Let’s Talk About Guns

After finishing the Scientology book, I decided not to read books I already had, and buy a book called, “Columbine.” I’m sure you can guess what it’s about. I don’t know my deal with non-fiction at the moment, and I can honestly say that I never would have pegged myself as a non-fiction reader when I was younger. But I’ve turned into one of those people as an adult.

Anyway, I’m only 7 or 8 (very short) chapters in, but there have been times when I’ve been sitting there reading to myself, and my only reaction is complete awe (along with some choice words at times). Utter shock followed by thoughts like, “WHAT is wrong with people?!!??!!”

The book is written in point-blank tone, with sentences like, “Cassie was worried about her prom dress that Friday evening. By Monday, Eric would kill her.” It’s more than striking. It’s like “The Virgin Suicides,” except it wasn’t written by Jeffrey Eugenides, and it’s not fiction. This happened. And the author’s account isn’t creative meandering into the mind of a sick, fictional alter ego, it’s all based on facts, conversations, research, police investigations, journals, video tapes, etc.

I’ll review the book more when I’m finished, but it was purely coincidence that I began reading it the day of the Washington DC Navy Yard shooting. I saw the news on Twitter, which is (sadly or not depending on your perspective) how I get a lot of my breaking news.

This is the first time news like this didn’t take my breath away. When I read about the shooting the Newtown elementary school, I yelpled, “What?! Why would someone do that?!” When the Boston Marathon bombing happened, I gasped audibly in my cube at work, “No! No, no, no, no!” This time, with the Navy shooting, I just thought, “What? Again?!” And I feel like too many people have reached this point of numbness regarding the violence that happens every day in small towns and big cities, in places that are supposed to be “safe” (schools, churches, military bases, etc.).

We often can’t know what was going through a lot of these murderers’ heads as they plan or spontaneously undertake these attacks. The “Columbine” book offers the inside perspective based on scrupulous records the boys took. However, these attacks almost always end in death for the shooters/bombers, so there’s no finding things out afterward. No moment of vindication or explanation that we desperately want to feel.

Then the news reports come in from the manager of the shoe store that the murderer once visited (my thoughts on media in these situations are reserved for another post), and we hear what seems like one of two things, “I never saw it coming! S/he was such a nice person.” Or, “All the signs were there, we just never put them together.”

Which brings me to the point of guns…

Now, let’s not get all huffy right off the bat. Sean and I have guns. In no way do I think guns should be banned.

That being said, I was not raised around guns. They still scare me. I’ve been to the shooting range, and I get a hollow pit in my stomach as the bullet exits the chamber and slices through the thin paper targets. I choose the targets because I don’t like shooting at the human form. I know this makes me seem like a wimpy bleeding heart. (And, yes, this is part of the reason I’m vegetarian. If I can’t kill it myself, I believe I have no right to let other people do it for me while I pretend to ignore how meat “happens.”)

I understand that other people love guns. I know shooting guns makes them feel powerful. I know people love the types of guns, the accessories, the collections. I know people enjoy them the same way others enjoy cars or shoes or books.

But gun violence in America is getting out of hand. Not that there’s a level that’s considered “under control.” And taking money and flack and bullshit lies from the NRA because they’re OMG afraid a discussion about it will mean all the guns in America will be confiscated, is stupid and irresponsible. Sure, there are rules, but they are obviously easy to get around.

The NRA is against a computerized database of gun owners because it’s OMG tracking. Meanwhile, when a gun crime is committed now, the gun has to be traced back to the dealer who sold it, who has to search through paper records in the store from the original purchaser. Who knows what other transactions have gone on since then? Who knows if the gun seller has retired? Or if the records were destroyed in hurricane Katrina.

This is ridiculous.

In the Navy Yard shooting in DC, the media can point out flaws in the system like, “The Navy only does exactly 1/2 a background check for contractors!” [Edit: Thanks to keen gun-aware people, I’ve been informed that gun ownership does require background checks. Sean could have told me that, but oh well.] The arms sales industry gives zero cares if you’re going to take your gun home to add to your shrine of weaponry or take it to the nearest “safe place” and shoot up a bunch of innocents (in fact, their business does better when the latter happens because everyone freaks out about losing their beloved gun-collections).

I know the media does a decent job of playing up the amount of gun violence that happens in our country. There’s plenty of other violence that occurs while our heads are turned and our hearts riled up about the latest “controversy” we should be angry about–domestic violence, violence against children, racial violence, etc.

No matter how many people are killed, it means nothing if we have a “fervent discussion” every time and then forget about it until the next publicized attack. It means nothing if we can’t talk about mental health provisions, helping parents with children who need help, and elements of gun tracking equally.

