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Charles Whitman and Futureshock 40 Years Later

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Here in Austin this was a big day in the media, though not one recognized nationwide. Forty years ago today a troubled ex-Marine named Charles Whitman climbed the clock tower of the University of Texas administration building and began to gun down students and passersby on the south and west malls of the University and on nearby Guadalupe Street.

Image and video hosting by TinyPicBefore heading to the University Whitman had killed his mother and his wife in their home, leaving behind a detailed suicide note with instructions to give his estate to psychological research and do an autopsy to determine if there was something physically wrong with his brain. As it turned out there was a tumor in his hypothalamus which may have been pressing on his amygdala and altering his emotional state.

He was able to get a footlocker and a small wooden crate full of guns into the building and to the top of the 27-story tower, including a Remington 700 rifle with a hunting scope, an M1 Carbine, another rifle, a shotgun and a variety of small arms. He started firing at 11:48 and ultimately killed 16 people and wounded another 31.

Image and video hosting by TinyPicThe incident ended when Austin police officers Ray Martinez and Houston McCoy were able to break through the barricade Whitman had made to block the observation deck door. Martinez shot him repeatedly with his service revolver and McCoy hit him with a shotgun blast. Whitman was dead before he hit the floor.

Whitman, the UT Clock Tower, and the events of August 1st, 1966 have become ingrained in popular culture, even as symbols in the minds of those who have no specific awareness of the events. It was the first widely publicized mass random killing of this sort, the model for novelists, moviemakers and copycats. It was also the first incident of this sort to be covered live on TV, with a camera crew from the local CBS affiliate broadcasting from within the zone of fire. It put Austin on the national map in a negative way which it took the Armadillo, Willie Nelson, South by Southwest and years of great music and heavy partying to live down.

Today it's all a piece of increasingly distant history, but hearing interviews with many of those who were involved on the radio and local television today was enlightening in a bizarre, futureshock or perhaps reverse futureshock kind of way. It was revelatory to be reminded of how different things were in 1966 in Austin and how the city and our world have changed since then.

A few examples relating to the incident stood out. 1966 was really before the introduction of SWAT teams. They were invented at least in part from the response to this incident. As a result the response to Whitman's sniping was much more rapid than it would be today, concluded in a couple of hours when today it might have taken twice as long or more. But the process involved a lot more risk for civilians and for the officers involved. Regular patrol officers showed up, there weren't very many of them, they had no special weapons and had to work fast and improvise. There was no real attempt to negotiate, although that might have changed if Whitman had hostages. There was also minimal supervision and coordination, and certainly no scenarios or game plan for dealing with what at the time was a unique situation. There was an aerial flyby and a very unsuccessful attempt to shoot Whitman from the plane, but solving the problem basically came down to a few very brave and outgunned men charging a trained killer.

What struck me as most fascinating were the accounts from several sources of how the police dealt with the lack of covering fire that a SWAT team would provide today. They just went to citizens in the area and asked them to bring their rifles and shoot at the tower, and they all went to their pickups, got their deer rifles and did what they could to help. Their covering fire kept Whitman down and limited him to shooting through a drain opening, pretty much stopping the killing and giving officers the opportunity to get into the building. The officers also deputized one of the citizens to go with them into the tower to give them a bit more firepower, although he didn't end up facing Whitman.

What a different world. First, it was taken for granted that a bunch of people in the area would be carrying powerful rifles openly in their trucks in the middle of the state's capitol city. What's more, the police felt no hesitation in asking those citizens to help out in a dangerous situation and the citizens were eager to do their part. None of this was seen as out of the ordinary or unexpected at the time. Everyone had guns openly in public and they were willing to take responsibility and use them when asked. Perhaps most remarkably, the police saw armed citizens as an asset rather than as a threat.

The shock is how much things have changed today, and not necessarily for the better. Citizens are no longer seen as nor do they see themselves as primarily responsible for their own defense and the defense of others. The armed citizen isn't seen as a force for keeping the peace and assisting authorities, but as a potential threat. We're all seen as Charles Whitmans waiting to happen, and the memory of the responsible citizens who kept him pinned down with their rifles is forgotten. In a city as big as Austin is today you'd likely be pulled over by the police if you carried a hunting rifle in a rack in the back of your pickup, even if it may technically still be legal. You certainly wouldn't be called on to help out if you showed up at a crime scene with a gun.

In the 40 years since 1966 we've seen the increasing infantilization of the population. In the Whitman incident the citizens were treated as adults who could take responsibility and put themselves at risk for the good of the community. Today we're treated like children who cannot be trusted with responsibility and have to be protected by government not only from the Charles Whitmans of the world, but from ourselves as well. Having become used to being treated that way, it seems like more and more of us accept that role and don't feel that we have a responsibility to stand up for others or even for ourselves. And when government doesn't act fast enough to protect us or provide for our needs we become like infants, whining and crying in our powerlessness and frustration.

In a society which has improved in many other ways, these changes are certainly not for the better. We've gained many material things, but spiritually we are weaker and less self-sufficient and less prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and help those around us. As a people we are increasingly risk-averse and passive and indecisive. We are not as familiar with danger, react poorly to it, and expect someone else to fight our battles. The post-war generation which had their pickups parked around UT 40 years ago hadn't been brought up to expect that luxury and they were better for it. They helped stop Charles Whitman.

What would you be able to do in that same situation today? Would you be armed? Would you be willing? Would you even be asked?

In a greater sense this issue isn't really about the specific example of an armed citizenry assisting in a crisis situation. Much more simply it's a question of our willingness to be the good Samaritan or the good neighbor, to think beyond our own needs and solve problems without having to turn to the government to do it for us.

That's a quality which our society cannot afford to lose.

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About Dave Nalle

  • zingzing

    dude, you take a story about a crazy guy with access to guns shooting 47 people and come out with… “guns are good?” what?

    and if you think people are infantile today… well, that’s just silly. you shut up. i hate you. mommy!

    whatever. in 1966, the world was a different place. people could carry guns around without killing each other (obviously not all of the time… but most of the time…). i don’t really know about know. what with gang warfare and the increasingly fractured human psyche (what with all this yellow alert-orange alert-your building might crumble-shit), guns are more of a liability these days.

    i think you need to rethink this one. obviously, i would. still, this comes off as propoganda, and how you twist the story around is the ultimate in “spin.”

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Zing, if all you got out of this is that ‘guns are good’, you’re missing the basic point, though I’m glad you’re coming around on at least that aspect.

    Gun ownership in America is symbolic of an attitude that people should take care of themselves and be responsible. If people can be trusted with guns then they can be trusted in other ways in society. We’re losing that trust and confidence in our citizenry and that is what leads to a nanny state and a population of infantilized drones in service to that state.

    These events from 1966 were just a reminder to me of how much different and better we were as people back then – Charles Whitman aside.

