A history of violence

Here we go again. Another murderous rampage: a gunman murdered his neighbors, then went driving through town, shooting at will. He attacked an elementary school, shot some children, and wandered around looking for more targets before he was killed himself. As usual, there’s something in this guy’s history that isn’t association with an Islamic terrorist group, or being black, or being crazy. He had a history of threatening, abusive behavior.

Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said the shooter was facing charges of assaulting one of the feuding neighbors in January and that she had a restraining order against him.

Johnston did not comment on the shooter’s access to firearms.

Johnston declined to identify the shooter until his relatives were notified, but he confirmed the gunman was charged with assault in January and had a restraining order placed against him.

OK, this seems to be an obvious rule to me: if you can’t play nicely with your toys, they get taken away from you.

Someone beats their spouse, threatens to kill their neighbors, waves a gun around to intimidate someone, engages in stalking, gets a restraining order against them, the first thing the police ought to do is show up at their house with a list of their registered weapons (and all of their weapons will, of course, be registered) and tell the abuser that they have to surrender them until they learn to be nice. The privilege of owning a dangerous tool that can kill people is suspended when you demonstrate an inclination to use it for violence. Zip zoom bam, it’s automatic and swift and is just part of the process of keeping the peace.

Notice: if you’re one of those lawful gun owners we hear about, there’s no problem for you. You’ve got a handgun that you own under the illusion that it will help defend your home, you have a few rifles that you use for duck and deer hunting, there’s no concern that you’ll lose them, unless you’re the kind of assdumpling who likes to threaten people when you get drunk, or thinks smacking around your wife and kids is a right of your manhood. You get in fights? You can’t be trusted with a deadly weapon.

I expect responsible gun owners will gladly support more severe laws requiring confiscation of weapons from individuals with a history of irresponsible gun use and violence against their fellow citizens. Right? Right? The NRA is probably drafting legislation for this simple improvement in our laws right now.


  1. Elladan says

    I expect responsible gun owners will gladly support more severe laws requiring confiscation of weapons from individuals with a history of irresponsible gun use and violence against their fellow citizens.

    I actually know a few “responsible gun owners” with a conservative bent and they’d be all for that, as well as things like a national database you can check yourself on whether someone is allowed to own a gun etc.

    I haven’t had a chance to ask them if they’re still NRA members now that it’s just a straight up terrorist organization. I expect they’re required to be by gun clubs, though.

  2. rietpluim says

    C’mon PZ, you know the drill. Every gun owner is a responsible gun owner. Until he starts a massacre. Then suddenly he is not One Of Us anymore.

  3. bowd-boring old white dood says

    PZ – as a firearms owner of a liberal leaning my only nitpick with your post is that I am under no illusion that owning a firearm will turn me into some sort of superhero in defense of my home.

    Other than that I don’t find anything unreasonable in your suggestion for regulations and would probably except and them to cover things such as drunk driving convictions.

  4. davidc1 says

    The snatch snatcher is said to have sent the standard thoughts and prayers message to last weeks shooting victims families instead of this weeks shootings .

  5. xmp999 says

    “isolated incident”
    “mental illness”
    “nothing anyone could have done to prevent this”
    “thoughts and prayers”
    “this is not the time to politicize this tragedy”

  6. pipefighter says

    Up here in Canada our gun laws are pretty good. I would add a lot more firearms to the restricted list though. There are a few 5.56 nato bullpup that somehow made it into non restricted categories. Our rules are straight forward. Most guns that you would typically use for hunting are non restricted. You need a license to buy them and can transport them whenever you want, there is no registration however ( unless you count the transaction records that the store has) . For restricted guns you need a separate license, the store has to contact the rcmp to make sure it’s on the up and up, you must register it, you must have a membership at a range or be a collector ( if your membership lapses the police can take them and if you are a collector your are subject to random inspection). You must obtain an authorization to transport ( either one time or duration). Technically an authorization to carry exists but they are virtually impossible to get. A prohibited license is practically impossible to get anymore unless you are grandfathered in from before and the restrictions are quite strong.

  7. pipefighter says

    Sorry, there are limitations on the transport of non restricted. They’re just not as stringent.

  8. lumipuna says

    The snatch snatcher is said to have sent the standard thoughts and prayers message to last weeks shooting victims families instead of this weeks shootings.

    Give him some slack. Everyone faces a backlog in their work sometimes, and everybody knows that thinking or praying aren’t Trump’s strongest sides.

  9. tomh says

    In this case, confiscating his guns did not help, since he surrendered his weapons as required by law in February, but easily acquired illegal guns and guns registered in other peoples’ names after that.

