Obenski column: It’s not the guns, it’s the hate

We have lots of violence problems; one of the most troubling is the mass shooting of innocents by excuse me, psychopaths.

Almost every shooter is a white male majoritarian, not one immigrant. Their motivations are hard to understand because most of them are dead by sundown and therefore hard to interview. Some do leave tracts or manifestos that can be read, but not cross examined. Often, they are incoherent rambles that don’t shed much light. It would help if police were less aggressive in shredding the perpetrator as they did in San Bernardino, almost dead is interrogatable.

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There are many proposals to mitigate the problem, but most concentrate on regulating the weapon even though the choice ranges from automatic rifle, to machete, to diesel fuel and fertilizer.

An assault weapon ban is popular even though it’s almost impossible to define assault weapon. The definitions usually describe cosmetic details that can be designed around. Common firearms can be modified to make them virtually fully automatic, e.g. bump stocks. There are already millions of firearms in America, most securely locked up.

On the other hand, there are several thousands, nobody knows how many, in the hands of criminals, who, being criminals, are not likely to observe any law, new or old. They are quite capable of making or importing many more. Village blacksmiths in Afghanistan were making copies of Enfield rifles, but have switched to cruder AK 47s. Where there is a demand, it will be met.

A national registry for guns sounds practical, but it smacks of 1936 Germany, first register then confiscate, door to door, and while you’re at it, invasive searches for other potentially contraband articles. We have the Fourth Amendment because our founders experienced the danger. It seems remote, but the overwhelming ownership of firearms is a factor in America’s freedom from invasion since 1814.

It would help if we could keep weapons of any type out of the hands of dangerous people, but no one knows how to reliably identify them before they become dangerous. We have lots of examples of respected police officers becoming dangerous with no warning: postal workers, high school boys, military, farmers, professors.

The president takes credit for economic trends that predate his election by seven years. There is one trend that only predates his election by the time he started campaigning. Maybe there is causation, maybe not, but so far there is no other explanation for the sudden upswell. The number of mass shootings doubled this year, and last year and the year before that and 2015 when he started praising violence in his rally speeches. Before that the number was random and relatively low. Nothing else changed until 2015. His Two Minutes Hate (1984) is an hour rally.

Every shooting is one too many, but like any other intractable problem there is no obvious, simple, inexpensive solution that isn’t also wrong. Some things can help. No one should encourage violence as an answer to any problem. The bases of hate need to be discredited calmly and rationally.

The problem is complex, but we as a nation have dealt with equally complex problems by altering the national conscience. Almost everyone used to smoke, now hardly anyone does. Public intoxication was common, now it’s rare. Ethnic prejudice was open, apparent, accepted even promoted through much of the country. Remember George Wallace? It was worst in the former confederacy, but aimed at different peoples in other regions. Every minority has felt the sting of racism until they became assimilated. Gradually, we changed or national consciousness to the point where in most company overt ethnic hatred is no longer acceptable.

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Just as people have to be taught to hate, they have to be taught to not hate but to accept and understand. The shooters are motivated by hate, take away the hate and they can find something better to do.

Ken Obesnki is a forensic engineer, now safety and freedom advocate in South Kona who writes a biweekly column for West Hawaii Today. Send feedback to obenskik@gmail.com.