Thoughts on guns, transportation, and extremism

by | Jan 11, 2023 | Editor's Blog | 9 comments

As the legislature kicks into action, I don’t have any deep thoughts about a specific topic. Instead, I’ve got a lot of little thoughts about several things happening around the state and nation. 

Last week, a six-year-old boy brought a gun to school and shot his teacher. The story got a fair amount of coverage, but no broad outcry to restrict access to guns. Republicans have won that battle. As a country, we’ve decided that the price of freedom is the lives our children. The proliferation of guns in this country has made shooting the leading cause of death among children. 

Republicans have been claiming that guns make us safer, but that’s been proven wrong again and again. More of our kids are dying and, if you believe Republicans, we’re in the midst of a terrible crime wave despite more guns than any country in the world. They can’t have it both ways. Either more guns reduce crime and gun deaths or they don’t. Clearly, they don’t. They’ve just made us a more callous society that puts a lower value on life. 

This week, state house Speaker Tim Moore panned Charlotte’s transportation plan for putting too much emphasis on public transportation and bike lanes. Moore wants to put more emphasis on roads. He says that when you drive around Charlotte, you don’t see people riding bikes or busses, because they are almost all in cars. That’s partly because you’d be crazy to ride a bike on the streets of much of the city and public transportation is too inconvenient because it needs to be upgraded. I’ve spent a bunch on time in Charlotte the past few months and driving around there is awful. 

One thing we should have learned by now. More roads just brings more traffic. And building those roads and adding those lanes causes headaches that can last for years.  Moore is really just advocating for traffic jams and longer commute times.

I used spend a lot of time in Minneapolis. When I first started going, the city was just starting the initial phase of its light rail project. Over the next fifteen years, I watched the rail system drive development and growth, particularly as the line opened between Minneapolis and St. Paul. Areas around stops grew with residential development, retail, and services. Once blighted areas became bustling ones. Good public transportation planning is about the future, not the present, something I don’t think most conservatives can comprehend since they are quite often trying to go backwards instead of forwards. 

A conservative group called Alliance Defending Freedom filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the Department of Public Instruction. The group claims the Governor’s School wrongfully dismissed a teacher because of the teacher’s conservative values. Another right-wing group called Ed First, says the school wanted the teacher, David Phillips, to “follow its radical Marxist programming.” They attacked Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt for calling Phillips a “racist.” I can’t find any evidence that Truitt called the guy a racist, but I have few thoughts.

First, Phillips, his attorneys, and that group Ed First are all victimhood conservatives. Everybody is always against them. They take abhorrent views and then are offended when people call them out for their bullshit. I suspect that Governor’s School had enough of Phillips making himself out to be some sort of White, Christian martyr and canned him.

Second, any group that talks about “Marxist programming” is a radical, right-wing organization that doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously. I’ve thought about what they mean. Marxism is about eliminating class differences. Groups like Ed First have attached ethnicity, religious affiliation, and sexual preference to Marxism. They don’t believe in racial, sexual, or religious equality and, in their opinion, anybody promoting those values is Marxist. It’s just nuts, but it’s also widely accepted in Republican circles.

Finally, I doubt I agree with Catherine Truitt about much, but I’m glad she’s publicly defending the Governor’s School against people who would tear down all of our institutions. Those groups are the ideological brethren of the Members of Congress who held up the speaker vote. They want to burn the system down. The GOP has allowed them to get a solid foothold in their party and they are going to have a hell of a fight to dislodge them. Truitt is doing the right thing by pushing back instead of cowering. I wish more Republicans would follow her example instead of pandering to extremism.  

Well, that’s what I’m thinking about.


  1. Ed

    The GCA of 1968 neither introduced a pistol purchase permit nor banned Saturday night specials. It instituted the FFL system and banned the mail order purchase of firearms (which is how Oswald obtained the gun that killed Kennedy). The PPP is an archaic, Jim Crow-era NC law; no such thing exists on the federal level.

    The Assault Weapon Ban was probably unconstitutionally vague when it passed; under current SCOTUS precedent of Heller and Bruin, it could not possibly pass muster. The FBI concluded it had no impact on crime anyway.

    Far more consequential than the AWB was the Brady Act of 1993, which instituted NICS and created numerous classifications of “prohibited persons,” who are barred from possessing firearms.

    • TC

      “…Some of you may be interested in knowing-really-what this bill does:
      –It stops murder by mail order. It bars the interstate sale of all guns and the bullets that load them.
      –It stops the sale of lethal weapons to those too young to bear their terrible responsibility.
      –It puts up a big “off-limits” sign, to stop gunrunners from dumping cheap foreign “$10 specials” on the shores of our country.” ~ from Comments by Lydon Baines Johnson upon signing of the Gun Control Act of 1968. 22 October 1968.

