I Think We Can Have That Gun Conversation, Now

[I’ve been sitting on this post for a long time. Since August. Normally I try to stay out of potentially controversial shit here, not because it’s controversial and I’m going to lose readers or whatever but because for the most part I honestly don’t have the time to engage with it. And it doesn’t often do a lot of good. Just the same, here I am on the day of an elementary school shooting. Two days after a fellow author, Bill Cameron, was actually at the Clackamass mall shooting — his account is right here. And you know what, fuck it, I have the time to engage. We have to makethe time to engage with this problem. So, here it is.]

I grew up around guns.

My father had plenty. He ended up getting a FFL (Federal Firearms License) and setting up a small shop in our one garage, where he also did repairs and even built his own guns. He hunted, too, quite frequently.

As a result, I learned to shoot pretty early. I’m not sure how old I was when I got my first BB gun (a Daisy that I still have, actually), but I figure both it and my pellet gun came before I was 10. By 12 I already had taken the hunter’s safety course, already had a couple of .22 rifles to my name alongside a brand new Remington .22-250, and later, a Ruger 20 gauge over-under (both guns I still have and like very much, thank you). With the .22-250 I hunted groundhogs upstate, mostly — farmers would gladly let you hunt their property as the whistle-pigs made a mess of the ground. With the 20 gauge and later, a 12 gauge Remington 1100, I shot birds — geese and grouse and chukars and pheasant.

Dad was a big deer hunter. Also went after elk, caribou and mule deer out West. He wanted me to enjoy deer hunting the same way, but I never could; we raised whitetail deer on our property (curiously, not for food but more like pets), and so it was hard for me to hunt them. Felt like I was hunting dogs or cats. I remember going out on a deer hunt and purposefully missing a shot at a deer, a shot I could’ve made (turns out I was a pretty all right shot with rifle and shotgun). I eventually had to tell my father that it just wasn’t going to happen.

I wasn’t going to be able to hunt deer.

I think I actually hurt him by telling him that, but it was what it was.

I suppose most of that detail is irrelevant, though I mention it all just to make it abundantly clear that I am not anti-gun by any means. They were and are a part of my life.

And, just the same, I figure it’s time we had a conversation about guns in this country.

See, in our house, gun ownership and handling came with a big ol’ bucket of responsibility. You pointed a toy gun — hell, you pointed your fingers — at somebody in our house, you’d bring hell down on your own head. You didn’t pretend to shoot other people. Guns were fucking serious. They were dangerous. You had to respect the gun, respect what it could do. It could feed you, or it could accidentally blow the lid off your head. Guns weren’t “cool.” With them came a kind of reverence and respect and a healthy fear.

This country doesn’t have respect for guns.

And so maybe it’s time we start making laws that change that.

Now, let’s be clear: I know this post is just me squawking into the void. I’m not changing anything with this post; I’m just talking. Your mind is made-up. Guns are one of those topics where tempers flare and everybody takes sides on the opposite side of the field and it’s either take all the guns away or I think I should be able to buy a Bell AH-1 Cobra helicopter at Wal-Mart and use it to hunt deer — and politics only complicate the gun matter. I went to a gun show just before Obama was elected and it was like Christmas for paranoid schizophrenics: everybody had signs up about how Obama was taking away the guns and so prices were jacked through the roof and, ohh, by the way, here, please take a look at my KKK and Nazi paraphernalia, oh, it’s history, don’t worry about the scary racist violent implications.

Of course, Obama didn’t take anything away. But those prices stayed high. (And in there is a lesson how people will use fear to control you and control prices and take your money, but that’s talk for another day.)


My opinion on the gun issue is controversial in that, it’s surprisingly vanilla and nuanced. It is a moderate position in a topic that offers only intense, froth-mouthed polarity.

Here’s what I figure:

Guns are not a real great solution for dealing with other humans. They’re a pretty good solution for dealing with animals. What my father hunted, we ate. That’s a powerful thing, to be able to feed yourself in that way. When I go pheasant hunting, the birds come back with me, and I cook ’em. (And pheasant in cream sauce is pretty heavenly.) So, guns? Good solution for that.

Good solution too for shooting clays. Or paper targets. Or cans off a fence with a proper backstop.

But as the shooting at the Empire State Building shows, guns are not a dandy solution when dealing with other people, since it looks all of the wounded (not dead, but wounded), were shot by cops. Cops who are trained. Maybe those cops were following protocol, maybe they did the best they could with a bad situation, or maybe they’re a couple of chuckleheads. But what that does tell us is, even two men with firearms training make mistakes. So, when people tell me they want guns — specifically handguns, which are notoriously inaccurate — for self-defense, they don’t get how hard that is. They don’t understand that you need training beyond target practice or you’re going to be part of the problem and not part of the solution.

I mean, dang, if you think you’re going to march into a situation where some dude’s got a gun and he’s shooting up a college campus or a movie theater and you’re going to pull a John McClane, I might suggest you uncork your head from your ass, Rambo, because you don’t have the training for that. See, shooting people in a combat situation takes, ohh, I dunno, training. It’s not Call of Duty. That’s not an Xbox controller in your hand, that’s a deadly weapon — and, as your heart goes wild and panic punches through your nervous system, are you competent enough to take out the shooter and not, say, a little girl?

What I’m saying isn’t that we need to take people’s guns away. The snakes are out of the can on that one. And I think gunpowder is in the American bloodstream already.

I’ve got beliefs about regulation that are a bit unorthodox (I don’t see why any civilian would ever really need a handgun, for example), but that’s not the solution I’m gonna propose.

Here’s my proposal:

People need to get educated about guns.

If you’re going to own one, you need to know what guns are, and what good and bad they can do. See, I remember going to the Hunter Safety Course. I remember applying for my hunting license. It was a big deal for this 12-year-old. And it taught me a great deal about the guns I was going to be using. I had to get a license to hunt animals and yet, it is not universal that I require a license to own or use a gun. (Further, a hunting license comes with limits on how many animals I can kill — and yet, we have no limits on how much ammo one can procure or how many guns one may own and operate).

