The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Why Is There so Much Gun Violence in the US?

Alright, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. The simple fact is that, compared to other developed countries, the US has a lot of gun violence.

One can wave ones hands and say “well, cars kill more people”, or point out that statistically you’re damn unlikely to die in a mass shooting (just like you aren’t going to die from terrorism), yet, relatively speaking, the US has more mass shootings and school shootings than any other developed nation.

It is important to understand the scale, however. This chart from the Intercept is useful:

Screen-Shot-2018-02-27-at-1.30.01-PM-1519756226 James Alan Fox and Emma E. Fridel, “The Three R’s of School Shootings: Risk, Readiness, and Response,” in H. Shapiro, ed., “The Wiley Handbook on Violence in Education: Forms, Factors, and Preventions,” New York: Wiley/Blackwell Publishers, June 2018.

Alright, so first off, it is INSANE to arm teachers. School shootings, while a problem, are relatively rare, but what we do know is that when people have guns they are more likely to use them. If we were to, say arm five teachers per school, at approximately 128,000 schools in America, we’d have 640,000 teachers with guns. This to stop an average of ten deaths a year from school shootings.

How many of those five teachers with guns would use them? Use them on themselves, their students, their families or other people? I guarantee, absolutely, that it will be more than ten people a year. Far, far more.

“Hardening” schools is deranged. Having cops and guns and so on in schools is a pathetic admission of social pathology that is off the scale and it’s bad for students. Schools should not be prisons: well, not any more than they already are by design, keeping young kids cooped up and sitting down when they’d rather be doing something else (and probably should be, but that’s another article).

All right, so much for that argument. let’s move back to our original question. Why is the US a pathologically fucked up mess? Most adult Swiss males have assault rifles, they do not go on killing sprees like Americans do (they do kill themselves a lot, though). Nor do the Swiss have nearly as high gun homicide rates.

Of course, those Swiss have those guns locked up and understand they are to be used for their military duties only.

A comparison of international rates finds that the US has about three times more gun deaths per capita than the next highest nation—Finland, with Austria close behind. But the Fins and Austrians are three times more likely to blow their own brains out, rather than someone else’s, while Americans kill with guns almost as much as they commit suicide with guns.

The summary of a WHO study is worth reading.

Even though it has half the population of the other 22 nations combined, the United States accounted for 82 percent of all gun deaths. The United States also accounted for 90 percent of all women killed by guns, the study found. Ninety-one percent of children under 14 who died by gun violence were in the United States. And 92 percent of young people between ages 15 and 24 killed by guns were in the United States, the study found.


So, there are two factors here. Social pathology and deadliness. China (not on the above list) has strict gun controls and a lot of violent people. It doesn’t have a lot of gun deaths, instead it has mass killing sprees with knives.

But when you look at those sprees what you find is that they’re less deadly, because while knives are dangerous (very hard to defend against), it’s also hard to kill a lot of people with them.

So the idea that having less guns available would make attacks less deadly passes the sniff test. Of course it would. Remember the Las Vegas shooting? One asshole in a hotel room shooting into a concert crowd?

I have little time for those who say that if deadly automatic weapons with large clips were hard to get there would be less gun deaths from shootings. It is also true that wounds from assault rifles are far worse than wounds from handguns, by the way.

One may wish to argue that there is social utility to people having guns that is worth the deaths. We think the convenience of getting around in cars is worth car deaths. But one has to make that argument. If the social utility is “can fight the government”, well, that’s an argument that isn’t clearly the case. (See this long article for the full “will guns let Americans defeat their government?” argument. ) But, perhaps most tellingly, Americans have been in a long slide to loss of their rights and having guns hasn’t stopped that slide.

One might also argue that owning military guns is an intrinsic good. Owning them and knowing how to use them has social utility in some fashion.

But, again, the more guns, and the more guns whose purpose is to kill large numbers of people quickly, the more gun deaths are possible. And whatever level of social pathology you have in a society which makes people want to be violent, guns will make that violence more deadly.

So let’s talk social pathology. First off, it isn’t intrinsically “multicultural society” because Canada is multicultural and has a lot less gun deaths and murders than the US. I live in Toronto, which is more multicultural than any major American city, and has a lot less gun deaths than many US cities.

It may be that Americans are just a bunch of violent assholes and always have been. The country was won with genocide, and founded in slavery (no, don’t even) and that’s just who Americans are, and they’ve never gotten over it.

I… suppose? Culture is a thing, violence does get handed down from father to son, and from perpetrator to victim, who then goes on to victimize. Beat your kid, and your kid is quite likely to be violent to other people. This is robust in the scientific literature.

But parenting has changed, and parents are less violent to their children than in the past. They’re controlling assholes who give their children no freedom these days, of course, but they generally don’t hit them.

