Tom Engelhardt: Armed Violence in the Homeland

By Tom Engelhardt, a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World. Originally published at TomDispatch

Consider this paragraph a holding action on the subject of getting blown away in America. While I write this dispatch, I’m waiting patiently for the next set of dispiriting killings in this country. And I have faith. Before I’m done, some angry — or simply mentally disturbed — and well-armed American “lone wolf” (or lone wolves) will gun down someone (or a number of people) somewhere and possibly himself (or themselves) as well. Count on that. It’ll be my last paragraph. Think of it as, in a grim way, something to look forward to as you read this piece on American armed mayhem. 

National security officials and politicians have been pounding home the message that the “greatest threat” to Americans is an extreme and brutal jihadist movement thousands of miles away and the videos and social media messages its followers produce that make it seem close at hand. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few of the dangers of armed life in these United States, a quick survey of national insecurity in a country armed to the teeth.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that, in the first half of 2015, there’s been a plethora of incidents to draw on. There’s the killer still on the loose in northern Colorado who shot at people in cars or out biking or walking late at night. There’s the suspected serial killer who dumped seven bodies behind a strip mall in New Britain, Connecticut, and may now be in jail on unrelated charges. There’s the ongoing trial of James Holmes who blew away 12 moviegoers and wounded 70 in a multiplex in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012. There was the mass killing of seven people in February in the tiny town of Tyrone, Missouri, by Joseph Aldridge, an armed recluse who then killed himself. And don’t forget Sudheer Khamitkar, who shot to death his wife and two young sons and then himself in Tulsa in April, or Christopher Carrillo, who murdered four of his family members and then turned his gun on himself in a Tucson home in May. And many others.

In such a list, there should be a special place for a phenomenon that, though largely untabulated, has been gaining attention in recent years as ever more Americans “carry” in ever more places.  This means ever more loose guns lying around.  I’m talking about the mayhem committed by toddlers (or perhaps they should be thought of as American lone wolf cubs).  Toddler shootings range from the two year old who killed his mother in a Walmart in Idaho with the gun she was packing in her purse as 2014 ended to the three year old who discovered a gun in a purse in an Albuquerque motel room in February and wounded his father and pregnant mother with a single shot.  Such a list for this year would have to include the Florida two year old who found his father’s gun in the family car and killed himself with it in January, the three year old who picked up an unattended gun and killed a one year old in a Cleveland home in April, the Virginia two year old who found a gun on top of a dresser and killed himself in late May, and the four year old who, at about the same time in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, picked up a shotgun at a target shooting range and killed his 22-year-old uncle. Toddler killings have been commonplace enough in these pistol-packin’ years that they now significantly outpace terror killings in the U.S.

The Big Leagues of Violence

While we’re at it (before we get to the really big stuff), there is the crew I think of as American-style suicide killers. They lack a political or religious ideology like the suicide bombers of the Middle East, but they are on missions for which killing yourself as well as others is the imagined end. Think of them as informal American jihadis, in touch with no ISIS social media types, watching no inflammatory terror videos, but all riled up anyway, often deeply disturbed, armed, and on suicide missions in the American homeland.

I’m referring to a remarkably commonplace kind of killing that, as far as I know, no one has taken the time to record or count up: men who kill their girlfriends or wives (and sometimes others in the vicinity) and then take their own lives.  Here’s an almost random list of just some of the reported cases I stumbled across for 2015: In January, in the appropriately named Nutley, New Jersey, a 38-year-old man shot his 37-year-old girlfriend and then killed himself; in January, in Lincoln, Nebraska, a 49-year-old man shot his 44-year-old girlfriend, called the police to report the killing, and then killed himself; also in January, a 29-year-old man shot his 27-year-old pregnant girlfriend six or seven times in a hotel for the homeless in New York City’s Times Square before taking his own life; in February, in Wading River, New York, a 44-year-old man shot and killed his 43-year-old girlfriend and her 17-year-old daughter before taking his own life; in March, in Chicago, a 23-year-old man shot and killed his 24-year-old girlfriend, then himself in the mouth, committing suicide; in April, a 48-year-old Fort Worth man, who had a winning $500 lottery ticket and refused to share the spoils with his 46-year-old girlfriend, shot her and then himself after they argued, then called the police to report the crime before dying; in April, in Cleveland, a 48-year-old man shot and killed his 19-year-old girlfriend and then repeated the act two doors down, murdering his 47-year-old ex-wife, before turning his gun on himself; also in April in Montgomery, Alabama, a man shot and killed his girlfriend, subsequently killing himself; similarly in April, a 35-year-old doctor shot and killed his 39-year-old girlfriend in Fayetteville, North Carolina, followed by a 32-year-old doctor in New Jersey, and then, when police approached him, committed suicide; in May, in San Diego, a 52-year-old man shot his 28-year-old girlfriend and her 63-year-old mother to death before committing suicide.  As June began, in Cleveland, a 30-year-old man shot and killed his 24-year-old ex-girlfriend and her grandfather, badly injuring her grandmother, then killed himself.  And so it goes, and mind you, this is just a starter list for such acts, which seem remarkably commonplace.

Moving on to bigger things, one kind of killing has been much in the news of late: police shootings.  The figures the FBI has traditionally compiled on them have proven to be way too low, so others have entered the fray.  The Washington Post, for instance, recently began compiling a database of “every fatal shooting by police” in the U.S. in 2015 (deaths by Taser not included). Their figure so far: at least 385 for the first five months of 2015 or approximately one of every 13 non-suicide gun deaths so far this year.

“About half the victims,” the Post reports, “were white, half minority. But the demographics shifted sharply among the unarmed victims, two-thirds of whom were black or Hispanic. Overall, blacks were killed at three times the rate of whites or other minorities when adjusting by the population of the census tracts where the shootings occurred.”  A Guardian study adds this detail: “Black Americans are more than twice as likely to be unarmed when killed during encounters with police as white people.”

