Crazy People and Gun Laws

by: hawkgrrrl

August 14, 2012

Did you know that there are 88.8 guns for every 100 people in the US?  As an American who has never owned one, I was pretty surprised by that statistic.  Living abroad, I’ve been asked by many people why Americans are prone to mass shootings.  It’s a great question, one that is difficult to answer.  Clearly, I don’t anticipate a mass shooting in Singapore anytime soon, and yet it’s hard to say exactly why:

  • Private gun ownership is restricted? An applicant for a firearm licence in Singapore must pass background checks which consider criminal, mental, medical, and Gun Club Membership records.  Gun license applicants are tested as well on gun safety.  The license required re-application every two years. One news item that is cited by locals here who are both stumped and bemused by American naivete is that Holmes was able to purchase firearms via the internet.
  • They’re afraid of being caned? Well, obviously if you kill people, you are likely to be executed in Singapore as you are in death-penalty states like Colorado.  But illegal gun possession is an offense that carries 10 years and 6 strokes (caning).  The cane strokes are administered by a professional cricketer with a wicked arm. Circumventing gun licensing laws here in Singapore would be difficult, and getting one through normal channels would be very costly and require a host of background checks.
  • It’s too expensive to get a gun? The joke in Singapore is that everything carries two costs:  the item and an equal cost in COE (tax to the government).  In this case, I’ve been assured repeatedly by drivers and colleagues that guns in the US are extremely inexpensive.  The cost of a locker at a gun club (a requirement for Singaporean gun owners) is roughly the same as the cost of a gun at a Walmart in the US. Most I meet here are agog at the amount of firearms and rounds of ammunition that Holmes could afford, not just get his hands on.  Here (in a very wealthy nation) they are a hobby for the rich.
  • Mental healthcare is better? Everyone’s got access to socialized medicine, and it’s top notch care.  The Mental Health (Care and Treatment) Act was passed in 2008 to allow and regulate the involuntary detention in a psychiatric institution for people who exhibit a mental disorder that might create a danger to self or others.  Mass shooting can be seen as a form of suicide, ending one’s life in the act of ending the lives of others.
  • It would require acting alone? This is another national joke in Singapore, that people prefer committees and traveling in packs to acting alone.  An editorial in the paper remarked that Occupy Singapore never really got off the ground because nobody wanted to be the first one to take a stand.  By contrast, Americans are cowboys, gun-toting “rugged individualists.”  There may be something to the idea that in our value system, we place more emphasis on solving your problems alone and standing out among the crowd – being special – vs. relying on others for help and tactics to help people save face when a failure occurs. Did Holmes “snap” because of his failed oral exam, and rather than turning to others for help, he internalized his failure until he became dangerous?

Other possible reasons that have been discussed for this phenomenon are:

  • More sociopaths.  Instances of autism, Asperger’s, and ADHD are on the rise, or at least they are diagnosed more frequently.  All of these conditions correlate with lower empathy.  While psychopaths (aka sociopaths) are not considered “insane” from a legally defensive standpoint, lack of empathy makes it possible to commit a mass shooting.
  • Notoriety.   Shooters often become famous as a result of their actions.  For those who are trying to make a statement (such as the Norway shooting), this is a quick way to get a lot of attention to one’s cause.
  • Precedent.  It’s well known that copy cats often mimic the “success” of other killers.  Given a prior mass shooting in Colorado, there was a deja vu element to the event in Aurora.
  • 24 hour news cycle.  We broadcast these types of tragedies more than ever.  Have these events occurred elsewhere and just not been widely publicized?
  • US population.  Controlling the behaviour of 300+ million is a bit tougher than 5.2 million in Singapore or 60 million in the UK.  Perhaps these types of events occur in proportion to the population.

Clearly, the US doesn’t corner the market on this type of tragedy.  The Norway massacre is a stark reminder of that.  Let’s find out what you think about gun control.

Why does the US experience so many mass shootings? (choose the 3 you think are most responsible)

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47 Responses to Crazy People and Gun Laws

  1. Stephen R. Marsh on August 14, 2012 at 6:42 AM

    “involuntary detention in a psychiatric institution for people who exhibit a mental disorder that might create a danger to self or others.”

    Pretty standard standard. Guess the question is what level of “might” or “is a risk for” that we use, and what level of harm, but the standard is pretty standard in the U.S. as well as other places.

    Just FYI.

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  2. Will on August 14, 2012 at 8:00 AM


    This one is pretty simple. Keep guns away from people with mental illness and allow all other citizens to carry how, where or what they may.

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  3. Bonnie on August 14, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    Speaking as someone with a concealed carry permit (though I neither pack heat nor even own a gun or rifle anymore), I am pretty ambivalent about gun control. I really enjoyed hearing about how things are in Singapore because I think this is a huge problem, but I don’t feel comfortable with any of the solutions that are regularly proposed. I tend to lean toward social issues as a cause, but I’m not sure how to address those by legislating.

