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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Random Violence

Once again, in the United States we have learned of a gunman shooting and killing strangers for no known reason. It is horrifying that anyone would do such a thing and even more mystifying as to why. It was again a young male-- 18 this time. It could be a woman, but it has not been. Women generally only plot and kill someone they know which is no less horrifying.

We want to tell ourselves we can stay safe from this kind of mindless violence, but the truth is nobody can. This appears to have been an upscale mall. I have been in such places; so have you. Across America, every single town has them. There is no way for police to be everywhere instantly, no way for the average citizen to protect themselves when someone starts methodically killing. In some of these malls, the narrow corridors, the interesting little nooks become a way for a killer to rapidly move through many people with others oblivious to the approaching danger.

Some countries have strict gun control laws, but it often hasn't protected them either from these kinds of tragedies. Almost everywhere in the world allows shotguns for hunting. Nobody permits them to be taken into a city and fired.

This will probably shock some of you, and I understand why you might not agree, but the gun control I favor is more states permitting concealed weapons leading to more responsible, trained citizens carrying guns.

Yes, I understand the problems attached to it. What if a citizen fires carelessly? That's where training and classes come in. I understand the police don't like the idea either. They do not even want shop owners carrying a gun. They didn't want pilots to have them, Police don't like it because of the risks of careless shooting; but also when an incident occurs, they do not want to wonder who is the bad guy. It isn't what anybody really wants, but what is a better solution to random violence? If more of those in the Salt Lake City mall had carried a weapon, been trained, less people might have been killed. The one who stopped the killer, long enough for the rest of the police to arrive, was an armed, off-duty policeman-- definitely someone who qualifies as a hero given he was just out for an early Valentine's Day celebration with his wife.

I understand the fear some have about guns. They are dangerous. I grew up with them, got my first .22 at 12 years old, and learned how to shoot safely. I have never lived in a home without guns, taught my children about them when they were little, and practice responsible gun ownership. While I have no fear of guns, I do have a healthy respect for them. Some have asked me but could you shoot a person? I wouldn't want to. Nobody does, but if I wasn't sure I could, in a dangerous situation, I would not have one. A gun to wave around impresses nobody who seriously is intending you harm and in the end will only get you in trouble.

Some years back, I filed for a concealed weapon permit, pretty nearly as soon as they were permitted in my state. I took a class to get it, had to certify I was mentally sound, answer questions about my background, supply references, be finger-printed, and pay my fee. Recently at the end of 2006, I went back for new photographs for the third time since that initial application. I rarely carry that gun as it was mostly intended for hiking in cougar country where I didn't want a holster to be visible; but if our nation sees more times like this last week, I might buy a bigger purse.

No gun control law that has ever been proposed would have stopped the gunman in Salt Lake City, and the first people he killed could not have been saved; but if there had been someone armed in that mall, more might have been saved. And if there had been nobody armed there, a lot more would have been hurt.

Right now, I don't know of anyway to stop what happened in Salt Lake City and Pennsylvania. I don't know any system that would let us figure out who these people are in time. But I do think an armed citizenry might slow it down and in some cases stop a killer. Yes, there are complications to having citizens armed, but more and more states are recognizing that sometimes what we don't like is what we need. What is the alternative? Be shot like sheep? Stay home? None of those sound feasible or possible.

I am not suggesting this is a solution to random, senseless violence. If anyone else has any of their own thoughts on why someone does such a thing or how we can find these people before they pull the trigger, I'd be delighted to hear their thoughts. What happened this week was not only frightening but sorrowful as it hurts us all-- it literally could be any of us.


Debbie said...

Good topic
I hear what you are saying. There will always be crazed maniacs. I believe I read recently that 10% of North Americans are sociopaths. This percentage probably is no different in other parts of the world. I live in Canada, where the gun rules are a little less lenient than in the U.S. but Canada still has guns getting in the wrong hands, and yes we have shootings.

So, it's up to the government, the parents, the teachers and the communities to ensure that these people are getting the help they require. And the operative word is help. Unfortunately, as you know, in North America that "help" translates into anti-depressants and other multi-colored pills - a recipe sometimes for disaster. Whereas prevention should start at the beginnng.

But being a sociopath scares people. Psychologists have their work cut out for them. And who will pay for their treatment, anyways? I think the 10% need a lot more help than what they are getting. But our society is not willing to commit the effort and energy.

Mmm...I rambled a little. Sorry.

Diane Widler Wenzel said...

When I was in Israel traveling alone while using public transportation I saw many carrying hand guns openly. If they didn't have the terroism, it would be interesting if they have senseless random violence. I do not see any necessity for concealment. I might be ignorant in this respect.

Anonymous said...

That's an interesting argument.
I personally have no wish to live in a society wherein people are proactively screened for mental health and sent for "help" if they are found to be what someone defines as a "sociopath." I'd rather be armed.

Dick said...

I think you are right but it would be very important to have that training that should go along with gun ownership. There was a guy with a legal gun in a mall near Seattle a couple of years ago who was shot and paralized because he just threatened the crazy one. The crazy one had no qualms about shooting the armed one while if the armed one had just shot the crazy one in the first place it would have come out differently. Don't pull out your gun in those circumstances if you are not ready to use it!

Ingineer66 said...

Excellent post. I thought exactly the same thing, that if one of the first people confronted would have had a gun maybe fewer would have died. But it is a fine line. I don't want every nut job carrying a gun. We have enough road rage shootings as it is.
Gun control laws don't seem to work. New York City and Washington DC have the strictest laws in the nation and they are among the most deadly. And I remember seeing that story from England a few years ago where the guy just walked through a village shooting people. If memory serves it took the armed police over an hour to get there and kill him. If that happened in most places in Texas he would have got smoked after he shot the second or third person instead of the seventeenth.
As for putting the mentally ill in hospitals, we used to do that, but it was deemed inhumane so now they wonder the streets living under bridges with no treatment at all.

