A Few Important Items

Before we get back to our a semblance of our normal routine, I want to share a few things with you.

First, for those who want to help the Sandy Hook families with funeral expenses and paying for counseling, Atheists Giving Aid has set up a fund. You can donate here.

Roses at Avery Park, Corvallis, OR
Roses at Avery Park, Corvallis, OR: A reminder there are still beautiful things in the world.

I will have some more substantial things to say at a later time. I do know one thing: things here will change. We’ll still have our fun and our geology and so forth, but you’ll see more of a focus on social justice issues than before. This latest mass shooting crystallized the entirety of A+ for me. The reason why we need movements like A+ is because we have so damned much to fix. As I’ve said repeatedly over the past few days, there’s no single way to prevent these shootings. Getting an assault weapons ban passed is just taking the keys out of the drunk person’s hand – it will probably reduce the incidence, but it won’t eradicate the causes. We will never completely solve these problems. That’s no reason not to begin somewhere.

And on that subject, I literally cannot speak to people who refuse to hear word one about a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity clips. One of my friends, whom I love and know to be a good, caring person, argued with me on the way to work that even if we restrict those sorts of things to the gun range, people wanting to shoot up a school full of kids will just go fetch their guns. And I was so angry I was spluttering. It’s like hearing someone say, “Well, rapists are just going to break in anyway, so don’t even bother locking your doors.” “Well, people are just going to die in car crashes anyway, so you might as well give keys to anyone who wants them.” “Well, children are just going to find a way to get into the cabinet anyway, so we might as well not put drugs and cleaning products on the high shelf behind a lock, and to hell with child-safety caps.”

Add your analogy of choice here.

You know something, people who don’t think it’s even worth trying? I can’t even buy fucking pseudoephedrine. It’s locked up behind the counter, and I have to present ID and all kinds of bullshit, and by the time I need a cold medicine, it’s usually at a time when the pharmacists have gone home for the night, and I’m too fucking sick to chase down a 24-hour pharmacy. If I do manage to drag my sick arse to the pharmacy when the pharmacist is on duty, I have to present ID and put my name on a register where it will stay for two years saying, “ZOMG she bought a packet of Sudafed, she’s probably cooking meth!!!” I can’t buy as much as I want. I can’t stockpile the shit because I can’t buy enough of it in a month to even begin. I can hoard freeze-dried food and assault weapons and ammunition that is designed to kill humans (not shoot at targets or hunt deer, let’s don’t get stupid and pretend it’s anything but murder-inna-casing), but I can’t stock up on fucking cold medicine for the coming apocalypse.

And that’s not right, but only because guns and ammo aren’t subject to stringent restrictions. We’re willing to make it extremely difficult for sick people to get some decongestant because criminals use it to cook meth. They still cook meth, have been ever since the restrictions were put in place, but are we shrugging and saying, “Meh, they’re doing it anyway, might as well make it easier for them to get their hands on pseudoephedrine so I don’t have to suffer an extra five minutes’ worth of sniffles”?


And so when you say to me, “But killers will just find a way to get guns anyway,” what you are saying is that you don’t care about making it harder for them to get their hands on serious fucking weaponry. You don’t want to give them that extra bit of time to think things through as they drive to the gun range and get their guns out of their locker. You don’t want to give other people a chance to notice something’s up as Johnny Mass Killer goes bopping out the door of a busy range with enough weaponry to supply both sides in a small civil war. You don’t want to consider things like, oh, I don’t know, making it illegal to remove your very dangerous shoots-umpteen-rounds-a-second-people-killer-and-its-zillion-round-drum from the gun range and also putting tags on it that will set off an alarm if you try to waltz off with it? So that maybe, just maybe, one of those NRA nuts who thinks we should live like it’s the 1870s, only with less gun control, can have his chance to play hero as the cops are called? This is too much to ask to prevent horrific violence on our streets, in our schools, our malls, our theatres, our restaurants?

To my friends who say they’ll just find a way to get guns anyway: fuck you. On this issue, I think you are an appalling excuse for a human being.

Also, read this. Seriously, anyone who is against gun control, or who thinks they’re for it but then starts coming up with excuses as to why we shouldn’t do anything more than cosmetic bs, read this. Do it now. These are the things I would say to you if you hadn’t just reduced me to sputtering, incoherent rage.

Then read this. Read it all the way through to the ends, where it says, “I didn’t think, ‘Damn, I wish I had a gun, too.’ I thought ‘Damn, I wish he didn’t have a gun.'”

