If I Hear The Circular Argument “Guns Don’t Kill People; People Kill People” One More Time, I’m Going To Get Sick

Originally published at Medium

Y - Calligraphy letter Y

 

all. Please stop debating whether guns kill people, or people kill people. The two are not mutually exclusive. Here’s the reality: People with guns kill people. We can’t just simply separate the two. The fact that this debate is still going on is like banging your head against the wall. Will common sense ever filter into this discussion? Your fellow Americans are grieving in overwhelming proportions of unimaginable pain, which most of us — God willing — may never know. Do we really need to argue semantics and philosophy here? 

I don’t get this unhealthy, possessive, puerile attachment that some Americans have with their guns— specifically, the most popular, most widely used assault rifle in mass shootings of late, the all-too-familiar AR-15. However, I do get that people calling for sensible gun legislation are not fascist dictators. Regardless of what Tucker Carlson believes, gun control is not actually “people control.”

No one is suggesting we completely obliterate the American fundamental, constitutional right to own a gun. We all seem to be on agreement that there are responsible, law-abiding folks who happen to own guns. It’s not being suggested that they pay the fine for the acts of the evil minority. It is being suggested, however, that we move past the circular arguments and enact some real change. 

We also can all be in agreement that when the second amendment was ratified in 1791, semi and fully-automatic firearms technology didn’t exist. Firearms of our forefathers were typically flintlock pistols and muskets. Some characteristics of these guns: they were heavy and cumbersome, could shoot one round at a time — up to 3 or 4 per minute, had very low levels of accuracy, very short ranges, no sights, and smooth bore barrels, which made their projectiles unstable in flight. Additionally, the weight of musket balls (the original “bullets,” made of mostly lead and tin or pewter) had a negative effect on range. Because they were so heavy, gravity pulled them downward as soon as they were fired.

Gun - flintlock pistol, photo by Daderot, via Wikimedia Commons

Flintlock Pistol, 1790-1820, image: Wikimedia Commons

guns - 1795 flintlock musket

Flintlock Musket, 1795-1865, image: Wikimedia Commons

These guns were also very slow. The process of loading and reloading these guns involved adding gunpowder, using a ramrod to insert the bullet and make sure it was in place, and reattaching the ramrod before taking aim and firing the single bullet. Cartridge paper had to be shoved in after the ball in order to keep it from rolling out of the weapon. Since the musket was really only the beginning of the battle which ultimately ended in hand-to-hand combat, the musket was collectively considered “a good handle for the bayonet.” 

Quite different from the AR-15, a semi-automatic weapon of war, with a power of physics that cannot be argued. 

In comparing the damage a modern AR-15 and a modern 9mm handgun can do to the human body, Peter Rhee, a trauma surgeon at the University of Arizona explained, “One looks like a grenade went off in there, the other looks like a bad knife cut.” 

According to Wired, in an article titled What An AR-15 Can Do To The Human Body:

“The bullet from an AR-15 does an entirely different kind of violence to the human body. It’s relatively small, but it leaves the muzzle at three times the speed of a handgun bullet. It has so much energy that it can disintegrate three inches of leg bone. “It would just turn it to dust,” says Donald Jenkins, a trauma surgeon at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.”

“When you trail your fingers through water, the water ripples and curls. When a high-velocity bullet pierces the body, human tissues ripples as well — but much more violently. The bullet from an AR-15 might miss the femoral artery in the leg, but cavitation may burst the artery anyway, causing death by blood loss.”

“Then, multiply the damage from a single bullet by the ease of shooting an AR-15, which doesn’t kick. “The gun barely moves. You can sit there boom boom boom and reel off shots as fast as you can move your finger,” says Ernest Moore, a trauma surgeon at Denver Health and editor of the Journal of Trauma and Acute Surgery.”


U.S. - signing of the constitutionThere have also been plenty of arguments surrounding the wording and intent of the second amendment. “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed” leaves plenty of room for differing legal and political interpretations. What is meant by “well regulated?” For that matter, what constitutes a “militia?” Or the right to “bear arms?”

Most judges and scholars who debated this before the Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling in District of Columbia. v. Heller consistently arrived at the conclusion that the second amendment solely protects gun ownership for purposes of military duty and collective security, not an individual’s right to own military-style assault rifles.

