Connecticut, gun-control, and human nature

LAWS are written for the average citizen, the meaty portion of the demographic bell curve, but a referendum on a law usually springs from something an outlier does. It may be subtle, like someone exploiting a tax-loophole, or in-your-face, like someone walking from classroom to classroom firing multiple rounds at cherubic victims.

Adam Lanza (Wikipedia)

Adam Lanza discharged a firearm on innocent children, teachers, and his mother, before killing himself. Twenty eight people died, fourteen of them children. We have seen this before. The Virginia Tech shooting happened about five years ago. And a few months later—not nearly as gruesome, but closer to home—a man had sneaked a gun into my university campus before he was apprehended. Luckily there were no casualties. These, with the Gabrielle Giffords case,  and the Aurora shooting, have ensured a stalemated gun-control debate, with one side claiming it’s too soon to talk about it and the other questioning the logic of civilians carrying assault weapons. What we have here is a nation divided, with most participants refusing to budge, on an issue that isn’t elucidated as much as we’d like to believe.

For every gun-owner who kills innocent people, there are thousands who don’t. That we cannot ignore. Instead of restricting the sale of weapons, let’s collect and publicize information on gun-owners. Nancy Lanza was a survivalist who owned over a dozen guns and stockpiled food in preparation for the ‘apocalypse.’ She also took her sons to shooting practice. There are fewer red flags at a communist rally. Instead of banning assault weapons for civilians, why not use the information? Put someone such as Lanza’s mother on a watch-list. When a twenty-year old has access to and carries semiautomatics, in violation of Connecticut law, follow him around in a chopper if you like. The Second Amendment prohibits none of that.

The more regulatory hoops people have to jump through to get whatever they want, the likelier that they pursue illegal methods to get it. And shadow economies that fly under the radar use violence as currency. The drug war and Prohibition have taught us that. Let people buy the weapons legally, but keep tabs on them. Educate them that the Second Amendment doesn’t protect them from a tyrannical federal government that possesses nuclear weapons. Nothing does. It was drafted back when the government and the people had the same weapons. Today, you have the right to own a gun, not the right to keep it secret. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s something.

Some say that had twenty-eight people died in a terrorist attack, the people drooling all over the Second Amendment right now would have gladly forfeited what’s left of their Fourth Amendment. That, I believe, is a false equivalence. Terrorists are malevolent but sane people who kill in cold blood. Every single terrorist act must be punished swiftly and harshly, or more will happen. But this man was crazy, and besides his mother, he didn’t know his victims; so this wasn’t personal.

It is a natural human tendency to take for granted the good things that happen and to regard as the workings of the devil the bad things. And that if a bad thing comes along, you say, my God, we ought to pass a law and do something. — Milton Friedman

Gun ownership prevents crimes too. Sure, fewer guns are fired in defense than offense, but the presence of a gun, or even the possibility of one, makes a person less of a sitting duck. We cannot know of all the attempted burglaries, rapes, and muggings thwarted by the victim’s possession of a gun, without even firing it. While this argument does not justify a 20-year-old carrying a Bushmaster XM-15, it does muddy the issue.

It’s human nature to make sense of tribulation—a significance, anything to escape the sad truth that we are but dots on a tapestry, whole lives without meaning to anyone except those living them. (Perhaps that’s why our ancestors invented religion.) I don’t mean to insult the loss of life, or those that died. But these events are an aberration. It’s unlikely and unfortunate when an earthquake or a tsunami occurs, and similarly, now and then someone, somewhere snaps and hurts people without reason. This wasn’t an act of terrorism, not a murder for profit, nor anything preventable. This was a tragedy. Let’s grieve with all of our hearts and comfort the bereaved.


Let’s not forget, in our sorrow for the victims and our indignation on guns, that there were heroes in that school. It is often said that heroes are those who put themselves in harm’s way. The teachers and aides, the principal, and the school psychologist showed outstanding courage as they selflessly rescued as many children as they could, often paying with their own lives. Victoria Soto actually misdirected Lanza by telling him that her students were in the auditorium, while she hid them in cabinets and cupboards. She probably knew he’d kill her, but she protected the tots in her charge anyway. These women did more than save lives. They did wonders to conserve my faith in humanity. And probably yours.

Coffee…and a defense (Part I)

“To be honest, I don’t remember that evening much. There are some things crystal clear in my mind, but most of it is kinda murky.”

“That’s a good thing. Witness memories tend to get murky too. That’s why their credibility drops exponentially with time. Delay and stall is a good tactic for you.”

“That would be true if I were guilty. I’m telling you there’s no way I would’ve touched her like that without permission. This is why I need this thing to be wrapped up as soon as possible.”

“Look pal, like it or not, this is a game of he said, she said. Circumstantial evidence has been enough to convict in many cases. Your DNA in her house is not a good thing. In fact—”

“I was in her house. I went there to pick her up. My DNA is bound to be there. What does that prove?”

“Nothing so far, but it does make it difficult for us to make this a clean sweep. If there wasn’t enough to link you to her apartment, this thing would’ve been open and shut.”

“In my opinion, the more I stall, the guiltier I look to people.”

“If your opinion was worth a rat’s ass, you wouldn’t be paying me $400 an hour for mine. So just listen—I don’t care how guilty you look to the public if you don’t get convicted. No one, I mean no one has emerged from a rape trial spotlessly clean. There will always be some people who think you did it, and others who’ll talk about it. Your image will improve over time, and nothing else.”

“I thought she was a good person. Why would she accuse me of such a terrible thing?”

