10 comments on “Suprise of the week: militant gun owners are still morons.

  1. The insistence that, if only some of the other moviegoers had been armed, they could’ve stopped the rampage is especially unrealistic in this case, because this shooter, James Holmes, was wearing body armor. AND it was dark, AND he used tear gas to give himself cover.

    I think it’s primarily a comforting fantasy, that people think, Hey, if I’d been there, I could’ve stopped him. You can tell yourself you’re safe, that you wouldn’t have died even if you’d been there. It helps take the sting out of the randomness of it all, the fact that another person really can end your life before you’ve even noticed that they’re there.

    • That insistence also ignores one of the central tenets of game theory. An attacker has the initiative, and thus the advantage. Holmes’ use of body armour and tear gas is very much an expression of that. All he had to do is choose one line of attack and plan out how he was going to execute it. People in a defensive position have to plan a defense against every possible kind of attack, often based on information about the attacker that might not be wholly reflected by reality, and thus generally do not defend well.

      I also do not believe that the gun lobby make a good case with the whole “I could have stopped him” bit. Because in a society where nobody has a gun unless they are in protective services, a person wishing to attack another person has to rely much more on their own resources. Having to overcome someone who is physically stronger, has more martial prowess, or even both, is a far greater deterrent to attack plans than a gun ever will be.

      Of course, one also has to ask the question of how all of this crap about what might have been does the victims or their families the slightest bit of good…

      • [O]ne also has to ask the question of how all of this crap about what might have been does the victims or their families the slightest bit of good …

        Yeah, that’s the other obnoxious thing about this fantasy. It comes off as nothing if not victim-blaming. You’ve just lost someone you loved, or you narrowly survived yourself, and some jerk starts implying that, if only you (or your loved one) had had more gumption, more presence of mind, more whatever, they could’ve averted their fate. So their being dead, or wounded, or having lost someone, can be attributed to some failing in them as opposed to their having been in the presence of a mass murderer.

        It’s still a self-protective talisman for the speaker of such obscenities — it can’t happen to me, because I’m awesome — but it functions as such at the expense of everyone else.

        • Indeed. It is self-aggrandisement on the part of the speaker, and it is so callously disregarding of the feelings of anyone involved. But such is the mentality of people who want to believe that they are right all of the time, irrespective of how anyone else might be affected. The whole purpose of a gun in the first place is to enable people who are weaker, smaller, or otherwise less physically able to kill or maim people who are bigger and stronger.

          Usually, when people start telling everyone around them that “it can’t happen here”, that is the first sign that not only can it happen here, it will happen here. It is just a matter of time.

  2. And, on a more personal note:

    Killing a Human being, including oneself, is a task with a level of difficulty that often surprises those attempting it. … Non-fatal, self-inflicted gunshot wounds are a rarity, but sixty percent of all successful suicides in America involve firearms.

    Don’t know if I have told you this already, but one of the less-fun things I’ve got going on with my brain is serious depression coupled to a kind of OCD that only involves obsessions. Want to guess what the obsession is? If you guessed suicide, give yourself a gold star.

    Seriously, when this stuff first hit (about halfway through my second year in college), I would have these hyper-realistic visions (not thoughts, visions — “thoughts” is too abstract a word for them) of killing myself in whatever ways my environment suggested to me. In a dorm room, they involved climbing out a window onto a ledge and swan-diving onto the pavement; out by the fountain, they involved lying down in the fountain and drowning myself … you get the idea. What was actually going on around me would fade, and I would actually live the vision instead. With the ledge-jumping one, I could feel the wind, and the cold, and the gritty texture of the concrete the ledges were made from, and the vertigo — all while sitting inside, in a warm room. It wasn’t even always that I wanted to die — or that an “I” even existed at that point — death just takes on a certain gravitational pull in those moments. (See here for a really well-written post by someone else who has experienced this.)

    There are two reasons I never acted on these nigh-irresistible compulsions: one, inertia is in the nature of depression, which is why so many depressed people kill themselves as they’re starting to recover — they finally have the energy and will to act on their suicidal urges; and two, I always knew just how hard it was to kill yourself using the means available to me. While people have died at my college from falls as short as from a third story, I knew there would always be a chance that I’d survive even a fall from a dormitory rooftop. (Especially because I had such poor coordination that I had a low opinion of my ability to keep my head pointing downwards.) And I was pretty sure I didn’t have the strength of will to drown myself in a foot of water: drowning hurts, and I knew I would instinctively break the water’s surface as soon as I started to run out of air. Same with cutting myself: even if I cut deep, I would probably not die, and would almost certainly be found and hospitalized.

