Alaska’s everyday guns


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A handful of deadly power/Craig Medred photo

I walked up to a policeman yesterday carrying one of the world’s most powerful handguns in a holster in  my right hand. He noticed. How could he not? But he didn’t seem concerned.

Because the officer was in plain clothes, I didn’t know at the time that he was law enforcement, but I did immediately register the holster on his right hip and the semi-automatic pistol in it. There was the momentary thought that this was a little odd for someone who appeared to have gotten out of a truck towing a boat big enough for coastal waters. But the gun didn’t concern me.

The man didn’t look hostile. There was nothing threatening about the situation. I had to figure he had a gun handy for the same reason I had gun.

Minutes earlier my partner had called on the phone near hysterical. It took a second or two to figure out what she was saying through all the sobbing. As it turned out, a moose calf had run into the side of her car as she was making her way down a neighborhood road.

The collision had done some minor damage to the car and more to the moose. The animal appeared to have a broken leg. It was down on the side of the road and couldn’t get up. The mother moose had fled with a second calf. Robbie was left behind to watch the deserted calf struggling, but unable to stand.

I told her not to look and to wait. I’d be there in a minute.

On the way out the door, I grabbed a short-barreled, .454 Casull revolver – a handgun that packs the power of some rifles. I’d once shot a grizzly bear off my leg with it. There was no telling what that bear might have done if I hadn’t shot it.

Guns are tools in Alaska. Use them wrong, they can injure, maim or kill you. Use them right they can feed you, or save you, or end some poor animals’ suffering. The last time the Casull had been used was in winter when another driver hit two moose, a cow and almost full-grown calf. Both were slowly dying in the ditch along the road when I put them out of their misery.

I didn’t enjoy doing this, but it was better than the alternative. I hate to see animals suffer. So, too, obviously, the off-duty policeman who arrived on the scene of Robbie’s accident before me. As I walked up to the calf on the shoulder of the road – me with a gun in my hand, him with one on his hip – I asked him something to the effect of “did you take care of it?”

He answered yes, then explained he was an off-duty cop. After that, he kindly went over to counsel Robbie, explaining that the calf was suffering, had no chance of survival, and he had done what he had to do because it was necessary. She already knew this. She’s been in Alaska long enough to know how life works in the wild, but it no doubt reassured her to hear it from someone other than me.

Only later did she mention that I was the third man with a gun on the scene. The second-guy to stop behind the off-duty policeman also got out of his car with a gun when he saw what had happened.

Guns are everywhere in Alaska.

Guns kill people

If you think I’m now going spew tripe about how “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” you’re wrong. Guns kill people in this country. So do knives, fists, baseball bats, motor vehicles, cigarettes, booze, drugs, obesity and….

Should I keep going? The point is the world is full of things that kill people, though only a limited number of these things are used by people to kill each other.

And the big problem in this country is that people kill each other.

We kill each other at a rate not seen in other Western democracies, though things aren’t as bad as the media might lead you to believe. Our homicide death rate of 3.9 per 100,000 might be more than twice that of Canada and more than three times that of the United Kingdom and a variety of other European countries, but Russia’s murder rate is more than twice ours.

And we’re not close to being in the league with the Caribbean paradises on this side of the globe: Saint Kitts at 33.6, Jamaica at 36.1, the Bahamas at 29.8, the Cayman Islands at 14.7 and even tightly controlled Cuba at 4.7.

You need to be licensed by the Cuban government to own a firearm in Cuba.This might explain why more than 70 percent of the murders in Cuba are committed with a knife.

Cuba does have a simple way of easing public fears about crime. It doesn’t report crime statistics and the state-run media largely ignores crime.

“The official narrative leaves no room for violence,” Julia Cooke, the author of The Other Side of Paradise — Life in the New Cuba, told the Miami Herald.

She blamed Cuba’s homicide rate on “poverty and heat and desperation.”Poverty, desperation, race, religion and simple rage seem at the root of a lot the problem in the U.S., too, although Americans don’t like to talk about these things. Gun control is, in that regard, a wonderful distraction.

