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Forum Post: Gun Crazy: Why Is America Different From Other Countries?

Posted 5 years ago on Feb. 20, 2013, 4:46 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Gun Crazy: Why Is America Different From Other Countries?

Wednesday, 20 February 2013 10:02 By Joel Boyce, Care2 | Op-Ed


The 1989 school shooting at the École Polytechnique, also known as the Montreal Massacre, was, and remains the worst in Canadian history. 14 people were killed by shooter Marc Lépine, all women, before he turned the gun on himself. This exceeds the victim death toll of the later Columbine massacre by one, though it’s eclipsed by the events in Newtown, Connecticut this past December.

Some people might be surprised that we have school shootings in Canada. It’s true: we’re not immune to those rare bouts of madness that drive a person to do the unthinkable. There may always be people whose minds break in that way, no matter where you live, no matter how much headway we make against society’s endemic problems. And yet the numbers tell a story of gun violence in Canada that is wildly divergent from that of the United States.

The Canadian story begins in the small town of Altona, not far from where I live, where a disgruntled teacher killed several school trustees and children before turning the gun on himself, way back in 1902. It’s one of 11 such incidents in Canadian history, and the second worst. The majority of school shootings here have only had a single death, and the most recent, in 2010, ended without loss of life. The United States, meanwhile, has had school shootings in every decade since the 1850s, and the last two full years to go by without one of these horrific events? 1990 and 1981. Last month alone there where eight gun attacks in schools in the United States. It’s getting worse instead of better, perhaps even exponentially so.

To what can we attribute such a stark difference between two such culturally and economically similar countries? Some hint might be found in the public response to these tragedies. The Montreal Massacre sparked a huge public outcry that became a powerful and ultimately successful movement for tighter gun control. Lépine was armed with a semi-automatic rifle that was legally obtained and registered to him. A few years later, he would not have so easily been able to obtain that type of weapon.

In the wake of Columbine, and more recently, the Newtown shootings, the public response in America has been almost exactly the same — on the left. But it’s also been immediately met by a counter-current from conservatives defending the second amendment and decrying gun-control advocates as reactionaries or un-American. Yet this is only a political issue in the United States. We certainly have conservative politicians and voters in Canada, but the right to carry weapons simply isn’t considered a partisan issue. Most of us don’t argue about gun control because we don’t have a centuries-long history of casual access to guns which we’re afraid to lose. Many of us hunt, but not with assault weapons, and not without proper training and deep respect for gun safety. Beyond hunting, few feel the need to own a gun and are happy to limit their use. And this isn’t just Canada, but virtually every Western country outside of the United States.

Easy access to guns is clearly a critical factor in incidences of gun violence. Before first-person shooter video games and copycat killers and mass media madness, in the middle of the 19th-century, American kids were even then bringing in guns to school and shooting people. Maybe by mistake, maybe as crimes of passion, or maybe as pre-meditated, cold-blooded murder. It was easy to get guns, and so momentary lapses in judgement became irreparable mistakes.

At one time, everyone accepted guns as a ubiquitous tool of rural life. It wasn’t about being gun crazy. It’s just how things were. The part I just can’t figure out is how the idea of needing lots of guns became so entrenched that decent people would actually fight tooth and nail to keep them out there.

Here in Canada, I’ve been threatened with a knife by someone at a party I didn’t even know, robbed several times while tending shop alone, and just recently, almost witnessed a completely pointless and random assault on public transport. We’re not saner up here. But fewer of our crazy people have guns, and that makes a considerable difference.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.


American Assassinations for Dummies

Wednesday, 20 February 2013 09:18 By Mark Ames, Not Safe for Work Corporation | News Analysis


Las Vegas, Nevada: It’s hard to have a serious conversation about America’s drone assassination policy when no one seems to have a basic grasp of recent history. This cultural amnesia epidemic is starting to get me down— which is partly my fault for paying more than two minutes’ attention to Twitter at a single go.

