Category Archives: Personal Viewpoint

What Happened in Vegas Does Not Stay in Vegas

Well, here we are yet again.   Staring down the harsh reality of yet another madman killing many people for no reason.  The videos I have seen, show it was in fact a massacre.

And, yet again, the media and the majority have shifted focus away from the madman himself, and put the responsibility of the event on the weapon – and the millions of Americans that own the same exact rifle.  Myself included.

Even on NPR this morning, people were barking the familiar rhetoric of gun control, and passing “tougher” laws to prevent these shootings from happening.

Want the reality?  You will never be able to pass ANY law that will prohibit these events.  They will continue to happen.  There are two primary reasons for this.

Violence is deeply seeded in our Culture.

I have said it before, and I will say it again and again.  The number of guns in our country has nothing to do with our violent culture.  Just like the number of calories in a pint of ice cream has nothing to do with chronic obesity. The issue is much larger than that.  We are a culture that is ENTERTAINED by violence.

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It’s ok to snipe people from an elevated position, as long as it is fake and for entertainment.

We line up on opening night for the latest Jason Bourne spy movie full of guns, death, shooting, and sniping.  We say “that was a really good movie.”  We watch Rambo shoot up small towns, and Django go unchained and shoot people in the heart.  We binge watch Law and Order, NCIS, and countless other murder/crime shows. We align positivity with killing.  The same thing happens, perhaps even more pervasively with video games.  They actually let you get into the mind of a sniper…sneaking around an urban city (airports even) blasting people, sending blood flying.  And, most kids are playing these games on a loop for weekends at a time.

Again, we are ENTERTAINED by this.  It’s how we pass our time.

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In Call of Duty, Modern Warfare II, you too can shoot up travelers waiting in security at an International Airport.  How fun!

These activities – violent movies, video games, and music – saturate our minds and desensitize us to violence.  It becomes “just” a movie.  “Just” a game.  I’ll just re-spawn.  No big deal.

On the back end of a tragedy?  We get the media sensationalism.  The 24-hour saturation coverage with every little detail.  Every video, every interview.  The news becomes entertainment. We learn to put these people on a pedestal.  People who are in a marginal mental state might see this as a chance for them to exact revenge.  To go out with a bang.  They, too can literally change the course of a nation with 5 minutes of insanity.

But the media will never stop.  These tragedies translate into millions of eyeballs, glued to their screens.  And, those eyeballs mean big advertising dollars.  Just watch these ads, and we’ll return to coverage of the latest tragedy.

Even the earliest DNA our culture and society is built upon, has a foundation of violence.  We killed millions of Native Americans. Millions of animals.  Bison were sniped from trains for fun.  The Wild, Wild West was called that for a reason.  People shot each other in the streets.  How about the Civil War?  Piles of Americans killed by Americans.

Thinking we can reverse hundreds of years of deeply seeded cultural violence by limiting magazine capacities, or types of rifles is, sadly, laughable.

The weapons this shooter used were all legally obtained.

The person that bought these rifles, had no criminal history. Not even a speeding ticket.  No mental health flags.  So the belief that “expanded background checks” would have made a hint of difference here is totally false.

The rifles themselves were legal.  They were legally obtained, and all legal.  Current reports indicate at least one semi-automatic rifle was equipped with a bump-fire stock which allows for “simulated” automatic fire.  These devices are all legal and are available online for about a hundred bucks.  You can also just buy a book on Amazon right now, that will show you how to (illegally) convert your AR-15 to automatic fire.

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It is currently INCREDIBLY illegal to possess ANY weapon that is capable of automatic fire, unless you have the appropriate approvals to do so.  We need to make that clear.  Under the National Firearms Act you must be fingerprinted, pay an additional tax and fees, wait about a year, and be approved by the government.  And that is the easy part.  It is also illegal to import any automatic weapons, and domestic manufacturers are limited to law enforcement and military.  So that means a very limited supply of guns, and a very high price tag.  Most full-autos I have seen retail for between $25,000-$40,000.  Sounds like appropriate gun control already in place.

