Monday, July 23, 2007

Voices from the Tragedy of Virginia Tech: Maybe an armed society isn't the solution to violence

This is a message from Michael and Jeri Bishop, whose son Jamie was one of the teachers killed in the Virginia Tech massacre (I've edited it slightly to make easy blog links)

- Nancy Jane Moore
===============

Michael and Jeri Bishop write:

Take a look at this site, just to read the thumbnails, then go on to the reports themselves, especially if you have a computer that doesn't rely on an old-fashioned modem to call them up.

Yes, the Brady Center supports sensible gun-control legislation, and I suppose that it is *biased* in that direction, but at least its bias is built into its name. The NRA, on the other hand, rarely encounters any gun-control legislation that it cares for, even if that legislation is difficult to refute on grounds of either logic or commonsense.

For two examples, 1) keeping guns out of the hands of mentally impaired veterans (who, after all, know how to use them); and 2) letting the ATF track guns used in crimes back to their point of sale. The NRA vigorously opposes both of these controls, for "reasons" that strike us as benefiting absolutely no one, except (in the second case) gun dealers who knowingly traffic with persons buying firearms for criminal purposes.

Indeed, the NRA thinks that the massacre at Virginia Tech could have been prevented if every student and teacher there had carried a handgun. Perhaps that massacre could have -- who knows? -- but the notion of arming 18-24 year olds, at the very time that "drugs and alcohol use and suicide and mental health issues all peak" is, well, CRACKPOT CRAZY. We might well prevent another Norris Hall (although there are other means), but gun deaths on campuses across the nation would inevitably rise.

After all, as the Brady Center schools report observes, on the whole "college campuses are safer than the communities that surround them, precisely because those institutions have barred or tightly controlled firearms. We need to support those institutions, not strip them of the ability to control firearms on campus. Arming teachers is also a bad idea. Do we really want teachers shooting at students? Even police officers hit their targets less than 20% of the time."

Right now, by the way, the Brady Center could use your support to help fight the strong possibility that activist judges --this is rich -- will strike down Washington, D. C.'s and eventually every major city's most effective gun laws. [Ed. note: The D.C. government is appealing the decision that struck down its gun laws and according to this Washington Post editorial, the Supreme Court is likely to hear it this term.]

Explore the Brady site to see how you can help in this fight . . . unless, of course, you believe the bumper sticker that greeted me on the rear of a hunter's pickup when I returned to Pine Mountain from Blacksburg after the shooting spree at Virginia Tech on April 16 took our son Jamie's life: "Gun Control: Simple Solutions for Simple Minds."

Neither of the two controls mentioned in my third paragraph would have affected the man driving this pickup unless (1) he were a mentally disturbed veteran, or (2) someone who illegally sold guns to criminals. Maybe he qualified on both counts.

Simple, simple us for failing to see why he or anyone else should own a gun if the first condition held, or should have the right to sell firearms if the second held.

P.S. Robert Heinlein once wrote, "An armed society is a polite society." Unfortunately, he never had an opportunity to visit current-day Iraq.

27 comments:

Ace said...

Well said. Even more stringent gun control laws are necessary to save our society from this menace. For instance, if we make all schools and universities "gun free zones," if we prohibit firearms on those properties, then we would've prevented the tragedy at Virginia Tech.

Just look at the brilliant success of Washington D.C.'s prohibition of private firearm ownership. Since that law went into effect, there's been absolutely no crime in the capitol.

The Brady Center is absolutely correct. We need more powerful anti-gun laws. Criminals would then fear such laws and fall into line.

After all, criminals fear the law.

Guav said...

"Indeed, the NRA thinks that the massacre at Virginia Tech could have been prevented if every student and teacher there had carried a handgun."

No it doesn't. And no gun owners I know have ever said that either. It is a complete straw man.

Nobody is advocating that we "arm" anyone, teachers or student. All that is being said is that teachers or students who are 21 years of age and are ALREADY LEGALLY LICENSED TO CARRY A CONCEALED WEAPON should not have to leave that weapon at home or in their car when they enter campus.

