Posts Tagged ‘gun control’

If you are trying to make sense of two mass shootings in a weekend and you want to see change, I applaud you, but there’s bad news ahead. As we who have been fighting this issue since Sandy Hook know, in the next few days people you know and love and respect are going to start telling you horrible lies about this issue. They are going to tell you 2.5 million people used their guns defensively last year (not true, not even possible). They are going to tell you mass shootings are often stopped by good guys with guns (not true).

They are going to say more Americans own guns now, which is why crime has dropped (household gun ownership has shrunk to a third of Americans, and if you think a shrinking number of Americans are stopping most of the nation’s crime, you have serious math and logic problems).

You are going to hear that armed Americans are the foundation of social stability because they can rise up against tyranny (an idea that, given the strength of our military, ranges from the ridiculous to the treasonous, since it suggests a single nonconformist is allowed to nullify laws and societal changes he doesn’t like).

You are going to hear that assault weapons either don’t exist or that they are the same things as six shooters. Actually, they were defined by law in the 1990s; they have higher muzzle velocity and can be easily converted to full auto with a few tweaks, something gun nuts like to laugh about on YouTube as they gaslight the rest of us and say “No such thing.”) You are going to hear that the Founding Fathers didn’t want gun restrictions. That is categorically false. The people who say otherwise learned history in a backyard from a person with anger management problems, not from actually reading history.

They will also tell you gun control laws don’t work (just because you don’t understand the way they work or don’t like the way they work doesn’t mean they don’t work).

People you love tell these lies for obvious reasons: It helps them defend their choices and behavior. Nobody wants to be told they are doing something harmful, especially if they were raised to think it was right. If they were to change, it would hurt their identity and it would hurt their parents. I have seen some people change on this issue but many people can’t because the psychological wound it would cause is too deep. But this is where we are: We call murder weapons defense weapons even though it is an insult to the concept of physics. Almost every gun fan talking point is a lie rooted in the real defense mechanism–the psychological one.

The NRA fought its war for “gun liberation” (i.e., murder weapon marketing) on the ground–in the state legislatures, places in which most people would be at a loss to name their representatives and where lobbyist bullying is greatly effective. But since Sandy Hook (and especially since the Parkland, Fla., school shooting), there is now a gun sense lobby and it has made representatives increasingly accountable to it–or at least not as totally beholden as they once were to weapons manufacturers.

If you are feeling distraught and feel like you need to do something, you can: march in any anti-gun marches you see planned near you. And give money to Everytown for Gun Safety, Giffords or Sandy Hook Promise. These groups are on the front lines and have thrived despite death threats, disinformation campaigns, online bullying and harassment from the “good guys with guns.” The wheel is turning slowly, but it is turning. I have personally seen stubborn people switch sides on this issue and embrace gun sense, and that has given me a great deal of hope as these horrific news stories unravel. There is no need to think we are going to have to forever endure putting our families–our children, wives, husbands, mothers, sisters, fathers–at risk of sudden horrific death to satisfy a value system based entirely on falsehoods.

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–*Lack of mental health care in the United States

–*Confederate flags

–*Marilyn Manson

–*Short skirts

–*Violent videos

–*The Dukes of Hazzard

–*Violent movies


–*Young black males


–*Barack Obama

–*Low carb diets

–*High fail quotas in our engineering schools


–*Unless it’s the god of Islam, in which case we are blaming that God

–*Atheists removing the Ten Commandments from state property

–*The lack of a Second Amendment in the Ten Commandments (after a fact check to make sure there is not a Second Amendment in the Ten Commandments).


–*The others

–*The victims

–*Everybody but myself


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Dear Beauty is Imperfection Reader,

I wrote this article three days after the shooting at Newtown, Conn., but never posted it. At first I wanted to be respectful. Then I wanted to perfect the article, but I never did before going on vacation to see my family (some of whom would likely strongly disagree with the piece). It’s still something worth posting, though, since the backlash by gun rights advocates has begun and I believe to be silent in the face of people who are dangerously mistaken is to be partly to blame for this tragedy.

Dec. 17, 2012:

I keep hearing this week that now is the time to discuss gun control. No. The time was years ago. Before the Virginia Tech shooting, before the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting, maybe even before the Columbine massacre. Gun love in the U.S. has been a sickness for a lot longer than two days. The recent taking of 27 lives in Connecticut, 20 of those elementary school children’s, in the second-most deadly mass shooting in history reminds us that it’s too late to have the discussion.

