Dumb Dream

capgun

This dumb dream
With little room to breathe

From the chest
Doomed to die I confess

Chorus says
Tragedy is senseless

Results show
No desire to end this

Chaotic
News breaks and our hearts freeze

No relief
Our hopes are upended

Uprooted
Youths gone this instance

Despondent
No succor, safe distance

Please now please
Desperate admittance

Run up, shout
Second guess this amendment

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Wednesday Whackness

Every week I plan on throwing some stuff on here that appears dubious and will try my best to disentangle the fact from the fiction. So, let’s tackle this whackness, shall we?


First off, saw this gem on Facebook and began to doubt it immediately:

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And sure enough, it only took twenty seconds to find this. It reads:

This quote is partially accurate as the beginning section is taken from Washington’s First Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union. However, the quote is then manipulated into a differing context and the remaining text is inaccurate. Here is the actual text from Washington’s speech:

“A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies.”

I think it’s fair to say that the modern re-writing changes the meaning and tenor somewhat, he said, soft-pedalling. 


Why is it that all the best of the worst come from Facebook? Give this one a gander:

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This makes little to no sense. First of all, the North Pole is not in America and if that’s a penguin in the foreground I’m liable to flip the hell out. And most importantly, the military is not comprised solely of Christians. So, let’s just nip this one in the bud, m’kay?


I’ve seen this one in a couple of different spots, and while it’s perhaps good for a chuckle if you thought that Red from That 70’s Show was the greatest television character of all-time, it’s just inflating a false sense of generational superiority:

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You know what we did have in your day? Cars without seat belts, lead paint, and asbestos-lined pajamas. My generation will probably fall prey to the same sort of fallacious thinking about the generations coming up behind us, that they are somehow “less-than” for no real demonstrable reason. This self-serving pitfall won’t be going away any time soon, however. People believe what they want to, whether it’s true or not. Hence the purpose behind this entire post.


And finally, PBS’ news reporting is the only source I completely trust to be totally objective, full stop. So here’s their recent GOP debate fact-check. (TL;DR version: Ted Cruz said he could fit one hundred and fifty jelly beans in his mouth and Rand Paul still has weird hair.)

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(Source: AP)


 

Okay, so long for now. Let’s cap today’s entry with something decidedly un-whack:

Dr. Strangehair (Or How I Learned to Start Caring and Feel the Bern)

sanders

They say politicians are in the back pocket of corporations. But, come on, that’s not fair to corporations. Politicians are more or less employees of corporations at any rate. Let us give corporations credit where credit is due, they know how to game the system into serving their interests over the interests of the people. This creates an environment where the American people feel powerless or that when they cast a vote, they’re simply choosing between the perceived lesser of two evils. Which in turn leads to apathy and disengagement from political discourse.

Maybe I’m anti-corporate, I don’t know. I don’t consider myself anti-corporate and I don’t think I’m anti-capitalist. But I’m certainly not pro-corporation. If there’s a corporation out there that doesn’t kill small businesses, underpay their workers, poison the environment, or lube politicians with greenbacks in order to persuade them to act contrary to the interests of their constituents, then please, tell me. Until then, maybe I am anti-corporate after all.

Annual shareholders meeting.

Annual shareholders meeting.

Politicians who are not beholden to corporations or fringe special interest groups appear to be in short supply these days. Especially at the federal level. However, there is a slightly ogre-ish malcontent stirring up some trouble as of late though, and he might be just what we need. He’s a socialist but he prefers the nomenclature “democratic socialist” or “progressive” when asked. Even though Socialism is a big bad scary thing in American politics, I seriously doubt that most Americans even know what it is.  I recently heard an educated, well-traveled American confuse Socialism for Communism which could suggest that perhaps, like this person, many do not know the difference.

It’s been posited (pretty much only in America and almost no where else) that Socialism is an evil, no good, very bad shitty way to do things. Socialism already exists in America (par example: social security, unions, Medicare, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act, food stamps, unemployment, workman’s compensation) so we can just go ahead and dispel the notion that democracy and socialism cannot coexist. The vast majority of Europe is also a reasonably good example, but whatever. Europe talks funny, it shouldn’t count.