The “I need to protect my family” argument is just nuts. As comedian Jim Jefferies pointed out in 2014, in an ironically hilarious take on gun control, the arguments people make for owning assault rifles are all “bullshit arguments.” Especially the “I need to protect myself; I need to protect my family” argument. 

“Really?” Jefferies asks with a smirk. “Is that why they call them assault rifles? Is it? I’ve never heard of these f — ing protection rifles you speak of!” 

He also notes the ridiculous logic many gun owners try to twist into submission by claiming they need their guns for protection, but are also responsible gun owners who keep their guns locked up. Of this logic, Jefferies remarks: 

“If you have it readily available, it becomes unsafe. You have it in your bedside table, one of your kids picks it up, thinks it’s a toy, shoots another one of your kids. Happens every f — ing day. But people go, ‘that’ll never happen in my house… ’cause I’m a responsible gun owner. I keep my guns locked in a safe.’”

After a beat he yells: “THEN THEY’RE NO F — ING PROTECTION!”

Jefferies really drives home the point that if responsible gun owners keep their guns locked up, as they’re supposed to, it’s not going to do them any good when that anticipated serial killer sneaks into their house and murders their family before they can even wipe the sleep from their eyes.

“By the way,” he declares, “most people who are breaking into your house just want your f — ing TV. You think that people are coming to murder your family? How many f — ing enemies do you have? Jeez, you think a lot of yourself if you think everyone’s coming to murder you.”


Then there’s the “it’s-all-mental-health-to-blame” argument, which people only seem to take an interest in considering after a mass shooting has occurred.

Please.

It’s a ridiculous argument, implying “people kill people” as if having a mental illness is synonymous with being a mass murderer. Or, as if mass gun shootings would suddenly cease if only we fixed our huge mental health problem. (The USA isn’t the only advanced country on Earth with a mental health problem, but we are the only advanced country on Earth who sees these kind of mass shootings every few months.) 

Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. — or 43.8 million adults — experiences mental illness in a given year, according to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). And those are just the ones who are actually documented. There are likely millions more who suffer some form of mental illness who are unaware, in denial, or living undetected — functionally able to blend in with society.

If it were required for all U.S. citizens to undergo a psychological analysis, we’d learn that not only do many Americans live with some form of mental illness ranging from mild depression to the most severe forms of ASPD (antisocial personality disorder), but also, a large group of the people in this country (1 in 6 people) are on some form of antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication, whether chemical, holistic, or other.

And suddenly, now, the Trump administration is going to “tackle the difficult issue of mental health?”

Please.

The first gun law Trump signed made it easier for people with mental illness to purchase guns, and now, certain cuts to healthcare are in the works to make it even more difficult for federal government to intervene or respond appropriately to red flag individuals like the Parkland shooter. It’s also projected that the National Institute of Mental Health will see a 30 percent reduction in funding — a half a billion dollar decrease — in 2019. 

Trump can’t say a damn word about mental health because he and his Party have made it easier for people with mental health challenges to buy military style weapons, while also making it harder for people with mental health challenges to receive the care they need that would address the unhealthy thought patterns underlying mass gun violence in the first place. 

Further, the GOP health bill would, beginning in 2020, remove a requirement set forth in the ACA that mandated Medicaid to cover basic mental and behavioral (including substance-related) health services. Who knows if we’ll even have Medicaid in a few years? Currently, Medicaid provides a good chunk of mental health services in America, so when Medicaid is cut, obviously mental health funding will get cut. And besides, it’s not as if Republicans have ever been lobbying for more mental health funding. They just want to talk about it for a little while until it goes away — for the next month, or week. 

In this country it’s illegal to even do research about the public health impact of guns because of a 1990’s amendment, which, of course, passed with the strong backing of the NRA. That amendment effectively bars the CDC from studying firearm violence, which, ironically, is an epidemic the American Medical Association has dubbed “a public health crisis.”

Greed - eating moneyWhat is this crisis really about? At the heart, we can certainly blame commerce. But even more than commerce, it’s the unadulterated lust for money and power, which amounts to plain and simple, pubescent, and unsatiated American greed. Perhaps this crisis is not  about the right to bear arms at all, but about the right to sell arms. It’s a crisis of epic proportions because we have people in this country profiting off the mass murders of innocent victims, while the NRA sits back and smiles like a fat cat. Let’s start by addressing that.

