant bastard child of a bunch of different, incompatible agendas, with a few poison pills thrown in for good measure, drafted by people too cowardly to take a principled stand on the issue. Other than that, it's almost a decent attempt.

I haven't reviewed the anti-bullying laws in the states that have them, but I'm inclined to wonder what they have in the way of teeth. The problem with Matt Epling was not that no one had passed an anti-bullying law, it was that no one took seriously the bullying that was going on. If bullying is bad enough that parents are going to the police, it's bad enough that the school personnel should have already acted. This certainly includes the "Welcome to High School" beating. If I had been subjected to a "Welcome to Work" beating, the people administering the beating would have been in jail, charged with a crime. (And subject to expensive civil action, as well.)

Alexander in Silver Spring, Md. points out that cyber bullying is only words, and should not be punished as bullying. As it happens, there are laws aimed at punishing people for "only words". Libel, slander, defamation, assault, perjury, and so on. At the risk of triggering Godwin's Law, some of the greatest mass murders of the 20th Century started with words. I don't know how to address the issue of cyber-bullying, but I don't think the law should be blind to it, either.

I've seen thread running through the discussions on bullying, zero tolerance, and a number of ills of the school system. If I were to read a lesson into these stories, it would be that children don't matter. Bullying is not a problem because the actors are "only kids". "Boys will be boys". Behavior that would result in serious jail time and massive civil liability if it happened between adults is winked at, or at best, given a slap on the wrist, because it's between children. School administrators impose penalties on students (for zero-tolerance violations among other things) that would never fly in an adult environment. But then kids aren't going to fight back, so there's no need to give them any respect.

Randy, I'm finding that I agree with you on both stories, because of my conservatism.

Sheriff Wright advocates people arming themselves as a way of holding violent criminals responsible for their actions. If they insist on committing violent crimes, and the courts refuse to impose consequences for their behavior, maybe it's up to the citizens to do so.

Your objection to the Michigan "anti-bullying" law is that it seems to do its best to avoid imposing any consequences for bullying. Bullies are not to be held responsible for their behavior.

I think we both agree that society would be better if people were held responsible for their actions.

Posted by jack, venus, tx on November 14, 2011:

Those that beat their plows into plowshares will plow for those that do not. :)

Posted by Raoul, New York on November 14, 2011:

Thank you for a thoughtful discussion readers. I read through but I did not see a mention of one point that bothers me, that the Sheriff seemed to be advocating vigilante justice in his frustration at the serial offender. Another approach might be some form of the "3 strikes" law. That too leads to injustices and abuse of innocents (rarely) but almost never to holding the execution before the trial.

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There was a comment or two about the sheriff sending folks out to kill criminals. I found that a huge overreading of the sheriff's comments. -rc

Posted by Cyndye in S. Texas on November 14, 2011:

I moved from a remote area of Texas close to the border. Yes, the Mexicans down here are violent. I could tell stories but won't take up the space. I was fully armed at home out in the boonies and would not have hesitated to show I was armed should someone walk up. I am near a large city now...still close to the border. I plan on taking a CCH class and want to get a pump action. I figure, at the house, all it would take is to ratchet the pump to get someone to go away. I consider my life the number one priority in a sticky situation, and the lives of my family members. As long as the border is wide open, I will always be prepared. I didn't grow up with guns though my dad was raised on a ranch. I married into it and he moved me to places where safety was a priority.

Also, I have noticed that, in countries where firearms are outlawed, crime goes through the roof.

Posted by Marty, Australia on November 14, 2011:

I find it kind of sad that there needs to be a law to protect children from bullying.

I find it sadder that the law they made protects the bullies, as long as they hide behind their faith as the reason (oh, and probably as long as that faith is the "right" one).

As for the concealed carry, I agree 100% with it, although Australian law makes it virtually impossible to do.

Posted by Ted, Oregon on November 14, 2011:

Once, when living in a bad neighborhood of an urban area, I used a Daisy BB rifle, unloaded, to scare off some intruders. Ratchet Pump, fire -- and the puff of air alone sounded enough like a shot to send them scattering. Too much like a shot though: the rest of the night I had patrol cars casing my street.

Posted by Magnus, Canada on November 14, 2011:

I am Canadian. I don't own a gun. I know how to use one, having taken some classes as a teenager. (I was a pretty good shot.) I voted for a party to the left of the Liberal Party of Canada. I've got ancestors who moved to Canada upon request of His Majesty's Army, and more recent ones who went to Europe and didn't come back.

I work as a military contractor, so I obviously don't have a problem with guns. Nor do I have a problem with violence. There are Bad Guys out in this world, and they will throw acid at girls for going to school; they will drown their daughters for dating; they will fill a van with explosives and blow up government buildings. They will not sit around the breakfast table and calmly discuss their problems over a croissant. It's not a big loss when we have to kick one of those people off the planet. Violence can solve problems. Not all of them, but lots of them.

Sure, people die from gunshots all the time. That's the point of a gun, to cause injury (to animals, people, targets, etc.). You're also going to die from cancer, heart disease, a drunk driver, a bad doctor, falling pianos, BPA in your water bottle, HIV, rampant frat boys, or anything else that the TV thinks will sell cars, condoms, or Congressmen during the commercial break. (I think that's what you call them, Congressmen?)

Why are people getting shot so often (fatality numbers are half of vehicular down there, right?)? Is it carelessness? If so, the solution is a pretty simple one: Put the four rules of firearm safety on every box of ammunition sold. Is it fear? I don't know. Wikipedia puts the US gun ownership rate at 89%. It's 31% in Canada. (Source) I'm fairly certain that you're not sitting at an 89% murder rate. The stats seem to show that criminals are more afraid to commit crimes when bystanders have concealed weapons. Britain's CCTV network did nothing to the crime rate.

I have had to call the police a few times. The Bad Guy in one case was a meth head who was stealing (or trying to steal) my neighbour's decorative bicycle. It's rusted solid and used for lighting. The cops got there a good ten minutes after I called them, after I chased the guy away. (By telling him "I've called the police; why don't you leave?" Profanites ensued.) I didn't think about whether he had a gun or knife, I just assumed that he wouldn't have one. (Most of the guns in Canada are rifles used for hunting; handguns are restricted, which means they are only owned by gangsters.)

So I don't need a gun. I don't want one. I know my neighbours, and they know me. We watch out for each other. The meth guy hasn't been back; maybe word got out that we watch out and call the cops. That doesn't mean that nobody should own a gun. There are applications to have one, and if you're out in the woods that's certainly one of them. (And why my late aunt had a gun.) If the local predators walk on two legs vs. four that's certainly another. (I would move, but that's me.)

Would I want one if someone was breaking into my house downstairs at night? You bet I would, that's why I have a 6-cell Maglite under my bed. (Along with a fire ladder.) If I lived in a place where the people breaking in would likely have guns, then I'd probably have one or more, and I'd spend time at the range. I think my city (population 300k) has had 2 murders this year, but it was a murder-suicide. Maybe that was last year.

The whole "liberal" vs. "conservative" theatre is a myth; maybe you can't see it from inside. One question: Can you name any piece of legislation that has increased your rights, passed by either the Republicans or the Democrats? It's all about pushing one group against each other. The worst thing for these billion-dollar corporations that you call political parties would be if the Normal People stood up, said "enough of this bickering" and made a realistic central party. You have to choose an issue, all from the prepackaged "this or that" options, and it stinks. Seriously, catering companies and gymnasiums have more options than your elections.

I did find out something that we in the office found quite amusing a few months ago -- apparently you can buy grenades in the US once you get FTA approval. We weren't sure why you'd spend that much money on something like that, but then again I've spent thousands of dollars on SCUBA gear. Who am I to judge what someone wants to do with their money, their property, and their time? Do I look like the government?

Posted by Bob, Dallas, TX (for now) on November 14, 2011:

Let's see, the Michigan law exempts bullying if it's the result of a "sincerely held religious belief." So if a gang of Muslims in Dearborn beat up a Christian because they sincerely believe in jihad, then it's OK, right?

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Based on what I read, sure! -rc

Posted by Greg, Sydney Australia on November 14, 2011:

I do agree with your take on both the issues, so that doesn't add much to the conversation. However, I think there might be a better solution to the bullying issue than legislation. The people on the ground are the teachers so they should be key to the solution.

First, reduce class sizes by employing more teachers. This allows the teachers to know each child in their class better and have a closer connection. If a child is being bullied they will be more likely to confide in the teacher or the teacher would be in a better position to notice the change in behaviour. Of course, to employ more teachers you'd probably need to pay more in order to attract people (funny how the "you get the people you pay for" argument only tends to be brought out for some professions). That probably leads to wanting more training to justify the pay to the bean counters and hopefully a higher perception of the profession as a whole in society. Another side effect of this is better educated children and that's a different conversation.

Secondly, allow teachers to apply some discipline to children again. I'm not a fan of caning or other corporal punishment but some loose guidelines can be created and applied as per the situation. Sometimes a quick flick of the ear at the right moment can prevent a lot of later violence and the teacher shouldn't have to worry about parents suing them afterwards. Once again, having more teachers would mean there would be a degree of self-policing, teachers would prevent each other from going too far. In theory anyway.

(This solution does leave out the lawyers though so it might be hard to push through.)

As far as the guns go, I'm in two minds. While it is much more difficult to mow down 12 people in 15 seconds using a knife, that same knife won't be much help against a couple of home invaders. Swings and roundabouts. I think if a person can pass a set of training, more than 4 hours worth at least, and show themselves to be (relatively) sane they probably should be allow to own an appropriate firearm. Starting that training while a child is also a good idea. Personally I'd have no issue whatsoever shooting someone trying to hurt me or mine.

Posted by James, Illinois on November 15, 2011:

I consider myself a conservative on most subjects. At the same time, I disagree with the Republicans in the Michigan legislature on the matter of protecting people from bullying, whether physical or emotional. I disagree with them on several other topics too, but that's for another episode. I do not feel that because I am a conservative that I have to march lock step with any particular description of conservatives.

Posted by Robb, North Walpole, NH on November 15, 2011:

I agree with you on both points and I think that makes us very reasonable, responsible citizens.

I consider myself a conservative because I believe in personal and fiscal responsibility. Bullying enrages me in a way that nothing else does. The idea that it's okay if it's in defense of religious belief is disgusting and yet another example of the 'religious right' inserting themselves into politics. They're not just beating up gays in schools, they're beginning to circulate propaganda that labels tolerance as "Communism's ~plan~ for taking over America" -- It's one example of a polar-extreme that's impossible for anyone else to live with.

I believe in the right to defend myself in the face of danger with a gun. It's bewildering to think of people I know who would rather succumb to a violent criminal than to injure or kill them with a gun. Another example of polar extreme with which I cannot live.

I've never felt that your writing leans to one side or the other in politics, however I have felt that you are basically conservative as I am because of your shedding light on blatant stupidity such as Z/T. Perhaps I'm the one with the slant since I see Liberalism as blatant stupidity.

Posted by Bob, Alabama on November 15, 2011:

What insightful and provocative writing.

Could not agree with you more, you've expressed that which I've felt for years, and could never put into words.

Thanks.

