A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

Posts tagged “current-events

Crimes of the Uterus: Imprisonment and Death in the US

NOW

NOW

I sit here taking deep breaths, swallowing, my chest tight, trying to write how I feel about what I’m about to tell you, but I find I don’t have words that truly convey the horror. That and the sense of standing on the precipice of change that will either truly liberate us as a species or destroy us altogether. I will say this: I’m ready to fight–to really, truly fight–and I’m wide open to ideas.

This week* RH Reality Check released the results of a study that confirmed a terrifying trend many of us have feared for some time: that women are being arrested and imprisoned for “crimes” such as having a miscarriage, delivering a stillborn child, planning to have an abortion, or declining a test recommended by their doctor.

Yes, you heard right. From RH Reality Check:

A woman in Oregon who did not comply with a doctor’s recommendation to have additional testing for gestational diabetes was subjected to involuntary civil commitment. During her detention, the additional testing was never performed.

And that’s not the worst thing. Not by far.

After a hearing that lasted less than a day, a court issued an order requiring a critically-ill pregnant woman in Washington, D.C. to undergo cesarean surgery over her objections. Neither she nor her baby survived.

I'm awake.

I’m awake.

People, it’s time to get serious. We’ve long known that in some people’s eyes, women are for sexing men and making babies, and now–in 20motherfucking13–it’s down to no birth control, no abortions, and you’d damned well better deliver a living child. I don’t know about you, but I feel as though I’m living in a work of dark future fiction. The world this trend implies is not the world I want for any woman on the planet, much less my daughter, my future granddaughters, or anyone I love.

What will we do to fight it? How far will we go? I know I’ll write my ass off, but that’s not enough anymore, is it? Because ANY level of complacency in the face of this information would be, for me personally, complicity.

And I will not comply.


Updates:

*It turns out this report was published in January. I was apparently so upset I didn’t notice. Not sure it took until yesterday for the story to reach me, but I certainly was not aware of this, and from the reaction here and elsewhere, I get the impression others weren’t, either.

Here’s a link to the abstract of the study’s findings as published by Duke University Press Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law. The right-hand sidebar has a link to the full article.

Aaaand, it turns out the UN Human Rights Council just released their 2013 “Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” According to Social Justice Solutions, the main takeaway with regard to reproductive health is “the concept that limiting or entirely denying access to abortions or other reproductive rights is a form of torture.”


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Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


One Woman Voted Against VAWA…Twice

Via Wikimedia Commons.
Via Wikimedia Commons.

Via Wikimedia Commons.

Meet Kristi Noem. Yesterday she distinguished herself as the only woman in Congress to vote against both the House and Senate versions of the Violence Against Women Act.  While you ponder that, here’s a bit about her from Wikipedia:

Kristi Noem (born November 30, 1971) is the U.S. Representative for South Dakota’s at-large congressional district, serving since January 2011.[1] She is a member of the Republican Party and has been elected to the Republican Leadership for the 112th Congress as one of its two freshman representatives.[5] She previously represented the 6th District in the South Dakota House of Representatives for four years, serving as an Assistant Majority Leader during her final year. She is a farmer, rancher and small business owner by profession.

Many on her Facebook page (male and female–even some Republicans) are asking for an explanation, but I found no official statement on her page. Apparently this is not a cut and dried issue for her, as she has waffled on it before. According to a statement to press after the vote, she believes the VAWA will “muddy the waters with constitutionally questionable provisions that will likely only delay justice.”

Also, according to the Argus Leader, Noem has plans to…compensate? for voting against women by introducing new legislation in future:

Noem said she soon will introduce a bill to help victims of domestic abuse in Indian tribes. The measure will include a series of provisions, including improving coordination between U.S. and tribal law enforcement.

Yeah, sorry, but…no.

Republicans voting against VAWA

This is what the war on women looks like.

