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    Who Can't Get a Gun in This Country?

    Norman Leboon, who has threatened to kill Congressman Eric Cantor, has been found unfit to stand trial for psychiatric reasons. This is not a big surprise; last year Leboon was arrested for threatening to have the Archangel Gabriel kill his roommate. But on the other hand, that wasn't enough to get Leboon's license to carry a concealed handgun canceled. Of course, when Norman got really crazy his brother came and tried to confiscate the gun. He just couldn't find it.

    Charles Alan Wilson, who has been arrested for threatening to murder a United State Senator, also has a concealed-carry permit, and a .38 handgun to conceal. He told the FBI all about it.

    On the other hand, Jacob Ward of the Hutaree militia had his guns taken away by his mother. This made him so angry that he asked the police to arrest his mother, "and was irate when the cops refused":

    Police reports indicate Ward wanted his AK47 and .45-caliber pistol back because an Ohio crime family was after him for trying to marry a Macedonian woman who had been held captive on an island in Lake Erie by another crime family.

    Fortunately, the police can't make you give a delusional relative his guns back. But they can't stop you from giving them back, either. And it's apparently up to you, and not the cops, to take the guns when your family member becomes a menace.

    All irrelevant in the case of Huntsville shooter Amy Bishop, of course, whose husband bought the gun she would someday use in Huntsville back in 1989. (If you remember her husband claiming that he didn't know where she got the gun, because the family didn't have one, it's because he said that in public. He was just lying.) This is one family member who wanted to make sure that Amy had access to a gun, which is odd considering she'd killed her brother with a gun in 1986. Now, her husband likely doesn't believe that Bishop murdered her brother, and Bishop was never charged or even fully booked. But even if you grant Bishop's version of the story, why should anyone who's killed someone through incredible carelessness with a firearm have another firearm? If you can't load and unload a gun without committing fratricide, you just shouldn't have guns. Really.

    And of course, the people who sold Virginia Tech killer Seung-Hui Cho his two handguns couldn't have known that he would use them to kill 32 people before he killed himself. There was nothing in his past that predicted he would become a mass murderer. His psychiatric history only suggested the suicide part. And though we worry, or pretend to worry, about selling guns to murderers, nobody ever complains about people selling guns to people who might kill themselves. Think about how cold that is.

    So my question is: who can't get a gun in this country? People suffering paranoid delusions can have handguns and assault rifles and concealed-carry permits. People who've been arrested for threatening other people can have guns. Suicidal college students can have guns. People who've killed other people with guns can have new guns. Seriously, who the hell is not allowed to have a gun? I'm not proposing any draconian new gun laws here. But how on earth can it be this easy for people who are obviously a menace (one way or another) to get semi-automatics?


    I am sure the anti-gunners loved your blog but lets face it:  You are talking about a near infinitesimal number of people in an attempt to negate the validity of a very popular trend in America.

    We will have guns, thank goodness.

    If you think this blog is anti-gun, then you probably think that not having STDs makes one anti-sex and weighing less than 500 pounds makes one anti-food.

    Uh...I see where you're going with this, but you may want to work on your analogies.

    The problem is that when gun-huggers go bad (or stupid as the case may be), its not they who are harmed, but the innocent people in their sights.

    And this doesn't even begin to address the scores of people killed each year because some dope with a firearm can't tell the difference between a turkey or a deer and a human being until after he's gunned them down.


    I still recall a visit to New York City many, many years ago. Riding in an otherwise empty subway car, I was joined by a uniformed city cop with a holstered gun. He sat diagonally across from me, a few seats ahead, and he was literally falling-down drunk. Catching himself before toppling over, he would open his eyes occasionally to glance at me. I had no clue what was running through his liquor-addled brain.

    Scared shitless, I remember thinking, "What a fucked-up country." I realize this incident (which ended at the next subway stop) says nothing about the issuing of gun permits and sale of guns to crazies and criminals. It does, I think, say something about how commonplace the implied threat of violence is in America.

    It boggles my mind that people can assert a constitutional right to brandish high-powered weapons outside the venue of a presidential speech. If the Constitution really means that, maybe it's time to amend it a bit.

    On the plus side, the right to bear arms is proving an advertising bonanza for dagblog.

    Yes, we've earned a total of $2.67 from gun-related ads. I'm saving for a new assault rifle.

    I just forced myself to watch the WikiLeaks video of the Baghdad murders. Couldn't watch it through to the end.

    Two things: One, if you're American, this copter crew were killing in your name, YOU do have an obligation to watch it through to the end. Then think a bit about America's role and image in the world.