You need a license to drive a car. But somehow, you don’t need one to buy a gun.

So: maybe we license gun owners. You ensure that people have to take a gun safety course. You ensure they spend time using the weapons they’re gonna buy — hell, maybe you even become licensed in individual gun classes or individual guns themselves. And licenses come with preset limits that are fairly easy to enforce. You ask me, this would help ensures that people learn to respect guns. They’re not toys. They’re not action movie fun-time.

They’re not effective tools in diplomacy.

Further, a licensing and education system allows us to deny people, too. See, you fail the test, you don’t get a driver’s license, and the same thing goes here. Plus, easy enough to incorporate other checks on one’s criminal background and mental health, right? Right.

It helps to ensure that if there’s a civilian out there with a gun, I know he’s trained. I know he’s at least gone through the same steps. I know he’s not some crazy dude sitting on a nest of ammo boxes.

Now, you’re saying, “But this is going to make more effective criminals.” To which I say, not likely. Criminals are going to get effective in their own ways. They’re not going to do it through a licensing system where they and their firearms are going to be tracked.

You might then say, “But criminals don’t need to be regulated or care about regulation,” which is another version of the “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns” saying. And that’s true. But it’s true of everything, isn’t it? Bombs are illegal, so only bombers will have bombs. Last I checked, criminals are always willing to do things we’re not — that’s why we create laws that ideally prevent and ultimately punish them for the transgression. “If we make rape illegal, only rapists will have rape! And murder, too! And they can shoplift! OUR FREEDOMS ARE ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK DAMN YOU OBAMACARE.”

(I also never much understood the defense of, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Yeah, duh. But guns make it a whole lot easier, don’t you think, to facilitate all that people-killing-people?)

All I’m saying is, we should be able to do introduce some measure of rationality into this argument. And this a pretty sane, pretty soft solution — it doesn’t aim to control guns in a big way so much as it aims to introduce education and respect into the equation. We’ll never be able to take people’s guns away, so why don’t we make sure that the populace understands the power and the danger of these things they want to own so damn bad? You don’t like my solution? No problem. Like I said: I’m just squawking into the void. But we need some kind of solution. Whether it’s better mental health checks or tighter purchase regulations or whatever, we need to have this conversation.

123 responses to “I Think We Can Have That Gun Conversation, Now”

  1. I don’t think a knee-jerk BAN ALL THE GUNS! reaction is appropriate or helpful. It just alienates otherwise rational gun owners who might otherwise be willing to listen to reason. Better education, however, I don’t see how anyone could be against that. I would certainly be willing to pay for gun education courses in order to have a license to buy a gun.

    Of course, there will always be a segment of the population who says if they have to get a license to get a gun, then that just creates a list for the government to use WHEN they come for us and our guns. Honestly, I think the chances of that happening in this country are pretty dang slim an the people who spout those opinions are a paranoid minority.

  2. You’re right, this is absolutely a discussion that needs to be had, and thank you for digging this out of your draft archives.

    I thought I had more to say, but my hands are shaking so hard I can’t type.

  3. I use the driver’s license analogy as well. You can kill someone with a car if you use it improperly, without training, without education. Guns used improperly, or in the wrong hands, are fatal. Better laws please.

  4. A psychiatric evaluation in order to get a licence might not go amiss, since it seems on the whole that most of these incidents involve people who aren’t of sound mind.

  5. Sounds like you and I grew up the same way. When I meet someone today who has a gun and I begin asking questions about it (cleaning, where they practice, growing up with one, etc.) I can usually tell in about one minute if they should really have one.

    You aren’t talking into a void, you just aren’t so extreme in your beliefs concerning firearms that anyone pays attention. No one wants a moderate conversation, they want all or nothing. There are plenty of others like yourself out there, but they don’t make good five o’clock news segments. I, for one, agree with you. I know that most states have differing laws, but in Indiana I took my wife to purchase a pistol. For the pistol, they did an on the spot background check that cleared her on the legal side of things, but only really checked to see if she had any previous criminal history that would prevent the purchase. There were no checks concerning mental stability which I think should probably factor in. If I just got released from a mental health facility where I was treated for violent tendencies towards others, I probably shouldn’t be allowed to legally own any firearms.

    Concerning her want of a pistol, we talked about it and sussed it out and agreed that if she did, she had to take some lessons from my father (form police firing range instructor) and listen to everything he had to tell her. I am proud to say that she did well and learned a lot. She is very aware of what it means to have one in her hands and what can happen should she do something she shouldn’t do. She knows that the gun is ALWAYS loaded (even when she knows it isn’t). It was very interesting to watch someone who had never been around firearms of any kind learn to respect and use one. As you can tell, I am very proud of her.

    Just my experience, two-cents, and recognition to let you know that you aren’t alone in your beliefs and concerns.

    Great post!

  6. The thing is, it really is people, not guns, that kill people. Just today I saw on the news that 22 people were injured in a KNIFE attack at a school in China. Sure, guns do make it easier, but it’s also easy to get too focused on banning bad THINGS and not doing enough about bad PEOPLE. (I’m looking at you, TSA.)

    This is a few post I wrote on the subject after the Colorado shooting some months back. Still relevant, I think.



    (In that last one I try to grapple with why people have such strong, and very different, reactions after one of these shootings.)

    • Just today I saw on the news that 22 people were injured in a KNIFE attack at a school in China.

      Take note that it says “injured”. Of those 22, only two were seriously injured. They will all live to continue their lives and grow up and love their families and all that other stuff the 20 children killed today (as well as the 9 adults) won’t. Because they were attacked with a knife, not a gun.

        • My original reply got eaten, so I’ll go for much simpler.

          I’m not saying knives can’t kill people. That would be idiotic when the proof is there.

          What I am saying is that guns make is easier to kill people. You can kill more people from a longer distance away with a gun. You can seriously injure more people from a longer distance away with a gun. It’s also easier to accidentally kill someone with a gun than with a knife.

          If the fuck in Connecticut had a knife instead of a gun, perhaps then we’d be looking at a similar news story to the Chinese incident, with 22 injured but still alive, instead of 29 dead.