    For instance, I come from a long hunting tradition and I don’t think making it more expensive serves a very different cross-section in the US who are law-abiding gun users. On the other hand, allowing gun purchase to be so easy is mind-boggling to me, and I fought many heated battles with my dad about assault rifles, which I believe should be heavily regulated. Mental health care is sketchy at best, even when it’s available, so I don’t think that’s the mass answer, especially in a society that entertains itself by promoting digital media that is regularly violent and involves search-and-destroy gun-toting massacres. As I understand it, US media is much more violent than media in other countries, and I don’t think there’s any escaping the consequences of THAT.

    In a large country with a tradition of personal independence, I lean toward a solution based on creating stronger family and community relationships. Aha! The church! The Proclamation! If we help one another, know about one another, eliminate forms of entertainment that are wholly destructive, what a difference it would make!

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  4. prometheus on August 14, 2012 at 8:24 AM

    Granted, my opinions might be colored by fact of being Canadian, but I don’t see any reason why private citizens need to own guns, apart from such things as hunting. We get along fine up here without guns in every pocket.

    To me, it really boils down to fear. The only reason I can think of to have a gun on me would be a fear of death or bodily harm caused by random attackers on the street. Now, there are certainly places I wouldn’t go late at night, but I am generally not afraid for my safety when walking out and about. The US, if you will forgive an outsider’s comment, appears to be a society that is driven by fear (Patriot acts, alert levels, guns everywhere, aggressive interference with foreign political activities), which I just don’t understand.

    Now we have our own gun registry, which was a hideous waste of money with no actual benefits (registering black powder weapons? seriously?), since people who are going to commit crimes aren’t going to register their guns anyway. However, we also have laws restricting the ownership and use of certain types of weapons, including but not limited to handguns and that seems to keep them out of the hands of random crazy people, if not the criminals.

    At the end of the day, it is like locking your car: no, it will never keep out someone who is determined to get in, but it works against casual joyriders. Gun control won’t keep professional criminals from having them, but it puts a damper on what kinds of random people can get ahold of them.

    With all that being said, all the gun control in the world isn’t going to mean anything without some kind of cultural shift away from frontier justice towards the rule of law, away from the individual’s right to dispense violence in the name of freedom towards a collective social agreement that finds other ways to deal with disagreement.

    A related topic, of course, would be crime, punishment and the state of the US prison system, which is really quite frightening. I will be curious to see what shows up in the comments for this post. :)

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  5. John Roberts on August 14, 2012 at 8:25 AM

    Some interesting statistics from a recent Gallup poll:

    About two-thirds of Americans say they do not own a gun.

    Most gun-owners say they own only one gun.

    About one in fifteen Americans say they own more than one gun… but the average number of guns per household of this small group is around eight.

    Gun ownership in the U.S. is highly concentrated– the 2nd amendment (and the NRA) protects the rights of a relatively small minority.

    You can think this is good or bad as you wish.

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  6. Will on August 14, 2012 at 9:03 AM


    First off, mass shootings are not isolated to the US. Moreover, they do NOT occur more frequently in the US. Wikipedia (so take it for what it is worth) lists the mass shootings over the past by PRIVATE Citizens against the public and the Americas aren’t that much different that other regions of the world:

    The totals by region are as follows:

    Africia/Middle East 76
    Americas 116
    Asia 121
    Europe 99
    Oceania/Maritime Southeast Asia 139

    A full list of each mass shooting can be found at

    So this idea that America is the gun slinging mass murder capital of the world is just plain wrong. What’s more, MOST mass murder has taken place by the government against the people. Hundreds of Millions have died by the hands of their own government – China, USSR, Germany, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam and on and on and on. This is the beauty of the 2nd amendment. This type of thing would never happen in the US. So, prometheus, this is why private citizens should carry guns.

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  7. prometheus on August 14, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    Will, it isn’t just mass killings. Those are results of unpredictable crazies. Let’s go to Wikipedia again:

    Sort by various headers and the US is consistently at the top of the developing world. Granted, y’all aren’t Somalia or Columbia or anything, but the numbers shouldn’t be so high.

    Now, as to your last sentence, “this is why private citizens should carry guns,” I don’t agree with the “should” – it implies a moral obligation on the part of citizens to walk around the streets fully armed and ready to kill. I don’t want to live in a society like that. “Should be able to”, we can discuss, but not “should”.

    You also bring up government-led atrocities, making the assumption that private weapons would have prevented them. A couple of rebuttals:

    First, some of them were done with the approval (tacit or otherwise) of the majority. Can’t blame that on the government. That lies on the people’s doorstep. One might argue fear-provoked silence, but I think that in genocidal cases, racial hatred is the primary factor rather than conformity through intimidation.