    Even Whitman, crazy and violent though he was, shows a strange sense of responsibility and clearly wanted very much to be stopped. His lengthy suicide note is remarkable, because he understands that he’s suffering from irrational compulsions and just doesn’t know how to deal with it, except to ask that his brain be studied after he dies and his estate be donated to research on similiar mental illness. That is in and of itself rather intriguing.

    And if, as you say, 1966 was a different world where we could carry guns around without killing each other, what made it different, and how can we return to that kind of a better, less violent world?

    Dave

  • zingzing

    i certainly don’t think the answer is more guns… and i don’t think that the world was all that much better, oh rose-tinted one. it was just different at the surface level. life was just as messy and brutal in those days, and had more than its share of violence. and those who wanted to be nannied by the gov’t were nannied by the gov’t. and those who didn’t, weren’t. same thing today. life has not changed drastically in the past 2,000 years–we still get up in the morning, clean up, have breakfast, go off to work, come home, screw the woman, have a little leisure, go off to bed and thank our various gods that we didn’t die that day. certainly, life hasn’t changed much in the past 40 years.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I agree that the trivial daily chores haven’t changed, but I think that attitudes and personal philosophies of life have changed a great deal, and not necessarily for the better.

    And again, this article isn’t about having more guns. It’s about the characteristics of our culture which made it possible for the citizenry to be armed and responsible.

    Dave

  • zingzing

    i think attitudes and personal philosophies also have changed… but these days people are more educated and tolerant, more worldy and open-minded. people are more connected to each other in personal and non-personal ways. maybe it is that the world is a smaller place because of communications. when the world is a smaller place, you have to be more tolerant, just to get along. you are also at more personal risk, because not everyone gets along. to this little conundrum, i don’t doubt that you would say, “take care of yourself!” while i would say, “it’s you that i am afraid of, get that gun away from me, idiot!”

    the world is more complex these days. not everyone knows each other. life was smaller, more contained back then as compared to now.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I generally agree on the world being a broader, more integrated community, but that doesn’t mean that attitudes towards individual responsibility have to change. They’re not incompatible with a bigger, more complex world.

    to this little conundrum, i don’t doubt that you would say, “take care of yourself!” while i would say, “it’s you that i am afraid of, get that gun away from me, idiot!”

    And that’s exactly the problem. It’s not me and my gun you need to be afraid of. We’re on your side. But because of the changes in society and the increasing dependance on government you as the typical citizen can no longer tell the difference between the armed and responsible citizen and the criminal or lunatic.

    Dave

  • zingzing

    dave: “you as the typical citizen can no longer tell the difference between the armed and responsible citizen and the criminal or lunatic.”

    and neither can you.

    as far as “individual responsibility” goes, i think that you can define that by lots of different things, not just how well we carry a gun. and i also think that one of our responsibilities is to recognize problems and deal with them. guns are a problem. there are other problems. as an individual, i feel that i do my part to make this a better world through the way i live. if we all did that, there would be no need for protection from each other. attitudes DO have to change as the world changes, they don’t have to go backwards, but they do have to more closely match reality, or things will get out of hand.

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    I think it’s interesting to note in the incident you sited as you describe it the criminal was stopped using the rifles of an armed citizenry. Not handguns and certainly not automatics. The criminal was the one with the automatic, the responsible citizenry had the rifles. The criminal needed automatic firepower because there was only one of him. The citizenry needed only rifles because there were lots of them.

    You make a pretty strong case for self defense and personal responsibility. You do not, however, demonstrate that there is a useful purpose to automatic, semi automatic or explosive weapons other than to kill large numbers of people in a short amount of time.

  • http://victorplenty.blogspot.com Victor Plenty

    This article is so clearly about so much more than guns. There are only a few people I know and trust well enough to know they’d be a resource and not a danger to the community in any crisis situation whether they are carrying guns or not. After reading this article I realize the very least I can do is strive to become one of those people.

    It doesn’t matter whether the crisis is one that would call for guns, or for rudimentary firefighting skills, or for first aid training, or for the ability to fill and stack sandbags against a flood. Our communities need more people who can be relied upon to defend the community against any and all dangers.

    The world is not so different now than it was in 1966. What we need from our communities, and what we must ourselves be prepared to give in order to have those needs filled, has changed very little in thousands of years.

    What rises and falls is our awareness of the need to be prepared to give in this way.

  • Lumpy

    Great bit of nostalgia, but haven’t we already given up too much of our personal sovereignty to government and police to be able to effectively reclaim it without a violent overthrow of the existing system?

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    In the present day, a citizen who attempted, out of the goodness of his/her heart, to assist in a situation like this would probably be arrested by the authorities and then maligned in the media as a crazed vigilante.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    as far as “individual responsibility” goes, i think that you can define that by lots of different things, not just how well we carry a gun. and i also think that one of our responsibilities is to recognize problems and deal with them. guns are a problem. there are other problems.

    Guns weren’t a problem in 1966. Rather than treating them as the problem today, wouldn’t it make more sense to address the underlying changes in society and our behavior which have happened since then?

    Dave

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I think it’s interesting to note in the incident you sited as you describe it the criminal was stopped using the rifles of an armed citizenry. Not handguns and certainly not automatics. The criminal was the one with the automatic, the responsible citizenry had the rifles. The criminal needed automatic firepower because there was only one of him. The citizenry needed only rifles because there were lots of them.

    None of the guns Whitman had were fully automatic. They were basically comparable to the guns which the citizens were using. The main rifle he used was the Remington 700 which is a fine rifle, but just a regular hunting rifle, not a military-type weapon. I’ve got a comparable deer rifle.

    Dave

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Dave,

    This was an excellent and informative article.

    I had forgotten about the Whitman shootings – incidents which have become more common today in America.

    But the analysis of the infantilization of American society was right on target.

    Doesn’t anybody understand what “have it your way!” really means? Does nobody understand the concept of extending this slogan, as Burger King did in the ’90’s; “Have it your way, right away!”

    What Burger King did was just part of a much bigger trend in America, its infantilization, and the different attitude towards the citizen, even the armed citizen, is illustrative of this. Kol hakavod, Dave.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    BTW,

    Last night, I went to shul to listen to the reading of the Book of Lamentations, which was written by Jeremiah to describe the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, an event he witnessed. This is done every Tisha B’Av – a fast day to mourn that destruction.

    At shul, several people were wearing Glocks and other pistols, and more than a few came in with sub-machine guns and M16’s which are used to guard the village…

    It was seeing just this kind of sight that turned off another Jew describing his Bar Mitzvah in Israel – responsible people carrying weapons. He lives in the that huge infantilized giant, the USA, and has the gall to criticize what we do here to defend ourselves.

    Another casualty of the infantilization of America…

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Interesting observations from one of the most armed countries in the world, Ruvy. Makes me wonder about gun crime figures for Israel. Off to do some research.

