Monday, February 02, 2009

But What Do We Do About the Nut Jobs?

There have several high-profile incidents involving the all-too-familiar refrain of disturbed loaners or depressed "providers" (mostly out-of-work husbands/fathers)--that is, murdering SOBs--massacring strangers or family members with guns. I personally believe these incidents reflect a troubled culture in this country that is largely unconnected to guns, but which unfortunately has fixated on guns as its means of expression. In other countries, the murderous minds turn to other favored means of violent self-destruction--arson in Turkey, explosives in China--in ways common and predictable enough within each society to let us realize guns are not the cause of the illness.

But as gun owners and gun advocates, we have to admit guns are a hell of a symptom. To protect our rights and our society's long-term freedom by maintaining the primacy of the 2nd Amendment, we need to answer the objections of those who believe a ban on guns would provide the bromide they seek.

Predictably in the wake of the recent events, there has been the predictable outcry for greater gun control. Most of it is uninformed and reactionary. One exception to this is an op-ed piece in the Oregonian by self-declared anti-gun writer, Reagan Ross.

While I disagree with Ross that gun control is desirable or beneficial to society, it's clear that Ross and pro-gun rights activists like myself have a common goal of trying to create a more peaceful society. It's worth reading Ross's entire article, but I'd like to quote some of what he says here:

While I'm [Ross] a big believer in stricter gun control -- registration, safety locks, automatic gun bans, background checks and so on -- and while the volume of dangerous guns available is distressing, the reality is that if a violent offender wants a gun, he will get a gun. However, I would argue that it is less the availability of a gun itself than a sensibility that jointly romanticizes and glorifies gun ownership and, by extension, accentuates masculinity for these young, angry males. For this reason alone, we need to break through this "gun culture" sensibility and move to a more constricted view of gun ownership. - Reagan Ross, Marylhurst University

Ross's point about the romanticism around guns in America is easy to see. He's also honest enough to report what he knows to be true--it isn't the presence of the gun, it's the cultural attitude toward the gun that leads to gun violence.

But what he says about a "more constricted view of gun ownership" is a good idea--a view that does not include romantic images of a loser redeeming himself through murder of innocents in a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid meet Sam Peckinpah fantasy. In short I'd say we need to make guns more about hunting, political freedom, and crime prevention and less about sex, personal power and instant fame.

Which leads me to an open question to our caucus members:

What steps can we take as gun rights advocates to change the image of guns, gun owners, and gun ownership to create a positive image of guns that will no longer make gun violence an attractive, romantic cliche for the disturbed and impressionable?


brian r said...

I think that perhaps the most important (and fun) thing that we can do to "soften" the image of gun owners, is to take non-shooters shooting. Explain to them how to handle each gun safely, teach them the basics, and let them have fun. Be kind while doing so, and nonjudgmental. After shooting, debrief with them. Ask them what they liked and disliked about shooting. Ask them what would have made their experience better, and then INVITE them to go again.

All to often we see guns and gun owners demonized on the news. However, there have been a few times that I have watched local newscasters go to a shooting range and really have a good time, making for a great segment that put guns in a different light to the masses.

Perhaps at our next shooting event, we can try very hard to get some televised media coverage, and talk some of the journalists into shooting on camera.

NVJJC said...

Makes sense to do the easy and effective things first. Let’s do action that can produce results and can make a difference where it is needed most. Action that won’t create political battles and that doesn’t require legislation or big money is where Democrats should start.

For all those reasons I like Project ChildSafe that hands out free gun locks through local Police Departments. Because the program is voluntary it doesn’t generate political fights or cultural controversy. Project ChildSafe is organized by the National Shooting Sports Foundation that represents the interests of the firearms industry.

Because Project Childsafe uses local Law Enforcement to hand out the locks there is little program cost. The purchase of the locks was helped by a five million dollar grant from the Justice Department that got the program started. That money has run out and we need to contact our Congressional representatives to get more grant funding. In the scope of federal spending five million is like a penny. I have talked to our NV Senator Reid and handed him one of the locks. I spoke to key staff of our two Congresswomen and gave them locks to put in the hands of those lawmakers.