We can debate at length what to do about guns instead of facing the bigger problems. We can focus on the tragic outliers in the data – horrible mass shootings like that in Orlando – rather than the real problem like Chicago, now the murder capital of America.

The homicide rate in the nation’s third largest city was over 17 per 100,000 last year – more than four times the national average – and the reign of death is running at an even higher rate this year.

“Police said the disturbing rise in violence is driven by gangs and  mostly contained to a handful of pockets on the city’s South and West sides,” USA Today reported. The South and West sides of Chicago are poverty areas, and they have the homicide rate of poverty stricken countries like Mexico or Greenland.

Mexico and Greenland are very different places, but they do have those two things in common: poverty and high rates of homicide. Mexico and Chicago also have something in common:  pretty stringent gun controls.

“Not a single gun shop can be found in (Chicago) because they are outlawed,” the New York Times noted. “Handguns were banned in Chicago for decades, too, until 2010, when the United States Supreme Court ruled that was going too far, leading city leaders to settle for restrictions some describe as the closest they could get legally to a ban without a ban.”

Facing reality

Both Chicago and Mexico to greater or lesser degrees blame their homicide problems on guns flowing in from areas with laxer restrictions on firearms. It’s a straw man. Even if the flow of firearms to both places could be totally cut off, the homicide rate would no doubt drop, but there’s no reason to believe it would drop precipitously.

Poverty-stricken areas have high homicide rates. This is an unavoidable fact.  The data shows it in a breakdown of neighborhood crime in almost every city in the U.S. and Canada. If anyone really wants to lower homicide rates, the answer is simple: find a way to create jobs in economically depressed areas.

Other than that, the reality might be that it’s time to accept reality. The opponents of gun control want to believe we could end tragedies like that in Orlando by arming everyone so the “good guys” could shoot back immediately. The fans of gun control want to believe we could end tragedies like that in Orlando by banning guns.

Both sides are delusional. Carrying a gun is inconvenient and sometimes uncomfortable. We’re never going to have enough good guys carrying guns at all times. And there are places they can’t carry. Florida has a pretty liberal concealed carry law, but permit-holders are banned from carrying their weapons into businesses serving liquor.

Could that be another reason ISIS-inspired Omar Mateen attacked a gay bar in Orlando and killed 49? He knew it was a soft target where he’d face minimal risk of someone shooting back?

There are, of course, those who believe that if only guns were banned this wouldn’t have happened. Such sentiments are easy to understand, but frighteningly naive.  There are more than 270 million guns in private ownership in America today. There so many on the streets it would take a generation to collect them all even if the government were to engage in draconian efforts to force Americans to give them up.

We could, of course, consider the Cuban solution to the problem and simply ban the media from reporting mass shootings. That might help in a country where it sometimes seems the media thinks its societal role is to whip up mass hysteria instead of promote reason. And it is clear at times there is more fear than there is cause to be fearful.

Exactly how dangerous are guns in America?

You face a 1 in 358 chance of dying by firearm in this country, according to the “Injury Facts Chart” from the National Safety Council. If you avoid known, high-crime areas where most shootings take place in this country, you can probably cut the risk in half or more.

But even if you accept the 1 in 358 number as representative across the board, your chances of dying in a fall are two and a half times greater, your chances of dying in a motor vehicle crash three times greater, your chances of dying by accidental poisoning (who even thinks about that?) three and a half times greater.

And your chances of dying from heart disease and cancer?

A stunning more than 50 times greater.

Statistically, it’s pretty obvious, that if government really wants to save lives in this country it should be doing more to dictate what people eat and how they live. It’s statistically clear that we’d save far more lives by ordering people to exercise than we would by taking away their guns.

One study estimated that formal exercise programs can cut cardiovascular death rates by 20 to 25 percent. About 250,000 deaths per year “are attributable to a lack of regular physical activity,” according to that study.

Do the math, and you discover that we could save 50,000 to more than 62,000 live a year by the government mandating people exercise.

According to the FBI, only a fraction as many – around 12,500 people per year – die in firearms homicides. Maybe, if the country quit debating various and minimal gun-control regulations, and just banned handguns – the weapons used in about half of all homicides (semi-automatic rifles, aka “assault weapon,” are another straw man) – that number could be cut by a third.

