OK, let’s talk about guns in America

State Sen. Marlon Kimpson says he’ll introduce legislation to do the following in the wake of the Emanuel AME massacre and other recent mass shootings:

▪  Close a three-day loophole that allows some S.C. gun purchasers to buy and take home a gun before a background check has been completed. That rule, and errors in the federal background-checking system, allowed alleged Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof to buy a gun.

▪  Require background checks to be conducted through the State Law Enforcement Division and the federal system before a gun sale can be completed

▪  Ban assault weapons, defined as semi-automatic firearms designed and configured for rapid fire

▪ Require reporting of lost or stolen guns

▪ Require state registration and permitting of all guns…

In response to Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin’s statement that there is “no appetite” in the State House for gun control legislation — which you had probably guessed already — Sen. Kimpson “said the Charleston church shootings, which killed nine African-Americans including a state senator, ‘opened people’s minds to doing things in the State House that have never been done before.'”

Which is true enough. Whether that applies to this, however, remains to be seen.

On the same day that I read that, I received a graphic from someone with a blog called CrimeWire, urging me to share it.

Actually it doesn’t tell me a lot I didn’t know, but I share it for those of you who like infographics. It’s lighter on numbers than most such efforts. For instance, I doubt many minds will be changed by such an assertion as, “The Harvard Injury Control Research Center found that there’s substantial evidence that indicates more guns means more murders.” Oh, yeah, says Jim Bob, sittin’ with the boys around the cracker barrel. I bet they’s a heap o’ hunters up at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

For those who prefer text, the facts in the graphic seem to have come from a Washington Post story, headlined “11 essential facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States,” that ran the morning after the Charleston shootings.

As for my own views… As I’ve stated before, I think the problem in America is just that too many guns exist. Everybody talks about the rights of individual gun owners, but I don’t really look at who owns the guns. Ownership is something that can change easily, through burglary for instance. There are just too many of them in existence, and it’s inevitable that some of them will be in the hands of the wrong people at the wrong time.

It’s an economic problem: Too many violent people chasing too many guns.

But while I feel like I diagnose the problem correctly, I have no idea what to do about it. I just don’t see a solution. We are so far down this road, and nothing but the mass destruction of the overwhelming majority of guns that exist would back us up. And there are far too many Americans who adamantly oppose taking a single step back. I don’t see that changing.

So I’m not terribly hopeful that any legislation I’ve seen or heard of would have a chance of significantly reducing gun violence. Anything that passes constitutional muster just tinkers with the technicalities of how guns change hands and move around.

Oh, and before the more dedicated advocates for the 2nd Amendment start hollering, “Brad’s gonna round up all your guns and destroy them,” allow me to clarify: That is NOT gonna happen. Not in this country. No one can MAKE it happen. It’s a political impossibility. So stay cool. I only mention this to underline the fact that I see no workable solution to the problem of Too Many Guns.

I usually don’t say “I give up” on an issue. I usually try to suggest a solution. But I just don’t know where to go on this.


35 thoughts on “OK, let’s talk about guns in America

  1. Lynn Teague

    All true, Brad, about the reasons that there is no great fix for this. However, that doesn’t mean that we should do the simple straightforward things that we can, that might over time help, starting with cleaning up the background checkk system.

    The far right will continue to argue that we must have semi-automatic weapons to protect us from the “over-reaching federal government.” Aside from the absurd paranoia behind such arguments, that always reminds me of the scene in the first Indiana Jones movie where the swordsman does fancy tricks in preparation for a fight with Indiana, waving his weapon around in the air, only to have Indiana pull out a gun and shoot him. No, folks, your semi-automatics will not save you from the U.S. Army, even if the worst paranoid fantasies come true. They’ve got stuff a lot bigger than you can store in your tool shed.

    1. Lynn Teague

      “doesn’t mean that we SHOULDN’T do” – I really need to remember that this comment section is unforgiving about correcting errors

  2. Bryan Caskey

    I wrote about Sen. Kimpson’s dumb ideas yesterday on my blog, and I put forward some ideas of my own that would actually have (1) overwhelming support; (2) be legal; and (3) actually help reduce gun crimes and gun accidents.

    I didn’t know that he defined “assault weapons” as “semi-automatics configured for rapid fire”. First, that’s ludicrous. Second, what’s “rapid fire”? Maybe some of y’all here can enlighten me on that one.