If you haven’t realized it by now, the mad scientist-ish politician I’m talking about is Vermont Senator and victim of continual static electricity, Bernie Sanders. The only thing people can hang on him is that he’s unpolished and *GASP FAINT PISS PANTS* a socialist. Recent journalistic hit jobs on him would suggest that his being president would bankrupt America because his fantasy overhauls would carry a hefty price tag. That is completely true but only half of the story; the net cost of his proposals would come to benefit Americans and actually be cheaper than current healthcare cost projections. The Wall Street Journal estimated Sander’s “plan” would cost $18 trillion over the next decade, but neglected to mention that Sanders has not released his actual proposal and that their estimate is based on legislation proposed by Rep. John Conyers. And here’s the kicker, actual healthcare cost projections for the next decade in the system that now exists would total around $42 trillion.

Bernie on the campaign trail.

Bernie on the campaign trail.

Bernie Sanders has conservatives salivating because they feel if he were to win the Democratic nomination that Republicans could put a red tie on a mop and win the general election. Avowed Sanders supporter though I am, if I am to make an inference based on the most current campaign finance figures, every candidate should be afraid of Sanders.

Bernie has surpassed one million donations already. Not bad for a guy who declared less than five months ago. It’s a record-setting pace, beating both of Obama’s presidential campaigns which set records of their own. And with average contributions $30 or so, his supporters represent a well that can be returned to over and over again. He raised just a little less than Hillary Clinton this past fiscal quarter, and she has a donor list that is topped by Wall Street firms and corporations that read like a who’s who of assholishness. Both raised more than any Republican, but that’s not necessarily a fair comparison when the Republican field is crowded like some milquetoast country club fundraiser for reseeding the greens.

When you look at those figures and the sizes of the crowds who come to hear him speak, it’s clear that although he prefers to be referred to as a democratic socialist or a progressive, his supporters view him as a true populist. If you were to assign designations to politicians based solely on the way the populace responds to them, Bernie can’t be anything less than a legit populist. Clinton would be a Borg cube. Jeb Bush would a flavorless milkshake. Bobby Jindal would be an elf that makes cookies in hollow trees. And Donald Trump would be a dustbunny riding the jet stream of a fart.

The Cash Money Records crew. (not pictured: Bernie Sanders)

The Cash Money Records crew. (not pictured: Bernie Sanders)

Alright, my Sander’s stiffy aside, let us circle back to the original jumping-off point. Corporations may or may not be a work of the devil blah blah blah doo doo-doo. Corporations are not democratic entities. At their best, they are meritocracies, at their worst they fuel themselves on kitten blood and baby tears. They have a lot of clout in Congress, but how bad is it really?

Look, another group of innocent people at a school just got blown away for no good reason. And it seems likely that little will change in the aftermath. Politicians who aim to move against the gun lobby receive not-so-subtle notices that Remington or Winchester or whoever will relocate the factory in their district. So, unless they want a bunch of upset, newly unemployed voters to deal with, then they better step off. It’s an entirely tangential undertaking to unravel the myriad reasons why this works on politicians but shouldn’t. But I’ll leave that for another day.

umpqua

Each shooting is one too many.

This is just the most recent example of why we maybe sort of kinda need a person to run the country who isn’t at the yoke of big money. There’s also issues like the Keystone XL pipeline. It seems a safe bet that any Republican, if elected, would approve it because, duh, oil money is the best money. Instead of focusing on nature and people-friendly renewable resources they’ll opt for the pipe because their short and curlies are firmly in the grip of corporations. They need that money for re-election. And if they don’t take that money and choose a different route, that money could potentially end up in the wallet of their opponent.

Over-dramatic?

Am I being needlessly melodramatic?

I want Sanders as president because he can’t be pinned down or penned in by CEOs and lobbyists. I think the rest of the country wants that too, whether Sanders represents their ideal candidate or not. Let’s be real, you’re not likely to find many gun-loving bible thumpers preaching the gospel of conglomerates. Just like you’re not going to find a single mom working two jobs praying for a boardroom full of neckties to come and save her.

