Go Ahead…Shoot Me

I’ve never been a person to shy away from a debate. When I was 8 years old, my mother, exhausted after an hour of verbal sparring with me, threw her hands up in the air in a rare display of lost temper, and screamed, “YOU’RE GOING TO BECOME A LAWYER WHEN YOU GROW UP, I CAN TELL ALREADY!”

She might have been right, but I argued so vehemently with my professors in college, as well as boards of trustees, deans, and even presidents, that I kept getting asked to leave each college I attended…so I never finished.  I doubt law school would be any different.

So I suppose it’s time to enter this debate that is raging from coast-to-coast, as the rest of the world looks on at us like we’re idiots.

On Black Friday this past November, I posted this photo on Facebook:

This photo was originally posted because it is extremely hilarious.  The fallacy that, as a gift for a holiday that celebrates the birth of one of the most famous pacifists in history as well as the central figure of the Christian religion, one might choose a semi-automatic assault rifle…it’s just outlandish.  Sure, if you have a gun-loving friend, this might be a supremely appropriate birthday gift.  But for Christmas?  Come on.  I laughed out loud when I saw it, and assumed that virtually every sane, balanced human being would share this sentiment, so I slapped it on Facebook.

And a few seconds later, I had no idea what hit me.

I must pause here, because the tone of this blog may be such that its target audience immediately begins to assume they know what my stance on the gun control debate is.  So I need to state my stance on guns:

-I have NO ISSUES WHATSOEVER with Americans having handguns in their home to protect themselves from violent invaders, and I have have NO ISSUES WHATSOEVER with Americans having hunting rifles to hunt for sport and game meat.

-I grew up in a rural hunting culture, I have shot a variety of guns, I have hunted, and I’m not some urban coastal liberal who has never seen a gun and is terrified of them.

So please don’t think I’m some raging liberal who wants to make all guns illegal.  But apparently this photo was a clear conveyance of that very thing, because I was overwhelmed with comments like the following:

When a more appropriate response for the original reason for posting the photo would have been:

Nevertheless, people took my posting of the photo as an anti-gun, pro-gun-control statement, so I promptly lost about a tenth of my entire Facebook following, and for the next week, was the subject of a coordinated slander attack, where every photo I posted garnished hate messages attacking everything from my appearance to my sexuality.

Shortly after this, 20 children and 6 adults were slaughtered in an elementary school in Sandy Hook, CT, and the entire nation plunged headlong into the debate that politicians HATE having above all other debates.  So I suppose it’s time for me to enter it, too.

It’s such a vast issue, that it’s perplexing finding an angle to approach it from.  But the first angle is probably the most common, so let’s start there:

I would be quite curious to see how many people who toss around the phrase “2nd amendment rights” could actually quote the Second Amendment.  The Second Amendment states:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

This amendment is about the formation of a civil militia, to be used as necessary in times of war to preserve national security.  This amendment had, when it was originally written, absolutely nothing to do with the individual right of a citizen to keep a gun for his own personal use.  PERIOD.  (To be fair, at the time when the amendment was drafted, guns were absolutely essential in every household for personal use in the first place…the founding fathers would never have conceived of a situation where the right to have a gun for personal use would need to be protected.  Having a gun was as necessary as having an axe for cutting firewood, or a bellows to stoke the fire.)

The emphasis of this amendment on military service is further emphasized when you read the original draft of the amendment:

“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.”

That last part was removed by some states before ratification because they didn’t want the potential loss of soldiers for religious reasons.  But there are no doubts, whatsoever, that the Second Amendment deals specifically and exclusively with  the organization of an armed civilian militia to protect the security of the country during times of war, when the security of the country is threatened.  (And back then, there were wars almost constantly in this fledgling, sparsely populated country, and militias were necessary because the military wasn’t nearly large enough to fight a well-established and well-armed imperial force.)

Of course, like many items in age-ing documents which were written in a culture vastly different from our modern one (ie The Bible), we have to draw upon the knowledge of those more intelligent and educated than ourselves to INTERPRET a relevant correlation between the intent of the drafters of such a document, and a modern and practical application of that intent.

In the US, that means the Supreme Court, which is the highest authority in the country to interpret the law.  And the Supreme Court is about as divided on the Second Amendment as our citizens are.  The Supreme Court has ALWAYS been divided on Second Amendment issues, and some of the most bitter feuds between Supreme Court justices have been on the interpretation of the Second Amendment.

In 2008 when the court heard the landmark gun-rights case District of Columbia vs. Heller, which is held as the most definitive judgement of the court on the subject of gun control, the justices were split 5 against 4.  The majority (by 1 justice) opinion stated, “…the most natural reading of ‘keep Arms’ in the Second Amendment is to ‘have weapons.’  …that ‘bear arms’ was not limited to the carrying of arms in a militia.”  The 4 dissenting judges stated, “The Amendment’s text does justify a different limitation: the ‘right to keep and bear arms’ protects only a right to possess and use firearms in connection with service in a state-organized militia. Had the Framers wished to expand the meaning of the phrase ‘bear arms’ to encompass civilian possession and use, they could have done so by the addition of phrases such as ‘for the defense of themselves.’”  That’s 5 against 4, but in the Supreme Court, a majority of 1 is all that is needed to decide.  But it was far from a clear-cut decision.

To be VERY CLEAR to those on both sides of this issue, the Supreme Court has NEVER ruled that the Second Amendment gives citizens the right to possess any kind of gun they wish.  While the previous conclusion seems fairly clear-cut, the court clarified in a syllabus:

“Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those ‘in common use at the time’ finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.”  (Bolding added by me.)

And here is where the heart of this debate lies.  The gun rights activists seem hell-bent on the idea that the government, and those who are seeking gun reform in this country, want to remove ALL guns from the possession of the people.  Sure, there are many people in this country who believe that no citizen should have access to a gun of any type.  (I am not one of those people.)  But the majority of gun reform supporters are inquiring as to the necessity of a citizen to have a semi-automatic assault rifle.  And this is exactly where the Black Friday Facebook argument led.

Personally, I don’t believe that any civilian should ever have their hands on a semi-automatic assault rifle.  These guns have one purpose, and one purpose only…the killing of humans.  Sure…they CAN be used to kill a deer or a moose or a bear.  But you can kill a deer or a moose or a bear with a hunting rifle.  The ability to shoot 100 rounds without reloading is not very sportsmanlike, when it comes to hunting, and is completely and utterly unnecessary.  Nevertheless, many of you DO wish to have semi-automatic assault rifles for that very purpose:

And here we reach the heart of the issue, which most certainly isn’t about the need to have semi-automatic assault rifles for hunting.  To clarify, the Second Amendment is NOT about the public defending itself from an overzealous government.  Or at least not its OWN government.  As we’ve clearly established, it is about the protection of the country from an invading force through the use of an armed militia.  The framers of the Constitution were forming the type of government that would never need to be overthrown by its own people, because the people control the government.

Now, like anyone in this country, I am fed up with the politics, bureaucracy, and economic corruption in Washington on BOTH sides of the fence.  I don’t harbor any illusions that commerce and business in this country exert more power and influence over the government than the people do.  But the system DOES still work.  There will never be a need, in the United States of America, for the people to forcibly overthrow its government.  (You can overthrow your government each election day.  And the Congress can overthrow the President at any time they please.)  To think that there will EVER be a moment in this country’s future where the people will have to take up arms and overthrow their government is being alarmist, ignorant, and completely out of touch with reality.  Yet so many in this country do seem to think that the government is about to descend with force upon every household from coast to coast and rain apocalypse upon us:

Who is about to enslave us all, pray tell?

The idea that the US government is going to invade your home, harm your family, and take away your liberties is completely ridiculous.  (Still, Smith and Wesson reports that gun sales have increased by 44% since Obama was re-elected.  People are, for some reason, terrified of him.)  It’s time to have a basic lesson in US government.  There are so many checks and balances between the branches of government, it’s a miracle that anything gets done.  If our politicians are so gutless that they can’t stand up to their own party when it comes to compromise on situations like national debt, social security, and healthcare…you think they would have the guts to order their military into people’s homes to take away their liberties?

You can rest assured that in the lifetime of this country, unless you are behaving in an illegal fashion that endangers your fellow citizens, the government will never … ever …  EVER … send the military to invade your home in such a way that you’d need a semi-automatic assault rival to protect yourself from it.  (And if they did, your cache of semi-automatic assault rifles will not be enough to protect yourself from it, anyway.)  The nations of the world do not permit a country to attack its own citizens.  When it begins to happen in third world countries which have systems of government that permit a dictator to order the military into action against its citizens (our does not), like Sudan, or Bosnia, or Syria, the world takes action.

Likewise, if this country ever faces a land invasion from an imperialist force, if the US military doesn’t have enough firepower to protect you and your family, you certainly aren’t going to, either.  The idea that a semi-automatic weapon is required for personal protection is ludicrous.  A handgun will be entirely sufficient to protect yourself from virtually any scenario in which you or your family or property could be placed in danger.  And should the Supreme Court be called upon to clarify the definition of what “dangerous and unusual weapons” might be, I think you’ll find a much more unanimous decision on which guns can be considered “dangerous and unusual.”  A sane and well-balanced human would be hard pressed to come up with a common defense scenario where a civilian would need to be able to discharge 100 rounds in a minute.

Still, it is invariably these weapons that are used in the majority of mass murders that capture headlines and spur people to call for action to prevent them.  And the most reasonable proposals seem to be along the lines of:

Make it harder for criminals and the mentally disturbed to buy guns by requiring universal background checks for all gun transactions.

And here is where this conversation will take a turn that most of you probably didn’t expect.

Because laws aren’t going to fix this problem, no matter what laws come out of it.  The gun used in the Portland mall shooting was stolen from a friend of the shooter.  The guns used in the Sandy Hook massacre were stolen from the mother of the shooter.  In virtually ALL mass shootings, the guns were acquired through illicit means.

Granted, if the manufacture and sale of semi-automatic assault rifles was illegal in this country, and a potential mass murderer had to illegally smuggle them into the country, or manufacture their own, it would be much harder for them to get their hands on one.  But that’s not the situation in this country, and it will likely never be the situation.  If SOME citizens are permitted to have these guns, they will ALWAYS find their way into the hands of people who will wreak havoc with them.  The only way to ensure that semi-automatic assault weapons aren’t used in mass murders in this country, is to remove all the weapons from circulation entirely.  Which is practically an impossibility.  (Can you imagine the mass murders that would ensue if the government tried to get rid of the all the assault rifles in circulation?  This is why the government would never try.)

Like it or not, we’re stuck with these guns.  Even though they are completely unnecessary, and no civilian needs one.  Trying to legislate gun control will be as futile as trying to legislate the war on drugs.  There will always be drugs.  Always.  And the attempt to legislate their legality is a waste of money and time and does more harm to society than good.

This issue will only be fixed when everyone in this country is healed.  People commit crimes like this when they feel like they are rejected by society.  When they feel like they are an outcast.  AND when the rest of us are healed of the terror that makes us want semi-automatic assault rifles in the first place.  No other country in the world has these problems to the extent that we do (there have been 17 mass shootings in this country since the Aurora theater massacre in July, or an average of one every 12 days), and it’s a two-fold issue…the fact that the guns exist everywhere in this country (there are 9 times as many authorized gun retailers as there are McDonalds restaurants), AND the fact that our culture creates people who, when they feel marginalized and rejected, take up such guns to exact revenge upon those they feel rejected by.

