Newtown, and what we can do now

So here we now have on us this unthinkable Newtown tragedy. And we know the cycle of our response to such events: first shock, then grief, then anger, then a slow fade until whatever news next rivets our attention. That’s how it’s done. That’s how we all do it.

Except this time it doesn’t quite feel that way, does it? This time it feels different. This time it feels like our cumulative grief and outrage might actually result in something being done about this raw insanity with our guns.

And we all feel the N.R.A. executives and the craven politicians they own out there, hunkering down together and strategizing about how best to weather—and, ultimately, capitalize on—what they’re no doubt shamelessly considering a PR problem.

And all of us have this fury inside of us. And that fury has nowhere to go, because we feel so impotent against a problem so huge and so bound up with stuff that we know is good and right, like our Constitution.

Constitution good. Capitalism good. Assault weapons easily purchased at guns shows bad.

It’s just one big knot we feel we can’t unravel. So we stew, and cry, and despair.

And most immediately we hold our children to our breasts, and desperately wonder how our country could have come to this.

We’re easily the most absurdly armed country in the world. There are three hundred million privately owned firearms in the United States: a hundred and six million handguns, a hundred and five million rifles, and eighty-three million shotguns. That works out to about one gun for every American. No other country comes anywhere near that.

We’re simply crazy about guns.

Well, some of us are: a full three-quarters of people who own guns own two or more guns. Most Americans don’t own a gun.

Not much could more perfectly capture everything that’s mind-bogglingly ludicrous about the American gun business than this video, featuring two painfully immature boys masquerading as adults. “Everybody needs some kind of combat weapon,” says one of the boys somberly. “You could buy a crate of these [high-powered rifles], and about five crates of ammo, for about two thousand dollars,” says the other. “That’s a real good cheap way to arm ten men … you can be very deadly in large numbers. You can use this gun to kill elk, bear, moose, deer, two-legged game of all sorts if you need to. They excel at that.”

It’s supposed to be cute, the way the one guy slips in the aside about using guns to kill people instead of moose and deer.

Did you laugh when he said? Did you think that was funny?

In an average year roughly one hundred thousand Americans are killed or wounded with guns. One in three Americans know someone who has been shot.

Not that at this point we need statistics to prove to us that we have a problem in this country with too many guns being too easily obtained by too many people.

But what to do about that problem?

Well, a decent place to start might be understanding that the N.R.A., which everyone thinks owns the gun control issue in America, isn’t anywhere near as powerful as people think it is. On NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this:

The NRA’s number one objective this time was to defeat Barack Obama for a second term. Last time I checked the election results, he won and he won comfortably. This myth that the N.R.A. can destroy political careers is just not true.

Here’s Paul Waldman, of The American Prospect, writing in February of this year:

We all know that the National Rifle Association is one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, interest group in Washington. With their money and their committed supporters, they can carry candidates to victory or defeat as they choose, just as they’ve done in the past. Right? Well, maybe not. To determine just how powerful the NRA really is on election day, in recent months I assembled a database covering the last four federal elections: 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010. These years cover two presidential and non-presidential years, as well as two significant Democratic victories and two significant Republican victories. I gathered data on the outcome of every House and Senate election, including the margins of victory, the money spent by each candidate, the partisan character of each district, and whether the NRA made an endorsement in the race and how much money they spent.

The conclusion to be drawn from these data will be surprising to many: The NRA has virtually no impact on congressional elections. The NRA endorsement, so coveted by so many politicians, is almost meaningless. Nor does the money the organization spends have any demonstrable impact on the outcome of races.

Finally, here is Mark Glaze, director of the advocacy group Mayors Against Illegal Guns:

People are hard-pressed to find more than a handful of members of Congress who have ever lost their seat because of the NRA or because of a gun vote. But the NRA has spent a lot of money and a lot of years building up that very reputation, and a lot of Democrats have bought into it.

The N.R.A. is just a lobbying organization. It’s got four million members. There are three hundred eleven million people in America. The N.R.A. doesn’t own the freakin’ country.

Politicians are still elected—by us. They’ll still dependent for their jobs upon us. And anyone who thinks politicians don’t listen their constituents knows squat about politics. If more than fifty people in one day write any elected representative anything that’s the same thing, that representative stops what they’re doing and pays attention. Because they understand that the cost of failing to do so might result in them having to do what no politician wants to: getting a real job.

We’re not helpless to address the gun problem in our country. This is still America. We—the common person, the average citizen, the normal, everyday Joe and Josephine—still rule. We just have to speak as one voice.

If you want fewer Americans going batshit and grabbing ridiculous amounts of weaponry they then use to go on horrifying killing sprees, then here are some things that you can actually do to stop that from happening with the increasingly regularity that it is:

Write your elected representative. Use Google for .8 seconds, find out who represents you at the local, state, and national level, and write to them. Tell them this:

Dear [Representative who is paid out of my taxes]:

Like millions of Americans I am am sick of living in a society where buying firearms is as easy as buying toilet paper. I am begging you to make a priority in your daily work the toughening and tightening of gun laws. I want a ban on assault weapons and any gun that comes with or accommodates a loading system that can have no purpose beyond killing as many people as possible as quickly as possible. I want the gun-show loophole closed. I want penalties much more severe for gun “straw purchasers” (and if you don’t know what those are, I want you out of office). I want radical enhancements to our state and country’s background-check system.

I want you to tell me what can be done to reduce gun violence. You’ve got the power. You know what you’re doing. You tell us (being me and my friends) what you’re doing to combat gun violence in our society. Come up with a policy or a plan about that, publish that policy/plan on your website, and then on that website keep us informed about how it’s going: about what you’re actually doing to help prevent tragedies such as the recent massacre of children in Newton.

Tell us who’s helping your efforts to combat gun violence. Tell us who’s hindering you. Tell us everything. You tell us who is and isn’t on your side in this crusade, and what they are or aren’t doing to help you, and I promise you that we’ll help anyone not helping you understand why it’s in their best interests to get on board, and with you start doing everything they can to stave the spread of gun violence in America.

Thanks! You rock. Show up properly on this issue, and I promise you’ll always have the support of me and my friends.

Your concerned and attentive constituent,



Immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress is a petition on Go sign it. If you don’t, then please never again complain about the gun problem in this country, since when you had a chance to do even the slightest thing to help with that problem you did nothing.

→ Part of the job of the Federal Communications Commission is to “maintain decency standards designed to protect the public good.” The chairman of the FCC is Julius Genachowski. His email is Send Mr. Genachowski an email saying:

Dear Mr. Genachowski:

Please strongly encourage all television networks to cease publishing the names and photos of individuals who have gone on killing sprees. No one should ever know that committing a mass-murder is guaranteed to make them nationally famous.

Copy that email to:

Commissioner Robert McDowell (

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn (

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel (

Commissioner Ajit Pai (

Instant nationwide fame is a powerful motivator. Let’s make sure it becomes no motivator at all.

→ Refuse to go see or rent movies that are clearly extremely violent. Similarly boycott violent video games. Don’t let your kids buy or play either. Sure, that’s old-fashioned and square. The alternative is to continue allowing ourselves and our children to be desensitized to the reality of shooting others to death. Murder isn’t entertainment. Square up. (To be perfectly clear, I don’t think that in and of themselves violent video games cause violence. But I also don’t doubt that they can help trigger a person saddled with a particular kind of mental illness to actually do in real life what the manufacturers of video games strive to make seem as real as possible. I think such games are profoundly unhealthy and shouldn’t be in anyone’s home—but certainly not in a home with children. For more on this issue, see Do Video Games Make Kids Violent?, published today by ABC News.)

→ Encourage your elected representatives to tax the crap out of gun manufacturers and the people who buy their products—the same as we do with tobacco. And then let’s use that money to develop and implement in our elementary schools programs designed to teach children about conflict resolution; the ignobly cruel, long-lasting, and alarmingly dangerous effects of bullying; the fluid line between mental health and losing the ability to cope; and why the most heroic thing anyone can do is actively care about the well-being of others, particularly those burdened with less advantages than others.

→ You tell me. You tell everybody what thoughts and ideas you have about getting the American gun problem resolved. This is a collective problem calling for a collective solution. Let’s talk about this. Let’s get answers out and circulating. Let’s create all kinds of symposiums, conferences, public forums, and all kinds of events that we all put together right in our community centers or living rooms in which we actively and enthusiastically solicit all sorts of ideas on this issue. There are lots of people out there who really know this stuff, who’ve deeply considered this issue, who have solutions to crucial aspects of this problem that make sense and would actually work. Let’s get those people and their ideas the attention that they deserve and that we need.

→ Pray. I don’t care who you are or what you believe, pray. Send up to God, the Divine, the Universe, or however you personally understand The Large, and ask for more love to occupy more space more often in the hearts of more people. Ask that with all the intensity you have. Love is the only transformative power in the world: people change for love and no other reason. More love in the world equals less people killing other people. That is the inviolate, sacrosanct rule of life. Embed yourself in that truth.

