A thoughtful Comment, and My Respectful Response

I had a number of views to my last post.  A couple (and I mean “a couple”) of readers bothered to click on the links, and save for a couple (probably the same ones who read the links), no one replied or commented.

That’s as expected, and just as well; I was not intending to go on with what has been a frustrating exercise in trying to instill logic in discussions I’ve had on other sites.

However, one of my readers did post a thoughtful comment.  It’s at the bottom of the previous post, and I thought she deserved a respectful reply.  My response grew to a length which made it more practical to apply to a post (I’m not known for being “pithy”).   So, presented below are her comment and my reply.


Here is the comment (from Emily Heath):

I read to the end and the links. I disagree with you, but that doesn’t mean I think any less of you as a person, and I respect your views. I just think we come from different cultures – you come from one which has normalised a gun culture, and I do not.

From the Time.com piece you linked to: “Opportunity and unlucky serendipity play a big role too. People with ready access to guns are likelier to use them than people who have to work to get their hands on a weapon.”

This is why I think having lots of guns about, often actually in the household of these young boys, or within reach by walking into a gun shop, doesn’t help. I can’t think of one mass shooting in the UK. Obviously we’re a much smaller country, but still that’s probably also because we do have far fewer guns floating around here. If I knew some of my crazy neighbours, who like to drink and argue a lot, could walk into a gun shop down the road and emerge with several deadly weapons I’d be rather worried.

Here’s why I’m skeptical about your person sitting outside in a car idea. Putting aside the price of paying someone for every school, or the logistics of organising a bunch of volunteers, I think the psychology of bank robbers and mass murderers is rather different. Bank robbers want to get in and out with the money as quickly as possible, so that they can go spend the money. So I can see a police car outside being an excellent deterrent.

Someone committing a mass murder on the other hand, probably has no plans to emerge afterwards. As the Time.com piece says, “However long it takes the killing to play out, when the crime is finally over, the shooter almost never expects to survive. Indeed, he typically doesn’t want to.” So is someone sitting in a car outside, even a police car, likely to have the same effect?

This is Charlie Brooker’s response to the posting of the video you linked to above: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/17/newtown-shooting-helpless-charlie-brooker. He concludes “Over the past few days a fair few people have retweeted an excerpt from a show I made in 2009 in which a psychologist urged news organisations not to sensationalise their coverage of massacres, on the basis that this had the potential to inspire further tragedies. That may well be true, and there’s no harm pursuing it. But the best way to improve media coverage of massacres is to prevent massacres. And try as I might, I can’t think of a better way to prevent massacres than reducing the number of guns in circulation.”


First of all, thanks for your response.  If you don’t mind, I will respectfully reply to some of the points you make.  

– – o – –

I’m not sure the words “normalized a gun culture” apply.  It is just as illegal here to misuse guns as it is where you live.  The difference is you guys have stricter laws regarding possession.  That, in part, is a matter of logistics.  I might point out that were it legal to do so, a larger percentage of your population would be likely to own guns (some still do).

There is the real cultural difference; your acceptance that your personal safety is not under your own jurisdiction.  In other words, you cannot take steps for self-defense.  It is illegal in the UK to use a weapon for self-defense.  That goes against the very nature of many Americans, and indeed, against my nature.

The acceptance of “public safety” in exchange for the (admittedly small) chance of becoming a helpless victim, a statistic, if you will, is definitively not something I would willingly agree to.  Can I be forced into it?  Sure; you can bully people into anything.

Related to that is the perception I have of the UK; that of a “Bobby on every corner”.  The UK has 307 police officers per 100,000 people.  The US has 257 per 100,000 people . . .

. . . the UK has about 94,000 square miles of land.  The US has about 3,794,000 square miles of land. 

Law enforcement response time where I live is about 20 minutes – I live at the top-most edge of the county, and I am covered by the El Paso County Sheriff’s office.  Depending where the closest deputy is, the response could be a bit shorter, or a bit longer.