To see Ms. Noem among these white Republican men in this context is so bizarre to me. As one Facebook commenter said, “How could anyone with a uterus vote against VAWA?” But even more bizarre was seeing this from one female commenter:


Susi's Comment

And this, also from a woman:

Henri's comment

I’m never surprised to see men bashing VAWA. To be clear, I’m never surprised to see men defending VAWA, either–it’s just that most VAWA opposition I’ve encountered comes directly from Men’s Rights Activists who claim that the Violence Against Women Act is a conspiracy by feminists to strip them of their parental rights and destroy the institution of the traditional American family. The rest has come from white, male politicians who honestly seem worried that they or one of their friends might find themselves subject to reservation justice, which when you think about it is pretty gross. But why else oppose protections for Native American women raped by men who are not members of the reservation they chose to perpetrate their crime (often repeatedly)?

But when I see women caught up in opposing their own rights and protections, I just feel sick. Who are these women, and how did someone convince them that VAWA was bad for them (or for anyone)? And more importantly, how do we counter this tendency?

A male commenter on MMAS recently said that women need to stand together and watch one another’s backs the way men do. I think he’s right in that women have been trained to see one another as competition for males and while some of us have risen above that and are embracing sisterhood, too many still don’t want to be seen as One of “Those” Girls. Men are competitive, too, but it’s just not the same, I think. When women buy into the cultural stereotypes that tell us that our sex is bitchy, naggy, and oh-so-crazy, but tolerable as long as we look cute and don’t make waves…well, what chance to we have? When women buy into conservative/MRA lies that tell them VAWA is a feminist plot or a way to complicate legal proceedings or persecute white men…how the hell do we counter that?

With the truth. Here’s some from the White House VAWA Fact Sheet:

VAWA has improved the criminal justice response to violence against women by:

  • holding rapists accountable for their crimes by strengthening federal penalties for repeat sex offenders and creating a federal “rape shield law,” which is intended to prevent offenders from using victims’ past sexual conduct against them during a rape trial;
  • mandating that victims, no matter their income levels, are not forced to bear the expense of their own rape exams or for service of a protection order;
  • keeping victims safe by requiring that a victim’s protection order will be recognized and enforced in all state, tribal, and territorial jurisdictions within the United States;
  • increasing rates of prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of offenders by helping communities develop dedicated law enforcement and prosecution units and domestic violence dockets;
  • ensuring that police respond to crisis calls and judges understand the realities of domestic and sexual violence by training law enforcement officers, prosecutors, victim advocates and judges; VAWA funds train over 500,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, and other personnel every year;
  • providing additional tools for protecting women in Indian country by creating a new federal habitual offender crime and authorizing warrantless arrest authority for federal law enforcement officers who determine there is probable cause when responding to domestic violence cases.

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)

VAWA also provides services for victims of domestic violence and their families. The National Domestic Violence Hotline answers 22,000 calls a month, and is the first call most victims make when they decide to seek help. And since VAWA passed in 1994, domestic violence is down nearly 70%. Programs VAWA created have resulted in greater awareness of what constitutes abuse, resulting in higher reporting rates, so more abuse victims are getting out and getting the help they need. Because of VAWA, more women understand that abuse is not “normal” and is never okay. And I’m sorry to report that making abuse a black-and-white issue is one of the things opponents of VAWA really dislike. Because some men believe they have the right to visit all manner of punishment on women so long as they don’t actually lay a hand on them, and they’d really rather we didn’t label their behavior as abusive. Well, sorry, dickheads. You lose.

As for women working against their own interests, all I can say is fight it wherever you find it, people. Women like Rep. Noem may be a lost cause (although I encourage you to let her know what you think), but too many are just asleep. And it’s time for a wake-up call.


Teen Girl Missing, But it’s Not News

Screen shot 2012-12-11 at 6.57.26 PM

A 19-year-old girl is missing  from Charlottesville, VA after she had planned to meet a man for a date, her family says. Police questioned the man and then lost track of him, and they’ve made no progress after three weeks, although they say they’re working steadily. Media–even local media–has barely touched the story.