The thing is, the evidence supports this:

Gun violence, in fact, is declining. It rose with the boomer cohort, both because young people commit more crime, and because American society went off the rails starting in the late 60s, but it’s declined since a peak in the early 90s, despite Millenials, a large generation, coming on line.

America is less violent. The 90s was, in fact, the peak, and this is true of school shootings as well.

So, no problem, right?

Wrong. Here’s the mass shooting data.

Well—that doesn’t look so good. Americans are killing less retail, and killing more wholesale. Of course, we’re talking a few people, very few, but the far end of the curve has been pushed into mass homicide territory, and it looks bad.

So, how about something simple.

Around the late 60s America’s economy starts to go to shit. Yes, I know this is my go-to argument for a lot of America’s problems, but that’s because, well, it’s true. ’68 is where working white class wages peak. The 70s see social struggle, especially around African American liberation, and a lot of violence (including bombings).

And in 1980, Reagan is elected and he and his movement does this—


Here’s a simple thing well known to criminologists. You put people in prison, they tend to come out nastier than they went in. You criminalize victimless crimes (like drugs) and a lot of people who would never be violent, become violent because they are forced to become criminals to engage in behaviour the state doesn’t want, but which isn’t innately harmful to anyone but themselves.

So, we have a criminalizing trend, an economy which is getting shittier, and a change in parenting from violent to non-violent.

And the kids raised by violent parents (yes, that is the GI generation, don’t say otherwise) are violent when under economic pressure or when stuff they think is their right, and which was legal when they were young, is made illegal.

But as the children become adults who were not raised violently, retail violence decreases despite social pathology.

This is probably aided by the widespread use of legal mood altering drugs, often from childhood, of anyone who shows any spirit or unwillingness to sit like a tranquilized animal in a classroom while a teacher drones on, or in an office, doing meaningless work for an asshole boss for a shitty wage.

Unhappy with your life because your life is, actually, shit? No, no, no. The best way to solve that isn’t to change your life, or society, it is to drug you.

So, kids who weren’t treated violently become adults, and they are, in large numbers, drugged to the gills.

Is this “the cause?” Who knows. But it’s a narrative that fits a lot of the facts and a narrative that doesn’t explain the mass shootings…

Homicide rate drops, mass shootings increase. And very much an American thing, though other nations dip their toe into the pool on occasion.


Well, perhaps part of it is that the US continues to get worse and worse off. You see this in the opiate epidemic, which I consider to be clearly caused by economic despair moving from blacks to working, lower and lower middle class whites. (The economy dropped off a cliff for blacks in the 80s.)

It isn’t, of course, that the poors always do the deed, it is that everyone is aware that their economic situation is precarious. Lose their job and get blackballed or wind up sick with more than their insurance will cover (easy even with good insurance) and that middle-class American lifestyle is gone. And for more and more people it has just slid away. A hundred thousand here, a million there, a financial crisis over there, and hey, you’re on the street.

Even if it hasn’t happened to you, the knowledge that it can is always there. Economic life in America is a game of musical chairs, with some chairs having spikes on them, and there are not enough chairs period. And if you don’t have a chair to sit in when the music stops, well, your life is endless misery—well, until your life ends.

And the guns are there. And people are angry. And the far-end of the bell curve moves over and over and over and it lands on just a few people. But they have access to military weapons and the knowledge is out there of how to train and prepare in order to do maximum damage. There is a “gun culture,” the internet, and easy access to everything they need.

And—BOOM, a few of them go off.

Solutions? Well, again, they come in two flavors. End the pathology and/or make it harder to be really lethal. So, less access to the most lethal weapons, or stop treating people like shit.

People who are happy, have people they love and are optimistic about their future, outside of war, do not go on mass killing sprees. Does not happen. Provide a society where people know that one slip up or bad bounce doesn’t mean social, economic, and possibly literal death; a society where people are happy, and optimistic, and don’t have to put up with bad bosses because they don’t need to keep a specific job, because they can always support themselves, and there’ll be a lot less mass shootings, suicides, and drug addicts.

Lot nicer society to live in, too. Might have to give up having as many billionaires, though. I’m sure there are a few people who will miss them, but really, having to kneel or bend over for billionaires to make a good living gets old fast and they aren’t needed for a good economy. The 50 and 60s had far fewer really rich people and were a lot better.

Final word. I had my first gun when I was 12. I grew up with hunters. I’m not “anti-gun.” But no one I knew ever felt the need to own an assault rifle. Most didn’t even own any handguns: hunting rifles and shotguns. Rural people need guns. They don’t need guns designed to kill people, unless the society is pathological. And if it is, perhaps you should make it less pathological?