So we “save” something over 4,000 people. Maybe.

Personally, given some of our other social problems, I find it hard to believe we can do much better than Cuba in curbing homicides, and we’re already doing better than Cuba.

I don’t mean to sound crass here. I feel for the friends and relatives of every dead person in this country no matter how anyone died. Death is a horrible issue with which to deal. Early or unexpected death only more so. I’ve been there.

I’ve also been watching America debate guns all my life. It’s a huge waste of time. I get it that people want to “feel safe,” as one Facebook friend put it in one of many Facebook discussions of guns. She happened to live in a pretty safe city and was still worried about her safety.

I live in a place where you can walk out the door only to be killed by a grizzly bear or a moose or, for that matter, the weather.  Alaskans live with it. They are sort of forced to accept that the number-one, inescapable reality of life is that it’s a one-way journey to death.

The only difference between and you and me and that poor moose calf is that it reached the end sooner than we did. That and the fact someone was able to end its suffering quickly with a bullet to the brain. That is, I admit, a convenience to us here in Alaska.

I wouldn’t want to have slit the jugular vein on the throat of a poor, suffering moose calf, and hold its head crying while it bled to death. A gun makes the job of ending suffering a lot neater and simpler. I live in a world where guns are tools with a useful purpose.

If people in Chicago or Orlando or Los Angeles or New York want to try to further restrict guns, fine. Do it. I don’t care. Do what you think you need to do to make the places you live make you feel safer. But let’s end this constant national bickering about national gun control.

It’s a huge waste of time, and worse it distracts us from the nation’s real problems, including the threat of terrorism.

We are today fretting over how a mass murder in Orlando got guns  when it’s pretty clear we should be fretting over why all the systems set up to identify and stop people like Mateen failed.

There were plenty of opportunities in this case. He was interviewed three times by the FBI, but the agency judged him no threat.

“There does seem to be substantial evidence that the FBI has been slow to grasp the changing nature of terrorism—and to counter the Islamic State’s skill at recruiting or exploiting vulnerable individuals” as Politico reported. “These critics say the tally of missed clues from Boston to Orlando is evidence that to a disturbing extent the FBI and intelligence community are still fighting the last war, one in which “radicalization” follows a predictable path….”

The new path might not be so traditionally predictable, but we’ve seen it before. Mateen was not as directly connected to Middle East terrorists as 2015 San Bernardino shooters Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, but all shared a simmering rage against Western values judged decadent in other parts of the world.

“This ideology is ultimately a product of—often rational—indignation at the state of the world, paired with the destructive potential of religious delusion. There’s no question but that it’s a hideous worldview and should sicken any clear-minded person. But in its validation of random slaughter, it not only draws upon a rich tradition in monotheistic religion but the history of modern imperialism,” write Tufts University professor Gary Leupp.

The people susceptible to thinking they should shoot Americans because we are the disciples of the Great Satan are a unique problem facing this country today. And anyone who thinks gun control the solution to stopping them doesn’t understand the way they think. Mass shootings might actually be the least deadly of ways they could bring ISIS vengeance to U.S. soil.

Our problem at the moment really isn’t guns. It’s threat assessment. It’s a daily need for the sort of rational judgment an off-duty policeman  made on the streets of Anchorage when he saw a man walking at him carrying a guy. We need to figure out where to direct limited law enforcement assets because we’ll never have enough of those.

And that requires answering a couple of basic questions:

What exactly is the threat here? Is it the gun, or is it the person (or people) behind the weapon no matter what the weapon might turn out to be?

It is pretty obvious to me it’s the latter. All of which makes it largely a waste of time to be debating gun control yet again. I can think of half a dozen ways off the top of my head that ISIS-inspired nut jobs can kill large numbers of people without using guns. Thankfully, they haven’t resorted to any such tactics yet, but they could any day.

That’s why we need to focus on how to catch the next Mateen instead of arguing over the next gun-control band-aid.

