The Newtown Shootings: It Is Not Too Soon to Start Talking

I have very little to say right now about the Newtown shootings. Except maybe this:

It is fucking well not too soon to start talking about gun control.

When abortion clinics are bombed, we start talking right away. When Hurricane Katrina happened and the levees broke, we started talking right away. When terrible tragedies happen, and we think they might have been preventable, we start talking right away about what we might to do prevent them from happening again. When terrible tragedies happen, and human beings are fully or even partly responsible, we start talking right away about what we might to do prevent ourselves and each other from doing that again. We may disagree, passionately even, about how the tragedy might have been prevented, and what prevention methods we might consider, and whether those methods would be effective, and whether the cure would be worse than the disease.

But when terrible tragedies happen, we use our grief, and our rage, and our shock, to drive us to action.

That is not the worst of us. It is the best.

I don’t know what exactly I want to say about gun control, except that I’m for it. But as many people have been saying in the last few hours: It is not too soon to start talking about gun control. It is too late.

There’s a good conversation over on Pharyngula. Check it out. Or talk here if you like. But if you talk here, do it kindly. I don’t have the strength or the stomach right now to moderate a flame war. Thanks.

Comments

  1. margaret-rosestringer says

    Downunder, our media are poor (and getting poorer) at researched reportage. We never learn of Americans like you, outspoken on the matter of gun control – we’re left to think that in the USA you all think the NRA is the bee’s knees.
    It restores one’s faith in human nature to come across this kind of opinion.
    Complimenti bella …

    M.R.
    mrsmrsblog.wordpress.com

  2. Joe Ohio says

    “But when terrible tragedies happen, we use our grief, and our rage, and our shock, to drive us to action”.

    Yes, to action, I am in full agreement. But never, ever, to make sober, rational decisions about important things.

    “It is not too soon to start talking about gun control. It is too late.”

    And I am 100% behind this as well. I’ve said for many years now that this will happen, and it will happen again after today. All we do is express grief and profound sorrow, and then move on using such incidents as examples to go by.

    Gun control is not the issue. It’s how gun control is implemented.

    And being “too soon” is true in the respect that it causes people on both sides of the issue to react emotionally and dividely. For instance, I had a long time friend immediately post the incident to my Facebook wall and ask me what I thought about gun control now, starting off immediately with two straw-man arguments in his very short paragraph. His understandable emotion was clouding his rational thought, even if he is correct about gun control, and it *would have* resulted in my having to explain to him how they were straw man arguments before I could ever start getting to meaningful dialogue with him where I could possible learn something from him (or he from me). And that would then likely lead to him making more emotional reactions to my need for him to recognize how his points were strawmen, likely accusing me of side stepping the point, and my having to explain how I am not side stepping the point, but genuinely need to have clarity about what he is thinking my position is, etc. But instead, I told him it was too soon to discuss this with him and I had to think about my own children for a while and stay silent from my not-fun-to-hear and unpopular (in my skeptic circles) gun control views so as to avoid other friends from being emotional and reactionary to me, possibly severing ties with me over the issue. Therefore, it is indeed “too soon” with certain people. LOTS of people.

  3. sambarge says

    I don’t know if it’s too soon to talk about gun control but for 20 children and 7 adults in Newtown, it is certainly too late to start talking about gun control.

    Is that too emotional a statement? A strawman? Or is that a statement of fact because 27 people are dead, 20 of them are children, possibly kindergarteners, and they’ll never have this discussion because, up until now, their fucked up country never got around to talking about it in any sort of grown up, intelligent way.

    Hug your children and be grateful that you can.

  4. Greta Christina says

    Joe Ohio @ #2: I think you may have misunderstood. Let me clarify. If you don’t want to talk about gun control today, or indeed tomorrow, or indeed ever, then don’t. That is entirely your right. I’m not saying, “Everyone should talk about gun control today.” I’m saying, “Some of us want to talk about gun control today — and that’s okay. That is reasonable: in fact, it’s right and good. It’s not the only right and good response to this massacre — but it’s one of them.” And more to the point, I’m saying, “Enough with the ‘it’s too soon’ trope that gets used to silence people who advocate gun control every single time one of these gun massacres happens.

  5. TX_secular says

    Why is it even possible that we have to say, “very single time one of these gun massacres happens?” Are these mass shootings happen so much that we are actually developing “rules” about how/when/what to talk about? This is a sad commentary about our culture.

