I am a constituent, a Republican, a conservative. I am also a lawyer of 15 years. I am not a prestigious, wealthy, influential lawyer; I have a small solo practice in business law. I am also a certified police officer, and more specifically a tactical (SWAT) officer. Since 2004 I have also run a political/social blog called Pros and Cons (www.prosandcons.us). At one time (though not anymore) I had a pretty substantial readership, including, for instance, the Alabama Attorney General’s office and at least one Alabama Supreme Court justice. Though I may have quibbled with the odd issue or two, in my posts I have generally given you my wholehearted and enthusiastic support. Certainly I have done so at the polls on election day.
I am writing with reference to the Congressional investigation of the events in Benghazi, Libya. With respect, sir, I find it appalling and enraging that we are eight months after four American citizens, including two Navy SEALs, lost their lives, and Congress has not yet asked the appropriate questions of the appropriate people. Therefore, I humbly submit to you the following questions that my fellow conservatives and tactical operators would like answered:
1. What was the security situation in Benghazi (and, for that matter, in Tripoli)? If it was inadequate, why, and who is responsible for it being so?
2. Who knew the nature of the attack on the Benghazi compound, and when did they know it?
3. Exactly what communications were received from Benghazi, Tripoli, and any other locations in the region, regarding the situation in Benghazi, who initiated those communications, who received them, and when? What actions were taken in response to any and all such communications, and who was responsible, both immediately and ultimately, for those responses?
4. Exactly what communications were transmitted to Benghazi and all other U.S. personnel in the region regarding the situation in Benghazi, who initiated those communications, who received them, and when? Who was responsible, both immediately and ultimately, for those communications?
5. What military and other tactical assets (i.e. CIA, State Department, etc.) were in the area? What were the potential response times and capabilities of those assets? What did the commanders of those assets know about the situation, and when (time and date) did they know it? What were the desires and intents of those commanders regarding responding to Benghazi? What were their orders, and when and from whom did they receive those orders?
6. Exactly who, comprehensive by name and position, prepared, vetted, edited, altered or otherwise had input into the talking points which Ambassador Rice offered concerning the Benghazi attack? What changes were made? Were any non-classified facts altered, omitted, or—particularly—misrepresented, from those talking points, and if so, by whom, and when?
7. Why hasn’t Ambassador Rice been called to testify in front of Congress concerning this affair? Why was Secretary Clinton not questioned more thoroughly, and why has her testimony not been thoroughly investigated?
Senator, I am sure I could come up with a great many more questions, but I am running out of my text limit in your e-mail form, so I will simply ask you to be tough, be thorough, and give your utmost to this investigation, as Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty gave their lives for the sake of their country and comrades. Leave no stone unturned, and do not allow politics to obscure the truth. Please, please insist that those responsible for the murder of four American citizens be held accountable—not just the al Qaeda thugs who actually pulled the triggers, but the Americans who could have saved four American lives, but declined to do so.
You have my trust and my support.
Scott W. Gosnell, Esq.
Let me know if I left out any important questions. I’m still pretty pissed.
In the past few days I have come across a few amazing music videos, so I thought I’d share them. Enjoy!
This makes me long for the old marching band/drum line days—except that my drum line never did anything like this! My old roommate in college used to play with a drum and bugle corps, and they did this kind of stuff. Very cool!
I love Billy Joel. He is, in my opinion, one of the all-time great songwriters and performers. Here he shows that he’s also very gracious and a gentleman. I’m going home to burn my piano.
Obviously Billy Joel isn’t the only gentleman out there in musicland. Although I’m not a big U2 fan, this video doesn’t surprise me one bit. Very cool!
According to the book of Genesis, the third person ever to walk the earth suddenly and violently murdered the fourth person ever to walk the earth. “And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him” (Genesis 4:8b). We don’t know what Cain used to kill Abel – a rock, a tree branch, his bare hands – but we know it was not a gun. Guns would not be invented for many thousands of years, and lots of people would be violently killed in the interim. I’m not going to make an argument here for guns or against gun control – those arguments have been made and will continue to be made at other times and in other places. But obviously the problem with murder is not guns. It’s sin. I think we need to be having a serious discussion about sin control.