    Two, consider if there might -- just might -- be a link between those deaths in Baghdad and the topic of this post.

    Three: If after watching the video you can still make excuses like "fog of war," read this:

    I watched the video. Both the killings and the cover-up are criminal. I agree that Americans should watch it.

    As for the link between gun rights and warfare, you're not breaking any new ground here. We've all seen Bowling for Columbine. It is an argument for causation based on correspondence. Arguing against it are many counter examples. The U.S. is unique in its enshrinement of gun rights. It is an accident of our Constitution based originally on states' rights that has mutated into a macabre imitation of human liberties. U.S. militancy, by contrast, is far from unique. Many nations without armed civilians have been imperialistic and utterly brutal in warfare. For a comparative example in the industrialized English-speaking world, contrast Britain, which has strict gun laws, against your own Canada, which has relatively liberal gun laws by comparison. Which of these countries is more militant? I am not justifying U.S. militancy, just noting that history does not support your unsupported theory that guns rights are linked to imperialism or warfare.

    Don't know that our laws are that much looser than Britain's. Handguns and assault weapons are all prohibited (except for cops, etc.) and rifles and shotguns must be registered (though our right-wing government wants to change that). In Saddam's Iraq, by the way, everyone could own a gun. So the U.S. wasn't unique.

    I wasn't drawing a straight line from America's insane gun culture to U.S. foreign policy (though I could argue one does run through the military-industrial-congressional complex). No, I was drawing a straight line from Dr. Cleveland's gun-toting crazies to the trigger-happy juveniles begging for authorization to "engage." The same onanistic bloodlust, the same dehumanization of others, the same worship of high-tech killing devices. The same unquestioning certainty. After brutally ending perhaps a dozen lives, what do the kids say to each other? "Nice." "Good shooting." "Thanks."


    I get it that wars brutalize everyone who takes part -- which is a damn good reason not to wage them. But I've seen enough evidence to conclude the current American military is totally unqualified to occupy any country; the bottom line in both Iraq and Afghanistan has been to fuel hatred of the United States. If that's all you get out of conquering a country at enormous cost in money and blood, it's worse than pointless. Especially when, as in cases like this, it turns your nation's youth into war criminals. I'll be so happy when Canadian troops leave Afghanistan next year, and go someplace safer and less ethically problematic -- like Congo.

    I think that the difference between our persepectives on this video is that you're prefixing the word "American" on the front--with the suggestion that American soldiers are somehow more bloodthirstly and less qualified that someone else's soldiers. I say, "war is hell." You say, "American war is hell." Show me a country that is "qualiified" to occupy another country, and maybe I'll agree.

    The U.S. of course bears responsibility for these wars. We are a militant country. But it doesn't follow that the language Americans soldiers use as they gun down foreigners differs much from the language that Canadian soldiers use as they gun down foreigners. Have you forgotten what Canadian soldiers did in Somalia?

    As for Somalia, we charged the soldiers involved with murder, disbanded an entire elite regiment, and heads rolled in the command structure. The Pentagon decided these guys were following the rules of engagement. Yeah, there is a difference.

    Once the news broke, sure. You have to react pretty strongly to media publication of the deliberate torture and murder of an unarmed teenager. But at first: "An investigating commission concluded today that senior Canadian officers lied and acted to cover up the killing of a Somali civilian in 1993."

    But my point isn't really to compare and contrast military crimes. If you think that Canada's soldiers are above the behavior we saw in that video, I think that you're being naive. And it's a dangerous naivity because it suggests the possibility that there is such a thing as a "qualified" occupation where soldiers don't yip for joy as they gun down civilians. It is because Americans are similarly naive about our own forces that we're so willing to go to war in the first place.

    I said it up front: wars brutalize everyone who takes part. But I am not naive in asserting that yes, Canada's soldiers are above that kind of behavior.

    Precisely because we had the Somalia affair and the Somalia inquiry. Soldiers went to prison. The Airborne Regiment was disbanded. Military training and recruitment changed. Chiefs of defence staff were cashiered. Ministers of defence were forced to resign. At least one government fell. There was a serious public debate about what the purpose of Canada's armed forces was.

    Frankly, the United States needs an equivalent soul-searching. Not what it got -- a kabuki Abu Ghraib investigation that conveniently found a few bad apples were giving everyone else a bad name. No senior officers fired. No cabinet ministers canned. No independent inquiry into where their orders were coming. In short, no assignment or acceptance of personal responsibility.

