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Jeb Bladine: An apt inspiration for culture change

A culture can change its laws, but laws don’t necessarily change the culture. For proponents of cultural change, it’s most disturbing when the offending laws themselves are unassailable.

That may be the fate for those inspiring youths now known as the surviving students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Is it possible those Parkland, Florida, teenagers will gain the traction denied the surviving victims and families of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut? Could their youthful idealism somehow succeed in gun control campaigns that faltered after this decade’s other mass killings in Orlando and San Bernardino, Las Vegas and Aurora, the Washington Navy Yard, Umpqua Community College and the Sutherland Springs church?

Whatchamacolumn

Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

The students are on a mission spawned by rightfully inflamed passions and bolstered by admirable focus and maturity. But they are up against the tides of history.
Young America, approaching 250 years, is not yet ready to relinquish its obsession with guns, nor its illusion of self-defense against a potentially tyrannical government. That time will come, as it has in other cultures, and perhaps the Stoneman Douglas students will cause a ripple that generates future waves.

It has been 50 years since another youth uprising in America sought to change the culture. They helped end a war, but as Kenneth T. Walsh observed in a U.S. News series, the uprising “didn’t achieve the counterculture’s objectives of ending poverty, war and intolerance.”

If a youth rebellion somehow triggers the renewal of the 1994 ban on assault weapons, students should not necessarily walk away assuming they moved the needle. That 10-year ban fizzled, and a support cast of initiatives failed — background checks, mental health controls and gun-carry proliferation are not the stuff of culture change.

My bout of pessimism, however, won’t deter a student movement now expanding into national school walkouts and a March 24 March For Our Lives. For inspiration, those Florida students can look to their high school’s namesake.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas fought for women’s suffrage and civil rights. She was a journalist, author, and crusading advocate for saving the Everglades as a “treasured river instead of a worthless swamp.”

When she died in 1998, at age 108, an obituary in The Independent of London said, “In the history of the American environmental movement, there have been few more remarkable figures than Marjory Stoneman Douglas.”

Changing culture is a lifelong calling and a multi-generational pursuit. It’s best to start when you’re young.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

Comments

Marita Grassmann

Why does anyone believe that our federal government can ban guns? They are still trying to ban drugs. How's that working?

Denise

Assault weapons have been banned since the ‘80s without a class III. That is common knowledge. You would think the president of the newspaper could research that. Semiautomatic rifles are legal. So let’s start with an educated conversation and not reactionary hysteria.

Only then can a rational discussion be had from both sides.

Oregonize

The Federal Assault Weapons ban (AWB)expired September 13th 2004 under the sunset provision, is this something different?

REB

an AR-15 is NOT an assault weapon

Jeb Bladine

We do try to do some research before writing commentary, and we found there is widespread disagreement on the definition of “assault rifle.”

The 1994 “Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act” was widely known as the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB). AR-15s were included in the ban. That legislation expired in 2004, and was not renewed.

Many say an “assault rifle” must switch between semi-automatic and full automatic (machine gun) functions. The AR-15 is semi-automatic only.

Others – in state and federal legislation proposals – define assault rifles to include AR-15s and other semi-automatic weapons because of their massive firepower capabilities.

It seems that “assault rifle” is in the eye of the beholder, with definitions varying from time to time and place to place. Just to add to the confusion, here’s a Merrium-Webster Dictionary definition: “Any of various intermediate-range, magazine-fed military rifles (such as the AK-47) that can be set for automatic or semiautomatic fire; also : a rifle that resembles a military assault rifle but is designed to allow only semiautomatic fire.”

Denise

There is no ambiguity in the definition for informed sources. You may as well call it a machine gun. Both, by are incorrect terms applied to the most common, and popular, firearm in the United States, the AR-15.

Assault weapons must posses certain traits that define them. And those by definition have been illegal for decades without a class III.

The definition has been watered down by people ignorant of firearms, those in the press who want to sensationalize the topic, or those to lazy to fully research it.

You can call it whatever you like, but you’d be wrong and veterans and gun enthusiasts cringe at such ignorance.

Much like calling a clip a magazine. They are different items that serve different purposes that the mainstream media and lazy press folks have decided are synonymous.

They aren’t.

Neither is calling a semiautomatic rifile an assault weapon.

Jeb Bladine

With all due respect, Denise, there is no adjudicated definition of “assault weapon.”

The firearms industry is adamant that an “assault weapon” must have fully automatic firing capability. That is their commercial right – and your personal right – to so-define gun categories.

However, we don't have thought-police defining how different people can consider evolving definitions – an evolution that is not the result of a lazy press trying to sensationalize news. The AR-15 is defined as an assault weapon under laws enacted in California, New York, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey and Hawaii.

You can consider all of those people ignorant, but in reality, the national movement continues for including various semi-automatic firearms under the “assault weapon” definition.

