Too many gun deaths, not enough guns

A college of photos Vester Lee Flanagan II sent to his old roommate

A collage of photos Vester Lee Flanagan II sent to his old roommate

“Please keep working out, player,” Vester Lee Flanagan wrote in a letter to his former roommate, shortly before he shot three people and killed himself. “When the heads stop turning, it’s awful.” Flanagan was 41, recently fired from his job at WDBJ in Virginia, and nostalgic for his days as a male escort. He disliked Alison Parker and Adam Ward, but he was mad at something else. And his gun gave him the power to shoot anyone who didn’t shoot him first, if not precisely the authority.

If only Parker and Ward had guns, too—they might have killed Flanagan instead of the other way around, and this story would have a happy ending. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun who brings it to work, identifies the bad guy, and shoots him before he can do anything. If the good guy shoots the bad guy after the bad guy shoots a bunch of people, it’s a tie. That’s the tack I take in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, which is satire. No irony is too broad for the gun control debate, though, and I presume that I will be inundated with support and condemnation from people who take me seriously.

It is a serious topic, after all. But the way we talk about it is often indistinguishable from satire, particularly in the once-shocking but now hackneyed argument that only more guns can reduce gun violence. Remember when Wayne LaPierre was a crazy person for saying that? Three years later, it’s a slogan, like “life begins at conception” or “liquor before beer, in the clear.” What starts as absurdity ends as cant, if you don’t respond firmly enough.

I think we should start responding firmly to the fantasy that the way to reduce gun violence is for more people to carry guns. There’s no statistical evidence to support it. If it turns out not to be true, the exponents of that argument are indirectly killing people. The belief that more guns means fewer shootings is not a personal opinion, like “abortion is wrong” or “the government should use taxes to redistribute wealth.” It’s a claim of fact—one that appears manifestly untrue. We should not let it calcify into a political position.

I guess what I’m saying is that I urge you to mock people carrying guns. They’re living out a power fantasy already, so they should probably be reminded that the ability to kill someone is not the same as a mandate. A vocal minority of wanna-be cowboys and unscrupulous salesmen have made America the most violent developed nation on Earth. Perhaps they could withstand a little mockery—and if they can’t, all the better.

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  1. Good link Kelly.

    “There’s a lot of middle ground between “repealing the Second Amendment” and “requiring school children to pass firearm training.”
    Not on my facebook feed.

  2. Too bad you’re wrong. Sorry.

    “In 2004, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences released its evaluation from a review of 253 journal articles, 99 books, 43 government publications, and some original empirical research. It failed to identify any gun control that had reduced violent crime, suicide, or gun accidents.The same conclusion was reached in 2003 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s review of then extant studies.”

    “At times like these some say that America’s relatively high gun-ownership rate leads to more murders. There are fundamental problems with that conclusion. First of all, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, “Firearm-related homicides declined 39%, from 18,253 in 1993 to 11,101 in 2011” and “Nonfatal firearm crimes declined 69%, from 1.5 million victimizations in 1993 to 467,300 victimizations in 2011.” These are inconvenient numbers for those who want to justify more gun control in the U.S.; after all, as the homicide rate and other violent crime was plummeting in the U.S., guns sales and the number of people with concealed-carry permits for handguns were dramatically increasing.

    A study published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy in 2007 titled “Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide?” tried to find answers by looking at a wide variety of facts and statistics. This study looked at figures for “intentional deaths” throughout continental Europe and compared them with the U.S. The study’s authors were Don B. Kates, an American criminologist and constitutional lawyer, and Gary Mauser,a Canadian criminologist and university professor at Simon Fraser University, in Burnaby, B.C. (Canada). They determined that “the mantra that more guns mean more deaths and that fewer guns, therefore, mean fewer deaths” just doesn’t add up. The authors wrote:

    “Since at least 1965, the false assertion that the United States has the industrialized world’s highest murder rate has been an artifact of politically motivated Soviet minimization designed to hide the true homicide rates. Since well before that date, the Soviet Union possessed extremely stringent gun controlsthat were effectuated by a police state apparatus providing stringent enforcement. Yet, manifest success in keeping its people disarmed did not prevent the Soviet Union from having far and away the highest murder rate in the developed world.In the 1960s and early 1970s, the gun-less Soviet Union’s murder rates paralleled or generally exceeded those of gun-ridden America. While American rates stabilized and then steeply declined, however, Russian murder increased so drastically that by the early 1990s the Russian rate was three times higher than that of the United States. Between 1998‐2004 (the latest figure available for Russia), Russian murder rates were nearly four times higher than American rates.”

  3. Even as an ardent opponent of gun control, I actually really liked this post. I agree that the mantra that ‘The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun’ is wrong in so many ways. I really liked it until you wrote “I guess what I’m saying is that I urge you to mock people carrying guns.”. Right there, I stopped giving a sh*t about your opinion. This level of ignorance and smugness is similar to if I, at the first sight of anti-gun sentiment in your post, had dismissed your opinion as that of a “yellowbellied gun-grabbing liberal”. But I didn’t, and neither should you. Not all gun owners are alike, Brooks. You do well to remember that if you actually want to descend from your ivory tower to help society solve this problem.

  4. Thanks for this recipe, it was abuoestlly gorgeous! We are going to try it again but this time putting carrot in it instead of banana and with plain butter cream. Yum. Happy baking all.

  5. These links lead to pages where the view is of “bestsellers.” If you look at the bottom of the page for girls, you’ll see the forensics and fingerprints labs as well.It seems it’s not just the Discovery Channel that is guilty of stereotyping girls’ and boys’ interests, but parents.

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