The Gun Problem Is Guns

Dharma help us, but Marianne Williamson wrote an op ed about the gun violence crisis. I actually agree with some of it. This includes the part in the second paragraph where she says he must break the influence of money in politics; can’t argue with that.

Sometimes she gets too wound up in saying something clever rather than sensible. “It is not just our gun policy but our politics that fails to free us of this insanity.” Um, sweetums, “gun policy” and “politics” are kind of inextricably bound together. Then she says,

America does not just have a gun crisis; it has a cultural crisis. America will not stop experiencing the effects of gun violence until we’re ready to face the many ways that our culture is riddled with violence.


Our environmental policies are violent toward the Earth. Our criminal justice system is violent toward people of color. Our economic system is violent toward the poor. Our entertainment media is violent toward women. Our video games are violent in their effect on the minds of children. Our military is violent in ways and places where it doesn’t have to be. Our media is violent in its knee-jerk shaming and blaming for the sake of a better click rate. Our hearts are violent as we abandon each other constantly, breeding desperation and insanity. And our government is indirectly and directly violent in the countless ways it uses its power to help those who do not need help and to withhold support from those who do.

Right. But there is one critical word that doesn’t appear anywhere in Williamson’s op ed. That word is greed. Our environmental policies cater to greed rather than protection. Greed is the real creator of poverty, IMO. I also would argue the military policies and most of the other stuff Williamson complains about are rooted in greed. If there is violence, it is greed fueling the violence. Toss in some ignorance, especially bigotry, and fear with that and you’ve accounted for it all. Violence is just a by-product. And government isn’t mitigating the effects of greed because of corruption.

Williamson’s Big Idea is to create a Department of Peace to battle the culture of conflict, which amounts to more wasted money, IMO. The eternally flakey Dennis Kucinich has been pushing a Department of Peace for a long time; these two should get together. But that’s the problem with the New Agey types; they are big on how everybody should be more about love and kindness, but they have no idea why they aren’t or how to bring about change. Williamson’s general method is to snarl at people about how they should be nicer. See also this passage from a New York Times article about Williamson

She finished her speech in New Hampshire to great applause and asked for questions, but nobody wanted to know how “a politics of love,” as she called it, would handle, say, President Vladimir Putin’s annexing Crimea, or how it would prevent a mass shooting, which were things she had thought about deeply and had specific and elaborate plans for. They didn’t want to know about her Department of Children and Youth or her Department of Peace. No, they wanted self-help. A woman raised her hand and said she didn’t know what to do about her trauma and her rage these days — how she couldn’t find forgiveness for the people who voted for Trump, even though those people weren’t exactly asking for it. “It’s like I’ve been infected,” the woman said. “How do I manage that?”

Williamson told her she has no time for people traumatized by the election.

Well, then, I have no more time for Williamson, and with any luck she soon will fade back into the pop culture woodwork. So let’s go on.

What’s killing the United States and the planet is greed and corruption. Gun violence is just a by-product; it’s greed and corruption that keeps turning up the flames of gun-rights zealotry, making us by far the most heavily armed citizenry on the planet. The United States has 5 percent of the world’s populations and an estimated 41 percent of the world’s civilian-owned firearms.

And that’s why we have a gun violence problem. I suspect any other group of people as heavily armed as we are would be shooting each other a lot, too. The presence of guns makes shooting a lot more likely. And there is a plausible argument to be made that the presence of guns stokes violent behavior, a phenomenon known in social psychology as the “weapons effect.”

As long as our knee-jerk reaction to gun violence is to buy more guns, our gun violence problem is just going to get worse. The problem of guns is guns.

Scientific American:

In a 2015 study using data from the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University reported that firearm assaults were 6.8 times more common in the states with the most guns versus those with the least. Also in 2015 a combined analysis of 15 different studies found that people who had access to firearms at home were nearly twice as likely to be murdered as people who did not.

In the minds of gun activists, strangers are eternally plotting to break into their homes and kill them, so they need a gun. I looked; the enormous majority of home break-ins are burglaries that take place when the residents are not at home. According to this, about 86 to 100 people a year in the U.S. are murdered by burglers who broke into their home, possibly, but the way the crime data is reported makes it all kind of murky. But let’s say 100 Americans a year are murdered by strangers invading their homes.