Ask for—and thereby create—more love.


Also, share your thoughts and feelings. Share them here if you will. Tell us where you’re at with this whole thing.

Merry Christmas.

As the little boy said: God bless us, every one.


Most of the stats I used came from Jill Lepore’s exceptional New Yorker article, Battleground America.

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  • charles

    just some facts-

    all gun purchases are required to go through the FBI instant check computer system. this has been the case for Handguns for a number of years, and is now the case with rifles and shotguns as well. If a person has a criminal record including a felony or a restraining order, they are disallowed from gun ownership. This is across all states, no matter what their gun laws might say. all in there were about 16 MILLION FBI background checks for weapons sales in 2011. thats just one year…..

    second more important fact- the HIPA Act provides blanket confidentiality for any medical treatment information (including mental illness) from any state or federal agency. Someone who has been treated for mental illness, but has not been convicted of a felony, nor has a restraining order against them, will not have any flags on their FBI background check.

    the question I think that is pertinent is why Americans feel the need for guns- and why so many? almost 50% of American homes have a gun (or more) so perhaps looking at the motivating factors for those purchases might provide a direction as to start seeking ways to make people feel they dont need guns….

    its a sad moment- and lets also not forget the 160 children killed by US drones as well.

  • Kerry

    All that

    AND Mental Health – that is a big part of this too.

    If you haven’t read this yet, you really should.

    (the comments show that she is far from alone too – it is chilling)

  • Kerry

    More comments/experiences at this link of same

  • Jill H

    First off, thank you for the clarity here– no powerlessness portrayed here. Thinking people don’t have the time and empathetic people don’t have the energy to wring our hands in defeat anymore.

    Second, I sent the email word for word, and added: Part of the job of the Federal Communications Commission is to “maintain decency standards designed to protect the public good.” Help the public by enacting policies that serve the safety of our communities and not our base voyeuristic interest.

    Third, I signed the White House petition, and fourth, I sent a personalized email to my senator with less complaints and more suggestions. If I’m not trying to work out some ideas, send some creative power toward solutions that Americans can unite behind, then I’ve learned nothing from ‘just another mass shooting’ and I’ve failed humanity too.

  • Charles: Forty per cent of the guns purchased in the United States are bought from private sellers at gun shows, or through other private exchanges, such as classified ads, which fall under what is known as the “gun-show loophole” and are thus unregulated. No FBI checks there.

  • vj

    John, you are my HERO! This piece was wonderful, I hope your country(wo)men heed your exhortations!

  • Lymis

    The Constitution specifically says that Americans have the right to bear arms – because a well regulated militia is necessary for the security of a free state.

    Whether or not one agrees with that idea in the modern world, that statement certainly doesn’t support the idea that every American has an unlimited right to gun ownership.

    While I don’t particularly approve of guns at all, I’m also not rabidly anti-gun. If we set it up so that anyone in the National Guard has a right to keep a gun at home, I could live with that. As a bare minimum, the same level of training and proof of competence that we require for a driver’s license can’t be considered an “infringement” of someone’s right to be prepared to be part of a “well-regulated militia.”

    If you have the right to own a gun to protect yourself from the rest of us, the rest of us should have the right to protect ourselves from you by requiring that you demonstrate basic competence with it, prove you can store it safely, and not have a criminal record or history of mental illness.

    It enrages me that most of the same people demanding that there be absolutely no limits on gun ownership are often the ones demanding all sorts of limits and regulation of the even more central right to vote, and on the fundamental right to marry the person of your choice.

  • FishFinger

    What are you or the FBI going to do about the rise of 3D printers?

    Soon, all gun control laws will be basically useless, as one will be able to manufacture one at home.

  • That doesn’t appear to be anything that’ll be happening too soon.

  • Jill H

    This is it. We’ve lost our human compass. Guns have more rights than people.

  • Thanks, JH, for all this.

  • Amy

    Well said. I’ve been saying for a long time that we need better gun laws. Not a ban, not necessarily *more* laws, just better ones and better enforcement. I also agree that we need to do something about the rampant bullying. It needs to start with teaching kids how not to bullly–rather than teaching kids how not to be victims. That’s classic blame-the-victim and if we wouldn’t tolerate it with regard to murder, we shouldn’t tolerate it with regard to bullying.

    On a side note, we need to stop equating mental illness and violent crime. In fact, the mentally ill are more likely to be victims than perpetrators. There is serious mental illness in my family, and not one of those people is someone I would fear. There’s no evidence that the man who shot up the school had any diagnosed mental illness. If we want it destigmatized, we need to stop living in fear of people with mental illness.

  • Theresa DePaepe via Facebook

    Well said, John.

  • FishFinger

    Don’t underestimate developing technologies. This gun already shot six times before breaking, and it was just a project by enthusiasts. Once there is more demand for this (and there will be more, considering your proposed taxes and restrictions), it will move into the commercial sphere, where people will be paid to develop this. I expect fully functional printable firearms in no less than 5 years.

  • About the video games part…

    Thanks for compiling this list, John. I signed the petition, and wrote the FCC commissioner.

    I don’t agree with your categorical boycott of violent video games and movies, however. They’re an art form like any other, and there have been outstanding examples of movies and, yes, video games which show the pain and senselessness of violence. If you doubt that video games are capable of this, I’d recommend watching Extra Credit’s reviews of the video game Spec Ops, The Line. The game makes it clear again and again what horror you are inflicting on your victims, and how pathetic you are for trying to act out this hero fantasy.

    But, yeah, boycotting senseless and glorious depictions of violence in any medium, that I can get behind.

  • About the video games part…

    I often hear the argument that a nation arming its citizens is necessary because government is at the consent of the governed, and that if the government loses its footing the people must rise up to overthrow it. But it’s not like arming the population is even necessary– Tunisia had the second-lowest rates of gun ownership in the world (behind Japan), and recently overthrew its tyrannical government.

  • I agree that making gun ownership more accountability based could really help. Why not ask that people wanting to own a gun take safety and handling classes, and that they take a refresher course every few years…which is similar to owning a car or maintaining a professional license? Why not make the accessories, ie. bullets not quite as easy to obtain, or a tax applied, something beginning to be done in Chicago if I remember correctly.

    While its true that guns don’t kill people, they are tools easily wielded by people with the intent to kill. We are told we need guns for protection, but is it really? More often than not, the deaths not protective but are the smaller events that don’t make the national news, the husband killing wife, the son killing dad, the friend killing friend. You can’t get those lives back, you can’t undo what was done in anger or revenge.

    I could never intentionally harm another human, even if it meant harm to me, or someone I love. I would try to stop them in any non-lethal matter at my disposal, or get in their way to protect, but retaliate? I don’t think I could live with the consequences.

    I am going now to sign a few petitions.

  • Catherine Crawford

    What is missing from this debate and has always been missing is a discussion on the deplorable condition of the health care delivery system in terms of mental health. My father was a psych nurse from the late 40’s to the early 80’s who watched the system be dismantaled and he was never shocked at the shootings we have, citing his witness .If you want to see rampant judgementalism on a scale to make to your hair curl, just be the parent of a mentally ill and violent child. Try getting effective treatment and schooling. Hells, with my health plan it takes 3-6 months to see a psychologist.

    It isn’t the guns.

    It isn’t the movies.

    It isn’t the books.

    It’s mentally ill people and a polarized society that would rather judge people than treat them, leaving us all to live in an open air asylum.

  • Excellent article & suggestions!!

  • skip johnston

    Guns don’t kill people. Gun culture does.

  • I just did a quick statistic search. Interestingly, states with tighter gun restrictions have fewer deaths by guns. Nationally 37% of murders by guns with women being the victim and the shooter a spouse or partner. Many gun deaths are domestic in nature, if not most.

    Internationally, we rank 12th, behind nations like El

    Salvador, Panama, Mexico and Swaziland. Japan ranks third from bottom. Great Britain, France, The Netherlands? Also much less violent. These nations also have much stricter gun laws.

    Yes we need to address mental health. We’ve needed to do that for decades. It’s just too slow. We also need to do something to make it harder for people to enact anger or revenge via a means too often fatal.

  • That is true John, and then there are the guns that are stolen, or passed on from family member to another, those guns don’t have to go through FBI checks either. I suspect there are more unregulated guns than is assumed.

  • Kerry
  • mike moore

    When, last night, President Obama stated, “We can’t tolerate this anymore. We are not doing enough,” I couldn’t help but think, “there is one man in the United States of America who does NOT have to tolerate this, a man who can not only do more, but who can actually stop a part of this insanity, today.”

    That man is our President.*

    President Obama can issue an executive order today that would bring about sweeping gun control reform.