    Second, consider the US military engaging in a coup, and attacking the local population. Assuming the military retained control of weapons manufacturing sites, the people would lose, or at best turn into a repeat of Afghanistan. Bombs, missiles, tanks and other military hardware are simply going to overpower whatever private arsenal might be owned. (Waco, TX)

    Third, many of the examples you cite took place without the benefit of modern telecommunications. As I understand it, a lot of Germans didn’t even know what was happening in places like Auschwitz. American interrogation of terror suspects has been subject to far stricter supervision than anything that happened in Nazi Germany, which probably curbed what it could have become. (Not that it ever should have been started in the first place.)

    A very interesting analysis of violence and how it is diminishing is found here – I highly recommend watching / reading.

    On a final note, I will add this. I refuse to carry a gun. If my government were to demand it, I would object. As a follower of Christ, my interpretation of love one another is to do just that: Prevent violence by promoting peace. I haven’t fully worked out all my thoughts on that matter yet, though, and I have already gone on too long as it is, so I will stop here.

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  8. Howard on August 14, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    I own a number of guns but I’m ambivalent about gun ownership. I enjoy them for sport but if we didn’t have them fewer people would die.

    Due to the standoff capability of military weapons and the inability of most people to own automatic weapons, private gun ownership offers little deterrent to an overreaching foreign or domestic state. Singling out assault rifles is mostly for political show as there isn’t any difference in firepower between an assault rifle and a semiautomatic hunting rifle just some cool looking plastic.

    In CA if a person is a danger to themselves or others they can be held in a locked psych ward for observation.

    Some police officers I’ve talked to admit arriving late to a shooting in progress apparently it’s a common safety feature. Changing this would help.

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  9. Will on August 14, 2012 at 2:41 PM


    You missed my point, at least partially. The correlation coefficient is much higher between the mentally ill and mass murder; than it is between guns and mass murder. Some countries don’t allow guns, but still have mentally ill that get guns (or some other weapon) and commit mass murder. With this in mind, we need to focus on the problem of how to deal with the mentally ill that are attracted to guns. Those two don’t and shouldn’t get along. It is much like sexually deprived Elders and pornography; they will develop a long and unhealthy relationship if introduced. The moral of the story is to focus on preventing and keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. This will dramatically reduce mass shooting episodes. Guns laws restricting any other use, reduction in ammo and so forth will do little to solve the problem.

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  10. Bob on August 14, 2012 at 3:00 PM

    9: Will,
    The ‘focus’ should be to make people understand they are safer without guns than with them. Most guns end up shooting the innocent, not the guilty.

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  11. Will on August 14, 2012 at 3:46 PM


    Give me one example of a gun store being robbed. Just one. We both know it doesn’t happen because the would-be thief knows he would get shot-up if he tried something so stupid. Conversely, I could (if I really spent the time) find hundreds of examples where thugs hold up convenience stores and the like where they expect little or no resistance. And you are right a lot of innocent people (owners and employees) are killed in the process.

    The Savior said there would be wars and rumors of wars. What he meant by this is that there would be wars and rumors of wars – there would be evil people trying to take advantage of you and your family. This is why he setup the constitution of the United States and gave us the right to bear arms as indicated in the D&C 101:80:

    “And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood”

    Redeemed the land by the shedding of Blood – it seems pretty clear to me.

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  12. prometheus on August 14, 2012 at 3:49 PM

    Will, I agree that we need far better ways of dealing with mental illness than we have currently.

    I still don’t believe you have offered a reasonable justification for guns in the hands of the rest of everybody.

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  13. prometheus on August 14, 2012 at 4:01 PM

    And I will also say that the guns are really only a symptom of the problem. The problem, as I alluded to in my first comment is the attitude behind them. The only reason to have a gun is to kill. Either animals or people. One has a gun because one plans to kill, either in reality or hypothetically (someone wants to take your stuff).

    Violence is glorified and crime is applauded in all our media. Kids grow up playing games where the whole point is to murder police officers, with the option to abuse and murder prostitutes as well. The general perception is still being promoted as ‘might makes right’, and killing other people is the most exciting and fun way to solve your problems.

    It is a gun culture, predicated on the shedding of blood as being a virtuous and wholesome activity.

    This is wrong. Plain and simple, and it is unbecoming of a follower of Christ to have murder in their heart, imo.

    The fact remains that gun violence is higher in the US than anywhere else in the developed world, and I honestly believe that it is perpetuated by the desire to respond with increased violence in return.

    Generations of people have lived gun free here in Canada, most of us in urban areas have no interest in owning them because there is no use for them. You want to keep your guns, I want a world where guns serve no purpose. We can’t get to that world by continuing the violence – someone has to start by laying down arms.

