Do this easy thing or stop complaining about gun violence

21112-plan-to-reduce-gun-violence-20130212134750The White House wants Americans to read this, which they sent out Thursday:

Hello, all—

For the first time since the 1990s, Congress might be on track to pass legislation aimed at reducing gun violence in the United States. And it’s because folks in Washington are starting to understand that the rest of the country isn’t going to sit by and let them ignore this issue. Your voices are the reason we have a chance to win this debate. The American people expect and demand a yes or no vote.

But this is a critical moment. It’s been almost four months since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, thousands more Americans have died at the hands of gun violence, and time is on the side of those who would prefer that we do nothing.

We want to make sure that your voices are impossible to ignore. So we’re asking people from all over the country to speak out online in concert—all at the same time. Will you join us?

Pledge to speak out about the need to reduce gun violence.

It’s easy to participate. Over the next few days, anyone can sign up to tweet or share a message to Facebook. Through that time, we’ll gather up as many people as we can. Then we’ll make sure that all these individual messages get posted together in the same moment for maximum effect.

That wave of social media will get seen by millions and millions of people.

We’re talking about common-sense reforms. Like the idea that any of us who want to buy a gun should have to go through a background check first—which 90 percent of Americans support.

So let’s make sure that there’s absolutely no confusion about the public consensus.

Pledge to speak out with us, and then forward this email to your family and friends:


David Simas

Deputy Senior Advisor

The White House

(The above letter is rather lamely non-explanatory—as is the link they provide. The plan is that you sign up to have a message sent out, via your Facebook profile or your Twitter account, on the same day, at the same time, as millions of other people. That message—the Twitter version of it, anyway—is “I support common-sense steps to reduce gun violence. #NowIsTheTime to act. Share this if you agree.” I assume the FB message is similar. The idea is that this social media blitz is so widespread that it compels Congress to take seriously the imperative to pass Obama’s gun control legislation.)

Learn/do more here.

I wrote Spending and Shopping with the NRA and The Cliff Notes guide to the NRA’s response to Sandy Hook.

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  • Is anyone interested in speaking up about a campus issue? We are organizing people to write emails to Clemson University president Jim Barker asking him to stop a student organization from giving away an assault rifle at a campus event. See

  • Barker’s email is:

    I wrote: “They have the right to advocate politically for a change in laws so that guns would be allowed on campus, much as I disagree. But to put a gun more suitable for mass killing than for hunting into the hands of a student goes beyond political action into promoting violence, and is frightening and wounding to many who have lost friends and family to gun violence. It creates an unsafe campus atmosphere. Please stand up for our safety.”

  • Kind of like suggesting, “If you care about climate change, you’ll stop running your car’s engine overnight while you’re not using it,” isn’t it?

    I mean, this seems like pretty easy and basic stuff.

    1. Duh. I can’t believe that this is even a topic of conversation. Funny how even the most NRA-nutty person says that there are people who shouldn’t be allowed to have a gun. Just then they don’t want us to look for who they are.

    2. I agree, but could cave on this since more deaths are caused by handguns than assault rifles. The big events that get attention happen with the AR’s. The daily tragedies that ruin more lives happen with handguns.

    3. Specifics would be good. I assume that we’re talking about increased counseling, bullying prevention, communication, and openness. Anyone opposed to those should go back to the 18th century.

    4. Heck yes! Funny how the Right now wants to improve mental health service and the like. I seem to think that we had kind of a big discussion about health care, including mental health, and they weren’t as supportive as we might have liked. New Hampshire had its mental health care budget decimated by the Republican majority in the Legislature a couple of years ago.

  • otter

    Here’s a thought….I did a search of mass shooter profiles and guess how many were women?? RIght, NONE. Why is everyone overlooking the obvious common denomiator in mas shootings & most gun violence?? Focusing on the guns seems kind of futile…after all we just had a mass stabbing. We need to focus on what the hell is wrong with men that they point guns at people and pull the trigger! Men doit, Women don’t……..WTF???

