Okay. I have nothing to lose, so I’m going to go all the way out to the edge on this gun issue.
In 2005 I watched as my friends at Red Lake were traumatized, killed, and besieged by reporters, then forgotten after a confused and alienated kid drove a car into the front of the school where I had worked, before pulling out an arsenal of guns and killing 7 people.
I am, as I write this, on a plane back to my home in Portland, 180 miles north of the mass murder site in the town of Roseburg, where I used to buy car parts when I lived in the Oregon woods many years ago, and where I have stopped and let my dog play in the dog park as we drove south through the magical Oregon country side.
I shop at the Clackamas mall where one more confused white kid brought out a gun and killed three people for no reason that any of us can fathom, or should have to fathom.
And all the politicians, no matter how pained and grieved, are dancing around the issue of guns with vague platitudes about the need for mental health services, background checks, the necessity of enlisting the support of responsible gun owners, and on and on.
But, let’s cut to the chase: it’s guns, pure and simple. Guns.
So, let’s go to it.
What is it about guns that so obsesses Americans? Yes, I know all about the second amendment and how it supposedly protects our rights. I know all about the perceived slippery slope into governmental control of our lives. I know about beard boys in Idaho wearing camouflage and facepaint and crawling through the woods to hold out against an upcoming takeover by a fascist and totalitarian government, and about frightened fathers and mothers keeping guns in their houses in cities and suburbs to protect against intruders. I know about all of this.
But forget all of that. Tell me about guns.
There are otherwise perfectly normal human beings in northern Minnesota where I lived who can barely feed their families but have 25 rifles, pistols, and semi-automatic weapons in their closets.
Why? You don’t have 25 refrigerators, or 25 pipe wrenches, or 25 anything other than perhaps baseball caps and pairs of shoes, and those things are questionable enough in themselves. So, what is it about a gun? Is it some feeling of power? Is there some crypto-sexual thrill in holding it? Shooting it? Stroking it?
I know I’m being a bit demeaning, but, damn it, I simply can’t understand. And, frankly, I don’t want to. I am sick of hearing arguments for these cruel and lethal objects. They scare me, they disgust me, and it makes me ashamed that such an adolescent and selfish obsession can be one of the few sacrosanct things in our country.
What drives it? Why are we like this?
Sometimes I think it is part of this culture of fear that comes with our out-of-control capitalist society where every advertisement is based on fear and perceived deficiency, and a gun is just the physical embodiment of a sense of control.
Sometimes I think it has a subterranean racism at its heart, where fear of the terrifying black man at your door drives white people to want to have the fantasy of a protective weapon at hand.
Sometimes I think it is the residual frontier ethic. But the Canadians have every bit as strong a frontier ethic, and they don’t share this cultural mental illness.
And, yes, that’s what it is — a cultural mental illness, fomented and fanned by an armament industry that needs, or, at least, wants, every man, woman, and child to be packing a weapon in the name of freedom or security or whatever abstraction they can sell us.
But, my God, children are dying, and they are dying from guns. No amount of counseling or monitoring or background checks is going to stop this. People will get guns like teenagers get beer, and no amount of laws will stop it.
Consider the sheriff in Roseburg. He stated quite forthrightly that he would not enforce any federal gun laws, nor would he allow his deputies to do so. And now he is looking in the faces of the mothers and fathers and husbands and wives of the dead. How can he sleep at night? Is he at least a little conflicted?
Sadly, probably not. To him, it wasn’t a gun that killed all those people. It was a person. And the fact that it was a gun in the hand of that person, just as it was a gun in the hand of the killer at Red Lake and the killers at Columbine and the killer at the Aurora movie theater and the killer in every other mass murder in America doesn’t register with him or people like him. It is a mind-boggling disconnect that simply beggars the imagination.
So, what will stop it? One and only one thing: getting rid of guns on our streets. And this is no easy task. It cannot be done by fiat, it cannot be done in one legislative swoop. It can only be done by changing hearts and minds, and that takes time.
There needs to be incremental change – make it illegal to own handguns and semi-automatics for starters, then begin confiscating them as they come in contact with the legal system. Stop the manufacture, or, at least, the sale of them. Then get beneath this and start to educate our children to the reality that compassion will eventually trump fear, and there is nothing magical or mystical about a piece of metal (or, sadly, plastic) that can kill at a distance. In fact, it is simply sick to look at them as problem solvers.
So, go ahead, unfriend me, refuse to buy my books, write me enraged emails filled with the tired old tropes.
But, for the love of Jesus and Mary and Buddha and things that go bump in the night, take a look in the mirror and ask why this piece of metal that is essentially a killing machine is so damn important to you.
Red Lake. Clackamas Mall. Columbine. Sandy Hook. Roseburg. Coming soon to a neighborhood near you.
And you will be shocked and you will be surprised and you will say, “This was such a nice quiet community. Things like this aren’t supposed to happen here.”
Well, sorry. They aren’t supposed to happen in your particular “here,” but they will. And if you prevaricate and trot out tired old bromides and talk about abstractions while another child gets its face blown off by a gun, the blood is on your hands.
Guns are an American sickness, and it is a sickness that must be cured.
154 thoughts on “I hate guns”
Bravo!! Couldn’t have said it better!!
This is so on point, I can barely even speak … THANK YOU for writing this post … THANK YOU for taking this stand … THANK YOU for saying what needs to be said …
You make valid points. We are all anguished for the victims and their families but I am so conflicted about gun control because Chicago has one of the tightest gun laws of anywhere, yet every week many people are shot and killed by guns in the President’s “own state” of Illinois but it seems to be taboo for anyone to even mention it.
Why is it that the public and politicians get in an uproar over guns when these single tragedies happen and yet remain silent as a couple thousand people a year are slain by guns in one City, and in multiples. And so many of these dead of gunshots are young people and kids.
Thank you, Kent
With the NRA in control of the legislature it is impossible to do anything about the laws and it is at heart a moral and spiritual problem. As long as fear and violence rule the media of the land we will continue to murder out children.
THANK YOU!!! I’ve been a fan of yours for many years and my husband and I feel a tremendous kinship with you. This piece on guns is the perfect expression of my own frustration, anger, and great sorrow at yet another tragic shooting and loss of life for no apparent reason other than a psychotic love for the gun. For the life of me I cannot fathom what it will take for our “leaders” (and I hesitate to use that word) to get the message that they need to rise above the gun lobby and once and for all do the right thing. Watching President Obama yesterday, I could feel his frustration and the pain he was feeling….knowing he is powerless to do anything but stand there and speak the truth. I could write my own piece on this, but you’ve done it and sadly, I’m not entirely sure my words will add anything further to the discussion. I just want to thank you for saying what needs to be said. I will re-post your Facebook link to your website and encourage as many people as possible to read your words in the hope that it might spark someone’s consciousness…awaken some sort of reason…anything that might bring sanity to this issue. Thank you again.
With great admiration and gratitude,
I witnessed a “Stop the Violence” protest last night – orderly, quiet, young people, with a civil police escort – and heard one woman say the problem was “People today don’t value life – not yours, not theirs”. That is part of the problem. My question is, “Why?” Finding that answer – along with getting rid of the too-easy-to-use tools of destruction (guns) – must be part of the solution.
I believe the reason for the love of guns in America is spiritual/psychological, rooted in fear and lies. The people of the 13 colonies were hyped up to believe that “tyranny” was imminent (hyped up by a wealthy upper class that stood to profit more by paying less taxes and not being limited by the Crown from settling behind the Appalachians). They bought the hype and believed that only bloodshed and the sacrifice of sons—even the apparent bulk of Christian ministers cast of “render unto Caesar” in favor of violence against the state and enemies. Then, the worst possible outcome for the American psyche: they *won*! Because they won, their faith and hearts clung to that which they believed gave them victory: 1) abandoning diplomacy & peace in favor of violence, 2) guns, etc. This solidified a deep spiritual and psychological attachment in the national psyche and kept alive by the education system as part of the national mythos. It has kept alive (as necessary) the often irrational fear of imminent tyranny. It has made “war” sacred and the sacrifices of soldiers beyond question. You can question any religious dogma, but as soon as you question whether soldiers’ sacrifices were right or not, you’ve crossed the line. Etc.
Kent, the point that the human being needs to be taught how to have: compassion, forgiveness, tact, concern for others, to think beyond the self, to not cause or give into to fear is as old as humanity itself. But one we seem to have put on the back burner as we pursue our American Dream. It will take something hugely devastating I’m afraid for us to wake up and this is what is so sad.
Thank you for your efforts to spur more of us to be pro-active about controlling our infatuation with violence and guns.
I read this with great interest this morning after crying last night about Roseburg. I live in Chicago and routinely read “most violent weekend” stories in the Chicago Tribune, which Annette Morgan has helpfully cited. I write to differ with her statement that Chicago has some of the most restrictive guns laws in the nation. This does not jibe with my impression and I looked for additional information. I found some here http://mediamatters.org/research/2015/07/07/conservative-media-link-chicagos-crime-wave-to/204285 and call attention (you have to scroll down) to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and the FBI that rank Chicago violent crime as lower than several other cities. Unfortunately the statistics are deeply embedded in political spin, from both sides. I know which side I want to believe and agree with Kent Nerburn’s compelling moral argument. Are we defined as a people by the debatable right to lethal self-defense? Is that what is fundamental to this country today?
Kent, My admiration for you is even stronger. You said so well what I feel. There is a sickness in this country and I don’t know if there is a cure..God bless you for speaking out..Joy
THANK YOU, NERBURN! NOT UNTIL VIOLENCE AFFECTS OUR LEGISLATORS AND THOSE OF THE NRA. WILL HEARTS BE MOVED TO ENACT CHANGE. WE HAVE A STRONG CULTURE OF NAIVETE,
IGNORANCE OF HISTORY, PLUS THE MACHO MENTALITY OF SO MANY MEN THAT THE PROBLEM IS TOWERING. WILL THIS CHANGE?
I agree 100%. I do believe it has a lot to do with our society and American obsession with material goods and how we have lost touch with nature and what’s important. I think our society has evolved around the almighty dollar and if you don’t possess ‘the right clothes’, ‘the right car’, the right neighborhood then inferior feelings develop and people get angry, they don’t spend ‘time’ with their children because they are busy spending their time working to buy more possessions…blah blah.. we’ve all heard it all.. but the funny thing is –it’s completely TRUE! The one I blame ‘equally’ is THE MEDIA … because all of this I believe is COPYCAT killings… the need for fame by depressed individuals who see it TIME and TIME AGAIN…how you become ‘famous’ for a few days… and the media will get on there and DISCUSS this WHILE they are running the same clip over and over again of everyone laying on the ground and people running in terror. When will the media stop giving these sick people FULL COVERAGE and attention ?? STOP giving these people exactly what they want and I do believe some of this will lessen. Background checks are a joke because the person with a history of mental illness will just buy a black market gun. Our society is getting so complacent now… we accept this as part of reality… until someone kills YOUR child….. TIME with the ones you love and time in nature is what people really need… the society has the media telling us what we need to be cool and to ‘arrive’…. and people are buying it all… we go to bed exhausted from working and competing…. take a look at how the Italians live and you tell me ‘who has the right idea’….. I agree with you 100% Mr. Nerburn… until people get back to the ‘natural world’ our society will keep chasing the wrong dreams….
Mi-gwetch Kent. Wish you were here!
Bravo Kent!! Thank you for writing this so eloquently and having the courage to post it!
Thanks so much for writing and sharing this powerful and moving essay on guns. You have so eloquently and honestly described how so many of us feel! This should be read by everyone.
Kent, thank you for speaking so eloquently about the amount of guns in our society! I support you 100%!
Thank you! You write the words my elderly brain has trouble locating. Our culture teaches us, as you so aptly wrote, that we will be better, happier, and safer IF we purchase the newest item ; commercialism. Our culture teaches us to be consumers, to compete.
I don’t have any answers, just questions and doubt for the future my grandchildren will face.
Oh dear god Kent… NO. To humanize and hate guns isn’t the answer either.
I lost my mother to a self inflicted gunshot to the head. She was only 43, she had stopped taking her anti psych meds and was recently released from a mental hospital. And only now, 30+ years later can I say that I’m thankful that it was only her that died that day because it could have been a far higher count had she chosen to go out in public in that state of mind.
After my mothers death, I was terrified of guns, it took several years before I could finally even look at one, but eventually I did and then I could not understand why I was so afraid of a piece of metal, it just sat there. I went on to take safety courses for handgun, shotgun and rifle. I now own a handgun and a semi-automatic shot gun, I don’t hunt, I do target shoot and I enjoy it.
