The Shotgun at the Market

I was grilling some burgers and hotdogs for my family on Thursday, and I ran up to the supermarket because I needed more buns, some potato salad, and other things that I never remember I ran out of the last time I had a cookout. I drove the three blocks to the market, hopped out of my car and was greeted by the sight of a middle-aged white man strapping a shotgun on his back and walking into the market just ahead of me. My initial reaction was irritation. Why is this guy bringing an apparently loaded firearm into the grocery store at 6pm on a Friday? Is he trying to intimidate people? Trying to make a political point? I wanted to go to the store manager and register a complaint, but I found it hard to call up my rational objections to carrying loaded guns in public places (objections that are easy to call to mind when looking at photographs of open-carry demonstrations, etc.). My visceral response to a shotgun in a place it does not belong made rational thinking of any kind difficult. My short list of last-minute items escaped me. It took me several minutes in the produce section to remember I was supposed to be in the bakery.

I got home flustered, told the story to my visiting parents, and tried to get back to the business of feeding my family. My father–a gun-owning Texan–couldn’t understand why someone would take his gun into a store and had a hard time believing that it is entirely legal to do so.

That evening, after eating dinner and cleaning up the kitchen, I opened up my laptop and saw that, not long after I was standing in a grocery story in Virginia behind a guy with a shotgun, two bags of potato chips and a six pack of malt liquor, a man in Washington had carried his shotgun into a building at Seattle Pacific University and opened fire. The man killed one student and injured three others before being pepper-sprayed and tackled when he paused to reload. The gunman was carrying a lot of ammo, and, if he hadn’t had to reload, it could have been a lot worse.

The shootings in Seattle were only the beginning of the weekend. On Friday, a man in Georgia staged a full-frontal assault on the Forsyth County courthouse. The shooter in this case was an arms dealer who sold guns and other weapons (free from background checks and other regulations) at gun shows. He was due at the courthouse to answer weapons and drug charges, but he showed up with tear gas, smoke grenades, tire spikes, plastic handcuffs and plenty of ammunition. A sheriff’s deputy–whom he shot multiple times–was able to prevent him from entering the courthouse, and the gunman died in a firefight with police after turning the street outside the courthouse into a war zone.

The weekend was not over. On Sunday, a man and woman in Las Vegas walked into a pizza parlor, shot two policemen dead, took their sidearms and ran into a nearby Wal-Mart. They killed another person in that store before exchanging fire with more police and eventually killing themselves. Witnesses report the man and woman screaming “This is a revolution.”

All of this was only two weeks after a young man filled with racist and misogynist ideology went on a killing spree near UCSB in Isla Vista California.

We are only 18 months out from the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. In that massacre, a gunman shot and killed 27 people, including 20 first-grade children.

Only 6 months before that, in July of 2012, a gunman opened fire in a theater in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 people and injuring 70. If his tactical rifle had not jammed, it would have been much worse.

About 6 months before that, in January  2011, a gunman at a supermarket in Tuscon, Arizona, killed 6 people and injured 13, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords whom he had come to assassinate.

7 years ago, in April 2007, about an hour from where I now live and teach, a student at Virginia Tech killed 32 people on campus before killing himself.

We are 15 years out from the 20 April 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado. Two young men killed 12 other students and 1 teacher before killing themselves. Back in 1999, it seemed as if there were no comparisons for the Columbine massacre. The intense planing and horrific body count set Columbine apart from other public shootings (like the school shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas in which two adolescent boys killed 4 girls and a teacher). Today, both the cold-blooded planning and the number of dead in Columbine are beginning to look ordinary. A regular event. Unexceptional. (And this much-too-long list contains only a few of the mass public shootings since Columbine).

This weekend of exceptional violence, of school shootings and attacks on civil authorities, sent me thinking back over the past 15 years and the number of mass shootings I couldn’t even remember (West Nickle Mines Amish School. Red Lake Senior High School). My own minor encounter with the shotgun in the market evoked this public history and our present moment of public shootings and public displays of weapons, and it framed them, for me, as a physical, embodied experience. Occupying public space with a stranger and his gun is unpleasant and unsettling. It makes you forget what you are doing, makes you check for exits you don’t know about, makes you worry about the narrow front entrance and shopping carts blocking the aisles. It makes you second-guess yourself and call yourself paranoid (“he’s just a jerk making a stupid point, nothing to be afraid of”) while it leaves you with nagging anxiety (“because what if…”). When the guy in front of you at the market has a shotgun slung across his back, you can’t know if he’s there to buy potato chips or to kill as many of us as he can.



    • Bart Triesch

      There seems to be many restraints in place already. The common denominator seems to be mentally ill young men. They need to get treatment and be closely followed.

      • heardfc

        Mentally ill young men in other countries don’t go on shooting sprees. That is only an option in an environment full of guns.

      • Bart Triesch

        Yep. The U.S. has 300 million guns and we add about 15 million a year. The genie is out of the bottle. I got mine and I suggest you get yours. Anyone without one has a “Victim” sign over their head.

      • heardfc

        I see you’ve given up on democracy. I suppose that’s your prerogative. It’s cynical, selfish, cowardly, and rooted in the same impulses that drive the “mentally ill young men” you blame for public shootings, but it’s your prerogative. Sane young men and women–and I count myself in that number–actually have to plan for the future you’ve dismissed, and I don’t want to consign that future to anarchy and violence. Human lives are worth too much.

      • awax1217

        The problem is that many will abuse the power and declare people who are sane as not sane and the innocent will be abused.