The type of person who follows the "gun free zone" law and leaves their firearm at home, clearly, is not the type of person who is going to shoot up a school anyway. And if they wanted to, the mythical barrier of the "gun free zone" won't stop them—obviously.

Sailorcurt said...

Why is it that the gun control crowd finds it necessary to use misleading statements (sometimes known in less polite circles as "lie") in order to have any points to make?

Guav already pointed out the lie about "arming" students and faculty members.

The ATF is not prohibited from tracing crime guns back to their sources. It is the misuse of said trace data that the Tiahrt amendment prevents and the amendment is SUPPORTED by the ATF.

Somehow the Brady center is open about their bias but the National RIFLE Association is not? WTFO?

The "Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence" has changed their name at least twice in a direct effort to mask their true agenda. They don't care about violence...if they did, they would support measures that actually WORK to cut down on violence. The only measures they support are gun control...which, by the way...demonstrably does NOT reduce violence or crime...not even gun violence.

Their name should be the "Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Ownership" if they were going for that whole "bias is built into its name" thing.

But I must admit...at least the author of this blog is honest about his bias and bigotry.

Diane Silver said...

Consider this a basic lesson in manners...

In THIS moment, I would like to ask that ace, guav, sailorcurt and anyone else who supports the NRA stance on guns stop and think about who is speaking in this post.

It's not me (the owner of this blog) or my co-blogger Nancy, it's two parents whose son was killed at Virginia Tech.

How about before you slam into them for being stupid and call them bigoted, you first acknowledge their loss and pain? They didn't write this post to annoy you. They wrote it and the other piece we posted for them in the hope that something good will come out of this tragedy.

This isn't just a debating point. It's a real personal horror.

You will go much farther in winning converts if first you look at who is speaking and use a few manners.

Here's a hint at how one writes that kind of thing. Try this:
"I am so sorry for your loss, and I grieve with you, but I respectfully disagree with your idea."

The Armed Canadian said...

Diane,

I am sympathetic to their loss.

But to their points, they are speaking without the facts and rather accepting what they are being told without investigating it for themselves.

The question for the poster is simple really: Do they blame the gun or do they blame the person who held and aimed it? If they blame the gun, then there is nothing that can be said that will convince them. Did a gun make the act easier? Certainly. But it was ultimately the evil of Cho himself who choose to aim the gun and pull the trigger that is responsible for the tragedy. The gun was simply a tool. It had no will. The will for evil was with the person who held it.

The points being made in response is the fact the law in place denied the presence of guns on campus for good. Whether you think people should be armed or not is irrelevant. The State of Virginia permits its citizens to be armed IF THEY SO CHOOSE TO DO SO within the bounds of the law. However, VT, through policy stripped them of that option.

As a result, the good use of a gun on that day, in the hands of a citizen that if present, could have shot the one committing the evil with another gun, never had a chance to happen.

Guns are easy to blame for such events. But they themselves do nothing. In other countries where guns are totally banned, those would do evil seem to have no problems getting them.

Hopefully in time the parents will come to blame the evil that was Cho. That is the proper and enlightened thing to do. To blame the gun is easier but will accomplish nothing. As long as evil people exist, they will commit it with whatever is at hand and in violation of whatever law may be in place. There were already harsh laws in place against murder at VT and that didn't stop Cho. There were policies that said if you brought a gun on campus, you could be expelled. That harsh policy didn't stop him either. The same applies to criminals. It is a simple concept and you need to understand it: Criminals do not obey the law.

As a result, the toughest laws in the world will not deter evil. Evil people will simply sidestep them and target the good who obey.

Something to think about.

K-Romulus said...

I would like to be the first to offer my condolences. I also want to clear up two misstatements of fact:
1) The NRA supports the background check process currently in place AND supports the streamlining of records that enable mental health checks for gun sales.
2) There is no evidence that the ATF cannot trace guns used in crimes. In fact, that is the ATF's job. They did it brilliantly last week when they took a grand total of three hours to trace the buyer of the gun used to shoot two NYPD officers.

What causes the overheated rhetoric is when the gun control crowd puts out misinformation and outright lies that good people fall for, simply because they are not informed on the issue and trust supposed experts to tell them the truth..