Posted by Susie WV on November 15, 2011:

1.Truth Hurts. If everyone was required to own a handgun then I believe that crime would have a whole new meaning. Kinda puts the thief, rapist and etc. at a disadvantage.

2.Bullying. What a crock. Maybe that's why so many of our children are deciding to take their own lives. Bullying and then being bullied by the school system that is there to protect their children. What a shame. A black eye should be given to everyone who voted this type of ludicrous behavior. Maybe the only justice for them is to have one of their own children bullied.

Posted by Roland, Germany on November 15, 2011:

As a non-UK European I have to put in my two euro cents on the gun issue:

Somebody posted that "...in countries where firearms are outlawed, crime goes through the roof." That is, sorry to say it bluntly, flat-out wrong. Maybe if you compare US states with each other, the ones with more guns have less crime, but on an international level this definitely doesn't hold up. I'm tired of people posting "In the UK nobody has guns and still there's lots of violence!" Please have a look at a map of Europe, there a several other countries around, lots of which have strict gun laws as well as low crime rates. I'm not saying that one is the reason for the other, but that the issue is not as straightforward as some people here seem to think.

Just as an example: in Germany very few people are allowed to carry guns, and according to Wikipedia the homicide rate is about a fifth of that of the US. While it is true that international comparisons are not that simple due to differing standards, it is a fact that crime rates in the US are among the highest of all western countries.

Now I am very much against general gun ownership, and I don't know anybody who advocates it. But I'm not going to argue for my point, because no matter how many arguments each side has, in the end it comes down to your personal feeling of safety or lack thereof. Rod, you said upthread that you feel safer knowing everyone around you has a gun. I feel safer knowing nobody around me has gun. I understand your point, and maybe in the US you really do need a gun to feel safe. Luckily there are still a lot of countries where thats not the case.

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When people talk about the U.K., it doesn't necessarily mean they're generalizing to other countries. And yes, the U.S.'s murder rate is high -- but it is coming down as state after state liberalize gun laws, as first discussed on this site in 1998. -rc

Posted by Jordan - Los Angeles on November 15, 2011:

Sorry, can't offer a contrary opinion, because I agree with you.

Magnus from Canada says "Wikipedia puts the US gun ownership rate at 89%." Careful with those statistics, they're dangerous. That Wikipedia article does *not* give gun ownership percentages. It gives guns per 100 residents, which is an entirely different matter. My house has five residents and eight guns, so I have 160 guns per 100 residents. Not counting the cannon.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on November 15, 2011:

Re the Unsubscribes: I'm simply amazed. Even after posting two political extremes, and expressing the basis of those extremes in order to make a point of centrism, there are still people who insist that you MUST subscribe to one extreme or the other. THAT is the polarization we're seeing in America, and I agree with the person who commented that some are so dedicated to the LOYALTY of an idea that they're unwilling to consider any other viewpoint. Fortunately, those are really a minority and their loss will have little impact.

As for U.S. gun ownership, the FBI estimates 80-85 million gun owners. In a population of 310 million citizens, that sounds like roughly a 1-in-4 ratio. But it's including 75 million children. Given that there are about 120 million households in the U.S., the ratio is closer to 70%. Obviously, whatever one's stance may be, it's still an option taken very seriously by most Americans.

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You hit the nail on the head regarding polarization. -rc

Posted by Ian, UK on November 15, 2011:

Can't add anything to the comments about the bullying story, you have it absolutely correct.

But wanted to add a comment on the guns story. As many others have probably commented, being from the UK the US gun laws sometimes seem very alien.

The biggest problem with any gun laws is just that, they are laws, ergo, criminals are not going to find an reason to follow them. Which then obviously puts law abiding citizens at a further disadvantage. In the UK we can't carry anything deemed an "offensive weapon", whether that be a gun knife or sawn off table leg!!

You can get licenses for certain types of guns for certain activities but there are strict controls around how they are supposed to be stored and who can use them.

My big worry about giving anyone the ability to own and carry a gun is more around whether those people are a) capable of using the weapon correctly, and b) capable of making the right decisions at the right time. Your story this week about the "superhero" pepper spraying people he thought were having a fight, becomes much darker if he whips out a 9mm for example!

I'm not sure either argument is right, but the older i get the more I lean towards the gun owners (with the correct training and controls in place).

Posted by Rick, ID on November 15, 2011:

How about everybody (except those who have lost the right through individual judicial action) should carry concealed? An armed society is a polite society (Heinlein).

As to bullying, of course we should all be nice to each other, and I am much more concerned with jackbooted thugs patrolling our hallways to detect and enforce zero-tolerance on the politically incorrect, than I am with the individual who exercises his right to end his life. I am reminded of the high school boy who told his girlfriend that if she didn't sleep with him, he would kill himself. She didn't, he did. How should she be prosecuted?

Posted by Graham, UK on November 15, 2011:

Unlike "Ian, UK", the older I get the more I lean away from gun ownership. I want to live in a society where everyone can feel as safe as possible, without having to be well off enough (or sane enough, or physically capable enough, or even uncriminal enough) to be able to defend myself with a weapon. That means adequately prioritising both prevention and punishment of crime (including funding social programs to reduce the number of people taking up crime, as well as police and courts).

In the UK, crime levels are so low that there is really no need to physically defend oneself. The risk of being a victim of violent crime is much lower than of dying on the road on the way to the gun shop. Of course, some truly terrible crimes happen -- they are so rare that they make headlines. The people having strokes in their bed or dying in a car crash aren't newsworthy.

The system in the UK works well. I don't say it should be imposed on other countries, just that there is no case at all for defensive gun ownership here.

---

You don't seem to understand. I also "want to live in a society where everyone can feel as safe as possible, without having to be well off enough (or sane enough, or physically capable enough, or even uncriminal enough) to be able to defend myself with a weapon." But you don't, and I don't -- and neither of us are going to get there soon (probably not in our lifetimes). The question, then, is what do we (individually, and as a society) do in the meantime? -rc

Posted by Steve, TX on November 15, 2011:

I agree with your view that there are more and more of us in the "middle" and I can only hope that at some point that middle ground will become the majority and bring some sense to a world that has become too polarized for comfort.

We "should" be able to discuss these and any other complex issues without resorting to name-calling, or "labeling" as one party partisan or the other and then turning off all ability to solve problems, which is what our government has done for the past several years.

Most "thinking" people will come down on some issues on the conservative side, and others on the liberal side. Complex problems are not black-or-white, but rather many, many shades of grey that require us to again "think" about each one and recognize that sometimes it should be one way and other times perhaps different.

The problem as I see it with today's climate is that many people have stopped listening, have pigeon-holed the other side of all issues as the enemy, and have in effect become part of the problem preventing those with any sort of middle-ground compromising views from moving society forward in any meaningful way. Stagnation seem to be the status quo, without much change other than the occasional legislation by force when one side or the other can gain an advantage. Whatever happened to respecting different viewpoints and arguments, working with our peers, and actually coming to a consensus solution?

I must say that my pessimism is probably coming through, but I really do hope that the middle ground can be found to address the quite serious problems we face today. Maybe those "independents" will ride to our rescue.

BTW, I really "hate" the use of labeling when it comes to politics. I quit registering for either party's primaries many years ago because when you check the box next to "Republican" or "Democrat" you are expected to stop thinking and become a sheep to party rhetoric. Sad, don't you think?

Posted by Trisha in Texas on November 15, 2011:

Self defense, yes. Bullying, no. Liberal, yes. Democrat, well mostly, simply because there is very little Independent to choose from and I am biased against most of the Republican stances in local and Federal government. Being female, feminist, a mother of a disabled child, a blue collar worker and a humanist I am most likely to back those issues where equality, fair play, doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do are at stake. I consider self defense to be equalizing and creating a fair playing field. I consider protecting children from other childhood bullies to be the same situation. And I don't think that religion on either side is a reason to shield a bully and allow another child to be tormented.

In my own circular thought track mind that tries to see all points of view and create balance, I see a strange sort of sociological experiment taking place, as if (like the two bothers in Trading Places) two people have made a bet to see just how polarized a situation they can create in this country so that they can rape the bank while everyone else is busy screaming at each other. I don't hear any rational discussion on American mainstream media, it all seems to be bright, blasting infotainment aimed at getting people to watch their program and buy their sponsors. I had to quit watching. The TV is only used for DVDs anymore while I get news from internet sites and overseas radio. It's hard to think of my country as so torn up, so divided, so hateful that we can't even tell when something good is being done for us. Or tell when someone is pissing on our boot and calling it rain.

Ah, leave it there. Randy, I am still subscribed. You do allow people to think. I'm grateful for that. Please, keep up the good work.

Posted by Tim, NY on November 15, 2011:

This first section is primarily primarily addressed to Robb, of North Walpole, NH.

I don't think personal and fiscal responsibility are virtues reserved for conservatives (nor are they reserved for liberals; they're generally reserved for intelligent people.) If believing in personal and fiscal responsibility makes a person conservative, then many people I know, myself included, who generally think of themselves as somewhat liberal would be surprised to find out that they are, in fact conservative.

Despite our different socio-political self-identifications, we agree on the points you made. Bullying enrages me like very little else, because of my childhood experiences. I was one of those students who was brought to the principal's office for self-defense. In the defense of the principal, I was trained in self-defense at the time.

I take issue with your categorization of blatant stupidity as liberalism. Most neutrally defined, conservative to me means "anti-change" and liberal means "pro-change," and I believe both have their place in most topics.

Onward to general gun ownership... (warning, somewhat rambling wall of text follows):

On the topic of gun ownership, my feelings are mixed. I am a firm believer in self-defense, but I am not a firm believer in the general good judgement of the population. While a gun may rightfully be argued to be a necessary and good last line of defense against a violent criminal, it's also quite final. Using a gun for self-defense requires intent to kill the attacker. But unless the attacker is also using a lethal weapon, it now involves responding to non-lethal force with lethal force. And it's very difficult to apologize for overreacting and shooting someone. It's much easier to apologize for breaking a nose, or an arm. Those heal. Thus, I tend to favor restrictive gun licensing laws (not bans!) in an effort to keep guns out of the hands of people who will resort to them on impulse, in anger, or in poor judgement.

This is partially based on anecdotal evidence. One of my friends was (fortunately non-lethally) shot by a man he was approaching for directions, who apparently overreacted. We'll never know what he was thinking when he did it, because he fled the scene. If that man had not been carrying a gun (and we don't know if he was licensed or not), my friend would have been able to speak to him BEFORE he could jump to conclusions and open fire.

On that note, and related to self-identifying as a liberal, I don't disagree with the interpretation of the Second Amendment as providing for generally unrestricted gun ownership, but I find the notion outdated. The spirit of the Second Amendment assumes a certain level of civic responsibility generally absent from Americans today. Russel (currently in Beijing) mentioned experience generally matching my own, and I strongly, STRONGLY agree with his point about enforcement. Many anti-gun activists hold that position because of the gun owners they've been exposed to. Here in NY, gun owners tend to be the absolute worst stereotype: The loaded-shotgun-in-the-car, gets-drunk-and-shoots-bottles-off-a-fence-in-a-suburban-neighborhood-on-a-Friday-night type, not the responsible type. Unfortunately, this demographic tends to overlap heavily with the police/etc. demographic, so police reports are generally brushed off. And, of course, nobody is going to approach one of these people to say something... after all, they're drunk and have a loaded shotgun in the car. Unfortunately, the gun-rights groups tend to lose credibility with anti-gun groups by not addressing very valid concerns like these.