  1. rami ungar the writer

    More than the statistics, it’s those gut feelings that I resonate with the most. If someone came into my local Kroger with a shotgun (and I’m not sure that’s legal in Ohio, but still), I’d be bending my knees to duck or run and looking for the nearest exits. Because freedom to use guns is just that: freedom to use guns, even for things that society would normally condemn or try to curtail. If these massacres and shootings and the guy with the shotgun prove anything, it’s that we need at least some restrictions if we wish to promote a safe, enlightened society. Thanks for giving us your personal experiences and giving us some much needed reminders.

  2. roboman20000

    Wow, I can’t Imagine what that would be like. If I saw any person with a gun and without a uniform, I would be hightailing it out as fast an as ‘calmly’ as I could. Maybe it comes with living in Canada, but I don’t think the right to own a gun and carry a gun means you get to take it with you on a trip to the supermarket like your dog.

    I can’t say what that man was thinking, but he was obviously not being considerate of the feelings and perceptions of others. Carrying a gun is an open and unspoken threat, even when the person is the most fluffy and nice person you might meet. This kind of inconsideration honestly makes no sense to me at all.

  3. Karl Drobnic

    You;ve every right to be unnerved by the shotgun toter. You can’t possibly know what is going on in a person’s head, but strapping on a shotgun at the supermarket is clearly aberrant behavior, and I would have got back in my car and driven away while letting 911 know about the situation.

    • heardfc

      I thought about calling the cops, but, since open-carry is legal in Virginia, I’m worried that I will get a citation for public nuisance if I call the cops. We don’t have an option until they start shooting.

  4. Ted Luoma

    Open carry is legal here, though I don’t see it much. When I see a gun toting American, I think, “Cool, we are relatively safe here. If someone causes trouble, this dude will blast them.”

    I was more nervous watching armed guards at every corner store and fast food joint in Tegucigalpa. If there are all these guys with shotguns, the crime must be horrible. I think Honduras is the murder capital of the Western Hemisphere.

    • heardfc

      The armed guards in Tegus and the militarization of our own police departments are not unrelated to open-carry laws. If we flood our streets with handguns and tactical rifles, then the police will need to be armed and vigilant (as the murder of the two officers in Las Vegas and the assault on the courthouse in Georgia demonstrate), and private citizens with the funds will need to hire mercenaries to protect them and their children (Latin American kidnappings are an example).

      I don’t think you should feel safer when you see an American toting a gun in public. Every recent public shooting spree has featured a gun-toting American, and we don’t have magic glasses that tell us the “good guys” from the “bad guys” (to borrow the NRA’s parlance). Even if the gun-toting American is trying to protect other people, there is very little evidence that they will be able to do that. Both of the officers killed in Arizona were trained professionals with firearms, and they were both killed (and their guns taken from them). The third victim in Arizona was a private citizen with a concealed weapon who tried to intervene (the Millers killed him, too). I also imagine the nightmare scenario when lots of bystanders have guns and can’t tell who is “good” and “bad” when the shooting starts (think of how frequently the referee in a soccer/football/basketball game calls the foul on the guy who throws the second punch).

      Fewer guns, not more of them, is the answer. The shooter in Seattle was disarmed for two reasons: 1) someone had pepper spray and courage, and 2) he had to stop and reload.

      • Ted Luoma

        So are you saying that you are opposed to the Second Amendment?

        If someone wants to commit murder, he is going to do it. Maybe he will have a gun, maybe a knife, bomb, his bare hands, etc., but if he is intent on murder, he will follow through.

        If we want to strip guns because he could kill more people, we are merely being pragmatic. He has other methods at his disposal for mass killing, and the fear that someone might go crazy and use a gun is merely a pretext to trample on American’s rights. You could go to a hardware store and Walmart to find everything you need to make a bomb.

        To strip law abiding citizens of guns isn’t the answer. I’m more concerned with the possibility of the government declaring martial law than I am of any number of lone gunmen.

      • heardfc

        I am opposed to interpretations of the second amendment (an amendment explicitly about the state militias now known as the National Guard) that allow private citizens to own military-style semi-automatic weapons, extended magazines, armor-piercing and hollow-point ammunition, tear gas grenades, etc.

        I oppose those interpretations of the second amendment for several reasons, but I will only mention two. First, the possibility of martial law is a distant possibility. Public shootings are a present reality. There have been 31 firearms attacks in American schools since January ( Second, if the federal government did declare marital law, a Glock and a Bushmaster are not going to save you from an Abrams tank or a Hellfire missile. Should individual citizens be able to build private armies that can challenge the largest military force in the world? (That sounds more like Somali warlords than American democracy to me).

        “Tyranny” is as much of a red herring in arguments about tactical weapons as hunting (no one should need an extended magazine to take down a deer). We don’t prevent government tyranny by stockpiling weapons. We prevent government tyranny by exercising our political rights, including the right to public assembly and free speech. Carrying high-powered weapons in public is explicitly meant to bully opponents with the visible threat of physical violence. Carrying guns in public damages our ability to appear in public together and to rationally discuss the common good and the commonwealth. Guns in public, not their absence, lead to tyranny.

        How many people are you willing to sacrifice to an absolutist interpretation of the second amendment? Are you willing to sacrifice the very possibility of public appearance, public discussion, and public action so people can purchase and carry weapons whose primary function in the country we currently inhabit is cold-blooded murder?

  5. jmchri13

    An eloquent post from a reasonable, logical perspective. That tragedy about all of these shootings is how naturalized they’ve become. As a result, we are no longer shocked by them, and are much less likely to act in any way to remedy the situation. Politicians might beat around the bush with mental healthcare and violence in video games, but there really needs to be a reasonable, civil discussion about guns, and their pervasiveness in society. The fact that the Sandy Hook shootings resulted in many states actually loosening gun restrictions highlights a lack of reasonability. I’m not saying ban every form of gun ownership. I just think people need to be reasonable. Try telling the parents of the Newtown victims that unbridled firearm ownership and access will make us as Americans freer and safer.

