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Stop the rhetoric, world’s always been violent

Updated: 
September 16, 2017 - 12:05am

Violence has always been with us. Lions kill gazelles; Cain killed Abel. Israelites killed the Canaanites and the Romans threw Christians to the lions. The Roman Circus was as violent as video games, with real blood. Hitler murdered Jews and Stalin murdered Ukrainians. Pol Pot murdered 80 percent of his own population and Hutus with machetes murdered Tutsis.

Those are just a few of the uncountable human atrocities. Sad to say, but supposed civilized crusaders have committed their share. America is a country started by violent people, soldiers of fortune and England’s prisoners. America conquered the Indian nations and defeated the British, twice; had a civil war and too many foreign wars. When guns are used in crime we hear an outcry for more “reasonable” gun control, whatever that means. This is followed shortly by a scheme that will not work, and a scramble to buy more guns. Both sides cherry pick data to prove that more guns = more/less violence. The correlation is very weak. Did prohibition eliminate whiskey?

You can find peaceful cultures with lots of guns, Switzerland, Vermont. You can find violent places with very strict gun laws, Venezuela, Chicago. It is complicated. There was violence long before guns. Cain slew Abel.

One thing has changed, the 24-hour news cycle. The Gunfight at the OK Corral took 50 years for it to enter the national consciousness. Some old murders were never reported. Now a “mass shooting” is on everyone’s lips before the smoke clears. Debated, sliced and diced on TV by pundits, who are no more qualified than you.

Maybe there are 300 million guns in the US. Could we make them all disappear? How long before someone made or imported more? Afghani blacksmiths made near perfect copies of Enfields and AK47s. If guns are outlawed, outlaws will still have weapons. How long before bullies terrorize their neighbors? The Samurai dominated Japan with swords. The inquisition terrorized Spain with the rhetoric of fear.

The Second Amendment was intended to retain with the people the power to revolt in order to prevent an overzealous government from becoming oppressive. The Mujahedeen with no heavy weapons kicked the modern Russian military out of Afghanistan. There is convincing evidence that gun owners prevent many crimes, without firing a shot, or creating a report.

Let’s move on. Absent firearms there are many ways to perpetrate violence, knives, explosives, garden implements, “Lizzie Borden took an ax…” sticks and stones, bare hands.

What can we do?

Learn to negotiate: One intending shooter was talked down by teacher, Antoinette Tuffl. He put his gun down and surrendered before the police arrived. It does not take a good man with a gun to stop a bad man. There is a start: every manager of a place where people gather should be taught hostage negotiating skills: Shooting the perpetrator to ribands may save time, but it deprives us of the opportunity to learn how they think. A problem well defined is half solved. As long as they are talking, or listening, they are probably not shooting. Violent response makes violence acceptable. Does the perpetrator really need to be handcuffed or dead before shift change? Isolate and wait.

Tone down rhetoric: Just call them perpetrators or criminals until there is distinct evidence that they are something more. Minimize the hyperbole and inflammatory adjectives. Coverage begets copycats. Quit interviewing police and hysterical witnesses on the air before the blood is dry. Do not instantly analyze complex situations. Leave religion out of it. Hundreds of mass shootings, yet a handful by “Islamists.”

Don’t attempt to censor: The censored may feel compelled to violent acts to get heard. Let the crazies speak and expose their own asininities. Most people know crazy when they hear it as long as media don’t repeat it until it sounds normal. Free speech has to apply to everyone, or it is not really free.

Ken Obenski is a forensic engineer, now safety and freedom advocate in South Kona. He writes a semi-monthly column for West Hawaii Today. Email obenskik@gmail.com

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