Stupid Is as Stupid Does Nothing Ever
Dang it school shooting, I was halfway through a solid blog post about a big life move but couldn’t get Uvalde, Texas, out of my mind. Twenty-one murders was too high, and the age group too low for a father on a business trip away from his two kids with a combined age of 3. Had it been, say, four high school deaths, I easily could have kept going.
So I started a new post on everyone’s favorite topic of gun control, then stopped because I didn’t want to bore you, tried to get back to the original one, but just couldn’t pick up steam again. It’s like when you’re erect and ready to shoot, Jack, and then one of the timeless "Dark Knight" movies comes on in the background. You’re distracted persistently enough to warrant a hard stop. And when you decide to get back to it, the mood and focus are just ruined.
I already wrote a scattered memo about guns after the 2017 Vegas massacre. It’s not perfectly coherent, yet sensible enough I could just recycle it every few years. Uvalde was the first mass, mass school shooting since I became a dad though, so it merits some supplementary thoughts.
My proposal is to allow bazookas for sale. That way the children don’t have to be scared before they die. It’s more humane. Sound good, Senators?
I don’t understand why, or at least I don’t want to understand why this needs to instantly turn into red team versus blue team. Offering two flawed political parties and telling me I have to adopt all the opinions of one of them and argue without nuance against logic and productivity seems pretty close to the opposite of freedom.
When it comes to gun regulation there should be less slogans and rhetoric and more scientific method — like those fourth graders were learning before they were executed. We have all these variables that potentially affect the level of gun violence and no perfect solution. We can sit there debating hypotheticals. Or we can test, collect data, learn, iterate, improve.
If Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos had his profits depend on reducing gun deaths, can you imagine the innovation, efficiency and bias to action? Progress would be made by end of day Wednesday, or somebody would get fired.
Can’t we just try something, anything? I'm not opposed to arming teachers if you think it's practical and scalable to expect our most overworked, underpaid, nurturing professionals to add to their résumé the ability to win shootouts against sociopaths with rifles, body armor and a death wish.
Perhaps focusing a little farther upstream might be easier. Take these assault-style rifles. I have to use that clunky term because gun zealots can’t get past the semantics. They say there’s no such thing as an assault rifle. The ones used in these mass shootings were semi-automatic, one bullet per trigger pull.
Automatic weapons, a.k.a. machine guns, fire bullets continuously or in bursts when holding the trigger down. They have been severely restricted and essentially banned since 1934.
Well shoot, that sounds to me like a proof of concept. The Second Amendment makes no exceptions for machine guns, yet no one is mad about those not being sold at Walmart. Hey if you’re basing the right to bear arms on the need for a “well regulated Militia” to defend against tyranny, I would think machine guns are table stakes. Good luck with your peasant semi-automatics when the tanks and drones come rolling in to your driveway.
But no, that would be insane. It’s quite obvious the right to buy a fully automatic military weapon is outweighed by the risk of one showing up in a school, grocery store, church, movie theater… who knows where will be next. Same with grenades and yes, bazookas.
Obviously it’s not as obvious for everyone when it comes to assault-style rifles. Really we all agree that gun control in some form does and should exist. We just disagree on where to be in the mass-kill-capability spectrum, which maybe ranges from the muskets the Second Amendment was actually referencing to whatever our government is sending to Ukraine.
So all we need to do is calibrate, fine-tune if you will. That doesn’t sound so bad. If you let the loud outliers cancel each other out, I wonder if there is a nice chunk of the American public that isn’t so far apart. I think there are more team players out there than it seems, gun haters like me who are willing to live with them so others feel safe and happy and gun owners who are willing to jump through more hoops to get them so others feel safe and happy.
Ultimately, no matter how constitutionally free the society, we all give up something for the greater good every day, whether it’s observing a speed limit even though you’re capable of driving faster safely or holding in that fart in the elevator even though you feel like it’s rising into your chest.
Suppose we shifted slightly on that mass-kill-capability spectrum and prohibited ammo purchases over a certain amount, unless they’re consumed at the range. Or go bigger and ban assault-style rifles again, this time without lame loopholes. We could then look at gun fatality rates and have a more substantive debate on whether removing these is worth the tradeoff in freedom, utility and costs.
We are currently trending in the wrong direction. The CDC announced guns finally surpassed car accidents as the No. 1 killer of children and adolescents. Woohoo, persistence pays off.
If you just can’t bear to leave those pretty rifles at the range, then let's test a stringent application process instead. This should be Harvard level if you happen to be an 18-year-old male. I need to see grades, community service, extracurriculars, references bro. There can’t be any doubt you have something and someone to live for. Ideally you’ve gotten laid a few times.
Maybe CIA level is more appropriate. I mean, these guns are so intense. This is sensationalistic to bring up, but I can’t imagine what an AR-15-style rifle does to these poor children’s bodies that their poor parents need to give DNA swabs just to tell them apart.
I can imagine, and so can you. One hundred and forty-two bullets fired by a boy whose balls probably hadn’t dropped all the way yet. That is cray-cray AF. Remember, not an assault rifle, an assault-style rifle. This is an incredibly important distinction because they have very, very different purposes.
An 18-year-old legally purchased two of these, compelled basically an entire police force to stand down for an hour, killed basically an entire classroom, and we can’t look at basic, partial regulations? Perfect need not be the enemy of good enough or slightly better.
Of course we can’t prevent 100 percent of these. Of course the root of the problem is mental illness. No mass shooter is of sound mind.
So let’s tie the two together. Anyone who wants to buy an assault-style rifle has to show mental fitness. You need a doctor’s prescription for certain drugs; you need a psychologist’s evaluation for certain guns.
I know it’s not as easy as tossing oversimplified ideas onto a whiteboard, but it’s also not as hard as it seems either. You just do it.
Australia is often cited as an example:
1) There was a terrible mass shooting. 2) The government passed new laws. 3) No more mass shootings.
The morning after Uvalde, I asked my Australian coworker about this. I expected a longer answer from an Excel wizard business analyst, e.g. depends on how you look at statistical significance, the data model, yada yada. But he just said… Yeah, that’s pretty much how it went down.
Cool, man. Thanks. I don’t feel stupid. There’s nothing stupid about gun deaths being so high in America you can barely see the other countries on a chart to scale.
My nonchalant colleague also told me to look up an Australian comedian who absolutely destroyed the stupidities around how we react to gun control. Savage Aussie, get up off me.
I see your comedian and raise you with our great American legend George Carlin:
“Think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are stupider than that.”
Yes I’m aware of the difference between the mean and median, another thing those kids might have been learning before they were executed.
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