    Federal law already forbids anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from buying or owning a gun. Even with strict enforcement, which is certainly lacking, the problem doesn’t go away. It’s just too easy to get guns – gun shows, privately, illegally on the street corner, etc. In my (admittedly unpopular) view, the only real solution is to confiscate ALL guns, whether buying them back or whatever. As for those poor hunters, who are often used to justify the 300 million guns in America, too bad. Find another way to kill animals.

  10. thirdmill says

    I’m a gun owner and I find nothing in PZ’s post to argue with. I completely agree that people who demonstrate a tendency toward violence shouldn’t have guns. I also support background checks, mandatory safety training, restrictions on automatic and semi automatic weapons. And I think the NRA is batshit crazy and have nothing but contempt for them.

    Tomh, I don’t think confiscation is a realistic solution. As you point out, there are 300 million guns out there, and a lot of gun owners would have a violent reaction if confiscation ever became a real possibility. That might actually start another civil war.

  11. rietpluim says

    “Find another way to kill animals”
    Slaughterhouses. More efficient too. Not necessarily more animal friendly, but I don’t think the NRA cares much about animal friendliness. They don’t even care about human friendliness.

  12. waydude says

    Lets start the war then, we are already being hunted. Time to fight back. Besides, conservatives already think we want to take their guns away, we might as fucking well try.

  13. StonedRanger says

    I am a registered firearms owner and I am entirely okay with any of these things becoming the law of the land. As a matter of fact I have been slowly getting rid of most of my firearms in the last ten years. I am down to a .22 rifle and a mac 90 that I use to poke holes in paper. I used to be a hunter when I was a kid (nearly 63 now) but Ive not killed any animals but the odd skunk or raccoon. I am an avid fisherman but I rarely if ever kill a fish anymore, opting for catch and release. I don’t know that I am a so called responsible gun owner, but Ive never been arrested for anything so make of that what you will. Anyone who doesn’t want guns to be taken from people who have shown themselves to be violent or irresponsible with their weapons (hopefully before they harm someone else), are idiots. Oh yeah, I am NOT a member of the NRA or any other gun organization.

  14. tomh says

    @ #14
    “I completely agree that people who demonstrate a tendency toward violence shouldn’t have guns.”

    But laws are not the problem. Federal laws bar felons and persons convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from owning guns. It also bans guns for (among others) fugitives, illegal users of controlled substances, mental defectives, illegal aliens, dishonorably discharged soldiers, renounced citizens, and subjects of certain court orders. None of these laws prevent any of these people from easily obtaining guns. For example, any one of them can go to a gun show in most states and buy a gun, not only without a background check, but without producing any ID whatsoever.

    It’s just too easy. More drastic solutions are needed.

  15. thirdmill says

    tomh you are right that it is too easy for someone who shouldn’t have a gun to get one, but I would like to start by tightening up existing laws to see how much of the problem that would fix. If felons, etc. actually could not get guns, then your drastic solutions may not be necessary.
    I would treat guns like any other inherently dangerous, but legal, product. If I owned a chemical supply house, and I sold cyanide to anyone off the street willing to pay for it, and some of my cyanide ended up being used to commit a murder, I would be sued out of business in no time. Same with a business that sells explosives. Because those products, albeit legal, are inherently dangerous, sellers are expected to know their customers and they face harsh sanctions if they don’t. I would be fine with subjecting gun sellers to the same type of legal regime.

  16. bowd-boring old white dood says

    Logging in on the Mac to actually be able to type.

    StonedRanger- I am younger than you but I am also a paper puncher. I haven’t pared down my collection since I mainly keep them for sentimental value. My grandfather and I purchased most of them for target practice and they actually hold a more sentimental value. I would like to be able to do more target practice, but times change and I don’t live in the countryside any longer and firing ranges are fewer than they used to be. And like you I don’t belong to the NRA, I personally find them repulsive these days. They took a wrong turn somewhere in the late 70’s-80’s.

    Thirdmill – I agree with most of your points. The only one I have a quibble with is starting a new civil war. I don’t (I hope) the public in general would not react that way. I do agree that the rabid firearm fondlers would be a problem and very dangerous. The Bundy’s, Branch Davidians, and Ruby Ridge folks spring to mind immediately.

    tomh – I agree that access is too easy, especially individual sales and the “gun show” sales. We currently have legislation in place that doesn’t allow lawsuits to be targeted against the manufacturers, but maybe a potential step in the right direction would be a national database of firearms and allowing the seller to be liable if a firearm they sold was used in a crime? To be honest, the manufacturers have too much lobbying power to be targeted first so maybe the first step is to hold the seller responsible. If we can’t shut of production and marketing maybe the correct choke point is the seller instead of the manufacturer? I sort of hate to target small businesses, which is what most gun shops are, but since they have a higher risk than someone like HK that could slow the supply. I am leveraging thirdmill’s example of the chemical seller.