          That was my point, and I’m pretty sure you got that first off any way.

          • Yes, considering that I actually SAID that guns make it easier, I think we can safely say that you have successfully mastered the obvious.

            MY point is that we manage to kill a shitload of each other even WITHOUT guns. (And of course, to counter your dismissive “doesn’t count” of the kids slashed in China.) The biggest school massacre in US history (45 killed, 58 injured) didn’t involve a gun.

            Look at it this way. The US murder rate just with knives exceeds the entire murder rate of many countries. (0.6 /100,000 for killing each other with knives in the US, the same as the entire murder rate for Norway, twice that of Iceland and Japan, three times that of Hong Kong, etc.)

            The problem isn’t the implement. The problem is that we REALLY REALLY want to kill each other. Excessive focus on WHAT we’re killing each other with detracts from the much more important question of WHY.

        • As opposed to about 8800 with guns.

          And I would be willing to bet a moderate sum of money that when you factor out 1-on-1 dispute violence, and get into lethal use of a weapon in robbery, let alone against more than one victim, the ratio of gun-to-knife deaths goes even further down.

          I agree that doing more to assist people is an essential part of the equation, too, but limiting the tools that crazy / angry / violent / antisocial people have access to seems at least a way of tackling symptoms of the problem.

          • Of course. You must have read the three posts I linked where I say that very thing.

            The problem isn’t guns. The problem is crazy people who want to kill us. My position, which is savagely attacked from all sides every time I mention it, is that we should be concentrating on the crazy people. Focus on the bad _people_, not on the bad _things_, because the bad things can’t hurt you without the bad people. But bad people can always find something.

    • “The thing is, it really is people, not guns, that kill people.”

      I think you missed Chuck’s point. Yes, there are a myriad other ways for people to kill other people. But guns were made to kill. They facilitate it, whereas knives were made to chop vegetables, meat, etc. And Chuck doesn’t suggest “banning bad THINGS”, he suggests educating people about them. It’s like how you wouldn’t use a meat cleaver unless you knew how to use it, yes?

      • “I think you missed Chuck’s point.”

        Not in the slightest. It’s not far off from my point.

        “It’s like how you wouldn’t use a meat cleaver unless you knew how to use it, yes?”

        You are aware that people don’t need a license or training to use a meat cleaver, right?

        And that our prehistoric ancestors probably had other things in mind than chopping vegetables when they invented the knife?

        • “Focus on the bad _people_, not on the bad _things_, because the bad things can’t hurt you without the bad people.”

          Not attacking, just asking: Why can’t we do both? Wouldn’t it also make sense to make their goals harder to accomplish?

          • People aren’t bad. They _do_ bad things. They make poor choices. Having a mind that is healthy prevents a lot of negative in your life and the people you touch.

            You make an excellent point in that we need to focus not just on the tool (guns) but on the people. What would make someone shoot 18 kids? They are ill.

          • Sure. We’ve tried gun control (CT has very strict gun control laws, including a ban on semi-automatic ‘assault weapons’) and it hasn’t worked. I’m just saying maybe it’s time to look at the people.

  7. I…like this. I am not a gun owner, but I enjoy shooting for pleasure, and a lot of my family hunts. This makes sense to me, and seems like a very good thing to put in place, frankly. Not to say that there wouldn’t be problems with it, or that people wouldn’t slip through the cracks, but isn’t that always the case? More education on and respect for guns would be a very good thing, in my opinion.

  8. “You need a license to drive a car. But somehow, you don’t need one to buy a gun.”

    Not cool…
    That will never make sense to me. I might just go to bed tonight pondering that.
    Seems every day my mother, grandfather, and I are discussing this topic. Thanks for the education.

    • About 25 years ago, I went into a sporting goods shop and bought a .22 semi-automatic rifle and ammo. I showed them my drivers licence that insured I could drive a car, signed a sheet that said I wasn’t a psycho and walked out. My friend told me I could just file a little piece of metal off and I’d have a full automatic. I had never shot a gun in my life. Why did I do it? Because I could.

      My dad hunted, too and the guns were in a locked cabinet with strict rules that we were NOT ALLOWED to go near the thing.

      I am all for control and education in the use and ownership of firearms. I know it doesn’t get rid of violent crime all together–hell, here in Germany at this depressing time of year, we get a lot of suicide drivers going the wrong way on the autobahn. We just had one with her kids in the car.

      But the hoarding of firearms is not a god-given right. What does the constitution say? Not that every idiot has the right to bear arms. (A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.) Some people seem to forget the militia thing.

      I, for one, live very happily in a country with very strict gun laws.

  9. Uh, I live in Utah and have carried a gun for about 10 years now. Like you, I grew up shooting. I have also hunted. Also, like you, guns were taken vary seriously. When I got my Concealed Carry Permit it required taking a course, being vetted by both the local Bureau of Criminal Identification and the FBI. I had to take a course, and all the other things you mentioned apply. Additionally, since I took it as a serious responsibility (act of citizenship) I also entered several defensive shooting competitions to have the opportunity to use my pistol under duress with speed and accuracy quantified. I thought that was my duty as someone who intended to carry. Although I don’t ever expect to be in a life threatening situation that requires using my pistol, I have read many stories that don’t make it past the local paper where people have defended themselves successfully.

    So, I say all that to point out that what you propose is already out there and more if you want to take it a step further. The only trouble with that plan is some states (I’ve lived in 10) don’t like handguns and you have to be best friends with the local police chief to get a carry permit, so they never have to go through the motions.

    Also, if you have a CCP it’s easier to purchase a gun, otherwise you have to go through a background check anyways, and I think that’s federal law – not sure.

    So, there it is, ready to partake. A world where you have to be trained to carry a gun and there’s a system to weed out the nutters. Now how do we engineer the violence and lawlessness out of the Violent Criminals who don’t follow laws in the first place? That goes to the two biggest problems with this issue: when seconds count, the police are only minutes away; and, when laws are made to control guns, only the law-abiding follow them.

    My favorite part of your rant though is where you say we don’t respect guns. That’s something I’ve seen in many people that weren’t raised around guns who think they’re icky-poo. But I do go on.


