Thursday, March 31, 2016

Seniors On A Gun Buying Binge? A Bad Idea!

The WSJ article ('Seniors Head To Gun Ranges', March 30, p. A3) was disturbing to say the least. In it we learn that those over 65 are heading to gun dealers in droves to buy the latest Glocks as well as rifles. The good news (at least) is that most seem to be signing on for NRA- provided firearm training. The bad news is most will end up either shooting themselves (most likely in a suicide) or a loved one (generally by accident, especially with bad eyesight and in the dark.).

One 71 year old Okie interviewed for the piece, when asked why he had to buy two Glock semi-automatic pistols, said he "felt threatened by strangers" (actually teens, in a crowd Mall scene) and added that he was especially worried about those with "mental problems" and "radicals". (Hmmmm....he didn't specify but I guess he means Islamic).  He then added for effect:

"You see it every day on the TV news!"

Ah yes, the news of daily fear pumped out by the mainstream corporate media.

Chris Hedges in his terrific book, ‘Empire of Illusion’ (p. 45) noted the media's warp and woof accurately:

Hour after hour, day after day, week after week, we are bombarded with the cant and spectacle pumped out over the airwaves or over computer screens by highly paid pundits, corporate advertisers, talk show hosts, and gossip-fueled entertainment networks. And a culture dominated by images and slogans seduces those who are functionally literate but who make the choice not to read…….

Propaganda has become a substitute for ideas and ideology. Knowledge is confused with how we are made to feel. Commercial brands are mistaken for expressions of individuality.   It’s in this decline of values and literacy, among those who cannot read or have given up reading, that fertile ground for a new totalitarianism is seeded.”

Of course, the first imperative for a gestating fascist state is to sow fear. That's what Hitler did with the Jews, and Trump has done more recently with Muslims. All one needs is endless TV scenes of stark fear and even terror - plus a screeching demagogue -  to make them take form.

But let's get back to why it's a bad idea for poor eyesight seniors - many of whom may also be on the verge of Alzheimer's disease, not to own or try to use guns for protection.

1) Older farts are naturally antsy and trigger happy. This is like an axiom, and it's also why many can't handle crowds either at Malls or parks. The noises and loud background talk terrify them, and too many people plays havoc with their amygdalas. Most are not military-trained and even if they are, many have forgotten the basics (when to put the safety on, take it off).  NRA training is only good up to a point, but if they have failing memories and can't recall what the expert said about using the Glock 9mm, it can spell disaster.

They often will keep their weapons either in an easily accessible place - subject to theft - or some hidden place making it useless if an intruder does enter. Add to that senior nerves, say if confronted by a genuine intruder, and you have the makings of a real bad scene - especially likely if Gramps is confronted before he can get his glasses on.

2) Many older people are already in the early stages of dementia. You really want to trust these geezers with guns? By one estimate appearing in the AARP Bulletin, up to 20 percent of seniors over 65, 30 percent over 70, are already in the early stages of dementia - which implies poor judgment. Not all of this is from Alzheimer's, some is from vascular dementia (google it) and another good fraction from diabetic effects.

3) Many don't understand just  how hard it is to shoot an intruder or assailant in the actual situation. Firing at paper men on a target range is one thing, doing it for real - when confronting three or four thugs equipped with Mac-10s in your own home, after a home break in, is another. Take the crappy senior eyesight, combine it with fading memory (likely not even recalling the exact place the Glock was stored) and nerves that are aged and frayed and it's a disaster waiting to happen.

As Harvard Prof David Hemenway, quoted in the article, put it:

"If they're running at you, you have maybe a half second at the most to react."

This, despite most senior reaction times being as much as 1 second or greater (and that's for those in superb mental, physical condition!)

This is why Prof. Hemenway also made clear (ibid.):

"The evidence is pretty strong that owning a gun isn't going to help you."

Adding that having a gun at home increases the risk for suicide and accidental shootings.Melissa Jeltsen of the HuffPo assayed all shootings between 2009 and 2015. She found that 70 percent occurred in the home. Of these, 57 percent involved a family member or current or former intimate partner. 81 percent of the victims were women and children. These killings were not done by 'crazies' but usually normal people who simply lost it in the midst of a heated argument and reached for the weapon nearest and dearest - a gun.

Hemenway's advice?

"Get a dog, get a good lock, get good neighbors, get a cell phone."

Take away or reduce the seniors' fear quotient, from watching too much TV news, and then if they read more - like the AARP Bulletin- they'd see the much bigger threat to them is the scammer over the phone.  This is the much bigger risk (by a factor of 9 or more) than being held up on the street by a "radical" or mugger.

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