Such a Sad Headline

Smith_&_Wesson_.357_Model_686_Plus
Flying off the shelves …

W.J. Astore

I saw this headline and story at the Guardian today: “Pandemic and protests spur Americans to buy guns at record pace.”

And it just made me sad.  Sad because Americans see guns as a security blanket.  Sad because guns are so expensive and also so easily misused.  Sad because more guns is really not the answer to anything.  Certainly not a pandemic.

Consider the sheer expense of guns.  A decent revolver, ammunition, a cleaning kit, and a few hours at your local gun range will likely cost at least a grand ($1000) at a time when almost half of Americans can’t meet an unexpected expense of $400.  Yet people find solace in a gun, a form of mental comfort, a sense of “I’m prepared.”  For Covid-19?  For peaceful protesters?  For the Purge?  Who knows?

It’s sad as well to recognize a gun in the home raises the risk of suicide by gun, and of course of accidental shootings.  Too many people buy a gun without knowing much about them — and how important it is to keep them secure, especially from children.

Look: I’ve owned guns and have shot everything from pellet pistols and rifles to Dirty Harry’s famed Smith & Wesson .44 magnum.  I can even cite Harry’s “Feel lucky, punk” line from memory.  I’m not anti-gun, but I am anti-hysteria.

Too many Americans are looking down the barrel of a loaded pistol for answers — and that’s neither the wisest nor safest place to look.  We need to strengthen our communities, not fortify our bunkers.  Buying more guns only does the latter.

Yesterday, an oldie by George Harrison came on my radio:

Give me love/Give me love/Give me peace on earth/Give me light/Give me life
Keep me free from birth/Give me hope/Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to, touch and reach you with,/Heart and soul.

What he sang.  That’s what we need, America, not more guns.

41 thoughts on “Such a Sad Headline

  1. I imagine there are two prime drivers here: 1.) the APPEARANCE of “anarchy in the streets,” deliberately provoked by Trump by sending Federal forces, uninvited by local officials, to Portland, Oregon and soon (Donald “promises”) to other cities; 2.) the REALITY that the viral pandemic HAS put us in uncharted territory, with the risk of breakdowns in the supply chain of food and other essentials. Concerning the latter situation, however, I’ve not seen any reports of this actually occurring yet on a widespread basis. That said, this virus certainly didn’t fade away with the arrival of warmer weather, and is still rampaging, so the jury is still out. I have zero “sympathy” for the Gun Lobby and its fanatical adherents, but I think we CAN understand what’s going on.

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  2. The Guardian headline that caught my eye this morning was, “US Covid testing has been a historic catastrophe. Is Trump’s testing tsar Brett Giroir to blame?” (And after reading the article I was inclined to believe that, at least to some extent, yes, Brett Giroir sure sounded like a contributing factor to what he was set up to deliver.) (Or to not deliver as the case might have been… if too much testing was being done as far as the administration was concerned?) He was just following orders, I suppose, and so therefore it wasn’t his fault.
    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/31/brett-giroir-trump-coronavirus-testing-tsar

    The George Harrison tune was new to me.

    The problem with guns is that they are allowed to exist anymore at all (on a par with nuclear weapons — a problem that can only be solved on a planetary scale worldwide — and I wish I knew how).

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    1. Frankly, I didn’t even know the name of Trump’s “Covid Testing Czar” in this Musical Chairs Administration. What the hell are his qualifications?? The only qualification that really matters in this admin. is personal loyalty to the Trumps!! A bit of a screaming problem right there, yes? And something seems to also be amiss when “The Greatest Nation in the World There’s Ever Been or Could Be” has a problem obtaining reliable test kits. Has the virus response, like the Global War on Terror, been DESIGNED TO FAIL?

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  3. Agree with you….mostly. I differ regarding the expense of guns. If the price tag were ten times what it is, perhaps fewer guns would end up in the hands of those who absolutely shouldn’t own them.