Greed is not a good enough excuse. There’s simply no reason for American civilians to be able to get their hands on military-style assault weapons. None, other than selfish greed. As Americans, we tend to be highly attracted to “toys” that are considered “sexy,” “exciting,” and even a little “dangerous.” Well, no apologies needed; once a “toy” trumps the lives of our youth, it’s simply time to “recall” that particular toy. Plain and simple.

DeVos, Severino, And The “Religious Freedom” That Will Harm Our Most Vulnerable

A later version of this story published on Medium

Meet Mimi Lemay, an amazing Mom, trans youth advocate, and someone I’m proud to know through the wonders of technology. Mimi did this MSNBC interview in May, 2016, after the Obama era guidance was issued regarding transgender students in public schools. That guidance clarified how to best support transgender students in schools across the nation, in light of more trans students being “out.” Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, schools receiving federal money may not discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status. The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released in 2016, under President Obama, joint guidance to help provide educators with the information they needed to ensure that all students could attend school in an environment free from sex discrimination, and that in no uncertain terms included transgender students. 

During Mimi’s interview, notice the guy speaking in the replayed clip, from an earlier interview, who says that gender identity is a “new concept” (it isn’t), who does not want LGBTQ+ people to have rights, and who raises concerns about the safety of others with regard to sexual assault. The implication is that trans folks – or people “pretending” to be trans – will commit acts of sexual harassment/assault in public restrooms, and therefore, should not be legally permitted to use the public restrooms/locker rooms/changing facilities that match the gender they identify as. This is rather old news, but if you missed it, or just want to hear those points ad nauseam, here’s the interview in question:

As research has shown, again and again, trans folks aren’t the ones committing acts of sexual assault, nor are cis men dressing up like women/pretending to be trans so they can go into women’s public restrooms and commit sex crimes against women and young girls. Kids are statistically more likely to be sexually molested or assaulted by someone the family knows and trusts, like a church leader, scout leader, athletic coach, or even family member.

The fact that we’re still having to have this conversation infuriates me, but yet, here we are again. 

In case the guy in that second video clip is unfamiliar, take a moment to learn more about him: His name is Roger Severino. He was, at the time of that interview, from the Heritage Foundation, and the former Director of the DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society, Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity. (Yes, the same DeVos family that our current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, hails from – the same Betsy DeVos who knows nothing about public education and who singlehandedly destroyed Public Schools across Detroit, Michigan before becoming the Trump administration’s astonishingly, super-unqualified U.S. Secretary of Education.

It has been DeVos’s legacy to create programs and pass laws that require the use of public funds to pay for private school tuition in the form of vouchers and similar programs. While Trump distracts the nation with Twitter-tantrums, taunts to North Korea, undoubtedly racist rhetoric, and “The Wall,” Betsy DeVos is quietly busy dismantling our nation’s public education from the top, throttling our entire public school system toward complete and utter destruction.

In a Washington Post article from September, twenty-nine tangible ways that Betsy DeVos would harm public education were clearly spelled out. She has already refused to promise that she would not cut funding for public schools, and would not commit to withholding federal funding from private schools that discriminate. She is also fully supportive of Trump’s budget which slashes funding for traditional public schools, diverts Title I funds to bankroll a new school-choice program, eliminates after-school programs that serve 1.6 million children (primarily from low-income neighborhoods), cuts teacher training programs by $2.1 billion, and – here’s the real kicker, at least in my opinion – eliminates funding for special education programs. Have a kid in special ed? Wait til you see the changes that start rolling out as early as the 2018-19 school year.

We also know that DeVos unapologetically supported Trump’s attempts at rolling back federal protections for transgender students – which ultimately, didn’t succeed, because the law is still the law. But through Trump’s denouncement of trans students, trans military members, and LGBTQ+ people in general, it has certainly created chaos and muddied the waters for everyone. Talk about “draining the swamp”… it has only gotten fuller and deeper, and he’s the filthy hog bathing in it. 

The DeVos family (and their Center for Religion & Civil Society) are extreme religious conservative billionnaires who do things like:

  • Fund Crisis Pregnancy Centers (which are actually fake “health centers” that trick women by masquerading as full-service women’s health clinics – some even deceive women into thinking they provide abortion services to get them through the door, but then lie and use manipulation techniques to dissuade them from considering abortion), lie about abortion and other women’s health concerns in general, and perpetuate harmful myths and falsehoods already discredited by the larger medical community
  • Fight against LGBTQ+ rights
  • Fight against marriage equality

and a whole host of other deplorable actions against humans. 