People are dying in other countries at the hands of their own governments, and America is right there to help.

Americans are dying at the hands of their own countrymen, and government politics and lobbying manage to do nothing but talk until the subjects dies, and all the victims die in vain.

I don’t know the answer. I’m not claiming to. I don’t think anyone does for sure until there’s a discussion unaffected by party politics, business interests, and under-the-table money about WHY this is happening and HOW we can fix it.

If you read this far down, thanks. And I’d like to know your thoughts on the issue. I don’t know anything close to everything about this, so I welcome information. No matter your opinion, though, please don’t be an ass to be an ass.

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8 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Guns

  1. “I understand that other people love guns. I know shooting guns makes them feel powerful. I know people love the types of guns, the accessories, the collections. I know people enjoy them the same way others enjoy cars or shoes or books.”

    This. Holding/shooting a gun makes me feel powerful, but so does a sword. Or a knife. Or a hammer. Or pen and paper. Not dismissing your point here at all–in fact I agree with it and with the way you phrased it. I’m glad you understand the difference between “guns make me feel powerful” and “guns make me feel like John-Fucking-Rambo” which is a point a lot of people *don’t* get.

    “And taking money and flack and bullshit lies from the NRA because they’re OMG afraid a discussion about it will mean all the guns in America will be confiscated, is stupid and irresponsible.”

    I think some of the rhetoric from the NRA is a little touchy, true. But when the response from “the other guys” to a tragedy is invariably to politicize it and call for ever-tighter restrictions and bans on firearms… I can’t really blame them. I mean, they’re convinced that “The Left” wants to take their guns away because, well, there are a lot of Left-Wing congresspeople with histories of threatening to do just that, and a lot of left-leaning citizens who, after a tragedy, jump on the “ban them!!!” bandwagon. The rhetoric coming from that side is so vitriolic and so *uninformed* that they have to hit back just as hard; they’re (and, speaking as a gun owner and NRA member, *we*) are terrified someone’s going to take somebody like Diane Feinstein seriously one day.

    “[Snip corrected bits about background checks and databases]”

    Yeah. Was every gun I have BC’d? Perhaps not. Some were gifts, some are antiques that don’t require a BC because of their age. That said… I’m iffy on the subject of *mandatory* registration. On one hand, we do it with cars (and it usually does jack-all to expedite insurance claims). On the other hand, the phrase “database of gun owners” concerns me. The argument has been made that a database would allow a gun to be tracked to its original owner if it was used in a crime (along with demanding penalties for someone whose gun is stolen who fails to report it). Speaking to the “guns = cars” analogy, no one cares (I mean, they care, but no more than if it’s the original owner) if you borrow a buddy’s car and run someone over. It’s not your buddy’s fault, legally, even though it’s his car. Similarly, if you shoot someone with my pistol (unless I handed it to you and said, “hey, go shoot these prisoners” or something), it’s not my legal responsibility (Also, ethical != legal. Sure it’s my ethical responsibility, but no one gets convicted on ethics unless they’re illegal anyway).
    Part of the anti-database argument, too, is that most pro-database arguments would require any private sale or transfer (gift) of a gun to be done through an FFL, which is insane. The burden of extra tax-dollars and man hours aside, it’s insane to think that it’s a good idea to levy a fee on someone for giving their grandson a pistol, when you could do the same with a car with no issue at all.

    “…or take it to the nearest “safe place” and shoot up a bunch of innocents…”

    God. I hate gun-free/weapon-free zones and this is exactly why. Why have most mass shootings been in gun-free zones? Leaving aside the motive of the shooter (fame, revenge, he’s just fuckin’ crazy, etc.), why do they go for schools? For theaters? For malls? Tactically, it’s easy: there’s no one there to *stop* them. I’m not going to get into the “cowboy” arguments or the “if I was there!” arguments, because there are a lot of differing circumstances (I’d have, in all honesty, tried to shoot the Sandy Hook kid; but the Aurora shooter was in a dark room with poor sightlines and a lot of loud noises, so shooting back wouldn’t have been a great idea), but the fact remains that, statistically, most mass-shooters seem to go for undefended targets where they know they can cause a lot of pain and suffering. No one shoots up packed-to-the-gills gun shows; no one robs gun stores; hell, no one shoots up anime conventions because half the people there are carrying wooden swords and would beat a shooter to death.

    “I know the media does a decent job of playing up the amount of gun violence that happens in our country. There’s plenty of other violence that occurs while our heads are turned and our hearts riled up about the latest “controversy” we should be angry about–domestic violence, violence against children, racial violence, etc.”