You know what? That’s exactly what I think every time I hear of some fuckwad shooting people. I thought it with Zimmerman, and Dunn, and all of the endless stories of some assclown getting quick with the trigger and taking some kid’s life because they were too loud, or too black, or both. I thought it when a mother came into my bookstore looking for books on how to grieve because a man had shot her teenage son for cutting across one small corner of his yard. I thought it when foreign exchange student Yoshihiro Hattori stopped by the wrong house on his way to a Halloween party, and ended up shot by a man who’d rather have his wife fetch a gun so he could shoot down a kid in a silly costume rather than go inside and lock the door if he was so frightened of the young Japanese dude. I’ve thought it every time I’ve heard of someone getting shot because they were careless, or foolish, or doing all the right things but still getting shot because guns are dangerous. I’ve thought it every time I’ve heard of a child getting killed because the parents couldn’t be bothered to properly secure their deadly weaponry. And I’ve thought it after every mass shooting.

There was a time when I thought a gun would make me safer. Right after I was raped at knifepoint in my home, I thought a gun might be a pretty good idea. Then I thought of the kids in the neighborhood, and my friends who sometimes like to pull pranks, and family members barging in unexpectedly, and pets making strange noises, and non-dangerous strangers making me nervous without realizing, and the fact that a gun would not have helped anyone but my rapist that morning, and I said, “Naw.” Not worth it. There were so many times I might have ended up taking someone’s life by mistake, and no time when a gun would have done me any good.

Now I just think, “I’m glad my rapist didn’t have a gun. I wish other assailants, I wish incautious people, I wish kids, hadn’t had one, either.”

And one last thing. Listen up, because a lot of people I otherwise love and respect have been making a bloody stupid mistake and I want it to stop:

Stop blaming mental illness for what Lanza did.

Seriously. Stop it.

We don’t know much about him yet and may never, but at this stage it’s not sounding like he was so terribly different from many of us. If these early reports are to be trusted (you know how that goes), he didn’t even play first-person shoot-’em-up games. There goes another famous scapegoat. Oops.

There are no broad, bright and shining lines between us and them. Stop trying to paint one, because all you’re doing is tarring the vast majority of the mentally ill for being something they’re not. It doesn’t help us prevent these killings, it doesn’t help folks with mental illnesses, and it certainly doesn’t help your humanity.

That is all for today. Go do something good.

A Few Important Items
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8 thoughts on “A Few Important Items

  1. rq

    So much YES in this post.
    1) I understand rifles in rural areas because hunting, or for people who do hunt.
    2) I understand sports shooting pistols, because heck, I did some (bad) shooting in uni, and am very glad I did, and it’s a fine meditative marksman sport.
    3) I understand owning a pistol, and keeping it in a safe space (a locked safe), unloaded, ammo in a different case.

    4) I do not understand assault weapons of any kind, because they’re designed to kill more efficiently and nothing else.
    5) I do not understand automatic weapons of any kind (fired one, once, in the closed RCMP range under direct supervision, and it was freaky because small, short touch = SO MANY BULLETS), because they’re designed to kill more efficiently and nothing else.

    Most of all,
    6) I do not understand the mentality behind the people who are so reliant on their weapons for some sort of mistaken sense of personal safety.
    Heck, the scenario you painted, where you thought about buying a gun after your rape – if that was me, owning a gun would make me a helluvalot more twitchy. I’d be twitching at every sound, every unusual movement, everything. I would not feel safer. I would feel the need to be on my guard, because I would feel even more threatened (otherwise, I would not be able to justify the need for a gun to myself).

    re: Lanza – Someone said it better than I ever could: He wasn’t crazy, he was angry. I also don’t know if that was true, but it seems a lot more plausible to me. And anger is a perfectly sane person’s emotion, too. That’s the scary part. That’s the part that needs working on – how to deal with anger, how to channel it into positive activity, how to get through it and past it instead of letting it sit and simmer and build pressure.
    I know it’s not easy, I’m trying to teach the not-quite-3-year-old to get past his impulses, to think past his first sharp (violent) emotions, and it’s difficult. But I’m hoping that, in the end, even if he does get angry, he’ll learn to vocalize it, and to have a method of getting over it. It’s not easy and he’s not even three, and yes, I know it’ll be a few years of constant effort. But if I don’t start now, it will be a lot more difficult later. I suppose in a way that’s my contribution to the effort. Sorry for the off-topic.

    But yes. So much yes in this post.

  2. 2

    Hi Dana,

    I don’t know you, but I follow your blog by RSS and enjoy your writing.

    I am a handgun owner, even one that has a capacity of 19 shots, and I have taken a good amount of handgun safety, tactical strategy training, situational awareness training, etc. One of the basic measures that we are taught when having dangerous things around is to keep them locked up (your premise) – it is really bugging me that we are so complacent with securing something that is so dangerous, when we yell and scream so much about child safety. Sitting next to my desk is a small, solid iron weapons safe, with a handprint keypad that requires a push-button code. There is one person that knows that code – me. If there is an intruder, I can open that safe in seconds, in the dark, under stress. But the intruder, a child, a housekeeper, a friend, a drunk friend, a robber, cannot access what is inside. It is basic common sense, that Lanza’s mom obviously did not heed and is being glossed over in this entire debate.