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  14. FireTag on August 14, 2012 at 4:37 PM

    Well, I am one of the 11.2% of Americans who apparently aren’t doing my share of gun ownership, but I’m not sure I object to all of those guns out there. I see reports today that the Free Syrian Army is getting 20 M-62 tanks sent in, along with Stinger anti-air missiles, to defend themselves against their own government. I think our founders had a pretty good idea in remembering that George the Third hadn’t been on their side, and civilizations can change rapidly.

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  15. Adam G. on August 14, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    Some of these were hard to answer because of the way you framed the responses. For instance, I believe that America’s much greater degree of personal freedom is a leading cause, but I don’t believe that’s “too much” freedom.

    You also left out explanations. There are racial, cultural, and historical differences between the US and Singapore that you don’t account for.

    I believe news reports about the killer buying guns on the internet were either wrong or misleading. Under US law, you can order guns on the internet, but they aren’t shipped to you. They are shipped to a gunshop, which is responsible for the background checks and other legalities just as if you had walked in to buy a gun.

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  16. FireTag on August 14, 2012 at 4:52 PM


    The CofChrist last week sent out a questionnaire asking for opinions about a world conference resolution about abolishing nuclear weapons. Bigger boom, but the issue is the same.

    The only practical policy is to “let the bad people put their weapons down first”. Who are the bad people? Depends on who survives to write the history books, doesn’t it? See the reference to Syria above.

    Even the Christian church “conquered” the Roman Empire not by peace and love, but because Constantine underwent a battlefield conversion and conquered “under the sign” of the cross.

    I have great respect for pacifists who are willing to die for their beliefs, even if I subscribe more to Christian realism myself. But that respect really isn’t tested if people simply presume that all people will return kindness with kindness. It’s a fatal assumption sometimes.

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  17. prometheus on August 14, 2012 at 5:12 PM

    “I have great respect for pacifists who are willing to die for their beliefs, even if I subscribe more to Christian realism myself. But that respect really isn’t tested if people simply presume that all people will return kindness with kindness. It’s a fatal assumption sometimes.”

    I know what you are saying, FireTag – I am still working through this myself, figuring out what I believe. Can both the Ammonites and Captain Moroni be right? Or is there something more to that juxtaposition?

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  18. Autistic and Anonymous on August 14, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    I’d just like to point out that psychopathy and sociopathy are not the same thing, nor are either of them the same as autism, Asperger’s or ADHD/ADD. Sociopaths are products of their environment (raised to believe they are better than others, that violence is the answer, etc.), while the other conditions are genetic.

    Also, classifying behavioral disorders and spectrum disorders as the same causes a lot of problems for people with spectrum disorders. Misdiagnosis is common, and often something that can be nearly impossible to fix. There is a social stigma attached to spectrum disorders, but at least those of us who have been diagnosed as being on the spectrum are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. A lot of the behavior problems that stem from spectrum disorders are because they are not diagnosed or misdiagnosed. People with spectrum disorders are often bullied and abused, and therefore more likely to lash out at others, especially when they don’t know why they’re different, how to get help, or that they’re entitled to protection. However, that does not necessarily make us dangerous. In a lot of cases, that rage is internalized and leads to depression and anxiety rather than sociopathy. Just because a person doesn’t experience empathy the way neurotypical people do does not mean that person is inherently a killer. Emotion is not the only moral compass a person can have.

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  19. Howard on August 14, 2012 at 5:37 PM

    I agree with your sentiment, but as a practical matter if our government turns their weapons on us we’re toast, with or without private guns! And if another state overcomes our government and turns their weapons on us we’re also toast, with or without private guns! So what level of private arms are you proposing to overcome these limitations?

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  20. Bob on August 14, 2012 at 5:46 PM

    #11: Will,
    If I wanted a really sweet gun, you bet I would take on a gun shop. It’s just as likely you would be shoot in a bar or convenience store here in LA. I remember Rambo gutting a gun shop.
    I made a living in part by setting gun shoot deaths claims of kids who died in their own homes, at their own hands, where gun were too easy for them it get to. I would say 1/2 were guns belonging to cops!

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  21. prometheus on August 14, 2012 at 7:02 PM

    “I’d just like to point out that psychopathy and sociopathy are not the same thing, nor are either of them the same as autism, Asperger’s or ADHD/ADD.”

    Thanks for pointing this out, Autistic and Anonymous. It is very important for us all to keep in mind that any discussion about the effects of people’s varying mental states needs to be as nuanced as possible.

