A Philosopher's Blog

Gun Violence, Once More

Posted in Ethics, Law, Philosophy by Michael LaBossiere on September 20, 2013
The most common type of gun confiscated by pol...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mass murders, defined as four or more people killed, occur with unfortunate regularity in the United States. These murders typically involve guns—most likely for the obvious reason that guns make killing much easier. The latest incident to grab the public’s attention was a shooting in a Washington Navy yard in which twelve people were murdered. As with each such horrible event, the gun cycle has been restarted.

As always, some people demand that “something be done” while others rush to head off any attempts to actually do something that might involve guns. As with each previous cycle, this one will slowly spin down and lose the eye of the public. Until the next shooting.

I have written so many times about guns and violence that I suspect that I do not have anything new to say about the matter. From what I have heard, seen and read, it seems like the same is true of other people.

In defense of guns, people trot out the usual line about it being people that kill rather than guns. This is, obviously enough, a true claim: guns are tools that people sometimes use to kill other people. Guns do not engage in murder by themselves. Another way to look at it is that it is true that guns do not commit gun crimes—people do. Of course, the same is true about drug crimes: drugs do not commit drug crimes—people do.

While muttering about guns not killing sounds callous when bullet ridden corpses so recently lay on the ground, this approach does have some merit. After all, when people do kill people with guns, there is some reason (a causal chain) behind it and this reason is not simply that the person had a gun. Rather, they have the gun and use it for reasons (in the sense of there being causes).

In the case of the latest alleged shooter, there seems to be evidence of mental health issues, such as his allegedly telling the police about voices and attempts to beam messages to him with microwaves. He also had a police record that included “minor” gun incidents, such as shooting a coworker’s tire and discharging a firearm through his ceiling into the apartment above. Despite all this, he was still able to legally purchase a gun and even keep his security access to military bases.

Looking back at other shootings, some of them are similar in that the shooter had mental issues that were known but did not reach a level at which legal action could be taken. This, of course, suggests that changing the laws would be a potential solution. However, the obvious concern is that the majority of people who fall below the level at which legal action can be taken to deny them guns never engage in violence. I have written extensively about this before and hold to the same position, namely that denying people their rights requires more than just the mere possibility that they might do something.

It is interesting and disturbing to note that it is worth considering that our entire society is mentally deranged. This point was made quite some time ago by Emma Goldman in her essay on anarchism. She noted that we are like animals in captivity and our behavior is deranged by the conditions that are imposed on us by those who hold power. We face a society with grotesque inequalities, ethical problems, drug abuse (which is both a cause and effect), little social support and great stress. Most people who are ground down by this situation break down in non-violent ways, but it is hardly a shock that some people respond with violence. If this is the case, then the violence is a symptom of a greater disease and gun laws would fail to address the disease itself—although they could make gun violence less likely.

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23 Responses

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  1. magus71 said, on September 20, 2013 at 8:44 am

    “This point was made quite some time ago by Emma Goldman in her essay on anarchism. She noted that we are like animals in captivity and our behavior is deranged by the conditions that are imposed on us by those who hold power. We face a society with grotesque inequalities, ethical problems, drug abuse (which is both a cause and effect), little social support and great stress.”

    “If this is the case, then the violence is a symptom of a greater disease and gun laws would fail to address the disease itself—although they could make gun violence less likely.”

    Humans are the problem, not our artificial systems. Emma Goldman died a bitter, lonely, friendless woman, like many of her ethos. I’d summon Goldman less frequently in order to maintain credibility.

    • WTP said, on September 20, 2013 at 9:12 am

      If this is the case, then the violence is a symptom of a greater disease
      Magus, you could possibly shed some credibility here…haven’t there been numerous studies showing little or no correlation between poverty and crime? As my 94 year old cousin says, “We were poor in the depression. We didn’t steal.”

      My mother grew up in a single parent home, no power, no social support, tremendous stress. They would have easily classified as poor today. Her family didn’t resort to crime. Both she and her one brother who survived the war went on to stable middle-class lives. My father’s father was a coal miner and then a farmer on rented land. Lost 70% of their savings when the bank failed in the depression. They were poor. Neither he nor his 4 siblings ever stole or did drugs or became drunks. Nor did any of them blame society for their ills. Perhaps that’s the difference. They all died richer than Emma Goldman and her ilk. Maybe not monetarily but in every other way.

