Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Dog Wars -- guns & dog bites

A person wrote me about gun control. It seemed good to her to keep guns out of the hands of people who might kill children. But that isn’t the issue. The issue is something very different.

The first concern is that one of the first things an authoritarian state does, historically, is remove guns from the hands of its citizens. Are we moving toward becoming an authoritarian state? There has always been a concern about that. Our founding fathers were worried about it and put restrictions on the Executive branch of government. Another balancing measure was to prevent government from taking the guns away from its citizens. They had the experience of Britain and other monarchies doing that and wanted to prevent that every happening in the US. Is that still a concern? Many on the right think so.

To illustrate another aspect of this matter, years ago I was a rifle instructor in the Marine Corps. I had charge of the “unqualified detail” which consisted of Marines who failed to qualify their previous time out. Some of them had never qualified. As a coach I got all my shooters qualified, but in the process I learned something about each one. We coaches confided to each other that we hoped we never ended up living next door to some of those guys. They were not very trustworthy with guns. The public tests where a person had to show he was adept with guns before he got a license seemed a good thing to me because the focus was on the individual. The test determined ‘yes’ or ‘no’ about his qualifications to own a gun.

In a different realm, some individuals have committed crimes such that the courts have determined that they should never own a gun. I am very much in favor of preventing these people from owning guns.

But the American gun laws have a different focus. They seek to prevent all people from having guns. Oh yes, I know that the current bills don’t address all people, but they tried that, to get a national gun law through congress and that failed; so they are nickel and diming the public in hopes of achieving he same result. Gun bill after gun bill is being proposed throughout the nation and many are making it into law.

I wrote a note the other day quoting from Kaplan’s Warrior Politics. Page 125 has the following: “Television correspondents at the scene of catastrophes . . . manifest an impassioned tunnel vision in which sheer emotion replaces analysis: nothing matters to them except the horrendous spectacle before their eyes – about which something must be done! The media embodies classical liberal values, which concern themselves with individuals and their well-being, whereas foreign policy is often concerned with the relationships between states and other large groups. Thus, the media is more likely to be militaristic when individual rights and suffering are concerned, rather than when a state’s vital interests are threatened.”

Kaplan was referring to foreign affairs. Correspondents would focus upon individuals being killed, bodies bags, etc rather than larger issues. There was a strategy in place to oppose Communism and the Vietnam War was intended to carry on that strategy, but that was never discussed, whether our efforts in Vietnam truly opposed communism or not. Instead they discussed individual deaths. We were overwhelmed with pictures of body bags.

The reverse, sort of, was true of Kosovo. Now individuals were being killed by the Serbs, so picture after picture of individual deaths were presented to the American public such that we were finally impelled to send forces to Kosovo and Bosnia to “stop the killing.” The Correspondents were not hard on the American military for dropping bombs on Serbian civilians, including babies, because we were stopping the killing.

Move now into the realm of “gun politics.” A single shooting incident will be focused on in the same way. Look a child, or several children are being killed. Their solution is virtually always going to include a request for “tougher gun laws.” In many cases the killers are already criminals and by law denied the right to have guns. Their answer to that is that if all guns were taken off the streets, no one would have a gun; which seems an absurd thing for them to say until we remember that their desire to remove all guns from public hands is their long-held hope. For them “emotion replaces analysis.”

Moving back to dogs now, we see the same sort of thing prevail. One bite by a pit bull or Rottweiler and someone is going to propose a bill to make them illegal or restrict the owning of them in some way. Emotion replaces analysis!

I used to do a lot of “Free Diving” which is a sort of underwater hunting. Without breathing apparatus one dives down with a spear gun and hunts fish. I did that for many years. Typically, when someone heard what I did, they would ask “aren’t you afraid of sharks?” Emotion for them replaced analysis. How many shark attacks have there been on the California coast? I don’t recall the exact number but it is tiny. The same sort of thing is true of “the dangerous dogs.” Which breed is responsible for the most dog bites? The last time I checked it was the Cocker Spaniel. Are the anti-dog people trying to outlaw the Cocker Spaniel? How could they? Who could generate much emotion about outlawing the Cocker Spaniel? But the Pit Bull & Rottweiler look fierce. Correspondents can’t get worked up over them.

It would be easier for the Dog-Control people to get worked up over deaths caused by dogs, but they have problem. It is hard to avoid analysis if they talk about that. The average of dog deaths in the US over the last several years is 17. That is, in all of the United States, all 300 million of us, only 17 will be killed in an average year by dogs. Do they want to make a law affecting all dogs because 17 people were killed? Well, yeah they do. They tell us 74% of the deaths were caused by Pit Bulls, Rottweilers and Presa Canarios. Disclaimer: I note that the lead in statement says 33 were killed in 2007 but further down when it lists deaths by state it says 15. In any case the number is very small. Do we have deaths by car accidents? Motorcycle accidents, skate board accidents, bicycle accidents, slipping on soap in the tub accidents. I would wager that all of those would exceed the dog bite deaths. But it is hard to put the fierce face of a Pit Bull on those things – emotionally. If we move away from deaths and get back to “all dog bites” then we were back into Cocker Spaniel territory.

Here’s an article that suggests Dachsunds are now the dog that may be biting the most people. It begins, “Forget pit bulls, Rottweilers and Rhodesian ridgebacks. It’s the sausage dog that’s the most aggressive breed.” Well, whoever wrote that article probably doesn’t think much “softening” has gone on in the Rhodesian Ridgeback.”

This should give the anti-dog people some comfort: “. . . it is at least a hundred thousand times more likely that a ‘Pit Bull’ will be killed by a HUMAN, than the other way around.”

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