  • FishFinger

    “Ban military-style assault weapons”

    “Assault weapons” is a buzzword. The only thing “military-style” about them is the aesthetics.

    This site explains it nicely:

    “Make schools safer”

    That’s really vague. What are you going to do, ban guns inside them? Guess what, they’re already banned there and it didn’t stop any of the shooters. In fact, some argue that the shooters were encouraged to attack a “gun-free zone” because they knew nobody would shoot back.

  • charles

    I wish I had more confidence in the idea of those things really working….

    California has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation…..

  • Natalie

    But, John don’t you know that increasing mental health services would require actual work and change and that it’s much easier to blame those evil,evil video games?

  • Lymis

    Your point isn’t wrong, but things like this rarely have a single solution. If you point is to say that we shouldn’t limit ourselves to simply making changes to gun laws, I agree. If the point is we can’t make these changes and then assume we’ve done all that needs to be done, I agree. But I wouldn’t say that making changes like this is futile, just that it’s a clear and obvious place to start.

    We need to work on health care. We need to shop shipping jobs overseas. We need to stop paying the entry level and factory line workers something they can’t live on while CEO’s are debating where to moor the second yacht. We need to stop being a culture based in fear about everything.

    But limiting access to guns that have no value other than mass murder and limiting access to guns for everyone who’s proved unreliable is one – among many – good places to take action.

  • Judy

    All of those four ideas are good, but I am somewhat jaded and believe money talks.

    1.Remove the shield that prohibits gun manufacturers from lawsuits for mass shootings. If MacDonalds can be sued for hot coffee why should the gun lobby be immune?

    2. Tax every gun sale heavily and make that revenue specifically earmarked for violence prevention programs. Cigarettes are legal and the taxes from them have helped to reduce cigarette sales.

    But then again , I believe we should have all guns registered With an annual fee. I have to register my car , why is this any different. People pay annual auto registration and so far no one is confiscating their cars!

  • Dan(Chicago)

    They are rare, but they exist. Laurie Dann in Illinois came to my mind right away. A quick Google brought up Brenda Spencer.

  • Gordon

    Thanks for using your space for this, John. I appreciate it. I lost a dear friend in the 101 California shooting in San Francisco and will always fight for better and more logical controls on guns. Love your work! – G

  • FishFinger
  • Lymis

    One assumes you’re trying to make something resembling a point.

  • Allie

    However, in this case, it does. The cause is testosterone. When testosterone levels drop as men age, they also commit fewer violent crimes.

    There’s not really a lot that can be done about it, however, so knowing this isn’t useful. We could completely eliminate crime by eliminating all human beings, male and female, but that isn’t a useful suggestion. Efforts to improve any situation should focus on solutions which are possible. Rhetoric about things which are not possible is just rhetoric.

  • Allie

    I agree with you about the “assault weapons.” Not sure we should discount aesthetics completely, however, since it’s possible that fewer mass-shootings would occur if the guns appeared less cool.

    There’s a larger point to be made about the people calling for gun laws having not the foggiest what they’re talking about. And because the liberals calling for gun reform ordinarily, and rightly, consider themselves better-informed than conservatives on most subjects, they tend to overlook just how ignorant they really are about this one. In fact it’s one of the few subjects liberals are PROUD to admit they are ignorant about.

  • well, whaddaya know? On NPR today I heard one very plausible explanation for the strong correblation between gender and violence. And no, it’s not testosterone. I invite you to listen….

  • Matt

    Having high testosterone is an unavoidable part of being male. Having some testosterone is an unavoidable part of being female. It promotes good physical health (both physical and mental), it makes people fertile, it allows for a sex drive, among other things.

    Not to mention, there are men who do not commit violent crimes, yet have the same hormones raging through their veins as men who do. As has been pointed out here, there are women who commit violent crimes, despite having much lower levels of testosterone.

