Richard Martinez is the father of 20-year-old Christopher Michaels-Martinez, who was the last person killed in last Friday’s Santa Barbara gun free zone massacre. We extend our sincere prayers to the families of all the victims, and the family of the perpetrator, who apparently had no idea how dangerous their son had become. Burying a child is a horrific experience, and I would not wish that loss to on anyone.
In his grief, Mr. Martinez lashed out at politicians and the NRA. Even though his attack was a non sequitur, most were understandably willing to give him a pass as his deals with the unspeakable trauma of his son’s murder.
But Mr. Martinez insists that he can be both emotional and rational, and he says that he wants to talk about needs.
The gun lobby will no doubt characterize my statement yesterday at the police station as the rantings of a grief-stricken parent. Hannah Arendt in her book on violence points out that it’s a bullsh*t argument. She observed that people can be both rational and emotional at the same time. Because I’m emotional, it doesn’t mean that what I say is irrational. Nobody needs to own three semi-automatic handguns. It doesn’t make sense. We don’t let people have nuclear bombs in their basements. Why? Because it’s too dangerous.
So Mr. Martinez wants us to approach his arguments from a rational perspective? We can do that.
We can start by noting that equating handguns to nuclear weapons is a fallacious argument to be made by schoolchildren, not by serious adults looking for real solutions to a complex problem of balancing the constitutional rights of the individual, the desires of the community, and the will of the state.
Martinez’s claim that, “Nobody needs to own three semi-automatic handguns,” is likewise a fallacious argument. No matter how distraught he is at the moment, Mr. Martinez is arguing his opinion. He is not arguing facts.
His arguments are from the heart.
They are sincere.
They are well-intentioned.
They are also misguided and dangerous.
As we watch the media lift up Mr. Martinez as a political weapon to further their political agenda, I’m forced to recall the tragedy that was the rise and fall of Cindy Sheeehan.
In 2005, Cindy Sheehan became famous—or infamous, depending on your point of view—as a anti-war protester and darling of the mainstream media. She became a sympathetic figure used by the media to attack the war in Iraq not because she was capable of making logical, rational and persuasive arguments for ending the war, but because she had “absolute moral authority,” what might be better termed today as photogenic emotionalism. She remained useful to the media until her paranoia, anti-Semitic rants and conspiracy theories rendered her toxic to even the most radical of journalists. She is now a sad and lonely footnote in history.
Richard Martinez echoes Cindy Sheehan’s photogenic grief. His anger and willingness to face one camera after another after his only son’s death is momentarily convenient for a mainstream media that proved long ago that it is more than happy to exploit emotional victims to further their own political agendas.
Perhaps Mr. Martinez does have a rational argument to make against the ownership of firearms. Perhaps he can be emotional and rational at the same time. Unfortunately, Mr. Martinez hasn’t made a rational argument yet that suggests we should upend the Constitution based upon what he thinks our nation needs in his personal time of grief.
I pray that the Martinez family can find the strength to deal with this personal tragedy. I hope that Mr. Martinez will attempt to do so without attempting to strip 312 million Americans of their rights.