Sebastian-PGP said...

With all due respect to those who lost family members that day at VT...

Denying law abiding Americans the right to keep and bear arms will NOT bring your loved ones back, but it will ensure that the next maniac who decides his hand at mass murder has a much easier go of it.

Gun control costs way more lives than it could ever save.

Sailorcurt said...

And the fact that they lost a child to a crazed killer somehow makes them experts on the efficacy of gun control - or lends their demonstrably inaccurate statements some sort of magical "truth because we say so" quality?

I am, of course, sympathetic to the loss they experienced...but I am saddened and just a little bit outraged that they would, seemingly, try to capitalize on that loss to forward a demonstrably ineffective political agenda. How much sympathy should I have for parents who so blatantly attempt to cash in sympathy in exchange for credibility in a political debate?

I find it additionally telling that the blog owner, in the face of opposing viewpoint, opted to chastise the tone of the opposition rather than address the substance of the arguments.

I am sympathetic to the losses suffered by the victims of Virginia Tech...especially so because my own daughter attended Virginia Tech and personally knew Professor Librescu...but that does not mean that I will allow sympathy to silence me in the face of falsehoods and misleading information.

Diane Silver said...

I find myself being torn on the issue of gun control.

My brother is a renowned gun maker who crafts beautiful flintlock rifles. Both he and my former husband are hunters. I respect and love both of these men deeply, and I do not begrudge them the ownership of guns, nor the right to hunt.

When I was married I went target shooting with my husband and discovered that I not only enjoyed it, but that I was a fairly good shot.

I don't hate gun owners or hunters, or believe that all guns should be confiscated.

Personally, I believe it is likely that the biggest failure at Virginia Tech had nothing to do with guns or gun control, but with the failure of our health care system.

In particular, we seem to think that people with mental illnesses don't deserve treatment, and then we're shocked (shocked!) when they harm themselves (which is what most often happens), harm others, or "merely" end up homeless and living on our streets.

Universal health care for all, including the mentally ill, is something that is long past due in this country.

On the other hand, I do wonder if our current laws about guns are inadequate. I have no wish to live in the wild west where shoot-'em-ups are the way people resolve arguments. I have no wish to live in a place like Iraq where guns are as available as candy is here.

For me, the bottom line is that guns are just too easy for people to get. It is absolutely true, that the gun the VT shooter used didn't fire itself. It is the man who is ultimately responsible.

On the other hand, I also know that if he had been attacking people with a knife or even a sword or even one of my brother's flintlock, one-shot rifles, many fewer people would have been killed.

Would the death count have been less if other people on campus had had guns?

Maybe. If they were well trained, and didn't panic, and didn't shoot someone else by mistake. Is our gun training that good? I honestly don't know, but police officers with tons of training and experience have been known to shoot the wrong people. Why should we think that private citizens with less training and experience would do better?

Finally, there's this comment to reply to:

>
I find it additionally telling that the blog owner, in the face of opposing viewpoint, opted to chastise the tone of the opposition rather than address the substance of the arguments.
>

Oh the ways to reply...

First, I have to work for a living and didn't have time to into a response in detail. I did, though, want to make certain that if the Bishops read this page, they would know that someone cares. I'm a mother. I can't even imagine their pain.

And then there's this comment:
>
How much sympathy should I have for parents who so blatantly attempt to cash in sympathy in exchange for credibility in a political debate?
>

I think their loss and the grief of anyone who has been harmed by gun violence is something we all should hear and understand. Those losses are real. The debate over gun control and the proper way to respond to gun violence is not happening in a vacuum. Depending on what happens, people live or die, and the pain of those who suffer must be factored into the debate.

Even if you refuse to believe that, there is one other thing, and it's called manners, or perhaps compassion is a better word. Do you remember the Golden Rule? Treat your neighbors as you would wish to be treated. How would you want to be treated if your son was murdered?

Many thanks to all for your comments.

Nancy Jane Moore said...

