Archive for the ‘Violence’ Category

Where are the Dads?   2 comments

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a woman. When women take men to task for being less-than-adequate parents, I’m usually the first to point out that they need to take their own inventory before they smear the male gender, but in dealing with the causation of our culture of violence, I found myself circling this issue a few too many times. To avoid overstepping my personal boundaries, let me introduce my husband as guest co-blogger and/or interviewee.  He is not responsible for everything written here, but he was a large contributor.

“It’s bad enough that you weren’t prepared to be a father … you might have considered using contraception to prevent that, Dad. But failing to be there for your kids and then not holding yourself accountable for whom they become is far worse.”

For a young boy, the most important human relationship is between himself and his father. The offspring looks up to his progenitor, learns from his example and hangs on his every word. Many young boys see their fathers as heroes wholly blameless and without flaw. To a young male, Dad is who he aspires to be.

Though no man is perfect, a father who sets a terrible example makes it so much harder for his young son to be a good man. The basic notions of what it takes to be a man are imprinted on the child from his experiences with his father. My father was (and remains) a functional alcoholic, womanizer and workaholic, and his lack of character led to estrangement from my mother (another topic altogether that I’ll leave in Lela’s capable hands) and lack of full attachment with me. He chose himself over his son, medicating himself with booze, wealth, wives, mistresses and possessions. He is an extremely charming and callow man who has both adoring fans and bitter enemies, two ex-wives and one who wishes she were a widow, four children (that he knows of) with various opinions of him, and siblings who keep their hands on their wallets when he comes around. It’s not all his fault. He had a poor example for a father too.

Despite experiencing firsthand the damage alcohol causes and a strong Christian faith that teaches me that alcohol is not an answer, whenever I’m faced with a stressful situation, my first instinct is to have a drink. My father impressed on me that men handle stress through alcohol, and that basic instinctual reaction is extremely difficult to overcome. Some fathers beat their sons. Others display a stoic lack of emotion, reducing the father-son relationship to a never-ending chase for approval on the part of the son. Patterns of behavior are learned and often repeated; however poorly the example is set, it defines the son’s life.

My father’s example to me was piss-poor, but I still needed him in my life. My adolescence was a troubled time, as adolescence often is. Not knowing my father well left me with huge holes in coming to know myself. I could give tons of examples where he neglected me – from living 1500 miles apart, to showing up once a year to drop me off at camp, to never once coming to see me play sports or act in a play, to scoffing at my skateboarding. I would have traded camp and the lavish gifts for a weekend of undivided attention from my sober father. He could have taught me to shave. Yeah, probably the most pivotal point of transforming from boy to man, I was alone because my father had neglected his duty to his son. I think of that now as my son deals with acne and searching for whiskers on his smooth young skin.

With single-parent families becoming more common, the traditional family unit is harder to find. Courts generally keep children with the mother in custody cases, but it remains imperative that the father strives to maintain access to his children, however limited. Yes, there are extreme situations where no contact is better, but in my opinion having a relationship with both parents is crucial. Even if one parent is a poor example, it is better for the child to have discovered this for themselves, as unanswered questions and biased perceptions impair the youngster’s development through adolescence and self-discovery. Lela’s older half-brother knew his father who sounds like he would have liked hanging out with my dad; in the end, though his father was a poor example, he chose to buck the trend knowing he was swimming against the flow. I don’t have that and it still hurts.

The onus is on parents to maintain these relationships in safe and mutually acceptable venues. When parents use children as weapons in custody battles, or allow their own opinions of each other to cloud their parental judgment, it is the child who suffers the most. Parents need to remember that just because somebody is a bad partner, it does not make him or her a bad parent.

A child needs to know who his parents are first-hand. A boy needs to know who his father is, unfiltered by those who either love him or hate him.

There are always going to be situations where the parents are absent through no fault of their own; they may be sent to war or pass away from an illness or tragic accident. Sometimes, absence is unavoidable. Addiction, laziness, or personal disputes between parents aren’t acceptable excuses. They will damage the children in ways adults cannot foresee.

Becoming a parent isn’t something that should be taken lightly. It is a lifelong commitment, and as a parent, your duty is to do your very best by your child. Your own wants and desires are secondary to the development and nurturing of your offspring. If, for instance, you have an addiction, you need to seek the help that is available — not tomorrow, not after “one last binge”—now. If you are in dispute with your ex-partner, resolve it. If you are scared your child will reject you, risk it.

Don’t be an absentee father. However long it has been, whatever mistakes you have made, pick up the phone and make the call. You’re a parent—and you owe that to your child.

In seeking to identify the problems that exist within our society that might cause young men to be so angry that they want to kill strangers, the absence of fathers in so many homes stood out to me. Dads, where are you?


It’s All About Me   Leave a comment

Continuing my inventory of the trends within American society that have caused and will continue to cause the impersonal, undirected rage that leads to mass shootings, I’d like to point my finger in your face … recognizing that there are three more pointing back at me. We are the problem and we will be the solution … if we’re brave enough.