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  4. Speaking of life imitating Art. When I was in my “Gunfighter” phase as Jack Crabbe was in the Revisionist History Book & Film Little Big Man I had quite the emerging Gun Collection. When it got close to Double Digits in Double Action Revolvers, Handguns, and assorted Rifles, and then the Kids started coming along I decided to put a Lid on it, and Sold off most… Now with the World as it is 2020 and its assorted nuttiness I’ve again decided to adopt one of LBM Philosophies that of a “Hermit” Until I can as Jack did “Look the Devil in the Eye, and send him back to Hell from whence he came” I’m content in that State…:/ :o) George was always the most thoughtful “Beatle”

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    1. [Pardon another slight digression.] One of the jazz CDs I produced years ago we recorded in the former factory/HQ of the Colt Firearms Company in Hartford, CT. The audio facility was terribly cleverly named ‘Studio .45’!

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  5. Meanwhile, Trump goes golfing: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/01/trump-golfs-covid-19-unemployment

    Trump does what he wants — he doesn’t give a shit about Democrats or the media. Too bad there’s no progressive out there who’s so unapologetically for workers and fairness. Or, if there is, someone like Ralph Nader, he (or she) is dismissed as irrelevant and/or a radical and/or a spoiler that no one dare vote for, because a mean Republican might win.

    Hmm, who’s in office again?

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    1. On the broader canvas, Trump and his ilk don’t give a shit about those of us who actually have to WORK for a living! (Though retired for several years now, I boldly include myself in that category.) He is just open and unapologetic about his disdain for us because he’s Trump. Vulgar “nouveau-riche,” and we can’t even find out what he’s really “worth” because he won’t release his tax documents. On the very rare occasions when I’ve gone to drive balls at a golf driving range I’ve discovered that if you don’t wear gloves you can develop blisters really fast (like, in one session). A steady golfer thus would develop calluses on the hands. And we can bet those are the only calluses to ever manifest on the hands of a Trump!

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  6. Still trying to figure out my posting problem. I just tried to comment. It didn’t appear. Upon retry I am told by WordPress “it looks like you already said that” so the comment was received, but was stopped somewhere in the process. Let’s see if this one goes through…

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  7. I apologize to everyone for this experimentation, it’s the only way to try to nail down what’s causing the trouble…

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  8. comment part 1 of 2

    A gun is always loaded.

    I don’t mean with ammunition, but with the psychological effect it has on the person who holds it, much as the person may fool him or herself into thinking otherwise.

    It’s common for gun advocates to speak of how they are familiar with guns, know how to handle them, are aware of the dangers, keep their cool when using one, that they have some kind of immunity to what the gun does to a person holding it. They may believe it, but a moment’s consideration should convince you not to.

    A gun is pure power over others in a small package. Though the effect on the mind comes with other weapons such as a bow or a spear, it reaches a peak with the firearm, lethal force in its purist form.

    Defending the home is simply a cover for gun ownership. It provides an unanswerable reason to have a gun. Of course we should be able to defend our homes, but is this is an issue in America? It isn’t. Home invasions are very rare, particularly when compared with fatal accidents, suicides or misuse of guns by those claiming defense as their reason to have a gun.

    (continued in part 2 of 2)

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  9. (comment part 2 of 2)

    We humans find self-righteousness easy to come by. We also have an obsession with seeing justice done. Claiming to be protecting the home and the self is literally self serving, creating imagery in the mind of heroic defense against deliberate assault on what is most dear to us. As the rash of odious laws recently passed proclaim: Stand Your Ground! A perfect example of things in the mind with which a gun is always loaded.

    The real issue as we hear about so often, is the idea of a home invasion causing a gun owner to kill an innocent person, even a family member or someone knocking on a front door for help or information. The enemy is in the head of the gun owner, not the one at whom the gun is aimed.

    The real enemy is the emotion possessed by all of us. We are subject to anger, to getting carried away with passion and the last thing to have access to when driven by emotion is instant and absolute power over another person that is easily used.

