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Meaningful Gun Control Will Never Happen in the U.S.

  |   June 20, 2015    9:30 AM ET

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I Hate Him

David Katz, M.D.   |   June 19, 2015    1:21 PM ET

Views on god and religion vary widely, of course. My own views are likely rather transparent to those who pass this way routinely, but are immaterial either way. We may, I trust, agree -- whether we endorse a god of personal attachment, a god detached and dispersed to the far corners of the cosmos, or no god at all -- that preacher and parishioners in that church in South Carolina were worshiping principles of love and solidarity, not divisiveness and hate. Perhaps the godliness of those ideals is sufficient to make us all members of that congregation, whatever the deity, or want of same, to whom they attach.

The particular deity for that particular congregation is, of course, Jesus. Jesus taught love and mercy, compassion and connection. Famously, he renounced his perennially ill-tempered father's inclination to poke out eyes in retribution for eyes poked out, and instead- to turn the other cheek.

Reflecting on that, I hate the fact that I'm thinking surely even Jesus would by now have run out of unbloodied cheeks to turn. Surely even a wellspring of forgiveness would at some point be unwilling to forgive. What becomes of us all when every cheek is already battered?

My thoughts are drawn to that congregation, of which I pledge myself a member in ways I think matter most. I find myself drawn to those grieving families and feel the weight of their loss and pain. I hope that even this unimportant expression of our human bond and common burden lightens the load some trivial bit. I feel, fleetingly, love.

But then my thoughts turn to hate. I hate the disgraceful excuse for a human being who perpetrated this crime. I hate those who raised within his hateful soul those hateful inclinations.

I hate him, and nothing that can happen to him now is as bad as he deserves. Nothing is bad enough to satisfy.

I worry that this primacy of hate over love means he and his kind have won something. I worry that my unwillingness to find forgiveness means I am surrendering something. I worry that for evil to prevail in the world it may be enough for bad people to make good people hate.

If so, the better destiny of the world must depend on people far better than I. Because I was far away, and uninvolved, and unbloodied. And yet I was there -- and I hate him.


David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP

Director, Yale University Prevention Research Center; Griffin Hospital
President, American College of Lifestyle Medicine
Editor-in-Chief, Childhood Obesity

Founder, The True Health Coalition

Follow at: LinkedIN; Twitter; Facebook
Read at: INfluencer Blog; Huffington Post; US News & World Report;
Author: Disease Proof

Daniel Marans   |   June 19, 2015   12:34 PM ET

Gun activists have said allowing guns in church could have stopped Wednesday's killings at a Charleston, South Carolina, church, and they wasted no time blaming murdered pastor and state Sen. Clementa Pinckney (D).

In a post on gun activist website, National Rifle Association board member Charles L. Cotton argued that Pinckney was responsible for the deaths of the eight church members who died alongside him because he did not support legislative proposals that would have allowed concealed carry in churches. Cotton wrote that the victims “might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns.”


As a state senator, Pinckney had opposed a 2011 bill that would have legalized concealed carry in churches. The bill ultimately failed in the legislature.

Bryan Fischer, a conservative talk-radio host also called for concealed carry in churches in tweets Thursday, but he stopped short of blaming Pinckney.

Fischer also tauntingly used the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.

South Carolina is a “shall issue” state, meaning that state law enforcement officials must issue concealed-carry permits to residents who pass a background check and fingerprint review, as well as successfully complete a handgun education course. It does not allow concealed carry in churches or other houses of worship. However, people may bring concealed-carry weapons to churches if they receive “express permission” from church leaders.

The NRA has yet to officially respond to the Charleston church massacre. It typically does not comment on mass shootings.

Facing mounting public pressure to respond to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, the NRA called for armed guards at schools.

There is no evidence that the presence of civilians with guns limits or prevents mass shootings. A 2012 Mother Jones investigation revealed that none of the 62 mass shootings in the previous 30 years were stopped by a civilian with a gun.

Language has been added to clarify the requirements under South Carolina law for receiving a concealed-carry permit.

FOX Morning Show Needs to Go... Forever! Pastor's Packing Guns?

Steve McSwain   |   June 18, 2015    5:37 PM ET

I would never have guessed I'd be doing this: posting a reaction to Fox's Morning Show Hosts.

But, frankly, I can't help it.

Really? This is what it comes down to now? Pastors arming themselves with handguns in churches across this land?

Oh, for God's sake.

I seem to be having many "Oh, for God's sakes" reactions these days.

I've heard stupid things in my life. This ranks right up there among some of the stupid...est things I've EVER heard.

Two things here...

