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The Strange Allure of Guns

By Cindy Davis | Think Pieces | December 27, 2012 | Comments ()


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In the wake of an event like the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting, everyone struggles to find reason and blame. Was it the arbitrary act of an angry young man, something to do with his dark, "Goth" clothing, the video games, the music he listened to, the broken home, poor parenting, fame, our lack of proper mental health care, poor school security...the guns? Who can we go after, what can we do now, and how can we stop it from happening again? While there is no one fault or solution to gun violence, I've been wondering about what we might be missing.

The recent statement made by National Rifle Association Vice President Wayne LaPierre that "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun" is at best, foolhardy, and at worst, dangerously ignorant. America can't secure every school with armed personnel any more than it can remove all its guns. In the way stand 4.3 million NRA members and people outside the organization who support gun ownership, those who are simply concerned with retaining their Second Amendment rights, and still others who want to be able to defend their homes against intruders (or anarchy or the end of the world). And behind them...is nearly anyone who has ever fired a gun.

I didn't grow up in and around guns, didn't personally know anyone who openly had one, and I never had a strong desire to hold a gun, until I did. In basic training, we were told to treat our M-16s like our best friend, a lover; it could and would save our lives. During training exercises, in full on soldier mode, we learned to sleep arms intertwined with our rifle's sling, leg slumped over as if it were possible to spoon an unpliable, hard mass of metal and plastic. Because I was military police, I also learned to shoot .38 and .45 caliber pistols and a 9mm (Beretta), along with the ubiquitous M-16, the M-60 machine gun and other assorted anti-this or that weapons. When first I received my very own rifle, it felt strange and cumbersome--an unnatural appendage. I was given facts to memorize (5.56 mm lightweight, air cooled, magazine fed, semi-automatic...), and learned to disassemble and reassemble my new friend in under two minutes. I hadn't entered the service, like many of the young men who surrounded me, with a strong desire to go to war or be some badass killing machine, rather I was just trying to escape a bad place and time in my life. I didn't particularly believe in solving world problems with physical combat, nor had I thought much about what I was getting myself into. And since everything I was experiencing those eight weeks was completely new and different (and I was pretty immature), I didn't really think much about what I felt when a gun was in my hands; it was upon later reflection that I began to realize the power that somehow osmotically seeped from the cold metal into my bloodstream.

As many people as have been around guns their whole lives, there are those who never have, and never will touch one. On the opposite side of the "arm every school" philosophy, are the peacemakers, and I count myself among them. But I do know something many peacemakers may not, and that is the power of a gun in my hand. If you remember the first time you got behind the wheel of a car--and beyond that--if you've ever gotten behind the wheel of a really great car, you may have felt a tiny inkling of this power. I can liken it to another moment in my life when I didn't realize something was inside me until I actually felt it; the adrenaline rush of driving ridiculously fast on the German autobahn. (You might not know you want to drive very, very fast until you are behind the wheel with virtually no speed limit.) But there still isn't much to compare to the feeling of holding, aiming and shooting a gun, and it is both boon and bane that one may not understand until or unless you pull a trigger. I haven't fired any weapon since I left the military, but I can still close my eyes and (feel that rush) vividly remember a perfectly weighted pistol, the power of it in my hand, aiming and slowly releasing my breath on an exhale. There's that click sound of the hammer falling, an ever so slight kick and the inescapable exhilaration that immediately follows. It is intoxicating. You can't feel nothing--this power is somehow ingrained--even though the ability to shoot a gun is not innate. But the problem of guns--one of the problems of guns--is that it makes killing too easy.

I don't see myself ever killing anyone, except in self-defense (or defending someone else), but if I had to do it, I'd use a gun. It removes direct physical contact. I can stand a certain distance away. I could aim, and if I so chose, close my eyes and still reasonably presume to hit my target--especially if I had a semi-automatic or automatic weapon. A sniper can be so far away or hidden that no one ever sees what's coming. Whether or not I am mentally ill or purely evil, or on a mission from a devil or a god, the gun will feed my fire and make me feel invincible. If someone wants to commit mass murder, a semi-automatic rifle will fuel the thunder in his brain with its firepower and sound effects--even with its sulfurous odor. And beyond all that, a killer can assuage any lingering guilt or worry, because the gun can eliminate suffering in an instant--we all remember the movies and stories of putting down a horse to be merciful. The lame creature was never stabbed, nor strangled; he simply got a bullet to the brain. Finally, if a killer is afraid of consequences, or just wanted to make a name for himself, he knows how to quickly, easily, painlessly get out of that mess, and he simply aims the gun toward himself. This hunk of metal, this powerfully simple tool, it knows how to take charge of every situation; it knows how to take control of you.

What Wayne LaPierre and the NRA seem to have forgotten when he made his recent speech, is that every good guy has the capacity to be a bad guy, and that there is no certainty as to whom is which. It is distinctly possible a person might not recognize himself until a gun is in his hand, and even more likely, that a gun could fall into the wrong hands. It makes no difference whether you are professionally trained adult, or a ten year old with a rifle handed down from your grandfather; the feeling of power inside you will be the same. Perhaps that is a secret the NRA wishes to keep.

So what shall we do, other than limiting or banning the sale of assault rifles to civilians, which would likely only limit the number of casualties in shooting incidents? We who are parents can teach our children how to respect themselves and others, how to handle and express their anger; we can try to recognize when things are wrong--but what can we do against our uncontrolled egos, armed with guns? I honestly have no idea.


