The Real Gun Problem

Why? Why why why can’t we have a reasonable discussion about any issue? Why can’t we acknowledge that there’s a lot of ground between the straw man extremes?

On one hand, supposedly, Obama is somehow going to remove millions of guns from millions of homes of law abiding citizens, despite the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

On the other hand, we blame guns as if there wasn’t a person on the trigger end.

I’m not anti-gun. It’s the idolization of guns that I can’t relate to. I don’t believe in the second amendment more than any other amendment.

Let’s face facts. There’s nothing in the Second Amendment that says you have the right to own weapons of unlimited power and capacity. We have the right to bear arms. We do have enough weapons to form a well regulated militia if it came down to it. How much firepower does a well regulated militia need? Is it a state-based militia? More local.

It’s wide open and we, as a society, have to figure out what limitations are reasonable and safe. So, it’s not legal for a private citizen to own land mines, depleted uranium ammunition, dirty bombs, nuclear weapons, etc.

In many places, it is legal for me to carry an assault-style rifle (not fully automatic), a shotgun, a rifle, and a handgun as long as they’re not concealed. Or a handgun can be concealed if I get a permit.

But it’s not legal for me to carry a Microtech knife. It’s not legal to carry a knife with a blade over three inches. It’s not legal to carry a switch blade or a knife with a blade that you can open with the flick of a wrist. No throwing stars, martial arts weapons and such. It’s illegal to carry brass knuckles.

I can carry an AR-15 into Whole Foods. I can carry a .480 Ruger Redhawk if I have a permit but it’s not legal for me to carry a collapsible baton. I really want a collapsible baton.

Why does America worship guns?

Laws restricting knife possession, ownership and carrying based on the capacity for lethality? Fine. No problem there. Knives are dangerous.

Laws restricting (not eliminating but restricting) gun possession, ownership and carrying based on the capacity for lethality AND one’s criminal record or mental health history? Tyranny, apparently.

Aren’t non-ballistic weapons “arms to bear” as well?


I watched that video of the eloquent and charming black man poo-pooing “common sense” gun laws. But when you boil it down his argument is, more laws won’t stop people from getting guns so why try. And also, don’t tell me what to do.

What the hell is wrong with making background checks a requirement at gun shows and for private sales? I don’t understand the backlash. Close the loopholes. Law abiding citizens can still get guns, right? I guess it may take a little longer maybe? It would be an inconvenience?

The goal of gun control legislation is to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and criminals. To an extent, more rigorous and consistent enforcement of current laws would help.

If keeping guns out of the hands of savagely ignorant, homicidal guys means that we, as law abiding citizens, have to wait a few days to add another handgun or assault-style rifle to our collection, I think that’s a fair trade off.

Of course, common sense dictates that laws can and should be different depending on the area — rural areas vs. cities. Kids in rural areas learn to hunt and shoot at a young age. In the cities, a kid with a gun is nearly guaranteed to be an outrage, if not tragedy.

Reality is obviously more complicated. Nearly all of the mass shooters, as obviously troubled as they were, in recent years came by their guns legally. In some cases, the system that is in place should have prevented it but didn’t. In other cases, there was nothing to find. No criminal record and no official diagnosis of mental illness. Just a weird guy who spent a lot of time online who liked guns a lot.
There are a few glitches in my reasoning, though.

1. Our mental health treatment and care sucks grapes. We send untrained (in mental health issues) police officers to deal with the mentally ill and, too often, the mentally ill end up dead. In order to even know who’s mentally ill we’d have to actually be treating them. We don’t have the capacity and, frankly, we’re apathetic. We don’t care.

Closing loopholes and being efficient and accurate with background checks will have some effect but is not the solution.

2. Criminals will continue to get guns somehow. Young people running the streets will find ways to get guns. I have no idea where a teenager gets a gun. But in poor areas, apparently, it’s way too common. Where there are gangs it’s practically part of the fashion. Good ol’ boys drinkin’ whiskey and rye have no shortage of firearms. Domestic abusers seem to be drawn to guns.

That’s the thing, though. It’s the culture/behavior plus the availability of guns plus a sense of entitlement plus social and economic stressors.

It’s not a single problem with a single solution. That’s the crux of this discussion that we don’t seem to be able to get to because it’s never the right time.