There are those who still don’t want to have the discussion, of course. They will say that people who point out this public health threat are “politicizing” the issue. In other words, be silent or else. Do not criticize the people who are responsible–those who defended the sickness and those who were silent as it continued. And that’s the problem. To be silent is an abdication. It is to watch somebody being attacked and to do nothing.

After every massacre, we’ve had to listen to every false comparison, misapplication of logic, ignorance of basic statistics and misleading twisting of numbers. We’ve all had to conveniently ignore the fact that some of the nation’s worst mass shooting deaths occurred after an assault weapons ban in the 90s was allowed to expire. We are not allowed to say that closed loopholes might have stopped the Columbine killers. We are not allowed to say that the Second Amendment allows 30 round magazine clips about as well as it allows enriched uranium. We are not allowed to discuss the fact that the REAL studies show that gun proliferation equals more gun violence and never the other way around. We are not allowed to call libertarians who defend rampant gun ownership what they are: hypocrites blasting one idealism while actually hawking another, a world of pure theory. We are not allowed to even study gun violence in this country anymore. Not because the other side has overpowering arguments but because our facts are an insult to a pervasive American value system. And if values can’t live in sunlight, they don’t deserve to live.

Now it’s time to take the arguments apart, like wings off a fly. It’s too late to discuss gun control and now it’s time to tell the gun fans how they are wrong on practically everything, including their home pea shooters. They gave up their chance to be rational a long time ago. They have lost their chance to show that responsibility wins out. They have shown too often a willingness to lie and use sub-freshman rhetoric. Not that they need it. Their lobby has used its money to buy congressmen and make sure our children are unsafe.

There will be those who say that mine is an emotional reaction: that the deaths of children might be causing me, a parent, to be irrational in the face of happy statistics: that mass shooting deaths are actually statistically down. That household gun ownership is actually down. I will turn around the bad logic: We people who have always been knowledgeable about the still awfully large high gun death rates in the country, the bloody, bloody statistics and the success of gun ban programs elsewhere, have been forced into silence because the gun lovers were … emotional. They love guns. They think their guns are protecting them from criminals when it is true mostly in exceptions and outliers. Repeatedly, fair-minded statistics show them that they are far more likely to kill themselves or innocent people than defend themselves against criminals with a gun. If you need any more proof that the emotional problems are theirs, you need look only at the arguments: the rage, the insipid rhetoric, the regular statistic manipulation and the pictures of eagles. I dare say that the once-endangered eagle has had his revenge mostly by his presence in ubiquitous NRA Internet memes.

We can start with some of the more obvious fallacies I heard last Friday, as details about Sandy Hook and the rampage there were still unfolding. Earlier the same day, a maniac had rampaged in China, wounding 20 children with a knife. This was immediately seized on by gun rights activists, who said that terrible tragedies happen regardless of guns and we would have to extend the logic to knives. Oh! Snap! Right? Actually, such writers didn’t realize as they were putting fingers to keyboard that they were also putting their faces into a fan: the deaths of 20 children had not happened in China because there was no gun on hand.

But such people share kidneys with another type of plaintiff–he who claims guns are inanimate objects, and thus it is ridiculous to ban them. I have never been quite sure what the aim of this argument is except to mute opponents with its brazen silliness. Grenades are objects. Cocaine is an object. The centrifuges we denied Saddam Hussein were objects. That this particular object, a gun, is something you would not give loaded to a toddler, that this object is something that can turn a disagreement into a bloodbath, that this object can help grease the skids for a racist turning into a murderer (something that has happened in Florida from time to time), is the easiest way of thousands to counter the insipid statement. But logic is disallowed by those for whom make an ecclesiastical judgment that violence starts and ends in the human vessel. Putting aside a few extreme libertarians, I would be willing to bet that a fair number of these same people have supported the banning of PCP, a drug that causes schizophrenic symptoms. Or supported banning uranium for Iran. If so, their arguments are dead.

Guns amplify violence in ways knives don’t. A woman who is domestically abused is three times as likely to die if there’s a gun in the house. A person is much more likely to shoot an innocent bystander or shoot the wall than stop a mad gunman in progress (the person who always has two advantages, including the element of surprise).