    • heardfc

      Thank you for your comment, and for your reminder of the legal reality of our moment. We have had national ammunition shortages based on increased *demand* following public shootings, but no effective legislation (or even attempts at legislation).

  6. marqdepot

    The challenge is that you can eradicate guns, then knives, then clubs then rocks and crazy people will use their hands to kill. You just can’t stop crazy. Although not allowing people to carry loaded guns around would be a good start, crazy people don’t follow rules.

    • heardfc

      This isn’t an argument against gun control. It is an argument against all laws. Because criminals, by definition, do not follow laws, and law-abiding people will follow them anyways (especially with cut-and-dry moral questions like murder). We have laws for the public good. People should be discouraged from endangering the public good, and those who do endanger the public good should be stopped and punished (fines and, if necessary, jail time).

      If the guns that Eliot Rodger’s owned had been illegal, the cops could have taken them away from him before he started hunting sorority girls in Isla Vista. They knew he had the weapons, but they couldn’t do anything about it. Dennis Ronald Marx, the gunman who assaulted the Forsyth County courthouse in Georgia, made his living selling guns to other people (largely unregulated at gun shows).

      The rest of the world has crazy people. The rest of the world doesn’t have crazy people who take high-power firearms into public places and kill. The difference is the guns.

  7. orderneedschaos

    One piece of the discussion that people and politicians always forget to talk about is the fact that in almost all of these instances the people responsible for these acts were criminals or unstable people who gained access to guns illegally. They were not registered gun owners, they weren’t trained for conceal or open carry. While I wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable standing behind someone with a shotgun or rifle on their back in a store, I know that if someone came into that store looking to kill, at least someone would have a chance to stop him before he killed too many people.

    Think of the statistics of the number of gun murders every year in relation to car deaths where someone killed another person duue to drinking or texting or whatever. Do you see public outrage for the ban of cars? No, you see people approaching the problem with the person, not the machinery involved.

    The gun control discussion is more relevant to the foundong principles of America than people want to accept; its about the government not wanting the public to be able to defend itself from them than it is about controlling violence. It doesn’t matter what weapon you ban someone will always find a way to kill when they want too.

    • heardfc

      See my comment to marqdepot above. Your initial statement is false. No questions about it. James Eagan Holmes legally purchased all of the semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines he used to murder 12 and injure 70 in the Aurora, Colorado, theater massacre.

      • heardfc

        Jared Loughner legally purchased the gun he used to kill 6 people in his attempted assassination of Rep. Giffords. Elliot Rodger’s used a legally purchased gun in his Isla Vista killing spree. Dennis Ronald Marx, the gunman who assaulted the Forsyth County courthouse in Georgia, made his living legally selling guns to other people (largely unregulated at gun shows). The guns Adam Lanza used in the Sandy Hook massacre were his mother’s legally purchased firearms. Seung-Hui Cho legally purchased the guns he used in the Virginia Tech massacre (the nation’s deadliest mass shooting). Steven Kazmierczak legally purchased the weapons he used to kill 5 people and injure 21 at Norther Illinois University in DeKalb. This is a very partial list.

        What did you mean by “almost all” instances?

        All of these shooters had different motivations, different levels of mental stability/instability, and different histories with both law enforcement and mental health providers. The one thing they had in common was access to high-powered weapons.

    • timm553

      Then again, the guy in front of you at the checkout counter, the one with the shotgun, after putting his 10 items or less on the belt, might just take the shotgun off his back and start shooting because he had to wait in line behind someone who had the audacity to believe that 13 items would be ok.

  8. Michelle at The Green Study

    This is where political ideology meets reality. The sight of anyone carrying a gun has me quickly grabbing my child’s hand and leaving the premises. It’s a visceral reaction that gun enthusiasts don’t seem to understand. I don’t know them. I don’t know their guns. I don’t know their intent. They are now the threat in front of me. Not the government. Not a flawed mental health system. This unpredictable individual with no sense of propriety or boundaries or even common sense constitutes a bigger threat to me than any ideological battle fought in the media. The very presence of a weapon raises the chance of me or mine getting shot.

  9. literalnut

    This is beautiful written, but it has me on the verge of having an anxiety attack at work. Where will the madness end? There is no other threat to society that people so consistently respond to by calling for more and more of the very threat in question.

  10. ravensmarch

    Utterly chilling. I hope that this gets to be the sole instance of such an encounter for you. I’ve pondered this sort of behavior from the relative safety of Canada, and I think that in addition to the swaggering, self-aggrandizing element of taking a shotgun into a store, there is a flip-side. Anyone who feels this is necessary is clearly very deeply afraid, and if not for the way in which they express their fear, one would feel absolute pity for them.

    One of the previous commentors says the ‘When I see a gun toting American, I think, “Cool, we are relatively safe here. If someone causes trouble, this dude will blast them.”‘ I understand that the civilian killed in that “revolution” in Las Vegas was killed because he was going for his perfectly legal gun. More guns is the answer to the problem of violence like more gasoline is the answer to the problem of a fire on your lawn; the best it can be called is useless.

    • heardfc

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. You make a very good point–one we shouldn’t lose sight of–that some people carry guns (both openly and concealed) out of fear. They no longer feel safe in public spaces unless they are armed. We all should support the right of our fellow citizens to be safe in public spaces without carrying firearms. No one should feel like they have to arm themselves in order to be safe or to keep their families safe. Getting high-powered, high-capacity firearms off the street would be a big step in that direction.

