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9 Gun Arguments That Need to Be Disarmed (Part 1)

Sam Corey   |   December 6, 2015    1:40 PM ET

The horrors of mass shootings have shocked America so frequently, it is left in a state of paralysis when trying to properly address this issue.

The latest killing spree occurred last week in San Bernardino County, CA. as U.S.-born Syed Rizwan Farook and Pakistan national Tashfeen Malik, donned in tactical attire, heavily armed, and carrying an arsenal of ammunition and pipe bombs in their Redlands home, shot up Inland Regional Center, a facility for disabled people.

As Malik pledged allegiance to Islamic State in a Facebook post, the couple killed 14 people and wounded 21 more, most of them county employees.

It's at least the second high-profile mass shooting in a week. Just days before, a man shot several people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, killing three, including a police officer.

Yet again, America is left to grapple with another gruesome, gun-driven carnage and debate when is the appropriate time to have a serious conversation about this issue that is claiming too many innocent lives.

Although gun violence and household gun ownership in the U.S. is facing a gradual decline, half of the 12 deadliest shootings in the country occurred after 2007, and active shootings (defined as "an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area") have increased from an average of 6.4 per year between 2000-2006 to 16.4 per year between 2007-2013.

Americans aren't calling for an end to our cherished 2nd Amendment Rights.

However, at the very least, sensible, responsible gun owners, concerned parents and everyday citizens just want a reasonable discussion on how we can curb this senseless, depraved bloodshed without impeding our ability to self-protect.

But each gun casualty triggers an outburst from our sensationalist media, detached politicians and hardline gun enthusiasts, whose erotic passion for assault weapons not only borders on ammosexuality, but also makes reform grossly improbable.

Americans seeking modest regulations have sunk into a constant state of blasé cynicism as zealous defenders fire off cliche, regurgitated gun-rights talking points, as their trigger-pulse reactions are as automatic as the guns they defend.

Many of these predominant arguments have no basis in reality, as we continue to talk in circles, spinning like a bullet in the chamber of a Colt 45.

If Americans want to reach a middle ground where gun violence is less frequent and our Constitutional rights left intact, here are the most common gun perceptions that need to be shot down.

The first two will target gun arguments that are either factually incorrect or simply defy reality

1. "More Guns Make Us Safe"

This age-old rationale is grounded in the belief that if everyone owns a gun, no one will want to shoot each other because someone will return fire on them. However, any empirical research that tracks the correlation between gun ownership and gun violence reveals the exact opposite.

This chart from the Guardian's Simon Rogers, shows America far and away leads other developed countries when it comes to gun-related homicides, with six times as many as Canada and 15 times as many as Germany.

Extensive reviews of the research by the Harvard School of Public Health's Injury Control Research Center suggest the U.S. is an massive outlier on gun violence because its gun ownership is starkly higher than any other developed nation.

This statistic isn't just exclusive to America; this chart from Tewsbury Lab reveals any developed country with higher gun ownership experiences increased rates of gun violence.

Additionally, Mother Jones assembled a chart revealing states with more guns tend to have far more gun deaths. This is supported by data from a study in Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

David Hemenway, the Harvard Injury Control Research Center's director, wrote in Private Guns, Public Health"Within the United States, a wide array of empirical evidence indicates that more guns in a community leads to more homicide."

Turns out giving people the capability of killing each other leads to more violence, who would've thought?

2. "Chicago Has Strict Gun Laws and the Most Gun Violence"

The Windy City has become the go-to punching bag for gun-control opponents, citing its alarmingly high crime rate and strict gun laws.

This is true: In 2013, 414 people were killed in Chicago; with more than 80 percent of those deaths attributed to gun violence.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the number of people shot in Chicago so far this year is at least 2,300 -- or about 84.5 per 100,000 residents. New York City has seen 1,041 so far in 2015 -- 12.3 per 100,000 people.

However, while Chicago has a troublesome murder rate, it isn't the most dangerous city in America: it ranks 10th in murders per 100,000 people (metropolitan area); 14th in murders per 100,000 people (city only); and 10th in murders per 100,000 people (gun crimes only), according to a 2010 and 2011 FBI Crimes Report and CDC's Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Report.

But gun-rights activists neglect the more nuanced propellants of Chi-Town's gun violence:

  • Chicago's homicides have taken place mostly in neighborhoods in the west and south of the city, where high rates of poverty and unemployment are prevalent.

  • Chicago has an extreme poverty rate of nearly 10 percent, with more than 260,000 households living in extreme poverty (i.e. $10,000 or less for a family of three in 2012).