It isn’t, actually, that complicated to do so. Your great-great grandparents and great-grandparents did it during the Great Depression and World War II. If they can, you (we) should be able to.

Perhaps get on that, rather than arguing about whether or not a teacher with a gun, barricaded in a classroom, can hold off a shooter. Because when it gets to that debate, your society is in the shitter.

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Modern Violence, Resistance, and the Calculus of Revolution


The Paradox of Brexit


  1. The Stephen Miller Band


  2. Adam Eran

    From Shankar Vedantam’s “The Hidden Brain”:

    [Re gun laws – after a discussion which revealed that people’s unconscious bias is
    that guns protect them, even though the facts say otherwise. For example, when
    Washington D.C. banned handguns, the suicide rate fell 23%… so the feeling of
    safety is belied by fact]

    People feel safer barreling down a highway at seventy miles an hour-without seat belts-than they do sitting in a passenger plane going through turbulence. The fact that we are in control of the car gives us the illusion of safety, even though all the empirical evidence shows we are safer in the plane.

    Suicide rates in states with high levels of gun ownership are much higher than in states that have low levels of gun ownership. Alabama, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, and New Mexico have twice the rate of suicide of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, Hawaii, and New York. The United States as a whole has a very high suicide rate compared to other industrialized countries. Researchers working for the federal government once examined the suicide rate among children in the United States and twenty-five other industrialized countries over a single year. The suicide rate among American children was more than twice the average suicide rate among children in the other twenty-five countries. The homicide rate among children in the United States was five times higher. Guns were responsible for much of this. If you measured only gun-related homicide and suicide, American children were eleven times more I likely than children in the other twenty-five countries to commit suicide by shooting themselves, were nine times more likely to be killed in accidental shootings, and were sixteen times more likely to be murdered. There were 1107 children shot to death in all the countries; 957 of these victims-86 percent-were children in the United States.

    The researchers Arthur Kellermann and Donald Reay once examined all gun-related deaths over a lengthy period of time in King County in the state of Washington. They were trying to find evidence for the common intuition that gun owners are safer because they can protect themselves and their families should someone break into their homes. Kellermann and Reay identified nine deaths during the period of the study where people shot and killed an intruder. These are the stories that gun advocates endlessly relate to one another. In the same period, guns in people’s homes were implicated in twelve accidental deaths and forty-one homicides–usually family members shooting, one another. The number of suicides?

    Three hundred and thirty-three.

  3. S Brennan

    I’d toss this in to give some greater historical perspective than just the “baby boom” years:

  4. Webstir

    Nice work on the prison correlation. Yes, the rate at which we incarcerate non-violent crime in the U.S. is, in a word, pathological.

    I think too, what I like to call the Michael Bay effect, is also a contributing factor in our national pathology. Which again, is connected to getting the most buck for the bang. We figured out early on in the evolution of media in this country that death sells better than Dorothy and Toto. The more violent, the more lucrative.

    My Mom, a early boomer, waxed all nostalgic the other day about how kids used to bring guns to school to work on them in shop class, and everyone had rifles in the gun racks of their trucks, and bullies were everywhere. But, nobody ever shot anyone else!

    What’s changed? Well, definitely everything you mentioned Ian. However, the three television stations that they used to have aired shows like Andy Griffith and the Beaver. Today, the corporate media bathes us in a sea of violence for profit every, damn, day. There is no escaping it unless you murder your television.

  5. rangoon78

    Murder rate may be a good metric for cross comparison; but, tts a faulty barometer of gun violence. There were 70 more shooting incidents in New Orleans in 2014 than in 2013, but less than 32 percent of shootings in 2014 led to a fatality, compared with 36 percent in 2013. So New Orleans experienced a slight drop in the murder count last year, largely because the fatal shooting ratio fell.