  6. Carlos Cabanita says

    I live in a country, Portugal, where gun possession is generally illegal.
    The difference is that people that lose their minds, for one reason or other, have not ready access to a gun. They may do bad things with their hands, with knives, with chainsaws, with cars, with fire, but with guns it is more difficult and more unlikely.
    A large part of gun crimes happen in the countryside, where many people use hunting shotguns, or by law enforcement agents, using their service guns in personal disputes.
    There are also armed assaults, of course, like bank robberies and such, but they are a very small percentage of overall crime. I tell you why: for a criminal to use a gun or to be found in possession of one is a serious aggravating penal factor and a crime in itself. Unless you are very seriously going to need a gun to do a crime, the gun is a liability to you. There are even cases of people using toy guns in bank robberies so they can allege, in case they are caught, that they were never really armed.
    I saw an argument from a US citizen saying that illegal weapons are easier to buy than legal ones.
    Well, here an illegal gun is relatively easy to buy. I could buy a 9mm military pistol in the black market tomorrow, if I wished. As a civilian, it would be probably impossible. If I applied for a license, I’d have to prove I was, for instance, a shop owner needing to carry valuables from my shop, or something like that. I have no such pretext. Even if I was allowed a license, it would be only for a limited 6.35mm pistol.
    Would it be advisable to obtain an illegal weapon to guard my home? Unlikely. If I shot anyone with an illegal weapon, even inside my home, I’d be in lots of trouble.
    Hunting guns and licenses are also tightly regulated.
    About the ability of the people to topple tyrants, that has happened before and maybe will come to happen again soon, guns or no guns.

  7. Joe Ohio says

    Hi Greta, indeed I was misunderstood as well, but I take blame for that for not being more clear. I don’t disagree with anything you wrote in your post or your comment. I was adding to your point. I was addressing something more sophisticated than obvious rights to not talk about it, but the very good idea not to talk about it with certain people so soon after, such as the friend who posted strawman arguments to my Facebook wall.. Unfortunately, there are many on both sides who are willfully blind to points from the opposing side. Many of those also become and feel righteously justified to be very defensive, even caustic and hurtful as the mental imagery of innocent cherubic children bring gunned down to their deaths is fresh in their minds. While the imagery motivates their points after time passes, in my experience it is not as caustic or potentially damang.

  8. Carlos Cabanita says

    I was very careful not to have an opinion on how the US citizens should regulate guns. Just explained how a society where guns are regulated works (it was my country, but it could be almost every country with stable law and order in the world).

  9. Joe Ohio says

    Carlos, thank you for you very informative comment. Indeed, those kinds of laws here would very likely reduce the amount of violent murders here in the US, even if some violent murders that would otherwise be facilitated by a firearm would happen by other means. The problem is that neither side of the debate recognizes that the colossal primary cause behind tragedies like Newtown is a nebulous of focal points desperately needing attention on our societies profound ignorance of psychology. And I think that is because of the complexities and mental energy and time it takes to tackle it without becoming defensive and short circuiting the absolutely required sober, rational process I mentioned before.

  10. littlejohn says

    I have gradually come to the conclusion that the U.S. would be better off without any guns, at least handguns, in civilian hands. The problem is that the country is alread awash in millions of them, and no one knows who owns them. I doubt that armed civilians – law-abiding or otherwise – are going to voluntarily surrender their arms. Would we force the police to search every home in violation of the Fourth Amendment? A total ban on all sales starting today would take centuries to have any effect on gun crime. I think the situation is hopeless.

  11. davidsteinmuller says

    The only reason that I even give any credence to the “It’s too soon” argument is that I can’t even form a cogent argument right now. I know I want change and two days ago I could lay out a compelling argument, but I’m not exactly functioning.

  12. sc_d4e1ad9f8b2234f2307517e0f26175a6 says

    I’ve generally been fairly “moderate” on gun control issues, recognizing that we need to pander to a certain extent to the right to keep and bear arms types in order to defeat the Republican death cult. But I have to say, my tolerance is wearing thin. Two recent events have really affected me and I sort of feel like it is time to listen a little more to emotion than just being polite and calculating electoral advantage. One event, of course, is this horrible massacre in CT. A certain small number of males in their late teens and 20′s go off and become violent in this way. The psychopathology is insufficiently understood and while much better access to mental health services is an obvious necessity, the fact is, we need to make it harder for people to get semiautomatic weapons.

    The other event that makes me want to target the NRA and the gun lobby is the politically-driven excessive and cruel wolf hunt in the northern Rockies. I can still accept that people hunt, and that people especially rural people will keep rifles. But if you have to hunt, hunt invasive species, or common game species and eat what you kill. Other than that, there’s no goddamn reason for our society to be armed the way it is. The pressure behind slaughtering 25% of the Rocky Mountain wolf population is driven by gun-nut resentment and politics. The only reasonable argument they have is that the 2nd amendment is a check on government power. Perhaps. But everyday Syrians and Egyptians were not armed to the teeth before the Arab Spring and revolutions still happen in the Middle East. I no longer buy that argument. Not even a little.

