It’s been more than a week since the horrific events of Sandy Hook. Much has been written, statistics have been flying, but there actually seems to be a new openness to at least placing the issue of firearm ownership on the table. The following are two statements representing two takes on firearm ownership and a few recommended starting points that might bridge some gaps between people on all sides of the issue—or not.

MICHAEL MOORE: (An interview on http://www.bluetabletalk.com/2012/12/20/americans-kill-people-michael-moore-on-newtown-mass-shootings-and-the-u-s-culture-of-violence/ )

“A few hours before Connecticut, an elementary school was attacked in China by an insane man, and 22 children were his victims. But all he had was a knife. Total number of dead in the Chinese elementary school? Zero.

I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to just say a few words about what happened today, (Note, the day of the Sandy Hook mass murder–Zach) because I’ve been concerned about this issue for a long time. Yes, we need more gun control. Yes, we need free mental health services in this country. But I really believe that even if we had better gun control laws and better mental health, that we would still be the sort of sick and twisted, violent people that we’ve been for hundreds of years, that it’s something that’s just in our craw, just in our DNA. And to get that out of our DNA is going to take a lot more than passing a bill in Albany or D.C. That’s not going to do it.

And, you know, other countries, I mean, they have their crazy people, and they have people that—there have been shootings and killings in Norway, in France and in Germany. But there haven’t been 61 mass killings like there have been in this country just since Columbine. Sixty-one mass shootings in this country. I like to say that I sort of agree with the NRA when they say, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” except I would just modify that a bit and say, “Guns don’t kill people, Americans kill people,” because that’s what we do. We invade countries. We send drones in to kill civilians. We’ve got five wars going on right now where our soldiers are killing people—I mean, five that we know of. We are on the short list of illustrious countries who have the death penalty. We believe it’s OK to kill you when you’ve committed a crime.

And then we have all the other forms of violence in this country that we don’t really call violence, but they are acts of violence. When you—when you make sure that 50 million people don’t have health insurance in your country and that, according to the congressional study that was done, 44,000 people a year die in America for the simple reason that they don’t have health insurance, that’s a form of murder. That murder is being committed by the insurance companies. When you evict millions of peoples—millions of people from their homes, that’s an act of violence. That’s called a home invasion.

All the wrong people are in prison in this country. I can’t believe we’re just standing blocks away from the biggest criminal operation that this country has ever seen, right down that street, (Note: I believe he is referring to Wall St.—Zach) and not one of them has gone to prison for what they’ve done. When you have eliminated so many millions of jobs, when you’ve ruined communities like mine, Flint, Michigan, you have killed people, because—because having seen firsthand the effects of these corporate decisions—the alcoholism, the drug abuse, divorce, suicide, all the social problems that go along with this act of violence—but we don’t call it violence, and no one’s ever arrested for it—I think it’s a real shame. And frankly, as an American, this is not how I want to be remembered.”

Wayne LaPierre: the National Rifle Association executive vice president’s news conference on Friday, Dec. 21, 2012 in Washington. (For the length’s sake I’ve tried to excerpt his most salient points.  For the entire transcript please see: http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2012/12/transcript_statement_by_nation.html )

“The National Rifle Association’s 4 million mothers, fathers, sons and daughters join the nation in horror, outrage, grief and earnest prayer for the families of Newtown, Connecticut…

Out of respect for those grieving families, and until the facts are known, the NRA has refrained from comment. While some have tried to exploit tragedy for political gain, we have remained respectfully silent.

Now, we must speak … for the safety of our nation’s children. …no one — nobody — has addressed the most important, pressing and immediate question we face: How do we protect our children right now, starting today, in a way that we know works?

…Politicians pass laws for Gun-Free School Zones. They issue press releases bragging about them. They post signs advertising them.

And in so doing, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are their safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.

How have our nation’s priorities gotten so far out of order? Think about it. We care about our money, so we protect our banks with armed guards. American airports, office buildings, power plants, courthouses — even sports stadiums — are all protected by armed security.

We care about the President, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents. Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by armed Capitol Police officers.

Yet when it comes to the most beloved, innocent and vulnerable members of the American family — our children — we as a society leave them utterly defenseless, and the monsters and predators of this world know it and exploit it. That must change now!

The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them. They walk among us every day…

How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame — from a national media machine that rewards them with the wall-to-wall attention and sense of identity they crave — while provoking others to try to make their mark?

A dozen more killers? A hundred? More? How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?