The problem starts with Reagan, as problems so often do. Most people on the left take for granted that Reagan’s executive order 12333 "banned assassinations" — which is not just a false interpretation, but really awful mangling of one of the dark turning points in modern American history.

That same ignorance of the history of assassination policy runs right through today, with the repetition of another myth: That President Obama’s extrajudicial drone-assassinations of American citizens is "unprecedented" and "radical" and that "not even George Bush targeted American citizens."

The truth is a lot worse and a lot more depressing.


When Military Groupthink Condones the Mass Killing of Civilians

Wednesday, 20 February 2013 00:00 By Mark Karlin, Truthout | Interview


Nick Turse, author of the best-seller "Kill Anything That Moves", talks to Truthout about the US Military's concerted effort over decades to cover up its torture and atrocities in Vietnam, much more common than news coverage of the My Lai slaughter led the public to believe, to create a false narrative of the war.

If past is prologue, then Nick Turse's account of the conduct of the US military in Vietnam, Kill Anything That Moves deserves a large readership.

Truthout talked with Nick Turse about his bestseller.

Mark Karlin: In your introduction you state about tracking down US military atrocities in Vietnam: "I’d thought that I was looking for a needle in a haystack; what I found was a veritable haystack of needles." Why has it taken so long to identify that My Lai was not the exception to the rule?

Nick Turse: That’s a great question. I think a variety of factors, which I try to lay out in detail in Kill Anything that Moves, contributed to this. There were failings on the part of the press and on the part of American citizens, but perhaps most important was the concerted effort of the US military to tamp down allegations, cover up atrocities and create a false narrative of the war. The evidence indicates that this took place at all levels, from troops in the field, through the chain of command up to and including the highest reaches of the Pentagon.


The Secret Rise of 21st Century Democracy

Wednesday, 20 February 2013 00:00 By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Truthout | News Analysis


New economies based on greater democratic control, real representation and citizen participation are on the rise. There is much to be learned from countries like Venezuela that break from the Washington Consensus.

If Americans knew the truth about the growth of real democracy in Venezuela and other Latin American countries, we would demand economic democracy and participatory government, which together would threaten the power of concentrated wealth. The seeds of both are beginning to sprout in the US despite efforts to keep Americans ignorant about them. Real democracy creates a huge challenge to the oligarchs and their neoliberal agenda because it is driven by human needs, not corporate greed. That is why major media in the US, which are owned by six corporations, aggressively misinform the public about Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution.

Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research writes, "The Western media reporting has been effective. It has convinced most people outside of Venezuela that the country is run by some kind of dictatorship that has ruined it." In fact, just the opposite is true. Venezuela, since the election of Chavez, has become one of the most democratic nations on Earth. Its wealth is increasing and being widely shared. But Venezuela has been made so toxic that even the more liberal media outlets propagate distortions to avoid being criticized as too leftist. Venezuela is a front line in the battle between the elites and the people over US-style democracy, as we described in Part I of this series.

We spoke with Mike Fox, who went to Venezuela in 2006 to see for himself what was happening. Fox spent years documenting the rise of participatory democracy in Venezuela and Brazil. He found a grassroots movement creating the economy and government they wanted, often pushing Chavez further than he wanted to go. Venezuelan democracy and economic transformation are bigger than Chavez. Chavez opened a door to achieve the people's goals: literacy programs in the barrios, more people attending college, universal access to health care, as well as worker-owned businesses and community councils where people make decisions for themselves. Change came through decades of struggle leading to the election of Chavez in 1998, a new constitution and ongoing work to make that constitution a reality.



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[-] 3 points by Middleaged (5140) 5 years ago

Partial Response to Subject Gun Crazy: Why Is America Different From Other Countries? By Joel Boyce.

I respect the opinion of the author and am sure he has things he can teach me. But I feel he is too narrowly focused. Human behavior and the study of human behavior covers many, many disciplines. In fact, personally, I find that society always tells us here is the truth, the science is mostly done and now we can explain things. But, Guys.... that has never been true. Our history and science are full of holes ... and the media and politicians deliverately obscure part of the whole truth.