28 replies »

  1. Ban handguns?? OK, Alaskans, you come work in inner city Detroit without a concealed carry. One day a local “grizzly” might get you, too.

    By the way, good recent studies are repeatedly proving that the increased mortality due to obesity is virtually zero – in fact the death rate among the moderately obese is lower than the thin. You have to factor out diabetes, smoking, hypertension, etc. But since we can treat blood pressure and cholesterol and diabetes, the death rate of the”just” obese is now lower than those on the thin side of the curve.

    • yes, we are certainly finding that if we want to spend mountains of money treating blood pressure, heart disease, cholesterol, diabetes and more, we can cut the death rate of the obese. the cost estimate is now somewhere between $147 billion and $200 billion to take care of people who one could argue really don’t try very hard to take care of themselves. but as one who flunks the BMI-test, i empathize with all of them.

      • So I am trying to understand this. Are you trying to insult me or be understanding? I take my BP pills, cholesterol pills, etc. Everything is 100% normal across the board. Based on my family history I am therefore hoping for a life expectancy of about 90- 100 years. If I beat my 103 year old uncle I will be happy because many of those folks never got much health care.

        Have you been reading the growing literature showing that obesity is regulated by the brain and hormones? How about recent studies with the obese that show that when they lose weight, their metabolism slows down 800 calories per day BELOW normal to compensate, and they regain – but then their metabolism is so slow they can’t even maintain a moderately obese state?

  2. Thank you for a well presented article. As a scientist (for 30 years) and someone that lived, worked, and played in remote areas of Alaska for two years, I understand the perspective of your article. The comparisons to the press influence, poverty, lifestyle, and their associated risks relative to the gun risk that you made were right on target (forgive the pun). It’s unfortunate a significant portion of our electorate can’t seem to understand or want to get educated on the subject, but would rather let their emotions (fueled by some in the press and politicians) dictate their source of education on the subject.

  3. Reblogged this on ladydamorea and commented:
    I live on a small farm with livestock. Guns are indeed a tool to protect livestock from predators, just as guns are a tool in Alaska. Gun control is not the answer. Guns are merely a tool used by people with ill-intent, just like knives, knitting needles, shovels, cars, forks, baseball bats, and any number of other items that can be made into weapons. Let’s not get hung up on the gun control debate. Instead, let’s focus on how to identify and catch the next Mateen before that person uses a tool to kill.

  4. I have Issues regarding carrying ANY firearms in AK. I think it gives you a false sense of security. There is a HIGH chance that most charging brown bears are bluffing as were in all of my confrontations with the highest of the food chain in our surrounding amazing areas we frequent. I guess when an individual turned and pointed his shotgun at me during the Crow Pass Crossing Race a while back …..Well that definitely made me think twice about ever carrying a firearm,” for protection!” Bear Aware anyone??

    • i used to believe all charges were bluffs. then a grizzly bear ran over me and clawed me in the face. then she grabbed me by the leg. then i shot her. i no longer believe all bluffs are charges. i do share your concerns about trigger happy hikers. “behind you!” is a good shout out when running the Crow Pass Trail unless your intent it is to scare the beejesus out of them, but that’s usually not a good idea if they are armed.

  5. That many people out and about packing handguns, just aching to jump out of their vehicle with their gun and finally get the chance to blow something away just freaks me out. It’s interesting, to say the least, that so many men are so scared of so many things that they feel they must carry a gun everywhere. Frankly, men cause a whole lot more carnage than they help, the world over, so I am highly skeptical of the “I need it for defense” argument. That’s such a deluded way to look at the world.

    I have, though, cut the throat of a dying animal and it was all over in moments after that, so the idea of holding the moose baby’s head while it cries and slowly bleeds to death is not really in line with reality.

    • tyler: it takes a large mammal a couple minutes to bleed out form severed jugular. i’d prefer not to do it when there is a quicker way. and you got the antecedent wrong on the grammar. the person crying would be me. i don’t like killing immature animals. i don’t know why. i just don’t.
      as to people “aching to jump out of their vehicle with their gun and finally get the chance to blow something away,” all i can do is wonder where one gets such an idea. where do you live?