Every story on Google related to Sage Smith's disappearance.

Every story on Google related to Sage Smith’s disappearance.

Sage Smith

Sage Smith

Normally, a missing teenager–especially a girl–is big news. So why does no one want to write about this particular missing child? In his story Where is Sage Smith? on Huffington Post, Daryl C. Hannah speculates that the issue may be that this young woman was born male. The person living now as Sage Smith was born Dashad Smith. Sage is a trans woman. So ask yourself: When was the last time you saw a story about any transgender person in mainstream media?

To make things worse, Smith’s family doesn’t believe the police are doing enough to find her.

From The Daily Progress:

Kenneth Jackson, of Rice, asked to address the City Council at Monday’s meeting, saying he was once proud of Charlottesville, his hometown.

“But I can’t brag on Charlottesville when my little 19-year-old cousin is missing,” Jackson said, adding that the FBI and state police should be called in to help with the search.

I’m not sure what I hope to achieve by writing about this. I guess I just felt that someone ought to. I don’t know what happened to Sage. I don’t know whether  Erik T. McFadden–the man she’d planned to meet–did something to her that night, or if–as he told police–she never arrived for their date. (Fun fact: According to reports, McFadden has since fled VA.) I certainly want to point out the injustice of the fact that I believe, had this young woman been straight and white, her photo would be plastered all over your television and computer screens. At the very least, it would be in her town and state, and in the states nearby.

Let’s talk for a moment about what it means that it’s not…what it means that newspapers and television stations in the city Sage lives in seem to have no interest in talking about her, getting her photo out to the public, maybe helping the police by getting citizens to call in tips. If you buy the premise in italics above, I think it can only mean one thing: they see her as less than human. Because when a young human girl goes missing, it’s news.

Erik T. McFadden

Erik T. McFadden (click to enlarge)

Here’s a photo of McFadden (and possibly part of his vehicle) just in case he ends up being connected in any way to Sage’s disappearance. I half hope he is, since he’s the only lead they’ve got, but if so, I don’t expect a happy ending.

Honestly, I don’t know what to hope for, except that wherever she is, she’s not in pain. And I hope like hell she makes it home to her family somehow.

~Rosie

PS: There’s a Facebook page dedicated to finding Sage–like it for updates. You can also donate to a fund for the families effort’s to find Sage.


UPDATED: Oatmeal: Own It or STFU

I AM SO RELIEVED TO SEE THIS.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Matthew Inman.


I logged on to Twitter this morning just in time to see this.

Click to enlarge.

In case you didn’t see the original comic, it’s pretty well described above. It’s about repeatedly “raping” your F5 key to get a page to load. I saw it on Twitter yesterday and thought, “Ew,” but I missed the attribution. It matters that this comes from someone who a) is respected by many and b) has gotten it wrong before and thinks he’s entitled to do so without consequence. My good friend Sid is working on an open letter to Mr. Oatmeal even as I type which will go into more detail and be less “scathing” than the one I would have written (update: her letter). But let me say these things for the record:

  1. Daniel Tosh didn’t start rape culture or make rape jokes unfunny. He just happened to be well-known enough to bring the issue to the forefront. Rape jokes were never funny–and always painful–to rape survivors.
  2. Giving money to a women’s shelter doesn’t absolve you of all future crimes and misdemeanors. We all screw up now and then. Own it. REALLY own it.
  3. No one censored The Oatmeal. Enough people called to his attention his contribution to rape culture that he felt he needed to pull it down. The Oatmeal has, at last count, nearly half a million readers so that means A LOT OF PEOPLE chimed in about this. Dear Mr. Oatmeal: Censorship is when the government silences you. Free speech comes with consequences. You should know that by now. If you won’t learn something from this, you may as well join the Penny Arcade Rape Culture Denial Club and Bowling League.

