The Devil’s In The Details

Jeanne Assam

EDIT: I drew most of the information for this post from the Robert Sanchez article linked below.  Recently Ms Jeanne Assam herself has commented to say that the article contained some inaccuracies.  She wishes to set the record straight.  In the interest of honesty, I’ll leave my original text; however, I will also include Assam’s own words whenever her narrative contradicts the Sanchez article.

If you don’t already know who Jeanne Assam is or what she did, I recommend an article called “Jeanne Assam is Still Waiting“, written by Robert Sanchez for the Denver-based online magazine 5280.com.

There are certain parts of this meme that are true.  On December 9, 2007, a 24-year-old man named Matthew Murray attacked two churches in Colorado.  The first attack happened at 12:30 a.m. at the Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Church in Arvada.  There, Murray killed two people and wounded two others before fleeing on foot.  Later that day, Murray turned up at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, 70 miles from YWAM, where he killed two additional victims and injured three more.  Jeanne Assam, who was present and packing at the New Life Church, confronted Murray in one of the church’s corridors and shot him multiple times.  According to Sanchez, the gunman, wounded and defeated, turned his gun on himself.  Jeanne Assam says:

We shot at each other and after hitting him 10 times, the last 3 rounds from only about 5 feet away and having no choice, I killed him. He gave me no choice. I don’t care what folklore you’ve read on the internet, you weren’t there. I was. You didn’t get his blood spatter on your clothes. I did. And I was no security guard, I was a trained police officer. He did not kill himself. I killed him.

Assam’s brave actions were widely noted by the media, including liberal- and conservative-leaning outlets, so the meme’s claim to the contrary is simply a lie.  Still, her case seems to have new relevance in the wake of the mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.  If one armed church-goer could make such a difference in Colorado, could the same have happened at the Emanual AME Church where Dylann Roof murdered nine worshipers in June of this year?

Of course we don’t know the answer to that question, and we cannot infer an answer from Jeanne Assam’s special case.  You see, there is another lie contained in this meme – a lie of omission – and it greatly affects how we perceive the entire gun control debate.

Jeanne Assam was not an average citizen exercising her Second Amendment rights.  Prior to attending the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, she had gone to police academy and served as a police officer in Minneapolis.  As a consequence of her training, she knew how to safely use a firearm.  Although, according to Sanchez, she was no longer working as a cop at the time of the attack, Assam was still licensed to carry a firearm, and she had been specially appointed by the New Life Church as an armed security guard.

In Jeanne Assam’s words:

I am and was a police officer. My license was still active at the time of the shooting. I was merely a volunteer on that church security team, armed of course, because I am a police officer and the church asked me to be (although they need not have since I am always armed).

According to Sanchez, Assam and her fellow guards were already on high alert the day of the shooting because they had heard about the attack at YWAM earlier that morning.  Assam says:

The next morning, same day, [Matthew Murray] emailed a warning email to New Life Church in Colorado Springs that he was coming there to kill next. I was the only person who was never told of this email (until a retired homicide detective told me about it in late 2011. I then verified this information with the Arvada PD who confirmed it was true).

In other words, Assam was not just a gun carrier; she was the ideal combination of professional experience, preparation, and bravery.  Regardless of whether she knew about the impending attack or not, her professional training made her ready to respond.

That’s not to diminish the heroism of Assam’s actions, by the way, but it makes an important point that this meme conveniently ignores.  Assam simply does not fit most gun advocates’ fantasy of an armed Average Joe (or Jeanne) stepping up to halt a madman in his tracks.  Assam’s gun did not make her a hero; her heroism and experience made her gun an effective tool.  And there are other facts of the case that are inconvenient for gun advocates’ arguments.

When Matthew Murray died, he was carrying a modified Bushmaster XM-15 assault rifle, a Springfield Armory 9mm semi-automatic pistol, and a Beretta .40 cal semi-automatic pistol.  An AK-47 assault rifle was found in his car, which might lead one to speculate that he was planning more violence later.  All of these weapons were legally obtained, which ought to give one pause.  Even while Murray posted many of his violent fantasies online – behind an identity-concealing screen name, of course – the law cleared him to amass his arsenal.