  6. Dan Lynch

    I like Ian’s observation that America may be violent because it has so many ex-cons.
    To pick some nits. I apologize that this will be long, but I’ve been studying this subject for years:
    — Ian does not seem to be aware that Americans still beat the shit out of their kids, especially in the South, and especially people of color. Even American parents who do not beat their kids still rely heavily on a “carrot and stick” system to control their children’s behavior, in contrast to Japan where the emphasis is on teaching kids how their behavior impacts others — in other words, teaching empathy rather than teaching obedience.
    — The Stanford data that Ian presents uses different criteria than other sources. That does not mean it is righter or wronger than other sources, just that it’s different and may result in different conclusions. Some sources only count 4 or more fatalities, but Stanford counts 3 or more wounded. Most sources exclude domestic homicides, but the Standford website makes no mention of excluding domestics.
    — since Ian wants to include domestic homicides, let’s talk about that. 50 years ago, if you weren’t getting along with your spouse, you might yell, you might slap, you might be miserable, you might have an affair, and so forth, but divorce was rare. Today divorce is common and for the man divorce usually means not only losing his spouse, but also losing his home, losing his kids, and being saddled with punitive child support payments. That’s a pretty big deal and it’s not surprising that it sometimes leads to “going postal.”
    — a common flaw (as I see it) with most sources is they don’t normalize the mass shooting data for population. The standard way of reporting just about any other crime statistic is incidents per 100,000 population. What would the Standford data look like if it were normalized for population?
    — to his credit Ian does point out that “Around the late 60s America’s economy starts to go to shit.” All true, but I would be more specific and say “Aroundthe late 60’s America’s gini coefficient started to rise.” Homicides correlate strongly to inequality, not to poverty or unemployment.
    — Ian’s “Violence in America” chart only goes back to 1960, but you really need to look at a homicide chart that goes back to the Roaring 20’s, when booze was outlawed and homicides soared due to bootlegging-related crimes. When prohibition ended, homicides fell dramatically even though by then we were in the Great Depression and the economy “was shit,” as Ian might put it. Fast forward to Nixon’s war on drugs and once again homicides soar, this time due to drug dealer related crime. Gee, what do you suppose would happen to shooting incidents if we decriminalized drugs?
    — the gun issue has been beaten to death and I mostly agree with Ian’s views so I will only add this — America’s first mass shooting, the 1903 Winfield Massacre that killed 9, used a double barreled shotgun with buckshot. Then the 1966 Texas Tower massacre that killed 14 used a bolt action deer rifle and a shotgun. Point being, if Democrats take away not only all the semi-autos but also the pumps and lever actions and all we’re left with is double barreled shotguns and bolt action rifles, the mass shooting will continue and the number of fatalities may not drop one iota. By the same token, though, a citizen militia armed only with shotguns and deer rifles is still well armed.
    I could say more but that covers the basics. If you want to reduce American homicides then reduce inequality, decriminalize drugs, and stop beating kids. Short of a total gun prohibition, gun laws probably wont make much difference. If you want to reduce domestic violence then make conflict resolution a required high school course and treat divorced men decently, with 50/50 custody and neither parent paying child support.

  7. Dan

    This is the most jumbled collection of fragmentary I’ve seen pretending to be a coherent argument.

    The increasing casualties and frequency of mass shootings have to do with the refinement and accessibility of the weapons along with the proliferation of the narrative — copycats trying to post a new high score. That’s the teen white males who shoot their classmates. If they were parented non-violently and fed antidepressants That should’t be surprising.

    The people doing mass shootings outside schools are angry white adult males — blame the economic contraction, lack of (mental) health care, opioids, and reaction to perception of it no longer being their ball game.

    The people doing the daily urban shootings targeting one or just a few people are the ones tied to the prison industrial complex.

    The current trend of blaming “male fragility” for “toxic masculinity” and violence is a pretty good one.

  8. Webstir

    According to a 2013 paper by Michael Siegel of Boston University and others published in the American Journal of Public Health, after controlling for other factors, a one-percentage-point rise in a state’s level of gun ownership between 1981 and 2010 was associated with the murder rate from guns increasing by 0.9%.

    Combined with the cornucopia of pathologies bred in the U.S. that Ian ably identified …

    = Staggering gun violence.

  9. Peter

    I transposed the ‘violence in america’ graph over the ‘incarcerated Americans graph and there is a direct inverse relation between more criminals in jail and lower crime especially murder. This happened during the exact time span when tens of thousands on new Cops began work often in the highest crime areas.

    The change in the slope of the violence graph at about 2000 could be the angry violent cons getting out of prison but the trend is still down.

  10. someofparts

    “All true, but I would be more specific and say “Around the late 60’s America’s gini coefficient started to rise.” Homicides correlate strongly to inequality, not to poverty or unemployment”

  11. jeremy

    All very true.

    And in addition, Americans who enter military service are now being systematically and scientifically trained to pull the trigger. Humans have a built in psychological “safety catch” that makes it very hard for people to shoot other people.

    This is well documented in the brilliant book “On Killing”

    During the 1st World War it was observed than soldiers in the trenches would shoot over the heads of the enemy rather than actually shoot them. By the time the Vietnam War arrived army training techniques had been developed that would remove this psychological safety catch. And, more recently, we’re well aware of the delight that US troops have taken in massacring civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan etc. etc.

    And do we need to discuss the extreme violence of shoot-em-up video games (often developed in conjunction with the military) that are today played incessantly by huge swathes of America’s youth.

    The country is now full of ex-military trained trigger happy lunatics. Bring on the SSRI’s – they help too!