    Yes, the courts could step in, but there are ways around the courts, and, historically, the courts haven’t messed with executive orders, even when the orders are clearly unconstitutional (as with the internment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor.)

    The President can make this insanity go away by caring more about children – and the other approx. 10,000 American victims of gun violence last year – than his job. He can and should be willing to risk impeachment. He can force Americans to live with the consequences of their lazy voting (the House and Senate approval ratings have been hovering around 18%, yet we reelected 90% of those clowns.)

    People speak of the power of the veto. It’s time for our President to refuse to allow Congress, government, commerce, and society to proceed in a “business-as-usual” fashion. It’s time for our President to make some history and refuse to sign any and all legislation/budgets/hall-passes until the House and Senate put a bill in front of him that codifies his executive order. Congress has had decades to wrestle with this and has failed; it’s time for our President to step up to plate and dictate the terms.

    “We can’t tolerate this anymore.” Agreed. So now what, Mr. Obama? He is arguably the most powerful man on the planet and the only person in this country who, with a simple swipe of his pen, has the authority to change gun laws overnight. “Not doing enough ….?” Well, Prez, we elected you … DO something.

    Fiscal cliff? That’s just money, not worth the death of our children. Government shut-down? Who cares, children were executed .

    Didn’t get our Social Security or government paycheck this month? Well, maybe we should stop reelecting the same idiots who allowed the assault weapon ban to expire and have shown themselves to be utterly unwilling to do their jobs in regards to gun control.

    Why do I believe this will work? Because congressional politicians are, for the most part, cynical pragmatists who will capitulate rather than risk the real and the political repercussions. Because 70% of NRA membership believes in tighter gun control. Because most Americans will only care enough to do something about gun control when it affects their own lives.

    Standing in front of the nation and reading the names of 20 murdered children is only part of the President’s job. Now comes the time for true courage on his part, and I believe our voices should be directed at the White House.


    *For the record, I’m believe Obama is the best President my generation has ever seen (I’m 52) and am a huge supporter of the President.

  • It’s going to happen a lot faster than you think, John. Most 3D printers are in the $1,200-$1,800 range: Expensive but not prohibitively so for home use. They’ll be down to $400-$600 by the end of the decade. A “printed” gun recently managed to fire 6 shots before falling apart. That’s more than enough to intimidate a flight crew.

  • charles

    John, it is illegal to sell a gun in that manner according to the law. All transfers of guns are required by law to be conducted through licensed firearms dealers. I do believe that figure came from Bob Costas when he appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s program- how he came up with that number is a bit of a mystery, because it is in fact speculation as there are no records to verify it.

  • charles

    the real point though is that we live in a violent society who routinely thinks that law doesnt apply to us because of our Charlie Sheen sense of specialness. Its really no wonder that so many reject the peace of God when we seem so content with that.

  • I’m sorry, I don’t agree with the video game thing. Violence in entertainment is as old has humanity – good against evil stories ’round the campfire. Violence in entertainment doesn’t make violence in real life. I’ve played violent video games for over a decade and I can’t even look at a dead body let alone want to go kill something (anything!). Granted, I do not play the graphic ones. I play the ones with minimal or no blood.

    Mental illness makes violence. What is sorely lacking in our society is testing and treatment for mental illness, and that includes the mentally ill being able to buy guns.

    About the video games industry, though, what I don’t agree with is that, in this country, showing any kind of naked body part is censored, yet graphically taking someone’s head off with a chainsaw is A-OKAY. WTF???!!!

    That tells me that our society is sick sick sick. 🙁 And yes, we need to do something about that.

  • Leslie Marbach

    Thanks for this, John. So often when tragedy strikes like this we have a tendency to stay in the shocked/saddened/angry stage of grief and then put it all away in some internal file cabinet without allowing our grief to urge us to action to prevent it from happening again. In many ways it’s like a victim of a crime, say sexual assault, who has the chance to testify against the perpetrator and help prevent another victim or staying in his/her own grief and then ignoring it while the perpetrator goes onto to victimize others. We all, as witnesses to this tragedy, need to testify. We need to stand up and do what we can to prevent it from happening again.

  • charles

    if killing is an option for a person, they have lost their compass right there. the item used to kill is irrelevent.

  • Agreed. Video games, like any other entertainment medium, can be an art form.

    As for your point, The Mass Effect series is also a great one for this, I think.

  • Oh it happens Charles, and laws vary from state to state. in my state, I can pick up or go online to a local shoppers guide and find guns by private sellers right now, a variety of guns and ammunition. I doubt many of these sales get registered by anyone. Sure it may be breaking the law, if it is a law….but pray tell, who’s enforcing it?

  • mike moore

    The item used to kill is not irrelevant in the least. The use of guns is what allowed this gunman to kill so many children and adults in less than 10 minutes.

    The weapon absolutely matters.

  • Lyn

    Here would be my suggestion: Gun owner licenses just like drivers licenses– written test and practical test, different levels for different kinds of guns or uses (just like to get a public passenger chauffeur’s license, you have to pass a stricter test), various health restrictions including for mental health (blind person can’t get a drivers license, person with paranoid schizophrenia can’t get a gun owner license). Then title guns just like you title cars and require some sort of a yearly license on the gun, including maintaining liability insurance for each gun. You cannot purchase or title or license a gun unless you maintain your gun owner license. You cannot purchase ammunition without your gun owner license and the license for the gun the ammo is for.

  • Rachel G.

    Unfortunately, you are wrong. There is the ‘gun show loophole’ that allows massive amounts of weapons to change hands on weekends without any government oversight. The parking lot is FULL during these shows. I know, crazy, right?

  • Kerry

    I agree with Mike

  • charles

    how many of these events are “mass” shootings? how many lives are taken? in these last three- Gabby Giffords, the Dark Night shooting, and Sandy Hook we had what, 40 people die,and about 30 injured?

    the statistics for murder in this country are 32 people dying EVERY DAY. Are they somehow less important? I find such a notion to be ridiculous- in Chicago, so far this year 450 have been murdered. We have an epic problem with violence in this country- not just gun violence.

  • Justin M. Gordon

    Just popping in to say that I appreciate this article, but I do have to disagree that video games cause violence. I’ve played video games for many years, but I still find the idea of violence against another human being abhorrent.

    Other than that though, I think you’re spot on.

  • Unless I mistook the article, only a small part of that gun was “printed.” It seemed to me there’s a long, long way to go before people are routinely “printing” guns in their homes.

  • FishFinger

    Correlation =/= causation.

  • FishFinger

    That part was the only part required to be regulated by U.S. law, it’s the one with the serial number. If you own this part, you own the gun.

  • I don’t think violent video games cause violence. I think they can help trigger a person saddled with a particular kind of mental illness to act out in real life what the manufacturers of video games strive to make seem as real as possible.

  • Okay. But you still had to go out and get that gun. So I’m not seeing any huge change there; I still don’t see an fast-approaching future in which people are readily printing out guns in their homes.

  • mike moore

    I agree with what you’re saying here, but above you state that the item used to kill is irrelevant.

    2011 FBI stats report 12,664 murders in the US. (Florida and Alabama had yet to report at the time the data was compiled.) Of those, 8,583 were caused by firearms. I think there’s a connection there.

  • Kerry

    I’m not letting my sons play with them, or even toy guns for that matter.

  • Lyn

    Oh, and about video game violence, I don’t think it’s the violence per se. I’ve sat and watched my kids play Dragon Age, and Skyrim, and Halo, and what I’ve observed isn’t that the games are violent, but that violence is frequently the *only* option. And that’s where I find myself pointing out to the kids that the game is unrealistic. While there are belligerent people who are out for fight, they’re mostly going to stop fighting before the fight turns violent, and most people are going to look for a peaceful solution to start with, even if they’re yelling that they’re going to kill you.

    Realistically, the first option should always be to talk your way out, and to run away if that doesn’t work. If a fight turns really harmful, most people should be backing away and not fighting to the death. And if you draw a weapon every time someone so much as threatens you, you’re not going to be “the hero of X”, you’re going to be in jail.

    But I’m not sure telling my kids “You can’t play that” is the best approach. I think saying, “The game is rigged to prefer violence and that’s not how people act or should act in real life,” is better.

  • charles
  • charles

    so the ones that didnt involve a gun are somehow less tragic?


  • roger flyer

    John. Much obliged.

  • Barbara

    I taught mentally ill children and youth for 32 years. I have seem many of them grow up to be self-sufficient and productive members of society, with the help of responsible medical treatment and families who possessed the economic resources and common sense to assure that they got that help. Others whose families could not afford the “luxury ” of mental healthcare were not as fortunate, and some have landed in jail, or died (several who felt the pain of life too much to bear living it, and confided as much). When I learned of their pain, I alerted parents, counselors, administrators and even law enforcement, out of desperation for one student who said he was going home to kill his brother and himself.