    Dave

  • SFC SKI

    Excellent point that far too many gun control advocates miss entirely,”Rather than treating them as the problem today, wouldn’t it make more sense to address the underlying changes in society and our behavior which have happened since then?”

    It’s part of my profession to carry a firearm, oftentimes loaded. What minimizes the risk of doing so here is the training that each of us receives, as well as the knowledge that even a negligent (there are no accidents when handling a weapon in my book) discharge that harms no one and damages nothing will be dealt with severely. In the same manner, I believe that anyone who owns a firearm is obligated to lkearn to use it in a safe manner, which many gun owners do. For those who own firearms and are negligent in their use, they should be dealt with very harshly, it’s a right to own a firearm, it also carries a great responsibility, IMO. Armed assaults should carry heavy penalties that are enforced, and illegal ownership of weapons should also be punished severely, but legal owners should be allowed to own firearms until they prove themselves irresponsible.

    Ruvy, I understand that almost all Israelis (males at least) are conscripted at some point intime, so they receive firearms training. Are Israelis under any sort of obligation to get trained or licensed?

    Dave’s point about self-reliance is somewhat illustrated by some Israelis arming themselves. They know that they are more likely to be killed by a murderous foe long before the law shows up to save them, so they arm themselves. In certain areas of the US, sad to say, that is also the case for different reasons, why shouldn’t be allowed, even encouraged to arm themselves for protection, and be held accountable if they misuse their right to carry?

    Good article, it does illustrate how much times have changed. The idea that police would ask citizens to assist them is not nearly as strange as the fact that they did receive that help. In Texas, that might not be a rarity, but I could see certain areas of the country where they’d get far less support.

    Without going to far off topic, isn’t it a shame that so many people who have no idea of the pressures and decisons police or soldiers face in their daily lives are so quick to analyze and criticize those who have to make the decisons, as well as their decisions. This doesn’t mean that either of these two shold have carte blanche to shoot indiscriminately, BTW.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Dave,

    The figures for violent crime committed with guns are going up here, unfortunately. When you do your research, see if you can get ethnic breakdowns, i.e. Arab names, Russian names, (you’re looking for fist names as opposed to second names here – I have a family name that is often mistaken for Russian) as opposed to the rest of the populace.

    My perceptions are that Arabs and (recent) Russian immigrants use guns more freely in criminal acts than the rest of the populace. Just curious to see if those perceptions are valid.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Israelis are under no requirement to get firearms training, but there is a basic understanding that weapons are for killing here.

    Getting a gun can be a pain in the neck here because you need a permit to carry one. Thorough background checks are done by the police and secret police – which means that politics often interferes with who gets to carry a weapon where (geographically speaking).

    Bssically, weapons must be worn so that they can be seen. Carrying a concealed weapon is forbidden – unless you are with the Shaba”k or Mossad.

    I know one fellow immigrant who smuggled in his gun from the States, and who carries it while driving in Judea and Samaria. If he is caught without papers, it can mean a prison term for him.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Having politics figure in to who gets a gun and who doesn’t is far from reassuring. Plus I’m not terribly fond of that word ‘secret police’ after having lived in the Soviet Union.

    Dave

  • SFC SKI

    Ruvy, interesting to know how Israel deals with gun ownership, but overall it seems pretty reasonable.

    I have never been to Israel, but is it fair to say that people who live closer to the borders are more likley to be armed than those who are not? I have seen pictures of weapons stacked on the beach, in fact there was a popular picture of some female Israeli soldiers in bikinis carrying weapons, but is it the norm? I imagine it changes witht he threat level as well.

    It might interest readers to know that most Iraqis are allowed to own one AK-47 and about one magazine worth of ammunition, due to problems with robbers in many areas. These are usually registered, though the problems of bureacracy make that difficult. Most Iraqis don’t carry them outside their houses, for obvious reasons.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Dave, politics figures in everything in this country, down to what milk gets sold where.

    Also bear in mind that the political culture here is eastern European – the same culture that gave rise to the intellectual and political classes who started the Russian Revolution. I’m not talking about political orientation per se, like communism, socialism or capitalism, but a world outlook that cuts across ideology.

    The Shaba”k has been holding up permits for guns for residents in Judea and Samaria for months now – another way of insuring they can’t be armed.

  • zingzing

    dave: “Guns weren’t a problem in 1966. Rather than treating them as the problem today, wouldn’t it make more sense to address the underlying changes in society and our behavior which have happened since then?”

    yes they were, and no it wouldn’t, because guns are easier to change than society. sure, we can work on society, but we don’t even know how it all happened, and, unless you are some sort of psychologist, we can barely identify what has really changed. even if we could, going backwards would destroy plenty of the GOOD changes we have seen in the last 40 years, which far outnumber the bad. an armed citizenry was an anarchronism the moment the american revolution ended. and i’m saying this as a person who despises our government. we need to move forward, not backward.

  • http://www.prrag.com John Guilfoil

    Great points. Good article, Dave.

  • Bliffle

    When I was a teenager I rode a streetcar home from the sports shop with a new shotgun in a case and a couple boxes of birdshot and no one was concerned, but that was several years before Whitman.

    My observation is that 3/4ths of the population is incompetent to touch a weapon. And some of those are hunters and gun owners. They are simply too careless. Typically, they wave a gun around heedlessly and are surprised when you dive under a sofa: “well the gun isn’t loaded, is it?”. I went through this with a wife, and I told her more people were killed by ‘unloaded’ guns than by loaded guns. She poopooed me but the very next day there was such an accidental killing locally. My hunting buddy and I had a very small group of guys we’d hunt with, and that didn’t include his brother who almost shot his foot off being careless. Would you go hunting with Dick Cheney?

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    we need to move forward, not backward.

    The essence of conservatism is the idea that moving forward IS moving backward.

    because guns are easier to change than society

    This may be true, but what you end up with is validating the negative things which have happened in society and then rather than making nay effort to fix them you throw up your hands and take away one of our constitutional rights. That seems like a terrible choice. Like admitting defeat.

    Dave

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Bliffle, 3/4 of the population shouldn’t be allowed to drive a car either, but we’re not about to ban them. They account for enormously more deaths than guns do.

    What people don’t take into considerating in looking at the gun death and injury statistics is the enormous number of gun owners in America – about 180 million of them, and the fact that 99.9% of them don’t shoot themselves or anyone else accidentally. The reality is that most gun owners are very responsible, but the tiny minority who are not really stick out like a sore thumb.

    Dave

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    What does the ability to kill have to do with being responsible???

  • zingzing

    dave: “The essence of conservatism is the idea that moving forward IS moving backward.”

    right. and that’s why conservatism sucks monkey-dick. it’s a contradiction wrapped up in an old man’s dream.

    as for our consititutional rights… it was a constitutional right when guns were a positive thing, which they certainly aren’t anymore. (it was also a more detailed constitutional right than gun-nuts want to admit.) and the guns are the negative thing we should no longer validate. i will never admit defeat in the face of a gun, (unless there actually is a gun in my face, at which point, i will admit to anything.)

    um, are there really 180 million gun owners in this nation? that seems a bit inflated to me.