  6. Since “medical errors” kill nearly 200,000 Americans a year…
    why don’t we focus on “medical reform”…
    this might also help with mental illness which leads to much gun violence, including suicide.

  7. Ivan, as a reputable professional pollster, what are your thoughts on the most recent poll of Muslims in The UK, where 52 percent of respondents thought homosexuality was justifiably punishable by death under Sharia Law?

    Do you think the means of Death by Sharia should include a gun, or just beheading, burning, or being thrown off tall buildings?

    In this case would the ends justify the means?

    Should we trust the international Pew Charitable Trust polls that show more than 90 percent of Afghans and Pakistanis also believe in the rule of Sharia Law?

    And that the only true compassion in Sharia Law towards homosexuality is death?

    Do you think western style polling is just a reverse cultural appropriation that should be banned in Muslim countries, especially when it relates to questions of Sharia Law?

    If you think polling questions about attitudes of citizens in Muslim countries towards Sharia Law is valid, do you think it would be also then be valid for the US Government to ask such questions of immigrants to the United States?

    Or would that line of questioning be Racist in your professional opinion?

    Do you think you could design a poll that could identify Radical Islamic beliefs, or is such a line of questioning unimaginable, like trying to find out if unicorns really exist?

  8. Any comparison of deaths by cigarettes, physical inactivity, etc., and being shot by firearms in the type of incidents you’re mentioning is invalid. Wittingly or not, the victim in the first type of case causes his or her own death. In the second (assuming the victim is not a combatant in a war), the dead person is innocent. The 20 children at Newtown, the 49 people in the club in Orlando and the many like them — they did not bring death on themselves. They were mass-murdered. America doesn’t suffer the only such mass murders in the world (outside of war zones, that is), but we have an insane number. It can reasonably be asserted that this country, our society, is fucked up. Sick. Psychologically deranged. Did someone mention the culture? That’s a good place to start. Our Wild West traditions — our westering ways that began in the Colonies — live in us still, perhaps all the more virulently that there’s no more west to conquer.

    Where I may agree with you is in my pessimism that anything can actually be done about the problem of men (and it appears to be only men) crazy with personal grievances or ideology getting their hands on very powerful weapons. Law enforcement agencies will be able to stop some of them, through surveillance and other legal methods, current & yet to be created. But the semi-automatic rifles and other firearms that spit many rounds in a matter of seconds will still be available to those who slip through. All the gun control in the world is not going to stop violence & mayhem (Cuba, Mexico, Russian, yes, you name it, all good places to get murdered), but banning “assault” weapons, the “military-style” rifles we’ve been talking about — and doing it without the loopholes that fatally weakened the 1994 ban — making it an iron-clad, semantics-free, no-bullshit ban, will save some lives that, as of now, are with certainty going to be lost in the coming years, people who will have done nothing to bring on their untimely death except be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    On a separate matter, I’m sorry to hear about Robbie’s encounter with the calf. It was quite sad to read that story and also about the time you put down the cow and calf who could not survive. What a shame that even when people are careful we lose these unfortunate animals that way. Price of civilization, paid by ourselves and by the creatures who happen to live with us. You should be commended for doing what you did in both cases, even if the off-duty cop got to the calf before you. In situations like that, guns are not just tools but useful tools, helpful and a good thing when wielded by wise hands.

    • Ivan Moore: your emotional comments are vacuous my friend. Volume and veracity both begin with v but are far from synonymous.

      • I haven’t got the time or the energy to debate with people who choose to cherry-pick data to support their beliefs. Anyone who uses the “Chicago argument” and ignores the whole of the rest of the country and the definitive patterns connecting higher gun regulation with lower homicide rates is, by definition, spouting bullshit and misleading their readers. It is no surprise that you’ve got your head well embedded in Craig’s ass on this one, Frank. THINK. Look at all the data. For crying out loud.

    • It’s offensive how you gloss over the comparisons with Canada and the UK and follow it with a qualifier, Craig. We’re better than Russia? And Cuba? Whoop-de-fucking doo. The United States, which incidentally has a rate much nearer three times Canada’s and four times the UK’s, just has 8 or 9 thousand additional people being murdered each year, that’s all. Nothing to worry about.