I’ve never been arrested, I have never taken any drugs for mental health, I have worked (hard) my entire adult life and now according to you, I should not be allowed to own the guns I have? Too much Kent, that goes too far – you lost me.
I have liked, supported and followed you since the late 90s when your book Simple Truths literally got me through one of the darkest periods on my life. But I can’t now, not with this post. I realize you have to stand for what you believe, and I respect that, but I’ll miss you Kent. I’ll miss your books and your thoughtful posts on varying subjects.
I do want to thank you though for all the posts and books I have enjoyed for almost 20 years.
Kent, I forwarded this to D. Tice, the Commentary Page editor at the StarTribune (email@example.com) asking whether he’d consider printing it. Would you consider submitting it yourself, so he doesn’t have to write for permission? The power in your words would be a gift to many who are not privy to your blog–and a blessing for all those who’ve lost loved ones to this incomprehensible “freedom.” Thanks for speaking for so many of us. Shawn
*clap clap clap! Agreed!
I can find nothing to add. Your thoughts and points reflect mine completely. I ask in my heart : “What is to be done?”, and the answer is always: “To be at peace, accept, and be compassionate.”
Hi Ken, Thank you for commenting so passionately on a topic which we really should not be having to talk about anymore in 2015. This issue should have been addressed and put to bed a long time ago. I cannot believe that people wrap themsleves in the flag and defend their right to bear arms when it is not necessary any longer to do so. It is sadly creeping North to Canada as well as evidenced by the shooting last October on Parliament Hill when Corporal Cirillo was shot while on ceremonial guard duty at the tomb of the unknown soldier. I act now so that my grandchildren may have a world to enjoy.
well said. Thank you.
Like I said, there are those who believe so strongly in their guns that they will turn against me in total for standing up for this one principle. If we are afraid of others’ anger, etc., nothing will ever change. I’m sorry to lose you, Grace, but I hate guns and offer no apology for that belief. Good luck on your journey. Perhaps we will meet again.
Thanks, Shawn. Send me Tice’s email and I’ll submit it.
ODD MAN OUT, apparently.
I can appreciate what you and your previous commenters have written. Whenever any catastrophe takes place, it is in us to want to DO SOMETHING. Like when an airliner hit a bridge her in 1982, leaving passengers and crew to brave the frozen Potomac; when an airliner hit the Pentagon in 2001. How I felt drawn, somehow, to DO SOMETHING! (For the former, all I could do was watch it unfold; for the latter, all I could do was gather supplies for the first responders.)
I doubt, realistically, that our puny guns could ever be successfully used to overcome the technology and force of a Government which we have allowed to become so insidious. You used the word “disconnect.” I believe that term also applies to those who think that confiscating all personal arms would make that big a difference. For every breathing person in the U.S., there is 0.84 gun. MILLIONS of guns. Scary? Why? How many horrible attacks take place amid all those guns? Very few, no matter how horrible. (“A few” is too many, yes.) How many, however, are perpetrated by the law-abiding citizens? Less than a few.
If guns were totally removed from our society, as with an eraser, and none were left even to the lawbreakers, the ones who wished to commit such acts would find another method. Home-made explosive devices, anthrax, viruses, any of which – if the perp simply keeps his head down and his mouth shut – would wreak way more terror and heartache on our nation.
Our nation is, even now, pulling down plaques and monuments with the simple Ten Commandments, and it has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with a mindset which has turned (repented, if you will) from a respect for authority (parents, God, police, a infinitum) and for one another, even for human life, toward an elevating of the individual above the common good. Until that tide is stemmed and turned, nothing you do will fix the problem.
Lastly, it’s all about what’s convenient TO YOU. About 35,000 lives are lost in vehicular accidents in the united States each year. You NEVER hear or read of anyone putting forth legislation to reduce the number of automobiles on the streets. Why? Because of convenience (and somewhat for the economy). I don’t “need” a gun? Your teenager doesn’t need access to a car; teach them to walk and use public transportation. After-school activities? Limit them. (GASP!) Soccer Mom doesn’t need a car; do like we did when I was a kid: plan trips and do it all after the wage-earner gets off work. (I can hear the screams!)
See? YOU don’t have guns, so let’s take away the guns. It becomes another “liberal” mantra instead of a workable solution.
I got my first gun when I was 12. Of course I was never allowed to use it without Dad around and had no access to ammunition. But there was never any problem, because, unlike kids today, I was not forcibly medicated with the industrial pharma drugs that make so many kids go off, rather than stay on rockers. (Something the media never ever discusses.) This gets attention, but the onsey-twosey everyday murders in every town & city in the nation don’t capture attention. Because they’re mostly drug related, and this is another issue that we just can’t face squarely. Guns are an easy target, so to speak. Use terrorism and spectacles like this as rationales to to take them away from people and make us into an even more fascist state, where police routinely kill 1000 or so people a year without question.
Amen. And thank you.
Thank you so much for saying this – I agree with all of it!
Thank you, thank you, thank you! You speak for so may of us that just do not understand why no one will stand up and stop this endless madness of guns. No one really NEEDS a gun, do they? Want and need are not the same thing, but that line gets blurred. I now live in the relatively gun-free UK. Its nice to be able to go places and be out in the evening and not be afraid of getting shot either accidentally or intentionally. I am nearly 60 now, and grew up in a family where all of the men went hunting and still do. They went deer hunting and the venison they brought home kept our poor family fed during the winter. And that is the ONLY reason that they owned A gun. Thanks for your courage in speaking the truth.
Thank you, Kent. You are absolutely right on all counts. We have to convince our representatives in government (state and national) that assault weapons must go and that hand guns do not belong on our streets and in our homes. I am so glad you have spoken out with such passion! President Obama is right that the people have to stand up and demand radical change on this matter. Black lives matter! Children’s lives matter! All lives matter! When will we ever learn……..
Yes, we have reached a tipping point. Guns have to go, trophy hunting has to go, and maybe we have to give up “target shooting” as a hobby – it’s a small sacrifice compared to the sacrifice of those left behind when lives are taken. The NRA has to be put down, Gun Shops have to be shut – we all have to make ourselves heard, or really, the blood IS on our hands.
I understand a gun as a tool, pacifist that I am; as I do knives, carnivore that I am. And you raise good points, points that should be on a T-Shirt, a movement that should be in the streets as is Black Lives Matter/All Lives Matter. Can the United States Incorporated have this conversation, suppressingly no. Its people, assuming for a moment people are humans and not corporations, yes: street by street, neighbor hood by neighborhood, town by town; and on, to include the citizens of North America – LONG OVERDUE this summit on what we have become, and the shame of our dependence on arms for profit at home and abroad, vs. our profits for the people.
And here we are again. Thank you Kent for adding your voice and stimulating others to action as well.
Perhaps, embedded somewhere deep in the Western American psyche, is the guilty knowledge that we are living on land that was stolen, wrested from its’ rightful owners through violence, subterfuge and barbarity. As a woman whose family came to Montana with the very first wave of settlers, I’ve pondered these matters a great deal and believe that there is an unidentified, unhealed wound, an abscess if you will, in our make up that requires us to remain guarded, frightened and armed in much the way a thief would be unlikely to rest comfortably in the home he murdered to own. Until we find the courage to acknowledge the violence that brought us this bounty, I fail to see a path forward that is free from the sort of fear-based insanity we’re responding to today.
It was wonderful, as always, to read your words, expressing so beautifully what I find nearly impossible to articulate. Thoughts of UCC have been weighing heavily on me this morning and I was heartened to see your post in my inbox. As a nation we have become far too accustomed to these events (I believe one of our local media outlets used the word “immune,” which is about right). We even know the pattern of media coverage after these events occur–the confusion over the number of casualties, the interviews with witnesses sill in shock, praise for law enforcement/first responders,the constant speculation about motive, the announcement of the identity of the killer, the surprise of the community with its thoughts of “I never thought it could happen here,” and then politicians, commentators, “experts,” and citizens alike pointing figures looking for someone to blame. Leading us inevitably back to the gun debate–which I believe is far far to simplistic and allows us to NOT have to look clearly at these types of events. As a counselor at another Oregon community college, I can tell you from daily face-to-face contact with students that it is indeed our country’s woefully inadequate mental health care system that is the biggest piece of this puzzle. Yes it is CERTAINLY guns. Yes it is our underfunded and under-resourced K-12 education system. Yes it is consumerism and materialism. Yes it is media. Yes it is the economy and lack of living wage jobs. It is ALL of theses things–and more! But when we finally figure out how to reach these young men and provide them free, compassionate, holistic and thorough mental health care (instead of alternating between fear and contempt when we look at the mentally ill) we will go a very long way in beginning to heal from these events and hopefully someday eliminating this epidemic. I know this post was about guns and I couldn’t agree with you more. But I would urge all of us to give the issue of mental health care equal emotional attention and energy. We need some anger around this!
Absolutely right on, Kent! And look at the response. I wish it could go viral and get into the hands of people making the laws in this country. I’ll forward it to people I know. Bless you. I hope you keep writing for a long, long time, and your words of sanity have a huge impact in our crazy culture.
You got it right. Australia had a horrific massacre. Two weeks later, the legislature passed a law that nobody could own handguns (except a very few vetted individuals in the outback to protect themselves from venomous snakes). They bought all the guns and made it illegal to own one. Gun problem solved. But here, if a politician even mentions gun control, the NRA funds the campaign of an individual on their side and defeats that person. This in spite of the fact that 93% of Americans are for tighter background checks and other simple measures. There have been 460 shootings in Chicago alone this year. The Republicans will not talk about any of this. Conservative talk radio (I listened) railed against Obama’s comments yesterday – it’s the slippery slope of the liberals (= socialists = communists) taking their guns away and guns are the only thing between them and losing their “freedom.” Don’t mess with Texas. It is a social sickness in this country and the politicians are cowed by the gun lobby to do absolutely nothing. In several days, the NRA knows that Umpqua will be forgotten.
Right now, Gov. Kate Brown is holding a news conference in support of the people of Roseburg. “We will have a conversation about guns but today is not the day.” When is the day, Governor??
Thank you so so much for your thoughtful reflection~
Ownership of guns will always be a right in this country. The legal issue is about reasonable regulation—just as we reasonably regulate how and by whom cars are driven on our streets and how and by whom alcohol is used, among many other regulated activities. The moral issue is about considering a diversity of personal viewpoints for principled regulation. This is about how to balance personal freedom without developing justification for anarchy. If we use both our minds and our hearts, we can create a free society that is thoughtful, respectful, responsible and equitable, but we won’t accomplish this without joining both intellect and heart.
Mii’gwech, Kent. Powerful words, niiji.
Thank you for speaking from your heart felt empathy for all the families who have lost a
family member to gun violence. I don’t think you left out anything that is considered a
contribution to where we are as a nation with the gun issue.
The facts are in and the hearts and minds are the critical ‘change agent’ in this multi-
dimensional issue that is becoming commonplace in our culture.
October 2, 2015
I don’t hate guns, but I know there are far too many of them available to anyone who wants one for any purpose imaginable. So, I commend your position. Thanks for laying it out so well.
Kent, wise words. There is a gun obsession in our culture, fed by the most radical fear mongers. Violence and free access to guns will only create more violence and more death. I am grieved by every death, but not surprised. It will take a change of heart.
Yeah, I just gave that same talk to my husband, about how to get rid of all the guns. Thanks for talking about this, Kent.
Yes my friend you are so spot on. Your insight into the corporate connection to the false sense of personal entitlement to own firearms is consumer fraud, plain and simple. Those wise words “Follow the Money” were never truer. Peace, it’s a way of life, as Lee Obermiller says.
Fabulous! Well-written. Proof again of your phenomenal analysis and communication skills. I think your article should circle the world. I’ll do what I can to share it with my own circle of friends and colleagues. I miss Bemidji, living in Arizona now for the past 3 years.