    I agree with the vast majority of your thoughts – especially around the killing machines that exist basically without restraint today. I would fully support an assault weapons ban (and I think one is right around the corner, so it’s really not worth a discussion).

    My main reason for writing is the last paragraph of the commenter above (rq). I think his or her point is right on…in fact, I wrote on my own blog on their overarching point on Saturday. If you are interested, you can find it at http://www.ridesandrivers.com/12/journeys_and_musings/maybe-it%E2%80%99s-time-for-a-softer-tone

    The pervasive feature of modern American culture is anger (as RQ and I both express). To me, that is what we need to be addressing with an even more serious discussion that simply the gun control reaction.

  3. 3

    Great post,

    The idea that more guns = safer is just absurd. Imagine if several people had CCW’s in that theatre in Aurora. How would any of them know which of the other people shooting in the dark was the bad guy? Any of them opening fire would have sparked an even worse incident.

    There was an incident in NY last summer where the police shot an armed man on the street. They managed to kill him…and wound nine bystanders. These were people who are presumably well trained to use firearms, why would we think that an untrained citizen would do better?

    Having loaded guns in a school is just a stupid idea. They would have to be well secured, meaning you’re not going to get to them before a shooter like the last one has done most of his damage, and if he’s wearing a vest he’s got all the advantages in a shootout. Odds are all you’ve done by putting a gun in the school is given a shooter access to one more weapon.

    Life is not an action movie, and the idea that Joe Average is gong to turn into Raylan Givens and neatly, precisely kill the bad guy, and ONLY the bad guy, in a fast moving, confusing, violent confrontation is just wishful thinking.

    The right to bear arms is given in the context of a “well regulated militia.” A God-given right to posses and carry in public any kind of military grade weapon for “personal protection” is not in keeping with that context.

    It’s seems insane to me that Americans have been willing to accept things like the death of habeas corpus, warrantless eavesdropping, indefinite detention without charges, military tribunals and torture in the name of fighting terrorism, yet , because of this insane gun fetish, you can be on a terror watch list, not allowed to board an airplane but still buy still buy an assault rifle and unlimited ammunition legally.

    Better regulation, licensing and enforcement are long overdue.

  4. 4

    Great post, Dana. I don’t understand the frank and unmoving inability for people to hear even the slightest mention in a change in gun laws, unless it’s a change that allows more people access to guns.

    Ah, yes. More guns = more safety.

    Six of the teachers and administrators of Sandy Hook made the ultimate sacrifice for the children under their care. What more would you ask of them? How much more would you dare ask of them?

    I don’t know what it is, but there are some people that hear or read the words “gun control” and somehow their brain translates those words to “confiscate all guns everywhere and enslave all former gun owners.”

    What is the minimum amount of children required to die in a single shooting before everyone can agree to at least talk about gun control? Because I have already surpassed my limit.

  5. 5

    I have some thoughts about Sandy Hook, but I want to repeat two of them here.

    First, we should pressure the Obama administration into giving Presidential Medals of Freedom to each of the teachers killed that day.

    Second, we should pressure school districts, either in the original home towns of those teachers or in the towns where they were living at the time they were killed, into naming a school after each of them.

    None of us are in a position where we can directly pressure anybody to make those things happen, but what we can do is to keep repeating those ideas, and any other ideas you can come up with, to keep Sandy Hook in the public eye. I don’t want to return to a “semblance of our normal routine” if that means just waiting around for the next Sandy Hook. Because if that’s all we do then I can guarantee there will be a next Sandy Hook.

  6. 6

    Very good post. I would quibble with one thing. Mental illness may have had a role in this but as you said, we don’t know for sure and we may never know. It would likely not have been the complete cause, but as one with a bipolar spouse, I know just how messed up someone can get without his meds and without his cognitive therapy. Mentally ill people *can* be violent and be that way because of their mental illness. Being mentally ill does not necessarily predispose someone to violence but it can be a cause. If he had a parent that refused to acknowledge that she could not help him, then it could be part of the problem that led to this horror.

    I can remember quite clearly that a boy on my bus when I was growing up was what we then called “mentally retarded”. He had no control over his emotions and was very violent. But his parents (important in the community) didn’t want to acknowledge that and it was the kids on the bus and the driver who had to deal with the danger.

  7. 7


    All your posts about the Sandy Hook tragedy have put into coherent words much of the anger and sadness I’ve felt in reaction to it. And hearing so many Americans finally vowing to do something about their fucked up gun culture has also alleviated some of the helplessness and frustration one feels watching these events from outside the US. I just hope it actually happens this time.

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