After my recent Newspaper Days blog post when I talked about buying classic cars and guns that people came to my newspaper offices to advertise for sale, I have had several conversations with readers about the whole gun thing and gun violence. Some feel that we need to ban all private firearms ownership or ban the so-called “assault weapons.” Others say our founding fathers guaranteed us the right to keep and bear arms in the Constitution. Then again, those same founding fathers only wanted white male property owners to have the right to vote and believed slavery was acceptable, so there’s that.
My friend Cindy Kingma asked me what I thought the answer was, and I told her I honestly don’t know but I wish I did. Let me preface what I am about to say by acknowledging that I am a lifelong gun owner and a former gun shop owner. Let me also add that while I believe every law abiding citizen of this country should have the right to possess a firearm, I also believe there are a hell of a lot of them that have no business with one. Or even a sharp pair of scissors.
I believe in sensible gun control, including background checks, not allowing people convicted of violent felonies and those convicted of domestic abuse to possess firearms, and red flag laws that give authorities the power to remove guns from somebody who poses a true threat to themselves or others. But note that I said true threat. The problem with laws like these is determining who gets to decide if somebody is a true threat.
But along with that, we have to understand that the problem really isn’t guns. Guns have been a part of America since the Mayflower. I can hear people saying, “But you can’t mow down a classroom full of kids with a muzzleloading rifle.” Before the 1968 additions to the National Firearms Act, you could go down to your local hardware store and purchase a fully automatic Thompson submachine gun or order one through the mail. I remember the one my dad kept in a closet and another that an uncle owned. They are as deadly as today’s AR-15s, if not more so. So why didn’t we have mass shootings back in the good old days when there were so many fully automatic weapons around?
Given our long history, mass shootings are a fairly recent phenomenon. Nobody did things like that when I was in high school, which seems like a long time ago but really wasn’t.
I do believe that part of the problem is our culture. When I was in Army basic training right after high school, we were taught to kill, kill, kill! The enemy was not a person with a family he loved and who loved him. He wasn’t a human being. He was a target. In eight weeks, we were desensitized to the point where killing was not something deplorable. It was our duty, and we were damn sure going to do our duty. Many were eager to do it. For most, that quickly changed when it actually happened.
I believe that TV, movies, and video games, along with social media, have now done the same thing. I forget the number of on-screen deaths an average teenager is exposed to in a given month or year, but it is sky high. They mow down a hundred zombies on screen and see blood and gore splattered all over and love it. Slasher movies emphasize the same thing. I think that the same desensitization I was exposed to as a teenage Army recruit is a large part of what is happening today. Killing somebody isn’t real, it’s just a thrill, a game.
I also think that the lack of a core family unit is a contributing factor. Either the parents are not there because one or the other has left, or they are dysfunctional, or they are working two jobs each to pay the rent and put food on the table. So their kids are left to fend for themselves and don’t grow up with a strong set of moral values. Nobody is there to tell them to put down that nasty game and turn that disgusting movie off. But there was somebody there when I was growing up, back when mass shootings were unheard of. There has to be a connection to that.
And let’s not continue to ignore bullying. We’re too nice or too afraid to call out bullies. Some school officials try, but I know more than a few who are overworked, underpaid, burned out, and don’t have the energy to deal with parents who can be as big a bully as their children. Many times that’s where the kids learned it. Then a bully decides to take it a crazy step forward, or a bullied outcast who wants revenge on the whole damn world does something terrible, and we shake our collective heads and ask ourselves how nobody saw it coming.
Something else we have ignored for far too long is mental illness. Our government needs to step up to the plate and provide real treatment for those suffering from psychiatric problems. Yes, it is expensive, but what is the cost we pay by doing nothing? I remember hearing somebody once telling a friend about a neighbor who was obviously unbalanced, “Stay away from him, he’s crazy.” No, get him some help, so he is not a danger to himself or anyone else.
But what about those darned guns? A total ban and confiscation of all firearms in the county would never work. Remember, heroin is illegal too, but you can buy it in every city and town across the nation if you know who to ask. There are millions of guns out there, and it is literally impossible to make them all go away. But what if you could?
As I have told more than one person, if you truly think taking every gun away from everyone will make you safe, tell your wife and daughters to spend 24 hours in a maximum-security prison. After all, the convicts are not allowed to have any kind of weapons. How safe do you think they would be?
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Thought For The Day – When life gives you mold, make penicillin.
Oh, NIck……. all I can say is “amen”…….. you are soooooo right!!!! No simple answer, But recognizing and then HELPING those troubled people could be. No, it’s not easy, but it’s the only way to stop this violence.
Good blog Nick!
Nick on this issue of gun control I agree with you. Hollywood has not done there part by showing less violence and the real ramifications of such acts. Having been a Corrections Officer in a max state prison for 30 years. One way to stop this I believe would be have anyone convicted of any crime involving a fire arm of any sort spend the rest of their life in prison with no chance of parole. This would make things perhaps more palatable to those who feel the death penalty is not an option.
Sounds to me like you should run for office, Nick. It would sure put someone with some COMMON SENSE in charge.
Like you said today kids spend so much time playing video games the become numb to killing on the screen and think the same in real life.
Be Safe and Enjoy!
It’s abut time.
Damn, common sense on the gun issue. You don’t see that every day or hardly ever. Best blog ever!