One Facebook commentator remarked:

Stephen is sort-of-correct.  Switzerland does not have a military.  Instead, it relies upon a well-armed militia to protect the state in times of threat.  (Sound familiar?)  If a civilian is included in that militia, his or her household will have a semi-automatic (or fully-automatic) weapon in a locked safe, for use ONLY when the militia is called upon.  (It hasn’t been called upon in modern times.)  The gun is provided by the state in conjunction with training on how to use the gun properly and safely.  And ammunition is NOT provided nor permitted for the weapon, but will be provided by the state if the militia is called to action.  So…to be accurate, there is an empty Sig 556 inside many homes in Switzerland that can’t be used without government authorization and that can’t be legally loaded with ammunition.  (Not a significant deterrent for a criminal.)  The fact that Switzerland has a low rate of gun crime isn’t because of this.  Switzerland enjoys a low rate of gun crime for economic and cultural reasons.

The NRA loves their tagline “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.“  First of all, in many cases, it’s not true.  Gun rights activists love to say things like, “If that principal had a gun in her drawer, all those lives would have been saved.“  Conservative media have been scouring the country for a scenario where a civilian carrying a gun was able to intervene in a situation and stop a mass-murderer.  And the ONLY scenario the media has been able to come up with actually involves an armed, off-duty police officer.  But even police officers, who constantly undergo gun training under simulated stress, have been responsible for innocent deaths when suddenly called upon to use their arms in the line of duty.  Remember the 8 people near the Empire State Building who were shot by police while police were attempting to shoot the gunman?  Imagine the havoc if the average, untrained, out-of-practice, unaccustomed-to-responding-to-emergency-situations gun owner was called upon to stop a mass murder?  Imagine the death toll if armed citizens in the Aurora movie theater were firing back in the darkness at the gunman in his bullet proof vest?  More than 30 bullets were discharged in 27 seconds, and the entire event was over in 6 minutes.  Scarcely time for anyone to react.

This kind of wild-west approach to the issue doesn’t progress our country to a place where this issue will EVER be fixed.  It is this “bad guy/good guy interfacing with violence” that keeps our culture in a place where mass murders are common.  Arming our teachers, or posting armed police throughout our schools will not make them more safe.  It will breed an entirely new generation of terror-stricken young people who feel marginalized and endangered and will perpetuate such horrors in ever increased numbers.  Ask any teacher.

It is time to take the higher road.  It’s time to stop hiding from erroneous fears of dictators and fascist governments behind semi-automatic assault rifles.  It is time to stop perpetuating the idea that the only way to fight evil is with steel.  There is no such thing as an evil person, and if there is, it’s because we made him that way through neglect, violence, or torture.  People who commit mass-murder are reacting because they are desperate…not because they are evil.  Do you think a teenager would steal a semi-automatic assault rifle and slaughter children if he felt loved and accepted in his life?  We fix this problem when every person in this country feels loved, accepted, and nurtured.  And that’s not accomplished through laws.  And it’s not accomplished by posting an armed guard every 20 feet around the country.  And it’s definitely hindered when we’re up to our knees in machines that have the capability of spreading death in the wrong hands.

Because, whether you realize it or not, your gun affects those around you.  A gun isn’t just a tool.  It’s a symbol.  It changes the way you behave, and it changes the way people respond to you.

Most of my military friends are in agreement with him.  When you put a gun in the hands of a person, it changes them.  And therefore, it changes the way people respond to them.  And you can be assured that the presence of a semi-automatic assault rifle has a much greater impact on those around you than a handgun or a hunting rifle.  When you hold an AR-15, the message you are sending to everyone around you is very clearcut and straightforward: “I can kill you if I want.”  (Whether you intend for that message to be sent, it gets sent loud and clear.)  While some people might also have that response to your shotgun or handgun, the majority will ask if your hunt was successful, or if your aim has improved.  Our country is not ignorant of guns, and most people in this country are not terrified of ordinary ones…you know, the ones that don’t have “assault” in the title.

Let me be clear.  There is no reason for YOU, or anyone else in this country, to have a semi-automatic assault rifle.  But you have one.  And the government isn’t stupid enough to pass a law to take it away from you.  Because that law wouldn’t work in the first place.  All it will do is create more violence.

So our country’s problem with guns…and our country most certainly DOES have a problem with guns…shouldn’t be solved by legislation.

Gun control will not fix the problem.

The problem will be fixed when YOU no longer feel like you need an assault weapon.

The problem will be fixed when marginalized, fragile people feel loved, secure, and accepted.

And more guns on the streets will not help accomplish either.

And more laws on the books will not help accomplish either.

People rejecting selfishness and baseless fear, and instead busting their asses to serve each other, help each other, and care for each other will solve this problem.  Best of all, it’s something that each and every one of us can actively participate in, and don’t have to rely on our government to do it for us.

So regardless of which side of this issue you sit on, the way to stop mass murder is to lock up your guns, stop arguing about gun rights, and start being nice to each other.  Love the people who are hardest to love.  Befriend the people you feel uncomfortable around.  Stop excluding, judging, condemning, and separating yourself from others.  And teach your kids to do the same.  To be friends with the “weirdos” at school.  To take pride in making others feel good about themselves.

If you want to reduce violent crime in this country, let’s set to work on solving the SOURCE of crime.  Poverty.  Inequality.  Marginalization.  Playing cowboys-and-indians will never lead us to a place of peace and harmony.  We have to evolve.  And we have to take EVERYONE with us.  Everyone.

Please feel free to respond respectfully in the comments below.  Let’s not get overheated, which is easy to do with this issue!  Remember that the issue here is human life, and in the past few months, MANY families have lost people who are dear to them.

83 Responses to Go Ahead…Shoot Me

  1. Ben, I have to object to one thing you said and I fully expect you to disagree with me, but…not all bad people are made through “neglect, violence, or torture”. Sorry, but that just isn’t true. There are people who came from loving homes who turned out completely shitbat crazy. And people who came from shitbat crazy homes who came out loving and amazing. Mental illness plays a big role here and mental illness is not created by a bad home environment, nor healed by a good one. I have a lot of personal experience with mental illness and how it changes an ordinary human being into something less than human. I have seen people I love turn into violent monsters under the spell of mental illness. This next bit is not against your argument, this is just a related aside, but I don’t think we need assault rifles, either, I just know that until we really address our growing mental health problems, we will never be rid of massacres. I have been in a situation where crazy and gun came together and, because death was not the goal, no shooting took place.Our prisons wouldn’t be full if bad didn’t usually find a way to get around the law (and if we stopped prosecuting addicts and pot crimes, but that’s another story). Anyway, that just my $1′s worth (2 cents x inflation (; ).

    • Thanks for your very thoughtful words, Jamie! You are correct on the mental illness points. I wasn’t referring to the mentally ill in this comment. While some of our recent shooters may, indeed, have some form of mental illness, they landed in these positions because they felt rejected and outcast. I watched a documentary recently about the “Einstein gene” which was discovered by scientists and indicates the potential in an individual to be a world-changing genius. Much to their surprise, they also discovered it in mass murderers, as well. And the further the research went, the more they discovered that it was the early childhood environment of the person that dictated whether they became mass force for good, or a mass murderer. The only thing that separates a genius from a mass murderer is how well they are nurtured when they are young. And that is terrifying to me. Again…NOT speaking about the mentally ill. (Though many people would like to classify a mass murderer as mentally ill.)

      • I think we have to agree to disagree on your last point. I don’t think it is possible for a person to mass murder without being mentally ill. I believe a sane person can kill another person in a fit of anger and that a sane person can also kill someone else in order to protect something they value more than the other person’s life, but multiple people? In a planned attack? That is a sustained devaluing of human life. That is not a normal state of mental health. To be angry at your mother and grab a knife and stab her can be explained as allowing your emotions to overwhelm you, no mental illness needed. You give in to primal rage, grab a weapon and it is all over before anything can be done to stop you. That’s a logical, if horrible, response to events. But to be angry at your mother and decide the only course of action is to murder children you’ve never met? I believe that is about thought processes which are completely abnormal, connections and rationale which the average “normal” person would never make. That requires more than just primal rage overwhelming your higher consciousness for a few moments.

        What follows is what I believe as far as nature versus nurture, beyond the points I made already, based on my own personal observations. I do not say I am right or wrong, only that this is what I believe to be true: Abuse and neglect are like cigarettes and extreme stress. If you are predisposed to heart attacks or cancer, cigarettes and extreme stress can *trigger* the development of those things in you, though they are things which might have happened on their own even without cigarettes or extreme stress. On the other hand, if you are not predisposed to cancer or heart attacks, you can be a 4 pack a day career skydiver and just die of old age. In other words, cigarettes and stress (or abuse and neglect) can make bad things come on faster or more aggressively, but they don’t actually *cause* cancer or heart attacks. Otherwise, every person who smoked a cigarette or suffered an extreme event would get cancer or have a heart attack. There has to be a weakness existent in the person’s make-up. Now, maybe this is not a perfect example because cigarettes DO cause things like COPD and extreme stress can cause other problems. Then again, perhaps it is perfect – because abuse and neglect DO cause other problems, too, like anxiety, depression, malnutrition, etc. Your own example of the “Einstein gene” actually sort of illustrates what I mean. A positive home life does not create that gene. It exists already. And not in everyone.

        Anyway, my mom told me when I was little that I would argue with a fence post and get mad if it didn’t argue back =) Hopefully, I have progressed since then, but I do love a lively debate on the issues. Have a lovely day, doll!

        • Oops, I meant to say there ARE things that can CAUSE cancer, like chemicals and radiation and that sort of thing…anyway, it is by no means a perfect metaphor, but you get the general idea.

  2. You amaze me Ben. I have similarly strong feelings about this issue but have never had the patience to put my feelings into words. To put out such a detailed and well thought out post on such a controversial subject is really something that I respect you for.

    I had a fairly long comment drafted out and wanted to share, but it’s super late here already and my mind isn’t thinking clearly, so rather than risk saying something that makes no sense (or worse, offends people on this already controversial subject), I’ll just summarize a few quick points with my opinion and elaborate next time I see you (which will be soon I hope :D )

    *People, especially Americans, are obsessed with gun due to pride and an obsession with power/being in control of a situation.

    *Assault weapons should be banned. There is no reason for regular people to have them, and if I knew my neighbor had an assault rifle (especially if he behaves anything like Alex Jones), I would feel extremely uncomfortable and unsafe. They have been banned in the past, and it was only due to gun rights lobbies that it was allowed to expire in 2004. I’m not quite sure I understand the logic behind a ban resulting in mass shootings, but maybe that’s just my late night brain.

    *People should be allowed to own handguns and hunting rifles, after a stringent background and mental health check. For example, John, Christine’s husband, carries a handgun and I don’t feel uncomfortable around him at all, because I trust him and his decision making. (However, if John lugged around an AK-47 everywhere he went, I would feel much more uncomfortable, even though I know he’s a “good guy”).

    *People are far from perfect, and nobody will ever be, no matter how hard we try. Society will always be broken. For every good guy like you out there, there is a parent out there abusing their child, there is a family going through a bitter divorce, there is a homeless person that just got beaten and robbed, and there is somebody that is just plain ignorant and rude. We can each do our part to try to make the world a better place, but ultimately to think that society’s collective conscience will help solve the gun violence problem in America seems overly optimistic. If we really had that kind of power to stir public conscience, then why bother with any laws at all? Laws are there to keep people in line, to keep the bad guys in check. There will always be bad guys, no matter how hard we try to better society. I don’t why gun control should be any different, why it shouldn’t be regulated like anything else.

    Sigh, this comment still ended up being long. And it’s now 5:11 am and I am DEAD tired and my thoughts are no longer coherent, much less my words, even though there’s a lot more I want to say. Maybe later….

