Friday, January 14, 2011

Shot to the heart and you’re to blame

America Fuck Yeah It's no surprise that the recent shooting in Tucson resulted in another discussion about guns and their prevalence in this country. I think this is a necessary discussion.

I've been thinking about this entry for a few days, and I've been thinking about the issue for some time now.

A little background. My Dad was a gun collector. He had a bunch of them. I mean...A LOT. I am grateful for this. He taught me how to shoot when I was in junior high school. But it wasn't just handing me a gun and telling me to point it and shoot; he taught me about gun safety, and he taught me a healthy respect for guns and for what they can do.

First and foremost? You never, ever point a gun at a person or at anything unless you intend to shoot it.

If picking up a gun to clean it or examine it, you first check to see if it's loaded. No exceptions.

If you want to keep a gun for personal protection, you'd better make damn sure that you are prepared to use it. If someone is harming you, or shows intent to harm you, it's not enough to point the gun at them and say in a trembling voice, "I have a gun." If you have that gun and you pull it on them, see the first point. Be prepared to shoot them. Know how to use the gun, know what it takes to pull the trigger, know how much it kicks, and know that if you shoot that person, you are going to be subjected to a mess on your wall and carpet that Spic 'n Span and Resolve isn't going to get out.

Does that sound harsh? It should. Guns are serious business, and they are not to be taken lightly.

I remember a few years ago, my Dad showed a young person in my family some of his guns. This young person's guardian was quite upset by this, said that she didn't want that to happen again. My Dad was doing what he did with me...teaching gun safety, teaching respect for guns. He showed this young person the type of rifle that he and his fellow soldiers carried in WWII, but the fact that this young person actually held a gun was somehow a horrible thing. I was amused when this guardian hooked up with someone who was also a gun owner. Suddenly everyone was pro-gun, pro-NRA, BANG BANG BANG! Heh heh. I guess circumstances change when you hook up! Fucking hypocrite. But I digress.

I know about guns. I know how to use them, and I know that I hope I never have to use one to harm another creature. (This is not a diatribe against hunters. There is no hunting at Nutwood, but I know that hunting keeps the deer population down, and serves as an important control in so many ecosystems that no longer have natural predators. I don't understand it, I don't participate, but I'm okay with responsible hunters. Just don't do it from a helicopter or in one of those bogus fenced-in compounds, okay? If you do that...fuck you.)

RoyLichtensteinGunI appreciated my Dad teaching me how to use a gun and how to respect them. But I have grown increasingly disturbed by the "gun culture" in my country, in which assault rifles and extended clips are sold on a daily basis, hollow-point, armor-piercing ammunition is available, and guns can be bought at garage sales without any sort of background check whatsoever.

This is unacceptable to me. There is no reason for anyone to own an assault rifle or an extended clip unless they plan on killing a whole bunch of people in a really bloody, gory way. The images of people carrying such weapons to political rallies is chilling to me. This serves no purpose other than intimidation. I am also leery about obtaining a carry permit. In all my years of gun ownership, I never applied for a carry permit.

After Dad died, my sisters inherited some guns, and went to the shooting range. They invited me along, but I declined. I know how to use mine and don't really need to fire it. When one of my sisters told me that she was thinking about applying for a carry permit, I had some words of caution for her. I said, "If you carry it in your purse, do you think you can get to it in time? Do you really think you'll have the time to dig in your purse to get it out if someone assaults you? Do you know that it's more likely that someone assaulting you will get your gun away from you? Are you really prepared to shoot someone?" I don't know what she'll decide, but in our cowboy culture, these are questions that people often don't think about.

I participated in a discussion thread on a local station's Facebook page about this topic. The overwhelming majority said that gun laws should NOT be stricter. Here was one exchange I had (the other person's name is changed to protect the...whatever):

Me: We have very lenient gun laws, and there is no denying that our deaths per capita due to guns reflect that. Again, I am not anti-gun. But I think we've got a problem here with a certain cowboy mentality in which a robbery would be treated with a death sentence by some. Do you really want to murder someone because they want to steal your wallet? If someone were threatening to kill me or my loved ones, I wouldn't hesitate, personally. But for things? Why would anyone want to kill someone for robbing them? A response a bit out of proportion to the situation, wouldn't you say?

Keith: Beth, you are anti gun and a pacifist.Which is fine,but dont [sic] put words in peoples [sic] mouth [sic] about killing people over "things". Someday you might have to thank a "cowboy" for saving your life. I would certainly use a firearm to protect my things.I wouldnt [sic] allow the perp to go on to rob somebody else. Shooting somebody in defense of property or self isnt [sic] "murder".