I heard yesterday that the town of Newtown, Connecticut had taken down their Christmas decorations, deeming it inappropriate to celebrate during this time of mourning. As Bob Flayhart, pastor of Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama (#theBobbyFlay) said yesterday, if Christmas is all about commercialism, then that is a completely appropriate thing to do. I agree. If Christmas is about giving gifts, acting nicer, parties, decorations, lights on houses and trees, and consumer spending, then Newtown has got it right: they need to take down the lights, hang black wreathes, and mourn the death of their children and neighbors.
But if Christmas is about the birth of Christ, if Jesus really was born, and really was God, and if heaven really did break onto the earth with a mission, then we need to celebrate Christmas now more desperately than ever before. You see, Jesus did not come to give us pretty lights, and to teach us to act nicer, and to give us a reason to give gifts. He came because he saw clearly the unthinkable horror and evil that walked the earth – the same evil that walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School, the same evil that walked into Columbine, the same evil that walked into a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, the same evil that filled gas chambers in Nazi Germany, the same evil that caused Cain to kill Able. He saw all that, and he came to earth to do battle with it.
It bears keeping in mind that Jesus’ birth was accompanied by a bloodbath – hundreds or thousands of infants and toddlers murdered in their homes. “Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more.” (Matthew 2:16-18.) Death and mourning at Christmas is not a new thing. It’s as old as Christmas itself.
People, we don’t need to get rid of guns. We need to get rid of sin. But we can’t. Not by ourselves. If the problem was as simple as guns, we could put them all in a pile and burn them. Of course, that didn’t stop Cain, who found another means to commit murder. Cain’s problem (and ours) is sin. But we can’t just put our sin in a pile and burn it. I wish that we could, and some people will find someday that God will do just that, much to their dismay, but as human beings we can’t do that. But there is hope. Remember I said that Jesus came to earth to do battle? He came to do battle with sin and death. And he won. He’s the only one who could. And because he won, we can win through him. We can claim his victory as our own, if we only believe in him.
That is a reason to celebrate Christmas, even now, as we mourn. Especially now. We need Christmas. We need to celebrate the birth of the victor, the savior. Because he is the only one who can stop the Sandy Hooks of this world. He is the only one who can defeat sin. Right now he can do it in individuals, person by person. I hope you have asked him to do it in you. Someday he’ll do it for the whole world.
Unfortunately, I believe it’s time to have a frank, logical discussion about guns. A generation ago, this discussion would have been unusual. Two generations ago, it would have been unthinkable. Now, it is necessary.
This morning, one week after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, I woke up to an article in Weld for Birmingham by its publisher, Mark Kelly, entitled “Time for a Change” (available online here) which was ostensibly provoked by that tragedy. Mr. Kelly initially paints a very emotional and sympathetic picture of his own domestic life, and contrasts it with the ravaged lives of those families who lost loved ones last Friday. It is a picture many of us can relate to. I will confess to spending more time with my children this week, and hugging them more often. That’s a good thing.
But Mr. Kelly goes on to make the following statements:
I am angry at the knee-jerk reaction of gun owners who insist that the 28 people who died in a single morning in Newtown — let us not forget the seven adults who were killed, nor even the gunman himself — did not die because a 20-year-old person in whom something snapped had ready access to weapons that were manufactured purely for the purpose of killing human beings. If you are one of these people — if you honestly believe or, in your desperation to deny the patent truth, pretend to believe that such a slaughter could have been perpetrated with a knife or baseball bat or a samurai sword or even a plain old-fashioned six-shooter — then you are a danger to yourself and your fellow Americans.
These assertions are, at best, a knee-jerk reaction of a gun opponent born of grief and sympathy, or at worst, an intellectually dishonest argument in furtherance of a political agenda. Let’s begin by stipulating that for eons people have been killing others, sometimes in great numbers, without guns. According to the Old Testament, Samson killed 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey (Judges 15:15). And lest you insist that God helped him, look at Genesis 34:25, where Simeon and Levi “each took his sword and came upon the city unawares, and killed every male.” Two men massacred an entire city of grown men with swords, not guns. God did not sanction, and in fact harshly judged, this massacre. On a more contemporary note, on March 23, 2010, Zheng Minsheng murdered eight children with a knife in an elementary school in Nanping, China. Over the next eight months, in excess of 124 children and adults were killed or injured in 8 different school incidents by copycat killers wielding such weapons as knives, a hammer, a cleaver, a box-cutter, and an axe. Not one used a gun. Clearly mass murder is possible without guns.
