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Jay Lake
Date: 2012-12-12 05:59
Subject: [culture] Yesterday people died in my neighborhood for your guns
Security: Public
Tags:culture, family, guns, personal, portland
Gunman opens fire at Oregon mall; Suspect, 2 dead.

This happened last night a mile or so from my house, at the mall where I normally go to the movies, and where my family occasionally goes to restaurants or stores which are easiest found in shopping malls. In this case, no one in my circle of family and close friends, and so far as I know, no one in my circle of acquaintances, was involved. My personal degree of involvement consisted only of hearing sirens from time to time while the through street down the block from my house became badly snarled up with diverted traffic.


Now we're going to have the same, tiresome, never ending discussion we always have about our national obsession with firearms. "Guns don't kill people, people do." "Guns are only a tool." "Spoons don't make people fat any more than guns kill people." "Cars kill more people than guns do." "Guns make me safer." "Guns prevent far more unreported crimes than they cause." And my personal favorite, "It's not right to politicize such a tragedy by bringing up these larger social issues."

You know what? Shut the fuck up. People died. Because of guns. People who wouldn't have died if the shooter couldn't have acquired his firepower and accessories. It's that fucking simple.

I've never yet met a gun enthusiast who will admit to the simple proposition that if there were fewer guns in our society, there would be fewer deaths. Not a single Second Amendment enthusiast with the moral and intellectual honesty to agree that yes, their ownership of firearms is more important to them than the tens of thousands of people killed every year by suicide, homicide and other gun-related causes.

My life is worth more to me than your guns are. My life is not made safer by your guns. If you can't own that simple fact with its moral and social implications, you are a dishonest coward.

If you can own that simple fact, then you are a very different person than me. Because guess what? I value your life more than you value mine.

There's a lot of conservative "scholarship" about how firearms keep people safe and prevent crime. That work is only slightly more credible than Young Earth creationist "scholarship", a great deal of it being simply made up by a man working as a janitor at Yale who's still cited in NRA circles as an Ivy League researcher.

There's a lot of personal anecdote about how firearms have saved people's lives. I'll stipulate that even if each and every one of those is passionately true, it's still on a par with people who tell stories about not wearing seatbelts saved their lives when they were thrown clear of a fiery wreck. The objective data says otherwise, and I'll take data over anecdote every time. Especially when you're laying my life on the line.

No one comes to gun advocacy as a reasoned position based on careful examination of the evidence, any more than anyone comes to evolution denial, climate change denial or supply side economics based on the evidence. Gun advocacy is an emotional and ideological position desperately in search of an objective basis, just like its conservative kissing cousins. Like all of those fixations, advocacy of widespread private gun ownership is a patently absurd position when viewed from any perspective other than the purely internal.

Some people feel safer with guns. You scare the rest of us spitless. Yesterday afternoon, your sense of safety was bought and paid for by someone who dressed up, went to the mall in my neighborhood, and killed people to celebrate the Christmas spirit and his theoretical defense of essential liberties as protected by the NRA and the Republican party.

It's as simple as that. If the shooter didn't have access to a weapon, a tool whose sole purpose is killing other human beings, he wouldn't have killed and wounded nearly as many people.

Every day people die by firearms. Every day people die for your guns. I don't want to be one of those people. I don't want anyone I love or care about to be one of those people. I don't want total strangers to be one of those people. I don't want you to be one of those people. (There are more gun suicides than homicides in the United States every year.)

We have social experiments running in countries all over the globe, from the UK to Australia, that show reduced firearms availability and increased firearms control reduces gun violence and death rates. This isn't even a remotely questionable proposition. Yet the gun lobby as a whole and gun enthusiasts in general go through intellectual and moral contortions that would shame a pedophile Jesuit crackhead in order to maintain that their beloved firearms are a right which cannot possibly be tainted by any whiff of sane social policy or moral considerations.

So, guns? Yeah. If I could, I'd mail every gun owner in the United States postcards every single day, showing a photo of that day's dead, their bio, listing their surviving family members, and the make of firearm that killed them. They'd be like baseball cards. Maybe then it would be real to you guys polishing your guns and feeling afraid of the wicked world, feeling safer with your home defense.

I know a lot more gun owners than I do criminals, and it's your culture of guns that enables those criminals to be armed in the first place.

