Tag Archives: gun control

Guns and Mental Health

In the past when I’ve written on this topic, I’ve peppered every section and argument with links and numbers… this time I’m writing stream of conscious focusing on my thoughts and opinions. However, I’m more than happy to bring up numbers and facts if needed. Because if you have a different opinion, and this is going to be shocking based on this topic, but I welcome debate. Reasoned debate. Because contrary to what pretty much everyone believes on either end of the spectrum, this is not a black-or-white issue (and sadly, liberals who tend to find nuance and shades better than conservatives, are generally pretty fundamentalistly extreme on this topic as well). There is no easy answer, no matter how much one side or the other yells their opinion.

I’ve pretty much stopped being political or inflammatory on social media. It’s generally not worth it. And since the Oregon community college shooting last week, I’ve remained silent on it. Have not commented on the flood of posts that have come through my Facebook timeline, not shared any posts… except one. This one:

There’s a Way to Stop Mass Shootings, And You Won’t Like It

In short, banning guns in the US is nearly impossible, and likely won’t affect mass shootings anyway, banning “scary” guns won’t have an effect since most shootings happen with pistols, most shootings are committed by people who have no prior record and would pass/have passed a background check, are committed by people without a clinical history of mental illness and even so, do we want to have everyone’s mental health records open and searchable? His answer: pay attention to the loners and outcasts! (In brief.)

Then this morning on NPR, I listened to this interview with Malcolm Gladwell:

How Riots May Help Us Understand School Shooters

Also in brief, his theory is that the true psychopaths like Columbine’s Eric Harris already did the “hard part” of starting the movement, and what we have in the years since are disenfranchised loners steeped in a culture of Harris-worship following in his footsteps, with “the threshold that you had to cross to find yourself doing that has gotten lower”. It’s easier to be a follower in a riot than a leader. And the Internet has made it easier for these youths to want to follow in footsteps, regardless of how little the mainstream press glamorizes the shooters.

And then, what finally prompted me to want to say something, was watching last week’s “Last Week with John Oliver” where he had an otherwise fantastic and incisive piece on mental healthcare in the US, he lambasted anyone (focusing on idiot GOP politicians) who says the problem with mass shooting isn’t guns but mental health. Oliver compared bringing mental health into the discussion of mass shootings like vilifying Coke a Cola because it was in a commercial with Bill Cosby, implying gun control has everything to do with mass shootings and issues of mental health aren’t really connected except by association.

Now, I love John Oliver. Heretofore he’s not said pretty much anything I could disagree with. But that really set me off.

Here’s some information:

Over the last couple of decades, gun violence and specifically gun related homicide in the US has steadily decreased! It’s currently at some of the lowest rates it’s been in nearly 100 years. (Pause: Does the US still have a gun violence problem? Hell yeah. Can more be done to lower that? Hell yeah.) But, mass shootings have increased alarmingly. Which means we’re on the right path regarding what we’re doing as a nation on gun crime already (yes yes, more can be done), but on the wrong one regarding mass shootings. Why are mass shootings so different from other gun crime?

Another thing I saw recently, a lot of vitriol on Facebook about concealed carry on campuses, with comments implying the move would at best create random violence and at worst lead to more mass shootings, and bottom line, everyone is less safe! Two thoughts here:

Has the illegality of concealed carry on schools stopped mass shooters who illegally brought guns and illegally murdered people? Why would allowing legally carrying owners onto campuses increase more mass shootings, when someone who wants to mass murder is going to bring guns anyway?

It’s possible the increased chance that a shooter is going to be faced with a concealed carry citizen might think twice about their grand plan to kill as many people as they can until police finally respond. Maybe.

One of the biggest straw men arguments I’ve heard from anti-carry people is that concealed carry people are somehow more trigger happy and will a. cause more damage than they’d stop, and b. would be a distraction at best for law enforcement on the scene.

And then, they turn around and point to the fact that two people on the Oregon campus were concealed carrying, and didn’t run across campus to engage the shooter as somehow ammo (sorry) for their argument against concealed carriers. I’m at a loss to explain that once. In this instant we have two trained concealed carriers who wisely understood they would be a hazard to responding law enforcement and decided to stay in the classrooms they were in to protect their peers should they need to. Unlike the myth that concealed carriers are trigger-happy vigilantes, they showed restraint and care in their decision. It’s a no-win situation that reveals that most anti-gun liberals suffer from cognitive biases just as much as pro-gun conservatives.

Personally, I would feel safer knowing there could be concealed carriers around me.