But the larger point is that this sort of argument is indicative of the kind of rhetoric that is prominent in the gun debate. It is frequently based on slogans and pithy phrases, and less on an honest, reasonable consideration of the facts. And the fault does not lie only, or even primarily, with the gun control crowd.
Let’s start with this: Mr. Kelly is right on at least one point. Guns – or at least the assault rifles and handguns which generate the most debate – are manufactured purely for the purpose of killing human beings. Sure, many guns are manufactured for other purposes, such as precision target shooting or hunting. But the ARs and the AKs and most handguns are, truthfully, manufactured to kill people. Look at most gun magazines and you will see that these weapons are marketed and advertised for use against another human being. Still not convinced? Look at how ammunition for such guns is designed – for maximum stopping power. Gun advocates must concede this point, or else they lose all credibility.
Related to this point is the imperative that we quit comparing apples and oranges in the gun debate. How many times have you heard that if we outlaw guns, we must outlaw cars, and doctors, and swimming pools, and fast food, all of which kill more people yearly than guns? The fact is that cars are made for transportation, and swimming pools are built for recreation, and fast food is made for nourishment (sort of). None of these things are created with the intention that they be used to kill people, and to equate them on that basis is intellectually dishonest.
If we look past these red herrings, we come to the real point of the gun control debate: is there any social benefit for the general public to have access to a product that is manufactured for the purpose of killing human beings? And here’s where the debate breaks down, because the pro-gun people and the anti-gun people both frequently fail to ask the necessary follow-up question, which practically begs itself: which human beings are those guns manufactured to kill?
Because we are now approaching the issue of intent – specifically, what guns are intended to be used for – we need to take a moment here to come to grips with another convenient pro-gun slogan: “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Let’s be realistic here. Guns, by themselves, are a hunk of metal and plastic. They have no brain, no will, no intent. Anyone who says otherwise is clearly off their rocker. Mr. Kelly addresses this in his column as follows:
In immediate response to this, I refer to a story that might have occupied news pages for a little longer if not for the mass killing in Connecticut — that of the father in Pennsylvania whose handgun went off in the parking lot of a gun store and killed his son, who was settling into his safety seat in the back seat of their car. Did a gun kill that child, or was it his father? I’m sure there are those who say the latter, to which I respond that my spiritual beliefs are such that I don’t spend any time contemplating the existence of hell — but if there is one, it’s my opinion that there will be a special corner of it reserved for the “guns don’t kill people” crowd.
If I hadn’t read the rest of the article, I would have thought that Mr. Kelly was writing a parody piece. Read it carefully. He is actually arguing that the gun killed this child, and he places no blame or responsibility on the father. However, if you read the father’s own statement of what happened (the story is available online here), you will see that “he unloaded the magazine at home, but didn’t realize a bullet was still in the chamber.” As he laid it down on the console of the truck, the gun discharged. That is negligence. That is irresponsible gun ownership, and violates the first rule of gun ownership: all guns are always loaded. Recognize, too, that not only did he leave that gun loaded, but he necessarily placed it on the console in a position where it pointed at his son, which violates the second law of gun ownership: never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy. The gun did not, and could not, load itself. It did not, and could not, unload itself. It did not, and could not, choose to shoot the boy. That man must live the rest of his life with the knowledge that his recklessness and negligence killed his son. My heart breaks for him, for who among us have not been reckless or negligent while doing any number of mundane tasks – driving, cooking, playing sports, whatever? But to blame the gun is beyond absurd.
