Sunday, November 5, 2023

#309 / Thou Shalt Not Kill


Since it's a Sunday, let's take a moment to remember the Ten Commandments, and specifically the Fifth Commandment, generally rendered, "Thou Shalt Not Kill." 

The Wall Street Journal is the beloved newspaper of those who want to think about money (and it is also aimed at those who want to be informed about those who think about money - which is my personal excuse for subscribing). Recently, the paper has given us a "good news" story about Bushmaster Firearms

In December 2005, five groups of Wall Street investors flew in private jets to Portland, Maine, where they took waiting limousines to a warren of metal buildings that resembled a midsize lumberyard. They had come to Bushmaster Firearms in pursuit of a highly profitable product whose market was growing faster than any other in America’s stagnant gun industry. The product was the AR-15, and red-hot Bushmaster, the nation’s leading manufacturer of the rifle, had decided to auction itself to the highest bidder. 
Bushmaster’s owner Dick Dyke had once feared that he could never sell the company because so many people had a negative view of the gun. A few years earlier, Dyke had been forced to resign his post as President George W. Bush’s chief Maine fundraiser after the media found out he made AR-15s for a living. After that, his company was again pilloried when two snipers who terrorized the Washington, D.C. area used a Bushmaster in their attacks.
But by 2005, Dyke’s concerns had evaporated. Sales of the AR-15 were growing faster than any other rifle or shotgun. When Dyke let it be known that he might be interested in selling, potential private-equity buyers rushed up to Maine to see his operations and make a bid for the AR-15 maker. “All of the sudden, they became an amazing thing,” recalled John DeSantis, Bushmaster’s chief executive.

Bushmaster, which features a claim that the guns it sells are "made in America," may well have been a business success story, but The Wall Street Journal article does note that the "massive increase in AR-15 production and civilian ownership" that came with this business success has had "profound consequences for the U.S., affecting how we vote, how we go to social events and how our children attend school." As Jamelle Bouie puts it, in a column in today's New York Times that refers specifically to the AR-15, "Our Gun Fetish Is Killing Us."

I presume that anyone reading this blog posting knows what The Journal is talking about in its coverage of this subject. If you can penetrate the paywall that may be in place on The Wall Street Journal's website, you can definitely get some details from the story. I am thinking, though, that most people know about Sandy Hook and about the subsequent episodes of mass murder carried out by persons using the AR-15 (and other weapons, too, of course). 

Innovation is not always a great thing. Let it be said, however, that Bushmaster does continue to innovate. If you check its website, you will find that the company is offering "New Firearms. New Colors." The M4 Patrolman, for instance, "delivers the perfect combination of style and substance," the way Bushmaster tells it. I think we can see how this "style and substance" appeal might have attracted the Missouri woman pictured below, "at home with her [two] AR-15 rifles." 

I was struck by the lovely sign that this Missouri woman features in her home: "Think Deeply; Speak Gently; Love Much; Laugh a Lot; Work Hard; Give Freely; and Be Kind." I was struck, also, by the pictures on her mantlepiece: her daughters (I am guessing) who are Sandy Hook-age young people. 

We are both "individuals," and we are also part of a greater whole. We are "in this life together." 

Since we are both individuals, and (more than that) part of the whole, we need to consider what we do from both perspectives. "Individually," if we want to be sure that we don't end up violating that Fifth Commandment, we should not be arming ourselves with automatic rifles and other weapons that make it easy to kill. Making this kind of individual choice against guns is documented in an article (also relatively recent) in The New Yorker. That article is titled, "The Last Gun I Shot." It discusses Rachel Monroe's relationship with the AR-15, and her decision to "put down the gun." 

"Collectively," if we want to make it harder for individuals (including ourselves) to move into a violation of that Fifth Commandment, we should decide (and this would be a political choice) that corporations should not be able to establish their business success by selling armaments that are then conveniently used for mass murder. There are some efforts to arrive at such a result by way of lawsuits, which is all good and well, but I would like to continue to urge that we ought to make rules for ourselves that outlaw the widespread sale, to the public, of guns that are specifically designed to make it easy to kill multiple persons in short periods of time.

Since it's a Sunday, I suggest that it would be good to reflect, just for a moment, on those Ten Commandments, and specifically on that Fifth Commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Kill." If we do think about the Fifth Commandment, there are some implications. There are some possible actions we might take, both individually and collectively.

Let's think about them. 

And.... just to be clear, while today is a Sunday, I'd say that any day is a good day to think about that Fifth Commandment!

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