Yes, most (I'm hedging, probably all) of the people posting here who are defending widespread gun ownership are intelligent and responsible people. But not everyone is. I believe it's quite reasonable for me not to want a gun in the hands of the guy downstairs, who screams at his wife and throws heavy objects around the apartment, or the recent high school grads who sit on the overpass and throw cherry bombs and shoot BBs at cars driving by (which is definitely illegal!) I look around me and I see people of whom I would be terrified if they owned a gun, because they are not responsible and not rational, and I have to work very, very hard not to brush off people who say that everyone should be allowed a gun as lunatics, and instead try to imagine their life experiences that permit them to think such a thing reasonable. An armed society may be a polite society, but that is a politeness born of fear, not respect. You'd be polite to everyone not because it's nice, but because you're afraid that if you're rude to someone, they'd overreact and do you immediate and irreparable harm. Is that really the sort of society people quoting Heinlein want to live in?

Randy, in response to George (Ontario), you brought up the distinction between rights and privileges. You mentioned that driving was a privilege but that voting is a right, and also that gun ownership was also a right. If that's incorrect, disregard this: How would you respond to the suggestion that gun ownership ought to be a privilege, not a right? I could make a variety of speculative arguments in that direction (a car is more necessary to daily life than a gun, so if a car is a privilege, why not a gun, etc.?), but this has already gotten quite long enough, so I'll reserve that for another time, if there is any interest. To anyone who responds, please do so without relying on the Second Amendment (i.e., "Gun ownership ought to be a right because it's in the Constitution.") Gun ownership is currently a right because of the Second Amendment, but arguing that it ought to continue to be such because of the Second Amendment would be committing the logical fallacy of appeal to tradition.

To avoid being labeled as an anti-gun liberal, I'm seriously looking into getting a carry permit now that I've moved into a much more dangerous area recently. However, I still believe that gun ownership should be a privilege, granted only after a person demonstrates they are sufficiently responsible, and revoked immediately if a person proves they are no longer sufficiently responsible.

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I question your assertion that if an attacker doesn't have a gun, he's not using lethal force. Tell that to all the 5'2", 110-lb women trying to outrun a guy with a knife (or even just strong hands). Also, remember the vast majority of times that guns are used to stop crime, they're not fired. It's enough to say "Come closer and you will be shot." And no, that's not what Heinlein meant, and that's not how I feel when I'm around friends who are packing (which is common in this rural area). I don't fear them at all; I respect them for the responsibility they've taken on, and know if "something happens" I'm not completely on my own. Last, you ask, "How would you respond to the suggestion that gun ownership ought to be a privilege, not a right?" Well, "ought to be" isn't the way it is. It is a right enshrined in our Constitution, and hypothetical "but what if it wasn't?" is a silly game. The question is, how do we wind down the path with that as a fact? That's what this whole discussion is about. -rc

Posted by Tim, NY on November 16, 2011:

I'm not asserting that if an attacker doesn't have a gun, he's not using lethal force. I was asserting that it's difficult to use a gun to respond with non-lethal force to ANY level of force. I generally side with the defender on this one... if someone is attacking you, ascertaining whether or not they're trying to kill you and responding with equivalent force would take time nobody in that situation can spare. What concerns me is that people can and do misinterpret non-aggressive actions as an attack. If someone who is unarmed identifies someone as a potential assailant, they'll opt for flight instead of fight. It's the false positives like my friend who was shot trying to ask for directions at night that argue for keeping guns out of the hands of the general public.

You don't feel fear around friends who are packing, and neither do I! I trust my friends, or else I wouldn't be friends with them. It's the strangers that are potentially frightening. "An armed society is a polite society" requires that everyone be armed, or at least enough people that the presumption is someone is armed rather than unarmed. And the only way that arming society necessarily leads to politeness is if people fear violent (disproportionate) response to rudeness, real or perceived. We stopped accepting dueling as a way of redressing slights for good reason, in my opinion.

You are correct that the right to own a gun is currently a right enshrined in the Constitution. But we have the power to change the constitution. Slave ownership used to be a right enshrined in the Constitution, but we changed that. No, I'm not equating gun ownership with slave ownership. Nor am I proposing amending the Constitution to forbid gun ownership. I am suggesting that the status of gun ownership as a right, not a privilege, may be due for re-examining to see if it still makes sense in modern society. In that sense, I disagree with that about what this whole discussion is about. I believe first we must review our premise that gun ownership is and should continue to be an enshrined right. What would be the pros and cons of making it a privilege instead?

Repeating for emphasis: I am not, NOT equating gun ownership with slave ownership on any moral, legal, or other level. My point with that was solely to demonstrate that rights enshrined in the constitution are not necessarily eternal.

Thank you for posting my first, extremely lengthy, comment, which I know means you had to read the entire thing to approve it.

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I do, indeed, at least skim everything before allowing it to be posted, and usually read them fully; thanks for knowing that time investment to making this discussion valuable.

The statement of yours I was referring to (which I will now copy and paste verbatim) was: "But unless the attacker is also using a lethal weapon, it now involves responding to non-lethal force with lethal force." I understand you didn't mean that, exactly, but that does say that if an attacker doesn't have a gun, he's not using lethal force.

I do of course understand your point that the Constitution can be changed, but I don't see it happening anytime soon regarding this issue. Changing the Constitution is fraught with peril, as we saw with Prohibition: we're still reeling from the effects of that folly. -rc

Posted by Anne, California on November 16, 2011:

Re the guns - the problem is, if gun ownership is widely encouraged, it won't be just "responsible" people who have them -- see this article for example.

And maybe he was just exercising his constitutional rights and the cops shouldn't have shot him, since the article didn't say he actually shot someone.

And most people can't judge in a situation who to shoot -- someone who came to the Giffords' shortly after it happened DID have a gun; he luckily did not shoot the guy he saw who was holding a gun -- turned out that person was a bystander who picked it up after the shooter dropped it. How many of us have that kind of quick judgment?

If everyone is encouraged to have a gun, I think we'll have a lot more accidents, because people as a group are not responsible, won't go to classes, and won't take care of them like they should.

Re bullying law -- total farce of a law. If you can bully and say it's ok due to your religion, it's a farce.

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This page is not about "encouraging everyone to have a gun," and I don't see how anyone could take it that way. The article you link to is sad, but two points. First, if I'm not mistaken, it's illegal for a non-police officer to carry a gun onto California school campuses, even with a permit; he was ordered to drop it, and then shots rang out, so it's unclear if he was raising it toward the officers, or what. Second, it is true that nuts have guns. In this case (if the shooting turns out to be justified), it was lucky that police were nearby and could handle it, and did handle it without anyone else being injured. As we've seen many times in the past, it's not always the case that police can do anything to stop such crazies before a lot of lives are lost. As one commenter said, "I carry a gun because I cannot carry a cop." Kind of hard to argue with that concept, especially coupled with repeated court decisions that affirm citizens have no right to a police response, even in an emergency. -rc

Posted by Ken, New York on November 16, 2011:

"Kind of hard to argue with that concept, especially coupled with repeated court decisions that affirm citizens have no right to a police response, even in an emergency. -rc"

Since this has come up several times in this thread, I thought I'd put my 2 cents in. At first, it sounds ridiculous that you don't have a "right" to police response/protection/whatever. But, consider the ramifications of having such a "right". That would mean that the police would have to be present everywhere at all times, lest someone be deprived of their "right" to such protection. Consider a scenario where the local police were tied up in some emergency situation, and several people all called in reporting that someone was trying to break into their house. If you had a "right" to police protection, there wouldn't be enough police to go around. Whose "rights" get denied, and what would be the consequences of that denial?

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Which is, of course, why the courts rule that way. But we get into a circle: "Don't do it yourself, call the police!" and "Sorry, but we won't be able to get there for awhile." or "Please come down and file a report." Ick. -rc

Posted by Richard, Marietta,Ga on November 17, 2011:

I agree with you fully about both of these topics.

Bullying is bullying regardless of the excuse; I was bullied as a kid (just because I was a "nerd") until I beat the s--t out of an older and bigger kid. Unfortunately, a lot of kids today don't have that escape route, due to ZT from school admins. I think that bullies should be treated as juvenile offenders, not as religious warriors.

AFA guns go, I have mixed emotions about it. I do not have a firearm in my house, due to the same affliction your friend has; as a bipolar, I suffer from extreme depressive states. A handy weapon would NOT be a good thing. However, I think that firearms in the hands of experienced, trained individuals are no problem. Indeed, hunters in the South have prevented a population explosion of deer, since they have no natural predators anymore. (However, blowing away old cars with AK-47's is a bit much.)

My one problem with carrying weapons relates to friends who are in law enforcement. To a man (and a woman as well) they all express doubts about this. Usually, this relates to the nightmare scenario -- they are called to a situation where gunfire has occurred. The problem comes in when the police have to determine who is the bad guy, because the participants all have guns. I admire these people, but I would not want to have to make that decision.

Love your site and your publication; I'll sub as long as you put it out!

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Thanks, Richard. You might talk with more cops: the sheriff in the story isn't the lone ranger. A lot of cops, both admin types and those on the street, want more "experienced, trained individuals" armed out there, not fewer. I was one of them. -rc

Posted by Mike, Arkansas on November 17, 2011:

I refuse to be labeled as a Republican or Democrat, conservative, liberal, progressive, or any other slanted political stance. Labels, especially of the political nature, backs us into corners we eventually cannot escape from. Besides, the rainbow of political topics means at some point a labeled political view is going to be "wrong" to someone with the same label... we're all individuals with different life experiences, lessons, and ideals. Call me a firmly independent free thinker, if you must call me anything. I am, though, a patriot and disabled veteran of the United States Air Force. The first time in my life I fired a gun was during basic training while learning the M-16.

That being said, I agree with Randy on both articles and see a lot of thinking has gone into most everyone's answers. However, on the right to carry issue I've seen an important fact being left out. Many have mentioned or alluded to the right to bear arms as being based in the ability to "put food on the table" or to defend themselves, their family, and/or other innocents around them. In many contexts, this is shortly followed by, "Why in the world does anyone need an automatic weapon to hunt with?"

This question, and many similar to it, display a lack of the fundamental reason the second amendment was adopted in the first place! Here's a hint: it wasn't to put food on the table!

Amendment II
"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of the free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

Here is good read on the topic: http://www.usconstitution.net/consttop_2nd.html

My short interpretation -- Given the period context -- the peoples' right to bear arms and the individual states' right to militia are in place to prevent the federal government from becoming out of control from the people whom the government is comprised from. The ability of the people (or states) to organize revolution should the federal government become too powerful is therefore protected in the Constitution by the second amendment.

With this in mind, if the people are limited to shotguns, hunting rifles, and personal defensive arms (handguns and the like) a standing army, or federally organized army separated from the states, would most certainly put down any attempted resistance to a tyrannical government's forces with (more) modern, automatic weapons.