      So in that regard sir, you are correct and I was not; it did not institute Pistol Purchase Permitting. But as you can see from the comments from the man who signed the bill into law, it was meant to stop ‘Saturday Night Specials.’ Yes, that is a generic if not archaic term that refers to small caliber cheap handguns notoriously associated at that time with Röhm Gesellschaft or ‘RG’ if you will. I think if you’ll check though, Federal Firearms Licensing actually began with the Federal Firearms Act of 1938.

      However, right/wrong isn’t the point of what I was saying; nor is it now. My point was bans. Laws that control and laws that ban have been done in the past. On several different occasions. Controlling/regulating has lasted and worked better than banning. Short term, sure, there is an effect on the crime rate. But after the passage of time, that generally wears off. There is nothing, no one thing or several things that will or has affected violence or crime if you will for very long.

      The databases referenced under NICS and subsequently searched are only as good as the information that is placed in them. And they are woefully incomplete. Remember the military members who were dishonorably discharged or separated under other than honorable conditions? Remember that they obtained and then used firearms for felonious purposes? Remember the angst it caused because it had not been reported? Those are small examples. Show me (I’ve yet to find a requirement) a database that contains information about those found to be mentally incompetent. If you go through the court system, yes, it can be found there on a limited basis. But, only when you search the AOC (in this state) records for the person. Does or can NICS do that? No, it can’t.

      As you said, the assault weapons ban was found to be ambiguous at best. One may even term as ineffective. But taken in totality for those that find that it “reduced” crime and firearms related attacks, it came at a time when crime and violence was trending downward generally.

      I looked up a quote attributed to Albert Einstein. It’s not a direct quote but it works. “I know not what weapons will be used to fight World War 3. But World War 4 will be fought with sticks and rocks.” The point? Man, humans, are not the civilized or urbane beings they portend themselves to be. Conflict and strife will always be a part of our species. The fact that we are foreseen to partake in violence with sticks and rocks after bringing civilization to the brink of annihilation with some sort of nuclear/biological/chemical contagion is sobering; or it should be. Recognizing that about ourselves leaves much to be desired. Accepting it also shows us how we can grow as a species, as a society, as a people.

      People, well-meaning and intentioned, want to stop the violence. So do I. The lingering question is how. I’m not sure anymore.

      • Ed

        Ah, yes, the GCA imposed the “sporting purposes” test on imports. That only indirectly limited “Saturday Night Specials” by preventing (further) import of cheap foreign-make handguns. It did not regulate their domestic production, or impose any direct sales or possession restrictions.

        As to the long view and human nature, I agree violence is innate to the human condition (probably per evolution). So is the drive to control others, the end game of which is always subjugation. Liberty has always been enjoyed only by those who can keep it through strength. In advocating a republican government, Machiavelli described the Swiss Confederation as “armatissimi e liberissimi” — “most armed and most free” — a reference not to any state power but an invincible militia force of free men trained in and wielding their own arms (as opposed to the Italian reliance on mercenary troops).

        • TC

          Indeed. Domestic production raised the price…and subsequently the quality of the materials and workmanship. Not to top tier firearms manufacturing standards, but the point was to stop the import and market flooding of those types of weapons. It did that.

          You realize that what you seem to be advocating is one of the many maxims written about by Engels and Marx. No government and total freedom and autonomy of the people. Of course, manipulative power doesn’t have to be exercised by a state actor; in can also be exercised by a loose association of persons or, in your words, “…invincible militia force of free men.” Of course, we know not the ordeal of those men who do not hold the status of ‘free.’ Machiavelli himself was a not a Florentine citizen in his time. It was denied to him by the rules.

          Machiavelli…I’m not a big fan. After the Medici took power again, he was seized, imprisoned, tortured, and subjugated to their will and exiled. His writings though were for his time. His political treatises could be construed as examples of what not to do and how not to lead. He wrote to counter those things that he held in disdain and support those things he found real world and applicable in politics and in the administration of power and governance. Some of those things he found appealing we would consider despicable today. Unless you’re the one who would benefit from his counsel.

  2. TC

    It is rare that I find myself in disagreement with Mr. Mills. When I do, it’s often a simple matter of process or semantics. I understand the following will be woefully unpopular with quite a few who read it. However, don’t construe that I think the problem is trivial. There is a moral responsibility that goes along with firearms ownership. And the right imbued in the 2nd Amendment is not an absolute entitlement; nor should it be. Ignoring that responsibility though renders you a pariah in society. Some find that position desirable. It isn’t; it’s despicable.

    Congress took sweeping action in the 20th century concerning firearms. The first was the National Firearms Act of 1934. Which among other things, regulated the sale and possession of automatic weapons. Yes, auto, not semi-automatic weapons. You could walk into your local hardware store, plop down some cash and walk out with a Browning BAR or a Thompson submachine gun.