I also engaged our Metro Police, City Council, and County Commission to designate June as Firearms Safety Month to draw attention to children being home for summer vacation and the additional need to secure firearms. We handed out 1700 locks in two years and the Metro PD got local gun and hardware stores to participate by putting gun safes and lock boxes on sale for the month. That participation go them some free advertising.

Some facts make this approach especially relevant and appropriate. Almost 60% of the guns that are brought onto school campuses are from student’s homes, or the homes of relatives and friends. That’s from a study that confirms an obvious fact that kids get the guns where they are most available. 80% of the guns used in student suicide come from the same source. If families will secure the firearms in their homes it will make a huge difference in the safety of our children in their schools. This approach relies on knowledge and creating an awareness in our communities that will get the attention of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and everybody. Parents must be willing to talk to the parents of their children’s friends.

Because I am a certified Firearms Safety Instructor and authorized to train personal protection and concealed carry by Nevada and Utah I know what question will be brought up by gun owners that choose to have a firearm available for personal protection in their home. What good is locked gun if you are threatened with lethal force? If this point is not discussed many gun owners will walk away and write off a Free Gun Locks program as an obvious first step toward mandated locked storage of their guns.

I teach that all firearms in the home must be secure from unauthorized access and so I have had many discussions on this topic in my classroom. First I explain that the rule that guns should be locked and unloaded applies to stored guns, not guns that are available for personal protection. Next we discuss circumstances. If the household is all adults and all are training in firearms safety then they could choose to have the firearm in the open and ready. But that status would change if they have visitors, and would have to change instantly if they have visitors with children. It would also change if a group gets together to watch a ball game and there is beer served. And when nobody is home guns must be secured.

Sometimes in class I get arguments from individuals who say they have firearms ready and handy in several rooms but they are hidden and not accessible to children. I suggest that there is no such thing as “not accessible” to active, eager, energetic, and inquisitive children. Hiding guns on top of book cases, inside secret boxes, behind hung pictures, or inside cupboards is not secure.

Then I ask the class to explain the purpose of having a gun handy in several locations in the home. They respond that homeowners can’t know where they might be if there is a home invasion. I ask if they have a gun in every bathroom and most don’t so I ask if they really think that a criminal home invader will be courteous enough to wait for them to wipe, wash their hands, and exit to a room with a gun before engaging. Most laugh but then we get to the point that the only place a firearm can be reliably depended on anywhere, any time, to provide protection against a sudden, violent, and lethal force attack is when the firearm is on their person. Preferably on the waist in a proper holster and with additional ammunition. I also tell students if they are uncomfortable about doing the dishes or laundry while wearing a firearm maybe they should sit down and restudy the threat assessment part of their home safety plan. Some students start out thinking I am far too innocent when I urge them to lock up all firearms and end up thinking I’m a bit too paranoid doing the dishes wearing a GLOCK. Students generally enjoy my classes.

If the Obama administration will make refunding Project ChildSafe a first step in safer communities it would be a win for schools and families and a win for real common sense action that respects the rights of law abiding gun owners.

You can get more info for Democrats at and you can find a link to your local PD that has locks at .

Anonymous said...

In addition to outreach programs, it may be time to start a movement towards removing/banning accessibility of anti-depressants and other prescription psychoactive drugs which have side effects that, obviously, our most intelligent researchers and scientists do not understand yet.

Instead of medicating people, perhaps we need to take a much more proactive role in how we deal with people who live in the rat race and can't handle the psychological pressures, who will surely turn to firearms as a quick method of releasing tension and anxiety upon others.

Zak Johnson said...

I think in the most recent group murder in Portland, the individual involved had been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic in high school, but been unable to enroll in a program to pay for his medication after graduation.

Also, neither his relatives nor school officials took the step of getting him on the NICS list of "adjudicated" mentally unbalanced; which they could have done with a phone call. True, guns are available from other sources, but this would have been a good use of laws which are already on the books and would at least have created some hurdle to the individual arming himself.