coun-ter-in-tu-i-tive [kaʊntərɪnˈtuɪtɪv], adjective: counter to what intuition would have one expect . . .
OK, now that we have defined the term, how about a handful of examples?
- A weight-loss regimen that requires one to consume three malteds a day.
- A set of travel directions that sends one north in order to get one south.
- Virtually any argument containing the words "slippery slope."
- Believing that the non-occurrence of "X" proves the certainty that "X" will occur.
The last two examples shall occupy our attention for the better part of this piece . . .
Ever since Barack Obama came to office, gun advocates have warned that one day -- and soon -- the administration will come and take everyone's guns away, thus leaving a defenseless citizenry at the mercy of a pernicious, rapacious federal government. Never
mind that during his first three-and-a-half years in office, any discussion of gun control has been somewhere between overly muted and practically non-existent. About the only gun-related action taken by this administration was a measure that both gun-owners and the National Rifle Association (NRA) cheered: on February 22, 2010 the president signed legislation making it legal for licensed gun owners to bring weapons into national parks and on Amtrak trains. (Check out my Feb. 26, 2010 essay Of Glocks, Glaciers and Giant Sequoias
After the gunning down of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in January 2011, President Obama said little about the need for gun control; he didn't even call for reinstituting the Assault Weapon Ban, which had expired in 2004. Instead, he talked up the need for greater civility in American public life. And now, even after last week's movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado, the president's rhetoric is anything but brash or anti-gun. Where one might assume that our "gun-hating President" would at least call for a ban on the sale of 100-round magazines for AK-47s, let alone severe restrictions on sales at gun shows or over the internet, all he did was issue a call for a "common sense approach" to sales of assault weapons and new restrictions barring mentally disabled people from purchasing weapons. "These steps shouldn't be controversial," the president said. "They should be common sense." Speaking before the National Urban League convention in New Orleans, the president added, "I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms. I think we recognize the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation. That hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage."
Far from sounding like the ranting of a neurotic hoplophobe (one with a morbid fear of firearms), his words seem both measured and politic, if not a bit milquetoast. He concluded his speech by saying: "But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals. That they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities. I believe the majority of gun owners would agree we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons, and we should check someone's criminal record before they can check out a gun seller." Again, nothing terribly objectionable or "We're coming to take your guns away" in what he said.
Here's where counterintuition comes into play.
Despite what the president said after the Aurora tragedy, and despite his track record during his first three-plus years in office, all that the NRA-nicks heard the president say was, in the words of
more than one headline
that "Obama says people shouldn't be able to own guns!"
As the prophet said, "They have ears but they do not hear, eyes, but they do not see . . ."
For about as long as anyone can remember, the NRA has employed the "slippery-slope" as its rationale for standing against any and every conversation containing the words "gun" and "control." To the leaders of this powerful lobbying organization -- though not necessarily all of its rank-and-file members -- even questioning the unfettered sale of 100-round magazines or the stockpiling of thousands upon thousands of rounds of ammunition (as in the case of the Aurora gunman) is but a step away from the confiscation of every pistol, rifle, and other bullet-shooting device in America.
Another living, breathing example of "counterintuitive."
People on both sides of the political aisle -- and leaders of the NRA -- argue that it is "too soon after Aurora" to have a serious conversation about guns America. This is utter balderdash. If not now -- when we have 12 dead and 58 wounded before us -- then when? The NRA keeps true to its slogan that "Guns don't kill people; people kill people." Hello? The slogan should be "Guns don't kill people; people with guns kill people."
I admit that I've never been a gun fancier or hunter of game either great or small. There simply weren't too many opportunities for hunting in the neighborhood where I grew up, unless, of course you count the paparazzi armed with Leicas and Hasselblads stalking the beast known as celebratus Tinseltownus. Despite not having guns in my background, I do have a modicum of respect for the 2nd Amendment, although I honestly admit -- unlike many -- that I'm not really sure how "A well regulated Militia" translates into an unfettered right for civilians to own howitzers, bazookas and AK-47s.
To say -- as many on the pro-gun side of the aisle do -- that if only one person attending that Friday night movie had been strapped -- i.e. carrying a weapon -- there likely would have been no massacre, is specious. According to a student of mine at Florida International University -- a highly-decorated career military man we lovingly and respectfully call "The General" -- anyone returning fire would likely have caused the carnage to increase . Why? Because, as The General told me, "Trying to hit a specific target through the darkened haze of tear gas is highly problematic if not next to impossible." What most forget is that the crazed gunman threw a tear gas bomb into the theater before opening fire . . .
Without question, America is an extremely violent and well-armed country. The FBI estimates that there are more than 200 million guns in this country. And, if one adds in those owned by the military and law enforcement agencies it is likely one weapon for every man, woman and child in this country. As a partial result of all these guns, pistols, rifles and assault weapons, it is estimated that there will be more than 9,000 murders-by-firearm in this country over the next 12 months. By means of comparison, over the same period there will be an estimated 60 in Great Britain. And, even taking into account that Great Britain's population is 1/5 that of America, their 60 firearm murders would be the equivalent of 300 on our side of the pond.
What this country needs is a full-throated debate about the future of guns in America. At some point, politicians are going to have to stop being so all-fired fearful of the NRA. They are neither as monolithic nor as powerful as many think. Consider that according to the most recent polling:
- 74% of NRA members and 87% of non-NRA gun owners support criminal background checks for anyone purchasing a gun.
- 74% of NRA members think that concealed carry permits should be granted only to applicants who have completed gun safety training and 75% believe that such permits should be granted to people who have not committed violent misdemeanors, including assault.
- 71% of NRA members back the idea that people on terror watch lists should be barred from buying guns (duh), and
- 65% believe that gun owners should be required to alert police in the event of lost and stolen guns.
Of course, merely heaping on more restrictions will never keep deranged people from committing deranged acts of evil. It may, however, just make it a bit more difficult . . . or force them to use a knife or crossbow, which is up close and personal.
And the NRA argues for more guns and fewer restrictions while politicians meekly agree?
Talk about counterintuitive . . .
Kurt Stone is a rabbi, writer, lecturer, political activist, professor, actor, and medical ethicist. A true "Hollywood brat" (born and raised in the film industry), Kurt was educated at the University of California, the Eagleton Institute of (more...