    Education and acknowleding our complex gendered expectations would go a lot further, I think.

  • Lisa Kratzer

    In most places you do have to go through background checks prior to purchasing a firearm, the exceptions being family-to-family sales and gun shows. And those of us who have our licenses to carry go through extensive background checks at local, state, and multiple layers of federal levels. Moral of the story: if you see someone with a gun IN A HOLSTER chances are very good they are a law abiding citizen willing to protect you, so please don’t harass us for being law abiding people. We aren’t the ones you need to fear. Now the idiots with a 9 stuck in their waistband…they’re a different story.

  • Gloria Graves Gregory

    Done. What an extraordinary effort. Thanks for sharing it, John.

  • Of course everyone has testosterone !!!

    Listen to the link…..the tendency to violence is not hormonal…..

    It’ s a combination of structural brain anomalies and abuse….

  • anakin mcfly

    I doubt testosterone is that responsible, speaking as a trans guy who used to be extremely violent (to the point I actually seriously talked about doing a school shooting with a friend, and though it never came to fruition I have yet to forgive myself for that). But when I started T injections I calmed down completely. Granted some of it was the result of coming to terms with my identity and finally being able to live openly as male, but I’m pretty sure there was a physiological basis to it too, given that I start feeling jittery again every time my T levels drop before my next shot is due.

    I also recall one study in which men and women were given small amounts of testosterone and then put through an experiment to measure aggression, and the results compared against control groups; it was found that people were actually calmer and less aggressive on T, *unless* they were told that they had been given it (even if just a placebo) whereupon stereotypical ideas about testosterone ended up making them more aggressive.

  • Jill

    Well then I offer my apologies as an ignorant, minimally-informed liberal calling for *reasonable and appropriate* laws and restrictions on things I just like to refer to as efficient, rapid killing machines.

    I have no interest in caring about what the correct bloody terminology is to refer to the damn things. Call them fairy bazookas, for all I care. God forbid I hurt the poor gun’s feelings by calling the wrong name.

  • DONE!

  • Allie

    Hon, that’s the point. You are imagining “efficient and rapid” killing machines, because you don’t know what you’re talking about, and you’re so proud of that that you didn’t even read the link. You’re picturing an automatic weapon with a high rate of fire. The weapons under discussion are not that and fire no faster or more efficiently than any handgun. Automatic weapons are and have been for a while illegal already.

  • Some argue that, but those people are nuts.

    If you hand out guns to under-trained people and expect them to respond in crisis situations, you’re making things worse.

    Unlike fairy tales, in which virtuous people with weapons always solve problems, in real life if two “good guys with guns” show up at the same time and see each other, they might start shooting at each other. That’s why police and military personnel wear uniforms to identify themselves.

  • Allie, you’ve kind of missed an important point, here.

    While, yes, “assault rifle” evokes images of truly military-style weapons, the fact is that even a semi-automatic weapon with a 30+ round magazine is pretty fast and efficient at killing people. Kids at Sandy Hook had 10 or more bullet holes in them. Fully-automatic or not, that’s pretty fast and efficient.

    Whether it can fire multiple rounds per pull of the trigger or not isn’t really the point. A lot of anti-gun-controllers get caught up on that point and fail to realize that even at semi-automatic the things are fast and efficient.

    That you can’t play Rambo and empty the clip in one squeeze isn’t remotely the point.

  • Lymis

    My guess is that any harassment isn’t for being law-abiding. It’s for carrying the gun.

  • Lymis

    “There’s a larger point to be made about the people calling for gun laws having not the foggiest what they’re talking about.”

    I know more about guns than most people seem to assume.

    But seriously, the guns people are talking about banning, whether they are using technically accurate language are not, are essentially guns that a neither used for legal hunting, sport shooting, nor home defense – unless you’re going to open up with a 30 round clip in semi-automatic in your living room or to make aerosol out of some poor rabbit or deer.