According to the Guardian, a recent Bureau of Justice report found that over the last eight years an average of 928 Americans have died annually at the hands of the police.  (FBI figures: only 383.)  In other words in those years, there were 7,427 police homicides, the equivalent of more than two 9/11s.  Compared to other developed countries, these figures are staggering. There were, for instance, more fatal police shootings in the United States in the month of March 2015 (97) than Australia had between 1992 and 2011 (94).  Similarly, there have been almost three times as many police shootings in California alone in 2015 (72) as Canada experiences annually (25).

And when it comes to armed dangers in a country in which there are estimated to be between 270 and 310 million guns or, on average, nearly one firearm for every man, woman, and child, we haven’t even made it to the major leagues of death yet.  Take, for instance, suicide by gun.  In the last year for which we have figures, 2013, there were 21,175 such deaths and they seem to be rising.  Deaths by firearm in this country totaled 33,636 in that year and seem to be rising as well.

And just for the heck of it, maybe we should throw in one other kind of weapon (even if it generally lacks the intentionality of firearms): cars, trucks, and other vehicles.  Many traffic deaths could certainly qualify as assaults, however unintentional, with a deadly weapon.  In 2013, there were 32,719 such deaths, essentially equaling death by gun in America.

In all, then, we’re talking about approximately 66,000 death-dealing assaults with weapons or vehicles in this country yearly.

Armed Dangers and Meal Tickets

Now, let’s leave those annual fields of carnage behind and turn to the “greatest threat” of our moment — or so the officials of the national security state would have you believe.  You know what that is, of course: the Islamic State with its sophisticated propaganda skills that, according to official Washington, regularly run circles around whatever this country and its allies can muster in response.  Despite the nearly trillion dollars a year that goes into national security and the elaborate surveillance and monitoring systems that have been put in place, we remain strangely defenseless against its wiles.  Using social media, its facilitators threaten to obliterate distance, reach across oceans, and rile up displaced, marginalized, and often slightly unhinged young American Muslims, and — at least so the story goes — prepare the groundwork for unparalleled mayhem in “the homeland.”

With that dire scenario in mind, here is 2015 in Islamic State terrorism in the U.S. in terms of death and destruction: In May, evidently affected by ISIS’s social media presence, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, two young American Muslims from Phoenix who were roommates, set out to attack a cartoon exhibit and contest in Garland, Texas, devoted to the Prophet Muhammad and organized by Islamophobe Pam Geller.  Armed with assault rifles and wearing body armor, they managed to wound an unarmed security guard in the ankle before they were killed by an off-duty traffic officer, also working security at the event.

Similarly, this month a 26-year-old black Muslim, Usaamah Rahim, was reportedly involved in an ISIS-inspired plot in Boston to somehow behead Geller.  He then supposedly abandoned that plan, deciding instead to behead some local “boys in blue.”  Approached on the street for questioning by Boston police and FBI agents in plain clothes, he pulled out a “military-style knife,” they claimed, threatened them, and was shot to death.  (Some aspects of their account have been questioned.)  And that’s it, folks.  The greatest threat on the planet has, so far this year, managed to inspire three marginal young men to get themselves killed.  When it comes to the dangers in American life, put that in the context of tens of thousands of annual deaths by firearm, or even of the toddler killings.

Despite all the talk of possible jihadist plots, this is the evidence we have of the threat to the “homeland” which the Islamic State represents at the moment and into which so much money and preventive activity flows (to the exclusion of so much else).  It is, we are told, a “new threat,” utterly unlike the normal dangers of our American world.  In fact, such violence, rare as it may be, shouldn’t seem aberrational at all.  It really should strike us as more of the same — even if the names of the perpetrators sometimes have a different ring to them: men, often young, with access to weapons, in some cases mentally unstable, and with a grudge, intent on striking out.  They should remind us of those American men who so regularly kill their girlfriends and then themselves or of many of the mass killers of recent years.

Yet this is the lone danger that is constantly played up as the one worthy of both fear and investment.  Of course, jihadist terror is perfectly real and if Americans lived in Syria or Iraq or Libya it would be a horrifying problem.  But whatever the present skills of ISIS’s propagandists, such violence has, since 9/11, proven more dangerous than shark attacks, but not much else in American life.  And when law enforcement agencies are surveyed, according to Charles Kurzman and David Schanzer, they, too, see the dangers of Islamist terrorism as modest indeed in this country, particularly in comparison to the homegrown far right-wing version of the same.

It matters that we are still protected by two oceans and that the Islamic jihadist heartlands are distant indeed.  But let’s be honest: the threat of Islamic terrorism here is also a meal ticket for the national security state.  (Hence all those plots that turn out to be essentially instigated, funded, often essentially organized by FBI informers and then “cracked” by the FBI.)  It’s one major way that the officials of that state-within-a-state ensure support and funding, endow themselves with special privileges, including never having to appear in court for potential criminal acts, and entrench their anti-democratic methods and the blanket of secrecy that goes with them ever more deeply in American life.

As for the real armed dangers in our world, nobody’s likely to put much money into protecting you from them and, despite those 66,000 deaths a year, somehow the world continues to spin and the end is not nigh.

By the way, you do have one thing coming to you, don’t you?  I promised you a last paragraph.  So here goes.