Another tangent: What about open carriers? Well, in my opinion they’re generally idiots with some kind of chip on their shoulder and power issues. Especially people who carry around AR-15s and other long guns! God, what tools! Seriously!

Now, I can point to individual instances where a citizen has stopped a shooting or some other violence by being armed, like this Youtube video that shows a guy getting attacked by a machete-wielding vet with PTSD, who bashed open his apartment to try to kill him: The resident yelled at him he was armed, warned him, waited until danger was imminent (didn’t go shooting wantonly) then shot the assailant in the legs, wounding instead of killing. But then, I know someone can point out the recent story of a guy trying to stop a carjacking but accidentally shot the victim in the head and missed the carjackers.

I can point to the story of the guy who used a knife to kill or seriously would more than 20 people on a campus, or the entirely ignored by the press other Oregon shooting a few years ago of a guy opening fire in a food court until a concealed carry citizen drew on him, didn’t fire, and the would-be mass shooter fled and killed himself. And someone can show me the recent article of a kid who shot and killed a girl he didn’t like for not letting him pet her puppies.

We can trade individual stories for days on end. But it’s like arguing climate change: Someone can point to record snowfall, someone else can point to record heatwave, but these are all individual datapoints for trends. The trend: climate change is real. And, overall gun crime has fallen and continues to fall, while mass shootings goes up.

Back to John Oliver and his Coke can metaphor, what he (his writers) seem to ignore, a point most liberals ignore: There are over 300,000,000 legal firearms in the US. And nearly all of them are used legally and responsibly. Most gun owners never talk about their guns, never use them except for safe and intended purposes. The fact that a tiny percentage of guns in the country are used for evil is ignored for the point that any gun is used at all.

In closing, what I hate most is the constant cry that “Something must be done about gun control!” Okay, great. What? Tell me what? Most people either say, I don’t know (which is fine, but let’s maybe start thinking about it instead of impotently crying “Do something!”), or if pressed, think all guns can be banned. Personally, I appreciate the rare meme I see about comparing regulating guns like we do cars! Required tests, required insurance, required safety inspections, etc.

As a gun shooter and enthusiast, I’m also a rabid NRA-hater and I’m enthusiastically all for greater regulation and control! (Hey, rabid gun-lovers who wave the Constitution like a magic totem: The document itself states “well-regulated,” dick. Having to take classes, carry insurance, pass checks, register your gun, is not equivalent to “They’s takin our gunz!!”)… (yeah, I know, I just committed an ad hominem fallacy there, sue me.)

But greater control isn’t a panacea for gun crime and certainly not for mass shootings. Something else must be done (in addition!) And people like that blogger I linked to at the top, and Malcolm Gladwell, have touched on the root of the issue with young white male mass shooters: It’s not the guns, it’s not even entirely mental illness: it’s what we do as a society and what we value and how we treat all of us, even the least of us.

Gun control, redux

Naturally, like many people, my thoughts have been on the topic of gun control of late. Naturally, if you know me, I have opinions on the matter.

However, you may be surprised to hear, my thoughts have evolved a bit.

But first, a metablog word: So, as you can see, it’s been nearly a year since the last time I’ve blogged on here. There are various reasons. One was the chilling effect that incident a year and half ago had on me. (Huh. I was going through the archives trying to find a reference to that incident, and can’t find one. Except where I vaguely refer to it. I guess it was so chilling it left me too skittish to even refer to it when it happened. Probably wise. Suffice to say, someone who vehemently disagreed with a political opinion of mine tried to get me fired from my day job. Tried very hard. And it had the desired effect: I censored myself a lot more. That person won. They limited my freedom of speech by making me afraid to speak. I’d say that’s a tool of the fascist, but that may or may not be libelous if I meant it.)

Where was I? Oh, yeah. I have also not blogged, even the banal stuff I promised because, well, Facebook is just too darn easy! Find a good article, hit “Share,” write a sentence or two: bam! Instant validation. When you can do that 20 times a day on various topics, why bother spending time in a long-form essay format.

But (coming back on topic) some issues and thoughts require careful consideration and discourse. And gun control is one of those topics.

Looking through my archives, it seems I’ve shared a few words on the topic before. Here’s most of the good ones:

I packed a lot of good facts and statistics in those posts, which is good since, today, I want to give more broad strokes. Not to say I want to avoid facts, but I want to avoid being too redundant.

Here’s my thesis statement right off: I’m pro gun, anti-gun culture. Pro gun control, anti-gun abolition.