I find it most interesting that I posted two messages from Michael and Jeri Bishop -- one on gun control issues and one on a peace center at Virginia Tech. No one has commented on the peace center, but everyone is on the attack on guns.
The comment that the Bishops are "cashing in" on this is incredibly offensive. I can't imagine what benefit you think they're getting from this. They are simply asking that people look at methods that might prevent future tragedies. Sensible gun laws would help. So would reasonable enforcement of those laws. I don't actually think it was legal for the killer to purchase the weapons he did, given his mental health problems, but somehow the laws prohibiting such purchases weren't followed. I suggest that's because Virginia doesn't really take gun laws seriously.
We need to have some rational discussions about guns in this country, instead of having NRA canned responses everytime someone makes a suggestion. Personally, I think everyone who wants to buy a gun of any kind should have to get serious training in how to use it and then pass an exam similar to that required for a driver's license. Obviously, criminal and mental illness records should also come into play. And these laws should be enforced, instead of winked at and ignored.

Sailorcurt said...

Ms. Silver,

I must admit first that I am a "drive-by commenter" in this instance. I don't know you and I don't regularly read your blog. I was directed here from someone else.

Upon reading your position and reasoning on gun control I can respectfully disagree with you. You didn't resort to hyperbole, misleading statements or false accusations...you simply stated your opinion on the subject. Although I think you are wrong on many levels, I absolutely respect your right to have those opinions...as long as you don't resort to unethical tactics to support them.

The problem I had with the letter you posted was the misleading information and hyperbole it contained.

How would I wish to be treated were my son murdered? Well, for one, I wouldn't use it as a political bludgeon and expect such use to be consequence free.

The golden rule? Were I lying to you I would expect to be called on it...and I won't hesitate to call someone else on it either. Personal tragedy is no excuse for unethical behavior.

Manners? How mannerly and compassionate was it for the Bishops to misrepresent my positions? To flat out lie about my philosophy and stance? I AM the NRA...I and about 4 million other law abiding gun owners. When the Bishops said "the NRA thinks that the massacre at Virginia Tech could have been prevented if every student and teacher there had carried a handgun" they were saying that about ME. and it is a LIE.

I don't find that to be very mannerly and I don't feel it inappropriate in the least for me to draw attention to the libelous nature of their assertions.

If the Bishops wish to grieve in peace, they are more than welcome to do that. I will pray for them and for their entire family. But when they come out in public with a letter such as you posted, they are not grieving in peace...they are using their grief as a political tool and they no longer have the moral authority to demand any more "manners" or "courtesy" than they display themselves.

You will please take note that at no time did I call anyone a name, use derogatory personal slurs or statements or otherwise impugn them personally. I simply drew attention to the misleading nature of their statements. That, in my mind, IS displaying manners. I feel that I treated them with much more courtesy than they displayed toward me.

Sailorcurt said...

Ms. Moore,

I wrote a long rebuttal but I deleted it because I decided to focus on one simple, telling point:

You use the "Brady canned" term "sensible gun laws" but then deride the other side for using "NRA canned responses?"

Exactly which responses do you consider to be regurgitations of "NRA canned" information?

What, exactly, constitutes a "sensible gun law?" Sensible by who's definition? Yours? Mine? Sarah Brady's?

Does that mean that anyone who opposes such laws lacks sense?

And the rational discussion begins when exactly?

ishida said...

"sensible" gun laws? We already have 2000+ such laws on the books. And guess what, very few are actually enforced. We don't need more laws, we just need to enforce the ones we already have.

Sebastian-PGP said...

If you're wondering if having an armed person would have helped in the VT scenario...

Ask yourself this: don't you think at the moment of truth some of the victims would have prefered to have the option to return fire?

Everyone was ducking and cowering. The "they might have shot someone else" objection is pretty weak.

Cho killed himself only when it became clear that armed confrontation was iminent. If someone had been able to provide armed resistance sooner, many lives would have been saved.

Thinking otherwise is a surefire sign you're clueles about the very facts of the case. Remember--Cho didn't stop and off himself until the police were about to show up and start shooting at him. The whole thing would have ended a lot faster if someone could have provided some armed resistance. Lives would have been saved. Cho would have been forced to quit going around executing others and either run from or confront the armed person confronting him.

I hate to say it...but anyone who's doubting this is letting their anti gun bias cloud their judgment.