Cynicism is not an attractive trait. But my cynicism, and the collective negativity that the American electorate feels towards politicians is merely a reflection of our ever-diminishing hope that they will achieve something, anything that will make us feel safer, live healthier, or prosper. We feel this because their means and methods are so plainly obvious. Bernie’s are obvious as well, but we know with him that he’s on our side, not the side of money.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends or annoy your relatives.

The American Dream Distracted

Mollifying, tantalizing, patronizing you. Let me lay out, flat out, a few issues that are clouding our judgment as a people:

Jim

IMMIGRATION

You know, what your grandpappy Sven did so he could make a good life for his familials. Nowadays we’re dumping on Mexicans and other Latin Americans for job-poaching and crime-committing but we’re all the time forgetting how we did the same to the Poles and Eastern Europeans, the Irish, the Chinese, and the Italians. If you’re a white American, chances are you’re from at least one of those groups yourself. But we’re missing the point while the real enemy is adroit: the politicos.

I believe in the promise our country holds for others and for ourselves. I don’t believe the promises of politicians. Our government works. Politics are what’s broken in America. Folks are getting their insurance, their food stamps, their stipends so that they can experience, at the very least, a sustainable life in America. Where things get crooked is when we start to listen to stump speeches from powerful men who can’t relate to the vast majority of us. We eat up the fear their feeding us and all the while they’re bleeding us dry. They dress up xenophobia with economy and legality and whitewash the hypocrisy of their own families’ history.

Natives

It’s happening in Europe right this moment. In some countries, far-right (European far-right mind you, the American political stratum is tame when compared to Europe) politicians are winning offices while running as openly racist and xenophobic. Forget the fact that most of the immigrants that comprise the current wave in Europe are from war-torn countries. Those poor people are just trying to survive, forget the promise-of-a-better-life thing. They just want a roof over their heads with a zero percent chance that a bomb is gonna drop on it.

Whether this wedge was intentionally created or not it has drawn a line in the sand in American life: pro-immigration or anti-immigration. If your response can’t be uttered in three seconds or less get the hell out of the way. But the reality is that this issue is too complicated to be rectified in one fell swoop. Walls aren’t going to work and that’s dumb anyway. Who do you think does most of the grunt work in the American Southwest to begin with? I think citizenship should be easier. That way we can account for everyone and they can contribute taxes and be protected from companies that would otherwise take advantage of their undocumented status.

GUN CONTROL

On the left there are those who might want to melt every gun ever made and use the metal to make a statue of the Grateful Dead. On the right there are those who buy more guns every time a mass shooting happens because they think, “Now’s the time for Obama to steal my boomsticks.”

Nathan

Most gun owners wanna look like this…

What is actually going on is pretty much nothing. Look, after Sandy Hook went down and nothing changed, it was pretty clear that the gun control issue is effectively dead. If a classroom full of white, middle-class school children getting blown away didn’t do enough to jolt America’s senses then pretty much nothing will. That was the wake-up call and we ignored it.

MacGruber

..but they’re more like this.

Pro-gun types like to rally round the Second Amendment and say that amassing ludicrous stockpiles of weapons will protect them against a tyrannical government. Good luck, the government has drones. But that’s beside the point. The government has proven itself time and time again to be woefully under-enthusiastic and unable to curtail gun ownership or even gun purchasing. In this respect, corporations and pro-gun organizations have proven themselves to be more influential, better-funded, and more powerful than the government.

Andy

So, with that being said, are pro-gun types taking their eye off the ball? When was the last time a billion-dollar special interest group or a multi-national conglomerate really did anything for Joe Six-Pack? The government gave him unemployment checks when the turd mine he worked at collapsed. When his brother came back from the war he was able to go to school on the GI Bill. When his meemaw broke her other hip Medicare helped her out. His niece got a loan for college through FAFSA.

Oh, but wait, the NRA did send him a sticker that one time.

On the left it’s a pipe dream that anything substantial to limit gun purchasing will occur anytime in the near future. There would have to be a dramatic shift in how Americans perceive gun ownership but ownership rates and guns per household are trending upwards. In the meantime, maybe they need to focus their energies on lobbying reform. The money is just as much an issue as the guns themselves.