  • zingzing

    the only stat i could come up with is 80 mil, but that is from a pro-gun site… which has some funny statistics… not funny strange, funny haha… so i don’t know if that number is high or low…

    but 180 million? over half the people in this nation own guns? how is it that about 95% of the people i know won’t even touch a gun? i call bull.

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    You know this might be just a little too far out there but did any one consider getting rid of guns AND adressing the problems with society Dave is talking about? Or do we really have to keep the guns before we can adress these problems… We’ve had guns forever and havent adressed these problems. So if they’re not getting fixed anyways what’s wrong with “validating the negative things which have happened in society?” as Dave put it.

  • Condor

    If a gun can save a life by taking a life…. it’s a positive thing.

    Stopping violent offenders from allowing us to exercise our rights (life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness) sometimes carries the consequence of having to put them down (i.e. shoot them).

    Just last week a man in our office was forced to an ATM machine and withdrew the limit to give to the robber… who after calling him a “White MF” stabbed him in the neck for spite. A gun would have been nice right about then.

    Sadly and often the defender gets put through the legal wranglings and comes out with a shattered bank account, jail time… and a ruined life. For what? Self-defence? Makes one what to shoot and run, which puts the citizen in the same category as the criminal.

    911 isn’t quick enough, and the police are NOT OBLIGATED to respond anyway…. the cell phone is not a defensive weapon… maybe you should just call for an ambulance, as you’re likely to need one anyway… get medical aid enroute so you won’t bleed as long.

    Dave, the article was great.

    Zing… Excuse me if I seem a bit exercised but you need to wash your mouth out with soap. Your use of the foul vernacular discredits every/any point you are trying to convey. Hence, you will never get any respect, ever.

    I get the impression that most people would rather crap their pants and try to drive the criminal away with the stench, than actually demonstrate some free will on those with extreame prejudice, malice of forethought, and evil intent.

  • zingzing

    condor–what [the fuck] are you talking about?

    just last week around here, a guy walked into an office with a couple of pistols and unloaded them into a bunch of jewish women. why? because he couldn’t get a job or get laid.

    foul vernacular… i’ll say whatever the fuck i want to say it in whatever fucking way i want to. the point remains the point, and if you can’t take it, don’t talk about shitting your pants, just go do it.

  • http://victorplenty.blogspot.com Victor Plenty

    A lot more than 3/4 of the population cannot be considered safe drivers. If senseless death was what we really wanted to prevent, the number of lives we’d save by requiring every driver to pass a written exam or a driving test every year would be far greater than the number that could be saved by any gun control measure ever devised.

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    …and I bet not a single person blamed it on him being hetrosexual did they?

    I’m old enough to remember this incodent, there was even a TV movie about it, and a rather good episonde of the Mod Squad based on it.

    If I remember right, no one screamed for gun control over the incodent, no one yelled that it was because of the Vietnam war over it. No one even said, “Ah that stuff always happens to those hickes down in Texas” either.

    It was a day when the root cause was identified, we recognized it, and moved on.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    What does the ability to kill have to do with being responsible???

    Responsibility is not the ability to kill. Mindles forces of nature can KILL things, after all. Responsibility is having the ability to kill and choosing not to use it. That’s the quality which is desirable and which is a hallmark of socially responsible man.

    Dave

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    but 180 million? over half the people in this nation own guns?

    Last I heard it was around 60% who owned one or more guns.

    how is it that about 95% of the people i know won’t even touch a gun? i call bull.

    95% of the people I know own more than one gun. We balance each other out.

    dave

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    So I should learn how to kill just so I can have the pride of saying I know how to kill but am not going to kill because im responsible?

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    Aight im gonna break the #s out on yall. While you all are claiming gun ownership is a great yankeedoodle way to defend yourself, the statistical truth of this is nonexistent. A gun in the home makes that home far more dangerous than it would have otherwise been.

    The facts are as follows:

    A gun in the home is 4 times more likely to be used in an accidental shooting than in self defense.

    A gun in the home is 7 times more likely to be used to commit homicide or a violent crime than in self defense.

    A gun in the home is 11 times more likely to be used to commit suicide than in sefl defense.

    So how exactly do guns make you and your kids safer?

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    You are sacrificing your childrens safety for your need to feel like a responsible man.

  • Chuck The Great

    The sorce of the problem to gun cimes lies within the basic right an american has to own practically any gun he/she desires. The fact that I could walk down to my friendly neighborhood gun store and purchase a semi auotmatic machine gun and claim that I intend to to use it for self defense is absolutly absurd. I cant cary this gun down the streat to protect myself from being robbed and I cant use this weapon to go hunting. Clearly this gun has no use in defending a home since a much smaller and less dangerous weapon could do the job with more efficiency. The only use for a weapon like this is to kill extreamly large amounts of people in an extreamly short time (unless i intend to shoot one person a million times a minute.)

    Gun ownership is completely unnecesary to defend ourselves from attacks. Instead we could get an alarm system, or use stronger locks. And if guns did not exist we would not have to worry about them in the streat, thus we wouldnt need to walk around with guns hidden behind our jackets. Statistics show (check blog #39) that owning a gun only increases the risk of crimes being commited.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    PETI, all you have to do is educate your kids about guns and 99% of those problems disappear. Teach them not to go near guns when they are young and how to use them properly when they are older, and they’re no more dangerous than a number of other household items.

    THAT is the responsibility I’m talking about. It’s not the guns which cause problems in the home, it’s having the guns there with parents not taking responsibility for educating and supervising their children.

    Plus also think your statistics are debatable. The figures aren’t all that recent, but the Bureau of Justice Statistics did a study which showed that far more crimes are prevented by firearms than there are rapes, homicides or accidental shootings. They estimate 83,000 crimes prevented by firearms in 1992, compared to a total of homicides, suicides and accidents of less than a third of that. Plus since that time Concealed Carry has become much more common, so the number of gun homicides is down and the number of crimes prevented is up since then.

    It’s not a neutral source, but you might find some of the seemingly pretty well researched information on the Gun Owners of America site informative.

    Dave

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    They estimate 83,000 crimes prevented by firearms in 1992, compared to a total of homicides, suicides and accidents of less than a third of that.

    That is manipulation of the statistics. You are comparing apples and oranges. The 83,000 crimes prevented by firearms include all crimes – not just homicide suicide and accidents. It also includes defense against rape, assault, unarmed household roberry, theft, auto-theft etc. There were over 2 million of these crimes committed in 1992. Of the 2 million+ only 83,000 crimes were prevented by the use of a firearm.

    You are comparing apples and oranges. The 83,000 number includes every possible crime imaginable. The 1/3 of that number you site is only for homicide, suicide, and accidents. It is not a useful comparison at all.