      • magus71 said, on September 20, 2013 at 9:31 am

        Crime precedes the poverty of the criminal, not the other way around. Success in anything requires characteristics not generally held by criminals. What a thoroughly “unauthentic” ( in Kierkegaardian parlance) society we have become. I find it ironic, that the Left, the portion of our society most likely to complain about greed and consumerism, are in in the fact the ones that want more and more. And of course, they want others to give it to them, on a chronic basis. I find it ironic, that I, a conservative, would be happy living as a monk, but the Leftist proto-Communist of Occupy Wall Street want what Wall Street people have, but without having to do the work. They want to steal without feeling like they’re stealing. My grandmother was dirt poor. I grew up with her for a good portion of my life. She didn’t even cuss, let alone rob liquor stores. I know helplessness and need when I see it. OWS doesn’t have it.

        The worship of “dissent” among these people. My grandfather knew nothing of dissent. Her knew a hell of a lot about welding, which made him more useful than 1000 sociologists. My friend’s grandfather got an engineering degree with zero dollars to his name. He received an education at a naval academy. watching the military channel this week, an interview with a fellow involved in Operation Overlord. He recounted hitting the beaches and taking “awful casualties.” The he said, “but it was ok, because we won.” These are the types that I want to have over for supper and help, not the metro-dude splaying on the sidewalk complaining he’s not a millionaire at 25 and no work experience. He can rot.

        Just like I told my fat coworker who whined while we did windsprints lat week for physical training: I have zero fucking sympathy for unauthentic helplessness. Those who lay on a sidewalk for weeks with a Mac laptop that I can barely afford, whining about the injustice of the world earn my disdain. They need to pick their ass up and have some self-respect.

        • WTP said, on September 20, 2013 at 12:05 pm

          knew a hell of a lot about welding, which made him more useful than 1000 sociologists.

          Agree. Comprende, TJ? That 200K spent on studying 21st century American dating habits would be much better spent training 50 welders. Whether we need 50 more welders or not.

        • magus71 said, on September 20, 2013 at 12:10 pm

          Sorry about all the mistypes; I have thoracic outlet syndrome which makes my left hand numb and my already bad typing worse. I usually don’t proof read these until after I publish.

  2. ajmacdonaldjr said, on September 20, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Well said. People seem to miss the causal connection between the US government using gun violence to solve its problems, and to get what it wants by force, and ordinary people doing the same. “Any nation that spends more money year after year on military spending instead of on programs of spiritual uplift is approaching spiritual death” Dr King said — over 40 years ago — and we have now arrived at spiritual death, because we have failed heed his advise.

    “As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through non-violent action; for they ask and write me, “So what about Vietnam?” They ask if our nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

    TEXT – Martin Luther King, “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam” – http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article16183.htm

    AUDIO – Martin Luther King, “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam” – http://youtu.be/b80Bsw0UG-U

  3. T. J. Babson said, on September 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here–this is the war room.”

    Has anybody thought about why 2 mass murders have taken place on military bases?

    Mike, have you thought about this?

    • WTP said, on September 20, 2013 at 12:09 pm

      Yeah, Because mass murders have got to take place somewhere. A good place to find disarmed, vulnerable people are in locations where we do our national defense work. My employer trusts me with national security secrets but not a pocket knife. Yet I still carry a pocket knife.

      A couple weeks ago I got spot-checked on what was in my briefcase. Happens about every 6 months or so, depending on your arrival/departure time habits. The guy never asked what was in my pockets or asked me to open the closed compartment of my briefcase.

    • magus71 said, on September 20, 2013 at 12:31 pm

      Military are the safest place to start shooting people. Almost nobody is armed, by regulation, except for MPs who carry the most ineffective armament in modern firearms history: 9mm pistols loaded with ball rounds. When Major Hassan went on his workplace violence jihad, all of the soldiers had to run and hide because guns are too dangerous for soldiers to carry.

      • magus71 said, on September 20, 2013 at 12:31 pm

        military bases*

        • WTP said, on September 20, 2013 at 12:45 pm

          Don’t know if you remember the Beirut Marine barracks bombing back in, I believe ’83. The story was, though officially denied many times but believed by many a Marine I have known, that the guards saw the suicide bomber coming but couldn’t load their weapons in time to fire at the truck to stop it. My father was shocked and furious. He told me of standing guard duty in Fort Benning, GA with a loaded rifle. He couldn’t imagine why men in a war zone were standing “guard” duty without a single chambered round.

