Thoughts on gun violence from two gun owners

The seven stages of gun violence from Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station in Alaska is brilliant. Read the whole thing. Here’s one paragraph.

We all agree that as Americans it’s our basic right to keep and own firearms. But also, some people really, really shouldn’t be allowed to own even a Nerf slingshot, let alone a machine that can punch five hundred fist sized holes in a room full of people in under a minute. How about some background checks, waiting periods, and some kind of reasonable way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, and crazy people?

Perhaps we need a national clearinghouse for ammo and gun sales too. If that wacko Bob Morris orders 6,000 rounds by mail order in a few weeks from multiple websites then maybe a little warning flag should pop up on a computer somewhere. Hey, bank transactions in cash over $10,000 are routinely reported to the feds and your credit card company watches your transactions for odd patterns, so ammo and gun sales need to join the club and be monitored too. I mean, look at that Bob Morris, he just went to Phoenix and started buying twenty AK’s a day from gun shops. Now why would that be? Inquiring minds should want to know the answer to that and should have the information available to them.

It’s the guns – but we all know, it’s not really the guns, says Michael Moore on the recent gun violence.

The United States is responsible for over 80% of all the gun deaths in the 23 richest countries combined.

“Guns don’t kill people.” I would just alter that slogan slightly to speak the real truth: “Guns don’t kill people, Americans kill people.”

Moore says possible causes for our violence are that “we Americans are incredibly good killers” and too often try to settle things with violence and invasions and “we are an easily frightened people and it is easy to manipulate us with fear.” So just what is it that we so afraid of?

“I’m a missing link, poolroom stink, I can’t talk
(Well that’s too bad)
What’s goin’ on, somethings wrong, I can’t work
Can’t go to school, the teacher’s a fool, the preacher’s a jerk
(Well that’s such a drag)
Got nothin’ to do, street corner blues, and nowhere to walk

Violence, violence
It’s the only thing that’ll make you see sense
Violence, violence
It’s the only thing that’ll make you see sense”


  1. I agree, it’s like if you purchased a bunch of fertilizer that by itself is harmless but in large quantities and mixed with other large quantities of other stuff could make a bomb (Oklahoma City Bombing anyone?), it should be reported to the authorities. If the authorities do an investigation and find out you’re growing corn or whatever with it, then no big deal, but what if they find out you’re stockpiling materials and making a bomb? I’d rather be over cautious and have somebody investigate than find out later a building explodes and somebody could have stopped it from happening.

  2. It’s the “overly cautious” part that bothers me. Take an analogy: if I drive my car down a sidewalk in Hollywood or Santa Monica and kill 20 people (it’s been done), no one talks about restricting driving privileges or whether I should have been granted a license in the first place. Some may object to this because they don’t see a firearm as a tool that they have with them on a day-to-day basis like an automobile, but for ranchers like me they are both an imperative. And whether a tool is imperative or not does not denigrate its usefulness: many folks enjoy lathing wood, even though that’s not their occupation. Likewise, many folks enjoy shooting firearms, or even just collecting them, even though their use may not be imperative in their lives. Here in Utah, hunting and shooting are right up there with fishing as positive family activities. IMO, when our government’s reaction to terrorism is restrictions on freedom, terrorism wins. (That day came a little over 11 years ago, btw.)

    Why does the U.S. have such a high rate of violence? Forget gun violence, some states have restricted guns but have an outrageous amount of knife violence, others have restricted guns but find that gun violence continues to increase. (Check out Ukraine, too, where homicide rates are twice that of the U.S. but it’s almost all non-gun-violence.) While still other states, like Utah and NH, have high rates of gun ownership and very low rates of gun violence. There’s no statistical link between rates of gun ownership and rates of violence (neither a positive nor negative relationship). So what is it? What makes Utah and NH on the one hand different from California or DC on the other? One obvious difference is urbanism. But statistically that doesn’t hold up as a cause either.

    Having lived in three of the four places listed above, I can make an observation: Utah and New Hampshire are far less adversarial in culture than California. They also have much more cohesive communities than those California counties with the highest gun violence rates. More of us were raised with guns and taught to respect them. And I think that is the key: Respect for guns + respect for people = lower violence levels. Likewise no respect for guns + no respect for people = high violence levels.

    The idea of community-building as an answer to problems isn’t new, nor does it apply only to violence. It’s been successfully applied in many countries throughout the world. But it has found relatively little application here in the U.S. because we don’t see societal problems as blatantly as in some other countries. Mexico, Sri Lanka, and India all have grinding poverty, stagnant political systems, and high rates of violence. A trip outside the airport is enough to open the eyes of even the most casual visitor. But in the U.S. we like to believe we’re different.

    We’re not different. Increasing poverty, decreasing education, increasing political polarization, increasing violence, and increasing disrespect for one another as human beings all have a common cause: the destruction of our sense of community.

    If you live in a city, let me ask you: how many times have you spoken to each of the people who live on your block, or (if you live in a 100+ unit facility) in your apartment building or condo complex? When I lived in the city, I rarely knew the people who lived two doors down. I had friends, but they were not based on geographical proximity so much as common interests. And if the only people we associate with are those with common interests, we’re likely to consider as normal our common views. Those with different views are increasingly considered unreasonable or of questionable sanity. My friends in Los Angeles and my friends here in southern Utah both have opinions that are in large part based on reasonable concerns – so why do they each think the other are mindless zombies bent on destroying the country? Perhaps because we tend surround ourselves with like-thinking people rather than a variety likely to be randomly distributed in any geographical area.

    The irony is that lone gunmen are almost exclusively white and male– and they are most often outcasts, feeling misunderstood and/or oppressed, often described by others as loners. Some have been immigrants who didn’t fit in. Some were born here. But they seem to have in common the feeling that they are alone in the world.

    Back to the original comment: if the problem is societal, specifically the lack of community, can more legislation or more government surveillance prevent gun violence? I would argue that it can’t. In fact, in a climate of fear and intolerance, we create an environment in which violence is *more* likely, not less.

    • I disagree a bit. In the aftermath of that elderly Santa Monica driver who killed 20 people, quite a few were publicly asking why he still had a driver’s license.

      But absolutely, Utahns are armed to the teeth yet violence virtually never occurs. I lived in Cedar City UT, pop. 30,000, for two years and don’t recall a single shooting much less a murder. It’s not just about guns

  3. BTW, just because government surveillance has become routine doesn’t make it either constructive or reasonable. Such surveillance has become so commonplace that we no longer think much about it, or about whether more of it is a good thing.

Comments are closed.