If you're a gun enthusiast, you own those deaths as surely as the sun rises in the east. And I'll be amazed to see any of you ever admit that to yourselves. Congratulations, you've sufficiently controlled the social and political discourse such that none of the rest of us get a say in our own safety.

Meanwhile, people died in my neighborhood yesterday, paying with their lives for your gun rights. Just as people die in neighborhoods all across the United States every day.

Feel safer now?

I sure don't.

[1] Be aware, in the comments section on this post I am unlikely to be my generally polite self to the usual specious arguments about why guns are harmless and wonderful. The social utility argument ("cars kill more people...") or the home defense argument ("my gun in my nightstand is more accessible to my sleepy self who just woke up than that wired-up burglar's is in his hand...") for example. Feel free to engage me where you disagree, but don't be stupid about it. I'm not willing to be moderate on this topic. Not today.

[2] I shouldn't even have to go into this, but some people will doubtless think it, or bring it up, telling me that I don't know what I'm talking about because I'm a stupid liberal hippie who's never touched a weapon. Yes, I'm quite familiar with firearms. I lettered in both riflery and archery in high school. I know range safety, and believe me, if I shot at you, I'd hit you. That makes me all the less interested in ever doing such a thing, or having such a thing done to me. In short, I'm afraid of guns precisely because I do understand them, not because I am ignorant of them.

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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
User: pierceheart
Date: 2012-12-12 14:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
where an armed gunman with a revolver

He did not use a revolver, he used two semi-automatic pistols, a Glock 17 and a Ruger P89.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
User: hrhqod1
Date: 2012-12-12 14:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I am glad that you and your family are well. I am sad that others of your neighborhood had to die for other people's gun rights.
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User: nicosian
Date: 2012-12-12 15:04 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thank you.

Even coming from Toronto where we had a summer of "gun violence" ( two mass shootings), its a far safer place because we don't have every last wanna be hopped up gun nut looking to solve an issue with gunfire ( Trayvon and the criminally stupid stand your ground bs).Yes, criminals have guns, but the answer isn't MORE guns in everyone else's hands. Clearly.

Guns KILL people. Sure, criminals can get them here but in far less quantity, and frankly, they seem to fire them a whole lot less. I don't buy that guns make for polite society, it makes for a twitchy society.

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inamac: kittens
User: inamac
Date: 2012-12-12 15:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
People kill people - guns just make it easier (and yes, he could have driven a car through that mall and killed just as many - but in non-gun owning countries multiple murder/suicide by car is rare.)

I live in the UK. I remember recently doing an on-line 'life expectancy' quiz (aimed at US citizens) in which one of the questions was 'do you own a gun?' The final results revealed that anyone who answered 'Yes' to that question was likely, on average, to have a life expectancy four years shorter than someone who did not own a gun.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
User: mcjulie
Date: 2012-12-12 15:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm so glad you and yours are okay. I had no idea this happened so close to your house. But somebody's loved ones are not okay.
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User: voidampersand
Date: 2012-12-12 15:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I don't know how they could fit a mall shooting into Portlandia. It just isn't funny.
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User: chris_gerrib
Date: 2012-12-12 16:11 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've never yet met a gun enthusiast who will admit to the simple proposition that if there were fewer guns in our society, there would be fewer deaths. Well, now you have. Yes, if there were fewer guns, there would be fewer gun deaths.

Now, how do you propose accomplishing the "fewer guns" policy? In a society with legal ownership of common household appliances, anybody who wants a gun can make one. Put "improvised guns" into a Google search. Or watch any episode of "Sons of Guns." Making guns and gunpowder isn't that hard.

In a society awash in illegal drugs, some of them cooked and/or grown in suburban basements, how do we prevent some of those growers from going into the gun-making / smuggling business? How do we get rid of the millions of guns currently in existence? These guns will function for decades to come.

In short, yes, fewer guns means fewer gun deaths. We can't get there from here.

Mexico and Brazil have vastly more gun deaths then the US, and have stricter gun laws. To me, this iplies that the leading driver of gun deaths in the US is poverty (resulting in the War on Drugs) and lapses in mental health service.

