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## Sunday, December 16, 2012

### Bang Bang Crazy, Part Two

Perform an experiment.

Take a look around your local gaming store.

How many video games do you see that are not shooters?

No. Stop. Don’t roll your eyes, instead do what I ask, go to the store and count the video games. Ask the clerk for a video game about science, or engineering, or exploration, or nonviolent problem solving. Look at the games on the shelves, in how many do the players solve the problems with brains, or reason, or diplomacy instead of firepower?

Then answer the question, how many are not shooters?

Well?

How many?

Damned few, that’s how many. Less than five percent by my count.

Now, go get your kid’s MP3 player.

How many of the songs on it are about violence? About guns and blood?

No. Stop. Don’t roll your eyes, instead do what I asked, go get the MP3 player, turn on the radio, go to the store and look at the albums. It’s not just Rap, or Hip Hop, or the stuff that glorifies the thug life, it’s country music too. Listen to the music and answer the question.

How many?

Turn on your TV.  For the next week, count the percentage of shows where guns solve the problem. No. Stop. Don’t sigh and roll your eyes, do it. Turn on your goddamned TV and count the number of times that guns solve the problem. Count the number of shows that contain a gun. For extra credit, count the number of times brains or non-violence solve the problem – without a gun also in evidence – then compare the two numbers.  How about cartoons? Kid’s shows? Movies?

Even in “family friendly” G-rated fare such as, oh say Star Wars, the problems are solved with guns (or light-sabers, same difference).

How about the news? How many times in the last 24 hours have guns solved the problem? How many?

So what I'm I saying here?

That video games and music and TV cause gun violence?

Is that what I’m saying?

No.

That’s not what I’m saying.

I’m saying that we are a violent people, we Americans.

We glory in violence. We revel in violence. We worship violence.

Our sports are violent, both on the field and in the bleachers – and often in the parking lots after the game.  Our politics are violent and confrontational and uncompromising.  Our international policy is violent and bloody.  Our religions are violent. Our rhetoric is violent. Our law enforcement is violent. Our history is violent. Our heroes are violent.

Hell, for us, even peace is violent.

We are a violent people, we Americans, and we have always been a violent people.

We solve our problems with our fists and with our guns, that’s who we are.

Is it any surprise then that our video games, our music, our TV shows are violent entertainments filled with guns and blood and body counts?

Is it any surprise whatsoever, that the violent prone and the simpletons and those with a tenuous grasp on reality turn to guns and violence to solve their own problems? Why shouldn’t they?

What other solutions, what other methods, are they offered?

Media that provides examples of non-violent problem solving, Sesame Street say, are constantly in fear of violent defunding. They’re always in the crosshairs, always the first to face the chopping block. Meanwhile, even the Learning Channel is filed with shows about guns, about making guns, or buying guns, or using guns in one fashion or another.

America’s gun fetish is only one symptom of a much larger malady.

The terrible events this week at Sandy Hook are merely the latest in a long, long line of similar horrors.

Hell, Sandy Hook wasn’t even the first mass killing this week, on December 11th, 22-year-old Jacob Roberts killed two people and himself with a stolen rifle in Clackamas Town Center, Oregon.

Before that, on September 27, five people were shot to death and three more wounded when Andrew Engeldinger went on a shooting spree after losing his job at Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis.  Engeldinger killed himself as the cops closed in.

And the month before that, in August, six Sikh temple members were killed when angry ex-Army veteran Wade Page stormed into their temple and opened fire in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Four others were injured. Page then killed himself.

And of course you remember what happened a month before that, right? On July 20th, during the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, James Holmes gunned down twelve people in cold blood and managed to wound fifty eight more. Unlike the others, Holmes didn’t suicide, he calmly waited outside the theater for the police to arrive and was arrested without a fight.

A month before Holmes went on his bloody rampage, on May 29, a guy named Ian Stawicki opened fire on Cafe Racer Espresso in Seattle.  He killed five people and then himself.

April was a busy month for mass murder. On April 6th, Jake England and Alvin Watts drove around Tulsa, Oklahoma, and shot five black men at random, three died.  And on April 2nd, One L. Goh killed seven people at Oikos University, a Korean Christian college in Oakland, earning himself the distinction of carrying out the deadliest attack on a school since the Virginia Tech Massacre in 2007.

And so it goes. Every day, every month, every year it’s the same thing here in America.  In 2011 it was Jared Lee Loughner who made the headlines, but Eduardo Sencion also shot twelve people eating breakfast in an IHOP in Carson City, Nevada, five of them died – including three National Guardsmen. And don’t forget the eight people who died in a hair salon in Seal Beach, California, when Scott Dekraai opened fire.

You can follow the blood trail all the way back to Columbine and beyond.

These killings, this slaughter, it’s not the exception, it’s who we are.

Look around, look at our games, our religion, our politics, our sports, our entertainment.

This violence is who we are.

Oh, you don’t like that, do you?

You don’t want to hear it?

You don’t want to believe it?

You don’t agree. It’s not us, America isn’t like that. No, not really.

No, of course not.

Listen, you know how you kick drugs? You know how you quit drinking? You know how you stop smoking or finally lose weight and keep it off? You know how you stop being an abusive asshole?

You start by facing the truth.

You start by admitting that you have a problem.  The drugs and the booze are destroying your life and the lives of the people around you, the smoking is killing you inch by inch and it’s killing your kids, the overeating is giving you diabetes and high cholesterol and it’s going to kill you if you don’t goddamned stop putting shit into your mouth.  You can’t control your temper, you hit your wife, you scream at your husband, and one day your kids are going end up trapped in the same cycle of violence and abuse if you don’t grow the fuck up and do something about it.

That’s you and the only way to fix it is to first take a long deep look into the mirror and admit to yourself that you’ve got a problem.

I know a guy, a recovered alcoholic.  He had it bad. Booze was his life. He didn’t think he was hurting anybody, but of course he was.  He hurt his wife, his family, his friends, and his co-workers – all the people who cared about him. But he couldn’t see it.  He had a bunch of close calls, but somehow he always managed to keep on, ignoring the signs, ignoring the symptoms, living in denial, refusing to admit that he had a problem.

He believed that it was his right, his right goddamn it, to drink if he wanted to and nobody was going to tell him otherwise.

Then one night, blind drunk behind wheel on his way from one drink to the next, he hit a little girl.

And that’s when the light finally came on for him.

That’s when he knew, finally, that he had to do something.

That was the moment when ultimately he had to look into his own eyes, look himself in the mirror, and admit that he had a problem.  That was when he had to admit, finally, this is where it ends, this and no more. Then he went to find help, and it was a long hard damned road, and he spent a long, long time making it right, but eventually he beat it.

All it took was admitting that he had a problem, and a will to fix it and to find a way to make it right.

He still fights it, every day he admits that he is an alcoholic even though he stopped drinking forty years ago, and he keeps looking for a way to make it right.

I don’t know, maybe we as a nation aren’t there yet.

A hundred dead kids , a thousand, ten thousand, maybe it’s still not enough and how many more will it take?

We’re still in denial.

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

How many times have you heard that tired old phrase this week?

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  True, I suppose, but I’d argue that while guns may not kill people, one hell of a lot of people are dying in their presence. Guns may not kill people, but one hell of a lot of people are dying while idiots argue over empty phrases, semantics, and NRA sound bites.

I’ll grant you that people kill people, but guns make it a wholesale operation.

It wasn’t like this back in the day.

How many times have you heard that in the last week?

It wasn’t like this back in my day.  People didn’t solve their problems with guns.

Really?

And what time was that?

These people are suffering selective amnesia.  There may have been brief moments in our history that are relatively free from violence, but they are few and far between.  Where do you think our legends come from? Our entertainment? Our heroes? Our villains?  Billy the Kid? Wyatt Earp? Bonnie and Clyde. The Gangs of New York? Wounded Knee? Southern Lynchings? Lizzie Borden? Charlie Manson? Ted Bundy? Al Capone?

It’s never been this way?

Hell, it’s always been this way.

Where the hell have you been?

This is what happens when you take God out of the schools.

How many times have you heard that in the last few days?

This is what happens when you take God out of the schools.  Which god? Every god I’ve ever heard of has plenty of blood on his holy hands.  If you’re looking for an example of non-violence, the guy who drops people into pits of boiling pitch for all eternity and slaughters the first born sons of an entire nation probably isn’t your best choice. I’m just saying.

This is what happens when you take God out of the schools. This is another baseless idiotic statement, not provable, not falsifiable, it’s something people pull out of their asses when they don’t have an actual argument of their own. God, there, I win.

It’s just another form of denial.

More guns will end gun violence. Banning all guns will end gun violence.  Neither of those statements are true, extremism rarely is. Extremism is what people resort to when they are unable or unwilling to reason.  Extremism by definition is a position adopted by people who know they are wrong, but refuse to concede, refuse to compromise, refuse to reason, refuse to admit that they have a problem.

And we have a problem, whether we want to admit it or not.

We may not all agree on what inalienable rights, exactly, the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution bestows upon Americans, but the one thing we can all agree on is this: The Second Amendment was never, ever, intended to place the rights of gun owners over the lives of our children.

America has a problem with violence, with blood, with death, and with guns.

We solve our problems with fists and bullets.

That’s the first step.

Attention: Part One of this essay is here: Bang Bang Crazy

1. Ouch... and yet... This has given me something to think about tonight. And possibly for a good long while beyond.

2. As usual, or actually as ALWAYS, you hit it right on the head perfectly.
"I’m saying that we are a violent people, we Americans.
We glory in violence. We revel in violence. We worship violence."
I don't know how many times I've said words very like these to those few people I bothered to even comment back to about it in the past couple days. They want to blame the guns, or the mental illness untreated, or just society in general, and though each does have a point in there, the crux is exactly as you've just written, but it seems no one wants to hear THAT.
I guess the blame game is easier. No mirrors needed.
Thank you Jim, as always.

3. Jim,

Outstanding. Whatever the answer we may eventually decide on ... And mind you, I am not saying we will decide on one as a country ... You are absolutely correct that such journey must begin with the first step of acknowledging that there is a problem. I don't know that it was less violent a country in the late 50's and early 60's when I was in grade school, but while I was going to say I don't remember any violent rampages, there were numerous assassinations which no doubt helped lay more foundations for more violence in the future.

I don't know what answer may lie out there for us but I sure do hope we don't wait for another classroom or two of young kids to die before the country finally rises up in disgust and anger and says enough is enough. Personally, I reached that point a few years ago. I understand that an assault weapons ban would not solve everything, but let's be real, there is no valid reason for those weapons to be in the hands of sportsmen...there only purpose is to take out lots of targets (I.e., people) in very short order. I know the Tea Party types who complain about the heavy foot of government on their necks think assault weapons are a necessary adornment to their weapons cache, but why should the rest of us let them set the rules.

Thanks as always for some good food for thought.

Old Navy Comm O

1. Darned fill in the word for you.

Re assault weapons that should be their only purpose, not the homonym there...... Sorry .....

Old Navy Comm O

3. Never mind ... I found it...

4. I have no interest in pretending to shoot things, so our gaming consoles are pretty much my husband's domain. Whatever happened to games like Myst? It was wildly popular, but somehow the shoot-em-ups took over everything.

I can't deny that our society is saturated with violence. I punched a man. Once. It wasn't at all like I thought it would be like. It was horrible. Even though I pretty much decked him, and even though he probably deserved it, I didn't feel victorious. I felt sick. I felt ashamed. It wasn't like the movies, and I'm not sure why I found that surprising, because how many things ARE just like the movies?

Anyway, I may have been thoughtless enough to punch someone, but I had no temptation to get my gun. I don't really have a point except to say that if a person like me can be driven to violence, even just once, then yeah... something's not right here.

1. Maybe "driven" isn't the right word, no one drove me to it. Perhaps I should say that for someone like me to think it would be acceptable, or even an option, says something.

2. Exactly this. That said, it may be because I'm a Nintendo fanboy, but whenever I go game shopping, I rarely see any shooting games; but are you including sword and sorcery style games, Jim? And I guess there are things like the Samurai Warriors games, which technically lack guns, but are about warfare nonetheless.

However, there is still a clear line to be drawn between these games, and shooters which put you in the driver's seat. And I will concede that among the most-loved games for the N64 was Goldeneye, one of the few first-person shooters I enjoyed.

5. As a teacher, I believe I can guarantee that officially arming teachers will never happen. A totally insane legislature can legislate all it wants : teachers will never accept this as part of their employ.