So, how does Roger Severino tie into all this? He has a solid connection to the DeVos family and the entire extreme, alt-right sect of conservatism. And, as previously stated, he was the former Director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity. And he’s now a major player in Trump’s administration. 

Here is, in a nutshell, all you need to know about Roger Severino:

  • The Trump administration appointed Roger Severino as the Director of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights, i.e., the top Civil Rights Official. (This is the same Office of Civil Rights who, earlier in October, allowed employers to refuse to pay for birth control coverage, among other unbelievable actions.)  
  • Within the Dept. of Health & Human Services, Roger Severino is creating a new Division, the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom. (This was announced yesterday, Thurs. Jan. 18, 2018.) 
  • The Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom protects doctors, nurses, and other health care workers who refuse to take part in some kinds of care because of moral or religious objections.

From a report released yesterday on NPR’s All Things Considered, the deputy legal director at the ACLU, Louise Melling, said those conscience objections could expand to allow health workers to refuse some services to gay, lesbian and transgender people. “This administration has taken a very expansive view of religious liberty,” she said in an interview. “It understands religious liberty to override anti-discrimination principles.” HHS makes clear that it won’t allow gender discrimination that is banned by federal law. The question, according to Melling, is whether the administration includes gender identity and sexual orientation in the definition of gender. Melling says there are many examples of health workers refusing care on religious grounds, including a nurse who didn’t want to provide post-operative care to a woman who had an abortion, a pediatrician who declined to see a child because his parents were lesbians, and a fertility doctor who didn’t want to provide services to a lesbian couple. 

This is somewhat in the same lane as bakers who refuse to bake wedding cakes for gay weddings on the grounds of moral or religious convictions, only, worse. Because here, you’re toying with people’s health, and people’s lives. 

So there you have it, folks. Just another day where the Trump administration continues their reign of bullying – whether their targets are the most marginalized groups on the fringes of society, or the very large groups that have made considerable progress with civil rights – like, women. No one except rich, white, cishet men are safe from Trump’s schoolyard bullying, and even that’s questionable.

Regardless, the Trump administration continues making it easier and easier for educators, doctors, mental health professionals, and others to deny care to women and LGBTQ+ people. This includes the most vulnerable – our TGNC children. With the addition of this vague and sweeping “Conscience and Religious Freedom” Division, the Trump administration furthered a move that could very easily jeopardize women’s access to birth control and their right to choose, hormone therapy for transgender people, fertility treatment for lesbian couples, and medications for HIV and AIDS – just to name a few. Undoubtedly, as usual, the transgender community will bear the brunt of the trauma from this new devastating blow. 

I’ll close here with Mimi Lemay’s apropos words from that 2016 interview:

“There are real world consequences to the bullying and harassment that is going on in schools against transgender students. When you tell a transgender girl who is a girl in her heart, in her soul, in every fabric of her being, that she has to be segregated from the students – either to use a different bathroom entirely, or has to be forced to be humiliated by going into the boys’ room, and possibly harassed and bullied by it – you are telling her that she is not valued, and she is not seen. What the Obama administration did this week is tell transgender people and students across the country that they are seen, that they are valued, that they will be protected. And I can’t tell you how thankful families like me are. I hope that no other child takes their life for this reason.” 

There’s No ‘Right’ Way To Be Trans: 5 Things Parents Need To Know

“Insistent, persistent, and consistent.”

Parents of trans kids are typically familiar with this trinity of words; they’ve been considered the guiding principals in determining whether a child is actually transgender, or just going through some sort of phase. When parents rush to the internet, often frantically, searching for resources because their child is showing or telling them that they are different from their sex assigned at birth, the “insistent, persistent, and consistent” mantra shows up more often than not. Those words are the foremost, foundational concept that research regarding trans youth has built upon (considering not much research on trans youth – specifically, the Gender Affirmative Model – really became more available until around 2013). Continue reading

Holiday Letter 2017

Another Christmas has come and gone – this one so quick I’m left dizzy in its aftermath. Didn’t finish the Christmas baking. Didn’t finish the cleaning and reorganizing I’d hoped to accomplish. Didn’t do any writing, as planned, with a solid week off from work. But now, I’m taking a moment to sit down and attempt to catch up at least a little, before I take my daughter to the threshold of hell the mall to spend her Christmas gift cards. Continue reading

#MeToo: A “Very Special Time?”