And the fact is, that wouldn’t even begin to address the much larger and more lethal criminal class: Killers, robbers, rapists and drug gang members who have spread like cancer in every community in this country. Meanwhile, federal gun prosecutions have decreased by 40% — to the lowest levels in a decade.

So now, due to a declining willingness to prosecute dangerous criminals, violent crime is increasing again for the first time in 19 years…

And here’s another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal: There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people.

Through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse. And here’s one: it’s called Kindergarten Killers. It’s been online for 10 years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn’t or didn’t want anyone to know you had found it?

Then there’s the blood-soaked slasher films like “American Psycho” and “Natural Born Killers” that are aired like propaganda loops on “Splatterdays” and every day, and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life. And then they have the nerve to call it “entertainment.”

But is that what it really is? Isn’t fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?

In a race to the bottom, media conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society by bringing an ever-more-toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty into our homes — every minute of every day of every month of every year.

A child growing up in America witnesses 16,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence by the time he or she reaches the ripe old age of 18. (I assume he’s talking about game players and movie watchers—Zach)

And throughout it all, too many in our national media … their corporate owners … and their stockholders … act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators. Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize lawful gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws and fill the national debate with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delay meaningful action and all but guarantee that the next atrocity is only a news cycle away.

The media call semi-automatic firearms “machine guns” — they claim these civilian semi-automatic firearms are used by the military, and they tell us that the .223 round is one of the most powerful rifle calibers … when all of these claims are factually untrue. They don’t know what they’re talking about!

Worse, they perpetuate the dangerous notion that one more gun ban — or one more law imposed on peaceful, lawful people — will protect us where 20,000 others have failed!…

…It is now time for us to assume responsibility for their (our children’s) safety at school. The only way to stop a monster from killing our kids is to be personally involved and invested in a plan of absolute protection. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Would you rather have your 911 call bring a good guy with a gun from a mile away … or a minute away?

Now, I can imagine the shocking headlines you’ll print tomorrow morning: “More guns,” you’ll claim, “are the NRA’s answer to everything!” Your implication will be that guns are evil and have no place in society, much less in our schools. But since when did the word “gun” automatically become a bad word?…

So why is the idea of a gun good when it’s used to protect our President or our country or our police, but bad when it’s used to protect our children in their schools?

…You know, five years ago, after the Virginia Tech tragedy, when I said we should put armed security in every school, the media called me crazy. But what if, when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday, he had been confronted by qualified, armed security?…

Is the press and political class here in Washington so consumed by fear and hatred of the NRA and America’s gun owners that you’re willing to accept a world where real resistance to evil monsters is a lone, unarmed school principal left to surrender her life to shield the children in her care? No one — regardless of personal political prejudice — has the right to impose that sacrifice.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is no national, one-size-fits-all solution to protecting our children. But do know this President zeroed out school emergency planning grants in last year’s budget, and scrapped “Secure Our Schools” policing grants in next year’s budget.

With all the foreign aid, with all the money in the federal budget, we can’t afford to put a police officer in every school? Even if they did that, politicians have no business — and no authority — denying us the right, the ability, or the moral imperative to protect ourselves and our loved ones from harm.

Now, the National Rifle Association knows that there are millions of qualified active and retired police; active, reserve and retired military; security professionals; certified firefighters and rescue personnel; and an extraordinary corps of patriotic, trained qualified citizens to join with local school officials and police in devising a protection plan for every school. We can deploy them to protect our kids now. We can immediately make America’s schools safer — relying on the brave men and women of America’s police force…

I call on Congress today to act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school — and to do it now, to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our children return to school in January…

Right now, today, every school in the United States should plan meetings with parents, school administrators, teachers and local authorities — and draw upon every resource available — to erect a cordon of protection around our kids right now. Every school will have a different solution based on its own unique situation.

Every school in America needs to immediately identify, dedicate and deploy the resources necessary to put these security forces in place right now…

The NRA is going to bring all of its knowledge, dedication and resources to develop a model National School Shield Emergency Response Program for every school that wants it. From armed security to building design and access control to information technology to student and teacher training, this multi-faceted program will be developed by the very best experts in their fields…

If we truly cherish our kids more than our money or our celebrities, we must give them the greatest level of protection possible and the security that is only available with a properly trained — armed — good guy.

…our team of security experts will make this the best program in the world for protecting our children at school, and we will make that program available to every school in America free of charge…

There’ll be time for talk and debate later. This is the time, this is the day for decisive action…”


The interesting overlap of both statements is their agreement—consciously or not—that there are significant issues about the undercurrent of our culture. Worth considering before judgements.

