Charleston: a few thoughts

By Craig McDermott, crossposted from Random Musings

As everyone knows by now, last Wednesday in Charleston, South Carolina, a white man walked into a historically black church, sat and prayed with some of the congregants there for an hour, and then, using a gun, murdered nine of those congregants.

He fled the scene, but has since been apprehended.  As of this writing, he’s sitting in a Charleston jail.

Much has been written and said about this attack, most of which is focused on two main areas:

1.  The racial component, the mass murder of African Americans by a white man.

2.  The gun violence component, the use of a gun in that mass murder.

 

I’d love to be able to say that I have an insight into how to change the unthinking hatred that fills the hearts of some people, but I’ve got nothing here.  People doing evil things to other people who have done no harm to them, but are just “different” in some way, is something that has been happening throughout recorded history and, sadly, will almost certainly continue to happen in the future.

Having said that, I *do* have a few general thoughts –

…There is a serious groundswell of opposition to using Confederate symbols as part of any official activity – moves to take down the Confederate battle flag flying outside the capitol building in South Carolina, removing the stars and bars symbol on license plates in Virginia, etc. – that threatens to make people forget that there are nine murder victims here.

Not nine “symbols”, but nine human beings, with family and friends who are also human beings.

Human beings who have had huge, gaping holes ripped in their worlds.

On the other hand, having some of the glare of the national spotlight moved elsewhere may just allow enough breathing room for the family and friends of the victims to mourn their loved ones.

For the record, in my opinion, at no level of government – state, county, local, or other – should that symbol and the evil it represents be given official sanction of any kind.

However, that leads to…

Companies are banning the sales of merchandise the Confederate symbol or are Confederate-related.  Where the companies are private retailers (such as Walmart or Target), it’s their choice – they can stock their shelves, or not, with whatever merchandise they wish to sell, or not.

Where the companies are essentially just conduits for individual sellers (such as Ebay), the move runs close to being censorship.  I don’t think it steps over the line in this case, but it is something to keep an eye on.

If it becomes a movement by a governmental entity to officially ban such items, it will become a First Amendment issue

And I am a BIG supporter of the First Amendment.

That means I support the freedom to express unpopular ideas, even ideas that I find to be utterly repugnant.

Of course, that’s an idealistic view; there is also a pragmatic view.

The stars and bars symbol is not only a symbol of bigotry and hatred in general, specifically, it is the emblem of a group of violent and bigoted traitors.

And if someone wants to voluntarily declare their affinity with that group, we shouldn’t do anything to discourage that.

If nothing else, it’s an efficient way of identifying the assholes of the world.

 

…Lastly, there is the “gun” aspect of this.

In the immediate aftermath of the mass murder, there was an attempt by the NRA, in the person of one of the members of its board of directors, to blame the victims for their own murders.

All that proved was that one doesn’t have to rack up a body count in order to prove that one is a vile human being.

The victims didn’t pull the trigger; the murderer did.

Period.

As for ideas to prevent this from ever happening again, I don’t have one, and I’m not sure that there *is* one.

 

What can be done is to take steps to reduce the ease with which this was done.

One idea:  end concealed carry in public.

People would still be allowed to possess firearms, but concealing one would carry a minimum of, say, a year in prison, to be consecutively with the sentences for any other crimes committed while possessing a concealed firearm.  And if no other crimes were committed while possessing a concealed firearm, it would still mean a year in prison.

Oh, and change guidelines for use of force in self defense from the use of force being OK when dealing with a “perceived” threat to OK for dealing with an “actual” threat.

Call it the “do what you gotta do…just don’t be wrong” doctrine.

Failing that (and face facts – the NRA and other gun fetishists would do everything in their power to curb any attempts to stymie their dream of turning us into a “kill at will” society), change use of force doctrine to allow perceiving the carrying of a concealed weapon as an imminent threat that can be responded to with any level of force that the threatened person deems necessary.

The NRA and gun fetishists want to create a world where civil society is as afraid of them as they are of us.

They should be careful of what they wish for; they just might get it.

8 responses to “Charleston: a few thoughts

  1. “Oh, and change guidelines for use of force in self defense from the use of force being OK when dealing with a “perceived” threat to OK for dealing with an “actual” threat.”

    You state that as if it easy to do. Hindsight is NOT 20/20 when it comes to shootings. Adrenalin is pumping, emotions are high, eye witnesses are notoriously unreliable, and unless there is video of the event, everyone sees something different. It is rarely as cut and dried as you imply.

    Criminals are not deterred by laws. if they were, there are enough gun laws on the books now to keep us safe from criminals with guns. What you are interested in doing is restricting the rights of law abiding citizens because criminals don’t obey the laws. You can’t cherry pick the Amendments you like and act as if the ones you don’t like don’t exist.