    Anyway, fuck anyone who feels the compulsion to collect guns or enjoys shooting metal slugs through sentient flesh. A big fuck-you to the National Rifle Association, who should be on everyone’s list of organizations to revile publicly, defeat electorally, and investigate by any means possible. It goes without saying, fuck the Republicans. They have pretty much become a death cult. A big “fuck you” shout-out to anyone who thinks teachers are the enemy. An a Christmas “fuck you” wrapped in a bow to anyone who has to prove his manhood by shooting a wolf or mountain lion or the like, and poses with the corpse for facebook.

  13. Uncle Ebeneezer says

    Here’s a pretty good piece on guns and mass shootings.

    The thing that stands out to me (and surprised me) was that the majority of these incidents involve guns that were purchased legally. It cuts directly against the argument that “enforcing our existing laws” rather than creating newer/stricter laws, is the best way to try to prevent these tragedies.

    It’s a complex problem. But sometimes it’s worth consideringsimple common sense. The more guns there are floating around, the greater the likelihood that someone dangerous will get their hands on them.

    I don’t imagine there will be any magic-bullet cure for this epidemic and I would guess that things are going to have to be done on several fronts. But the idea that stricter gun control should not be a big part of the formula, seems pretty ridiculous to me.

    Some alarming gun stats:

    There are more than 129,817 federally licensed firearms dealers in the United States, according to the latest Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives numbers (as of Aug. 1).

    Of those, 51,438 are retail gun stores, 7,356 are pawn shops and 61,562 are collectors, with the balance of the licenses belonging mostly to manufacturers and importers of firearms and destructive devices. For comparison, here are some numbers of other ubiquitous elements of American life:

    • Gas Stations in the U.S. (2011): 143,839 (source TD LINX/Nielsen via National Associations of Convenience Stores, Association for Convenience for Convenience and Fuel Retailing)

    • Grocery Stores in the U.S. (2011) 36,569 (source: Food Marketing Institute)

    • McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. (2011): 14,098 (Source: McDonald’s Corporation Annual Report 2011)

    Yes, there are more stores selling guns than groceries.

    We have the equivalent of THREE 9/11′s every year due to gun violence. Maybe it’s time to start considering that “people with guns, kill people” would be a more realistic slogan and craft our policies accordingly.

  14. huntstoddard says

    I agree totally. The time is now, to strike while the iron is hot. The NRA desperately wants America to buy the “let’s not politicize this tragedy” line or the “too soon” line. They want a week; they want a month. The short period of time it takes for the short attention span of the American public to be distracted and move on to something else. The time is exactly now, while the blood boils, to commit to action.

  15. moulton says

    Uncle Ebeneezer you may want to not rely too heavily on that ABC News piece to which you link. The line about 36,569 Grocery Stores in the U.S. with the source listed as Food Marketing Institute is only for supermarkets with $2 Million or more in annual sales. So the number of places that sell groceries depends on what is meant by “sell groceries” for example the Target store near me has a grocery section that sells fresh fruit, vegetables and the typical grocery store items. So we see the of number of supermarkets with annual sales of $2 Million dollars being used as the same as the number of grocery stores when markets with less $2Million are explicitly left out of the count and also left out are convenience stores and small stores that special in imported goods. So the statement that “there are more stores selling guns than groceries” might not be correct. I say “might not be correct” because if ABC goofed up one number they might have goofed up the other. Note that just because ABC News got confused on their reporting does not validate or invalidate any particular position relative to keeping the current gun control laws or changing them one or the other so please do not cite my comments here as supporting one position or another. All I am suggesting is that everyone do a double check on any statistics that one uses particularly statistics that agree with you.

  16. huntstoddard says

    “It cuts directly against the argument that “enforcing our existing laws” rather than creating newer/stricter laws, is the best way to try to prevent these tragedies.”

    If we were really, truly serious about eliminating these kinds of tragedies, the scope and strictness of gun law would have to take on a whole new dimension. While I acknowledge the sentiment that we shouldn’t automatically shift focus and blame the mentally ill for all of mass killings, there has to be provisions to keep guns out of homes with children and adults with violent tendencies. This means intrusion and this means imposing on “freedoms” that some Americans seem to consider sacrosanct. It means that if there is a person in a home who might resort to gun violence, then that home doesn’t get to have a gun in it, no matter who in it applies for one. It’s either that, or it means that that gun must be secured and have its security confirmed regularly by the police. In other words, an America determined to stop these kinds of tragedies is every right wing lunatic’s nightmare come true.