I wonder, though, about allowing teachers to train, license & carry on campus if they wish to do so. I wonder how this would go down, were it allowed.

I would certainly consider it. I know many of my teaching colleagues wouldn't give it a second thought, but to me, it makes as much sense as the cabbie, the short order cook, the painter and the garage mechanic who want to train, license & carry. I think that, because I have the character I do, I'd be a good one to do it. Why the hell not? Right now, all a shooter knows in advance is that no one will shoot back for a while. Why not leave at least part of our defense in the hands of common citizens -- teachers are common citizens -- & make deranged assailants consider immediate resistance if they're capable of rational thought at all?

Again, I'm not suggesting we train & arm all our teachers. That's a "more guns" answer & is bound to fail. I don't, though, categorize allowing teachers to train, license & carry at work as a "more guns" option that is bound to fail; rather, I regard forbidding them from such as a "less guns" option that is already failing, because right now, all we and our students are is targets in this cockamamie duck-shoot carnival world our created & maintained climate of fear has turned the place into.

1. Very good points.

I come from a family of educators, though I'm not one myself. And I've got to say, I don't see this as a viable option. Not because teachers are bad peole, but because they are good people. In the crisis-- looking over the slide and through the sights-- are you going to see a target that needs to be serviced-- or a kid you know, perhaps more and better than he (it's always a young man) would like to be known?

Can you pull the trigger and turn him off forever?

Can you kill a kid?

Or will you hesitate at the crucial moment?

I don't say this to be cruel or dismissive. I say this because it is the logical follow-on to your proposition.

2. Teachers need to be focused on our kids and teaching. Even if the teacher is a retired vet and well used to handling weapons, they don't need that added responsibility. If it is needed, hire guards. I grew up with armed, in uniform, resource officers in my schools. (Yes. Florida.) They did provide law enforcement help, but mostly, like 90-95% of their job, was to just be there and be a positive presence. They taught us about laws, wearing seat belts, and even gun safety (don't touch, leave the area, tell an adult). This positive impression of a public servant in uniform working with citiznes was one of the things that made me more eager to don a uniform (Army), and serve my country, myself.

3. Connie,
I am a teacher, we used to have a PLO (Police Liason Officer) at our school. That position got cut the last time around.
I don't see that money being made available again any time soon....

4. So who deals with the deranged teacher that snaps and decides to take out the administration or some kids that teased him/her?

Teachers are HUMAN and being human they have the same problems and primitive solutions that many humans have. More guns, less guns are non-starters. Why?

As a society we are in love with training (and entertaining) the most primitive part of our brain, the amygdala, while we actually belittle, tease and abuse those that exercise their cerebral cortex. Thus we value a college linebacker that can knock the bujesus out of a running back more than the physics major that will solve some of the worlds great problems.

5. Jim Wright wrote about why more citizens carrying weapons and shooting back would be a bad, a very bad, a lethally very bad idea in his blog post about the Aurora killings. Common citizens ain't Wyatt Earp or Annie Oakley, pardner. You've fallen for the Wild West mythology. Mr. Price and others who agree with him should read that post and re-consider their armed society fantasy. We don't need more violence and more killing. Mr. Price, it sounds like you're in denial and need to take that first step.

6. I'm amazed that the same teachers that the Reich wing has spent the last couple years villifying and pillorying as Socialist Commies responsible for indoctrinating our children into Librulism and Gheyness are the same teachers the Reich wing nut jobs want to carry guns.

Logic. They wouldn't know it if it snuck up and rogered them from behind.

7. @ Captain Blight : I personally don't believe in any kind of permanent death, so the answer is along the lines of, "Yes, I believe I could turn a kid off for a while. Send them to the next life, or wherever they go. End their body & send their spirit on." And of course, I might flinch at the last moment, whether it was a kid or not. So might anyone else.

@ Connie : I understand your having that opinion. It makes sense; I might have it myself at some point. I think you err, though, when you venture to speak for what all teachers need or don't need. I'm more sympathetic to an individual treatment. I realize a law may not be able to be so particular. Still, I think what I think.

@ Clear Cut : Your question applies to anyone else with a gun : what do we do about the cop, the soldier, the armored car driver who snaps? It therefore needs to special answer for teachers.

@ Jerry A. : I've already read Jim's post on the topic. In fact, I tend to agree with him. Still, I ask what I ask & I find your faux diagnosis of me here a bit amusing. Let me just say that, in order for me to place any credence in it, I'd need to see alongside it a fairly long list of credentials, both scientific & spiritual.

@ Jeff Lamm : Indeed, the irony is intense.

8. Jim Price,
While we may disagree, perhaps fundamentally in some areas, the important point is that we are *having* this discussion. This is not an echo chamber. This should happen more often, especially in the halls of Congress.
My scientific credentials include several diplomas in biological fields. Before you ask me about my spiritual credentials, you'll have to prove to me that "spiritual" means anything other than someone's personal philosophy (which should create no obligation on anyone else, most especially including laws).

9. Jerry A.,
I agree with you wholeheartedly that the point of this sort of discussion isn't to agree in any absolute sense. Rather, it is to determine what all the sensible arguments are & then to try to find a compromise acceptable between them all. At least, that's my take on it. I don't come here to "win an argument". I come to say my piece & listen to yours. I come to be proven wrong, that I might learn something, or to be the means of someone else doing the same. That all works for me.
I'm not interested in "proving" anything to you, & not terribly concerned with your lack of a spiritual resume, except to say that it disqualifies you (in my mind, at least) from diagnosing me as you previously attempted. "Spiritual" to me means many different things, depending on topic & context; the simplest thing to say is that, for me, it attempts to process the God idea while simultaneously antithesizing organized religion. Get from that what you care to.
Note, though, that observation, the first step of the scientific method, can easily & quite successfully be employed in regard to mankind's extensive history of spiritual endeavor. That the remainder of the method is unsuited to further such study is, well, that's the breaks. A spiritual resume, then, would be a detailed history of one's engagement in some process, any process, which attempts to treat this inherent aspect of human existence, this God idea. Non-binding, of course, as you said yourself.
For the record, I'm a scientist & mathematician, probably somewhat like you. I guess my whole position boils down, though, to the simple fact that I'd trust myself in a firefight to act wisely, armed or not -- but given that view of myself, it only makes more sense to act wisely with power than to act wisely without power, & that's what the whole gun debate is about in the first place.

To power tool or not to power tool. That is the question of the day.

10. How does arming teachers help? I don't think I am being sexist by observing that most are woman. So your weapon is in your purse in the drawer of your desk. A guy (again not sexist, etc) walks in and plugs you. Not much time to get to your desk and he targets you first because you are the adult. Now he does the kids. But he knows the teacher in the next room might be coming with a weapon. (Is that teacher really going to abandon her kids in the room?) So he positions himself to get the adult coming through the door while taking out at the kids.

11. How does arming teachers help? I don't think I am being sexist by observing that most are woman. So your weapon is in your purse in the drawer of your desk. A guy (again not sexist, etc) walks in and plugs you. Not much time to get to your desk and he targets you first because you are the adult. Now he does the kids. But he knows the teacher in the next room might be coming with a weapon. (Is that teacher really going to abandon her kids in the room?) So he positions himself to get the adult coming through the door while taking out at the kids.

6. Thanks for another thoughtful piece. Someday, Salvor Hardin will steal quotes from you...

1. A Foundation reference, well done.

7. Spot on Jim. I really like the way you think.

8. Senior Master Chief...

I'm a little in awe. This may be your best bit of writing yet to date. And, as always, I am anxiously awaiting the next installment.

One thing: As of approximately 2030 EST, 16 Dec 12, a bill in front of the House (introduced by a Democrat-- big surprise) called for an assault weapons ban. What can we do to inform these people that the problem isnt with the hardware-- it's with the *crazy people* with hardware??

Look, the djinn is out of the bottle with the hardware. We are absolutely awash in guns. And they are never going away, short of a Civil War that the Democrats win (Which, let's be honest, ain't gonna happen). Fixing the problem by coming at it from the hardware side is fruitless.

But the time has never been more ripe for a wetware fix. THIS is the time to call for re-funding the mental health options that the Messiah Reagan stripped all those long years ago. NOW is when we can get the broken people, the bungled and the botched, the help they-- and we-- so desperately need.

I call on YOU, Sir, to use the bully pulit you have, to use your hard-won connections-- to make this a reality. There will never be a better time. Lives hang in the balance.

1. Fix the tool users, the tools aren't the issue (although they'd be less abused if kept in locked cabinets away from the abusers :p !)

2. A piece of this is the recycled guns don't kill, people do thingy.
So what's up with not restricting people's access to guns? Especially assault weapons?
If people are the problem, we're not coming at it "from the hardware side" to restrict access, we're coming at it from what you call the wetware side.
And yes- we need to construct a meaningful mental health care system but leave us remember that Reagan's dismantling of what we had before was a coward's response to hard won victories for the mentally ill not to be treated like animals and worse- which we did for a long time. Mr reagan and ourselves were just not up to the challenge to rebuild something which works for all of us, including the mentally ill.

3. Captain Blight-"Nuclear weapons don't kill people, people do. Why regulate nuclear weapons?" (I read this somewhere, don't remember where). I'm _not_ a gun control fanatic, we have firearms in our home and we take pains to teach our children to respect them and the power they have and the damage they can do. We also lock them up and hide the key and keep the ammunition in a separate place....
Would the life of one child not be worth the "freedom" we would lose in banning assault rifles? It won't fix the problem, but sending a message that we as a people are o.k. limiting our access for the safety of even one other human being isn't the worst start either. Is it?

4. 1. There is no U.S. Navy rating called Senior Master Chief. That's from a video game, as I presume so is your rank "Captain Blight". Besides, Mr. Wright retired as a CWO, Chief Warrant Officer. Do try to keep up.

2. As far as your saying that it is no use to regulate assault weapons, that is giving up before any proposals have been made, never mind even attempted. Finally, re-read Jim's post, he didn't make any such suggestion. You put it up to knock down.

5. (1) Mr Wright corrected my misapprehension already, on Facebook-- which you had no way of knowing. And you presume mistakenly: I am licensed by the USCG as a Master of Towing on the inland waterways and Western Rivers. I am a captain, though not a military one.

(2) I know Mr Wright said nothing about gun control. I know this because I read his blog regularly, and I read this particular entry with keen interest. I put that up to address the introduction of a bill, which if you'll go back and read my post again, would be glaringly apparent to the meanest understanding.

Do try to keep up. Perhaps you'll move a bit faster if you shed the superciliousness and condescension.

6. I'd probably move a bit faster (and be nicer) without this blinding headache. Apologies extended, sir.

I still disagree about the uselessness of an assault weapons ban. I read that in 1996 Australia succeeded in banning them, using an extended amnesty and buy-back period followed by heavy fines. Their law had many fewer loopholes than in the US, and worked very well. See http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/17/everything-you-need-to-know-about-banning-assault-weapons-in-one-post/

Saying "It won't work here because..." is giving up before even discussing the issue.

9. Jim, Thank you. Your closing statement is as articulate and crisp a statement of the crux of the gun dilemma as any I have ever heard. I snipped it and quoted it (with credit given) in a discussion on my facebook page.

Your painfully accurate pen may leave me frothing, but it also regularly has me thinking. mk

10. I have lived in places where I really wished I'd had a gun for self defense. I mean, I've been in a "hide the children some psycho is rattling the windows and doors and trying to break in right now call 911" situation (worst babysitting job ever...). I'm a vet. I currently live in the Middle East with my family. There are times that I really WISH I had a gun - mostly for sport, but, well, you know... However, one lesson I've learned in life is that with rights, come responsibilities. With our lifestyle, being a responsible gun owner, and parent who teaches responsible gun ownership, is more than I want to deal with, it's HUGE, and so we don't own guns, because to be irresponsible in this is unforgivable. It IS life or death. Now, as a responsible mom, I still train my kids, teach them to not be afraid, but what to do in various situations around guns in whatever situation that I can think of (and the embassy and international school teach them duck and cover drills and how to react to intruder alerts). And maybe one day I will own a gun... I lettered in the sport of marksmanship and I love target shooting. BUT. Again, that word, that concept - Responsibility. That comes first. That is tied, or at least it's supposed to be, hand-in-hand with rights. Another mom lesson, that I learned from my parents and teachers and am passing on to my kids, is that we are GIVEN rights and privileges, but if we ignore the rules and responsibilities, the rights and privileges will go away. You abuse, you lose. So, while I prefer to support our 2nd amendment and have free ownership of weapons, I am not at all surprised to hear for calls to have that right taken away. My being responsible is not enough. It's WE THE PEOPLE who have failed to be responsible.