That adds to my desire to hold a measure of responsibility for my personal protection, rather than rely on help to come quickly.

– – o – –

One question, because you mention it . . . I’ll ask you why you are concerned your crazy drunken neighbors might go buy weapons, but not worried they might go at each other with knives, a cricket bat, or even a hammer (hammers can be deadly, applying tremendous force over a very small area).  For that matter, are you concerned they might come after you?  Or would that only happen if they had guns?  What’s keeping them from doing it now?   That seems to point to a preconceived notion that the gun itself is the trigger for violence.  I would be more worried about them being crazy and drunk.

– – o – –

You also choose a quote from the Time.com article that implies the availability of guns as a trigger for mass shootings, but neglect all the surrounding stuff that goes along with that quote, and especially neglect the stuff in the first page of the article, which speaks to the incidence and type of mass shootings.  

Specifically, that frequency has not changed in the last 25 years, and that the people are well outside what we might classify as the norm with respect to human empathy, reasoning, and the range of human behavior.  One other item contradicting the statement you quote is that most rampages are planned, sometime over a number of months.  Planned by what are usually smart and driven individuals . . . they may be nuts, but they are not incapable.  No one has implied their intention would change if guns were not as readily available.

As for mass shootings in the UK, that history I know well, as it’s held up as a model for what might/should/will happen here (depending who’s talking – “we’re a few mass murders away from more bans” has been stated by both sides).  Here is the link touching on the whole topic, but I will summarize below.


The Hungerford massacre of 1987 and the Dunblane school massacre of 1996 resulted in England having some of the strictest gun laws in the world (enacted in 1997).   In that same link, you can read about the restrictions, and what firearms are allowed (practically none).

In 2010, three years after those laws were enacted and in-force, the Cumbria shootings led to 13 fatalities and 11 injured when Derrick Bird shot and killed three people connected to himself, and 12 others in an apparently random shooting spree before turning the gun on himself.   Bird used a  double-barrelled shotgun and a .22-calibre rifle.  Neither are even spoken of being banned in the US, or in the UK (the link provides what is legal, if highly regulated).

Proponents of gun control laws point to this as an anomaly, yet that is precisely the type of crime being used to “pressure” the US government to ban assault rifles.  A rampage shooting by a lone, crazed individual.  I fail to see how any law will keep someone else of the same ilk from repeating the crime.  Certainly, England’s then (strict) laws did not prevent it.

The argument then shifts to the frequency bit, and how England has less.  I see this as avoiding the primary question, which is “why did the 1997 law not stop the 2010 massacre from occurring?”  I could also ask . . . how can you, or anyone, be assured those same laws will keep it from happening again?

And yes, there are frequencies issues, but that part is not clearly understood, and other factors play into that equation.

– – o – –

The above link lists the 530-or-so murders in England for 2012.  Of those only 30 or so were with a gun (a big drop from last year, but seeing as the laws have not changed, it can’t be attributed to the actual gun laws).  220 of those murders were committed with a knife. As the murder rate increased for a number of years following the enactment of guns laws, what changed was the weapon involved.  

This link lists the murder rate for various countries:

The rate of murders in the UK is currently (2009) at 11.5 per million.

The US current (2010) murder rate is somewhere around 48 per million.  Four times as much, and that’s for all murders. 

However, people like to look at only gun murders, and then, yes, the US is higher . . . we own more guns.  It should be noted a third of US murders are committed without guns.

What people do not look at, or take into account, is who is being murdered, and by whom.  We have areas with massive gang problems, we have heavy drug trade, meth users, etc.

Those statistics are available (FBI, CDC, DoJ) as a way to try to understand and define the problem, and what might be done about it.  The problem being murders.  There is nothing the US government has proposed that would stop that portion of the killings, shootings, and victimization of young and old.

Yet I am told that if my ability to buy/own/carry a gun is curtailed, things will get better.  I fail to see soundness in that logic. 