  • High school graduation rate for black males in Chicago is 39 per cent and a staggering 92 per cent of all black males aged 16-19 were unemployed in 2012.

Poverty and gun violence seem to be inexorably linked, as these despotic environments present a bleak socio-economic future for those who toil in systemic oppression, who have nowhere to turn to but daily violence in order to make ends meet.

USA Today reports Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Montana have the highest gun violence rates by states, but also place in the top half of the nation in poverty rates (besides Alaska) and all don't require a permit to buy a handgun.

The article states, "Economic factors also appear to be related to firearm deaths. The poverty rate in eight of the 10 states with the most gun violence was above the national rate of 15.8%. Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Arkansas, the states with the four highest poverty rates in the country, were among the states with the most gun violence."

Additionally, "Educational attainment rates also tended to be lower in states with the most gun violence. The share of adults with at least a bachelor's degree was lower than the national rate of 29.6% in all 10 states on this list."

Additionally, the three cities with the highest homicide rates (Detroit, New Orleans and St. Louis) are all prohibited by state law to enact any new gun ordinances. They also have poverty rates considerable higher than the national average: Detroit's poverty rate stands at 38 percent, 27 percent in New Orleans (as of 2013) and 29.3 percent in St. Louis (as of 2014).

It's no coincidence that gun violence thrives in impoverished areas lacking in social and economic mobility.

Dororthy Stoneman, founder and CEO of Youth Build, Inc., offered her opinion on curbing gun violence by reducing poverty, citing her organization's programs in improving these communities through building strong networks and a loving, supportive community while providing a pathway to education and a decent-paying job.

It's strange how offering broken people a hope of a better future makes them more likely to pursue their ambitions rather than violence.


The second part of this series will scope in on three arguments that are misguided.

Do Americans Worship Guns?

Rudy Koshar   |   December 6, 2015   11:11 AM ET

In 1996 after a 43-year-old man with 4 handguns murdered 16 children and a teacher at a school in Dunblane, Scotland, the British government reacted with a ban on private ownership of automatic weapons and handguns on Britain's mainland. That legislation still enjoys widespread public support. The contrast with U.S. legislators' know-nothing, do-nothing response to mass gun violence could not be greater. One wonders why.

In the same New York Times article that looked back at the Scottish example, Samuel Walker, professor emeritus at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska, commented that many Americans have an entirely different attitude toward guns than most other people around the world. Our autistic response to gun violence "reflects the worship of guns," he argued, and our treatment of guns as "a religious object."

Reading that quotation, I thought of a classic statement on commodities as religious fetishes from a source I occasionally use as required reading in my courses on modern European social history. In his magnum opus Capital, Karl Marx once wrote that in the nineteenth century commodities exerted an unnatural power over people. Everyday objects seemed like something from "the mist-enveloped regions of the religious world." It was as if they were "independent beings endowed with life," not unlike the natural fetishes of ancient civilizations in which--I quote from the Penguin Dictionary of Symbols--"shells, pebbles, pieces of wood, excrement" could possess magical powers over people.

Many gun-owning Americans would probably react with skepticism or outright anger to this suggestion. They would argue guns are a legitimate form of self-defense in an unfortunately violent society. They would argue guns are part of a family tradition, handed down responsibly and faithfully from generation to generation. They would point to how American frontier history was closely associated with guns as tools of everyday life. And others would recoil against the term "fetishism" itself, which in contemporary usage is inaccurately equated with sexual fetishism or perversion.

Yet there is much evidence around the country that guns do indeed command an authority usually reserved for sacred objects. Recently a pro-gun website,, featured an article by Dan Zimmerman that began with the following passage: "Most people purchase guns as fetish items." Zimmerman went on to argue gun owners should not only admit they fetishize guns but also be proud of their strange fascination with them. As for the idea of engaging in a DGU (an incident of defensive gun use), he opined there was as much chance of that in his lifetime as there was of winning the lottery.

Even more revealing was an Esquire article from 2013 by Stephen Marche entitled "Guns are Beautiful." Marche wrote that, "guns are one of the primary avenues by which ordinary Americans experience beauty." They are "the machinery fantasy of choice," replacing the automobile as a fetish object. But Marche also argued that gun violence would stop only when such attitudes changed. Guns, he argued, were once associated with masculinity (they are, after all, also phallic symbols) and rugged individualism. But the American culture of frontier freedom, if it ever really existed, is no longer relevant in an interconnected world crisscrossed by environmental destruction, political and economic crisis, and rapid (and often progressive) social change. Marche's final question is worth considering: "We're all clinging to something. What can we find to cling to that isn't machinery of death?"