Oh, and as for the fundies complaining about God not being in schools? Well, this is what happens when you tie him up, limit him to your human morals and understandings, and turn Him into a petty and selfish puppet being. I am not Christian, but I prefer to be spiritual and I like to believe in a deity that is bigger than myself or bigger than any book of man-made rules and dogma. I know that God is always with us, wherever we are, and that he was very much in school that day. I think that if we were to ask that teacher who barricaded her kids in cabinets, locked her door and prayed, if she was 'alone' that day, I think she'd say no. God was with them. But, evil was also there, and evil brought guns. Had these children been forced to recite the Lord's prayer every day (or whatever) I really do not think this would have stopped the guy. Organized religion really doesn't have a very good rep for stopping evil. An organized society, that takes care of one another (even the broken misfits) and takes responsibility for our rights and privileges... this might stop the evil.

1. Well-stated throughout, Connie, particularly regarding our aggregate failure being the issue. Thanks.

2. No, Connie, you are right, We have failed, because we don't even try to live up to our own standards and convictions. We, as Americans are lazy but love to point out everyone else's missteps and issues. We talk big about doing what's right and decide to take some action only to stop short and watch reality television.

3. Spot on!

11. The great evil of violence is that violence is *easy*. Rage is *easy*, and Sacred Rage is *easier* still.

We are a lazy people. We do what is easy.

1. I think it is more basic than that. You are right, in that "easy" is the primitive response of the lizard brain over using the larger more developed part of the human brain for it's intended purpose, which is higher thought and control of the primitive brain. We react instinctively with fear and violence and those who urge us to use the higher more developed parts of our brains are ridiculed as passive pussies, chickens, yellow bellies. I think Jim plumbs the real depth of our addiction to violence. Think about it. In many parts of this country we fund football at higher levels and cherish football players more than scholars. We take to the limit, we actually downplay and minimize the damage high school, college and professional football does to the brains of our children, teenagers and young adults. We pay lip service to brain injury and concussions because we value a violent sport over more cerebral pursuits. Jim rightly nails it as an addiction. Ask yourself, what is the feeling you get inside when you see a particularly nasty hit on a player? When you see a shooting on TV? When Luke Skywalker slices a storm trooper in half with his light saber? The deal is, you don't have to go to seedy neighborhoods to get your dopamine fix, but the societal cost is a killer.

12. Thanks, Jim, That stated the overall situation pretty handily.

I had (by definition) a brief and limited discussion about this stuff on Facebook with a 'friend' and his friends. I only put 'friend' because I've never actually met the man. We're pretty much opposite ends politically, but we're both math guys, and we get along fine. The discussion was ok when we all were actually focused on real things. It did eventually start to fray, so we called it a night. Fortunately, we were all still within our 'emotional bounds'. :)

I will never understand, though, why some people never can get past assumption to discussion. I know, I know, you can't talk to people with sealed skulls, but I still hate it.

13. You know, I don't feel oppressed. I know I must be, though...because I live in Canada, where we have all those, you know, oppressive gun laws and such, and we're not allowed to keep assault weapons by our bedsides for home defence.

On the other hand, I don't triple lock my doors at night, either...

(I am in no way saying we're immune to gun violence here--we've had our share of school shootings, starting with Ecole Polytechnic in 1989--but...well, it just doesn't seem so common.)

1. The last homicide figures I read (might have been 10 years ago or more) were very interesting, because although the US has TEN TIMES the population of Canada, the murder rate is 100 TIMES higher! I thought that was very indicative of the culture difference with regards to solving things by violence and force.

I also remember seeing a cop program in Canada, where a drunken teen - in a foul mood due to his girlfriend dumping him - was walking along a quiet street, shouting and being cantankerous, in the early morning hours. The police were called due to a 'noise disturbance, an officer arrived and approached you drunk teen, spoke to him humanely, spoke to the non-drunk friend, and advised the drunk young man not to get into trouble over this. I know not ALL police officers are like that, but you KNOW that such an approach would not be seen on a 'cop show' here in the US. Where would the adrenalin and excitement be in showing a kindler, gentler way that resolved a 'problem' quietly? Mmmm-hmmmm....

2. Geoff, yes! I grew up in one of the murder capitals of the US and Now I'm in Toronto. People look at me funny as I, a lone woman, fearlessly navigate any part of the city at any hour. But Toronto, a city of some size, has fewer gun deaths in a year than my (population about 100,000) hometown has in a month.
Until and unless the underlying causes Mr Write describes; a violent culture as well as the unavailability of mental health care, are addressed, then this will continue to happen.

Have you noticed that they're getting worse?

14. Guilty. I’m some part of the violent culture, not overtly, but somewhere in my head. I'm a softy about kitties, cry at sad movies and heartwarming stories, suffer something akin to PTSD for my responsibility in the death of my beloved little cat. When someone on Facebook posts a pet picture with RIP, I break into sobs. For a softy who is freaked out by horror films, appalled by mob stories, indifferent to slapstick, bored by "dumb and infinitely dumber," and spooked by Super Heroes, you might be surprised – as am I -- at what I do like. When I chose a movie recently, it was Taken 2, sequel to Taken. It's Liam Neeson as a retired CIA agent, in jeopardy at the hands of bad guys, exotic foreign setting, lots of shooting, hand-to-hand combat, torture and car chases. Car chases with lots of crashes, with the irony that his daughter failed parallel parking on her driver's license test, yet she’s driving the rescue.

So why, in my self-analysis, do I get such a charge from this action/adventure/espionage genre? I think it may be that they are the heirs to the old westerns I grew up on, where injustice is put right by the hero figure. They do things I'd be afraid to do and I get the vicarious thrill and satisfaction. Oh, and rugged, hot leading men.

Incidentally, I’m a 75-year-old liberal lady who also owns guns. Never grew up with them, but married into them, and even though both old farts died long ago, I keep guns. I suspect there are more of us out there than are willing to admit to our liberal friends. There’s the element of self-defense in keeping them, not a small part of which is as a defense against the gun nuts who might want to go to war with the government. (Wherein I will stave off their assault and save the nation.)

I don't know the answer, but not talking is not it.

15. I'm an Australian guy who stays in Seattle quite a bit. I was down the road from Cafe Racer the day of the shootings there, which happened around 3 hours before my girlfriend was due to go for her regular paint-and-chat. The Racer is/was a well-known and venerable hangout for artists. My girlfriend was friends with two of the men who died.

Australia has very restrictive gun and weapons laws, and despite a violence-saturated media (mostly American), comparatively low rates of violent crime. Most violent crime in Australia is bashing/knife related, and much less likely to be fatal.

While the house was in lockdown and we huddled away from windows in case the crazed gunman who had taken out a bunch of people down the road came our way, I realised in the gut that something is indeed very wrong with this country, where people fight socialised health care and (importantly in these cases) MENTAL health care... but support the barely-regulated sale of high-power projectile weapons.

I agree with you. The problem isn't the weapons - countries such as Switzerland and Germany are testimony to the fact that people can quietly, responsibly bear arms and not rampage around like lunatics whenever they get pissed off. The problem is the culture; the idealisation of violence as the solution to all ills, the equation of community-focused culture with 'communism', and communal responsibility as equating "I've got mine, why don't you?"

When Melbourne and Brisbane flooded, people floated around in boats drinking beer, put scuba gear on the town statues for the lulz, mourned the loss of some property, and helped their neighbours clean up when the waters receded. When looting and scams cropped up in Brisbane, looters were arrested by vigilante bands who took them to the police... without using firearms. I don't think that could happen in America very easily at all, due to the culture of mutual predation that seems to exist here.

1. This is well stated.

I've made the same argument on various forums--that the problem isn't so much the guns themselves, but the parts of American culture that glorifies them.

In a recent post on a US-based forum I visit, one guy commented on how "the Europeans and the Canadians are the ones screaming to disarm us." (He'd probably include Australians, too.) I know of another guy who refuses to visit Canada, because we won't allow him to carry his handgun for "personal protection" here. It's interesting...as I stated above, I really don't feel that I live in an "oppressive" country--indeed, I think I'd feel more oppressed if I lived in a place where I felt the need to carry a weapon everywhere for protection from my neighbours. I thought that's what happened in places like Somalia, not the 1st world.

There is a problem in the States...I'm not sure exactly what it is, but it involves both guns and violence in culture. I think Mr. Wright does an excellent job of outlining the issue.

16. I feel like one of the misfit toys in a Christmas movie...I don't fit in or belong. It seems everyone loves their guns. People are so eager to express their shock and horror over what happened...but then in the next breath want to bring in more guns and more violence. I don't want to go to a movie and get caught in a cross-fire between the "good guys versus the bad guys". I don't want to stop going out in public because I worry about who has a gun, who will lose his temper, who will be the next idiot. Here in Michigan they are thinking about allowing people to carry guns in bars, schools, libraries....what the hell. Like I said, I am a misfit toy in this country right now.

17. I don't know what to say...you've pretty well laid it out on the line. I'm just tryin' to figure out what to tell my students today. Thanks Jim

18. Mr. Wright,
You've written the very first sane thing about the misuse of guns in America that I've read in my damn near seventy year long life. I am a gun owner and have been an ex-member of the NRA for a lot of years now.
Can't remember the year I left them or the particular event that drove me from their ranks but it was when they dropped out of every discussion touching gun regulation.
I think it would be a good thing to read your continued posts on the subject. And thank you for your efforts.

19. In counterpoint to all the mouth breathers screeching that arming all citizens would increase safety, John Cole at Balloon Juice describes US Army gun control instituted in post-Desert Storm Kuwait -

....."So why am I telling you this? Because in the middle of one of the most dangerous regions in the world, even with clear Rules of Engagement, every time I went on gate duty, there was a piece of tape over my ammo clip on my M-16 and M1911 .45. Why? Because the most heavily armed military in the world did not want accidental shootings. If a situation arose, I would have to eject my ammo clip, remove the tape, and reinsert and work the action before I could fire."

"This was in a combat zone. Yet I have spent the last two fucking days dealing with armchair commandos telling me they need unlimited firepower to be safe in… Connecticut."

"If there are bigger pussies in the world than gun nuts, I don’t know who the fuck they are." No shit.

Also - Pls read this amazing piece on a troubled/broken child seemingly on a similar trajectory to many of the recent mass shooters. From the outside, this is one fucked up kid, but how any children have similar but limited issues? All of them at one point or another; but most learn right from wrong and how to be a member of family and society. And some don't. http://thebluereview.org/i-am-adam-lanzas-mother/

As Jim notes, take the national high on violence, tack on some extreme childhood behavioral and developmental issues and throw in easy access to firearms, and the ultimate lashing out can be a wholesale mass murder. Lots of comments and desires on more restrictive gun control and better mental health screening. How are we going to steer that course, administer and pay for it?

Maybe if we could resurrect Congress from 60, 50 or even 30 years ago, we could pass some sort of meaningful legislation in compromise and bipartisan acceptance that "something needs to be done" about this gun violence. But, I doubt we can do that now. Maybe in a few years if reason is permitted to leach back into the political process. Don't hold your breaths. Tommy D

1. I have already read the article you referenced.(I am Adam Lanza's Mother) Everyone who is blissfully ignorant of the real world of those with dangerous and/or mentally ill children should read it. Those who think "The parents should have gotten help", need a reality check. These parents are aware of their kid's problems and are often scared to death of the kids, and THERE IS NO HELP. Not until after the kid breaks the law severely enough to be put away. Even then, this is not help for the kid, just for the rest of us.

Allowing automatic and semi-automatic weapons to be owned by private citizens is ridiculous. The only time you would need them is if there is a total breakdown of society and everybody else has them. If we didn't have them, no one would need them. If we were attacked (an extremely unlikely scenario) automatic weapons wouldn't be any more effective than slingshots against bombs and ICBMs.

There is not going to be a complete breakdown in society, much to the disappointment of some of the survivalist types, we are not going to be attacked by foreign powers and terrorists are not going to get us. It will be pretty chaotic for the next couple of years, and then things will begin to come together, slowly, reassembling themselves into a kinder, gentler society. What you are seeing now is the death throes of the old ways, and they are dying hard. Very hard.

You might not want to hold your breath, but a new and better paradigm is coming. You cannot solve the problems with the same mindset that caused them. Fortunately, the mindset is changing, and the problems will fade.