In mental health circles, where I spent the last 15 years as an administrator, narcisstic personality disorder can be boiled down to a simple phrase – it’s all about me and anything that is about you, either doesn’t matter or needs to be beaten to death. I can’t think of a better term than “narcissistic” to describe a father who abandons his mentally ill child, even if he supplies a six figure income to that child’s mother. What is there to say for a mother who prioritizes vacationing over the care and supervision of her unstable son? American culture preaches a crass consumerism that encourages citizens to place the flimsiest of their whims over the needs of others. Murder – for thrill, glory, or whatever Lanza’s unknown motive – is the ultimate manifestation of narcissism. It is the literal destruction of another’s life in the hopes of enhancing one’s own.

As a country, we praise the virtue of the selfless heroics of the Sandy Hook teachers who tried to save the lives of their students with their unarmed bodies, but we ignore as our president orders innocent women and children killed in drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. While we engage in media approved mourning for Sandy Hook we ignore the decades of slaughter in our inner cities. We prioritize our own interests over those of foreigners and the poor in our own country, which is narcissism.

We can use the Newtown massacre as an opportunity to intellectually, morally and spiritually grow into citizens that cultivate communities of strength, love and interdependence that treat others with respect and care or we can continue to float along as islands, ignorant to the mentally ill in our own families and oblivious to the struggles of people in houses next door to us. We can fearlessly confront the issues that drive violence in our country by addressing the underlying issues as they exist right in our own homes and communities.

But when we lock up all the legal guns so that the average citizen has no means to protect himself, what will we blame when madmen like Adam Lanza use suicide vests, knives, cars driven into crowds, or illegally manufactured guns to take out their victims? These sorts of spree killings happen in countries where personal ownership of guns is highly restricted, evidencing something deeper than just “a culture of guns” is at work in modern man.

Are we so stuck on ourselves that we really can’t see that “the other guy” is no more at fault than we are and that, ultimately, the man or woman in the mirror is the only person we can affect for the better? This country was founded on individual liberty and responsibility and for most of our history, that was the ideal that we followed. What makes any of us think that we are so smart that we can force the man next to us to comply to our will and that will somehow make the world a better place.

That’s narcissism and from our president down to people on the street corner, we are a nation evidencing all the symptoms.

Cultural Violence   Leave a comment

I’ve been a little caustic in my taking of the nation’s inventory. I hope not to disappoint in this posting.

America has been a violent culture for most of our history, but it’s usually been one-on-one violence of a personal nature. Someone got angry at someone over something trivial or important and violence seemed like the answer at the time. As a rule, violence did not take the form of a disturbed young man marching into a school, mall or movie theater to kill large numbers of people he didn’t know. That’s changed. Sandy Hook, Columbine, Nickel Mines, Aurora … there’s a long list of evidence that something has changed.

Oddly, statistics show that American society has, by and large, become less violent in other areas. For example, the gun-related homicide rate has dropped precipitously at the same time that gun ownership and concealed carry have increased phenomenally. And America is not alone in mass shootings (Norway and Cumbria England are just recent examples). If guns in the home are the problem, Alaska and Switzerland should have a mass shooting almost daily. We don’t. Look somewhere else.

To look for simplistic solutions is ridiculous. To see Sandy Hook as unique to its circumstances, apart from all the others, is to avoid the uncomfortable topic that this madness is fed and enabled not by the “gun culture” (who are overwhelmingly law-abiding people who don’t frequently shoot one another), but by American culture.

This is the American culture that has cheapened human life, snuffing it out when it is helpless and inconvenient and (in three states) old, infirm and burdensome. Nihilism permeates our popular entertainment; it’s everywhere in movies, television and song lyrics.

Evil is glamorized. Dexter is an extremely popular television series about a serial killer cleaning up crime. Thrill-kill video games feature barbaric violence and we think nothing of slipping them under the Christmas tree. Ever listen to the music thumping in your middle-schooler’s earbuds? Do we seriously believe that this stuff has little influence on attitudes and behaviors? Maybe in earlier generations it wouldn’t have, but in a generation of children largely raised by electronic media, how could it not? According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology, the average American 18-year-old has seen 200,000 acts of violence, including 16,000 murders on television (not including video games).

Oddly, while we resist libertarianism politically, we Americans have trended that direction in matters of culture. Maybe we don’t consume violent entertainment ourselves, but if our neighbors do, that’s their business. We consider it intolerant to call out someone for allowing a group of kids to watch movies with R-rated violence at a sleepover. Maybe we’d keep our kid home from it, but we’d never say it was wrong for another family to show it. Judging someone else’s “choices” is apparently the worst sin one American can commit against another.

Do we think that if we hunker down, the culture we’ve created will leave us alone? These mass shootings suggest it won’t. It’s going to follow us into the movie theater, the church and the mall. It has already.

The fake debate over gun control avoids the real debate about the lurid culture that stokes the insanity of these shootings. We can’t hire enough guards to protect our kids, our movie theaters, our churches, and our malls from the effects of a culture that cheapens life and expects it not to affect our children.

Because I am a civil libertarian conservative constitutionalist, I don’t advocate for laws to address our cultural problems. I will submit that Congress cannot fix what’s wrong with us. Legislating morality doesn’t often work. See the history of Prohibition and the War on Drugs before you argue otherwise. The answer is not making entertainment I find objectionable illegal. For one thing, today I am disgusted with movies that glorify violence, but tomorrow I may be in the mood for a good shot-em-up. I don’t want someone in DC limiting my choices. I don’t think restricting liberty is the answer.