Now, before anyone thinks I'm a loon or revolutionist, I have not owned a firearm in my life until recently when I inherited my father's first rifle, a simple .22 caliber tube-fed target trainer. I also tend to think in modern civilization with the speed at which news media spreads the latest political gossip, the possibility of any single political leader in this country being able to conspire such a take-over of power is absurdly remote. This leaves very little foundation to justify an organized militia beyond the states' National Guard organizations.

So to sum up, these people are right. Nobody needs an AK-47 to hunt. Then again, nobody needs a Ferrari Enzo to drive through a 20mph residential zone either. In both cases, the tools employed are overpowered for the task at hand. Despite this fact, people still admire and aspire to owning a Ferrari. Some people collect figurines, thimbles, or shot glasses. Others collect firearms and enjoy sport shooting. Then there are Ferrari owners who take their cars to the track and race, to defend their title or Ferrari's. Gun collectors should have a right to pursue their sport as well, provided they are properly trained. In this same avenue, to have the tools required to defend our freedoms should they be threatened by an overwhelming government tyrant.

I'll close with a quote: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." --Thomas Jefferson

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I did mention the put-down-the-government aspect in one of my comment replies, and linked to the point in more detail from a previous blog entry, here -- but I'm glad to have you reinforce the point from your position. -rc

Posted by Lynne, Milwuakee on November 17, 2011:

Bob in OK: "I would find life far less rewarding had I to continually make a judgment as to whether I should interfere in this or that situation."

Bob, the only situation you should interfere in is the one involving you (or your family).
Someone who carries is NOT a police officer.

If another adult has made the decision not to protect himself (as you have) why should I override that by rushing in with my pistol when I see you being harmed?

"I cannot conceive of how I would handle the problem when I am around my eight grandchildren."

By having the pistol in its holster, & keeping it safely away from them. Aren't they worth protecting?

Anne in CA: "most people can't judge in a situation who to shoot"

Yet you give the Giffords example, where a lawfully-armed citizen accurately judged that the shooter was stopped.

And be aware that in the vast majority of defensive gun usages (IIRC, something like 94%) not a shot is fired.

Citizens are on the scene as the attack happens, cops show up after. That's part of why cops have such a high rate of wrongful shootings.

Posted by Lisanne, Sheepshead Bay, NY on November 18, 2011:

I consider myself liberal but that doesn't mean that issues are cut and dry for me.

Anti-Bully legislation shouldn't be necessary because of existing law. Unfortunately, existing laws are not properly enforced, and the impact of what might appear to be the "normal behavior of children" is not understood properly by law enforcement, prosecutors and those who participate in making judicial decisions. This is why specific laws need to be enacted. It seems to me that you understand this.

As for gun issues you have made a better case for responsible gun ownership than most others. But perhaps this may be a case where one solution does not fit all places. Where I live police are but a short distance from most places within their jurisdiction. We have seen a surge in murders this year, most of which were committed with knives. Most appeared to be what is called "crimes of passion". So the question is whether one is more likely to think twice when in possession of a gun because it has a much heavier onus. I can't answer that, so I have to reserve judgment on this issue.

I don't believe that there is anything wrong with expressing an opinion. The only time it is wrong is when one does so by inferring that their opinion is the only acceptable one. Even then we should remember that passion is not necessarily a bad thing. Even as we might disagree.

Posted by Zoe, Canberra, Australia on November 18, 2011:

Hate Crimes legislation shouldn't be necessary. Everyone is supposed to be treated equally.

The problem is, that the same argument can be used to oppose laws against murder, theft etc. If everyone did as they were supposed to, they wouldn't be necessary either.

It's because existing laws are not being enforced equally that such legislation is necessary. This is particularly obvious in schools, and particularly obvious when the victims are GLBT.

Here's the reason why: schools could not function without extra-official discipline. The kid who steals gets a smackdown from his victims. The boy who harasses a girl gets "physically discouraged" by her brothers, her boyfriend, or the boyfriends of other girls who she's friends with. Nothing official. It's winked at, and anyone who complains is likely to be told that nothing can be done, or "we'll look into it".

The problem is that many school officials see Homosexuality as being a sin, due to sincere religious convictions. They make no distinction between thieves, rapists, murderers and gays, apart from some who (like St John Christostom) think that homosexuality is worse than mere murder. It's a battleground in the Culture Wars, the fight for the Soul of America.

They don't see beating up some kid who's gay as being anything more than unofficial discipline of a malefactor. Maybe it will "teach them a lesson", "straighten them out". It's for their own good, and they deserve all they get.

That's why we have to have enumerated protected classes. No beating up Catholics, even if there's a Papist plot to destroy America. No beating up Jews, even if they're Christ-Killers. No beating up Blacks, even though these subhumans are contaminating White Racial Purity. And no beating up Gays, despite them being filthy perverts who are going to Hell. We have to spell it out, otherwise some school administrators will genuinely and honestly believe that the "no bullying" rules don't apply in such cases.

Posted by Ed from Wyoming on November 18, 2011:

I agree everyone should have the right to carry a gun if they are qualified by a safety course. However I see no reason to carry an AK 47 with high capacity magazines or Glock with the same multiple round clips. If one shot is not enough you need more practice.

Posted by Joe, Wisconsin on November 19, 2011:

As I sit in this deer stand, using True to keep me entertained while I wait, I thought I would just say: To have a "right" to police protection, would take the rights of the police officers away from them (the same is true of firemen, EMTs, nurses, doctors....) that would make them slaves. Last time I checked slavery was illegal.

Then (though I saw it stated previously) we shouldn't need a law against bullying. That is assault and battery. If it is "cyberbullying", it is either truth or slander, nothing can be done if it is true, but slander is punishable. Use the laws we have, we certainly have enough of them.

Posted by Roger, California on November 19, 2011:

I consider myself to be an independent. I have a nearly-perfect record in voting against all the presidents since, and including, Eisenhower. I would have voted against Kennedy on general principles, but I was out of state during the election and didn't get the absentee ballots on time. In California, you get more chances to vote against politicians if you register as Democrat or Republican; I have registered as a Democrat, but if the Republicans win the next election, I'll probably change in order to vote against someone in the primary.

I am a certified NRA rifle and pistol instructor, but I have chosen not to apply for a concealed carry permit. I can't afford to jump through all the hoops required in California; I can't afford to take the required course, although I am qualified to teach it. In 80 years, I have not been in a place where a firearm would have been useful, except for the time I was in the Army. I hope that my luck continues, but I respect those who choose to be armed legally and responsibly. And I hope that one of them is around if the need arises. Do I have firearms in my home? Of course I do. Do I worry about grandchildren playing with them? No, I have taught them how to shoot and to be responsible. (But most of my guns are locked and concealed in case of burglars.)

Posted by Diane in Graham County, AZ on November 19, 2011:

I don't even consider myself independent anymore, which almost seems a party unto itself. I like the "I think up and down" line you used, so I'm going to use that in the future.

I've never approved of the label "hate crimes". They are either a crime, such as assault, threatening and intimidation, battery, or they aren't. Bullying encompasses all those. I had a daughter who was bullied in school, so I am fully aware of what it does to our kids. My daughter eventually, like any cornered animal, fought back. She was the one suspended, not the bullies. I took her out for pizza. I'd like to move to Michigan just long enough to throw those idiots out of office.

Unless you happen to be standing next to an officer, law enforcement will not protect you. They are there for you only after a crime is committed. Ask anyone who's had restraining orders or orders of protection filed with the courts. I wouldn't advise any woman to keep a handgun in her purse, either. Ever seen a woman with her head down in a parking lot, trying to dig her keys out of her bag? A gentleman posted he keeps his gun locked under his car seat. Is he going to ask for a time-out if he's being carjacked? If you are going to carry, carry where it is IMMEDIATELY accessible, or don't bother carrying at all. I think that's how the criminals end up with their victims' guns in all those skewed statistics.

Living in Arizona, I'm not required to obtain a concealed weapon permit. I have one anyway, not simply for the training but to show any LEO if, for any reason, I'm stopped or detained. As far as the neighbor's kids are concerned, I don't advertise owning guns so their coming to my home shouldn't be an issue. What's the point of concealment if you're going to talk about it? Not that my neighbors would be concerned. I do live in Arizona, after all, as well as out in the country (with a response time of about 30 minutes after a 911 call), so we all have weapons.

Finally, I'd like to tell the guy from England the same thing I tell the young female students at our local community college. Mace is over-rated and not always user friendly, anyway. Get yourself a can of wasp spray. It has a nice strong, long reaching stream, will definitely stop an attacker and in the case of more than one aggressive punk, flick your Bic and it becomes a handy little flamethrower.

We don't make good victims in my county. Good job on this, Randy.

Posted by Andrew, UK on November 19, 2011:

Ed from Wyoming: If you genuinely believe one shot is enough in all circumstances (which the phrase "If one shot is not enough you need more practice" certainly suggests), I would suggest that your knowledge of real self-defence situations, not to mention the realities of shooting, is limited.

Most obviously, you might be attacked by more than one person. You might miss, even if you're an expert shot -- the statistics for even highly trained military and police shooters show that far from every shot hits its mark. And of course with any reasonable carry calibre, there are an awful lot of situations where even a solid hit can't guarantee a one-shot stop.

The point is, every extra round in the magazine in an extra chance to save your life, and believing one round is all you need is unrealistic.

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I had hoped someone would respond to that. And I love that this fairly obvious truth comes from a guy in the U.K.! -rc

Posted by Steve, Arizona on November 19, 2011:

When I returned after living overseas for 13 years I noticed a huge culture change in the US.

It seemed that smaller minorities, like gays, smokers and any other thing you can think of all had rights. anti gay laws, non smoking laws, even drinking laws are all over the place.

I believe that hate crime laws are fair, if someone meets the imperial requirement of a hate crime it should be used. With that said like many people understand a white guy beating a black guy is a hate crime, or a group of people beating on a gay man just because he is gay. But I was told in a statement from the HOA that I lived in, is that all the members were black and I was white. I could not get my home fixed because I was white, I stated that it was discriminated do to my color and they said that only works for black people. I moved, that was in NC.

I think that that our society is changing and the idea of what is an American dream has changed. I am someone that has a non-standard sexuality, and I have been asked to leave a job because of it. I have a new job and the people accept me. Finding and accepting who you are is one thing, having society accept you is another.

Making laws to protect children an allowing them to understand who they are is good for everyone. Living in that choice is a different matter.

I personally think that too many people feel that if they support a law for something like gay rights they might become a bit 'pink' in the way they think, and that scares them. That some how their personal idea of the American dream will change and that is just unacceptable so they keep blinders on.

As for gun laws, I do not have a gun, I feel that if you have a belief that a gun is needed, you have the right to have one. (Honestly, i lived in CO. a jar of peanut butter thrown with the lid off makes most bears happy) Most of the people I worked with have CW permits and carry. I feel that I can use what is around me if I am attacked, and if I have a friend with me, they have a gun.

When was the last time a man in a suit went to a biker bar, or a man with tattoos or a pony tail was a CEO of a company? We prejudge every time we meet someone, ask any HR director of any company when they do job interviews.