    In civilization, there is no place for gun ownership by the citizenry, hunting aside. As fellow citizens we proclaim the importance of each to the other and the absolute value of the individual. This shows a proper understanding of the value of human life and a mutual obligation to protect each other from harm. Anyone will acknowledge that each of us can be emotional and that each of us can be wrong. The two readily combine. Add in a machine that is deliberately designed to bring injury or death easily and instantly? We see in the daily news the result.

    A gun is always loaded.

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    1. All very good points. I wish I was wrong, but I have to say I see no reason to believe that the Gun Lobby and the sacred treatment given the ludicrously outdated 2nd Amendment to US Constitution are going away anytime in the foreseeable future. These matters are ideological in nature–bordering on Theological, really!–and common sense is left lonely on the sidelines.

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  10. I split my comment in half and it worked. It appears that length is the issue, yet I’ve seen comments here far longer than the one I just posted in two parts. I’m baffled.

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    1. FYI WordPress occasionally messes with my ability to post. I think it’s an internal problem with their software. No, length of a comment is not the deciding factor.

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    2. Have noticed that as well in this space (“length is the issue”). Chalked it up to progressives, compensating…

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  11. In the model of stress I use, unease is desire + aversion. Emotions are unease in a context. We all experience unease and it is important to do so. If we are driving a car, unease is what causes us to hit the brakes or correct our steering to avoid an accident before our thinking brain has figured out what is going on. Most of us have an aversion to uncertainty about essentials like food and shelter and health, and a desire for control. So the current situation makes us extremely uneasy.
    Unease tends to cause changes in physiology. The physiologic changes cause a narrowing of perception and thinking. The person tends to focus on what they believe will reduce unease, even if that actually makes their life more difficult. The more uneasy they are the more their perception and thinking will narrow. They will then act to reduce their unease, even if doing so makes their life more difficult.
    This is a general pattern in humans. Applying it to gun owners is as follows.
    Most people who own guns do so because owning a gun reduces their unease. When their unease increases then they will tend to act to defend their ownership of guns and purchase guns (or ammo). Pointing out facts to them, when they are uneasy, will not help because their high level of unease impairs their ability to accept the logical conclusions or even perceive the facts.
    This is why whenever there is a mass shooting, gun owners say we need more guns and people who want gun control say we need less guns. The mass shooting makes everyone uneasy and everyone clings to the belief that reduces their unease.
    Since the irrationality is driven by high levels of unease, we can have more success in getting a different point of view across if we first work to reduce the person’s unease before challenging their belief. When a person feels reassured, the resulting physiologic changes allow their brain to absorb new information and be more likely to agree with positions they would ordinarily reject.
    This is done in addiction medicine and is known as Motivational Interviewing. The hard part with gun owners is reassuring someone who is constantly being fed information that makes them uneasy.
    If anyone is interested in a scientific paper that discusses unease it can be found at http://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00379/full

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    1. JPA–I think your insights, observations, whatever, are valid. But I fear you are underplaying the ideological foundation of our current state of national malaise (“unease”). The “conservatives” (I’m being polite with word choice) very actively PROMOTE unease of one element of the population toward “the other”–the folks who don’t have the same color skin, use the same vocabulary, worship in the same manner, etc. Layering this on top of insecurity about folks’ financial condition as the pandemic rages on is very dangerous. And it’s MEANT TO BE.

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      1. Greglaxer – You are exactly correct. Unease is kept high to control people.
        From the journal article
        “Demagogues therefore manipulate unease in their adherents in order to create a polarization of their adherents as a group opposed to others. Since reductions in unease influence perception, the members of the group may become unable to see how those outside of the group are being falsely represented. They are literally blinded by the reduction in unease that comes from participating in the group.
        As pointed out earlier, belief reduces uncertainty, which reduces unease. The members of a community based on shared belief experience reduced unease both from the shared belief and from the group bonding. This makes group members tend to constrain not only their behavior but also their thinking as any challenge to the shared belief will increase unease from both the questioning of the belief and the risk of losing group membership. The reduction in unease from adhering to group values and behavioral norms can be so large that it causes people to violate previously held values and commit atrocities that previously would have caused intolerable levels of unease.”