Law abiding citizens have the right and responsibility to defend their homes, themselves, and other people. I strongly believe that you can’t condone a society where violent criminals are armed and the rest of us are encouraged to be victims gambling on the perpetrator’s respect for life. The police generally arrive after things happen. Technically and legally, they aren’t obligated to stop a crime in progress even if they witness it.

I’m not saying that they wouldn’t but there have been cases where they’ve seen a crime and driven on. In the case I remember, a man was in the process of being beaten to death. His family sued the police department. The courts ruled that the police weren’t legally obligated to stop a crime in progress.

But even if they were all robocops, they can’t be everywhere. There’s a lot of everywhere out there. Everywhere is a big place.

We should not be soft targets. We should know how to fight back and we should. We should defend our homes and have a responsibility to defend our families. That doesn’t have to mean a gun but it can. If I ever have a family I wouldn’t be opposed to having a gun, assuming it can be kept safe and secure (from children or intruders) and also be easily and immediately accessible and retrievable.

I don’t want to kill anyone. I don’t want to shoot anyone. I don’t want to hurt anyone and vice versa. I don’t want to statistically increase the chances of a household accident. But any serious threat to your loved ones should be met with some kind of force. With an unambiguous response.

I don’t want to see anyone die over senseless bullcrap. Or at all. But it’s true. If someone had a gun and knew how to use it they could save lives. The mere presence of the gun may deter someone bent on crime. It seems like a lot of them kill themselves as soon as they’re confronted by law enforcement.

There was a guy who witnessed a man beating a woman. When the guy intervened the man became violent and aggressive. The guy pulled his concealed weapon and held the man at gunpoint until the police came. It’s a sad situation all the way around but a crime was stopped and no one was seriously hurt or killed.


I think Ben Carson is off his rocker. Maybe he’s just not an effective communicator.

You remember how things changed after 9/11? Before that, when people with weapons took over a plane it was a hijacking. “Oh no! What do they want?”

The hijackers would make demands to be flown to some country, to have prisoners of a cause released, etc. They were volatile and dangerous incidents and there were deaths but you expected most of the hostages to live.

After 9/11 the rules changed. They want to send a message of death and fear while taking as many lives as possible. So you frickin’ fight. Shoe bomb guy? You better believe those passengers were fighting for their lives. Drunk, out of control people acting up on a plane? Nowadays the crew and passengers jump their asses and duct tape them to a seat. There is no more waiting to see what they want or waiting to see if they poop on a drink tray.

When somebody brings weapons into a soft target like a school or church or place of business — they mean to kill as many people as possible. Cooperating with a mass shooter or obeying him is dicey territory.

Carson was wrong in saying that the perpetrator can’t shoot them all. A guy with a few guns, as long as he doesn’t panic, can shoot a lot of people, especially if he has a semi-automatic and extended magazines.

The guy who charged the shooter in Oregon was shot five or seven times. He didn’t succeed in overpowering the shooter. Correct me if I’m wrong. I haven’t seen a full account of the situation. But what he did accomplish by sacrificing his body was to distract the shooter and focus the attention on one person. Meanwhile, other people weren’t being shot. Law enforcement was approaching.

Some of these guys — these mass shooters — spend a lot of time online in forums trading ideas with other sociopaths. They discuss how to carry out mass shootings. How to avoid hero types and being disarmed. They plan and fantasize about how to take control of a room. If everyone is seated or on their knees or laying down they can’t effectively charge at you. If they’re not physically fit or spry you probably don’t have a lot to worry about. So guess who you target first. If you give your intended victims a sliver of hope of surviving, they’ll cooperate. Then you shoot them. It’s evil.

So these situations aren’t as simple as, just charge at the guy. Maybe some of them are. Hopefully, none of us will have to find out and make that decision.

Ironically, there were students on campus who were carrying concealed weapons but they weren’t near where the incident occurred.

See. These situations need to be headed off beforehand because it’s only rarely that more guns is the effective solution. I mean, having the right people in the right place at the right time. Usually someone is already dead by the time good guys with guns show up.

This was yet another case where a young man with mental health issues was mollified with guns. Lo and behold, he decided to make his mark with guns and bullets. He definitely should not have had access to guns. No way. No how. But his mom is very gung ho about guns so he did have legal access to a veritable armory. So it goes.


The problem is that we are a violent society. More people with guns is not the answer. I mean, America saturated with guns in public is not the answer. We’re already the Wild West. But just like with nuclear weapons, once that box is opened it doesn’t close. Once guns are in the mix they’re staying in the mix.