          • magus71 said, on September 20, 2013 at 12:51 pm

            Funny, I was thinking about this today. In the old days, PCC (Pre-Combat Checks) were to make sure there was a round in the chamber. Now, PCC are to make sure there’s no round in the chamber.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on September 21, 2013 at 6:07 pm

      A rough hypothesis is that people often seem to go to their workplaces to engage in such violence. However, the general pattern seems to be for people to go to places that will have many people who are most likely not armed (which is somewhat ironic on a military base).

  4. magus71 said, on September 20, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Sweet mother of Malthusian/Marxist misanthropy, Batman. The comments on Mike’s Facebook make me want to vomit. I’m morphing into a troll because trolls serve a purpose. I won’t post the names here, but here’s some quotes:

    “Your closing paragraph states a view of the problem that is very compelling! It’s terribly unfortunate that the NRA’s mission is such that it is now because it functions as a facilitator of gun violence. And I fear that if poverty (with all of its related stressors) grows in this country, along with the “everyman/woman for themselves” thinking, we will see even more gun (and other) violence.”

    Of course the closing quote catches the leftist eye! It caught mine, too.

    Next poster, in response to the above:

    “Could not agree more, Diana. This goes back to my rant about the woman pulling the gun at Wal Mart. As the cost of living keeps going up and salaries go down, tempers are going to run hot. To me, the only way to stop the gun violence is to address the real issue of why people want these things.”

    Tempers are running hot guys, I’ll whip out my gat in walmart if I can’t get a copy of Grand Theft Auto 5! I’m on the edge! i’ll call in my posse with my Obama phone!

    Enjoy the decline…..

    • WTP said, on September 20, 2013 at 12:36 pm

      If you find what non-philosophical, possibly non-educated types post on Mike’s Facebook page to be disturbing, I gotta ask…Have you ever checked out the comments from “philosophers” to the articles that Mike cross-posts here and at The Philosophers’ Magazine? I give you thus:


      This is just one example of a deep thinker. Check out other of Mike’s posts over there, and the resulting moderated comments. Enjoy.

      • magus71 said, on September 20, 2013 at 12:47 pm

        I’ll look, after my blood pressure comes back down. Man, these people make me wish there was a draft, just so they could actually experience something really difficult, and I were present to hear their high-pitch whining. A good 12 mile march with regulation 35 lbs in the pack, would be a great start. Having the Taliban shoot rockets at them multiple times per week for a year would be great for building character too. Then listening to the following diatribes about how unfair Taliban indirect fire is. Dang, I have so little patience for these types anymore. Mike, as a runner, you of all people should know that you don’t cross the finish line without experiencing some discomfort. I don’t know what your “fans” do or believe, but I bet they’re not car or air conditioning mechanics. They live in a world I don’t recognize.

        “everyman/woman for themselves” thinking,” Oh, like who? Like the nihilist-lesbian-vegan majoring in social work these days?

        • WTP said, on September 20, 2013 at 1:06 pm

          Nowhere near comparable but when we had several hurricanes pass through Central FL a few years back and we had to go without power (and thus A/C) for a couple days, I got real tired of hearing my coworkers (and wife) whine about it. To me it was 10 times better than the weeks I spent in Boy Scout camp in hot, summer, central FL, with the mosquitoes and tics and dirt, etc. At least with the hurricanes we still had running water, some of us had functioning swimming pools (at camp we had to swim between the alligators in the lake), and that was with a workplace to go to for 8-12 hours a day that was fully functioning due to generators supporting the data center. And when they heard about where I had to pluck the tics from, well…

          • T. J. Babson said, on September 20, 2013 at 2:05 pm

            Stay away from ticks. A colleague of mine developed a meat allergy from a tick bite. All my hiking stuff now has Insect Shield.


            • magus71 said, on September 20, 2013 at 2:30 pm

              Careful TJ, you just gave the vegan jihadists the plum idea of how to stop the evils of meat consumption.

            • WTP said, on September 20, 2013 at 2:45 pm

              yeah, tics, ticks, whatevs. Another serious danger is Lyme disease. Don’t know if you can get tics from ticks. But that’s another topic.

  5. T. J. Babson said, on September 20, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    And now for a little nerdy humor.

  6. magus71 said, on September 20, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    Dems at work. I love this Duck Dynasty guy. 25 years retired Army. And he has a clue.


  7. Jess Darington said, on December 18, 2016 at 12:09 am

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