(Also, FYI, according to FBI crime statistics, where the relationship between the victim and perpetrator is known, only about 10 percent of homicide victims are killed by complete strangers. Apparently it’s the people you know you’ve got to watch.)

Compare/contrast to the nearly 2,900 children and teens (ages 0 to 19) who are shot and killed in the U.S every year, many of whom died by the gun their parents bought “for protection.” Nearly 15,600 are shot and injured. But you can’t tell the gun fanatics that having a gun in their home is a danger to their family. They need to “for protection.” They will not look at the data. They will not listen to reason. They have to have that gun.

Where is that fear coming from? At least some of it is being manufactured by gun lobbyists and the NRA, I’m sure. Our children have to die so that some people can make more money.

Yes, it’s madness, but the first path out of the madness is to reduce the prevalence of guns. I don’t see any way around that. As long as Americans are acquiring more and more guns, they are going to be more and more violent.

How to reduce the number of guns in circulation is another question, and I am sure there will be no magic bullet. And, ultimately, the greed has to be called out and punished, and we need a functioning government to do that. Well, good luck to us.

18 thoughts on “The Gun Problem Is Guns

  1. You've got this bug about Marianne Williamson, which I don't share. I helped her get on the national stage, by sending her money, not once but twice. I used to go to her weekly talks in LA, and probably have a book or two by her.  I've studied/applied "A Course in Miracles", the basis for a lot of her training. It's worth looking at.

    It's not that I want her to win, but I am glad that she and her ideas are getting more of an audience. I'd be happy to see her fade out in another couple months or so.

    No she doesn't explicitly talk about greed, but she does use the word ego, which effectively means the same thing. Greed is a particular aspect of ego, and occurs when humans lose their connection with the divine and see the world in terms of scarcity instead of abundance. This is something Williamson and every other spiritual master, from any tradition you care to name, is well acquainted with.

    In the meantime, I am thrilled that someone who can talk about spiritual issues intelligently is on the debate stage. We would absolutely be poorer without her. It's high time that Williamson and others talk about political issues from the spiritual and moral dimension. It's high time we get past the narrow framing and ownership of these topics by the religious right. Break the stranglehold these small minded people have on the moral debates going on in this country, and you change the country.

    I'm thrilled that I can help Marianne Williamson not only reach minds who've never heard of her, or who've never thought about politicians/issues this way, but that I can also help her (and the others who will follow her) get the needed exposure to slugging it out in the big time. Reaching voters is different than weekly talks to a friendly audience (the kind I've participated in), and she and others need to learn how to do it. It's important training.

    A Department of Peace is far from a waste of money. This country is expending itself on ever more violence and militarism, which simply isn't sustainable. It's as if nobody has heard of the law of karma, that's how spiritually stupid people are here. In much the way that the Peace Corps was a way of spreading our beneficent aspect around the world, a department about the same would only benefit this country. The people of this country will be called to answer for how we spent all the blessings that were given to it.

    I'm not hung up on a formal department, the point is: the US is presently one of the most violent and militant countries on earth, and so making a serious effort for peace, at a high enough level is a corrective. It's laughable mostly to those who want to see the current militarism continue.

    • "A Department of Peace is far from a waste of money." Why I find Williamson a waste of time is that she has no understanding of the deeper reasons people turn to violence. And she has no visible applicable means to change people, other than apparently yelling at them. She's known to have a toxic temper herself, and I've noticed that she speaks of love and peace with a belligerant, sometimes hostile, tone of voice. I've studied with several prominent Buddhist teachers and gotten to hear in-person talks by the likes of Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, and the difference is stark. But if Williamson ever wants to learn some ways to find inner peace, have her get in touch with me. 

  2. Marianne Williamson is okay but I don't feel she could handle the presidency.  Maybe she knew she wouldn't get anywhere but had a message.  When I told my daughter she was running, she asked me what she was running on and I said "love".  I was half kidding but that's what she came out with.  Anyway, I think we can all agree that love is not a bad idea.  In ancient Egypt, when a body was mummified, the heart was weighed against a feather.  If it was not light as a feather, it was tossed to the monsters in the underworld.  If it was light as a feather, the soul was granted admission to the realm of the gods. 

    It is interesting that the number one killer in this country is heart disease.  Maybe we could use more love.