Me: Keith, which part of "I'm not anti-gun" don't you understand? I am neither anti-gun, nor a pacifist. I stated both quite clearly, and stated that I would protect myself or my loved ones—or a stranger, if it came to that—if our lives were in danger. I know how to shoot, and I'm quite good at it, because my Dad taught me when I was in junior high. My point is that if we are willing to kill a person because of things rather than a threat to life, I think we've got a real problem in this country. It means that we value possessions more than a human life. Personally, I'd rather not head down that road.

On the same thread, someone wondered why anyone needs an assault rifle. The response was "It's all about freedom." DO YOU LOVE YER FREEDOMS???

I value my freedom as much as anyone, but I am very disturbed by this strange gun culture going on in this country. Check this CDC report on gun deaths as well as this International Journal of Epidemiology study on worldwide gun deaths. Our gun deaths due to homicide, suicide, and accidents are the highest of any civilized nation. This is indisputable.

I am not calling for a complete ban on guns here. Well, maybe...but I know that is not going to happen in my lifetime. But can we please stop thinking that we're all Dirty Harry and get our fingers off of the fucking trigger? Can we consider some reasonable gun laws that restrict weapons that are designed to kill the maximum number of people in the shortest amount of time? I honestly don't know what is the cause of this hair-trigger, kill-em-all-and-let-god-sort-em-out-later mentality.

Gun B&W People have said that if there were more people at that Tucson Safeway that were carrying weapons, this never would have happened. I question that. If it were harder for people like Loughner to get high-capacity clips, he might not have been able to shoot as many people as he did; and do we really want a bunch of people packing at our local grocery store? That honestly doesn't make me feel safer. Even at a Safeway. Ha. The OK Corral shootout happened a long time ago. Do we really want to return to that sort of wild west mentality?

Gunshot wounds are ugly, messy, bloody, and horrible. A head shot would be even more horrible. We're talking brains on the wall, people. That is something that will stick with you for the rest of your life...maybe your family will see it, too, and they'll remember it. Is this something that you really want to do? Do you really understand the implications of what it means to shoot a person? Do you really want to do that just because they are stealing your shit, or trespassing on your property? Do you believe that theft justifies a death sentence? Are you prepared to be judge and jury and execute that person in your home? If someone steals your purse, are you willing to shoot them for it? Do you realize that if they steal your purse, they probably got your gun, too? So now you've put a gun in the hands of a criminal.

I feel that these are legitimate questions, ones that we all need to ask ourselves. The Second Amendment was written when muskets were in use. Not high-capacity assault weapons.

I don't think that anyone is in a hurry to seriously talk about gun control right now. But I think we should.


  1. My Dad also taught me about guns when I was a kid. He was/is a sometimes hunter, and owns guns himself. My mother also has a handgun and, God I pray, a permit for it.

    But I learned enough as a kid to know that I don't like guns at all and will never own one.

    The only people (besides law enforcement) who want/need automatic weapons are either criminals or crazies. And the Crazies say they need them because the Criminals are out to "git 'em". NEITHER of them should be allowed to have them - it simply is too dangerous to have them around.

  2. Setting the scene: In the produce section of the market. Some scumbag snags the eggplant I wanted. I confront them, they flip me off. Never again :o)

  3. I qualified as a sharpshooter in the USMC on both rifle and pistol. Never have owned a handgun, and I gave my 20 gauge shotgun to my brother when I was about 20, because that is when I quit hunting (I didn't like killing things, sue me).
    To protect life, I know I could draw down and shoot. To protect a stereo? I don't think so.....

  4. I have many hunters in my family. I have never fired a gun but from an early age, I was taught to respect them.

    My feeling has always been if you want a gun for home protection, then you want a shotgun. I frankly do not understand the need for the general public to own handguns. Perhaps it's because what my family members and friends who have lived in rural areas have always kept for protection. Also a friend pointed out years ago that there is no mistaking the sound of the slide on a shotgun.

    I also remember seeing someone on a local news show years ago saying that a shotgun was the best choice for home protection. He also recommended loading it with rock salt. The thought of rock salt embedded in skin still chills me. The thing is he said that it could stun a person long enough for you to get to safety but it probably wouldn't kill them.

    Almost any decent hunter I have met has agreed with me that there is no need for automatic weapons in the general populace. Because as you said, automatic weapons are really only meant for one thing -- killing large numbers of people.

  5. Ken, this is a great piece. I very much agree with you, too, especially as someone who works in a 911 Center. My profession has made me more skeptical about the whole "gun rights" gripes out there. Irresponsible people can get their hands on guns far too easily in this country.

  6. Gah! Beth, I'm so sorry. Got confused which blog I was looking at and thought I had Ken's here. Totally had to comment on this entry, though.