  10. As a flaming librul, I agree with everything you’ve just said. I have NO PROBLEMS AT ALL with mentally-healthy, trained, educated-about-guns people owning guns. I have a huge problem with people being able to acquire guns with only a tenuous license, or none at all; I have a huge problem with people who aren’t trained to use high-powered firearms being able to purchase those. But every time we try to have this fucking conversation, it turns into “Libruls want to take away YER GUNS” and I just, I wish it would fucking stop. We are not unreasonable people on the whole. (Some are. They don’t speak for all of us… of course, the more this shit keeps happening, the more people WILL be anti-gun, so maybe, if people want to keep owning guns responsibly, they should start having a reasonable conversation sooner than later.)

  11. I have a similar stance with you on this, Chuck. Just the same, my father had a FFL and sold firearms before I was born, and I learned to shoot and take care of a weapon back when I was around 12 to 13. Since then, I’ve come to own a decent selection of weapons ranging in types and calibers.

    While some might say I collect them, and I’ll even admit to owning more than I need, I’ve always viewed them as a tool. They can protect your home and person, they can – as you pointed out – net you some food, and they can save lives in the right hands. There’s a key phrase in there, however, “the right hands”.

    Just the same way as a firearm can do all those good things like making sure you’re safe and don’t starve, they can be far worse. Even the smallest caliber – sometimes especially the smaller ones – can cause the most horrific injuries and deaths. Even if it isn’t the injury or pain you put someone through, it also can damage or shatter the lives of everyone else who knows or loves them.

    Guns can be good (even great) for things like hunting or range-shooting and defense. At the same time, one must always keep in mind what one misplaced shot or a single accidental discharge can do. Every time you touch or brandish a firearm, it must be with the utmost reverence, respect, and fear. It is a tool, just like any knife, hammer, or saw. It’s only better at taking lives than the other tools in the box.

  12. I’m one of the few people out there that hasn’t made up his mind about guns. I don’t know where I fall on the spectrum.

    See, I grew up exactly the opposite of Chuck. My dad was a conscientious objector in Vietnam, because he refused to ever touch a gun. I didn’t have a toy gun until I went to college. Guns were, simply, verboten in our house.

    But, I’m not really anti-gun myself. I’ve actually been seriously considering taking some classes and learning to shoot. I have a lot of strongly pro-gun friends.

    The big problem with guns is that they are a massive force multiplier. Why was terrorism not a big problem for Henry VIII? Because it’s damned hard for one man to present a serious threat with melee weapons or even a crossbow when out-numbered ten to one. With modern weapons, a lone nutjob can easily kill half a dozen people, probably even with no more training than watching action movies. A single man can hold up a bank, because no one wants to risk that he’ll start shooting. So, we obviously need laws to counter-act that kind of use. (Note: training will do nothing for this issue, though more stringent licensing likely would.)

    OTOH, we do have the 2nd Amendment for a reason. And there are millions of Americans who own and use guns responsibly. Whatever we do, an outright ban on guns is not the appropriate solution. (Again, licensing stays well on the “reasonable” side of the line here.)

    I’m really torn on the issue. I want to be able to go to a shooting range and try out an M-16. But I don’t want someone else to have access to the M-16 if they’re inclined to shoot up a school, or mall, or workplace. I respect the need for hunters to have shotguns and rifles. I don’t respect the need of fanatics to hoard entire ammo dumps. And I have no idea how to draw the lines there.

  13. I think the “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” saying does have a bit of application here (at least, half of the saying does). Healthy people don’t shoot down kindergarteners. It’s probably safe to say that shootings like this are always going to be mental health related (excluding terrorist or crime-related acts), and it’s only on a case-by-case basis that we can decide whether or not tighter gun control would have prevented the tragedy. Mental health is a waxing and waning beast, and a man or woman who might snap five years from now may seem fine today.

    That being said (before I sound too discordant), I do very much approve of the licensing idea, especially if there is also away to revoke said licenses (like with a driver’s license). Recently, it became apparent that my grandmother was no longer able to drive safely. The biggest indicator was an accident that ended with her car being totaled after it was wrapped around the guard cables when she fell asleep at the wheel. Fortunately, at least in the state of Kansas, you can write an anonymous letter to the licensing bureau that will cause the person in question to have to be re-evaluated in order to keep their license.

    A similar process could be applied to gun licenses. Is your friends’ gun cabinet unlocked, giving access to her troubled teenager? Call it in. Did your cousin get out his gun and wave it around last time he was drunk? Anonymous tip. Is someone depressed? Do you suspect domestic abuse? Has your untrustworthy grandmother recently suffered several strokes, rendering her incapable of making sound decisions, but she “doesn’t remember” where her gun is hidden? Stuff like that.

    Of course, there are all sorts of objections to any proposed solution. But I think more widespread knowledge and de-stigmatization (both of guns AND mental health) is a step in the right direction.

    • I agree with the anonymous tips, etc. bit.
      I had a very close relative (now deceased,not by gun) who was a former Marine, Vietnam Vet who had a large collection of guns. No problem. Except he kept those guns out in the open where anyone could get their hands on them.
      Until another relative who was mentally unstable and on meds came to visit.
      She, having a mental break, was able to pick up the pistol off the coffee table, wave it around, then shoot the poor microwave dead.
      Ok, it sounds funny just a little that she killed the microwave.
      BUT, the point is that a person who is known to be unstable should not have such easy access to weapons. Nor should anyone not trained in their use.
      If you are not using it or preparing to use it you should be required to keep it safely tucked away from wandering hands.

  14. Seamus, there IS a mental health check, and if you were just released from a mental health facility you’re not supposed to be able to buy a gun.

    The problem is, the mental health facilities don’t provide that information to the firearms background check database the way they’re supposed to. The problem (that one, at least) isn’t that crazy people are allowed to buy guns. They’re not. It’s that the people who know that someone is crazy don’t _tell anyone_.