These are not mutually exclusive opinions, despite what the more reactionary liberals would have you believe. In fact, usually whenever I state that I’m pro-gun and anti-extreme gun control, and support concealed carry, the reaction that more than half the time that comes from a reactionary liberal is:

Oh, so you think giving everyone guns would make us safer?!

I swear, the next time I see someone respond with that (and that’s a literal quote from one individual and nearly verbatim from others), I’ll ban/unfriend their rear. That is a textbook slippery slope, straw man logical fallacy. In no way have I, nor the NRA for that matter, nor any reasonable gun advocate I know, has ever suggested, or even implied, everyone should be given guns–or even that everyone should own a gun at all! In fact, most people probably shouldn’t.

I can’t speak for all gun ownership advocates, but I’m in favor of reasonable gun control. Meaning: yes, ban fully-automatic weapons. Ban assault rifles. Ban whatever can’t be reasonably used for hunting and home/self defense. In addition, I feel, everyone who owns a gun should have to take gun safety and usage courses, pass an exam, and re-certify every so many years, just as we do for driving. Also, mental health background checks should be considered, especially if there is a history of schizophrenia or anti-social personality disorders (sociopathy and psychopathy).

Now, can that position in any way be confused with: Let everyone have guns!!1!

Here’s the crux: Liberals tend to think the whole issue can be solved by banning guns. That somehow our culture will be more civil and less violent without guns. Just like how banning drugs has made people stop using drugs and dealers stop profiting off drugs. (That last was sarcastic, in case you didn’t notice.) But it’s not as simple as that.

Examples: England has outlawed almost all private gun ownership. Yet they have a terrible black market gun trade and high rates of gun-related crime. Meanwhile, Switzerland has a high rate of gun ownership, but extremely low gun-crime. Why is this?

People hate this, conservatives more than liberals, but on this topic, liberals hate it as much as extreme conservatives: The solution is complicated. It comes down to culture.

Face it, America has a violent, arrogant, thrill-seeking, short-sighted, selfish, adolescent-like, near-sociopathic culture. It’s mirrored and reinforced in our entertainment, it’s validated by the corporatocracy which defines our values, it’s evident in our brief history, and it’s exported by our military empire.

Add to that, we have deplorable, embarrassing, social care and safety-net system: the worst insurance-care healthcare system of the civilized world, massive poverty for a western nation, we treat drug addiction like a crime instead of a disease and thus exacerbate drug-related crimes, terrible mental health screening and care–our social structure is abysmal, which is why people often turn to crime, violent crime at that. Countries like Switzerland and most European countries, actually abhor violent culture and entertainment, care about their social structure, have higher education rates and put a premium on education, and strive to make sure their populace is physically and mentally healthy and happy. England, unfortunately, aside from their national health service, has a culture far too similar to the U.S. (thanks Thatcher!) and so suffers from much of the same cultural ills.

What I’m saying, is the problem isn’t the guns, it’s the people. We could ban all guns in the U.S. outright, but that’s not going to change the culture. We would simply have an out of control black market gun trade, and an increase in gun violence just as illegal drugs lead to violence connected with its illegal trafficking.

I agree, we should make it harder for people to get guns that can do a lot of destruction in a short amount of time. But what we also need to do is stop making human game preserves, or as they officially are called: gun free zones. Because if someone is intent on doing gun violence, you think making some place a gun free zone is going to deter them?

What can deter people intent on doing mass violence is the threat of an armed populace.

Yeah, I just heard that aneurysm blow in dozens of liberals.

Again, I am in no way implying giving people guns. Read my paragraph above on what I believe people should have to do to be able to own a gun.

Concealed carry requirements, for example, not only require people to understand gun safety, but also when and where the use of armed protection or reaction is necessary. People who are responsible gun owners, who have legal concealed carry licenses, are people who tend to train often and respect the tool. The scenario of some wanton cross-fire shootout among civilians pretty much only exists in (our violent) movies. It just doesn’t happen in real life.

What does happen in real life, is responsible gun owners have stopped mass killings.

Here’s a site which this fellow (an anarcho-capitalist, ugh!) has researched mass shooting events across the country, sorted the ones in which the killers shot at will until stopped by police, and ones in which an armed civilian got involved. The result:

The average number of people killed in mass shootings when stopped by police is 14.3

The average number of people killed in a mass shooting when stopped by a civilian is 2.3.

[…] it makes perfect sense if you think about from inside the mind of a heroic civilian with a concealed carry permit. It goes something like this:

BANG!
“Holy crap! that guy shot that other guy.”
BANG!
“He’s just going to keep shooting people.”
BANG!

And the shooter goes down.