    The next pivotal piece of legislation was the Gun Control Act of 1968. Which among other things, brought about the purchase permit process for the purchase of handguns and barred the import and sale of the so-called ‘Saturday Night Special.’

    The last major piece of legislation from the 20th Century was the Gun Control Act of 1994. Banning semi-auto weapons labelled ‘Assault weapons’ and placing strict limitation on high-capacity magazines.

    Of those three pieces of legislation, which one didn’t last? You know the answer. Because the first two didn’t ban, but regulated and limited access to specific types of firearms. You could still buy (and you still can buy) fully automatic weapons. You still need a handgun purchase permit to buy a handgun (without a concealed carry permit).
    I find people and human behavior extremely interesting. They want the very thing that they’re told they can’t have. Every time the words ‘gun ban’ hits the news cycle, gun sales go up. I’m surprised the firearms companies don’t fund the gun control lobby as an advertising and marketing expense.

    Maybe someone should think of a way to institute control over semi-automatic weapons, assault rifles for those of you that insist. Not ban, not confiscate, but, limit access to and if you must, in your heart of hearts buy the thing, sharpen your pencil and count your nickels, you’ve got some hoops to jump through first. As an interesting aside, the last time I delved into this, no NFA registered automatic weapon had ever been used to commit a criminal act. That’s been a few years, but I believe everyone would have heard about it if one had been in the interim.

    Would any of the things that I or that anyone proposes to combat the violence have stopped the six-year old last week? Doubtful. However, should the parent be held as responsible for the actions of the child? I think so. I’m not talking about not securing the weapon either. Since raising the age of legal liability to 18, I also think that the parent/guardian should be held responsible for the acts of the dependent minor child. Any criminal or nefarious act committed is the responsibility of the requisite adult. That responsibility would include both criminal and civil sanction. Instead of raising best friends, perhaps parents will revert to raising children to be responsible and productive members of society again.

    About the roads. Gentlemen, did you pause to think this through? Who, pray, do you think would benefit the most from those extra lanes and roads? Who thinks the big cities reap most of the money that should be used to fix the rural roads and backways of this State? Yeah, all those small town, rural county dwellers that vote Republican. That’s who Tim Moore is pandering to.

    Then there’s the growth. Yes, it focuses in and on those major hubs and urban centers. Eventually it will start to sprawl and grow outward. Places where jobs aren’t blue collar and cultural pursuits entwine with professional. The population of the State is growing. Certain areas are outpacing projection. Infrastructure; water, gas, electrical, high-speed internet, and yes, roads have not kept pace. We all know that. Government is notorious for planning for where they are and not where they are going. I couldn’t agree more with the statement about the lack of planning. But to advocate not to build those roads and increase the highway grid. That’s a backfire position to take.

    Frankly, I think all those MSA’s and the places in between should be linked by a high speed or mono-rail service. Light rail should ring those areas and then buses should be used to transport passengers to specific locales within those grids. But that would be comprised of an entire network restructure and involve a statewide transportation initiative. You can’t just do Charlotte, Raleigh, or Asheville and leave the rest to fend for themselves. Every year you delay, stall, or cut, the future from the budget, the price goes up for when the future becomes today.

    By then it won’t be Speaker Moore’s problem. It will have zero effect on his legacy. His legacy will be the stretch of roadway with his name on a sign next to it. Maybe a toll road (what a good idea that was). That legacy is also keeping Republicans in power in the legislature to cut the future and maintain those conservative values and talk about how ‘they’ wanted to build roads and relieve congestion while the Democrats protested much and didn’t want more and better roads.

    Another partisan fight Democrats can’t win.

  3. Tommy

    Thank you, Mr. Mills, for your insightful commentary. I always look forward to reading your words…of equanimity, of true discussion, and appropriate critique. I wish there was more of that in our world today.

  4. Kycowboy

    With today’s impasse between the conservatives and the progressives I see no progress in new gun safety laws . Assault weapons ban is a no brainer but it will not be passed in my lifetime. I was raised on a farm and handled guns. I served in the military with one tour in Vietnam. I sold my gun when I came back . I see no need for semi- automatic guns. If guns are for hunting and target practice then those weapons aren’t necessary. If Sandy Hook could not change the minds of gun owners then nothing will. To them gun ownership is more sacred than human lives. I say to them I think God values life more than your right to own guns !

  5. Wray

    Speaker Moore, just ask anyone in Houston if building more roads and adding ever more lanes to highways eases the traffic problems. Build more highways and they will come! But, that is also true for bike lanes and rapid transit…people will come to these far more efficient and environmentally friendly options – if we will only build them!

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