  15. I grew up in good ole red state Texas. Guns to the left, guns to the right, Preacher carried a gun, Momma carried a gun in her purse. Daddy (and nearly every other person I knew) had a gun collection.
    I was taught to respect and appreciate the power of a weapon, not just guns. Taught to hunt with both guns and a Bow. I’m a damn good shot with both.
    But my feelings on the whole gun control thing are right up there with my feelings on sex education.
    Refusing to teach safety and preaching to not own guns/have sex does not make the problem go away. It just means we have uneducated people shooting off their..er.. .weapons…with no knowledge or understanding of the consequences.
    Refusing to educate your teens about sex does not make them stop having sex, it just makes it easier for them to make mistakes.
    Refusing to teach gun owners safety & responsibility before letting them purchase one does not make them stop owning or shooting guns, it just makes it easier for them to make mistakes.
    I don’t presently own a gun. Doesn’t mean I wont have one in the future. I just can’t afford the damn things right now, I’d rather buy groceries for my kids. Or a history textbook. You know, one that has real history in it, not revisionist history.
    A lot of the problems we are having in America could be prevented or reduced through education. (and common sense)
    Which is not a top priority in our country right now, sadly.
    OK, I feel an Anti-Republican rant coming on, *deep calming breath* time to stop typing.

    Oh, and it really pisses me off when I see people yelling about BUY GUNS NOW, THE GOVERNMENT IS INVADING OUR HOMES AND DEPRIVING US OF OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS just to sell more guns and put more money in their pockets.
    I’ll buy my own pea shooter when I’m damn good and ready. As a matter of fact, I’ll probably hit up my Dad to sell me one of his at a decent price instead of a new one at a super inflated Fear-Induced-Buying-Spree-Price.

    I’m not anti-gun. Just anti-idiot.

  16. That sounds like one of the best, most level head and reasonable proposals for gun control I have seen in quite a while. I would completely agree with you that some sort of education and licensing should be involved. When I got my CCP here in Virginia, I was actually disappointed in the class I had to take before I could apply for my license. Other then discussing the laws involved, it was basically, can you load your weapon, fire your weapon down the range, reload the weapon, and repeat. That was it. It was more difficult to get the merit badge in Boy Scouts as a teenager then to get a CCP as an adult. And that is quite screwed up.

  17. This whole thing is just terrible. Completely terrible. You’re right, to a point about saying that requiring education and training will help gun owners who have no intention of committing a crime to be better, more responsible gun owners. And you won’t ever keep guns out of the hands of people who really want them, legally or not. However…this will not help with people who will go through the waiting period, the background checks, the education, and still murder people, still kill innocent children. The people who will go to a crowded movie theater, a mall, a school, with the sole intention of causing the deaths of other people – sometimes those people pass all of the checkpoints, and they get a gun. There’s something deeply fucked up going on inside that person, but they aren’t a “criminal”. Yet. Most gun owners don’t scare me. Not knowing who the crazy person is out in public who might just snap and start shooting scares me.

    Here’s the thing. My husband’s handgun is registered to him. If he sells it – or gives it to someone – the gun supposedly still remains registered to him. It never transfers to the next individual. If that weapon is used in a crime, all signs point back to my husband. Does this even make any sense? The idea of more regulation will never move forward, though.

  18. So, let’s understand this….If we make a law that makes owning a firearm illegal, then this will stop people from killing each other with guns. If that’s the case, why not make a law making heroine and meth illegal as well?

    I think it is absolutely terrible what happened at the elementary school today but I seriously doubt that a gun control law will have an effect on those that are violent.

    The last thing we need is more government control.

    • That’s not a knock on you, Chuck, and I know that this isn’t what you said but if you watch the news, you can see people going in an insane direction in regards to gun laws. It becomes a “see, I told you so” platform in which these tragedies become points of political diversion and discourse that many will claim can be solved by signing in a new law.

      Most automatic weapons are illegal but this doesn’t stop the gangs from obtaining them because, frankly, they don’t care about the law in the first place and where there’s a market for demand, there will be someone willing to wheel and deal out there.

      People who do this sort of stuff are terrible people. Most of society isn’t.

  19. Er, but heroin (not heroines) and meth are illegal. Does it stop people from using it? It’s hard to say. It is going to be interesting to watch Washington over the next couple of years and see how marijuana consumption changes.

    If owning a firearm, any firearm, is illegal, then they become at least an order of magnitude harder to acquire. Currently, you can buy a gun at Wal-Mart.

  20. I think this is a sane and sensible response. It’s not a knee-jerk reaction. It’s measured.

    It’s true that no amount of control will keep guns out of the hands of killers. The UK proved that. We made a knee-jerk decision and an outright ban. It didn’t stop two more rampages by men who’d snapped (one held a licensed rifle)

    But something has to be done. I’ve seen calls for better access to mental health, and yeah, that should be happening anyway. I’ve seen calls for an outright ban, but that won’t work and I don’t think it should. I do believe that people have the right to bear arms.

    Sadly, I don’t think we’re going to see a sane, level-headed discussion come from this terrible day. People will scream for a ban, others will scream louder against it, and the voices of those left childless will get lost in the rabble and politicking.

  21. My concern here is a licensing system can be used as a prohibition system. My state is a concealed carry state — BUT you must get the approval of a judge. Judges don’t approve anyone, so CCLs, while illegal, don’t exist. (There are still plenty of concealed firearms, they just aren’t legal.)

    I absolutely support education as a condition of gun use. I expect every gun user to have gone through so much training that using that gun is no longer exciting. And that time requirement means owning that firearm has a genuine cost, regardless as to the number of dollars paid for it.

    But my fear is that, if we implemented the plan above, some government clerk or judge would decide that no one but his political friends has met the training requirements, or has sufficient character, or whatever, to use a firearm. No matter which side of the debate you sit on, that’s obviously an abuse of the system, but it would be legal.

    tl;dr: Great in theory, but implementation gets tricky.