  3. It’s times like these when I’m really glad I don’t live in the US. The ongoing discussion of guns and gun control just boggles my mid-European, grown up without gun-culture mind. And I think that’s where the real problem lies and what makes finding a solution so hard- those crying for more guns, for ARs in private hands, and I’m willing to bet money on that, will most likely have grown up in households where such weapons were kept and glorified.
    Here’s what happened after the last school shooting that happened a few years just a few dozen miles from my home. The shooter, a student, had taken his dad’s (legally obtained and owned) rifle. In the aftermath there was no rise in gun control (which would have been hard to do since German gun laws are already pretty tight), but there was a certain period of time where people could hand in their weapons and ammo to the authorities, no questions asked. I know that such a solution would never, ever work in the US, but, coming back to your post, it’s a relief to see constructive and thoughtful comments amid the, in my eyes, over-crazed discussions going on at the time.
    One more thing that I just thought of, regarding the call for the “good guy with a gun”, I saw a documentary the other day, I think on ABC, where they actually tested how effective it would be to have a virtually untrained (as in no police reaction training) gunman in a classroom shooting situation. Save one, none of the “good guys” even managed to get their gun out of the holster, and the one girl that actually managed to fire shot the assailant in the leg and was in return shot immediately because she didn’t take sufficient cover.

  4. A well thought out and reasoned response. No one can completely control weapons of any sort, but we could stop pretending we don’t have a serious problem with the way the mentally ill are given treatment in this country. How many more times do we need to read that someone ran over a group of people (or shot them, stabbed them, etc.) followed by the words “had a history of mental illness”? I don’t believe these people, someone’s children, want to grow up and destroy lives. We have to find a better way to help them with their illness.

  5. Thank you Ben.
    You have put into words that which I have never been able to articulate.

  6. Remember Randal Weaver and his family when you say that the Govt will NOT come to your home to seize your weapons and kill you if necessary.

    • I’m not sure most folks remember Ruby Ridge. But Randal Weaver is the PERFECT example of someone with warrantless terrors of an “evil government,” performed illegal actions and violated gun laws in his preparations to protect himself from said government, and brought a self fulfilling prophecy on his family as a result. Had Randal Weaver NOT been a white supremacist, terrified of the US government and felt like he needed to protect himself against that government with illegal weapons, his wife would have never died, and he’d never have had to defend himself against a government invasion. The Ruby Ridge incident was a deciding factor in Timothy McVeigh’s decision to bomb the Federal Building in OKC, which killed more than 150 people. People need not fear their government in a democratic country. When they do, people die.

  7. i am an urbanite, i am a canadian, i am for gun control. automatic weapons are man killing machines, no more no less. hunting rifles, i am comfortable with, but automatic weapons used for hunting… only if you want to have shreads of deer and minced squirel ready for the picking. there is no logical reasons to have a man killing apparatus in your hand, no reason.

  8. I do not live in the US, but i live in a country where it is REALLY difficult to own firearms… and the law that regulates this was written in a really bad, bad way… For example, you can’t own an old 30-30 rifle because of the caliber, but you can own a .300 weatherby magnum… which is essentially a way more lethal caliber.
    What did that law bring? And this is something that also happened on the UK and other countries. You take away the weapons from law-abiding citizens, and most of the firearms on the streets remain on the hands of the criminals.

    Armed robbery will go up, home robbery will go up, assault with deadly consequences will go up.

    Now, I’m not advocating for less gun control. I believe that guns are not for eveyone. I grew up around guns, being a rancher, a hunter, and an outdoorsman, and living a lot of great outdoor experiences with my dad and family. I am not afraid of guns, but I do respect them. My dad always used to say “The moment you stop respecting the gun, is the moment where accidents happen”. And on hunting trips with my friends, I saw some that did not respect the guns… Thankfully nothing happen, but i know of a LOT of people that had gun-related accidents because of carelessness.

    I agree with your points. There’s no scenario that would require a fully automatic weapon for a civilian. Fun to shoot? sure. Needed? Not really
    Government going to invade your home? Really? That just doesn’t happen in a democratic country. And no, for democratic i don’t mean countries like Venezuela or the like. The US may have its flaws, but one thing that it has is a strong democratic system where the people controls the system.

    In short. More gun control? Yes. Make sure that the people that owns gun CAN own guns, and demand for stringent safety measures at home to ensure that the gun stays safe.
    Take away the guns? No.

  9. Hey Ben….we are so much more alike than we think….having grown up on a farm in West Texas, I too was one who has hunted, shot firearms and even own a single shotgun. I have such HUGE issues with even the idea of someone owning Assault Rifles. I believe that in this world you have the God given right to provide for the needs of your family and also for its protection of personal safety. What self respecting hunter would even think of using an assault rifle to hunt, I mean really, a machine gun for hunting? What defense does the animal have that would compel one to need an assault weapon to hunt? I would say that is total over-kill, pardon the pun, or lack of talent on the part of the hunter. If you are going to eat what you hunt, I am all for it. If you own a gun to protect yourself in your home, I am for it….If you want to prove your own self worth through the accumulation and need of owning an arsenal of weapons, or hunting for the sake of sport to prove your manhood (Big Game Hunts in the US of African Animals) you may need therapy! Assault Rifles, Clips over 10 rounds, these are the weapons of the Military and should never be used by the public. When these weapons of destruction fall into the hands of those who do not understand them, are not mentally stable or are hell bent on some personal vendetta, we will continue to see more violence in America that could have been prevented. I tend to scour the internet and try to get a more world perspective on this issue, I found this that might be of interest http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/12/14/chart-the-u-s-has-far-more-gun-related-killings-than-any-other-developed-country/ To be fair, since we do own the most guns per ca pita our % should rank higher than some. As we have so recently seen, this debate is a polarizing subject and should be up for debate, through debate we can understand each other and come to a common ground on the subject…or at least have the decency to respect the opinions of those around us and know that we are not always right on every issue. Drop over and see us, you know where we are…lol…HUGZ and ty for being brave enough to allow us to talk about this with sense and sensibility.

  10. This is why I love Ben Starr. He doesn’t fit into any particular mold. Thank you Ben for being honest and explaining your views. It was a little long but I read the entire post.

  11. Excellent perspective on this issue Mr. Ben Starr. I believe your analysis hit the nail on the head when it came to gun ownership (especially assault weapon possession) as having an immediate psychological impact on the person. It has been my experience that many of these same people who are so passionate about their gun ownership is that they feel marginalized. With a stagnant economy, changing social values, growing minority populations; to see your “world” in “decline” at such a pace, I imagine that to own an assault weapon capable of massive destruction must serve as a kind of comfort, almost like an opiate. The very thought of having that perceived power being taken away must evoke an incredible terror. “Take our country back!” is a common slogan I think this speaks well to this fear. As a society that began and thrives on being anti-authority, this just feeds into this raw emotion. At the same time, I also agree with you that the practicality of having these weapons “taken away” is absurd, given the sheer number of guns and rifles out there. Capacity to do great harm is sadly a fact of life.

    The real roots of the problem of violence (guns and otherwise) are poverty inequality, and marginalization which you spoke of directly (and kudos to that!). Here’s the catch though; our institutions both economic, religious, and cultural have worked to keep these separations in check, even if they are filled with good people who think they are immune to these divisions. Having religious and political organizations work to “protect marriage,” or “keep the illegals from taking our jobs,” or “protect our 2nd Amendment rights,” or “protect our 1st Amendment rights,” the level of self-interest over the needs of the many is the current norm.

    I am totally with you that we need to love each other, love everyone, befriend the weirdos (as a weirdo myself that rejection certainly shaped me too). My hope is that we take this from being just a simple individual attitude check and one we take larger on an institutional level. Take it big! Work to reshape, dare I say “evolve” our politics, religion, and economy into being loving, neighborly, and inclusive. I believe you are doing that on a cultural level through your blogging, social work, Facebooking, and you are to be applauded for that. I will try to do the same.

    Keep up the fine work.

  12. All I can say is, thank you, Ben… very thoughtful and responsible response… wish I’d had the time to articulate exactly the same sentiment. I refuse to live in fear, of what, I’m unsure, but am constantly being told “something” will happen if I’m not prepared, i.e., carrying a loaded gun, when it came down to it, I’d probably shoot my own eye out!! xxx

  13. 100% agreed – I wish that more people could see things this way, rather than be blinded by their own fear.

    Really, what the vast majority of the problems in this country boil down to is fear – and people are conditioned to be fearful. Fearful of not only the government, but of people who are in any way different – and the demonization of those differences is the basis of so much of the hurt and strife in the world. When will people – as an overall – realize this?

    I admire you for speaking out on this, and wish you the best of luck on dealing with the fallout that will likely result from it. It’ll be a great day when fear, violence, and hatred finally take a back seat to education and compassion.

  14. All I have to say is thank God you are the minority Ben. Now go ahead and delete my post, I wouldn’t want that oversized ego of yours to cloud the opinions of the majority.

    • I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what this comment means. The majority of people in the US, according to EVERY poll conducted in the past 2 months, are in favor of increased restrictions on gun acquisition. As I mentioned in this post, I am NOT, because I don’t believe it will solve the problem. So if that’s what you mean by I am the minority, then you would be correct. I’m not sure how deleting your “post” will protect the opinion of the majority. I would LOVE for you to come back and articulate your point more extensively so we can figure out what you’re saying. But let’s be very clear…the majority of this country wants tougher restrictions on guns. (That doesn’t mean anything other than what it means. There were times in this country where the majority of the country was against interracial marriage. The will of the people is not always enlightened.) But I think you may be laboring under the assumption that the majority of the people in the US want ZERO laws regarding guns, which is flat wrong. Check out Gallup’s gun control polls, which they’ve been doing since the 1950′s: http://www.gallup.com/poll/1645/guns.aspx

  15. I’m impressed! You conveyed a very articulate and eloquent perspective on this issue. I wish more people would take the time to consolidate their views on hot-button topics like you did.

    I’ve struggled with my own views on gun control throughout the years. I was the same age as the Columbine shooters when they staged the awful event, and at the time had a .223 Bushmaster hanging in my closet, and a .45 Glock in my nightstand drawer. I had been properly (and rigorously) trained in firearm use since the age of 10, but it wasn’t until a scenario happened that mirrored my own age/race/socioeconomic background that I really “got it”. The loud, expensive things I enjoyed so much at the range with paper targets really are deadly. And there were people just like me who were using the loud, expensive things to indiscriminately go on a murdering spree.

    Did it stop me from being a gun enthusiast? No. But it instilled a humility and respect in me that I rarely see among my fellow gun owners. I know that the gun I carry in purse at all times means only one thing: death. It doesn’t make me feel powerful in the least, but it does make me feel prepared to defend myself and my loved ones. More often than not, I feel a heaviness in my heart that there is a need for me to have it, and a sincere desire to never have to use it.

    People like me who are vehemently against gun control are typically viewing it from the context of both domestic and international history. I don’t think it’s technically necessary for John Doe or Jane Smith to have access to any weapon ever made. I haven’t had an assault-style rifle since I left home at 18- because I simply have no need for one. What I’m worried about is the adage of “Give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile”. I have no reason to believe that the U.S. won’t follow the stringent anti-gun route established by the governments of Western Europe, Australia, and other regions.

    I’ve spent many hours in the last month researching rates of violence in developed nations, and what I’ve found is intriguing. Homicide rate have dipped slightly, but overall violent crime rates have increased. Japan is an anomaly, but their rate of firearm violence was already extraordinarily low to begin with, so it isn’t fair to bring their statistics to a debate. Overall, between the raw data and the scores of conversations I’ve had with citizens of these countries, the surprising consensus I uncovered was that they miss their guns, and wish they could have them back. Certainly NOT what I was expecting to find!