    Mental illness is not a choice; how we respond to it can make a huge difference. Let’s stop lending the stigma our support with comments like, “Too bad he didn’t shoot himself first” and other, pithy one-size-fits-all answers to what has turned out to be an unpreventable tragedy. Do not confuse debilitating diseases with evil. Do not blame the schools, whose hands are tied when it comes to providing the intense levels of support these individuals require to survive and thrive. Take responsibility in caring for “the least of these” so they do not experience the level of hell on earth that would cause them to end it all for themselves, and the precious innocents who never had a choice in the matter. Thank you John, for all of the suggestions that are put forwarf here. They are important and will make a difference, Let’s make mental health care a right, and not a luxury. It will help everyone, those who are affected by it and those who will never need it. Praying for all who grieve…

  • It is similar to what I am thinking. It still allows for plenty of freedom, but adds some responsibility into the mix. I also think we can do much better in training of gun use and safety. You can purchase a gun now and are not required to know how to operate it. The insurance issue is also a great idea, you can have coverage included in case of theft, or loss, and as with cars, a damages portion in case of accident, or intention…again taking a personal responsibility. And such insurance could be constructed with claim limits based on incident, to keep the piranha litigation lawyers out of things.

    Still, better legislation on guns is not taking care of the root…why people feel the need to use one against another. We can’t let the symptom…gun deaths…get ahead of the cause…why so many are dying by this method.

  • yeah fishfinger. Which is the conundrum.

  • charles

    I have no problem with people not liking guns- at all. I have a problem with killing- and I would ban most hunting if I were somehow king. but the one of the unshakeable ideas behind gun rights in this country is that they are in place to protect life. The right to live supercedes every other right. no one, including the government should be exempt from that. If a woman is attacked by a man should she not have the ability to stop that attack? there is really only one instrument that can overcome a 100 pound size differential in that situation- its not pepper spray, nor even a tazer, which actually takes a lot of skill to effectively use. I hate violence, particularly killing. but those are human activities…. and though I can definitely kill myself with far more certainty by driving off a cliff at 100 miles an hour than perhaps doing the same thing on foot- I dont think it particularly matters what device I choose if suicide is my purpose. There is a lot to negotiate in the argument. just taking guns away doesnt take violence away- as 1/3 of the murders already suggest.

  • charles

    you are a very wise person….

  • mike moore

    Learn to read. I didn’t say that.

  • Lyn

    I do think gun laws are, to a great extent, treating the symptom, not the problem. The problem in many cases is the lack of mental health services provided. It is a national healthcare issue. People argue that healthcare shouldn’t be in the purview of the national government, but more and more I question that. We all suffer as a nation when a portion of our society goes without adequate healthcare and that is more especially true of mental healthcare. Our prisons are full of people who couldn’t get the help they needed. It is a benefit to the society as a whole to diagnose and treat illness of all kinds before it has a chance to worsen and endanger the public health.

  • Barbara

    Charles, Mike didn’t say that at all. He was referring to the fact that guns were used in over 67% of all the murders in 2011. Of course, the loss of every victim is tragic! If those victims were able to speak for themselves, they would all probably agree that the firearms, especially those designed specifically to kill people quickly, and in ever increasing numbers, are a big part of the reason there were 12,664 murders last year.

  • Jill

    Barbara, thank you for sharing your own heartbreak. People like you who hold the safety net for these are heroes. It is never easy dealing with mental illness. A calm person becomes impossible, a disappointment becomes potentially life-ending. Without help, I know people who wouldn’t have made it this long.

    And blaming just makes it easier to distance ourselves from the conversation– it happens to other people. It took this unspeakableness for us to see it happened to all of us. There isn’t room for blame now, there’s only what we need to learn and we must learn it fast.

  • charles

    he didnt say that, but thats the implication- lets just say with somehow making all guns disappear we have a only 12 people not 32 people murdered every day….

    is that acceptable? And dont you think that some of those other gun murders might be done without guns?.

    check your logic.

  • Jill

    Truth in simplicity.

  • Jill

    *Respectfully* submitting that we discontinue the ‘all or nothing’ debate full stop. We’ve collectively been fighting this ‘guns kill people/ no, people kill people’ thing long enough. With no improvement in our polarized culture.

    Let’s perhaps allow the assumption that reasonable people here are suggesting all murders are evil, all deaths are tragic, and anything we can do to improve the odds is necessarily important. Including removing civilian access to military-type weapons of mass killing. It’s a big issue with many moving pieces, but we’ll need to take it in fragments or we’ll never get anywhere.

  • charles

    and Barbara, how many murders are multiple homicides with guns? very, very few. So to use the argument as a foundation does indeed disregard fact, and plays almost entirely on emotion. The way I see it is that there are pro’s and cons for allowing gun ownership- and I am not against making sure that it is a vetted process. But I see no benefit to violence. And we have tons of it all around us- from bullying to domestic violence, to road rage….and the list goes on. Murder is sort the last stop on that- and derailing that train is a bigger deal in my mind.

  • charles

    Jill I agree, its very complicated issue.

    I think a great first step would be to allow the FBI access to people who are in mental healthcare so they show up in the gun check system.

    I would also propose that all guns be required to be transferred through a licensed fire arms dealer.

    I think that pretty low hanging fruit.

  • mike moore

    Charles, you need to stop.

    You are misstating our comments, and you’re intelligent enough to know it.

    I did not state or imply, nor do I believe, that non-gun-related murders are less tragic than murders involving firearms.

    Barbara states that, given 67% of murders are gun-related, firearms are a big part of the reason we had over 12,000 murders last year. What Barbara did not say is that if guns disappear, murders will drop by 2/3.

  • charles

    Mike, am I really mis-stating those words? we are basing assumptions on the removal of an object. Thats really the premise in that argument-

    the guns didnt cause the violence. Adam Lanza, and his ilk did.

    we dont know what they might have done had they nit had access to guns, but we can probably assume that they had the potential to kill nonetheless.

    I find the tragedy of all of these events profound, and having been in San Diego at the time of two mass shootings, and Los Angeles when a number of other ones happened, including the Jewish Center shooting, I am not a stranger to proximity to these things- but I know that I see violence nearly everyday, and as the crime statistics point out we have 34 people murdered everyday as well. Until we confront the cause of that inner motivation to violence we are talking academics. All of the yelling and screaming doesnt do a thing to speak to that- and actually only shows peoples unwillingness to take the matter seriously.

  • charles

    a sad case in point….. should we ban pro football?

  • No, it came from the Lepore article.

  • mike moore

    Yes Charles, you misstated both my and Barbara’s words.

  • Not that this matters, but Charles and Mike: you are two of my favorite people on this blog. Time and time again you have each shown yourselves to be thoughtful, wise, sensitive, and extremely intelligent.

    So kiss and make up. Right now.

    I mean, no tongue or anything. Let’s not get carried away. This is a family blog.

    Okay, fine. Some tongue. But no slobber. I draw the line at actual slobber.

  • Lovely–and important. Thank you, Barbara.

  • charles

    totally agree on all points-

    my wife works with kids like that for LAUSD. It is a hard hard job….

  • It’s a great article period. But you let me know if you discover that Jill Lepore and the fact-checkers at The New Yorker screwed up.

  • charles

    I have no desire to be difficult, I think this is a great great place, and I think we all benefit from considerate conversation ESPECIALLY on this.

    lets talk- its a good thing, and thats how we learn about stuff… and I certainly don’t mean any offense to anyone.

  • charles

    I dont think its a fact check issue- and yes, it is a great article, – she simply didnt have an attribution to those particular claims… I also need to check her claim of 100,000 injuries a year from firearms from the last paragraph.

    beyond that, She makes great points and did lovely research.

  • charles

    found this which largely supports the contention-

    sadly, the largest number of gun incidents are suicide.

  • Kerry

    No reason for military style assault weapons to be owned by the general public – can you at least agree to that point, Charles?

  • charles

    I dont see what “style” has do with lethality. there are many guns which are semi-automatic that “look” like regular hunting rifles. some even accept high capacity magazines. I dont really see much distinction myself, any gun, whether its a 22 caliber pistol, or a musket “can” kill. And most gun murders are just one person as a victim, not massacres. A shotgun for instance can hold 8 shots, and is a devestating weapon against people- which is why the police tend to use them so much. someone can shoot all those rounds in less than 8 seconds if their fast, and hit all their targets easily. In the realm of guns, they are all dangerous. and if we are gong to refine the law it should be more in restricting people than to worry about what kind of guns people have- the current restrictions on automatic weapons are entirely workable, and surprisingly, the present owners of those machine guns dont want the law to make it any easier for people to buy those weapons, because they are so valuable now.

  • David L. Caster

    Yes. See for instance: Our Moloch

  • charles

    again, living in California, we dont allow weapons sales into the state except through firearms dealers, and to purchase one requires the FBI check, a State DOJ check, picture ID, proof of residence ( a utility bill) and a 10 day waiting period. Other states have zero waiting periods if the NICS check is completed. perhaps unifying the laws to California’s might be a good step in the right direction…

    as to who is enforcing it, we have BATFE, FBI, and local law enforcement. As to criminal gun transfers. I guess thats already illegal….