But there is more . . . In the last decade the US murder rate has dropped to the lowest  since the 1950’s (FBI latest statistics), even as during that time we doubled our population, and greately increased the number of guns in circulation.  How does that work, exactly?  Where is the logic in it?  

I could be crass and make this simple conclusion:
More people, more gun, less crime.  By the way, murder in England shot up after the ban on gun ownership, and has only dropped in the past few years (as it has elsewhere).  

In fact, for a number of years, crime in both our countries has been on a downward trend (ours faster then yours).  Given no major gun legislation change in either country, I welcome explanations, but I find it difficult to believe gun control laws (which, if anything, have become more lax here in the US) are responsible. 

Perhaps the fact we have the largest percentage of incarcerated citizen in the world has something to do with it, but that is not clear either.  Experts don’t know either.   

I am not an expert by any means, but were I to venture a guess, and this will highlight my own arm-chair psycho-economic-babble, it’s because of the advent of the Internet, the interconnectivity of not just local populations, but the world. It’s a pollyannish view, and probably overly optimistic.

– – o – –

Finally, I’ll address what I perceive to be a slight misconception regarding my suggestion.  The presence of people (either off-duty cops, or people properly trained and deputized) in the school is not a deterrent.  It’s to confront the attacker as quickly as possible.  If you read the two articles I linked, attacks stop immediately upon resistance, even if from a single individual.  The attacker(s) either surrenders, or does us a favor and takes his own life.  That is the pattern.  They are not looking for a battle, but to make a statement, at least according to what we understand of their behavior.

That ties a bit to the comment about the video.  Charlie Brooker did not refute the comments from the psychologist.  He added his opinion as to the best way to prevent massacres, in addition to the suggested way to cover these stories.  

. . . news agencies continue to plaster the event across multiple media.

I respectfully disagree with Mr. Booker.  For one, there is no evidence less guns prevent massacres (per your own 2010 tragedy).  It might have an effect as to frequency, but even that is unclear.  That aspect of the discussion has been covered in some of the articles I linked.

– – o  – –

I’ll conclude with what I keep stressing, but that many ignore.  

Humans are very good at reacting to the sensational.  None of the proposed legislation (here, in the US), would have prevented this latest massacre.  But even more disturbing, is that it’s clear to me these events are used by politicians to push for legislation they know will not do anything, but will win them points with their base.  And conversely, politicians opposing the legislation will win points with their base.

The proposed legislation does nothing to stop these anomalies, and does nothing to stop everyday abuses and unlawful behavior. 

It’s a trite refrain, but all these rule target people who are not going to break the law to begin with.  I want to hear how we stop the people who ignore the laws in the first place.  I want to hear how we keep people from being killed every day, and not just those who are killed during sensational, headlines-grabbing events.

– – 0 – –

Thank you Emily, for the opportunity to have a normal, civilized discussion.  A welcome change from my recent fare. 

I can certainly appreciate both the fact I am not likely to change yours or anyone’s mind, and that for once, I’m not being looked at like some knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing ogre whose only interest is in being able to kill a large number of people with a single trigger pull.


Please, if you are considering bestowing me some recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so.  I will decline nominations whereby one blogger bestows an award onto another blogger, or group of bloggers.   I appreciate the intent behind it, but I would much prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way.  That would actually mean something to me.

Should you still nominate me, I will strongly suspect you pulled my name at random, and that you are not, in fact, a reader of my blog.  If you wish to know more, please read below.

About awards: Blogger Awards          About “likes”:   Of “Likes”, Subscriptions, and Stuff

Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not personally hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.

. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
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12 Responses to A thoughtful Comment, and My Respectful Response

  1. Okay, I’ll nibble. I think you oversimplify the problem of gun use in America. It’s not only the guns, it’s the gun culture combined with a culture of fear that has resulted in, in my opinion, social chaos, paranoia and a general breakdown of civility within your society. When a sociopolitical structure is imposed outside the borders of a country, a mirror of the imposed behaviour plays out within the society that is imposing their ideology elsewhere. I don’t think a responsible discussion about gun possession can take place without an examination of your definition of freedom. Personally, I don’t trust the American definition of freedom and I am tired of having a dysfunctional definition imposed upon me.