In short, addressing gun violence should focus on violence, not guns.
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Dan/Дмитрий: The Sign at the End of the Universe
User: icedrake
Date: 2012-12-12 17:25 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:The Sign at the End of the Universe
Improvised guns are, by and large, unreliable, slow to reload, and by dint of requiring extensive effort to produce, rare. It would take significant investment in precision machining equipment and a lot of skill to make a homemade equivalent of a Glock 17. Unless, that is, you had access to extensive parts catalogues, and were the beneficiary of economies of scale as a result of mass production of sophisticated firearms.

But your argument applies just as well to hard drugs -- many of which can be manufactured with grocery store chemicals, if one knows what one's doing. Nonetheless the drugs are illegal, and reasonably difficult to get. Certainly far more difficult than guns are.

Also, I completely disagree with the notion that we can't get to fewer guns from here. No guns, maybe. Fewer guns? Absolutely possible, and quite easy to accomplish.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
They Didn't Ask Me
User: dr_phil_physics
Date: 2012-12-12 17:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
There was a time when "getting thrown from the wreck" probably could save your life. This was before most of the basic and advanced safety equipment in cars -- pointy knobs, unsafety glass, non-collapsing steering columns, no structural strength to the car body, no seatbelts, no airbags, no systems to prevent intrusions in the passenger compartment -- and door latches that sprung open easily.

But this is not 1922. Or even 1952.

Likewise, there was probably a time when spreading across the continent that owning a firearm DID improve your life expectancy, both for food and defense.

But this is not 1882.

The world is a very different place. As are the cars and as are the firearms. New rules for new times and new equipment? It's something to talk about.

Dr. Phil
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User: lianneb
Date: 2012-12-12 18:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's weird. In Canada, there is a lot less gun culture. I'm not sure what the obsession is. It's just really weird. Mind you, we didn't become a country through revolution, which might explain a few things. We just sort of drifted away from the UK.

But come to Canada and hear the howls of rage every time the Conservative Party tries to loosen up gun regulation. People immediately bring up the few mass shootings up here, like the Ecole Polytechnique shooting whose anniversary (25th) was commemorated last thursday.

But when I hear stories like towns instituting 'you must own a gun or pay a fine' laws, I am flabbergasted. My father was in the military, and the only weapon we ever had in the house was his sword that went with his dress uniform. And it didn't really hold an edge.
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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors
User: halfshellvenus
Date: 2012-12-12 19:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
This is a very well-expressed argument for why gun control matters, and why the knee-jerk retreat into 2nd Amendment drum-banging every time this discussion arises is ridiculous.

My life is worth more to me than your guns are. My life is not made safer by your guns.
THIS is the point that most people miss. The refusal to limit or regulate guns in a reasonable way endangers other people. A pistol is not an AK-47. There is no sane argument to be made for not limiting guns to the home-defense or hunting category.

And what a difference it would make.

I'm glad you and yours are all right, and ache for those who were murdered by someone who should have limited his killing to himself.
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Rhonda Parrish
User: rhondaparrish
Date: 2012-12-12 19:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
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User: ulfhirtha
Date: 2012-12-12 21:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I was recently in a discussion on the 2nd amendment and having guns to protect against a theoretical tyrannical government. Just as with the "If I had a gun at that mall/theater/whatever I'd have pegged him!" fantasy, there is a similar fetish about somehow being Rambo vs the 82nd Airborne or whomever. Or that if we can't do that maybe we should have military grade weapons too so we can. Or some such insanity, because the Founders were ambiguously fearful of a standing army & preferred a militia.
Which still makes for a lot of guns floating around, and this weird perception of disconnect between the people and their government (made up of the people, after all)

As Ta-Nehisi wrote in an article linked in the Salad earlier, having guns makes it easier to act on such fantasies & childish impulses...and cause untold suffering & grief in the process to no good end.

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User: msconduct
Date: 2012-12-12 23:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I am very much anti-gun and am grateful I don't live in a country with free access to guns.

However, what I never understand is why Americans in considering the question of gun control rarely seem to ask the more fundamental question of why they (Americans, not guns) kill so many people. It isn't a simple question of access, as there are other countries with a large number of guns but a low murder rate (like Switzerland, for example). Michael Moore addressed this question in his film Bowling For Columbine and came up with some interesting hypotheses, but it seems to have made little impact on the American zeitgeist.