So what is?

I think we are the answer to the problems we have caused. We, individually, need to examine ourselves in a searching and moral inventory to discover were we individually have screwed up and need to make changes. Each of us in our own homes needs to that our kids don’t need to fill their impressionable heads with unfiltered and unexamined simulated violence. Each of us needs to have uncomfortable conversations with our kids about their attitudes toward human life and violence because, trust me, they’ve already seen plenty of simulated murder in entertainment and “not my kid” is no longer an acceptable default position to take. I know my 14-year-old son’s attitude toward human life because we’ve talked, sometimes after watching violent movies together just so we could have the conversation. But if you’re letting X-Box raise your kid so you don’t have to, you don’t know what they might be thinking and you should.

Once we’ve addressed ourselves and our families, we each need to start having uncomfortable conversations with our extended families and friends about their attitudes toward violence and parenting, not to force them through governmental tyranny to change their behavior, but to encourage them to examine their lives and make changes appropriate to them. From there, we may also need to converse in our communities about our collective attitudes toward abortion and euthanasia that makes life seem cheap and disposable rather than precious and worthy of protection.

This isn’t a new idea. There was once a time, not so far in the past, when individuals, families and small groups (churches, neighborhoods, towns) lived lives of self-control and interconnectedness where violence was far less common than it is today. We need to honestly ask ourselves why kids in past generations could frequently bring guns to school to shoot rabbits on the way home and never feel compelled to turn those guns on their classmates. The past may be the only dead thing that smells sweet, but it’s also the only proven pattern for success.

What have we thrown out in our rush toward modernity that might have prevented these tragedies?

It Starts with Us   3 comments

“And all the time–such is the tragi-comedy of our situation–we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive,’ or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity.’ In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” 

-C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

I wonder what “Jack” Lewis would have said about American’s current culture of death. Perhaps he wouldn’t say anything new, in light of what he wrote in The Abolition of Man. He was talking about gutting our society by removing God from it and that’s not an issue that’s gone away or been mitigated.

A commentator noted that these shooters tend to be men. I am a woman, but I’m not a feminist, so I resist the trap of believing that it is something inherent in the nature of their gender, though I do recognize that men and women are different from one another on several fundamental levels, not the least of which is that men are diagnosed with schizophrenia much, much more frequently than women. On the other hand, there has been a wholesale cultural destruction of traditional male roles in our society. Everywhere you look men are denigrated and made to look powerless, dumb and useless. I cannot help but think that these young men chose violence as a means to gather up some of the power that has been stripped from their gender by a society that thinks you lift one group up by pulling another down.

The problem is not reducible to men, however. It really is about the society we’ve built. It’s time to own up to the fact that this sort of thing – teenagers and young men walking into schools, movie theaters, and malls and killing people – did not used to happen.

Let me suggest that we are, in large part, lying in the bed we’ve made. The past tends to be the only dead thing that smells sweet, so I resist glamorizing it. It wasn’t perfect and there are many areas we do not need to revisit. We should continue to allow women to vote and still outlaw chattel slavery. Revisiting those things in our past the worked does not require re-adopting those practices that were unacceptable.

Our society has changed and not for the better. I don’t think we can blame acknowledging the equal rights of blacks and women, so we need to look deeper. And while we’re pointing a finger, recognize that three of them are pointing right back at us.

We need to acknowledge that we, as a society, have failed to guard our most important intimacies – our relationships with the natural environment, God, our spouses, children and neighbors. We now reap the consequences of isolation, destruction, and chaos in a world where instant media broadcasts tragedy to us in real time.

When the story of Sandy Hook Elementary broke, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote “Reports suggest that some have been killed in this latest Connecticut school shooting, with heartbreaking photos of kids fleeing the school. How many school and mall shootings before we regulate guns as seriously as cars?”

I respect Kristof’s obvious concern for humanity, even if I don’t necessarily agree with his political leanings. I can understand arriving at that emotional conclusion, but let’s be honest. Access to guns isn’t all that recent. When my older brother, who turns 66 next month, was in junior high, kids used to bring their 22s with them to school to facilitate rabbit hunting after school. His school was not unusual and it wasn’t a new phenomenon. Our parents remembered the same condition in their schools in different states, a quarter century before. Yet there were few if any school shootings before 1980.

My jaws clenched over Kristof’s question because the problem is so much deeper than his simplistic analysis. The “right” law would not have prevented this tragedy. It’s a complex problem that will not be solved by a simple solution. Mass murder of school children and mall shoppers implicates more areas of our lives than we’d care to admit. We must look at the basic assumptions of our modern era and boldly face the discomfort of looking backward to the past that most of us want to believe is invalid to determine how we got here.

I don’t believe top-down policies will fix any real problems. Our legislation too often medicates effects while pretending to solve causes. Kristof’s question, Obama’s executive orders and new Congressional action do nothing to confront that we are a society of depressed people, grasping for every numbing device in sight. Nobody just wakes up one day and decides to shoot people. That’s the end of a road paved with lives, schools, communities, churches, jobs, rejections and illnesses. We cannot start at the end of the road. We have to go back to the beginning to find the roots of the problem.