Jeanne in WV

20. Not only do we glorify violence, we also glorify people on reality shows whose only talent is behaving in a selfish, inconsiderate and ignorant manner. We are elevating the individual over the common good, or even common decency, and to some extent we always have. Violence is the ultimate extension of selfishness. Is it any wonder that a small percentage of the already weakened psyches among us look for recognition in a violent manner? The ready availability of portable killing machines just makes them that much more effective.

So, yeah. Growing up is probably the answer. Anyone taking odds it'll happen anytime soon?

Bruce

21. Where was this post when I could have used it? ;-))

I hadn't even read Part 1, as I'm only a Stonekettle newbie.

I a recent facebook exchange with an e-friend on the subject of the mass killings (he had suggested that they were "evil" and that gun control doesn't work), I wrote:

> Recently released figures here in Ireland show that arrests
> for drink-driving here are less-than-half what they were
> five years ago. Allied to this, deaths due to road traffic
> accidents are also at less-than-half. What makes this
> relevant is that 20 or so years ago Irish people had an
> "I got away with it" attitude to drinking and driving, and we
> felt as a nation that nothing could be done. Those people
> who drink-drove were not "evil", although the relatives of
> their victims would have argued that at the time. It was an
> attitude within society allowed it to happen. Now, it has
> changed utterly — and, yes, something has been lost in
> "Irish life" in the process - the rural pub, once a focal point
> in any community is becoming a thing of the past as people
> drink at home. The roads are safer, so more people
> speed - as the chances of meeting a drunk are lowered!!

Ignoring this, my friend later came out with:
> What I'm saying is that A: gun control doesn't work,B: that a
> determined person can kill a lot of people without guns
> using readily available items....the problem with gun control
> is that it penalizes the honest person without impacting the
> dishonest. It's rather like taking away your car because
> your neighbor ran someone over.

I responded:
> How is 'control' like 'taking away'? Would 'control' not be
> more like 'restricting everyone's motoring excesses' in just
> the way the drink-driving laws, speed limits and parking
> restrictions do?

That was ignored and the next comment was:
> Tony, here when people talk gun control, for that matter
> in a lot of places when people talk gun control, they mean
> ban all guns. So yeah, control=ban when you talk about guns.
> And that doesn't work. This is not about objects, it's about people.
> People who do terrible things. Which why Mexico, which has
> very strong gun laws, has a horrific homicide rate while
> Switzerland, which has a military rifle in every household, has
> a minuscule homicide rate. If the gun=homicide theory were
> correct, then Switzerland would be drowning blood. CLearly
> there is something much more at work. I don't pretend to know
> what it might be, but I do know that restricting guns is not the answer.

To which I responded with:
> Larry - people outside the US know why there is a difference
> between homicide rates in different countries - people inside
> the US pretend not to know.
> It is the sanctity of life; the concept of society -vs- the concept
> of the individual; the respect for, and support for, the
> rule of law -vs- the embattled frontiersman loner.

> The notion that guns are a part of life in the US is totally at variance
> with the Swiss 'it is part of my military uniform' attitude to what
> is not 'their' gun, but the state's.

I could have saved myself a lot of trouble if you had posted this sooner!! ;-))

22. Good points Jim.
A read of ancient greek drama and ancient Rome tells a similar story though we might insert crossbow in reference to fire arms.

Targets can be "fun" to shoot with any kind of device that projects an impact. As humans we'd probably do well to focus on the potential of doing that with ideas and perceptions.

23. Washington to Bushrod Washington, 9 November 1787 : "The warmest friends to and the best supporters of the Constitution, do not contend that it is free from imperfections; but these were not to be avoided, and they are convinced if evils are likely to flow from them, that the remedy must come thereafter; because, in the present moment it is not to be obtained. And as there is a Constitutional door open for it, I think the people (for it is with them to judge) can, as they will have the aid of experience on their side, decide with as much propriety on the alterations and amendments which shall be found necessary, as ourselves; for I do not conceive that we are more inspired—have more wisdom—or possess more virtue than those who will come after us. "

1. Therein lies the answer to those who wave the Second Amendment as their flag: As we found with the First Amendment free speech ideal, some modifications were necessary in law. So, for instance, one is not "free" to yell, "Fire!" in a crowded theater. Once cannot incite to riot. and so forth.

The Second Amendment needs its modifications too and the power lock the NRA on local, state and national legislators broken.

24. I am sorry to disagree with you about the games, movies, tv, and music being part of the problem with theses shootings. If you want to know the problem it is the fact that these guys and girls want to be remembered for something anything. They do not want to be remembered for being a ghost. And unfortunately it is people like yourself who remembers their name and repeats it and repeats it that keeps them living on. So instead of naming them call them suspects or Shooter or anything but by name. Don't make them famous, make it harder for them to be known. Dont plaster their picture all over the place, show the victims make them the focus. Not everyone, not even 90% of the people who watch, play, or listen to the music, games, or shows are violent. There is no link to it. Remember they tried blaming D&D years ago for Columbine. sorry no luck there. People like Patrick Ireland who played the game with the shooters of Columbine is a survivor of the shooting too. So please dont go preaching that we must blame objects instead of ourselves. "Cant blame the knife for the cut, but the wielder. Just as you cant blame the gun for the kill, but the shooter" Thank you for understanding that alot will disagree with you, as well as alot will disagree with me. That is what makes this Country Great!!! being able to agree or disagree

1. I think some of the shooters are hoping for postmortem infamy, but I really don't think that is their major motivation. There is a lot more to it than that. They are extremely angry, impulsive and feel isolated and powerless. If not for that, they would never kill in the first place. Fame is just a perk, not a major factor.

Jeanne in WV

2. Wrong Chris, Jim did not say the media was the problem. To quote the blogpost:

"So what I'm I saying here?
That video games and music and TV cause gun violence?
Is that what I’m saying?
No.
That’s not what I’m saying."

What he's saying is that violence in entertainment media is a symptom, not the cause.

25. I agree with you. In fact, being a bit paranoid, I'd say our government likes it that way. How many places are Americans toting guns around these days? Better off desensitized? Is that what they're trying to do? Raise our acceptance level for atrocity? I remember buying a book on how to disarm someone else verbally in an argument. I have a real problem with rage and the potential for violence personally. Learning to use the tactics and problem solving methods in the book was a major victory for me. Seeing there was another way that worked made me feel like such a winner. Instead of fighting fire with fire, I could address the misinformation that was causing the discomfort, and disarm the other person with information and gentleness. I guess that wouldn't make a good video game though.

26. Oh...and I'm going to put my boots on now and head on up there. I don't know if I will leave anything like flowers, but we will see...

27. One of our dear elected officials here in Texas, Louie Gohmert, said that he wishes the principal of the school had had a M4 locked in her office so she could have blown the guys head off.
He is in about his umpteenth term and will continue to spread such shitty bullshit as long as the East Texas neanderthals look his way for leadership.
We are truly a violent people and a long way from changing.
Christopher:
You are very, very wrong!

1. For that and many previous statements, it is my understanding the Louie Gohmert is in a head-to-head battle with Allen West for the title "Stupidest Person in Congress."

28. Unfortunately, what we call the "American Dream" completely plays into this. We pride ourselves on our (mythical) self-reliance and "pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps." This idea cannot survive if we don't marginalize "others." You can't get ahead, without leaving someone else behind. Our culture worships the "winners." You can't have winners without losers. And losers aren't worth our bother. They come to be seen as expendable. When someone else becomes expendable, the leap to "Bang Bang Crazy" is an easy one to make.

Looking out for number one ultimately leads to a complete lack of empathy for anyone else, and violence is an efficient way taking out competition. Or anything else we might see as standing in our way, no matter how crazy it is.

I'm not saying that every one in the country is interested in shooting people, but our cultural mindset encourages crazy selfishness. Violence is just crazy selfishness taken to an extreme.

29. Cross-posted from my blog:

When I was a kid, my dad and I would occasionally go to gun shows. We're gun people, and like to look at guns, even if we're not particularly in the market for one. But we've stopped going to gun shows, largely because, as my dad put it, all that's on display is "black plastic or cheap Chinese shit."

Specifically, a lot of what's shown and presumably sold at guns shows nowadays are AR-15 clones or Chinese semi-auto versions of the AK-47, and lots of "wondernines" such as the 15-shot M9 pistol. As this writer puts it, a fetishization of 'tactical' weapons has descended on the American gun market.

Now, the AR-15 is a good weapon. It was designed to kill people (soldiers) at ranges of up to 300 yards. The M9 was designed as a close-range defensive weapon. Both guns have high-capacity magazines because the military has a concept called "suppressive fire." This is basically shooting in the general direction of the bad guy, not so much to hit anybody (although that's a good thing if it happens) but to keep their heads down while you do whatever you're going to do.

In short, the only civilian self-defense need (including police) for either class of weapons is if you intend to take on the entire local outlaw motorcycle gang single-handed. Even then, for non-police usage, I'm betting on the motorcycle gang, if only because I doubt they'll launch a frontal assault on you.

Don't get me wrong - both classes of weapons are cool to shoot, and 99% the weapons in those classes will only be used to poke holes into cardboard. But I'm damned if I can come up with a reason that anybody except military or a police SWAT team would need them.

30. Great post Jim. I have been reading and watching the commentary this week and, unbelievably, still managed to be surprised at the level of ignorance people manage to demonstrate. I'll admit that two particular arguments manage to increase my blood pressure to dangerous levels:

1. This is what happens when you take God out of schools . . .

This ignorant piece of tripe manages, in one short sentence, to abrogate every tenet of the christian faith. My usual response is to inquire of the cretin spouting such filth exactly where in the New Testament (you know, the part with Christ in it?) they find evidence for this doctrinal leap in to bat shit craziness. Still waiting on a cogent answer, have a feeling I will be for quite some time.

2. If everyone was armed, like the teachers, this could have been avoided . . .

No, it would be worse and much, much more common. The shooters in these cases nearly always leave evidence that they were seeking a way to end their life in the most horrific and notorious way possible. Has it occurred to anyone that a blazing shootout with an armed faculty would fit the bill in every way? Then our children can be right in the middle of the crossfire, with everyone having a firearm untrained in the use of firearms and in the use of deadly force. I'm sure the law enforcement officers called to respond to that situation would just love having to step in to that one. Marvelous line of logic there. I'll admit I don't have a decent rejoinder to that one, as the sheer galactic stupidity of the comment usually requires me to go sit quietly for a while, usually with a cocktail.

1. Yes. Agree with both 1, 2.

31. Right on, Alaska! Good insight!

32. Help me out here, Jim. I was an English major before I became a psychologist, and I have read the Second Amendment to the Constitution. What it says (and, I suppose, means) is that people should be allowed to have guns because our security depends on the maintenance of a "well-ordered (presumably civilian) militia". Since we have gone from being a frontier society to having by several orders of magnitude the most powerful military in the history of the known universe (plus the police, the FBI, and the National Guard), it would seem that the contingency upon which the constitutional right to keep and bear arms is predicated no longer exists and, with its passing, the right of private citizens to have guns should now be considered a privilege rather than an inevitability. What am I missing?

1. It can be read as a contingency, but it can also be read as an imperative. That we have abandoned the imperative to others does not seem to have a bearing on the conclusion that flows from it in the amendment. Part of the solution to the problem is surely to take a more personal role in the preservation of the security -- broadly read -- of our "free state."

2. The current notions/ideas about what the 2nd amendment is in constitutional law is here along with some commentary about what latitude states and Congress have to address gun issues.
http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNLJ.jsp?id=1202581822870&PostNewtown_gun_legislation_will_hinge_on_Heller
Is well worth a read to see where we are now while we decide what we want to do

3. The right of the people to bear arms is God given and therefore not subject to government whim. Nowhere in the Constitution(The Bill of Rights) are rights assumed to be allowed.

4. Anonymous at 3;02 has given voice to one of the silliest phrases in the English language : the "God-given right". A right is a benefit or entitlement bestowed by a government - that is pretty much the legal definition of the word. In a democracy such as ours, we get to collectively decide what rights we have.
(We do also have the concept of basic human rights - those that SHOULD be enjoyed by people everywhere. However, we all know that people the world over {including here in the US} do not always in fact have those rights.)
Our Constitution, by its very existence, renders your second sentence one of the most nonsensical I have ever envountered.

