Who Should Control Our Guns?

This article was written as a response to a call to join the “Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.” The thrust of the call was to support new “gun control” legislation in response to the most recent mass shooting. I don’t expect everyone to agree with this view. The discussion should be interesting.

USA Today has an article on “mass killings.” (http://www.gannett-cdn.com/GDContent/mass-killings/index.html#frequency) Their criteria include deaths by arson, by strangulation and by stabbing as well as by firearms. I did not check every incident on which they reported, so there could be mass deaths resulting from dynamite, or from someone running their truck at a crowd, so long as several people were killed in the same event. Such an article can get one emotionally worked up about gun control, but not as a striclly logical conclusion from the material presented.

As of October 2, 375 are dead in mass shootings in the United States, according to http://shootingtracker.com/wiki/Mass_Shootings_in_2015, which uses a much broader definition of “mass shooting” than the FBI does for “mass killings.” They count shootings in which several people were wounded, even if nobody was killed in the event. The FBI counts only events in which at least 3 people were killed. if one or two people died and more were wounded, the deaths show up in shootingtracker, but not in the FBI statistics. If the rate continues to the end of the year, it will result in roughly 500 people dead in mass shootings.

Also as of October 2, 878 people have been killed by police in the United States, according to http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-killings-us-database#. If this rate continues to the end of the year, we’ll have 1,165 dead as a result of police shootings. As we know from the recent news, a significant number of these will be unarmed people shot while fleeing from the police, or sitting in their cars, or perhaps a 12-year old with a toy gun sitting on a park bench.

Some of the people shot by the police will of course be active gun-toting felons shot while robbing a 7-11 store; that is, legitimate shootings. Some clearly are not in the least legitimate, although the police departments involved almost always try to claim that they are. Consequently, it’s not possible to get any generally-agreed number for illegitimate police shootings resulting in homicide. It’s reasonable to believe that the number of illegitimate or highly questionable deaths by police shooting is about the same as the number of “mass shooting” deaths. It’s certainly within the same order of magnitude, no matter how impossible it is to get an exact number.

Of course, these are ‘only’ killings done by US citizens in the United States. Far more serious are killings done by US citizens acting as agents of the US government (both military and secret agents) outside the boundaries of the United States. There, we can’t get any solid number, and there would be no reason to distinguish killings by firearm from those resulting from missiles and bombs. We can’t get a solid number, but it is not difficult to estimate that number as at least a couple orders of magnitude higher than the number killed in mass shootings. In other words, something like 50,000 annually as compared to the 500 victims of civilian mass shootings; or at least 100,000 +, compared to the 1000 + killed by police. And we’ve all heard even higher estimates that are plausible.

As far as I can tell, it’s the endless wars that are the basic problem, and the killings that happen within the boundaries of this country are mostly consequences. In part they are consequences of a culture that glorifies using guns to solve problems by intimidating or eliminating your enemies. Mostly they are consequences of recruiting over 150,000 young people for the military every year and rejecting even more applicants. The ones recruited are specifically trained to kill, and the ones rejected are left frustrated that they didn’t qualify for the training.

The main focus of the peace movement, as I understand it, should be direct opposition to our endless wars. Advocating “gun control” in the hands of the exact same politicians who are the supporters and instigators of both endless wars and the police state that goes along with it is exactly the wrong emphasis. Yes, it’s harder to oppose the wars that are the root of the problem. But it is necessary.

If the energies of the peace movement are directed at ending war, then I’m part of the movement. If they are to be mis-directed so that the movement is no longer a problem for the war-makers but instead supports their police state, then I’m not interested. Count me as part of the opposition.

I think if we can end the Empire’s endless wars for oil and other resources and create instead a sustainable society, then both the police state and the rate of mass killings will dimish. If we cannot end those wars, then both the police state killings under the color of law and the obviously lawless sort of mass killings will continue and get worse. The police, who are supposed to serve and protect the rest of us, will increasingly look on us as enemies to be suppressed, and they will use even more military weapons and tactics to do it.

That’s the problem with supporting gun control in a police state.


Maybe not Everything – But It Had Better Change the Economy

Here’s an new film with a title that should be familiar from the book. It’s another opportunity to have the sort of community discussions that are so much needed.



It’s a documentary film, already screened in New York, which will be released nationwide for both theaters and community screenings on October 20, 2015. Hosting a screening is expensive – $200 minimum – but might be worthwhile if you can get a big enough audience. You can see the terms and conditions at http://thefilm.thischangeseverything.org/.