Nancy Jane Moore said...

One of my reactions to any tragedy like the one at Virginia Tech is to think about what I would or could have done. Some of this is a desire to be a hero -- could I have stopped this guy or saved someone else -- and some of it is less admirable self preservation -- could I have lived through it. I come at this subject with a significant martial arts background, so I'm not just fantasizing.
In the case of Virginia Tech, I really don't think average people armed with the kind of guns permitted under Virginia's carry laws (handguns, mostly) would have been able to do much. Certainly they wouldn't have been able to respond fast enough to the initial attacks. Given the weapons the killer had, they would have been seriously outgunned and I suspect most would not have had anything like the level of skill they needed to deal with a psychotic man who was just interested in killing as many people as possible before he died. (I am assuming that you're not suggesting that everyone carry assault guns and have military sniper training.)
There's a reason the police put together SWAT teams to deal with people like this -- it's not a situation people can handle without training.
I don't think someone with a handgun would have made a difference. My own fantasy is that a group of people could have rushed the guy -- some would have died, but probably not everyone, and they might have brought him down earlier. But I don't think most people could actually do that either.
In this case, the real solution is not a false belief that guns are a magic tool that can solve everything. This could have been prevented if the mental health people who examined Cho had taken the actions they were supposed to take. It would have been prevented if he hadn't been able to get dangerous weapons so very easily -- even when he shouldn't have been able to buy any gun at all. And much of it would have been prevented if the police who investigated the original killing had shut down the campus then.
Weapons are great for fantasies, but real protection comes from systems, planning, and professional handling of those with serious and dangerous mental illness.

Sebastian-PGP said...

"I come at this subject with a significant martial arts background, so I'm not just fantasizing."

So do I. I've got about 12 years of Okinawan fighting styles under my belt, a little Thai boxing, some judo and aikido here and there, and am a member of the Guardian Angels.

And guess what? I still carry guns. There's a reason they don't just teach cops karate.

"In the case of Virginia Tech, I really don't think average people armed with the kind of guns permitted under Virginia's carry laws (handguns, mostly) would have been able to do much."

Why not? People armed with handguns (including cops and non-LEO civilians) stop bad guys with handguns. Cho himself was doing the dirt with handguns.

What are you basing this statement on? Handguns are very effective tools for repelling violent attacks in emergency situations. It happens everyday. You appear to be simply talking out your behind here, to be blunt.

"Certainly they wouldn't have been able to respond fast enough to the initial attacks."

The initial attacks were two people being ambushed out of the blue. But that was only two murders. The bulk of the murders took place in a large classroom building over a period of several minutes. An armed person or persons would have had plenty of time to respond.

I get the picture you're not that familiar with the facts of the case. Think about it: you're in a lecture hall, and somebody starts blasting away at people cowering under desks. You have your pistol concealed on your hip. How long do you think it takes to realize what's going on, draw, and fire? Not long.

"Given the weapons the killer had, they would have been seriously outgunned"

I mean this in the nicest possible way: you're friggen clueless about firearms. Cho had a 9mm pistol. If I had my .40 Glock on my hip, HE would have been the one who was outgunned.

"I suspect most would not have had anything like the level of skill they needed to deal with a psychotic man who was just interested in killing as many people as possible before he died."

You're basing this on what, exactly? Your tea leaves? What sort of "skills" do you think are "needed"? You think people rushing him hand to hand would be effective, but a guy with a gun wouldn't?

Cho offed himself as soon as armed conflict was iminent. Had an armed person or two confronted him sooner, he'd have offed himself sooner.

How hard do you think it is to say "geeze, that guy is executing people right next to me...time to draw, aim, and fire?" I'd love to know what this "training" you're positing is.

Americans use guns to stop bad guys every day of the year in this country. It doesn't take years of training to know what to do and do it.

It's got nothing to do with fantasies--Americans like you and me defend themselves with guns everyday, and you don't have to be Rambo to do it. In fact, defending yourself with a handgun is a lot easier to learn to do effectively than martial arts; having learned both tactical firearms defense and various martial arts...trust me on this.

Sebastian-PGP said...