  11. talaverabeads

    An individual can be held accountable for their actions and should be. A gun is not responsible for what we do with it like drugs and books. You’re fellow man can be very dangerous and this needs contending with more than gun ownership. People’s actions are more evident now that we have this technology I am using right now. Use it for individual responsibility not more laws no one respects anymore.

    • heardfc

      Thank you for your comment. Like some other people in this thread, you are not arguing against gun control; you are arguing against having any laws whatsoever. We need laws. They are necessary for the common good. Without laws, we would live in the state of anarchy that Thomas Hobbes describes as the “war of all against all.” Democracy, rule of law and institutions of governance are all preferable to the chaos and violence of anarchy.

      In the specific cases you mention as comparisons (books, drugs) we do have sensible regulations that protect the common good. Crystal meth is illegal, and it should be. Freedom of speech is a human right, but yelling “fire” in a crowded theater is justifiably against the law. We also need laws regulating the sale and ownership of guns.

      It is true that a gun is a tool and that people are responsible for how they use tools. Semi-automatic tactical weapons are tools made for a single purpose: killing other human beings. Tools designed solely for taking human life should not be broadly available and largely unregulated in a law abiding country.

      Individuals are responsible (both legally and morally) for killing other people with guns. We are also collectively responsible for how our laws regulate the manufacture and circulation of those guns, and, as a nation, we have both the right and the responsibility to pass and enforce sensible gun control laws.

      • talaverabeads

        I was not against any laws whatsoever but feel if we enforced properly the ones on the books it would be more practical. There is no such thing as collective responsibility. We are not a collective. We are individuals with freedoms and responsibilities.

      • heardfc

        We are born into families and communities that teach us our ethics, our politics, our language, even our concepts of self-hood. No individual can separate herself or himself entirely from those ties to other people. As John Donne said, “No man is an island,/ Entire of itself,/ Every man is a piece of the continent,/ A part of the main.”

        Our individual responsibility is inseparable from the fact that we share the world with other people.

      • Ted Luoma

        I agree meth should be illegal, and it is. Law enforcement spends a lot of resources busting up labs in spite of of the law.

        Should we legalize meth because people still break the law? Of course not. However, owning a gun is a constitutional right, getting high is not.

        I agree that there have been a lot of shootings lately. I don’t know if it’s more shootings historically. Perhaps there is more media coverage. Nevertheless, should we not be protecting the rights of law abiding citizens? If you take the guns does that guarantee that crime will lessen?

      • heardfc

        The Constitution is an invitation to think, not a license not to think. That is why the first amendment guarantees the right to assembly, the right to free speech and the right to a free press. That invitation to think has led to many revisions of the Constitution, including the abolition of racial slavery and universal adult suffrage. Yes, the second amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, but that does not and should not end the conversation. If our circumstances–very different from a rural, agricultural country with no standing army and 18th century technology–require us to change our gun laws, then we should not sacrifice ourselves to the false notion that the Constitution cannot be adapted to meet our present needs. The framers knew that it is an imperfect document. That is why they made provisions for amendments.

      • Ted Luoma

        The framers were very smart men. True, they couldn’t foresee the future, but I’m sure if the intention was only to have the right to arms for a time, they would have written it that way. They could have said we have a right to bear arms until the government is so big and massive that we can rely on the government to take care of us.

        By the way, I really enjoyed your article. It’s very thought provoking.

      • heardfc

        Thank you, Ted. I am enjoying the conversation with you. Civil discourse about guns is rare these days, especially online.

        I would point out that the framers also made no provision for women (on non-white men) to ever have the vote. We cannot always defer to their historical limitations, and they knew that we shouldn’t.

  12. Ted Luoma

    I think I’m confused. You state there should be no assault weapons and extended magazines, but the article is about a shotgun. I don’t even own a gun, but I believe it should be a right to arm yourself.

    If guns were all taken away, would that reduce crime? The criminal will still have their guns. If we were somehow able to get even the criminal’s guns, would they stop being criminals? Of course not.

    As I mentioned earlier, you can make bombs that are much deadlier than a gun (even an assault rifle with an extended clip) by building a bomb made with material purchased at the hardware store. If you wanted, you could make a really big bomb like Timothy McVeigh with relative ease. You can even poison people with chlorine gas. Everything you need is at Walmart.

    Grabbing guns makes no one safer. If anything, it gives criminals an easier time to rape and kill.

    If you really want to get to the source, it’s that people are wicked. The only cure to that is Jesus Christ.

    • heardfc

      I don’t (at this point) think that owning a shotgun should be illegal. I do think that carrying it through a supermarket should be criminal nuisance. Reckless driving will get you a ticket. Why not reckless display of a firearm?

      Different types of weapons should have different types of restrictions. That does not seem like an unreasonable expectation or a difficult concept.

      I’m not sure why you think Jesus would be against gun control laws? I missed that part of the gospels. I am familiar with the parts about loving your neighbors as yourself (which should include not intimidating them by carrying weapons in public), about those who live by the sword dying by the sword (we assume the same would apply to guns), and about yielding unto Caesar what is Caesar’s (respecting the civil authorities).

      • Ted Luoma

        I wasn’t trying to compare Jesus to gun control laws. The Bible says people are wicked. You may be able manipulate behavior with laws outwardly, but the wickedness is still within. If there are wicked hearts, there will always be crime, no matter how draconian you may or may not want the laws to be.

        Jesus ultimately is the only cure. Everything else is just an attempt at pragmatism.

      • heardfc

        Thank you for the clarification. As long as we can agree on the need for pragmatic solutions to immediate problems, I am just fine with that. Our faith traditions shouldn’t prevent us from working together on secular, civic solutions to problems confronting the common good.