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  22. FireTag on August 14, 2012 at 11:37 PM


    I’m sorry. I’ve been away. Did I miss our victory celebration for Iraq, or something? :D

    History is filled with resistance movements in which lightly-armed revolts defeated a better armed military. (There are far more successes on that level than there are for successful pacifist resistances, unfortunately.) There are whole schools of warfare devoted to the study of such principles, but tactical and strategic imagination are essential. The “we’re toast anyway” approach, while congenial to my natural pessimism, probably won’t be that helpful. :D


    All of our situations will be different, and when we are tested, it will come down to individual conscience. In America, we’ve been so used to thinking of “wars of choice” that get fought by other people while most of us watch news reports (unless a family member is involved), that it is almost inconceivable to us that violence could come in our front door.

    When I used to sit at my desk in the World Trade Center before 1980 looking out the window on the 90th floor, I could never conceive that someone would someday fly a jetliner into the side of the building two decades later and engulf that window in a fireball.

    When reporters were interviewing the young party-going elites of Damascus just a few short weeks ago, they were showing the same inability to conceive of what was coming their way as a New Yorker would have in the late 1970’s.

    Yet even then, my wife-to-be had had a gun shoved in her face on the street, and we’d escaped another mugging only because (divine intervention?) I had wandered by a guard station on the Barnard College campus a couple of days before, and “knew” where an armed guard would be in the seconds before the escape route to get there closed.

    Ironically, Barnard “backed” onto the HQ of the National Council of Churches and Riverside Church, where the 1970’s saw the most visible flowering of the “peace and justice” churches.

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  23. Hedgehog on August 15, 2012 at 1:19 AM

    #18, #21
    Yes, thank you. I’d been pondering all night how best to respond to that part of the post, and you’ve done a better job than I’d have done Autistic and Anonymous.
    I just wanted to expand that autistic spectrum disorders do not lead to a lack of empathy. The problem would be more one of recognising the emotional states of others from facial expressions, and in recognising unspoken social rules that neurotypical people seem to pick up and follow subconsciously. Members of my family with ASD diagnoses are actually among the most caring and empathetic when they understand, and the best peacemakers. That they find facial expressions difficult, and therefore others harder to interpret, is a source of pain to them. They know only too well how socially clumsy they are, another source of pain, the last thing they want is to cause offence.

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  24. hawkgrrrl on August 15, 2012 at 4:32 AM

    Thanks for clarifying on the spectrum disorders and differentiation from that and psycho or sociopathy. You are absolutely correct. My son has ADHD and I have a nephew with Asperger’s. Lack of empathy (which is the symptom) doesn’t necessarily equate to either violence or lack of compassion. What I meant to say is that these disorders are either becoming more common or more understood because they are certainly diagnosed more frequently than ever before. Lack of empathy usually means things like not understanding why other people do the things they do, difficulty reading emotions, etc. I suppose my ham-fisted implication was that there may be a social or physical cause for the rise in these disorders that would correlate with the rise in socio or psychopathy – both of which are much less diagnosed but do correlate to mass killings and both of which include a lack of empathy. In the case of ADHD, the lack of empathy is related to specific chemicals not developed in the brain (countered by meds).

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  25. Henry on August 15, 2012 at 7:03 AM

    America’s most wanted featured this story. Two flight attendants were in their apartment in Dallas. Two men were trying to break in. The two women ran to the bedroom. One of the women got her gun out and waited. The two men broke the door down and made their way to the bedroom. She took out both of them with the gun. Guns not necessary? I would rather have one and not need it than to need one and not have it.
    How do you think this would have ended with the women having no gun?

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  26. Howard on August 15, 2012 at 7:47 AM

    I’m aware of asymmetrical warfare, but today hunting rifles and hand guns aren’t working too well against the standoff capability of remote control drone fired missiles, cruise missiles and jet fighters!

    Henry wrote: I would rather have one and not need it than to need one and not have it. So you carry then? Or having one at home just makes you feel better? In 25 years of gun ownership I’ve never needed one.

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  27. prometheus on August 15, 2012 at 9:13 AM


    Absolutely the guns saved their lives. Undoubtedly. I am not arguing that guns can’t save lives.

    I will be the first to say that anecdotal evidence is important, but in this case, I can also respond with any number of situations where deaths have been caused by accidental discharge of firearms in the home. Anecdotes just aren’t going to be effective without an additional knowledge of the statistics involved: how many deaths prevented v how many deaths that could have been prevented v how many deaths caused, in different locations and over time.

    Ultimately, I am not even necessarily arguing *against* guns as much as I am arguing *for* transformative pacifism. Changing the world so that the two men don’t break into the women’s house in the first place.

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  28. prometheus on August 15, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    Preamble – super long comment, feel free to skip to the last paragraph…..

    This is a hard question to address without referring to the larger issue at hand. Guns are a response to violence, which is itself a response to aggression. Aggression is often a response to fear (caused by physical threat, lack of resources, lack of power, lack of acceptance / respect). So, where does it all begin? More importantly, how do we choose to respond to it? What kind of response is acceptable, what kind is effective, what kind makes us feel good?

