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I'll admit it. I don't get America's obsession with guns. Not outside of the Matrix, anyway, which is still totally awesome. Where I grew up the only people who had guns were criminals and the police; neither of which you wanted to run into after dark.

I grew up in some of the shittier neighborhoods in NYC.  And when I say shitty I'm not talking about a liquor store with bulletproof glass.

I'm talking pre-Guiliani New York, complete with a crack house across the street and an illegal numbers spot down the block.  When I was in grade school a stray bullet came through the kitchen window right next to where I was ironing my clothes.  We never really got an explanation of who or why from the police.  Nor was there a whole lot of interest from the authorities when a family member was wounded by gunfire at a block party.  That sort of thing was quasi-normal in my neighborhood.

The thing is, it never occurred to me that having a gun would have made me more safe.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  If I ever had a gun (legal or not) on me any of the countless times I've been stopped for "fitting the description" well, I probably wouldn't be entertaining you with these posts.  So when I say I don't get the whole gun culture thing, know that it's not coming from a place of blasé ignorance about guns.  To me, guns have always been something that could make a volatile situation much, much worse.

With this in mind, the whole we need even more guns to make us safer argument never really clicked with me.  This summer, I remember when fresh off the horror of another senseless mass shooting, America was treated to the lunatic ravings of Representative Louis Gohmert, who was keen on the theory that if only someone else in that theater in Aurora, Colorado had a gun on that fateful day -- then maybe the massacre could have been prevented.

Well it does make me wonder, you know with all those people in the theater, was there nobody that was carrying that could've stopped this guy more quickly?”
Right, because when a madman with automatic weapons opens fire in a dark and crowded theater, what we need is more people with guns to resolve the situation.  Here's the thing Louie, not only was the Aurora shooter armed to the teeth, he also had body armor and set off tear gas.  Let's do a little thought experiment.  Let's say two people other than the original shooter are armed and present at different places in the theater.  The madman sets off his tear gas and opens fire.  Now we have a dark and smoky theater with people screaming and running for exits.  Concerned and Armed Citizen Number One sees the sees the shooter and decides to stop him with his own firearm.  Sadly even a good shot would have issues hitting a target in that sort of chaos.  And even if he somehow managed to hit the madman, there's still the body armor to contend with. So, keep shooting, and pray you get it right.

Meanwhile, Concerned and Armed Citizen Number Two is in a different part of the theater.  She's not exactly sure what's going on, but she happens to make out a man opening fire in a crowded theater.  So she decides to take him out with her firearm.  Sad day for her because the man she saw opening fire was actually Concerned and Armed Citizen Number One.  So we have a pitched gun battle in a crowded theater with only one person -- the original psychopath -- who has any idea what's happening and everyone shooting at everyone else.  That sounds so safe.  Fucking idiot!

Let's give Rep. Gohmert the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is just too simple to have thought through the clear implications of what he was saying. Even if that's the case, he's not alone in shilling this nonsense -- sliding down the gradient from thoughtless fool to intentional sociopath, we come to Wayne LaPierre, President of the NRA. This fool has been making the media rounds for the past week and change, claiming that the most recent well-publicized gun-related tragedy could have been avoided if only Jovan Belcher's girlfriend had a gun.

"The one thing missing in that equation is that woman owning a gun so she could have saved her life from that murderer," LaPierre told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday.
Sure. That's just what extreme emotional duress calls for.  More firepower.  Because whomever can get to their gun first is always a recipe for safety.  This is not a Hollywood movie set.  We need guns. Lots of guns! is fine for the Matrix.  But this is real life, and it actually matters when statistics say that in reality, it's exactly the opposite.  According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:
  • The risk of homicide is three times higher in homes with firearms (Kellermann, 1993, p. 1084).
  • Higher gun ownership puts both men and women at a higher risk for homicide, particularly gun homicide (Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Injury Control Research Center, 2009).
  • Keeping a firearm in the home increases the risk of suicide by a factor of 3 to 5 and increases the risk of suicide with a firearm by a factor of 17 (Kellermann, p. 467, p. Wiebe, p. 771).

According to a report by Sports Illustrated, there were in fact, eight guns in the house.  So thanks for mistakenly proving the point about gun ownership Wayne.

I'm just tired of arguments escalating into homicide via firearms.  It happens way too often.  It's difficult to see how a change in specific laws would have prevented this latest spate of killing outside of a wholesale banning of firearms -- which will never actually happen.  But without that, I'd feel a lot better about our entire gun culture if there was a greater emphasis on training and safety rather than on unrestricted access.  Jesus, when I got my driver's license I had to take a written test to get a permit, took a vision test to prove I could see, had to sit through a five-hour safety course, and then finally an actual driving exam.  'Cause you know, cars are potentially dangerous.

If cars are potentially dangerous, what are firearms?  Shouldn't people who want to own guns at least have to prove basic proficiency and safety knowledge?  If we really can't get the political capital together to support totally reasonable-seeming policies like the assault weapons ban, and requiring background checks at gun shows to make sure crazies and/or narcos might find it at least a tiny bit more difficult to stockpile their arsenals, can't we just require that first-time gun owners sit down for a couple of hours to learn about how to maintain some basic safety standards with their new handheld, convenient and very lethal weapon?  Let's just start there, and see where it gets us.

Originally posted to The Non Blogosphere on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 06:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Shut Down the NRA.

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