For thousands of years across many cultures the happening of “3’s” has been a “thing” associated with luck both good and bad. Even convicted murderer John “Babbacombe” Lee survived the hangman’s noose three times on the same day in February 1885, so what are the chances that on a calm winters day in New York City sitting with Kristina in one of our favourite restaurants we strike up a conversation, (because of her intriguing Australian accent) with two fascinating people sitting uncomfortably close to us at the next table. Happening one! The husband is a criminal defence lawyer and his wife a paediatrician in an NYC hospital who has just had to deal with the mistreatment of a two-year-old.
They start asking questions as to our origins. The lawyer as good luck or coincidence would have it is passionate on the gun laws in New York City. He tells us categorically that since Bloomberg there has, is and always will be zero tolerance of guns in this city and that Bloomberg upheld, reinforced and actually enforced it using the “long arm of the law”, in the 2008 case of the one-time Super Bowl hero Plaxico Burress; who was sentenced to two years jail for violating the NYC gun laws when as our lawyer friend describes it, he, Burress shot himself in the foot!
The irony is not lost on any of us but in truth Burress was in a NYC night club on Lexington Avenue Happening two, I am writing this in the W Hotel on Lex and 49th and he actually shot himself in the thigh. He was immediately taken into custody and following his hearing was sentenced to two years jail and two years’ supervised release. Read the story here.
Fast forward a few days… an extension of Happening two, we are sitting in another NYC restaurant with a friend of mine for over 20 years and we start talking about Americas disappointment of the “President” and I use the term loosely, because I am one and it is my inalienable right! We debate vigorously, amongst other things, the gross inadequacies of the current Administration and their dependency on the “blood money” of NRA contributions.
Rewind for a moment, teleport to Florida, 17 more dead and 14 in a critical condition! You have already heard all of the news, real and fake about the shooter, the FBI, the school and his mental health! I need to quote my 17-year-old Australian step daughter because, even in spite of her naivety of American politics she has managed to sum it up pretty succinctly as only those unencumbered by political BS can.
“(sic) mum how is Jeff feeling about another school shooting? Gotta love gun laws! Yes NYC is different but that doesn’t change the fact that gun violence is reversible through gun laws and the people who oppose it can live with it if children can’t feel safe in going to school and actually die? Where does the line get drawn mum? We haven’t had a mass shooting in 20 years there is no opposition for that! It should be a country wide ban not states, I understand it is complicated but every single time something along the lines of this happens there is no discussion surrounding gun laws but rather terrorism or mental illness or literally anything else under the sun besides the one and only thing that can prevent children from going to school and never coming home imagined if we lived there? how can kids like my American friends and her friends feel safe every day no matter how good the guns law are in new York what about the rest of America. Australians didn’t like it but it is time to actually do something and stop dancing around the subject. It is simple. It is as simple as it was here, people get shot, guns go. End of story. There is no politics. These are children’s lives we are talking about!”
The fact that Nicolas Cruz had been exhibiting all the symptoms of the next school shooter and no one connected the dots, is I believe partly because our institutional systems (and the lack of gun laws) don’t support the requirements to protect us; in fact the virtual world of over-connectedness is such a massive digital landfill that it prevents people and the authorities from connecting the dots. No one is trained to sort digital garbage and like real garbage no-one really wants to cause it’s a shitty job!. So, in spite of our ability for surveillance on a massive scale, another shooter gets a gun and more people die.
Five years after his retirement from the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Warren Burger, a conservative appointed by the then President Richard Nixon, actually very clearly insisted 23 years ago in 1995 that Second Amendment “has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud,’ on the American public,” We will explore this in another post.
Guns have now got to be one of the most discussed issues in America History. Happening three! Kristina and I are sitting in another of our favourite restaurants – I was still in the midst of editing and writing this post when we overheard arguing about guns, mentioning Australia, one of the young girls at the table clearly upset. Her best friend had lost her 14 year old brother in the Florida shooting, both girls had attended and graduated Parkland, apparently according to her mother one of the safest schools in Florida, but guess what they were about to bury the young boy, coincidentally on the same day as her birthday. It’s heart breaking enough to read about another mass shooting that will be swept under the Trump/Russian excuse but then to meet someone who was actually affected, I was having trouble holding it together. We left the restaurant after violent agreement in a passive, constructive way having a united hope that something would change, but my wife and I both knew that it wouldn’t without someone doing something MAJOR about it! So we did do something about it, we took a copy of my book Collective Social Intelligence back to the restaurant hoping that they would still be there so that we could at least offer some comfort that some of us were actually trying to make the world a better place.