  13. aginggracefullymyass

    Reblogged this on Aging Gracefully My Ass and commented:
    In my six months of blogging, I have never reblogged anything before. I like to do my own writing, and like to keep things light and humorous most of the times. But this blog post resonated on such a deep level with me, I feel compelled to reblog it. An excellent post about a most troubling topic.

  14. PoshPedlar

    So interesting from an English perspective. Each day I encounter at least one nutter/oddball/weirdo/freak of nature, the fact that they might be carrying a loaded weapon just does not bear thinking about….

    • Ted Luoma

      That’s how I pretty much view it in Louisiana. I regularly hear stories of businesses that ban weapons on their premises, then promptly get robbed by a gun wielding thug.

      • heardfc

        I’m suspicious both of the number of such incidents that actually occur and of whether a business banning weapons statistically increases the likelihood of armed robbery. After all, places without gun-bans in place are robbed every day somewhere in the country. If we go hunting for overlap between those robberies and businesses that ask people not to carry guns on the premises, we can probably find a few cases. Those cases would not, in themselves, prove that banning guns increases the likelihood of being robbed.

        Second, a gun does not determine your ability to resist armed criminals, nor does it make you safe from other guns. Two examples from this week: 1) In Nevada, a man carrying a concealed weapon tried to intervene when the Millers entered Wal-Mart after killing two Las Vegas police officers. He was shot and killed by Amanda Miller. 2) In Washington, a young man with pepper spray successfully disarmed the shooter at Seattle Pacific University.

        On top of that, I’d rather witness a robbery than be caught in the crossfire between a armed robber and a vigilante. Or between two vigilantes if one of them thinks the other is sticking the place up. The answer isn’t “arm everyone everywhere all the time.” A collective of armed vigilantes is neither a nation nor a society; it is a war of all against all.

      • Ted Luoma

        I’m also suspicious of the regularity of gun crimes that have recently occurred. I imagine that gun crimes could seem “out of control” due to increased media attention.

        Your second point is subjective. Further, every scenario holds its share of differing variables. In the end, I think we are merely sharing opinions because statistics can be twisted to mean whatever someone wants.

        I don’t think either party is being completely objective, but to punish law abiding citizens because of the actions of criminals makes no sense to me.

        Rumors abound that states like Texas and Oklahoma would secede if the government tried to take their guns. I’m sure that’s just paper tiger talk, but if the impossible happens, I am all for these states protecting themselves from the government.

        In the end, I’m sure I could give you an instance where a citizen with a gun saved the day, and you would counter with 10 instances where guns were a bad idea, and vice versa.

        I don’t know your nationality, but I have the impression you are British where guns are prohibited.

        Assuming the U.S. needs all guns confiscated, it is only proper to confiscate guns from the police force. After all, British authorities don’t carry guns. Or am I mistaken?

      • heardfc

        I’m a Texan living in Virginia. I grew up in a house with guns. I’ve spent almost my entire adult life in the American South. (Nice try on the credibility attack, though).

        Anecdotes and opinions are, as you point out, not always trustworthy. Scientific studies are more reliable. Here are a few studies about the risks/benefits of having a gun in the home:

        The overall findings are that guns pose a significantly greater risk than they provide protection (this is why the NRA lobbies congress to keep the CDC from funding studies on the public health impacts of firearms).

        The news is even worse for women than for men:

        As for mass public shootings, compare Australia’s numbers after the Port Arthur massacre to our numbers after Columbine.

      • Ted Luoma

        I wasn’t trying to attack your credibility. That is just a wrong assumption, but it was no way meant to denigrate or patronize.

        Funny, I have a chef friend from Virginia that lives in Texas. We do volunteer work together and I think the only time he didn’t have at least two guns on him was when we were in Haiti.

        Granted, I don’t own a gun, and haven’t had one for a number of years. If I ever decide to buy a new gun, my three daughters will learn to shoot it.

        I don’t know what to think of those articles as the LA Times has a history of liberal bias.

      • heardfc

        Ted, I’m sorry if I incorrectly assumed you were poisoning the well. As a native Southerner, I am sensitive to claims that “outside agitators” don’t understand the issues (that claim has been detrimental to our history and our politics).

        Setting that aside, how do you expect anyone to accept a claim of “liberal bias” from a website called “conservapedia”? We need to exercise our human capacities for rational judgment in a factual world. We can’t throw our hands up in the air and say “everybody’s got a bias, and I’ve got mine.” (A previous post of mine, “Just One Man’s Opinion” says something about this contemporary phenomenon of American public life.) There are facts that stand outside of partisan politics, and we have access to them if we have the will to bracket our partisanship and look for them together. Scientific studies are one method–a method with an excellent track record–of establishing facts. We can have political debates about policy–about what changes we want to make to the factual world and how we should make those changes–but we cannot sacrifice the very possibility of facts by claiming they are nothing but partisan opinions.

        Does the American Academy of Pediatrics have a history of liberal bias? Is internal medicine liberal? Is public health? Should we question the germ theory of disease because doctors may have a liberal bias? Why would physicians form a grand conspiracy against guns?

      • Ted Luoma

        Well, there is bias, then there is bias to push an agenda. I’m a conservative Christian. I believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. Some people would label that as crackpot fundamentalism.

        Supposing guns were outlawed and the government went house to house collecting our guns, would the world be a better place? Would criminals have access to guns? I would think so. We can’t even keep drugs from crossing our borders. I have a hard time believing our batting average would improve because the government is looking for guns.

        If guns were removed from society would there be a decrease I crime? I don’t know. Outlawing guns doesn’t make a criminal a law abiding citizen, though.