POLICE BRUTALITY

Listen, no one likes the 5-o. Rightfully so. Theoretically, if you ain’t a victim and you’ve done nothing wrong, then you shouldn’t have to worry about them jacking you up.

It's hard in the streets.

It’s hard in the streets.

But we know for a fact that that’s simply not true. I’m not angling to take each individual cop off the hook for disrespectful, blatantly racist behavior and tactics. Nor will I condemn the concept of policing and the entirety of the police force as whole. Both are shortcuts and offer no insight. Our police represent our politics. Slain and pimple. Er, plain and simple.

Too much of policing in America is combating the symptoms. Minorities (specifically blacks) were duped, red-lined, sometimes even forced into specific pockets in our major urban areas. That alone did not inherently make those areas into ghettos. However, when you routinely under-fund these neighborhoods and their schools, limit access to public transit (and subsequently employment), allow drug epidemics to run rampant and only arrest street-level dealers and users while ignoring signs that your policing tactics are leading to turf wars, then yeah, those neighborhoods are gonna be kinda rough, right?

Garcia

Now this guy had it coming.

And yet we get bogged down in these cable news debates that push false dichotomies. “Did so-and-so deserve to be shot?” “Does the cop go to jail?” “Look at those rioters, how shameful.” When commenting on society’s ills we seem to be overlooking the question that real healers ask of themselves: How do I find the cure?

I don’t think it’s an out-and-out conspiracy that leads to the disenfranchisement of Black Americans. But I do think that politicians, crooked cops, greedy land owners and real estate developers, and most importantly, apathetic whites conspired to disenfranchise Black Americans.

Detroit is a prime example of white apathy. After the white flight of the 60's and 70's the city slowly deteriorated. Nothing happened in part because no one in power seemed to care.

Detroit is a prime example of white apathy. After the white flight of the 60’s and 70’s the city slowly deteriorated. Nothing happened in part because no one in power seemed to care.

It’s going to take a couple of generations to fix those wrongs. We first need to acknowledge that these things happened and persist to this day. And then be willing to collectively effect change. If we elevate one another then together we all rise.

But for issue of the police I have a three-pronged idea. Body cams are one part. I know they’re not a cure-all. But if we can determine wrongdoing and properly assign blame then departments will have to adapt and improve.

Tactics are another part. Patrol every neighborhood and know the residents. Meet people in the community who will work with you. Don’t write off districts wholesale because you think they’re against you.

McNulty

Maybe things’ll get better…maybe.

And finally, we need improvements to non-lethal weapons. Lethal weapons are the easiest to make, which is part of the reason why they’re so prevalent in law enforcement. Inventing a weapon that stops but doesn’t kill is naturally more difficult because it requires the development of a more efficient mechanism. But it can be done.

Like all of the issues I mentioned there’s nuance involved. I don’t think that corporations and politicians are actively colluding while scheming ways to further exploit the middle and lower class, but I do think that their actions often stem from fear, bigotry, greed, and ignorance. And that these actions dovetail, creating a society where we remain sustained in mediocrity.Glover

So-called wedge issues are perpetuated by our economically-stratified, politically-polarized existence. We’re all either liberal or conservative. We exist at opposite ends of the spectrum and yet we’re caught in the middle because we’re pitted against one another. We’re told we only have two choices in every controversy when it’s just not true. We can work together and find solutions together. We can reform our immigration policies to protect ourselves and those who seek shelter within our borders. We can reduce gun deaths without violating the rights of citizens. And we can own up to our self-inflicted wounds and ensure equal opportunity without sacrificing the comfort of the whole.

We are stronger together than we are apart.

We the People of the Gun

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower


At a recent role-playing game session we undertook a pen and paper adventure that takes place in modern-day United States. Our characters needed to procure guns for a mission so it fell to me as the lone American to explain to the rest of the group how we would do that. I talked about background checks, waiting periods and the gun show loophole as well as private sales. There was a brief moment of awed silence before my Norwegian friend put his hands to his face and said from behind them, “What the fuck is wrong with your country?”