    So in addition to us gun nuts being worried that gun control will extend far beyond restricting assault rifles, there’s the basic impression that we’re being picked on. Mass murders (adult or children, they’re both equally heart-wrenching to me) are awful, wicked events that defy explanation. But it’s easy to get outraged over these events, because the deaths are consolidated with usually one perpetrator.

    27 people were killed by Adam Lanza, who used a gun. Every day, 27 people are killed in the United States by drunk drivers, who use vehicles. The only difference between the two situations is intent, but if people are dead regardless, does intent really matter if the end result is the same? Why is it so easy for people to feel genuine sympathy for those affected by a sensational event like Newtown, yet when confronted by the statistics on something like drunk driving, they shrug it off? To me, it seems narcissistic and unbalanced for the average citizen to be so deeply affected by an event that did not directly affect them, all the while ignoring the completely preventable deaths of innocents in their area EVERY DAY. Then to translate that misplaced self-righteous passion into immediate legislation scares the hell out of me. Am I the only one who expects laws that govern 315,000,000 people to be developed and passed with the highest level of rationale and care?

    • I don’t think you can really compare drunk driving to murder. But, I feel the same sympathy for either victims. I don’t believe we shrug off drunk driving. But I do believe we can do a lot better. I’d like to see much more severe punishments for DUI. It’s the easiest crime to avoid. Don’t drive if you’ve had a drink. Pretty simple.

      • I reiterate: if the end result (death of innocents) is the same, does intent or method really matter? A kid mowed down by a drunk driver is the same as a kid shot down by a deranged murderer: a dead kid. Perhaps I’m over-simplifying a bit, but it’s frustrating that so much emotion is being funneled into what is in all reality a very, very rare event (mass shooting) when there are preventable deadly events happening every day in this country.

        You mention more severe punishment for DUI. Gun control advocates are for more severe punishment for gun crimes. What I don’t get is this: it’s illegal to drive drunk. It’s illegal to kill people, with guns or otherwise. If written laws stopped unwise people from driving drunk, or prevented violent crimes committed with a weapon, then we wouldn’t even be having this discussion, because these things wouldn’t happen! I completely agree with Ben’s assertion that the crimes are merely a symptom, and the catalyst for people to commit harm to others is due to pain, fear, rejection, etc.

        • The law has always drawn a clear distinction between intent to kill, and deaths that were accidentally caused, or not caused with malice. So in the eyes of the law, there’s a huge difference between someone that makes a stupid mistake (driving drunk), and someone who plans and executes a murder. And mass shooting scenarios are not rare at all. There have been 14 of them since Aurora happened in July of last summer. (http://www.bradycampaign.org/xshare/pdf/major-shootings.pdf) And another happened today that’s not on that list, nor is the school shooting in California from last week, nor is the fire fighter shooting in upstate New York from late December. That’s 17 mass shootings (documented) in 6 and a half months, or 1 every 12 days.

          Certainly we need to focus on preventing ALL deadly events, not just mass shootings. But a mass murder has a different impact on the culture than a death related to drunk driving, or an accident. Just like different guns, as symbols, each have a different impact on the public at large…so do deaths. While, in an analytical world, it may be no “worse” if a child dies from a bullet in his classroom, or from being run over by a drunk driver, or from being killed by faulty products or toxic food…to the public in general, these have VERY different impacts and perpetuate very different actions and responses.

          • My context of using the word “rare” when describing mass shootings was in comparison to other completely preventable deaths of innocent people. Although I don’t question the veracity of the events listed in the list you linked, I do feel that the report’s definition of “mass shooting” is interesting. My personal impression is that the term “mass shooting”, as I’ve inferred its use in the media, means an event where a shooter murders a large number of people with whom they are not affiliated. So I question the goal of sources that list multiple-victim shootings related to gangs, parties, drugs, etc. as being in the same category of scenarios like Newtown and Aurora. Since the issue of intent has been discussed by multiple people here, then why are gun crimes not reported with distinctions between crimes of passion (i.e.- jilted lover commits a double homicide and then suicide, thus qualifying as a “mass shooting”) versus carefully premeditated shooting at strangers (i.e.- Webster, NY). If anyone would like to elaborate on why all types of gun violence should be grouped together for statistical purposes, I’m totally open to feedback.

            I absolutely agree with your take on the interpretation of law regarding intent versus accident, and it’s something I need to incorporate into my general thinking. I struggle with a philosophical dichotomy: struggling between the idealism of autonomous freedom while recognizing the realism of trying to safely coexist with a few hundred million folks on one continent.

            I concur that mass murder has a totally different impact than accidental death, but I stand by my assertion that perhaps people should frequently question why that is, and why we have the emotional responses that we do. If we’re reserving passionate reactions to only sensational events, then aren’t we still remaining somewhat disconnected to the “mundane” aspects of everyday life? And isn’t it those seemingly mundane aspects- like proactively accepting and supporting the people around us- that will help heal the broken and the outcast members of our society, and thus help in preventing horrific mass slaughter?

            (P.S.- I don’t think of myself as “right” and anyone with differing views as “wrong”. I believe humanity as a whole is one complex tapestry of ideas and perspectives, and that’s what makes us fabulous. Respectful debate/commentary is a great tool for me to process my own thoughts and feelings while being exposed to others’ views and opinions, which always broadens my own stance.)

  16. I salute your thinking, Ben. I agree that if we could get people to behave even half as appropriately as you suggest we’d be a lot closer to a solution. So my question is…HOW?

    I am frequently working with kids age 4-21 in my school district who come from very unhappy backgrounds. No parents, abusive parents, parents who don’t care, parents who don’t parent, gangs, drug abuse, it goes on and on. I had a 5 year old who has emotional issues, whose parent allowed him to stay up past midnight on school nights watching the Walking Dead and playing violent video games. This child already has difficulty understanding right and wrong, and at times doesn’t really care. He would talk non-stop about killing and other unpleasant things. Not that he wanted to do it, just on his mind. 5 years old. My day with him is spent keeping him safe and keeping those around him safe and trying to guide him towards positive. By the end of the day he’s calmed down, and working nicely. And then he goes home for the cycle to begin again. No matter how much the teachers try to get the parents of children like these to raise their child better, love them, read to them, don’t let them watch the Walking Dead at age 5…it falls on deaf ears. This is clearly the area that needs the most work, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out HOW we can get people in general to treat each other better, when we can’t get through to a parent who DOES love their child to actually raise that child. I try to give every child I work with some hope, some sense that someone does care for them, and think they are worth something. But that gets shattered when they go back home. IF we can somehow implement your solution it would most certainly do wonders for us within the debate we find ourselves in as well as just in general. But as that can’t be forced upon anyone, we do have to look at some things that can help out the situation.

    And it’s can’t be all about any one thing, it’s got to be a multi-pronged attack. Everyone wants to point the finger at someone else. But there’s plenty of areas that can be improved upon. GUNS. I don’t want to take away anyones guns or stop responsible gun owners from being able to buy guns. But, closing loopholes that allow people to avoid a background check, and enforcing existing laws, and banning additional manufacture and sale of automatic assault weapons and high capacity magazines (to the public) we are going to make it more difficult for people who carry out these types of horrific events to have access to weapons that inflict maximum damage. I believe if every gun owner had a license with an embedded chip in it to track their purchase history and confirm that they have been authorized by background check to purchase said guns and ammunition it would be easier to for authorities to track the guns out there. And it would force gun owners who maybe aren’t quite as responsible as some to beam more responsible so that their guns remain in their possession and not find their way into the wrong hands. I would also suggest that any gun purchased must be picked up in person at a legitimate gun store. This way, responsible gun owners would be able to continue on as they have been. It’s not going to stop everything, but if it stops just one Sandy Hook, it was worth it. MOVIES and VIDEO GAMES. Do we really need to have video games where you get to go around and kill police officers? Should 5 year old’s get to play these games? They are playing them. They’re not supposed to be, but once again…PARENTS are not doing their jobs. The games have ratings, but parents feel it’s just fine for their 5 year old to play along. The worst of these games, need to go, since clearly the general public can’t seem to be trusted to keep games where you can blast a police officer to bit away from 5 year olds. Big difference between a 5 year old who doesn’t really understand that guns can kill and a 16 year old who does. MENTAL HEALTH…this is such a big one, and closest to your solution. We need to identify those who need help and actually give them some help. PARENTS. You can’t legislate who can and can’t have children and unfortunately we have developed a growing culture of parents who just don’t raise their children in a loving, caring supportive environment. Parents who don’t use any judgement in what they allow their children to do. It’s not all parents, and even the best parent can wind up with a child who just goes astray. But right now, everyone wants to point the finger somewhere else. It’s time we all look in the mirror and do whatever we can to help solve this problem and help each other instead of just arguing about.

  17. First of all I will say that I agree with the irony of that ad you posted, however, stores (and other commercialized entities) have no real connection to the true meaning of the holidays. They are just trying to make money. But enough of that…

    My heart also goes out to not only the people of Sandy Hook but to all the families that have been involved in this type of tragedy.

    I respect and applaud you for taking the time to make a well thought out post about a topic on which so many people are so quick to jump to conclusions. While I don’t disagree with your entire post, I do have different thoughts on a few of your statements.

    I disagree that the founding fathers didn’t intend for individual gun ownership to be protected by the second amendment. While the wording of the 2nd amendment might leave some doubt as to the intentions, additional evidence does not. I think these leave little doubt. Here are a few:
    “A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves…and include all men capable of bearing arms.” -Richard Henry Lee
    “Americans have the right and advantage of being armed – unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” -James Madison
    “No Free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” -Thomas Jefferson
    “The whole of the Bill (of Rights) is a declaration of the right of the people at large or considered as individuals…. It establishes some rights of the individual as unalienable and which consequently, no majority has a right to deprive them of.” -Albert Gallatin

    I also think that the intention of the 2nd amendment was not only for national security from invading forces but also for controlling one’s own government (this is not a suggestion to take up arms):
    “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends [i.e., securing inherent and inalienable rights, with powers derived from the consent of the governed], it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness.” -Thomas Jefferson
    “A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.” – George Washington

    Another point that I disagree with is that semi-automatic “assault rifles” are not needed. Even if you exclude the fact that the individual firearms that people get upset about are “scary looking” and that functionally identical non-military pattern rifles are never brought up. Let’s also skip the fact that the vast majority of gun crimes do NOT involve the use of “assault rifles”. You claim that these rifles have no legitimate purpose (I personally think recreation and hunting are legitimate) for civilians. There have been numerous examples where civilians could have used or did use semi-automatic rifles for self-defense. A few worth mentioning: LA Riots – 1992, Hurricane Katrina – 2005.

    Obviously these aren’t everyday occurrences and handguns are adequate for most self-defense situations. However, there are times when handguns just aren’t enough such as when the police aren’t around because they can’t get there or have been ordered to pull out for their own safety.

    The two last points that I’d like to talk about is the mass-shootings stopped by civilians and civilians shooting innocent by-standers. First on shooting by-standers. Civilians with CCWs are 3x less likely to shoot innocents than police officers (6% vs 2% of involved shootings). There was a pretty good article on DailyAnarchist.com comparing shooting rampages. The conclusion was that 15 of the 29 found rampages were stopped by civilians and the average deaths were 7x lower when stopped by civilians. Whether armed or not, civilians are the true first responders to any shooting.

    I found your post to be insightful and I think you made some good points. I always enjoy hearing people’s researched opinions even if they don’t share my viewpoints. I just wanted to share some of my thoughts on a few points that you made based on research that I’ve done in the past on these very issues.