1) Remember Sigmund Freud and Karl Jung and the age of Psychology - well there is a lot to understand about the Id, Ego, Super Ego.
2) Neruo Psychology, the study of the Brain, Brain Chemisty, the nervous system, genetics - well there is a lot to understand.
3) Pharma Psychology, the use of Drugs to change moods and brains of kids and adults - well there is a lot to understand.
4) Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology can analyze the place of firearms, the culture of living in a frontier, the formation of a revolution and a new constitution, and the Culture behind Capitalism, the reasons people fled Europe, what it means to stake out land, build a farm, compete with a new business, and to fight for water rights and grazing rights, and the advent of Eminent Domain, government take overs of land and oil & mineral rights, the culture that arises in living with robber barons and huge businesses like the Rail Roads, American Financiers, Hudson Bay Trading Company, East India Company, and Cattle Barons.
5) What does it mean to feel weak or oppressed with other models of Men being tough, strong, self-reliant, independent, ... models like cowboys, hunters, trappers ... and seeing fighters, wrestlers ... or seeing men hit their kids or their wives.
6) What about having a dysfunctional family does that hurt the child, not knowing how to understand his feelings and thoughts about what he sees in life. Maybe the child doesn't get hugs, or love, or feels abandonment, doesn't feel safe at home, don't feel his words or thoughts matter to anyone. But he still has to got to school and obey at home...
7) What does Technology do to children, they say the brain gets rewired, what does it do to spend half the day on a computer or video game.

I just don't think the science is in main stream media and I don't think the anthropology (history) is in the Main Stream. I think the biggest influence is big business and we don't know what they are doing to US, and how our lives end up limited or controlled.


[-] 1 points by Narley (272) 5 years ago

Gun Crazy: Why Is America Different From Other Countries?

I don’t know for sure why American love their guns so much, and it’s probably more complicated than most believe. But here are a couple of my opinions.

The mass of Americans have always owned guns. For hunting, sport of home defense. But only in the past thirty or forty years have so many people turned into gun nuts. Prior to that guns were viewed mostly tools.

To a large degree I blame Hollywood. From TV cop shows, to shoot’em up westerns and war movies. Guns ruled the airways and theaters. Every kid wanted to be John Wayne or Harry Callahan. These days violent video games add to the mix.

And I suppose the NRA played a role. Originally the NRA was a shooting sports and gun safety organization. They promoted gun sports and gun education. Actually they still do that.

I think the early conceal carry licenses sparked peoples interest. People thought it cool to have the ability to carry a gun. This prompted an era of new guns, holsters, ammo, etc… . This just kept building and building. These days there are probably twenty gun magazines on the news stands. Some specifically focus on carrying a gun and some specifically on AR-15’s. I saw an AR-15 magazine on the news rack at the supermarket today.

Somewhere along the way guns became cool. For instance, the AR and AK interest is only ten or fifteen years old. I’d say in 1990 very few people cared about hi cap semi-auto rifles. In 1990 everyone want a good 30-30 bolt action deer rifle.

So, I can’t completely answer you question. But another aspect is now the gun interest has turned into a “rights” issue, which makes it even more difficult to deal with. That’s my two cents.

[-] 2 points by Middleaged (5140) 5 years ago

What about the Gang culture. The returning vetrans were supposed to be some of the guys that started some of the worst Bike Gangs in the USA. I'm thinking some crazy gun loving war vets might have represented a kind of liberatarian freedom ... kind of like a Viking from a different century.


An outlaw motorcycle club (sometimes known as a motorcycle gang or biker gang) is a motorcycle subculture which has its roots in the immediately post-World War II era of American society.-Wikipedia

Since I don't know anything about OMGs ...

Perhaps in the USA we respond to Strength & Power which can be Guns, Prison Tatoos, Prison Experience, Motor Cycle Gangs, Military Veterans, anyone that looks real tough, Street Gangs, and anyone that has lots of Money and Expensive Things.

So I guess I don't have an other answers just questions.