I could only shrug.

It’s confusing to me and many others why guns are such a problem. And the reasons why are numerous. I mean, we have a gun-control supporter for president and a Democratic majority in the Senate. On the other hand the NRA is a powerful group and their lobbyists are if nothing else, effective. But they are outnumbered by millions of other people who probably don’t want their faces blown off.

What do they actually do anyway? Meetings must be so boring. "So, guns...pretty neat, right?"

What do they actually do anyway? Meetings must be so boring. “So, guns…pretty neat, right?”

There are also statistics like these which don’t just suggest, but actually prove that owning a gun doesn’t make you any safer. Women and children are more likely to be shot if there’s a gun in the home. People who carry guns are more likely to be shot and a higher gun ownership rate is directly related to more homicides and suicides.

Maybe part of the issue is that gun advocates avoid reading the data. Another part is the lack of focus of gun-control supporters. What part of their platform is most important? It’s a bit of an echo chamber at times, a bunch of people are calling for tighter restrictions but the nature of their demands can be quite vague. Which is part of why their argument is easily dismissed and lost in the shuffle. Gun ownership reform would actually necessitate several steps and to anyone on the fence it can seem overly complicated and perhaps more trouble than it’s worth.

Worth. There’s an important concept in this discussion. What is it worth to Americans that less people die?

Just watch The Wire already. I'm sick of reminding you.

Just watch The Wire already. I’m sick of reminding you.

Part of this discussion is difficult to have because if you’re playing the odds, young black males are more likely to be shot than anyone. Gang members and their victims usually aren’t NRA members and a lot of Americans who don’t live in those environments simply don’t care about what happens to people on the fringe.

When a Newtown, an Aurora or an Isla Vista happens though, it hits a nerve, doesn’t it? The attention to, and resultant anger over gun violence is disproportionately loud and white when you consider how many die on inner city streets every day.

Mass shootings are on the rise but they are, statistically-speaking, only a small part of the yearly gun death tally. But that’s not to downplay the total number of gun deaths per year which is both mind-boggling and unacceptable. Over eleven-thousand in 2010. Current trends indicate that between twenty-four and thirty gun homicides occur every day.

I would have said that cable news networks are something akin to the blind leading the blind but at least the blind get stuff done. CNN still hasn't found that airplane or make their holograms seem utterly pointless.

I would have said that cable news networks are something akin to the blind leading the blind but at least the blind get stuff done. I mean come on, CNN still hasn’t found that airplane.

Maybe shootings are over-reported? It certainly can reach a saturation point where you just can’t take anymore and it makes you feel numb. But that said, even though we know that news outlets choose salacious topics for the sake of higher ratings, shouldn’t the fact that we are inundated with reports of gun violence be enough to mobilize people into concerted action? I guess no, not really.

I come from Michigan where hunting is huge. But I don’t think hunters are the problem as not every hunter is a gun-nut and vice-versa. I also don’t think handguns are the problem. I think it’s the lacking background checks and prevalence of semi-automatic guns.

When the founding fathers wrote the Constitution they could not have known how guns would advance. They could not have predicted the accuracy, the power, or the rate of fire. Guns in the Revolutionary War couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. (Okay, maybe they could if you were standing in the barn.) If you told the framers of the Constitution that more people would die from guns every year than American soldiers died in battle during the entire course of the American Revolution their wooden teeth would fall out of the powdered-wigged heads. They would think we were being invaded by the British again.

"Why is everyone giggling?"

“I wish someone would just hurry up and invent the internet already, I’m freezing my teacakes off.”

For the staunchly pro-gun crowd to argue for an iron-clad Second Amendment and state that the will and intent of our forebears must be strictly adhered to is in contradiction to Thomas Jefferson’s views on law:

“I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

And oddly enough, some politicians and the NRA think more guns would solve the problem. (Reminder: I pointed out earlier in this post that higher gun ownership equates to a higher gun fatality rate.) There is a thought, a very-dumb-not-good-at-all thought, that we should arm teachers. Right. Is it just me or is that pants-crappingly insane? Let’s arm overworked, under-appreciated, underpaid people who work with children. Sarcasm noted?