Alternatively, think about it this way. Cho killed over thirty people with a simple 9mm pistol. He didn't have any special tactical training or special forces sKiLz!1! that the average person lacks (he certainly a lot less training than the average CCW permit holder has in the state of VA, I can assure you as I've taken the VA CCW permit course).

How is it that handguns in the hands of innocent, law abiding people are useless, ineffective tools for self defense...but were so effective in the hands of someone like Cho?

It doesn't make any sense. You can't on the one hand bemoan guns for being so effective and lethal in the hands of an idiot like Cho...but simultaneously insist they magically stop working when I'm the one behind the trigger.

Heck, even if what Ms. Moore is positing passed the sniff test (and like yesterday's diapers, it sure doesn't)...so what? Nobody's saying a handgun on the hip of a VT professor or student (a student who would have had to have been 21+, all the people wringing their hands about horny drunk 18 year olds blazing away at each other don't know what they're talking about, BTW) would have miraculously saved everyone.

But it would have given them another choice when the moment of truth came. As it were, their choices were A) run, B) hide, or C) charge at an armed madman with your bare hands. Nobody's saying guns are a perfect remedy, but if I were in that situation, I certainly would much prefer to have choice D), to return fire and offer armed resistance, available to me.

It's about choice.

Jim Arthur said...

As it were, their choices were A) run, B) hide, or C) charge at an armed madman with your bare hands. Nobody's saying guns are a perfect remedy, but if I were in that situation, I certainly would much prefer to have choice D), to return fire and offer armed resistance, available to me.

As a father of three, two of which are in the college application stage, my son and I discussed this. Sometimes all that you can hope for is a warrior's death, where your death saves others. That's the best outcome that you're allowing for if you encourange unarmed charging. Running is more typical, and in Cho's case was about gaurenteed death.

My reaction to the VT situation, we went over what to do in that situation, armed and unarmed (I'm a firearms instructor and have over 20 yrs martial arts experience, so I consider myself qualified as my students of late have been LEO's and special ops guys).

It's a hell of a situation to be in.

That said, I would have preferred he be armed, though he's not old enough. He's a better shot and more level headed than 90% of the adults I've met in my life. I don't know what it's like to lose a child, and I hope I never do, but projecting myself into that situation I can only say that I believe it would help if he was killed fighting.

Jim Arthur said...

Weapons are great for fantasies, but real protection comes from systems, planning, and professional handling of those with serious and dangerous mental illness.

I need to respond to this also. This is true, kind of, it's like saying that "real retirement living involves planning and stocks". Perhaps, on a macro level, this statment makes sense. On a micro level, no. If you plan, and train (more important than the plan, make yourself DO something), you can only plan and train for what you envision. You hope you envision everything, but prior to Cho, how many people would have envisioned someone locking doors and coldly shooting people? Probably not many.

Still, even if you have your plan, you are alone, so it's not just planning, there are mental and physical skills involved. You may be good, martial artist female Nancy, but I probably have 80lbs on you, some indeterminate strength advantage, and I'm good too, and I have a 7" knife you can shave with. Your plan may be nice, but real security is being able to deal with such situations. There is the adage "When seconds count, the police are only minutes away".

On VT specifically, the group attack is perhaps what might have worked, with a number of casualties and injuries. A single trained individual would have done much better. I have seen Sebastian shoot, I was an assistant instructor when he was down at my instructor's school. I do not believe an individual such as Cho would have been able to out-skill shoot him. People get lucky, this is true, but on skill he would have been outclassed by Sebastian, or my son. With both in the room, armed, he would have had no chance. I'm not saying this as a radical statement, I'm saying this as someone who has seen them both shoot in pressure situations.

One of the other things I don't mention much is that I did go through some training with ESI Lifeforce, though for full disclosure I didn't complete it. One of the first classes they give you is on people who honestly are a threat.

What you learn is that the most dangerous types, the ones most likely to cause problems, are NOT those who threaten or indicate that there is a problem (we're talking killers here, not criminals). Sure, there are exceptions, but realize your statements of "sensible gun laws" or whatever is ignorant at best as your trying to deal with an unknown person with an unlimited number of choices when it comes to weapons, attacking at a time that makes sense only to them, in a venue that makes sense only to them. Given the relatively low risk of a Cho type attacker, how do you accout for that and still have a free society?