I don’t think the following observations are all of the answer, but they may be a beginning.

We live in a world that makes it increasingly difficult to connect with each other as we obsessively depend on machines and harried and largely empty professional lives. As we drown in the debt to pay for participate in our education factories, it becomes more difficult to own a home, but easier to become a workaholic. We worship efficiency during the weekday and indulgence at night and on weekends. We enjoy sex disconnected from procreation, then after we birth the children that result, we throw them into every babysitting device we can find and medicate them so they can sit quietly and not bother us.

I personally do not know my siblings, kids or spouse as deeply as I should and most of my neighbors are strangers to me. Can I get an amen? When was the last time your family sat down to dinner at the table and looked each other in the eye and discussed your collective day? How many of us can honestly say we ask tough questions to those around us? Do we respond well when others ask us? No, that sounds like submitting to “value judgments” and accountability and we can have none of that.

It’s interesting to note that after a shocking incident like Newton or Aurora, those who knew the perpetrator always express their amazement that “he” was capable of such violence. They had no idea things were that bad! Seriously? Do we really have permission to know each other that well? For that to happen, we would have to stop and talk to our neighbors. We’d have to listen to our kids rather than play Angry Birds. It’s easier to hide, and that is mostly what we do – with our noses in our iPhones, our eyes shuttered from the strangers on the subway, rushing home to our McMansions. We seek to become the gods of our own existence, avoiding intimacy and morality. We shut others out in a feeble attempt at control of our environment. We do everything in our power to not know the people around us.

So why are we surprised when someone around us, beyond frustrated at being ignored, seizes some attention by doing something horrific with a piece of the technology we worship?

It’s not about the guns. Nothing demonstrates that more than the young man in Wyoming a few days before Sandy Hook who killed three people with a bow and arrow. The weapon is a convenient focus, but the source of the violence is us. Until we accept that, we cannot posit a cause. And as the problem comes from American society in the 21st century, we also must recognize that it is as complex as the society we live in and that band-aid solutions are not going to staunch the wounds our culture has caused. We’re in trouble, folks, and we are the cause. Let’s stop focusing on how to use technology to control people and actually address people.

Why I Own A Gun   3 comments

Actually, I own a few because here in Alaska there’s hunting going on. We live on caribou and moose and ptarmagan and you have to have different sized rifles to get the grub. The 22 we use for bird hunting is our only semi-auto. One pull for every bullet expelled. It’s a 10-round magazine and we carry an extra one for reloading because you bird hunt in the late winter (March) when it’s still nice not to expose your fingers to the air. We used to have an extended magazine — I think it held 30 shots — but it broke in the cold and we haven’t replaced it.

Sometimes when you’re out doing innocent activities like berry-picking or wood-cutting, the animals are hunting you. After a close encounter with a grizzly bear a couple of years ago we carry a shotgun and a 357 just in case.

Speaking of the 357, I am prepared to shoot anyone who comes into my home and doesn’t belong there. I’ll give them a chance to leave uninjured without my belongings, but if you don’t identify yourself as a family member when you’re banging around in the kitchen at night, you’re not very bright. My family knows what to do when they hear the question “Whose there?” Sing out! It might save your life.

In the winter of 1971-1972, Fairbanks Alaska was locked in a cultural storm. Two years before that, we’d had 12,000 residents, but then the TransAlaska Pipeline construction began and the permanent population doubled in just one year. The transient population was about triple the permanent population. The town was overflowing with roustabouts, rubber tramps, and rowdies. Our city fathers hadn’t thought ahead, so we had about three police officers to handle all of this. Every bar overflowed to capacity. You could buy cocaine on the street corner, dispensed by hookers in mini-skirts and fur coats. A 12-year-old girl could make $300 in the afternoon on her way home from school.

In January, the town was gripped by a cold snap of typical Interior mythic proportions. Fifty below zero and ice fog so thick you couldn’t see the car in the driveway. Typical of most small towns, people here didn’t lock their doors. My parents didn’t even have a key to the door. Mom and I were home alone; my dad being off to a remote location involving an ice highway. I was talking to a friend on the telephone in our kitchen, a few feet from our back door — a thin panel of weathered wood with a big single-pane glass window in the top half. Three men stepped up into our arctic entryway (it’s sort of like a foyer on the outside of your house that blocks your house’s heat from just rushing out into the 50 below outside). For reasons I have never been able to explain, I reached over and flipped the dead-bolt. The closest man — a big white guy with sandy colored hair — tried the door knob and found himself blocked. His buddy, a dark haired fellow with a beard, saw me and said through the glass that they were cold and could they come in to warm up. I said goodbye to Kathy and called for my mom, who was already coming because she’d heard male voices. She told them to go away. The dark-haired guy begged a little more, saying the third guy wasn’t adequately dressed for the weather. I never really saw more of him than a Alyeska parka — the ubiquitous uniform of every North Slope worker, which they all three wore. They were adequately dressed. Mom said there were nice warm bars two blocks down. The sandy-haired guy’s face went red and he said “Open the door, *&X&GH, or I’ll break it.”  Mom turned about face and ran into the living room.