    Semi-automatics simply fire a round each time the trigger is pulled. They fire as rapidly as you can pull the trigger, allow the trigger to reset, and pull it again, until the magazine is empty.

    Sen. Kimpson clearly doesn’t want to actually get anything done on this issue. If he did, he would propose things like I’m proposing. He wouldn’t take ludicrous positions that (1) have no support beyond a few fringe folks; (2) are actually legal; and (3) would actually reduce crime.

    Brad, don’t you have some sort of “Grown-up Party”? With this nonsense that will go absolutely nowhere, Sen. Kimpson has clearly demonstrated that he’s still sitting at the kid’s table.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, here is the column about the Grownup Party.

      But I’m not prepared to bar Sen. Kimpson just yet. Up to now, I’ve been reasonably impressed with him. I think. I’m not remembering why at the moment, but I think it’s something more than being impressed by his father and his brother. I think some things he’s done in office were impressive…. Help me out, here; I’m having a senior moment.

      Actually, it has little to do with being senior. For many, many years, I would remember things such as this by saying, “Cindi, why do I like Marlon Kimpson?” Or maybe Mike Fitts, or someone else on the team. But most often Cindi, because I worked with her so many years, and she ALWAYS knew.

      And now I don’t have that.

      OK, I’m just playing for sympathy. In truth, if I REALLY want to remember something, I still email Cindi, and she tells me what I’m thinking or what I was thinking at some point years ago. I just try not to do it a lot on account of her not working for me anymore…

  3. Bill

    I can’t imagine owning a gun . I hate guns

    Congratulations on your blog,Bryan .Good luck on ‘the grown up’ thing

      1. bud

        The point is that for those of us who never intend to own a gun we would feel safer if no one owned one. Not going to happen but the point seems obvious.

            1. Barry

              ah I meant to add more but hit the button to quick.

              One is a .22 rifle my grandfather gave me that he picked up in Germany in WW2 – and I mean he bought it.

              One is my shotgun for home defense – and a little skeet shooting for fun.

              One is my 9mm purely for carrying in my car when I am on the road overnight. It’s rare but it does happen.

              The other is .22 pistol purely shot at targets for fun.

              1. Bill

                ‘One is my 9mm purely for carrying in my car when I am on the road overnight.’

                You’re more likely to die in a car accident.Man up.

                1. Barry

                  Considering one of my dad’s friends was shot as he walked to his car at a hotel while travelling on business, I think I’ll stick to what has worked for me for years now.


    1. Barry

      I like guns a lot. I own 4 and I enjoy shooting them from time to time. It’s a lot of fun.

      My last shooting adventure was with a great friend who is a very smart, quite accomplished former Dept of Education official. He’s far from your typical gun guy. But he invited me to come along with him. We went to a shooting range with our shotguns and had a grand afternoon.

  4. Juan Caruso

    Bryan, none of Sen. Kimpson’s 5 recommendations could be practically applied to or could be expected to be voluntarily complied with by 1.4 million members [FBI’s 2011 estimate] in over 33,000 street, prison and outlaw motorcycle gangs across the country.

    While such criminal elements could neither be expected to help with the first 3 of your sane recommendations, they are beneficial to children and society, and would have my support.

    Your 4th recommendation, getting rid of gun-free zones, is by far the best, as it impedes crime, gives agita to some would-be perpetrators, and preserves the right to defend the innocent.

  5. bud

    Bryan, other than a sort of ad-hominem, “this is ludicrous” response, what do you find offensive about Senator Simpson’s ideas? I doubt that it will pass. And, no I don’t think any of this is a panacea. Here are a couple of additional measures: (1) tax guns and ammunition heavily, (2) have a 30 day waiting period to buy a firearm and (3) require a licensing procedure like we do in order to drive and (4) impose some time of carrying a firearm while intoxicated. Australia has proven that gun control can work. Why not at least give it a try?

    1. Barry

      Longer waiting periods will not deter those that are intent on killing people.

      I am fine with a 24 hour waiting period in order to conduct a proper, computer based, background check. I am not opposed to a 3 day waiting period.

      30 days? The black market would love it. Would make those opposed to guns feel good. Wouldn’t do much else.

      Most law abiding people report lost guns now. Those with criminal don’t report lost or stolen guns that often – and of course wouldn’t if required to do so. So passing such a law is pointless.