Quite a few cases went something like that. In fact, I found only one example of a shooter stopped by civilians who killed more than 3 people. Jared Loughner killed 6 people in Tucson, Arizona before he was tackled by two civilians. Maybe it’d have been less if one of those two men were armed.

Police react to shooting events as fast as they can, but unless there happens to be a few around the corner, it takes them as long as it takes a killer to empty three clips of ammo at least, to respond. Usually, as that site shows, mass shootings end when the killer is finished and commits suicide. But like he illustrates, an armed, trained civilian can react and stop a mass shooter in enough time to same many lives.

But the Aurora shooter had body armor! A civilian would have had no effect and possibly kill more people!

Perhaps. But we know two things, especially about Aurora: 1. no one confronted the shooter and a lot of people died and a lot more were wounded. 2. in other shootings in which the shooter was wearing body armor, the shooter stopped shooting at other people and focused on the civilian.

Example: The Mark Wilson response to David Hernandez Arroyo’s mass shooting. Arroyo had already killed two people and was about to kill his own son, when Wilson, a civilian, shot him. Arroyo, instead of shooting the unarmed son, turned on Wilson and chased him down instead. Wilson was, sadly, ultimately killed by Arroyo. But his action saved at least one life, taking the shooters attention until the police was able to adequately respond.

Also in Colorado, when church security guard Jeanne Assam took her personally owned concealed handgun and fired on a man intent on mass murder, the guy’s plans were instantly thwarted (he certainly didn’t expect armed resistance at a church!) and he killed himself (instead of doing so after killing many).

That site I linked above details many such instances in which an armed civilian turns what could have been a news-making mass shooting into a page 3 shooting event.

As for the Aurora, Colorado shooting, obviously we can’t know for sure what would have happened if there were an armed civilian or two in there. But here’s what I see would likely have been a worst-case scenario: Holmes would have started firing. Two, three, maybe five people get shot. The two poorly trained armed civilians pull their guns and fire, both hitting another two to four civilians (with concealed carry size handguns, most likely seriously wounding but possibly killing them). Holmes focuses on them long enough to kill them, and then continues. Instead of 12 dead and 60 injured, maybe 15 dead and 63 injured. Yes, every life is tragic! But is the final result that much worse?

More than likely, what would have happened: Holmes fires a few times. An adequately trained armed civilian realizes what’s going on and takes a kneeling position behind a row of chairs and fires back. Holmes stops shooting indiscriminately at fleeing people, and focuses on the shooter. He can’t see the shooter much better than the other way around, and has to try to locate and approach him. Meanwhile, more people are safely escaping without being shot at. A full minute or two passes while civilian and Holmes trade shots. Eventually, maybe Holmes kills the brave civilian (although, in nearly every single case but 2 of civilian opposition, the civilian is unharmed), but in that time, dozens of people were able to flee. Final result: maybe 4 dead and 12 injured. Still tragic, but significantly less so.

It’s also been shown that some shooters, when their plan goes south and realize there’s quick and unexpected opposition, flee instead….

Well, that’s my take. But what about the Second Amendment? Shouldn’t we be allowed to have AR-15s and assault rifles and high capacity clips and body armor to protect the republic from a corrupt government, like Jefferson and other Founding Fathers intended?

Well, at one time (one of those links above?) I would have possibly agreed. But when you really think about it, it’s far too late for that. No matter how many AR-15s the populace has, if the people wanted to revolt against an evil government, they would have as much chance against the U.S. military as an ant has against a tactical nuke. Gun hoarders and Idaho compound residents expecting to rise up against the government: yeah, give up the delusion. The only thing you’ll be any use in is if all technology stopped working and the world descended into medieval-like chaos, or Red Dawn comes true. And that ain’t bloody likely. No, if the government becomes so corrupt that we need to rise up, you better darn well hope the military is on our side, and that’s not going to happen. And if it does happen, the military coup will be swift.

That being said, it’s possible that the U.S. has avoided corrupt(er) and evil(er) governments thanks to the prophylactic threat of an armed populace. We can’t count the number of times something didn’t happen, so who knows how many times the Second Amendment actually prevented a fascist regime. (One can argue that that very threat has contributed to the plutocratic government’s more subtle corporatist military-industrial-complex takeover that influences our culture.)

But, water and bridges. As it is now, the Second Amendment just doesn’t matter any longer in the sense that guns are needed to protect liberty. The people vs. the standing military (something the Founding Fathers very much did not want) has already been terribly lost.

So, in conclusion: better (i.e.: smarter) gun control, and massive culture reformation are the only ways we’ll prevent gun crime.