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Regarding your first point, it's necessary to remember that the most important word in the phrase "reverse discrimination" isn't "reverse". -rc

Posted by David, Ashburn, VA on November 19, 2011:

"Congress shall make no law respecting ...the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." --the very FIRST Amendment to the Constitution

I am neither Republican nor Democrat, although I have been registered as both. I am conservative by nature.

During the 1991-2 political season I used to listen to "All Things Considered" on NPR, and to Rush Limbaugh. What the bombastic and irritating Limbaugh proved to me was there is more than one side to a story, and most of the television and newspapers were only telling one side of it. I can't count the number of times he would play an audio of then Governor Clinton saying something that made him look bad, and then Rush would predict the papers and TV journalists would print something less critical, or ignore it, and time after time Limbaugh was proven right.

I really enjoyed NPR until I caught them misreporting political stories over and over again. I am thoroughly dismayed that they are not the paragons of truth they purported themselves to be.

It was then that I began to watch for these things myself, and something that I had never noticed before became very obvious: newspapers have never kept opinion off of the front page. And since newspapers are staffed with people who generally vote 9 to 1 Democrat over Republican, you can see wich way most of the stories are slanted. (As I remember the statistic, reporters in the Washington DC area voted 93% for Al Gore in 2000.) Republicans will do this too, if they control a newspaper or a network; but at 9 to 1 against, they don't control many.

Yellow journalism has been a staple of this country since before the Revolution. The greatest crime in this is that we are not taught to be wary of them. We have been taught they are heroes, the watchdogs of the people, keeping an eye on government, seeking justice, going to bat for the common folk. My experience is that is pretty much hogwash. The majority appear to be trying to become the next Woodward or Bernstein, topplers of evil governments, while working hard to keep the politicians they party with out of the limelight so that they don't lose access. I don't think it's exclusive to the Beltway. The people of the press are not, and have never been, even handed.

This jaundiced view of the press is why I wonder about your position "in the middle."

Did you read the law before you wrote about it, or read the debates about it, or did you just print what the Detroit Free Press said was the truth about it? And if you just printed it, are you really in the middle? Who in the middle would do that? Who in the middle wouldn't check sources, just to make sure they aren't perpetuating a myth?

1. "According to the proposed law put forth by Republicans, torment is not bullying if "a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction" is behind the bully's actions."

Per the Huffington Post, that provision has been dropped by the single Republican Senator who proposed it, but even if they hadn't dropped it, here's what it said on November 2nd about the "sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction:"

"THIS SECTION DOES NOT ABRIDGE THE RIGHTS UNDER THE FIRST AMENDMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OR UNDER ARTICLE I OF THE STATE CONSTITUTION OF 1963 OF A SCHOOL EMPLOYEE, SCHOOL VOLUNTEER, PUPIL, OR A PUPIL'S PARENT OR GUARDIAN. THIS SECTION DOES NOT PROHIBIT A STATEMENT OF A SINCERELY HELD RELIGIOUS BELIEF OR MORAL CONVICTION OF A SCHOOL EMPLOYEE, SCHOOL VOLUNTEER, PUPIL, OR A PUPIL'S PARENT OR GUARDIAN."

(Source)

Does that really say to you that torment is not bullying if a 'sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction' is behind the bully's actions? Really? What it says to me is "a statement of a sincerely held religious belief" will not be held against the person making that statement of belief. It does not absolve anyone from an act of bullying, nor does it condone the act of bullying, nor does it state that if a bully states a religious belief after the fact he won't be punished for the bullying. I think that if you read the paragraphs preceding the one quoted above, you'll find the law is pretty firm about bullying being unacceptable and a punishable act.

But that is not what the Detroit Free Press said about it.

2. "Also, Republicans would only support the bill if it didn't require schools to report bullying, didn't have provisions for enforcement or teacher training, and did not hold school officials accountable for failing to act."

The law, Senate Bill 137, actually does require reporting:

"A REQUIREMENT THAT ANY SCHOOL EMPLOYEE WHO HAS RELIABLE INFORMATION THAT WOULD LEAD A REASONABLE PERSON TO SUSPECT THAT A PUPIL IS A TARGET OF BULLYING OR TO SUSPECT A FALSE ACCUSATION OF BULLYING SHALL IMMEDIATELY REPORT IT TO THE PRINCIPAL OR THE PRINCIPAL'S DESIGNEE;"

It has a provision for teacher training:

"A REQUIREMENT FOR PERIODIC TRAINING FOR ADMINISTRATORS, SCHOOL EMPLOYEES, AND VOLUNTEERS WHO HAVE SIGNIFICANT CONTACT WITH PUPILS ON PREVENTING, IDENTIFYING, RESPONDING TO, AND REPORTING INCIDENTS OF BULLYING."

While it is true the Act does not spell out specific penalties for school officials failing to act, it does not prohibit civil or criminal redress under the law, and it makes it easy for people to report a legitimate case without threat of retaliation.

"THIS SECTION DOES NOT PREVENT A PERSON FROM SEEKING ANY OTHER CIVIL OR CRIMINAL REDRESS AVAILABLE UNDER LAW."

and

A SCHOOL EMPLOYEE, SCHOOL VOLUNTEER, PUPIL, OR PARENT OR GUARDIAN WHO PROMPTLY REPORTS IN GOOD FAITH AN ACT OF BULLYING OR A FALSE ACCUSATION OF BULLYING TO THE APPROPRIATE SCHOOL OFFICIAL DESIGNATED IN THE SCHOOL DISTRICT'S OR PUBLIC SCHOOL ACADEMY'S POLICY AND WHO MAKES THIS REPORT IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE PROCEDURES SET FORTH IN THE POLICY IS IMMUNE FROM A CAUSE OF ACTION FOR DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF THE REPORTING ITSELF OR ANY FAILURE TO REMEDY THE REPORTED INCIDENT.

And, as you pointed out, there were 26 Republican votes in favor of an act that required what the Detroit Free Press said it did not, vs. 11 Democrats opposed.

The law does not impose a specific wording on any school district, but requires an anti-bullying policy to be implemented by all schools, and suggests what should be in that policy, leaving it to local communities to decide. To me, that may be too vague.

As for the cell phone issue, I bet that there is a Constitutional issue regarding what a they State can tell a person that they can or cannot say over a phone they themselves own. The State probably cannot tell someone they can't bully over their own phone, but like any prosecutable act, the use of a phone won't prohibit them from prosecuting once it's proven they did it.

The State has every right to control what you say over a State owned phone, at least until the ACLU gets a hold of this. Remember the Commonwealth employees in Virginia who couldn't be fired for using a Commonwealth computer to look at porno? Or laws in several states prohibiting the blocknig of porn sites at public library computers? I don't know if the prohibition of using a state phone for bullying will hold up in the long term.

I believe that you believe you are a moderate, not siding with either major party. I don't agree that the 32.6% that do not align themselves with either major party are "a huge political force in the United States." Politicians say they are, and court them regularly, but the middle is so fractured in ideology and so apathetic about politics (hence, not identifying themselves with a party) that they are in no way a major force. This is just opinion; I don't have facts to back it up, except for the lack of turnout in all elections, and the failure of third parties in most.

Still, I don't think you meant to perpetuate one point of view by repeating this article. You don't have a history of taking sides; to the contrary, your history is one where no sides are taken. I wish journalists would report that way. You do have a history at "True" of covering provocative issues and engendering debate, which is a beautiful thing. I just recommend that you take anything heard from either side via print, TV or radio (or from me for that matter) as suspect until you've checked it out.

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Your main premise has to do with whether I researched all possible angles of this, or "did you just print what the Detroit Free Press said was the truth about it?" Neither, and you forgot my second source: Time magazine.

Bottom line, you are unclear what True is: it's commentary on the news. I report on things I see (and specify where I see it, and I only use "legitimate, mainstream news sources"), and then I comment on the story. I then move on to the next story. That's what news commentary is. To assume or expect that I travel the world every week to do original reporting on a dozen stories, interviewing original sources and reviewing every document, and then presenting every possible side to each issue, is so absurd that it's downright shocking someone would even consider basing criticism on the idea. -rc

Posted by Ronald, New York on November 19, 2011:

The first thing that came to mind when you said responsible persons should be allowed to have weapons was 'are you capable to shoot another person?'.

My son has several weapons which i am opposed to but because he needed a NY permit he used my address with my consent. I asked him once if I should get one and his reply would i shoot anyone?

I was involved in the "Brinks" robbery in Rockland County, NY and if i had a weapon I most surely would have been killed as my automobile was taken at gun point. During the shoot out I was lying by a man who had a pistol out but was unable to use because of where we were.

I usually agree with a great deal of your opinions but keep my disagreements to myself as I am usually too lazy to write,

Thanks for many times I have enjoyed you email.

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Just because you are armed doesn't mean you should use it in every defensive situation. Having a weapon isn't just a right, it's an important responsibility, and that sometimes means backing away and staying down. But indeed, if you are morally opposed to using lethal force to defend yourself or others no matter what the circumstances, you should not carry a gun, ever. -rc

Posted by John in Sacramento on November 19, 2011:

I am a Democrat in California and I am appalled at the attitudes of the Republican legislators in Wisconsin. One would think the suicide of even one tortured youngster, under those circumstances, would suffice to encourage anti-bullying legislation. The fact that such legislation has a place in "civilized" society is, in my opinion, another distasteful issue which I will leave for others to argue.

However, I have a personal experience regarding guns that I would like to share. This happened back in the mid 70s.

I got a wild hair and decided owning a handgun would be "cool" and undoubtedly "manly." A gentleman with whom I had become moderately friendly was a police officer in a neighboring jurisdiction and had mentioned that being in law enforcement afforded him a sizable discount at gun shops, and said he would be glad to make such a purchase on my behalf if I so chose. Which, of course, I (in my "twenty-something" judgment) did.

Several months later I decided the firearm should be registered with someone-or-other, so like a good citizen I contacted the Grand Panjandrams in the county of my residence. I was advised that in that county there was no handgun registration required and that since the purchase was made in Sacramento County I should call them. Same story!

So I owned the weapon for about another 10 or 12 years, occasionally taking it to shooting ranges for practice (I never could hit even the broad side of a barn). After that time I sold the gun to a fellow with whom I worked, and he was later killed in an automobile accident.

End of story...??? Not exactly.

In the early 70s I had been convicted of felony drug possession. The cop who bought the gun for me was aware of that fact because I asked him to run my record to confirm it was indeed recorded as a felony.

As you undoubtedly know, convicted felons are not allowed to own firearms, and yet it was just that easy for me to procure one..."legally"...ahem-ahem...I have been a proponent of handgun registration (at SOME level or other) ever since.

Keep up the good work.

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I'm a little unclear why a working police officer would help you procure a firearm knowing you were a convicted felon, and why when you were a convicted felon you sought to register your illegal purchase. Both sound like the kinds of decisions that land people as lead actors in TRUE stories. -rc

Posted by John, Missouri on November 19, 2011:

You know how to stir up the hot heads on both sides. That is what I like about True. On the bullying I thank if a bunch of white guys beat up on a black guy they should do the time. It should be the same if a bunch of black guys beat up a white guy. Have you ever heard of a of bunch gays beating up a straight. I will bet that has happened.