Like trends in music can be a kind of rebelion ... Like hard rock as a reaction to the establishment. Counter Culture as a Reaction to the Vietnam War. Buying guns might be a counter action to corporations or Urban Culture. But maybe Guns provide a sense of Identity ... like maybe some Americans are searching for an Identity. We are not Europeans, we don't speak second languages, we just want to Identify with our own History in some how.

Guns as a Historical Identity.
Guns as an answer to moderization or corporatization or globalization.
Guns as a way to feel closer to Movies and Hollywood Heros.
Guns as an American (US) invention and US Product, high quality US Machining and Craftsmanship, US source of pride like US autos.

[-] 1 points by Narley (272) 5 years ago

I think you’re right on most counts. Although I see 1%’er motorcycle clubs as a symptom rather than a cause. I’ve owned some kind of motorcycle for the past fifty-two years. I currently own two custom Harley’s. I’ve known a few club members over the years. I think M/C’s can be dangerous to each other, but generally not a worry for the average citizen. I think street gangs and drug gangs are ten times more dangerous than 1%’er motorcycle clubs.

The only thing I can add is we truly are a gun culture. For good or bad people love their guns. I count myself in this group. I’m a veteran, own guns; and am concerned that the government really does want to take our guns. I’ve never been arrested, am mentally stable, had a successful career before retiring three years ago. Raised three responsible children and love to play with my grandkids. I don’t own an AK or an AR (anymore). Just not interested in them.

I resent it when someone calls me some kind of nut, who doesn’t care about gun violence. It’s simply not true.

[-] 2 points by Middleaged (5140) 5 years ago

No, I think we can speak out against the CIA, Special Forces, TBTF Bankers, Washington Lawyers, Washington bankers, Federal Reserve Board, and the 1% OMG members.

But we can't name CIA guys, Special Forces Guys, or OMG Guys ... because they might come and get you or me.

There is a limit to the Freedom of Speech in all countries if those guys can kick our asses.

So the Solution/Resolution is to Reform System, all systems, finance systems, shadow banking systems, criminal syndicates, ... reform congress .... reform Lobbying ... reform campaign finance ... reform corporate entity rights ... reform foreign policy ... reform foreign adventurism ... reform treatment of prisoners and treatment of criminals to fit with Geneva Convensions ... reform financial systems to include rating systems, and independent auditing systems, reform political systems and the money that slants the politicians toward big business, reform the IRS system toward 6 core tax credits as replacement for 3 Million words in the US Income Tax System... place federal limits on state or federal tax abatements for corporations to keep the figures very low in the 10s of thousands of dollars....

And on and on ....

[-] 1 points by Narley (272) 5 years ago

The wholesale reform you describe will be an almost insurmountable task. Part of the reason OWS exists is to address these issues. A discussion on fixing these things is very close to saying “I want to fix the problems in the world”. But where do you start? What is the plan? Is there an agenda? What about a strategy? My point is “save the world” statements are just pep rally talk. At some point you have to deal with specifics and details. Not trying to be rude, just saying what I think.

But I digress, this thread is about why Americans love their guns so much. Bottom line, I think above all other reasons, is we get so much news about crime. Just watching the local news you would think all Americans live in a war zone. Virtually every single crime is reported on the news. People have adapted by buying 300+ million guns. I see no end in sight.

[-] 1 points by Middleaged (5140) 5 years ago

Good point about Crime on the news, it does sort of lead to feelings or beliefs that we live in an unsafe world.

Where to start? I think OWS is about getting people educated and getting people to join together. I have tried to air out a bunch of solutions. My solutions can be taken a piece at a time, they ar enot perfect or the only solutions ... maybe my hope was that a group of people would pick an issue to expand national support while learning the ways of government and getting continutal education on government. The big reforms that are popular are ending wealthy money's influence on government, Reforming Wall Street. TAX REFORM, Campaign Finance Reform and the Election Process to allow Third Parties to Debate, Get equal air time on TV, Cable Radio.... Below are just my solutions that no one agrees on.