You have no idea what the hell you’re talking about. Have you ever even held a real gun in your life? I doubt it. Just another liberal talking shit. I served 3 years in the army so assholes like you can spout off and show the world you are idiots.
God blog today Nick but you’re gonna get flamed!
To some individuals there is no way to reach them. Back in the olden days there was such a thing as shame. You used to feel shame for your bad actions. Sometimes people can be convinced to change bad actions by shaming. Well guess what!? One person’s shaming is another person’s bullying! The current ideology is that any criticism is an act of oppression and therefore an act of hatred. Not only any current criticism you may espouse also anything that you may have said during your lifetime can get your life ruined. REREAD ORWELL!
Also back in the day there were places called mental hospitals. They were Hell holes!! Enlightened clinicians decided that patients could be controlled with the new drugs that the patients would self administer so hospitals became expensive and unnecessary. How’s that working out?
The answers to problems are difficult and complex. We (boomers) were not truly taught how to reason. The subsequent generations of snowflakes appear less capable of handling the evolution of the systems that we have put ourselves in.
First of all – great blog Nick!! Seems like you’ve given this a lot of thought!
Second of all – respondent Tom Bernard, apparently, has not been reading your blog for long, or else he thinks you don’t tell the truth. He may not even have read this blog where you mention your time in the service. He’d be the idiot here! With folks like him in the world, who don’t know what the heck they’re talking about, and don’t try to educate themselves about what they’re reading, it’s no wonder we have so many issues that seem to have no answers. I grew up in a household with guns as well, we learned the rules about them and we never touched them unless we were with our dad who took the time to teach us the rights and wrongs and expected us to use them properly. I cannot find one thing in this blog that I disagree with even slightly. Unfortunately the issues you point out are to some extent not fixable unless EVERYONE joins in. Some of the issues go beyond gun issues and show up in classrooms every day of the school year – so it’s not about conservatives or liberals it’s about working to make families whole again, about raising our kids to be civil to each other and for adults to practice the same. So good on you Nick…..happy to call you my blogging buddy!!
That is a really good post. You are right about the impossibility of removing guns and the lack of publicly available mental health assistance. I sure wish there was a fix coming along but I don’t see it. And having a mass killing every other day is just making everything worse. (And like you, I’m a vet and have owned guns since I was about 10!)
I agree with you on the gun issue. Take everyone’s gun away and only the criminals would have guns, but letting everyone have a gun and no one is safe. Sober and educated persons shouldn’t have a problem owning a weapon. As you remarked, who makes the call?
The chances of me ever needing a gun for protection are really slim, but if I possessed one I would more than likely shoot myself or a family member. At 82 I have never been in a situation where I needed a weapon. And at 82 there have been several incidents (mainly in traffic) in which if I had a gun I might have pulled it and hurt someone. I have lived in rural America, small towns and many years is South Phoenix where’ back then’ crime was rampart. I also was living is South LA during the Watts riots of 1968. Had a double barrel shotgun in those days but it never left my gun rack and I didn’t feel threatened enough to need to take it down.
As the gentleman said, maybe you should run for office.
I agree completely with everything you said in this post and don’t understand why more people don’t think this way. Or maybe they do, but the extremists on both ends of the argument are just louder than those with common sense?! I also think it is important to know yourself well enough to know if you would be a good gun owner. While I support gun ownership for the reasons you listed above and am grateful to know that when I am in the company of friends with concealed carry permits I may be safer, I know myself well enough to know that if I had owned a gun in my 20s, 30s, or 40s, I might not have been around to see my 50s.
Wow – I 100% concur – Outstanding well composed post Nick – Most stable and mature individuals would find it extremely difficult to find fault or challenge with any part of your statement – well Done Sir.
VERY THOUGHTFUL! Thank you for walking a difficult line.
Mr. Russell, you hit every nail directly on the head with force and accuracy. There is another factor that I feel also adds to the problem and that is education. The education system in this country has fallen considerably. I have seen kids graduate from high school unable to construct a proper sentence or speak proper English. They cannot get a decent job and become even more susceptible to all of the negative influences you discussed. So many reasons for this complex problem, where does one start?
Educate! and re-instore the draft!
1/2 the kids and 1/2 the parents have no understanding of weapons!
Nice blog post Nick.
As you said, there is no simple solution to these and other problems like this.
I was in high school in a rural community in the early 1980s. I remember kids driving their trucks to school and there would be a bow or rifle in the gun rack behind the seat. Nobody thought twice about it, kids would go hunting after school. I also remember going to my friend’s homes that were farmers. Most had a dedicated area for firearms. They were loaded and ready for action, none of them had any “accidents” because they were taught at a very young age to respect them, if they didn’t they would be sitting funny for about a week.
Common sense gun control laws. It sounds good to me, but, there are lots of gun control laws that aren’t prosecuted right now. I worked in a larger city as a cop and if you arrested someone for Carrying a Concealed Weapon, CCW, and they weren’t a felon, most of the time the DA would drop it down to a lesser charge, or the most for punishment would be probation.
It’s kind of like drunk driving laws. If you look at locations where they really work the punishment is taking away the offender’s car and them spending real time in jail/prison.
If we actually enforced the laws that are already on the books and gave out real punishment, you would see a dent in the problems we are having.