Sigh.

Look for Sid’s missive here.

Love ya,

Rosie


Alternate Rosie is Screwed (But I Feel Fine!)

I was so tense yesterday that I was unable to see into the future. Not in a psychic way (which would be really cool but also not), but in the way that we do all the time where we imagine what things will be like if this happens or that does. The future was like this dark spot in my vision because I couldn’t imagine what might happen to my country if things turned out the way I feared was all too possible, and I couldn’t quite dare to hope that everything would be ok.

But I did hope, because that was all I could do, and as day faded into evening I settled into a sort of faith that our president would carry the day. I felt almost cocky at times, but then I’d remember Toby Ziegler’s timeless warnings against tempting fate,  and I’d take a deep breath and grit my teeth some more. At no time did I imagine what life would be like on the other side of the divide. The future was still a dark spot on the horizon.

When the final results broke, I didn’t dare to believe at first, and I went off verifying it everywhere I could as tears sprang up in my eyes. When the last domino fell, I collapsed into a heap of sobs, traumatized, my relief expressing itself in tears and snot all over my boyfriend’s shirt. And when the sobs subsided, the sighs took over. I must have sighed a hundred times as I let myself relax for the first time maybe all year.

That was way too close, people. In an alternate universe, Alternate Rosie woke up to President Romney this morning, and some poor Weimaraner found out he was getting strapped to the roof of a limousine for a trip to the White House. In that universe, Alternate Rosie is writing a blog post about how to combat the upcoming troop-surge in the War on Women. In this one, we showed Mourdock and Akin and Ryan and Romney the door, and with any luck we’ll see a return to some semblance of sanity among the GOP. In this universe, we won the most important election of my lifetime. And the relief I feel today is only exceeded by my optimism for the future.

We’ve still got plenty to do in this universe before people like me can stop ranting on the Internet about gender equality and rape culture and the patriarchy. But in this universe, the President of the US is a feminist. I pity Alternate Rosie, but I’m glad it’s her and not me.

Back to work.

~Rosie


School District: Sexually Abused 12-Year-Old “Negligent”

Kristen Lewis Cunnane, age 12

Kristen Lewis Cunnane, age 12

Trigger warning for rape and child sexual abuse.

She was twelve years old. An age at which, in a perfect world, she might have been curious about sex, but years away from worrying about it. An age when, in a better world than this, she should have remained an innocent child with no idea of the dark side of people like P.E. teacher Julie Correa who manipulated and abused her for three years.

This past September, 30-year-old Kristen Lewis Cunnane brought suit against Moraga School District in Southern California in order to seek justice for what happened to her and to help ensure it doesn’t keep happening. In what they claim is one of nine defenses they have no choice but present, Moraga School District’s recent filing states the following:

Carelessness and negligence on [Cunnane’s] part proximately contributed to the happenings of the incident and to the injuries, loss and damages.

I’m going to repeat myself here, and probably more than once:

SHE WAS TWELVE YEARS OLD.

After I was raped at 12-years-old, I sat in the witness stand completely unprepared as the public defender accused me of being a willing participant in a sex act and later panicking and crying “rape” when I realized I might become pregnant. I was a child and I had no idea that all over the country women and girls faced victim-blaming daily. But I would learn.

This little girl trusted her (female) P.E. teacher exclusively with the information that another (male) teacher, Dan Witters, had abused her. Little did she know, her P.E. teacher was already in the process of grooming her as a sex slave. For several years, Julie Correa raped Kristen and used fear to control her. Kristen finally broke free and blocked the whole thing, but when it came bubbling back up again she got Correa on the phone and eventually coaxed a taped confession out of her and Correa was convicted of sexually abusing a child entrusted to her care. She got 8 years. Now Kristen wants the school district to take responsibility for the fact that multiple teachers perpetrated abuse against her and other students. And the district is fighting back.