1. First of all, we do not know the facts yet about why this delusional, misguided young man decided to take up a firearm, enter the church, sit for some time, and then begin firing a weapon, killing innocent souls.

So, shouldn't we hesitate to jump to conclusions, as these morning show hosts do here?

They call it an "attack on faith." Is it? I don't know. I'm pretty sure nobody knows.

My own guess is, it is not. But I do not know this, maybe it is. This network seems convinced, however, as it has reported on other stories in a similar fashion, creating this myth that there is a widespread attack on faith in this country.

Really? I think not.

There is a widespread departure from faith. Scores who are leaving the Church and so it is true the Church and church leaders might feel as if they are under attack.

But a "real" attack?

I don't think so.

Christians persecuted in America? Give me a break.

I do not deny there are Christians in some places on the planet who suffer from real attacks and some are even killed, as we have seen ISIS engaging in real attacks and reported in the news over the last couple of years.

But an attack on faith in America? I think not.

Admittedly, we might learn this young man did in fact hate Christians or the Christian faith and, as a consequence, plotted to take the lives of as many as he could. I do not deny this possibility. My guess is, however, this will turn out to be race related. Now, that IS a problem in this country still, even after all these years.

But, in either instance, we do not know. My advice to these misguided television hosts, and to all of us, is that we reserve judgment until we know the facts.

2. Which leads me to my second concern. Pastor's arming themselves? Clearly, these unwise souls hosting this morning show think ministers ought to pack power to protect their flock.

Really? I don't think so.

If you do not yet know why I so seldom watch Fox News -- not that it really matters to anybody -- but this is clearly the reason why. I'm not too thrilled in fact with anything "journalistic" in the U.S. any longer and journalism was one of my principal studies in college.

I can remember feeling admiration for news reporters, as well as morning show hosts on major networks, not because they were perfect, but because they were mostly responsible. They attempted to display some measure of intelligence... even if they were not... they exercised caution at jumping to conclusions when stories broke across the world... and, generally speaking, they were persons of class, dignity, respect, and admiration.

I cannot say that about any of these broadcasters. They display no level of intelligence at all. Furthermore, they are completely irresponsible, misguided, and clearly unwise broadcasters. I don't care if they are "just morning show hosts" auditioning for ratings. They present themselves as spokespersons and intelligent-thinking people...

And, clearly, they're neither.

They certainly have no class... no wisdom... and no sense.

And, no, ministers don't need to pack. Ministers would do better to pray.

More Rage Shootings Occurred In The Last Decade

John A. Tures   |   June 18, 2015    3:48 PM ET

At the end of the spring semester, my students had a Skype session with students from North Ireland, to talk about each other's politics in their country. "Do you have any questions for our students?" the moderator, our former mayor, asked of our North Ireland guests.

"Are any of ye armed?" came the reply.

Follow-up questions about the number of shootings that occur in America continued. It echoed a time three years earlier, when I attended an international conference on terrorism in England. The organizer paused at the beginning so all of the delegates from more than two dozen countries could express their condolences to the Americans present, especially a professor from the University of Denver, because the night before was when the tragic shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado occurred.

Now, as the Charleston, South Carolina church killings occurred, people are accurately depicting what the killing was: a hate crime, and part of an element of domestic terrorism. Whether it's a lone wolf or an organized group matters little to the victims.

Are these types of rampage shootings on the rise, or does it just seem that way?

To determine this, I analyzed cases where five or more individuals were killed by gunfire in a narrow time frame. I did not mention the shooters in this column, because none of them really deserve to have their name mentioned again, as attention seeking is a partial motivation.

From 1983 to 1993, there were five such shootings, occurring at a McDonald's near San Diego, California in 1984, a postal station in Edmond, Oklahoma in 1986, a family massacre at Russellville, Arkansas in 1987, killings in Jacksonville, Florida and the tragic killings at Luby's Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas.

Between 1994 and 2004, the time when there were restrictions on certain types of guns, and more powers for law enforcement, there were two spree shootings: the killings at Columbine High School, and a day trader engaged in workplace violence at an Atlanta, Georgia suburb.

From 2005 to 2015, there were 10 such violent killings by a shooter. Such places of tragedy include Virginia Tech in 2007, Binghamton, New York in 2009, as well as a series of locations in Alabama in that same year, the Ft. Hood, Texas shootings of 2009, the killing of people at Rep. Gabby Giffords' campaign event in 2011, the hate crime killings at Oak Creek in Wisconsin in 2012, the Aurora Movie Theater massacre in 2012, the Newtown School shootings at Sandy Hook in 2012, the Washington, D.C. Navy Yards killings in 2013, and now the Emanuel AME church carnage yesterday evening. It supports what's been found by the Journalists Foundation.