  12. Ché Pasa

    It’s pretty obvious that our representatives in congress and legislatures across the land are reluctant to do anything to interfere with the status quo of periodic mass murder by and among the unwashed — apart from some cosmetic adjustments (if that) around the margins and making more weapons more easily available to more people on the theory that killers gonna kill, so why not?

    Periodic mass murder — like periodic police murders of unfortunate black, brown and mentally ill or disabled victims — seems to serve an important function for the Overclass. It’s not so much about the absolute numbers of incidents, it is that they occur semi-regularly and involve enough of particular kinds of victims to inspire fear and dread — and ultimately helplessness — in the survivors.

    You’ll note that the Overclass is never subjected to the kinds of incidents that are routine (though still rare) among the Lesser Orders. Lesser Orders which include legislators…

    Two sitting congressmembers have been shot and wounded in mass murder incidents (Gabby Giffords and Scott Scalise). Giffords advocates for strong gun safety legislation none of which has been enacted. In fact, a case could be made that just the opposite has been done, as time after time, legislatures have passed measures making access to weapons easier for more people.

    On the other hand, Scalise insists that further restrictions on weapons access violate deep-seated American values and he won’t support them.

    Public opinion — so far as it can be sussed out — generally favors the Giffords approach to the problem rather than Scalise’s, but apparently public opinion doesn’t matter, not so long as those supporting the status quo can continue in office by any means necessary.

    This is why the uprising of the youth against the status quo of gun violence could be interesting. They are directly targeting those committed to preserving the status quo, and they are not only taking it to the streets, they are taking it to voting booths and loudly encouraging others to do likewise. Personally, I think they’re in for a disappointment, but the realization of how determined the Overclass is to preserve, protect and defend the periodic, fear-inducing slaughters should be illuminating.

    We’ll see.

  13. highrpm


  14. Very much on point, I think, but perhaps missing one important element. Add a government which is utterly unresponsive to popular needs and causes, going back to a Democratic takeover of Congress based on stopping the war in Iraq and permitting instead the “surge” which expanded that war. Congress which is hated and distrusted by 85% of the voting public, but which has so rigged the electoral process that 85% of the members of that despised body who seek reelection are successful. But “Russia meddled in our election” when the elite’s choice for president is not handed her rightful crown. Powerlessness breeds anger.

  15. realitychecker

    @ Ian

    You conclude:

    Perhaps get on that, rather than arguing about whether or not a teacher with a gun, barricaded in a classroom, can hold off a shooter. Because when it gets to that debate, your society is in the shitter.

    In fairness, that idea was offered as something that could actually be on the menu right now.

    Also, we are in the shitter.

    When it can be credibly shown that there is no more significant occurrences of violence, then I am very happy to give up my ability to protect myself. When do you suppose that data will be available, realistically?

    I am not commenting on many other points because, as I said yesterday, I am done putting energy into this issue. Just wanted to clarify the record re the quoted language. 🙂

  16. tony

    SSRIs. Pretty much every mass shooter is on them, and you find plenty of research showing them increasing aggression and making animals careless.

    They become aggressive and don’t care about the consequences of their actions. Anecdotally the same happens with humans.

  17. nihil obstet

    U.S. society more than any other seems to promote the feelings of inadequacy and helplessness that frequently result in violence. We all need to feel a certain level of worth and power over our lives. As Ian points out, the economy of the last 40 years has removed the ability of many to control their own lives. I’d add American ideology.

    As an individual (we say), you can do whatever you set out to do with sufficient work and perseverance. Competition is good. This means the winners deserve their good lives and the losers should have worked harder and smarter. The dominant propaganda has denigrated the institutions and associations that provided social bonds to offset the psychological blows of not being one of the few winners. Schools? Not for the common good anymore, but for the advancement of the individual students. Students compete. Workplace? Unions take away your freedom, your right to work. Workers compete. Medical care? Your health is your personal responsibility. Why should I pay for someone with bad health habits and some conditions that I don’t have? Not for the common good, but for me to get more benefits at lower cost than any of you. As consumers, we compete.

    It’s all about competition, winners, losers, personal responsibility. Solidarity represents giving things to those who don’t deserve them. Caring, co-operation are simply commodities that we expect our servants to give us — the teachers, nurses, food-workers — it’s an outrage if they expect us to pay them more than servants should get.

    How can you get the necessary feelings of worth, when you don’t have any power? Well, there’s one thing that always produces a response — violence. If you’re not respecting me, I’ll get your attention without your disdain by hurting you. And I will use the technology that gives me power to hurt you hard and to hurt a lot of you. (Alternatively, I’ll use it to hurt myself, to end the helplessness forever)

    I don’t think any other country has the level of toxic and exclusive emphasis on individual competition as the virtual definition of freedom that we have. I think it’s that underlying American ideology that turns the economic hardships into individual violence rather than political activism.