In the week-plus since I first began writing this piece, there was indeed one Islamic State-“inspired” attack in the United States.  A twenty-one year old man lunged at an FBI agent searching his home in Staten Island, New York, with “a large kitchen knife.”  He was reputed to be part of another of those ISIS-inspired terror “plots” that seem unlikely to ever be successfully carried out.  There was also a mass killing.  A twenty-one-year-old white racist walked into a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and opened fire in what, if he had been Muslim, would have been called a terror attack, killing nine, including the church’s pastor who was also a state senator.  As Reuters reported, the massacre “recalled the 1963 bombing of an African-American church in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four girls and galvanized the civil rights movement of the 1960s.”  There was as well at least one more grim toddler shooting.  A Cincinnati three year old found his mother’s gun in her purse, shot himself in the chest, and died.  There was also at least one more fellow on a suicide mission: a Vermont man sought by the police in the killing of his ex-girlfriend engaged in a high-speed car chase before crashing and committing suicide by gun.  There were a number of police homicides, including: a man on probation in a Hacienda Inn in South Lake Tahoe; a 28-year-old man in a high-speed car chase in Stockton, California; a 28-year-old man, unarmed but “behaving erratically,” in Des Moines, Iowa; a man who stabbed a policeman trying to arrest him in Brighton Beach, New York; and a man tentatively identified as African in Louisville, Kentucky, accused of violently threatening the police with a flag pole (with the usual conflicting stories from police and eyewitnesses about what actually happened).  And in the smorgasbord that is America’s cavalcade of violence, we shouldn’t leave out the off-duty Neptune, New Jersey, police sergeant who chased his ex-wife in his car, caught up with her, and shot her to death in front of their seven-year-old daughter before threatening to kill himself and being arrested by the police; or the Iowa City mall security guard, evidently fired from his job earlier that day, who went home, got a weapon, returned, and killed a 20-year-old female employee of the mall’s children’s museum whom he had previously been harassing.  He fled, but was arrested by the police soon after.  Meanwhile, a mentally disturbed young man with a grudge against the police bought an armored van on eBay (“touted as a ‘Zombie apocalypse assault vehicle’ with ‘gun ports’ capable of ‘drive-by mow-downs’ and full armor and bulletproof windows ‘just in case someone might try to take this bad boy from you'”).  He then built pipe bombs, armed himself with an assault rifle and shotgun, drove to Police Headquarters in Dallas, and launched a full-scale attack on the place.  Miraculously, he managed to kill no one, despite also crashing his van into several police cars, and was finally killed by a police sniper.  And last but hardly least, some gunfire hit closer to home.  Three young men in Brooklyn, New York, were shot and wounded in a housing-project playground complex (named after a neighborhood 13 year old who had been killed by a policeman in 1994).  Someone I know gives classes in that complex.  The shooter remains on the loose.

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  1. kimyo

    how does one write an article about depraved, widespread violence and yet fail to mention the pharmaceuticals linked to most every case?

    ‘Blindness fear & depression’: Germanwings pilot’s health covered-up by privacy laws

    An investigation discovered that two weeks before the crash, Lubitz emailed a doctor claiming to have doubled his dose of an antidepressant to treat insomnia that triggered his fears about his eyesight.

    it has been reported that the charleston killer was taking suboxone. many, many more examples of utterly depraved, disconnected, un-human violence here: Are the New Generation of Anti-Depressant Medications Contributing to School Shootings?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This all of two cases.

      The plural of anecdote is not data. Are you going to tell me all the toddlers shooting themselves and others was also the result of suboxone? Mark Ames was the first to write about workplace and school shootings, and drug use was not a culprit in any of the cases he studied.

    2. lolcar

      There’s a plain correlation vs. causation problem in coming to those kind of conclusions. Suboxone isn’t even an anti-depressant medication.

      1. two beers

        All the perps ate cheese, wore pants, and used soap. There’s a clear association. Quit blaming guns!

        1. kimyo

          an attack on improper use of prescription medications is either valid or not. my position on gun control is a separate matter.

          i’m undecided there. what i see is that every time gun control legislation is proposed, gun sales soar. for similar examples, see the war on poverty, war on drugs, etc. government initiatives fail more often than they succeed.

          however, the success or failure of gun control is a separate issue. are drugs responsible for at least some of this violent depravity? given germanwings/columbine, i think it’s worth examining. especially since the drugs are ineffective: ​Psychiatric drugs kill 500k+ Western adults annually, few positive benefits – leading scientist

          Psychiatric drugs lead to the deaths of over 500,000 people aged 65 and over annually in the West, a Danish scientist says. He warns the benefits of these drugs are “minimal,” and have been vastly overstated.

          Research director at Denmark’s Nordic Cochrane Centre, Professor Peter Gøtzsche, says the use of most antidepressants and dementia drugs could be halted without inflicting harm on patients. The Danish scientist’s views were published in the British Medical Journal on Tuesday.

          by attacking me on this, you’re defending big pharma.

    3. jrs

      Personally I think suboxone is unlikely. I doubt you’ll find it listed as even a potential side effect. Most opiates don’t make people violent, more likely conk out than hurt someone. Xanax if massively overdosed might contribute to violence though. An addict in treatment would almost invariably be prescribed antidepressants as well. So if the suboxone was prescribed I’d look for anti-depressants, if it was just being used as a street drug all bets are off.

  2. Clive

    As I’m not a U.S. citizen I don’t think there’s anything substantive that I can add to the gun control discussion that isn’t already covered in the reams and reams which gets written and said in the U.S. itself. I think Yves has mentioned previously that both “sides” have pretty entrenched positions and aren’t — at present — amenable to changing their views or the views of the other “side”. It does definitely seem to me that both schools of thought are simply talking past each other with little attempt at real debate or conciliation.

    But I do have a question rattling round my mind. It’s about that attitude which women have towards men who are interested (for want of a better work) in firearms. By interested, I mean either possessing or actually using guns for whatever reason (e.g. gun sports, hunting, “self defence” or whatever).

    The reason is that there is definitely a gender profile to both individual shootings and “killing sprees”. They are of course perpetrated far more by men than women. That isn’t to say that women are any less prone to — for whatever reason — wishing to kill another person. But women, if we’re profiling criminality, tend to choose other methods if they intend murder or manslaughter such a poisoning. When it comes to gun crime, men are for more likely to be the ones pulling the trigger. And while I have a hunch that women think about harming another person just as much as men do, they are href=”” rel=”nofollow”>far less willing to act on that thought.

    In the U.K. certainly and I suspect in most European countries if a woman is interested romantically in a man and suddenly discovers they are “interested” in guns, this would pretty much automatically result in the woman classifying the man as a weirdo and possibly a dangerous one at that. Let’s just say that at the very least it would put a woman on alert about the guy she is interested and prompt her to do a lot of checking about him and raise her suspicions — and more often than not would cause her to seriously consider if the relationship was worth the risk of physical harm coming to her.

    The same cannot be true in the U.S. — simply because so many men are “interested” (in some way) in guns even it if it’s just a not overt possession of a firearm.