If a gun dealer of average common sense knew what Murray was planning, he never would have sold him a gun, let alone an assault rifle (one hopes).  But there are no laws in place that would have revealed Murray’s plan before he committed it; in fact, only a severe violation of privacy would have exposed his intentions – and gun advocates are typically big fans of privacy.  So gun advocates who say that everybody should be allowed to own military-grade assault weapons, free from restriction or oversight, are left with a quandary.  Either people like Murray continue to get big guns and commit mass murders as a necessary side effect of gun advocates’ opposition to tighter regulations, or everybody submits to unconscionably intrusive psych evaluations and surrenders all of their online passwords before they get their hands on an assault rifle.

Or…or…we could just admit that private citizens don’t really need military-grade assault weapons, and that would solve the problem as well.

Now I’m not saying that nobody should have guns at all (in fact, no elected officials, liberal or otherwise, have launched serious efforts to disarm America, which means that this meme’s Official Lie Count stands at three).  If Jeanne Assam had not been packing heat on that fateful afternoon, who knows how many extra people would have died?  But if Jeanne Assam’s story proves anything, it’s that guns are most effective in the hands of highly-trained, morally-upright* individuals who have been appointed to the task of public safety.  I doubt that many of the people who share this meme have one-tenth the training that Assam has in the safe use of firearms, nor that, placed in a similar situation, they would become the saviors they fantasize about being.


*I included the words “morally-upright” to exclude cops who have used their weapons in an act of police brutality.

Conservative Meme is Conservative

Undocumented

Sort of a double dose of douchebaggery in this meme, isn’t there?

First we have the illegal vs undocumented debate, which generally applies not to guns but to immigrants. Earlier this year the Associated Press, responding to pressure from immigration rights advocates and Latino news outlets, decided to drop the term “illegal immigrant” from its style guide. A person’s actions are illegal, goes the argument, not the person himself. Some media agencies have decided to use the word undocumented in lieu of illegal (although the AP is eschewing that word as well). The decision raised the ire of many conservatives (but what doesn’t anger conservatives?), who immediately took to Photoshop to create memes about how political correctness is destroying our country.

Yes, friends, you read that correctly: conservatives are frothing at the mouth because one group of people has opted not to use language that might be construed as offensive by another group of people. The very nerve.

Anyway, this talented memer manages to link two completely unrelated topics that are nevertheless equally offensive to conservatives everywhere – thereby forcing me to discuss those same unrelated topics in one post. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to craft a witty segue from the topic of immigration to the topic of gun control?

And speaking of gun control (Nailed it!), how scary are you if you imply that you intend to keep your death arsenal hidden from the government? Oh, that’s right…you need your AR 15 so you can overthrow that very same government, right? Because…um…remind me why you need to overthrow the government again? Let me guess: it’s because you live under an oppressive totalitarian regime, right? A regime whose iron grip on the population is so complete that… people like you were able to get your hands on assault rifles in the first place. A regime whose control is so thorough that it… allows the National Rifle Association to continue to operate within its borders even through that organization successfully opposes laws that might cause you to lose your beloved assault phallus. Yeah…real tough times we’re living in.

Reality called, sweetie. It misses you.

Stupidity and Danger Walk Hand in Hand

Register Nothing

And it’s absolutely none of their business, where you place commas! Actually, given the overall stupidity of the message, I’m quite impressed by the mostly error-free grammar and spelling.

There are some things you can keep to yourself and it really shouldn’t be anybody else’s business. Consider Hello Kitty underwear. You shouldn’t have to inform the government or anybody else if you’re wearing Hello Kitty underwear. But Hello Kitty underwear don’t kill people, as far as I know. You can’t overrun your local or state government offices with Hello Kitty underwear.

Guns are different. I know people love their death machines, and that’s exactly why they should be registered. Anything that can take the life of another human being with relative ease (we don’t need to register sharpened #2 pencils) should at least be listed on a sticky note somewhere.

People, we live in a community. When you live in a community, you have to abide by certain rules for the good of the people. There’s no need for you to keep military-grade assault rifles unless you’re actively protecting the lives and interests of the people in your community. I know you think that’s what you’re doing, gun lovers. But you aren’t. You really aren’t. You’re making it a more dangerous place to live. Unless you’re also qualified to drive a tank, a single handgun should be more than sufficient to protect you and yours from anything short of a dirty Commie invasion. Wait: are Commies even a threat anymore?