“Good. At least you’re approaching this kinda rationally. Remember, the burden of proof is on them. They have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you did it. Based on the evidence they’re going to present, they don’t have it. While it might be tough, I think we can beat this if we keep our heads. Just tell me exactly what you remember, starting from when you picked her up.”

“I remember taking a cab from the corner of 95th and Amsterdam, and getting off near 34th and 1st. I buzzed her apartment, and got the wrong one as a sleepy Latina brusquely told me. I called her cell phone, and she buzzed me up. She told me to help myself to a drink while she got dressed. I did.”

“Sharp as a tack. Details are good. Remember, we can call the Latina to establish your credibility. Keep going, and avoid using words like brusquely.

“It had started to rain. She waited under the awning of her building while I spent five minutes trying to get a cab. We reached Bleecker and MacDougal around 12:30.”

“Do you have a credit card receipt for that cab ride?”

“I dry-cleaned those pants. Who knows where that receipt is.”

“Alright. How was her demeanor during all this? Had she already had a drink or two?”

“No. Not as far as I can remember. We entered some club. I ordered our drinks and took them to her. This was interesting. I was gonna have a Glenlivet neat, but she told the bartender to make two usuals.”

“What the hell’s her usual?”

“Something with white rum and mint and some other stuff. No, it didn’t taste like a mojito, but it was strong like hell.”

“And then?”

“We were chatting about how cold it had gotten recently, and how it was very unlike last October. She said something about the pool in her apartment complex, and how much she missed…”

“Missed what?”

“Well, it wasn’t really clear. We were in a club, you know. After asking her to pardon me a couple of times, I was too embarrassed to admit I still wasn’t sure what I heard. So, I just kept nodding and tried to furrow my eyebrows like I was considering what she was saying very deeply.”

“I bet she knew you were bullshitting too…anyway, did you order a second drink?”

“No. I think she refilled our glasses. It was the same thing. And then we danced.”

“Sure, how long was that?”

“Two or three songs. Then we left to go to another bar.”

“How were you feeling around this time?”

“Heavily buzzed. I remember I wasn’t walking perfectly straight. She seemed worse.”

“Yet, you went to another bar. This might be a problem.”

“How is it a problem? A man and a woman meet for drinks; it is in the best interest of the guy to get the woman as sozzled as possible. You can’t blame me for that.”

“Look, if she can find 12 jurors to think that you knew how drunk she was while making her drink even more, anything that happened between you could be construed as rape.”

“That is a god-awful law. And what if she had gotten into a car and driven over a bunch of homeless people? Would you still blame me for it?”

“Interesting question. But in this case, irrelevant. It’s good you’re getting indignant now. Get it over with here, so you’ll stay calm in court.”

“The remaining is a blur. I think we went to some after-hours place in Chelsea, I kinda remember sitting in a cab…”

“But you did wake up in her house. Did you slip out like a cat burglar or did you make conversation?”

“Well, she woke up as I was getting dressed. She seemed a little irritated as I was making morning-after small talk. She got up, and made scrambled eggs with toast. We spoke a little about the previous night. She said something to the tune of We really shouldn’t have…I’ve never done this before…looks like I had had too much to drink last night…

“And you left. That was Sunday morning right?”

“Wow, you catch on fast. Is my eye-rolling too quick for you?”

“I would get rid of all that sarcasm before I go to court dude, juries hate smug. Sarcastic righteous indignation often looks smug. Don’t forget that even though you’re chances are pretty good here, this might not be the end of the road.”

“What do you mean? I can’t be tried again if I’m acquitted right?”

“Yes…those hours of watching The Practice reruns have drummed some sense into you, but what you might’ve missed presumably while channel-surfing is that she can sue you in a civil court and inflict serious damage.”

“Civil rape trial? Does that even exist?”

“Yes. She can sue you in a civil court for sexual assault, and the smart money says she will. This whole criminal shakedown might just be a way to collect discovery for her civil case. A lot of people take this approach because the burden of proof on the accuser is a lot less than criminal trials. She can get you for a lot of money.”

“I don’t have a lot of money. No really, my profits are largely plowed back into the business and I take a small salary for myself. I’m looking to expand right now, and rolling in it is not the way to go.”

“Yeah whatever. I don’t mean liquid cash. If the jury finds for her in a civil case, they might ask you to pay a large sum, which you’ll end up paying in small parts for a long long time. Kinda like buying a boat, but without all the sailing and the tan and the obvious affluence.”

“So you’re saying that in spite of being innocent, I actually need to worry about losing everything I have and will work for?”

“Not really, right now I’m saying that you should worry about going to prison. If we successfully get you acquitted, I’ll refer you to a very capable friend of mine, who specializes in civil sexual assault defense.”

“It still doesn’t feel right. How could she do this?”

“I know you’re still on the clock but lemme venture an adverse opinion. Imagine her side of the story. She meets a guy who buys her drinks, and wakes up next to him not remembering exactly what happened. A lot of women take time to realize that their sexual encounters need not have been voluntary. Many still don’t pursue the matter. You just got unlucky.”

“You say it in such a cold way.”

“Come on man, at the last reunion you decided to regale us with the minutiae of a pancreaticduodenectomy…while stabbing hungrily at your steak…it’s just all in a day’s work. You get desensitized after some time. And for me it’s been 13 years. Anyway, let’s grab a bite to eat and we will hash it out further.”

“No you go ahead. I’m gonna go home. I’m not in the mood. We can do this some other time.”

“You’re sure? Hope you’re not too depressed. Do I have to follow you home and hide your razors or something?”