    P.S. Awesome cooking!

    • Thanks for your well-thought response, Aaron! I love reading quotes from the founding fathers. Though I do believe they would universally be appalled by the concept of an assault weapon capable of mowing down a hundred people in less than a minute. There WERE similar types of mass-murder weapons during the time of our founding fathers (the blunderbuss, etc.) and these were universally frowned upon, even during times of war. I can’t imagine the founding fathers would approve of the concept of assault weapons being available to the general public. Still, I stand behind my stance that laws will not fix this problem, and only when people stop feeling the need to possess assault weapons will this issue be finally moot.

  18. Ben, thank you for this! I have a very good friend at work who’s Vegan. We have largely the same opinions about life (except where meat is involved). She & I had a LONG discussion on Friday about this very thing. Oh, by the way, did I mention that I work at an elementary school? With the exception of your accepting (sportsmanlike) hunting, this was pretty much our discussion. I shared your blog with her, & she, too, loved it. You make so many good points, & you’re very fair.

    I posted this link to my fb page. Thank you for stating a sane argument so calmly & kindly. I think you’re just amazing, & not to sound stalker-ish, I can’t wait to meet you!

  19. Well, I actually agree with most of what you have said. I would like to clarify a couple things however. First; the firearms pictured in the christmas ad are not assault rifles or assault weapons. They are semi-automatic rifles. And the term assault weapons is something the media or a government servant(let’s call them what they are supposed to be) made up to mean any gun that someone might think looks scary, because in reality that is what the proposed ban is; a scary looking gun ban. Would you ban the ruger 10/22, one of the finest rimfire rifles ever made. Comes stocked in wood or synthetic, however you can buy aftermarket stocks for it that will look identical to an AR 15.

    Assault rifles have a selectable fire, either semi-auto or full auto and are highly regulated and aside from the hollywood shootout have never been used in a crime. And the people doing it made them fully automatic illegally, far as I recall they weren’t even stolen guns.This is what makes them assault rifles. Now, as far as buying one, if you find one that is transferable, it will cost you several thousand dollars and up to a year for the paperwork to come through.

    And to gregory, your proposed microchip license is nothing more than registration. We already have to have a background check before purchasing a firearm. And ask Maryland how effective having that information is. Currently, any new handgun purchased by a maryland resident must have a fired case on file with the state police. This in addition to additional paperwork and fees to register the gun to the owner; background checks which are now done instantly via NICS or a state equivolent. This was the law when I moved there in 2002, cost taxpayers 5 million to set it up. It has yet to help solve one crime, even the state want to ditch that system.

  20. I just go back to the saying that these “Assault Weapons” or “Assault Rifles” aren’t the problem that you claim. First, they are used in very little of the gun crimes committed. Second, handguns have the same lethality of “assault rifles” at the close distances that most mass shootings happen (and can shoot just as many rounds). Third, they do have very legitimate uses (as I stated in the original response). Finally, even IF no one WANTED or felt that they NEEDED these rifles, you wouldn’t stop the killings.

    The most deadly school massacre was not committed by a rifle or pistol. It was committed in a time when those weapons weren’t widely available (which you would like to see in the future as a way to stop the massacres). It happened in 1927 at a elementary school in Bath, Michigan.

    So my point is that you can vilify any type of item you would like that is used in these mass-homicides, but what it comes down to is that people will find a way to carry out their sick plans with whatever tools they can acquire. The problem is not these tools but rather the people that commit these crimes. That is what we should all be focusing on.


  21. Ben:

    I’ve been following your blog/Facebook page since your participation in MasterChef and I’m sorry to hear that you lost so much of your Facebook following. Since you seem to be surprised by that occurrence, allow me to comment as a relatively neutral observer.

    You mention that the photograph that triggered the uproar was “originally posted because it is extremely hilarious”. That characterization of the photo is highly subjective. I see nothing in the photo that indicates that you’re amused by the incongruity of firearms as Christmas gifts but, rather, an individual who appears horrified by a gun advertisement. Apparently, some people who know you much better than I do (eg: Michelle Coover), were able to discern that the intent of your post was to express bemusement, rather than horror, but it doesn’t surprise me that many people interpreted the photo as an anti-firearm statement.

    The photo aside, I’d also like to point out that you began this blog entry by making broad assumptions that have no actual basis in fact. Not everyone views Christmas as a “holiday that celebrates the birth of one of the most famous pacifists in history”. For a great many people, Christmas is just another commercial holiday which, despite it’s origins, no longer has any spiritual/religious value worth consideration.

    You continued by further assuming that anyone who didn’t agree with your first assumption vis a vis Christmas, is neither sane nor balanced. You’ve previously impressed me as being a fairly rational and even-minded person so your lashing out at those who disagree with your point of view seems out of character.

    Though I am not in accord with your interpretation of the Second Amendment (if the Supreme Court can’t agree, there’s little reason to expect that you and I would), I’m not going to waste my time or yours by debating the issue with you. I will note, however, that you again attack the sanity (“A sane and well-balanced human would be hard pressed to come up with a common defense scenario where a civilian would need to be able to discharge 100 rounds in a minute”) of those who disagree with your point of view.

    One final statement. You state: “We have to evolve. And we have to take EVERYONE with us. Everyone.”

    Finding common ground is much easier if you don’t characterize those who don’t see things your way as being wrong or insane.

    • Thanks so much for your perspective, Phil. You’re a far more mature and intelligent person than I am. I am prone to hyperbole, as you have probably noted if you’ve followed my Facebook page. You probably also have noted, if you watched MasterChef and follow my Facebook, that I have an incredibly expressive face and am quite accustomed to posting photos of my face contorted into all sorts of weird expressions. (Perhaps you remember a similar face when I was at Aldi and saw 10 pounds of potatoes for $1…the faces were incredibly similar, and it’s most certainly not a face of horror or disgust, it’s a face of amused shock. I very, very, very rarely allow myself to be viewed in public in a state of true horror or disgust. (I very rarely experience those emotions, anyway.) Also, the photo wasn’t hysterically funny in a lighthearted “Ha ha” sense. It’s hysterically funny in a dark, ironic sense, and I think most people would agree. Even my own friends who own assault weapons thought it was funny to associate Christmas with assault weapons.

      I’m well aware that most people do not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. I do not, either. But every person on this planet knows the background of Christmas and that it is originally a religious holiday, and that, from a broader, global, secular perspective, the modern version of Christmas is about PEACE. I would love to hear from an individual who doesn’t REALIZE this, whether or not they celebrate it that way themselves. You may just go through the motions at Christmas…put up lights and a tree and give gifts. But you still acknowledge that it is a holiday of peace, and it’s ironic that anyone might choose to give a gift capable of causing mass death for such a holiday, as an expression of their love and affection.

      If I stand by ANY of the hyperbole in my blog, I stand behind this: “A sane and well-balanced human would be hard pressed to come up with a common defense scenario where a civilian would need to be able to discharge 100 rounds in a minute.”

      I have yet to hear a SINGLE sane, well-balanced argument as to why a civilian needs this kind of firepower. Not one. Not on the news. Not in hours of reading opinion editorials, blogs, and articles. If you would like to be that person, and articulate a sane, well-balanced answer as to why a civilian in the US needs to discharge 100 bullets in a minute, I will be ALL EARS!!! Very, very few of the intelligent people I know who either own or enjoy shooting such weapons will give an answer either publicly or privately, and it is usually a reference to the second amendment. Everyone who has attempted to give a LEGITIMATE answer to this question, and there have been precious few, has genuinely sounded like a paranoid lunatic to me.

  22. Ben:

    You stated “A sane and well-balanced human would be hard pressed to come up with a common defense scenario where a civilian would need to be able to discharge 100 rounds in a minute” and that “I have yet to hear a SINGLE sane, well-balanced argument as to why a civilian needs this kind of firepower”.

    From my point of view, the statement is so narrowly specific that it’s impossible to refute. While I could suggest a scenario where that type of firepower would be useful, it certainly wouldn’t be a “common scenario” by any stretch of the imagination. More to the point, I can’t come up with a “common scenario” where the police, or even the military, would have a need “to discharge 100 rounds in a minute” on U.S. soil.

    Realistically, though, the statement is pretty much of a red herring. We agree that there are far too many semi-automatic weapons in the U.S. for them to be confiscated or legislated out of existence. The same holds true for “high capacity” magazines. Therefore, whether or not anyone has the “need to be able to discharge 100 rounds in a minute”, the capability is already widespread. Decrying it now is an exercise in futility.

    Now, I’ve got a question for you. I’m not a member/supporter of the NRA but I happen to believe that it is correct in stating: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.“

    You’ve made it clear that you don’t approve of “this kind of wild-west approach” so that begs the question of how you think that one should deal with being confronted by an armed individual seemingly intent on mayhem?

    • Phil, my argument is that when we perpetuate the “violence must solve violence” stance, we perpetuate the hostile, ready-to-shoot environment that causes America’s rampant problem with gun violence in the fist place. If we don’t take a totally different approach to this problem, the problem will continue. And the totally different approach is for US, as citizens, to stop mistrusting each other, stop mistrusting our government, and to get on our knees and HELP EACH OTHER. Love each other. Especially the people who are most vulnerable and who tend to the the ones that take up arms and go on a rampage to punish the world that has rejected them and made them feel alone and unloved. The GOVERNMENT’s responsibility is to help these people get the treatment they need when they or their families cannot help themselves. Mental health treatment in this country is dismal. You may have read in the blog that 17 mass shootings have occurred since July. This is a HUGE spike. And it’s because everyone in the country has their finger on their trigger, paranoid of each other, paranoid of the government. And in that type of situation, you get mass murder. And the NRA running ads asking gun owners to “stand and fight,” and the news media giving constant airing to the issue which convinces irrational people to be terrified and do irrational things…all this stuff does is just breed MORE violence. We’ve got to SHUT THE HELL UP about all this. We’ve got to take a rational approach to it, which is to solve the problems that CAUSE gun violence. Get people the help they need. Stop discriminating. Stop being paranoid that the government is coming into your house to take away your guns and leave you defenseless.

      The way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to not allow him to become a bad guy in the first place. Period.

      We must transform our society from one of mistrust, doubt, and defense, to a culture of care, empathy, support, and love. That may sound far-fetched and impossible, but it’s no less possible or improbable than putting a gun in the hands of every sane citizen in the country and expecting it to stop gun violence by making everyone so scared of everyone else that no one pulls out their gun. (What really happens is, EVERYONE pulls out their gun and more people die.) When people push this “every man for himself” attitude…that you’re the ONLY one who can protect you and your family…that everyone in the world is out to get you, and you’ve got to be armed to protect yourself…you simply prolong the violence in this country. We are dividing ourselves by that behavior, not uniting ourselves. More guns, arguments for both more AND less gun control, stand and fight, only violence stops violence…these things simply perpetuate the culture of violence that is worse in this country than ANYWHERE in the civilized world. Let’s change the focus to one of trust, love, help, charity. Let’s HELP OUT our fellow man who is desperately in need of human connection, respect, and empathy, rather than hiding from him behind our guns. Let’s make sure he feels loved and fulfilled and never feels the NEED to steal a gun and kill 26 people. That is ONLY way we’re going to stop gun violence in this country. It will never be stopped by laws. And it will never be stopped by more guns, because the guns are a SYMPTOM of mistrust. And when you show the world that you don’t trust anyone, and you’ve got to keep guns to protect yourself, the world continues to think that way about you, too. When we all start trusting each other and caring for each other, people won’t feel the need to HAVE guns in the first place. Call me an idealist. But the NRA’s vision of the future is every bit as unreachable and ridiculous. No new gun laws. They won’t help solve the problem. The problem is much deeper and will not be solved by more laws or more guns. It will be solved by empathy and human kindness.