So we come back to the public policy question posed earlier: is there any societal benefit to the public having access to guns which are manufactured solely for the purpose of killing human beings. Again, that question may hinge on exactly which human beings the guns were manufactured to kill. If you believe that the guns were manufactured to kill first-graders, or movie-goers, or mall shoppers, or people sleeping peacefully in their homes, then clearly the answer to that question is that there is absolutely no social benefit whatsoever to guns, and they should be outlawed immediately. However, if you believe that the guns were manufactured to prevent bad people from doing bad things to good people, and that they actually do prevent such acts, and that they prevent more human suffering than they promote, then the answer would be that guns actually do have a social benefit. The evidence, both statistical and anecdotal, strongly supports the case that more gun civilian gun owners use their firearms to prevent crimes than to commit them.
Let’s return to the issue of intent. The gun manufacturers contend, of course, that they intend their products to be used by law-abiding people for lawful purposes. This stated goal is supported by their observable advertising and product development. They do not develop guns and accessories which make it easier to get a gun into a school, or on an airplane. They do not market their products to criminals. They market their products to law abiding citizens for lawful purposes, and advertise in periodicals which promote lawful and safe gun ownership (such as NRA magazines).
But let’s discount the manufacturers for the moment, because let’s face it, the most cynical of us will assume they are only in it to make a buck (although the mass murderer market is rather small – though not small enough – to support such a large industry). That leaves us with the intent of the purchaser, the gun owner. And therein is the crux of the whole argument. It is the intent of the gun owner which determines how a gun is used. History and experience shows clearly that we cannot regulate that. The record of the human race proves unequivocally that mass murder is not a product solely of contemporary society. People were killing other people long before guns were invented. We can, however, observe that in 2011, approximately 36% of the American public (70-80 million people) owned approximately 300 million firearms. Out of that number, how many are using their guns to massacre innocent people? And, perhaps more relevantly, why aren’t there more? I think an argument can be made that the presence of guns deters more violence than it enables. In fact, the Sandy Hook incident itself supports this argument. According to reports, Adam Lanza, the gunman, continued his shooting spree only up to the point that he became aware that he was about to be confronted by an individual with a gun, at which time Lanza stopped his rampage. Let me say that again a different way: at the moment Lanza believed that he was going to be confronted with a gun, no more children died.
The argument remains, however, that if we outlawed guns – or at least certain types of guns – then even those few instances of illegal gun use will drop. In fact, Mr. Kelly argues that we should amend the Constitution to abolish the 2nd Amendment for the good of our country and the safety of our children. Again, though, reality does not support that kind of wishful thinking. During the 1920s, after the 18th Amendment to the Constitution was passed, alcohol was illegal. Alcohol was nevertheless readily available, and alcohol-related crime actually increased. Fast forward to . . . today. Drugs, from marijuana to heroin to cocaine to meth, have been illegal for decades, but drug use is still strong and increasing, and drug-related criminal activity consumes most of our law enforcement and judicial resources. Clearly making guns illegal, even by Constitutional amendment, will not reduce gun use or gun crime; it will almost certainly make it thrive. However, unlike alcohol and drug use, which primarily are victimless crimes (i.e. they only harm the user), gun crimes primarily harm innocents – as we know all too well.
I feel obliged to point out that Mr. Kelly, in his editorial, was absolutely right on with one other observation. He says this:
Finally, there is the assertion heard from some quarters in recent days that the Newtown tragedy happened because ‘we have removed God from our schools.’ I’m tempted to allow the unforgiveable insensitivity of that phrase to speak for itself, but I have to add this: If you’re relying on schools to instill spiritual values in your child, you are not fit to be a parent; and if you believe that the purpose of public schools is to provide religious instruction, then you have no understanding of the meaning or purpose of education.
Again, we are faced squarely with a common mantra from the pro-gun crowd. Mr. Kelly is right: if you are relying on schools to instill spiritual values in your child, you are almost as negligent, if not more, as that father who accidentally shot his child. Spiritual education comes primarily from the home. To insist that the source of the Sandy Hooks evil is because we don’t have the Ten Commandments hanging on the wall of the classroom is to ignore – or shirk – parental responsibility. I’m not saying we should not put basic moral and ethical education back in the classroom (we should); I am saying that we cannot blame the schools for failing to do what we should be doing, and frequently fail to do, at home. We cannot pass the buck.