    You don’t need more than a “foggy” notion of how guns work to recognize that most of the language used by gun supporters in the public media is flat-out bullshit.

    It’s hard for me to even imagine someone with a valid reason for owning a gun who would object to things like background checks, gun registration, or proof that you know how to hit what you aim at. We do that with cars, I see no reason whatsoever not to do that with guns.

    You don’t need to understand the technical distinctions between gun styles or the specific operation of them to object to dead kindergarten children, moviegoers, or Amish people.

    If people were routinely running down pedestrians using unlicensed, illegally obtained automobiles, the main point of issue would NOT be the distinction between an SUV and a minivan, and people wouldn’t be trying to dismiss the issue because “people have only the foggiest notion of how fuel injection works.”

    Corpses pretty much speak for themselves, whatever the technical details of producing them work out to be.

  • Heck, every time an illegal alien commits a violent crime the fear-mongers are out there as if every tomato-picker is secretly plotting another 9-11.

  • Elizabeth

    I always hear FishFinger with Charleton Heston’s voice. Infinitely more entertaining.

  • Larry

    I do have a problem when a solution is promoted that will not solve the problem. As proposed the background checks would stop those with certain criminal convictions from LEGALLY acquiring a firearm. However, the common denominator in the makeup of mass murderers has not been a criminal background. The common thread is they all are, or were, under the care of a physician and taking prescribed mood altering drugs with known side effects that make them potentially very dangerous to themselves and others. To prevent future tragedies these are the people who need to monitored better and prevented from having access to any serious weapons. The AMA and the pharmaceutical industry is going to great lengths to portray the NRA as the villain here as an actual constructive solution would place huge costs and responsibilities on them. U.S. Politics, those with the most money to spend will always get their way. Sad.

  • Jill

    🙂 Love cannot drown truth or from my cold, dead hands?

  • Nicole

    So the assumption with that harrassment is, if you’re carrying a gun, you’re an automatic psycho.

    This fear of the gun itself is irrational. I have no problem with citizens who have guns in holsters any more than a police officer with a gun in their holster.

  • Nicole

    Not to mention the VAST majority of gun deaths are done with automatic hand guns, not the scary “military-style” guns. And they shoot exactly the same rate (one bullet per finger pull of the trigger).

  • Nicole

    They’re only as fast as the person holding it can pull the trigger. All semi-automatics are the same no matter what they look like. It’s not “more efficient.” It’s a gun. You pull the trigger, it fires a bullet.

  • Nicole

    Arrgh! Sorry, I meant semi-automatic.

  • Nicole

    This kind of language: “unless you’re going to open up with a 30 round clip in semi-automatic in your living room or to make aerosol out of some poor rabbit or deer…” is what makes people think that anyone can buy a machine gun. You can’t “open up” with a semi-automatic. I know you don’t care, Lymis, but there are too many people who think that these mass shooters are using machine guns (automatic) and they’re not. I just don’t like being made a fool of and that’s what I sounded like when I was spouting off that the Newtown shooter used a machine gun. Because that’s what the media kept saying, things like “sprayed the room with bullets.” Just not true and after some education, now I know.

    But as for making gun ownership similar to car ownership, I’m all for that. If I’m going to be part of a well-regulated militia, then the government needs to know where I am, what kind of weapon I have and how skilled I am at using it. And when we’re invaded, I’ll be ready to go.

  • Nicole

    Totally agree, Ken! There’s no way to know who’s the shooter…sadly you’d have to wait to see how someone behaved before intervening. If only the human race wasn’t always trying to kill itself.

  • Larry

    More people need to look up the word “hoplophobia”. It’s nothing new and unscrupulous politicians have been using it to their advantage for decades. That is how most bad governments get a foothold on the people.

  • Amy

    The problem I have is that we’re not enforcing the laws we’ve got. Maybe we could try that first. It’s incredibly rare for anyone to actually be prosecuted for lying on a form or purchasing a gun for someone that they know isn’t supposed to have one. Until we enforce the laws we’ve got, adding more laws is just making people FEEL like they’re doing something instead of ACTUALLY doing something.