    • The President cannot say or identify a radicalized religious oriented person who wants to kill Americans if that person is associated with the Religion of Peace, but has no problem if that person is associated with the Religion of Turn the Other Cheek.

      The Attorney General just scrubbed any mention of the Religion of Peace from the “official” transcript of the Orlando murder investigation.

      Automatic weapons have been and are currently banned from ownership and sale within the United States. Many in the media and pollsters seems to be confused by this fact.

      Semi-automatic rifles and pistols are legal in the United States. These weapons require one pull of the trigger for each round fired. There are a variety of models and makes for semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and pistols. The capacity for these range from two to thirty shells per load (whether external clips or internal loads). Over under shotguns have a capacity of two.

      It takes one well placed shot to kill a person.

      At Charlie Hebdo and Orlando nightclub, an armed security professional provided protection for everyone else in the building. In both instances, the professional security person was targeted for assassination first, then the killer(s) moved to intentionally murder other people in the building. One well placed shot can kill a lone security person, rendering such a security system null and void. Any gun, no matter its capacity, can kill one person or multiple people.

      Some people believe redundancy in protection measures, some people do not. One point of safety or multiple points of safety.

      The incidence for killers to attack and succeed in multiple murder situations is much higher in situation that lack safety redundancy (such as gun free zones) than areas that allow guns for personal and professional protection (hot zones).

      There are many “soft” targets in America. Do we cleanse America of its 300 million plus guns, remove the concept that any location in America is “hot”, including homes, so that all of America is “soft”? That could be one approach. If you think America will become safer and saner by a nation-wide cleansing of guns, by all means go forth with a national dialogue on that basis.

      But please, don’t try to state that by banning “assault” guns that you are contributing to the debate. Any gun can be used as an “assault” weapon with the intent to kill. To say otherwise is being incredibly naïve at best and politically motivated muckraking at worst.

      The Glock 17 or 19 are some, if not the most, popular handguns in the United States and possibly in the world. Widely used as a law enforcement pistol, it has a capacity of 17/15 rounds, respectively. Reliability, safety features, low weight, and ease of use make it acclaimed for security services worldwide. Off the shelf both come standard with two magazines (30 plus rounds).

      Security guards, like the Orlando shooter, use these types of handguns. It was used in the Orlando nightclub by a person intent on first degree murder. The murderer could have swapped out the rifle for another Glock, which he had professional training to use – and the results would have been the same – a lot of people dead.

      But to protect the Peace, let’s scrub any mention of the Religion of Peace from the Orlando Gun Incident (Massacre has already been scrubbed from dialogue – it is now a Gun Incident – see how easy that is for people to fall in line). Cause that would be a micro-aggression against said religion and probably a violation of the first amendment to boot.

      • Oh, the “target rich environment” argument. Why then, pray tell, do the gun lovers of the GOP not allow guns at their conventions? Could it be that even they know deep in their shriveled little hearts that you just can’t trust a bunch of people with guns?

    • the world is not a perfect place, Ivan. sometimes we have to accept there are random events that cannot be prevented. floods kill more people in this country each year than random mass shootings. there are always going to be people killing people. what we need to do is look at realistic ways to drive down the rate. there is no reason to believe any of the “gun control” being proposed at the moment will do anything. we might make some some difference if we banned handguns and semi-automatics of all sorts. would Americans accept that? i doubt it. so how about we talk about some other things that could be done that might lower the homicide rate, because there are other things that could be done.