        I get it. Guns are visceral. They go off and kill people. But it is the people pulling the trigger, the gun is neither good not bad. It is just a tool. The person who wields the gun determines whether it is good or bad. The criminal needs to be punished, there shouldn’t be a decree across the land that takes rights away from everyone.

      • heardfc

        Two points: 1) Guns are not drugs, so we cannot extrapolate the success of gun control policy from drug prohibitions. I can cook meth in my bathtub or grow pot in the hall closet. Manufacturing a Bushmaster is significantly more difficult. The argument you provided is not against gun control; it is against any and all legal prohibitions. Unless we want to give up laws entirely, we can’t refuse to consider gun control because it might not be 100% effective.
        2) While we don’t know exactly what effects gun control would have in the US, we can look at other countries that have enacted stricter gun control policies and see how successful they have been. For instance, the UK and Australia have extremely successful gun control policies. You mentioned yourself that cops in the UK don’t even need to carry guns (for the most part). Australia responded to the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 by enacting strict gun control laws, and they have not had a single mass shooting since. Meanwhile, we are arming our police with war surplus just so they have a fighting chance.

        We also can’t throw up our hands and say, “there’s nothing we can do about it…owning high-powered firearms is a right!” 151 years ago, Americans had the legal right to own other human beings. Women have had the legal right to vote for less than 100 years. Our legal rights evolve, and we have a fundamental human right to change our laws to fit the common good and the needs of the commonwealth.

      • Ted Luoma

        Gun control is great. Felons shouldn’t have them. Anyone that has documented behavioral issues should be prohibited to owning a gun.

        I’m completely fine with that. I don’t think the average citizen needs a full auto gun. I disagree on “assault weapons” as long as they are semi automatic. I wouldn’t even split hairs on clip size. I had a shotgun that held three rounds. Worked for me.

        Slavery and suffrage are morality issues. Owning another person is wrong. Not letting someone vote because she is a woman is wrong. Owning a gun isn’t inherently right or wrong.

      • heardfc

        I think I basically agree with you here. Private citizens don’t need military-grade tactical weapons. Guns fit for hunting are fine (three round shotguns, bolt-action rifles, etc.). Sensible gun control is a good thing (don’t sell them to felons, people on terrorist watch lists, etc.), and we shouldn’t treat gun ownership in the absolute terms we treat moral issues. I’m on board with all of that.

      • Ted Luoma

        I think we found something we can agree on. I’m not a total fruit bat, but I think somewhere along the middle is where the answer should be. I still feel pretty safe if a Bubba is nearby with a piece strapped to his hip.

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  16. joannekarcz

    I’m of the understanding that people in the US can carry guns on their person. Seeing someone carrying a shotgun into a store is frightening. But what about all the concealed weapons you don’t see? Here in Australia gun control works. Less guns=less killing.

    • heardfc

      Thank you for your comment. While our numbers are certainly higher than in Australia, most people in the US do not carry guns on their persons. About 63% of American households do not own a gun. I don’t know what percentage of the remaining 47% carry their guns in public, but I think it is relatively small.

      You do raise a good point, though, noting that I don’t know (nor does anyone in the US) how many people around us are carrying concealed weapons. In most states, people need to be licensed to carry a concealed weapon, and they need a background check to legally purchase a handgun. By contrast, I could buy a long gun (shotgun or rifle) today with no background check and legally carry it down the street without permit, license or basic common sense.

  17. meganrosecoutts

    Reblogged this on meganrosecoutts and commented:
    This is quite thought-provoking. Moved me a bit, especially talking about all the mass murders of past. Maybe we are far removed here in our little world in Darwin from the USA where this is clearly focused on, but all the same – they were once as ‘safe’ as us. Scary.

  18. jbarclay03

    What I don’t understand is that people keep blaming “Mental Health,” but as far as I understand, if you purchase a gun, even to “protect your family,” you are fully saying “I’m ok with killing someone.” That to me would be enough to not give someone a gun…

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  20. pattygracekelly

    Being born and raised in Germany and never left Europe for vaccation I cannot really understand how such things can happen. Even though I am even afraid to be on the streets in the city at night (I am a typical girl living in a small town) I may think a lot about why those shootings and any kind of cruelty and criminality cannot easily be stopped by changing the laws/amandmends. I understand that it is not as easy to change as I think it is but anything has to be possible for us human to stop this. So we have not to live in constant anxiety.

  21. Doug's BoomerRants

    I found your grocery store scenario an excellent case in point regarding the freedom to prance around the countryside brandishing a weapon just because you can. I gotta tell ya though, had that been me watching some nut job walk into a grocery store with a long gun slung across his back I gotta think I’d have been part of the a stampede out the door. But let’s assume for the moment there was another conceal & carry “patriot” in the store who saw a potential threat in the making, and decided to pull out HIS gun and confront the other fellow. Gunfight at the OK corral comes to mind (this scenario could have very easily occurred at the Las Vegas Wal-Mart shooting; so many guns and how do you identify who’s the bad guy?). Point being, you openly carry a gun then you risk any sort of public reaction. Trust me… I see you with a gun in the store I am in I will not be thinking Second Amendment but rather self-preservation. Sorry.

  22. wa1marktng

    I lived and worked in the U.S. – in Austin, Texas as an I.T. professional, during the heady tech-boom years (I’m British) and remember being slightly intimidated when out taking photographs of Austin’s sky-line at dusk, I found myself confronted by two armed policemen who informed me – .38 on hips, that I was not allowed in the park after dark.

    I also on a couple of occasions noted rifles positioned in pick-up trucks on racks behind the driver, and smiled inwardly as in my head I echoed the chants of one Terry Wogan – former BBC presenter, who in mock cowboy fashion said “Yee-hahhh” to such sights.

