An out-of-date column, and other thoughts on guns

I had this column set to go for the 12/26 Messenger, but after the events of last Friday, it will need serious revision, or more likely a new start from scratch.
Thought I’d post it as a blog instead. Note the 7-word appeasement of gun rights advocates right off the bat — and more further down.
I don’t think I’ll start that way again.
For what it’s worth, here it is, with an addendum (or a preview of my column) at the end:
Are we literally going gun crazy?
I’m not a big gun-control advocate, but events of the last few weeks have me wondering if America’s love affair with guns has become a bonafide mental illness.
Case in point: A man in Little Falls shoots two burglars. Most agree he has the right to protect his health and home, but Byron Smith takes it a step further: After incapacitating the two teens, he executes them in a manner more befitting of the Mafia than the U.S. Foreign Service, where Smith spent his career.
Another case in point: A Rochester grandfather hears a noise outside his house, pulls out his 9mm handgun, and, with the cops on the way, shoots his granddaughter twice — apparently prior to shouting “Who goes there?” or “I’ve got a gun!” He tells police he was afraid because of a burglary that happened less than a mile away.
And another: In a gas station parking lot in Florida, Michael Dunn doesn’t like loud music blaring from a neighboring car, so he tells the passengers to turn it down. Although police say the men (who were black) were unarmed, Dunn thinks he sees a shotgun, so he fires eight times, killing one of the teenage occupants. His defense is Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which allows you to use deadly force when they feel threatened.
What these cases have in common is an apparent desire to shoot somebody. Not to wave a gun in front of a person to scare them off, which would have worked in all three cases, but to pull the trigger and bring down a fellow human being. What else can explain the quick action than an itchy trigger finger?
And there are many more cases in point of gun craziness in our culture, from a theater shooting in Colorado to a temple shooting in Milwaukee to a mall shooting in Oregon to a workplace shooting in Minneapolis to a cop shooting in Cold Spring.
We’ve heard the cliche a thousand times: “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” But the simple fact remains: People find it much easier to kill each other with guns than they do with hands, feet or any weapon other than a gun. Many who become killers only do so because they have access to a gun.
My point is not that we need stricter gun laws but that we need fewer gun-crazy people. Gun control advocates rightly point out that America’s rate of gun violence is far above that of any other civilized nation.
Gun control opponents rightly point out that some countries also have lax gun laws but don’t have the level of violence we do in the U.S.
Here’s the thing, though: Other countries may have few gun laws, but they also have a culture that keeps individuals from settling scores with guns.
In some counties, it’s just the opposite, with a violent, individualistic culture but laws that keep citizens from shooting each other.
Only the U.S. has a toxic blend of Wild West mentality and Wild West laws.
One or the other needs to change.
I’ll just say this: Own all the guns you want. Hunt with them, take them to the target range, teach your kids to use them.
But don’t become gun crazy.
If you’re afraid or angry, don’t let your fear or rage anywhere near your guns, because you’re far more likely to kill a loved one than you are to kill an enemy.
If you have a gun in your dresser drawer, or you carry a sidearm while snowshoeing (as a local columnist is recommending), consider whether you’re exhibiting symptoms of gun craziness.
After all, the number of fatal wild wolf attacks in Minnesota history is exactly zero, while the number of fatal gunshots is over 300 each year.
Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.
Addendum: The most interesting post I’ve seen after Sandy Hook is here.
Basically it shows how utterly out-of-step we are with the rest of the world in terms of gun ownership.
Bottom line: When you have way more guns, you’re going to have way more murders, accidents and massacres with guns.
People don’t have the will power not to use something that is made to be used.
No, it’s not just the guns, it’s the culture. As I said in the column, it’s a toxic blend of Wild West mentality and Wild West laws.
Our cultural stories, from Lexington and Concord to the latest blockbusters and video games, are all about picking up a gun and killing your enemies.
When you have a growing number of people who can’t interpret those cultural messages rationally or distinguish reality from fantasy, or who lack basic empathy or a sense of consequences, and they have easy access to firearms, the inevitable comes to pass.
Given the fact that we have families that are broken and don’t know how to communicate, parents who don’t know how to raise children, all manner of mental illnesses treated with all manner of drugs … it’s no surprise these incidents continue. Given that weapons technology improves, and laws don’t keep up, it’s no surprise that they keep getting worse.


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