By this time, I’d dialed our local equivalent of 911 (no, 911 did not exist in our community then). I explained to the dispatcher what was going on and she said all the cops in town were taking care of a bar fight downtown. (The timing of this incident and the one that followed has always seemed odd to me). Where was my dad? Could we get out another door? I explained that (standard operating procedure of most families in Interior Alaska in those days) we’d sealed the front door against the cold. Then she asked “Do you have a gun?”

In the back of my mind, I’d been cursing my mother for abandoning me. What the heck?  Weren’t mothers supposed to protect their offspring? I heard the door frame start to crack against the weight of these men and I knew I was going to have to defend myself. I just knew it! I grabbed a butcher knife from the drain rack and backed toward the living room holding it before me, hoping they’d get the message that this was going to cost them. Then my mom came up behind me and said “Move to the side.” I did, so relieved to hear her voice.

My mom was only 5’2″ and weighed 92 pounds with bricks in her pockets. But when I glanced at her she might as well have been a linebacker for I saw her 357 held in those slender hands, leveled accurately and calmly at the face of the sandy guy. In a loud voice she said “Go away or I’ll kill you.” I remember that word “kill”. It fell in the room like a magical spell. And, they all looked up and saw her. I think the third guy (the one I never really saw) muttered something and disappeared down the steps. The dark haired guy said “Hey, we’re just trying to get in somewhere warm. No need to be hostile.” I remember that word “hostile” and his East Coast accent as he said it. I always think “manipulative” when I think of how he said it. The sandy-haired guy said the c-word and then “I bet it’s not even loaded.” Mom cocked the gun and said, loudly, “It’s a double-action, but now we’re all sure it’ll fire.” His face went white and he and the dark haired guy crowded each other down the stairs.  Mom turned the gun to the dining room window where we could see three parka-clad figures disappear into the dense fog.

Mom pushed a chair under the doorknob while I talked to the dispatcher, who had been listening to the whole thing helplessly while using another phone trying to randomly call our neighbors to get us some help (Mr. Thompson showed up with a shotgun and his wife toting a 30-30 while I was still on the phone).

The story doesn’t end there. Not too long after that, minutes probably, three men banged on the door of a cabin a few blocks west of us. The father let them in. When their intentions became clear, the family dog — a big husky — tried to defend the family, but was shot and killed with a 22 handgun. The father was beaten soundly with that handgun. His 13-year-old daughter (a classmate) was raped by all three men. Then the cabin was set on fire and the men disappeared off into the ice fog. A neighbor rescued the father and daughter. The fire department showed up. In the newspaper the next day, the father said “I wished I’d had a gun. When the dog was distracting them, I could have protected us.” Nobody was ever caught for the crime. Some of the Pitka’s belongings showed up in local pawnshops, but there was little evidence to track these men down. They got away with it.

And, the cops never showed up until the next day to take our statements.

The only difference between my mom — a 92-pound waitress — and Mr. Pitka — a sturdy laborer — was that Mom had a gun and that made her the equal of the three men in the arctic entry way. Yeah, they had a gun too, but she had the drop on them and the gun knowledge and the willingness to protect her family.

That’s why I own a gun.

Common Sense Rears Its Lovely Head (in Alaska)   Leave a comment

Alaskans are not known for being overly impressed with “how it’s done in the Lower 48”. We tend to do what we think make sense rather than what “everybody says” we should do.

The short and sweet – our legislators are seeking to re-establish our right of self-defense and to allow trained and permitted teachers to protect their students should the need ever arise.

Thank you, Alaskan Legislature. There’s a good chance with the newly configured legislature from this fall’s election that these common sense laws will be passed and Alaska can become that much safer to live in. A lot of Alaskans already carry, which keeps the bad guys on their toes, but two out of our three recorded mass shootings occurred in gun free zones and in one case, the shooter admitted the idea of low-resistance to his power was a factor in his decision to go postal.

Why Do Only the Criminals Have Guns?   Leave a comment

Here’s another gun free zone incident — armed robbery, sexual assault, nobody had a gun but the perpetrators.

Why is that? Is it because we law-abiding types all walk like little lambs into the slaughter house (hmm, gun free mall store) expecting that the sign telling the bad guys that its a gun free zone will deter them from robbing the place?

Seriously, the point of concealed carry is that nobody can tell that you’re carrying. Hard to do if you’re a small woman like me unless you carry a small handgun, like a 22, which I can unload all seven shots into the size of a quarter, and that will hurt even someone wearing Kevlar.

I’m just saying … wake up, people!

And now for the other side of the news —

When seconds count, the cops are only minutes away. This woman had backed up as far as she could go and this perpetrator was not stopping. Thank God she had a gun because I’m pretty sure she was not going to wrestle him successfully for the crow bar.

Also, when you’re reading the attached article, you’ll notice the bias — the “homeowners guns are usually used on them” spiel. It’s not true. It’s an urban myth that law enforcement and government control freaks like to bandy about, but there’s no evidence for the claim. I’ll post on that sometime soon. You all might also want to know that there are eight million concealed carry holders in this country and no cases of them losing their minds and going postal in a movie theater or school yard. I’ll also be posting on that sometime soon.