  • charles


    again, living in California, we dont allow weapons sales into the state except through firearms dealers, and to purchase one requires the FBI check, a State DOJ check, picture ID, proof of residence ( a utility bill) and a 10 day waiting period. Other states have zero waiting periods if the NICS check is completed. perhaps unifying the laws to California’s might be a good step in the right direction…

    as to who is enforcing it, we have BATFE, FBI, and local law enforcement. As to criminal gun transfers. I guess thats already illegal….

    at present, if one has a criminal record, or a restraining order, or volunteering that they are mentally incompetent – yes, volunteering that….) they will not be allowed to purchase any gun.

  • You are fortunate charles, and gun death statistics do show how legislation is helping addressing the problem from that end. Other states, such as mine are much more lax, and we have “stand your ground” laws intended to protect gun owners from liability if they can prove they fired their weapon in a defensive manner. We rate much higher in deaths per citizens, plus our problems with poverty, substance abuse, domestic violence, teen pregnancy and education could stand some serious improvement as well.

    Its a complex issue, reduce death by guns, those issues need to be considered as well.

  • Mental health care is a luxury in this country. This has got to change.

  • This was fantastic. Thank you.

  • Jeannie

    It’s more available for children than adults in the States. Many parents worry about what happens after their kid turns 18. Then things get scarey.

  • The rich get richer, the poor get prison.

    I know that that’s a cute little slogan, but it’s also true.

    Thank you for everything that you’ve done to help kids who need help, support, and love.

  • charles

    monumental comment….

  • Drew Meyer

    You be careful about what stories you quote. The ABC article specifically states that there is no causual link between violent video games and real world violence.

    To state that the violence in the game can trigger real world violence in certain individuals is also speculation. As in most saces of this type, we will never know with any certainty what went through the mind of the perpetrator-thankfully.

    In fact, the violence in video games can be a useful way to work out frustrations with the real world in a safe and sane manner.

  • Drew Meyer

    As far as gun control goes, here is my response to someone else:

    “3. The presence of firearms in this country is a true and significant counterbalance to government overreach. In other words, a government that knows that its citizenry can (and will) fight back is going to be much more circumspect in its actions. Hitler believed Churchill when he stated that Britishers would “fight in the hills. fight in the hedgerows.” etc. Furthermore, I would use this argument for the sale and possession of assault weaponry. ”

    I am so tired of people who can not shut off their emotions and think past the immediate moment.

  • Mindy

    Yes. I agree wholeheartedly.

  • I didn’t link to the article by way of buttressing any point or position of mine. I only meant … well, what I said: “To read more on this issue … “. That’s all. Just info.

  • Mindy

    Exactly. I’m already tired of that argument. Guns make killing easy. The shooter can be far removed from the victim. The crazy dude in China who attacked school children did so with a knife. Horrific, yes. Scars of both body and mind for all victims, certainly. But every one of them is alive. The weapon matters.

  • Dwayne G. Mason

    John, I’m with you 100%. We do need sensible gun control. Assault weapons and the gun show loophole are a great place to start. And I agree with you about movies and games. I do NOT think we need to restrict the First Amendment to deal with violence in entertainment. But we, as a country. and as Christians, should denounce and condemn the worst of the worst: games in which the only goal is to shoot everyone and pile up as many bloody bodies as possible, and movies that do the same.

    I think there is an even bigger issue in this culture that teaches that violence is brave, courageous, necessary, casual, or inevitable. It is none of those things. But what do we teach our young people with our domestic and foreign policy (which we control — WE ARE our government)? What we DO says that we must kill those who try to kill us, that we must drop bombs on countries that are not “democratic,” that’s it’s OK to use remote controlled airplanes to kill people thousands of miles away as long as they are “bad people,” that civilian deaths are necessary “collateral damage,” that people who do terrible things must be murdered by the state, that boxing and martial arts fighting are “sport,” that the language of weaponry and murder are appropriate in football, politics, business, etc., that if you imagine that even your property is in danger you should “stand your ground (now interpreted as a public sidewalk)” and kill the suspicious person. The fact that we even give children toy guns appalls me.

    I hope we can teach what Jesus, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and others have taught — that there are better, more sensible, more effective responses to that which threatens or offends us, and that peace is possible.

  • charles

    as I posted earlier- we presently at a body count of about 160 children from drone strikes against a country we are not at war with….

    no outrage for that though.

  • Dwayne G. Mason


  • I had a very similar reaction. I am so tired of hearing every reason why this is an insolvable problem. Let’s brainstorm and see what we can come up with. And above all, let’s try SOMETHING instead of nothing.

  • Charles: Why are you telling us that we have no feelings for other children who have been killed? You might want to back off that just a bit. For now, anyway. Please?

  • hmmm

    I feel so much better now.

  • charles

    sure. It can be something for later-

    actually I wish we could talk about Jesus in general a bit more…..

  • vj

    This resonates with something I read this morning in the Guardian (, which concludes with the following observation: “evil is about choice. Sickness is about the absence of choice.”

    Those who are sick need to be equipped to make choices that do not harm themselves or others… 🙁

  • If we fail to make these gun control regulation retroactive, this conversation is delusional with 300 million guns already in possession. We have to have a better approach to health care for the mentally ill and vaccines that are causing autism.

  • charles

    I think we need to be rational and move forward at a measured pace. just getting a unified notion of regulation and waiting periods would be a huge step for most of the country. I personally think psych evaluations would be a great thing as well, as they are required for almost all concealed carry permits. Those should as well be renewed every 5 years or so. in the end, we are talking about changing a huge bit of our general culture, and if its done in a manner which most gun owners will embrace, it will makes things very much easier than trying to ram mass restrictions down their throats. I am pretty certain that no one who buys a gun for self defense ever wants to have to use it for that, and putting rational regulations, like waiting periods, and criminal background checks at the state and local level is a huge step forward. We also have to take similar measures in the MH field, such as voluntary reporting of status for patients so they can also be known for the purposes of gun checks. There is nothing simple about it, and to appeal to the safety concerns of those who already own guns, or seek to own them is a pretty easy way to go. Appealing to them through their brains is a lot better than forcing the issue emotionally. As to Vaccines… that is its own pandora’s box, and pharmaceutical industry has almost as much financial impact as the gun industry does.

  • Allie

    Game developer here. Two points. First, violent crimes committed by juveniles have DECLINED at the same rate that video games per household have increased. You could make a good case that the violent criminals are staying home playing video games instead. I know it seems because of media coverage that violence committed by juveniles has increased, but look it up. Not to mention that the overwhelming majority of violent crimes are being committed by people who can’t afford a whole lot of games.

    Second, children should not play video games. Ever. I would not allow my own child to have a console, video games on a computer that was not in a public space in the house, or even an app-enabled phone, and I would be having discussions with the parents of all his friends. Not because of violence but because your little fatass is going to die of diabetes before the age of consent.

    Arguing that something can be misused by mentally ill people, so it should be banned, seems like a dangerous argument to me. Is there anything on earth that can’t be misused by mentally ill people? My sister is a paranoid schizophrenic who set her neighbor’s house on fire. Do we ban lighters?

  • Allie

    Thanks… I almost lost my temper at my mom today for saying people like this were “just evil” and chose to do what they do, regardless of illness.

    It seems to me the problem with background checks and mental illness is that it will prevent people from seeking help because they don’t want to permanently end up on anyone’s list.

  • Allie

    Please don’t repeat the misinformation that vaccines cause autism. This has been thoroughly debunked, the original study was found to be done by a man being paid by parents some of whose children had autism BEFORE they were vaccinated and he deliberately lied about it. By repeating this falsehood you are causing real children to die because of preventable diseases.

  • mike moore

    but Daaaaaaad, Charles started it. And he better stay on his side on the invisible line I’ve drawn down the center of the backseat.

  • Thank you, Allie, for being a voice of reason. Not all video games are created equal, and even the ones that lean more toward art than entertainment are not necessarily appropriate for children, and are *labeled as such.*

    But blaming videogames for batshit crazy adults going on shooting sprees? Please. If someone is crazy and has violent tendencies, it could be a book that sets him (or her, but probably him) off. I mean, the Bible has inspired some pretty horrific mass murders, do you want to ban that in case it could “set off” a crazy person? That’s an insanely stupid solution.

  • This seems like basic common sense, but bring it up around an otherwise sane and progressive gun owner, and they freak the hell out about their “rights.”

  • Jill

    Exactly, so why is this still being debated? We’ve been yammering this point since the Clinton years and yet nothing’s changed? Sorry, attitude being checked.