Anonymous said...

"when guns are outlawed, only Outlaws will have guns" is a bumper sticker I LOVE. I too have a concealed weapons permit, even though I do not carry because I have to go on and off the base, and they do not allow weapons through the gate. I too believe that good training, and arming our citizens would help cut down on violent crime.

If those with the guns now knew that they could be shot back at, they may not use them to begin with.

I think that we should allow any who want them and can qualify to use them should have them.

Sandy said...

I have a permit for a gun, not a concealed gun. I live in Canada as doodles does and in a smaller center as well. I don't think about carrying a weapon let alone a concealed one. As manager of a small mall I am forced to call the police often and have a few people that could possibly hold that against me. I see them at times when I am out on my daily walks and have thought, only a few times, they could really do something if they wanted (more than just one person in the group) but that's as far as it's gone. Stupid maybe?? I'd would like to think that if I did have a weapon & was allowed to carry it in public, that I would have a clear enough head to use it as a threat only but strongly doubt that if a situation arose that I would. I don't think anyone wants to seriously injure anyone let alone kill them but that becomes the BIG option if you are carrying a weapon.......but then, you may be choosing life over death for youself?

Rain Trueax said...

Using a gun as a warning is not a wise option. Police are constantly criticized for firing too quickly, but they don't bring out their guns unless they know it is a situation that could warrant using them.

I personally believe it's best to have no gun (the gun class said this also) than to have one you aren't ready to use. It takes thinking about it ahead of time to be sure you can really use it responsibly (even if it's in your own home)-- any doubts and a better choice is pepper spray.

In the case of the recent mall shooting, I wasn't thinking someone there could save their own life. You might not realize in time that the shooter was dangerous and you'd be it too soon. It's not like we, as ordinary, law-abiding citizens, can shoot someone on suspicion. That's a good way to end up in prison ourselves, but rather someone trained to use a gun (as that police officer was) could have moved into the situation to see what was going on. That has happened. There are a lot of cases where armed citizens have made a difference and no case, that I have heard of, of anybody with a concealed weapon permit who used it in a crime. Anyone voluntarily walking toward a situation like that would have to accept they were endangering their own lives, but many strangers have done that to save others.

The biggest thing is that if someone isn't sure they could pull a trigger responsibly, when the situation arose, they should definitely not have a gun for protection. In the class, they showed a woman in a bed with a gun and a stranger threatening her in the room. When she didn't fire quickly, when she warned him, the next thing that happened was he dove for the weapon and she was in a worst spot than originally.

For a man having a gun in a holster on his hip probably is a vald deterrent. I had forgotten about Israel being an armed nation. Something we used to be but have mostly not felt a need for. They are very well trained over there with all the citizens receiving military training for two years, isn't it something like that?

The main thing is for a woman, I have felt to have a gun obvious just alerts someone, who might mean you harm, that you have a means of protecting yourself. There are exceptions. My daughter used to carry hers in a shoulder holster when backpacking in the wilderness when a guy was making it a habit to visit their camp when she was alone. She kept a distance between herself and him and made sure the gun was visible. She hoped the gun would avoid a problem and maybe he'd never have intended her harm anyway but if he thought she was an easy mark, that let him know she was not. There are no set rules other than-- don't have one if you can't really use it.

Ingineer66 said...

I just read a follow up story that the shooter was a Muslim from Bosnia. I don't want to sound paranoid, but maybe we really are in a world wide war against Islam. I don't want to believe that but it keeps coming up.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post and comments. But right up front, I admit....I'm for gun control.
Like Parapluie, I also see no need for gun concealment.
You mention "training" etc. That's all well and good....but I guess I don't feel comfortable enough that "somebody" determines who is well trained and who isn't.
I certainly don't have any solutions for any of this. I have to agree with Doodles that many are simply crazed maniacs. It's the society in which we live.
But my personal feeling is that I don't think carrying concealed weapons is the answer.

Sandy said...

I hadn't heard that Ingineer and I don't believe it to be paranoid to think the way you are. It's downright scary!

Rain Trueax said...

What has amazed me is how little newspaper coverage there has been about it. We are bombarded by more information than we ever wanted to know about poor Anna Nicole Smith, but after the first information, almost nothing on a shooting that killed 5 people and critically wounded 4 others.

I know they fear copy cat shootings in such situations but this is so Jaws with how they don't want people to stop and realize how truly vulnerable they are to such events. No gun control measure proposed would take away shotguns. There is simply no way to stop this kind of happening, when someone nutty or with a cause, takes it into their heads to do such. It shows how controlled our media is. They don't cover the news. They cover what they want us to know!

Anonymous said...

Heavy duty stuff here, Rain. There are apparently many very disturbed people around us. They generally look and behave like everybody else, so we have no way of identifying them. But you know what -- somebody knows. Usually somebody very close to them. They look the other way and never respond to the little cries for help.

I've heard it said that one of the surest ways to stop gun violence is to arm everybody. Many would think twice if they had a notion that their intended victim was "packing", and that they might shoot back.

Very complicated situation, and one that unfortunately our society is not likely to come to grips with. Vigilante groups are even more scary, but that may be where we are headed if somebody doesn't come up with a better idea.

Anonymous said...

It is the unintended consequences of gun toting that concern me. A toted gun is not locked in a secure place away from young, inquisitive kids. Enough kids die from "unloaded"/locked away weapons every year that I cannot imagine that having guns more readily available is a good thing.
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