  3. Over 60% of all American gun deaths are suicides. That is the elephant in the room. It reveals that the gun culture is suicidal. That's what the guns are for.

    Likewise, 'conservatism' is about destruction. That's why its default policies are war and death; and also why its voters vote against their interests. That's not a bug, or even a feature; it's the operating system.


  4. Thanatos rising, the ruler of the domain of death.  A small cap. god looking take over America with the help of Moscow Mitch and money hungry politicians across the country.  So far he is doing well, and Marianne Williamson's appeals to Eros won't even get her on the next debate level.  Getting David Brooks inspired to write a few marginally readable pieces is enough of a miracle to get me to nominate her for sainthood, but I have little clout there.  I'd be lucky to get a second.   

    The only solution to this gun problem is the mental health solution.  Quit electing politicians whose proper place in the world is in a mental asylum.  Although Marianne has some sane things to say, I fear she is too close to riding into office on the coat tails many with an R by their name.  They won and got seated by  running on the extremely loco end of the political spectrum inspired by Thanatos.  At least she hangs with Eros.  As the dyslexic always wrote every god has it's day.  Eros the underdog is due it's day, or, should that be undergod?  

  5. You're right, Maha. Guns are the problem. It's as simple as that. Other advanced countries without horrific gun problems have divided societies, mental illness, greed and all the rest. What they don't have is nearly unrestricted access to guns. The cause and effect is obvious.

    The Marianne Williamsons of the world, like the more orthodox religious, would have us believe everything can be reduced to spiritual terms. If we all agreed on the meaning of "spiritual", they might have a point. As it is they're just saying that if we were all in tune with whatever makes better people, we would all be better people. Still, if her presence inspires some to vote against Trumpism, she could be helpful.

  6. paradoctor,

    There's also "death by cop."

    A lot if these mass killer's plan to die in the attacks they start. 

    It's the most cowardly, chickenshit form of suicide – you force someone else to deal with causing your death.  Police officers and soldiers are often affected by causing a death, even if there was literally no other choice! 

    Just when I'm about done with feeling some sense of hope about gun control, WalMart  goes and does what it just did! 

    And it's a "market-based solution," so even the Reich-Wingers can't complain about Libtards shoving stuff down their throa…


    They're still gonna whine, and shriek, and tear at their hair, anyway?   

    Well, of course they are.

    What could I have been thinking?


    • Those Reich-Wingers were just born to rage. Get the motor running, get out on the highway.  Just not in a Prius.  Too green.  Reich-Wingers hate green.  

  7. Someone said yesterday that Williamson is basically dead-on about what's wrong with this country; her problem is she thinks good thoughts are the solution. In fact, she thinks they're the ONLY solution.

    • waspuppet — Yeah, the whole New Age spirituality thing is all nutrition-free marshmallow fluff, as far as I'm concerned. It doesn't take a genius to decide that humanity would be better off with more love than hate. But they have no clue how to achieve that. 


  8. It's the greed and the guns, and both are corrupting our culture, with the result of the corrupting impact of guns being an acceptance of deadly violence as normal.  A lot of us are appalled and sickened by these mass shootings, but apparently not to the extent that would cause enough of us to raise up like they do in other countries, and for issues far less serious and deadly than this, mind you, and hit the streets and demand change.  We've accepted violence and have reached a certain level of acceptance with it, comforting ourselves with the notion that nothing can be done about it. 

    The other day the increasingly silly Megan McCain said she loves shooting, that the AR-15 is the most popular gun in America, and for that fact it would be unfair and unrealistic to make them illegal via reimposing the assault weapons ban. And peoplecwouldcresort to violence to keep them.  This is an example of the insanity we're dealing with.  Its greed and guns, but America is socially and culturally sick.

  9. The bigger problem behind the guns – and also behind the hypocritical "pro-life" crap you discussed a few days ago – is the modern "Republican" party and the unholy alliances they have formed, with the NRA), the Religious Right, and Fox "news".

    I strongly believe that all these things string back to the Powell Memo of the early 1970's.  The GOP – or the Ghouls behind the party – found (and often, created) issues to trick working-class people into voting against their obvious economic interests. 

    Glorification of Guns hooks into male insecurity in several ways.  The Freudian phallus-worship is obvious but trivial compared to the promise of Power, to men who feel incapable of competing for sexual attention under modern (post feminist revolution) rules.