    But if I had had a gun, or known someone who did? I would have been ALL OVER THAT SHIT. I would have thought nothing of stealing a friend’s gun to do the deed — like I said above, when one of these episodes was happening, there wasn’t hardly anything animating me except the wish to die.

    Even now, when I haven’t had one of these visions for years, I know the temptation would be strong if I knew anyone around me had a gun. The knowledge that death would be quick, and nearly foolproof, would make it way harder to resist than those earlier plans I formed, which would’ve been hard to carry out, painful, take a long time to kill me (except for the jumping-off-the-roof plan), and have an unacceptably high probability that I’d survive.

    But anyway, here’s my point: I am recovered. I haven’t even cried for no reason in forever. I certainly have no desire to die anywhere in my conscious mind. Even with all that, I STILL imagine I would be powerless to resist shooting myself if a gun were put within my reach.

    The roots go deep.

    • I remember having a conversation with a psychiatrist in which they stated that it was common for persons who have been living with a long-undiscovered neurological disorder of any sort to have accompanying suicidal feelings. That really is a no-brainer to me. I mean, one goes from place to place in search of help, gets flipped off with wrong diagnoses or flat out refusals to do anything, often for years on end, and they wonder why we are not shitting smiles when we do get a vaguely correct diagnostic label?

      Suicidal actions are almost always impulsive. That is why the first protocol of people employed to talk others down from ledges is basically “keep them talking”. I remember one scene in Identity where John Cusack‘s character tells a story about how he was trying to talk a pregnant girl who had AIDS down from a ledge. When he tells her the usual things like she has things to live for and so on, he gets asked what. And he says that they trained him to say all sorts of things in response, but in light of the girl’s situation, he hesitated because he could not think of a single thing. Seeing this, she jumps. It is a split-second decision, basically.

      That is one reason why the overwhelming majority of successful suicides involve guns or jumping. Both are highly impulse-indulgent things that give no time to step back from. Most suicides fail because the individual thinks about what they are doing or feeling during the attempt and start to have doubts. In fact, this goes right back to that thing I have been saying about attackers having all of the initiative. When Hitler conquered much of Europe, what stopped him from taking other places was that he lost confidence in the advice of his Generals, thinking himself invincible and thus dismissing tactical concerns, and trusted in himself more and more to make all of the decisions. And the ones he did end up making were often driven by impulses that were directed by personal feelings of offense or hurt, and thus were very frequently mistakes. Even then, it took years of not returning the favours to turn the tide back simply because he had the initiative.

      Suicides are basically the same most of the time. The more they are thought about or through, the less successful they tend to be. Success favours speed, and all that.

      Now, having said all of that, one of the reasons this is the case is because the Human brain is designed in such a manner that our intellect serves our emotions, not the other way around. Hence, we have heads of state who fire their Generals for wounding their egos, and people who shoot themselves in order to make this or that sensation stop. It is also quite revealing that rather than attempt to vilify the people who commit suicide by firearm or spout “if I had been there” type fantasies, the gun lobby is very oddly silent about how well-represented firearms are in successful suicides.

      Ugh, I am rambling pointlessly again. I will, of course, continue to try and write more pointless things. But for now… Um… yeah… I am tired. :\

  3. Loss of life because some mutant decided he wanted to wipe put some people and armed himself to do just that.
    Easy access to weapons and even armor and smoke granades so he could do as much damage as possible before being stopped.
    N.R.A. is obviously part of this problem fighting every attempt at banning assault weapons and other cannon like rifles that can hit a plane from a mile away.
    No citizen needs this kind of weapon.

    • You will need to pardon me for being so slow to respond. It has taken me a lot of time to think about how best to do that. What I find horrifying about the whole “if I had a gun” fantasy is that I have since read about how prepared the gunman was, how thought-out the whole affair was. Honestly, if we want a society where every citizen is expected to be armed to the teeth and decked out in armour, we may as well go back to the Middle Ages.

Chuck shit at me here

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