Posted January 12, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Gun control, Violence

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Alternatives to Concealed Carry   Leave a comment

Following recent shooting sprees in “gun free” zones, Homeland Security has issued a pamphlet providing tips for how to avoid death in such circumstances.

My favorites were “shouting at the assailant” and throwing objects at him/her.

I have never been in a mass shooting and pray God never to have the experience. However, I did work for a lot of years in a mental health agency with potentially dangerous clients who had access to my work area. It was a “gun free” zone. I had plans for what to do in the event of a rampage by a paranoid schizophrenic, but hiding under my desk never seemed as secure as hiding under my desk with a Glock trained at the door.

I grew up around guns. The Alaskan wilderness is not the sort of place you want to go into unarmed. You could go a very long time and never need that gun, but you don’t get any mulligans if the wildlife decides you look tasty. Last week, a trapper was attacked by a wolf. My dog has backed down a few moose with just her attitude, but my husband faced down a bear with a chain saw a couple of years ago. He was clearing land for our cabin site under a deadline from Department of Natural Resources and his employer (who wanted him back at work). He didn’t have the option of just staying away until the bear went to sleep for the winter, so he returned the next day with me packing a shot gun and the day after that with our 16-year-old daughter carrying the shot gun. Last summer, he did more work out there with our 13-year-old son carrying the shot gun. The bear has returned five times. He didn’t like the sound of my personal body alarm at first, but last summer, he was coming closer even as it was deafening us. I know people who were mauled after using bear spray. So, yeah, a shot gun and someone who can hear over the chainsaw is necessary. I was berry-picking there one day and heard something in the woods. The 357 came out of my shoulder holster, just in case. There are no mulligans if you face an Alaskan bear unarmed. Google “Johnny McCoy bear attack” if you want to know what might happen. In his case, he was harvesting a moose, but in our encounters with Mr. Grizzly, the only food he was interested in was us.

I know quite a few mentally ill people because of my former job. Some of them are the nicest people you’d ever want to meet — when they’re on their medication. But the law says they don’t have to be on their medications. They have a right to refuse to be medicated … even if they are dangerous when unmedicated. If they haven’t actually broken the law, they can’t be locked up just for being paranoid and delusional. If they do break the law, they only have to serve the same sentence as anyone else, so as soon as they get out, they can go off parole. Security in our persons is a bedrock constitutional right, so what are we going to do?

Alternatives are:

  1. Disarm as many people as possible;
  2. Put armed guards and police officers wherever people gather;
  3. Arm all the “normal” people.
  4. Option #1 won’t work! Sorry, it simply won’t. Personal ownership of guns is rare in China, but school massacres are not (see my previous post). If you can’t get a gun and you really want to kill people, you can find other methods. Anybody familiar with suicide bombers? Yeah, they don’t usually use guns. Twenty-two children were stabbed and some critically injured in China the same day as the Sandy Hook shooting. A man here in Fairbanks beat three of his roommates to death with a hammer about 15 years ago. Option #1 just leaves ordinary citizens to be victims of those who want to kill people.

Option #2 also won’t work! That’s a lot of manpower and that costs a lot of money which we don’t have. This country is broke, in case you hadn’t noticed. Plus, someone is going to fail to guard some venue, somewhere and that’s where the bad guys are going to hit. Remember, the reason why 911 happened was that nobody sane thought that flying airplanes into buildings is an effective way to kill 3000 people — until somebody did it.

Also, I don’t particularly like the idea of turning every public venue into an armed camp where admittance is only gained if you allow a stranger to feel you up, search your bags and take your name. I don’t like the idea of my kid going to school with a cop or a soldier standing at the door with a gun. Do we automatically think that the soldier or the cop is a “safe” person who would never turn that weapon on a classroom? I don’t. I live in a military town and I don’t think that is a safe assumption.

Option #3, however, would work. Look up the statistics on concealed carry. The number of incidents involving permitted concealed carriers is essentially a statistical anomaly. In the 20 years since the concealed carry movement got started, there’s been fewer than 1000 incidents in a country of 300 million people and most of those incidents have been legal use of a firearm in defense of self or others. A friend of mine carries concealed just about everywhere he goes. You’d never know it. It under his jacket and he doesn’t advertise it. He’s taken training on how and when to use his gun in some situations. I want to be sitting beside him in a movie theater when a Jim Holmes type character comes in. Yes, Jim Holmes was wearing body armor. Peter unloads a couple of shots into that vest and the shooter’s not going to be able to breathe, giving ordinary citizens a chance to disarm him. Instead of all those dead people, there’d be maybe a couple before Peter could draw, assess the situation and shoot the guy.

I don’t carry concealed simply because as a small woman, I can’t really hide a big gun, but I’m more and more thinking I want to reassess that. I’d much rather have the gun in my hand than be huddling on the floor hoping death doesn’t find me while a madman takes people out like rabbits.

Does Gun Control Really Protect Us?   Leave a comment

This is a difficult and emotionally fraught subject given recent tragic events, but the time to have this discussion is while we still have choices. Even amid heartbreaking circumstances, it’s good to remember the words of the 19th-century American statesman Daniel Webster: “A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures.”