In the closing paragraph of his editorial, Mr. Kelly states that he “know[s] plenty of kind, decent, humane and loving people — including members of [his] family — who own guns and take very seriously the responsibilities of gun ownership.” Assuming these kind, decent, humane and loving people – or at least some of them – are the same kind of people who don’t believe that guns kill people, or that the gunman’s ready access to guns killed those children, then they apparently are a danger to themselves and their fellow Americans (which would not make them kind, decent or humane), and are destined for that special corner of hell.
I have spent a great deal of time contemplating the existence of hell, and while I don’t know if hell has corners, I do have a pretty good grasp on what it takes to get there. I am confident that I won’t be there, irrespective of my view on guns.
I was listening this morning, as I always do on this particular day of days, to some news broadcast and commentary contemporaneous with the attacks on the World Trade Center. One of the media people made the statement: “We’re under a terrorist attack; where’s the military?” It was a natural response, particularly in a pre-9/11 world. The military deals with attacks on America. Besides, the idea of a domestic attack was almost unthinkable. Hadn’t happened since Pearl Harbor.
We, of course, know better now. Or should. The United States military is the best in the world, but it wasn’t made for that. It was quick to respond—fighter jets over American air space, armed soldiers in our airports and other high-value places, ships off the coast. But the military could not stop the initial attacks, could not prevent the trade centers from falling.
You know who did stop an initial attack? Citizens. Ordinary, everyday people like you and me. On Uniited flight 93, there were people with a particular mindset, who were determined to stop evil and save lives. And they did—at the cost of their own. How many lives did they save? We don’t know. Those would-be-victims will never know that 40 people gave their lives, so complete strangers could go home to their families. Those heroes were: Christian Adams, Lorraine G. Bay,Todd Beamer,Alan Beaven,Mark Bingham,Deora Bodley,Sandra W. Bradshaw,Marion Britton,Thomas Burnett, Jr.,William Cashman,Georgine Corrigan,Patricia Cushing,Jason Dahl,Joseph DeLuca,Patrick Driscoll,Edward Felt. Matawan, Jane Folger,Colleen Fraser,Andrew “Sonny” Garcia,Jeremy Glick,Lauren Grandcolas,Wanda A. Green, Donald F. Greene,Linda Gronlund,Richard Guadagno,Leroy Homer,Toshiya Kuge,Hilda Marcin,Waleska Martinez,Nicole Miller,Louis J. Nacke,CeeCee Ross-Lyles,Donald A. Peterson,Jean Hoadley Peterson,Mark Rothenberg,Christine Snyder,John Talignani, Honor Wainio,Deborah A. Welsh,and Kristin Gould White.
Where was the military? The military was doing what the military does: training, monitoring, preparing for the fight—on foreign soil. Who’s preparing for the fight here at home?
The sheepdogs, that’s who. The men and women who spend their Saturdays sweating on a hot range shooting until their hands cramp. The same men and women who train until the wee hours of the morning on a rainy winter night because that’s when the training is scheduled. These aren’t just police officers, though many are. They are also civilians, who understand that the police can only respond, and likely won’t get on scene until after the shooting has stopped.
You see, it’s not about guns. Sure, many of us have fun shooting. But the guns are only a symptom of a larger vision, a mindset that says “I’m going to be prepared to stop bad people from doing bad things. It’s my responsibility as an American—and as a human being.” The people on United 93 didn’t have guns. But they had the mindset. They were sheepdogs.
If Providence decrees that I be on an airline flight that is hijacked, I will likely not have a gun. But I will have my training. I will be thinking tactically. I will not have a gun, but I will be looking for an improvised weapon. I will not have much room, but I will maneuver as best I can. I will look for the opportunity, for the opening to strike. And then, God willing, I will act decisively and effectively. And if I die, I’m all right with that. As for me, I know what comes next.
And if I don’t do all of those things, and people die, it will be on me. Not on the military, not on the police, not on my fellow citizens. On me. I did not pay attention. I did not train hard enough. I did not prepare.
Lord, I do not ask you to save me from bad people. I ask that you prepare me to fight bad people.
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site is strictly the opinion(s) of the author(s). If you've enjoyed
it, I am responsible. If not, let's get the jerk who is! He should
be easy to catch, just look for exhaust from an SUV and a trail of
dead baby seals. All that knuckle-dragging's got to slow him down.