    • disperser says:

      Sorry, I must be missing something. I read what you wrote, but I’m having a bit of difficulty parsing it.

      I get the “gun culture bit” . . . it’s popular in the media, and with people who have a self-admitted antipathy for guns. The fact that it’s a gross over-simplification of a complex subject is really not something I want to discuss, as people never get past the simplicity of it.

      ” . . . combined with a culture of fear that has resulted in, in my opinion, social chaos, paranoia and a general breakdown of civility within your society.” I’m struggling to put this in context to the discussion at hand.

      I welcome an explanation to help the underlying notion find purchase in my mind.

      “When a sociopolitical structure is imposed outside the borders of a country, a mirror of the imposed behaviour plays out within the society that is imposing their ideology elsewhere. ” This totally baffles me, but I too will nibble.

      I hesitate to make a guess, but at first glance it sounds like an accusation of imperialism. Outside the possible example of our current “war”, I’m struggling to understand both what our supposed ideology is, and where we are imposing it.

      ” I don’t think a responsible discussion about gun possession can take place without an examination of your definition of freedom. Personally, I don’t trust the American definition of freedom and I am tired of having a dysfunctional definition imposed upon me.”

      Supposedly, if you go in for that sort of thing (I don’t), I have an IQ well above the norm. I pride myself in logic, reason, and being open-minded. Unfortunately, those last two sentences are outside my ability to comprehend and coalesce into a clear understanding of the intent behind them.

      There are many definitions of freedom. I can take a stab of how you might be tying it into a discussion about gun possession.

      First, my definition of freedom: I am responsible for my own safety and security from harm, as well as that of my family, and peripherally, that of my neighbors, and to a lesser extent, that of society at large. For me to discharge that responsibility, I must secure my safety by whatever means necessary. At any given instance, I hold myself to have the right to defend myself with whatever level of force necessary to ensure I do not come to any physical harm.

      Weapons greatly improve my chances of successfully accomplishing the goal of personal safety. I don’t care much what they are (bow and arrows, machetes, knives, swords, hammers, baseball bats, rocks, etc.), and of things available to me, firearms are by far the most effective, especially given that firearms happens to be the highest level of personal weapon an attacker wishing me harm might possess. At worse, I might be at a level playing ground, and at best, I can avoid an actual battle just based on tactical superiority. In the olden days, I would have benefited greatly by being big and strong . . . things I am not.

      That’s where I stand. Within the law. If the law changes, though not happy, I will change with it.

      I gather you don’t agree with my definition, and think it dysfunctional. Fair enough. I can understand my view of the world and my environment are shaped by my own experiences, just as your experiences shape your views. I think “dysfunctional” is a tad strong, but then I’ve been known to denigrate views I find absurd.

      The part about a dysfunctional definition imposed on you? Well, that part I don’t get. Who exactly is imposing this dysfunctional definition, and what might that be, exactly.

      Understand that I am not at all interested in changing the UK’s (I presume that’s where you are from) stance on guns, their laws, or anything else pertaining to how they want to live. Frankly, I could care less.

      I do care about having the UK’s model of gun control thrown up to me as being so much more civilized, so much better. If I did agree at any level with that assessment, I have the means and wherewithal to move there. The UK never even made the list, and I am looking at potential places of residence beside the US.

      As it is, the above piece is only meant to explain the differences between two cultures, and the conditions resulting from it. You think your culture is better? Good for you.

      You think I want to impose my views onto you? You are wrong.

      Are you of the opinion the US is somehow pressuring the UK to adopt a US-style values and political system? I would not know about that, but I have same advice. Don’t. Or do. I don’t care.

      If the US government is trying to pressure the UK to adopt anything, I suggest you get the Prime Minister from “Love Actually”. A Prime Minister who will tell the US to fornicate off.