There is bumper sticker circulating that reads "Pro-God. Pro-Guns. Pro-Life. Anti-Obama." I find the juxtaposition both evocative and deeply disturbing. If it's true that many Americans worship their guns, then not even the slaughter of innocents will move the country beyond its present murderous impasse.

Igor Bobic   |   December 6, 2015   10:09 AM ET

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The deadly shooting in San Bernardino happened in a state with some of the nation's toughest gun laws: California bars assault weapons, blocks the sale of large-capacity magazines and requires universal background checks for all gun purchases.

Authorities say they believe suspected gunman Syed Rizwan Farook and wife Tashfeen Malik had legally obtained two handguns and that two rifles were also legally purchased in California. Federal officials say the attackers had large-capacity magazines that violate California law in their SUV.

Since the attack Wednesday at a social service center in Southern California, the state's strict laws and the apparent legal purchase of the weapons have set off a debate over the effectiveness of gun measures and whether getting tougher would help prevent more violence.

"Strong gun laws do prevent gun deaths. Not every law can prevent every gun death," said Allison Anderman, a staff attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco. "They work most of the time."

The gun-control advocacy group rates California's gun laws No. 1 in the nation; the state ranks 42nd in its rate of gun deaths. Louisiana's gun laws were ranked 50th and it is No. 2 in deaths, according to the group's 2014 rankings.

Gun laws vary dramatically state-to-state, even city-to-city. The patchwork of regulations means it's often easy for determined gunmen to acquire weapons by skirting laws in their home state, they say. Untraceable weapons can be built from scratch using parts bought online.

As a result, gun control advocates in the days since the shooting have called for more stringent laws in California and nationwide. At least two state lawmakers say they will propose measures to close what they consider loopholes in the state's gun laws.

Crime Prevention Research Center president John Lott, a critic of additional gun laws who is often cited by the gun lobby, argued that the shooting illustrates how expanded background checks supported by President Barack Obama do not stop mass public shootings.

He noted that California, Colorado and Oregon — sites of the three most recent shootings — already have such laws in place.

"We're being told that even though these laws didn't stop these attacks in these states, somehow they would work in the rest of the country," he said. "I know the claim is, 'we don't expect it to do everything but it will do some.' Maybe they could point to one case where these laws would make a difference."

The FBI said Farook legally bought the two handguns used in the attack — purchases that would have required a background check. And there is no indication he or Malik had any criminal record or history of mental illness that would have triggered California's unique law allowing authorities to seize weapons from those who aren't allowed to own them.

Federal officials are investigating whether the military-style rifles used were part of an illegal straw purchase, possibly from a former neighbor of Farook, and then given to Farook or Malik.

California limited access to high-powered, military-style rifles in 1989 and lawmakers passed further restrictions in 2000, when the state banned specific types of AR-15 and AK-47 style rifles. It also bans the sale of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 bullets.

Legislation that would have banned so-called bullet buttons, which allow shooters to rapidly exchange empty magazines for ones fully loaded with bullets, stalled in the state Legislature two years ago.

David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, said it is foolish to draw policy conclusions based on the facts of one specific shooting when the U.S. has more than 30,000 gun deaths per year.

He questioned whether the assault-style rifles used in San Bernardino should be legal anywhere.

"Are those guns needed for self-defense? Are they needed for hunting? They can kill a lot of people, which they succeeded in doing," he said.

Even in California, advocates for stricter gun control say there are holes in the law. The impression that the state has strict gun laws is "based on fact, but in some cases it's inaccurate," said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat.

Newsom has proposed a ballot initiative that would require on-the-spot background checks when buying ammunition, ban the possession, not just the sale, of large-capacity magazines with 10 rounds or more and require police reports when guns are lost or stolen.

Those measures might not address the specific circumstances of what happened in San Bernardino, he acknowledged. But, he said, "that doesn't mean they're not appropriate proposals to address the next circumstance and the next moment."

Also on HuffPost:

In San Bernardino Shooting, Patriarchy Pulled the Trigger

James Marshall Crotty   |   December 5, 2015    8:20 PM ET


I am all for religious liberty and the freedom to wear whatever you want, including full-metal burka, but the relatives of American-born, Redlands-residing, "ISIS-sympathizing" (according to Farook's own father) terrorist, Syed Rizwan Farook, insult our intelligence when they proclaimed, through their associate attorney, Mohammad Abuershaid, that their "normal" son and his "quiet" and "petite" Pakistani-born Internet bride, Tashfeen Malik, were "living the American dream." As the Los Angeles Times has now reported, every time Farook's extended family visited Mr. Farook and his wife, they saw Ms. Malik completely shrouded in a black burqa, with only her eyes showing. Moreover, at such gatherings, according to Abuershaid, men and women were completely segregated.

