You Can’t Outlaw Crazy

I’ve lived in Japan for 10 years, but grew up in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains surrounded by guns — literally. My father stashed them in the basement, the attic, above a drop ceiling, in our root cellar, and even in the mantel of our fireplace. Why? “Because you never know what will happen, and it’s always good to be able to get your guns.” He taught us how to break down and clean the family’s firearms, and how to reload ammunition using equipment mounted to his workbench.

More than that, though, he taught us gun safety. Every soul in our house knew the danger of “unloaded” weapons, the importance of pointing downrange, and how to carry a rifle when walking through the woods. The cardinal rule was a simple one I recall every time I see a drawn-out Hollywood showdown scene: Never point a weapon at a person unless you intend to kill them.

All of this came back to me with news of the Aurora massacre on Friday. Another deranged man, another group of innocents, another time in Colorado. The state barely seems to have overcome the Columbine massacre of 13 years ago, and now this. Emails poured in from Japanese and American friends alike seeking my reaction. In their view, my twin connections to guns and Colorado qualify me to weigh in. The usual questions: “Isn’t it time for America to modernize with gun control laws?” “Is America’s violent culture to blame?” “Are violent Hollywood movies, like Batman, to blame?”

I understand that times have changed since the Second Amendment, now almost 221 years old, that an armed citizenry is no longer adequate to resist modern military technology. However, I believe that owning a gun is better than owning nothing if society goes out of control and the G-men come for you and your neighbors — as has happened multiple times in the world over the past two centuries.

I know that America’s culture is more violent than many in the world and that Hollywood films glorify much of that violence. However, I also know that it’s been that way for decades and that the very genesis of our nation happened in the violence of armed rebellion against a sovereign. Fierce independence is in our blood; unilateral disarmament is not. I doubt a law will do much about that. As for outright gun control, isn’t it too late? It’s possible in Japan and other countries because people there have never had guns and don’t want them. Simply not introducing them to the public serves as nearly total gun control. In America, who’s going to sign up for the job of seizing guns from people’s houses? Good luck getting the ones from my dad’s mantel.

What I think is most frustrating to accept in tragic times, which is why it’s the last idea offered by commentators, is that people sometimes snap. No laws or cultural introspection will get around this. What percentage of the US population went crazy on Friday? A tiny sliver. To institute TSA screenings at all public spaces, and urge gun control, and ban certain movies, and so on would be an ineffective overreaction. It would irritate the good people, leave bad people unfazed, and be irrelevant to crazy people. This massacre is a tragedy, but it’s not the fault of guns, or America, or Batman. It’s the fault of one unhinged 24-year-old.

Moreover, you know what would have helped a lot in that theater? A good person with a gun. Just about anybody I grew up with could have made short work of a man standing silhouetted against a movie screen. Bulletproof vest or no, there are vulnerable areas and, besides, somebody shooting back would have changed the attacker’s mood in a hurry. Fewer innocent lives might have been lost.

When a person sets their mind to violence, they don’t need guns to get it done. Suicide statistics bear this out. Most American suicides happen with guns, so one gun-control argument is that if there were no guns there would be fewer suicides. Wrong. Japan has no guns but a reported suicide rate twice that of America’s. It’s not the guns that are the problem, it’s the hands that end up holding them. Take away the guns and the hands will find other weapons. Four years ago in the Akihabara electronic shopping district of Tokyo, for example, a murderous man plowed his truck into a crowd of people, killing three, then jumped out and stabbed 12 more with a dagger. People snap everywhere on Earth for all kinds of reasons.

I don’t know how to change that. What I do know is that not one kid from my gun-ridden childhood has committed a violent crime. A genuine respect for firearms is tantamount to revulsion to violent crime, because killing innocent people is not what guns are supposed to do. The Colorado kids I knew, and know now as adults, believe guns are for hunting and family protection, not for murder. I wish more citizens grew up the way we did.

Highlights From The Comment Stream Below:

Link: Is there any reason for the general population to own military-style weapons?

Link: Could a “regular Joe” armed with a concealed weapon have stopped the Aurora attacker?

Link: This video of a concealed weapon saving the day in Florida suggests the answer is “yes.”

Link: Should theaters be required to install sensors on their emergency exit doors?

Link: Does the availability of guns make America more violent than other countries?

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  1. Charlie
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    Here’s another video showing people wanting and needing the right to defend themselves with a concealed carry permit:

  2. Milton Cooper
    Posted July 27, 2012 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    The Country of Texas ~ especially for my Japanese friends
    Please note that Texas is the only state with a legal right to secede from the Union . (Reference the Texas-American Annexation Treaty of 1848.)

    We Texans love y’all, but we’ll probably have to take action if Barack Obama wins the election. We’ll miss you too.

    Here is what can happen:

    1: Barack Hussein Obama is President of the United States, and Texas secedes from the Union in summer of 2013.

    2: George W. Bush will become the President of the Republic of Texas . You might not think that he talks too pretty, but we haven’t had another terrorist attack, and the economy was fine until the effects of the Democrats lowering the qualifications for home loans came to roost.

    So what does Texas have to do to survive as a Republic?

    1. NASA is just south of Houston , Texas . We will control the space industry.

    2. We refine over 85% of the gasoline in the United States .

    3. Defense Industry–we have over 65% of it. The term “Don’t mess with Texas,” will take on a whole new meaning.

    4. Oil – we can supply all the oil that the Republic of Texas will need for the next 300 years. What will the other states do? Gee, we don’t know. Why not ask Obama?

    5. Natural Gas – again we have all we need, and it’s too bad about those Northern States. John Kerry and Al Gore will have to figure out a way to keep them warm….