    • Someone’s right to defend themselves against a threat (perceived or actual) doesn’t supercede an innocent person’s right to live in peace.

      Period.

      If someone chooses to use force in any way, they also have made a de facto decision to have their choice to use force examined after the fact by society.

      If the user (or would-be user) of force finds that overly onerous, he can choose to live in another society.

      • “Someone’s right to defend themselves against a threat (perceived or actual) doesn’t supercede an innocent person’s right to live in peace.”

        Who said it does? I didn’t say a word about innocent people anywhere in my response. You pulled that out of thin air.

        Of course a person using deadly force is going to have his actions evaluated in great detail, as they should. My objection to what was stated is if laws are written to change the criteria from “perceived” to “actual”, you have changed to very nature of the investigation. It goes from an investigation to a form of grand jury where the shooter has to prove he is innocent where such proof may not exist.

        By the way, it is a little bit snarky to determine something is so certain that it has a finality that can be summed up with the word “period”. Very few things in life are that certain and declaring something so is usually indicative of a closed mind.

  2. It flies over a Civil War War Memorial honoring the men killed in the war. It also has nothing to do with what happened at the Charleston church shooting where 9 people were killed by a racist who was looking to seek justice for wrongly perceived slights to whites.Dixie Flag
    Should the Dixie flag of the South, the venerable “Stars And Bars”, be removed ?
    In short, it’s simply because some unknown persons are offended. No one to date has filed an official grievance or petition with the Governor’s office.
    ‘I’m offended’ is the new motto for the United States.The flag flying in South Carolina is the Virginia Battle Flag so get your britches out of the bunch and quit calling it the Confederate Flag. Check out The Museum of the Confederacy
    The Confederate States of America adopted three different national flag patterns between 1861 and 1865. The Provisional Confederate Congress adopted the First National pattern, also referred to as the “Stars and Bars,” on March 4, 1861. This pattern flag flew over the Capitol at Montgomery, Alabama, where the Provisional Congress met prior to the bombardment of Fort Sumter in April 1861.http://www.americanfreedombybarbara.com/…/the-flag.. The Virginia Battle flag did not fly over the South Carolina state Capitol grounds until the great Fritz Hollings, Democrat, put it there about 50 years ago. Had nothing to do with Republicans was a Democrat. Democrats sucker Republicans in again.

    • You are 100% correct, but it will fall on deaf ears. I think that, in these times, not being offended is believed to be guaranteed by the Constitution. We live in silly times when even a genuinely serious incident like the shootings can be hijacked for a frivolous cause like removing the Confederate Flag.

      • Donna Gratehouse

        If it’s such a frivolous cause, then what difference does it make to you if the flag is taken down at the SC capitol and some major retailers choose to stop selling it? What exactly do you even think is being “hijacked” here, since you oppose further gun regulations?

        • I believe what has been hijacked is the attention that should be more properly directed toward the serious matter of the shootings but is being directed instead to this tempest in a teapot of removing the Confederate Flag. I don’t care one whit whether they keep the flag flying or they bring it down, but the silliness of such a trivial matter juxtaposed against the truly serious issue of the shootings that gave rise to the entire discussion of the flag makes it seem all the more pathetic.

          Perhaps people cannot grasp the enormity of the hatred or the killings, or perhaps they feel helpless to stop such horrendous acts from occurring, or perhaps there are a hundred other reasons why people are turning their attention from the killings to this silly attack on flags.

          As to guns, that debate is growing. But would more gun control laws have prevented this horrible tragedy? The answer is no. The racist thug (who I refuse to glorify by naming him) who killed nine black Christian worshipers out of pure hate didn’t legally obtain the firearm he used to carry out the massacre. Reports show that either his father gave him a .45 caliber handgun for his 21st birthday, which would have been illegal due to a previous felony charge on his record (and a felony for his father as it is illegal to purchase a gun for someone who is ineligible to do so), or that he stole his mother’s handgun to carry out his crime, another felony. Either way,existing gun control laws were broken. But of course, that isn’t stopping the left from taking the opportunity to push a political agenda not based on facts.

    • Donna Gratehouse

      Barbara, 50 years ago many Democrats were segregationists. And many Republicans were pro-choice. That began to change in the late 60s when there was a deliberate realignment of the parties where the right wing racist religious reactionaries were driven into the GOP, where they have a comfortable home today. Anyone who has taken a Poli Sci 101 class or, hell, has done a speck of internet research knows that. Bringing up Fritz Hollings (who BTW, did not put the Confederate flag over the State Capitol, the legislature did) so as to say “neener neener, Democrats!” simply makes you look ignorant.