While a majority of gun owners do not favor a return to an assault weapons ban, 60 percent favor having a federal database to track gun sales, while 85 percent prefer background checks for private and gun show sales, and 90 percent want laws to prevent mentally ill people from purchasing guns. Clearly, there's more support for restricting dangerous people from getting such guns. This is according to a Pew Research Center survey. Maybe it is a good time to enact legislation that even a majority of gun owners want.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at

The Question That Could Save Your Child's Life

Claire McCarthy, M.D.   |   June 18, 2015   11:12 AM ET

This Sunday, June 21st, isn't just Father's Day. It's National Ask Day -- a day to pledge to always ask a question that could save your child's life:

Is there an unlocked gun where my child plays?

Here are a few scary facts:

  • 1 in 3 homes with children have guns, many left unlocked and loaded
  • 3 in 4 kids ages 5-14 know where firearms are stored in the home
  • 80 percent of unintentional firearm deaths of kids happen in a home

This isn't about gun rights. This is about simple safety.

When your child goes to play at someone's house, you should ask, "Is there a gun at your house?"

If the answer is yes, ask how it is stored. To be most safe, the gun should be locked up, unloaded, with the ammunition locked separately. If that's how the family stores their guns, you're good. If it's not, well, maybe it might be better to play elsewhere.

Kids are unpredictable - -and don't always make the safest decisions. There's nothing we can do to change that -- but we can help to make the places they play safe for them.

I get that it could feel a little bit awkward. But hey, as this video below points out, parenthood is full of awkward moments. Saving a life seems worth managing an awkward moment.

So if you don't ask already, celebrate Father's Day by pledging to ask. Always.

What a Public Health Approach to Gun Violence Would Look Like

Sean Palfrey MD   |   June 17, 2015    1:21 PM ET

Guns are this country's second most deadly preventable public health menace (second only to car accidents). Firearm injuries and death have caused untold suffering, pain and death in the U.S. We have the democratic and political means to eliminate gun violence, and, based on supremely effective, well-established methods, we can. It is time that our country took the necessary steps.

Using centuries-old techniques to improve health outcomes, physicians and health professionals have lowered the rates of many deadly infectious diseases by instituting careful, data-driven, broadly-instituted approaches like hand-washing, universal vaccination, and food and drug quality laws. Some illnesses which have killed billions of people and changed the course of wars, like smallpox, have been completely eliminated. Similarly, automobile injuries have been vastly decreased by the use of seatbelts, falls from windows decreased by the use of window guards, lower lung cancer rates by regulations on smoking and taxation of tobacco products.

We need to consider firearms and bullets as pathogens, similar to the smallpox virus and its disease, smallpox. Gun injuries fall into three categories, intentional (criminal), accidental, and self-inflicted. All are at intolerable levels in this country, vastly higher than those in any other economically advanced country in the world. All are preventable through steps which parallel the medical advances mentioned above, but it will take a serious, nation-wide program to eliminate injuries from firearms and ammunition.

This could be started in a stepwise, local, data-driven, democratic process, led by those communities that are most pro-active. In medicine, we use tools called SCAMPS ("Standardized Clinical Assessment and Management Plans") which treat groups of people, like those living in communities across the country, and through a process of stepwise interventions, evaluation of results, and successive changes in the details of approach, create impressive improvements in outcome.

Using a similar approach for gun violence, communities around this country could vote to establish site-specific, enforceable local ordinances, such as firearm-free blocks, zip-codes, towns or cities. If, after a year, for instance, the firearm-related injuries and deaths dropped, other regions could be incorporated, through the electoral process, to institute similar ordinances. In order to gather accurate data, all health departments, through their police, physicians, ambulances and emergency rooms, would be required to gather and publicize such information. Communities could choose the strictness of their bans and the size and description of their zones, but a continuous voting cycle, informed by the data collected, would be scheduled yearly or whatever was chosen. Through this process, if one method of decreasing gun-related violence was shown to be superior to others, the zones would steadily increase in size and new techniques could be tried and added.

Such a consistent, progressive process has shown itself powerful enough to eliminate worldwide plagues and pestilence, and it can work to eliminate firearm violence. But it has to be instituted on a large enough scale to work. There are many communities in this country that are devastated, having lost children or other family members from gun-violence. If only one household chooses to ban guns, but their neighbors do not, or the community does not enforce the ban, no progress is made. This method works when put in place and enforced on a continuous, ever-enlarging community-wide basis.