In any event, of course, the debate over whether or not the AR-15 is an assault weapon is a bit of a red herring in the big picture of how America's gun-toting culture should, or will, evolve.

Denise

Well that’s the problem, isn’t it?

I could show you pictures of various semi automatic rifles, and you wouldn’t have a clue as to their capabilities. One rifle is no more lethal than the next. So you have no definition, or idea of what you’re talking about.

And ignorant politicians like Pelosi stating that “machine guns” shouldn’t be legal, when they aren’t.

Politicians, who create laws, are indeed ignorant, biased, and pandering to their base.

As are you in this situation.

An assault rifle has to have the following - be an intermediate cartridge, magazine fed, and have selective fire, not fully automatic necessarily. Most nearly all modern assault rifles have a three to five round burst option, and are not fully automatic. That’s a fact, not open for interpretation. Google it for Gods sake. It’s all out there. Are you are suggesting politicians know more about weapon’s definitions than the military? Are you a veteran? I highly doubt it.

Your obvious bias, as evidenced by your comments such as, “America’s gun toting culture” make your opinion as a reporter biased, and suspect. That’s another problem, the press injecting their personal opinions, even when the obviously don’t even know the basics of what they’re talking about, while purporting to be experts. It’s outrageous, obvious hyperbole, and the one of the many reasons people don’t trust the press anymore for topics of significant consequence.



Trafik

First, let me get a couple minor details out of the way: I was a crack shot with a long gun and proficient with sidearms by the age of 12. I served in the U.S. Navy. I am a Republican.

While Denise condescendingly teaches her class on the minutiae of firearms classification, others are seeking actual solutions to the horror of school shootings which are now occurring with mind-numbing regularity. If you want to put a stop to mass shooting events, you know we must start a meaningful and candid dialogue on what action we can take and we must do so now. If not, you can take Denise's class. But I warn you: the class will never end and you'll find yourself debating ultimately-meaningless details over and over and over again while you never move past section one of the syllabus.

Sometimes I just want to stay quiet but the breathless outrage spewed from tear-stained keyboards gets to be too much. (Confidential to Denise: the reference spoke to tears of fury, not tears of frustration or sorrow. Wouldn't want anyone to think I was calling you weak.)

Jeb Bladine

I try to avoid “buzz phrases,” but I did say “gun toting culture.” I should simply have noted that we have far more guns per 100 people than any other country … nearly twice as many as #2 and #3, and 3-to-21 times more than #4 through #100.

I spent considerable childhood and adult times firing single-shot, multi-round and semi-automatic weapons, including many days on firing ranges with M-16s. I have a pretty good idea about the capabilities of various weapons. My primary bias related to guns is toward improving mental health, and reducing access to mass-killing weapons for criminals and people with dangerous psychological disorders.

Your definition of “assault weapon” is absolutely correct according to the U.S. military. Others – over time and in laws – have chosen to define the term differently. However, I gladly will discard the “assault weapon” label for AR-15s in favor of a more modern, more inclusive description, "personal weapon of mass destruction.”

That same military, by the way, once had a definition for “enhanced interrogation” that included actions now commonly considered “torture.”

As Trafik suggests, I think I’ll withdraw from the debate on weapon labels. I do that, however, with appreciation for the your participation in showing how that debate often plays out.

Mike

Nice debate. Denise's time honored debate tactic of insult is right out of the text books. Her telling Jeb to Google for the information on guns suggests she trusts Google's algorithms of her based on what about her and and how she uses Google. For someone so distrusting, it is a real leap of faith to trust Google. Jeb and others don't fall into the insult response trap. Darn. Insults are supposed to side track the discussion.
We are a war and gun loving culture. I was born during the WWII, when I was in grade school we were at war, when I was in a young adult we were in the Vietnam War, a war when I was in the Army, a war which lasted for almost 10 years, we have been in a continuous war for last last 17 years. The gun debate will continue until this next youthful generation which is being killed in their schools begin to take power. Then there might be change.

sbagwell

It's hard to engage in reasoned dialogue with someone so full of pent-up anger and hostility. It would be nice if we could actually discuss prospective gun control measures on their merits.

It appears to me that even the most rabid gun folks agree that we should keep tanks, bazookas and machine guns out of private hands, and that such a measure of control is constititional. If so, then I don't see why we can't rationally weigh the possibility of additional restrictions or limitations on the same basis.

Epithets and venom really don't serve to advance anyone's cause.

Steve

Lulu

Lately, the keyboard has replaced the malicious poison pen. "Ignorant, biased and pandering..." "You have no idea of what you're talking about..." [grammatically incorrect]. Try reading the poem, "Naming of Parts," by Henry Reed. Not exactly "This is my rifle, this is my gun."

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