I guess Kent you are removing any responsibility from any of the individuals that actually picked up the inanimate object called a gun and used it in a malicious way?? If he had lined everyone up and thrown acid on them, would the acid become the center of attention; calling for the ban of all acids in the world?? If he had used a knife to slit the throats of the victims, would you call for all knives to be banned from the United States?? Why do some fractions of society want to completely absolve the perpetrator of ANY responsibility, somehow saying if “guns” were not available the perp would NEVER have committed the crime. I do not understand how putting the responsibility for the deaths of ALL of those needlessly killed right on top of a TOTALLY inanimate object!! It makes no sense. I have yet to see people blaming silverware for the obesity epidemic in this country. I have yet to see anyone blaming cars for drunk drivers killing people. Why so much infatuation with blaming guns??? I’ve had association with guns, either my Dad’s guns or my own for over 60 years and I have yet to have one of my guns kill another individual. Nor have I see any of my friends guns jump out of their safes, closets or drawers and go kill someone. IT’S AN INANIMATE OBJECT!! Stop being stupid and look to the REAL reason people are being killed. It’s the person behind the gun that want to do harm to someone and they are going to do harm no matter what. They will find a gun, NO MATTER WHAT!! If you think controlling guns at the point of sale is going to control how guns in general are used, go look at Chicago as an example, then go look at Detroit. Two major cities that have some of the strictest gun laws around. Do your research and become educated on the subject you are ranting about before you go off accusing an inanimate object for the deaths of ANYONE!! And BTW: I personally don’t care if they have a two or three week waiting period while they do a complete DoD check of mine or anyone’s background before we can buy a gun. Maybe they might also do a little mental health check too, but OH NO wait…the wonderful Government has sealed those records, so NO ONE can check them. Thanks you HIPPA!!
until we get a politician to stand up and say NO to the NRA, until we get a politician to refuse NRA $$ this will not end…oh maybe it will ,…but it is business as usual 2 days after the shooting…UNLESS…UNLESS it is your child..then you will stand up so righteous and scream of the immoral injustice …the REAL threat in this country is mental health and guns…there is NO $$ in helping the mentally ill,…and they can buy as many guns as they want…so so sad!!!
Thank you, Kent!!! Perfectly, powerfully written words.
Why can’t we make it illegal to make or sell certain kinds of ammunition? It would not stop everyone, but make it a lot harder for young people to get it. All those assault weapons out there aren’t much good without ammunition!
To Steve Scott – You right how we have 35,000 auto related deaths a year but no one talks about banning cars. A few thoughts on that.
1 – The deaths caused by cars are largely accidental
2 – Because we understand the danger of cars, we have taken steps to make them safer (airbags, and requiring people to wear seat belts)
3 – Because we understand that certain behaviors, like drinking and driving, result in more accidents, we have made them illegal, AND activily work to make sure those bhaviors don’t happen.
In 20 states this last year (including Washington State, where I live) gun deaths were higher than auto deaths. The CDC believes that thanks to the kinds of steps we have taken with cars, that in a couple more years, the number of deaths from automobile will fall below the number of gun deaths nationwide.
And the NRA and its worshipers won’t even entertain steps to reduce the number of gun deaths. Voters recently passed a law out here that requires background checks for ALL gun sales and the gun lobby spent millions fighting it. Every time a state bans a ammo clip of a certain size, the NRA and its acolytes go a bit crazy, and predict that any minute now, the government is going to swoop in and take all your guns.
The truth is that the NRA and the gun lobby NEED Americans to stay afraid, to worry about those terrible people who might attack them. Even though most of us will never need to engage in true self defense. Because as long as we remain scared, they have a customer.
I hate guns, too, But when we have a president who insists on funding an organization who is systematically carrying out infanticide, as he signs off in the murder of hundreds of thousands of babies, he is a hypocrite to say he is outraged at the loss of life due to gun violence. A disregard for human life and value is at the root. No gun control law will solve the problem until this nations turns around it’s disregard for all life, and nothing will change. How transformational it would be if it started at the top.
Thank you, Kent. As always, your words ring true, now we all just need to take them to heart.
Thanks for this, Kent. I totally agree. I teach at a community college and am freaked out every time something like this happens. The doors on our campus classrooms don’t lock either. I will repost on my Facebook page.
Really good article, but I disagree. Just like drugs and alcohol, if someone really wants it, they will find it and no amount of legislation will stop them. You cannot blame an object for a human behavior. If a gun is not available, a bomb can be made, a fire started, a hammer, crowbar, ANYTHING can be used to cause damage and take lives. If someone is hurting or angry enough to use a gun, they will use anything… taking guns away will not solve the problem.
I agree with much of what you said. Mostly though, I agree that this is an issue that cannot be ignored. However, it is a much bigger issue than guns. It’s the same issue with drugs and bullying and racism and all the evils that come from groups of people inhabiting this planet together. We need to be focusing on WHY these individuals are deciding to use guns. I would never in all of eternity pick up a gun and shoot an innocent person or innocent people. But, I am lucky. I am loved by people…and I give love to people. Love and compassion can go an immensely long way in detering anyone from such appalling acts. Why did this young man in Oregon, or the kids at Columbine or the man at Sandy Hook or in the Aurora movie theater perpetrate these horrendous acts? They feel unloved, they feel isolated, they become desperate and find the purpose of their lives from the Internet. They are clearly mentally ill, but why doesn’t anyone see this before it’s too late? We are not engaging our children in positive behaviors that encourage kindness to others. We are not paying attention. Instead, we spend our time and energy ripping apart the opposite side of the political aisle. We spend our time posting about our greatness and our accomplishments in an attempt to feel better about ourselves instead of cheering on our youth and guiding them towards love. They see potential happiness in being noticed and heard when they imagine the media attention they will receive after committing these acts. Negative attention is better than no attention, right? People are more and more lonely all the time. We need to ask ourselves, as a nation, why have we stopped loving our neighbors? Why do we feel the need to be happy when someone loses and we “win”? Why do we allow OUR children to be bullies? Why are we not teaching our children about love, compassion, empathy above all else? Why have we stopped TALKINg to each other and instead find safety in the anonymity of the Internet? We need kids to think enough of themselves to stick up for others and know it’s the right thing to do. We give all the attention to the people who have committed the most horrific acts instead of focusing on giving glory to the beautiful, innocent souls who we have lost. I guess kindness doesn’t sell papers or capture the headlines quite like a tragedy. It’s time to stop fighting and start supporting each other. We have many differences but, as humans, we have a lot more in common than we allow ourselves to believe. I, for one, am going to hug my family today and make sure that I am taking care of my own backyard before worrying about anything else. I hope you do, too. I am not looking for any comments, I just wanted to encourage love today That’s all–no political agenda. No ulterior motive.
It is so sad, Kent, but this is not the kind of thing that really gets to me any more. Sounds harsh, I know, but let me put things in context. I live in Chicago. Make sense now? I feel for the families of those victims,I hurt for them, yes, but I reserve most of my wild outrage for here at home.
I was a police officer for almost 36 years here. These big news events are a tragedy and make a lot of people make a lot of noise. Lots of head shaking and hand wringing and promises to get something done. Lots of outrage that seems to peter out when the next big tragedy occurs.
Where’s the noise, where are the protesters and agitators and community activists, the big names that make an appearance when there’s a headline to be grabbed, a sound bite to be made, when young lives are cut short in my town? Where are the ‘leaders’ of our nation, our states, our towns and cities and villages, when it’s not a nationwide news event, but “just another” local shooting?
Earlier this week, Kent, we, here, had six people murdered in a 24 hour period of time, and that doesn’t include the weekend count of dead and shot. Six people in my city dead by gun violence, and it’s barely more than a page three mention in the local news. Ten people killed at one time in a small college sparks national outrage, but the hundreds that die here, they’re only a statistic at the end of the year.
I never owned or fired a gun before I joined the police department. When I retired, I locked my duty weapon in a safe, but keep it for my own protection at home. never felt the need for an arsenal. I only have two hands. And the chances that I’ll lose my grip on reality and take out my frustrations on a cruel and unfair world are pretty negligible.
It’s so much more than just the gun. A man with a twist in his soul and a truckload of fertilizer and some instructions from the internet can and has done so much more.
I look beyond the gun, Kent. In my city, I see the problems are far beyond the mere tools we see as a focal point. The dissolution of the family, poverty, lack of education. Mostly the lack of hope, the loss of the belief that something can change, can get better.
I’ve been in too many alleys in the middle of the night standing at a crime scene where yet another young man has lost his life for no rational reason. And there is no hooplah. There’s no news coverage. No activists, no protesters, no demands made that leaders lead. Only the weeping family.
Over the years, in the privacy of my heart, I have wept. And wept and wept and wept. Bitter tears of frustration and anger. In my deepest despair, I have acknowledged that guns are only convenient tools. That if every gun in the world disappeared tomorrow, the sad, the angry, the bitter, the disenfranchised, the alienated, the mentally challenged, the criminal, would simply find another way. Car. Fire. Sword. Pointed stick. Perhaps the numbers would drop..for a while. I fear the guns are little more than a convenience and a symptom of a far greater sickness.
But until we can get at the roots of the problems that take the lives of hundreds in my city, hundreds in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami, thousands and thousands of lives a year for no rational reason, these tragedies will continue. Not just the big splashy outrageous ones that sell TV time, but the steady and almost unacknowledged destruction of countless young lives every single day in this nation, in my city, where I still weep for my people and wonder if some day the well of tears will simply run dry.
Control the guns, yes, but for the soul of our people, give people back hope.
Offer a chance and a helping hand. Find a way to reconstitute the family, and all that that means to us. We can. We can feed hungry people, house homeless, teach and train those that need to learn, and give people back self-respect, dignity, and a chance at a decent life so many of us simply take for granted every single day.
Apologies for the preaching. I am saddened by the recent tragedy, but neither surprised nor shocked. Based on current trends and predictions, it will only get worse. As I have said, my anger and frustration is at the hundreds of deaths we have where I live and no one looks deeper at the root causes of the senseless violence. Thanks for your patience.
I still cry today in regards to Red Lake. Things have not changed in 10 years. That a child who himself was so in so much pain could do not do anything, but shoot his grandfather a NA policeman and continue on to kill others before finally killing himself. There seems to be so many questions.
As to T. Kraus who posted if they would check the Hyde Amendment they would find that NO FEDERAL MONIES are used for abortion.
I feel too many have died in vain so that NRA can continue to line the elected people sitting in Washington pockets. Please wake up before more children, young and old adults are killed.
Kent, I too sincerely wish that we did not live in a weaponized society. I also feel disheartened to see the heads of animals mounted for display as trophy decorations. As a former crime analyst in Chicago, I have experienced the blood of victims on my hands,clothes, face and shoes. Many of the victim’s family members stated, that they wished they had been armed, in order to prevent the ruthless tragedy. It’s a vicious circle of violence.
An unusually high number of deaths have occured in the Black Hills area just since your last visit. Baseball bats and knives were the weapons used.
The urge to kill, and the lack of recognition that all life is sacred and connected, has been a part of the human experience throughout history. I don’t have any answers to offer except to observe a spiritual bankruptcy that seems to be pervading humanity as a whole. We are becoming immune to the violence all around us including the video games that children play that repeatedly reward death. As adults, we watch these stories on our chosen media and then go out for dinner. I agree with those who have stated above that we have further isolated ourselves with technology. Becoming a species that respects all life will be a needed evolution if we are to survive. However, I don’t believe that it can be merely legislated. I wish it could.
Golly. I am one of the evil ones. I own a legally-purchased. It is a 10-shot semi automatic hand gun – perfect for concealed carry, highly accurate. Two friends of mine, experienced gun users taught me how to shoot safely. I store the gun in l locked fun case. I keep the gun case in a locked storage unit which is in a locked room. That gun only sees the light of day when I remove it at the shooting range. I wait until I am at my shooting lane. The gun only points downrange. U keep the safety on until I am ready to shoot. Me trigger finger stays out of the trigger guard until I am ready to shoot. And I shoot only paper targets. So I am dangerous.
Thank you. I learned so much from your trilogy and I strongly support your point of view here.
I do believe the law state in almost every State that Abortion IS Legal. To try to deflect the extremely and overwhelming deaths of children that are born and living a productive life and are assets to the community to Abortion and blaming one man (Pres. Obama) is not only narcissistic propaganda that helps nothing in this debate…but shows the narrow mindedness of Pro-Lifers. Let’s start worrying as much as you do about the unborn and worry about those that are already here contributing to our society. Your Religous freedoms stop at being able to choose your religion…not change government policies! Seperation of Church and State is a must! By the way…it’s cloudy out today Mr T Kraus…Damn Obama!
Beautiful essay. I agree completely. And to the comments section with all the remarks about the angry, sick, alienated people who would find a way to do violence anyway, I say, yes. And, if we made it more difficult for them to get their hands on this one type of very efficient tool of death, we would be making the world that much safer for the potential victims. And perhaps then we could work on the root causes of violence: mental illness, racism, alienation, family dysfunction,despair. Just because humans have violent natures and will find a way to be violent, does not mean we should not have gun control. In fact, that argument actually reinforces the need for gun control. We aren’t, as a species, mature, sane, or responsible enough to be allowed unrestricted access to a lethal instrument like a gun. And we seem to be getting worse. Not better. So, preach it, Kent. I hope that more and more people listen to you.