Kristen Lewis Cunnane

Now assistant head coach of the women’s swim team at UC Berkely, Kristen Cunnane says she was “floored” when she read the school district’s filing. You know who else should be floored? Every single parent with children attending school in the Moraga School District. Because guess what? If teachers abuse your child, your school district will blame your child for the abuse in an attempt to avoid taking responsibility. Your 12-year-old will be held responsible for being in the wrong school at the wrong time with the wrong teacher because the school district has to protect itself. After all, as school superintendent Bruce Burns explained,

“…this is a significant case that could have serious consequences for our school district. She is demanding several million dollars in damages. As a result, at this point in the proceedings we have an obligation not to waive any potential legal lines of defense. The district raised nine possible arguments that might be used in court. Attorneys routinely insert these into Answers filed to Complaints. Ms. Cunnane and the media have seized on only one of the nine potential areas and over-exaggerated its importance.”* [emphasis added]

Kristen’s response:

“It is beyond devastating that the District would blame me for the years of horrific sexual abuse I was subjected to when I was just a child. There is a critical need for a culture shift in Moraga and elsewhere when it comes to tolerance of child abuse in schools, and this just underscores that we have further to go than I even thought. I can only hope that this lawsuit will move us one step closer to zero tolerance, while also going some way to compensate me for the years of abuse I suffered.”

This culture that allows us to blame children for sexual abuse? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s called rape culture and it’s where we live. It’s bad enough that adults face this bullshit every day, but the fact that it is acceptable in a court of law to suggest ANY fault for adult-on-child sex abuse might lie with the child is a symptom of a very sick society. And the only cure is for every single one of us to fight it everywhere we see it–by writing about it, posting about it, talking about it until everyone tells us to shut the fuck up, and then we have to keep doing it. For Kristen. For me. For every girl or woman abused and then shamed for her behavior or her clothing, blamed for having the audacity to walk alone while female or trust a male friend or–God forbid!–an authority figure.

Say it with me:

ENOUGH.


*According to the San Jose Mercury News, “No dollar amount is listed in Cunnane’s lawsuit.” She believes “it’s for a jury to decide.”


UPDATES:

6/20/15: Kristen tells her story on CBS’ 48 Hours. Via that report:

The school district paid out a total of $18.65 million to Kristen Cunnane and the three other victims who filed civil lawsuits*.

Julie Correa is eligible for parole in 2018. Her husband has filed for divorce.

*Three “Jane Does” filed suit for their abuse at the hands of teacher Dan Witters (the same teacher whose abuse Kristen Cunnane trusted Julie Correa to help her deal with).

Abuse Lawsuit: Arguments Over Timeliness – Lamorinda Patch, 4/1/13

“Statute of limitations is issue in lawsuit of Kristen Cunnane against the Moraga School District over prevention of sexual abuse from the 1990s.”

Sign this petition to tell the school district they’re out of line.


Pat Robertson: Disobedient Wife “Rebellious Child,” So Become a Muslim and Beat Her

Two posts in one day! Unprecedented, I think. But I couldn’t let this one slide.

Is it any wonder that we have right-wing politicians in every state trying to roll back women’s rights when a prominent “Christian” waxes nostalgic on national television about the days when a man could beat his wife and jokes that the husband of a wife who won’t behave should become a Muslim so he can beat her? (Hint: rhetorical question.)

Fresh off the Mitt Romney campaign trail, Pat Robertson, in his role as 700 Club host and Christian leader, receives a letter from “Michael” who writes to ask what to do about his wife:

Before I go any further, I’m not okay with abuse no matter who perpetrates it. If this woman is verbally and/or physically abusing her husband, then yes, he ought to do something. I don’t know the whole story, but as Michael says, his wife doesn’t respect him as head of the house, and it has crossed my mind that his problems start there and go downhill.

“Please tell me what I can do,” Michael begs of his spiritual leader. Who very thoughtfully answers,

“Well, you could become a Muslim and you could beat her.”

