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Guns in America

This latest time, it was a community college in Oregon, but as we’ve seen so many times already, it could have been anywhere. These mass murders have become so frequent, and even regular, that not only do I have no answers, I don’t have any more questions.

I don’t care who the shooter was, why he felt disaffected or disrespected, whether or not he was a quiet and creepy loaner who lived with his mother, whether or not he was bitter about women for not being able to get laid, if he hated African Americans, Jews or Christians. I don’t even care whether there were missed warning signs, because there are always warning signs – the same ones that present with guys like this who don’t resort to mass murder. I don’t care that he had “issues.”

All I care about is that he was easily able to obtain one or more firearms and plenty of ammunition.

And spare me the breast-beating about lack of adequate mental health facilities. No amount of mental health screening is going to prevent this. With the two other product-related mortality blights – automobiles and smoking – the government and/or the industry is trying to impact the problem; all the way up through smoke-free buildings and research into driverless cars. And then there is the issue of testing and licensing people before we allow them to drive. With the firearms industry, just the opposite is true: They continually challenge every legislative and technological step to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.

I know: the Constitution doesn’t guarantee us the right to cars and cigarettes the way it does guns. I’ve heard that one a thousands times, generally without a discussion of that pesky opening clause about a well-regulated militia.

As I say, I don’t know what the answer is. Marginal actions are unlikely to erase the problem and a ban on guns will never pass Constitutional scrutiny. And no armed civilian has ever prevented or curtailed a mass shooting. In the chaos of the moment, anyone drawing a weapon in such a situation risks being shot by official first responders.

“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Yes, but people with guns kill many more people than people without guns. Few of these mass killers would be able to cause such havoc with a knife, a baseball bat, or fists.

What else do we just let happen and not try to prevent?

I don’t know what the answer is. I know that NRA members are not the people committing gun crimes. But NRA policies and lobbying certainly don’t help.

All I know is that if you compare the murder rates of the United States and every other First World nation, no one else is even remotely close. Is that just the way we are? Is it part of our original sin, like slavery, that we will never get over? After all, Japan has an extremely low rate of gun ownership and almost no homicide. On the other hand, Switzerland has an extremely high rate of gun ownership and almost no homicide.

I guess gun violence is like hurricane season: It’s just going to happen and there’s nothing we can do about it. The only difference is that gun violence knows no season.

If anyone has any more ideas than I do, I welcome them. I think we all do.

9 Responses to No Answers or Questions

  1. Cornerstone says:

    It’s simple arithmetic; the more guns, the more gun deaths. Why people bend themselves in two reaching for justification to keep the guns and gun deaths climbing is a mystery to me — and I don’t think it’s because they’re all that attached to the Constitution.

  2. Heth365 says:

    I agree with Tom in that it is hard to add anything new to the discussion. Most points have been stated dissected, repeated, and become bumper stickers, regardless of the side you are on. Despite this, I will offer my admitted, semi-uneducated, opinion.

    I see a trend where when we are faced with a problem in society, our immediate solution is to create a law to restrict or diminish the unwanted behavior. To a certain extent, when the creation of the law holds the person accountable, this is successful. Where I see this action fail is when we don’t address the underlying issue. Therefore, it is like putting a band aid on an infected wound. It may cover the wound, but it needs antibiotics to make it go away.

    We can all agree, regardless of which side we are on, that it needs to stop. We can all agree that somewhere, the system failed. Where we differ in opinion is the solution.

    Whether there are laws or not, those who are intent to harm will find a way to do so, and they won’t be going through legal channels to accomplish it. In my opinion, we would be better served in finding the right antibiotic rather than slapping on more band aids.

    Again – not a solution, just my 2 cents.

    • Tom Mininger says:

      It’s the headline grabbing mass shootings that fill us with anguish, but they are not what make the US murder rates high.

      Murder in some urban areas across the country create a bloodbath; Detroit, New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago, Baltimore…

      I don’t know what the antibiotic is for urban murder. Ironically, I think inner city schools are the least vulnerable to the lone male inadequacy motivated mass killing event due to metal detectors and police presence.