  22. Thank you for this post, Chuck. It’s about time someone present a rational solution that is pretty fair all around. Will you run for President? 😉

  23. I’m not sure where my stance goes. I think the point of “guns don’t kill people. people kill people” is simple. It is putting the blame on the actual perpetrator of the crime. It is a person that is pulling the trigger. This tragedy today? it is on the people who pulled the trigger. We can’t forget that. We can’t afford to forget that. Laying the whole blame for that on the guns in a way frees those people of the responsibility for the actions that they do. Making this issue solely about gun control puts the blame on the guns and does the same thing. I think that phrase is very important, especially in the face of tragedies like today, because we need to put the blame on the people who are committing the wrongs.

    And yet, at the same time, guns DO kill people. They are a tool that has the explicit purpose of killing something. They were designed to kill something. No different than the Bow and Arrow, the sword, the lance, or many of the other weapons that humans have built over the years. Guns turn simple accidents into lethal accidents in the same way that driving 50 mph over the speed limit turns a minor loss of control into a major accident. That lethality that a gun brings to the table. The fact that the second that a gun is involved in a situation lives are on the line needs to be respected and acknowledged.

    I live in a state where you need a license to own a gun. You need a LTC (license to carry) to purchase a pistol and you need a firearms permit for anything else. I think, in a sense, I took that for granted as universal (at least in the U.S.) because it seems so obvious. I do agree with you on this point, Chuck. We license people to drive cars. We train people to drive cars. We need to do the same thing with firearms.

    On other points I’m not so sure. I do not know if we need stricter gun control as much as we need to enforce, objectively, the rules that we have now. There shouldn’t be people getting hand-waived through the process because their friends with the local police chief. There also shouldn’t be people getting denied solely because the police chief doesn’t like them (without good reason pertaining to their responsible ownership of a gun, anyhow.) The rules are there and need to be enforced. There also needs to be rules in place for responsibility. If a child – or anyone – gets their hands on a gun because it wasn’t locked up and secured properly then I should be held liable for that. Someone without a permit to own a type of firearm should not be allowed to buy ammunition for that kind of firearm. Simple things, but they can mean a lot.

    Along with this, we as a country, need more respect. We need more respect for life and we need more respect for the things that can take away life. Personally, I did not grow up around guns. I wasn’t exposed to guns until I was about 24. I’ve shot them (hand guns only) and I have friends who own them, but I’ve never owned one. I want to someday. I like guns, and I like shooting guns. I think I could be a responsible gun owner. At the same time though, I don’t know if I’m ready for a gun yet. I don’t know if I can be responsible around a gun 24/7/365, and owning a gun demands that. They still have some of that mysticism and cool factor from a lifetime of watching action movies and playing RPGs. Until that passes completely, I don’t think I’ll try for one. When I do though, I will know what I’m doing, how the gun works, and I will work to make sure that I am capable of being not only a responsible gun owner but also a responsible shooter. I don’t think that is too lofty a standard to hold everyone else to either.

  24. The only problem with the driver’s license analogy is that driving is a privilege, thus can be licensed, monitored, and controlled in the ways that it currently is. Gun ownership is a constitutional right. When trying to regulate or license or control gun ownership it gets real tricky interpreting the 2nd amendment. I’m all for making sure degenerates, crazies, and convicts can’t get their hands on guns but the only one out of those three that have any restrictions are felons, they gave up certain rights because of the nature of the crimes they’ve committed.

    Unfortunately, no matter what approach one tries with regard to any form of gun control there is a sizable group with just enough influence in politics to oppose it with extreme fear-mongering. It could be the most moderate policy that agrees to everyone’s viewpoint but a big enough stink will be made in the most extreme rhetoric possible. The big problem is, and it comes down to your original observation, is that Americans (generally) are completely uneducated in this matter and most are content to let others do their thinking for them.

    I didn’t really grow up around guns, and I don’t really appreciate them because any jackass can pull a trigger and do some damage. I always preferred learning weapons that took real skill for proficiency and understanding, hence I cultured within myself an interest in martial arts. It wasn’t until I joined the Navy that I was forced to learn how to handle weapons. I was part of an anti-terrorism force so, obviously, I learned how to use firearms proficiently. I’ve always respected guns; I’ve even been robbed with a gun to my head so I know what it’s like on both ends of that weapon. But, I still don’t appreciate them because of their ease of use. Again, any jackass can pull a trigger and probably cause some damage.

    I respect them, I understand their need, and I understand that there is no way we are getting rid of them. Education is key, but as with all things American, the public schools won’t teach gun control, sex education, religion or even science the way things are going, so it leaves the parents to teach their children these things and how many parents are educated enough nowadays to adequately provide that kind of support, much less even involve themselves in their child’s life?

    Excellent post, Chuck, it’s just sad you had to even post such a topic.

    • It really doesn’t get tricky at all — the amendment prominently features the phrase “well-regulated.” Any effort to regulate is, by definition, within the scope of the amendment.

  25. Your upbringing, Chuck, and mine are similar (save, I’d hunt if my wallet could afford it). My dad was a Detroit cop. His service revolver was on top of the fridge at night. Our home always had weapons. First time I was exposed to target shooting, I was very young. We respected weapons — and like you, play time was not weapon-centered because that was serious stuff. I also have military experience — so again, my respect and ability to handle said weapons is above average.

    My experience with guns was education-focused. Period. My children are getting the same, although, I don’t host a service revolver on my fridge. I never allowed my kids to have realistic looking weapons. They learned early that guns were not play things. Futuristic Space Cannons of Water Fun, however was allowed. When my boys eventually created “guns” out of Legos (be warned for Bdub to maybe try this, I’ve seen many a kid do this, not just mine), they got more “education.” Guns = great power. With that equals great responsibility. (They listen to comic book references…don’t judge.)

    Couple weapon education along with being able to get mental health care easier than buying a gun — now that would be a powerful tool towards preventing the horrors we’ve witnessed this week. Now, this subject — mental health care access — that’s a conversation I really would like to have.

    • There’s an interesting point about mental health care access to be made. If you have a law, as some other commenters are mentioning, that prevents people from ever getting a license to own a gun if they’ve been treated for a mental health issue….

      …If I’m a reasonably smart person, and I like hunting, and I’m feeling a bit depressed, what’s that law going to tell me about whether I should go see a therapist about this depression, eh?