    In response to my arguments on how much more likely a household gun is to be used in a crime rather than in self defense (22X more likely) you say:

    PETI, all you have to do is educate your kids about guns and 99% of those problems disappear.

    Oh Ok, I get it. So its everyone else failing to properly educate, just not you. The fact is, despite a parent’s awareness of the dangers of a firearm, mistakes are made. Not all the time. But accidents happen.

    Furthermore, education will not discourage a youth from using the gun in a crime or from killing themself. So even if you can eliminate the 4X more likely to have a gun related accident factor, the gun will still be 11X more likely to be used for suicide and 7X more likely to be used to commit a violent crime. Educating the kids does not always work. Many, not all kids, are not mature enough to have the responsibility, as the statistics show.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    PETI, there is no perfect comparison to be made. Guns do prevent a substantial number of crimes. Most of the gun crimes – robbery and armed burglary and muggings and the like – would take place regardless of what efforts are made to control guns, either with an illegal gun or another weapon. So how do you discount those figures to take that into account? You can’t do it exactly. What’s more, perhaps 50% of gun violence is by criminals done to other criminals – drug dealers, gang members, etc. That really shoiuldn’t be counted at all.

    All that really matters to the individual is that he had a gun and it saved his life or his property or his family.

    More valid for consideration, perhaps is the mounting evidence that the passage of concealed carry and castle laws have a substantial deterrent effect on all sorts of crime. You don’t have to even have a gun to benefit from the general deterrent value of criminals knowing citizens have guns and never knowing when they’ll run into an armed and trained victim.

    As for educating kids, read some of the news accounts of the tragic events surrounding kids being shot. The kids usually have no training or preparation and the gun has been left loaded in an easily accessible location.

    Most gun owners ARE responsible, but the few who aren’t get all the attention.

    You ought to check out that GOA link. There’s a lot of useful information there.

    Dave

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    The real solution to the gun violence issue is the combination of concealed carry laws with castle laws and harsher sentences for those who use a gun in a crime.

    Concealed carry deters a great deal of crime.
    Castle laws protect homeowners from malicious prosecution if they defend their home with a gun.
    Harsh sentences for those using guns in a crime will both deter crime and remove the most violent criminals from the population.

    Dave

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    Alright Ill make it real straightforward.

    People who keep a gun in the house are 72% more likely to die at the hands of a firearm.

    People who keep a gun in the house are 3.4 times more likely to commit suicide.

    How can you honestly make the case that you and your family are safer on the off-chance you use your gun to defend against an intruder, when you increase the likelihood of a child committing suicide so dramatically in your house?

    And just to demonstrate the correlation between handgun ownership and deaths by handgun here are some more statistics which you probably already know but might need reminding of:
    373 people in Germany
    151 people in Canada
    57 people in Australia
    19 people in Japan
    54 people in England and Wales, and
    11,789 people in the United States

    I know some of the deaths that might have occurred by a handgun in the other nations, probably were accomplished using another weapon (knife). Im in the process of finding statistics to compare gun ownership rates to homicide rates in general, not just by handgun.

  • Clavos

    PETI 39:

    What is the source for the statistics you cite? Can you provide a link?

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    Most of my facts are coming from ichv.org

    2/3s down the page under “Special Report” are statistics on how much more likely suicide and homicide are in a house where a firearm is present.

    Those statistics come from the Annals of Emergency Medicine, Vol 41, p. 771

  • Clavos

    Dave,

    Interesting and informative read. The whole article, not just the gun ownership points, is well thought out; it’s a shame so many of the comments are mired in the gun issue.

    I liked this in particular:

    As a people we are increasingly risk-averse and passive and indecisive.

    Brother, are we ever! Increasingly, we reject responsibility for our own well being and ask, no demand, that the state “nanny” us, that it protect us from ourselves, failing to see that the corollary of this is to give the state increasing control over our lives.

    The individualism and self reliance that were so important in the first century of our national history are no longer even held as values by many these days.

    What a shame.

  • Clavos

    It might have been a little more intellectually honest, PETI, if you had mentioned in #39, when you first cited these statistics, that they were obtained from the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, so we could all judge for ourselves their probity and impartiality.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    When doing research for another article on gun control I visited the ICHV site and found myself unable to use any of their data because they’re very slipshod with their data and terminology. They consistently mix the words murder and homicide as if they are the same thing, and seem to be doing it for purposes of deception. They also repeatedly refer to the handguns killing people with apparently no awareness of human agency in the process. They also present raw figures without taking into account differences in population and overall crime rate as in the table which PETI quotes in #46.

    If you take those figures and adjust them relative to population and overall crime rate suddenly the various countries are a LOT closer together. For example, the US has 5 times the population and 6 times the per capita violent crime that England does, so effectively divide that 11,789 by 30. But wait, then you need to adjust it for political correctness. If you take out gun homicides committed by African-Americans, you have to divide it by another factor of 5. So while the overall gun homicide rate is about 5 times what it is in England relative to overall crime, without counting in African Americans it’s almost exactly the same. But let’s be fair and do away with the race issue alltogether. If you break the figures down by region, and eliminate the gun homicides in the top 20 metropolitan areas, you have the same effect or more, bringing the US gun homicide rate down to the same level as most European countries without even adjusting for the overall crime rate – which would be unfair, because most of that crime is in the major urban areas too.

    For a fair comparison take any of the states which has no major cities – Vermont, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Maine, for example. Compare their homicide rates with Britain’s. Their total homicides per 100,000 population are lower than Britain’s homicide rate from firearms alone. And these are some of the most heavily armed states in the union. Even larger states which have little in the way of urban crime, like Iowa, have lower per capita murders than Britain has.

    It’s not the guns, it’s the level of crime in major urban centers whcih is the problem here.

    Professor Gary Kleck of FSU has done some fascinating work debunking the apparent connection between gun ownership and gun homicides, basically proving that the problem is that the US is just a more violent nation, rather than that we have more guns. There’s a neat article on Kleck here and you can read his analysis here.

    Dave

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    People who keep a gun in the house are 72% more likely to die at the hands of a firearm.

    But here’s the question you have to ask. Were they more likely to die because they had a gun in the house, or did they have a gun in the house because they knew they were more likely to be at risk because of lifestyle or where they lived? Looking at the statistics in more detail suggests that they had a gun because they knew they were at risk, rather than being at risk because they had a gun.

    How can you honestly make the case that you and your family are safer on the off-chance you use your gun to defend against an intruder, when you increase the likelihood of a child committing suicide so dramatically in your house?

    Again, the gun doesn’t do the killing or cause people to commit suicide, and my children aren’t statistics, they’re individuals.