Sad depressed woman from backIn the midst of the #MeToo movement (which Trump bizarrely dubbed “a very special time” for women), we are seeing two types of men emerge: “guilty,” or “innocent.” (The quotations are there because I have a tiny amount of skepticism with a few people on each side, as much as I hate to admit that). I can’t wrap my head around why the movement finally sprouted wings when Hollywood superstar Alyssa Milano took it to Twitter. Though most people had no idea, #MeToo was originally started over ten years ago by black social activist, Tarana Burke. Regardless, it is now like nothing our generation has ever seen before. Milano had merely hoped to give a sense of the magnitude of the problem, if only every woman who’d ever been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote #MeToo as their status. Burke wanted something more than a viral trend, but was happy to see the cause finally getting the attention it deserved. Continue reading

The Kind Of Racism You Don’t Even Know You Have

Also published on Medium

Look, I get it. I totally understand your reluctance to discuss racism. I know that even hearing the words racism or worse, racist, feels accusatory – offensive, even. I hear you saying, “I’ve never personally owned a slave; why should I be held responsible for things that happened so long ago?” I also know how much you hate it when people “play the race card” to take away things you deserved, like that job promotion. I mean, since Affirmative Action discriminates against white people, that is reverse racism, right?

I get it. I get it because I used to think like that, too.

I never thought of myself as a racist. I’d always had black friends. I grew up adoring Michael Jackson and Prince. The Cosby kids, Gary Coleman… all staples of my youth. I revered the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., I hoped to have the bravery and fortitude of Rosa Parks. I voted for President Obama, twice. How could I be complicit in any kind of racism, and furthermore, why was I being held accountable for it? The cognitive dissonance was strong.  Continue reading

One Year Under A Trump Presidency

One year ago last night in the mountains of NC, on a mini vacation we’d been hoping to make for years, my husband and I sat at our cozy dinner, in silence. Above the small, roaring fireplace next to our table was a big screen TV, monitoring the 2016 election results as they rolled in. State after state turned red and projected Donald Trump as the potential winner. I looked around, contemplating asking for another table, but TVs were everywhere, and they were all broadcasting the same thing. Five years of anticipation and planning for our 3rd, private, without kids getaway in 17 years of marriage had led up to this moment, and I felt disgusted. Continue reading

Thoughts And Prayers Are Meaningless Without Action

Sunday, November 5th at 11:20 a.m., a deranged white man donning all black, a ballistic vest, and an assault rifle casually walked into the First Baptist Church in small town Sutherland Springs, TX. There, he opened fire on the unsuspecting congregation as they were waiting for the Sunday sermon to begin. Devin Kelley managed to kill 26 people between the ages of 5 and 72, and he injured 20 more. With this act of domestic terrorism, we now have the largest mass shooting in the history of both the state of Texas, and in a place of worship. 

As details emerged throughout the day on Monday Nov. 6th, we learned that Kelley was 26 and twice married.Though a motive wasn’t yet named for his actions at that time, Kelley reportedly had a domestic situation with his mother-in-law, a member of First Baptist Church. He had previously served in the air force before being court-martialed in 2012 on one count of assaulting his wife, and another count of assault on their young child. Continue reading

Rules For Halloween

Another Halloween has come and gone, leaving us almost within reach of the big feasting holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, but still with enough left over trick-or-treating candy to bridge the gap. For the past couple of years (aside from enjoying the pieces nobody wants) I’ve done some post-Halloween reflecting. It is, after all, a great opportunity to practice developing social skills in real life, and I’ve enjoyed watching my own three kids evolve over the years. They’ve gone from shy, scared, young tots too afraid to utter “trick-or-treat” to confident young people who prefer handing out candy over receiving it, for the most part.  Continue reading

“Me Too” – Experiencing Sexual Harassment And Assault

It started out innocently enough. I didn’t drink a lick of alcohol in high school, or even during my first attempt at college. Every night my suitemates chided me for not joining them at The Mill, an historic landmark where everyone in our small college town partied. I had no good reason, aside from my sporadic social anxiety. That, and I just didn’t want to drink.

Later that winter, there were circumstances that led to my dropping out of college. Dealing with emotional baggage, I ended up sleeping at my parents’ house and needing to make some Continue reading