In addition, Farook's representatives told media outlets on Friday that it is likely that most extended family and friends never even saw Malik's face because she always wore a niqab (a veil that covered her entire face, except for her eyes) wherever she was. Nizaam Ali, who knew Farook from San Bernardino's "traditional" Dal al Uloom al Islamiyah mosque (where female reporters are asked to enter a separate door and sit to the side), told the LA Times on Friday that Farook liked Malik precisely because she didn't personify "the modern role of women today, working and all that." Family members also indicated that Malik was very quiet, and that they did not have many conversations with her, certainly not about politics or ideology. Nor, they added, in such a conservative Sunni household, would Malik be expected, let alone allowed, to openly discuss such topics.


Let me explain something to the Farook family. There is nothing "normal" or "All-American" about segregation of the sexes, let alone women clothed head to toe in a garment where one can only see the woman's eyes. We may tolerate such antiquated behavior here, but it is by no means "normal."

Moreover, Mr. Farook's mother, Rafia Farook, lived in the small Redlands town home of these clandestine jihadists. According to family accounts, nobody, including the mother, ever looked in the garage - where Farook and Malik had amassed 12 pipe bombs, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and other tools of the home-grown terrorist trade (e.g. a Christmas tree lamp used in making a timed hand grenade) - because it was deemed Mr. Farook's "man cave."

Sorry, Mom, but when your "polite" Muslim son is married to a woman you barely know, who hails from an area of Pakistan (Punjab) widely known for its violent Islamic extremism and from a politically influential family widely known for its radical Islamic connections, and who is radically fundamentalist in her own garb and demeanor, and you are not even allowed to access your son's "man cave" (read: bomb factory) in your own home, then, shame on you for your grotesque and enabling incuriosity.

Here is the "normal" American reaction to your behavior: you did not want to know the truth.


I suspect this pattern is playing out all over America and Europe right now: friends and family members closest to would-be terrorists are turning blind eyes to what should be alarming signs of self-radicalization and terror preparation. As I have said repeatedly on other platforms, our best hope for arresting homegrown Islamic terror is for moderate Muslims to step out of the shadows and report even remotely suspicious behavior to law enforcement.

Until that time, we will keep alive this important, but secondary, debate about stricter gun control, better predictive analytics, tighter surveillance, and more rigorous visa waiver and fiancé visa requirements. Yet the cold hard reality is this: neither Mr. Farook (a well-paid, soft-spoken, seemingly well-adjusted county public health worker) nor Ms. Malik (who earned a degree in pharmacy before becoming a "doting" stay-at-home mother of a 6-month-old infant) was on any terrorist watch list. Nor were they on any no-fly list, nor on any no-buy list, nor were they ever diagnosed with mental illness, nor pharmaceutically treated for mental illness, let alone apprehended for any crime. Nor did they give any advance public indication of their true intentions, let alone their meticulous preparations.

Moreover, they would have passed every conceivable gun purchase background check. And, regardless, they would have found their way to lethal weaponry, even if the sale of guns was banned in all 50 states, just as terrorists in nations with extremely tight gun control (e.g., France) found their way to the same weaponry.

Finally, Ms. Malik was fingerprinted and passed an extensive national security check (using DHS and FBI databases) before even gaining her green card.


In short, like some perfectly placed mole in a John le Carré novel, these two assassins were publicly undetectable.

They did, however, give private clues to their intentions and preparations. Unfortunately, in the highly secretive, segregated and patriarchal world of Wahhabist Islam, it was not considered proper to investigate those actions further.

Tragically, as the grieving families of Mr. Farook's massacred coworkers are now painfully aware, patriarchy kills.

- James Marshall Crotty

Aaron Nemo   |   December 5, 2015    6:37 PM ET

Don't be surprised this January when middle-of-the-night channel surfing leads you to GunTV, a live shopping network dedicated to one thing: guns! The channel, set to launch in early 2016, will air programming between the hours of 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, and anyone can submit products to be sold on the network via a simple application form on the GunTV website. Since I stumbled upon this website, I've been submitting every idea that comes to my head. I'm hoping that adding relentless clutter to GunTV's inbox might distract them from their mission of pushing firearms on a susceptible, late-night viewing audience that's not best known for its strong decision-making skills.

