First vs. Second 

These thoughts aren’t fully formed. I’ve given myself some space, but things are still raw and I’m sure there’s flaws here. But it’s how I feel. And I’m tired. But, here’s words.

After the events in Las Vegas (and Orlando, Sandy Hook, and damn near every state in this country), we’ve seen once again that our government (read: GOP) is more worried about the NRA than they are the survival of their citizens.

I’m not one of the zealots who says “take away all the guns.” I grew up shooting BB guns in the backyard, in a town where hunting was the fall/winter sport, with a dad (and brothers) who hunted regularly.1 Add in two uncles who were police officers, and I had an opportunity to shoot a variety of guns growing up. Shooting guns can be fun. I’ve got no moral objection to someone keeping their rifles, and shotguns, and even their handguns they want for personal protection (even if that’s a fallacy).

I am, however, completely ok with banning semi-automatic and automatic weapons. They aren’t used for hunting (and if they are, that’s not sport). They’re not going to save your family, unless you truly are worried about the government coming to kill you. The odds of which, of course, probably get higher if you’ve got a whole bunch of automatic weapons, but, whatever …

But, somehow, in this country, we’ve reached a point where any limitations on gun ownership are a risk to our sovereignty. Or something. I don’t know what the argument is (or I do, but I think it’s predominantly bullshit). There’s clearly a way to solve this. That’s why we have laws and a government. To address and solve problems for the collective good.

Banning the types of weapons that are continually used in these crimes is surely not too hard. Or at least it’s worth trying, right?

You can start small: mental health checks, waiting period, maybe a limit on the number of certain types of weapons you can own.

You can make the penalties more aggressive: if a gun you sold or you own is used in a crime, you’re an accessory. As a gun dealer, if you want to sell guns, you should know who you’re selling to. If your gun is stolen, you should report it, so you’re not held culpable. Sure, there are loads of holes in this, but you could start somewhere.

Then you come back to the argument like this one, from the reprehensible Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky:

To all those political opportunists who are seizing on the tragedy in Las Vegas to call for more gun regs…You can’t regulate evil…

Sure … you can’t. But that’s what we do? We try to. The right thinks abortion is evil, so they try to block access to it. We have speed limits, safety checks on food/toys/cars/etc. We try to regulate evil as much as we can. We try to make it harder for those who want to do evil to achieve it.

But, I guess that’s too hard for a guy who actively took health care away from his citizens.

But all of this Second Amendment stuff is happening in parallel to a whole bunch of First Amendment stuff.

Football players kneeling during the National Anthem has become a big enough deal that our President had to get involved, calling the participants “sons of bitches”. Encouraging the owners to fire them.

Which, I think is stupid, but I’m not against it. It’s the risk you take when you use your job to make a First Amendment stand. You’re allowed to make pretty much any statement. It doesn’t mean your employer has to keep you.

That being said, I don’t think the NFL is going to fire their players. Nor do I think they should, as I think there’s a difference in peacefully protesting racial inequality vs. putting together a document about why your female colleagues aren’t predisposed to be as good as their male counterparts. One of those makes you an asshole whom no one wants to work with.

I don’t think private enterprises, like Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and Google are required to offer everyone an equal platform. Particularly when one of those platforms tends to be abusive and full of outright lies. The cesspool of Reddit’s subreddits, Twitter’s horrible abuse problems, and Facebook (and to some extent Google’s) ability to precisely target audiences with an inability to ensure that targeting isn’t used to lie to those audiences, have lead to those big platforms being arguably a social net negative.

In fact, I think Facebook and Twitter, right now, as useful as they are, might be ultimately negative for society. They have fixable problems, but they’re choosing revenue over society. They don’t want to make it harder for people to signup, or reduce their reach, so Russian bots and shitty, false ads are promoted and make people believe that the Las Vegas shooter was a leftist, Rachel Maddow viewer (he wasn’t, as they had the wrong person, but those stories didn’t care).

Ironically, Facebook and Twitter could easily (very easily) solve these problems. To some extent it’s technological and will inhibit, however slightly, growth (more checks on signups, validating that people are human). To some extent, it’s the thing that anathema to those companies: hiring people to do some of this validating.

In the end, those abuses of the First Amendment on the big social platforms are used to scare people into thinking the world is a horrible place (crime is lower now than it’s really ever been). Which makes them want to keep more guns. Or, it seems that way, ay least.

Zuckerberg, in particular, has an opportunity here. Facebook isn’t shutting down over night. He’s got control of the company, and claims to really want to help make things better in the future. Why not make a change right now? Why not make a big stand and shut down fake news (the real fake news), bad actors, bullshit advertising.

It is time to try to make things better. We should try to make it harder to get guns that can cause mass destruction just because of a vaguely worded Second Amendment, and we should try to make it harder for people who want to abuse the First Amendment to have a large platform in the name of more MAUs and revenue. Don’t Facebook and Twitter (and Reddit and Google) want to be a force for social good, rather than a platform for “communication”, which has been taken over by the small percentage of folks saying (and doing) reprehensible things?

  1. I didn’t hunt because I didn’t love the killing things part. But I don’t have a real moral objection to it (when done as it’s done in the northeast/southeast, as sport, for managing wildlife and for food; not flying to Africa and killing a captive elephant.)