      Personally, I would prefer if the US was less “hands-on” with the affairs around the world, but that position is also subject to criticism. It’s that “with great power comes great responsibility” argument. I must say, when the mantle of great power was elsewhere, I was not impressed with how it was used. That the US is no better . . . well, it’s not surprising . . . power corrupts. What that has to do with me owning a gun, I don’t get.

      Basically, until there’s someone in a position of leadership who reflects my views (basically, there is zero chance of that happening), I figure it’s a lost cause. I mean, I bitch, write letters, but my expectations are real low, and it’s essentially a gesture so I can shrug my shoulders and say “Well, I tried”.

      So, now I am at the end of parsing your message. Enigmatic, at best, but I gave a shot. I welcome a more detailed exposition of the underlying message. I message I am sure I failed miserably at understanding.


  2. Emily Heath says:

    Thanks for your detailed reply, I really appreciate it. Some answers to some of your points:

    “I’ll ask you why you are concerned your crazy drunken neighbors might go buy weapons, but not worried they might go at each other with knives, a cricket bat, or even a hammer (hammers can be deadly, applying tremendous force over a very small area)”.

    This might be based on logic, it might not, but psychologically I feel I have more of a fighting chance if my crazy neighbours do not have easy access to a long distance weapon. This year I had to call the police because a neighbour over the road was sitting in his doorway shouting and repeatedly smashing his front door into his head (they took longer than twenty minutes to arrive). Rightly or wrongly, I feel I would have more time to run inside and bolt the door if my neighbour is standing over the road all wild-eyed with a hammer than with a gun. It seems like more of a fighting chance if the person at least has to get up close to you. With a gun they could shoot me from a window.

    I don’t want to hold up the UK as any kind of ideal example. People are just as violent or ignorant here, they just have different weapons available to them. This year some members of the public have died or been injured standing at bus stops. You would think this was a fairly safe activity, but not when drivers accidentally (or occasionally on purpose) plough into you. Last year my part of London had riots, and as I took the bus into work the next morning I saw smashed up shop windows with their stock strewn all over the street. Last month we had our car burgled twice, once removing the number plate, the next time removing the stereo.

    So, just as much anti-social behaviour going on here. I apologise for forgetting about the Dunblane school massacre in 1996 and the Cumbria shootings in 2010.

    Still, it makes sense to me to limit the number of weapons available to all these anti-social people. Some murders are planned out meticulously in advance by very determined individuals, and these are probably impossible to prevent, but perhaps the more spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment ones could be cut down if a gun was not sitting ready in the next room.

    I’m still skeptical about your person sitting outside in a car idea, even if the idea is to confront the attacker as quickly as possible. The attacker might be a student in school uniform with a concealed weapon. Maybe they enter school at the same time as all their fellow students. Surely in this scenario metal detectors (as I believe are used in a few US schools) will be more effective than a few volunteers trying to search all the students. But again, logistics and/or cost.

    Or perhaps the attacker is a teacher or parent known to the volunteer, entering at a slightly unusual time of day. In this case the person sitting in the car outside will presumably need to stop them entering and request a weapons search. Socially awkward; I think there is some risk that the volunteer will wave them through.

    I’m surprised you say “attacks stop immediately upon resistance, even if from a single individual.” This may sometimes or mostly be the case, but from what I’ve read not every time. I believe Dawn Hochsprung, the principal of Sandy Hook elementary school, died while lunging at the gunman to try to stop him. That person in the car could turn into a bit of a sitting duck.

    Additionally, there are often multiple entrances to a school. My high school had three official entrances and several unofficial ones if you climbed over a hedge or wall. Do you put someone in a car outside each one? It will be a boring job to sit watching nothing for hours, particularly if you’re unpaid.

    These are just my views, and I’m certainly no expert. I respect yours and have found it interesting learning more about them. Wishing you a very good – and peaceful! – Christmas.


    • disperser says:

      Sorry to hear about the issues were you live. I was able to remove myself from the worse of those situations.