      • The big question is HOW do we do this? Oh, you and I can do our part everyday, and some of our actions may inspire the next person to try as well. But ultimately, I get the feeling that we’ve developed a culture of “every person for themselves” and “I’ll do whatever I damn well please and nothing will stop me”. Every time I leave my home and go anywhere I am astounded at the amount of aggressively nasty, selfish, get out of my way behavior I see. How quickly people are ready to jump on each other over nothing. Why is it only when disaster strikes and people NEED to come together that civilized behavior comes to the front? Your thinking is so sound, it makes so much sense. “The way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to not allow him to become a bad guy in the first place. Period.” Yes, you are an idealist. And as we taught children in school last week about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, I couldn’t help but recall your solution. Dr. King was also an idealist. (Not that I’m comparing you) Is this what we need? Someone to inspire the masses? The country has become so divided on this with very few willing to listen.

        • Greg, this is a very succinct observation: “I get the feeling that we’ve developed a culture of ‘every person for themselves’ and ‘I’ll do whatever I damn well please and nothing will stop me’” I couldn’t agree more. I think this is what has led our country (and Congress) to be so divided in recent years. I think it’s capitalism that has ultimately led us to this place. We take the easiest route to the biggest profit, rather than the most noble. This has seeped into the country’s mindset. I watched an interesting debate on Bill Maher where a VERY respectable and intelligent Republican, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, was arguing about the issue of torture’s role in the hunt for Osama bin Ladin. (Virtually everything she said was completely solid, moderate, and utterly logical…I REALLY like this lady. She represents the best of the traditional, historic Republican platform which once was so popular in this country, but which has devolved into radical, scattered shards of late.) She posed this question to Bill regarding torture’s role in interrogation: “When you’re standing over a person with critical information, and you know that you can save a hundred lives if you get it…what lengths will you go to with the life in your hands, in order to save the lives of a hundred people? What about a thousand? What about a million?” Which MOST DEFINITELY gives one pause. Responding to her was Rula Jebreal, a international political commentator who is Palestinian. Her response was something to the effect of, “When you treat a SINGLE life with disrespect, you keep yourself in the dark ages. There other ways to EVERY end. We must treat ALL life as sacred. We must always take the higher road if we are to progress to a place where violence has no home in the world.” She also made reference to Dr. King. It was a FASCINATING response, and it’s true. We are dealing with a conflict of ideologies in this debate, and most modern debates, where one side is focused on the here and now, the most direct and efficient and self-beneficial end…and the other side is focusing on evolving as a race and culture, looking toward the future of all mankind…not just MINE and not just America’s. And because both sides are thinking on completely different planes, they both sound completely and utterly ridiculous to each other.

          • Christopher Watson


            I also agree that a part of the problem is capitalism – but not capitalism, a certain brand of capitalism. Every man naturally works after his own interests – such is an economic law. Thus, within most modern corporations, there are three entities – the investors (represented by management), the employees, and the customer. The customer wants more for less. The employees want better pay, working conditions, benefits, hours, treatment, etc. The investors want a maximized ROI. Thus, there is a constant battle between the three. Employees of this firm will never be happy with their pay and investors will always want more. Such is the problem with a massive company. There is a solution that could occur on multiple levels. First, the investor/owner could decide to act apart from his own best interests, and in the interests of his employees (I believe that Hobby Lobby pays their employees 180% over minimum wage). Second, the company could be employee owned – so that the employee becomes the investor (i.e. WinCo foods). I’m not sure if we have developed the culture of “every person for himself” or if that simply is the way that the world is.

          • Christopher, thanks for this comment, it’s great. I love the employee-owned model. I don’t know that many folks who work for large-scale employee owned companies, but I know many folks who work for small employee owned companies, and the model is incredible. I love a little cheese shop in downtown Berkeley, and every time I go in there, I am ASTOUNDED at the level of knowledge of the people working behind the counter. The first few times, I thought, “How on EARTH does this company find cheese experts to work behind the counter for $12 an hour?” Later I found out that all the people behind the counter are employee-owners. They’ve been working for the company for 20 years. Thus, they’ve become experts. And they’re making $40 an hour because they own the company. The customer can’t find better knowledge and service ANYWHERE, so the customers are fiercely loyal. At least on a small scale, this business model benefits EVERYONE. This is why I’m SO FRUSTRATED with the current Republican party…because the Republicans used to be SO DEDICATED to small business and entrepreneurship. One of their core party values was making sure government didn’t get in the way of small business owners developing and growing their business, and we all know that small businesses are what fuel our local economies. But somewhere along the way, they lost their path in pandering to Evangelical voters by suddenly being concerned about people’s private lives, and it led them to this bizarre extreme place they’re in right now. The classic Republican leaders in the party are right to be concerned about their direction. Let’s get this party back to its traditional stance: “Keep the government small and out of the business and personal lives of the people of this nation.” Wow…that was a big tangent from the subject matter, huh?

          • Gregory Wright

            Ben, Christopher…
            The tangents happening in this discussion are utterly fascinating to think about. I love all the differing perspectives being thrown out there without anyone attacking them.

      • Ben:

        You’ve always struck me as a caring, well-meaning individual and nothing you’ve written on this subject has changed my opinion of you. Nonetheless, I disagree with a number of statements that you’ve made and the conclusions that you’ve reached.

        Overall, it appears that your solution to mass murder is to alter the culture of the United States with the hope that by doing so, potential mass murderer’s will feel more loved and nurtured and will, therefore, spare us a murderous rampage. The concept of altering the culture of 320 million people in order to meet the perceived needs of a very small number of mass murderers strikes me as misguided, at best.

        My final comment pertains to your dislike of the “violence must solve violence” means of dealing with mass murderers. It’s pretty to think that there is a better way of stopping a killer during a murderous rampage than ending his life but a large body of evidence suggests otherwise.


        One significant change to police tactics following Columbine is the introduction of the Immediate Action Rapid Deployment tactic, used in situations with an active shooter. Police followed the traditional tactic at Columbine: surround the building, set up a perimeter, contain the damage. That approach has been replaced by a tactic which takes into account the presence of an active shooter whose interest is to kill, not to take hostages. This tactic calls for a four-person team to advance into the site of any ongoing shooting, optimally a diamond-shaped wedge, but even with just a single officer if more are not available. Police officers using this tactic are trained to move toward the sound of gunfire and neutralize the shooter as quickly as possible. Their goal is to stop the shooter at all costs; they are to walk past wounded victims, as the aim is to prevent the shooter from killing or wounding more. David Cullen, author of Columbine, has stated: “The active protocol has proved successful at numerous shootings during the past decade. At Virginia Tech alone, it probably saved dozens of lives.”

        • Actually, working on changing the culture would serve to benefit a LOT more people than just the shooters. It’d have a positive impact on health / mental health (make your healthcare dollars go further!), reduce domestic abuse, drive down the overall crime rate, and more.

          The culture of American society today – especially with regards to how people treat each other (and demonize “others”) – is the root of so many of the current ills that plague life these days.

          • I have no problem with the U.S. becoming a “kinder and gentler nation” though I think it’s important to understand that there is an extremely large gap between wanting something to happen and actually causing it to happen.

            Attempting to change the culture today is no different than it was in the 60′s when the “Peace Movement” was in full bloom; the vast majority of Americans are largely satisfied with their lives and see little reason to change.

            Obviously, when an aberration such as Sandy Hook occurs, we are shocked and appalled. Our emotions are fanned to a fever pitch as the media does it’s best to maximize profits from the tragedy. Politicians, in an effort to enhance their chances of being re-elected, cry out for change, or not, as they scurry from one photo op to another. Nothing of substance is accomplished and within a few weeks, life returns to normal.

            And so it should. Mass murder,self-serving media/political frenzies notwithstanding, is a relatively rare occurrence in the United States.

            In the past 28 years, approximately 300 people, including the murderers, have died as a result of mass murder (defined by the FBI as four or more murders occurring during a particular event). This is not an insignificant number but it pales in comparison to the 26,000 who died due to accidental falls, 40,000 due to drugs, 33,000 due to poisoning, 25,000 due to alcohol use, 35,000 who died in motor vehicle accidents or the 38,000 who committed suicide in a single year; 2010.

            In my considerably less than humble opinion, attempting to change American culture in order to lessen the number of mass murders which occur is akin to urinating into a zephyr. I believe that we, as a society, would be better served by tending to the smaller things that have a more immediate effect on the people around us. Dropping off half of a case of soup to your local homeless shelter may not seem as grand as changing society, but it is certainly appreciated by those who are down on their luck.

            Here’s a link to a story about a 12 year old girl who has done more good for “society” than most of us, including myself, have.


          • This is an excellent perspective, Phil! Thanks for sharing. And it was great reading Sarah’s story…what an inspiration!

            My biggest concern here is that mass murder is an INCREASING trend. While 300 people may have died in the past 28 years in mass murders, there have been 17 mass murders in the last 7 months, averaging 1 every 12 days…a far greater amount than in previous history. It may be just a random spike, and they may stop. (Though there was another college shooting in Texas just today.) But to me, it indicates a growing trend. Only time will tell. But you ARE correct, and your statement mirrors the emphasis of my blog. Let’s STOP getting worked into a frenzy over this issue, and start doing things in our own lives that help better the lives of others. And Sarah is a shining example of that.

  23. I have been meaning to post a comment for a while, so here is my late comment. I agree, the gun control debate is a red herring for the real problem, hatred. However, hatred, unlike guns has no quick and easy solution. There will never be a successful law against hatred. Political parties use hatred to thrive. The past election certainly proved that point.
    Instead, as you said, it is each person making a choice not to hate. And not just choosing not to hate individuals, but also choosing not to hate people who belong to different segments of society. It is choosing to be uncomfortable. It is being the one kid on the playground who is not making fun of Susie for her funny clothes. Until more people decide to choose peace, violence will as present in society as it has been since the dawn of human civilization.

  24. Noooope. Not gonna touch this one. You know how I feel. I’m still here.

    • Awwwwwwwww…I wanna hear! *chuckle* I still seem to be under fire from folks who are interpreting this blog as pro-gun control and that I think the government should take away their guns. I can’t for the LIFE of me figure out why they think that. I think my opinion is pretty clear. Ah well. Miss you and your hunny! I’ll send you some of this wild boar prosciutto when it’s done!!!

  25. Shooting 100 rounds in a minute is just plain fun.

    • So is blowing stuff up in a tank. But this is illegal. There are laws to govern behaviors which can be damaging to your fellow man. Shooting 100 rounds in a minute at a shooting range is fun. But the POTENTIAL DEATH that kind of firepower can unleash upon humans should give ANYONE pause. Again, I don’t think these guns should be outlawed, because I don’t think that will stop mass shootings, and I think it would create MORE violence as well. But at some point we have to ask ourselves if the potential for our “fun” outweighs the potential death that such a tool can spread. There are other ways to have JUST AS MUCH FUN!

  26. Christopher Watson


    Sic et non. I agree that more laws are not the solution. Government cannot solve problems by creating regulation. I also agree that the solution is “cultural” (but I wouldn’t use those terms – I would use religious terminology – I’m a theologian by training). Where I would disagree is in the starting place of man. I would argue that man is not naturally good, but naturally evil. Man’s natural bent is towards self-fulfillment, self-aggrandizement, and avarice. Males are naturally predatory and aggressive, and must be trained to battle their nature. Females are naturally more emotional, and must be trained to control their emotions. It is only by overcoming our natures that we can live in a somewhat harmonious society (although government can help – for instance, a tax deduction for charitable giving can transform avarice into altruism).