    I honestly wouldn’t mind registering myself as a gun owner, but I do have a problem with registering every gun I might own (which is, as of this writing, a whopping “one”). I know it sounds paranoid, but there’s no reason I can think if for anyone to have a list of what I own unless I’m a problem, and then I should have none at all. I’m either responsible or I’m not. Maybe I sound paranoid, but historically there are examples of countries where firearms were banned and removed from the possession of people who did nothing wrong other than own a firearm, and history does repeat itself, so…

    As far as mental illness, I agree (obviously) that someone adjudicated mentally ill should not be allowed to have a firearm, but I would like a little clarification on what constitutes mental illness. I mean, I told my doctor I was depressed 10 years ago when I got a divorce, was fired so my boss could hire her relative, my dad died and my car needed $2,000 in repairs, all in 2 months. That doesn’t make me mentally ill, that makes me incredibly normal. But would the Feds agree with that? I’d like to know what we’re actually considering “mentally ill”.

  • Jill

    I’m not exactly sure where pride comes into this conversation. I mean, I can admit I’m not terribly proud that my limited capacity brain is pretty much filled by things like my friends’ birthdays, how to clear vitamin shipments through international customs, song lyrics of the entire 80’s decade, all the nicknames I’ve given my cat, entirely too much BBC tv, and random quotes from Hamlet. I don’t have room left to fit finer points of weaponry, which ones are banned, which ones were banned but are not now, and what are all their correct names. Small brain, short interest span, fragmented sentences.

    I know enough to say we can stop debating about it and do something good for people. That’s all I’ve got.

    Oh look, something shiny…

  • Lymis

    I know you think you are saying something meaningful, but you’re clearly ignoring the primary point of what I’m saying to revel in your technical accuracy.

    Why does someone need these weapons with this kind of clip to hunt or to protect their home?

    It isn’t the significant point how fast the bullets are coming out of the gun. Do you need 30 rounds without reloading to protect your home from an intruder? And how many rounds are you going to pump into some critter before you call it dinner?

    There is no valid reason for these guns or clips to be available to the public. Or at the very least, just like the difference between a regular driver’s license and the license to drive a semi, in order to purchase or carry such a gun, there needs to be significantly tighter controls, and significantly higher penalties when there’s an indication that it’s being misused.

  • Allie

    Well, if your brain doesn’t have room to fit any information on the subject, the least it’s reasonable to ask is that you acknowledge your opinion is uneducated. I happen to believe that when people are advocating for changes in laws, they should try to become educated.

  • Allie

    As it happens, I agree with you. There’s really not a valid reason for these particular weapons, which are primarily used by jackass young men for the purpose of posing with their buddies and posting the result online. My preferred “home invasion” gun is a 44, which has the drawback that it will kick and brain you if you’re not paying attention, but unlike a 9mm does not generally go through walls and kill innocent bystanders, and will just instantly slaughter anything it touches, no inconvenient needing to hit the same guy twice. And honestly, having once repelled a home invasion which turned out to be a mentally ill man, I’m not sure how I feel about self-defense anyway. I know how Jesus feels about self-defense, although most people strongly disagree with Jesus: don’t do it. If someone wants to kill you, smile, lie down, and die. That’s what Jesus said and he wasn’t vague or difficult to interpret. I am definitely not Jesus and I like the idea of fighting back, but Jesus said very distinctly on more than one occasion: don’t.

    However, I still think that people should not blather on about banning “assault weapons” without knowing what they are.

  • Hannah Grace

    Switzerland also has very lax gun control. But their gun murder rate is drastically less than the USA’s. The gun control measures that Obama had wanted wouldn’t have prevented Sandy Hook. I also support gun control, but I find it very hard to argue when the facts don’t back it up.