  9. Surely, an interesting part of the discussion here. However, it appears Mr. Mateen was just another angry young man. Not a self-radicalized anything. He couldn’t even keep his Sunnis v. Shias straight, let alone Hezbollah. So, like the other angry, possibly mentally unstable, young men using large magazine semi-automatic or tactical rifles or whatever you want to nit pick it as….you won’t stop all of them, but, you can do something to slow them down, give the victims an opportunity to escape or overcome their attacker, etc.. Limit the magazine size to 10 rounds. Insist on longer wait times for these types of guns. Nobody is talking about taking anyone’s guns. But, plenty of reasonable gun owners have no problem with tighter regs. The no fly list is not the best place to start with all of its flaws. There’s plenty of research out there showing increased gun violence post ‘stand your ground’ type laws. You’re not going to stop all of it. But, like car accidents, if safety regs can reduce fatalities or critical injury, then it’s irresponsible not to enforce them or develop them. And we can just stop wasting time talking about 2nd amendment rights. It’s a distraction. If the gun is poorly designed and blows up in your face you will demand inquiries and regulation of design. If people are ‘poorly designed’ and do stupid things with deadly force type tools, then, we should have inquiries and come up with some remedies. Start with access to the tools. Then take a look at the anger and try to ameliorate that…and good luck with that one!

    • actually Peter, the victims in a lot of those traffic deaths don’t cause their own deaths. other people cause their deaths. but that said, we do need a cultural change. no doubt. especially in our inner cities, which really ratchet up the homicide rate. there’s some sort of macho mentality there that doesn’t come from the wild west. the mass murders? that’s a different matter. to some degree, it might be that everyone needs to step up and recognize the danger and act. in Newton, in San Bernardino, in Orlando, people knew. good lord, the Newton shooter’s mother knew well how messed up her son, and i have little doubt the mother’s friends knew. and yet nobody did anything. yes, he used a gun, but there are plenty of other ways – all horrible – he could have killed a lot of kids. and yes, we could ban “assault weapons.” it’s a band aid, if we can even define “assault weapon.” we really can’t. we’d have to ban all semi-automatic weapons because they all have a high rate of fire, including the Ruger Mini-14, one of the firearms of choice in rural Alaska these days. it makes for a great “assault weapon.” so, too, the semi-auto shotgun. so i lose my duck hunting shotgun just to make some people feel safe? go look at the FBI statistics. shotguns were involved in 308 homicides in 2013, the last year for which numbers are available. blunt objects killed more people. hands, fists and feet killed twice as many. knives killed close to five times as many. and i’m supposed to give up my duck gun? and rifles – ALL RIFLES – which includes dreaded “assault rifles,” how many did they kill? 285. if you look at the statistics realistically, the only “iron-clad, semantics-free, no bullshit ban” that makes any sense is a ban handguns. i don’t think it would change anything, but that’s at least worth talking about. the rest of it is a debate with no purpose. it’s a fixation on event – something like Orlando – not a problem. your odds of dying in an Orlando-style or San Bernardino-style shooting are less than your odds of dying in a flood. about 200 people per year die in floods in this country. none of them do it to themselves. they are, like those in Orlando, sadly in the wrong place at the wrong time. random mass murders are a rarity in this country. most of our mass murders have a reason. almost all of the mass shooting in this country are drug, gang or DV related, but even if you consider the deaths from all of those they account for only, at most, less than 4 percent of U.S. homicides or about 6 percent of firearms homicides. but nobody wants to approach the issue of guns in an America by looking at statistics and trying to determine where we can actually make a difference and what we would have to do to make that difference. we’re rather just argue whether we’re for guns or agin ’em.

  10. The reality is the two main causes of deaths in the United States are…
    #1) Tobacco use at 529,000/ a year…
    #2) Medical Errors at 195,000/ a year….
    these stats are from CDC website….
    This is unless you are a moose, bear or sled dog of course…then you will probably die by firearm.

  11. The real determinant of homicide rate is culture. The murder rate in Japan is essentially zero. They have years where there are no murders in the entire country. Japanese citizens have no access to guns. Yet in the USA, where there are guns everywhere, the murder rate among Japanese Americans, now five generations removed from the homeland, is close to zero. Poverty is often blamed for high homicide rates. But poverty and murder are two symptoms of the same problem: dysfunctional culture.

  12. Agree, hate is the problem … the problem is not the medium by which hate is expressed. But speaking of methods by which hate can be carried out … this unsettling YouTube video (that has 31 million views) sure gives you an idea of what terrorists in the US may be capable of in the not too distant future. And I doubt we are ready for this. Imagine a flock of these flying into the Super Bowl …

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