Some gun owners believe that local gun bans would place their non-gun-carrying members at greater risk. The only way to know is to study it this way. Current gun-owners would be allowed to keep their guns in gun shops, armories, or police stations for use in agreed-upon areas outside of the gun-free zones. A community could vote to try variations on any theme they felt worth studying, such as keeping guns locked in homes with no ammunition in a community, or keeping only guns with personally identified triggering mechanisms, but the goal is to steadily apply all approaches that decreased the rate of gun violence. In this way, public health can react to gun violence not by attaching itself to general, society-wide legislative responses, but through instituting and managing a public health strategy itself.

Which Illinois Counties Have the Most Concealed Carry Permits?

Reboot Illinois   |   June 16, 2015    2:55 PM ET

Illinois became the last state in the union to legalized the carrying of concealed weapons nearly two years ago. The Illinois State Police began issuing concealed carry licenses to residents in the spring of 2014.

The Illinois State Police provided Reboot Illinois with the latest statistics on the number of concealed carry licenses that have been issued by county, including the number of active, denied, suspended and revoked licenses. As of June 6, 2015, there were a total of 113,732 active concealed carry licenses.

Here's a look at which counties have the most concealed carry license holders per 1,000 people, along with the total number of active, denied, revoked and suspended licenses.

Here are 10 counties with some of the most concealed carry licenses per 1,000:

25. Marion County - 16.85

  • Active - 650
  • Denied - 0
  • Revoked - 1
  • Suspended - 0

24. Crawford County - 17.33

  • Active - 336
  • Denied - 2
  • Revoked - 0
  • Suspended - 1

23. Douglas County - 17.35

  • Active - 345
  • Denied - 2
  • Revoked - 2
  • Suspended - 1

22. Tazewell County - 17.41

  • Active - 2,363
  • Denied - 11
  • Revoked - 7
  • Suspended - 1

21. Grundy County - 17.45

  • Active - 880
  • Denied - 9
  • Revoked - 0
  • Suspended - 0

20. Alexander County - 17.62

  • Active - 132
  • Denied - 0
  • Revoked - 0
  • Suspended - 0

19. Woodford County - 18.60

  • Active - 729
  • Denied - 2
  • Revoked - 1
  • Suspended - 1

18. Wabash County - 18.62

  • Active - 215
  • Denied - 0
  • Revoked - 0
  • Suspended - 0

17. Franklin County - 18.88

  • Active - 744
  • Denied - 2
  • Revoked - 0
  • Suspended - 0

16. Clark County - 19.16

  • Active - 310
  • Denied - 4
  • Revoked - 0
  • Suspended - 0

Check out Reboot Illinois to see which 15 counties have the most licenses and which 25 counties have the fewest concealed carry licenses per 1,000 people.

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Why Gun Manufacturers Are in Serious Financial Trouble

John A. Tures   |   June 16, 2015   11:39 AM ET

If gun sales are supposedly "red hot," why are gun manufacturers struggling, even filing for bankruptcy? The answers include a gun glut and long-term trends in gun ownership in America.

There's a continuous media mantra that gun sales are going through the roof. Well, they may have had a little boomlet after the 2012 Newtown shootings. But with Colt filing for bankruptcy, and other gun manufacturers reporting huge declines in sales and falling stock, it's clear that Americans aren't going as gun crazy as people think.

On June 15, Political Scientist Robert Spitzer of SUNY Cortland wrote the column "Why assault rifle sales are booming." It wasn't a pro-gun essay. He used arguments such as fears of Obama, the temptation of "forbidden fruit" and even the old Freudian "male sexuality" pleasure of firing a gun.


I became a little suspicious when Spitzer didn't report or cite any statistics on the subject. I became a little more suspicious when I read the next day that Colt, the well-known gun manufacturer, is filing for bankruptcy, reporting losses of $500 million, equal to the value of all the company's assets. And the company had to get an emergency loan from Morgan Stanley last year, so this isn't just a 2015 thing.

Foreign Policy Magazine tried to pass this off as soldiers and cops not liking Colt guns. That may be the case, but "declining demand" was cited as another reason for Colt's woes.

And it's not just Colt that's going down the drain. Sturm, Ruger's sales are dropping dramatically. So are Smith & Wesson's (number two in the industry), which has falling sales which are leading to dropping stock prices. It's a similar story for gun stores, as one Georgia business reported difficulties with even giving an AR away.

What happened? In all cases, that short-lived spike in gun sales from the post-Newtown era was to blame. Gun companies kept producing and producing, while retailers mortgaged their future to meet a demand that, quite frankly, was not really a permanent feature of the landscape. And folks may be switching to handguns and preferences for concealed carry permits.