    Overall, we basically have enough firearms out in the wild that this isn’t a quick and easy solution. According to my quick look on Wikipedia we basically have 1 firearm for every US citizen. This won’t be an easy clean up, but I am willing to entertain options to start with.

    On a personal note, I am not a hunter, just a paper puncher. I have actually been deer hunting before and killed a deer. It was something of a traumatic experience but deer hunting was part of the rural culture and I was about 12-13 at the time. I don’t find personal satisfaction in killing animals just for the sake of killing, but when my grandfather was growing up hunting deer was a way to put food on the table. In his area what they actually managed to get the most of was squirrel and rabbit, deer was a luxury. I would support hunting of animals for population control, to keep them from having starvation events and die offs due to disease, but I think hunting programs should be administered by biologists who actually are concerned with the survival of a sustainable population. I oppose hunts for endangered animals, that type of garbage is just a rich man’s way of tying a deer to the hood of his car.

    Sorry if this is long winded, but I do actually value most of the commentariat’s opinion here and do think we need to do something about firearm violence.

  17. says

    I do not like the idea of lists or restrictions, because the lists and restrictions are going to certainly be disproportionately used to restrict gun ownership by poor people, or black people. Even if we went by something like prior crime conviction, we’d be guaranteed that rich people who could get probation or lawyer their way out of things could more easily obtain guns than poor people who had to plea-bargain a criminal charge. I hate to say it, but any such system is going to come out being about as fair as “The War On Drugs” – i.e.: a pretty transparent means of socially controlling those who can’t afford to buy their way out of legal difficulty, and a means of putting people of certain color in difficulty.

    Just ban the damn things for everyone except military and cops. No exceptions – because exceptions will be used to favor the privileged(*). That’s already going on to a shocking degree and anything other than a complete ban will just make it worse.

    Back the ban by reviewing all police and military who have access to weapons, and move them to jobs where they do not have access if they have been convicted of violent crimes. Period. Yes, I know that would mean that some police departments would lose 15-20% of their gun-carrying members. That’s “progress” not a problem.

    No armed mall ninjas, either. Carry tasers or get another job.

    (* Exceptions already in existence: you can be a “police auxiliary” in some states and get a permit to carry concealed. Nuh uh. Or you can be an “executive at a security company” and carry fully automatic weapons. I know one guy who started a security company so he could buy submachineguns and suppressors. Nuh uh. No FFLs and Class 3 dealerships. I used to know a guy who had a lawyer get him all the Class 3 paperwork so he could buy anything and since it was a “dealership” none of it even technically belonged to him – his private arsenal was an entire bank vault full of weaponry; if you have $300,000 to spend you can get mighty over-geared. These are current exceptions. They all need to go, or all we’ll have is a sword-carrying class of elites that treat being armed as a social status signal.)

  18. call me mark says

    a sword-carrying class of elites that treat being armed as a social status signal.

    Isn’t that what the gunfondlers already fancy themselves as?

  19. says

    call me mark@#24:

    And, lest anyone missed it, the various attempts to piecemeal legislate gun control has simply shifted gun ownership to a small percentage of compulsively over-armed people who are willing or able to spend huge amounts of money on “defense.” If that isn’t a thumbnail sketch of the American nightmare there isn’t one.

  20. lumipuna says

    I wonder, what will happen to most privately owned guns in the long term? I doubt they just wear out from use. Reportedly, the US gun population grows faster than human population, apparently mainly because

    small percentage of compulsively over-armed people who are willing or able to spend huge amounts of money on “defense.”

    So, suppose your weird old uncle dies, and you find you just inherited a small army’s worth of weaponry. Can you just legally keep them without any license or registration? If not, who’s gonna take them from you, in practical terms? You’re probably not that much into guns, but what if you want to sell them for a few bucks? Maybe your dad already sold that one pistol he kept casually lying around when you were kids? What’s to prevent guns from being sold to criminals when the owner doesn’t want them any more?

    Or, suppose your uncle isn’t dead yet, he just keeps getting older and weirder. Like, he used to say the government plans to take away his guns, but now he actually sees government agents sneaking in his home at night. Sometimes he shoots at walls. He doesn’t want to go to the retirement home because they wouldn’t let him have guns there. How do you deal with that?