Cindy Davis, (Twitter)







Are you following Pajiba on Facebook or Twitter? Every time you do, Bill Murray crashes a wedding.


Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • ,

    I don't hunt, don't own a gun, never have, likely never will, but I'm happy to eat any venison anyone cares to give me. I respect hunters. And while most people would argue that the slippery slope is a fallacy and that "nobody's talking about taking away your hunting rifles," I would ask you cigarette smokers how the slippery slope "fallacy" has not worked out for you. You've been branded killers, too ("Second-hand smoke kills XXXX people every year"), and increasingly pushed farther and farther into the cold and dark and forced to pay higher and higher taxes for your pleasure. (I don't smoke, but I sure do drink, and I'm sure we're on the health Nazi to-do list as well.) Two years ago, the notion that any public official would try to limit the size of a Coke you could get in a restaurant would have been absurd, an SNL parody. What say you, New York City?

    The gun violence problem is overwhelmingly multifaceted, and would take a ton of willpower and gobs of money to even begin to solve, so it's no surprise politicians and governments will beat their breasts and lament the dead for a couple weeks and then go back to business as usual.

    But I think it boils down to this: You can't take defensive weapons away from the good guys until you assure them you will also take all the offensive weapons away from all the bad guys, and get all the bad guys' guns first. How would we accomplish that, short of turning America into a police state?

  • Uncle Mikey

    I'll bite. What else stops a bad guy with a gun?

  • frank247

    Tickle fights.

  • WeeItsNookies

    Even more good guys with a gun.

  • jerkstoreclerk

    I live in Central Africa. The other day my friend was walking home after dark and he got beaten by a group of thugs, looking for money. He was hit on his neck so brutally it looked like he had a goiter. They also took a machete and tried to remove his legs and arms.

    Luckily they hit him blunt side down.

    And see, people think where I live is particularly scary because shit like this happens once and a while. But I'd rather face a machete than a gun. I feel safer here than I ever did living in the States, where I've had not one, but two guns pulled on me. One at a party by some idiot trying to act like a thug and one by a crazed ex boyfriend. Both guns were wielded by boys under the age of 18, both bought through private sale. There was also a shooting at my high school (again, by a boy under the age of 18) but I didn't see it, just heard it.

    I've never met anyone living abroad who would trade their gun laws for those in the United States. Not even in countries that are actively engaged in revolution against the government. People there still think American gun laws are ridiculous. I'm not even kidding that I had a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide talking to me about Sandy Hook the other week, and telling me, "You have such a culture of fear and violence, and yet your access to guns goes all but unchecked? How do Americans ever feel safe?" When a genocide survivor lectures you on the rampant violence in your country, you listen up.

    The Second Amendment is outdated and written for a much different society. Which is not to say all gun ownership should be illegal, but it's harder to adopt a dog from the pound than buy a gun. Failure to recognize that, while being the only country in the developed world that declines to offer affordable mental health care services, will be exactly why these tragedies will happen again and again. You are all just counting down to the next heap of children, laying dead on a cafeteria floor.

    But hey, at least you have your awesome, ego enhancing guns.

  • WeeItsNookies

    I just love how anti-gunners refuse to acknowledge or blame anything else except the inanimate object. Apparently blaming a tool is more rational than the other 3948394 possible variables. It's the media. But also a tad bit of Hollywood. People are easily
    influenced by crap it's pathetic. Take for example, 50 shades of grey.
    GROWN women hopped on a bandwagon and became influenced by a poorly
    written book, so much so they started trying bondage, and sending the
    same exact sex toys used in the book flying off the shelves. There was
    tons of news reports on it. Now go onto the media. With their
    sensationalism. They do nothing but find out every little detail of a
    shooters life, and then shove it down everyone's throat for weeks on
    end. A shooting will shut down places, push back premiers, and have all
    sorts of moronic effects. They essentially make the shooters famous. I
    can name 5 shooters who did a mass shooting..I cannot name a single
    victim. Evidence enough right there.

    So is it really a stretch
    that some mentally off psychopath who's angry at the world who was never
    given any attention watches movies, watches the media glamorize the
    shooters then gets that idea in his head? Cmon..

    This country has a problem with violence because liberal shits made it
    impossible for parents to punish their children. You look at the little
    turds wrong and they scream about being abused, and then the state
    rushes in. No, guns aren't the problem. Government, lazy parents, and
    over-indulged bratty shits are the problem. Kids these days, espescially 20 somethings feel so damn entitled, have no respect, no manners, I could go on and on.

  • WeeItsNookies

    It really is sad that I got that many thumbs down for a rational, logical and common sense filled argument, and these MORONS think they are smart enough to be supporting and making decisions that infringe on gun owners rights? *shudders*

    I guess I should also mention history, another thing idiots refuse to acknowledge. In 1994 we had an assault weapons ban. Did you know having a foregrip, back pistol grip and adjustable stock are some of the legal requirements for a gun to be considered an "assault weapon"? It's true. If a rifle has an adjustable stock (for comfort or allowing a smaller framed person to shoot it makes it an assault weapon)..Stupid huh? Anyways, Clinton implemented the ban in 94 lasting until 2004. NOW since I know you guys watch a crap ton of biased news which gives you completely wrong, ignorant assumptions and then you just parrot what other uninformed morons say, I take it most of you 12 people watch a lot of news. Notice something weird? Theres hardly any mention of the 94 ban from anti-gunners (generally lefties). Want to know why? Well because there's no evidence that the ban had any positive nor negative effect. Basically the ban was completely useless. In fact Columbine happened during this period in which one of the shooters using a pistol with 13 10rd standard magazines. How strange, people pushing for an "assault weapons ban" aren't mentioning we had one and it failed. STRANGE HUH? Sorry anti-gunners, this isn't a religion debate. Gun debates are backed with irrefutable FACTS. Said facts heavily favor PRO guns than they do anti-gun arguments. Pro gunners have a whole lot more fuel than anti-gunners do. Sorry!