      • In my response above, I was not advocating that we include a mental-health check with gun-control laws. What I am saying is that this problem has more aspects to it than easy access to weapons. But when it’s easier to get a gun than mental health care, there’s a problem. If you need a picture: No SANE person would open fire in a mall or school.

  26. Thank you for this post! It is difficult to find people talking about guns in ways I agree with. Education is so important.

  27. My relationship to guns is similar to yours Chuck, having been raised in a law enforcement family. Early education, early access to guns, early hunting adventures. The rules in our house boiled down to every gun is loaded, whether it actually is or not, and you never touch a gun without being prepared to pull the trigger. It’s not for show, it’s not an accessory, it’s not to scare people, it’s not to make you look taller and more bad ass. It’s for killing. Don’t touch it unless you are prepared to kill something. There’s no reset button in life. Sorry for rambling. I’m just so sad about all of this hatefulness.

    • I’m going to float a thought about this to see what people think, but it’s just that, a thought that occurred while learning of this terrible situation.

      Is saying that guns cause murders like saying that uncovered skin causes rape?

      I admit I do not own a gun, but feel these crimes have a root in people, not side things that take away from the fact that a human being decided to do something unspeakable. The comparison caught me, so I hope to chew on it a bit to either reject or gain insight from.

      • No, it’s like saying that penises cause rape. The obvious and easy solution is to call for a ban on penises. A solution that might actually work requires a lot more thought and effort.

  28. Not gonna lie, was about to get angry about this post. But you made the same point a lot of people around here make. Daily. Education is a very effective tool in limiting gun violence. It’s not the cure, but it helps. People need to understand and learn to respect the usage of guns. The gun is just a tool. It can shoot clays and targets and game, or it can shoot people. It depends on THE PERSON BEHIND THE TRIGGER. Not to mention the MIND of that person.

    Gun Ban Laws just don’t do it. You can ban guns all day long, but that doesn’t stop criminals from using them, as we’ve seen with the drug wars, and in multiple shootings where the guns used were stolen by the perpetrator.

    It’s a sad day no matter how you look at it, though. And kids! Reports will come out about the individual who did this, and hopefully we’ll learn more about why. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims, though I know that will never be enough.

  29. I can’t say I grew up with guns at home, but I don’t see the issue at all with what Mr. Wendig is suggesting. In Canada (my home and native land), it’s quite simple; if you don’t have a license, you don’t have a working firearm. Plain and simple. Licenses are renewed every five years through testing and police record checks, and should you be involved in any sort of criminal activity (or be deemed mentally incapable of understanding the responsibilities of owning and using a gun) you don’t get your license renewed.

    All pistols have to be registered with police (through something called the “short gun registry”.) There used to be a long-gun registry for shotguns and rifles, but it was destroyed at the behest of Mr. Harper’s Conservative Government. Point is, from my perspective (being a liberal-minded Canadian), this sort of regulation is not unreasonable. Heck, take a look at the UK. Their POLICE FORCES don’t carry guns. It’s nearly impossible to get firearms licenses. And Japan? Harder still- if you aren’t in the police force or the military, you cannot have guns. Period.

    I don’t hate the United States, or its people, but this sort of regulation is something many Western countries take for granted. Why not the States?

    • We absolutely need to have a conversation, but it needs to be an *informed* conversation.

      One of the reasons the long-gun registry in Canada was repealed was because there was absolutely no evidence that it prevented violent crimes or assisted in solving even a single murder during the entirety of its existence. Firearm licensing and registration has never been shown to prevent violent crimes–not in this country, or any other.


      And yes, let’s look at the UK, or even Japan (but especially the UK). If you look at the data, it becomes obvious that their laws are ineffective in preventing violent crime–especially mass shootings.


      Education, I can agree with, but regulation doesn’t really do anything but give people warm fuzzies.

      • I respect your opinion, and the facts you present. But there were also political reasons behind the abolition of the long-gun registry by the Conservative government. Namely, that the people most opposed to it tended to be farmers, ranchers, and rural inhabitants- many of whom voted Conservative. It also didn’t help that at the height of the long-gun registry issue (which nearly toppled the government and kick-started a new election) long-gun owners were intentionally switching their guns with neighbors to screw up the system.

        Education I can most certainly agree with. But people who are both opposed to and supportive of regulation seem to agree on one insane theory; that regulation will make this problem completely go away. Unfortunately, it won’t. It will hopefully cut drastically the number of violent shootings- but there will always be criminals or the mentally incompetent being in possession of guns.

        Thanks for adding the info above. I disagree with your opinion, but you have good facts to back up your opinion.

  30. I live in the UK, where possession of handguns is almost entirely banned. Even that doesn’t stop this kind of tragedy (we had Dunblane, which was very similar). There are always nutters who will get hold of a weapon.
    When I visit the States, I love going on the range with a gun instructor I know, but it always shocks me that all he has to do is sign me in. No ID check, nothing. Registration seems like a good step to me.
    It also occurs to me that guns are another consumer item. Something else to spend money on.

  31. I’ll add to this big ole mess – my big issue isn’t with guns or mental health, it’s with the media putting mass murderers pictures up 24/7, proclaiming tallies of deaths, and publicizing the names and effectively rankings of these people vs. previous tragedies. I would happily agree to exclusively watch and subscribe to a single news source for a year or longer if they would agree to not publicize the jackass’s name, and just call him Coward-3427 or whatever. A friend showed me video from Charlie Brooker after made a similar comment to her: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PezlFNTGWv4 Forensic Psychiatrist calls out mass media heavily here. (and ALL of us, too, they only sell what we buy, after all!)
    Just yet another 2 cents.

  32. Wow. Well said.
    I live in Europe, and here owning a gun demands a license, and age 18. People have not the first idea about hunting, since, well, we killed all our free animals hundreds of years ago, and nobody ever NEEDS a gun. We often wonder about the strange discussions you have in the US, but this standpoint here is pretty good.

  33. Sadly, even if you require a licensing course prior to ownership, it still won’t stop idiots from being idiots or criminals from being criminals or the mentally ill from being mentally ill. How many people have you seen get a driver’s license and then go out and do the dumbest things imaginable with a car? Speeding, stunts, hydroplaning, or drinking? Learning isn’t synonymous with respect.