Yes, restricting gun access would restrict gun crime. That's a great thing, and I'm all for it. But the deeper questions are even more important.
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Lethran: Angel
User: gwyd
Date: 2012-12-13 01:41 (UTC)
Subject: I'm with you
We continue to refuse to do anything about replacing the expired assault weapon ban or to do anything to address gun culture. I haven’t the heart to look, but I’m willing to bet that folks re already claiming that somehow if more people fired randomly fired into the crowd, that would magically have decreased casualties instead of increasing them as is what happens in reality. Yes, the gunman is always primarily to blame, but letting them have assault rifles and extended magazines makes the damage they can do worse. I’m betting there are already people claiming that pointing out that reality is “politicizing a tragedy” when the reality is refusing to talk about the murders that happen every day is a political choice also.

I too grew up in a house with guns. My dad ran the rifle club at school. I loved archery, but I never took to guns as I don't like loud noises close to my ear even with the ear protectors. My partner for nearly ten years owned five rifles he used for target shooting when he was younger. They did not stop him from being murdered. Even if he'd had a gun with him I do not think he could have shot anything living. (He was traumatized by accidentally shooting a bird as a young teen and was very gentle). The man who planned his execution and marched him into the woods had plenty of guns too. My soldier could not have killed himself so easily and thoroughly without an easy access to guns.

I do not see that guns have done the people in my life any good and the harm is easily measured.

Every time there is a school shooting, people go on about arming teachers. It's a terrible idea. My kids were always going through my briefcase or my desk. They weren't supposed to, but they do it anyway. They need some tape, or a pen. They are curious. They hardly ever took anything, but they play with everything. I have no doubt that they'd be curious about a locked drawer. I have no doubt that they'd find the key. I think guns anywhere near a school are a terrible idea, and I'm not convinced that anyone willing to endanger students that way are fit to teach. Also, I can't imagine shooting a student even if my life depended upon it. Again, I'm not convinced that if you are willing to shoot a student that you ought to be entrusted with 160 stranger's children every day.

Every time there's mass shooting like the Mall one just now or the Colorado theater shooting, people say, "If only someone had a gun," as if firing wildly in a panicked crowd at a person in body armour isn't a recipe for disaster. They have done studies on police shoot outs and it turns out there is zero correlation between skill on the target range and in a live gun battle. This is because adrenaline royally screws fine muscle coordination. (Sniping is different as it's done cold and calm). People shooting wildly in a panic in a room full of dodging and running civilians is a a good way to increase the number of pointlessly dead.

I wish there were some way to bring reason ito spitting distance of policy on this and any number of matters.
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Rowan aka: The Seticat
User: seticat
Date: 2012-12-13 05:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
This is all strictly my PoV. I don't expect it to change anyone's thoughts or opinions.

I'm a hippy liberal 60 year old female who spent 30+ years in medicine and 20+ years in the Army [medical branch, so maybe not quite the 'Real' hard line Army]. I have my CWP and routinely range practice with my 45. All I can say is if I had been there and armed, I would have dropped that sucker the first chance I could get.

Do I say that facetiously? No. But the second someone draws a weapon on unarmed individuals with the intent to harm, all bets are off. I would have 'neutralized the threat with extreme prejudiced'. I would have dealt with the psychological trauma and all after the fact because I know it would be there. I would never consider taking a live easily. But I also know I could never live with myself if I had been there with the means to stop things and had done nothing.

If I could not get a clean shot, I would have held fire. I would not have 'fired wildly', I would not have 'sprayed rounds'. I would have gotten a good clean sight picture in a clear environment and done what was necessary. Would I have 'stalked my prey'? No! I would have gotten as many people to a safe place as possible and stood guard there. But if he came at me or I had a clean shot, I would have taken it.

Maybe with my history I'm not your average gun owner. Pretty much everyone in my family and my husband were military through different conflicts. To me a gun is a deadly and specific tool and you respect your tools and use them for what they are intended.

The first Gulf War taught me how helpless someone can feel when they can't defend those around them. I will not allow an innocent to come to harm if I can prevent it.

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User: jetse
Date: 2012-12-13 18:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Well, this reminds me of a Tom Tomorrow cartoon, to quote:

"What we really need to solve the problem--is more guns!"

"If I'd been in that audience, I would have taken that shooter out!"

"--there have been more than fifty gun massacres in this country over the past three decades. Remind me again how many were prevented by gun-toting civilian heroes such as yourself?"

Link: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/07/30/1114189/-What-we-really-need .
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