Saturday, February 23, 2013

Firearms versus kitchen knives, baseball bats, claw hammers, etc.

As the 2nd Amendment arguments rage on, you hear and read silly things coming from both sides. 

Those against ownership rights argue the 2nd Amendment protects only hunters and sportsman, and that these people don't need military-style firearms. Those for argue the 2nd Amendment allows folks to own unspecified guns as protection from a tyrannical government, so called. 

Although some might be taking this constitutional right to absurd limits in terms of exactly what it is they believe should be protected --- with rocket and grenade launchers, machine guns, sub-machine guns, and .50-caliber sniper rifles being just some of the more questionable choices --- this latter argument, given the whole revolution dust-up that had just occurred back then, does seem to have been the amendment's more credible original intent; I honestly can't believe that Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, et al., were much concerned that sport shooters and hunters might lose their sporting and hunting rifles and handguns. But I also can't believe the clearly less-than-competent administrations we've elected in the last 30 years could come close to anything legitimately thought of as "tyrannical."

This said, a silly argument based on a fairly glaring logical fallacy (a straw-man argument) is being used by many opposed to additional limits on firearms. This silly argument goes something like this: if guns are banned because they are used to kill people, why, then, aren't kitchen knives, baseball bats, and claw hammers also banned as these have also been used to kill people in this country's history. 

To me, the answer to this is obvious. 

The latter three items are designed as tools for working in a kitchen (which usually doesn't require killing people), for playing baseball (which usually doesn't require killing people), and for building things (which usually doesn't require killing people), while guns are designed for a single purpose: killing people. In other words, this is a simple use-versus-utilize argument. 

The word use means applying a thing, a tool, say, based on that tool's original design. The word utilize means applying that tool for a use not intended by its original design. For example, a flat-blade screwdriver is designed to install and remove a slotted screw, but it can also be utilized to pry things open, such as paint cans. Yes, it could easily be utilized to kill someone, but I think it's a safe bet this was nowhere near the original intent of the slotted-screwdriver's designer. But a firearm is a different matter entirely. 

Go ahead. Try utilizing a rifle or a handgun or a grenade launcher for chopping celery, playing baseball, or pounding or removing nails. You probably won't even be able to pry open a paint can with any one of these tools.

Even as I'm certain no one you know would take a kitchen knife, a baseball bat, or a claw hammer into the woods to get a deer, I'm equally certain that most criminals, by definition, probably won't worry much about breaking a law prohibiting them from owning and carrying a gun. They're criminals, for crying out loud! They break laws all the time!

There are good points to be made by both sides, strictly on the merits of this dicussion, so let's keep this worthwhile and necessary argument to that which makes sense, and let's avoid emotional appeals based on logical fallacies and baloney.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Never thought it was possible...

About 15 years ago, my wife, a nursing school student at the time, had the opportunity to travel to Oaxaca Mexico for two weeks with a classmate as a volunteer at a medical clinic. They would stay with local families. Her friend had two dogs and she asked me if I would be able to care for them while she was gone. 

This might sound absurd, but I flat-out panicked. "I can't do that!" I said. I'd never even cared from one dog let alone two. Our family had a dog, but my dad was its care-giver. My teenaged cluelessness precluded me from doing so many things, and among these was caring for that dog. Without the necessary care-giver skills I'd be out of my depth with our friend's dogs. That was simply too much responsibility. As crazy as this might seem, I was afraid, and I can admit this only now. How could I care for dogs? 

About a year later, my wife and I made the decision to rescue a black Lab, who we named Ada, and within a couple of weeks with her, all my absurd fears, all my baseless trepidation, just melted away as I quickly learned that the process of caring for a dog just sort of happens, sort of comes to you; it's so easy. I never thought this was possible. Then a couple years after that we welcomed a second black Lab into the house, named Libby, and this too seemed so natural. 

Pretty soon I was eagerly volunteering to dog-sit for friends and looking forward to having a house-full of dogs, to being part of the pack, to embracing the usually controllable --- but sometimes uncontrollable --- mayhem that dogs bring and inspire, and to the unconditional love that flows from them easily and freely. In the intervening years, I've learned I absolutely love dogs and that I have a great aptitude with them. Now that we've lost both our dogs, and deal with the sadness such losses bring, we're looking forward to and planning for a time when we can have dogs around us again.

When discussing my historic fear of having children of my own, friends of mine have argued that I would have made a good father, to which I've always demured, with which I've always disagreed. But maybe, just maybe, they're right. Maybe I would have made a good father and maybe just maybe I have missed out on something by not having been one. I don't know, but as I approach my 60th year, I know I'll never know.

However, what I do know is that I love dogs and want to be around them for as long as I can, for as long as I live. They take your heart and then they can break your heart, but I look forward eagerly to having my heart taken again and again and again. There are only worse things than this, I think.