On the gun ownership thing I think people should have the right to protection. My problem with those that think we live in a civilized world (LOL). There is no such thing. The paperwork you have to go through own a handgun is bad enough. The paperwork for a concealed carry is more paperwork than I want. (I deal with too much paperwork as it is.) The thing it takes in a life or death situation is to stay cool, and be able to use what you have. Maybe I am not your average person. Sitting at my desk writing this I see many things that can be weapons for defense or offense. Your brain is the deadliest weapon in the world. The thing I hate is those that cower in the corner peeing their pants think if you take away guns the world will be a better place. WRONG!

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My favorite part of your note: the first two sentences. -rc

Posted by Daniel from Alabama on November 19, 2011:

Ed from Wyoming said: "If one shot is not enough you need more practice."

Someone else pointed out that often one shot does not stop an attacker. Most LE organizations go for three shot groups, with two at center of mass and one head. In a combat situation you should not rely on a single shot stop. Even a dying opponent can kill or injure you.

That said, I hope no one on this forum ever has to find out if what I said is true. While I enjoy shooting and do so regularly, my goal is to finish my life never having injured anyone. However if someone is a threat to my or my family, I am willing to do what's necessary.

Posted by Paul, Michigan on November 19, 2011:

@ David, Ashburn, VA: Thanks for providing a link to the source. However, my reading of it reveals that of the five sections you quoted, only the second, that requiring reporting of bullying, is mandatory. All other sections are under this section heading:

(5) THE LEGISLATURE ENCOURAGES A BOARD OR BOARD OF DIRECTORS TO INCLUDE ALL OF THE FOLLOWING IN THE POLICY REQUIRED UNDER THIS SECTION:

Thus, none of your other points are required by any school's anti-bullying policies.

Posted by Scott, Yakima, Washington on November 20, 2011:

Many times I have considered buying a handgun and getting a concealed weapons permit. I have not done so yet, and I doubt that I will, because I realize that I would probably have ended up in jail for shooting some person who nearly killed me with their car. In my 55 years, I have never encountered a situation where deadly force was necessary to save someone from another person.

Because rape is crime most usually perpetrated against women, who are generally considered second class citizens, the penalties are often minimal. Also, the social stigma of being a rape victim intimidates those victims from reporting the crime. How would things be different if castration were the punishment for rape or child molestation? I suspect that such crimes would diminish significantly.

In regards to the bullying issue, I suggest that the parents of bullies get beaten.

Posted by Michael in Louisiana on November 21, 2011:

Thank you for opening this dialogue. It is important that people be allowed to express their viewpoints without fear of retribution.

I am registered as an independent, but I would consider myself conservative; not because of one platform or ideology, but because of the Constitution and the ideals that make it such a powerful document, and by extension, this country such a great one. As a society, we selectively interpret the Constitution at our own peril.

I am a firm believer in both the 1st and 2nd amendments. As far as I am concerned, I doubt we would have one without the other.

Typically, law enforcement agencies are reactionary. An investigation into someone's untimely death (for instance), is going to be of no consequence to them once they are dead. If, however, they had the means to protect themselves until law enforcement arrived on scene, the value of law enforcement and its resources would be of immeasurable value. Unfortunately, there is no cure for stupidity or criminality. They will continue to exist no matter how many laws we enact, and they will be the least affected by them. Laws only affect those who abide by them and stupidity is in a class all its own. That being said, we are left with only two options, only one of which is viable. We can become increasingly dependent on an increasingly expensive and inefficient government, or we can exercise individual responsibility in conjunction with a more limited, thus more efficient government. There will always be accidents, mistak

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Don't know if you were meaning to be funny at the end, or there was an ironic button press! -rc

Posted by Lisa, Trenton, On on November 21, 2011:

Why do you have to chose whether you're liberal or conservative? Picking a side like that and acting with knee-jerk reactions to all issues reminds me of the Zero Tolerance/Thought laws. We're humans, not robots.

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Um, that's part of the point here, Lisa. People demand that I state which I "am", but the truth is "Neither!" Life just isn't that simplistic when you really start thinking about the issues. -rc

Posted by Michael in Louisiana on November 23, 2011:

It was the third time I phat fingered the phone on my previous post, lol, so I decided enough was enough!

To finish up on firearms, let me just say that I believe we should do everything within our power to mitigate accidents with firearms through extensive training, make sure that those who carry them lawfully have a sound understanding of the laws associated with carrying firearms, do our best to keep them out of the hands of those who are mentally ill or otherwise show a high propensity for violent behavior, and limit the liability of those people who find themselves in a situation that requires their use if an investigation shows they could have felt a reasonable need to use them.

I realize that last part is somewhat ambiguous, but let me offer an example. In this state, if we shoot an armed intruder in our home, we must shoot to kill. Let's say I heard the window break from an upstairs bedroom so I grab my Ruger 357 loaded with 38 special +P bullets and make my way to the head of the stairs whereupon I see an intruder climbing the stairs with a shiny butcher knife in his hand. In my mind, it would be reasonable to maintain cover and concealment and attempt to warn him that I am armed and prepared to shoot him. Let's say there is 30 to 40 ft between us. At this point, I have assesed the situation, I feel my life is threatened, I have a weapon in my hand, and distance between me and the intruder. Why should I have to kill him? It would seem perfectly plausible to me to take a low shot and disable him, call the police, and have him arrested, thereby saving his life and my conscience. The law, however, says I must use deadly force or I can be sued for attempted murder, even though he was in my home during the commission of a crime under a set of circumstances that I wouldn't feel warrant the use of deadly force unless I allowed the situation to escalate to the point that it did. Personally, I think laws like that have more to do with liberal philosophy and redistribution of wealth than anything else. For those of you who doubt that, I would suggest you look up Cleon Skousen and his communist goals for America. You will find that many of them have been realized to a great degree. Generally speaking, his 45 goals would break down American society by twisting everything around through deconstruction, and destroying morality while increasing chaos. To me, that sounds like the law today; go figure, it is lawyers who make these laws and it is them who profit the most.

As far as bullying goes, I don't believe we need to make victims of our children. As unsavory as it was, I had to work up the courage to confront those who bullied me as a youngster, and once I did, I found within myself a strength that was previously unknown to me, but is with me still today. It has helped to shape my character, given me strength and resolve, and allowed me to face adversity calmly and head on without panicking. It has come in handy many times in my life, and it is because of the various adversities I was forced to deal with as a young person, that I am so able to deal with them as an adult.

Some people are too weak to deal with some stresses in life. I do not say that to be mean, it just is, and frankly, I believe there is a breaking point in each of us. To say, however, that bullying is the sole cause of a teenager's suicide is ridiculous. How sheltered was that child, did he/she have problems with depression, were there threats of physical harm, did they look for guidance from authority figures...? There are a myriad of questions that could be asked and any number of issues that could have contributed to the outcome. I liken it to automobile accidents. Some of us are going to make it and some of us are not, but we do not eliminate or overregulate them to the point they are no longer useful. If our legislators over regulate our freedom of speech, we will no longer have it. I despise channels on tv that are infomercials 24/7, so I choose not to watch them. I do, however, appreciate the fact that they can make themselves available to the public. I do not like racist organizations, or liberal rantings and the vitriol they spew, so I do not pay any attention to them, but I appreciate the fact that they are allowed to make their feelings known. So it is with bullying, albeit in a smaller world. As adults, we need to be closer to our children and do the best we can to recognize danger signs, and to teach them early on that their world is not always going to be so small. We must teach them that they can surround themselves with good friends and that harsh words from others only diminish the ones who are using them.

First and foremost, we must protect the 1st Amendment and everything it stands for.

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Wow: if you're accurate about the self-defense laws of Louisiana (and it's very likely you are), they're ...amazing. -rc

Posted by Chris, New Brunswick, Canada on November 23, 2011:

I have read the comments of others. Bullying should never be tolerated but anything that is not physical is very hard to prove and catch.

As for the hand gun debate, I am personally against owning a gun. I have no use for a gun. It can and does end up in the wrong hands too often like kids or criminals (who steal them to commit crimes).

Even if I have no use for a gun, I can see your point on wanting to own a handgun and or hunting riffle but of what use to anyone (except the millitary) are fully automatic and even semi-automatic weapons to the average person? These weapons should only be sold to the millitary. Columbine and other such tragedies would not have happened without automatic weapons.

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First you say you read the comments, but then you asked a question that was already covered in the comments. Also, there were no "automatic weapons" involved at Columbine, unless law enforcement responded with them. -rc

Posted by Mike from Dallas on November 25, 2011:

Louisiana is one of 27 Castle Doctrine states which removes the "Duty to Retreat" obligation when confronted in your home by an intruder in the process of a felony. It also protects you from civil lawsuits that could result from your self-defense. And if "shoot to wound" can be construed as "attempted murder," then "shoot to kill" would be "murder." And sometimes is. Castle Doctrine is not blanket permission to kill any and all people you don't want in your home.

I do agree with Michael in Louisiana about his perspective on bullying, and it actually ties with with armed self-defense. We DO live in a civilized society, and we DO aspire to non-violence. But reality often dictates differently. My parents believed strongly that violence never solved anything. As such, I was never permitted to exercise any expression of violence. Noble, yes. But I also had no clue how to protect myself from bullies at school. And it wasn't just mean talk; it was bloodying physical injury. I learned to dodge, to hide from the issues, not confront them. It worked. Some of the time.

I wasn't so different than the Karate Kid. At 14, an adult took me into training. Almost immediately, the sheer confidence made a difference. Even today, I explain that I teach children how to fight so they don't have to. I've been involved in very few confrontations. Not because I know karate, but because most bullies sense a confidence that they don't want to tangle with. Like any predatory animal, they sense fear. If the fear isn't there, they avoid the prey out of self-preservation. Many take issue with me because I teach "violence." I take pride in that I've given kids the path that they don't have to win; it's good enough that they don't have to lose. In polls over the decades, the #1 fear of Americans is being a victim of crime. Not that most will be, but there is enough crime that most CAN be. Why should they be forced to lose, if the situation ever comes up?

I agree with Michael that parents do need to be more involved. Learning to handle the realities of life is just as important as learning the aspirations of life. Lord knows the schools aren't equipped for it. Seriously. In order to protect one child, they often need to punish another child, something they prefer to avoid. And if punishment is unavoidable, they'll often choose the weaker person to avoid pushback.

Whether armed or unarmed, the ability of self-defense carries the responsibility of self-discipline and judgment about its use and how much is necessary. For some, there will be abuse. That's why there are laws to deal with it. There are drunk drivers. We don't yank everyone's licenses because they MIGHT be a drunk driver. If you can't trust our legal system, then really, all the rest of it doesn't matter.

Posted by Michael from Louisiana on November 25, 2011:

Thank you Mike in Dallas.

I remember that being the case most of my youth and traveled much of the world during the next 23 years, so I wasn't here enough, but do remember conversations in which that was a common complaint from most gun owners in the state with whom I had that conversation. I also recall that recently, (2006), there was talk of changes in our gun laws and after looking it up found this:

Friday, July 07, 2006: On June 30,Governor Kathleen Blanco (D) signed HB 1097 by Representative Eric LaFleur (D-38), NRA-backed legislation granting civil immunity to crime victims who lawfully use force up to and including deadly force to protect themselves against a violent attack.