  7. Beth, I totally agree with your analysis about our obsession with guns. I would like to see handguns banned but I'm willing to compromise on that position if we can just decide that our citizenry doesn't need access to automatic and semi-automatic weapons. I've never known anyone who hunts who requires a Glock or Uzi to kill their prey.

    My dad, a veteran and a former police officer, gave me the same advise as your dad, don't point a gun at anyone unless you intend to use it.

    I also cannot imagine shooting someone to protect property. A person who is carrying away my television set is still a person and that television set is not worth anyone's life.

    A good discussion of the issues and I hope that somewhere our leadership is recognizing the accuracy of your summation, that we need to be having a discussion about gun control.

  8. shit if someone with a gun tried to carjack me, i'd be willing to show them how to drive a stick so they wouldn't shoot me. i know how to use a gun but i really hope we are never in a situation where we have to because someone is threatening one of us. possessions can be replaced, people cannot.

    i was actually anti gun for MANY years because of how my best friend in HS died (shot point blank with a shotgun. in the chest. over something stupid and someone not knowing how to check to see if the gun was loaded) and it took a lot of time for me to mature enough to see that banning some guns could help but it would be unrealistic to ban them all.

    i really liked the part about the second amendment referring to muskets- maybe that's what they should legalize for the american public to carry....nothing says i'm gonna eff you up like a shoulder cannon! they'll shoot anything if you put enough powder in the load.

    as i've gotten older i've come to understand that many people, like beth and ken and the posters here have common sense and they don't need laws as much. then there is the rest of the populace that need laws to restrain them from doing stupid crap because they just don't think stuff through. this applies to many things in life, not just gun control.


  9. I agree. We are much too frivolous about guns and shooting each other for the slightest thing. And you are also right that we're not going to change any laws seriously in our lifetime. I think there are three reasons for this:
    One. The advent of video games in which the player gets "killed" but may have earned more lives. So the mentality gets rooted in our culture that death is not permanent, in some way, and killing has little consequence.
    Two. Our extremely large gap between "haves" and "have-nots" make us value our possessions much more than we value our humanity or our lives, or each other's life. The "Haves" are so greedy that they will do anything to protect what they have as they struggle to accumulate more. The "Have-nots" have so very little that they will do anything to protect what they have as they struggle to accumulate more.
    Three. Our lack of education and ability to reason makes up want to "shoot first" and ask questions later" because we really don't know how to respond appropriately when put in a stressful situation. Rather than try to discuss our differences and productively reach agreement, it's easier to just remove them from the mix. See #One, in games we kill everything in our way. We don't relocate it, arrest it and bring it to justice, or try to talk ourselves out of a situation. We just keep shooting until we run out of ammunition, or get killed ourselves. Then we can either buy more ammo with the points we've accumulated, or use another life we earned with the points we've accumulated. If we don't have either of those options and it's "Game Over", we just start a new game!
    Our culture is teaching and fostering this attitude. And it's a huge money maker, so we won't be changing it soon.

  10. I would say to Keith: there is a huge difference between defending life and defending property. If a drunk stumbles into your yard and appears to be breaking into your garage, maybe he is just confused. Sure, he's publicly intoxicated, and on your property. But really... does he deserve to die for that?

    You reminded me of a clip I wanted to post about... I hope I can find it again!

  11. Couldn't, wouldn't own a gun, but that's just me.
    But I don't understand why it's so easy to get one. I mean, Gun Shows? Come on.
    Assualt rifles? The name alone implies that these are weapons of death.
    I don't want to take anyone's gun[s] away, I just want to make sure the people who have them know what they're doing.

  12. It seems obvious that we need stricter controls on guns. When a crazed loon can go by a glock and go on a shooting spree, killing and injuring innocent people -- and when this kind of thing happens again and again -- we have a problem. And when politicians use violent language to incite people it only makes things worse.

  13. I love how the NRA's solution to gun violence is to add more guns. IDIOTS!

  14. I grew up with guns. We hunted. I started when I was 12. I have owned handguns, rifles, semi-autos, shotguns, muzzelloader. We hunted. We ate what we shot. We knew what happened when you shot someone. No Reset.

    I was also a marksman in the Airforce, served in the Gulf, looked down the barel of MY M-16 at another human.

    Don't own any guns now.

    Don't think we can legislate our way out of this. Education, not rules. Make everyone shoot Bambi, gut, skin, cut up, and eat Bambi.

    If you make guns illegal, only criminals will have guns.

    Your dad was right, if you own it be prepared to use it.

  15. I'd acknowledge you are representative of most gun-owners. But in a country of 270 milllions guns, it only taking a few hundred thousand to foment a culture which, at its base, thinks of force as a preferred expression of power. This is the fundamental difference between me and the gunnies--I see violence as a last resort, they see it as a first resort.