    This. It’s like Zimmerman and Martin. Zimmerman got whitewashed by the media so they would have a good, ratings-building “white dude kills black kid” story to parade around until something else happened. Meanwhile, dozens (if not more) of black kids are killing other black kids and the media doesn’t give two shits. Meanwhile, the Christian-Newsom case is reopened, and Glen Fucking Beck is the only one to shed any light on it. And then Miley Cyrus grinds on a giant foam finger on stage, and the case is forgotten.
    That means that Trayvon’s dead is about as important as Miley Cyrus twerking… at least to the media.

    “It means nothing if we can’t talk about mental health provisions, helping parents with children who need help, and elements of gun tracking equally.”

    Tracking? I still don’t think so, see above. Mental health? Shit yes. The problem isn’t “people with guns,” “kids with guns,” or “blacks with guns” (although the correlation between Black Empowerment movements and gun control laws is… scary). The problem is “crazy people with guns.” HOWEVER this is also something that would need to be SERIOUSLY considered and very well crafted to even be a shadow of a good idea. Ok, so, “crazy people with guns” are bad. But who’s crazy? Are Bipolar people crazy? Arguably so. But then my wife, mother, and tons of other people would be denied the ability to exercise a basic right. Are people with PTSD crazy? Arguably so, but then a great many war vets, including some well-adjusted people who I’d trust with my life would be barred from owning a weapon. What about sociopaths? They’re crazy. Being gay was in the DSM for a long time, so was being into S&M, are they too crazy to own a gun? It goes on and on… The disturbing part is when you get into the question of “who decides what’s crazy?” What if “being religious” is branded as crazy, or “being a communist,” or “disagreeing with the established doubleplusgood groupthink” or, most frightening, “we don’t like you (or your skin color, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, etc) so we’re going to find something about you that’s too crazy to be granted ownership of a weapon.”
    Now, don’t take that to say that I’m against mental health issues. I’m very much *for* mental health issues it’s just… a very fine line that will have to be walked between “yeah, you’re a little unstable but you’re not dangerous” and “you’re too dangerous to own a weapon.”

    Like I said, opinions, I has them.

    1. Thanks, Tom! Re: the NRA point–I agree that “the other side” pushes back with extreme rhetoric, but when 1 group controls an ENTIRE issue (like big business does for other issues), I start to question the point of our government–to represent regular people or the people stuffing their pockets. And it bothers me that Congress has a heated debate, comes up with some gun control measure, votes it down, and then ends the conversation there. Like, “Oh, well, it didn’t work this time, so we’ll just have to try the same thing again next time.”

      Re: gun tracking–Like I said, I don’t know the answer, but it seems like we can’t just put all the responsibility on people to “be good with it.” I know we can’t stop people from running over others with cars and that plenty of people do that without licenses or insurance or whatever other measure in place to stop them from being stupid. And I know that there’s no definite way to vet people with mental illnesses as to who is “gun-qualified” and who is not–especially since so many don’t get/can’t afford help. Like I said, I just bothers me that we stop talking about it after the vote doesn’t pass on 1 part of the issue.

      Since I wasn’t raised with guns (other than my mom’s BB gun), I think that’s part of the reason that some people are so sensitive to the presence of them. I read an article once where a man used to carry his assault rifle to McDonald’s and Starbucks, just so people would see it can be completely harmless, and, in today’s culture of mass shootings in public places, I can’t say that I’d be ok standing behind him in line. I don’t know if he’s a good guy or a bad guy. (If only people came with labels!)

      I know there’s not a single solution, and this post was more of a rant of desperation at the fact that this. keeps. happening. I know I need to just get better at being around guns (which is a total trust issue, if you think about it–trusting people at the gun range are equipped and trained and know what their doing, which is hard since I often don’t). But I also know that some people are unfortunately too comfortable around guns–as they’ve witnessed the deaths of too many family members at the hands of them.

      1. ‘Nother long one coming in. =D

        “And it bothers me that Congress has a heated debate, comes up with some gun control measure, votes it down, and then ends the conversation there. Like, “Oh, well, it didn’t work this time, so we’ll just have to try the same thing again next time.””

        Agreed. It bothers me, too, that neither side learns from it. “The Left” always tried the same thing, and “The Right” always responds the same way. What I actually think is happening is that no one, with a few Feinstein-type exceptions, actually expect their proposals to work. They want to propose something drastic, yell that it’s for the children, and then go back to business as usual. I can’t really say why, not on the whole, but if I had to guess as to the root cause: because doomed-but-dramatic legislation is easy, fixing the state of mental health in this country is hard.