      My fathe who lives in South Carolina, thought someone stole his 9mm Glock last summer. First thing he did was call his local police department with the serial number of his gun. That’s what any gun owner will tell you to do anyway.

      He lives in a small town. The police officer he talked with said they got so many calls of potentially stolen guns, all they could do is write down the serial number, and periodically, when an officer had time, he would make his rounds to the pawn and gun shops to check to see if they had received any recent guns with those serial numbers. Officer told him it was a crap shoot- at best.

    2. Bryan Caskey

      I don’t find his ideas offensive. They’re just bad ideas. Very little offends me – it’s a gift.

      I’m sure the Senator is a swell guy. He just hasn’t thought this through. For instance, he wants to include in the ban: “semi-automatic weapons designed and configured for rapid fire”. That makes me wonder if he knows what semi-automatic even means. That would ban just about every single pistol in existence today. It would seem to ban a pistol designed in 1911.

      I don’t mind debating things, but I feel like with the issue of guns, I’m debating with people who have no earthly clue what they’re trying to regulate. It’s like when I have a case against a non-lawyer who decides to represent themself. It’s not a fair fight. I know procedure and objections, deadlines, and the other guy doesn’t. He barely knows where the courthouse is.

      Again, I’m not offended by hoplophobes trying to tell me what kind of gun laws are best. It’s just not even a fair fight.

      To address your proposals:

      1. Tax. What would this accomplish other than to drive SC gun dealers out of business? I’ll just buy my guns and ammo in GA, or via the web. I guess maybe your point *is* to drive SC gun shops, so okay good plan.

      2. 30 day wait. Again, what problem does this solve? People could still shoot each other. Criminals could get around this by, get this, stealing a gun. What’s your point? Roof acquired his gun on April 16 and shot everyone on June 17. So your thirty day ban doesn’t even work here, really. Other than inconvenience people, this accomplishes nothing, and is possibly Unconstitutional.

      3. Licencing. What are the criteria? Are they the current criteria of not being a felon, not being subject to a restraining order, not being a substance abuser, not being crazy? How would this even work? Who administers this licencing procedure? What’s the point?

      4. Criminalize drinking while carrying. Congrats! We already do this here in SC. That’s why if you see me out in the Vista drinking a dark and stormy, you’ll know I’m not carrying.

      5. Australia. That was gun confiscation, pure and simple. It’s not an option here in the Land of the Free because of the Constitution.

      1. Scout

        “Roof acquired his gun on April 16 and shot everyone on June 17. So your thirty day ban doesn’t even work here, really.”

        I don’t buy that one. In 30 days they presumably could have completed the background check and prevented him from getting the gun at all, at least by that route.

        1. Bryan Caskey

          Except they didn’t. They didn’t realize the mistake until he was on CNN. They had plenty of time to figure it out and send the ATF to go repossess the gun. They never figured it out until it was front page news.

          “You shouldn’t bring up Paris. It’s bad salesmanship.”

  6. Harry Harris

    I think Brad is correct about the number of guns being part of the problem. The killing capacity of some weapons is also a problem when it comes to murder sprees and assaults or standoffs with police. I view the biggest part of the problem as the combination of readily-accessible weapons with a culture that accepts and often seems to worship violence. The lack of a sense of community, coupled with an ethical sense that extreme violence is an acceptable way of winning when in conflict doesn’t mix well with an abundance of guns. The ethical sense of our society translates the Biblical commandment into “Thou shalt not kill – unless thou feelest justified.” Some state translate that further to “unless thou feelest threatened.” Bragging about packing heat is rampant, from the gun club to the country club to the Sunday school class. The problem is always seen as “them,” no matter who is making the statement. The trouble is that “their” lives not mattering too often brings about deadly force from crooks, police, gang members, neighborhood watchers, troubled racists, enraged motorists, jilted lovers, and mentally ill persons. I agree there are too many weapons with too much killing power, but they exist because we have become a violent, killing culture.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      “The ethical sense of our society translates the Biblical commandment into “Thou shalt not kill – unless thou feelest justified.” Some state translate that further to ‘unless thou feelest threatened.'”

      Point of order.

      It’s not “Thou shalt not kill”. It’s actually, “Thou shalt not murder”.