Bruce

Bruce

6. Thank you Bruce.
There are a lot of distinctions between civil and political rights, what is contained within each and where the power or authority for each comes from.
While the notion of "natural law" or inalienable rights of human rights includes self defense and is perhaps where 3:02 is basing the comment on, natural law is nowhere addressed in the 2nd amendment explicitly, nor is self defense. It is over time and precedent that folks have nested their notions of self defense there. Mr Originalist , Justice Scalia,has certainly added to that- esp with the Heller opinion.
There are multiple arguments and precedents to exclude guns/arms as a necessary component of self defense but we are not ready to address them.

7. oh crap
... to exclude them as a necessary component but retain them as a possible component of self defense...

8. The right of the people to bear arms is God given and therefore not subject to government whim. Nowhere in the Constitution(The Bill of Rights) are rights assumed to be allowed.

Learned all we need to know about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights at the local NRA Jesus Rally, did we? You'd do well, Anonymous, to take an actual course in Constitutional history. Your statement is completely wrong in all respects. I suggest you take a look at how and why the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution - as amendments.

9. Sorry Jim,

I was just going by an outmoded logic used by the founding fathers who believed our rights came from God. Now, of course, they come from government, which can take them away.

10. Again, incorrect. You're transposing the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution. One is the basis of our law and nation, one is an interesting historical document.

The Declaration, which is a statement of intent in the context of the time and not an examination of religious or philosophical principles, indicates that some Founders believed that certain inalienable rights came from a creator, chief among these were life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - there was no mention of guns.

The Second Amendment is an appendix to the Constitution, which makes no mention of God. The rights enumerated in the Constitution are not granted by God, but are constraints on our government. E.g. the government cannot deny you your freedom of speech, but I'm under no such obligation here on Stonekettle Station. I can't infringe on your right to life or liberty, but I can deny you the right to carry a gun on my property or to speak your peace in my house. If the rights enumerated in the Constitution came from your god, then we would all have to a) believe in your version of god, and b) be required to allow you the same rights as the government must. Clearly, that's not the case, the First Amendment clearly demonstrates that the founders didn't believe it either, otherwise we wouldn't have freedom of religion.

The government can take your rights away, and has always been able to do so. That's why the founders put the power of government into the hands of the people instead of a king.

Rights are the limits we as citizens place on government, rights are the privileges we, as Americans, grant each other. God has nothing to do with it.

11. To Anonymous at 5:34,
The Bill of Rights made clear what government was not allowed to do, not what the people were allowed; there are inalienable human rights which come from God and that government which gets its powers from the consent of the governed must protect these rights. I didn't think that information was new. I learned it 30 years ago in high school. The "Bill of Rights,"the first ten amendments to the Constitution was added By James Madison because the protection of inalienable rights wasn't made clear in the original document(Constitution). And, the ninth amendment covered rights not specified in the Constitution or Bill of Rights because it would be difficult to list all of our rights. Just read up on it. It's not that difficult to research. If I'm wrong, then I apologize. Maybe Jim can clarify.

12. Thanks Jim. You clarified.

13. I can't argue about God, but the founders did place special significance on Declaration of Independence and its role as the foundation of the Constitution as both were based on the same theory of government. Beyond that, I'd have to take a course in Constitutional history. It seems Jim has. Good blog.

14. You're rehashing the old "natural" (inalienable) versus "legal" rights argument.

The rights alluded to in the Declaration of Independence are inalienable, or natural rights - supposedly those granted by a creator or the Great Bird of the Universe or vague universally agreed upon high principle. Natural rights are mostly wishful thinking, i.e. from the vast, vast array of evidence at hand, God (any god) really doesn't give a fig if you live, enjoy liberty, or are happy.

The rights enumerated in the Constitution are legal rights, i.e. those granted to citizens by other citizens or other earthly powers, such as the king or the local warlord or government. God (any God) has nothing to do with it. In America, the citizens, via Government, can grant those rights, or take them away at any time - note that for the first century of our country, black people had no rights, or very few, white women had more but nothing like equality, poor landless white men might have had more rights than black people and white women, but not nearly has many as rich white landowners. If the rights in the Constitution were truly God given and inalienable, then they would have applied to everybody from the beginning. You might want to think about that in the context of, oh, say, gay marriage. Just saying. The same people who want to claim that Constitutional rights are somehow god given and inalienable, are the same people by and large who think nothing of voting away the legal rights of people they don't like.

All of that said, it really doesn't matter if the Founders did or did not place any special significance on any particular political theory. It doesn't matter in any way whatsoever if they believed in God or the Great Bird of the Universe or if they were socialist hippies or king loving monarchists. What matters is the Constitution, and its amendments, as ratified. The Declaration of Independence holds no, repeat no, legal authority at all. It is, as I've said, an interesting historical document, nothing more.

However, there is currently a group of folks, called Declarationists, who want to see the so-called "natural" laws of the Declaration of Independence given legal status under the laws of the United States - via Constitutional Amendment. They don't care much about liberty or happiness, but they're real big on that life part. If they get their way, fertilized human eggs will become people under federal law and will have a legal as well as an inalienable right to life (what that will do for their concurrent support for the death penalty and Stand Your Ground laws remains to be seen. Careful what you wish for when commanding the Djinn).

15. What Anonymous is missing is the fact that the Declaration was written in order to justify the treason of a bunch of subjects of George III. Jefferson and the other members of the Continental Congress were quite aware that they were committing treason, and more importantly that they were seeking the assistance of other monarchies who would be a little skittish about seeming to approve of that sort of rebellion among their own subjects. So the Declaration had to be couched in the terms of natural rights, that were in these instances being abrogated by King George. Thus the list of specific offenses levelled at the King (and his councillors, really) that make up the majority of the document - the part I assume Anonymous has never read. The references to God and natural rights were very political in their origins they were intended to give the King of France no reason to object to our rebellion against a fellow monarch.

By the time of the framing of the Constitution, the rebels had won the revolution and become Founders. They were now defining how the government would relate to the people (mostly defined as themselves), and no longer had to worry about what the King of France would think about the basis of our rights. Note that the Preamble begins with "We the People" and not "Our Lord and Savior". (Mog the Terrible)

Note also that any of your "god-given" rights can be taken away from you by anybody who is stronger or better armed. The god-given right of those CT children to grow up and live long lives certainly was.

Bruce

16. If only someone were armed to defend those children's right to life in a gun free zone where most mass shootings occur.

17. I think what it all comes down to is if we the people can be punished because of the potential actions of the few, then we are not free. I think the idea that we, individually, should bear the consequences of our actions, and not the actions of others, is the basis of freedom. We are no longer secure in a society that prohibits us from defending ourselves against those who don't obey the rules, whether it be the well armed psycho or tyrannical government.

18. Anon: To your comment of 3:46 - perhaps every school's budget should include a very well-trained, rigorously psychologically tested armed guard. (but then, so should every movie theater, post office, McDonald's, etc.)But arm all the teachers as some have suggested? Or random citizens? Please.
Your fantasy of calmly standing up in the middle of a mass shooting and popping a couple into the perpetrator, without hitting any bystanders, without getting shot yourself, without mistaking your fellow citizen-heros who are, after all, also displaying drawn weapons in the middle of a shootout, without getting mistaken for the shooter yourself because you have a drawn weapon, is about as laughable as your fantasy of "defending yourself" against the armed might of your "tyrannical government".

Crossfire, it's 3rd period.

As to your comment of 4:12 (aside from the fantasy mentioned above), I don't think that word "punished" means what you think it means. Every single law on the books restricts our absolute freedom to do whatever we want to, and all are there because a minority of people will try to commit fraud, steal, do bodily harm, or drive too fast. (OK, that last one may be a majority of people). And, yes, they will still do those things despite the laws. That's where enforcement comes in, and that often takes the form of regulating and monitoring related activity (think Health Dept. inspections, highway patrols, etc), and/or restricting the tools used to commit harm (think licensing, certification, classification of drugs, etc.).

Bruce

19. You misinterpret Bruce. I was arguing the validity of disarming everyone because there are evil people out their who will use a gun to commit a crime. You are arguing from the particular to the universal. No system of security is 100% effective except maybe living in a prison, and even that has its downside. People use guns to defend themselves every day, quite successfully. If you are arguing for the complete disarmament of the people then you put yourself in the position of helplessness. I took a gun training course before I got concealed carry, and I think that is reasonable. What I find strange is your denial of the facts that many mass shootings and other crimes have been stopped by armed individuals.

20. ..are evil people out "there." Sorry for the mistake.

21. Actually, Anon, I did not make the argument for universal disarmament, and I am well aware that there is nothing in this world that is 100% effective at anything.

What I did is
1) object to the statement that any legal right is "God-given". (assuming you are the same Anon throughout here)

2)object to the idea that the writers of the Constitution thought that rights were god-given

3)object to this idea being floated all around (and only touched upon tangentially by you, I admit)that the average armed citizen will rise up & stop the raging lunatic, in a sudden, confused, panic-inducing situation.

And now 4) I object to this notion also being floated around that so many of these situations have indeed been stopped by armed individuals, always given with either no substantiation, or with a single example to back up the claim. I have no doubt whatsoever that has happened upon occasion, but I admit I have not researched it and I am willing to bet it is very rare. Prove me wrong.

In none of that did I argue for universal disarmament, and in fact I will state here that I do not have an answer to offer for this discussion. But a very necessary part of the discussion is to examine the arguments being offered. Those I listed above I find to be unconvincing, and I gave my reasons why.

Bruce

22. The Texas tower sniper shootings, Pearl High School shooting, ‪Parker Middle School dance shooting‬ Appalachian Law School shooting, Trolley Square shooting, are a few, but armed citizens also prevent attacks of armed intruders entering their homes, in public places, and when others are endangered. http://www.thearmedcitizen.com/ is interesting for its compilation of crimes thwarted by guns. It's an insane world made worse by our nation's seeming abandonment of morality. The Constitution was meant for moral people:

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams

You may not agree that religion has anything to do with morality, but, obviously a generation raised on psychotropic drugs, mass murder in video games and in the movies is not healthy.
Even though violent crime fell for the fifth consecutive year in 2011, rare incidents such as mass shooting are used to threaten law abiding citizens with gun confiscation. It seems that the agenda by some in government is to disarm the people; I may be wrong. But, nearly all genocides by government have been preceded by gun confection, so I'm wary, as the founding fathers were of those that would take away our right to bear arms.
I, like you, don't have an answer to the dilemma of gun violence in this country except to raise my children without the vile cultural cesspool that is commercial television. They all play a musical instruments, are read and are now reading the classics of literature. They don't play video games or use computers, and are taught by my wife and sometimes by me according to the Trivium. They don't fit in very well, unfortunately, with their drug addled(Ritalin, SSRIs, Adderall), video game head friends, but I would be irresponsible if I raised my kids in accordance with popular culture.

23. This, my last contribution to the discussion, is that the right to bear arms is not necessarily about making us safer; it's more about protecting our liberties.

24. hmmm... Gun confections threaten our liberties. Stay away from the firearm candies!
Typos can be such fun.

Oh, I am sure if you look around, you will find at least a few local kids that are not "drug addled(Ritalin, SSRIs, Adderall), video game heads". Generalizations are so easy, aren't they?

Bruce

Bruce

25. oops. Bruce Bruce Bruce

typos. Fun.

26. Thanks for the corrections. We can't all be perfect. My typing outruns my brain sometimes. Sorry for the hyperbole. I'm off now. I have a living to earn.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2250218/Angel-Ashley-Dobbs-suing-Texas-troopers-shocking-BODY-CAVITY-search-caught-tape.html

28. Thanks. I am sure that would have gone down so much better had the Dobbs ladies been armed.

I, too, feel we have reached the end. It's been fun.

Sorry, Jim, for hijacking so much of your blog space!

Bruce

33. I appreciate this blog post immensely, and linked to it on my FB page. However, I have to disagree with a very important point.
You wrote:
"but the one thing we can all agree on is this: The Second Amendment was never, ever, intended to place the rights of gun owners over the lives of our children."

You have to know that isn't true. We will not _all_ agree on that. I Certainly do, and I'm willing to bet a significant majority of the population does as well. However, there is a small but vocal minority who would use selfish rationalizations to claim the opposite, or go so far as to claim the the deaths of a few innocent people are a small price to pay in order to protect our "freedom". I've met people like this, and I can't imagine you haven't. I'd like to agree with you on that point, but I think we all know the sad truth.

34. I've long believed that the violent TV programs, lyrics, and video games were a reflection of our violent tendencies, rather than the cause. You've said that here better than I ever could.