  • lilianna28

    Also, the ability to murder on a massive scale thanks to... yea.
    Not saying it's not a tragedy if two lives are taken. Or 5, or 6. But 26? In minutes? THIS IS A PROBLEM TOO.
    I have yet to meet a liberal who thinks taking guns away is an answer to everything.

  • WeeItsNookies

    Sigh ok, It's clear not only do you know NOTHING about firearms (typical) but lack any form of critical thinking skills (also typical)

    People are stupid if they think "military style weapons" are any more
    efficient at killing people. An AR-15 may look scary, but it has the
    same exact function as any other semi-automatic weapon. Me with 3 10rd
    magazines with a single pistol or two pistols with 15rd mags each is no different than an
    ar-15 with a 30rd mag. This is merely coming from people who have no
    damn clue about firearms. That just watch their news like the mindless
    ignorant sheep that they are. Which is why the NRA and other gun rights
    advocates oppose such silly bans, because they erm actually have
    experience with firearms and know that it's just a feel good bandaid fix
    and won't solve #$%$.

    Are anti-gunners really this stupid and ignorant with poor critical
    thinking skills? We had an assault weapons ban in 94 all the way to 2004
    implemented by Clinton. Keep in mind I'm not a conservative, I only own one gun (a mossberg shotgun for home defense and some slight target shooting) nor do I support any pro-gun orgainizations. So basically I don't have a dog in this fight. Felt like I should mention it since you'd be under the impression im a "gun nut" and instantly disregard what I say because of it even though im 100% right. People like you have never even handled or even shot a gun. You definitally don't have enough knowledge or expirence wsith multiple kinds of firearms to be making decisions or questioning. Considering the people you are trying to tell or question "hey you don't need this, you don't need that" have been shooting guns from all over the world, from all different time periods. From muskets that were used in the cilvil war, to mp40s, garands,etc used in WW2. You're attempting to argue with people who have been shooting guns since before you left your fathers testicles. So, do you honestly feel you are qualified enough to tell pro-gunners what they should and should not be allowed to have simply because .03% of the gun owner population out of 99.7% used their weapon for bad? That isn't even logical. It's worse than arguing with a Christian. At least Christians understand the concept of math (no offense to religious peeps)

    It's fine and dandy having your own opinions about guns. Regardless if they are completely incorrect, and ignorant assumptions. Don't like guns, don't buy one. If you think that gun bans/restrictions will reduce shooting sprees, gun crime or reduce the chances of someone coming up to you, sticking a gun in your face and mugging you, well then you're going to be in for a shock. But, when you take those false assumptions, and wrong opinions and try to infringe on others rights, THAT is when people are going to have a problem.

    It's funny though, liberal women flip their shit over old, guys who know nothing about female anatomy telling them they can't have birth control, abortions,etc..You get pissed off because you have a bunch of old people who have no idea what they are talking about. Or another one, the legalization of cannabis. You have a bunch of old people who know nothing about weed spewing the same old disproved myths. You again, flip your shit. I'm basically using the same argument you guys use in this situation :)

  • WeeItsNookies

    The highest mass murder to date in America happened via a homemade bomb. Which claimed 168 lives. The materials to make said bomb is still easily available today.. One can simply get a PVC pipe, some ball bearings, and crush sparklers up. Making a deadly shotgun blast style pipebomb.. You can carry multiple guns, multiple standard non extended magazines. One of the Columbine shooters used 13 standard 10rd magazines. If your last sentence were true, they wouldn't instantly take a tragedy and turn it into their anti-gun agenda. Gun control debates happened before the bodies were even removed.

  • Gun ownership is popular for the same reason that lottery tickets sell...Americans do not trust statistics. People can claim all they want that owning a gun makes them feel safer...doesn't change the fact they are more likely to shoot themselves or a family member than any other person.

    And really...the only "tragedy" about Newton was that a bunch of middle and upper class white children got murdered as opposed to the countless minority kids that get killed everyday in cities like mine (Baltimore).

    Cue angry white folk saying I am racist and shouldn't mention the 20,000 a year 20 year old and younger people who are killed by firearms. Its the less than 1% that occurs at white rich schools we need to focus on.

    Seriously...lots of people dying for phallic symbols.

  • Peeps

    I agree in some ways, but pretty sure there aren't 20K total murders let alone minority murders. If people were serious about gun violence this discussion would focus on drug prohibition and the street violence that cripples minority neighborhoods.

  • BierceAmbrose

    Oh, this is a huge case of "white girl down the well syndrome." Again.

  • Maguita NYC

    @Cindy Davis, Excellent article! Very well rounded and balanced in its expression. Especially how you describe the emotional connection to holding a gun.

    How people talk about their guns, about the thirst for stroking their guns, about the yearn to cleaning their guns, and about the indescribable hunger to shooting their guns. You hear the same from most. Most that have held a gun. Most that have shot a gun.

    It is called addiction. The new "mal" of the American citizen after alcohol, sex, drugs, gambling, and food. You hear and you read about the symptoms, and have no choice but to reconcile with reality: We now have Gun Addiction.