    Dave

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    Yes back to the old “guns dont kill people kill people” argument. Even if the gun isnt the one causing the suicide, it made suicide in that house 3.4 times more likely to occur. A number of reasons could be responsible for this other than the gun itself initiated mind control on the household children and told them to kill themselves. For example, swallowing pills slitting your wrists etc. probably have a much lower success rate at actually completing the suicide because medical attention in time can prevent the suicide. A shot in the head is final. Another reason other than the gun itself using mind control is that people dont have to think to kill themself with a gun. In the heat of the moment, with a gun at hand, who knows what might happen?

    And Clavos -yes my source has an agenda- but most of their statistics are pretty straight forward. Dave points out the potential deceptiveness of straight #s of gun homicides in industrial nations. I didnt site those numbers to be deceptive – of course the population of the U.S. is higher than any of those nations, but I thought that would be immediately apparent, as would the fact that even adjusted for population the U.S. is still highest by far.

    Furthermore, ICHV is not making up its own facts, doing its own research etc. It is taking its data from census data, the “Annals of Emergency Medicine,” etc.

    Yes any one source is only going to site statistics that fit its agenda – take Dave’s Gun Owners of America for example, almost all of the data there is viciously deceptive – but I honestly cannot find a loophole in data showing that suicide is 3.4 times more likely in a house with a gun. If you think of one, I would be glad to hear it.

  • Clavos

    PETI,

    I am researching the child suicide issue, and wanted to show this to you while I continue investigating. It’s from a report by the Surgeon General and is published by the United States Public Health Service. I found it online in less than five minutes. As I said, I’m still looking for more data.

    It has been proposed that the rise in suicidal behavior among teenage boys results from increased availability of firearms (Boyd, 1983; Boyd & Moscicki, 1986; Brent et al., 1987; Brent et al., 1991) and increased substance abuse in the youth population (Shaffer et al., 1996c; Birckmayer & Hemenway, 1999). However, although the rate of suicide by firearms increased more than suicide by other methods (Boyd, 1983; Boyd & Moscicki, 1986; Brent et al., 1987), suicide rates also increased markedly in many other countries in Europe, in Australia, and in New Zealand, where suicide by firearms is rare.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    The suicide argument is inherently deceptive. The correlation may exist, but can you show causation? Why aren’t the same environmental/social factors which made a gun in the house necessary the ones which increased the rate of suicide there?

    And, as Clavos points out, we have more guns here than other people do, so guns are a preferred method of suicide. If guns were taken out of the formula who is to say that those same folks wouldn’t use other methods. It’s more common in households with guns because in households with guns the person who’s going to choose suicide has a gun to use to do it. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t use a different method if no gun were available.

    And the fact is that the US has a relatively low suicide rate compared to other countries. There’s no indication that guns are increasing the number of suicides. The statistic just shows that those who commit suicide prefer guns.

    Dave

  • Clavos

    PETI,

    Here’s a report by an advocacy group, the Children’s Defense Fund 2006. CDF is actually pro gun control, so I never expected to find data which supports my point in their report.

    On page 3, CDF points out that, from 1993 through 2003, gun-related child deaths declined by 50% nationwide. The same table on page 3 also shows that child suicide by gun declined by 20% during the same period.

    It’s not mentioned in the report, but gun ownership nationwide increased during that period. I don’t have specific data on that at hand, but I’ll bet Dave does.

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    It’s more common in households with guns because in households with guns the person who’s going to choose suicide has a gun to use to do it. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t use a different method if no gun were available.

    Yes it does. When there is no gun present they are 1/3.4 times less likely to commit suicide. My statistic is not for suicide with a gun. It is for suicide in general. When there is no gun present in the household suicide is 3.4 times less likely.

    Why aren’t the same environmental/social factors which made a gun in the house necessary the ones which increased the rate of suicide there?

    So you’re acknowledging that the social factors that made the parent own a gun in the first place also contributed to the parent’s poor parenting skills such that his/her daughter committed suicide? In other words parents that buy a gun may have certain attitudes, such as perhaps a more violent attitude than other parents, and pass these attitudes onto their children, while providing an easy means to commit suicide, which in combination result in the child using the gun to commit suicide. You are saying the same social factors that cause gun ownership cause suicide. So gun owners just tend to be worse parents? Personally I don’t think it’s the social factors of gun owners that cause suicide, I think it’s mostly just the fact that they own a gun and may use it rashly in anger or depression. Whether it’s the social factors of gun ownership, or gun ownership itself, you are acknowledging one or both are contributing to suicide.

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    First of all Clavos, your first quote says suicide rates increased, your second says they decreased. Obviously they are different time periods, but wouldnt your second quote tend to invalidate your first?

    Secondly, your first quote points out the obvious correlation between certain social factors that were on the rise during that period and suicide.

    Im not denying social factors as causation! Obviously suicide is a personal choice caused by environmental factors and the gun is not initiating mind control on the teen to commit suicide. What your statistics do not show is the relative difference in suicide between the nations, it just says the rate increased in all the nations probably because of the rise of certain social factors. Even if the rate in the U.S. were lower than in all of the other nations, it might not be because we have more guns but because we have less of the social factors causing suicide. None of this information refutes the fact that in a house where a gun is present, suicide is 3.4X more likely to occur. If, hypothetically, we already have less of the social factors causing suicide, the rate would be even lower if we didnt have ready access of guns to teenagers potential wanting an easy way out of life. ICHV sites a survey in which something like 40% of teenagers say they could get access to a gun if they wanted one. Guns obviously do not increase suicide rates because the site of them cause suicidal thoughts, but because they make suicide easy, relatively painless, and thoughtless.

  • Clavos

    PETI,

    Regardless of whose statistics are used, the incidence of in-the-home gun deaths (suicide or otherwise) is a miniscule proportion of the total number of gun owning households. Why should ALL gun owners be disenfranchised because of this? Would it not be more reasonable to find another solution to the problem?

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    In response to your seond post #56 Clavos, again you are showing the correlation between social factors and suicide rate. The period 1993-2003 was a relatively prosperous one that saw nearly all types of violent crime diminish. Prosperity may not be the only social factor involved, but logically it’s a good one.

    So again, im not saying guns cause suicide. Im saying that when a gun is present suicide is 3.4X more likely to be executed. That is a fact, for which you have had no explanation yet. As Dave says, this may have to do with social factors of gun ownership that also cause suicide (in other words gun owners make worse parents on average statistically), but it is also likely largely due to the fact that guns make suicide easier and have a higher completion %. The latter is my preferred explanation but I am not sure the one Dave offers says anything better about gun ownership.

  • Clavos

    And even if teenagers in gun owning households were committing suicide at an alarming rate, is their parents’ choice to own a gun in the face of the data not a personal decision in which the state has no business interfering pre-emptively?

    I don’t have children, but do have guns. If my neighbor’s kid offs himself with his dad’s gun, is it right that I lose my right to own guns as a result?

  • Clavos

    PETI, Your point in #60 doesn’t address the point that, according to the data, child gun deaths for ALL reasons declined during that period?