Thank you for your openness and courage in sharing this. Such a thought-provoking article that makes stellar, much-needed points.
Thank you, Kent for being brave and bold enough to comment on this topic. I honestly thought that when we lost the children at Sandy Hook things might change. I thought people might say, “Enough!” Yet, we didn’t. I believe that the need for all the firearms comes from people operating from a platform of fear, a platform that has for far too long been perpetuated throughout generations. With fear, comes a posse of other emotions, as well – anger, contempt, hatred, and ignorance – all riding fast and furious. Fear never rides alone. I believe we need to consider operating from a platform of hope and teach future generations that we can conquer fear and go forward without the need for a cache of firearms to protect us. Other progressive countries do it, we can too. Thank you for writing from a platform of hope, Kent. Thank you.
I remember coming home from Vietnam and no one on the street had guns. It was a great relief for me initially. I felt the difference between a country at war and a country of peace and freedom. The absence of firearms was a great contrast to what I had been used to in Vietnam. I don’t understand, and I suppose for lack of an experience in life like my own, should I expect others to feel the feelings I try to express with my memories. Now, just memories, as in today’s U.S. culture I know more intensely that the guns are still there even if I don’t see them…and with each new massacre it seems like that freedom and peace I remembered is being lost.
My sister lives and teaches in Germany and is constantly asked by her adult students, “What is wrong with the United States? Why does this keep happening?” She has no answer.
Car death were mentioned. So far, I can’t remember someone deliberately driving into a movie theater or college to kill people…
I think, it is about time, gun owners take responsibility for gun death in this country. Pointing out other, accidental causes of death as an excuse, just doesn’t wash. I propose gun insurance, an insurance to pay for all gun death, to cover survivors benefits and medical bills for injured victims. Guns need to be taxed to reimburse local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
Gum owners believe strongly in their constitutional right to own weapons. Indeed, they feel entitled without feeling any responsibility.
If you don’t like guns then don’t bye one. In one post I saw a statement about of laws dealing with vehicles. Cars can kill, with the wrong driver behind the wheel. Even the laws do not stop these drivers who drink and drive. Responsible gun owners d l not go out looking to kill. The NRA supports responsible gun ownership with classes for gun safety education on how to handle a gun. The bad guys do not attend these classes. You make it sound as though guns can kill without someone to pull the trigger. Cars don’t drive them selves, so why do you think guns kill without people to pull the trigger? The point is, if people don’t want to kill they want use a gun in that way. People who want to kill will use what ever they can find. The last murder in the little town that I live in was committed with a hammer. No one wants to ban hammers.
So, if you could remove all guns from society, these nutjobs would just find another way to go on their power trips by putting Anthrax in peoples mail or cyanide in Tylenol pills.
We need to start paying attention to and caring for each other so we might understand when something is “not right” with someone like this. Our society has allowed people to become far too isolated from each other and that is not the way a healthy functioning society works.
In this morning’s news, there appeared an article describing the how the mother of the Oregon shooter was so proud in her stash of weapons. This is oddly similar to the Sandy Hook shooting where a parent or parents knew of a troubled, deranged and/or deviant resident of their household, yet permitted access to semi-automatic pistols and rifles.
How and where did we get so lost that any adult would initiate the accumulation of such an arsenal and ignore the related risk and threat? How does a society protect itself from that behavior and lack of basic responsibility?
Without sounding crazy myself, I wish we could gather our founding fathers just once more and share with them the outcome of some of the constitutional protections they once afforded to us all. I suspect they might be inclined to revisit the right to bears arms language and author something different. I doubt they envisioned that what they drafted would have resulted in this endless debate over whose rights are more important – gun owners or the innocent victims of aberrant gun owners.
Unfortunately, this has become an issue of “rights” rather than what it the right thing to do. The gun-related homicide rate in the U.S. should be a source of national disgrace. Yet, it’s not. Even the frequency of these mass shootings at otherwise safe places like schools and movie theatres don’t provoke national outrage and decisive action by our leaders.
How lost have we become.
Great article! How sad that you feared that the expression of your own opinion might open a floodgate of hate and crazy! I welcome open forums and opinions that conflict with mine. I find that it either strengthens my beliefs or prompts change in my thought process. The reason the US has this issue is because with freedom comes complex issues that challenge it. Whether the debate is the gun control issue or abortion, freedom brings complex issues that do not plague other countries like they do the US. I do not believe that our constitution said the right to bear arms was authored so that we could have semi automatic weapons in our living rooms. I think controls should limit that. But the bigger issue here is the reason for the mass killings. I believe that it is the notoriety. I don’t think people like these killers go out and do this for the kill, they do it because of the attention post humus. They want to go down in a blaze of notoriety! I think it is the attention. I was very happy to hear that in the Oregon killings they did not mention the killers name intentionally. I LOVE that approach. Let’s focus on the good in people like the heroes in this. Chris Mentz should be getting the attention for putting his life on the line to save others. That is what we focus on as a nation. The heroes not the cowards who take out others as an expression of their own misery.
A fiend just shared your essay. I hate guns, too. Thank you got writing what I feel.
A)I see that someone used this horror as a wedge to leverage in a little anti abortion rhetoric. I think one part of the reason that we are flooded by weapons of mass destruction is our lack of understanding of one thing and that is what a human being is.
An 8-10 week fetus (when the majority of abortions occur) is not a human being in the sense that it is not capable of fear, longing, knowledge of the future, or suffering. It is still an extremely small group of cells.
A human being will plead for it’s life, will think of it’s family, it’s friends, all the things that it has done and will lose if it dies, as it kneels before the barrel of a gun.
I loved your piece, but I am at wits end that we poets, comedians, and creative writers, us poorly paid flaky types who are supposed to be free, at least, to toil the fields of our imaginations, are the ones dealing with facts. Like the one no one needs 25 refrigerators, or 25 guns.
I truly do understand that people may feel the need to protect their families, and I don’t think it’s always a case of underlying racism. One gun would do that just fine.
Please, sir, keep telling the facts.
Facts are concrete. And therefore poetic.
The removal of guns from the U.S. doesn’t fix societal problems that need to be resolved. There are millions of gun owners in the United States that legally own and use them without any plan of illegal use. The problem goes much deeper. Let’s take the UK for example. Read a couple of these statements from a recent article from The Guardian:
“He was sceptical about the government’s chances of reducing the number of incidents. “Acid violence has become part of society. We need honest conversations about relationships earlier with our young people. Men no longer are trained to love and respect women. If you don’t get what you want it’s not OK to act like this.”
“It is virtually impossible to ban the sale of all corrosive substances, as many are household products.”
The UK has very stringent gun laws that make it almost impossible for anyone to own a gun, so people that feel bad for themselves or are mentally ill do things like toss acid on people instead. One might say that having acid tossed across your face is better than being killed by a firearm, but I’m not so sure I’d want to live permanently scarred and blinded.
What keeps these things in the forefront of everyone’s mind is the continued sensationalized coverage and outrage on a national level. Don’t think for one minute that the next little bastard concocting a scheme to do something like this hasn’t been watching with awe at the attention that these incidents are given. The problem is parents that do not pay attention to what their children are doing and fail to interact with them and teach them how to be good people. This issue is magnified by the internet and unfettered access. Before the internet, problem children were either loners or congregated in like groups. They stuck out and were easy to identify in society. Today, they sit at home and stew, with like minded individuals online, scheming to do stupid things like this event.
Parents need to take responsibility for their children and teach them right and wrong. Contrary to what some people believe we are not born with an understanding of right and wrong. This is evident by the differences in morals and beliefs across the world. We are taught these things.
I am totally with you on the gun issue. I am a teacher at Marysville Pilchuck High School in Marysville, WA where almost a year ago a freshman open fired in our cafeteria killing five students, including himself. The victims were not enemies or strangers, but his closest friends and cousins. The two issues that I believe most heavily contributed to this tragedy are 1) guns, and 2) alienation. You have addressed the first issue quite well in your blog. I am pasting a short editorial I just wrote on the second.
People First: Countering our American Epidemic of Alienation
Let me begin by giving credit where credit is due – People First is a national nonprofit that helps people with disabilities define themselves by their common humanity rather than by their disability. That being said, I would like to make the case that the People First philosophy applies to all people and all aspects of our society. Failure to put our identity as human beings before the demands of systems, institutions, and ideologies has resulted in a deadly epidemic of alienation that threatens to destroy our society from the inside out. Could it be that the senseless acts of violence we have witnessed in recent days and months are the tragic symptoms of this disease of disconnection?
We know that human beings are designed for community. We find our greatest fulfillment and satisfaction in life from the quality of our relationships and connections with others. Given this knowledge, how is it that we have created institutions and practices that consistently put our human needs on the back burner? Let me give you some examples:
Education – If there is one single institution that has the greatest potential to create the kind of People First society we really need, it is our schools. But even though we pay lip service to leaving no child behind, we consistently put things like grades, academic achievement, and standardized curriculum before the human needs and natural gifts of our children. We do not accept children for who they are, but only for who we want them to be. This is a terrible and intolerable example of disrespect that sends the message to many children that they are failures with nothing of value to offer their communities.
Economics – Our economy is based on competition and the demands of a corporate controlled market. It is dog eat dog, sink or swim. People unable to fit into our competitive economic system are blamed and left to fend for themselves. And even many of those able to find work have to deal with autocratic workplaces where profits rule and the human values of democracy have to be checked at the door.
Politics – Ideally, politics are how we live and work together to plan, problem-solve, and make decisions for the good of all. In reality, however, most of us are very disconnected from the decisions that affect our lives. Filling out a ballot every couple of years is a poor and shallow substitute for active engagement in the life of our communities.
I will not even begin to offer my thoughts on solutions to these problems in this brief reflection. One, because it would be too long for an editorial, and two, because my democratic faith convinces me that everyone reading these words has the intelligence and the ability to gather their friends and neighbors to put these issues on the table for discussion. And from discussion comes action. That is how democracy works.
Alienation is a poison that begins by destroying spirits and then proceeds by destroying lives and communities. It is a natural side-effect of the way we are currently practicing education, economics, and politics in our country. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.
Lakota chief, Sitting Bull, once said, “Let us put our minds together and see what kind of life we can make for our children.” This is the challenge of our times. And committing to putting People First is the only way to start.
I agree,we cannot stop trying no matter what.Continue to send the message Kent ,we need people to speak up Thank you for your words of wisdom. Jill
I haven’t read all the comments yet so someone else may have mentioned this:
Freud suggested that some men need guns as phallic symbols to reassure themselves of their masculinity. I’ve silenced at least one gun advocate by pointing this out!
Your solution is to get rid of guns. We would have less than a fraction of the success that we’ve had at getting rid of drugs. Wake up!
Every word you speak is true. Completely, down to the core of it all – true. I live in the south where every household has an arsenal. And they have it for all the reasons mentioned. And every day on the news, a young person (and sometimes an old person) dies at the hands of someone with a gun.
They really all need to disappear. Will they? No. Not in my lifetime, sadly.
We have met the enemy and it is us.
The UCC shooter was not “one more confused white kid who bought a gun.” He was a “confused” mixed race kid. Reading racism in everything isn’t really finding truth.
Thank you, Kent, for speaking so forthrightly and courageously on this issue. I’m reposting on my Facebook page and my blog.
Kent, you rather elide the point that the arms industry makes billions out of guns. And it is a powerful lobby. And just like the tobacco industry and the oil industry before it, the arms industry will continue to sow doubt and confusion, continue to encourage unthinking people to repeat its lies and half-truths. Until people begin to notice what it is doing, it will continue to promote whatever values it thinks will keep selling guns while keeping the industry out of the limelight, and generally enjoy and profit from the culture of fear that each new act of insanity promotes.
I don’t Hate Guns, I Hate the things that people do with them. I would prefer to have a gun because all the criminals have them. Like the old saying goes, Guns don’t kill people, People Kill People!