    Some, like yourself, are quite aware of the extent of their addiction, and others, like many who viciously comment for gun "liberty", are like the common addict: In denial.

    What is revolting though about those in denial is how they invent facts, twist reality, and are so easily manipulated by others who promise to give them "freedom" to access those guns, and the repulsive yet delicious covenant of getting to shoot even bigger guns. Yes, slave to our democratic pushers. "Associations" and outdated amendments. Just leave them be in their haze, let them shroud their conscience in obliterated adjuration of easy denial. No matter the unending tally of innocent victims.

    Not only the denial of this addiction is strongly infecting the American citizen, but it has blinded many to the point of daring to protect the gun, rather than the well-being of their children.

    Isn't this most barbaric. Isn't this most hideously uncharacteristic of what an American should be.

  • BierceAmbrose

    OK, that's a pack of lies and character assassination.

    The first thing to do to create a scapegoat class, one that can be abused freely because they aren't quite human, is, well, to dehumanize them. They're crazy. They're addicted. They're in folndling love with their 18 inch, chrome lined, piston driven, reciprocating penis extensions.

    First, "You hear the same from all. All that have held a gun. All that have shot a gun."

    No.

    I've held a guns and shot guns, and hunted (varmints). I haven't had a gun for years. They make me a bit uncomfortable, personally. I don't want them near me, the same way chainsaws make me nervous. I've use this analogy before.

    You are wrong painting an entire, large, and remarkably non-violent group - gun owners - with the twists of a few within it. By the same reasoning drivers of automobiles are addicted to the smell of gasoline and burnt rubber, thus all guilty of craving to Tokyo drifting our power all over suburban streets, spreading the danger wantonly, uninvited. Or the people who like bling on their hands because it does more damage when they beat their girlfriends. Down with class rings! Metal-addicts, the bunch of you.

    Calling me an addict? You don't know me.

    Please refrain from casting me with the worst of the thoughtless, under-bred troglodytes some of whom have found surrogate strength in guns. You don't know me.

    And please, especially, get over the perverse attraction of dangerous power. Of course it's attractive, and of course guns have it. So does driving, or a chain saw. Managing the seduction of power is part of life. It's only remarkable to the damaged or the juvenile. Grow up.

    As for "invent facts" and "twist reality" go investigate any of the several studies undertaken by actual scholars who started out non- or anti- gun. U-Florida is the last one I tripped over, if memory serves. Google is your friend. Or after the UK confiscated all the handguns (after a school shooting), 10 years later homicide by gun has about doubled, the bobbies are now occasionally armed. So, how did that work out for them?

    Need I mention the Swiss?

    So yeah, let's get those facts. Look at those thousands of folks, quietly, peacefully holding licensed guns all over the place on that jackhole newspaper's map. How many of those guns and twisted demented souls were massacring their neighborhoods every slow night? Psycho killers, the bunch of them. Let's contrast that with the murder rate in DC, or the number of school age children killed, with guns, in Chicago this year.

    Cory Booker is off message on this on ABC: http://www.youtube.com/watch?f...

    (Apparently he didn't learn from the spanking when he went off message with simple ground facts during the presidential campaign. Silly man. Talking reality as from his experience directly. Doesn't he know this is the politics of Big Ideas(tm).)

    To create a scapegoat class, one that can be abused freely because they aren't quite human, they have to be cast as *less* than "us." Dumber. Reactive. Uneducated. Addicted to smoke and stroking smooth barrels. Then they are not deserving of our consideration in the consequences we impose on them. They are nothing. Neither are we obliged to consider that they may have a point. This is the thrust of the non-argument in the article above, and amplified further here, by you.

    You are absolved from arguing the merits, because the other guys' arguments are dismissed because of who makes them. Dirty Jews. Subhuman blacks. Spicks. Micks. Women. Gays. Gypsies. And gun owners, it seems.

    Coda...

    Today, I learned that my sister got a gun for Christmas.

    So, one of those reactionary nut-jobs grabbing guns before the gun grabbers come. (As happened in Australia and England, so, the point was that they are paranoid? As was suggested out loud, again, by one of our congresscritters busily not letting a crisis go to waste. How about we start by not lying, I mean not inventing facts or is that twisting reality. There's a bunch of people who want everybody disarmed, period. At least fess up.)

    They've been talking and thinking about it for years, my sister and her husband. You can believe that or not. As twisted gun owners why wouldn't they lie about it, though, so no matter.

    They live far enough away from anywhere that any attacker would have well over the 20 minutes the Newtown shooter got before the cops arrived. They've been menaced in their home, more than once. My sister and her husband travel often, in unfamiliar places at night and alone.

    So, yeah, stampeded by fear of the gummint commin to take the guns. Or maybe not.

    You don't know me and you don't know her, yet you would dismiss her level of risk, and her ability to handle the dangerous killing tool, and how well or poorly she could and would keep it secured. You know better. She can't possibly know any of these things because she's a deranged gun lover.

    You don't know me and you don't know her. Yet you would leave her more vulnerable, and it doesn't matter because damaged gun lover that she is, she's not worth considering. Let her get killed, to save a little risk to you. Statistically ... you shouldn't be let out of the house because people do bad things. Or we can deal with individuals or try to make some finer distinctions, but that's not the game here, is it?

    Sis got a Smith & Wesson .40 caliber M & P. It's S & P's offering designed for military and police markets, meaning people who use a gun to stay alive as their last option when someone else means to do them violence. Say a situation like a 5' 2" woman alone at night in an Ohio farmhouse when the wanted, parolee, tweaker rants, threatens and stumbles up their long, isolated drive. This happened.