        “Since I wasn’t raised with guns (other than my mom’s BB gun), I think that’s part of the reason that some people are so sensitive to the presence of them.”

        That’s a big part of it. I’ve known many people who are nervous when I “show off” my guns around them… right up until the point they hold one and realize they’re harmless (without operator intent, anyway) and actually kinda cool. It is worth noting, too, that the areas with lowest rates of violent crime tend to be rural areas (replete with shotguns and hunting rifles) and areas where open carry is common.

        “I can’t say that I’d be ok standing behind him in line. I don’t know if he’s a good guy or a bad guy. (If only people came with labels!)”

        I, personally, would be pretty inclined to trust someone openly carrying a gun. Since this isn’t the old west and, like you said, people tend to be a little nervous around open carriers, it’s pretty unlikely that someone open carrying is a bad guy. Anyone planning something bad is going to want to keep his intentions hidden until the last possible moment. But that’s just me… and there’s also hundreds of little body language signals that could go along with it. I’d trust Mister, “Oh, Yeah, this is my gun. It’s neat.” But Mister “I have a gun! Shifty eyes and sweat!” wouldn’t leave my sight.

        “…which is a total trust issue…”

        Totally. I trust people at the range, but by the same token I’m not about to stop looking around for safety hazards (either objects or people). My trust ends, as I told someone once as I, perhaps more violently than was necessary, snatched one of my revolvers back from their hands, when I can see down the barrel of the gun you’re holding.

        I, personally, think the biggest issue with this sort of thing is the perception of worth.
        1. We glorify mass murders with our fear. We glorify terrorists with our fear. We glorify these people by talking about them all the time, writing about them, making documentaries about them. The Aurora shooter, I believe it was, actually said that he wanted to what he did so that he would be remembered. There’s a sliding scale of human worth (yes, I’m a terrible person…) based on what you do with your life, and “mass murderer” is near the bottom, yet we treat these people like celebrities, even after their death.
        2. The perception of the value of human life is not where it should be. There are a myriad possible causes for this sort of thing. The “violence is a good way to make your point” cause, the “you’re more special than those other people” cause, and on and on. But, ultimately, human life in the eyes of a killer is not worth what it’s worth in the eyes of a normal person. Now… are they killers because they think so little of human life, or do they think so little of human life because they’re killers? Who knows. Perhaps both, depending on the person. But if human life is worthless, then snuffing a few out them out to ensure your spot in the collective memory of mankind is a pretty fair trade.
        3. People don’t understand that death is brutal. People rarely are with loved ones or even pets when they die anymore. Very few people, numerically, hunt. Even fewer work on farms where they slaughter lifestock. Like you said waaaay up there, you’re a vegetarian because you can’t stand how meat is slaughtered. But (and this isn’t a dig at you at all), people who grew up around farm animals and, in all probability, have participated in or at least watched animals being slaughtered have a very intimate understanding of death. They know what it means to take a life, to see the blood pooling, the bowels voiding, to smell the tang of blood in the air… and they *know* deep down, that it’s terrible and they aren’t going to wish that experience on another human being unless they have no other choice.

  2. Word up! I read this book a couple of months ago only because they interviewed Dylan Klebold’s parents about coming to terms with raising a murderer and it was phenomenal. That chapter was really emotional but the rest of the book was pretty good too 🙂

    Speaking of gun violence and getting all of your news from twitter (also guilty..) have you seen this twitter page? After the Newtown shooting, this page came up to track how many gun deaths take place in the U.S. My conclusion is that I don’t think the media overplays gun violence at all; if anything, I think they downplay it.

  3. I’d be interested in reading this book. I recently finished ‘Nineteen’ By Jodi Piccoult. I had never read anything by her before, and I hadn’t even read the back of synopsis, so when the story unfolded into a school massacre I simply didn’t expect it. The book is brilliant. Obviously very different from the one you are currently reading, but you can tell a lot of research had gone into the book and every single character is incredibly well rounded and believable. The book tackles so many social issues, in a very captivating way. I hope you read it, and enjoy it as much I did. I’ll look out Columbine, as I’m really interested in reading a non fiction account of something so harrowing and unbelievable.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll definitely look into it. I don’t recommend reading “Columbine” before bed, though. Some of it is just tough to swallow.

      1. I can imagine. I watched the film ‘Elephant’ and felt very weirded out, and again that’s sort of fictional. I’ll let you know my thoughts when I finally get round to reading it.

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