  • Yeah, honestly, I … don’t quite know what was up with ol’ Charles yesterday. That’s just not … him, basically. I was actually thinking maybe someone else was using his computer? That’s just not his normal tone at all.

  • charles

    what was up was frustration John.

    and the desire for simple answers to complicated issues.

  • charles

    an added thought to that, John-

    American frame nearly every obsticle in life as an existential threat to our seemingly awesome way of life- and while, Americans in many cases have nice lives, and lots of opportunity, we also supply 75% of the worlds military hardware, and base a good chunk of our economy on killing other humans. So my frustration is being driven in a large manner by that. We are a society which thrives on the notion of punitive justice, and vengence, our sports and our culture revolve around that, and sadly, so many dismiss it- you are what you eat, and a person drinking from “The American Psycho” well will have a very different mindset than the one drinking from the Albert Schweitzer or Bonhoeffer well. To think that those values have no blowback is to be perhaps optimistic. I will absolutely agree that guns are a part of problem given that mindset. but until the mindset is corrected (if it can be) we will simply play whack-a-mole with the means of killing going forward.

  • charles

    Allie, we really dont know much about the causes of that- and Wakefields contentions have actually been supported by significant studies. for the time being, perhaps thats something to leave off the table. But we do know this- the SSRI’s that have been used in treating kids on the Autism Spectrum and ADHD are verified to cause psychotic, and violent reactions.

  • You keep saying that, John, but “I think such games are profoundly unhealthy and shouldn’t be in anyone’s home” is a pretty bold blanket statement.

    There are violent games and movies that (as has been previously pointed out) adhere to a high degree of artistic integrity and even cause the player/viewer to confront the use of violence in our own society, or address timeless moral questions. Those may still “trigger” someone who is the right kind of crazy, but removing that source of inspiration doesn’t mean they won’t be “triggered” by something else, so how is your statement helpful?

    Even with media that is more lowbrow in its aspirations, fictional violence is not necessarily problematic. I can assure you that my gentle, loving husband, who plays Borderlands for at least a few hours a week, had just as visceral a reaction to this shooting, and the last, and the one before that, as anyone who sticks to an entertainment diet of Veggie Tales and rom coms. He has not been “desensitized” to anything. You do know there were horrible slayings before the availability of violent video games, right? What set them off?

  • Hannah

    Actually, Charles, there was a grand total of one study, and if I recall correctly, not a particularly significant one, that came anywhere near supporting Wakefield. I don’t want to derail the conversation, but as Allie said, this is a topic that costs lives. I could not let your comment stand unchallenged. Wakefield was sitting on a patent for a new vaccine, and he was working to discredit the existing vaccine so that he would have a market for his own. He is a murderer, with more victims under his belt than the gunman we’re talking about. And when you give him credence, you become complicit.

  • Hannah

    on the same day a man in China killed 22 children with a knife.

  • Larry


    We typically don’t see eye to eye on many things.

    You’ve absolutely NAILED it here. Thanks for the legwork, inspiration and solid thoughts.

    May these small actions in important moments lead to helpful change.

  • Larry

    now he’s talking 😉

  • Hannah

    I got a sales flyer in the mail from Walmart just last Saturday. Among other gift suggestions, it encouraged me to buy “what every guy wants” (to wit, a gun) as a Christmas present. Right after I was done thinking “yeah, Christmas spirit is alive and well at Wal-mart” I wondered how this paperwork would work. Since I would be buying the gun, I assume they would run the check on me… but if I’m buying it to give away as a Christmas present, they know I’m not the intended owner. And I doubt I can authorize a check on someone else, even if I cared to provide the necessary info… I’m still shaking my head at the insanity of this.

  • Larry

    ooh.. I like that Skip.

  • Larry


    For the record, I think it makes plenty of sense to avoid violent movies and games.

    We’re asking for gun owners/advocates to give a little “give” where their “rights” are concerned.

    But many are unwilling to be open to any “give” with what they support with their money in order to push back against the cultural wave of violence we’ve created. Because of their “rights” to disagree with you, or to watch/play whatever they feel like.

    Sad irony.

  • Rev. C. G. Walden

    Most of us presently are experiencing some form of disbelief and mourning over the events in Newtown. Sympathy and prayers are wanted, needed, helpful, necessary; but, for me, also insufficient. Our levels of violence and ability to cause mass death have gone on long enough. The death of 20 children must serve as a wake-up call or we have no moral fiber as a society. The levels of gun death in our country dwarf those in other similar societies. The difference between “us and them” is, at least partially, reasonable gun laws. The phrase “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is a poor defense by those who would tolerate this madness in order to insure easy access to weapons. People do kill people, but guns make killing infinitely easier and more efficient. One could extend the argument to “shoulder mounted guided missiles don’t kill people, people kill people.” The ability to mass murder decreases exponentially with the implementation of reasonable limitations on weaponry, firepower and access. As an avid hunter and owner of multiple guns, I offer the following as starting points toward reasonable weapons laws.

    First and perhaps foremost, limit clip size. If a gun can fire no more than a few rounds before having to be reloaded, the hindrance to mass murder by rapid fire is obvious. As a hunter, I have never needed more than three rounds in any situation. I would think something similar would be the case for those advocating self-defense using guns. If you haven’t hit what you are shooting at in a few rounds, perhaps marksmanship classes would be more useful than further access to quick firing large clips. Large clips have no function other than the ability to kill multiple people quickly. Is it not insane to allow such in a complex and diverse culture with severe violence issues?

    Second, close the “gun-show no background check loophole.” It is presently possible in the US for anyone, including someone on the terrorist watch list, to buy weapons legally because private sales at gun shows are unregulated. No reasonable society would allow this.

    Third, an extension of #2, require mandatory background checks and waiting periods for all gun sales. Do not allow gun ownership by anyone with a history of violence or psychotic mental illness.

    Fourth, license all gun owners. Why should I have to pass a test to have a license to drive a car but not to use an item that is potentially much more deadly than a car?

    I’m sure there are many more reasonable ideas out there that could help limit our culture’s easy ability to perpetuate mass killings. These are the first that come to my mind as one who owns and uses guns, wishes them to remain legal, but is fed up with the deaths of innocents and the unchallenged rhetoric of the NRA and others that helps to perpetuate the madness of the unacceptable level of American gun violence. To my fellow gun owners, if your first reaction to these killings was fear for your gun rights, please spend some time reflecting on your priorities. The killing of innocents must stop.

  • Larry

    Interestingly, implementing some of these changes on a wide scale would almost “instantaneously” create thousands of new gov’t jobs.

  • Larry

    huge thoughts.

  • Hannah

    There is a bad trend here (not the article but the country) of treating the symptoms, but not the actual problem. A trend to contain and control the problem rather than solve it. A trend to react to problems rather than prevent them. I am a teacher, and I was a sub for a while, and I can tell you a problem is a lot easier to prevent than it is to solve.

    I can tell you there is no way to control another person at all times. And that until the problem is solved, containment will require increasingly large amounts of resources, and put is at increasingly high stress. Control is not the answer. Education is.

    I am not opposed to gun control at all. I agree that there should be at least as much regulation of guns as there is of cars, and the idea of a gun owner license seems very good to me. And yes, making access to some weapons harder would make it harder to do this much damage in so short a time. But you’ll note that when the authorities find a motive, it will NOT be, that he had access to a few guns. Gun control is a band aid, and this problem needs stitches. I fear that what will happen now is there will be gun control laws enacted, and this or that video game or movie will be banned, one way or another, and everyone will go home content that enough has been done, or at least content to wait indefinitely for some kind of attempt to get around to those stitches.

    We live in a society that is inherently violent. We say bullying is kids being kids. I once heard a radio talk show host going on about how Europe was mentally incompetent (yes, the whole continent) because they were trying to resolve a problem through diplomacy rather than bombing. We lock up someone who was found with a joint, and they serve more time than someone who shook their baby to death. We ignore and dismiss children. Let’s not even go into the cesspool that political discourse has become. I could go on all day.

    The point is, the real problem is all of us. We need to change *us*, how we react to things, what we watch on TV, how we handle those who hurt us. We need to stop saying that if it’s not happenign to me, it’s not my problem. That people in need are lazy slobs. And we need to focus less on punishment and more on problem solving. We need to stop seeing malice behind every action we don’t like and instead see ignorance or helplessness whenever that explanation will sufice. And we need to stop treating health care as if it were a luxury. Especially mental health care. If a mother could take a child to a mental health care professional like she can take her child to an emergency room or a GP, when she sees signs of illness that she can’t address herself, and if treatment for that illness could be pursued without concerns about coverage and financial hardship, it would be a much nicer world to live in. And we need to understand that there are some people who are beyond help – ticking time bombs, who will, sooner or later, hurt someone. And we need to discuss what we’re going to do about them, when we’re going to do it, and how we’re going to go about it in a way that benefits everyone involved. The solutions aren’t easy and they aren’t quick. By all means let’s have some form of gun control. But let’s not fool ourselves that we can breathe easy then.