    It means a gun with reliability and ease of use and as proof as any machine can be against accidentally firing. Also, incidentally, it holds 15 +1 rounds, because the people it was designed for, who might find themselves in a firefight with their lives in play, want that many. So, tell me how my sister doesn't need more than the 10 shots of a DC magazine, or 6 of a revolver. Do that without telling me her life is worth less than that of a cop.

    It was of course, being a copp-y gun, chosen grabbed for the tacti-cool of it all. Or maybe not. I know how they think, sis and the hubs. Brother-in-law asked his cop friends & this is what they recommended. For her.

    She got membership at a shooting range and a bunch of training hours along with the gun. Same place her husband did his training for his CCW. Training. On how to use it. Because that's responsible. So, yeah, waving the thing around because it's an addiction.

    Did I mention she works in education, curriculum development and runs a non-profit that awards scholarships? So, toothless and unedumicated, with her chrome-plated dick extension addicted to the smell of cordite in the morning. Or maybe that's a movie and y'all should start dealing with gun owners in the real world, not your twisted projection fantasies of how you see power.

    Hubby doesn't have a gun yet. They could get one, right now, so you start with the one a bit more at risk. My sister has the courage and presence of any three randomly picked XY chromosome holders, so don't get your ovaries in a twist. She's tiny and a bit mobility compromised, still, from a car accident years ago. *Some* women are stronger, faster, better shots, better fighters than *some* men. My sister, specifically is less any of these than most humans or any or trans-gender.

    You try to make my sister less than human, so her choice to maybe kill if she has to rather than be killed comes down to the worthless preserving her pitiful existence at risk to the worthy. I am a tad miffed at this. Tell me how she wouldn't have the presence of mind to shoot back, let alone effectively. You don't know me, and you sure as hell don't know her.

    I can be heard as I am, as I have said, unarmed. Except with words.

  • Maguita NYC

    So reading through your discombobulated and extreme rants is supposed to make me feel safer about gun ownership?
    Thank you for easily making my point.

  • Quatermain

    The way you just completely and abysmally missed his point leads me to believe that you did not, in fact, bother to read his contribution, but at most skimmed it for high points.

  • Maguita NYC

    In all honesty, I had started reading the comment and the first sentences did make me pay attention. I am always interested in someone's pointing out my emotional dissociation from those I strongly disagree with (truly). However, it went on, and on, and on (and on!). So then I scrolled up and started reading Bierce's other comments, all the way down to:

    "Oh, this is a huge case of "white girl down the well syndrome." Again."

    And the sum of all his/her comments made me uncomfortable. For in my POV, there it was again, trying to defend the gun no matter how far it takes one's reasoning. And that is why I believe in the addiction.

    Bierce's comments unfortunately reinforced my disconcert at our present-day rabid and religious-like defense of the gun.

  • alannaofdoom

    Honestly? 30+ paragraphs! I skimmed, too.

  • Quatermain

    That's your prerogative, but if you do that, it's probably wise not to comment on it, lest you find yourself having missed the point in your skimming.

  • Excellent article, really well done. I'm not a current gun owner nor do I have any plans to change this in the foreseeable future. However I consider myself a good shot with the rifle (got the merit badge to prove it) and I'm exceedingly familiar and well-versed in the proper safety techniques. I'll admit I've never understood the fear that leads people like my ex brother-in-law to purchase thousands and thousands of dollars in firearms, but I also realize I'm a single white male living in a suburb of Madison, WI. I don't fear the government, I don't fear criminals, and I don't fear being assaulted as I go about my daily life. I've never viewed firearms as any different than the pocket knife I carry every day. In my own possession or in the hands of someone I trust I do not feel any misgivings whatsoever. But recently my 18 year old cousin has taken to guns in a big way. This summer he pulled his 9mm from behind his truck seat to show it to me, secured in its case but loaded nonetheless. This is what concerns me, as although I think my cousin is a great young man and is an all around good kid I don't trust his judgement when it comes to that gun.

  • BierceAmbrose

    This is what concerns me, as although I think my cousin is a great young
    man and is an all around good kid I don't trust his judgement when it
    comes to that gun.

    This is, in the end, the point. We trust "us" but not "them" to have guns. Even better, we want the guns that keep us safe comfortably out of view, or dressed in the symbols of some "other" imbued with special powers so they, the chosen can handle guns without corruption. Guards at private schools or office buildings. Police or god help us TSA "officers." The proliferating SWAT teams now part of nearly every damn agency you can name. (WTF is up with that?)

    There's three thoughts people hate tied up in this debate, along with the weirdness of the other...

    - We hold the power of life or death over others, and ourselves frequently. We hate being reminded of that.

    - The people who we "trust" to wield power for us are just normal people. They are us - cops, airplane pilots, subway operators, nuclear plant technicians.

    - And it's a dangerous world.

    Really, I don't think these regular "gun" spasms are about guns at all. They are about these four facts which guns, in their potency and particular terrible function make us confront: life & death, it's just people with their "hands on the triggers", it's a dangerous world, and some people out there, different from you, hold this power none the less.

  • peeps

    In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control.

    From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

    In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

    Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, a total of 13 million Jews and others who were unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated.

    China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated.

    Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

    Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

    Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million educated people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

    Defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control: 56 million.

    You won't see this data on the US evening news, or hear politicians disseminating this information.

  • Jae

    I am Russian ad this is f*****g offensive.

    You, using one of the great tragedies in my people's history without knowing anything about it, to invent some sort of a proof for your power fantasies? This is disgusting.