So if someone breaks into your house with a gun are you going to greet them at the door and say “Excuse me mister bad guy but ummm….that gun your pointing at my head is just something I don’t like and don’t agree with can you please leave it outside?” Do criminals say “oh my bad I don’t have a license for th is or its not registered so I just won’t use it”. I would rather meet an armed robber at my door then call the ambulance and tell them they need a body bag then to just let them do whatever they came to do….the only thing gun control does is unarmed and make it more difficult for responsible gun owners and users to obtain a gun to protect them and others from criminals and bad guys who just don’t give a shit. The cities and states with the harshest gun laws have the higher rates of criminal activity involving weapons and mass casualties how ever places with open carry laws and that embrace the second Amendment have remarkably lower rates then the ones with the gun control. It’s better to be armed to the teeth and not need any of it then it is to be stuck in the corner seconds from meeting your maker. These mass casualty shootings are very unfortunate and horrible but the gun laws didn’t keep the gun out of the shooters hands….those monsters woke up that day with the demented intent to harm as many people as they could….it would of happened no matter what weapon they had because their intent wasn’t to ignore gun laws it was to kill people and if they didn’t have access to a gun they would have had a different plan to cause th E most damage with another weapon. People need to be able to protect themselves and others because by the time authorities are notified and arrive at the seen an armed citizen could and would have the situation back under control and the gun man whether dead or restrained.
Thank you for speaking your heart. It is a heart conjoined with many others, some too afraid of the backlash to speak the words outright. I, too, have decided not to be quiet about guns, despite the fact that many in my circle are hunters and multiple gun owners, some of them radically so. I often wonder what their exact fear is that propels them to so harshly argue against any gun control. They say, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” And I say hogwash. People holding guns kill.
How anyone can argue with this by bringing up abortion or anything else like comparing it to car crashes etc is just plain ridiculous. Just a denial of the issue. Guns are designed to KILL. Any other argument is a delusion. The rest of the developed world has pretty much figured this out. To show how extreme it is… you are about 20 times more likely to be shot dead by police in Albuquerque than by ANYONE in the UK where I am from and where people don’t live in fear of being shot by anyone because we banned these instruments of death. The crazy thing is Kent writes like he is going out on a limb on this by saying how it is. Well about everyone in the UK would say it not extreme in he slightest but plain common sense. And by the way, if you are not mentally capable of safely driving a car then you are denied that privilege.
Kent,answer one question please. Is our right to have own gun less important than any of our other rights in our Constitution? If your answer is yes, please explain. I agree we need serious changes right now. My fear is the slippery slope of taking away rights. What do we lose next? Will free speech or freedom of religion be the next to go?
I grew up in a small town near the coast of California. I received a hand-me-down .22 rifle when I was about eight years old, and my father taught me about handling it safely and shooting it accurately. Over the years, I acquired a few more firearms for hunting and target shooting. Now I am in my 60’s, I live in a city, and I still have the 5 firearms that I acquired years ago. They are rarely used, stored so a thief wouldn’t get them, but I keep thinking that I may take up rifle marksmanship or skeet shooting one of these days. I wish I had a magic idea for stopping the nuts.
I’ll be writing more about this in the future. But, truly, I don’t believe it’s a slippery slope. Personally, I think that the NRA has tortured the interpretation of the second amendment and sold its interpretation to an already wary public. Sometimes things are indeed time bound and not eternal, and that they have to evolve. Our understanding of weaponry and communications are two examples. But, enough for now. I may actually write a book about the issue, so strong has the response been, both positive and negative.
I read your article about gun control and have to say that I agree with your reasoning. Comparing various gun control laws around the world the most natural conclusion I can make is that increased access to guns increases gun-related crime. I don’t see any sort of plateau or uncanny valley to this, it just makes it trend so that where there used to be a fight there now is a gunfight instead. J.K.Rowling explored a society where all children carry tools capable of murder in Harry Potter — she drew inspiration from the Irish civil war but I think she should have focused on gun-related crimes performed by minors in the USA since that’s modern reality. The book series would have a lot more deaths in it, like killings executed by the students. No one would recommend it to a single child.
From what I’ve reasoned about the meaning of guns to their holders’, the power aspect is the greatest. You can dominate others with guns, and avoid being dominated by others. The major issue I see in this is that there’s no indication of the general focus shifting from domination to anything constructive. Obama can set a law that prohibits civilians from carrying guns or that maybe they’re limited from buying a much wider variety of guns and army gear, but while it’s a necessary change, it’s also ultimately pointless at this stage. The market has been flooded with military equipment for decades and it’ll take something serious to make people see why all of that needs to be taken away. If that law had been set in the 1970’s or so it might have worked, now guns have become such an integral part of the American culture that a law or a few can hardly be expected to change it overnight. Why don’t they just outlaw racism if it’s that simple? This ties in to how the people view the government that you touched upon.
So the American people are geared up for a civil war. History has shown time and again that where there are young men who are unmarried, unemployed, and have low education they become ripe for being recruited by radical movements. When this intersects with the market full of legal and illegal guns things could get ugly. Who is the one that incites the people then? It could be anyone, we don’t know yet and it doesn’t even matter to us who the exact inciter is since the next one is more of the same. Thinking back on Germany between world wars, the Weimar Republic was an attempt to solve and rebuild the war-torn nation. Honestly I view the FED actions from 2000 onward in a similar light, skirting around the edges of market sensibility in an attempt to uphold the empire. It takes only a single black swan to kick the house of cards down. The most of the world is in a similar situation so the next depression will be one for the ages around the globe and the longer it’s being held off with market gimmicks the stronger the backlash will become.
From here on the narrative would dwelve into finance politics, that’s where everything seems to tie into. War and finance are the same thing. Lets just say that the government in USA has their hands tied in countless ways because of increased hostility in global politics.
Of particular interest is the history of the Roman Empire and how it compares with USA of today. The similarities and coinciding developments between the fall of the Roman Empire and the current state of what’s happening in USA are unsettling. It’s almost like you can read the play script from a history book. Replace Gothic Barbarians with ISIS. Replace the inefficient government full of political bodies with overlapping legal responsibilities with an inefficient government full of alphabet organizations with overlapping legal responsibilities. The geographical extent of the empire today is also much bigger, just about reaching every corner of the world, but modern technology helps with managing it. The fall of the borderlands has already progressed far in the Middle-East, and I hope no one actually expects that the USA or NATO or any governing body can deliver peace to that region by increasing their military presence there.
What can the government do when their global power position is crumbling and the citizens look rebellious? They can arm the police and castle up their homes. They can already see the pitchforks in their nightmares. At some point in this development every charismatic man out there will be recruiting troops to their radical movement. The jobless, unmarried, young men with guns are told that they deserve better than this life of poverty and homelessness. That some threat will take their jobs and their women and plague the contry that they need to protect, whatever works as long as the people believe it. This is exactly the kind of context where young Hitler thrived with his skill of public speaking. Imagine if Trump was as intellectual as he is crude. Someone like that could do a lot of damage at this very moment, never mind a decade, two, or three down the line if the spread of poverty continues on. The main problem here is that it’s looking like the spread of poverty is accelerating so the bar will start to go down accordingly.
That’s about long enough of a rant. The rabbit hole goes deep and these are merely observations at a shallow level. To sum up what I think are the major points: The main one is that I think there are too many people in USA who are ready to start a civil war. These various religion- and racism-related shootings are private citizens who feel that they are already at war. As soldiers they don’t need to care for their life in the same way they would as a citizen, since the cause they serve is more important in their eyes. I’m afraid every shooting increases this sense of being at war and lowers the bar for the next one. The second point is that the government in USA is busy in managing their global empire and has little time or patience for internal conflicts. Heavy-handed return fire will be standard for any uprisings instead of the diplomatic resolution they should be aiming for in reality. The third point is that there’s a growing pool of young men ready for abuse. The spread of poverty increases the rate at which this pool grows. The various inciters will have some type of showdowns where the better speaker will take all and grow their influence, working with the same logic as the warbands roaming around the edges of the Roman Empire looking for loot and cities to pillage. Someone who realizes and utilizes modern communication technology in the best, as of yet unforeseen ways will emerge at the top and at that point commands a substantial rebel army. Mix in some angry ex-military people as officers and it’ll become a serious threat to stability. A branch of the Anonymous will be their cyber warfare squad.
These are threats that can and should be avoided. Any unnecessary death is a tragedy. However these threats are the types of developments that can happen in contexts such as what’s in USA today. Trying to solve it diplomatically increasingly looks like peeing into the housefire, but in my honest opinion a diplomatic solution is the only way to avoid a civil war with so many people seemingly prepared for one.
Thanks if you read this far. I tend to ramble for fun. I’m not a writer either, I work in health care and am more of a pacifist.
I was so happy to see your essay on guns printed in today’s StarTribune. Congratulations for being recognized as a person worthy of attention. And blessings as you receive the resulting bouquets and brick bats.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for courageously pointing out the problem – guns – and the cultural mental illness that surrounds it.
A gun by itself doesn’t kill people, but a gun in the hand of a person bent on killing does, just like, say – a bomb. Or a chemical weapon. Why are there laws against owning and stockpiling these kinds of things, but not guns? The deceit and cowardice required to say, “Guns don’t kill people, people do,” is mind-boggling.
Regarding our cultural mental illness, people collect and lust over many things – stamps, art, cars – and we don’t think much about it unless it seems to obsessive. People also have hobbies that others don’t understand – and that’s usually OK too. I don’t have a problem with a hunter or target shooter who owns some guns to pursue his or her hobby. But some guns are simply and only people-killing machines, and collecting and lusting over these is something I don’t understand and am repulsed by. I compare it to someone proudly showing me his collection of killing machines – guillotines, gallows, or electric chairs. Or demonstrating the effectiveness of his kennel full of killer attack dogs by throwing an unfortunate animal in their midst. The only difference is that semiautomatic guns are so much more effective at killing a lot of people quickly. It’s hard to understand why our society tolerates – in some ways, encourages – this kind of obsession.
I have just been introduced to you through your gun article in the star trib this morning. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I would just like to say I am out on that edge with you and hope many more join us. You have put all my thoughts into words. I am also looking forward to reading your books. They sound wonderful! Nice website – the side photos are wonderfully distracting.
Best thing I’ve read re: the gun problem. Read it in the Tribune, but I hope other newspapers like the NYT pick it up. It needs to be widely read, and taken to heart. Thanks for excellent piece.
Agreed. Tired of school shootings: unhappy young males who feel disconnected taking out their unhappiness on school students. We need positive adult role models ASAP for teenage boys. A one by one, grassroots effort is necessary.
The irony of any USA president expressing disgust or sadness is ironic. Presidents and the US military encourage violence: “Join the Navy, Air force, Marines,” etc. So if these boys waited until they were 18, joined the military, and went to the Middle East now, they would be paid by the US gov’t to kill others.
Ironic? Every adult male understands this dichotomy. Gun control will not happen because so many lobbyists, politicians, the military industry, corporations, banks, etc, support violence (Sept 11) and make a lot of money from violence. Videos, cartoons, movies, TV shows, etc, are filled with violence.
I recall a game called “Battleship” that encouraged kids to sink the ‘opponents’ battleships – ah, death and destruction rewarded in a children’s game!
All of these shootings reflect emotions/issues like connection, joy, feeling useful, a positive member of one’s school, family, community, etc.
All wars and Sept 11, 2001 reflect these issues (school shootings) magnified on a global scale or vice versa. It all starts ‘at home’ and ‘home’ would mean internally, within one’s self. Our culture supports males towards violence. Why? Look within.
In Asian countries where there has long been both a cultural and legal opposition to firearms, mass murderers use a sword or a knife and attack in close quarters areas such as a subway. The issue is not the tool, it is the person wielding the tool. We give an advantage to such people by disarming the masses. DO you think that these killers are not aware that school zones have especially tough gun laws attached to them? All it would have taken is one confident, trained, licensed, and armed student in that group to have saved most of the innocent victims. Wanna be a victim? Follow the advice of this writer. Be a “Sheeple.” The wolves will appreciate it.
Thank you for stating so eloquently what I think and feel about the gun culture in this country.
If Mr. Nerburn is perplexed regarding “What is it about guns that so obsesses Americans” he should consider, and try to understand the old adage “God didn’t make all men equal, Sam Colt did that”. Referring of course to the Colt Manufacturing Co., who has made firearms since the mid-1850s.
Hi Kent, I couldn’t agree with you more!! I remain on your side as always, loving to reread all your books. Thanks for taking a stand!
Sadly, Sam Colt did not make the trusting, hopeful little children at Sandy Hook equal.
Thanks for this, it was published on the Opinion page of the Star Tribune.
People are too stupid to have guns. That is a proven.
Other countries have just as many mentally ill people, per capita, as does the United States. Yet, we are the world “leader” in mass shootings. It’s the guns, stupid.