    • Christopher, this is a fascinating post, thank you for sharing. I have always been INCREDIBLY frustrated with the commonly-held belief by many Christians that mankind is inherently evil. (This is one of the primary things that drove me away from the church.) I don’t believe this for an instant. I believe a LACK OF LOVE can transform a person into a greedy, self-serving individual. I do not believe we all start out that way. When someone is raised in a loving home, like I was, and surrounded by loving friends, like I am, it’s incredibly hard to be self-serving, greedy, predatory, or aggressive. I do not behave this way because the Bible tells me to, or because Christ is in my heart. I behave this way because I was, since birth, surrounded by love and acceptance. I have always been happy. At times in my life where I was tempted to make choices based on money and greed, I discovered a growing disconnect between myself and the people who love me. I think ALL humans who are raised in a place of love, when it becomes quite clear to them that a self-serving life deprives them of that love, they get the point. I think that when a person is raised in a self-serving, selfish family, are deprived of love and empathy and care, or are constantly rejected by their culture for being “different,” that they reject their humanity because they don’t know any differently. It’s VERY hard for these people to be rehabilitated, but I’ve seen it happen. But I think it’s a DANGEROUS thing when Christians make this assumption, because for MOST people, they want to separate themselves from evil. This leads many Christians to wrap themselves up in the bubble of their fellowship and avoid making a TRUE difference in the world by loving the people who need it most. No human on this planet is born evil. They are MADE evil. Not by Satan. But by us. By a lack of love. I think Jesus would have agreed…

  27. Hi Ben,

    Beautifully written. As a Canadian, I couldn’t understand why Newtown or Columbine for that matter, wouldn’t make any sane person want to have very strict gun control laws. Now I understand a little better. It’s late, but I want to share quickly why I hate guns — and am terrified of guns… I was 2 years old, growing up in a household of extreme abuse…. My Dad is a WWII vet, and he had his service revolver in the house — he thought it was funny to play Russian Roulette with me… What is really gross is it my fear also turned him on. At 2 I didn’t understand what a gun or death was really, so he took me outside, and shot a squirrel, showed me the body, and said, that’s what this can do to you, if I’m not careful. I was terrified and most likely traumatized by this… and it happened quite often over the years until I turned 18… I never knew if I was going to hear the click on an empty chamber, or if I’d be killed… 16 years he tortured me that way… Who knows? Maybe doing that kept him from being a mass murderer himself… we may never know…. Loved you on Master Chef, Ben, God Bless You…. Yep, I’m a Christian, and I pray for you, because it’s my way of caring for others….


  28. Thank you for this well written post. I found it very informative and helpful in illuminating many points and points of views.

  29. Your comment to Christopher Watson, incredibly insightful and true — This is one Christian fan of yours Ben, who DOES NOT SEE PEOPLE AS INHERENTLY EVIL — I judge no one, Christian or non-Christian… I became Christian by choice, and remained Christian because Jesus loves me so much, and has incredibly healed me of the pain of my childhood so very much… I can’t speak for every Christian, but I see those who haven’t become Christian as sinners in need of a Savior — we’ve all done things we shouldn’t have done Christianity calls that sinning — the only difference between a Christian and a non-Christian in my viewpoint is — We’ve found our Savior, and all our wrong choices and sins have been forgiven as Christians — we still make wrong choices, we still sin, no more or less good and holy than anyone else — I do find it incredibly sad that some well-meaning Christians have turned you off Christianity by making it seem as if we see people as inherently evil though, Ben — I think the vast majority of Christians don’t see people that way at all — so that is my two cents on Christianity and the Christian lfe…

  30. Hi Ben. First of all, I love your site and am a big fan of you and your cooking in general. Let me state for the record that I am not a gun owner. I have shot many different guns for fun but i haven’t felt the need to buy any. I always used to just accept that the 2nd amendment was talking about the right to CREATE a militia. However, after reading it over many times and actually trying to interpret it on my own I came to a different, much more sensible interpretation. First of all, I will say that for some reason, no matter how you interpret the amendment, it is somewhat cryptic. I have no idea why but it just is. Also, we have to remember context. For the most part, the constitution and bill of rights were there to prevent a government from wielding too much power. For example, the right of free speech is not there so that we can make potty jokes (although potty jokes are important to protect because of the slippery slope concern). Free speech is a right so that people can voice their opinion about the government and not have to worry. In the same way, the right to bear arms is a right not because I should have the right to hunt or the right to protect my house from a home invasion. Those instances are analogous to the potty jokes of the previous example. The real reason you need to have guns is to protect yourself from the military of a tyrannical government. In that case, you must have the right to bear equivalent weapons to the military. Let’s look at the 2nd amendment again.
    A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State – translation: Since it is necessary for a free state to have a militia that is well regulated [and well armed].
    the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed – pretty self explanatory.
    If you read the original version as you posted it, this interpretation also fits in perfectly. What the amendment says is that since we need a military that is capable of defending us and since such a military must be well armed and regulated, the people have to have a “checks and balances” counter-force to the military.
    I want to point out 2 things: First, that throughout history, it has been the tactic of wannabe tyrannical governments (Most notably, Hitler’s Nazi regime) to preempt their tyranny by abolishing or curtailing the use of weapons so that nobody could fight back. Secondly, I am not paranoid about such a thing happening here in the US (at least not in the near future), but I don’t completely eliminate the possibility that it COULD happen. In the same way, I don’t think that if the government would curtail potty jokes that we as a nation are doomed. But I do think that the democracy of this country demands that we should be allowed to make potty jokes and that if such rights were curtailed, there is a breach in the given rights. That spells trouble down the line. So would gun control. The fact that my governor Cuomo was able to pass a law (in middle of the night, mind you) in such a short time frame that has such serious consequences is downright scary. Just because some kook or kooks do bad things with assault weapons does not mean that that is where the GOVERNMENT should step in and decide what is best for us. Guns, just as free speech are necessary rights (and, yes, sometimes necessary evils).

    • Sam, thanks for your comment! I don’t think many folks are reading this post any more, but I do want to respond. Your argument is sensible. However, the concept that “The real reason you need to have guns is to protect yourself from the military of a tyrannical government. In that case, you must have the right to bear equivalent weapons to the military” is a more akin to your potty joke reference than hunting or home invasion. First off, citizens in this country (or ANYWHERE in the world for that matter) are most certainly NOT allowed to have equivalent weapons to the military. And thank God for that. You’re not allowed to have a tank. Anti-aircraft artillery. Bombs. Or nuclear strike weapons. The US military has ALL these things. There’s not a civilian in this country with an arsenal that can protect them from the US military, should the government ever order the military to turn against its citizens. There’s no possible way for any family to be equipped enough to protect them against a military invasion. In the instances where we’ve seen standoffs between armed groups and the US government (Branch Davidians, Ruby Ridge, etc.), the armed groups are NEVER victorious, and never will be. It’s ludicrous to think that you can protect yourself and your family should the military come for you. It won’t ever happen, no matter how many guns you have.

      I also think the idea that the US government would ever order the military to attack its citizens is also utterly ludicrous. That will never happen. Not in our lifetime, our childrens’ lifetime…not for all eternity. Humans are evolving at an exponentially faster rate than we ever have, and this rate will increase exponentially itself as time progresses. You’ll never see another first-world country exterminate its citizens. It doesn’t happen. We still see these atrocities in the developing world (where, ironically, EVERYONE is armed with extreme firepower) because they have created systems of government that allow tyrannical leaders to rule, and the citizens are so heavily armed they can actually form armies to attack their tyrannical governments to set up their OWN tyrannical governments. You will NEVER see this happen in the US, Switzerland, Italy, Australia, Japan, South Korea… Not ever again. Those are phenomena of the past. We still see them as developing nations trudge their path toward first-world economies. But that will never happen again in the first world because our systems of government are designed to prevent that from happening.

      And, let’s just pretend we have a “potty humor” scenario where the US government DOES instruct the military to attack and subdue its citizens…do you think our soldiers would EVER turn their hands against their families and fellow countrymen? Only in scenarios where the masses can be brainwashed (ie, developing nations with no educational system, extreme religious governments, etc.) can tens of thousands of soldiers be convinced they must kill their countrymen.

      Ultimately, the core of your argument is correct, though. “People shouldn’t be afraid of their government, governments should be afraid of their people.” But because, in the evolved world, we wield VOTES…not guns. And votes and words are infinitely more powerful than guns or bombs. A politician, or political party, is never more than 4 years away from being thrown out of office. And in an evolved world, 4 years is not enough time to brainwash a country and its military that some or all of its citizens must be attacked and subdued. The longer we perpetuate this emphasis on violence, and the tools used to carry out that violence, the longer it will take us to evolve…the longer we keep ourselves in the dark ages.

      In this day and age, a developed country overthrows its government with VOTES.

  31. Very well said Sam.

  32. Ben you said this: “I also think the idea that the US government would ever order the military to attack its citizens is also utterly ludicrous. That will never happen. Not in our lifetime, our childrens’ lifetime…not for all eternity. Humans are evolving at an exponentially faster rate than we ever have, and this rate will increase exponentially itself as time progresses. You’ll never see another first-world country exterminate its citizens. It doesn’t happen”
    Then why is Obama culling all militray officers and the like if they are not willing to fire on our citizens plus do a web search for FEMA containment camps. Every state in the Union has one huge barbed wire surrounded containment camps like we put the American Japanese in, in WWII

    • Lcromwell…my friend…you’ve GOT to stop watching Fox News. “Every state in the Union has one huge barbed wire surrounded containment camps like we put the American Japanese in, in WWII” <– Absolute lunacy, and has been debunked multiple times by many conservative sources. This is more of the alarmist gossip that causes people to arm themselves in paranoia. Completely, ludicrously untrue. I’m also not even going to grace the statement “Obama culling all militray officers and the like if they are not willing to fire on our citizens” with a response. People…if you’re going to comment on this page, let’s stick to facts, rather than wild and utterly unfounded rumors from the internet.

  33. Just one thought off the top of my head, Ben.

    When you say “do you think our soldiers would EVER turn their hands against their families and fellow countrymen?”

    I respond with, “Kent State.”

    • At Kent State, less than half of the 77 National Guardsmen fired their weapons, and they stopped in less than 20 seconds. This was an isolated incident, which is VERY LIKELY to repeat itself in the future, based on our gun-happy society. The idea that the entire military would be mobilized to attack their countrymen is still ludicrous, and will NEVER happen in this country.

  34. I believe that you’ve missed the point concerning Kent State, Ben. It’s not a matter of how many Guardsmen fired at unarmed U.S. citizens but, rather, that any of them did.

    At any rate, I’m going to opt out of this discussion. Your detour down ‘Hyperbole Highway’ (altering your original assertion of “the military” to “the entire military”) convinced me that we’re just wasting each other’s time here.

    Best of luck to you, Ben. I enjoyed your blog on Frank.