    Do you actually think that 'owning firearms' was ever a thing in Russia? In the country where peasants, not settlers or descendants of settlers, peasants, many of them dirt poor with centuries of serfdom recently behind them, constituted the majority? Really?

    Do you think that individuals bearing firearms actually mattered? That there were a significant number of them?
    That were they not outlawed, they'd be able to stop Stalin?

    This is one of the most dangerous things about guns: one heavy toy in yor drawer or your pocket, and you think you're safe, you think you're God. Here is the thing about state enforcers, about military: they always have more and better guns. Unlike schoolchildren.

  • Peeps

    I believe the Bolsheviks were a popular armed uprising by the populace which many in the military joined, did they overthrow the Czars, the actual government, with sticks and stones?

    Unfortunately they replaced tyranny with tyranny, and apparently learned the lesson about oppressed individuals with arms. Learn your own history before you make an ignorant comment.

  • Jae

    At least go to Wikipedia or something before YOU make ignorant comments. Both regarding the "many in the military joined"... well you got that one right. As in, in February (yeah, there were two revolutions in Russia in 1917, and no, Bolsheviks never "overthrew the Czars" - they were the party that came on top after months of political struggle after Nicholas II abdicated) soldiers sent to squash the unarmed (we are talking factory workers strike) protesters mutinied and then joined several others military formations. What do you think "Battleship Potemkin" is about?

    And in October 1917 the Bolsheviks and Lenin personally "used their influence in the Petrograd Soviet to organize the armed forces. Bolshevik Red Guards forces under the MIlitary Revolution Committee began the takeover of government buildings" (seriously, try going to Wikipedia).

    My history, f**k.

    No, you know what? It wasn't the military or people owning firearms that "overthrew the Czar". It was a demonic Rasputin acting from beyond his grave via his pet bat.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Gods, there is so much stupid in that list, it's not even funny anymore. The first thing that comes to mind is that no one can tell if the people killed had even access to weapons, and how many. You simply cannot conclude they would not have died. Apart from that, let's go through that list.

    Soviet Union: In 1929, Stalin already was in power; at that time, there was a land reform going on, directed against wealthier landowners, the so-called "kulaks". That law probably was created only to add another transgression on which grounds they could be rounded up.

    However, there is no source to be found stating that law existed.

    Turkey: Tell me: what happened between 1914 and 1918 in Europe, and by extension in Turkey? Major event. Shouldn't be hard to find out. The law was established in 1911, before the whole mess started, but while the arms race was in full effect, and Turkey was known as "the sick man of Europe". The country (which was not a democracy, by the way) was shaken by revolts (by the Young Turk movement, among others). Gun control? `Yes, please´, the Ottomans thought. Also, the Armenians were among the poorest people in the country. How could they have come up with the money to buy weapons?

    Germany: You are missing something, again. In 1938, the cities, especially Berlin, were showplace of a multitude of gang fights between communists and Nazis. That's why the law was being implemented. The Nazis changed that. They made private gun ownership easier.

    China: What exactly happened between the implementation of the gun control law and those mass killings? I mean, except for WWII. Could that have been something to do with the deaths of those people?

    Guatemala: Again, a dictatorship (which the US helped to set up, by the way) setting up strict gun control and killing thousands of people.

    Uganda: Another dictatorship. Does the name Idi Amin ring a bell?

    Cambodia: Khmer Rouge. 'Nuff said.

    Do I detect a certain theme here?

    So, please come up with examples of democratic states where gun control laws directly led to the death of thousands.

    That list is nothing but a wet dream. If you actually think that private gun owners can resist the military might of any dictatorship, you are beyond help.

  • WeeItsNookies

    I think you missed the point. Point was, there's been multiple points in history where the government disarmed it's civilians but turned around and conducted mass murders.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    No, I didn't miss the point. The point is redundant, since all those governments were dictatorships. You can't take them as examples for what's people are afraid of in the US now.

  • Peeps

    Private gun ownership in the colonies resisted the military might of England, the British Empire was a brutal dictatorship that oppressed a good portion of the globe.

    The point is we are no longer living in a nation that governs with the consent of the people, the people in those countries were unable to protect themselves against the encroachment of dictators, you actually reinforce my point with your considerable ignorance.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    No, I didn't, as with the exception of Germany in 1938, every country on your list establishing gun control already was a dictatorship. (And Germany had a quasi-authoritarian regime by that time.) The massacres would have taken place with or without gun control laws, because those few people with guns (if they'd been able to organize themselves; another matter excluded from your equation) weren't a real threat. Guns also don't just magically appear out of thin air. They have to be available, and they have to be paid for. How many people in these countries were actually able to afford one? And what kind of weapon?

    Again: show me examples of democratic countries with harsh gun control where thousands of people were massacred because of it. Only then your argument becomes valid.

    Furthermore, your war of independence succeeded because the Empire was overextended, a long way away, and you received help from the French. Alone, and against the full force of the Empire, the revolution would have been squashed.

  • Peeps

    Democratic countries with harsh gun controls do not have government massacres. However, in this country, we are losing our Democratic institutions one by one, this is no slippery slope but a systematic degradation of our rights. The right to defend one's self and the sovereignty of the people was hard fought, to take this away is not progressive but regressive thought, that only the government should have guns. Well I don't agree, in an age of presidential kill lists, warrant less wiretapping, stolen elections, corrupt government, GITMO, electronic surveillance and abuse after abuse it is clear that the last check on power has to be an informed and armed populace. Oh and as far as the Empire, know your history a bit better, yes we had allies, but the first thing the Empire attempted was to take away the guns of private citizens, this is how the revolution was sparked and it was an armed citizenry who ended the war.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    "However, in this country, we are losing our Democratic institutions one by one, this is no slippery slope but a systematic degradation of our rights."