His (female) co-hose titters in the background as Robertson continues, musing that “I don’t think we condone wife-beating these days but something has got to be done.” His co-host asks why the woman wouldn’t want to talk with her husband about their problems, and Robertson explains.

“She’s a rebellious child and she doesn’t want to submit to any authority. And she probably had temper-tantrums when she was a kid, and…you know, the little girl, ‘I hate you, I hate you…’ …she doesn’t understand authority, when she was growing up nobody made her behave, and now you’ve got a 13-year-old in a 30-year-old woman’s body, and she is acting like a child. Now what do you do with that? You can’t divorce her, according to scripture, so I say…” and here Robertson looks straight at the camera…

“Move to Saudi Arabia.”

Watch the whole ugly mess here:


Sandra Fluke and All This Entitlement Bullshit

Conservative Talking Point: Sandra Fluke wants someone else to pay for her birth control.

Truth: Sandra Fluke and I and a lot of other women want birth control to be covered by health insurance (the same way Viagra is).

Why is this so hard to understand?

I’m in a long-term relationship (i.e., living in sin), but for the sake of argument, let’s say I’m married. And let’s pretend I still have a uterus. And let’s imagine that my husband has an erectile dysfunction issue, or just likes the way Viagra keeps him standing tall, I don’t know, but his doctor prescribes it and insurance covers it. And let’s say I don’t want to get pregnant right now because I’m in my late 40s and it’s just not a good idea at my age. It might actually be bad for me or the baby. But I want to have sex. I want to have a loving sexual relationship with my husband without getting pregnant. And he’s got this raging Viagra boner, after all.

So, here’s my question:

Why should my husband’s desire for an erection trump my desire to PROTECT MY BODY from an unwanted pregnancy when it comes to health insurance coverage?

It’s just not that complicated, people. It’s about health. It’s about the individual responsibility conservatives claim to value so highly. It’s about our bodies and our right to choose when and whether to carry a child within them.

Tell your friends.


UPDATE:

A number of critics here and elsewhere have argued that my logic is flawed for a number of reasons. That may well be true, but not for the reasons they state, I don’t think. I’m going to address those now.

Argument: Viagra is used to treat medical conditions unrelated to sex.

Have you watched Ms. Fluke’s testimony? Two-thirds of it is about women with serious reproductive health issues who rely on birth control medication to treat them and the consequences when they don’t get their medication because the insurance they pay for (unsubsidized by their college) won’t cover it.

Argument: Viagra is not covered by most health insurance programs.

I don’t have numbers for the country at large, but I did find this story which speaks directly to the issue of Viagra vs. birth control and the Catholic church, which as commenter Craig pointed out below was behind the original thrust of Ms. Fluke’s campaign. (Pun intended.)

Argument: Viagra is way more expensive than birth control.

Maybe that’s so, but as commenter Mike pointed out, “birth control is far less expensive to the medical system than pregnancy and childbirth.” Not really a black-and-white thing.

Argument: The choice to have sex without becoming pregnant is not a health issue.

Ok, here’s where we’re going to have words. Let’s talk a bit about pregnancy and childbirth, shall we? I’ll just give you a quick rundown based on experience and let the readers chime in on anything I might have missed.

Pregnancy

1. Oh, hey, I’m pregnant! I wake up every morning and vomit my guts out while diarrhea sprays out the other end with every heave. I can’t eat until after 4pm or more vomiting and stuff!

2. Check it out: my ankles are swelling, and if I’m not careful, I could develop preeclampsia and toxemia or a blood clot and die!

3. Lucky me! Pregnancy carries the risk that I might develop gestational diabetes which will increase my risk of developing regular diabetes later in life! And there are lots of other things that can go wrong in my body as well. (Good thing I’m not over 35*, or there would be even more things to worry about, and a higher risk of them happening!)