We’ve already had people shot dead due to traffic arguments. Hello, Las Vegas. People flashing guns during road rage incidents. Arguments routinely end with gunshots.

By the way, I have to admit that I’m citing incidents from news articles involving white people (aside from the DC metro incident) so that no one can come along and claim that the problem is “black people violence/dysfunction” or even “poor people dysfunction”.

I’m talking about the people who think they’re what America is all about.

Family annihilation with legally owned guns. Family annihilations have, of course, happened with and without guns. Hell. Almost anybody can buy a shotgun. I could go to Walmart or Dick’s right now and buy a shotgun. But can they be headed off if our domestic violence procedures were more effective? Can domestic violence be reduced if boys learned how to be secure and not be egomaniacs and not try to possess and control women? Is that possible? Would proper domestic violence procedures remove guns from the hands of would-be family annihilators? I think that’s an instance where someone gets their guns taken away. Beat, stalk, or abuse someone? You are no longer part of the well-regulated militia of arms-bearers. Shape up.

Children accidentally and intentionally killing themselves, relatives, and acquaintances? That’s a huge problem. Just the other day, an eleven year old boy shot an eight year old girl dead. She wouldn’t let him play with her puppy. He shot her with his rifle.

A week or two ago, a five year old boy accidentally shot his two year old sister to death. He shot her with the rifle he was given as a gift — a kid’s rifle with the capacity for only one round and other safety features. The sheriff said something to the effect of, “Kids are given guns and learn how to use them at a young age down here.”

Someone, quoted in an article, said it was God’s will. “God must have wanted to take that little angel home. These things happen. What can you do.”

I understand the grief and the coping. I’m disturbed by the acceptance and acquiescence.

Mass shootings. I mean … what is there to say. The pattern is clear. Young men, mostly middle class, with a history of mental illness carrying a chip on their shoulders. Obsessed with guns. Their families mollify them with guns. I’m pretty sure that they’re also on medications. I think it’s a common factor. Side effects of some of these common medications is possible violent, psychotic, and suicidal behavior. I would really like to know if that’s a common factor but no one ever mentions it. Someone has to be studying it, though. Right?

Again, if you’re taking a medication, particularly if you suffer from mental illness, I would hope that a mental health professional is somehow actively involved.


Anyway, what was I saying. I think we should all know how to handle and use guns safely and effectively. We should know how to make a gun safe and we should know how to fire one. Hell. At the rate we’re going there’s going to be guns just laying around in public or in glass emergency cases. Or you’ll get one free if you supersize your meal. Guns aren’t going away. Even if legislation is passed that will hopefully prevent some of these tragedies by keeping irresponsible people away from firearms, there are still going to be a lot of people with a lot of guns. That could be okay if weren’t for one problem.

The problem is us. We’re awful. We’re violent. We worship guns for some reason. We glorify violence and carnage. It resonates with us. We’re scared, tribal, and xenophobic. We don’t believe in anything anymore. We’re scared and angry. We’re a coarse, crass, narcissistic culture filling our collective existential void via hedonism, materialism and anything that validates our sense of self and our world view, with a terminal sense of entitlement, detachment from each other, and apathy toward each other and our environment.

We’re lost. How do we fix that?

You can’t legislate that away. That’s the real problem with guns.


Add Yours
    • garyarthuryoung

      Thanks for reading, Tom.

      It’s hard to compete with memes, but hopefully I can spark some actual conversation every now and then.

  1. Melissa

    I disagree with the sentiment that as an American I should learn to handle a gun. Despite our second amendment “right to bear arms” I would hope more people would contribute to the safety of our country by exercising their right to not bear arms. This idea that in order to feel safe you have to have the firepower to kill seems so backwards to me. I wonder how many people have died because it took less time to pull a trigger than the second it would take to consider an alternative solution?

    • garyarthuryoung

      You hit the nail on the head. I don’t understand why people don’t de-escalate. It’s crazy. People are … off.

      Point taken. Let me clarify.

      I think that everyone should learn how to handle a gun, unless they have an ideological aversion to them. It’s a life skill. I do NOT think that everyone should necessarily own a gun, though. Like, I think everyone should know how to swim but that doesn’t mean everyone needs or should have a pool.

      I don’t own any guns but I’d still like to know how to handle one safely.

      We’re all in the vicinity of guns on a regular basis even if we don’t know it: law enforcement, concealed carry, houses of friends and family.

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