35. I have often wondered why it is OK to show violence on the television, in the movies, and in video games, but don't you dare show a bare breast. It seems that we have these things backwards. If it weren't for sex not one of us would be here today, but violence is not required for life. I don't know that this is an answer to the problem, but less violence can't hurt.

36. Rather then everyone pointing fingers at what they believe the problem is, take the time to do some good instead.

I agree, it is a social problem with violence. As a father of two boys 6 & 2, we have no games and music with violence. We learn proper respect for all things, guns included.

I have been told recently that I must look through rose glasses. I cant disagree more, I see the world as it is and I dont like it, so I choose to do good. I volunteer over 300 hours per year and encourage everyone to do their best at all times. I am a realist that chooses to spread optimism and good will.

It not a final answer, but it is a great start, and that is what we need to do, start to change!

chris

37. "All it took was admitting that he had a problem, and a will to fix it and to find a way to make it right." Well that and the dead or injured little girl.

38. I'm a firm believer in the fact that, sometimes, there are no answers. We all want them, but sometimes there just aren't any. Humans are violent period. In a nice, peaceful, place like Norway you got a guy picking off kids with a rifle. It isn't just Americans, it's all of us. It's everywhere. And we try to "civilize" people and make them behave because we create societies where that sort of behavior is pushed down, but it never really disappears. And that's what bothers people here, because the plain truth about something like this is, no matter what you do, this will still happen. There isn't an answer, there isn't a cure. Period. And that's why everyone wants "something done". To feel better about the bald fact that nothing can be done.

Will harder access to guns help? Sure, in a society we can make it one of those non-rewarded items like stealing from your neighbor...but someone like this kid or the shooter in Norway is always out there, just like those lions, tigers and crocks were out there lurking in our past. Why did he/they pick the ones they did? There are no answers. That's not to say that guns shouldn't be harder to procure, they should. But let's be clear. It won't stop some disturbed individual from harming others by another means. And this *is* the truth. I don't know why that is so hard to accept.

1. Gun-caused deaths in the US are much higher than in any other industrialized nation. It is true that we will not stop all gun-related deaths, but no one is proposing that as a rational goal. We can significantly reduce the body count, possibly by two to three-fold, to match other democracies. That is worth a discussion on reasonable laws.

2. Oh Jerry, I totally agree with reasonableness of it and I think that certain guns (assault weapons, for example) should be banned. But there's always lots of hand-wringing so I'm just pointing out that, honestly, there's not much we can do. And let's not do what we did after 911 with the ham-fisted regulations that made flying so annoying now. I think that, sometimes, we just need to be really honest and say "yes, it's tragic, but in reality, it's part of being human. And and animal, even though we like to think we're above that." We're not. And I wish all questions had answers, but I don't even know what the actual question is here, never mind the answer.

3. Jim-

I was at work reading this (I work for DOD) and I am retired Army (Ordnance Officer). I am a rare liberal in a land of tea partiers. I was chuckling and nodding reading both parts of your blog. Genious- with not a little irony. Thank you for the summation. I feel that apparently we as a people lack common sense. Take a weapon (especially a high powered rapid fire, rapid repeat, and quick reload) and use it how? Why was said weapon manufactured? Do we want to order up some TOW missiles for our pickup truck and a couple of tanks to keep out the riff raff? Maybe a patriot missile or two to decorate the front yard to keep out the commies and shoot down annoying low flying aircraft? OK- you get my drift. Get real. Normal citizens do not need such types of weapons. Period. Common sense. There is enough craziness during hunting season if you live in my part of the country. Even the farmers paint "COW" in orange on their brown dairy cows. Obviously deer hunters with beer goggles and shotguns are bad enough- I shudder to what would happen if they were armed with AK-47's or Uzi's.

Has the name Painted Cow been taken by a rock band yet? I had a sudden vision of the first album cover. A guy in camoflage in the foreground, aiming into a pasture through the bushes at the edge of a forest. In the middle distance is the painted cow. I just can't decide if he should be aiming a hunting rifle or an AK-47.

Bruce
(yes, I am ashamed)

39. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I've already posted comments on facebook similar (but less well written and shorter), especially the part about violent video games. You have expanded on my thoughts and this will go on my facebook page also. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

40. I'm an avid gamer, I've been one all my life, and every so often, this unusual arguement keeps coming out that these "violent" video games are influencing people to do horrific things.

Hogwash.

It was a lousy arguement when it was made in the 40's and 50's that Comic books warped tiny little minds and it's a lousy arguement now.

But even then we did institute the Comic Book Code to moderate and inform purchasers of the quality of the content of these demon spawned pages of superheroes, mythical monsters and true crime stories.

The video game arguement covers the same ground, but in the world of video games there are just as many sword fighting (or light sabers or laser pistols or shrink rays) games as there are FPS with traditional firearms.

I don't see anyone going around killing people with a hand and a half bastard sword.

1. Personally, I'll tell you that after a bad day, there is nothing like going home and taking it out on some digital bad guys. It keeps you from kicking the dog, yelling at your spouse, or punishing your kids over silly little infractions. It's the same reason I participate in MMA sports and training. It's a great outlet. There is something satisfying, and even safe, about this.

And even though I do these things, I have never had the urge to hurt another human for no reason. Any violent urges are channeled and released using these artificial constructs instead of real ones. I think that's actually pretty healthy. And I think it's actually a point of these games and even sport...channel these innate human tendencies instead of letting them come out elsewhere. The problem with a gun is that it is too easy to get, too quick to use, and firing one is an action that can't be taken back or easily walked away from. But I'm not sure I subscribe to the notion that depictions of violence contribute to violence because it's just as easy to say it releases the urges and channels it in controlled ways. At least for normal people.

2. I don't see anyone going around killing people with a hand and a half bastard sword.

Maybe because an assault rifle makes slaughter achievable for a scrawny but angry 17 yr old who would struggle to raise the sword above his shoulder?

3. I also am an avid gamer. First person shooters don't do it for me, but I definitely play games that involve digital killing. I think we need to be very careful also about blaming games and movies and TV. I am NOT a "gun advocate" and personally believe that the founding fathers had no clue of what guns would become back when they penned the Constitution and argued about the Bill of Rights.

It seems like there is more mental illness today than ever before, too. I think that there are so many things behind the trend toward violence that we might not ever be able to prevent it. But I also don't think that should mean we don't do our best.

Many of the drugs they prescribe for depression CAUSE violent, homicidal and suicidal feelings and behaviors. How many of the people who committed these horrific acts were being treated with some of these drugs?

Yes, being sensible and reasonable about guns is the first step (quite frankly, I wish there WAS a way that we could guarantee that criminals could not get guns. But I'm something of a realist and understand that is not going to happen). But dealing with the mental health issues and working on the availability of real comprehensive and holistic (as in treating the whole organism instead of one body part at a time) mental health care should be the next step.

4. And yes, I realize that Jim was not "blaming" video games - but there are quite a few people out there who have already done so and continue to do so. Same with movies and music. And, unfortunately, there ARE people who have been influenced by the games they play - but they are generally compulsive gamers who have a tenuous grasp on reality to begin with.

For me, it all comes down to mental health...

41. This has been my gripe for a long time: that if you show, in games, movies, and television, that the best solution to issues is to shoot someone or blow something up, and then you dumb down the population with education cuts and scare the hell out of them with irresponsible politics-related gamesmanship, there WILL be bloodshed.

I don't think it is video games per se; nor television of film, alone in and of itself. It is the combination of everything presenting violent means being the end. And here? In the Nor'west...at least a couple times a year we DO have someone taken down by the police for going out on the streets swinging a SWORD around in some kind of inchoate rage. So, yeah, teqnopagan....it DOES happen.

42. There are many coherent and cogent points raised in the original article, and the comments that have been added to it. I believe they are all missing the most important 'lesson' to be learned from these tragedies.

Let us look not at the actions of the animals who performed these atrocities, and instead examine the actions of the people who were involved.

In Conn, a random school, the teachers, principal, and other support staff had one thought. Protect the children. The Police who responded, knowing what they were going into, had one thought. Protect the children. And, when the police arrived, their response was measured and professional.

In Colorado, outside the theater, examine the police response. They knew what they were heading into. The animal was arrested, not shot out of hand. Training, nerve, and basic humanity.

During 9/11, how many responded by running towards the buildings, and into the buildings? These were all 'random' people. The animals had to search and train for years, to attack a target. The people who were attacked, their response, help the people who need help.

In Serbia, look at the firefighters, and ambulance drivers who continued to respond to fires, and 'events', after it was well established that they would be targets. Again, their response was to help.

Do not remember the animals who happen to wear clothes. Instead, remember, and celebrate the wave of humanity that has been shown to cross all artificial barriers of sex, religion, age, race, nationality, and social class. The humanity that will run into a fire, help at an automobile accident, jump into the water to save a stranger, and put themselves in front of an animal with a gun, all to help their fellow man. The animals are the aberrations , the humanity is legion.

Danny

1. Nicely done. I know it, yet need to be reminded.
Thanks, Danny.

Scott in MI

2. Point taken, but please substitute "animals" for another word. Animals do not do these things; humans do.

Becky

3. My mother objects to me using that kind of language, especially in writing. Out of respect to her, and my father, I will keep the discourse civilized, even though the secondary subject is not. Also, feral dogs will do this to sheep.

Danny

43. Vaccination doesn't make it impossible for an animal to get rabies, but it makes it a whole lot less likely.

44. herlanderwalking, I see your point, but there is a significant degree of difference between an unhinged maniac walking around swinging a (replica) samurai sword around and a fully armed and armored maniac pumping 100's of rounds of ammunition into human flesh.

Over the last 20 years when was the last time you can recall a sword massacre?

The point being, it's not a matter of "desensitation" to violence, as Jim rightly noted, we're swimming in it. My point however inarticulately made, is that we're looking to assign blame. To point to something and say "therin lies causality". That's not a solution.

Video games are just that, games. As in, Not REAL. Pixels on a screen.

They have no more effect on the mind of a person than a copy of "Tales from the Crypt" caused Juvenile Delinquency in the Mid-1900's. A strawman, if you will.

Something to blame and to distract from the real cause of the problem.

45. The public has long made "heroes" out of villains - Jesse James, Bonnie and Clyde, Willie Sutton, et al. There were screaming tabloid headlines and extra editions. The difference between then and now is the pervasiveness. Now cable TV and computer games bring it all into our homes 24/7.

Beginning about the time of the first "Rambo" movies (as an aside, the Rambo character is a total fuckhead, in my opinion), violent content started to become the way to sell anything - movies, TV shows, you name it. The first video games were not anything like "Grand Theft Auto" and "World of Warcraft." Now you can't avoid violence.

One commenter above said something to the effect that, "I always played those games, and I turned out OK." I suppose a lot of people have by this time, but the point is, those games and those movies and shows have numbed us to violence. Graphic violence is now the norm, and we (the country) don't react. No wonder that the people who didn't "turn out OK" are not grounded in the facts of real violence where there are no pause buttons or extra lives.

46. Anonymous, as strange as it is to type that out, I've played those games and turned out alright, so have MILLIONS of other people.

So one deranged psychopath says that he PLAYED a particular video game. Did he model his attacks on the actions in that game? Did he go through the mall screaming "I AM MASTER CHIEF?" weilding his BFG and hosing down Coventant drones in his attempt to prevent the Flood from overtaking the HALO planetoid?

No? Then I would say that the influence of the game on his mental state was minimal.

Millions of people play these games on a daily basis, yet for all of thier strange power to corrupt the mind and tarnish the soul, there seems to be quite few monsters created in the lab.

For that matter, how many people are influenced to acting out thier violent tendancies after an all night marathon of "Modern War" on the History Channel? Shall we ban channel 480 now?

In all of these events, the press reports that such and such killer PLAYED such and such video game. How are we to know for certain that any of them were "influenced" by thier activities? Neither of us are telepathic, all of these maniacs are dead and who can say for certain what they were thinking or influenced by.

Can we also infer that people are influenced to violence by playing RISK, Stratego or Monopoly? ( I know that after a particularly bad run of luck while playing the SHOE I was sorely tested not to flip over the game board, run out in my top hat and tails and commit random acts of capitalism)

We're desensitized to violence because we're Americans. It's just a matter of degree, apparently.

1. I respectfully disagree. If we are desensitized to violence simply because we are Americans, then there is no point in discussing what to do about gun control or anything related to it. We are therefore locked into a downward spiral with no hope of escape.

If violence sells, more violence sells more. If playacting with real guns gets some marginal personalities off, and we condone it, it cannot help but become more prevalent. And those are the things that influence attitudes of not-fully-formed personalities.