Using a semi-automatic weapon to murder people is just as illegal as using a semi.  Or a knife.

So How do we prevent these shootings from happening?

Since there are millions and millions of high-capacity magazines in circulation, limiting them will do nothing.  We cannot count on a person intent on murdering mass amounts of people to suddenly obey a law like that.  We also cannot look at rifle actions, pistol grip styles, or any of the myriad red herring arguments out there.  They provide feel good, knee-jerk legislation that makes lazy lawmakers look heroic. Yet those actions do nothing.

So we must pivot our action plan from one of prevention to preparation.

  1. Cities need to design smarter venues. Places like the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and the Route 91 music festival were not designed to accommodate the potential for a massacre.  Venues need to be prepared with tactical medical kits, with an emphasis on GSW readiness – clotting materials and tourniquets.
  2. Cities should also invest in Boomerang technologies.  These devices will instantly pinpoint the location of a shooter and appropriate countermeasures can be implemented.  It took LVPD 17 minutes to identify where the shots were coming from.  These devices can also help with other crimes, not just infrequent mass shootings.
  3. People should also be prepared with even basic first aid.  We need a national push for people to learn first aid, and how to care for gun shot wounds, vehicle impacts, and stabbings.
  4. This one is a big one:

We need to start making foundational changes in our media.  For starters, implement an updated movie and video game rating system that allows the identification of violence-only content.  I could care less if my kid sees a female breast in a movie.  But don’t want him seeing a head get shot off.  Empower parents through a nationwide awareness campaign of the effects on children and violence.  Do a better job of protecting kids from the desensitization.

This also applies to schools.  Stop the fear mongering lockdown love.  It seems like schools are just itching for the lockdown.  Just last week a man with a warrant was pulled over in a town out here, and the local school (2 miles away) was locked down.  Gross overreaction meets desensitization and needless fear among our kids in their formative years.

And lastly, the news media needs to be reformed when it comes to reporting these incidents.  We really do not need the saturation coverage and associated glorification of these people.  I know division is both a product and a revenue generator for the media conglomerates, but a tragedy like this is not the time.  Report on the facts, briefly, and move on.

Why Won’t Any of these things Get Done?

In America’s healthy capitalism the dollar dictates all.  We may think we are willing to make the changes we all want, but once the familiar pang of tragedy wanes, we will forget and move on with our lives.

The news will never change.  The entertainment industry will not modify its rating systems.  Parents, overworked and under-equipped will not keep their kids from playing video games in the basement.  And, gun owners like myself will not give up our rights to own the guns we are allowed to own.

So I suggest we start preparing for how to deal with these events when they do occur.  We’ll continue to post how #strong a city is on Facebook, send some thoughts and prayers, and maybe change a profile picture or two.

It’s the American way.

—-

 

Featured image courtesy CNN.

My Take on the Impossible Foods Burgergate

Just a week ago, I was in new York City, staring across the table at 3 beautiful, vegan, Impossible Burgers.  I had waited years to try this meal, and it was finally in front of me. For me, a milestone, but for the two carnivores, I feel it was just something new to try.

However we all left stunned.  I, with a renewed sense of excitement for the future of veganism, and my friends with an interest in vegan products they never thought they would have.

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So I was a bit disheartened this week to see some media outlets raising ethical concerns with the Impossible Burger.

First, I was upset.  Any time we hear about lab testing on animals, it brings to mind all the vivisection actions of the past and how we need to move beyond this type of testing.

But then, I was conflicted.  A brand and product that can bring so many to veganism, and actually SAVE animal lives was at the same time responsible for sickening and possibly killing animals.

And finally, I processed it.

I remember my own personal mantra when it comes to being vegan – “Make the best decision you can at any given time.”  It is why I own a coat made of recycled wool blankets.  Veganism isn’t always as black and white as we may see it.

Vegans need to understand that for this movement to succeed, it boils down to math and logic, not emotions and yes/no arguments.  There is a shade of gray that threads through the middle somewhere.