  • Jill

    “We need to stop seeing malice behind every action we don’t like and instead see ignorance or helplessness whenever that explanation will suffice.”

    Brilliantly stated! And how much more that matches Christ’s message. How much could that simple change create more compassion in the world?!?

    I’m guilty of it, and then I know I’ve just put a wall up that I can hide behind. I may lament the violent culture we’re in, but I realize of late we’re in a perpetual state of distrust, which often precedes violence.

  • charles


  • charles

    Hannah, there is signiicant clinical work defining Autism spectrum disorders as a physiologic condition – here is info via NIH….

  • Kerry

    Thank you for taking the time to write and share your thoughts. I encourage you to send a letter like this to the NRA. Since you are a gun owner, your words carry more weight.

    I really appreciate John (Rev. Shore) creating this discussion space.

  • Jill H

    A little context please Carolyn, and the sarcastic tone does not make your case. I think everyone’s aware that Cain was not playing Grand Theft Auto before killing his brother.

    We all have violent thoughts, a dark side, part of the human condition, but do we have to feed it? Do we need ‘violence porn’ as entertainment? You, I, and likely a large number of adults know their limits with violent imagery. But does the average teen/young adult know their limits yet? Do they understand how their overall environment influences their thoughts and decisions? Did you know this as a teen? I sure as hell didn’t.

    Again, this is not an all/nothing issue anymore. Violent movies don’t have to make people violent to make excessive violence in pop culture not a great idea.

  • Dwayne G. Mason

    No, Hannah. Exactly zero of the children in that attack in China died. Zero.

    Guns make killing much too easy. Semi-automatic guns make it quick AND easy.

  • What context do you need, Jill? I’d be happy to elaborate if you explain what you aren’t understanding about my comment. As for the sarcasm… Where are we, again? Calling me out for using sarcasm to make a point, on THIS blog of all places, is super hilarious. Thanks for that.

    Your concerns about teens/young adults “knowing their limits” in regard to violent imagery is typical of the way we treat young people in this country: like they’re too clueless to be held accountable for their actions. I’d say that infantilizing attitude toward teenagers- assuming they are incapable of making good decisions or possessing self awareness- probably causes more harm than watching a Tarantino movie here or there.

    But how does that even pertain to this subject? There have been plenty of mass murders in recent years by middle aged men who I’m fairly certain were not violent videogame/movie fans. I’m not even defending all violence in media, but I think it’s a dangerous derailment of more important conversations to focus on violent media like getting rid of it would be this fantastic solution to everything. Art is a reflection of the society in which it was created, not its cause. Violent video games and movies are a symptom of larger societal issues like gun culture and a culture of masculine aggression, and demonizing them is a short-sighted way to “fix” the problem.

  • Hannah

    A couple of hours after that response, I realized I had misread the story and the children hadn’t died. Having said that, they could have died. The point is, he got to as many children (2 more, actually), without major fire power.

  • Hannah

    as a physiological condition? ok. But that does not constitute support for Wakefield. Wakefield pointed to vaccines as the cause, squarely and unequivocally – and fraudulently, I might add. There is no credible support at all in the science for that contention.

  • charles

    in the case in Sandy Hook the killer was in essence shooting fish in a barrel. he could have used any gun to that end, but he choose a semi automatic rifle, and seemingly didnt have to spend much effort in creating that carnage.

    the real tragedy is that killing people was even his lexicon of actions. “normal” people dont do that, and as NPR has recently reported, 10% of Americans are on anti-depression drugs which can have side effects of suicidal/violent behavior. we dont know whether that was the case, but we need to know, and further need to do something about it….

    there is lots to do, and I have a pretty good sense most if not nearly all gun owners feel the same sense of horror about this tragedy as the most anti gun folks posting here and elsewhere. we have a mission, we have a cause, and there has never been a point in history where people are more interested in trying to do something constructive to never see another thing like this happen again

  • charles

    actually if I recall, Wakefield contended that leaky gut issues were a component of the issue- the MMR / Autism link was an added feature of that research but was not at its core.

    it seems to be gaining some traction, at least in New Zealand. Are you a practionner in that field? Im just curious….

  • charles

    ignore that link- it was unintended….

    here is something more supportive….

  • Jill H

    Apparently I missed your point, you missed mine. It looks like we’re just talking past each other. Oh well. I appreciate your reply regardless.

  • mike moore

    Hannah, your comment above makes me angry, as you seem more intent on making a point than recognizing the difference between dead children and living children.

    I believe there are 26 families and most of a nation that would say to you, “No, Hannah, the point is: those children are still alive, and ours are dead.”

  • Patty

    “For the record, I think it makes plenty of sense to avoid violent movies and games”.

    I am unsure of the cause and effect of violence from video games but a scripture came to mind and it seems appropriate. There is a verse in Philippians:

    So whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

    If what we think about determines what we do. -If what I believe creates my actual thoughts, those thoughts create my actions, my attitudes and my choices-(and on the flip side if my views and understanding are distorted then there will be dysfunction) –The answer lies in guarding your thoughts from violent acts….etc..

  • Dallas Jenkins

    I’m not sure why we’re not noticing that we’ve been increasing gun control for the last two decades, and the problem hasn’t stopped. And according to this post and some articles, the violence is actually increasing. So why do we think more gun control will solve the issue? It’s like thinking that more education spending will solve the school problem.

    These shooting sprees are horrifying and unspeakable, and one death is too many, of course. But drownings in residential swimming pools happen at a significantly higher rate than shooting deaths, but we’re not talking about banning backyard swimming pools.

    Not to mention that the majority of these killers got their guns illegally anyway.

    Fact is, gun control accomplishes nothing. We own 300+ million guns as it is (not including the ones off the books)…if we literally stopped gun production from now until eternity, do we really think that the already extraordinarily rare number (considering how many guns are available) of shooting sprees would decrease? Our problem is a moral one, period.

    As soon as we acknowledge evil exists and will continue to occur and that the only way to slow it down is to kill it as soon as we can after it starts, we’re leaving our children unprotected. Is there anyone who doesn’t wish that the Sandy Hook custodian, or one teacher per floor, had been trained for an afternoon and had access to a locked but easily accessed (by combination or thumbprint) gun?

  • Jill H

    When someone’s swimming pool begins chasing kids down in the classroom, I will absolutely support a ban on swimming pools.

  • charles

    I have never seen a gun chase anyone… has anyone here?

    interesting fact- suicide is the number one killer of our military. while we are in an active war. we have 33 million Americans that take medication that can make them potential suicidal and or violent and delusional.

    more people are treated for mental health issues than for cancer and aids combined. At what point do we say we have a public health pandemic?

  • what I haven’t seen.

    I have not seen a gun chase.

    And I didn’t see the armed men who broke down my office door one night. I was supposed to be in my office. I was not. So neither did I see them use two hand guns, a rifle, and a baseball bat to blast apart my and my partner’s offices.

    I didn’t know that earlier in the evening they had become lost in the hills, two blocks away from my home, while trying to execute a home invasion. My home.

    And when members of an LA gang were hired to finish the job those guys left undone, and when those gang members (stupidly) tried to run me off of the road, I didn’t see the guns that were in their cars.

    Had I seen a gun, I wouldn’t be sitting here.

    The good news is that I got lucky and never came face-to-face with these would-be killers.

    The bad news for me and others? Since I never came face-to-face with these men, their sentences were plead down. These men spent less time in jail than someone convicted of possession (not sales) of narcotics.

    The guns used in the “incident” were confiscated, but at least two of these men – the primary shooters from my office – weren’t required to give up the other guns they owned.

    We need common sense gun control. I picture simple laws. For example, perhaps a law that says if you’ve tried to murder someone with a gun, you shouldn’t be allowed to own guns.

    But that’s just me.

  • charles

    As in most class warfare, the rich can afford their protection and the poor cannot. Sadly, the rich are the ones who are least willing to pay taxes so that the poor can have security as well. a bit of a vicious cycle one might conclude.

    if you have people hiring gangs to kill you, I would think you night consider either a security detail or a new line of work.

  • Jill H

    Then I’ll rephrase: when multiple people *use* swimming pools for multiple mass drownings, I will support a ban. Sheesh, nothing like taking your point to the ropes Charles.

    I have yet to hear a *responsible* gun owner (yes, they do exist) coherently explain why any civilian *needs* automatic weapons. All the responsible gun owners I know (and I know many living in WI) are for better and enforced regulations.

    And now I’m removing myself this gun control conversation. You can applaud if you like.

  • what I haven’t seen.

    You ask a question of us, John’s readers, and then respond with “… consider either a security detail or a new line of work?”

    Rather than call you an insensitive fucking twerp, I going to assume I’m misreading your tone. Even so, that you’re making this about class warfare is insanity.