    6. Computer Industry – we lead the nation in producing computer chips and communications equipment -small companies like Texas Instruments, Dell Computer, EDS, Raytheon, National Semiconductor,Motorola, Intel, AMD, Atmel, Applied Materials, Ball Microconductor, Dallas Semiconductor, Nortel, Alcatel, etc, etc. The list goes on and on.

    7. Medical Care – We have the research centers for cancer research, the best burn centers and the top trauma units in the world, as well as other large health centers. The Houston Medical Center alone employees over 65,000 people.

    8. We have enough colleges to keep us getting smarter: University of
    Texas , Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Texas Christian, Rice, SMU, University
    of Dallas , University of Houston , Baylor, UNT ( University of North
    Texas ), Texas Women’s University, etc. Ivy grows better in the South anyway.

    9. We have an intelligent and energetic work force, and it isn’t restricted by a bunch of unions. Here in Texas , it’s a Right to Work State and, therefore, it’s every man and women for themselves. We just go out and get the job done. And if we don’t like the way one company operates, we get a job somewhere else.

    10. We have essential control of the paper, plastics, and insurance industries, etc.

    11. In case of a foreign invasion, we have the Texas National Guard, the Texas Air National Guard, and several military bases. We don’t have an Army, but since everybody down here has at least six rifles and a pile of ammo, we can raise an Army in 24 hours if we need one. If the situation really gets bad, we can always call the Department of Public Safety and ask them to send over the Texas Rangers.

    12. We are totally self-sufficient in beef, poultry, hogs, and several types of grain, fruit and vegetables, and let’s not forget seafood from the Gulf. Also, everybody down here knows how to cook them so that they taste good. Don’t need any food.

    13. Three of the ten largest cities in the United States , and twenty- three of the 100 largest cities in the United States , are located inTexas. And Texas also has more land than California , New York , New Jersey , Connecticut , Delaware , Hawaii , Massachusetts , Maryland , Rhode Island and Vermont combined.

    14. Trade: Three of the ten largest ports in the United States are located in Texas .

    15. We also manufacture cars down here, but we don’t need to. You see, nothing rusts in
    Texas, so our vehicles stay beautiful and run well for decades.

    This just names a few of the items that will keep the Republic of Texas in good shape. There isn’t a thing out there that we need and don’t have.

    Now to the rest of the United States under President Obama: Since you won’t have the refineries to get gas for your cars, only President Obama will be able to drive around in his big 5 mpg SUV.The rest of the United States will have to walk or ride bikes.

    You won’t have any TV as the Space Center in Houston will cut off satellite communications. You won’t have any natural gas to heat your homes, but since Mr. Obama has predicted global warming, you will not need the gas as long as you survive the 2000 years it will take to get enough
    heat from Global Warming.

    The People of Texas

    P.S. This is not a threatening letter – just a note to give you something to think about!

  3. Posted July 27, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame wrote an article urging gun control, in which he argues:

    • The 2nd Amendment applies to militias only. Most gun advocates are not part of a militia and, therefore, have no right to own guns.
    • Arguments such as “Guns should only be banned if violent crimes committed with tomatoes means we should ban tomatoes” and “Drunk drivers kill, should we ban fast cars?” are “completely specious” because “tomatoes and cars have purposes other than killing.”
    • The presence of good people with guns in the Aurora theater would not have helped because “the element of surprise, tear gas and head-to-toe Kevlar protection might have given him a distinct edge. Not only that, but a crowd of people firing away in a chaotic arena without training or planning — I tend to think that scenario could produce even more victims.”
    • The argument that evildoers will get guns even if we ban them does not wash because the Aurora shooter “would have had to go to illegal sources — sources that could possibly be traced, watched, overseen. Or he would have to go deeper online and those transactions could be monitored. ‘Hm, some guy in Aurora is buying guns, tons of ammo and kevlar — plus bomb-making ingredients and tear gas. Maybe we should check that out.’ But that won’t happen as long as all that activity is legal and unrestricted.”

    In response, the Grumpy Pundit rebutted Alexander’s piece:

    • “He starts out by dragging out that old saw, long disproven, that the 2nd Amendment only applies to militias. (It was exactly this argument, by the way, back in the ’90s that led to the rise of right-wing groups calling themselves ‘militias.’) For the record, the explanatory clause at the beginning of the sentence doesn’t change the meaning of the main clause: ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.’ To argue otherwise is to argue that ‘the people’ means something different in the 2nd Amendment than it does in all the rest of the Constitution. There is no basis for doing so, and courts up to and including the US Supreme Court have upheld that the 2nd Amendment right to arms is an individual right.”
    • “Does Jason really think that illegal sources are more closely monitored than legal channels? That someone is tracing every illegal firearm transaction? Do I even have to explain how silly that is? It’s the legal transactions that have a greater chance of someone noticing an unusual purchase going on.”
    • “The (common) mistake Jason is making here is assuming that if weapons like the AR aren’t available, mass-murderers would use something less effective. Unfortunately, history doesn’t bear that out. As I explain above, the AR-15 isn’t the most potent rifle available, and besides the biggest mass murders (by individuals; states are still the all-time champions, by many orders of magnitude) of all time have been carried out by bombs. Timothy McVeigh didn’t use an AR to kill 168 people in Oklahoma City. Andrew Kehoe didn’t use an AR to kill 45 people at the Bath Consolidated School. They both used bombs.”
    • “We can’t stop bad people from getting their hands on stuff. There are too many things that can be used to hurt people. You want to take away all the guns, everywhere in the world? Okay. How about gasoline? That’s what Tim McVeigh used; gasoline and fertilizer. There are a lot of other nasty things you can do with it too, which I won’t go into for obvious reasons.”

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