Of course, there are still background checks going on. But don't mistake that number for more households owning guns. In fact, as I showed earlier this year, the number of households owning a gun is far less than what it was in 1974.

Now there are some folks that are stockpiling all kinds of guns. After discussing this column with a colleague, he proceeded to show me pics of his eight guns. "Just got three more this week," he told me. And you can do that. In fact, with this massive gun glut, it's like Christmas for the gun collector (like this colleague). Preppers can get a little more prepped these days.

Yet, folks are starting to realize that Barack Obama is not going to organize Jade Helm 15 to lock all conservatives in FEMA Death Camps in the basement of Wal-Marts or in the Michigan or Arkansas countryside (and yes, I've received those emails too). Assault weapons are not about to be eliminated across this country. But gun manufacturers will have a lot to be concerned about because the firearms issue isn't just an ideology. It is, after all, a business as well.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at

What Are the Best Ways to Survive When Someone Is Shooting at You?

Quora   |   June 15, 2015    8:56 PM ET

What should I do if someone is chasing me and trying to shoot me?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.


Answer by Justin Freeman, Former Patrol Officer

If you're on foot, you're obviously going to be running, but you need to do so smartly.

  • Your instinct will be to run directly away from the attacker, since a direct line is the shortest; however, you need to fight this tendency and make random cuts in your flight pattern. A moving target is fairly hard to hit, but if you're running in a straight line it's much easier, since you only have to correct one aspect of the aim if you miss.
  • Don't run in a simple zigzag pattern, or in any other predictable way. In order to hit a moving target, a shooter is going to have to "lead" you with the gun, swinging it ahead of where you are to where he or she thinks you'll be. If it's impossible to know this, you will be that much harder to hit.
  • Make use of concealment and cover as much as possible. Concealment is anything that obscures your body, but won't necessarily stop a bullet; cover is a barrier that is reasonably bullet resistant. If there are trees, shrubs, buildings, vehicles, or anything else around, work them into your flight pattern and get them between you and the shooter.
  • Try to head toward a place of safety. If there is any kind of police presence nearby, that's obviously your first choice. If not, any kind of governmental building, then any corporate or public center that might have security, then any accessible space you can access and secure behind you.
  • Failing all that, see if you can find cover just long enough to call 911 or your local equivalent. Stop just long enough to dial, then keep going. You're going to be long on panic and short on oxygen, but if your attacker has fired any shots there is a very short phrase you must get out clearly: "Active shooter at [your location]." If they're just armed and in pursuit of you, then "Man/Woman with a gun at [location]."
  • Addresses with numerics are best (5874 South Main), then intersections (Main and First), but any landmark you can get out will suffice. An active shooter call from an out of breath caller will get the cavalry rolling hot.
  • If you can find more cover, try to update dispatch - they're going to be ravenous for more information. Try to tell them your direction of travel, the type of gun involved (handgun, rifle, or shotgun at minimum, but more detail if you're certain of what you're talking about), and the suspect's description. If the suspect is wielding anything bigger than a pistol, please let dispatch know as soon as you can. Shotguns will change tactical response, and ballistic vests don't stop rifle rounds, so responding officers need to know about these before they get there.
  • Tied to the above, know your weapon. First, this is a shotgun; note the thumping report.

Then, a bolt action rifle. Most will have scopes as shown below, but you're frankly quite unlikely to be getting shot at with this - and if you are, the shooter is likely stationary, anyway:

Then, a pistol, which is by far the most likely weapon you'll be fleeing. Note the cracking report. This is a Glock 17 9mm, which is what I carried on the street:

And then, of course, we all know what automatic weapons look and sound like. If you're personally getting chased by someone with an automatic rifle, you probably don't need any advice from me.

  • As police arrive, try to find a place to keep your head down, and follow dispatch's directions regarding what to do from this point.

If you're in a vehicle, this is probably going to be an easier process:

  • In the case of an active shooter in their own car chasing you, drive as quickly as you safely can to a police station as you dial 911. I emphasize safely, because if you wreck out you're going to be stuck in an immobilized metal box while your attacker quickly closes distance.
  • Try to keep your head down as much as possible, but, again, safely - don't let the dashboard obstruct your vision.
  • Don't put effort into swerving like you would on foot. There are so many factors that make hitting you incredibly difficult (inability to fire down line of sight, lateral movement, divided attention, propensity of bullets to glance off of angled back glass, and on and on) that you don't need to risk losing control just to introduce one more.
  • If you don't know where a police station is, find a major highway and try to keep your distance. Whatever you do, don't wander into residential areas - you never know when you're going to hit a cul-de-sac or loop that's going to block you in or put you face to face with your assailant.
  • Like above, follow dispatch's instruction - they're going to put you on a path to be intercepted by responding officers.