    So, women of America, when you’re dating a guy and you find out, as a minimum, he has a firearm, and, perhaps more interesting, actively uses a firearm on a regular basis (such as for sport, going to target practice, is a collector, a prepper or whatever reasons), what thoughts enter your heads ?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I hate to say it, but in some parts of the US, gun culture is so deeply entrenched that for a man not to have a gun would be seen as in indicator that he might be odd. For instance, in Texas, I am told most women carry guns in their purses (as in an over 60 year old friend of mine there says she is unusual among her girlfriends in not carrying a gun). This is ridiculous since even police with a holstered gun (as in on their hip, ready access) can’t draw and aim in time to shoot an assailant within 21 feet if he runs at the cop. A gun in a purse is even harder to pull out and deploy.

      Now in liberal place like NYC and San Francisco, I’d hazard a gun owning man would be viewed negatively by most women, but I hope more female readers will pipe up.

      1. Eleanor

        A long time acquaintance of mine became obsessed with guns, got a conceal-carry permit and made his living, toward the end of his life, by teaching classes in gun use and gun law. He finally decided to contest the local law by carrying a gun into a courthouse, where guns are forbidden. He had a confrontation with sheriff deputies, was arrested and charged. Before his case went to trial, he had a massive heart attack and died.

        The community he had belonged to, science fiction fandom, is pretty tolerant of oddness. But everyone I know thought he had become scary. I’ve been told another member of the community also carries a gun. I do not find him as scary as the first person, but I avoid him.

      2. tim s

        I am told most women carry guns in their purses (as in an over 60 year old friend of mine there says she is unusual among her girlfriends in not carrying a gun)

        C’mon, Yves…. As someone who demands, and justifiably so, critical thinking skills of others as firmly as you do, this is mighty weak tea. Who is this lady (rhetorical – I don’t need to know), and how large is her circle of friends? Most likely too small to represent the whole state of Texas. Please provide some data.

        I can say as a native Texan having spent most of my life here that, while I do know of a few women who carry a gun, they are definitely not representative of a majority.

        1. Clive

          I intentionally asked for anecdotal reporting — I’m not running a scientific survey here, much though I’d like to have the resources to do so. Thus far, I’ve observed some very interesting responses on this thread in general and my request in particular, the gender divide in the comments is both pronounced and informative. Not anything that I’d want to or be able to send to The British Medical Journal or anything, but quite illuminating nevertheless.

          1. ishmael

            Well I just did a search on the web and there is a huge number of purses made for carrying concealed handguns. Now I could be wrong here but generally I would say where there is a demand there is a supply. Also, as I mentioned below, I have known two women who carry guns in their purse and in both cases, I feel quite confident they will shoot you dead.

            1. Clive

              I’m intrigued by the fact that — and please don’t take this as any form of criticism, it’s all like I say interesting to me as an “outsider” looking in on this subject — that despite me asking specifically for women to give me their thoughts that there are men who are commenting here, giving opinions of what they think women think about men and guns. And women and guns.

          2. tim s

            Yves states again above that “the plural of anecdote is not data”. Anecdotes may be fine for philosophizing, and in you endeavor I wish you the best, but anecdotal evidence can be made to support any and every position on any subject, and has been repeatedly. I’m sure that Dylann Roof was full of anecdotes.

        2. Toivos

          I think you make Yves point. I have lived in California, Oregon and Washington my whole life (70 years) and I have yet to meet a woman who carries a gun. In my youth all of my relatives engaged in sports hunting — I have have only met one man who carried a gun outside of hunting. And he was someone I avoided whenever I could.

          1. tim s

            I said that I knew of a few who carried, but I can honestly say that I was stretching a bit, because I cannot point to any of those as definitely carrying, simply as hearing them say something that led me to think that they were or might be.

            I am taking exception to the stereotyping of whole regions/populations when a bold claim is made, such as “most women carry guns….”, that starts with something like “a friend told me….”.

            Without data, this type of speculation tends to gossip.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Have you actually spent time in Dallas? A couple I met each had guns and 2000 rounds of ammo in their car. They started walking with me to a restaurant and quickly walked back to lock the car, which they had forgotten to do, due to concern re the ammo. A doctor who was originally from the Northeast carries a gun. All the people I met (and I’ve met quite a few) talk about their guns and make it clear they have them and in many cases carry them, which means they at least have a genuine intent of carrying them. I’ve even run into people who were raised outside Texas but live there now and I’ve encountered a distressingly high percentage who again discuss their gun ownership with great enthusiasm.

              It’s a huge part of the culture there. This is not a stereotype.

              1. Ishmael

                Yves – I knew a CEO for a multi-billion public company who shot himself in the leg practicing his quick draw and that was in California. One time I was in an operating meeting and another CEO came in to show off his new 44 auto mag. This was in California also. My father was over gun range training in the military where you have to be very strict on gun handling. He told me multiple stories of going into combat of people shooting themselves or other people in mishandling guns. I get very nervous around people with firearms.

              2. tim s

                I spent several years in Denton, which is outside of Dallas. My sister lived in Dallas for about 10 years. I have spent over 40 years in Texas. You do have people who speak of their guns, but they are about the same as people who speak of their habits at the gym – bragging more or less.

                The only person at the company I work with who speaks with great enthusiasm about gun ownership happens to be a Canadian (who was ecstatic to be able to feel like a “real Texan”). I’m sure that there are others with a CHL license, and many more that own guns (myself included, but I have never carried). The owning culture that is common around here is different from the carrying culture. Owning a gun is not surprising, nor is it talked about that much. Many people own hunting guns – hunting being a big sport around here.

                The carrying culture, on the other hand, is a bit artificial in many people. The culture of fear has been somewhat instilled. The marketing of firearms for personal defense is something that has really ballooned in the past 10-20 years. Many people, especially, it seems, in the wealthier circles you likely run in, seem to be the most affected by this. There is also the peer pressure within cliques that can influence this, such as your anecdote about the friend in her 60’s being an outsider for not carrying. How many of them are carrying because that is what the others in their circle are doing?