I encourage you to submit your own lengthy, nonsensical product submissions, too! Together we can force GunTV's email manager to sift through thousands of stupid propositions before finding one that's actually real. 

Below are one or two (or 27) of the ideas I've submitted so far.

Also on HuffPost:

Andy Campbell   |   December 5, 2015    6:05 PM ET

On Saturday, a man allegedly stabbed three people in a London subway and then approached several officers. What happened next might surprise some Americans.

In video released on Twitter, the knife-wielding suspect can be seen lunging toward a man standing near two officers; the victim pushes him off. The officers, pointing stun guns at the suspect, appear to show restraint even after he moves toward them. They don't discharge their weapons until after they've notified him several times that they're about to do so.

In comparison, here's how officers in San Francisco reacted on Wednesday to a stabbing suspect who was stumbling against a wall while holding a knife. (Note that the video is graphic and disturbing.)

A video posted by HotRod (@daniggahot) on

In both incidents, the suspect is holding a knife near police. But there's a glaring difference in the officers' reaction to the situation.

In the San Francisco video, far more officers respond and all of them are carrying guns, though officers later said they tried to subdue the suspect with beanbag guns before shooting him. In London, the two officers in the video carry stun guns.

In San Francisco, the suspect died in a hail of bullets. In London, the suspect was subdued.

Meanwhile, the U.K. is on its second-highest alert level, meaning a militant attack is considered highly likely. 

Few officers carry firearms in the U.K. In fact, a 2006 survey of the British Police Federation, which represents all officers in the U.K., found that 82 percent of members didn't even want officers to be armed. Each police unit has its own firearms team, but police-involved incidents are routinely gun-free, according to the BBC.

Gun violence remains low in the U.K., and officers have less of a need to fight fire with fire, the BBC reports.

U.K. police have only killed one person this year as of Sept. 1, according to Metro. In the U.S., cops have killed 776 in that time.


Nick Baumann   |   December 4, 2015   11:13 PM ET

On Saturday, The New York Times printed a front-page editorial -- its first since 1920 -- calling for greater restrictions on gun ownership in the United States. You can read the piece here, but be warned: It's deeply flawed.

The Times doesn't use the term, but the policy it's advocating is what's generally called an assault weapons ban. Assault weapons bans are hard to write and implement, and easy to undermine and circumvent. Even a perfect assault weapons ban wouldn't do anything about most gun violence, because most gun violence involves handguns that aren't forbidden under such laws.

The Times' editorial board claims, without evidence or argument, that "it is possible to define" "in a clear and effective way" "certain kinds of weapons ... and certain kinds of ammunition, [that] must be outlawed for civilian ownership." But previous laws targeting "certain kinds of weapons" in the U.S. have generally failed to achieve their goals. The federal assault weapons ban passed in the 1990s was riddled with loopholes, and a Justice Department-funded study found little evidence it saved lives. And, as my colleague Daniel Marans reported Friday, the shooters who killed 14 people in San Bernardino on Wednesday used legally purchased rifles that escaped California's assault weapons ban because of a loophole.

Regular readers of The New York Times already know about the problems with assault weapons bans: Last year, the paper co-published a story by ProPublica's Lois Beckett on the subject. The Times headlined it "The Assault Weapons Myth." And as Beckett reported in another story, even gun control groups such as the Brady Campaign for Gun Violence and Everytown for Gun Safety have de-emphasized assault-weapons bans, opting to focus their attention on measures that are more likely to be effective at preventing gun violence. 

There's a good reason for gun-control groups' caution: As Beckett noted in her piece, most gun violence in America involves handguns. But the Times editorial does nothing to deal with that hard truth. The word handgun does not appear in the piece. To the Times' credit, it mentions that its plan would require some gun owners to give up their weapons. But it doesn't explain how the government would go about getting people to surrender them. There are 300 million guns in American homes. Confiscating even a small percentage of these -- the Times' "certain weapons" -- would be an enormous, dangerous, and politically fraught undertaking. Banning civilians from owning "certain kinds of ammunition," as the Times also suggests, would be even harder.

Perhaps most glaringly, though, this editorial fails to mention that electoral politics -- specifically Republicans' dominance of the U.S. Congress and the fact that some Democrats seem to be more afraid of the NRA than they are of gun control groups -- is the biggest reason why President Barack Obama wasn't able to pass even modest gun control measures in the wake of the Newtown massacre. Congressional Democrats tried pushing new gun control measures again on Thursday, by the way. Republicans blocked them all. But "if you want gun control, vote for liberal Democrats for Congress" would be a short editorial.