But good luck making any progress on this, the Red State citizens love their second amendment rights.
If I understand you logic…
Ban all future guns and remove all current guns. Then people will be safe? That being said it would be, dare I say, an impossible task.
As an intellectual, you must see the complete contradiction with historical data.
How many guns were used on 9/11? Did we ban box cutters?
How many guns were used during the Boston Bombing? Did we ban pressure cookers?
How many guns were used at Franklin Regional School? Did we ban kitchen knives?
How many guns are used while 10,000+ people a year are killed by drunk drivers? Did we ban beer/wine/etc or did we ban cars?
The endless examples are used to highlight that people above all else cause death and destruction. The history of the world has been riddled with violence, long before the black powder was invented.
If your focus is protecting children, I would be interested to read your scathing attack on Roe v. Wade and further on Planned Parenthood for the 700,000-800,000 abortions (of children) every year.
However, if you have written no such piece yet, I would be interested to see your logic as to why not. Why have you not written “I Hate Abortions” and stated that you don’t care to understand the culture, that you are disgusted by them, that the people the perform them and the women that get abortions are “mentally ill”.
I would welcome a dialog with you regarding your self proclaimed hatred for firearms and your silence regarding so many other objects that brutally slaughter kids.
I appreciate your willingness to put these words out there – into the newspaper. I don’t understand why there is not more uproar about these shootings which seem to be happening on a weekly basis. I am stuggling to find a starting point to deal with this in a constructive way towards reform. I know that the arms industry is HUGE & I fear that they hold the most power in changing this horror story in our country. I am forwarding your article to as many people as I can. Thank you.
I just saw your editorial in the Star Trib and wanted to say “thank you” for your impassioned plea to consider the violent culture we as Americans appear to have complacently accepted. I have read and reread several of your books and Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace is one I go to often. Hence I could literally feel your anger and outrage in this editorial. Your suggestions were good ones. How/where do those of us who agree join forces to affect some change?
WOW…What a powerful piece. I am sharing and using it in my class (asking permission??) when we discuss gun control. Wishing things to change is not going to make a difference. We need to start doing something, and I think your suggestions are spot on. Where do I sign up???
Thanks, Your article is exactly what I have been thinking for years. It is like a fetish for some, gun fondling.
You know, in my opinion, people are so concerned about their rights according to the constitution until these incidents occur in their school, mall, home or to their own children, grandchildren, or even themselves. People now have the right to carry guns into church. What is with that??
I don’t want to be injured or killed nor do I want that to happen to anyone else that I love or know. But when people compare gun ownership to alcohol or drugs or try to justify owning these guns, they don’t realize that what you’re saying is that we have to start somewhere to get control over all of these situations. No, drunk driving isn’t forgotten and neither are the any of the horrible crimes that our society commit, but we have to start somewhere! Why not gun control?
Each of the offenses can and should be addressed and certainly will when people begin, as you did, to step up and begin the process.
I’m with you!
I also just saw your editorial in the Star Trib. Very well said. Your reactions, questions and ultimate plea to see the insanity of our gun culture in the US reflect my own perspective very closely. Guns are killing machines, nothing more, nothing less. It does make you wonder how long & how many deaths it will take for people to wake up from their outrageous obsession with guns. I’d love to think words could make a difference; however it appears that the true change agent is to have a family member killed by gun violence. How sad.
Permission granted, gladly.
Re your piece on the insanity of America’s gun culture — Bravo! Eloquent, clearly thought through, and devastatingly accurate. Thank you for saying so well what so many of us have thought and felt for years. What is wrong with us, that this extremism has seemed so normal to so many people for so long?
I just read your article in the Star Tribune and I felt compelled to write. By the way I graduated from Hopkins High school in 1965 and my memory is a little fuzzy but I seem to remember that you attended Hopkins as well but I’m not sure about that. But I do recall you attending Bemidji State when I was there.
I appreciate the fact that you had the courage to address this gun issue head on instead of dancing around the edges. For the life of me I cannot fathom the love affair that we seem to have with guns in this country. To describe it as a cultural mental illness is spot on. People in other countries must be looking at us and what takes place each and every day and say when the hell is the U.S. going to wake up and realize how wrong headed we are about our attitude towards guns.
We have to keep talking about this issue not just following the latest mass shooting. Change in this country takes time and I am optimistic that the level headed amongst will prevail.
Thank you for writing this. For this terrible epidemic to end, it is going to take courageous individuals like yourself to reveal the insanity involved with America’s perverse obsession with guns. You have inspired me to no longer sit back passively, not sharing my views of the consequences of this escalating problem. I have shared all the same views you wrote about with like minded people, but have not shared them with with my NRA Republican neighbors. I hold almost all of the member of the Republican party responsible for using this issue, regardless of the consequences, to draw in voters who least benefit from their policies. Thank you again.
AMEN! It IS mentally ill!!!!!
Just read the article in the Star Tribune. Thank you.
I am the person who posted the Sam Colt adage. Your response both makes my point and misses the larger implications. In our society we do we expect our children to be responsible for their safety. That is our job as adults. And had the teacher in the room at Sandy Hook (and the rooms next to that one) been armed, there “may” have been less carnage. Note the “may” in that sentence. There is no perfect solution to bad people will do bad things. They always have, and they always will.
You asked a question in your essay and I answered it, albeit in an indirect way that was meant to make you ponder both the consequences, and the reality of the situation. Let’s start with the reality – there are over 300 million guns in America today. Neither you, nor anyone else is going to eliminate these guns. Opining on how great things would be if just got rid of the guns is a waste of time. Now let’s look at the consequences. I like the Sam Colt adage because it isn’t some theoretical pondering about our society. Back in the mid to late 1800s much of our country was lawless in the sense there was no law enforcement outside of larger cities. Relatively inexpensive handguns helped keep the peace. It wasn’t perfect – many innocents were shot and killed. Many women, many children I am sure as well. Very sad consequences indeed, but we made it through that time. We as a society did not devolve into a violent mayhem. There was violence, no solution is perfect, but we made it through those times. Today is not so different. With all these guns, there is no way for law enforcement to be everywhere, all the time.
Let’s also get out of the way the feel good notions of “better gun laws”. Specifically larger magazines, assault rifles, and semi-automatic weapons. Few of the mass killers use large magazines (they simply bring many smaller ones). Few people understand that so-called “assault” rifles are simply rifles that have plastic or metal molding that some find scary looking. They are no more, or no less deadly than any other rifle. They are also rarely used in mass killings because of their size and weight. Few people also understand that “semi-automatics” are not machine guns (those are illegal for civilians). Semi-automatics are guns that do not require reloading after each shot. Almost all guns today fall into that category.
Your view from the porch in Lake Oswego is a tiny slit from which to preach this intelligentsia naivety. There is a reality here in America with respect to guns and gun violence. It is isn’t a pretty reality, and it’s consequences often mean someone or some group of people will get hurt and or killed. But that doesn’t mean we don’t try and deter those that would want to hurt us. Please don’t “awe shucks” our way into loosing our personal liberties to protect our families and ourselves.
From a pragmatic standpoint your goal is impossible without first eliminating the 2nd Amendment, the 4th Amendment and parts of the 5th Amendment.
A look at the real life hurdles you would face is found in a law review article by Nicholas J. Johnson entitled “Imagining Gun Control in America: Understanding the Remainder Problem” 43 Wake Forest L. Rev.837 (2008). It is available on the internet here:
Interesting article. I don’t deny the near impossibility of what I propose from a pragmatic standpoint, but perhaps by standing up against the insane paranoid bullying of the gun folk, buttressed by their problematic and suspect interpretations of the very amendments you cite, a few hearts and minds can be changed. My goal is to push back against the aggressive, borderline psychotic response of gun owners that has cowed those of us whose hearts break at the deaths of children and refuse to wrap ourselves in these tortured interpretations of what should be seen as a living document. In short, I make no apologies and I respectfully submit that the interpretation the article cites is exactly that — an interpretation. Other legal scholars see it otherwise, and I stand with them. Thanks for sending a reasoned response, though. I appreciate it.
Its nice that you care about society – but very sad that 1) a lack of parenting and 2)places for mentally unstable people to go or be committed to — are the root of this epidemic. Not guns.
Another huge issue – the media themselves that have created this hellish fad that has every mentally ill and poorly parented copycat person thinking about things they should not be.
Research all the killing spree’s and you will see these issues are at the root of why these people are doing these heinous acts. Not guns.
Cure these 3 issues and you are a genius.
Write about that instead of taking away a right – or in my mind applying a band aid to a cancer. Fix the root of the problem and the guns will not be a problem – pretty easy right.
Thank You Al! I agree–we need to look at the root cause. I started to write a comment last night, but I knew a cooler head and heart would prevail if I slept on my thoughts overnight.
I have found that the easiest answer–in this case, take away weapons–never solves the root cause of a problem. Yes, it might make us feel better because we have a ready and seemingly good solution to ease our pain. But the pain will only be prolonged and precious resources and energy will be spent on band-aid solutions.
I have the deepest sympathy for the families, friends and communities at the heart of these tragic events. I am deeply troubled by our country’s and the world’s eroding sense of community and family, and the lack of caring for and serving one another. I do want the best for every being in this world. It has been very sad and given me great despair to watch the sense of community with which I was raised, steadily decline over the past 30 years. It’s like a part of my spirit is dying. I was raised and taught to be a good family member, a good neighbor, and a contributing member of my community and society. This taught me humility, accountability to my fellow man, and gave me a fundamental sense of purpose. Today, one of the ways that I contribute to the fabric of our community is by volunteering with young people. We have so, so many young people that need role models, a sense of purpose, and real (person to person, not just smart phone to smart phone) meaningful human connection in their lives. I also lend my support to the local mental health association. Mental health issues and conditions seem to be so misunderstood. We can all be part of the solution, all it takes is a little bit of your time and care–the greatest gifts that you can give to someone else. Plus giving of yourself and serving others will in turn give your life purpose. Blessings and peace always…
Thank you so much. This deeply touches my heart. I am sharing. Thank you.
“People” may be responsible for the killings, but America is giving them the tools (guns).
Just as there is a limit on the number of dogs you can own (in some cities), there should be a limit on the number of guns a person can own. One for protection, one for hunting (for food). That’s it. Nobody needs any more than that. No one needs automatic weapons, period. They are manufactured for one reason only…to cause death or great bodily injury. Enough said.
Just read this, can’t agree more. I have not read the many comments so I may be repeating them.
OK, maybe getting rid of all guns will not work. What we are doing isn’t working either.
So why not just try it? Get rid of all the guns.
As an Australian, from the outside looking in, I find U.S. gun laws unfathomable.We see stories on the news of children being killed in your schools, brutally gunned down in mass killing sprees, and simply can’t understand why there is still such resistance to change. Honestly, it breaks my heart.
I love your writing and have several of your books. It is with all due respect that I have to take issue with your paragraph on Sheriff John Hanlin of Douglas County, OR. In an interview shortly after the Oregon legislature passed the gun law requiring background checks on anyone buying a gun in a private transaction, Hanlin (and several other rural county sheriffs) said he would not be actively enforcing the law as it is very difficult to monitor for compliance and to enforce. Where has he said that he would not enforce any Federal gun law?
Oregon’s rural timber counties face an ever diminishing county budget and all of our county departments have had to make severe budget cuts – including the sheriff’s department. Hanlin’s point was that there are many other serious issues to which he will assign staff before he would assign anyone to monitor that particular state gun law. He said he would enforce it if evidence should present itself in the investigation of another crime.
I believe Hanlin to be a man of strong principles and the guts to live by them. I hope he sleeps very well at night as the tragedy at UCC was in no way related to him or the job he does. The murderer owned 13 or 14 guns which he obtained legally. Perhaps his Mom should have raised a red flag when she noted that he was having mental problems and knew that he had guns in the apartment. But, then, who exactly would you call in that situation in this day and age? Perhaps his Dad should have taken responsibility for his son and stayed in his life to teach and guide him. We all have our versions of ‘shoulda, would, coulda or I’da’.
We live in Roseburg and love it. Guns are a part of the landscape here. I know people who depend on them for their meat. Most people who own guns would never, EVER raise them against another human being. People who would change our Constitution and support getting rid of all guns really, really scare me!
Thanks to the Lake Oswego Library I have suddenly been introduced to you and your writing – and that is kind of wonderful.
Looking forward to learning a lot more.
Thanks for your writing on the gun topic. Ruth
A very powerful statement. I have shared it with someone who is working very hard on this issue.
Gun owners, who lost family members at the Clackamas Town shooting, want gun control.