    And that's what I see in this video. A bureaucratization of responsibility in which no one really has to take the blame when things go horribly wrong. Hey, the kids followed the rules of engagement. They got permission to kill from someone at the other end of a telephone line. No moral judgment necessary. And that's because that's the attitude going all the way up the U.S. chain of command, right to the secretary of defense and the president. And it hasn't changed with the election of Obama.


    You could be right. Maybe it is a kinder, gentler Canandian military now. Canada's eventual response to the Somalia murder was indeed laudatory and far better than the American response to Abu Ghraib.

    Still, your lack of cynicism surprises me coming from such a steadfast cynic, and the "our boys are better than that" attitude reminds me of Canada's national mythology before Somalia. As I recall, it was the partly the blow to Canada's pride that made the crime so shocking to Canadians.

    As for me, I think this stuff creeps back in and that the any differences between average military conduct is only a matter of degree. What I worry about is the stuff that's not caught on videotape.

    Who are you accusing of lack of cynicism, Genghis? I'm hurt.

    I didn't set out here to argue my-military-is-nicer-than-your-military -- just to criticize the U.S. military. And to assert that events like the Baghdad killings are linked -- in my mind, at least -- to the laisser-faire attitude toward gun ownership and use that Dr. Cleveland so ably documents.

    That laisser-faire attitude, I suggest, is a bad piece of baggage to carry when barely trained youth are set loose on a civilian population with a license to kill. Maybe the U.S. military is only marginally worse than some of its allies in the way it treats occupied populations. But it's the major occupying power in the world right now, so those differences can't be glossed over. It's understandable for U.S. citizens to want to support the troops by cutting them some slack. The rest of the world sees war crimes that go unacknowledged and unpunished.

    Could you guys work up the emotion a bit? Nobody believes you two hate each other.

    The pay-per-view's gonna be shit.

    We were going for the Charlie Rose demographic, quinn, not WWE. But OK, if you're sure it will attract a younger, hipper, more bloodthirsty audience -- hand me that folding chair.

    I haven't had the stomach to watch those videos yet, and I certainly won't defend them. But I will say that we're talking about two different problems, even if both are about violence.

    The soldiers on those tapes have been, at best, desensitized to war in a way that makes them inhuman and callous toward their targets. And I'm afraid that they might be a symptom of a general loss of morale and mission among our troops in Iraq. I've got a very, very bad feeling about this.

    Still, there's a real difference between how trained people who've been issued guns and given a set of orders behave (and whatever else, these gunners still seem to be firmly in their superiors' command) and how the lunatics who threaten politicians or shoot their coworkers behave. Amy Bishop and Seung-Hui Choi would not last long in the Army, and it's not returned veterans who end up committing most of the crazy gun violence we're talking about. Soldiers, after all, are people you would give a gun to on purpose, people who are trained to use them and trusted not to shoot people on their own side. (The one soldier who has murdered his own lately,the Fort Hood shooter, was not in the combat forces.) And I do think there are many responsible and law-abiding gun owners.

    I'm worried, for purposes of this post, about people who are very clearly undisciplined and unbalanced, the people who palpably cannot be trusted with firearms and who use them irresponsibly. If the country's full of retired military officers who've got their old service revolvers stored in a locker, that's not a menace. It's the Norman Leboons of the world that I worry about.

    Your post makes an important, totally valid point, doctor. You'd think that even the NRA might agree that guns should be denied to the criminally violent or certifiably insane. Such a position wouldn't cut into sales too much, and it would make the group's overall stand seem so much more reasonable.

    But no. I seem to recall, a fear years back, the NRA arguing for the gun-ownership rights of someone caught up in a terrorism investigation. The details elude me, but it sure sounded like putting ideology above patriotism.

    You say you're not proposing any draconian gun-control measures. I think the NRA would disagree. Commie.

    Oops! That's right! I forgot I was a big Commie.

    Since when does "arrested" for odd behavior equal "guilty?"

    You'd deny people things simply because they were arrested? Not even indicted yet? Not convicted?  



    These people who're "obviously a menace" to you, are not so obviously a menace to the rest of society. It takes more than "he said so" to have someone declared a menace, a danger, or delusional. Thank God too, otherwise we'd be back to the days of Ol' Salem "She's a witch!" No due process, no civil rights, just "this guy said she's a witch, so she must be a witch".

    Anyway, to answer your question, please read Federal BATFE form 4473 section 11 questions A thru L in link below. THESE are the people who are prohibited by Federal law from obtaining a firearm. They are so prohibited because their "menacing" ways have been adjudicated in some legal way and we KNOW they are defective.

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