  21. cag says

    Perhaps the tourism industry should start lobbying for saner gun laws. I live 20 minutes from the border, but it has been years since I last crossed that line. I would certainly feel much better about visiting the USA if the chance of being confronted by someone packing was reduced to an effective zero.

  22. magistramarla says

    I was walking into the grocery store the other day when I saw three guys walking out wearing matching t-shirts. The shirts had a character on them with crossed arms holding pistols and a slogan saying “I plead the 2nd”. Yesterday, I experienced my 4th instance of rolling coal. A non-emergency ambulance transport vehicle and an SUV were traveling side-by-side at the 35 mph speed limit. I was driving my Prius behind the SUV. I spotted a gold jacked-up pick-up speeding up behind the ambulance. On his back window was the same “I plead the 2nd” logo. I’m wondering if it’s the logo of a local gun club? I also noticed the pipes for rolling coal, so I slowed down. Sure enough, the jerk pulled in behind the SUV and belched black smoke towards my car as he changed lanes. As was noted in another thread, there seems to be a correlation between the gun fondlers and those who roll coal. This particular jerk was angry at the other two drivers, but hey, there happened to be a convenient Prius right there! I’m not exactly feeling safe driving in Texas lately.

  23. Raucous Indignation says

    I’m for all of those restrictions. It’s not safe to go to the range anymore because of all the careless psychopaths that hang out there.

  24. DanDare says

    You can only eat an elephant one spoonful at a time. Effectively enforcing the current restrictions is a solid step. A parallel step is to build cultural change by seeing obsessive gun accumulation as a little crazy and a lot threatening. Another parallel step is illegal gun amesty like we did in Australia. Get millions of guns off the street.
    Yes poor folks will get the raw end of the stick so redress that issue as and when. However unfairly depriving someone of gun ownership is not on the same level as depriving them of life or an education or a house.

  25. bowd-boring old white dood says

    Marcus @ 23

    I can actually understand your reaction to wanting to ban firearms completely. I might even agree with it at some point, and it is a valid long term goal.

    From a realistic standpoint the most effective way to get to your end goal is a constitutional amendment. I don’t see that happening in my generation, or the next two or three. The ERA has been floating around since the twenties so that doesn’t bode well for a new one. If you do come up with a new amendment it needs to be airtight in its language or else the real crazies will come out with a Puckle gun updated with the latest metallurgy and things like that would defeat the whole purpose of your ban. Remember black powder firearms aren’t under the same rules as rimfire/centerfire arms, but with proper engineering they are no less dangerous.

    Your point about our justice system being the best that money can buy is also sadly valid as well. I have experienced it myself about 20 years ago. That is tangential to gun control legislation and is something to be addressed, but the fact that justice can be bought is a larger topic than even gun control legislation.

    My suggestions, and even PZ’s suggestion are baby steps to get to your goal. Your goal will require our current society to mature much farther than it has, and I don’t see us getting there within the next century at least. We do need at least some baby steps to clean up who owns firearms, and PZ’s suggestions are a start if not necessarily the end. While i don’t immediately disagree with your goals, I know that trying to implement your goal immediately will backfire horribly. Give it time, and give the incremental steps a chance. I know you won’t like to hear that, but I do think we can get there over time.

  26. dreamstone says

    Lumipuna, @26, Gun buy backs, as in Australia, would be a good solution. As long as the group (police dept. etc.) that buys them isn’t allowed to resale the guns, but has to destroy them. (bar, antiques which could be donated to a museum)

  27. tomh says

    @ #31
    “PZ’s suggestions are a start if not necessarily the end.

    I don’t get it. What suggestion of PZ’s is not already in place? He wants guns confiscated from abusers and violent-prone individuals, but this is aready done. Case in point is the subject of the post, who was barred from having guns and his guns were confiscated after assaulting his neighor. This is already the law, it’s just not effective.

    The laws are not effective in part because the police often turn a blind eye, as in this case, but moreso because guns are so readily available. Nothing will change until stronger, even extreme, measures are adopted.

  28. bowd-boring old white dood says

    @#33 tong- my opinion is that it goes back to shitty enforcement and marcus’s comment about the best justice money can buy. We do a horrible job of enforcing the firearms laws we already have. That was where my thoughts were going when I suggested holding firearms dealers liable for incidents occurring from their sales. The manufacturers already have legislation and lobbying power in place. Maybe holding the sellers to a higher standard can be a choke point in the supply?