The internet is full of fools shooting themselves (or their dogs shooting them by mistake (Google Trigger the chocolate lab.)
I think you are right – the laws are a start but not enough. There are just too many guns. And, incremental changes will have to be the way b/c there is so much fear.
How will you take the guns out of the hands of some when they are available on the streets of every City? You start slow. No machine guns, glocks and armor piercing bullets just for recreation or hunting. That might be the place to start. And, get them out of movies and TV.
I recall watch Little House on the Prairie one night when I was a child. There was a knock at the door and Michael Landon answered it and I expected him to be shot. I’d seen that so often. I can get behind a ban on automatic weapons for the general public.
Your statement is clearly a cry from the heart and I appreciate it.
It’s fall now. I sit above the Willamette and suddenly, a shot and then geese calling in panic. I wonder where the shooter is – I live close to town. I imagine the birds rising, like a darkened cloud – desperate. No – I do not like guns.
Dear Mr. Nerburn,
thank you very much for your clear words. They ring oh so true and it saddens me to see those comments here that criticize you that even more confirmed how true and real your description of the situation is.
Thank you for your courage to write these lines. May they make more people think about their position.
Is the NRA and all the gun cronies that follow their lead ever going to get it through their heads they have had it their way for how long? Is the NRA way working, no it’s not. You all have had your guns and innocent people, for God’s sake little 6 and 7 year old babies just sitting in their class room waiting for 14 days to pass because it will be Christmas. They were slaughtered pieces of them blown apart how about the ones watching as their classmates were being blown to pieces before it was their turn to be slaughtered. You idiots having your guns is not working why aren’t you not willing to try and change gun regulation and make owning an automatic weapon of any kind against the law. You’ve had it your way let the rest of us citizens who don’t like guns have it our way and see if it changes anything.
And finally NRA and all your selfish followers quit hiding behind people who have mental health issues as the problem of innocent people getting slaughtered these people aren’t mentally unstable they are pure EVIL for God’s sake call them what they are EVIL!!!!!
When we sign petitions, write letters, send emails, tweet, and talk to others its a good thing. However the realist that I am then takes over. I wish that I did not have to say this…but there isn’t anything that anyone can do to stop the advanvement of guns. I say that because there are already too many guns floating around in society. Also the corporate media controls the message. Our voices are being drowned out.
The gun people are willing at any cost to force guns on all of us…no exceptions. Don’t like guns, too bad here is my gun so in your face is the mentality they live by.
The culture of guns is everywhere today. News, movies, cartoons, sports language, clothing, video games, toys, etc, etc, etc. It just goes on and on…..it never stops.
I’m sorry if I hurt some feelings with my words. If you doubt then try this. Start a no guns club. Find a location, place an ad and see what happens. I already know…..first you will have a problem finding a location. Second good luck finding a newspaper that will run your ad. Even if you do.. prepare for many gun owners to show up with you guessed it….tons of guns.
I truly enjoy your books and style of writing. I just finished Road Angels and have started Neither Wolf nor Dog, with more of your books waiting on the shelf. I also really enjoyed your thoughts on guns. As a member of law enforcement for 39 years, I have likewise been puzzled about America’s obsession with guns, both within law enforcement and among civilians. It has become a cultural mental disorder. Too many people have too many guns.
Well said and totally agree, I live in Australia and our gun laws are very tight, at one time we had a amnesty on guns being surrender to the police,I believe this was a good move. We have had our share of mass killings but nothing like America. I and a lot of our society have never and would ever consider keeping a gun in our home let alone 25. Why Americans feel they need to own these weapons is beyond me. I watch the news and hear over and over the shootings and mass murders that occur in your country,and nothing is done to bring about change. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be pulled over by our police force and told to exit my car with a gun pointed at me. The heavy hand actions of a lot of your police is over the top and most don’t get prosecuted if they kill a innocent person especially if they are negroes. I would never feel safe living there, and I am pleased that I call Australia my home.
I grew up on a rural property in New England and guns were a big part of my childhood. It wasn’t until I became an adult and travelled overseas that my views on guns changed dramatically. I currently live in Australia where the attitude regarding guns is more aligned to my personal beliefs. Below are excerpts from an article outlining what took place in this country after a terrible act of violence where everyone seemed to know someone who was a victim of this crime. Many Australian people used this as the impetus to act and the result was the gun amnesty – an effort to reduce the number of guns in Australian homes.
The Port Arthur massacre of 28–29 April 1996 was a killing spree in which 35 people were killed and 23 wounded. It occurred mainly at the historic Port Arthur former prison colony, a popular tourist site in south-eastern Tasmania, Australia. Following the Port Arthur massacre, the federal government and the states and territories agreed to a uniform approach to firearms regulation, including a ban on certain semiautomatic and self-loading rifles and shotguns, standard licensing and permit criteria, storage requirements and inspections, and greater restrictions on the sale of firearms and ammunition. Firearms license applicants would be required to take a safety course and show a “genuine reason” for owning a firearm, which could not include self-defense. The reasons for refusing a license would include “reliable evidence of a mental or physical condition which would render the applicant unsuitable for owning, possessing or using a firearm.” A waiting period of twenty-eight days would apply to the issuing of both firearms licenses and permits to acquire each weapon.
Alongside legislative reforms to implement the National Firearms Agreement, a national buyback program for prohibited weapons took place in 1996-1997 and resulted in more than 700,000 weapons being surrendered. Further reforms were later implemented as a result of agreements made in 2002 on firearms trafficking and handguns, as was a national buyback of newly prohibited handguns and associated parts.
A large amount of information and analysis is available regarding the number of firearms in Australia and their use in crimes or incidents resulting in death. The most recent relevant report of the Australian Institute of Criminology states that the “number of victims of firearm-perpetrated homicide (i.e. murder and manslaughter) has declined by half between 1989–90 and 2009–10 from 24 to 12 percent.” Recent reports have also examined the number of illicit firearms and firearm thefts in Australia. Among the activities relating to gun control that took place in 2012 was the signing of a new intergovernmental agreement to tackle illicit firearms and firearms trafficking.
Whether this could work in the US, I don’t know – probably not as different issues exist but something surely has to be done. It starts with the hard discussions and conversations so well done Kent for being so honest.
If we had courage, we could do the same as Australia. Our American way is to say, “We can do anything” until we are asked to do something we don’t want to do. Then we begin dividing, fractionating, parsing, and pointing out impracticalities. Just watch now: at least one gun-drunk person will feel compelled to rage at me about my comments. They just can’t leave it alone, and they just can’t accept that there are those of us who do not believe carrying a weapon is a right, that packing heat will make us safer, or that ridding our country of guns is an impossibility. Okay, there I’ve said it again. I hate guns. So, Send me your rage if you must, but, mostly, just polish your weapons and leave me alone.
you guys dont get it, fools
guns dont kill people. people do
75 children die from bathtubs per year
should we ban them?
Well, I hate people who claim to hate guns, and who berate people who like guns by trying to make them out as some kind of psycho sexual for having them. How do you “hate” an inanimate object? Either you are nuts, or what you are really saying is that you hate people who like guns. Kent, I believe you really hate people who like guns. You are a hater, and for that reason alone, we gun owners are justified in fearing you and your brand of oppression.
On the topic of why anyone should have 25 guns. First, having a gun collection is more akin to having a coin collection, a car collection, a pocket watch collection, or a collection of Japanese cloisonne vases. This is America, why shouldn’t we be allowed to have 25 of something if we can afford to purchase it? That’s freedom, Kent. That’s the pursuit of happiness for some people.
The fact that you even state “…25 anything other than perhaps baseball caps and pairs of shoes, and those things are questionable enough in themselves.” QUESTIONABLE! Questionable to whom? You? Are you the so self-righteous as to think you are the benevolent dictator who can tell others what they can and cannot have for their own good? Do you look upon us as your lovable, but ignorant children? Or, perhaps just your worthless children, like Kim Jong-Un and Kim Jong-il do their subjects.
Then, you berate people who can “barely feed their family”, but have 25 guns. First, I think you are completely making this up – you’re just spewing nonsense. Second, it’s far more likely that you will find people in the inner city from fatherless families, or who are Meth/Crack junkies who can barely feed themselves. Kent, I guess you don’t want to talk about that, just mythical gun owners who steal money from the mouth of babes to support their gun addiction. Let’s get real, Kent, your rant is based on bullshit on a burning balloon. Heroin, crack, meth, marijuana, gambling, not a problem form Kent Nurbern, but a family man with a gun collection is simply starving his family.
“Out of control capitalist society” – I see, this isn’t just a rant against guns or gun owners, but all capitalists. I’m an evil capitalist if I work my ass off in school, make good grades so I can go to a decent college, do well in college instead of getting drunk and stoned every night, actually get a job as soon as I graduate, save and invest my money so I don’t have to sponge off the labor of others. I suppose according to Kent, that makes me evil – well, golly Gomer, if enough people like Kent want to oppress people like me because I work hard and strive to accumulate a little wealth, maybe that’s a damn good reason to own 25 firearms and 25,000 rounds of ammunition too.
But, that’s not all, Kent goes even further. What does Kent really mean when he says I have blood on my hands if I “trot out tired old bromides and talk about abstractions”? What Kent is really saying is that if I express my opinion on why I support gun ownership or the 2nd Amendment, then Kent labels me a murderer. That’s right, Kent Nerburn is willing to declare me a murderer for simply expressing an opinion. Engaging in Speech. Exercising my First Amendment right. Kent wants to shut me up and shut others who have similar views to mine up as well by not only criminalizing my gun ownership but criminalizing my right to express opinions on gun ownership.
Kent, I have no blood on my hands. But, throughout human history, people just like you, condescending, tyrants who feel the compulsion to force others to think and do as they see fit do have blood on their hands. The blood of millions.
Well, I saw that you were convinced I would delete your post. Please know that my editing capabilities have to do with putting posts on, so your post never would have shown up had I chosen to censor it. You misunderstand me if you think I would censor contrary opinions. Your position is welcome, as are all others, though, as you realize, I disagree with your position. One correction, though: It is possible to hate an object, and I hate guns. I don’t hate you, nor any other human being who does not do harm to those weaker than him or herself. Even then, hate is too strong a word. But for guns? No. I hate them and for that I make no apology.
Few topics seem to evoke emotions and wishful thinking as does this gun topic. I had no use for guns, kept them Away from my house and kids, saw only the smallest chance a gun would ever help me but a larger risk that it would injure me or someone. That remains true, but I have realized that guns are here to stay. After Sandy Hook, and the failure to take dramatic steps against guns, it remains clear that our culture, our voters, laws, our courts are not going to eliminate guns. So I have decided to educate myself about guns, their secure storage, their safe use, maintenance, the varieties and risks of different actions, calibers, sights, and endless other details. I thought I should gain some expertise before closing my mind. I’m now attuned to many a gun hater who is lacking in gun experience, but not lacking in absolute opposition to gun ownership by others. I understand the visceral aversion to guns, and of course we hate the killing of innocent people. We crave a simple solution. To claim that a gun free nation is achievable seems poorly informed, even childish. I would gladly get rid of all of my guns, but my sacrifice would not improve public safety, unless disarming was accepted nationally. I’m waiting. Meanwhile, I can judge the degree of risk that I pose to others- infinitesimal. To claim otherwise, to insult a cautions, careful, well informed gun owner achieves nothing, does not reduce gun violence. I understand the hopes and feelings, but anyone trying to shame the responsible gun owner looses my respect. Once I became familiar with proper gun use and storage, and with other informed, cautious gun owners, I recognized how sad are the voices that demand we “get rid of guns” I, too, crave a solution to the violent use of guns, of course. We can’t give up seeking to stop gun violence, but maybe all the energy and thinking wasted in simply opposing guns, could instead achieve some other measures that are actually feasible and effective, and more consistant with reality.