  16. Like Alan, I carried a M-16 A1 when I was in the service. I was an expert marksman and that was my first and only experience with weapons.

    The climate of America... that is what creates the need for weapons. The idea that we will need to form a militia to stand against governmental oppression is as out dated as the Lindy. Most people who cite 2nd amendment freedoms have no idea of what the amendment is representative of.

    I remember I had a book that spoke to what a gun is symobolizes and what it means as a phallic symbol. The virility that having guns, the most nuclear and advanced weapons, is a part of the American psyche and is part of a different system of thought and conceptualization in the world. No one is as militaristic as Americans and that the capitalistic system is driven by the huge military complex, means we are driven to find more reasons and more ways to kill other human beings.

    I think the biggest misconception about America is that we are a guiding light of evoloved thinking. In the depth of the collective mind of this country is a barbarism that we allow the conveniences of technology to obscure in nearly every one of us. Were we to rid any references to violence in our daily language, many people would be rendered mute or barely intellible.

    Anywho... good that you posted this... plenty to chew on.

  17. Three points:
    When I worked for a bank for part of my career, they took away the guns from the guards after there had been a shootout in the lobby of the main branch and a lawsuit resulted. So what if a robber got away with a few thousand dollars. It wasn't worth people being killed over.

    To say that it would have been good for more people to have been armed at the Tucson Safeway is CRAZY. Can you imagine the death toll due to the crossfire had people gotten into a gun battle?

    I have guns but they are secured away. I know two people who had guns in their homes handy for self-protection. These two individuals were the subject of burglaries while they were away from their homes. Now at least two criminals out there have guns in the possession thanks to these naive people.

  18. first off, i sure love you. You have balls and brains and i love that in a person.

    i think it is damn awesome, wonderful that your dad taught you about guns...truly....i am scared shitless of all guns....i have only held one in my life time...Rick's uncle is a gun nut and likes to show off his latest buy and 3 yrs ago we had a family reunion and i held his big ass gun....i don't like them.

    i had a long talk today with Megan about the mentally ill and guns....the laws in the U.S. are just way way too lenient as far as i am concerned and unless the govt funds the mental health field, things are going to get even worse. This world is full of all kinds of crazies and mentally ill people walking around who desperately need help.

  19. An excellent entry.

    At a time when the most logical and necessary discussion imaginable is about gun laws, particularly high load clips, WHY would we not have that discussion?! That's the question that I want answered out loud and on the record. Because I don't think there is a defensible answer.

    And, since concealed carry is legal in Arizona, my guess is that there were plenty of people armed at the Safeway that day. It didn't help.

  20. Beth, a wonderful post, on a very tough issue. I'm glad you brought this up on the blog, because it needs to be talked about, and often.

    No one should really have problems with responsible hunters, in many ways they are an under-appreciated asset. That statement is coming from an environmentalist and animal rights advocate. I may chose not to do those things myself, that doesn't mean I can't appreciate the skills others have developed and respect their choices. I'm really happy that some of our species still knows how to hunt, trap, skin, and prepare animals. Those skills might come in handy some day.

    Like most of your followers, who have commented here, I don't really see the need to have a gun myself. If I needed a weapon for some odd reason, to protect a life, many household items or everyday objects would do just fine(I'd look at my crossbow as a very last resort). Because of that reasoning I don't feel a compulsion to collect a deadly arsenal of guns to defend myself.

    Unlike most uber-liberals, I would like to keep a strong interpretation of parts of the the second amendment(that the people are the militia outlined in the amendment), but unlike most conservatives I don't think the second amendment applies to what I call modern war grade weaponry. Weapon control isn't just sensible, I think it is necessary to ensure domestic tranquility. In light of recent domestic attacks, many perpetrated by American citizens, I think it is only prudent to act preemptively(with current licensing, more weapon control/restriction and the current waiting periods and background checks) to control the situation while we still can.

    Does that mean that we have to take away the right to bear arms or the right of citizens to protect themselves? No,absolutely not. It does mean we have to accept responsibility for knowing what weapons can do in the hands of deeply malevolent or disturbed people and take actions to stop that from happening. We have to both proactively deal with perpetrators of such violence(which rarely happens) and deal with the tools used for physically creating the destruction. Allowing inappropriate fear and zeal for profit to mold thought on this subject has gone on too long.

    Do I think current events will change this deadlock? Probably not. The NRA is a very powerful, influential lobby and is very good at sewing the seeds of fear in the weakest minds of the population it serves. Furthermore, weapon sales are extremely lucrative which solidifies the interest of the most powerful and wealthy within its' ranks.

  21. Some people buy and save up guns in preparation fot the big revolution when they will have to defend themselves against politicians, soldiers, the police and the rest of us.


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