If this company synthesized a new protein through genetic modification of yeast (which it did) and sickened thousands of people, the brand and the products would be gone. And, with it would be the chance to bring more people to veganism through an amazing burger product.

Also, I don’t care how “vegan” you are, you are not 100% vegan.  We kill insects on the roadway, our products we eat may contain milk, the acreage of forests cut for our homes and coconut oils.  It goes on and on.  So who are we to cast the first stone?

In the end, I wish this testing could have been done without animal research.  But in the end, if it means more and more carnivores give up their meat for a vegan option, that will, undoubtedly end up saving animals.

And sometimes, we need to sicken some to save even more.

Is Ideology the new Case for Concealed Carry?

As many of my readers know, I am a strange blend of liberalist, centrist, and conservative.  While I voraciously support equality – marriage equality for one, I also advocate strongly for second amendment rights and smaller government.

I also believe unequivocally – that without our second amendment, we cannot protect the others.  That single right – to keep and bear arms – allows us, the citizenry, a poker chip against a future government that steps too far.  It was baked into our rights from a group of founders, that had just recently witnessed an armed citizenry resist an oppressive government – and succeed. It is core to our nation.

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That all boils down to the fact I am a staunch believer in concealed (and even open) carry.

And yet, as I read another story of extremists plowing into, and stabbing innocent citizens, I cannot help but feel that the justification for a legally armed public is louder now than perhaps ever.

Concealed carry used to be based on individual protection.  Individual safety.  Someone is breaking into my home – or attempting to carjack me and my family.

But now, it seems that the radicals amidst us also call for an immediate need to protect not just us individually, but also the society we have built and hold dear.

Now before my more liberal friends start yelling, and complaining that “more guns don’t mean more safety,” I want you to think about one thing.  When you call the police, all you are doing is asking someone with a gun to show up and save you.  That is all.

You are requesting a gunman to come handle a situation and bring their gun.

When you realize the average police response time is 10 minutes, the issue becomes clearer.  Ten minutes is an ETERNITY when someone is stabbing people on the sidewalk , on the MAX, or at the Louvre.  Or a night club.  Or a movie theater.  Ad nauseum.

The issue is no longer about protecting just yourself.  It is now about protecting the members of society around you. Protecting our ultimate investment – society.

Last week in Portland, there was a racially-inspired stabbing attack that killed 2 men and injured a third.  They were standing up for a couple of women on the train, as a man was verbally bullying them.

I often ask myself why there was not a single concealed carrier aboard that MAX train.  I also think about how the outcome could have been radically different.  Chances are we would have one injured victim, and one dead criminal.  If concealed carry lacked the social stigmas perpetuated in the media and especially in liberal cities like Portland, we might have had a much different outcome on that train.

An armed public also has a strong side effect.  When open and concealed carry is more accepted (and not demonized), criminals are never sure who is armed and who is not.  That single fact has a lot of weight in how and where attacks happen.  Most shooting events occur in gun free zones.  Don’t think that is not by accident.  Criminals want to limit the chances of any armed resistance.

According to the Crime Prevention Research Center, from the 1950’s through July 10th of 2016, 98.4 percent of mass shootings have occurred on gun-free zones, with just 1.6 percent occurring where citizens are allowed to have firearms with them.

Let that sink in.

It is probably also part of why we are seeing these terror attacks happening in cities where public gun ownership is very restricted or even outright illegal.  In the London terror attack yesterday, a police officer had to go after one of the terrorists with a baton – even they are unable to defend society.  Pure insanity.

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I wish we lived in a harmonious World where weapons were not needed on a daily basis.  However that is simply not reality.  As we see more and more liberal groups, minority groups, and others arming up one thing is clear – people do not feel safe.  They do not trust their baton-wielding governments to protect them.

I encourage all my friends to consider getting a concealed carry permit and actually becoming part of the solution.  Standing up for a crumbling reality and actively preventing more of the same when it comes to these terror events.

 

Should Vegans Have Kids?