      As for your neighbors, I still think you are thinking like a potential victim, but you are responsible for your own peace of mind as well, and that’s not for me to mess with.

      Briefly, we’re still talking at cross purposes about designated armed persons at school with a gun. They are not there as prevention, they are not sitting outside in a car. They are there to respond quickly at the first sound of shots.

      Saying a teacher might be the shooter is what I call the ” airline pilot scenario argument”. Why have sky marshals on planes, if there is the possibility the pilot(s) themselves are the hijackers? The proposal I made, which would get zero traction, is specific to a particular situation. Specifically, the kind of shootings we saw last week. The identity of the shooter does not matter; it’s a matter of a quick response. The alternative is to hope the mere banning of a particular weapon system will deter these people. I’m skeptical.

      With this, I think I will stop. Even a calm discussion of these topics keeps the tragedy at the forefront of my mind, and despite what people might imagine, it has the effect of keeping me in a somber and distraught mood. I don’t like it, and I’m going to stop it.

      Thanks for the holiday wishes. For obvious reasons, my mindset is not exactly conducive to a carefree and joyous holiday, but we’ll give it a try. I wish you the same.


      • Emily Heath says:

        I think you’re right; best not to dwell on what we cannot change, but instead focus on living our own lives as well as we can, and try to make our own contribution, however small it may be, making the world a happier place. Your photographs have certainly brought me plenty of enjoyment over the past year.


  3. seekraz says:

    I’ll stay out of the fray, as I have nothing I wish to contribute, but thank you for the interesting and civilized discussion.


    • disperser says:

      Yeah, I’m done too . . . I can’t think about it any more (I don’t mean the debate on guns). As it usually does. it has messed me up, and have not been able to concentrate on doing even the stuff I love to do. Tomorrow is Christmas, and starting now, I’m going to cast all that into the deep and dark places of my mind, and keep it down there.

      As selfish as it may seem, I aim to concentrate on the the good things in my life, and get back to doing what I enjoy.

      Have a Merry Christmas, Scott. I trust you and your family will, just as me and mine aim to.


      • seekraz says:

        I like that your heart is in the right place (to me anyway), Emilio…we can only hurt so much and then have to go on living, trying to enjoy it as we may. Thank you for the Christmas wishes…I hope you and your wife have a nice holiday, as well….


  4. Shiv says:

    Finland is an interesting case study. Strict laws that restrict access to guns but second only to you guys in deadly spree shootings. I’m told it’s not because they have that many, but because when they do, the number killed is quite high. I don’t know enough about the country to account for all of the reasons. But I suspect lack of sun the mental health issues associated with that may play some small part. They also have relatively high depression and suicide rates. So yes, mental health is a big factor in my opinion. However, in my own country (Trinidad and Tobago), the murder rate is in the top ten in the world. And this has almost everything to do with guns flooding into the country in the past twenty years or so as a result of the Atlantic drug trade. We aren’t that different as a country one generation later. We haven’t plunged into a sudden mental health crises. But we do have huge number of guns now and citizens are living with the fear that comes with that. I and almost everyone I know knows someone who has been murdered. I’ve had an AK47 to my temple with four others pointed at me by masked men. More and more everyday citizens are arming themselves for protection but the murder toll keeps rising. I’m sure the situation in the States is quite different but I know that getting rid of these guns won’t hurt my own society.


    • disperser says:

      Even here, many of the murders are tied to drugs, gang rivalry, etc.

      I also believe the overall murder rate and the mass killings are two separate issues, and people attempt to address them with one generalized solution.

      Honest, I don’t know what the answer is; I just know I’ve not heard it yet.

      Thanks for your comments, and hope you are enjoying a peaceful Christmas.


      • Shiv says:

        I hear ya. I don’t think I trust anyone who is certain they have the answer either. I guess what we do is keep searching for knowledge and keep putting positive stuff into the great big swirl. Christmas has been extremely peaceful. Hope you have a great 2013.


  5. Pingback: Disperser Writes Opinions — The First Four Years | Disperser Tracks

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