HB 1097 is the companion bill to HB 89 (also by Representative LaFleur), the NRA-supported “Castle Doctrine” bill which created presumptions in law for the use of force against intruders in your home, car or place of business and explicitly states in law that you have no “duty to retreat” from criminal attack if you are in a place where you have a legal right to be.

HB 89 was signed by the Governor on June 2 and both bills take effect on August 15.

You are absolutely right.

Randy: After reading some of the posts on your blog, (and posting myself), I am compelled to make another point regarding the bigger picture. I mentioned previously Cleon Skousen's "Communist Goals for America". It is a list of 45 communist goals for America written in 1958, (if I am not mistaken), and published in 1963. I would estimate that about 60% of them as a whole have been realized. Having read through some of the posts on this blog, it is obvious that we commented on the individual issues to which you alluded. Take bullying and hate crimes legislation for example. We comment on whether we are for it or against it, but we seem to forget that free speech is exactly that, "Free". It is meant to be free from regulation by our government, at least to the degree that it does not cause physical harm to the public. 1st Amendment issues can encompass a much broader scope. In this case, I would think a more appropriate question might have been something like, "Do you agree or disagree with current hate crimes legislation and how will it impact our 1st Amendment rights in this country?" Simply asking about hate crimes leaves people thinking simply about hate crimes.

Politics is the art of deception, and politicians are by far the best illusionists I am aware of. We so often get caught up on one issue or another and somewhere in the mix we forget there is a Constitution to guide us, and that our leaders, (if you can call them that in good conscience), are often reinterpreting or, through judicial fiat, revising our Constitution and the very values on which it was founded. A couple of years ago, Rep. Karen St. Germaine(sp?) introduced legislation to ban the sale of novelty lighters because children might be enticed to play with them. When I was a little kid in the sixties, I played with matches because they were available and fun to play with. Her proposed legislation, (I do not recall if it was passed or not), in my mind at least, can't possibly have anything to do with dissuading children from playing with fire, but it will have everything to do in the coming years with the extent to which state govt. can intrude on our ability to raise our children. The first time somebody challenges it in court and if the stae wins, it will set precedent.

When we hear our so called leaders talk of one issue or another, or they pass legislation, we must ask ourselves if it is constitutional and if we feel it is not, we must do everything within our power to state our grievences and have them heard. It has become obvious that our courts, (to a degree), and our legislative bodies don't have a clue about constitutionality and probably don't care much either. They seem to be focused on the proverbial carrot in front of their collective nose and I would suggest to you and your readers the name of that carrot is, "Ever increasing Power". In my 49 years, it has been my experience that Democrats do the most damage by constantly chipping away at our rights, taking more money, wasting more money, and constantly adding more burdens through regulation and ever increasing laws, and liabilities. But I recently had to ask myself, "What and/or when have the Republicans ever done anything to restore the rights we have lost?". I then realized that they are complicent. It is like a good cop/bad cop routine, and while we are down here fighting amongst ourselves, they are sitting on high tabulating their various spoils! Neither party is really in our best interest and until we hold those leaders who either openly ignore our constitutional rights or are ignorant of them, we the people will continue our slide toward the bottom of an abyss from which we might never climb out.

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You have missed the point. I didn't ask about "hate crimes" at all! And, in fact, I didn't ask people to speak for anti-bullying statutes or for carrying guns. You are correct, though, that few have talked to the actual point of this page: the devisiveness of national politics. Our politicians are not working toward solutions to common problems, they're insisting that each issue has an "us vs. them" aspect and we "must" demand people on the "other side" to come around to our way of thinking -- or else be labeled as evil. I call "bullshit" on that; there isn't just room for compromise, it's a must. The two most-recent "great" presidents -- Reagan (according to the right) and Clinton (according to the left) -- both succeeded greatly by embracing compromise. So while the outward face of this page is about a couple of issues, the real point is that the "staunch" liberals and the "staunch" conservatives are a tiny fraction of the electorate, yet they are setting the agenda for the vast majority of us who are a lot closer to the middle. -rc

Posted by Chris, Cape Town South Africa on November 26, 2011:

Always enjoy your editorialising and usually agree with you 100%. It is a source of endless wonderment to me to see how polarised the American public appears to be, based on preconceptions and stupid rumours. If the politician I support says something dumb, I'll ignore it, but if the opposition guy says something, no matter how small and/or ambiguous, that can be (mis)construed as a slight, or as supporting my "anti" position, I'll start ranting and go on a crusade. And you can of course substitute Randy Cassingham for politician in the above argument. Human nature, I guess.

Two little points that I guess really could go into "errata", but what the heck: (a) "as equal as" is like being "as pregnant as". Something is either equal or not equal; you can't have more or less equal, ergo you can't have as equal as. Correct usage would be something like "Any law that defines 'hate crime' should certainly cover Christians and Muslims equally, and cover whites and blacks equally" (b) "awhile" is not a word, any more than "alot" or "alittle" or "acar" are words. "A" = indefinite article, "while" = noun. "Awhile" written together = ???

More strength to your arm. One day I will be able to afford to subscribe to True "premium" but until then the Free version is my weekly dose of sanity.

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Yeesh: I don't recall being compared to a politician before -- but I get your point. I disagree on the usage of "equal", however. One of the senses of "equal" is "impartial; just; equitable". So treating someone "as equal as" is another way of saying "in the same impartial way as" -- even if it's not an eloquent way to say it. As for "awhile" not being a word, tell it to my favorite dictionary, American Heritage (here, which also notes it's fine with Collins.) -rc

Posted by J, Colorado on November 28, 2011:

No dilemma here. You have always been a liberal that believes strongly in gun rights. The Mainstream media makes money off showcasing the extreme Libs and Cons. Most people aren't either. I know many people that are mostly one but have a few convictions in the other camp. That is probably the most common form of American.

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This is exactly the kind of stupid and unthinking statement I was talking about on this page. I say I'm not a conservative, and here's an example of where I differ from them, and that I'm not a liberal, and here's an example of where I differ from them. So "J" comes to the conclusion I'm a liberal with an exception? What a moronic thinking pattern. No, I simply don't fit J's concept of an arch-conservative, therefore I must be a liberal. Never mind that there have been hundreds of liberals who stomped away in anger because I didn't fit their concept of an arch-liberal, so therefore I must be a conservative. Both ways of thinking are stupid.

This is the polarization that is tearing this country apart. We do have some actual enemies in the world, but nooooooo, we can't pay attention to them because we're too damned busy fighting among ourselves! We're so polarized that in an out-and-out crisis, and after months of "work", the "Supercommittee" can't come up with $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years. Put me in there and I'll have $1.2 trillion cut in 10 months -- even though it would swell the ranks of the unemployed, since hundreds of thousands of federal employees would be out of a job. Right off the top of my head, I'd cut all or most of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Internal Revenue (which wouldn't be needed, since you don't need tens of thousands of employees to administer a flat tax). But before the conservatives get too comfortable and the liberals too outraged, I'd also be axing most or all of the Drug Enforcement Administration, oil/gas subsidies, crop subsidies (especially tobacco), and a big chunk of the Dept. of Defense -- the parts supporting making U.S. troops the "world's policemen". I'm sure that would just be the start; give me a couple of hours to actually study things, and there would be much more. That combination of cuts isn't consistent with being a liberal or a conservative, but it is consistent with being a middle-of-the-road, thoughtful centrist. In other words, just as I said: I'm not a liberal, and I'm not a conservative, and anyone who insists I'm either is an idiot -- and downright unAmerican, since this is what's tearing the country apart. Are we clear now? -rc

Posted by Mike from Dallas on November 28, 2011:

Frustrating, ain't it? When people insist THEY know you better than you know yourself? When I explain that raising capital gains taxes is NOT just taxing the rich, but taxing little ME when I sell my home, or cash in my 401K, or the few stocks I've bought for my retirement. And others tell me that I'm too stupid to know that I'm just following the brainwashing fed to me by the rich. Even though the AMT was created to ensure that the rich WILL pay their fair share, but it now applies to anyone making $75K a year and often even less.

Fortunately, I'm able to periodically remind myself that there has always been polarization throughout history. Nothing new. Remember the Hawks and the Doves of the late 1960's? How about the John Birch Society? Don't EVEN criticize America. Well, how do you fix what you can't even admit needs repair? With that logic, there's no such thing as preventive medicine. The patient will live or die on his own. "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it."

Even after Pearl Harbor, there were still groups that insisted we remain neutral, that violence never solved anything. It's that polarization that was the impetus for a Civil War. Really, it was the entire basis for the Revolutionary War that created America. Everybody did NOT, just one day, and say, "Hey, let's have a war and be independent." It was polarization of thought that led to the Magna Carta and our entire legal system today.

It's really no worse today than 20 years ago, 40 years ago. It seems like it, because the Present surrounds us, where memory is just bits and pieces. It's also the Present which forces us to re-analyze those Absolute Truths that have carried us for so long. It's truly painful to give up the false dogma that one has trusted for so long. So much easier to fall back on the Universal Reason that explains everything: "Because, just because!"

I'm fond of a quote by George Bernard Shaw: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

I'm proud to be unreasonable. Although admittedly it often tires me and does make my share of enemies. I also consider myself a Christian (by choice, not indoctrination), and the concept of God granting Man free will is a paradox. Great Evil arises from free will, but without free will, there is no possibility of great Good. After all, God realized that the angels were not his penultimate work.

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You're making me feel better -- the idea that Great Ideas come out of such chaos, even up to and including this country itself. And this is not the first time I've been called "unreasonable". Author Paul Lemberg talked about me and True in his book, Be Unreasonable (subtitle: "the Unconventional Way to Extraordinary Business Results"). It's a nice counter-balance to the idiots who demand to insist they have more of a right to define me than I do. Thanks. -rc

Posted by Mimi, Michigan on November 28, 2011:

Randy, would you run for President?

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I've said it before, and I'll say it as often as necessary: If nominated I will not run; if elected, I shall not serve. Besides: independents probably can't win anyway, since that would upset the delicate balance of power in the existing duopoly. -rc

Posted by Michael in Louisiana on November 28, 2011:

Chris in S. Africa alluded to something that bothers me, and that is, "Human nature". FDR said after he created the welfare state, "This business of government relief must and shall end. Continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disentegration, fundamentally destructive to the national fiber".

Never mind the merits of welfare. What bothers me is that once the government gives anything to the people, it is next to impossible to take back, and once the government takes anything from the people, it is seemingly just as impossible to get it back. The point being, by understanding human nature and the rules under which a people are governed, the system can be manipulated by manipulating the emotions of the governed to the extent that they become polarized and get so caught up in the details they no longer see the big picture. You are right Randy that we should embrace compromise, but I believe the well of compromise has been poisoned and the term, "compromise", for all practical purposes, has been redefined as, "capitulation". I think we would all do good to step back, refamiliarize ourselves with the principles behind our constitutional mandates, and take a long hard look at the problems facing the country and how much freedom we are willing to forsake, if any, by making something the responsibility of the government.