European gun attacks

In the wake of last week’s school shooting in Newtown, Ct. there have been many renewed calls for gun control from progressive sectors. On Monday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.) announced she will introduce a bill to ban “assault weapons” and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) called on President Obama to “exploit” the killings. President Obama then announced that Vice President Biden will head a group to craft new gun control policy and that the issue will become a second-term priority. Many pro-gun Democrats, such as West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, are changing position. The progressive chorus sings that if there had only been more laws, Adam Lanza would not have been able to steal the guns that he used to kill 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School. A look at past mass killings indicates that the opposite may be true.

The Citizens Crime Commission of New York City lists 27 mass shootings (defined by the FBI as four or more victims killed) in the United States from 1984 through August 2012. When geographical location is considered, the majority of these shootings took place in states with strict gun control laws. Two of the states with the most restrictive gun control laws, Wisconsin and Illinois, were both the site of mass shootings. Two mass shootings occurred in Wisconsin. Four mass shootings took place in California, despite its extreme gun control initiatives. Connecticut was the site of two previous mass killings before Sandy Hook, even though the state’s gun laws are considered some of the toughest in the nation according to studies by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Brown University.

A common argument is that gun control fails because criminals buy weapons in states with lax gun laws. If this is true, then mass shootings should be more common in states that allow freer access to guns. In reality, many states with unrestrictive gun laws saw no mass shootings. When shootings did occur in these states, they often happened in places such as schools where guns were not allowed.  In the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting, the theater did not permit guns. In the Fort Hood, Texas shooting, soldiers were not permitted to carry weapons on base.

There is a striking similarity to the map showing locations of mass shootings and blue states from past elections. Although the comparison is not perfect, the red states across the south from Louisiana to North Carolina had no mass shootings. Likewise, the Midwest experienced few mass shootings while liberal meccas like California, Illinois, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and New York all made the list.

The failure of gun control to prevent mass shootings is even more stark when other countries are considered. Even without considering killings by organizations, mass shootings occur around the world. This is true even though the United States is one of the few countries in the world where the ownership of firearms is legal and common for civilians. In fact, of the top ten rampage killings listed on, only two occurred in the U.S.

Lists compiled by Wikipedia concur that mass shootings are not an American phenomenon. The worst mass shooting in the world occurred in Norway in 2011 when 68 people were murdered and 110 were injured by Anders Behring Breivik. Breivik also killed another eight people with a car bomb. The second worst shooting occurred in South Korea in 1982 when a man killed 62 people and wounded another 37 before committing suicide. The worst mass shooting in the Americas occurred in Bogota, Colombia in 1986 when a man used a variety of weapons to kill 30 people and injure another 15.

In one interesting case, the same man perpetrated two mass killings in Africa. He murdered 21 people with an axe in the Belgian Congo in 1954. He escaped to Tanganyika where he went on another rampage three years later, this time using a rifle as well as an axe to kill 36 people.

In Europe there have been a surprising number of mass shootings in the past few decades in spite of onerous laws against the private ownership of guns. In addition to Norway’s Anders Breivik, there were mass shootings in the United Kingdom in 1987 and 2010, Switzerland in 2001, France in 1989 and 1995, Russia in 1999, Finland in 2007 and 2008, Germany in 2002 and 2009, and Spain in 1990. In 1996, 16 kindergarteners were murdered in Scotland by a gunman who then committed suicide. Switzerland is the only European country with widespread gun ownership.

Even communist China, a literal police state where most people are not allowed to own guns, is not immune to mass shootings. A man killed 23 people and wounded 80 in Beijing before being shot by police in 1994. Other mass murders in China used other weapons. In 2001, two Chinese men killed 14 people in China with guns and knives. In Gongyi, China in 2006, 12 kindergarteners and four adults were killed with knives and a gasoline fire. A man killed seven children and two women with a meat cleaver in Xian in 2010 and in Hebei that same year, a man ran over 17 people with a tractor.

Knives and explosives have been used to kill large numbers of people on many occasions. In 1950, a man killed 22 people in India with a knife. The worst school massacre in American history occurred in 1927 when a former school board member in Bath Township, Michigan, set off three bombs that killed 45 people and wounded 58.

The worst school massacre in the world occurred in Beslan, Russia in 2004 when Chechen terrorists took 1,200 students and adults hostage. In the ensuing gun battle, 355 people were killed (not including terrorists) and more than 700 were injured.

Conversely, legal guns in the hands of citizens have prevented several massacres. Days before the Sandy Hook shooting, a concealed carry holder confronted a man who had already killed two people in a mall in Clackamas, Washington. When confronted by an armed civilian, the murderer, who showed every intention of continuing his rampage, then killed himself before he could take any more lives. In 1997, an assistant principal retrieved a pistol from his car to stop a shooting spree at Pearl High School in Mississippi. In 2002, two students used their personal guns to help end a shooting spree at the Appalachian School of Law in Virginia. In 2007, a churchgoer shot a man who had killed four people in a Colorado Springs church. A Salt Lake City gun owner stopped a man who suddenly began stabbing shoppers in a grocery store. There are many other reports of armed citizens saving lives in smaller numbers.