    But, I have come to realise that not all governments are – how can I put this? – there to serve the best interests of their population as a whole, but rather those at the top of the economic pile. And forcing the population to do things that they’d rather not do, at the point of a gun means having to defend yourself from such tyranny…

    So being able to defend yourself from such authority would be paramount…And we in Britain could learn a thing or three – In the 13th century, all British men over 16 were required to spend one afternoon a week with the long-bow, did people get shot by arrows? No, the stressful lifestyles we live today, separated from our neighbours, not knowing who they are in large cities, and feeling powerless to choose the life you wish to lead maybe the real culprits. The use of the gun merely a symptom of this lifestyle that forces us to work like latter-day wage-slaves to exist, while those further up the economic tree sit in guilded luxury.

    And being noted for being famous – even infamous is one way to achieve a certain status in your culture.



    • heardfc

      Unless you want private citizens armed with anti-aircraft missiles and heavy armor, weapons aren’t going to protect anyone from the potential tyranny of the largest army on the planet (I’ve already made this point in the comments above). You simply cannot defend yourself from the American government with a Bushmaster. We protect ourselves from tyranny through political action, not an arms race. Since the ubiquitous presence of firearms suppresses rather than assists public conversation and political action, carrying weapons in public spaces hurts our chances of resisting potential tyranny.

      As for the 13th century, comparing a longbow to a semi-automatic rifle with a 30-round clip is an insult to the intelligence of everyone in the conversation.

      • wa1marktng

        Using emotional argument to defend a position is typical of the fairer sex, but not so widely used by males.
        Of course one person with one rifle – automatic, semi-automatic or otherwise is not what I was talking about.
        When you disarm the population you allow tyranny to become entrenched. and having a duopoly onpower is no arbiter of fairness.
        One hundred million subjects with hand-guns, rifles et-al, can not be pushed around too much.
        The financial elite run things for the financial elite, and the little people can go hang.
        Eventually the little people get tired of being pushed around, and told what to do, and that “Corporations are people too”.
        All it takes for tyranny to rule is for good men to do nothing.


      • heardfc

        You appeal to values and emotions–misogyny and shame, in particular–in the same sentence that you call me “womanish” for making an appeal to emotions (although I don’t see what particular appeal to emotion you are referring to or why you think that appeal to pathos is illegitimate in this context).

        What you describe in the rest of your comment is anarchy, not democracy, and I have no interest in working towards violent anarchy–what Thomas Hobbes calls the “war of all against all.” At no point in my post, on this comment thread or anywhere else on this blog do I suggest we should “do nothing” about the challenges and dangers of public life. I suggest lots of things that we can do and should be doing, and so do other people in the comment sections.

        If you have something to add to the conversation, I am happy to hear it. If you want to use misogynist personal attacks and repeat mindless talking points, then I will delete your subsequent comments.

  23. Strange Tripster

    I’m grateful I live in Canada. That isn’t to say we don’t have gun violence, we do. We don’t have the level of violence consistently seen in the US. Not only can we not carry openly, but we Ned to store the guns with pin removed, a trigger lock or in a locked cabinet and in a separate location from the ammo. Unless of course it is hunting season, then the gun is to be empty while in transit. I hope, someday, your second amendment will be something used to protect the people and not the guns

  24. patinaandcompany

    So well-put. People who object to any restrictions are fond of saying they need the unfettered right to own and carry guns of all kinds in case the government becomes oppressive and they have to rise up against it. Well, many of the mass murderers in recent years have, like the couple you mention shouting, “This is a revolution!”, believed they were doing just that. That’s what rising up against government with your god-given second amendment ” rights” looks like these days, folks.

  25. wa1marktng

    Unfortunately, I’ve been extremely busy of late, so haven’t been on-line much to reply.

    Your piece says more about your fear of guns, than the actualité…

    I have no idea how many vehicles there are in America – North or South, but I’m willing to bet those kill far more Americans than guns do. It’s not the guns per-se you are afraid of, it’s the not knowing whose hand is on the trigger, and as you allude to – “Knowing who are the good guys and who are the bad”

    Therefore, you were using an emotional argument – not a rational one.

    I live in the UK., where our firearms laws are as strict as anywhere in the world – I suspect, and we STILL hear of people being shot. Gun laws don’t stop evil… People do. And have you seen what a 3-D printer produced at University of Texas in Austin? You can’t un-invent technology.

    Do the restrictions stop law-abiding people from defending themselves? NO is the answer, but it makes it far more difficult. And if our political, legal and judicial systems were as tainted by money as the U.S. seems to be, I’d worry about it a whole lot more.

    There will always be idiots who want to go out with a bang – and make some kind of media statement. The answer is for the media to resolve this – not for the law abiding citizens to give up their personal protection so that some nervous nellie can live in some kind of rose-tinted comfort blanket. Get a backbone for god’s sake.

    Have you ever seen the film/movie – “The Blind Side”? It’s based on a true story and Sandra Bullock’s character faces off against a gangster using a .22 caliber (spelt for you Americans – but should be spelled – calibre) pistol…

    Don’t tell me firearms don’t save lives or protect people in the hands of the populace.

    When you give up personal responsibility for your own safety (by imposing restrictions on others) you get neither safety nor liberty.


    • heardfc

      For someone who claims to care deeply about the corrupting role of money in politics, you are quite comfortable parroting the talking points distributed by the NRA, an arms-manufacturing trade lobby that brags about its control over American politicians. You also claim to care deeply about facts–I assume that is why you keep trying to claim I’m using an improper appeal to emotions–but you dismiss the factual news stories and real-world data of my argument and offer, as counter-evidence, a Sandra Bullock film and a vague haze of paranoia. You have, in fact, offered absolutely no evidence supporting any of your claims. If my reply is beginning to sound like the comments on a freshman composition essay, that is because in my professional life I am a university professor who teaches logic, composition and argumentation. I wouldn’t accept a string of red herrings and cliches from my freshmen, and I won’t accept them in our civic discourse either.