    Said everyone ever about every democratic system, even back in ancient Athens. I'll give you that some of the points you mentioned are cause for concern. I do however remember, that the kill lists only became a problem when an American citizen was killed. No one complained about all the "hadjis" that were and are killed. The bit about the stolen elections you have to elaborate.

    "...and abuse after abuse it is clear that the last check on power has to be an informed and armed populace."

    Informed, yes. With armed, we are in your wet dream again. An armed revolt only with hand-held guns is bound to fail.

    "Oh and as far as the Empire, know your history a bit better, yes we had allies, but the first thing the Empire attempted was to take away the guns of private citizens, this is how the revolution was sparked and it was an armed citizenry who ended the war."

    Firstly, the one has nothing to do with the other. The revolutionaries would still have been crushed. Secondly, I thought it was about "taxation without representation", and all the other economic repressions. I can't find anything about guns on Wikipedia.

  • Peeps

    But they weren't crushed, they fought anyways with no unified front by the colonies, they fought for their rights even if it meant death, they had no expectation of foreign allies.

    I agree, a street fight against the most well equipped and trained army by hand held weapons would be a grim prospect, but better to die fighting for your rights then living like a slave. I hope that day never comes, but our founders were certain that it would which is why the 2nd exists.

    You never know what allies would exist in this hopefully far off and distant day, perhaps soldiers would not so easily pull the trigger on the very people they were supposed to protect from oppression.

  • BierceAmbrose

    Gun control in the US South as a way of keeping the ability to defend themselves out of the hands of the folks *still* being kept down.

    How many died? We don't know. They weren't reported. Martin Luther King kept a gun. He was eventually also killed by one. How much longer did he lead and preach because some random good ole boys couldn't just grab him for free?

    You ask for a statistic that's very hard to *collect*, whatever the number might be. Which is the point of picking it I suspect.

  • ZombieMrsSmith

    I have no interest in guns (or any weapons for that matter) and there were no guns in my suburban household when I was growing up. My dad did buy a .357 magnum for "protection" after he and my mom divorced. He took my younger brother out shooting when he was a teenager. He relates much the same feelings as Cindy describes.

    When my children were small, we lived in England, on a large aristo estate where pheasant and grouse hunting happened practically in our back garden every winter. Our phone lines and the occasional window pane were regularly shot out by the hunters and we knew to stay indoors when the beaters started coming through the fields. These guys had very expensive hunting rifles, none of them semi-automatic. They were the only guns we ever saw the entire four years we lived there and we knew it was in our best interest to stay away from them.

    When we moved back to the states, I was completely unprepared to see guns everywhere I went, not just on police, but everyday citizens—wandering through McDonald's, in stores, in movie theaters. It was shocking to me and I felt very, very uncomfortable because I understood that for every gun I could see, there were probably several more I couldn't.

    Now, my kids are in middle and high school and each has a "Resource" officer assigned to the school. They wear a gun on campus, all day, every day. The middle school officer once compared my son's accidental flicking of a mini raisin box across a lunchroom table to firing a gun in the air in the middle of a party. She was equating accidentally hitting a kid in the head with a piece of folded cardboard to shooting a gun without aiming and was asking for a maximum consequence for this behavior. If you think I feel safer with this woman at my child's school, you would be wrong.

    The power Cindy writes about is in the mind, not in the gun and that is where the danger lies. Because we live in a country where that power is so easily conferred to the gun and our government says that's OK. Guns are dangerous and I won't feel safer until, as a country, we can admit that and are willing to do something about it.

  • annie

    I appreciated this. I grew up where hunting was definitely a thing, and people accidentally shooting TVs were joking fodder. I love my bang-bang on TV and movies, too. But I've held a gun exactly once in my life, and it was the scariest fucking thing ever. The weight, the recoil, the potential for destruction. Pretty sure that was the day I finally developed an opinion on gun control. Happily, I've encountered lots of gun owners since Newtown who are happy to go jump through a few more hoops to maintain their right to own guns as long as it meant fewer kids died.

  • Peeps

    CT already has an assault weapons ban. The gun was legal. What Feinstein is proposing is not a few more hoops like background checks but wholesale restrictions on new purchases and Gestapo like registrations, fingerprinting and photographing of current gun owners.

  • Gestapo-like? Pretty sure I have to register with the government to legally drive a car. Usually get fingerprinted and photographed whenever I renew, too. Approximately 30,000 people were killed in car accidents in 2009, and approximately 11,500 were killed by firearms. If vehicular deaths dropped 2/3s we wouldn't suddenly say we no longer need to regulate car ownership, we'd say our laws are working to keep people safe. Just because it's a protected right doesn't mean it's beyond oversight and restriction, especially not when others' lives, liberties, and pursuits of happiness are at stake. Not even the First Amendment gets that privilege.

    Sources:
    http://www.statisticbrain.com/...
    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastat...

  • Maguita NYC

    Not to point out the obvious, but after reading both "peeps" comments, it is evident that he/she is some "Association" troll-emissary type; They've been really active with scare tactics on other more liberal sites lately. Just like those CoS agents trying to sell you the straightness of JT or TC. Silly and disconnected from reality.