In spite of the perception that mass shootings are becoming more frequent, criminologists say that random shootings are not becoming more frequent. Grant Duwe, a criminologist with the Minnesota Department of Corrections and the author of a book on mass murders in America, says that mass shootings increased between the 1960s and 1990s, but have decreased since 2000 (that’s a significant date in this discussion). Duwe found mass killings in the U.S. peaked in 1929. The reality is that, in spite of the emotional impact of random killings, the majority of murder victims know their killer.

It seems that no amount of gun control, even outright bans, can effectively prevent mass shootings from occurring. In fact, by disarming legal gun owners who are often on the scene before police, strict gun control laws might often make these rampage attacks even worse.

The sad fact is that if someone is determined to commit atrocities, planning for months as did Breivik and, according to police, Mr. Holmes, it’s going to be difficult to stop him.

A broader perspective is needed. Despite this new atrocity, or other shooting sprees, gun murders of all kinds are down sharply in the past two decades. In his book, “More Guns, Less Crime,” Yale Professor John Lott attributes much of the reduction of mass shootings to the increased number of “conceal-carry” laws in the United States, in which people fairly easily are granted permits to carry concealed weapons on their persons. Of the 50 states, 41 now have such laws, up from just 16 in 1990.

Concealed-carry laws reduce crime because would-be perpetrators don’t know who among potential victims could be armed. According to FBI data, U.S. murders dropped by nearly 40 percent, to 14,478 in 2010 from 23,440 in 1990, even as the population grew by 24 percent. Of course, other factors contribute to the decline in the murder rate, but a long-term study of prisoners across the nation asked these experts in crime perpetration to explain what they fear the most — what would cause them not to commit a planned crime. The most common answer was “armed citizens”. Not cops with big artillery or the SWAT team or longer prison terms.

Criminals fear ordinary citizens with guns.

Posted December 22, 2012 by aurorawatcherak in culture, Gun control, Violence

Tagged with , ,

When Seconds Count, Cops are Just Minutes Away!   Leave a comment

In the aftermath of the school shooting in Connecticut, I think that’s a question we really ought to be asking ourselves. Connecticut has stringent gun control laws and they worked to prevent this maniac from purchasing a hand gun. It didn’t stop him from finding the means to carry out his plan anyway.

And, from my perspective, in a state with very relaxed gun laws … no, gun control laws do not protect us from gun violence!

I got the above link from a simple Google search. It shows school shooting sprees worldwide. Note that many of them are in states with stringent gun control laws and several of them are in countries with even more stringent gun control laws. Most of the shooting sprees occur in “gun free” zones — malls, schools, hospitals, movie theaters — where guns are not permitted even if the property is located in a state or community with relaxed gun laws. The three shooting sprees I am aware of in Alaska — two of them occurred in a “gun free” zone — a school in Bethel and a hospital in Soldotna. In the Manley shooting, Mike Silva was turned away from several targets of opportunity by armed citizens. I know that because I know people who lived in Manley at the time, but in researching the case for this post, I could find no mention of it in the media. Manley is a case in point for another reason, however.

There’s a saying — “When seconds count, the cops are just minutes away.”

Well, in Manley, a remote Alaskan town just barely on the road system, it took State troopers several hours to get to the location via helicopter. It turned out Mike Silva was a serial killer implicated in the disappearances of at least six people. He killed several in Manley that day and there’s every reason to believe he’d have killed everybody in the time that he had if not for the armed citizens who barred him entry to innocents.

In 2007, a mentally ill young man shot and killed several workers at a missionary organization in Colorado. He then turned up at the sponsoring church the following morning, killed two people in the parking lot and was headed for the sanctuary filled with hundreds when a church secretary with a concealed carry permit winged him. He killed himself, but she was prepared to do it for him if need be.,2933,316322,00.html

A similar incident happened at another church in Colorado this year.

At the shooting spree in an Oregon mall last month, the assailant also killed himself after he realized that a citizen had drawn his concealed weapon and was attempting to stop him.

I found at least five other examples of armed citizens ending public shooting sprees, including one of a Mississippi school administrator who went to his car to get his gun and stop the assailant. Given that most shooting sprees happen in “gun free” zones where the only option is to cower on the floor in hopes the bad guy won’t notice you, it’s pretty amazing that I found that many.

When Gabrielle Giffords was shot, two civilian men with concealed carry permits were in the area and both converged on the scene after the assailant had been subdued by physical force. Had either of them been there at the time of the shooting, they might have saved a few lives.

Many people have never been around guns. They think the problem is the gun and that it can be solved by eliminating guns. I beg to differ. Overshadowed by the Sandy Hook School shooting is a story out of China where a man stabbed 22 children and an elderly woman at a school there.

Apparently, knife attacks on school children are very common in China. Yes, the number of deaths in such knife attacks is usually lower than with shooting sprees, but let’s not pretend that a motivated killer with imagination couldn’t fashion an explosive device or drive a car into a crowd or ….

Not one of those precious children deserves to be dead and as a country we really do need to have a discussion about mental illness and school security and violence. But gun ownership is a Constitutionally guaranteed right for a reason that goes beyond hunting. They are necessary for self-defense and for defense of liberty. They could be the key to stopping such shooting sprees. All it takes is a handful of concealed carry folks in each public school and maybe we can reduce the deaths that occur to one or two rather than 26.

And, yeah, if you want to argue about it — do let’s have that discussion.


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