People are more likely to be killed by a gun if there is a gun in their house. And when weapons are banned, again, there is a direct decrease in violent crime–facts supported by empirical evidence in other countries. These are facts. They are not subverted or rendered irrelevant by knife deaths. Or bomb deaths. They are also not easily violated with fuzzy math. I was recently unfriended by somebody on Facebook; after I proferred the statistic about domestic violence, he said glibly that it didn’t hold up because that would mean five guns made murders 15 times more likely. I simply reminded him that only the one gun was needed for the math to work, and suggested that he was trying to flip a 15 pennies instead of one trying to change the unhappy fact that penny flipping will always give you a 50-50 heads-tails ratio. He could not argue. He unfriended. A nice illustration of how the fight or flight gland works in the gun lobby.

Of course, you are much more likely to confront violence in your life when it comes from somebody you know, not strangers. That means the people who know you can also use your defense against you. David Frum (a Republican) tries to cut up some of the vigilante hero numbers here and point out how silly they are. For such efforts, he’s lately been made a punching bag. Such is the fate of the intellectually curious person, who has no place in the world of pure theory that defines gun rights activists.

The other statistics gun activists like to point out are either misapplied logic or outright lies. In the former case, they’ll say you’re also very likely to die in an auto death, and thus cars would also have to be outlawed, as if the prevalence of one gruesome statistic somehow erases another. In the latter case, you often hear fabrications like the fact that baseball bats kill more people than guns. That’s a lie. A gun lobbyist’s lie.

When the math fails the gun zealot, then comes the rhetoric. Guns offer power to the people, says the bespectacled theorist, and protect them against the tyranny of oppressors. (Read: the government.) This pure theory has been used to defend assault weapons, since a person must have something strong enough to defend himself against a very well armed government. This was the addle-pated argument of a woman on Piers Morgan who not only lied by saying the principle was written in the Constitution, but also lied by saying it was next to the word “musket,” which also wasn’t in the Constitution.

But I’ll vet her underlying idea in a simple declarative sentence: We must all have targets on our children’s’ backs to unshackle the one individual who thinks he can make a run against the U.S. Army. Sound stupid? It is. But it’s EXACTLY what the poor woman said. I might take the extra step now to remind such a person that it is the very opposite of patriotism to make the government your main foe and makes you automatically a member of the Weather Underground and a fellow traveler with Bill Ayers. If Republicans continue to push this argument, they all owe Ayers an apology, since he was carrying out his attacks on empty buildings at a time when the government was flagrantly assassinating domestic political opponents.

The NRA argument is that those who would give up liberty for security deserve neither. Thanks for a platitude. Here’s a counterargument: We are told perforce we must give up our own and our children’s safety for your false sense of security (from guns that statistics agree are not helping you)  and a false sense of liberty (against a country that is not attacking you unless you provoke it into sending an army you can’t possibly defeat). In other words, your gun is mainly a vainglorious, empty symbol of your freedom until you use it to deny freedom to somebody else. Gun brandishers insist they can help during a shooting. That, too, is shown to be untrue, both in statistics and anecdotes (Gabby Giffords was in the presence of at least two gun holders when she and 9 others were shot in early 2011. The only fortunate news that day was that the gun carriers did not shoot each other–though it came damn close to happening. The person who tackled Jared Lee Loughner was unarmed.) Nor could gun carriers have likely made quick decisions in the dark theater in Aurora, Colo. last summer. Nor would giving guns to every kid in that Newton, Conn. classroom made any difference whatsoever. The reason is simple: shooters always have the element of surprise. NRA fans say banning guns won’t stop a determined shooter, but having guns on hand will not stop a determined shooter either except mostly in fantasy. Yet there’s a much better chance of a determined shooter not committing a crime in the first place if the guns are removed from the scene. The only way to surprise a mad shooter is to deny him his gun in the first place.

Australia showed us that. Britain showed us, too. (Just stats.)

The contrarians say it’s too late to discuss gun control because there are too many guns. So the response of a paralyzed intelligentsia is a shrug. “Guns are here to stay, there are too many to regulate.” So this is what we do for the victims of Newtown–the children of Newtown: We shrug at them. We let them know that we, the species that unraveled the genome and split the atom and landed on the moon, can do nothing about a plague of violence because we are unwilling to correct a bullying minority of people who broadly misread the Constitution, who use false statistics, who make Supreme Court decisions based on false statistics and who make us unsafe to give themselves a false sense of safety.