I grew up shooting guns. I have purchased and owned many guns. I used guns in the military. I have shot guns for fun, for hunting, for a sense of protection, and for hobby. I have killed many birds, squirrels, coyotes, and various game. I have a current concealed carry license. I carry almost everywhere I go. I live in Texas, where guns are common, and a lifestyle to many. Up until recently, I thought owning a gun was normal.But, my life of guns has been a lie. I have realized guns are not normal, hunting is not normal, carrying a lethal weapon in public is not normal. Many people carry legally in Texas, and now it scares me. We don’t need guns to protect us from each other, we need understanding each other so we can protect each other. Our countries affair with guns has gone too far. Most of the guys I’ve met carrying concealed seem as if they want to shoot somebody. I’ve heard some say they are ready to shoot someone for something as small as breaking into their car. This scares me, and I scare myself. A few reasons why- A homeless man was yelling at my dog, I told him to stop and then he laughed and got louder. I was scared so I pulled my pistol on him, told him to stop. As I walked away he laughed loudly and I thought he was messing with me more, but after a second I noticed he started to cry, he was definitely mentally ill. Yes he could have hurt me, yes he could have been a bad person, but that is not the point. I apologized to him until he calmed down, then gave him all the money I had in my wallet. I asked him to forgive me for pulling my pistol on him. This does not make it better and I feel horrible. I never want to touch a gun again. What is the matter with me? that I would pull a gun on someone, yes I was scared, angry, it’s dark, and he’s a sketchy looking homeless guy messing with my dog. But I don’t want to be this type of person anymore. I do not want to be a person with a gun anymore. The guilt of pulling a gun out on someone sickens me. I am going to throw it in the lake, because I do not want to contribute to anymore guns. I hate guns, I hate myself for owning a gun. Good people are in this world, we just have to open our hearts and eyes. My eyes have been closed for too long. Today a man asked for a few dollars and he was genuinely in need but I said no, because I have given to others that were begging for drug or alcohol money and it made me jaded. I should have given him some helping cash. Then a lady was in my seat on the plane and I ask her to move, she was old and I noticed was in need of a wheelchair when she got off the plane. I should have been more understanding and observent. Then my friend called me and I told him all my small problems, yet his mother just found out she has cancer and I did not ask or listen to him talk once. I am not a decent person, I am selfish, jaded, narcissistic, and I am a mean. Yet I am completely legally able to carry a pistol concealed. This is not right. The laws should be changed. I will no longer own a gun, because if there are more people out there like me carrying, that scares me the most.
You may be selfish, jaded, narcissistic, and mean, which I doubt. But you are aware and thoughtful, which is more than most, and willing to change your views, which is rare among all of us. Thank you so much for writing, Jim. It’s an honor to publish your response.
Hi there I just want to say that I am a southern Democrat and I live in south Ms.
I hear all the time that guns are bad,guns kill people,well I have 12 of them 2 being handguns and they have yet to go out and kill someone. If you want the truth every self respecting true honest god fearing red blooded American should own and know how to use a gun then gutless untought disrespectful uneducated methhead shithooks would be to afraid to shoot up a school a park a theater a mall or anything else for that matter. If someone had a gun that knew how to use it the terror of the shootings would have been short lived but know guns are bad but it’s not guns its people get it right!!!!
Great read and thank you for publishing the counter arguements. I enjoyed reading the threds. So true why anyone needs to own 25 of anything. There is something off kilter with that logic. I love being out on the water and have 9 boats, and if I am being honest with myself, I really do not need 9 boats. It’s a little nuts and actually hard to maintain them. Today it was the number 23 that sticks out from the carnage in Las Vegas. The shooter reportedly had 23 weapons in the hotel room. The shooter had no criminal record, no known mental health history, no financial problems, no known grievances with society, possibly some impulsivity related to gambling, but otherwise normal on all other accounts. Where was the smoking gun with this guy? In his impulsive hands, that’s where. It is the guns. It is the guns in the hands of people. I am reminded of a line from “To Kill a Mocking Bird.” Jim says to Abicus, why won’t you let me own a gun, Walters father let’s him? Abicus replies, at some point Jim you will get tired of just shooting for target practice, aND you will get the urge to shoot at a blue jay or some other bird. Just don’t shoot a mocking bird, there job in life is to just make music, it is sin to kill a mocking bird.” Abicus speaks to the impulsivity in us all, some more than others. Impulsivity plays a role in the debate and unlocking this madness. Impulsively is where evil takes a foothold.
Today so many killed at a music fest where people were just out to hear beautiful music. My heart is heavy. It truly is a sin to kill a mocking bird.
Correction: It was Atticus talking to Jem in to “Kill a Mocking Bird.”
Here’s an interesting history read for those who think the 2nd amendment irrelevant:
This is a mere 100 years ago in our own nation. If you think that generally available electricity, indoor plumbing and ubiquitous white collar employment has changed base human behavior in the past 3 generations, you probably would agree with the above blog piece. If you read history not to gloat over the ignorance of our predecessors but to learn, you will maybe take away another lesson.
Pay attention to this paragraph:
More successfully, Leroy Bundy, a prominent black dentist, organized an armed self-defense force, estimated by some to be several hundred strong. Their guns prevented the advance of the mob deeper into East St. Louis. They received aid from a black mortician, who after smuggling refugees into St. Louis in his hearse, returned to East St. Louis with a load of guns.
“organized an armed self-defense force” equals “militia.” And this militia was able to defend their community.
No doubt guns are used chronically for evil purposes, but they are also the most powerful tools currently available to the average citizen should you or your community is in imminent danger. In this historical incident the tide of the riot wasn’t stemmed by the people of East St. Louis who were holding out their empty hands in love, it was stopped by organized, enraged people holding guns.
Thank you, Kent, for this thought full article.
As a gun owner, I do understand where you and other like minded people are coming from. You don’t own guns. You’re not interested in having one. You’ve seen horrible images on TV again and again of murdered people, dead due to gunfire. You’ve been bombarded with endless opinion pieces in CNN, Huffington Post, etc. about gun violence. And you want it to stop, to go away. Your heart is in the right place. But unfortunately, its a misguided and doomed to failure approach to think that by banning guns, human violence will cease. You see, people were butchering each other LONG BEFORE gunpowder was invented. CNN continually cites merry old England and a shining example of a lack of gun violence since then all but banned guns. Great! But what they don’t tell you is that the U.K., especially Scotland, leads the world in knife murders. I admire your passion to want better for mankind. But simply banning something after a tragedy like in Las Vegas and feeling better that we ‘DID SOMETHING’, will not make us more safe from VIOLENT DEATH which is what we SHOULD be talking about about. Do you REALLY believe that its the gun that makes the person kill, as if putting a gun into the hands of a priest will turn him into Satan? I seriously doubt that my words will even put a dent in your views, nowdays everyone belongs to a tribe with locked down views. But if I convinced even ONE person to pause and think, then writing all this was worth it. Peace and love to all. From a “gun nut” (your group’s words) with a closet full of guns including three evil “assault rifles”.
Not one single argument about owing guns, in particular lots of them, makes any sense to me. Especially, “it’s people that kill, not guns.” If people don’t have guns, they can’t shoot them. Guns are too easy to shoot, too easy to use when in a state of anger or helplessness. (And I know some will say they are not easy to use, but when 4 year olds can do it, it’s easy). You can’t kill a crowd of people within seconds with knives or any other weapon that is so easy to acquire.
For protection, for hunting food for eating (and how many people need to do that nowadays), is what I believe is the purpose of a gun. And just because we have a right to have them, doesn’t mean we all have to have one. That’s not the purpose of the law.
BUT, until we really believe we can trust each other, (and are trustworthy ourselves) until we love each other, and don’t expect our neighbor or even some foreigner to shoot us and know we wouldn’t shoot them, until we stop believing there are two groups of people here, pros and cons about anything, and just US, then there is no peace here.
We have soldiers to protect us and our way of life, but they are trained to shoot, to kill if necessary. Is there ever a point at which because they have been taught that, immersed in that thinking, there is a need to actually do it? It they go through their years of service and never have to do it, do they ever feel they missed something? Do some gun owners think they just have to USE their guns? That is what frightens me.
What is a good reason for wanting to have many guns, and in particular any gun that will shoot so many times? It isn’t just a hobby like collecting stamps.
ARE PEOPLE SO AFRAID OF BEING ATTACKED BY A FOREIGN ENTITY that would attack in such a way that the private citizen would need to protect himself with an arsenal? And protect maybe his neighbors or extended family and then would be called a hero? with a “thank God you had all those guns?” ! Is that what it is all about? I don’t anticipate such a war. And I would prefer to have a level headed, loving neighbor who would depend on intelligence and love to protect themselves and me, and not guns. (I’m NOT implying that most gun owners are NOT level headed or intelligent or loving, though some of the arguments seem that way).
I believe that the goodness and intelligence in every one of us can be appealed to. But that sometimes we need laws to guide, protect and love us until we are ready to ascend.
I would not in our present state of mentality ban all guns. Because the bad guys would find a way to have them. But they should not be so easy to get and not be such a financial benefit to sellers. A small comparison, who benefits from cigarettes? The manufacturers and sellers of them, not the users, no matter how much hype there is about being cool, or independent, or your own boss, or whatever argument is out there. Even sexy. You can sell anything on that argument. Cars, clothing, probably even food. Guns?
If anybody reads all this, thank you.
Congratulations on an excellent article. The United Kingdom government banned private ownership of handguns after the Dunblane massacre 20 years ago, and this virtually eliminated mass shootings overnight. A couple of friends had to give up their guns and moaned like hell at the time. The greater good prevailed, and common sense won the argument. Mass shootings simply do not occur here, and I am very grateful for that.
Dr RP, FRCP
Sadly, America is still the rawboned, self-absorbed adolescent child of the UK that mistakes license for freedom. That’s one of the reasons why I have been so committed to telling the Native American story: there are deep values in their cultural ways that we, as a nation, need to hear and take into our behavior. Among them are a moral self restraint, which, if not internalized, needs to be legislated in some fashion, starting with control over guns. Thanks for writing. And all my best to you over in one of my favorite countries.
Some years after your original post I am coming back to it. We are newly into 2018 and we no longer seem to care that we have had school shootings nearly every school day this year. Young people are dead. More are wounded. And all we care about is whether Melania is living in a hotel versus the White House and how much is being spent for a refrigerator in Air Force One. Yes, those news items SWAMPED reports of school shootings and murders of our children.
I read back through some of the comments and found Grace. She apparently mirrored my life in some ways. Her mother committed suicide by gun. My stepfather attempted it. She feared guns and took shooting safety courses. So did I. Guns are pieces of metal. Yup.
But she completely fails to see the connection. Yeah, her mother had mental health issues. So did my stepdad. Some 40 years later my stepdad lives in his own prison – paralyzed on one side, almost no speech, incapable of work, can’t read more than snippets, can’t write, spends his days watching TV. 40 years ago murder/suicides were not the norm. They are now. And had our media been so present then, I doubt I would have been here today. There were too many threats, instances of violence against us, to assume otherwise.
Where I diverge from Grace is in this. Yes, they’re hunks of metal, but they are NOT independent. They are hunks of metal if no one shapes them and models them into firearms. Even then, they are hunks of metal if no one buys them. Even then, they can be hunks of metal if no one puts bullets in them. Once they are armed, whether for practice or protection, they become an implement of death. Plain and simple.
That child that sees it and is playing cowboys and Indians. The bullied kid at school that knows where mom or dad keeps it hidden. That dad on a bender that’s pissed off at the next door neighbor or imagines his wife is cheating on him. That mom that got beaten one too many times or thinks murder is better than divorce. That grandpa with age onset dementia that believes a trick or treater intends to rob him. That grandma that is scared of the delivery man.
That armed hunk of metal is an implement of death. Plain and simple. To pretend otherwise is the height of ignorance and the CAUSE for the murders and accidental deaths of THOUSANDS each year.
Bravo for your words and for your unapologetic stand against those that choose to turn a blind eye.
Thank you so much. Though I only realized I was a Quaker 8 years ago, I have always been a pacifist. At 69, I have never owned or wanted a gun. Except when I was alone for 7 months. Living WAY out in the boonies, I have a few llamas, and always worry about them breaking a leg, or needing more help than I can give. I feel I need to be able to end their lives if needed. Borrowed a handgun, sat in the closet until my husband came home. Given back, I am much happier.
You sir, are pathetic. You’re a racist piece of trash. I love how you pulled the leftist trash line of “white kids,” when in fact per FBI databases for the last 30+ years, it has been black men who at only 6% of the entire American population have accounted for over 50% or all murders and robberies, over 43% of all police officers killed on duty and 93% of all interracial criminal interactions of which 85% were committed against whites. And by the way, stupidass piece of shit, every single gun made for the last 150 years ha a been semiautomatic by design or by function if not both. Your so called assault weapons, they are used, keyword used, to kill less than 300 people each year while twice as many die yearly at other’s bare hands. Furthermore that 6% of which you’re afraid to call out, as a worthless white cuck bitch, they commit 6x more murder each year and have for over 30 consecutive years than every single mass shooting in U.S. history. Stupidass punk bitch.
And a good day to you, too, sir.