Jim Arthur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Guav said...

How about before you slam into them for being stupid and call them bigoted ...

I did not slam them. I did not call them stupid. I did not call them bigoted. I did not exhibit poor manners. I merely pointed out that one of their repeated points is a complete and total straw man. I was not rude about it.

... you first acknowledge their loss and pain?

Because they did not speak about their loss or their pain. This post wasn't about their loss or their pain. It was about gun control and the Brady Campaign. It was a post about legislation and policy, and I replied to it as such.

Of course I'm sympathetic the unimaginable loss they've endured, and I cannot fathom what they're going through. But they didn't write about that, so I didn't mention it. If they want to discuss policy and legislation in the public sphere, then obviously people are going to discuss policy and legislation with them.

How is that bad manners?

Guav said...

P.S. Also, wouldn't it be considered bad manners to refer to people who disagree with your stance on a topic as "CRACKPOT CRAZY"?

Ace said...

How about before you slam into them for being stupid and call them bigoted, you first acknowledge their loss and pain?

I did not slam into them. Nor did I call them bigoted.

I'm sympathetic not only to their loss but also to the other families whose loved ones died in that tragedy.

But as Guav points out, their post was not about that event. It was about gun control and my comments were directed to that.

Nancy Jane Moore said...

Unfortunately, I don't have time to address everything raised in these comments. I haven't had much time to blog lately, and I only passed on the original message because I thought it was important to give the Bishops' thoughts wider circulation. I didn't expect so much response.

While many of the comments strike me as knee jerk reactions to any arguments for gun control, some of you raise interesting points. I'd really like to see more discussions on how to handle violence in our society in which people are open to other ideas, not just spouting party lines.

Just for the record, I don't personally agree with all of the Brady Center ideas. For one thing, I don't think any laws prohibiting something people really want work well -- look at the drug laws. I know that if I felt the need to get a gun for my personal safety -- and I do think there are times when that is a reasonable response -- I could find a way to buy one no matter whether it was legal or not. That's why I support laws that would require gun owners to pass something similar to a driver's license test showing they know how to use a gun and that they don't have a criminal record, etc. Yes, people drive without a license, but most people don't, because they've accepted this kind of regulation. We do better with laws we believe are reasonable.

I have no doubt that some skilled persons could have taken out Cho or could do something constructive in a terrible situation like that at Virginia Tech. I just don't think the average person who can pass Virginia's carry permit law is competent to respond in that situation. And that's what you get if everyone has a gun -- you get a bunch of amateurs shooting wildly. Cho didn't care who he killed, but I assume most other people would.

Guns are tools. They are only tools. They are not a solution in and of themselves.

I expressed my thoughts on this subject in a short story that was published online. It's called Survival Skills. I always think fiction gives you more scope for thought than just stating facts.

Nancy Jane Moore said...

Sorry. I'm not sure why the link to the story didn't work. Here's the whole URL:
http://www.newmediafest.org/violence/art/moore.htm

Guav said...

While many of the comments strike me as knee jerk reactions to any arguments for gun control...

That's because we were responding to what strike us as knee jerk reactions to any instance of gun violence. When someone is stabbed, nobody talks about further restricting knives. When someone is killed in a drunken rage, nobody talks about further restricting alcohol—not only because that's been tried and failed, but because we recognize that people are fundamentally to blame, and whatever inanimate objects or substances contributed to the death, ultimately, they are not the cause.

...some of you raise interesting points. I'd really like to see more discussions on how to handle violence in our society...

At least you recognize the real problem. Many people don't. Gun violence is merely a symptom of the larger issue: violence in general. Violence and crime are not caused by guns, and any approach that focuses on targeting guns (or alcohol, let's say) is not going to effect the underlying problem. But people want quick fixes, and banning guns makes people feel like they've done something, because changing our society and attacking the underlying causes of crime are hard, complicated, and will probably not produce results for decades. Nobody is going to get re-elected for lowering crime 20 years in the future.