  17. Uncle Ebeneezer says

    @Moulton- good catch! Still I think the overall point still stands. I’ve read claims of more gunshops than McDonalds and Starbucks etc. Changing the comparison slightly for accuracy still yields the crazy notion of just how many guns are out there. You’re right about double-checking. Good advice.

    @Huntstoddard- agreed. There’s no easy solution and a nontrivial amount of the population is already paranoid about their “freedoms” and determined to prevent ANY action to move things in the direction I would favor. A couple things that have been mentioned that I find intriguing: finger-print safety devices, strict liability (your gun used in a crime, you get prosecuted) or an insurance requirement for all legally-sold guns (imagine where the Market would price that!) Of course, all are just pipe dreams at this point, but I do have hope that with enough outrage by the public, there are good policy-wonks and legislators who can begin to start working on real-world steps.

  18. Joe Ohio says

    Sc, you said: “…recognizing that we need to pander to a certain extent to the right to keep and bear arms”

    First, I would like to mention I am a very left wing liberal who is vehemently pro gay rights, pro choice, a feminist, nontheist, and a full time police officer. And because it matters to some on a social priming level, a white male with blond hair and blue eyes.

    There is a myth that pro armed populace supporters are largely right wing because they are the most vocal. I know several liberals personally who are pro concealed carry, gun rights, etc. such as myself. It seems that is precisely the motivation behind many pro gun control advocates’ vehemence against many pro gun rights advocates’ arguments I’ve seen which are thoroughly and clearly side stepped.

    Framing gun rights proponents as right wing will almost undoubtedly cause a willful yet subtle and self bias that, once again, clouds sober, rational, and critical thought on the topic.

    You also said: . “…I sort of feel like it is time to listen a little more to emotion”.

    Perhaps and hopefully when you say ‘a little more emotion’ you actually mean reducing political bias. Because I can’t emphasize enough that while emotion sometimes guides us down the most logical path, it by no means is a valid means to dicipher a complex topic that involves the deaths of innocents, or many issues that do not involve death but other human problems.

  19. moulton says

    Uncle Ebeneezer since you responded I will give a followup. You may want to drop that line of discussion.. Firearms are items that if properly cared for can last for decades and yet you keep attempting to compare places where someone can purchase a firearm to other places such as grocery stores, fast food restaurants and coffee shops which are place where most of the items purchased are consumed either on site or within a relatively short time. Attempting to base on argument on comparing the number of places where people make infrequent purchase of a few relatively expensive long lasting items with the number of places where people make frequent purchases of relatively inexpensive short lasting items just does not seem to make sense to me. Trying to make this sort of comparison might be very counter productive for the argument I think you are trying to make Actually if you want to know how many firearms there are I suggest looking at the statistics for that rather than the number of places with sell them. Note that I assume you are interested in the number of firearms because that is what you said ” Changing the comparison slightly for accuracy still yields the crazy notion of just how many guns are out there”. If you are not interested in “how many guns are out there” but something else then I am really confused at what information you are looking for. Anyway I hope my comments are helpful.

  20. ohiofreethinker says

    The problem is, we don’t make good political decisions when we are emotional and upset.

    After 9/11, did the general public have a rational discussion about foreign policy and religious fundamentalism? Not that I noticed. But we did jump right on airport security. What did that get us? A hyperactive TSA, the probably permanent loss of our dignity and self-respect at airports, and no safer. And it shows no sign of abating, with this same mindset spreading outside of airports.

    I guess I would say, “be careful what you ask for” when searching for solutions.

  21. says

    ohiofreethinker: Is there really the slightest chance we could go “too far” in gun control, given the power of the NRA and other such lobbies? There was no such equilavant after 9/11, no enormous and intense demographic of voters saying “The TSA can pry my shoes from my cold dead feet.”

    In a sense, we have to combat the gun lobby’s emotion and irrationality with some of our own (though more emotion and less irrationality, of course).

  22. freemage says

    My only request to those using this as an opportunity to talk about gun control: Build your arguments carefully and logically.

    For instance, don’t point to Newtown as part of the reason we need to fight concealed-carry, because concealed-carry didn’t have anything to do with Newtown. Instead, target arguments to the situation. (For instance, as another of the ‘otherwise far-left types who support gun ownership rights’, I’ve been persuaded, in particular by this shooting, that magazine restrictions are actually likely to save lives–a cap on ammunition that will fit, and making rapid-fire swapping of magazines difficult, would do nothing to prevent spree shootings, but it WOULD very likely reduce the body-counts.)

    Would it be nice to build a comprehensive solution to address the issue? Yes, but those aren’t well-served by highlighting a particular example, when there’s so many variables involved. It weakens the argument if your opponents can say, “Well, that rule wouldn’t have any effect here, so obviously you’re just politicizing the tragedy.”

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