Guns

File:Portrait of a girl with gun and hound.jpgSometimes the US seems almost civilised- Rome to our Greece, as Macmillan said. Sometimes it seems insane, though the insanity of this story is apparent to my blogging buddy who comes from Texas and lives in Ohio, so perhaps not all is lost. Michelle shared this on facebook: a five year old accidentally shot and killed his two year old sister in Kentucky. His mother had only gone out for a few minutes.

Kentucky state police trooper Billy Gregory said, It’s just one of those nightmares, a quick thing that happens when you turn your back. County coroner Gary White said, It’s just a tragic situation. Grandmother Linda Riddle said, It was God’s will. It was her time to go, I guess. I just know she’s in heaven right now and I know she’s in good hands with the Lord. The gun was the child’s own, from Crickett, slogan, Quality firearms for America’s youth. A testimonial on their website says, My 4 1/2 year old daughter thought the “pink one” was far superior to a black synthetic stock,who am i to argue? I never would have thought that a pink rifle would be sitting in the rack in the gun room. The gun was somewhere the parents had thought was safe.

I would say the parents were criminally negligent, though have no idea what punishment, if any, is appropriate. Over here they would get support from social workers if their son stayed with them. It is likely the guilt will permanently damage him.

On CNN, a commenter said The gun was loaded because 678px-Schlossmuseum_DA_03these people were stupid. Safe gun management is lesson number one with the NRA. Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. That’s all right then. It’s a Dar-win. Another said You can’t legislate people out of being stupid. An anonymous commenter said areas like Kentucky, West Virgina, Arkansas, etc, are seen as being populated by barbaric throwbacks whose gene pool has the depth and variety of a mud puddle. I do not feel this blanket contempt helps.

Alana Brown commented, Yet auto accidents remain the number one cause of death for children. We should really stop selling cars (the killing machines that kill way more kids.) Well, cars are useful. This analogy only holds if people think guns are as useful as cars- for defending The People from the evil communist Obama, perhaps.

Michelle’s facebook thread had nineteen comments, mostly sad head-shaking, though one said as a native Kentuckian, it was not usual for a five year old to own a gun. On my own share, the reaction was WTF. America really is that alien.

Over here, I recall two mass shootings, in Dunblane and in Hungerford, though Wikipedia reminded me of twelve shot in Cumbria in 2010. Our law restricts guns. We don’t have school shootings now, whether “real” or otherwise.

22 thoughts on “Guns

  1. There really is no easy answer to this and I could recount so many stupid, tragic and insane gun deaths and wounding accidents and incidents, that they would fill volumes of books.

    The trouble is that it is a huge cultural thing in the USA, and I doubt anyone is ever going to change that. For a start the Second Amendment (orginally meant for people to form militias) would make it unconsitutional to change it, but moreover it is so firmly entrenched in US culture that it would make it impossible to do so. I am quite the fan of insane old adverts, and one for Ivor Johnston Revolvers gives me the chills; it shows a pretty little girl lying in bed with a doll, with a revolver beside her and the motto “Daddy says it won’t hurt us.”

    In some states the emphasis on gun ownership is so obssessive that it borders upon the insane. I am given to understand that there is a county in Kansas where it is an offence NOT to have a loaded gun in your home, for protection.

    It is frightening that there are now a number of states which allow people to carry concealed firearms in bars, because booze and guns REALLY makes a good mixture, doesn’t it? The latest state to join this little club is South Carolina, one of the states so deeply set in the Bible Belt that welcome signs boast “When Jesus returns, he’s coming here.” And were that not repulsive enough, I know you will baulk at this Clare, dear, Georgia recently allowed the carrying of concealed firearms in places of worship.

    When this happened, I discussed it on a social networking site and a guy I can only describe as so redneck he was turned down as an extra in Deliverance for being too scary, stated he WOULD take a gun to church – purely because he could. He would not listen to my arguments that even as an atheist, I find the taking of firearms into church an affront to the Christian faith, or that just because you CAN do something, it does not automatically follow that you SHOULD do it.

    I have no time for the NRA argument that “people kill people”, because people kill people with guns. I had a facedesk moment recently when an American friend on Facebook posted that of all the mass shootings in the past 20 years, the majority of the gunmen (and they have been men) were on or had previously been on drugs for psychiatric disorders. The said person was trying to put mental illness at fault, without for one moment seeing that the ready availability of guns makes it all the more likely for these shootings to happen. I notice she didn’t mention that of all the mass shootings in US history, the majority of gunmen have been US Marines veterans – just as Lee Harvey Oswald was an ex-marine. Using her same twisted logic, are the US Marine Corps to blame for shootings instead of readily available firearms?