  • Peeps

    Association? Here in Iowa we just had a congressman propose banning semi-autos, a gun buy back and then confiscating the guns and charging people who won't turn them in. In NY Cuomo is proposing similar legislation and the Feinstein bill will ban run of the mill pistols. No, I am a libertarian, I am not associated with any organization and certainly am more well grounded in reality than you are.

  • Hey! Ixnay on the oSC-ay. I don't want to be anywhere near that shit. I happen to quite like my cat.

  • John G.

    Very nicely said. This should be shared everywhere, because it has that kryptonite element to gun nuts, in that you acknowledge that you didn't like guns and then you met one. They will see a kindred spirit and be unable to argue.

  • I don't want to know that power. I don't trust myself with it. And I have enough of an ego to trust myself with a lot. So seeing others with that power kind of freaks me out.

  • Theunis Stofberg

    As someone who also learned about guns in the Forces and spent a while with an Uzi in my hand doing searches in small spaces (boats and ships) I understand the power of a gun. I do own a handgun and in a country where you have to jump through 20 hoops to get to own one yet buy an illegal automatic rifle down the block for $50 it soothes myself to have the gun next to my bed when I go to bed at night.
    At the same time, as a sometime hunter I also know the instant regret I feel whenever I end a life, even a small life as grousse yet see the joy some of my friends get from the same shot. These friends arent killers, they arent monsters, they are mostly computer nerds and geeks yet the smell of the cordite, the boom of the shot, the recoil, it changes personalities. The line between killer and gunowner is a lot thinner than one can imagine. Thanks for a great article.

  • MrWinkle

    I have never experienced this power that you speak of. I've been around guns since my childhood and not once have I felt a surge of superiority that you allude to. My guess (and that's all it is, a guess) is that these shootings are symptoms to a much larger problem that our teens and young adults face every day. We are not taught morals and we don't see consequences for our actions.

    These things were ingrained in me from day one and I think this is what keeps "good guys from turning into bad guys." For every psyco with a gun that plays violent video games you have thousands of others that don't chose that path.

    Correlation does not equal causation (not saying you in particular are implying that). But that seems to be the underlying theme from both sides of this argument.

    "It's the gun's fault, NO it's the movies and video games."

    The responsibility of this situation lays squarely on the shoulders of the gunman.

  • lilianna28

    The gun control debate is about limiting mass murder opportunity, not about eradicating mental illness, bad intentions, or avoiding teaching "morality"

  • MrWinkle

    Maybe eradicating mental illness, bad intentions and teaching "morality" is exactly what would stop/decrease these mass shootings.

    The gun is a tool. Would you credit a hammer for building a house?

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Since you will be unsuccessful in weeding out those factors, limiting access to your "tool" will probably the only thing that can be done.

  • Jezzer

    I think the NRA won't be happy until we've returned America to the days of vigilantism and frontier justice.

  • lowercase_ryan

    You miss the point. This isn't about the NRA or the gun-control people. It's about the deeper issue of egos and guns and why this is happening.

    I'm not defending the NRA. I think Wayne LaPierre is a waste of life. He is a despicable human being. He lies, he's for sale, and he has no regard for his fellow humans. If I were ever given the chance to kick him in the head, I don't know that I would be able to stop.

    That being said, he is not most gun-owners. In fact he represents very few gun owners. To make the NRA a scapegoat is lazy and feeds right into the gun lobby's plan. They want the NRA to take the brunt of your ire, your frustration. The NRA is equipped to diffuse that hostility so that, in the end, nothing changes. Which is what the businesses behind the NRA (gun & ammo makers) want.

  • Jezzer

    I missed the part where I said, "This article is solely about the NRA and nothing else."

  • FrayedMachine

    This is a really wonderfully well written article.

    I'm admittedly a peacekeeper. I'm not the kind that thinks that all guns should be removed because that will never, ever happen, nor do I think that they have no place anywhere for any given reason. What I do know is something very similar. My parents came from a country where guns were easy to come by, and for all intents and purposes, they have more reason to carry guns there. The problem is that the people who carry guns and who search for guns there don't do it for any other reason but the simple fact that it -is- a power button. Chances are if someone's got a pistol or an assault rifle on them, it's either because they're the police trying to fight rebels or they're rebels trying to fight the police, there isn't really much of a grey, in between place. I think because of this, I've always felt the obsession and attachment to guns as a core in American Culture is a very spoiled notion. This isn't a country any more where having a gun draws the line between life and death.

    The closest I've come to holding a gun is an air rifle and it didn't really appeal to me. But I have stared down the barrel of an assault rifle and being in that position really keeps me from understanding why people are against them being banned.

  • KV

    Once you have a gun in your hand, you have the power over other people's lives. And as we all know, power is eminently capable of corrupting its wielder. Good article, Cindy.

  • BierceAmbrose

    That's a power, for example, the recently unlamented football player held over his GF every time he held his hands in his hands.

    This, I speculate, fuels the reactions around guns. Guns unequivocally, undeniably represent that power of life and death over others, a power we hold far more often that we like to admit.

  • Quatermain

    This was a good article, and a lot more balanced than I thought it was going to be.

    I grew up around guns and my brothers and I learned how to use them from an early age. Before he ever put a gun in our hands, my father taught us to respect them and what they could do. "The minute you don't respect this, is the same minute you shouldn't have it" he used to say. I've owned my own guns (pistols, rifles, shotguns) since I was fifteen. It's no more unusual for me to have guns in the house than it is to have forks, but I've never forgotten that first rule.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Wow...this is fantastic. Chilling, but fantastic. I'm giving you all of the shares I can muster today.

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