...in which people are open to other ideas, not just spouting party lines.

For my part, I am an independent who generally leans more towards the Democrats and liberalism. I live in urban Jersey City and work in Manhattan. I don't hunt—I've been vegan for sixteen years. I'm not exactly a Republican red stater. But I'm a member of the NRA for the same reason I'm a member of the ACLU. This has nothing to do with parties for me.

I have no doubt that some skilled persons could have taken out Cho or could do something constructive in a terrible situation like that at Virginia Tech. I just don't think the average person who can pass Virginia's carry permit law is competent to respond in that situation.

But that's not based on any firsthand knowledge of the general competency of VA CCW permit holders—you're just assuming that, probably based on a caricature of what you think gun owners are like.

It's certainly true that merely having a firearm would not have guaranteed that one of the victims would have been able to stop Cho sooner—but look at the alternative. I don't really think one can argue that waiting to be shot is a superior alternative to doing whatever possible to defend yourself and the others around you.

And that's what you get if everyone has a gun—you get a bunch of amateurs shooting wildly.

You're trotting out the Straw Man I addressed in my initial comment. Nobody is talking about "arming" everyone. Nobody is suggesting that "everyone should have a gun." Nobody. It is a complete fabrication of what we are actually saying, it's 100% invented. Please stop saying that.

I am also willing to wager that the average CCW permit holder spends more time at the range and is a better shot than your average police officer. Most departments only require qualifying with the weapon once a year, with 50-100 shots fired. That's far below what most people need to be proficient. And they are not always highly trained in close quarters battle—sometimes they barely know how to discharge their weapon, and indeed may go through their entire careers without ever having to fire their weapon in the line of duty.

The idea that CCW permit holders are just yokels who just buy a gun and start carrying it around for fun and would start wildly shooting in every direction at the hint of danger is a myth, and is not supported by any evidence whatsoever.

Police, on the other hand:

Detective Paul Headley fired one round, Officer Michael Carey fired three, Officer Marc Cooper fired four, Officer Gescard Isnora fired eleven, and Officer Michael Oliver fired thirty one times.

An autopsy showed Bell was struck four times ... Guzman was shot at least 11 times and Benefield was hit three times.

Surveillance cameras at the Port Authority's Jamaica AirTrain station a half block away from the shooting site recorded one of the bullets fired by the cops shattering through the station's glass window and narrowly missing a civilian and two Port Authority patrolmen who were standing on the station's elevated platform.


Fifty bullets fired by police, and only 18 of them hit their intended targets, with other shots hitting nearby homes and a train station. The idea that we should leave the shooting to the police might have some merit if there were always police present when a maniac starts attacking people, and if they were better shots. But they're rarely there when you need them (through no fault of their own) and the average police officer is not a highly trained marksman.

If I was in a situation like the VT shooting and I had a weapon on me and there were police present, I would not start shooting—I would leave it to the police. But if they simply were not there, I would want the ability to try to prevent me or my wife from getting shot.

People have a right to self-defense. They cannot exercise that right if they, as law-abiding gun owners, are forced to leave their legal firearms at home or in the trunk of their car when they enter a mythical "gun free zone" that clearly has never prevented a deranged lunatic from carrying their firearms onto campus.

It's just not rational.

Jim Arthur said...

But that's not based on any firsthand knowledge of the general competency of VA CCW permit holders—you're just assuming that, probably based on a caricature of what you think gun owners are like.

I would strongly agree with the above statement. This is based on my personal observations, although I will admit that someone may have a permit that I wouldn't run into. You're dealing with a stereotype here, not necessarily reality. Most CCW permit holders I'm familiar with shoot much much more than police, and shoot much better. As I mentioned earlier, I've done some instruction, so I've seen both.

I don't know why this is, probably because it's not a job so they do it because they consider it important, not because someone else does.

As I ran into this via a link, I don't know, so I apologize for asking if it's a stupid question, but do you live in VA? I might be able to arrange some training for you if so, so you could see what real firearm training is like. If you have studied martial arts, true martial arts which aren't about yelling "sir" at the top of your lungs and foreign words, but timing, space, distance, etc, you'll probably appreciate it.