    But then I refuse to listen to the NRA until they tell us that when Charlton Heston died, did they pry his gun from his cold, dead hands?

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    • I have some sympathy for a pro-gun stance in this situation: Highland shooting estates bring jobs and income to countryside areas which are being depopulated. It is not my stance, but I have some sympathy for it.

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  2. The culture shock you describe also happens within the US. Urban Americans are horrified by firearms. Rural Americans grow up playing with them. Neither group really comprehends the other so they demonize each other.

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    • I loved “Flight Behavior” by Barbara Kingsolver. I find she grew up in rural Kentucky. She shows respect and understanding for the rural values while clearly having imbibed values closer to my own.

      I rather hoped to tempt someone pro-gun to comment, so I could ask for a 101 explanation of his position.

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      • I guess I’m “pro-gun”, since I grew up around guns and have a licence to carry.
        I think the main issue is cultural. I could understand being horrified by guns if I grew up in Chicago, which has 300-500 homicides a year in spite of having some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. Instead I grew up in rural Massachusetts, in a town where most families had a firearm or two around the house, and where the last gun related fatality was a teenager who accidentally shot himself 30 years ago.
        My neighboring state to the north, Vermont, has no gun laws. There, sometimes boys bring rifles or shotguns to school so they can go hunting after class. There is very little violent crime.
        In fact, some studies have suggested that the more guns there are in a town, the less crime there is. Some people interpret this as a causal effect, but I suspect it is cultural.
        Culture trumps law. My view, which may be a bit simplistic, is this: in a low-trust urban environment, all the gun laws in the world will not prevent criminals from getting their hands on them. In a high-trust rural community, gun laws are a ham-fisted solution to a problem that does not exist for that community.
        It is sad there there is so much mutual hatred over the issue. Liberals who wouldn’t know the first thing about rural life say “Here, dear un-enlightened redneck. Listen to your moral and intellectual superiors, wipe the drool off your face and let me take away that icky gun, for your own good, since you are much too stupid to use it,” And the country boy who never in his life imagined using his gun on a fellow human being, tells the city liberal “I’d like to see you try to take it, you commie fascist.” and then goes out and buys four more guns out of spite.

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  3. Alien is the correct word. I find the obsession with guns incredible. It is truly another world. One I’m glad I don’t live in. America is still a new country. It has grown up too quickly but is still basically in adolescent wearing grown up clothes. If it was truly adult it would change its gun laws.

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  4. It’s about the Constitutional concept of State’s rights. New York has strict gun control; the parents would be arrested and the child or children taken into care. It is the same in all the liberal states. Guns kill and it’s illegal to have them without a permit that calls for a good reason. Massachusetts turns down more requests for permits than it allows. Texas allows the criminally insane to buy guns.

    So … usually, when people ask me if I’m American (in France), I always say the same thing, “Non, pas vraiment. Je suis New Yorkais.” It’s my truth. Now about those boys who followed the little girl in the British shopping mall and then killed her, or last year … the gay Scottish bartender who was beaten to a pulp and then had petrol poured on him and he was set afire. It was his screams, apparently, that alerted people in the council housing estate to call for help. But he was a carbonized mummy by the time “help” arrived.

    None of us has the edge over others for sadistic murders and creepy sociopathic stuff. On my street in Paris, one of my neighbors set his wife on fire and then tossed her out the fifth (6th) floor window. Unfortunately, she landed amid a group of BAC students on their way home from school. Think they’ll ever be psychologically “right” again?

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    • I think we do, actually, on this most extreme sociopathy. The US intentional homicide (murder has different meanings in different jurisdictions) rate is 4.8 per 100,000 people, compared to the UK 1.0. The US Virgin Islands had 52.9 in 2010, and the next highest Caribbean rate was Jamaica (Head of State- the Queen) 39.3.

      I am not sure whether to post this reply, now. Not even sure why not: something to do with such violence coming from circumstances rather than any sort of national character; or not judging national character by these extremes; or even that in national character, sometimes overall good points have terrible consequences.

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      • Well, again, you have to break the statistics down by state … New Hampshire, Vermont, even New York are the equivalent of Europe. It’s all very complicated … but it’s like people lumping all of the EU together and then saying, “Europeans …” One would quickly dash in with, “Don’t put me in with those brigands in the ..” or sort of. It’s complicated. But we rarely think or talk in terms of the USA unless it’s war, soccer or some such. Other than that we’re loyal to our State.