                Being someone a little closer to the ground, and having run in many different circles in Texas over the years, I can tell you that it is by no means common for myself or anyone else that I know to pack heat to go out to a restaurant, to carry around boxes of ammo, etc. as if it is just something else to bring along like a wallet or phone.

                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  It takes work to go to a gym. It only takes a tiny bit of one-time money and effort to acquire a gun and ammo. I don’t see how the two are analogous.

                  Further, I’ve never met anyone who brags about going to the gym.

      3. ishmael

        Well Yves, you know what part of the country I am from. My father is retired from among other units the 82nd Airborne. Up to 12 I lived in W. Texas and when my father retired rural Oklahoma for a few years. I guess I got my first gun when I was 7 and then I got a bow when I was about 9 and this was followed by some hand guns. During this period I use to go hunting with my grandfather (he lived to be 102 and came to Oklahoma in a covered wagon). I do not carry a gun (yet) but there is a couple of drawers of them in the house as well as a couple of shot guns. Even in LA I have known a couple of CEO’s who carry handguns.

        Okay do women carry hand guns in Oklahoma in their purse. Yup. One time I had a women working for me whose husband was a Highway Patrol officer who trained fellow highway patrol officers the use of firearms. One time going to her car a man attempted to attack her and she pulled her gun and stopped him. I have no doubt this lady would have dropped him dead. The next day she told me that story and she showed me the gun in her purse. A 44 mag. All I could say that is an awful big gun for a little girl. I know of two such cases.

        In the last few years a good friend of mine’s wife got a permit to carry and she carries a gun in her purse. In fact there is a new business in Oklahoma by a lady who designs purses where you do not have to pull the gun out of it, you can just shoot through it.

        In addition, I know of at least two attempted break-ins in Oklahoma where men attempted to break in houses where women were home alone. In both cases the men attempting to break into the houses were shot dead by the women with shotguns. The chief of police went on TV and pleaded with people to not attempt break-ins. He basically said people are armed and you are going to get killed!

        Recently there was a home-grown black muslim type in Oklahoma. He lost his job and came back with a knife and decapitated one lady and would have killed more but an individual with a permit to carry shot him dead at the business and saved the state the cost to prosecute the loser. By the way, do not think this makes any inference that I fear ISIS or any such crap (but I do fear gang problems). Even after 911 I laughed at the fears of an invasion by Al-Quida. What were they going to do, ride magic carpets over here.

        Like I said, I do not carry a gun (yet), but I am a good shot having had various guns since I was 7. Nor am I a member of organizations like the NRA or etc. However, I support people’s right to carry guns and as the violence increases in this country guns will be needed even more. Also with the increasing govt over reach that is fueling people to want to have guns even more. You will never get people in places like Oklahoma, Texas, the southeast and most of the mid-west to give up their guns. My wife who is pretty liberal is even thinking she wants to have gun training.

        1. vidimi

          and as the violence increases in this country guns will be needed even more.

          i like your circular logic

          1. ishmael

            Yes, I know it is circular, but that does not stop it from occurring. If you want to drive gun sales start talking about gun control. Jeez, it got at one time you could not find an AR-15 to buy in Oklahoma or Texas when Obama came to office. Trying to find 9 mm ammunition was near impossible.

    2. paulitus

      I have been “interested” in firearms for 40+years, and like to hunt, shoot targets, plink at cans (I pickup afterwards), reload ammunition, cast bullets, etc. It has been a great hobby, and I would hate to see it fade away. The idea that women should fear some guy with a gun hobby is a bit bizarre, especially in light of the fact that the same lady would probably be okay with her boyfriend sitting on his rear all day, watching men bash each others heads in on television.

    3. jrs

      I think any woman with any sense would run the other direction if asked for a date from a cop as well.

  3. jgordon

    I had originally read this expecting it to be a crazed anti-gun rant, but came away impressed that it was actually an insightful commentary on America’s violent and self destructive culture. Definitely worthwhile!

    As far as people killing themselves with guns goes–well I’ve always been of the opinion that if someone wants to off himself, we should just let him go do it. I don’t really understand why there’s a problem with that. So as far as aggregating suicides into gun deaths, that seems pretty disingenuous to me. Now subtracting suicides, and perhaps also the number of people killed the violently psychotic police in America–the number of accidental and intentional gun deaths perpetrated by actually American citizens is quite a bit smaller.

    As was mentioned in the post, now lets compare that number to the number of accidental and intentional deaths caused by another lethal device that’s about as common as guns in our society: vehicles. It’s always seemed like the absolute height of hypocrisy to me to be against banning guns (which would be intellectually honest if the position was at least consistent) and yet be against banning personal passenger vehicles. Now I’m saying this from a position where I actually want personal passenger vehicles to be banned because I hate the godamned things. They are dangerous, annoyingly loud, and emit noxious fumes all over the place. Their impact on society is definitely much worse that the impact of guns. If some gun control nuts actually took the intellectually honest position and started crusading for a ban on guns and vehicles at the same time, I might be enticed into joining it.

    1. vidimi

      there’s a clear logical fallacy in equating guns with vehicles or even other tools that could be used for murder.

      it should be evident to all that a car’s primary purpose is one of transportation. most of the time a car is used it is used to get from point A to point B. sometimes, mishandling a car results in a death. given the frequency with which vehicles are used, it should come as no surprise that vehicle-related deaths are in the tens of thousands.

      a gun’s primary purpose, meanwhile, is killing. ok, some guns are used for hunting (i.e. killing non-humans), but a great many of those in circulation are made explicitly for killing humans. therefore, whenever a gun is used, it is always either for killing or to practice killing (e.g. gun range). equating guns with cars or even knives, whose foremost purpose is to cut food, is thus either disingenuous, stupid, or both.

      a ban on guns that are designed for murder strikes me as an eminently reasonable position. a ban on cars or knives does not.