    And it isn’t even just about aggression: guns are an immediate response to violence, but no violence happens in a vacuum. It always has a story behind it. There are always repercussions. How are we going to respond to those?

    Prevention: aggression has its most basic roots in our physiology. We are primates and have all the instinctive reactions that go along with that: to kill prey for food, to avoid being eaten, to obtain social dominance within the group. Brain structure, brain chemistry also have a role to play in this. As we grow up, we are also immersed in a cultural context, with forms of aggression that are culturally either accepted, or at least commonplace. Bullying, ostracizing, abuse, neglect – all forms of violence that begin at early ages. These all have consequences, socially and emotionally, that can lead to catastrophic events later on in life. Mental illness, undiagnosed or untreated can also lead to violence, given or received. Knowing how we work and why we think the way we do is the first step to being able to change and modify our behavior.

    Immediate response: What do we do in a crisis situation? How do we respond to the violence and fear? It is difficult for trained professionals to do this ‘correctly’, never mind random people on the street:

    I might imagine that I would go all Hollywood (which is a huge, huge, huge contributor to this whole problem) and save the day, but in the real life situation I would most likely freeze, panic, or react on instinct without any kind of judgement at all.

    Aftercare response: this is where it gets tricky. There is never just one victim. Violence has an effect on the initiator as well as the subject. How do we respond to this? I have a real problem with the idea of retributive or punitive justice. Tossing people in jail to ‘pay their debt to society’ (at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year per person) is simply ludicrous. How does imprisonment pay off any debt? To whom is the debt owed? How does it prevent recidivism?

    As it stands, when you look at our prison systems, it is a miracle that we are as well off as we are. Take people who are already on the edge, place them in a horrifically dysfunctional environment, and then release them after a predetermined time with no job, no prospects or skills for a job, and we guarantee that they have no possible way to ever function in society. Reoffending is a given. Granted that is a worst case scenario, but it happens.

    And all of this is deeply intertwined in the systemic social and economic violence of our societies. Money can’t buy happiness, but there is a minimum level of economic viability that is required in order to feel safe, and secure. Class structure (whether aristocracy, patriarchy, caste system, or whatever) creates forms of social violence based on varying levels of power and autonomy in a society. Even the idea of the rule of law (which I am highly in favor of) is predicated on the use of violence or restraint by the state to enforce the law.

    It just isn’t as simple as saying yes or no to guns to me. My beliefs demand more, they demand that I look at the whole problem differently. Jesus said to love everyone. He said to forgive everyone. No exceptions were made. None. Not for terrorists, not for abusers, not for murderers. How can I do that if my FIRST response is to shoot them to death? Yes, the world is a dangerous place, but to throw my hands up and say “oh well, guess I’d better get a gun” is, to me, a betrayal of my convictions as a Christ follower. Perhaps guns are a necessary evil at this exact moment in time, but my efforts, and all of our efforts, ought to be directed towards changing that instead of accepting it. Segregation ended because people refused to accept it. Women claimed their right to vote and own property, workers received protection from abusive employers because they refused to accept the world the way it was. How can we do any less? It is on us to be change we want to see.

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  29. Bob on August 15, 2012 at 9:43 AM

    “Absolutely the guns saved their lives”.
    I would have to know many more facts before agreeing with that.
    How about one shot thru the front door. Would it have ended there? Did the girls call the police? Did they know these men? Did the men even know the girls were in the Apt? The only killers we know are the girls.
    Sorry, for me a full investigation is needed.

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  30. Christopher Lee Ogden on August 15, 2012 at 4:58 PM

    I don’t know whether tighter gun regulations would necessarily decrease the *number* of such incidents, but they would at least decrease their severity when they do occur. There’s no reason, for example, why a civilian should legally be able to buy an AR-15 and a magazine that holds 100 rounds of ammunition over the internet.

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  31. FireTag on August 15, 2012 at 11:18 PM


    You raise a good point in 26, but I think the connection between gun ownership and the “bigger” guns here is thereby raised as well.

    How and how long does a society that regards the personal use of weapons as nasty maintain the commitment to those drones and fighter planes and the soldiers who are willing to use them? To use a scriptural analogy again, the lion has to disarm before the lamb — or you will quickly run out of lambs. I’d much rather build pipelines between Canada and the Gulf Coast than build aircraft carriers to keep people from sinking tankers in the Persian Gulf, but the latter is the world we live in. I’d much rather live in a world where people should be permitted to marry those they love than in a world where loving the wrong person can get you stoned to death. Again, that’s not the world we live in. Same thing with freedom of speech and all the other good things embodied in documents like the universal declaration of human rights. Ideas like collective security and responsibility to protect fail in the absence of common moral standards and the self-control to hold to them, and we haven’t achieved that at even the nation-state level in much of the world or for very long.