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  5. I grew up in rural North Dakota. We always had guns around and I was taught how to handle them. Starting around 9 or 10, I had an air rifle, a BB gun like the kid in “A Christmas Story” wanted. I learned how to carry it, how to care for it, and how to be safe with it. Later my parents sent me to a gun safety class, and after that I was allowed to use the more powerful rifles and shotguns in the house, for hunting or target practice.

    When I was a teenager I brought home a catalog for Beretta pistols. My father was angry when he saw it and demanded, “That’s a weapon! Who are you going to kill?”. I then received a lengthy lecture on the difference between a gun, which was a tool for hunting, shooting sports, and controlling vermin and stray animals on our farm. I knew before this you were never supposed to point a gun at anything you didn’t want to destroy, and so never, never pointed one at a person, But this was my introduction to the concept of guns for specific purposes, meaning guns for hunting vs. killing.

    Even in rural areas, not every kid gets this upbringing. Stories of the Wild West are glamorized, and the primary use of guns are self-defense, which is shorthand for killing people. I was once at a gun range in ND when a father came in with his son, maybe 12, to teach him “how to be a man.” They had a weapon that looked like a small Uzi with a large clip, holding 50 9mm rounds and designed for concealment and rapid fire. In other words, a killing weapon. They took turns firing a few rounds from it, and they left when the clip was empty. It was pathetic, and that kid learned all the wrong things that day, in my opinion. I had fired a few thousand shots from my air rifle before I would have been allowed near a gun of that caliber. But my father is 90 now, and came from a different time. Even in the rural areas, this responsible ethic is being replaced with something more like insanity.

    The 2nd amendment to our constitution was not written to support the way it is used today. “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Early court rulings did not support the right to keep weapons outside of the context of a state or federal militia. Supreme Court rulings through 1939 allowed guns to be regulated outside of a militia context. It wasn’t until 2008 that the tables were turned at the Supreme Court.

    I now live in liberal Seattle, and gun owners are fairly common here. The state constitution grants more gun rights than the federal one does, and gun owners seem to be a mix of the responsible and the crazy. I worked for some time next to a man I truly feared would come in one day and start shooting people. Prior to Obama’s election he was actively preparing for a civil war, because he believe the liberals would start one if Obama lost. This is preposterous on so many levels, not least of which that US liberals know there are at least 100 Conservative-owned guns for every Liberal-owned one. And this man is the prime example of the type of moron who would give a real rifle to a five-year-old.

    I would say it’s Darwinian, but there is no way enough accidents like this can happen to effect the Conservatives of our species. The death of a small child is a tragedy, but to be expected among a culture that glamorizes guns this way. I dream of a day that guns are responsibly regulated at least to the extent that a car is, where you must obtain training and a license to keep or use one, and reasonable age limits to keep guns out of the hands of children who are not yet capable of making the necessary judgments to use one correctly. But I would not want to see the country swept clean of them. They are part of our culture, and I value what I have learned from owning and using mine.

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      • There are reasons beyond culture why the need for guns persists here. Geography is a big one. A huge portion of the US is essentially mountain wilderness. If you are on foot in these areas you are likely to encounter dangerous wildlife. You don’t even need to go to the mountains for this. I live on the periphery of suburban Seattle and I have seen coyote, bears and cougars on or within 1/2 km of my property. Coyote will run away and bears usually will, but cougars are dangerous. If I see or hear about bears or cougars in the neighborhood, I may carry my gun to do yard work.

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  6. Just got to this post – Hm – cannot say that US gun freedom world has gone mad because it’s way past that – the pro-gun lobby will say anything even the unspeakable to justify holding onto firearms – here in Australia gun laws are very strict and after strict gun laws were rushed in post-Port Arthur massacre 1996 when 35 people were killed there was no way ownership of guns would get it easy any more

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    • There seem to be various questions. Should there be licensing? What criteria? Should someone be able to carry a concealed weapon? Should high capacity magazines be permitted? If there is an intruder in the home, is deadly force legal?

      Dunblane and Hungerford were our massacres leading to increased gun control, but the Cumbria mass-shooting happened despite all that legislation. Now when I take the train to London I often see a policeman with a semi-automatic rifle.

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      • No doubt the police should carry arms, just in case they come across someone’s life being threatened by another person drawing a weapon etc…Yes legislation does not get rid of all possibilities of murders of innocent people … deadly force in home intrusion would I guess be permitted if the intruder was having the same “advantage”… yes there should be licensing I believe…restrict the category of arms and who can carry them…this right to bear arms in US bothers me quite a bit and I certainly wouldn’t like to walk the streets knowing there may be loonies about with concealed guns

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