Seattle, Washington, USA
"Often this poet, strolling through the noisy splintered glare of a Manhattan noon, has paused at a sample Olivetti to type up thirty or forty lines of ruminations, or pondering more deeply has withdrawn to a darkened ware- or fire-house to limn his computed misunderstandings of the eternal questions of life, co-existence and depth, while never forgetting to eat Lunch his favorite meal..." Frank O'Hara Lunch Poems, 1964. This site is dedicated to the spirit of the man who wrote "I am ashamed of my century for being so entertaining, but I have to smile." Different century than the one we are all now inhabiting of course, and he did have the ill-grace to check out early, before the 1960s ended and America's contribution to that century’s ill-conceived wars, brutal assassinations and betrayals had changed our graceful, fond and confident smiles to the currently fashionable smirks, sneers, snickers and grimaces seen nightly on the news and political talk shows. But still. I hope to "limn" my own "computed misunderstandings of the eternal questions of life, co-existence and depth" on these pages, while never forgetting to eat Lunch, and always, always searching for those rare moments of grace -- when whatever it is that this century is clicks more clearly into view.


Esmense's Links
MAY 2, 2012 2:26PM

Gun Play

Rate: 4 Flag


I'm a pretty conventional woman in her early 60s who, although I’ve spent my adult life mostly in cities – LA, San Francisco, Seattle, New York and, in the mid-70s, Tucson, Arizona -- has never been the victim of a violent crime.




And yet, my life, including a childhood spent in rural and small town places, has been touched by an awful lot of gun violence:




·         The first funeral I ever attended, as a 12 year old child, was for a family friend, barely 6 years older, who had been killed accidently by a stray bullet when she entered her backyard to tell her recently-wed husband, who was practicing for a competitive "quick draw" event, that dinner was ready.




·         Three other childhood friends suffered gun injuries of various levels of seriousness, two self-inflicted.




·         As an adult I’ve worked with two co-workers who, non-lethally, shot themselves while playing with their guns.




·         A casual social acquaintance in Tucson, who dealt guns as a sideline, accidentally killed a customer. It was late at night and much drinking was indulged in by both the victim and the shooter.




·         A professional colleague in San Francisco and a very close friend from college committed suicide by gun.




·         When I was a newlywed during a summer when my husband served as a seasonal ranger in one of our western National Parks, I endured the agony of waiting for the outcome of a many hours long standoff, in a nearly fully occupied but remote campsite, approachable only by boat and helicopter, between park personnel and a sniper intent on killing as many others as he could before killing himself. (Fortunately, he was the only one who died that day, by his own hand.)




·         3 years ago my sister in law, a nurse, working that evening in the emergency room of a hospital in a small Montana town, and her husband who had stopped off at the hospital briefly to bring her a Diet Pepsi, were seriously injured by sniper fire when they went to the aid of a fallen hospital EMT volunteer – dead as it turned out -- in the parking lot. The EMT was a mother of four. The shooter, a "loner" with no connection to any of the victims or to the hospital itself, was later shot, after an hours-long manhunt, by authorities. No motive for why he chose to lie in wait to pick off victims in the hospital’s parking lot will ever be known, other than perhaps, in such a small community, the hospital made for the largest, most accessible location for him to play out his paranoid stand against authority.




These kinds of gun deaths and injuries happen every day in America, without ever making the national news -- or the news at all. And they happen, in persistently large numbers, for one rarely admitted reason; as a culture, we refuse to take guns seriously.




Other countries have high rates of gun ownership without our high rates of gun violence, accidents and deaths. Why? Perhaps it’s because they enjoy cultures that still take firearms seriously as hunting tools and deadly weapons, while in the US, guns are, more than we admit, considered "recreational." Not simply recreational in their use, but fantasy objects, and affirmations, of potency and “lifestyle.”  And, of course, because guns have been aggressively marketed as such (including powerful, deadly weapons of war) in the US since at least the Civil War.




A culture that doesn't have a useful, practical attitude toward guns will never have a useful, practical attitude toward gun safety and law.  What has recently become frighteningly clear is this; as our personal lack of seriousness about guns increases, so does our lack of legal seriousness; leading to dangerous, fantasy-based, legislation like “Stand Your Ground.”




American’s “recreational” gun use doesn’t include much hunting. The number of Americans who own guns has grown briskly, and the demand for bigger, “badder” guns has grown right along with it, while, over the last couple of centuries, and even more so over the last 50 years, the number of Americans who hunt has continued to decrease dramatically. Gun ownership also continues to grow despite the fact that Americans are more and more likely to live in well-policed, urbanized environments in which the rates of violent crime are decreasing.