      1. James Levy

        Personally, I’d let every adult who wanted one go down to town hall, sign up for the militia, and issue them an assault rifle for free (although semi-auto with a three round burst capability–full auto is for movies and panicked spraying, not acting like a disciplined and careful gun-owner, what the NRA tells we should all be). All pistols would be confiscated. They are not for hunting or a militia weapon. They are for shooting your estranged wife or annoying fellow employees. My proposal would force the gun-nuts and 2nd Amendment absolutists to put up or shut up–sign up for the militia and get your gun, or let us regulate the damned things the way we should have been for decades (which would be one rifle for big game and one or two shotguns for fowl, small game and home defense, and that’s it).

        1. paulitus

          The reference to “gun-nuts” pretty much says it all. You, in modern American fashion, think that anyone with a different view is crazy, thus there is no room for discussion or compromise.

          1. DJG

            Really? “Gun nuts” says it all? Or are you, in your modern American fashion, trotting out your offendedocity, the rhetorical stance that your offendedness trumps everything else? James Levy makes the legitimate point that the second amendment might only protect a licensed use of rifles and that pistols and revolvers are too dangerous for the general public, some of whom have come to fetishize their guns.

          2. James Levy

            Buddy, I am proposing that all adults should be issued with militia-appropriate firearms if they want them. I also maintain that you should be allowed appropriate hunting weapons. Gun-nuts are people who want to maintain their own arsenals for no perceivable rational reason. They are the equivalent of people who think that they should be able to drive 80 miles an hour down a suburban street or yell “fire” in a public theatre because “it’s my right.” You did what conservatives always do and then project onto liberals: you took offense without paying any attention to content or context.

        2. Praedor

          I’m not a hunter, no desire to kill any animals, but I call you on the “handguns aren’t for hunting”. Every hunter I know who has any ethics at all carries a handgun while hunting so they can put an animal out of its misery if their rifle shot doesn’t kill it straight away. Now, the PRIMARY purpose/design of handguns isn’t for that but that IS how they are used in hunting.

        3. Chmeee

          Sidearms are generally considered to be a necessary addition to any soldier’s inventory of weapons to carry. Close quarters combat is the norm now in modern warfare, most battles occurring in urban areas, sometimes room to room. A lot easier to use a handgun in those situations rather than a long gun. Proficiency with handguns is still part of the training US soldiers receive.

          1. Toivos

            The Russians perfected room to room fighting during WWII. Long guns do not work well as you point out. But the Russians did not use hand guns either — their troops were instructed to use hand grenades in those situations. Maybe you second amendment nuts should be advocating the legalization of hand grenades.

          2. James Levy

            Tell me any army where pistols are a standard issue weapons for infantrymen. And an M-16 or M-4 are NOT Long Guns (aka something like a Winchester 70). So you are being disingenuous. Officers carry them to intimidate the grunts if they are uncooperative. No infantry platoon threw away their rifles so they could storm a building with Berettas. They fire slower, have smaller magazines, and much less stopping power than an assault rifle. You may be able to fool the average liberal who knows nothing about guns or war with your line, but you’ll have to try a lot harder if you think you can win an argument with what you’ve brought to the table.

            1. Rex

              The assault rifle, getting shorter and handier all the time, can penetrate through the walls in most buildings and still be lethal, not so pistols. Pistol use in clearing building would only be in the movies.

              I had an intruder in my house once, the sheriff deputies cleared it one with an M-4. I’m glad they didn’t have grenades. The intruder had long since run off, naked, to others houses. Had cardiac arrest (high on something), but survived.

    2. McKillop

      Goodness gracious, Gordon!
      You see no problem, or claim there should be no problem, with suicide by gun, despite the possibility of depression or other mental ’cause’ that can be healed or changed through compassion.
      Police, ’tis claimed, (by you, psychotic police) participate in a violent and self-destructive mayhem that you do not figure in your comment as gun violence, accidental or intentional; you also dismiss the violence of suicide by gun and raise the issue of an “anti-gun rant” which suggests that any argument against guns would appear to be anti-gun. ‘S up with that?
      The only use of a gun is as weaponry (or cracking walnuts, perhaps)/
      Whether you dislike cars or other motorized vehicles or not, it’s quite sully to compare guns and cars as you do. What you name as the absolute height of hypocrisy – the purported dishonesty of your “anti-gun nuts”- appears to me to be silliness.

  4. Steve

    Interesting article… A personal anecdote: I live at the Jersey shore. I never owned a gun or even shot a gun for the first 58 years of my life. The 2nd day after Hurricane Sandy I had gone in the early morn to check on my business. I was on my way back home when I noticed the lights on in a Quick Check store so I stopped for a cup of coffee. Mistake… I was pushed, shoved and the store disheveled by the “patrons” (animals!!!!!) who were grabbing whatever they could grab without regard for anything or person..It scared the crap out of me I am not a small man and in good shape but I kept thinking what would it be like on day 5 or day 10….. I had no way to defend myself, my family or property against a disorderly mob.
    A few months later I signed myself and ALL the members of my family up for lessons at a local range.
    We are now all trained and armed.

      1. Chmeee

        No more than you can comfortably carry and still be able to carry sufficient food and personal items as far away from the mayhem as you possibly can. On foot; gasoline was in widespread scarcity in the affected areas in NJ. I personally had to carry fuel cans to my father-in-law to make sure he had enough to run his generator.

  5. Demeter

    My best chance for survival, and even flourishing, is an apocalyptic OK Corral shootout amongst all the crazies with guns, leaving the sane and sober to recreate a nation with a little less paranoia and criminality.

  6. equote

    “Crime often expresses a grievance. This implies that many crimes belong to the same family as gossip, ridicule, vengeance, punishment, and law itself.” writes, Donald Black, a sociologist, in “Crime as Social Control,” 2: 20.

  7. Dan Lynch

    Re: keeping count of men who kill their wives. Why not keep count of women who kill their husbands? Domestic violence is a two way street, and Tom shows his gender bigotry.

    Re: suicide by gun. Why should we oppose the right of individuals to commit suicide? And BTW, our suicide rate is far lower than in Japan and Korea, even though it is next to impossible to own a gun in those countries.

    Re: the milita. According to federal law, ever able bodied man up to age 45 is already a member of the unorganized militia, whether he knows it or not. I suggest that we update the statute to include women.