      1. Harry Harris

        Moot point as far as my concern. A culture that considers taking life or using deadly force as a convenient option places one in the position of justifying murder in his/her own mind. It is an extension of the principle “might makes right.” Whoever is quickest, most willing to kill, has more firepower prevails. Brad’s initial point of too many very deadly weapons combines with a culture of violence as a common solution yields a lot of murders not considered such by the perpetrator. Few people I know would forbid necessary killing to stop a deadly crime. It’s the lack of restraint or revulsion at killing that yields so many emptied magazines from the groups and persons I mentioned above. Guns don’t murder people – people do – with too much ease and acceptance.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Guns just make killing easier — not just physically, but psychologically.

          That’s one of the things I learned from that book I so often cite, Dave Grossman’s On Killing. The whole book is premised on the fact (which he supports well) that most people have a tremendous aversion to killing fellow humans, but that they’re more likely to do it under certain conditions, one of them being distance. The hardest thing is killing up close with bare hands or bladed weapons — the human horror at plunging a blade into human flesh is huge — where you can feel your adversary’s last breath on your face. Guns give you more distance — although most people will avoid deliberately killing with those, unless they’ve been conditioned (as modern soldiers are, often with tremendous cost to their later mental health) to overcome that.

          Crew-served machine guns are a little easier, partly because of distance, partly because of the shared responsibility and peer pressure of being part of a team. Same with sniper teams.

          Artillery and aerial bombing, where you can’t even see the people you’re killing, are easiest.

          1. Phillip

            And sitting in a room somewhere near Las Vegas and pushing a button that commands a drone to kill halfway around the planet has got to be easier still.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Yes and no. I’d like to see that studied.

              But I suspect it’s no easier, and could be even harder psychologically. At least under some circumstances, actual pilots in a war zone can rationalize that they are risking their own lives in the process of killing. That might be some comfort. Even in an era when few adversaries have anything approaching effective anti-aircraft capability, just operating a high-performance aircraft is a dangerous proposition.

              Whereas a drone operator is acutely aware of his own safety, contrasted with that of his target. Plus, satellite imagery gives both kinds of pilots today much more ability to see the damage that they do.

              Also, they aren’t just bombing buildings — they’re going after individuals, with names and faces that are known. A complicating factor in terms of the personal cost of killing.

              So I don’t know if that’s easier or not, especially compared to someone engaged in carpet-bombing from a B-29 or B-52.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                To elaborate…

                We have the film “Good Kill,” the first to delve into the psychological strains of being a drone pilot.

                This piece about the film (which I have not seen) in Military Times touches on the relative disdain in which such operators are held by “real” pilots, and the rest of the military. And is a factor that I think Grossman would say increases the psychological cost of killing this way. That’s because another factor that makes killing easier is the approbation that the good soldier who does his duty receives from his comrades in his unit, from his service branch overall, and from the larger society — hence the terrible time Vietnam vets had when they came home to “baby-killer” insults rather than parades.

                But this is preliminary and anecdotal so far, to my knowledge. And in the case of this film, fiction.

              2. Phillip

                “they’re going after individuals, with names and faces that are known”—really? There’s a lot of investigative reporting out there (NYT, WSJ, McClatchy) that shows that is often not the case.

                1. Bryan Caskey

                  I wouldn’t think that the specific drone operator/pilot/whatever you call him would really need to know who the target was, or what his name was. I would just guess that the CIA (or whoever is giving the orders) just selects the target and says “Neutralize the target.”

                  No need to give the drone operator a whole backstory, right? He’s just the tip of the spear.

              3. Brad Warthen Post author

                But that’s the intent, or rather it is in the cases we hear about, and I’m just saying that would seem to be a factor counteracting the distance part of the equation, in terms of effect on the operator’s psyche.

                But I’m just speculating…

          2. Bryan Caskey

            “Crew-served machine guns are a little easier, partly because of distance, partly because of the shared responsibility and peer pressure of being part of a team. Same with sniper teams.”

            That reminds me of this humorous look at children and guns, that my brother in law (an o-5) sent me about a year ago, when my wife had our second child.

  7. Bryan Caskey

    So a mass shooter with with an actual automatic rifle (and a whole bunch of mags) got loose in Europe. (For a second.) I thought that was supposed to be impossible over there. I’ve been told they have laws against that sort of thing.

    SPOILER: Two US Marines take him down, reaffirming the fact that the USMC is still the most feared fighting force in France since 1918 and Belleau Wood.


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