4. Oh, great, there’s this thing called toxoplasmosis I can get from my cat. It can kill me. Whoopee!

And that’s not even going into just how uncomfortable–and even painful–pregnancy can be. For nine months of your life. But I survived it! Now it’s time to deliver.

Childbirth

1. OHMYFUCKINGGOD THE PAIN.

2. There are so many things that could go wrong, and I could die, but I’m in good hands and I’m not thinking about that because THE PAIN THE FUCKING PAIN OH GOD.

3. My water won’t break on its own. The doc has to reach his hand up inside my vagina and prick the membrane, at which time the water WHOOSHES out and the pain…oh, I only thought it hurt before. I’m so fucking scared. I want to go home. As they wheel me down the hall from labor to delivery, I piss myself.

4. My vagina isn’t quite big enough for the baby to pass without the delicate skin between my vagina and anus ripping as it is doing now, so the doctor uses a scalpel to slice that skin open and increase the size of my vaginal opening. There is blood. Lots and lots of blood. And then, my daughter is born.

What part of this does not sound like a health issue to you? What part of this does not sound like something a person should be able to CHOOSE?

That’s all I’ve got for now. Love ya.

~Rosie

*I’m over 35 now, but I wasn’t when I was pregnant. ;)


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Guns and Rosie

Heh. I couldn’t resist.

In our inaugural “Dear Rosie” article, we’re taking on the oh-so-controversial topic of gun control in the U.S. People keep saying that talking about gun control right now amounts to “politicizing” the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. I call BS. When something bad happens people talk about how they feel about it and the circumstances surrounding it, and about solving the societal problems that caused it, and the only time you’re going to hear that accusation is when the accused has said something the accuser doesn’t agree with politically. Guess what? Some things are political issues, and they’re also life issues, and we’re going to talk about them, and we’re not going to agree all the time. So, without further ado, here’s your first Dear Rosie:

Dear Rosie,
Why are you “gun control” nuts trying to take away my guns? Don’t you know that the 2nd amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees my right to bear arms? If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns! Guns don’t kill people–people kill people! What if we need to rise up against the government? If I had been at [insert horrific gun-related tragedy here] I would have used my gun to stop it! Also, I like to hunt. You probably want to take that away too, don’t you? Why do you hate FREEDOM??

Signed,
Fictional Paranoid Gun-Owner

Dear Fictional,

This is the ancient tree-hugging ritual of my people.

It might surprise you to learn that, dirty tree-hugging hippy though I am, I don’t necessarily think guns should be illegal. I mean, first of all, we do have that 2nd amendment thing to contend with, and no matter now long we argue, we’re not going to agree on whether the founders wanted us to have AK-47s. Once when I was working on a mystery novel, I went to a gun range and fired a Walther PP just so I’d know what it felt like. It was fun! And when I was a kid, I went out in a field and fired a big gun that used this ammo and nearly knocked me on my ass. That was less fun. But I understand that shooting is a sport, and it’s part of the culture in some parts of the country, and that some people like to hunt for sport and even in order to feed their families. And guns are a huge part of U.S. history. I don’t believe it’s realistic to expect that guns will be outlawed in this country. I think this poster makes a pretty good case (excerpt below; full post at Reddit):

“You seem like a fair minded person. You don’t like guns. I don’t like alcohol. If you can tell me one argument for banning guns that does not apply equally to banning alcohol, I’ll throw all my guns in the river tonight. Otherwise, we’ll just have to both agree that it’s a matter of personal choice and let each other be.”

“Guns kill people.” Response: Alcohol kills more people.

Guntini?

“Yeah, but guns are used in crime.” Response: So is alcohol. Aside from the obvious drunk driving and addiction related crimes, what % of people who commit crime do you think drunk? Ask a cop how many domestic violence situations involve alcohol.