Obviously, this will be a unique and dynamic situation. You're usually going to know, based on the situation, what you need to do to stay as safe as possible; if you can do this for 1-3 minutes (probably the top end of Code Three response time in a metropolitan area), you should have a police officer between you and your attacker.

More questions on Quora:

Ryan Grenoble   |   June 3, 2015    7:12 PM ET

A Georgia man openly carried a fully loaded AR-15 semiautomatic rifle into Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the busiest in the world.

Jim Cooley was armed with the weapon -- complete with an extended capacity 100-round drum -- when he went to drop his daughter off for a flight last Friday. Following the enactment of new state legislation in 2014, it's actually legal to carry a rifle in the open in the airport, so long as the holder doesn't attempt to pass through airport security.

Multiple police officers approached Cooley while he was in the airport and asked about the weapon, after which he replied he was carrying it for safety. Officers can be heard talking with Cooley in videos of the interactions he later uploaded to YouTube.

"You have quite a few people afraid because calls are coming in left and right," an officer tells Cooley in one of the videos. "People's fears are not my responsibility," he replies. "If you're detaining me, then I'm going to have to file a lawsuit."

Cooley tells the same officer in another video that she "shouldn't even be talking" to him about the rifle.

In yet another video, Cooley accuses three officers who followed him outside of "harassment," telling them they "didn't even have the right to approach me." The officer responds by calmly encouraging him to contact an attorney if he feels slighted.

Asked by ABC affiliate WSBTV on Tuesday if people should do something just because they legally can, Cooley said he was just exercising his rights as a gun owner.

"If you don't exercise your rights," he said, "the government doesn't have any hesitation to take them away."

Taking Aim at Mindfulness

Arthur Rosenfeld   |   June 2, 2015   11:02 PM ET

As shocking as it may be to hear from a Taoist monk, I've loved target shooting since I was a boy. Well, perhaps given China's history of warrior monks, it's not all that shocking. Simplicity is inherent in target practice; a rifle or pistol manufactured to tight tolerances, an inanimate target, and a fascination with accuracy are all that's required.

Yet because I eschew the mainstream of American gun culture -- particularly that segment of it that is allied with acts of violence, fantasies about violence and a celebration of urban gang culture and of war -- I am presented with a conundrum of sorts. Is it okay to love shooting but hate killing? I think the answer is yes, and one of the ways I reconcile my feelings is to avoid any gun that is designed to do anything but punch paper. After all, weapons conceived and constructed for the purpose of taking life have no place in a Taoist home.

So, I treat my target pistols the way I treat the traditional Chinese edged weapons that are an essential part of my practice of the martial art of tai chi. When it comes to spears and swords and such, I re-purpose them to be the equivalent of plowshares, cultivating freedom from emotional bondage and behavioral limitations instead of cultivating crops, and helping my students to do the same. When it comes to my target pistols, I use them as meditation tools. This approach allows me to reconcile my actions with my beliefs. Once a week, I choose to be alone with my thoughts, the feel of my finger pad upon the trigger, the reassuring sound of my breathing, and the sight of the paper bullseye downrange.

The other day, I found myself with a few boxes of ammunition and a paper target replete with 16 tiny black circles with red centers. I set up the target downrange, and began shooting. I began putting ten shots inside each of the black circles, moving from left to right. When I finished a row, I began a new one. The type of target I use turns color when you hit it, so that it is possible to see the hole, with a little work, even at a distance. My goal was not only to hit the bullseye but also to group the bullets as close to each other as possible.

I was about halfway through the targets when I suddenly realized that my shooting had acquired a compulsive quality. Glancing from time to time at the bullets I had left, I had become more interested in working my way through what ammunition remained than in paying attention to the shot I was taking. In other words, instead of enjoying the moment of focus, breath, aim, and trigger press, I was thinking of the shot to come. In a sense, it was a consumer activity. I went out, bought the bullets, and then shot them. I was turning money into lead, and lead into waste, merely for the momentary gratification of repeatedly tensing and relaxing, all without deeper meaning.

This urge to constantly, and repeatedly, gratify ourselves is what drives our consumer economy and our emotional culture too. We mine the Earth for elements, we turn those into constructs, we consume the constructs, and then we excrete them. Shopping, spending, and acquiring, all address a deep emotional hunger, but offer only illusory sustenance, scratching an itch that arises from a failure of our philosophy.