This question, oddly, seems to have been bubbling among vegan Facebook discussion groups and pages lately.  And I am not sure why.

From what I have seen, most people surprisingly say “no,” with their primary argument being that more people = more consumption and more pollution.  There is more to it, but that is the basic gist.

A few years ago, I too would have probably answered with something similar.  I was pretty anti-child, and vegan (not anti-child, really, just not into it for me).

But a few years ago I was blessed with a little boy and he has changed my life and my view on things.

Continue reading Should Vegans Have Kids?

A True Friend, Indeed

About fourteen and a half years ago (almost to the date) I turned my Jeep around in the middle of a busy Boulder, Colorado intersection.  It was a literal U-Turn in the purest sense of the word.  As I floored my Jeep, I raced back hoping he was still there.  This little brown chocolate lab mix, at the time, named MacGuyver.  He was at the Boulder Humane Society and we thought it was best to “wait” after meeting this sweet little pup.  Five minutes after leaving the lot and we were headed back to pick him up.  So fast, and deep was the connection with this truly beautiful spirit.

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Cooper at my very first Jeep offroad trip in Nederland, Colorado

After a quick rename to Cooper (aptly after a Cooper Tires sign after leaving the humane society the second time, with the dog in the Jeep) he was home and making himself a permanent part of my life.

Continue reading A True Friend, Indeed

My Manifesto on Gun Control

Like a broken record, it has happened again.  And, like a broken record, legal gun owners must mix defensiveness with their mourning for the victims.  And, I am pretty sure it will happen again.

Perhaps the one potentially positive outcome from these shootings, is that the national consciousness comes together for a discussion about guns and gun ownership.  That debate is often heated, and polarized with little needle movement from either camp.

In my opinion however, we do need to look at current and future gun policy with an eye to both rights preservation and compromise.

I submitted my thoughts to Vice President Joe Biden’s “Gun Control Committee” in the wake of the shooting in Newtown and was thankful to hear from his staff that my comments were included.  Most of that stance remains unchanged.

Continue reading My Manifesto on Gun Control

On the Gay Confederacy

A lot of surprising, ground shaking history was made this week, with the Supreme Court deciding that gay marriage is protected by the US constitution, and struck down all state-level bans.  This is a huge victory for millions of gay couples that can now celebrate their relationship with equality, and a victory for a society that bills itself as free.  And, many of my friends know I am a HUGE supporter of marriage equality.

But I feel a pang of irony in the celebratory news, as we also force the removal of the confederate flag from our collective psyche.

Continue reading On the Gay Confederacy

It is About the Goddamn Animals

The Yulin dog and cat meat festival in China is gaining a lot of social and even mainstream media attention this week. And that is hopefully good news, as it shines a bright light on a pretty horrific “festival” that needs to end. These types of events, have been socially protected under the guise of “culture,’ yet now, with the news of the Chinese Government allowing the dialogue, that protection may come to an end.

Continue reading It is About the Goddamn Animals

What if I was Deserted on a Tropical Island?

When it comes to annoying questions Vegans are often pestered with, the “desert island” is probably the worst.

The question typically starts with something like this:

“So what if you were on a desert island and all there was is a cow/pig/chicken.  Would you eat it?”

And I get the allure of this question…vegans tend to be pretty militant in our commitment, so people want to test our limits.

But I want to tackle this question and put it to bed for all future vegans.

Continue reading What if I was Deserted on a Tropical Island?

The US Doesn’t Need New Gun Policy

NOTE: In a recent poll where I asked my readers what type of content they would like to see on this blog, a handful asked for more personal opinion pieces.  This is my first in this series.

Sometimes I like Bill Maher.  Emphasis on sometimes.  He tends to have anger at a time when I need some sort of angry consolation prize.  But on a recent show, he and his guests were discussing how America needs to completely redo gun policy and implement tough new controls.  But Bill Maher has never really been a fan of gun rights.

It made me realize how far off the liberal, anti-gun agenda is (and I consider myself pretty liberal so this is not a jab).

Continue reading The US Doesn’t Need New Gun Policy