My point being that humans are flawed. We are dumb, we are passionate, men with boners do stupid things, you name it. Trained professionals still accidentally shoot themselves all the time. Some people forget to lock up the house before they leave so how can you expect a gun owner to remember to lock the gun cabinet?

Us humans are not always as great as we wish we were.

Us humans are not always as great as we hope we are.

Guns, on the other hand, are perfect. If maintained properly and used effectively, they kill things pretty much all the time. The notion that guns aren’t the problem seems willfully ignorant to me.

Some gun advocates say a gun is not a weapon, it’s a tool. Well, I’d say that I teach children and that’s the silliest thing I’ve heard in a while. Guns were invented as weapons. The Chinese made them so that they could shoot other people that they didn’t like. It was later appropriated to hunting but it started off as a weapon and still is, by definition, a weapon. Sure, you can kill people with tools, but you can’t build a house or even a spice rack with a gun. Therefor, it’s not a tool.

You know what? Screw it. If someone can provide video proof of themselves constructing a spice rack with a gun I'll eat my hat.

You know what? Screw it. If someone can provide video proof of themselves constructing a spice rack with a gun I’ll eat my hat.

A weird little thing I’ve heard is that guns aren’t the problem, violence is. Well, for starters, “What?” And my follow-up, “Huh!?” There seems to be a general disconnect there that ignores that guns are a shortcut to violence when our basest desires cannot be resisted. And that the violence that stems from gun use is more likely to be fatal and harder to prevent. So to that logic I can only say, “(sound of blowing raspberries.)”

We are exposed to media that romanticizes guns. In video games, guns solve problems. However, I don’t think that video games are the issue. Of developed nations the U.S. leads the way in the rate of gun deaths per year and other developed nations have the same access to television, toys, books, movies, and yes, video games, that we do. In fact, in Japan where video game ownership is higher, the gun death rate is so low that by comparison it’s as if no one is ever shot in Japan. You are 147 times more likely to be shot to death in the U.S. than Japan.

Promo pic from the Japanese manga/anime Fist of the North Star. This is about the only picture you can find of Fist of the North Star that won't erode your soul. Oh, Japan. You wily devils.

Ultra-violent entertainment is even more commonplace in Japan than in the States. For example, here’s a promo pic from the Japanese manga/anime Fist of the North Star. This is about the only picture you can find of Fist of the North Star that won’t erode your soul. Oh, Japan. You wily devils.

What’s the difference then? Gun laws. They have super-strict background checks in Japan and the low gun death tally shows it. Their laws help weed out people who are unstable and potentially violent from having guns.

We don’t actually have that. We have criminal background checks which aren’t required in private sales or at gun shows and are based only on convictions, not a psychiatric report or even an interview.

We need new laws so what about the lawmakers? Well, here’s the biggest obstacle of all: Members of Congress spend half their terms worried about re-election which is why precious little ever gets done and why their approval rating is in the crapper. I think that installing term limits would end that, but do I think it would ever happen? Hrrrm…not bloody likely.

An atypically productive session of Congress unravels at the appearance of a sunbeam.

An atypically productive session of Congress unravels at the appearance of a sunbeam.

Gun ownership is popular in many states and more and more guns are being made every year which means more jobs which gun makers threaten to take to another state if the local elected official starts talking about gun control. So I kind of understand why the buckle so early and often. Politicians are not entirely chicken shit. But they’re not not entirely chicken shit.

Guns provide the illusion of power. The sense of control. But statistics show that the introduction of more guns equals more death and more chaos. In Australia when a mass shooting occurred the conservative government in office passed sweeping gun control laws and there hasn’t been a mass shooting since. Several politicians were eventually voted out of office due to the backlash from their pro-gun constituencies but they seem to bear no regrets because they were doing their job in making the country safer. That sort of plain logic doesn’t compute to American politicians.

Personally, I’m in no rush to move back to a country with a government whose politicians think that their jobs are so much more important than protecting the citizenry that they won’t even write a law. I’m content to just watch from afar for now.