2. Also respectfully, My point is yes. we're desensitized. But simply scapegoating video games, television shows, movies or monopoly is not a constructive path to a resolution to the problem. The problem is not the mental state of the shooter. It is not the influences that caused him to act out his rage and hatred.

The Problem is that he had the TOOLS to commit mayhem at hand. With no restrictions, no oversight and no consequences to himself.

Why was this young (unstable) man taken to the shooting range and taught to use firearms? Why were there no trigger locks on the weapons in a house where a mentally deficient person was living?

His rage and anger would have been mostly impotent without the means to deliver his wrath. I say rage and anger because you don't shoot anyone 11 times unless you have some SERIOUS anger issues.

I don't advocate taking away guns from sane, responsible people, notwithstanding that I think that the 2nd amendment has been grossly misinterpreted to allow military grade weaponry into the general population.
A "well regulated Militia" does not mean an "overarmed civilian population". The WORDS of the Constitution matter.

In 1776 a "well armed" Militiaman had a musket and 30 rounds of shot. It took 15-20 seconds to reload after shooting. Now, apparently, you can manufacture a fully functional semi-automatic weapon on a 3D-Printer.

I smell a new scapegoat being born......

47. Woman Veteran in CTDecember 17, 2012 at 3:07 PM

Excellent post, Chief. I hope you know you're brilliant.

I decided to do a comparison, so I looked up all the member nations of the EU. Population: 503,000,000. Firearm homicides: 1201.
The US Population: 350,000,000. Firearm homicides: 9142.

Dudes, we're violent.

Thanks, Chief. I'm crying, but thanks.

1. That's 2 deaths per million in the EU versus 26 deaths per million in the USA, 13 times more.

48. "If war is not holy, man is nothing more than antic clay"

-Cormac McCarthy "Blood Meridian"

49. Jon Talton at Rogue Columnist has a similar perspective http://roguecolumnist.typepad.com/rogue_columnist/2012/12/empire-of-violence.html#more

1. Wonder where all the spaces came from ??

2. Right margin justification is turned on, so in treating the link as one word, it justified the first line with all the spaces.

50. Great points made. Today a second amendment extremist on a local forum asked if we should ban cars since they kill people too. When you're dealing with that sort of idiocy, it just makes the whole thing seem hopeless. I've just got to believe those types are the vocal minority and that most of us are ready for serious change in this country (rational gun regulations, rational entertainment modifications, limits on media glorification of the act, better mental health care, better tracking of people capable of these acts, etc.). If it happens now, its embarrassing to me to think it took the horrible slaughter of 20 small children to bring the country back to sanity. What would be even worse would be that even that atrocity can't and we are in a hopeless situation.

1. We do not ban cars. There are laws that stipulate training and certification to use them, safety equipment, age limits, vision testing, insurance coverage and numerous other restrictions on their use. We make an effort to reduce the carnage caused by drunk and other impaired drivers. I do not believe the extremist's arguments hold water, though he (or she) is definitely full of something.

Danny

2. I apologize for the redundancy. Jim covered all of my points succinctly in his first post.

51. As ever, I truly appreciate your blog. You are a sage.
M from MD

52. Thank you. I understand that the shooter THIS time around had Aspergers, or was somewhere on the Autistic spectrum in any case. I'm afraid that the common fact is that many on the Autistic spectrum are VERY VERY fond of computer games. They also have a fair challenge telling the difference between "reality" and "fiction", esp. with movies and online games.

So when our children cut their eye teeth on shoot-em-up games and watching shoot-em-up movies...what else can we expect?

Thank you for making a sane argument that this violence is inbred due to the popular culture we are ALL seeped in...sadly.

1. An inability to distinguish between reality and fiction is not a typical characteristic of Aspergers. And so what if they are very fond of computer games? My Aspergers daughter is much more likely to play problem solving games (Phoenix Wright - Ace Attorney) than her non-aspie brother (addicted to DOTA). There is also no evidence of greater violence by people on the autism spectrum, in fact, they are much more likely to be the victims of violence than perpetrators.

Some of the media have reported this guy had Aspergers but they also reported a bunch of other BS that they later had to retract. Even if he was somewhere on the autism spectrum, I doubt that is the full story. Lets not leap to conclusions and in doing so add to the tragedy of this shooting massacre by vilifying a group of people who are already discriminated against.

Heather.

2. Oh, please. (I roll my eyes at Anon 8:19)
I and a large number of my friends would likely place somewhere on the spectrum if we were tested (based on the assessment of one of my friends who is a mental health professional who works with kids with moderate-to-severe autism). And I think you would be hard-pressed to find a violent bone among us though we do include several members with training in one or more forms of mayhem and a fair number of gamers.

http://crackedmirrorinshalott.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/i-was-one-of-the-scary-kids/
before you go making silly statements about mental health issues that you are not trained in.

53. I noted sadly, with your post in mind, that at the funeral of one of the victims from Friday, one of the things talked about in the eulogy was "his love of his video games and Ninja figures." Violence is all -pervasive in our society. Seeing violent deaths over and over, and never seeing the aftermath, the grieving, the messiness, does desensitize. Yes, many people play them, with no apparent ill effect. But there is an impact; there is desensitization. Thank you, as always, for your eloquence. Martha

54. First time visitor here, and I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading this article. I wish more people used actual logic in their arguments and thought things through, rather than relying on hysteria and hyperbole to make their points.

A friend in Facebook had linked to this, and I'm glad that I came and read it. I particularly like how you emphatically do not take a pro or con stance on gun control, but instead zero in on fallacious arguments and effectively destroy them.

Lots of food for thought here, thank you!

55. Very well, logically and bluntly put Sir, Thomas Paine, I think, would have approved!.

First, when I was in elementary school each and every classroom had two doors. One to the outside and one to the inside hallways. This was for fire safety (and ease of getting the children out for recess). I think this is something that should be examined. If all classrooms were like this then children would NOT be trapped by a lunatic with a weapon and would have an avenue to flee if needed.

Second, I'm amazed at the number of people who, when seeing a person with a weapon and having no way out, sit there and cower. WTH? This isn't going to help you folks unless the person with the weapon has specifically stated they want hostages. If not, then it's better to respond the way they did on flight 93 on 9/11. What have you got to lose? Are they going to kill you more? If you take action, no matter how hopeless, you might be able to stop the maniac. If enough people do it, then the likelihood of it succeeding goes up.

1. I suspect that new schools have few entrances and exits for... wait for it... SECURITY purposes! Fewer ways for outsiders to get into the building. DUH!

The principal and the counselor were killed running toward the shooter to try to stop him. Like they had a chance against a guy firing an assault rifle and wearing bullet-proof armor... Do you really think a classroom of 6-year-olds had a prayer against a shooter who can fire multiple rounds every second?

And why should they have had to "do" anything anyway? Civilized people think that children should be PROTECTED, not trained in self-defense. I am appalled at any suggestion otherwise.

BTW, Flight 93 was a special case. They didn't have anywhere to go and were all doomed in any case. And they didn't succeed in stopping the hijackers, only making the plane crash where it missed its target.

57. "More guns will end gun violence. Banning all guns will end gun violence. Neither of those statements are true, extremism rarely is. Extremism is what people resort to when they are unable or unwilling to reason. Extremism by definition is a position adopted by people who know they are wrong, but refuse to concede, refuse to compromise, refuse to reason, refuse to admit that they have a problem.

We may not all agree on what inalienable rights, exactly, the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution bestows upon Americans, but the one thing we can all agree on is this: The Second Amendment was never, ever, intended to place the rights of gun owners over the lives of our children."

This is a great blog post. I think (to maybe a lesser extent) we have the same problem in the UK.

I'm sad to say, however, that a couple of people don't seem to agree with this:

"The Second Amendment was never, ever, intended to place the rights of gun owners over the lives of our children."

Sad as it is, I saw someone today post this:

"I don't care if they kill every kid in the damn country. The 2nd Amendment stays period. You want our guns? Fine, come and take em!"

1. A REALLY scary person.

58. I think I understand what the Chief is pointing at when he says that we can not even have the conversation on this issue. I suspect it has something to do with the difference between ideology and practical considerations.

However, the dialectical materialist in me regretfully noticed a news item reporting a recent bonanza for the retailers, distributors, and manufacturers of firearms. (While I prefer to provide citations for this sort of fact when I'm blathering on teh internetz, the best one I could find came from a site I prefer not to promote. The curious reader can easily confirm the assertion with his favorite search engine.)

All of which is another way of saying that the conversation is already happening, i.e., a great deal of money is being heaved at a broad coalition determined to wreck any flavor of gun control, through any and all means necessary.

59. When I decided to face up to my drinking problem about eight years ago, I did not say that the entire country had to accommodate me by closing down all the bars. I did not say that everyone had the same sickness I had and therefore should quit drinking. I told myself that I had to own my illness and deal with it.

The Chief is way off base here. He characterizes the country as being violent, yet most times and in most ways, most people are not violent. His mistake is to note the sickness of some and ascribe it to all. That's not how "admitting you have a problem" works.

1. And yet we do regulate drinking, don't we? We regulate the manufacture, distribution, advertising, access, and sale of alcohol, don't we? We have tough laws regarding irresponsible drinking, we keep records of those who abuse alcohol while driving or practicing medicine or flying airplanes, don't we? We penalize those who allow their kids access to booze, don't we? And we penalize those who combine alcohol and firearms and end up hurthing others. In point of fact, nowhere in this essay did I advocate that we "shut down all bars or say that everybody had the same sickness as you," however you'll note that several decades ago, America made a concerted effort to deglamorize drinking, and as a result there has been a provable decrease in alcohol related fatalities.

Hence, the anology.

Note also that I used the generic label "America," as in America has a problem with violence. Similar to how after Tailhook we said that the navy had a drinking problem. That didn't mean that everybody in the navy was an alcoholic, but rather our overall culture needed to change, and we did exactly that, we changed our culture and it was difficult because people like you fought change every inch of the way, but in the end we did change and became a far more professional service.

That's exactly how admitting you have a problem works.

60. The best assessment of our current circumstance I've seen. The guns are the facilitator, but the problem is US: not the video games, not the TV, not the supposed heathenism -- US.

61. Rather than blame violent games, how about asking for other types of games -- no, not banning or restricting anything, just making new things available on the market.

Or, as Justice Brandeis said, more speech.

1. Or, and here's an idea, why don't you read what I actually wrote, including the postscript where I warned readers not to make a strawman in the comments and then attribute it to me, because that kind of thing tends to irritate me.

Nowhere in this essay did I blame video games, violent or otherwise for anything.

What I actually said was that violent entertainment was a symptom. I was quite specific about it.

One of the major problems with this issue is the one you just demonstrated, i.e. not listening.

2. I read what you wrote. I was agreeing with it. Sheesh. A little touchy, are we?

3. A little touchy, are we?

Perhaps I am, but then you should see my hatemail, I'm getting it from both the gun nuts and the gaming nuts.

I apologize for misunderstanding your intention. However, please reread your original comment, can you see how I might have taken it as an accusation of blaming video games? Again, apologies, consider my response in error.

62. We seem to love war, don't we? We are a warlike people and since the beginning our our history (United States) we have solved our problems with war. War with the natives, war with our colonizers, even war with ourselves when we couldn't solve our slavery question. We created nuclear bombs and we are the only country that has a history of using them. Twice. God, we love war.

Even when we are at peace we are still at war. When we weren't actively fighting with weapons or dropping nuclear bombs we were in a "Cold War".

Our response to 9/11 was to start a war. Two, in fact. We can't get enough war, and war is the only way we seem to know to solve problems.

We even declare war on social problems. Rather than find solutions to social problems we declare war on them. War on Poverty, War on Cancer, War on Drugs. I remember when war was declared on all of these conditions and there is more poverty, cancer and drug use than ever. And that War on Terror thing is working out just as well, too.

Maybe if we tried solving problems instead of declaring war on them we might make some progress.

1. There needs to be a "like" button here. :)

2. Poverty? It was getting better until the right-wingers decided it was "too expensive". Tax cuts for millionaires, two shooting wars + billions to rebuild those countries, non-negotiated drug prices, for-profit prisons for weed-smokers, all get put on the nations' debt without a second thought, but helping poor people is "too expensive". No wonder we have more poor people.

Drugs? The "War on Drugs" is a failure. The U.N. even put out a report with that as the title. At least things are moving in the right direction (Washington state & Colorado), albeit too slowly.