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  32. FireTag on August 15, 2012 at 11:52 PM


    I “liked” your comment 28, but there are certainly some assumptions in there I question. For one, this one:

    “Knowing how we work and why we think the way we do is the first step to being able to change and modify our behavior.”

    Lions do not WANT to modify their behavior to eat grass. They want to eat lambs. They evolve into something other than lions if they eat grass, and something else has to eat the lambs. (Cue theme from The Lion King with its “Circle of Life”.) No Christian theology with any significant following teaches that everyone gets “saved”. Even Mormonism has its outer darkness for those who come to LOVE self-destruction.

    And I think that is key. You give a very good summary of the origins of violence, but not of its outer limits, except to call it a kind of mental illness. Evil may constitute mental illness of some kind, but giving it a name doesn’t change the prognosis. It can become incurable, because one would rather go spiritually extinct than give it up.

    God’s love for such souls is apparently to mourn for them, give them what they desire, and isolate them in eternity so they can harm only those who WANT to share that isolation.

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  33. prometheus on August 16, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    I appreciate you questioning my assumptions, FireTag. I find it helpful because it forces me to reexamine what I am saying and what I believe.

    A couple of responses:

    “Lions do not WANT to modify their behavior to eat grass. They want to eat lambs. They evolve into something other than lions if they eat grass, and something else has to eat the lambs.”

    I agree that there are those who enjoy being lions, and do not want to change. I also think that, given all the preventable precursors, this number would be smaller the closer we got to an ideal world. I also think that our response to these people should not *by default* be to become lions ourselves, but rather we should try to persuade them to give up their lionish habits and become lambs instead. At the extreme end, where (as you pointed out) I did not really go, when there is no cure and no means of restraining them from engaging in destructive behavior, maybe that does require a violent response. I could pehaps be convinced of that in certain cases. It is always the extremes where our theories break down, both in physics and in society.

    “Ideas like collective security and responsibility to protect fail in the absence of common moral standards and the self-control to hold to them, and we haven’t achieved that at even the nation-state level in much of the world or for very long.”

    No, we haven’t totally succeeded, but we haven’t entirely failed, either. The Pinker link on the history of violence I included further up goes more into that. Violence has simply trended downwards over the last several thousand years.

    A good example of what I am trying to get at is Leymah Gbowee, who recently won a Nobel Peace Prize. She had to start working with the extreme, worst case scenario:

    “A whole generation of young men had no idea who they were without a gun in their hands. Several generations of women were widowed, had been raped, seen their daughters and mothers raped, and their children kill and be killed. Neighbors had turned against neighbors; young people had lost hope, and old people, everything they had painstakingly earned. To a person, we were traumatized.”
    –Leymah Gbowee, Mighty Be Our Powers (New York: Beast Books, 2011), written with Carol Mithers, p. 168.

    From there, she was an integral part of the process of ending a 14 year civil war through non-violent means. It is possible to change the face of society, even if we can’t reach every single individual. It might take multiple tries and generations to get it right, but we can get there.

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  34. Mormon Heretic on August 16, 2012 at 9:36 AM

    Unrelated comment, but when you look at the woman with the gun on the front page, it looks like she’s aiming her gun at Samuel the Lamanite. ;)

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  35. FireTag on August 16, 2012 at 3:07 PM


    I’m going to let this drop for now, but mostly because you’ve helped give me some direction for my next post.

    Leymah Gbowee is a good example of how individual actions for good can grow. I want to talk there about how individual actions toward good OR bad can grow in unpredictable ways. I’m not sure that the universe tends toward either extreme so much as it tends toward a divergence between them that enhances complexity. And where that divergence is occurring, there is really a LOT of moral turbulence.

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  36. prometheus on August 16, 2012 at 5:39 PM

    Sounds good FireTag – I look forward to your post! :D

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  37. Douglas on August 16, 2012 at 8:26 PM

    HawkChick – comparison with Singapore and USA is invalid. Singapore is a microstate run with a tight fist by its ruling elite. They value order, conformity, and productivity, and they’re fine with that. But by no means is Singapore a nation with even remotely American values. If you like it so much, by all means, renounce your American citizenship, stay there, and build Zion there. You seem to be clueless on the Second Amendment in particular and the US Constitution in general.
    The Second Amendment is what guarantees me reasonable ability to defend myself, my family, and my fellow citizens (as part of the unorganized militia) against ALL enemies, domestic and foreign. Included is our own Federal Government should it become that tyranny that our forefathers declared that “good King George” and his representatives had become. Let us be vigilant in the lawful political process to forestall such a circumstance.
    As for gun ‘safety’, it’s my decision as to technology, quantity, and keeping. It’s NOT the place of self-appointed busybodies to infringe my ability to keep firearms due to the proximity of minor children; indeed, there ought to always a presumption that I act in my children’s best interests until actions or competent psychiatric diagnosis proves otherwise.