  18. S Brennan

    From my FBook 4 years ago:

    I know my anti-gun friends will take deep offense at this story of woman’s determined, brave and skillful use of a small bore handgun in defense of her life. So in order to protect younger or more sensitive readers..I’ve put her story in comments [paragraph] below;

    “While out hiking in Alberta Canada with my boyfriend we were surprised by a huge grizzly bear charging at us from out of no where. That she-bear must have been protecting her cubs because she charged us without warning. If I had not had my little Beretta Jetfire with me I would not be here today! Thank goodness I had that .25 caliber pistol because…

    …just one shot to my boyfriend’s knee cap was all it took…….the bear got him and I was able to escape by just walking away at a brisk pace. It’s one of the best pistols in my collection.”

  19. Hugh

    The cult of gun worship and gun violence in the United States are weapons of class war. They are not problems, or bugs, but features.

    Part of this is that the NRA is a gun industry trade group masquerading as a gun rights group.

    Part of this is the complete bastardization of the 2nd Amendment.

    Part is social disintegration due to great economic inequality and the lethal idea that personal rights outweigh social responsibility, –and costs.

  20. marku52

    Ian, I am not parsing this sentence as coherent with your argument:
    “I have little time for those who say that if deadly automatic weapons with large clips were hard to get there would be less gun deaths from shootings. ”
    Followed by pointing out that wounds from military weapons are worse than pistol wounds.

  21. ponderer

    Well said Ian! A few thoughts to share. I also owned my first gun at 12. Frequently had unsupervised target practice at that age, but never treated them like a toy. Haven’t touched one in over 30 years but I don’t feel like I need one for protection. Still have a lot of “gun nut” friends all are among the most stable people I’ve come across.
    We are less violent to our children (even in the South for those of you who mistakenly think otherwise). We aren’t more lenient on them though. We removed some of the “handrails” regarding discipline but its easier to completely destroy your life through drugs or “shenanigans” that would be a funny story by my dad’s generation is now a felony that will haunt you and yours for the rest of your life. You won’t even know it until you’re in your 20s. I think we are actually crueler than in the past. We tell them they are all special little snow flakes, but no that won’t actually help get you a good job, or keep you from a debt spiral. Some of them we send overseas to commit atrocities. Plenty of those mass shooters with military training. Online interaction is the show case of this new cruelty. Bullying is now not something that you can get away from by leaving school.
    Inequality has a direct correlation and its really what you said about crappy prospects and crappy lives reinforcing a cycle. What I find most troubling about this discussion is another commentator who said we should limit gun ownership so we could cut down on the suicides. There are a hundred ways we could solve this problem. It’s not only doable, its easier than a lot of issues we face (like climate change). We can do it without taking anything away from anybody (excepts profits for a very very small minority) by treating people humanely.

  22. Ben Hosen

    Mark Ames’ “Going Postal”(2005) is an excellent deep dive into the socioeconomic factors driving workplace rampages. (ie, “Well, perhaps part of it is that the US continues to get worse and worse off.”) A very disturbing book but well worth reading.

  23. Willy

    Stephen Paddock was said to be self-made. He had the means to go out with prostitute drug orgies, ending it in a luxury suite with long fingernails watching Ice Station Zebra. He could have funded a revolution or been a mercenary if the killing urge was that great.

    Farook and Malik had many other possibilities. Why target innocents? Why is it always the most innocent of softest targets which are chosen, instead of something which has (in their own minds) some kind of greater meaning?

  24. After much deep and serious thinking on the subject, I came to a great revelation. Viz., guns don’t kill people, ammunition kills people.

    The Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms, but is silent on the subject of ammunition.

    Hence, seizing citizens’ ammunition to put a stop to senseless gun-related violence won’t violate anybody’s rights.

    Well, back to work!

  25. S Brennan

    Definition of arms in English by Oxford Dictionaries:

    plural noun

    1] Weapons; armaments. ‘arms and ammunition’ as modifier ‘arms exports’

    2] Distinctive emblems or devices originally borne on shields in battle and now forming the heraldic insignia of families, corporations, or countries.

    But Mr. Metamars you do help clarify what the real goal of most “gun control” advocates is, that is to ensure that only government and the private armies of the elite may have have weapons, for that I thank you for your intended/unintended honesty.

  26. realitychecker

    @ metamars


    Hopefully, nobody will apply that kind of logic to your First Amendment rights. 🙂

  27. Peter

    I think Meta was trying for humor that we all need to counter this depressing subject. It seems the gungrabbers are already out front on the ammo issue identifying gun loving deviants as ammosexuals.