While on-the-fly ordering trains us to expect the immediate gratification of next or same-day delivery, Internet surfing trains our brain to skim and jump. That's why more and more people find it difficult to sustain the concentration reading a book requires, while yearning for exactly the quietude and deeper focus such a read supplies. We are losing the ability to enjoy the moment, losing our ability to immerse ourselves in a story, and to critically examine what we're doing and what we are told. This makes us easy prey for those who would sway and manipulate us, a fact that has not been lost on media, politicians, and corporations.

So, I put down my pistol and took a long breath. Then I raised the gun again, and engaged the silent mantra, "there is no moment but this, there is no shot but this one." When I was ready, I pressed the trigger so gently that when the gun discharged, it surprised me. Then I repeated the performance, and again, and again, and again. When I drew my eye away from the sights and had a look at the target, I had put five bullets through a single hole.

How much of our time could have this be-here-now quality? Perhaps much more of it, if we make the effort to concentrate, meditate, slow down, and be honest with ourselves about our habits and our motivations. Achieving present-moment awareness -- trendily referred to as "mindfulness" these days -- is actually the key to contentment, and deeper awareness. It is also the antidote to apathy, and to the sort of environmentally and spiritually destructive consumerism that keeps us running and spending without ever feeling satisfied.

Does this mean you should take up target shooting? I suppose you could, but you can also train your attention using mind and body exercises like archery, yoga, or of course, tai chi. Take the time to think about this. Right now, in this very moment.

Gun Violence Awareness Day Shows NRA Is Losing the Culture War

Mike Weisser   |   June 1, 2015    1:01 PM ET

Right after the Sandy Hook massacre we were treated to a rant from Wayne-o in which the head of the NRA blamed gun violence, among other things, on "a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life." He then castigated "media conglomerates" for bringing murder and violence as entertainment motifs into every American home. In defending gun ownership following this horrendous event, the NRA found it expedient and effective to rally its troops around the idea that popular culture and gun culture don't mix.

I think that June 2, touted as Gun Violence Awareness Day, may mark a true turning-point in the argument about guns. The pro-gun community can lobby all it wants for laws that make it easier to own or carry guns, but fewer gun restrictions won't really matter if the country's dominant culture becomes anti-gun. And while the NRA has been promoting gun ownership as their response to the "culture wars," the millennial culture that is emerging and will define the country appears to be solidly anti-gun.

How can I say that when recent opinion polls indicate that a majority of Americans believe that guns make America a safer place? I'll tell you why. First, the surveys which ask Americans if guns make them safer also show that less than a majority actually own guns. Second, despite the Obama-driven spike in gun sales, the industry has not managed to penetrate new demographics such as women and minorities; most guns and ammunition sold in the last few years went to the same-old, same-old who bought those guns for the same reason that gun sales have spiked at other times, namely, the fear of losing their guns. Finally and most important, the social and political views of millennials are completely at odds with the socio-demographic profile of the gun-owning population, and as millennials become the dominant generation, this could have dire consequences for the health and even survival of the gun industry as a whole.

According to Pew, a majority of millennials support gay rights, less than a majority are patriotic, only one-third are religious and they voted Obama in 2012. As for Boomers, who buy and own most of the guns, they don't support gays, they are fiercely patriotic, a majority are religious and they split their vote evenly in 2012. What these numbers tell me is that over the next twenty years, the gun industry better come up with a wholly different argument for owning guns.

Gun Violence Awareness Day, as reported ruefully by Brietbart and other pro-gun blogs, garnered support from movie, song and media personalities like Russell Simmons, Aasif Mandvi, Padma Lakshmi, Amanda Peet, Tunde Adebimpe and many, many more. I'm actually a pre-boomer, and I don't have the faintest idea who any of these people are. But I do know the celebs who show up each year at the NRA shindig; guys like Chuck Norris and Ollie North. Wow -- talk about young, hip and cool.

Another master-stroke in planning this event was using orange to build identity and awareness for the folks who get involved. Orange, or blaze orange as it is known, has always been worn by hunters and many states require it for anyone goes out after game. Brady and Shannon's Moms, among other organizations, have lately moved into the safety space which was owned lock, stock and barrel by the NRA. Guess who now shares and could soon own that space?

Until recently, the playing field where gun violence arguments played out was controlled by the NRA. But right now the field is tilting the other way. And notice how millennial culture has no problem attaching the word 'violence' to the word 'guns.' This alone should make the NRA wonder if their message can win or even compete for hearts and minds. The NRA always assumed that gun owners would defend their guns while everyone else just sat by. After June 2, I wouldn't want to take that assumption to the bank.