The explosion in “Stand Your Ground” legislation, demands for “open carry” and for the right to carry guns in increasingly inappropriate places – church, bars, public parks and playgrounds -- like the explosion in gun ownership, isn’t a response to crime. It’s a response to fantasies about the potency of guns – and, in large part, to intentionally created fantasy paranoia, political and personal, encouraged by a gun lobby that has absolutely no practical, financial interest in public safety. Quite the opposite, in fact.





There is no practical reason for a person with the easy access to law enforcement protections that were apparently available to George Zimmerman, for instance, to prowl his neighborhood armed.  Nor is there any responsible reason, other than recreational play or mass murder, for most purchases of the kind of weapons used by the perpetrators in mass shootings at Ft. Hood, Virginia Tech, a political rally in Tucson, among many other tragedies endured in the last few decades. The only “serious” use of these weapons is dealing as much death as possible in as short a time as possible.




Unfortunately for the victims of those shootings – and the increasing number of victims of irresponsible Stand Your Ground legislation that played a part in the death of Trayvon Martin and others, the gun industry can’t easily and conveniently serve its merely playful customers without easily and conveniently serving its murderous, and dangerously foolish, ones too.




Personally, I’m tired of arguments for ever-more-irresponsible gun legislation made in the name of “responsible” gun owners. I actually know a few “responsible” gun owners. Responsible gun owners don’t strap on weapons to bully other participants at political rallies and in other public places, they don’t sue, as some fool did here in Seattle a couple of years ago, to carry at the kiddies’ pool, and they don’t act out fantasies of an authority they don’t actually possess in armed pursuit of unarmed teenagers. In other words they don’t allow paranoia and fantasy to overcome common sense – nor do they insist on supporting laws that throw common sense to the winds.




Responsible societies, and citizens, don’t argue for protection of the kind of deeply foolish and dangerous behavior increasingly promoted by the NRA.




That widely distributed picture of Jeb Bush, a smart man, with a hot pink suited and motherly looking NRA representative beside him, stupidly signing the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law (while grinning as inanely as if he has just signed off on candy and Xboxes for all of Florida’s children) should be deeply embarrassing, not only to him -- but to every American with a lick of common sense, gun owner or not.






It’s time to be a lot more honest about the real reasons we haven’t, and perhaps never will, adopted effective, practical firearm and public safety policies in this country – why increasingly we seem less concerned with keeping the general public safe from mass murderers, and our neighborhoods safe from fantasy-addled vigilantes, than we are with keeping even the most lethal weapons safe for extremists and nut cases. Those reasons have nothing to do with the melodramatic constitutional arguments put forward by the gun industry and swallowed hook, line and sinker by its clientele. Those arguments are marketing strategies at heart -- aimed at stroking the egos, flattering the self-importance, and inflaming the paranoia of potential customers. Ginned up by an industry that has long known that in an increasingly well-policed, urbanized society selling guns based on genuine consumer need for weapons and hunting tools can never provide the sales volume they can enjoy by marketing them as status-conferring, ego-stroking, endlessly collectable, recreational and “life-style” toys.



We don’t have to give up our gun rights. But we do have to stop accommodating the greed of the gun manufacturers, and the fantasies of fools.




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You are likely to get to know every troll in town, and a few more dispatched from NRA Central for this post. You are a brave one, Esmense!
I lean strongly toward your sentiment that guns are increasingly being owned and used more like toys than the serious tool they have always been. I am reminded more of the reproduction weapons at renaissance faire than the carefully tended rifles and doubles of the traditional American Hunter. Honestly, it should be the responsible gun owners at the forefront of the debate of what is sensible.
That's a pro essay. I like the evolution from the personal to the policy, though I can't figure out why'd you call Jeb Bush smart. Are you sure you didn't mean smarmy?

My experience with gun totters is that they have a paranoid streak supported by a lobby that makes them think they're sane. I grew up in Detroit. I know more about guns than anybody needs to know. We slaughtered most of the Indians, but that isn't enough for these cowboys.

How Florida has returned to the dark ages is a story worth telling. It will be interesting to see if they rescind the legislation, or put it off until the next killing. It'd also be interesting if you tried to get this, or a version of it into a Fla. paper. There must be somebody down who hasn't lost their mind.
As a gun owner I would be the first to say owning a gun carries a responsibility. I believe mandatory training in safety and shooting should be part of gun ownership. These ideas are resisted by the NRA because they know that those who propose gun control are not interested in control but removal and use every law to restrict or prevent ownership of gun by private citizens. Therefor the NRA and other groups take a zero tolerance approach. It's is sad, but it is a political and social reality.