  34. I’m a pragmatist at heart and we are a technological advance species so I tend to think that a lot of things are simply unnecessary. In our current stage of social evolution, our worth is no longer determined by how many things we kill. In an ideal world, guns wouldn’t exist. However, the world is not ideal, they do exist and this seems like a good compromise.

    I live in the U.K. Guns are not common unless you live in the countryside. I’ve shot an air gun on two occasions. Once, at the fair and the other in a friend’s backyard. The first was kind of fun. The second scared the shit out of me. I think the difference was that the first was in a socially acceptable situation that was monitored by someone who spends all day watching people fire an air rifle at a target but the second was a situation that didn’t feel contained, nobody took it quite seriously and even though it was just an air pistol, I was overwhelmed by the damage I could inflict, if I chose.

    I am, however, very familiar with blades. I participated in Viking re-enactment from the age of 16-18 and am trained in fighting with a dagger and a spear. Whilst I was being trained it was constantly drummed into me that I had the power to kill in my hands and that came with responsibility. Personal safety was paramount. Never pick up a weapon in anger. So I can relate on that front.

    Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that, surprisingly, I agree with you.

    You should also know that my partner would like a gun and I have always said no because I feel uncomfortable with having one in the house but after reading this, I think I’m prepared to revisit the subject.

  35. I wanted to say, I think you have an excellent point, Chuck, but the problem in the US is that it’s the 2nd Amendment. You can’t take away something or limit something when it’s a right. Even something as simple as a license, as you said, “allows us to deny people.” That’s not allowed when you have a right to it. So, the starting point is amending the Constitution. It’s tough and takes a while, but maybe it’s time to start.

    There’s also the point of the 2nd Amendment, for a people to be able to combat an over-oppressive government if the need arises. You walk a fine line allowing the government itself to issue licenses when they’re the ones the 2nd Amendment was designed to protect against.

    • As has been pointing out, though, 2nd amendment notes a “well-regulated” gun control. Already we have an open door to interpret in a way that suggests gun ownership — this so-called “militia” people talk about — isn’t unmitigated, isn’t without some kind of rulebook.

      And I don’t know that the 2nd amendment was specifically designed to combat an oppressive government. That may be one intent nested in there somewhere, but I’m not sure it’s really something that applies anymore.

      — c.

      • I agree (and fully support) guns being well-regulated, it’s just that we’ve gone about as far as we can go while still keeping within the bounds of the amendment. We’ve regulated to the extent that people can still pretty freely use guns. I’m not saying there’s no rulebook, we’re just maxed out.

        I’ve never understood the interpretation that the Constitution is a living, breathing document. We have the ability to amend it for a reason. My years in law school have shown me you can argue anything you want and if that, what does a document even mean that changes with the times. It changes by the people voting a change in.

  36. Sorry, but in most cases, these shootings are the work of crazy/paranoid people. Crazy people who walked into a shop and bought an arsenal and then killed 18 primary school children with it. How can you possibly ‘educate’ a crazy person? Are you suggesting that the American government should run a complicated and in-depth psychological test on every guy who wants to buy a gun? How much would it cost? Here in Europe we do not have any guns and, honestly, we are doing fine. You should try it. Sorry if I sound a little bit harsh today, but I get very, VERY ANGRY when I think about 18 school children shot dead (an maybe more will die in the following days, because of the wounds).

  37. […] You might then say, “But criminals don’t need to be regulated or care about regulation,” which is another version of the “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns” saying. And that’s true. But it’s true of everything, isn’t it? Bombs are illegal, so only bombers will have bombs. Last I checked, criminals are always willing to do things we’re not — that’s why we create laws that ideally prevent and ultimately punish them for the transgression. “If we make rape illegal, only rapists will have rape! And murder, too! And they can shoplift! OUR FREEDOMS ARE ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK DAMN YOU OBAMACARE.” (Chuck Wendig) […]

  38. I like guns. Only reason I don’t have one is the stringent weapon laws of my country (Sweden) where we do actually require licenses for guns. Basically, need to train one year at a shooting range and do well enough before you can own a hand gun – and you start with a .22. Then you need more training and more shooting tests to advance to higher calibers. That only covers pistols and revolvers.

    Or you get a hunting license. But that only covers rifles.

    You want something bigger than that? Join the military or national guard, it’s the only way here.

    I’m not proposing that thwe US adopt gun laws that are equally limiting, but requiring a certain amount of education and having to pass a test before you can own a gun is sensible to me. Something akin to what you need for a concealed carry license in some states, perhaps, but necessary BEFORE you can take the gun home.

    Criminals will always get guns, though – they have them here as well.

  39. No-one needs to own a gun – except maybe soldiers and, in extreme and unusual circumstances, the police. You don’t need to shoot up small animals or big ones to feed yourself. You don’t need to shoot at targets for fun. Given the damage that can be done with them, there is no justification for them being available. The sick fuck who killed those children today did it with a SIG Sauer semi-automatic. Nobody goes hunting with what is effectively a souped-up Kalshnikov. There’s only one reason for a gun like that to exist and it is to kill people. Well, surprise, surprise, that’s what it did. Licensing the kind of people who own guns like that won’t stop them being the kind of people they are. And all that will stop the next one shooting a classroom full of children is for the damned guns not to be available to them at all.

  40. I live in Canada where the majority of people do not have guns of any description. Something like 55 people died in Canada last year because of handguns. In the States? More than 10,000. I dunno. You do the math and tell me if handguns are a good idea. By the way? It’s not perfect here – there are assholes and killers here, too (the the man who murdered 14 engineering students in Montreal years ago) but I feel 100% safer living in this country. I hope Americans figure it out.

  41. An additon: people argue that it’s crazy people who do these killings. True! But let’s make it harder for crazy people to get guns! Like, my mother doesn’t have a Glock in her purse so I can’t steal her and shoot her in the face. Just saying…

  42. You DON’T need a licence to own a gun in the States? Wow.

    It does seem like a pretty obvious first step! And one very few people could disagree with.

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