    • Phil, there’s a massive difference between a standoff with rising tensions that causes a contingent on either side to make a stupid decision for 20 seconds, and for the government to order its military a full-scale, ongoing offensive against its citizens. In the first scenario, the more high-powered firearms exist on both sides of the fence, the longer and bloodier the standoff will be. (Kent State would have resulted in MASSIVE bloodshed if the protesters had been armed, and had to fire back on the National Guard in self defense. Can you IMAGINE what would have resulted if the protesters all had semi-automatic firearms?!?) The second scenario is what the alarmist movement seems hell-bent on being a likely occurrence, which will NEVER happen in this country…ever. I’m quite certain we’ll have other Kent States in the near future. These types of scenarios ALWAYS happen. They are awful and tragic…and also fleeting, as humans realize 20 seconds after they’ve made a bad decision that they’ve made a bad decision. And adding MORE guns to that type of scenario always results in MORE bloodshed. But everyone in this nation can STOP being terrified that the government is going to invade their homes with massive firepower to take away their liberties. That’s not going to happen. And if it DID, there’s no possible way for you to be armed enough to defend yourself against it anyway. That’s NOT the purpose of having firearms. The purpose of having firearms is to hunt, recreate, and defend your family against crime in the home. And I’ve got NO PROBLEM with any of those things.

  35. It just happened in California. No trial,no hearing,just enter home armed with 40 ca. glocks and bullet proof vests and seize his 3 guns because he spent 3 days in a mental hospital. Nothing alleged he was a danger to himself or others.

    • Lee, first off, I prefer to receive stories from unbiased sources. On that same page you linked me to, the primary story is a petition to deport Piers Morgan. I don’t get my news from MSNBC, the left-biased news source. NO one should. Just like NO ONE should get their news from Fox. Both are sensationalist sources that love to stir up alarmist movements on both ends. (Just like teaparty.org.) Anyone who gets their information from such dramatically biased sources should NEVER consider their news reliable.

      That said, on teaparty.org, the phrase about the gun “seizure” is stated thusly: “They knocked on the door and asked to come in. About 45 minutes later, they came away peacefully with three firearms.”

      These officers were enforcing the law. We can debate whether or not people with mental instabilities should be permitted to have weapons, if you want. But these officers were simply enforcing the law. And if you think the person in that home who received a peaceful, polite visit from officers simply enforcing the law (according to the source YOU posted here), should have instead turned his firearms against them…I’m not sure what to think. But all you’ve done here is share a story about the law being enforced peacefully and politely. This was not a new thing, and it has NOTHING to do with recent rogue laws being passed by radically liberal governments. California has been doing this for DECADES in accordance with their state laws regarding guns and the mentally challenged or those with previous violent convictions. The only reason this “raid” made news (as opposed to THOUSANDS like it for the past few decades) is because alarmist media sources are seeking out such events to blow out of proportion.

  36. Ben, I spent 12 years in the military, including about 18 months in sunny South Viet Nam as a participant in the Southeast Asian War Games (Full Contact Division); I’m well aware of the potential consequences of a meeting between two armed groups who disagree with one another’s point of view.

    However, the issue at Kent State was not about a group of soldiers who made a “stupid decision” but, rather, about a command structure, reaching to the Governor of Ohio, which ignored it’s only purpose for existence – to safeguard the well-being of the citizenry.

    The National Guard was not entering a battle zone nor attempting to quell a riot where life was at risk; it was attempting to disperse a group of college students and did so successfully without a shot being fired. There was no reason for the Guardsmen to have been issued live ammunition. In the unlikely event that they were unable to protect themselves from the unarmed college students with their bayonet-equipped rifles, they may have had to withdraw. Embarrassing, perhaps, but not deadly to either side.

    The Kent State debacle never would have occurred had the Governor of Ohio been wise enough to understand that restraint was required, not a show of force. Of course, the chances of encountering wisdom from a politician is somewhere between slim and none and Slim just took the last train to Clarksville.

    Not being prescient, I don’t share your certainty that the government will never turn on the citizenry though, at this stage of the game, it doesn’t seem to be an imminent threat. Sometime in the future though, the piper will have to be paid for our ever increasing national debt and when that time comes, the chance of civil unrest on an unprecedented scale is extremely likely.

    From my lifetime of observations, the majority of people no longer view the government as a beneficent entity, as was once the norm. It is easy to see how civil unrest caused by a meltdown of our financial system could devolve into civil war. I realize that you don’t believe a lightly armed citizenry can stand up to regular armed forces but history is not on your side; I direct your attention to the Syrian civil war.

    • Phil, the Syrian civil war is a massively bloody affair with citizens dying left and right. How on earth is that a good example of why the citizenry needs to be armed? The more armed the citizens are, the more people die, because the armed offense has to use more violent force against them. There is a VERY established method of overthrowing a government without bloodshed in civilized countries, and it’s called VOTING. And it WORKS. Some people seem to think that some entity is going to rise to power in this nation as a dictator, turn the military against its citizens, and somehow both BENEFIT by that, and retain power indefinitely…it’s just lunacy.

      I agree that civil unrest is likely to rise in this country if we can’t get control of our spiraling national debt and the increasing gap between the rich and the poor. However, if that civil unrest is HEAVILY ARMED, we’re likely to see far more citizens die, than if the civil unrest is in accordance with the vast majority of our patriotic history…PEACEFUL protest. It works. It sends a clear message. And then we all go into the polls and throw out whatever idiot(s) are making horrible, uncompromising decisions that aren’t moving us toward our goals as a country, and give someone else a chance for a few years. And if they aren’t functional, we throw them out, too.

  37. Ben: I didn’t suggest that the Syrian civil war was a good example of why citizens should be armed. What I stated is that it’s an example of how “a lightly armed citizenry can stand up to regular armed forces”.

    I’m not one of the people who believe that a dictator is going to rise to power in the U.S. but neither am I so naive as to believe that voting can overthrow a government. The political power that has been amassed by the Democrats and Republicans is so deeply entrenched that it is virtually impossible to change government leadership in any meaningful way at the national level by voting. Obviously, we can change the talking head who resides in the White House but we can’t change the party juggernaut which controls which talking head is presented to the people as the potential “leader” of the nation.

    If you look at the rate of escalation of our national debt, throwing out the idiots hasn’t worked because, frankly, the incoming idiot has been as incompetent as the outgoing idiot. The clowns we elect have discovered their niche as politicians and once they’ve floated to, or near the top of the public cesspool, they’re willing to spend limitless amounts of our tax dollars to stay there. The bottom line is that we continue to elect people to office whose only skill is their ability to sling bulls–t. Expecting these people to repair our economic system is akin to expecting your chicken flock to design and build a nuclear-powered (but eco-friendly) pizza oven.

    That’s not to say that we shouldn’t keep trying for a peaceful solution to what will eventually become a major problem. Even so, virtually every major change in U.S. policy, including the birth of the nation, has been written in blood and I won’t be surprised if the next change requires more of the same.

  38. I agree with you Phil. There also are so many cases from Randall weaver to Waco of armed forces coming in to take away guns.

    • Lcromwell, I would love to see an example of when the armed forces invaded a home that was within the lines of law in terms of gun possession. When there is an invasion, it’s because the law has been BROKEN. Let’s not forget that the Supreme Court has clearly ruled for DECADES that the right to bear arms is not unconditional, nor that EVERYONE has the right to bear arms. This isn’t some radical conservative new movement. There ARE gun laws. And when people break them, law enforcement must enforce those laws. ATF did not go to Ruby Ridge to kill Randall Weaver’s wife. They went to remove illegal guns. FBI did not go to the Branch Davidian’s complex to kill 76 people. They went to investigate and remove illegal guns (in addition to investigating MANY other humanitarian concerns). When people fight back, rather than cooperate with the law and related investigations, death happens. Needlessly. The people you’re defending…Randall Weaver…David Koresh…these are not GOOD, law abiding people. These are delusional criminals. Why choose them to defend your point? David Koresh was raping children. And he got 75 people KILLED because of his ego. If he had nothing to fear…hadn’t been raping children, hording semiautomatic weapons and converting them to fully automatic…he could have invited the ATF into the compound, the search and investigation would have been routine, and they could have gone back to their law-abiding, peaceful life.

      But this debate has strayed back into the same back-and-forth we see on the media, and that was NOT my point in posting this blog. My point was that increased laws will not be effective, because existing laws aren’t effective. Criminals will always find a way to put their hands on the kind of weapons that can kill dozens of people in a matter of seconds. The point is that YOU and I need to do our part to help transform our society into one where people don’t feel like they NEED to have guns to protect themselves from a massive invading force. First off…because that force will NEVER come. Second off…because when you live in fear, you do harm to yourself, your family, and everyone around you. ESPECIALLY if that fear translates into hording ridiculous amounts of firepower. Yes…everyone in this country should have the right to have a handgun under their pillow or in their gun cabinet. YES…everyone in this country should have the right to have some hunting firearms to hunt for food and sport. But nobody in this country needs semiautomatic firepower to do anything but protect themselves from some bizarre, imaginary troop of heavily-armed paramilitary forces that are going to invade their law-abiding home, take away their guns, and kill their family. Those people need to be HEALED, because they are living in needless terror. And that fear is damaging their life and the lives of those they care about. When we are ALL living a life centered on love and service…and we’re ALL more concerned with our fellow man than ourselves…and when we’re ALL busting our butts to help out those less fortunate than us…people won’t need these massive guns any more. So instead of screaming at each other in a debate that won’t go anywhere, let’s get down to the business of evolving our race. Because guns and violence…and movements “written in blood” only keep us in the dark ages.

  39. Gee, Ben: You’re starting to sound like one of them far right wing law & order types. You haven’t been listening to Rush Limbaugh again, have you?

    In neither the case of Ruby Ridge, nor of Waco, was there any evidence of any laws being BROKEN. Randall Weaver had missed a court appearance due to a failure of the government to inform him of a change in date and Waco erupted over an attempt to serve a search warrant. In neither case, was it the intent of the law enforcement personnel to “remove illegal guns” as you claim.

    As for whether or not Randy Weaver and/or David Koresh are “GOOD, law abiding people” isn’t the issue. The Constitution of the United States extends it’s protections to all citizens, not just the “good” ones.

    I’d suggest that you do a little research on what led up to Ruby Ridge and the aftermath. Here’s one snippet you may wish to consider:

    “On about August 24, 1992, the fourth day of the siege on the Weaver family, FBI Deputy Assistant Director Danny Coulson wrote a memo:

    OPR 004477
    Something to Consider
    1. Charge against Weaver is Bull Shit.
    2. No one saw Weaver do any shooting.
    3. Vicki has no charges against her.
    4. Weaver’s defense. He ran down the hill to see what dog was
    barking at. Some guys in camys shot his dog.
    Started shooting at him. Killed his son. Harris did the
    shooting [of Degan]. He [Weaver] is in pretty strong legal position.”

    As for Waco, the case for the original search warrant was considerably less than solid. The police had no evidence of illegal firearms being manufactured and relied almost entirely on a statement that the Davidians “might be” converting weapons to full auto as justification for what amounted to a fishing expedition.

    The tragedy that ensued can be laid entirely at the feet of the government agents who chose to invade the Davidian compound rather than extend the siege. The Davidians were of no imminent danger to anyone but themselves and, had the agents of the government used restraint, it’s likely that far fewer people would have died.

    I will agree with you Ben, that continuing this debate is a waste of time. I can respect your beliefs but however well-intentioned, some of them seem so naive as to be pollyannish.

    Best of luck to you in your future endeavors.

    • Well, if it’s naive and “pollyanish” to believe that, as a race, we can collectively learn from our barbaric past and instead of living in fear and horror, barricaded in our homes with guns and paranoia… If it’s naive and “pollyanish” to believe that the ONLY step toward a culture of peace is to move away from physical violence and a “bad guy vs good guy” mentality… If it’s naive and “pollyanish” to not simply be content to HOPE for a future where our children grow up in a world where their parents and society don’t prioritize fear and defense over acceptance and selflessness, and instead to actively move TOWARD that future… Consider me the Captain of All Those Naive and Pollyanish. I’d prefer to live in a world run by those folks any day of the week!