Yes, technology changes, but the concepts on which the constitutional principles were founded do not. Unfortunately, human beings seem to have an innate desire to avoid seemingly overwhelming issues or problems and if passing the buck onto someone else helps them do that, they will. Apathy toward government is one of our greatest problems today. Typically, I try to motivate people to participate in the political process, (by this, I mean more than not at all.), by giving them two challenges. One is to show me anything in the room that did not require petroleum to either produce or distribute, (that includes air), and the other is to show me anything, inside or out, that is not somehow governed by politics. I can't think of anything that isn't. The goal is to get them to start thinking as individuals and I make that clear.

My hope is that they will begin to think logically rather than emotionally. Politicians understand that we crave acceptance and we want to belong to one group or another, so that is exactly what they have given us. If we don't start thinking and doing for ourselves, it will be our undoing. We must question the wisdom of our leadership and hold them accountable, lest they be inclined to believe we don't care enough to hold their feet to the fire!

Posted by Stuart, Raleigh, NC on November 28, 2011:

I have enjoyed reading many of the comments from this discussion. Randy, although I may not agree with everything you say, at least it is well thought out and does make me think. You stated you are 'independent', but to me, your views seem to be very libertarian (conservative on economics, spending, and liberty) and liberal on social issues. Not trying to pigeon-hole you, but you would seem to fit there the best.

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I have looked at the Libertarian party, and didn't like what I saw. But I have on occasion described myself as a "small-L libertarian". -rc

Posted by Richard, England on December 1, 2011:

Going back to the discussion about whether London or New York are the safer cities (this was related, of course, to the fact that guns are all but banned in the UK) the results of this report (dated yesterday, 30 November) by the New York-based Reputation Institute might be of interest.

It is likely, I suggest, to be less biased than the only other item about which details have been cited -- a somewhat old report in the New York Sun.

I am quite prepared to admit to my own bias -- I truly believe that London is one of the safest cities in the world -- but it is nevetherless nice to have my beliefs confirmed by such a reputable US-based oganisation.

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That is what makes you feel better? Really? A press release (not a "report") from the "Reputation Institute" that doesn't even mention crime, let alone violent crime? And I won't let you get away with characterizing the earlier link as "a somewhat old report in the New York Sun." No, it's a 3-year-old newspaper report about "a 116-page follow-up to a 2000 study done by the New York University's Schack Institute of Real Estate, the Urban Land Institute, and -- yes! -- London South Bank University." The original 2000 report took seven volumes to publish, so it's no wonder a mere "update" would take 116 pages. It's fine allow a 2-page press release on a completely different subject help you feel better. Just don't expect anyone to follow along. -rc

Posted by Adam, Texas on December 1, 2011:

I "subscribe" to a lot of the blog entries to get new comments as they come in. I've been rolling my eyes on some of the comments here -- despite your incredibly clear explanation, some insist you "must" be a liberal. Well, a notification on an old (2004!) post brought me back there, where readers were quite sure you were a conservative because you dared to zing a Democrat.

The ironic title of that post? "No, The Readers Haven't Learned." They still haven't. You hit the nail on the head with your great response to "J, Colorado" ("I simply don't fit J's concept of an arch-conservative, therefore I must be a liberal. Never mind that there have been hundreds of liberals who stomped away in anger because I didn't fit their concept of an arch-liberal, so therefore I must be a conservative. Both ways of thinking are stupid.") That older post is a perfect example of just that.

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The post Adam refers to is here -rc

Posted by David, Connecticut on December 15, 2011:

Bullying laws are somewhat strange to me. I've never heard a comprehensive definition of "bullying." I've read cases where bad things were said about a person who ended up killing themselves (in once case because the victim stole a boyfriend of the "bully." They defined her calling the victim names as "bullying." If someone is being a *U$%@ and you call them a $$%%*@ are you bullying them?. What happened to free speech. All that being said... This person was beaten. There are already laws against that. The problem is when this sort of stuff happens it ends up being a school issue instead of a police issue. Assault is assault, why don't we enforce the laws we already have. Instead of passing a law that says nothing anyway.

On guns. I'm not going to pretend to have the answer. But there are a lot of issues that seem fairly simple. There is no way the founders of this country envisoned the damage a single gun could do. "the right to bear arms shall not be abridged". People LOVE to use the 2nd ammentment. But be careful, it doesn't say guns, it says arms. Nuclear bombs are "arms". Grenades are "arms". Yet we have no problem saying that is unacceptable for us to own them. You can't have your cake and eat it too. Either the government as the right or it doesn't. If it doesn't, i want my nuke. If it does, then the arguement becomes where do we draw the line. You can't say "you have no right to infringe on my AK-47, but you can't have a grenade that would be ridiculous". As far as comparing guns to cars. Guns can cause deaths, true, but in most of our lives we NEED them to live. (work, groceries, school etc). Allowing guns (especially concealed guns) however, needs to be all or nothing. If guns are to be illegal, they have to be illegal, we have to stop building them and collect the ones out there. They halfway system we have is insane.

Posted by Brian, Calif. on December 15, 2011:

Re David, Connecticut: Seems to me that in order to argue about important issues, one should be able to spell things like "argument" and "amendment" first. Plus, he talks about "the damage a single gun" can do, and for his examples he launches into nuclear bombs and grenades. Huh?

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I think that one can have good points without having the ability to spell, but I agree that presentation has a big effect on credibility. -rc

Posted by Mike from Dallas on December 17, 2011:

I just saw a comment on another entry in your blog that helps sum up the political polarization in the country.

In Rural Internet, Gerald reads portions of your comments and assumes the rest based upon preconceived ideas.

Newspaper headlines were supposed to grab attention so people would read the details to find out the whole story. TV news teasers were the equivalent of print headlines. So when CNN Headline News first came out, we were amused at, BOTH, the appalling lack of in-depth information, and the willingness of the public to settle for such lack. Nay, the demand for such lack of information. Which led to the proliferation of entertainment "news" consisting of an individual's personal "analysis" of current headlines.

Pretty sad when a blog entry becomes "heavy reading" these days for some people.

Posted by David, Connecticut on December 18, 2011:

I apologize for my mispelling/typo's in the previous entry.

I thought that the argument I made was fairly obvious, but for Brian's benefit, I'll explain. There have been a number of attempts to ban assault weapons. Because a single gun can kill dozens of people quickly. Yet when those guns are banned, the NRA and the gun owners say "the second amendment protects my right to these guns." I'm saying that same amendment protects your right to a grenade or a nuke. The second amendment protects your right to bare "arms". My point is there is a matter of degrees. This isn't a black/white issue. This is Republicans for guns and Democrats against them. Just because you want to take away someones AK47 doesn't mean you want to take away their hunting rifle. Do guns keep us safer? Does keeping 1 family safe trump the deaths that happen because of all the guns out there. As I said before, the laws don't work the way they are. You can't have a mishmash of laws in different states that allow varying access to weapons and expect it to work. This is something we HAVE to find a single path and follow it.

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The mishmash does create some chaos, but I don't agree this is a Republican vs Democrat issue. While that may be true in a very general sense, there are "pro-gun" Democrats. Even Obama signed the bill to allow those with permits to carry in National Parks, which previously had been forbidden. Bottom line that we agree on: it's a complex issue. -rc

Posted by jack, Venus TX on December 18, 2011:

Not true. The gun control want to take away all guns -- deer rifles, shotguns, your kids BB guns.

Sure, they say let's just ban 'assault rifles'. Some gun owners get sucked into that myth. "They'll never take my guns. Let them have the 'evil' assault rifles".

Look at England, Australia. They want all guns -- period. They are willing to seize them one model at a time but eventually, they want them all.

Posted by Jim Columbus, NJ on March 12, 2012:

You gun stance is troubling and shows how "independents" are a negative and harmful group in politics. BTW your percentages are incorrect.

You like other independents have taken what the Sheriff in a very conservative area said as fact, would you also believe what ever Joe Arpaio says too?

Perhaps if they properly funded their police and didn't have Sheriffs encouraging vigilante justice they might be a bit safer.

Where I live the police respond very fast and always as least two of them.

Your advocating that everyone be armed and using schools as an example.

The Norway shooting was a very rare event their crime rate is much lower than ours and they are able to rehabilitate criminals so only 20% end up back in jail while in the US the rate is 60%.

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You tell me my facts are incorrect, but don't offer examples, let alone proof. Then you go on to say that I "have taken what the Sheriff ... said as fact," but nowhere did I say that. And recidivism has to do with law-abiding people owning guns ...how? You're going to have to do a lot better than this to convince anybody -- including those with irrational fear of guns. -rc

Posted by Theodore, Minnesota on March 12, 2012:

And worse yet, Jim Columbus -- interesting name that, given history -- you show signs of being what I'd term a "comfortable urban liberal" who never lived in a place more than 3 miles away from the nearest police department branch office. I may be urban now, but the place I grew up is more like what Randy experiences -- two on duty sheriff deputies covering 460 square miles. My parent's house is 20 minutes away from either of the two largest population centers in the county; if they're LUCKY they'll only have a 20 minute delay between calling the cops and having one show up.

Are they armed? You betcha. And so are all the neighbors.

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And it's not just against two-legged predators, either. We have several kinds of wildlife that could cause us great bodily harm here (and it has happened). I wouldn't be surprised if your parents had that issue too. I'm fine with them living here too -- I love it! -- and I keep my distance. If they choose not to keep theirs, I'd like a way to fight back. -rc

Posted by Gregory, Storrs CT on August 16, 2013:

With regards to "hate crimes" -- I never liked that notion. Is there such thing as an "I Really Really Like You Crime"? No. Bonus points if you can name the show that line came from.

Anyway, killing or assaulting someone because they are black, white, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, gay, etc. is wrong. So is assaulting someone because they're a San Francisco Giants fan, as happened at Dodger Stadium a couple years ago. But since "favorite baseball team" is not a protected class, the Dodgers fans were not charged with a hate crime.

Is it worse to hate someone because they're black than to hate someone because they're a Giants fan? And is it worse to assault or kill someone because you hate them than for other motives, such as revenge, jealousy, etc?

People have freedom of opinion in this country. They do not have the right to cause harm to another person because of that opinion, and causing harm should be punishable under the law. But merely having that opinion (hating black people, etc.) should be legal, even if it is despicable. Hate crimes add more punishment for the opinion on top of what would already happen, which is why I don't support their existence.

Posted by Dan in Alabama on August 17, 2013:

Bullying -- I agree. Have your opinions, even if they are abhorrent. You cannot be allowed to harm another person because of your opinion. Said another way, your rights stop at my nose.

Guns -- Agree here too. I own several. I keep a loaded handgun available and the rest are locked up. The single loaded one gets unloaded and locked up if children are around. I believe in responsible gun ownership, including proper and recurrent training in the safe handling and use of a firearm. I also believe that anyone owning a firearm for self protection must decide before hand that they could use it for self defense and live with the consequences. The thinking people I know and respect, hope they can meet their maker having never hurt anyone. But they are prepared to do so in defense of themselves and their family.

My politics? Independent with a conservative lean.

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