I’ve written extensively on gun violence, spoken on international TV and radio on the subject, and even pursued a gun license in the strictest city of one of the strictest states in the country. Despite my first-hand experience, the most ardent defenders of the Second Amendment — like those who marched on Richmond, Virginia this weekend to protest "Jim Crow" gun laws — will still tell me things like, “We don’t need more laws! We need to enforce the laws on the books!” or “We can’t stop every shooting because that’s just the price of freedom.” Those same #2A Avengers will of course acknowledge that yeah, okay, maybe NICS has some problems, or maybe those Parkland cops should have done something earlier, and then swiftly retreat back into the same tribalistic mindsets that always prevent human progress.
So I wrote this essay, hoping to have a rational conversation. It was originally published on Medium in 2018, but it remains frustratingly relevant, so I'm posting it here.
Naming something gives you power over it.
That’s the basic idea behind all the magic in every folktale dating back for centuries, from “Rumpelstiltskin” to the Rolling Stones’ “Hope you guessed my name.” Ancient shamans didn’t practice “magic”; they just had knowledge, and names for things like “eye of newt” that no one else could understand. To name something is to know it, and knowledge is power.Think about the relationship between “spelling” and “spells” and you won’t be so surprised that Harry Potter has been all over the gun violence conversations lately, on both the Left and the Right—which makes sense, considering that they have a word you memorize and practice reciting in order to kill people. Read the rest
Kaleb J. Cole (aka "Khimaere") is the 24-year-old leader of the Washington State cell of the Atomwaffen Division, an international network of violent Neo-Nazis. Aside from generally spewing hateful rhetoric, Cole had also been seen participating in Atomwaffen's "Hate Camps," sharpening his rifle skills for more extremist violence.
Fortunately, he no longer has access to any guns. From The Daily Beast:
[Cole] had his guns seized on Oct. 1st, according to King County Court records. The move came after the Seattle Police Department filed a 62-page “Extreme Risk Protection Order” petition against Cole on Sept. 26, according to electronic court records. Among the weapons that had been in Cole's possession were a pistol and an AK-47 variant with a high-capacity drum magazine.
To be clear, Cole has not been charged on any specific crimes. As far as anyone's aware, he hasn't killed anyone—at least not yet, although there is arguably reason to believe that he plans to. In addition to the target-practice videos where he can be seen chanting "Race war now" with the rest of his buddies, Cole has openly admitted to his fascist beliefs, and support for armed insurrection.
Again: not technically crimes. But valids cause for concern. That's where the "Red Flag" or "Extreme Risk" laws come in. They're basically restraining orders, but for guns.
One of the biggest struggles with reducing gun violence in America is that a lot of the proposed legislation also infringes on civil liberties. For example: the various "No-Fly Lists" that the government maintains have no clear criteria or due process, which ends up punishing people innocent Muslims, government employees, and literal fucking babies. Read the rest
The House Judiciary Committee actually held a hearing about gun violence in late September. But you probably didn't hear about it—either because the rest of US politics are so overwhelmingly terrible right now, or because it lacked the dramatic oomph of mass shootings or the inevitable gun ban proposals that always seem to follow.
Mass shootings only comprise about one percent of all gun deaths; we just hear about them more, because they're so damn horrific (though whether they're more frequent now is up for debate). Far more lives lost to suicides and gang-related violence every year. Overall, firearm injuries are the second leading cause of death for people under the age of 18. In other words, gun violence isn't a problem—it's (at least) 5 different problems, with different solutions.
What makes this House Judiciary Committee hearing even more remarkable is that for once they actually spoke with people from communities that are directly affected by these problems. Community-based solutions like this have the potential to save even more lives if you include the right people in the conversations (which unfortunately doesn't happen very often). They also have greater potential to gain bipartisan support. No one's talking about taking guns away, and no one's talking about empowering a disciplinarian police state using fear to keep the local systems in line. They just need funding and support for resources like social work. And that might actually make a difference.
(Thumbnail image via Flickr) Read the rest
Some of the biggest names in business, including the CEOs of Twitter, Uber, Reddit, Conde Nast, Bad Robot and a host of others sent a letter to Congress this morning urging immediate action on gun violence. The letter follows similar pleas from Walmart after shootings at the country's largest retailer left nearly 30 people dead in less than a month.
A copy of the letter was shared with the New York Times:
Many of the requested actions in the letter have already passed the House, but have been brought to a crawl in the Senate by NRA-pawn "Massacre Mitch" McConnell. Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed frustration with a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle who asked about her decision to not bring the House back in August to keep the pressure up on McConnell and the Senate.
No reaction to the letter as of yet from Senate Republicans. Shocking, I know.
Business Leaders Call on Congress to Act on Gun Violence (NYT) Photo: Michael Spocko/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0) Read the rest
The wife of a West Virginia pastor apparently wanted to shoot another woman, but the Pastor realized her intent as she stormed out of the Church to fetch her pistol. Her husband followed her to her car where a single shot was fired, in the Church parking lot. Reportedly they wrestled for the weapon.
According to authorities, Melinda walked out of the church during the disagreement and went to her car in the parking lot, where she got her handgun.
Realizing what she intended, Earl and followed her outside.
Willis reports Pastor Toney intercepted his wife before she was able to come back inside the church and attempted to wrestle the gun out of her hand. The weapon fired a single shot during the struggle, but nobody was hurt.
Haywood, who was leaving the church when the gun discharged, called the police and told them that she was Toney's intended target. The department reviewed parking-lot surveillance video but could not determine whether the pistol was aimed at Haywood before it was fired.