“But guns are used in terrible murders. Alcohol only causes accidents or health-related deaths.” Response: This is an even stronger argument for banning alcohol. If you banned guns, at least some of those murders would still get committed. If you banned alcohol, NONE of the alcohol related accidental deaths would happen. (i.e. the definition of an accident is that its unintended, unlike murder).

“They tried to ban booze and it didn’t work.” Response: Try to ban guns in the USA. You see what happens. No country with hundreds of millions of firearms in circulation and porous borders has ever successfully banned guns (or anything for that matter: see war on drugs.)

“But drinking is fun and a social activity.” Response: Let’s go shooting on Saturday. Empty a few mags from an AK-47 and then tell me it’s not fun.

You can dice words and split hairs all day long, but as far as I can tell, most of what he says is dead on. Personally, I don’t get why people need to own assault weapons, but if you buy that we might need to form a militia and kick-ass on the government, I guess we’ve got to be able to compete. Fine. Here’s my thing: I say “gun control,” Fictional Paranoid Gun-Owner, and you hear “gun pried from my cold-dead fingers after I tried to shoot you for trying to take my gun but apparently you got off the first shot so I’m dead.” And I know a lot of very rich folks want to make sure people buy guns, and so they help make certain people feel like they’re going to need guns (and that their right to have them is under imminent threat). They watched their profits rise in response to 9/11 and they made damned sure in 2008 the message got out that gun rights would be history if Barack Obama became president. And in 2011 when Jared Lee Loughner shot Gabrielle Giffords, the cries filled the air: Hurry! Get your guns before the lefties change the laws! And now it’s election time again, and another mentally ill person with a stockpile of weapons has ripped a community apart, and guess what? Investors are already salivating.

So, what do I mean when I say “gun control”? I mean that guys like Loughner and Holmes who are clearly not competent to use guns responsibly should not be able to do this without raising a flag and inviting some scrutiny:
Suspected Aurora Shooter Amassed Huge Arsenal Online With No Background Checks
From Huffington Post:
“Authorities say all of Holmes’ purchases were legal — and there is no official system to track whether people are stockpiling vast amounts of firepower.”

Does this seem excessive to anyone else?

We make laws to regulate other dangerous items and substances. Like alcohol. And cars! Which, while they’re not designed to kill people, do it all the time in the hands of irresponsible and unlucky people. So we make laws and we put the irresponsible ones in jail and we make ads about how people shouldn’t drive drunk, but heaven forbid we should say that maybe, possibly, a person ought to have a full background check to purchase a gun and that there ought to be systems in place that throw up red flags when any one person seems to be “amassing an arsenal” (because that’s not worrisome for any reason at all). I mean, shouldn’t the FBI spend some time, you know, observing that person to see whether they might be planning to murder a bunch of people with all those guns? You can’t even stock up on Sudafed anymore without a SWAT team showing up at your house, but guns are apparently not as dangerous as cold medicine. Come on, FPGO, I’m not saying that everyone who owns more than one gun is going to become a mass murderer, but at the point where you have to use the words “arsenal” or “stockpile” maybe we should just have a look, huh? Evaluate their mental state, perhaps? Just a thought. Oh, and while you’re fantasizing about what you would have done if you’d been in that audience carrying your legally concealed weapon, you might want to have a gander at this very intelligent article by a guy who knows more than most people about combat situations.

FPGO, if you take nothing else away from my response to your fictional letter, take this: “Gun control” doesn’t mean we want to take away your guns. Sure, some people are dead-set against them, but as I said, they’re fighting what is very likely a losing battle. Some of us, on the other hand, just want to know that there are laws and checks and balances to protect the public, and that includes better gun laws as well as taking a serious look the availability (or lack thereof) of mental health services. We should all be in favor of making the world a safer place.

I’ll leave you with this quote, which sums it up poignantly for me:

“Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I wish mental health care were as easy to get as, say, a gun.”
~Andy Borowitz

Me too, Andy. Me too.

Yrs,

Rosie