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        1. “[B]elief reduces uncertainty, which reduces unease.” Yes indeed. A society is in serious trouble when a very large proportion of the citizenry believes in the utter nonsense embraced by the so-influential extreme rightwing in USA today. They have a major TV operation called, laughingly, Fox News to promote their ideology, and innumerable websites to reinforce things. Dr. Goebbels would be in awe!!

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        2. JPA, your comments cause me to ponder why it is that human beings are so prone to insecurity, anxiety, fear. This is an integral part of us from out of the mists of time. Though I am an atheist I can certainly understand how people have flocked to religion for security. Is it our mortality that looms over us beyond our control?

          All the anxiety is a stimulus to action to relieve it. To make meaning in an otherwise meaningless or at least inexplicable world has prompted man to endless searching and finally to the discovery of science which, though fascinating and explanatory for most everything, still leave the big questions unanswerable, but we can ignore those and do. Yet anxiety and fear remain to plague us and cause so many to jump at dangerous things that promise certainty (guns, Trump, Pat Robertson) as a salve.

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          1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I will take the liberty of sharing some of my reflections. I will lump fear, anxiety, and sadness into the word “suffering”.

            While there are many ways to respond to suffering, one set of responses seems to be based on greed, relieving one’s suffering at the expense of others. Another set of responses seems to be based on compassion, relieving the suffering of others while keeping one’s own suffering from interfering.

            When a person responds to suffering with greed that gives only short-term relief, because whatever is acquired is still subject to impermanence and that leads to suffering. So nothing, not power, not money, not sex, not followers, not praise, etc. will ever really relieve the suffering.

            When a person responds to suffering with compassion, then their suffering helps them be more compassionate. They can empathize with others and be more likely to help relieve the suffering of others because they have learned from their own suffering.

            To my mind it doesn’t matter if someone is an atheist or an adherent of a particular religion. What matters is their way of relating to others and if they are seeking to relate more compassionately. Treat others the way you would want them to treat you if you were in their shoes.

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          2. I understand what you’re saying. I’ll just point out that in the “developed world,” other than from weather conditions modern humans face very little threat from Nature in our daily lives. Bumped into any Velociraptors or Saber-tooth Cats on your driveway lately while heading out to your motor vehicle? Thus, modern angst stems largely from the societal conditions humans themselves have created. But vestiges from our past linger on a long, long time. I recommend you read Carl Sagan’s “The Dragons of Eden” if you have never done so.

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    1. That Reagan quote: the more I think about it, the more dangerous it seems.

      Why? Because in the name of “protecting” us, the government can run our lives. And many people don’t see it because they’re afraid and they want to be “protected.”

      We pay the government, so it should serve us — provide us with what we need, collectively, like roads and bridges but also education, health care, and the like.

      After all, who will “protect” us when the government grows all-powerful as well as secretive and therefore is unaccountable to us?

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      1. Yes — and wars in general. What foreign war is being fought now that serves truly to protect us — ordinary Americans?

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    2. That’s brilliant, TJOSTEEN!! Rather than quote some of the Founding Fathers (Jefferson: “That government governs best which governs least.”) you bring up one of our worst POTUSes ever!! (Bringing up, like a cat bringing up a hairball!) Thanks for bringing a chuckle to my gloomy Sunday, as I wait for a tropical storm to decide which course it’s really gonna follow.

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        1. Right. Because 90% of our college professors are Marxists, etc., etc., etc., huh? Thus the “approved” line of thought is anti-Reagan. You need to come up with an original thought now and then, fella.

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  12. Interesting quote. I’d change it. The government’s first duty is to serve the people. Politicians are supposed to be public servants.

    Too much stress is place on “protect,” when we need to ask, protect from what? From who? Self-styled protectors can be dangerous too.

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    1. Twin hypotheses: 1.) Essentially anyone can obtain firearms, thanks to the internet, whether legally or not; and 2.) gun freaks in those parts of the country are pissed off that they can’t legally build a personal arsenal like the Las Vegas shooter owned!

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