Also on HuffPost:

A Mother Responds to the Local Sheriff's Call for Citizens to Arm Themselves

Karen Angel   |   December 4, 2015    8:09 PM ET

My neighbor would like to write this op-ed, but she is too afraid.

A mother of three young children, she responded to a recent Facebook post by Ulster County, New York, Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum in which he urged "citizens of Ulster County who are licensed to carry a firearm to PLEASE DO SO."

"You are encouraging people to carry their guns in light of recent events?" she wrote on Facebook. "How can this be a real post? Disgusting. Utterly."

Perhaps even more disgusting than a public official essentially deputizing his citizens - virtually begging armed vigilantes and drunken bullies to have their day - was the stream of invectives immediately directed at my neighbor, culminating with, "Maybe ISIS will come to your house and we'd all be better off."

"As a mother, I felt utterly threatened, and not only blocked all of these users but also deleted my comment immediately," my neighbor told me. "I do not want to have my name out there and simply felt afraid. Now, isn't that a shame? Sheriff Van Blarcum claims to want to protect people, but his supporters are bullying and threatening those who wholeheartedly disagree with his statement."

Yes, it's a shame - a shame that a mother fearful for her children's well-being can't voice her opinion without receiving hateful comments and threats - ironically, taking a page from the way terrorists try to strike fear in our hearts with their threats of harm.

It's also a shame that an elected local official would encourage people to carry firearms despite a body of evidence showing time and time again that the result of more people carrying guns is more violence and death. A Harvard University study earlier this year found that homicide via firearm is nearly three times more likely in states with the most guns compared to states with the least, while firearm assaults are nearly seven times more likely.

In the U.S., there are about the same number of guns in civilian hands as there are civilians - a whopping 310 million, according to recent figures, many times more than in any other developed country. In Germany, by contrast, there are 25 million civilian firearms and 15 times fewer gun homicides - that's two homicides per million people compared to 30 per million people in the U.S., according to data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Small Arms Survey.

Yet people like Sheriff Van Blarcum, who didn't respond to requests for comment, and his legions of followers - his post on Facebook had drawn nearly 3,500 "likes" by press time - are unfazed by the facts. Ulster County District Attorney D. Holley Carnright tried to smooth over the issue, writing in a blog post, "I am not convinced more guns in the hands of untrained or unskilled civilians is the answer and nor do I believe does the Sheriff. I discourage anyone from misreading the Sheriff's comments."

There is nothing to misread here. The sheriff's call to arms by ordinary - and, by definition, untrained - citizens is clear. About 10,000 Ulster County residents, more than five percent of the county's population of 180,445, have a permit to carry a firearm. It's not enough to hope they don't take the sheriff's advice too literally. It's time this country -- and this county -- caught up with the rest of the world.

Jeffrey Young   |   December 4, 2015    5:46 PM ET

Merry Christmas from Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore (R)! As every Christian knows, "Enormous Stockpiles Of Deadly Weapons" are the reason for the season!

It's up to Americans to protect America. We're just your ordinary American family.-With love & liberty, Michele

Posted by Michele Fiore on Monday, November 30, 2015

And don't risk saying "Happy Holidays" to this lady. Just don't.

Guns on Campus

Dr. Dustin Swanger   |   December 4, 2015   12:42 PM ET

Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends and food. It is a time to reflect on all for which we have to be grateful in our lives. It is also a time for political arguments among our guests at dinner. For some, guns may have been the discussion around the dinner table. For me, guns on campus was a topic.

The discussion began with the question of something to the effect of, "Dusty, would you ever consider arming your faculty in anticipation of a shooter on campus?" My answer was a resounding, "No."

Let me point out that I am not "anti-gun." My father had guns for hunting; my grandfather had guns; my uncles and cousins have guns. While I don't think that anyone needs a rapid-fire machine gun or automatic weapon, I believe that guns for hunting and self-protection in the hands of competent owners are fine. However, in the wake of many shootings on college campuses, I cannot subscribe to the belief that the solution is more guns on campus.

Texas recently passed a law that allows anyone with a permit to carry a concealed weapon with the ability to carry on college campuses. The theory seems to be that if there is a "good guy" with a gun in the room, the "bad guy" with a gun will go down; thus, limiting the loss of life during an active shooter incident. I believe that this will not be the case in most incidents on a college campus should such an event arise. This scenario is a somewhat romanticized movie version of a shooting incident.