    But back to the OT — yes we have a violent culture, IMHO rooted in genocide and slavery. But let me throw out some questions to make you think.

    Why does NOLA have a murder rate of 53 per 100,000 while Austin is only 3.7 and Boise is only 0.5 ? All three are middling-size cities in red states having a pro-gun culture, so why the vast disparity?

    If gun ownership is to blame for crime, and if the gun ownership rate for whites is double the rate for blacks, then why is the murder rate for blacks 5 times the murder rate for whites? (and contrary to the impression you get from the headlines, about 80% of murders are intra-racial).

    Why did the murder rate plummet after alcohol prohibition was repealed? What do you suppose would happen to the murder rate if we decriminalized drugs?

    Anyone who likes to blame guns for our violent culture — which seems to include Yves and Lambert — needs to be able to answer those questions.

    I live in armed-to-the-teeth Idaho, which has a murder rate similar to Canada and Europe. From Idaho’s point of view, we don’t understand what all the fuss is about? From Idaho’s point of view, clearly the high murder rate in places like NOLA is rooted in the violent culture of slavery (which culturally affected both blacks and whites), in the black market for drugs, and in the high youth unemployment rate.

    I don’t how to reverse the cultural problems of slavery but certainly we could decriminalize drugs and create a modern day CCC for unemployed young people ?

    1. Kurt Sperry

      The massive discrepancies in gun violence stats between cities with similar firearm ownership rates should give pause to those who think that gun violence is merely a function of there being a lot of firearms present in a community. Yes the firearms are obviously a necessary precondition, but it’s also obvious there’s a lot more to it than that. Firearms are commonplace in Tuscany where hunting wild game is a passion–it can sound almost like a war zone in places there during pheasant season–yet nobody as far as I can tell is too worried there about gun violence as a threat.

      Add firearms however to a poorly ordered and highly unequal society and it gets ugly fast.

    2. tim s

      I second most of what Dan said. The root of the high number of gun deaths lies much deeper than guns themselves.

      Similarly, the roots of drug addiction do not actually lie with drugs themselves. We are getting to a point culturally where this is understood, and we can deal with the drug issue then effectively, I hope. The violence in our society? Well, we’re still shooting in the dark (no pun intended) by blaming the guns themselves. How many of these people who kill with guns are miserable and on the point of mental/economic/etc breakdown? Are they like this in no small part because of the many factors chronicled in this blog daily? I’d say yes.

      We are a sick society on many levels (some sub-segments worse off than others), with a predatory culture that pervades everything from our business to our entertainment environments and everything in between. How the broken minds/souls kill each other in
      such an environment to me is irrelevant, since they will do it one way or another.

      By misplacing the focus of attention, one is likely to do more harm than good.

    3. reslez

      > Why not keep count of women who kill their husbands?

      We do. Relevance?

      > gender bigotry blah blah

      You might try another site if this is your preferred way of backing up an argument.

      “While men are more likely to be homicide victims, women are over 3 and a half times more likely to be killed by an intimate partner compared to men.” (source)

      “Although women comprise more than half the U.S. population, they committed only 14.7% of the homicides noted during the study interval.” (source)

  8. cnchal

    Practice makes perfect.

    Not mentioned are all the virtual bloodbaths available from those capitalist video game makers.
    Many before breakfast even.

  9. Alien Lizard Overlords

    On March 13th, the expert panel of the ICCPR treaty body is required to report on four (the maximum number) grave US emergencies that are long-pending and not addressed, threaten life or security, or impede implementation of the treaty. “In accordance with rule 71, paragraph 5, of the Committee’s rules of procedure, the State party should provide, within one year, relevant information on its implementation of
    the Committee’s recommendations made in paragraphs 5, 10, 21 and 22 above.”

    No. 10 happens to be Gun violence: “While acknowledging the measures taken to reduce gun violence, the Committee remains concerned about the continuing high numbers of gun-related deaths and injuries and the disparate impact of gun violence on minorities, women and children. While commending the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ investigation of the discriminatory effect of “Stand Your Ground Laws”, the Committee is concerned about the proliferation of such laws that are used to circumvent the limits of legitimate self-defence in violation of the State party’s duty to protect life (arts. 2, 6, and 26). The State Party should take all necessary measures to abide by its obligation to effectively protect the right to life. In particular, it should: (a) continue its efforts to effectively curb gun violence, including through the continued pursuit of legislation requiring background checks for all private firearm transfers in order to prevent possession of arms by persons recognized as prohibited individuals under federal law and strict enforcement of the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban legislation of 1996 (the “Lautenberg Amendment”); and (b) review Stand Your Ground Laws to remove far-reaching immunity and ensure strict adherence to the principles of necessity and proportionality when using deadly force in self-defence.”

    At the treaty body plenary in front of all other treaty parties, the government’s response to the problem gets a letter grade from A to E in a sort of No Banana Republic Left Behind.

    N.B. excessive use of force by law enforcement officials is a separate issue: “The State Party should (a) step up its efforts to prevent the excessive use of force by law enforcement officers by ensuring compliance with the 1990 UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officers; (b) ensure that the new CBP directive on use of deadly force is applied and enforced in practice; and (c) improve reporting of excessive use of force violations and ensure that reported cases of excessive use of force are effectively investigated, alleged perpetrators are prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with appropriate sanctions, that investigations are re-opened when new evidence becomes available, and that victims or their families are provided with adequate compensation.”

    Interestingly, even the New World Order is not trying to ban guns. They’re pushing a much more subversive agenda, the culture of peace. That would end life in the US of A as we know it.