Guns N' Roses

Renee Fisher   |   May 27, 2015   11:08 AM ET

Last week, the floodgates of listerv mayhem were unleashed when it became known that a gun shop was coming into Life in the Boomer Lane's quiet middle-class and decidedly liberal Democrat-majority neighborhood. Emails began flying back and forth with more speed than tiger-stripe mosquitoes exhibit when LBL is sitting on her front porch in the evening. Opinions were all over the map, with the extremes being, "I will throw my body across the threshold of the store to prevent anyone gaining entry," to, "Thank goodness our neighborhood will finally have a living example of what makes this country great."

The gun emporium will occupy the space vacated by a women's gym and will join several popular mom and pop businesses along the strip: a restaurant, a flower and gift shop, an art framing store and a hair and nail salon.

Life in the Boomer Lane has, for the most part, stayed away from this hotbed of controversy. But she admits that this recent reminder of the penchant for Americans to own and carry firearms calls for some explanation. She hereby gives it to you.

A note to readers: LBL writes satiric humor. She takes topics to their ridiculous extremes. While this blog is open to anyone who has nothing better to do than to read marginally amusing content, LBL requests that she not be subjected to comments with all of the reasons why gun ownership is the most important right we have ever had in the history of the planet. She has heard it all before. The NRA does a much better job than you do of promoting gun ownership in this country.

She hereby publicly states that your penchant for firearms doesn't mean that you don't love your children and grandchildren and pets. It doesn't mean that you aren't kind to your mother and remember her on Mother's Day. It doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt your heart when you have to kill insects in your home. It doesn't mean that you aren't a law-abiding, responsible person who gives money to those people who stand on medium strips with signs and money jars. In other words, LBL thinks you are probably a good, decent, caring person who she would be perfectly happy to have to dinner, but not to run into in a dark alley some evening.

When God created the United States with the help of a bunch of white dudes, he gave us the right to bear arms. This was because we didn't have a national army, so we had to depend on local militias of loyal citizens armed with squirrel guns. After awhile, when we beat the Brits, we didn't need a militia anymore, since we created a real army. That said, there were a lot of people living in places in which they actually needed rifles in order to put food on the table.

A national gun lobby was created shortly thereafter, to make sure that people got to keep their guns. Their original motto was "If It Was Good Enough for God, It's Good Enough For Us." Because Americans were chosen by God to have their own country, and because they are extremely plucky and creative, they took God's word at face value and started assembling arsenals of assault weapons in their homes. Soon, America became a country of loyal, gun-toting citizens, who justified their ownership of assault weapons as a natural and logical extension of owning a rifle to use during deer hunting season, or protecting their suburban homes from foreign marauders or anyone else of whom God didn't approve.

This all worked pretty well until people, including a popular Conservative President of the United States and a lot of school children, started to get shot at. A few misguided folks started making noises that maybe it wasn't such a great idea that there were so many guns around that were accessible to everyone at a moment's notice.

While all this was going on, gun ownership continued to rise, and loyal citizens started to pack heat. Gun manufacturers and gun distributors made a lot of money and had a lot of gun shows. Now, one-third of Americans have guns in their homes. One online gun emporium announces that they sell "finely-tuned fighting machines for use against all enemies foreign and domestic."

While LBL knows that the above is a corruption of the wording in the U.S. oath of office pledge "defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic," she isn't quite sure what this means in this case, since most people aren't allowed to toss their own finely-tuned fighting machines into a suitcase and fly to wherever it is that foreign enemies live. And the domestic variety, unless they are actively engaged in enemy-defining behavior, are pretty darn hard to recognize.

Depending on which source you read, we are either at the top of the international heap in gun ownership and pretty close to the top in murder rate (i.e.: more guns equals more violent crime) or we aren't. Research on the side of "we are" is abundant. Research on the other side is either endorsed by the NRA or funded by the Crime Prevention Research Center, an objective group founded by John Lott, a popular gun rights enthusiast.

The debate would have been quelled a long time ago, but it continues to rage, thanks to being funded by the gun lobby. LBL suspects that if there weren't a very large buck to be made (and shot at, on occasion), most gun sales would revert back to hunting rifles and whatever is used for target practice.

If the NRA were being honest, they would stop all this nonsense about second amendment rights and adopt the following motto: "Guns are probably really bad, but we sure do like them." (With slight modification, this tag line could also be used for industries selling cigarettes, sugar, bacon cheeseburgers and gasoline.)