Let's explore such a scenario. We know that most shooters who come to college campuses are trying to shoot as many people as they can in a short period of time. We also know that in some cases, the perpetrator expects to die either at the hands of law enforcement or with their own hand. Therefore, arming faculty or knowingly allowing concealed weapons on campus will not likely deter a shooter.

We also know that an actual shoot-out in a confined space is very chaotic. Trained professionals have a difficult time hitting a moving target in such a space in the heat of the moment. Additionally, as the battle ensues, it may be difficult, even for a professional, to focus only on the single perpetrator. As bullets fly across a room, there is a lot of confusion and pressure.

Picture a well-meaning individual (or group of people) who has limited gun training, and even less training regarding hostile situations, pulling out their weapon in an attempt to fire back and kill the perpetrator. It is more likely that innocent people will be hit with stray bullets as a part of the gun fire. It is very likely that people will lose their lives due to "friendly fire."

Lastly, there is a very likely scenario in which law enforcement rushing into a building during an active shooter incident will not know the "good guy" with a gun from the "bad guy" with a gun when several people have guns raised in the air. The confusion will be exacerbated in the multiple gun scenario by those running and screaming in fear.

No -- more guns is NOT the answer. I, like every president of a college, lose sleep over the potential that someone may come to my campus with a purpose of killing a specific individual or a group of people. I take my responsibility to protect the students, faculty and staff seriously. In today's hostile culture, we need to look for tools that can help us all protect ourselves and our campus. Cameras, trainings, drills, armed and trained professionals and other tools can help. Simply adding more guns to the mix will not.

Some of you will disagree with me; that's fine. I hope that we never have to debate this issue in the aftermath of a tragedy at FM.

To Fight Terrorism We Must Fight Anger and Fear

Zach J. Hoag   |   December 4, 2015   12:18 PM ET


Last night, amidst the unfolding story about the San Bernardino shooting and, of course, the resultant firestorm of opinion on social media, I began to join the online fray.

I have been more conscious lately of all our Internet ambulance-chasing, and this compelled me, for instance, to hold my tongue and refrain from offering any Big Opinions on the Paris shootings until a week or so after. In fact, I didn't really weigh in at all, just posted some thoughts from other leaders. But the continued, near-daily gun violence in the U.S. is just too clear an issue for me to not speak out against whenever I have the opportunity.

Of course, today the reports are coming in to the effect that the San Bernardino shooting may have a lot more in common with Paris than other mass shootings in this country. That is, it appears to be at least somewhat religiously-motivated, a form of violent jihadism, the kind of thing that we more readily identify as "terrorism." If at some point we can connect this killer couple to a larger terrorist network like ISIS or Al Qaeda, it will stand out even more as something different from the usual American shootings by nihilistic white males.

And already, the bevy of Republican hopefuls are capitalizing on this difference. This, for them, is the grand "I told you so" -- it's ISLAMIC TERRORISM that's the biggest threat to our country, not GUNS! We don't need more gun control, we need more national security and defense! (This, of course, stands in direct contrast to the Democratic response, which was immediate in calling for change to our gun laws in order to decrease these shootings and keep in step with the rest of the developed world.)

But I want to offer a strong, "No!" to the suggestion that the difference here -- which is a real difference -- somehow overshadows or nullifies the similarity. Because in addition to the terrorism we see, there is a terrorism that is too-often invisible to us. It's the terrorism nurtured and fomented by elements of our own culture that are, let's be honest, far more deadly to our own citizens on our own soil than the forces of violent jihadism. The circumstances are unique, sure: but perhaps what San Bernardino proves once and for all is that the results are exactly the same.

Innocent people shot dead en masse.

With assault-style guns.

As followers of Jesus, the impotence of our response is now clearly on display. Many of us are far too ready, willing, and able to side with our chosen political ideologues than we are to desire justice so passionately we'd beat every gun we own into a plowshare if it meant there was a shred of a shred of a chance these deaths could be reduced.

Many of us are already busy nurturing and fomenting the culture in our country that leads to heart-wrenching violence -- whether by stoking fear and hatred towards Muslims and refugees or calling for the increasing armament of the citizenry in the name of patriotism and security (while profiteering capitalism just keeps doin' its thing). Regardless, Christians are, in this case, and perhaps unwittingly, fueling the fires of a terrorism that goes unnoticed, that becomes sanctified and deified and, I daresay, drenched in all the glorification of holy war.