  28. different clue


    I just did even as I was reading metamars’s comment. In a purely satirical sense.

    The 1st Amendment recognizes Freedom of the Press. But it says nothing about Freedom of Ink.
    So we are recognized as having a right to own all the Presses we want. But there is no stated acknowledgement of any right to own ink. So the Government could make ink illegal according to this logic.

  29. Hugh

    What the 1st Amendment says is “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” or snipping out the other parts: Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of the press. As limiting ink would abridge this activity, it would be prohibited by the Constitution. Besides, the corporatization of the media has already rendered the freedom of the press moot through self-censorship.

  30. realitychecker

    @ dc

    I hope (and assume) metamars was being sarcastic, but in this debate it is often not possible to tell the difference between educated sarcasm and feverishly fallacious argumentation. I trust you will concede that point lol.

    To your comment: The true analog to ammunition under the Second Amendment (and, really, S. Brennan already settled this with his last comment) is the tongue, and secondarily, the hand that writes and/or operates the printing press, under the First Amendment.

    Thus, contrary to your reasoning path, mine was, in my own sarcastic way, implying that if we could deny ammunition without violating the Second Amendment, then we could with equal justice and reason deny tongues and hands under the First Amendment.

    YMMV, of course, as it usually does from my own. 🙂

    (You might or might not be aware that the price of ammunition has in fact already skyrocketed thru the Obama years, and at one point you could not even find certain popular calibers (like .22) in Atlanta for a year or more. You can read about it. Going to a range to practice is now an expensive outing, never used to be. So it’s not a joke concept.)

    I note that, as usual, lefties in general cannot discuss guns without stubbornly and studiously ignoring (NOT REBUTTING!) the arguments of Second Amendment proponents, like legitimate self-defense concerns of the weak, and the desirability of being able to deter a wannabe tyrannical government. That never changes. (sigh)

  31. Willy

    Lefties debate the limits of the 2nd Amendment all the time. It is righties who think debating the technological power limits of personal self-defense, is crazy.

  32. realitychecker

    Willy, that’s just not true.

    Find a spirited defense of self-defense and of deterring a tyrannical government coming from a ‘lefty’ if you want to refute me.

    I say you can’t.

  33. Mojave Wolf

    Re:: ammunition–California’s already sort of working in the direction of Metamora sarcastic comment. Ammunition purchases now require a background check the same as gun purchases and you have to pay for it on top of paying for your ammunition.

    I totally favor the voter initiative process but this is one of the dumber and most annoying voter initiatives ever.

  34. Willy

    rc, I think lefties don’t include tyrannical governments in their view of the 2nd Amendment, because technology is increasingly moving such things ‘out of range’. Poor wolverines defeating billions of dollars worth of satellite controlled drones is just a fantasy.

  35. realitychecker

    @ Willy

    I agree that tech makes resistance more difficult. But it will never be impossible. It’s always going to come down to how important the concept of “freedom” is to the regular people. And it’s never going to be just about militarily defeating a tyrannical government, as leftist writers are wont to frame it.

    The left (using the term descriptively and not pejoratively) persists in not understanding the value of deterring a tyrannical government, a blindness that makes it difficult for any on the right to ever trust them to be honest or competent when discussing the Second Amendment.

    The left also insists on pretending that nobody really needs to ever be prepared to survive a self-defense situation, in any of the various form we have all seen and become familiar with via the media. That also makes the left feel untrustworthy and incompetent to people who are familiar with the harsher realities. And also undermine’s the credibility of the left in discussing the Second Amendment, in the view of those who support it..

    That is why I challenged you with full confidence that you would not be able to meet the challenge. Leftist writers know enough to avoid in-depth consideration of these points that they would always lose on. They just say “crazy,” and that seems to suffice for their target audience. But really thoughtful people should insist on a better analysis, IMO.

    It would be nice if we could all grow up to the point where we could discuss such basic issues in depth without going off the rails. But I don’t really think we will anymore, and that really saddens me.

    Enjoy your weekend.

  36. Hvd

    The problem is that you are posing straw man arguments. I am unaware of a successful overthrow of tyrannical authority led by a legally armed resistance. As to self defense the numbers of incidents of self defense using firearms is vanishingly small compared to accidental deaths and injuries caused by them or the number of suicides in which they are used.

    These straw man arguments are right up there with the rights complaints that “they want to take away all of our guns.”

    The real questions as Ian tries to suggest is why we are so psychologically unprepared to face a less than threatening world without slinging heat and why it is that we insist on seeing danger where it really doesn’t exist.