Yes, it’s difficult to tell 80 million people they are wrong.

But they’re wrong.

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Ted Nugent.

Ted Nugent.

At a time of great fear in America when the nation seems in many ways to be grappling with profound questions about its identity and values, one question has repeatedly haunted the discourse: “Is rocker Ted Nugent going to kill me?”

This is a tough question, one especially hard to discuss with children, as Ted Nugent’s great passion about things related to weaponry, archery and dead animals has made them wonder if they might themselves ever be at the receiving end of Nugent’s wrathful judgment of all things not him.

“It’s a slippery slope question,” says Tennessee State University criminologist Ben Harper. “We know that Ted Nugent is a powerful advocate for guns. A really loud, forceful, inflammatory advocate for guns. But we just have no proof he is going to kill us.”

Nugent, who was known for wild 1970s hits like “Cat Scratch Fever,” a mildly frightening song by today’s standards, has upped the fear factor manyfold with a pure gun rights stance. He has stayed true to his conviction after many, many, many, many national gun tragedies, which some pundits might applaud as a true example of principle were it not for the fact that Ted Nugent seems to want to kill us.

“The gun imagery. The dead deer. The seeming indifference to suffering …” notes criminologist Kay Stephens. “I mean, Ted is too functional to be called mentally deranged. But I think we have to thank God or providence that he really stops just short of the DSM manual.”

“Three hundred million American guns were not misused again this week,” Nugent boldly proclaimed on his Twitter page shortly after a national tragedy involving lots of innocent gun victims, the stance of an empathy-lacking person who some psychologists might say really wants to kill us.

“The thing is, Ted’s a libertarian,” says Fox News pundit Bill Richardson. “We have to remember that his ideology, like those of other libertarians, lives entirely in pure abstraction. So it’s wrong to say that Ted might have homicidal ideation and might want to kill us. We just have to assume that his world of pure principles devoid of real life ramifications will remain so, barring the mutilating of animals, and thus would not otherwise somehow turn into direct action that ends our lives.”

Richardson concedes, however, that Nugent’s inability to synthesize other perspectives, along with all his gun pictures “makes me wet the bed sometimes.”

This is all just silly talk says Nugent friend Arthur Bronstein. “Ted is passionate about the individual and the idea that power truly resides in the people in the form of gun ownership as an underpinning of our freedom in nature. Obviously, as Ted has demonstrated over and over to those who don’t understand, man must have the ability to fight back against that nature, which can be cruel, violent, animalistic, chaotic, sadistic, inhumane, nihilistic …

“Anarchistic, bloody, hebephrenic, echolalic, grinding, perverted, angry, lacerating …”

“Apocalyptic, terrifying, diseased and filled with zombie-men covered in festering buboes. Also, he thinks we should lower marginal tax rates.”

Child psychologists, noting his propensity for illegal hunting and killing endangered species, have kept open hotlines for parents wondering what to tell their children about whether Ted Nugent might kill them.

“We have to stress that Ted Nugent is just stating his opinions, forcefully,” says psychologist Blaine Thompkins. “Just because he brandishes weapons all the time in a very Phil Spectorish way, seems to enjoy the thought of what he would do to criminals that exist only in his imagination, and finally, seems greatly to enjoy ending the lives of elk does not mean in any way that he would ever harm others. Just because he often promotes the idea that some groups are superior to others does not mean he would take their lives. Just because he can threaten the president with oral gun rape and not be punished doesn’t mean murder of other humans is the end game. The chances are very small. I mean, statistically it’s just not likely. I mean, he would have done it by now, right?”

Nugent’s friends and acquaintances agree: He does not compromise.

“That makes him a hero to many people,” says Denver gun store owner Dave Stevens, who sells Gold Tip Ted Nugent arrows for hunting. “A man who doesn’t compromise will always stand up for his principles. He will not be diluted. He will not hear the other side or seem to be able to emotionally process what other people need or want from him. He will not feedback other people’s affect or be able to read their body language to make any kind of judgment about whether they are, say, hemorrhaging. If they hurt or are bleeding from the eyes and mouth, he will not be distracted by that. One word: Hero.”

When Stevens heard Nugent was coming, he dived under a counter.

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