      There has been an ebb and flow over thousands of years alternating between people feeling safe in cities and fleeing from decay to the countryside (or suburbs as the case may be).

  3. With all due respect, Mark, your statement “…No armed civilian has ever prevented or curtailed a mass shooting” is wrong. The earliest instance I know of occurred in Brunswick, GA in 1915. Monroe Phillips ran amok because he had lost a real estate deal. He killed 5 people with a shotgun, and wounded 20 others. He was shot dead by lawyer E.C. Butts while trying to fire on other citizens.

    In 1997, at Pearl High School, MI, a gunman killed two students after stabbing and bludgeoning his mother to death. The principle detained him using a .45 automatic.

    In 1998, at a dance at Parker Middle School in Edinboro, PA, Andrew Jerome Wurst shot two teachers and two students. One teacher later died. James Strand confronted Wurst with a shotgun and held him until the police arrived.

    • Thanks, Wendy, I wasn’t aware of these. But three interventions in a hundred years when we have a mass shooting on average of once a week still isn’t great odds.
      I do believe this is a complicated issue, for which I don’t have the answer. But there is definitely something wrong when our homicide and suicide by gun statistics are so far our from those of other Western and First World countries.

      • It’s actually not just three. I could probably flood the page with examples. I found 20 on one site alone, I also found a number of instances where situations that could have resulted in mass murder were stopped by armed citizens. I think, though, that those examples are likely hard to prove. For instance, say someone with a gun claims he’s going to kill people and is stopped before he can act by another citizen with a gun. Who knows if the guy was just blowing smoke, or if lives were actually saved?

        One thing I do know is that it’s practically impossible to assemble statistics that really have meaning, because everyone on either side of the gun control debate has their own agenda. I can’t think of one study that’s ever been done by a completely unbiased organization, but I could be wrong about that.

        I freely admit to my own bias – I own a .308 for deer hunting, a 12-gauge shotgun for small game, and a .22 rifle for varmints, as well as a .357 magnum for target shooting. In no way am I a mass murderer waiting to happen. I did once use the .308 for a purpose other than hunting, though – there was a blinding snowstorm, and my veterinarian could not get to my farm in order to humanely euthanize a suffering horse. I don’t think I had much choice.

        All that said, I think the gun control laws are off base because it’s always been a matter of prohibiting certain types of firearms instead of taking a hard look at the potential owner of those firearms. Personally, I think that anyone who wants to own a firearm should be willing to provide references, expect to have them thoroughly checked, and also submit to a psychological evaluation – not just once, but at regular intervals. I’m pretty stable mentally these days, but who knows what could happen five years down the road?

        I live in Canada, so I’m probably not totally up to speed on US gun laws, but it seems to me that the problem is that just about anyone can buy a gun. I had to pass one course for long guns and another for restricted weapons. The RCMP interviewed references I provided, and each interview took about an hour. If I hadn’t passed all these requirements, I wouldn’t be able to own a gun.

        Sorry this has been so long, but it’s an important issue to me. I don’t think you’re ever going to be able to keep the guns out of the hands of every nut job, but the problem from my perspective is that not enough effort is made to prevent the mentally ill from obtaining firearms.

        I’d just like to add that I’m a tremendous admirer of you, and of John Douglas. I have every single book either of you ever wrote, and I feel rather honored to be able to debate you on this issue.

      • Thanks for both excellent contributions, Wendy, as well as your kind words.

  4. Tom Mininger says:

    It is a challenge to add anything new to this discussion. One area where regulation of guns in the US is unquestioned is the TSA check at airports. Unless a Federal Marshall loses it, we can all feel safe from gun violence at 35,000 feet.

    • Good point, Tom. And I’ve always maintained that sine 9/11, the hijackers profile has changed so profoundly in the public’s mind that no set of passengers will sit quietly by as before and let a plane be taken over. Instead, they will fight to the death to prevent it.

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