The two go hand in hand. If we want to see global terrorism decrease, then the fear and anger that causes us to hate an entire religion and people group must decrease. Receiving refugees and forming interfaith friendships would be like a dagger in the heart of ISIS. And if we want to see domestic, white terrorism decrease, than the fomenting of violent rage in the name of patriotism, freedom, and security in the form of glorified gun proliferation must decrease.
We must radically change this sick culture.

Which is to say, we must control, regulate, restrict, and get rid of guns.

As many as humanly possible.

And fast.

Because the next lineup of American terrorists are fearing and hating and arming themselves to the teeth as we speak.

And in a matter of mere days, there will be more innocent blood on our society's hands.

Removing the Spectacle From Mass Shootings

Ira Silver   |   December 4, 2015   12:12 PM ET


When it bleeds, must it lead?

Amidst the extensive coverage of Wednesday's massacre in San Bernardino is a key story angle journalists seldom consider: that we'd all be better off if these rampages didn't make the headlines. The elephant in the room is that relentless reporting may well have the lethal effect of contributing to future carnage.

We've become accustomed to journalists devoting substantial time to identifying possible motives for this violence: mental illness, access to guns, violent video games and family dysfunction. Yet, whereas countless individuals have these risk factors, relatively few actually go on shooting sprees. There must be more to the story than meets the eye.

That's why we need to consider the effects of living in a world of 24/7 media. The gunmen (and they're almost always males) may well take their cues from what they see -- that inflicting mass carnage gives them the chance to live in infamy. And indeed they will: their names become forever inscribed on the web and in our minds as the epitome of evil.

Footage of the latest massacre may actually provide the next shooter with the most compelling motive of all. And yet, this footage obscures the very role it plays in contributing to these massacres. Therein lies the paradox of news reporting -- it aims to bring transparency to events yet seldom looks inward.

We venerate journalism for its sense of professional responsibility; indeed, it is the only occupation whose freedoms the U.S. Constitution explicitly protects. However, in the aftermath of the next mass shooting it would be better if reporters chose to limit the details they publicized or, even better, stayed away from the crime scene entirely.

Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Another Mass Shooting...

Jonathan Schmock   |   December 4, 2015   12:03 PM ET


Our Children Are Our Only Hope for the Future

Jan Cloninger and Rosemary Strembicki, LCSW   |   December 4, 2015    9:26 AM ET

Another shooting, a weekly event in our culture; politicians denigrating each other and most of the world population; massive amounts of money being spent to keep us feeling secure. How far does this all have to go before we begin to look at the root causes of all of this chaos?

How long before we realize that how we think about each other and take care of each other is the only way we can stop this madness? Children growing up in environments of deprivation and fear are going to grow up angry and aggressive. Children who grow up in a constant state of anxiety not knowing to whom to turn for comfort and solace grow up isolated and feeling alone.

And it's not just in impoverished or third world societies. There are children all over our country who are unable to learn because of lack of support at home and at school. Children are pushed beyond their understanding of how to cope because of parents who expect them to behave beyond their developmental capabilities. Children are pushed aside and bullied because their peers and their families perceive them as being different. Children are pushed into situations that make no sense to them and fear asking for help. How much pushing can a child sustain before they push back? Where do they turn?

Some turn within and become reclusive. Some turn to organizations that exploit them for ideological goals. Some act out against others to regain the power they have lost. When there is nowhere to turn for security and comfort there are always places that will fill the gap and those places are usually harmful to them and others.

Now is the time to address those gaps. We've done a lot of talking about educating the underserved, providing alternatives for children living in high stress environments, helping parents understand the profound influence they have in their children's lives but little is done to find effective strategies to solve these problems.

A lot of arguing is done about gun control but there is little discussion about why so many of us feel the need to have guns. We are all so fearful of each other that we rarely stop to consider how an outreached hand can be more powerful than the point of a gun. We over protect our children rather than give them the emotional skills to protect themselves and develop meaningful relationships with those that are different. We spend more time at our jobs than with our children and expect them to develop values from what they see and hear in their everyday lives. And we live in fear of loss of our lifestyle and values while we sit in judgment of others.

Our children are our future, why is it so hard to invest in them? They need us to guide them and provide them with feelings of safety and love. They need structure and boundaries more than spankings and harsh words. If they are treated with patience and compassion they will learn patience and compassion. If they meet the world with hope and confidence they may not feel the need to have guns to protect themselves from the unknown.

It is time to look at ourselves and take responsibility for what is going on in the world. One child at a time, one family at a time, one community at a time, building toward a future in which we all feel safe and unafraid of one another.