I think the idea of trying to outlaw as many firearms as possible is a waste of time because it just ain’t gonna happen. I do believe restrictions on automatic and semi-automatic weapons are possible and ought to be implemented. And while I believe that Moore has it basically correct (no surprise that), I would stress the following reforms as well.

1. Point of sale background checks in real time that includes gun shows, mail orders, and the elimination of any “secondary” market that can not or will not adhere to all these reforms.  That is, individuals who sell guns to another person without that person’s compliance with licensing laws.

2. A three day wait to receive a firearm for all first time purchasers regardless of a clean background check.

3. Passing a gun safety test before the purchase of any firearm.

4. Passing a marksmanship test before the purchase of any firearm.

5. Passing a psychological exam before the purchase of any firearm.

6. Serious prison time for “straws.”  (Those who are qualified to purchase guns and do so for another who may or not be qualified.)

7. Regulation of firearm production.

Finally, the past ten days have somehow placed the issue of prioritizing mental health against firearm ownership as if the two were somehow contradictory. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. From where I sit tackling each concern—especially if it results in meaningful reforms of both—is an absolute win-win.

“Life is very short and what we have to do must be done in the now.” ~Audre Lorde

10 thoughts on “LEFT, RIGHT, AND ME

  1. HI Zach,
    I agree with your points except the psychological test (most Americans wouldn’t pass–look at the foreign policy they support.)
    Unfortunately, I feel it is too late for these steps. There are already 200 million guns in America. We are also the most militaristic, war-like country many times over in world history, bar none. Our population is also the most brainwashed the earth has ever seen. We could not have #1 without #2.
    Sorry to be so pessimistic but I fear for my children and grandchildren that the situation we now find ourselves in will have to play out to its conclusion.

    • Jed–no apologies needed. We both live with the same fears for our children and grandchildren. I do find myself reluctant to let things “play out” without at least chiming in and even arguing for a set of different cultural priorities. Not confident about how much change to hope for but think it’s good to have *all* our issues on the table.

  2. Zach, this is a super-complicated issue. A gun in every classroom is very foreign to me, yet every large university in this country has its’ own police force. Is the answer somewhere in between?


    • Hank–I don’t know whether there is an answer. For sure I don’t have it. Also, it won’t be just one response but a melding of different ideas and strategies. My “recommendations” are really just starting points for discussions–though I don’t think any of the ideas are outrageous or even stomps on individual rights. I expect that view won’t be universal.

  3. Nothing less than our national security is at stake. Our contradictory schisms are the razor’s edge. All of our ills are interconnected, creating the strands of a web on which our society lives, works and plays. It makes us frantic, fearful, insecure, uncertain and subject to constant tremors. Worse, it enables those on less unsettled ground to think nothing of “shaking things up”. There’s big money in fear and loathing…

    Michael Moore at least acknowledges and displays empathy for the disparate realities. Mr. NRA, otoh, fails to acknowledge anything except his flawed interpretation of the 2nd Amendment.

    Call him crazy? No need to point out the obvious.

  4. Good on you for presenting the arguments from both the far-this-way and the far-that-way sides of the firearms issue. Well done.

    When are we going to hear the arguments of the psychiatric community? They’ve not just been quiet–they’ve been silent. When will we hear from judges and various boards who have the capability to declare someone insane and criminally dangerous? Again…crickets.

    Am I alone, or does this confuse anyone else? Given that all mass killers have been demonstrably violently insane, a word or two from these people would be proper at this time. The gun debate is always with us. Even when not in the headlines, it lies just beneath the surface, always smouldering, always boiling, ready to blow at an instant. This is just another round of it.

    Where are the people who could, today, with no new laws needed, at least begin to take deranged mass murderers off our streets? Where is their debate? Where are their arguments? Why aren’t fifty thousand cameras and microphones jammed into their faces, and questions asked and answers demanded?

    It’s as if we’ve all come to think that every coin has but one side. And the truly pitiful thing is, the monies that will be spent by both sides of the firearms issue going hammer and tong against each other could build at least one modern, secure, and well-staffed institution in every state to take in these killers. That is the side of the coin that everyone pretends does not exist, that we never address, and that somehow is never mentioned in the three-ring circus of the media.

    • Kent–actually there have been a bunch of articles in the papers where mental health practitioners have chimed in. Problem is, since Reagan sliced and diced our mental health systems clinicians have been swimming underwater. Try to find placement in homes or hospitals is all too often hopeless.

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