      Let’s talk a minute about appeals to emotion. I think this might do you some good. You seem to be under the impression that any and all appeals to emotion (or even the presence of emotion as a motivation) invalidate an argument. While it is true that speakers can and do make illegitimate use of emotional appeals (frequently as red herrings or distractions from weak logical claims), your wholesale dismissal of appeals to emotions and values (what Aristotle in his *Rhetoric* calls appeals to “pathos”) constitutes a genetic fallacy (an attack on the source of an argument rather than the argument’s merits). You claim that, if fear was one of the motivations of my argument, then my argument was irrational, but that would only be true if my fear was itself irrational, and you have not proven that point (or even attempted to prove it).

      But let’s step back even farther. I could go on lecturing about Aristotle (for whom “rational activity” included all of human consciousness, not only logical operations) or Kant or Kenneth Burke or Simone Weil or other philosophers and rhetoricians who demonstrate–in unassailably logical arguments–that human beings neither can nor should attempt to remove all emotional responses from their understanding of the world, but I’d rather go back even before Aristotle and talk about Plato and Socrates. In Plato’s Republic, Socrates talks to his interlocutors (primarily his student Glaucon) about justice, and Socrates gets Glaucon to help him build an extended image of the human soul (a version of “soul,” by the way, that does not require our assent to any religious or supernatural connotations). In one of the central passages of the Republic, Socrates argues that the human soul has three functional parts. The first part is our logical understanding, and it spends much of its efforts trying to rule over and regulate the illogical operations of our appetites and desires. The third part is harder to find, but Socrates locates it in the story of a man who wants to stare at the body’s of executed prisoners but knows that this particular form of gratification is immoral. Finally, the man rushes to the bodies, holds his eyelids open and shouts, “look all you want, take your fill!” Socrates notes that this outburst of anger cannot come from the appetitive portion of his soul because the anger is directed at an appetite that the man’s logical mind could not overcome on its own. This particular burst emotion is allied to the man’s logical reasoning, and, in this alliance, Socrates finds the third part of the human soul–a “spirited” element he associates with the virtue of courage, the part of us that throws its weight behind our better natures and higher understandings in the battle against base desires. Plato is arguing, through Socrates, that we cannot adequately exercise our human rationality without the help of our emotions.

      Reasonable fears, righteous indignation and love for our fellow citizens are not distractions from the necessary work of public life. They are our indispensable allies in the fight for justice.

  26. wa1marktng

    My dear sir… I neither speak for nor know the arguments of the NRA.. (nor care)

    You are obviously an intelligent man, with a deep knowledge of philosophy and history, but I am more practical – a former academic, but from a working class background. I suspect, I am also, less trusting of all governments; that is perhaps a British trait you would do well to emulate.

    “This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.”
    – Abraham Lincoln – Inaugural address, Mar 4th 1861

    Your arguments for the further regulation of firearms is based on your emotional response to the number of incidents reported in the media, and at having to confront your emotional response to the man with a shotgun in a public place.

    IF everyone carried a firearm, or everyone walked around naked, these practices would quickly become normalised, and no-one – you included, would be bothered.

    According to Ralph Nader, (You’ve heard of him, I hope?) a report he produced in 1993 came to the conclusion that 300,000 Americans were killed in the nation’s hospitals every year. Yet no-one (that I know)
    is campaigning for the abolition of hospitals, nor is suggesting that doctors and nurses be kept in locked boxes and their hyper-dermic syringes kept in another…

    My point was that focussing on media stories, is not addressing society’s ills.

    Your economy, and the move away from small communities, where people live in large cities, emotionally separated from one another. With people who are obsessed with their digital lives, rather than offering support (financial and emotional) to their neighbours is the root cause of the societal drop-outs, who feel that no-one gives a Sxxt, and take it out on the society that ignores them.

    Whilst I have neither the time nor the inclination to do the necessary research, I suspect, far more Americans in their auto-mobiles and trucks kill far more than lone nutters with guns.

    MY point is that you (as a society) need to address these ills first, rather than focus on the MSM government mouth-pieces that trot out the corporate agenda on behalf of the government. Why did the government feel the need to order 600million rounds of soft-nosed ammunition over six years starting in 2008?

    Was it because they were expecting trouble? From whom?

    I suspect you will live to find out, and I am glad I don’t live there, as I would be on the side of the public, rather than the government droogs in uniform. (A reference there to a British Film should you wish to do the research).


  27. wa1marktng

    Oh, and when you give in to emotions, you end up with the grotesque sight of Jeanne Brown suggesting that a man in receipt of a lethal cocktail of drugs and suffering for two hours was “just”.

    The reason men were in charge for so long, and that reason was the sole arbiter of arguments was precisely to limit the understandable anquish of victims, and the injured, from using emotional arguments to influence decision making in the legal system. Justice must be blind. and seen to be blind. (Which is why the statue on the roof of the Old-Bailey Courts and other courts in London wears a blindfold)

    Reason, logic and emotion are not easy bed-fellows.


    • heardfc

      I see you haven’t tempered your misogyny. Male-chauvinist nostalgia is one emotion that I do stay clear of. It is nice of you to tip your hand and show the narrow-minded, faux-rational roots of your position. Anyone who argues that the world was a better place when women had no power is living in his own base delusions. You can keep your false populism. I’ll keep advocating for democratic ideals that recognize and represent everyone.

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