Image via the NEW LIFE APOSTOLIC CHURCH Read the rest
After two shootings in their El Paso, Texas and Southaven, Mississippi stores, the CEO of Walmart has announced major changes to the chain's gun sale policies, including no longer selling ammunition for assault-style weapons and discontinuing the sale of handgun ammunition. Read the rest
Blue light special in his pants.
Read the rest
The local police department tweeted on Tuesday officers were working what appeared to be a “self-inflicted accidental shooting” inside the Watson and Yuma Walmart.
Buckeye PD later confirmed in an update: “Adult male accidentally shot himself in the groin area inside the Walmart Watson & Yuma. Being transported to hospital. No other injuries.”
The Arizona Republic newspaper reported the incident occurred at around 6:30 p.m. after a semiautomatic handgun that was being held in the man’s waistband began to slip. The gun, which was not in a holster, discharged as he attempted to reposition it, the man told cops.
The Arizona Republic reported when police officers responded to the gun shot the man was found in the meat section of the Walmart store with “survivable injuries.” Officers said they filed a report for the unlawful discharge of a firearm but it was believed to be accidental.
It was not immediately clear if the man would be charged by the local police department. The man’s identity and condition at the hospital was not made public by law enforcement.
California's gun control laws were jumpstarted by rifle-carrying Black Panthers who attended government meetings and went out "copwatching" (shadowing abusive white cops); white conservatives who'd been staunch ammosexuals, opposed to any limits on gun ownership and carrying, suddenly changed their tune and started hollering for gun control.
Read the rest
Last week, Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson won a major ruling in his quest to distribute gun-printing software. The video above from February outlines the background of the case. Read the rest
If a gun toting mad-person enters a classroom in Pennsylvania's Mill Creek Township school district they'll find themselves challenged by an army of billy club wielding school teachers!
Pennsylvania will soon likely have a shortage of school teachers and a lot of extra billy clubs laying around.
Read the rest
After the shooting in Parkland, Florida, a school district in suburban Erie, Pennsylvania, began formulating a school safety plan. Among its measures: handing out miniature wooden baseball bats to all 500 of its teachers.
In an online message, Millcreek Township School District Superintendent William Hall said the bats "could be used as a tool against an active shooter just like any other item in the immediate room," adding that they will remain locked in the classroom and "are only to be used/available in a hard lockdown situation."
On social media, however, the idea is being roundly mocked.
Watch an 11 year-old give a powerful speech. I cried. Read the rest
Highly trained with firearms, Police reservist Dennis Alexander was teaching his high school class about gun safety when the handgun accidentally went off. Splintered fragments of the bullet ricocheted off of the ceiling and hit three students.
Guns do not belong on campus.
Via SF Gate:
Read the rest
A teacher who also serves as a reserve police officer accidentally fired a gun inside a Seaside High School classroom Tuesday, police said, and three students were injured.
Dennis Alexander was teaching a course about gun safety for his Administration of Justice class when his gun went off at 1:20 p.m.
Teachers are not legally allowed to have firearms in California classrooms, even if they have a concealed carry permit.
Alexander, who is a reserve officer for the Sand City Police Department, was pointing his gun at the ceiling when it fired. Pieces of the ceiling fell to the ground.
A press release from the Seaside Police Department said no one suffered "serious injuries." One 17-year-old boy suffered moderate injuries when fragments from the bullet ricocheted off the ceiling and lodged into his neck, the student's father, Fermin Gonzales, told KSBW.
The teacher had just told the class that he wanted to make sure his gun wasn't loaded, when the gun fired, according to Gonzales.
On March 7, the Florida legislature passed a gun control bill in a bipartisan 67-50 vote, banning bump-stocks and imposing a 3-day waiting period on long-gun purchases and raising the minimum age for their purchase to 21; the legislation is a mixed bag as it also includes millions to arm and train school employees.
Read the rest
Shoppers drawing their firearms to help stop a more aggressive 2nd amendment rights enthusiast did not. Shoppers report panic, while the local police suggest the investigation was slowed up to 5hrs.
If one draws a weapon, they become a suspect and create more work for the boys in blue.
Via the Denver Post:
Read the rest
When a gunman opened fire inside a Walmart in Thornton Wednesday night, shoppers screamed and ran for cover — and others pulled out their own handguns.
But those who drew weapons during the shootings ultimately delayed the investigation as authorities pored over surveillance videotape trying to identify the assailant who killed three people, police said Thursday.
Although authorities said “a few” individuals drew handguns, they posed no physical hazard to officers. But their presence “absolutely” slowed the process of determining who, and how many, suspects were involved in the shootings, said Thornton police spokesman Victor Avila.
Bellevue Theatre Amsterdam's Sunday with Lubach sets their scopes on the NRA. Read the rest
A Detroit firearms enthusiast scared off an attacking pitbull by shooting its victim in the leg! Apparently the force of the impact caused ol' Cujo to run away.
The mauling/shooting victim was taken to a local hospital where the 53 year-old woman was pronounced dead.
The shooting is under investigation.
The dog is still on the loose.
Read the rest
Police say a woman who was being attacked by a stray dog in Detroit has been fatally shot after a man fired a gun at the dog and hit her instead.
CBS Detroit cites police as saying the woman, 53, was mauled by a pit bull while walking on Monday evening, was shot in the hip and taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Her name wasn't immediately released.
Police responded and searched for the dog, but it wasn't immediately found.
Detroit police Captain Darin Szilagy says the man lived in the area. Szilagy says he was trying to be a "good Samaritan" and had a license to carry a concealed weapon. Szilagy says it's a tragic story, but notes "we're responsible for every round we fire."
The shooting is under investigation and prosecutors likely will review the case.
US Senate candidate Jason Kander was consistently trailing incumbent Roy Blunt in the Missouri race until this month. Many attribute the shift to a simple and memorable ad in response to criticism of Kander's position on gun background checks. Read the rest