    I have spent a significant portion of my adult life in supposedly “high crime areas” and have never once thought gee I need a gun. And like most of us here I believe that our authorities are becoming increasingly tyrannical but have never thought that if I only had a gun I could make it all better. That only happens when there has been organized resistance based on a”better idea” at which point the means to resist are invariably at hand.

  37. realitychecker

    @ hvd

    Clearly you did not understand what I said. So you are doing straw man on alleged straw man.

    That’s OK, I’m not bothered by having very differing experience and POV than you do. 🙂

  38. Willy


    A very large chunk of conservative voters are wingnut evangelicals. I know one, well armed, who was so inspired by Jim Bakkers survival food bucket business that he went into business selling overpriced survival food buckets himself. He said politicians like Obama and Hillary were the primary cause. When I went to agree with him that neoliberalism was certainly tipping the scales towards the PTB few, he had no clue what the hell I was talking about. Corporations are good! Gays, abortionists, minorities, and pinko atheists are the enemy! SJW’s are on a mission from Satan! My explanation of special interest kleptocrats working DC to harm small business capitalists, took a while to sink in, because his information bubble didn’t include any such talk.

    You’re saying there are sane conservatives who fully get what we talk about around here?

  39. realitychecker

    Willy, I don’t understand why you keep trying to get me to defend conservatives generally.

    I have always been and still consider myself to be of the left, with only certain issues striking me as requiring a different position than dogmatic lefties are required to adhere to nowadays. I’ve cast one Republican vote in my life, and that was for Trump, who I do not view as a Republican but rather as an outsider to the Establishment duopoly/corporatocracy club.

    My mission, as I see it, is to get my comrades on the left to recognize when their team zeal has taken them into the silly zone, where they are appearing to me to be willfully blind to the contradictions they are embracing without self-examination or protest.

    I don’t join the hallelujah chorus because my voice is not needed there. My voice feels needed only when I think my comrades are on a mistaken course, and then I pipe up to try and open a thought-door to indicate where a better path might be.

    So, never a surprise to me that most here seem more inclined to attack me than to give serious consideration to my ideas. I am a heretic for not agreeing on every single issue. I get it, and it’s OK. I know my good faith is always guiding me.

  40. Willy

    Just a theory, but I believe that if the kleptocrats hadn’t strategically zombified most evangelicals, many ex-military, and other groups… into the Konservative Klown Kult, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are today, with practically every long-standing formerly respected institution under attack.

    I have to call a spade a spade. The left didn’t turn loony. The right did. IMHO, trying to get the left to think more clearly (and they certainly all don’t, given that they’re human beings) would have far less impact on the Establishment duopoly/corporatocracy club, than being able to de-program the right.

    I have no problem with a loyal opposition. I do have problems with an opposition that considers any outside opinions to be pure satanic evil, regardless of how they’re reasoned.

  41. realitychecker

    The right is beyond my reach, but my friends on the left are SUPPOSED to be vulnerable to reason.

    But I must say, if you can’t think of a bunch of examples of loony leftist thingies, then you can’t be trying very hard. 🙂

  42. Willy

    For every Alex Jones, or Rush Limbaugh, or Pat Robertson there’s who? Chris Matthews?

  43. Willy

    Should people on the left be working more to consolidate their focus? Absolutely. But are people on the left turning off people on the right because their beliefs are conflicted and irrational? Are you kidding me? Many, if not most on the right are faith-based and not reason-based. I know many of these people, but if one needs evidence, consider the popularity of conservative faith-based media outlets, which daily present unprovable conspiracy theories and black/white extreme tribalism wrapped up in the word of God/The Infallible Holy Founders.

    As for the independent voter, most are being turned off by both parties which claim to be representing their own side, because most can see that neither party actually represents “their own side”. For them, I’ve already recommended many times, the “” people (or any other similar organization they can find) as a common focus with possible answers to their concerns.

    All of the evidence suggests that the NRA is a classic corporate lobby which owns our supposedly representative government, against the will of the majority of people.

  44. realitychecker

    I don’t play the ‘comparing shit sandwiches’ game anymore. I just made up my mind not to eat any more shit. I am pleased with the results, and recommend the strategy.

    We can’t discuss this in a constructive way until you are more willing to acknowledge the horrors embraced by the left in the last ten years. I am not going to argue with you about the basic facts.

    I’m not going to argue with you at all. I don’t think anti-gun lefties are persuadable by logic or knowledge, any more than crazy righties are persuadable about their faith-based beliefs.

  45. Willy

    Israelis recently slapped down the NRAs lies about Israeli gun laws. In that nation the firearm-related death rate is less than a fifth that of the USA.

  46. Stephen leonard

    Everything that is happening in the USA and the world has been prophsised in a book I read daily. All this will come to an due time.

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