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    In response to Clavos #59, so increasing a teen’s chance of sucessful suicide attempt by 340% is acceptable? Even if nearly all gun owning households do not have a suicide problem, as you point out, the chance that the gun will be used in self defense is miniscule to the chance that it will be used to commit suicide. As i said earlier, a household gun is 11X more likely to be used to commit suicide than to be used in self defense.

  • Clavos

    PETI, I find nothing to refute your point that suicide is 3.4x more likely in gun households, so I accept it.

    There ARE ways short of banning guns altogether to solve that problem, however. Parental education comes to mind, there are very good gun locks available, etc.

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    In response to Clavos 62, yes it does. I acknowledged that guns are not causation. The overall social factors causing gun violence declined during that period. However, the household’s with a gun were still much more likely to have a child commit suicide using the household gun. Even if overall suicide/violence rate declines, that fact remains unchanged.

  • Clavos

    PETI 63, You ain’t gonna like my response, but increasing the probability of any ONE teenager’s suicide by 340% IS acceptable to me when taken in the greater context of ALL gun owner’s rights, yes.

    And the 11x figure only tells me that the incidence of suicide in a gun household is 11x greater than that of it being invaded, not that the presence of the gun increases the likelihood of suicide.

    It’s a numbers game, and in my opinion, the numbers don’t warrant abrogating everyone’s right to own guns.

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    Re #64, ok good so we agree gun’s do create a problem. The issue then becomes adressing a problem.

    Perhaps you are right, a very strict and well enforced gun control program that falls short of seizing guns is a more moderate and agreeable solution. Strictly enforced laws against unsupervised use or access to guns by minors comes to mind; mandatory sale of mechanisms to prevent child use and/or lockable storage devises with the sale of the gun; mandatory instruction in safe gun use, storage, and risks with the purchase of a gun (a 2 hour class or something); are all things that come to mind. Either way, when 40+% of minors, who society increasingly infantalizes, regards with contempt, and denies the right to vote because they are not responsible enough have access to a gun, there is a problem. If they are not responsible, mature enough to vote, then they certainly are not responsible, mature enough to have the power over life and death.

  • Clavos

    BTW, PETI,

    Dave did NOT say this:

    (in other words gun owners make worse parents on average statistically)

    What he said was:

    Why aren’t the same environmental/social factors which made a gun in the house necessary the ones which increased the rate of suicide there?

    Meaning the environmental/social factors in the vicinity of the home, not those factors inside the home.

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    Re # 66, I suppose this an acurate description of the situation. Once you acknowledge gun ownership increases suicide rates among teens, then the matter essentially becomes an issue of weighing the right of the child to life, liberty and the pursuit of hapiness against the gun owner’s right to liberty and the pursuit of hapiness. Im not all that up on legal precedent on this, but I wonder if the court would side on the side of greater numbers (gun owners) or on the side of greater loss to the individual (loss of life liberty and pursuit of happiness >> loss of liberty and pursuit of happiness).

  • Clavos

    Either way, when 40+% of minors, who society increasingly infantalizes, regards with contempt, and denies the right to vote because they are not responsible enough have access to a gun, there is a problem. If they are not responsible, mature enough to vote, then they certainly are not responsible, mature enough to have the power over life and death.

    Very good point, PETI. See the portion of your words I’ve emphasized. I would broaden that part to include the “adult” 60% as well, because of the way we have been creating a nanny state in recent years. But that’s another rant.

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    Re # 68:

    My statement holds true if you hold parents responsible for the suicide of their child.

    First of all I would assume suicide is much more a reflection of factors within the home than outside the home. Plenty of kids grow up in bad neigborhoods, but parents can adequately support the child at home.

    My statement is not intended to deny the influence of outside factors, but rather reflect the ability of parents to deal with outside factors. Ultimately, I think the blame of suicide falls on the parent for failing to provide a nurturing home and/or failing to recognize signs symptoms of potential suicide and/or providing an easy means to execute the act by providing a gun.

  • Clavos

    PETI 69, Don’t forget that the child’s loss of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is the result of a conscious act on his part, even if the presence of the gun DID precipitate it, whereas my loss of my guns would not be because of anything I did.

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    # 70, if society has been infantalized and is no longer responsible enough to have the power over life and death, then I would think the solution would be to take away the power until the child prove’s himself/herself responsible enough to wield it.

    In fact, I find it incredibly backwards that after an article about how infantalized society has become most people are defending the merits of gun onwership. The logical solution to an infantalized society is not to give them more guns and hope they learn how to use them, but to take away the guns until they show they learn how to use them. But as I said earlier, perhaps compromise measures are possible since there certainly are responsible gun owners.

  • Clavos

    Ultimately, I think the blame of suicide falls on the parent for failing to provide a nurturing home and/or failing to recognize signs symptoms of potential suicide

    Agree completely.

    and/or providing an easy means to execute the act by providing a gun.

    If it’s a well-parented home, the presence of a gun shouldn’t be a problem.

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    #72, perhaps you did nothing, but it would be because of irresponsible use of guns by other gun owners. Usually society claims some responsibility in protecting the safety of minors, even if the minor himself wants to commit suicide. As for adults committing suicide, that would be a different issue for which society has little or no responsibility. (nanny the actual children not the adults).

  • Clavos

    But as I said earlier, perhaps compromise measures are possible since there certainly are responsible gun owners.

    MOST gun owners are highly responsible, particularly in regard to their ownership and custody/handling of their weapons.

  • Clavos

    Good conversation, PETI. I enjoyed it. Gotta go for a while, my wife’s getting jealous of you.

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    #74, true but ussually it’s difficult to tell if it’s a well parented home until it’s too late. And I would think one of the requirements of being a well parented home would be that the gun would not be accessible, which obviously is not the case and is the problem at hand. Even seemingly happy teens may have suicidal thoughts. I would venture most suicides are unexpected by the parent.

    If society as a whole is going to become more responsible in gun use, then it needs to enact responsible gun laws that prevent mistakes by the irresponsible minority and protects the safety of the minor. What is wrong with turning responsible gun use into law? It would nanny only those who need nannying, and leave the responsible unaffected.

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    Yes good converation.. i look forward to Dave’s rebuttal..if you come back to this thread Dave check out post #73 (or our whole conversation if you prefer) as it reflects directly on the point you make in article.

  • Clavos

    but to take away the guns until they show they learn how to use them. But as I said earlier, perhaps compromise measures are possible since there certainly are responsible gun owners.

    Wow, now I’m REALLY in trouble with my bride.

    I agree with what you say above, but MANY gun owners are afraid (and not without justification) that, once the door is opened to ANY control, the do-gooders won’t stop until guns are outlawed altogether.

    (jumps up, rushes ouf room. “Yes, Dear. I’m coming…”)

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Yikes, I go to a Fish Fry for a few hours and look at all the fun I missed.

    Yes it does. When there is no gun present they are 1/3.4 times less likely to commit suicide. My statistic is not for suicide with a gun. It is for suicide in general. When there is no gun present in the household suicide is 3.4 times less likely.