Cancer? All 200+ types of cancer have not been cured, but many have prevention measures and excellent drugs. Many do not. Since the 1970's, cancer treatment and understanding of the disease(s) has grow enormously. So of course the Tea Baggers want funds cut from NIH instead of "Homeland Security". Oh well, pretty soon you can get a free rectal exam. Just go to the airport.

Anonymous, don't paint all government programs with the same brush of failure. Reality is a lot more complicated.

3. Terri, I couldn't agree more.

63. This will be my final post, and one I am sure you will delete.
I have enjoyed reading and following your thoughts for a few months. I don't always agree, but I like to learn what others are thinking so I may be able to participate in an intelligent and informed dialog.
I previously posted a reply. it was not fully in line with yours, but I felt there were some commonalities. However, I have finally noticed that you only allow comments to remain if they agree with you. That is your right to do so, but it shows that you don't care to have a honest dialog, you only want to spread your opinion.
I will miss the sarcasm and intimate Alaskan photos, but it is time to move on.
PS, I do live in CT, and although I did not know her well, I had meet one of the little girls that died. She and my 6 year old along with a mutual friend had played several times.

chris

1. Chris, I have no idea what the hell you're on about. I deleted no comment from you and I see no comment from you in the moderation queue. That includes this post or any other.

As to what I delete and what I keep, the rules are clearly posted and haven't changed. I remove trolls and spam and other jackasses who don't know how to behave in polite company and I will continue to do so. And as to people who disagree with me, the hundred odd comments on this post alone disprove your statement.

If you had a comment disappear, you could try asking about it like an adult. However, if you want to leave, then leave, you're not my crazy girlfriend, you don't need to make some big passive aggressive declaration of intent.

64. I'm a life-long Connecticut resident and we are hurting badly. The local TV stations are now patting themselves on the back by making statements that they will not cover the funerals "out of respect for the families." This after nonstop coverage for days, including spreading false info and interviewing children (whose parents apparently permitted it). We are all trying to understand why this happened and looking for something or someone to blame. But you've hit the nail on the head, Jim, as usual. It's our overwhelming addiction to violence, period. Until we address that we will not make a dent in the problem.

65. The battle among the 24/7 media entities feeds this country's addiction with violence. The NRA has broken its silence with its standard non-appology and if anyone thinks they will back down from their determination that all guns of any magnitude be made available to all people and core belief that more guns you have the saver you are, are just dreamers.

A poster on yahoo made the following statement:

"Thirteen scholarly studies show that guns are used to prevent crimes and save lives between 700,000 and 2.5 million times each year."

Does anyone know what he is talking about??? Saving the lives of 2.5 million people - should get a mention at least on Fox News.

66. This comment has been removed by the author.

67. READ THIS TODAY in our local newspaper which totally makes sense to me.

"Motive doesn’t appear to be rocket science. Authorities always pose the question “What was the motive?” In this case, it seems pretty obvious. To paraphrase Tommy Smothers’ usual com­plaint to his brother Dickie; “Mom always liked you best.”
In this case, Adam Lanza probably felt his mom liked her school kids best. It’s not rocket science.
Bruce Onken
Fremont "

1. Mrs. Lanza was not a teacher. This is mis-information that was given out. She never was a teacher. Earlier in her life she was a stock broker.

68. My grandfather taught me to shoot starting when I was eight. He was a WW1 veteran and a farm boy who interpereted the 2nd amendment as instruction of responsibility. In his {born in 1898}world view it was every Americans duty to know how to handle guns. I shot a man once. I was found not guilty because I was defending another woman who was being attacked. I did not kill him. I took out his knee. I am a strong woman and I don't know if I could have stopped him without the gun. It has changed me, as it should. I don't watch the news on TV,they are too loose with the facts and start repeating what they are saying while trying to beat people into a fever pitch of anger/fear. I know that there were abuses under the old commitment procedures, but letting our crazy people roam the streets on a combination of alchohol and the drugs that are the new chains of our Bedlam seems worse. What I read about this situation makes it seem that Isolation of the mother and the son, from normal relationships, and paranoid world veiws, contributed heavily to this tragedy. My only solutions are personal and small I refuse to participate in a lot of what is standard in America today and I try to make connections with other people to be that extra hand to help or ear to hear.

69. This is only tangentially related to the tragedy at Newtown but here goes:

I've seen quite a few postings on the 'net about how we should make it easier to commit someone to a mental health facility. We might want to rethink that because it's far easier to be unwillingly committed, even if you are completely sane, than you might think.

I personally know an individual who ACCIDENTALLY mixed a prescription drug with alcohol. It turns out that this particular, and common, drug becomes lethal at even low doses when combined with alcohol. In this case it resulted in a coma, which was followed by a few days of hospitalization.

Then, there was a THREE MINUTE "conversation" with the hospital's consulting psychiatrist, during which the shrink did almost all of the talking and NONE of the listening. I was present for all of this.

The victim was then INVOLUNTARILY committed for a ten-day stay at a mental health facility and told that if they were to fight the commitment, they could wind up with thirty days of confinement.

Since there was no bed immediately available at the MH facility, the victim was placed on 24 hour "Suicide Watch" while in the regular hospital. Know what happens when you're on a 24 hour Suicide Watch? Exactly what it sounds like. A complete stranger, who may be of a different gender, watches you piss, shit, wipe your ass, sleep and eat. You are NEVER, for one second, out of sight. Imagine how degrading that is. Especially when you did not attempt suicide and are entirely rational.

The victim in this case ended up at the only non-horrible mental health facility in the state and yet did not see an M.D. or a psychiatrist for three full days after commitment.

When finally interviewed by the psychiatrist, he looked at the chart, IMMEDIATELY saw what the problem was and said "Why are you here?". He explained the particular lethality of the drug when combined with even modest amounts of alcohol and arranged for the patient's release. The patient had, all along, insisted that there was NO suicide attempt whatever but NOBODY LISTENED. Family and friends who knew for certain that this was an accidental poisoning were utterly ignored. It was only through sheer blind luck that the patient insisted that the psychiatrist look at the charts and that the shrink did. Otherwise, it could have taken at least a month to be released.

The emotional scars from this encounter will last a lifetime. Committed to a mental hospital on the basis of ONE 3-minute interview with a doctor who had zero interest in what might have really happened.

I cannot state for certain that the committing psychiatrist in this case is guilty of this practice but there ARE those who accept large cash kickbacks from mental health facilities for this kind of scam. I DO know for certain that this practice is being investigated by the government.

I hope they hang anyone they find guilty. Literally. Hang them.

Anyway, be careful what you wish for.

70. Well said. There does seem to be a massive amount militarization / violence glorification going on in society. I don't know too many military folk, I do know a number of police, and, surprise, surprise, they don't seem like they are much into that - the violence culture. It's all fantasy violence - if you see some of the real stuff, have to deal with real violence, you're not so interested in the fantasy, maybe? I don't know. Not very optimistic about us "hitting bottom" and facing things. I do fear we're on our way downhill.

1. Television police shows use violence as entertainment, including frequent car chases and blazing gun battles. Real police officers in most places (even "violent" big cities) might fire their weapons outside of a gun practice range just once or twice, or never, in their whole career. When they do, they don't celebrate afterwards. They mourn, even when they did everything exactly correct.

71. So.. let's have a division of labor. Plenty of us are looking at possible macro-solutions to gun violence. How about some micro solutions, close to home, that we can all execute. For example let's love our children unconditionally while guiding them without hitting or cruel punishments. Let's discuss or even shout about our conflicts with our life partners/spouses without resorting to violence. Let's offer our children creative games instead of destructive ones. Indeed let's play with our kids, spend time with them, eat meals with them, share loving eye contact and spirited debates. This will make isolating and violent video games less appealing. The point is to create a culture where violence has no role. That, my friends, starts at home. ... and please... don't lecture me about the "real" world... I know all about gun violence in the real world, up close and personal. Yes, that reality must be explained to our kids, but not without helping them to deeply understand that it doesn't have to be this way.

1. When something like this happens, the finger pointers and blamers come out in droves, followed closely by the sack cloth and ashes crowd, moaning that they and all of the human race is irretrievably immoral and malevolent, not to mention greedy and uncaring. None of this does a lick of good. The answer lies with the people. They must show the way for society.

There are tens of thousands of people doing just that. They are each doing 26 acts of kindness in honor of the 26 slain at Sandy Hook. They are being the change that they want to see. Over 37,000 people have “liked” the facebook page “26 Acts of Kindness”. If only half of them follow through, that is 481,000 acts of kindness.

The violence in movies, games and TV shows, the shootings, the media coverage of same, the greed of giant corporations, the selfishness, bigotry and hatred shown by many people are not the cause of the problem. They are all symptoms of the of what is happening in our society.

The outpouring of love and support for the victims of tragedies is as much a symptom of the change in our society and, indeed, the whole world as the above. The world is on it's way to becoming a kinder, gentler place, a place of compassion and caring. The human consciousness will no longer support the greed, bigotry, selfishness, ruthlessness, power mongering, and indifference of the past. Those who still live in that old energy can feel it deserting them and they are panicking. They long for the “good old days” that will never be again. Their panic results in a lot of thrashing about so we get violence and attempts to force their ideas on society through laws, threats and absolutely astonishing statements and actions. They are attempting to operate under the old rules, and it just isn't working.

To the blamers and the hair shirt crowd, I would say there are many, many more kind, decent people who uphold the ideals of integrity and brotherhood than there are slavering haters. So never mind trying to figure out who is at fault. Don't try to figure out if we should hire more police and more mental health workers. Be the kind of person you wish everyone was. Put compassion and caring in your corner of the world.

The number of compassionate people will continue to rise, and the number of haters will fall. This is not going to happen overnight, but within a very few years we will see a definite change. If you are paying attention, you can see it now.

PS: The world will not end tomorrow.

PPS: Conscious at Last – your name is very well chosen. The world will change when more people achieve consciousness.

Jeanne in WV

72. Yes, and eventually we will be able to scrape up some compassion for Lanza's mother, number 27 and perhaps even for Adam himself, number 28.

73. As a Special Forces veteran and someone who has paid his bills repossessing cars in Watts-Willoughbrook-Compton-Inglewood (affectionately known within the craft as "Inglewatts"), as a former editor of more than one military hardware publication, and as a qualified (as in master's degree and publications) historian, I am not unfamiliar with firearms and the concept of a "well-regulated militia." I have always been a responsible firearms owner, and while I have been trained to kill with a variety of "weapons" (*any* object--including your hands--becomes a "weapon" when employed with intent to do bodily harm), I have deep misgivings about the ever-increasing gun-related violence in our society. I am not "anti-gun"--far from it; rather, I am "anti-violence." I have never heard the argument articulated more cogently, Jim, and I can see that I will have many opportunities to share this no-nonsense point of view (as well as a bookmark to this post) frequently in the coming days and months. It's time for America to "man-up."

74. Another great one Jim. I am in Canada, where we have the same videos, mp3, games, television, movies and yet we don't have anywhere near the gun violence, I can't help feeling it is more related to the second amendment giving people an "entitled" feeling to do whatever the hell they want in owning guns, thus way to many end up being used to kill and injure, to many innocents. It isn't just the mass/spree killings, it is the domestic violence, it is the accidental shooting of children by other children because guns are so accessible and stupid parents think their kids will leave the guns alone, because they told them too, it is the gun stolen from a parked car then used to rob a store, and the list goes on.

Sadly with guns now being smuggled into Canada we are seeing an increase of gun violence, though mostly restricted to gang on gang, innocents are also being killed. The police are now often raiding grow ops and other gang related places and finding mass collections of firearms most of which are illegal in Canada. This breaks my heart, as it is a destruction of what Canada is suppose to be, or has been as I grew up in it.
I am not against guns at all, my Dad took us out shooting targets as kids he showed us how to handle guns, how to load and unload them, to never keep a gun loaded EVER while being stored. He hunted, he loved to hunt, when he died I gave his guns to my Uncles and cousins as I do not hunt and would have no use for a gun.

75. This is exactly what I thought when Obama said "We have to change". The we is all of us, society, the country and yes the world. And there are people out there who are trying to do just that, again the aforementioned Obama. But when he prefers to use diplomacy as a first measure the neocon wacko's like John McCain accuse him of being weak, destroying our credibility, apologizing. Well guess what, we have a lot to apologize for. To the survivalists who insist they need their weapons to survive should there be a disaster, let me tell you killing any of the remaining population is not the solution to your survival. Working together to rebuild is. Better we rebuild now than face that possibility.

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