We hugged, exchanged contact details and started to look at one of the other most discussed issues in American history. Abraham Lincoln’s position on slavery is just like gun rights. Lincoln often expressed moral opposition to slavery in public and in private. Many express moral opposition to gun rights and gun laws- or the lack of them – in public and in private, so what is the difference?
Well during the Civil War, Lincoln used his “war powers” as President to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. This immediately changed the legal status of all slaves in the affected areas, and as soon as the Union Army arrived it actually did liberate the slaves in that area. On the first day it affected tens of thousands of slaves. Month by month it freed thousands more until June 1865, when it had freed the great majority of slaves for good.
So, more than 100 years ago, by force slaves were freed. Perhaps by force we the people should now be freed from guns. Let’s take back freedom from fear and freedom from the untimely deaths of our loved ones.
People are dying anyway so if needs be do we have another Confiscation Act, even if it results in a Civil War and then get all the shooting over with. Our armies and our National Guard can “Aussie style” start collecting guns from people by force and give them two years in jail if they refuse or retaliate, bring on Bloomberg!
I know we need armies, we have the National Guard and even the Michigan Militia teaches gun responsibility; I respect and appreciate all of that! I also acknowledge the rights and obligations, under the constitution, in regard to guns.
From my restaurant conversations with intelligent New Yorkers and many others I believe one thing for sure and that is, that to overcome the divide-and-rule politics of many decades of Democrats vs Republicans, we need more grass roots solidarity and action combined with a CSI-like global thinking which I cover extensively in my book.
Today I live in Australia where they made functional gun laws after a mass shooting at Port Arthur in 1996. A 2012 report by the Australian Institute of Criminology report summarised the reforms:
The agreement resulted in restricted legal possession of automatic and semi-automatic firearms and further restricted the legal importation of non-military centre-fire self-loading firearms to those with a maximum magazine capacity of five rounds. The agreement further committed all states and territories to a firearms registration scheme and licensing of persons in order to legally possess and use firearms. Previously, only handguns needed to be registered; obligations around long-arm registration varied between jurisdictions. In addition, was the introduction of laws that were designed to minimise the legal acquisition of firearms by unsuitable persons.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics provided a University supported organisation called Fact Check with data derived from a collection on the rates of assault by firearm causing death in each year from 1990 to 2014, specifically highlighting the rate of gun homicides before and after the Port Arthur massacre.
I am not suggesting that grieving and distressed Americans are right to pretend that the Australian solution to mass shootings can be carried out in the United States. A homegrown plan is needed, but I don’t think it will be a passive one. Australians generally don’t love guns like Americans do and Australian have not had the same history of revolution and civil war.
But, I bet New York city has some similar stats. For instance, Under Title 38 of the Rules of the City of New York, a person carrying a firearm without a valid permit is typically punished by a prison term of 3 1/2 years.
In 2013, the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York challenging the constitutionality of Title 38, claiming that infringes upon the Second Amendment by denying the specifically enumerated amongst other things the civil right to possess and carry a firearm..
In 2015 and in the UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK a case THE NEW YORK STATE RIFLE & PISTOL ASSOCIATION vs THE CITY OF NEW YORK and THE NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT – LICENSE DIVISION, ruled specifically in short that the case “does not present a Second Amendment problem.” It provides for this in verbose legal language over 42 pages, but essentially comes to a common-sense conclusion and one that continues to keep New York City safer from gun deaths. Some common sense all around would certainly be better than a Civil War. So what does this have to do with CSI?
If our institutions could be reformed in the ways I talk about in CSI we might just be able to agree on some appropriate ways of being human, including gun laws, which in fact are just a systemic problem of the truth that despite our flag, our anthem and our desire we are still just 52 independent states with lawyers, guns and money using and abusing them to suit idiosyncratic positions and that we are nowhere near an actual United States of America.
Jeff Jones is an Australian citizen and an American living in Australia.
For nearly 20 years Jones led global teams of talented researchers and students while based at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia. He has held senior positions in a diverse range of public and private sector organisations, including start-up companies, government, universities and cultural institutions in the U.S.A, Asia and Australia, including the American Museum of Natural History in New York.