I would fall in your definition of "recreational" gun owner. I have been shooting for over 45 years. I own guns for hunting, target, and even defense. In all those 45 years at in the field, at the range or participating in competitions I have never seen anyone shot either in anger or by accident. There has never even been an accidental discharge of a weapon. WE take safety very seriously. Most gun accidents happen by people who are casual gun owners with no training.

Also, all the crimes using guns you mentioned did not use assault or military style weapons, but either standard out of the box service and hunting weapons. There was nothing special about the weapons that made them "mass murder" tools. The fact there were large groups of unarmed people in an enclosed space made it easy for a gunman to kill a lot of people in a shot period. It had more to do with the situation not the weapon.

Which brings me to the final point, there seems to be a disconnect in the logic as to where a gun is "inappropriate" because if a gun is for defense the four shootings you mentioned took place in a school, hospital, and army base and it seems would have been a very appropriate place to have a legal gun.

It is also important to note that in each one of the cases you mentioned Stand Your Ground, conceal carry and open carry laws were not a factor. In all the cases you sight not one involved a person with a legal right to carry a concealed weapon. If anything there is an argument how the restriction prevented innocent people from defending themselves against criminal predators because as legal gun owners they were following the law.
as a lifelong gun owner, i couldn't agree more with the training aspect. should be required for ANY gun owner,carry or not.
"These ideas are resisted by the NRA because they know that those who propose gun control are not interested in control but removal and use every law to restrict or prevent ownership of gun by private citizens."

I'm sorry. The above quote isn't an argument -- it is melodrama, it is fantasy, it is exactly the kind of lack of seriousness about gun ownerwhip and issues of public safety that I am talking about. It is a fantasy that casts the NRA and the people whose egos its spends millions to flatter as heroic. But the "threat" they think they imagine they are taking a heroic stand against in non-existent.

Nowhere did I propose gun control. I'm a gun owner myself. I proposed nothing more than that Americans should perhaps execise a little more maturity in the matter of guns and laws that impact public safety.

Stand Your Ground has tripled the number of "justifiable" homicides in Florida. Rethinking that law has nothing to do with ridding Florida of guns. It is about discouraging fools who, emboldened by bad law, show the kind of poor judgement that George Zimmerman did and end up killing someone else's child.

As for gun safety classes -- knowing how to use a gun doesn't mean you have the good sense required to use one responsibly. We can't keep fools from having guns, of course, but we don't have to make it so easy for them to avoid any responsibility when, because of their poor judgement, other people end up dead.
I hate all bullies and the NRA is certainly among them. Great work taking them on. And Steve is right, you are a brave one, esmense!
Esmense: The real number is not justifiable homicides, which mean the shooting was justified. The real number is unjustified shootings as a result of SYG. Total SYG shootings total about 140 and of those around 60 were brought into question. That does not mean the shootings were not justified, only the SYG defense did not apply. That is less than 2% of the total homicides since SYG. Just because someone tries to use the SYG as a defense does not mean that was the reason why they shot in the first place.

The law does not protect the ones who break it, but protect those who follow the law. In the case of Zimmerman, from what I know about the case he could not use the SYG as a defense because he caused the altercation by pursuing instead of waiting for the police.

SYG is designed for defense against an aggressor period. It is not a blanket excuse to shoot. It does have rules of engagement. It has investigations and it does involve a judge and the court.

There is no law that will cause some people to act responsible. From my experience people who receive their Conceal Carry Permit are safer than someone who just goes and buys a gun. Statistically they are 13 times less likely to shoot someone or commit a crime than just a legal gun owner. The reason is you have to take classes in the law, safety, and pass both a written and practical test on the range. All good stuff and far more safe than someone who have never owned a gun walking out of the store with one.

Truth is there are just some stupid people, foolish people, selfish people and down right mean people out there who I wish never owned a gun, or were allowed to drive, or procreate, or work in sensitive jobs, but there is just no way of know who they are until they do something stupid. There is just no protection from stupid.

I think much of the fuse is the fault of the media. Truth is we live in a relatively safe society, we have a stable government and I do not walk the streets worrying about being shot. I have a CCL, but do not carry a gun. I shoot at the range and have tactical and defense training.

It seems damned if you do and damned if you don't. If you practice you are a paranoid gun nut and if you don't you are accused of not being trained to carry or use a weapon. So I choose to be damned for practicing both at the range and defense training events. And I admit it, it is a hell of a lot of fun.