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  38. FireTag on August 17, 2012 at 11:18 AM


    Where are the “dislike” buttons now that we need them? Your comments seem to call Hawkgrrrl un-American. I hope you will reconsider your tone; it adds nothing to discussion.

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  39. allquieton on August 17, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    “The US… appears to be a society that is driven by fear.”

    Really? Fear is what drives our society? This is ugly, anti-america political nonsense.

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  40. allquieton on August 17, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    Consider that many people actually have been victims of awful violent crimes. Don’t they have a reason to be afraid? And don’t they have a good reason to carry?

    Also consider that many people cannot afford to live in a safe neighborhood. Just b/c you have never needed a gun to defends yourself doesn’t mean that is true for everyone.

    One more thing-the anti nephi lehies were not truly pacifists. It was just a part of their repentance. They were glad to send their sons war. And they worked to fund the war.

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  41. Douglas on August 17, 2012 at 4:17 PM

    Ok, “Fire-Bringer”(aka “Prometheus”) – I’m not calling Hawkgrrl “un-American” at all. I’m pointing out that her comparison of gun laws versus crimes involving firearms is utterly invalid due to tremendous cultural and political differences. The Singaporeans have many good things about themselves but there’s no way I’d want to emulate their social and political choices in the USA. If she likes it there so much, she’s welcome to do so.
    What is “un-American” is the cowardly and irresponsible wish to entrust the defense of ones own person, family, and neighbors, when the framers ensured that the right to keep and bear arms shall NOT be infringed. Period. All able-bodied citizens have the same ability that was once reserved for nobility. We should never take lightly any attempt to infringe that right, even more so by the well-intentioned but clueless. Put simply, a citizen is armed, a subject is not unless his masters put a weapon in his hand and direct him to the “enemy”. Of course, they’ll make sure their armed serf has more weapons levelled at his back, lest he turn around….

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  42. Douglas on August 17, 2012 at 4:23 PM

    My mistake, Firetag..It was you, ya Reorganite pacifist ‘weenie’ (I’m messing with you). I prefer to kick butt with Brother Brigham instead of the widow Smith and her kid, Joe the Third.

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  43. hawkgrrrl on August 17, 2012 at 7:52 PM

    Douglas – I’m certainly not going to disagree with you about the differences of the origin, size and type of government in Singapore to the US. I only made the comparison because Singaporeans have done so as people here have asked me about the events in Aurora which happened right before I returned from 3 weeks in the states.

    The US definitely has a different culture than Singapore, and although I would never own a gun, I’m an American at heart. I’m not sure I’m anti-hunting, although I only went once and didn’t like it. In Singapore, there’s really nothing to hunt except maybe gray macaques, and you wouldn’t need a gun to do so, just a peanut butter sandwich. I do think we should restrict and limit the number and types of guns people can have. I don’t think we’re at imminent risk of needing to revolt against the government (the original reason for the second amendment). Or if we did, it would be ideologically, not with guns.

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  44. prometheus on August 17, 2012 at 8:44 PM

    “What is “un-American” is the cowardly and irresponsible wish to entrust the defense of ones own person, family, and neighbors, … Put simply, a citizen is armed, a subject is not …”

    Sigh. Weapon ownership is not and should never be a prerequisite of citizenship. And the name calling is pretty petty as well – those who cannot protect themselves (either by inclination or ability) are neither cowards nor irresponsible for doing so.

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  45. Jettboy on August 18, 2012 at 7:53 AM

    Overly dramatic as he is, I am in agreement with Douglas that gun ownership is an American right set in stone by the U.S. Constitution. I don’t hunt and I am not worried at all of having to protect my home (and in fact imagining the need leads to my conclusion I would still be the loser), but I feel it is both my right and duty to have one or many. That includes any type I wanted. If you get right down to the bottom this is the main reason for gun ownership support. For me no other reasons are necessary except to protect against those who don’t see it that way.

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  46. Bob on August 18, 2012 at 8:56 AM

    #45: Jettboy,
    “…gun ownership is an American right set in stone by the U.S. Constitution. It is not. You will find the Law takes away that Right all the time.
    If a cop says to “Drop the gun”. You better do it and not discuss your Right to have that gun.

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  47. Jettboy on August 18, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    Bob, nice deflection. It still doesn’t take away my right to own it or even shoot at and die or kill the cop. As the saying goes, “the law ends were the fist meets the nose.” Your example is more of a free speech issue and not a gun issue. Do I have the right to aim the gun at the cop? Even today the right of a cop to shoot has been challenged.

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