Also, this meme sort of incites a revolution with its “Screw the Government” overtones. Revolutions can be a good thing every now and then, but you fight a revolution when your wives and children are being trampled under the boots of an oppressive totalitarian regime (No they’re not, gun lovers!): not when you’re being politely asked to stop being such a scary prick.

Is Wonka a Cheney smoker?

WonkaCheney

You know, I used to like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but I don’t think I could watch it anymore. I’ve seen so many stupid memes featuring the grinning face of Gene Wilder that I simply don’t think I could watch the movie without having to fight the urge to vomit. And when I say stupid, I mean really stupid, as if meme-makers save their most idiotic comments to pair up with a fictional candy-maker.

Now that’s completely irrational, I know. Neither Gene Wilder nor any of the cast and crew of Willy Wonka have anything to do with these memes. I bet they too wish the memes would stop. It doesn’t make sense to hate a movie because of what people have done with one frame featuring one character. But I do, and I’m sorry.

I pray they never start making memes from The Hunt for Red October or Conan the Barbarian or The Princess Bride or any of the other movies I watch every time they come on.

Now about this meme: I don’t think Dick Cheney is a very good person at all, but I do believe (for lack of any compelling evidence to the contrary) that the shooting incident was entirely accidental. I’m sure I could easily find a conspiracy theorist who will argue about that point all day, but I’m not trying to. As far as the official record goes, Cheney was participating in entirely legal activities using an entirely legal weapon…which is still legal following Big Papa Obama’s gun control decrees. So to bring up the shooting incident, as if it somehow undermines Cheney’s problems with Obama’s gun control executive orders, is sort of pointless. I guess the meme is supposed to point out the irony of a man who shot somebody in the face arguing against stricter gun control laws, but in my opinion it misses the mark entirely. If Cheney had been hunting with an assault rifle when he shot Harry Whittington, or if Obama’s gun control orders specifically forbade hunting guns like the one Cheney was using, then this meme might have a valid point to make. But since neither of those situations is true, this meme appears to be a poorly-disguised attempt to take a cheap shot at Cheney by bringing up an accident that occurred seven years ago. Come on, folks: Cheney has done and said so many horrible things – on purpose – that we really don’t need to focus on the one thing that was legitimately an accident, do we?

Let’s have an analogy. Many years ago, when I was in college, I rear-ended another car because I was fiddling around with my crappy factory-model radio instead of paying attention to the road. Nobody was hurt, but I jacked up his rear bumper pretty good. Now suppose the President pushed an executive order banning those huge five-thousand Gigawatt stereo systems that rattle windows and wake the dead (and presumably prevent drivers from thinking clearly enough to drive safely). Maybe I’m opposed to the President’s idea. Maybe I think people should be allowed to install whatever seismic event-inducing stereo monsters they want. Should Willy Wonka smirk at me and remind me that my opinion on stereo control is irrelevant because I had a radio-related accident a long time ago? Of course not. My arguments regarding stereo control should be judged on their own merits. Now good day, sir.

I said GOOD DAY!

Mis-Gunderstandings

Mis-Gunderstanding

Facebook is undoubtedly going to be my largest supplier of fresh material. Consider this gem, which was posted on the wall of a friend who constantly worries about the Evil Government coming for all our guns.

That doesn’t resemble the truth of the matter. Don’t worry, gun lovers: guns will still be plentiful! President Obama’s gun control plan limits your ability to lay your hands on penis-extending assault rifles, and requires tighter background checks before you can purchase a gun from any vendor. It also provides extra money for mental health counseling and treatment. Nowhere does the plan say that nobody can own guns of any kind.

All this information is publicly available, by the way. Seriously, it took me about a minute of searching to find the specifics of the executive orders concerning gun control. So how do we explain this meme, and the thousands like it that claim that Big Papa Obama is going to take away your pea-shooters?

Simple: people don’t want to give up their unnecessary weapons of mass destruction. They can’t say that they want to hold on to a weapon that can kill an entire football team in a matter of seconds…that would sound crazy. They blow it up into a bigger issue – a Constitutional issue. Apparently if you can convince enough people of something that isn’t true, then it sorta becomes true. At least, that’s the plan.