    I’m work in what is pretty much a zero-danger career and had the bad luck to become the object of a crazy person’s paranoid delusions. What happened to me could happen to anyone.

    But don’t worry, since the police and courts knew with certainty who was behind it all (he confessed,) they were able to help immensely. I got a lovely piece of paper, a Permanent Restraining Order, informing the bad guys that if they killed me, they’d be in big trouble.

    On second thought, fuck you.

  • what I haven’t seen.

    btw, private 24/7 security starts at about $25,000/week, but hey, I guess I’m so rich I shouldn’t worry about it.

  • charles

    Jill, I think you probably mean semi-automatic weapons, those basically shoot one bullet per trigger pull, and reload automatically.

    an automatic weapon is a machine gun- one trigger pull makes it continue shooting until either the trigger is released or it runs out of ammunition. there has not been a legally owned machine used in a crime on the United States since the 1940’s. The ones legally held are worth between 6 to several hundred thousand dollars per gun, and no gun of that type made after 1986 can be owned by a private citizen. There a many hoops to jump through at the Federal (ATF), State, and local levels. This information is simply for you to be able to talk with some facts behind you.

  • charles

    I would be in touch with you local Police then- murder for hire is a federal crime, as is kidnapping. If you are in a position that lead to that, its WAY beyond a matter of random gun violence. If people want you dead like that, they will have many ways to accomplish it. I meant no snideness in the original comment, and if you need help contacting law enforcement resources I would be happy to assist with it.

  • charles

    on the crazy delusion front- 33 million Americans are taking anti-depression meds which might make them violent, delusional or suicdal…. just wanted to say that there is a lot of potential danger out there.

  • what I haven’t seen.

    God, I don’t even know how to respond to you, except to say, “Gosh, I wish my attorneys, the private security firm I did indeed hire, the police dept, the FBI agent in our family, and the county and federal prosecutors were as smart as you.”

    Don’t worry, the next time I need “assistance”, you’ll be the first guy I call.

  • charles

    you know- whatever- your condition has nothing to do with the”gun control” issue at all.

    happy trails , and I wish you the best in resolving your situation.

  • Jill H

    Thank you for correcting my faulty logic and typing skills today. Can’t take a nap when you’re on the job, huh? I hope you enjoy a peaceful holiday, Charles.

  • charles

    happy holiday wishes to you too….

  • what I haven’t seen.

    Why did you ask if anyone had seen a gun chase? I thought you were looking for insight into gun violence.

    Was it so you could belittle the answers you got? Diminish a black chapter in someone’s life as their “condition?”

    The violent men I described were allowed to keep guns they had not used in the course of their crimes! If you don’t consider that fact something that could and should be addressed via gun control, then you’re simply another blog troll trying for a reaction. Congratulations, dickhead, you got one.

  • Allie

    What I have seen…

    Am I the only person here who has repelled a home invasion using a weapon? If you have also, please speak up.

    Oddly enough, although I was in the room with a loaded gun at the time, the door the man came through put him between me and the gun. I ended up holding him off with a recurve bow I had just purchased at an archery competition that weekend. True story. I know it sounds absurd. Anyway. What I learned: first, self defense with a gun is very tricky. The gun and you and the bad guys must all be in exactly the perfect place at the perfect time, or it won’t happen. Second, I didn’t shoot the guy who came into my home, and I’m glad I didn’t, since he turned out to be a harmless mentally ill man scrounging for food. Third, I’m not sorry I had the option had he tried to rape or kill me. And fourth, I’m not sure, having the option, that I would have used it. Something I didn’t know about myself until the event. When Jesus said “Turn the other cheek,” I don’t believe he was kidding. I don’t want to kill someone, even a bad guy, even someone trying to hurt me. Which I guess brings me to fifth, that I would never ever try to make that decision for someone else.

    Incidentally, I have also lost a close family friend (my riding trainer, who practically raised me and was listed as the person who would get me if my parents died) to murder. I guess you could call it gun-related violence, since she was carjacked by three teenagers with a rifle, but it’s an odd situation, since the rifle wasn’t loaded. They had no ammo for it. She was choked to death using the rifle and then driven over repeatedly with her own car. I can tell you what her husband feels about gun control: he wishes she had done as he asked and gotten her carry permit.

  • charles

    first, I had no intention of minimizing your situation. so I apologize for anything that allowed that perception.

    beyond that, I am sorry to hear about your situation and hope it is resolved peacefully.

  • Allie

    Charles is being ingenuous, since someone as well-informed as he is knows that many semi-autos can be easily modified to be full-auto, and that’s probably the all time favorite redneck hobby. I know three young men who own full autos modified from semis. All are “licensed gun dealers,” and frankly kind of nutcases as well. If you don’t like restrictions to buy a gun, the quick and easy solution is to become a gun dealer.

  • Allie

    I’m not aware of any states which allow felons to own guns. If these guys got off with misdemeanor convictions, sounds like you have a prosecutor problem, not a gun law problem. It’s not possible to make a law which will do any good if it’s not enforced.

  • charles

    that is quite true Allie- I actually know one who is in federal prison right now for that offense. he was a decorated US army combat medic, and he was actually arrested on Camp Pendleton while doing weapons training for the Marines.

  • Right. Because nothing says “safety” like knowing the janitor at your kids’s school is armed.

  • what I haven’t seen.

    Prosecutor was good, laws were bad. Trust me on this.

  • Jill H

    For those interested, mayors against illegal guns set up where you can sign the petition and log in through your Popvox account, it will populate the representatives of your location to address the petition. Easy breezy way to make your voice count.

  • Matt

    Frankly, when I heard about this, I waited for someone to call for tigher mental health laws. You know, make it easier to involuntarily commit someone (inpatient or outpatient), make it easier to force medication on them. etc.

    But what I brought away from the response to the event is that although what happened was horrible beyond words, our reaction seems to boil down to one thing: “This should NEVER happen.” Well, that’s a nice sentiment, but it does. Everywhere. This isn’t a movie or video game where children are immortal and immune. We live in a universe where walking out the front door has risks up to and including death, mutilation, and horrible disease. Eating the “right” things, doing the “right” exercises, living in the “right” neighborhood or wearing the “right” bulletproof vest will not exempt you. We can reduce risk, but we can’t eliminate it. We can ease pain, but we can’t erase suffering. We can grieve for those who we lose, but we can’t keep them from going.

    Some of the kindest patients I help care for are in horrific pain, all the time. Some of the nastiest enjoy perfect health. People make choices, and there is nothing we can do except our best. And I am sick of people pretending otherwise.

  • KellyK

    Care to cite some studies to back that up? Increased risk of suicide, yes, but violence or delusions?

    (I also have to wonder how much the increased risk of suicide is cause directly by the drug and how much is an indirect result of a depressed person taking a drug that isn’t helping, since lots of people have to try five or six anti-depressants before finding one that actually works.)

  • KellyK

    Absolutely. Whooping cough is making a comeback, as are other diseases that had been all but wiped out.

  • KellyK

    Having played DragonAge (and World of Warcraft, and Star Wars: The Old Republic), I think you’re right about the ubiquity of violence. SWTOR is actually pretty good about giving you the option to resolve situations in different ways in key story situations—there are some enemies you have no choice but to kill, but a lot of the time you can talk them into surrendering. But, there are still huge numbers of “mobs” that you just kill. DragonAge, if I recall, was the same to some extent.

    I did like the way DragonAge dealt with moral decisions—you had the chance to make selfish or selfless choices, and what you did mattered. I think there’s a huge difference between games that have moral complexity and encourage you to actually think about violence and ones like Grand Theft Auto that are just glorifying slaughter and mayhem.

  • KellyK

    Since large numbers of kids play video games and 0.26% of people under 20 have diabetes, arguing that video games cause diabetes, or that a kid is going to get diabetes because of inactivity and die of it before adulthood, is a pretty enormous stretch.

  • KellyK

    Mental illness makes violence. What is sorely lacking in our society is testing and treatment for mental illness, and that includes the mentally ill being able to buy guns.

    Actually, people who are mentally ill are *far* more likely to be victims of violent crime than to perpetrate it.

  • KellyK

    Totally agree with both of your points. Thank you.

  • Donald Rappe

    Matches didn’t set fire to my home. It was my child experimenting with them. In retrospect, I’m kind of glad I didn’t have any firearms there for him to learn about.

  • “The family placed stuffed animals, a blanket and letters to Noah into the casket. Lastly, Veronique put a clear plastic rock with a white angel inside — an “angel stone” — in his right hand. She asked the funeral director to place an identical one in his left, which was badly mangled. Noah’s famously long eyelashes, which she spoke about in her eulogy, rested lightly on his cheeks and a cloth covered the place where his lower jaw had been.”

    From an account of one victim’s funeral and his family’s life, post-massacre.

    Not an easy read, but something that should be read by those who feel apathetic or who need more inspiration.

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