"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Can’t afford institutional ignorance

rainey BARRETT


“Ignorance breeds anger.”

That’s my iconic shorthand for the outrageous behavior causing so many raised and uninformed voices in today’s national “discussion” of gun ownership responsibility. Not gun control. Gun ownership responsibility. How they’re used. Which ones should be generally available. Who should not have them. Who should not. The national responsibility we have to each other to see that guns are used properly for the safety of all concerned.

State legislatures – especially in the West – are being deluged by constituents who’re scared. Scared someone is going to take their guns away.

Who? Many will say “President Obama” or “the feds” or “Congress” or some other “they.” Angry? Yes. Ignorance In spades.

No one has – and no one will – take away anyone’s guns. No one. No time. No how. No one in the recent – very preliminary – federal examination of what can be done to stop shooting massacres and improve public safety is talking “gun control.” No one that is except those who aren’t paying attention. They’re angry. And the anger comes from what? Ignorance.

No one’s talking “control,” that is, except the NRA and others who have large economic interests in assuring guns are more available than ice cream.

Fear of the unknown is driving much of the public clamor. Fear because many causing the most noise and disruption have not looked carefully at what’s been done in recent weeks. And what’s NOT been done. For that, I blame the bloody NRA and the right wing nuts in public office. And – in many respects – a media carelessly dealing with the issue of guns and throwing around the words “gun control” where no such words – and no federal legislation – exist in today’s dialogue. Institutional ignorance causing public anger.

Case in point. In an attempt to be oh, so very clever – Idaho largest fish wrap “newspaper” topped it’s Jan. 18th editorial page with this headline: “SHOOTING FROM THE HIP CLIPS DEBATE.” Needless to say, the subsequent editorial below that journalistic crap didn’t measure up. How could it?

But what it did do was make an absolutely false claim – in black and white – in the first sentence. “Vice President Joe Biden … slapped together one of the most sweeping gun-control bills in American history.” Direct quote. Absolutely false. After meeting with more than 250 groups involved in any way with guns and public safety, Biden produced a report with some 27 recommendations. Not a “sweeping gun-control bill.” A list of recommendations. In it were two which would require legislation if – IF – the President wants to go forward. So far, no bills have been written.

Small point? No, it’s not small. Not when you add CNN, Fox, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, NBC and all the rest. All of whom are tossing around words like “gun control” and “pending legislation.” Words that distort. Words that are wrong. Words that inflame. Words that add to the ignorance. Words that anger and scare.

In a number of state legislature’s, the fear mongers are publishing proposed bills to let the states ignore federal laws regarding guns, health care and other things. Nullification. Some will be passed. But case law on nullification is stacked 12 feet high. It doesn’t work. It won’t work. But people elected to public office are adding to the bad information – spreading their own ignorance – which in the end will cause more anger. And fear.

So, some of the ignorant – some of the angry – fueled with false “information” – have turned to local law enforcement. In several western states, some sheriffs – especially ones with overly tender butts about keeping their core voting constituency happy – have added to the cacophony. They’ve made wild promises about not enforcing laws or regulations they deem “unconstitutional” and have promised to keep federal law enforcement officers from doing their job. The local media has relayed this paranoia on the front page of every little cage liner. More ignorant disinformation to stoke more anger. Instead of competent leadership, these badge carriers are showing their own lack of understanding of how our criminal justice system works. Of how American’s government works. About their own damned jobs!

I’ve long believed many of our nation’s ills have been caused by the lack of understanding by many people about government – how it works – what it does – what it can do – what it can’t do. Extensive polling supports that thesis. Now, from that under-informed – misinformed – pool, we’ve elected too many people to public office who continue to operate with little to no more understanding than they started with.

Systemically, our public education system has contributed to this problem of ignorance of our civics. Now, some of those civically illiterate former “students” are in our media. In Congress and the legislature. City hall and the court house. And some – as we’ve seen in recent days – carry badges.

More than discussion, this nation needs to act on the issue of responsibility with firearms. Not “gun control.” Gun responsibility. Just as not everyone should drive on our highways or pilot an airplane, not everyone should have a firearm. We must find them and isolate them as we do with highway and aviation safety. For the same reasons of public interest and public protection. There are medical issues. There are law enforcement issues. There are legal issues. There are responsibility issues.

A media that can’t accurately report – public office holders fanning verbal fires for their own self-interest – law enforcement officials who make ignorant statements with false and inflammatory promises – these we can’t afford. The subject is just too damned important.

We’ve kicked this can down the road for decades. We are at a national moment in which we need to pick up that dented can and dispose of it in a wise manner for our national interest. For our national survival.

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