    So people in gun owning households kill themselves more often than people in gun-free households. But not necessarily with the gun. It’s a weird stat, but I’ll grant that it’s intriguing. It suggests all sorts of sociological questions, but what it doesn’t do is establish a causal relationship between the gun and the suicides. For all we know, male gun owners spend too much time cleaning their guns so their wives get depressed and overdose on valium. Do we blame that on the gun? Or perhaps gun ownership is higher in communities where there is a lot of crime and therefore people feel nervous, get depressed and kill themselves. There may be some third factor which causes people to buy guns and also separately to commit suicide.

    It’s an intriguing statistic, but by itself, without much more supporting data it doesn’t tell us enough. It does suggest a theory to me, however.

    A lot of people don’t buy guns until they are in middle age when they have more valuable property and a home and a family to defend, and because as people get older they may feel less physically capable of defending themselves without a gun. The suicide rate also increases dramatically with age, presumably because greater responsibility can lead to more depression. Aging may be the cause of both greater gun ownership and higher rates of suicide in the same population. I don’t have proof, but the theory makes a lot of sense.

    So you’re acknowledging that the social factors that made the parent own a gun in the first place also contributed to the parent’s poor parenting skills such that his/her daughter committed suicide?

    Is this a higher rate of teen suicide or a higher rate of suicide in general? Teens actually have a much lower suicide rate overall than older age groups. When yo first cited the 3.4x number you didn’t indicate that it was only for teens. Is it?

    In other words parents that buy a gun may have certain attitudes, such as perhaps a more violent attitude than other parents, and pass these attitudes onto their children, while providing an easy means to commit suicide, which in combination result in the child using the gun to commit suicide.

    If you ask psychologists they generally don’t look on suicide as an act of violence. And I’ve nver seen any studies correlating gun ownership with child abuse or domestic violence.

    You are saying the same social factors that cause gun ownership cause suicide. So gun owners just tend to be worse parents? Personally I don’t think it’s the social factors of gun owners that cause suicide, I think it’s mostly just the fact that they own a gun and may use it rashly in anger or depression. Whether it’s the social factors of gun ownership, or gun ownership itself, you are acknowledging one or both are contributing to suicide.

    Guns aren’t necessarily an easy way to commit suicide. Slitting your wrists, taking prescription drugs and jumping off something high are all more easily accessible and less painful and less intimidating, so I don’t see the argument for a gun being an easy way out here.

    Dave

  • Clavos

    Dave,

    As you can see, PETI and I had our own fish fry in your absence.

    Clavos

  • Baronius

    Dave, your article reminds me of a story from a couple of years ago. (I can’t vouch for the story’s authenticity.) There was a bank robbery in California which got some national attention because the robbers had the police outgunned.

    There was a gun shop a block or so away from the scene. Some officers ran over to it and told the owner what was happening. The owner just started grabbing guns, loading them, and tossing them over the counter. The police were streaming in, grabbing guns, and heading back out. They were eventually able to kill the robbers.

    So it’s still possible to find that can-do attitude.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    I remember that incident. The bank robbers had body armor and fully automatic assault rifles which had been stolen from a national guard armory, as I recall. When it comes to stopping power rather than just mass throwing of lead a good gun shop is going to have stuff in stock which would give police an edge against even the best armed robbers – much better than anything they would normally carry anyway.

    Dave

  • licensed hand gun owner

    I own a handgun, I have the right to protect my family, myself and my land. I will do so responsibly. I don’t beat my wife or my children and my children respect others. They say yes Sir and no Sir. The argument that if you own a gun your are bad parent is not plausible.

    Thanks Dave for the article. After reading The August Texas Monthly and your comment I’m glad those citizens had rifles on that day. They saved alot more lives in my opinion. One pic that got my attention was the one where a man had his rifle on his hip protecting those people behind a building keeping them from Whitman’s line of fire. I don’t know if any of them were Anti-Gun or not but by the look on their faces they were glad that he and his gun was there that day.
    Thanks,
    R

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I haven’t seen the new issue of Texas Monthly yet. My wife usually nabs it and I never see it again. As for any of the people in the crowd being anti-gun, I’m not sure there was such a thing as being anti-gun in Texas in 1966. One of the temporal shock issues I was dealing with in the article.

    Dave

  • licensed handgun owner

    The August Texas Monthly is awesome!!! Individual accounts of those in and around that area on that day and how their lives were changed on that day. I agree probably wasn’t a soul in Texas in 1966 that were Anti-Gun. What’s odd I asked my mother and father from time to time about that day in 1966 but they didn’t want to talk about. My dad told me later “Son that is a day that I would just soon forget” I heard tidbits about Charles Whitman whether it was in a movie or just short conversation with someone and his name was brought up but never until last week when I read the Texas Monthly how times have changed and what our law enforcement has learned from that day.

    Have a Great Sunday,
    R

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    From what I’ve heard it was a seminal moment for law enforcement around the country and led to the creation of SWAT teams and modern hostage negotiation tactics. That’s pretty significant, though the ironic part is that by all accounts those few officers and some civilians handled Whitman faster and more effectively than a modern SWAT team would have – though with a great deal more risk to themselves.

    Dave

  • http://word Scott

    This is a great article. The point on how today we are all looked as potential Whitmans hit the nail on the head.
    Having served in the military and grown up around guns, i know that they are only dangerous in the wrong hands. s@#t like this will always be a risk, but look at the good that occurs when guns are in the right hands.

  • Blackhawk Larry

    Never commented online before, but this exactly what Itold the wife this morn. Good insightful article. I think many of the comments in here reflect society all to well.
    We rather focus on the instrument rather than address or admit to ourselves how we have failed and given in to being truly insensitive to others. It easier to subjegate than it is to embolden. In fact I believe as society has become more intolerant, the more we we become exclusitory. People on the fringes of this intolerance become lost and unable to connect, particularly when they need our help the most, we turn away.
    I’m a cowboy.

  • jose

    look at me a im loser who can a kill a pregnant lady derrrrrr

  • roy

    no wonder he killed all those people in austin from that tower people in austin are assholes and hard to live around there like new yorkers he could take there arrogance any more.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    To be fair, the problem with arrogant lefist yuppies in Austin is a relatively recent development that happened after Whitman was dead.

    Dave

  • Becky

    I never heard about the shooting at The Texas University until recently. It’s terrible. Even back then, stuff like that happened.

  • wrong turn

    although i do agree with many of your points (adults that carry weapons in their car in most major cities would be treated as criminals regardless of the fact that their actions are legal), i have to say that you completely missed your own point. you gleam on the fact that ordinary citizens + police handled things somewhat like a modern SWAT team might have, but completely ignore the reality that SWAT teams were created so that individuals would be specially trained to work as a concerted team during such an event (i.e. operating in a more efficient, effective, and safe manner).