    The "pro-life" thing is designed to appeal to (traditional?) women, by triggering their "natural" love for children.  Interestingly, it's the ONLY issue where the GOP promotes compassion; of course, they warp it into hatred for Feminism, Liberals, etc.

    So, yes, Guns are the problem with Guns, but the GOP is the bigger problem behind most of the issues we face.


  10. Regarding greed – I wish greed would go away and we'd all be more spiritually advanced. We can definitely improve there – Harvard is teaching ethics to teachers in a variety of disciplines – ethics in Medicne, ethics in Law, ethics in Poly Sci, ethics in Business.  I'm not sure it can happen but I wonder if we couldn't develop and teach an objective scientific set of principles regarding decision-making, a "prime directive" for leaders that included factors other than pure greed.

    Culturally, I'm sure it's been achieved – I'm going to leave it to others more qualified than I to fill in examples of countries with a lower standard of living and a higher level of contentment.

    I wish we adopted a legal standard that the CEO, COO and CFO would be criminally liable for crimes committed by the company they operate.  The burden of proof would not be on the prosecution to show they knew – the burden of proof would be on the officers to prove they had done .everything possible to prevent the crimes. That doesn't eliminate greed, but it cuts into the crimes that are approved at the highest levels because the penalty they anticpate (fines) will be less than the profit. The equation changes when the CEO has to do months or years in federal prison. 

    Ultimately we get back to my main gripe – the regulars know it well. We need a wall of separation between big money and OUR government. I'd like to see that line become a mantra – it's the foundation of any and all reform in climate change, health care, energy policy, education reform, criminal justice…. ANY area where big money benefits from bad policy.

  11. There is no such thing as greed.  There is only sadism.  No one wants anything for themselves, but only to harm others.  Until you grasp this, you understand nothing.  Once you do grasp it, you understand everything.

    • "No one wants anything for themselves, but only to harm others." That's the dumbest thing I've seen today, although I'm writing this before noon. It's always about the self. Even the desire to harm others comes from some kind of twisted desire to gratify the self. We screw up because we try to protect, glorify, gratify, or amplify ourselves. We go through our lives being jerked between things we want and things we fear and want to avoid. Until you grasp this, you understand nothing.  Once you do grasp it, you understand everything.

  12. Another thing about gun culture is also greed. There's been a huge push to make people buy more military-grade rifles. (That is to say: guns like the M-16 that do not offer full-automatic capability.)

    That drives ridiculous behavior. I saw an interview in which one person mentioned that such rifles are oh-so-wonderful, and, emphasis needed, "might save your life".

    Ordinary folks are almost never in a situation in which such a weapon would provide good protection. In a house, they will overpenetrate – i..e. while the risk is *small*, you could easily shoot one of your neighbors. This is why shotguns are considered a good defensive weapon if you are going to use a longarm, and handguns are favored.

    Outside of a home, well, time was, no gun owner would ever carry a gun to "make a statement". If you saw someone carrying a military-grade rifle, well… if you saw someone carrying a claw hammer, you might say "got some nails to drive, eh?" so it would be quite appropriate to ask "got some people to kill?" Although, nowadays, there's a similarly big push to use these rifles for hunting animals, because you can, and after all, isn't the point of hunting to score kills? (Most hunters I used to know would get angry at that – except if they were aware of the culture today, I would hope they'd be honest enough that they wouldn't be angry at *me* for saying it, but at others, for making it a reasonable observation.)

    Still: using a rifle outside the home presents the same issues: overpenetration. The one time you'd want to use a rifle for self-defense in an outdoors situation is when you're facing an opponent at range. Deliverance was a work of fiction, by the way.

    A responsible, informed, gun owner might say "Look, I like shooting, okay? And these rifles are like works of art. I could do the Lethal Weapon smiley-face on a target with one! As long as I keep it safe, why do you want to take it from me?" and would *never* categorize it as a weapon for self defense. However, those people are marginalized because they won't help push people to feel they *must* purchase military grade rifles.


    • I dimly remember in the 1950s all the menfolk liked to go deer hunting with various lever- or bolt-action rifles, so those were common, but things didn’t seem to get crazy until the firearm industry started marketing semiautomatic stuff big-time.

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