  10. Praedor

    I’m a gun owner. No I’m not a “gun nut”, just a veteran who is also a country boy comfortable with firearms and who enjoys shooting at targets for recreation. I don’t kill anything, no interest at all in hunting. The idea of a loaded gun sitting in my nightstand or dresser or on a shelf in my closet makes me nervous but having loaded gun sitting around with a round actually chambered…that almost makes me queasy. THAT is a guaranteed accident (accidental discharge) waiting to happen. It is literally only a matter of time before that accidental slight pressure on the trigger fires a round. If there are kids around it is a near certainty that at some point that gun will be discovered and a round accidently fired (every single toddler case mentioned happened that way – a toddler is HIGHLY unlikely to be physically capable of racking a semiautomatic pistol slide to load a bullet into the chamber, hell, my wife can barely charge the rack on my pistol because it takes such a solid effort. No, these toddlers found a gun already charged with a bullet in the chamber whereupon the pressure on the trigger needed to fire the weapon is VERY slight. WHY WERE THESE PEOPLE PACKING AND WHY ALREADY LOADED AND READY TO FIRE? Are boogie men popping up left and right in their lives so they absolutely MUST have a gun right there ready to go? And don’t get me started on “open carry”, the most asinine thing I believe I’ve ever seen.

    I’ve been background checked for each of my weapons and had no problem going through that. I have no children here but when a niece or nephew of house sitter stays here with her kid my weapons are locked up and hidden away and there are no bullets to be had.

    On a final note here, I reserve the right to use one of my weapons to off myself if I am ever about to be consumed by Alzheimer’s, informed I have terminal cancer and before I fall into endless pain and suffering associated with it (I watched my father die of terminal lung cancer and even with the strongest possible pain meds, was in nonstop agony for a week before dying). I’ll be damned before I do that to myself or allow anyone else, due to their personal religious or ethical beliefs, impose that on me. If I can’t access assisted suicide them I will shoot myself instead. Period.

    1. thoughtful person

      Praedor is exemplary of the behavior one would hope gun owners would follow. If Bowling for Columbine is correct, there are more guns owned per capita in Canada than the US. However, far less gun deaths per capita. Why? Because Canadian gun owners are required by law to behave like Praedor describes. Lock guns up when not in use, etc. Lots of basic safety steps (more described by Praedor above) are required by law, unlike here in the USA. It is strange the National Rifle manufacturers Association is so adamant against any restrictions on gun use – even when implementing them would lead to more gun sales – since fewer of the gun inclined in the population would get killed by accident!

  11. RUKidding

    I have relatives who own hunting guns, and who hunt mainly deer regularly. They follow the regs, also use the deer for meat, and are careful hunters. I really don’t have any issues with that.

    Gun fetishizing has become at least a multi-million (billion?) dollar industry, and one that lines the pockets of the crooks and liars in the District of Criminals. No one, absolutely no one, in the District of Criminals is remotely interested in truly, for real, touching the issue of gun violence in this nation. More useless eaters mass-murdered the other day? Oh well. Too bad, so sad, get used to it.

    There was some slight palaver in the nooz about how this recent mass murder by a young, perhaps mentally unstable, but apparently very racist, white man was not termed “terrorist attack”… because he is white and I suppose at least sort of considered a “Christian.” If he had been a Muslim?? Well of course it would have been labeled “terrorist” and somehow, some connection, no matter how tenuous or dubious (or made up), would have been made to ISIS or whatever.

    It’s all really bogus. If you’re white and a Nazi, why then: go right ahead and kill with abandon. We won’t label you a terrorist. Nor will be we do much to really “police” such people (other than, sometimes by the Southern Poverty Law Center, who is then dissed and slurred for doing so) or check on what they’re doing, etc. Nay, verily, the purpose of the Feds is to allegedly “protect” us from all of these ravening, but foreign & dark-skinned, alleged HOARDES just itching to come here and commence the pillage, plunder and rapine.

    Otherwise, as is the usual libertarian-y bs/hype/spin: you are supposed to be On. Your. Own. and take care of yourself…. so go buy lotsa gunz ‘n ammo before O’Bama takes them away from you. Lock ‘n load you heathens.

  12. Chmeee

    A long list of misdeeds by people who have used firearms doesn’t necessarily make for the case of reducing firearm ownership. Granted, the murder rate in the US is significantly higher than in most other countries and firearms are involved in 67% of all murders. But could it possibly also be attributed by the violent nature of the US culture and, in the case of those involved in mass shootings, because some people are simply bat-sheet crazy?

    In the cases of toddlers get hold of their parents firearms and killing themselves and others, perhaps there’s a certain lack of personal responsibility involved. I keep mine locked in a safe, and I’m the only one who knows the combination (gonna be a small problem if I were to die and they need to open it, but oh well.)

    On a positive note, the murder rate, and the rate for all violent crimes has been falling steadily over the past 20 years. It’s now down to nearly 1/2 of what it was in 2000 (yet firearms ownership and the number of States instituting right-to-carry laws has increased dramatically during the same period. I’m not sure if there’s any correlation there, just interesting to note). One correlation that might actually have a legitimate causation is the phase-out of leaded gasoline, lead being known as a heavy metal that does cause increased aggression in people who have been exposed to high levels of it, most particularly in urban areas that have high concentrations of motor vehicle exhaust.

    1. two beers

      I like your idea that we need to emphasize personal responsibility.

      I think we should do away with drivers’ tests, drivers’ licenses, and car registration, and emphasize personal responsibility with potentially lethal motor vehicles (especially 16 wheelers). The issue isn’t that unqualified, incompetent, or incapable people might drive a big rig into a crowded theater because they are blind, psychotic, or confused, and need to be screened as is currently the case. The issue is that all drivers need to show personal responsibility so that we can get the government off our backs.

  13. GlennF

    It seems most missed the main point of the post: Why are we spending a trillion dollars a year defending ourselves from 3 “terrorists” attacks by Muslims, most likely instigated by the FBI, while we are spending virtually zero dollars on prevention of 30,000+ murders a year?

    1. ishmael

      It is a sad thing about suicides. If you stop them from using one method they will just use something else. A close friend of mine OD’d on poison and was rushed to the hospital. They saved her. A few weeks later she shot herself in the head.

      1. McKillop

        As I understand it, assisted suicide is available in many ountries. Even Canada has had a Supreme Court ruling that enables people to end their lives with dinity.
        It may be preferred to shoot oneself but the idea of blood and bits of human being spattered about bother me. Hanging is also repulsive to me.

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