Category Archives: Gun Control

Barely A Whisper Anymore

I woke up to the news that over one hundred people had been shot in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida last night. At least fifty are dead. After the initial shock of hearing the news a small voice I can barely hear anymore said, “Maybe this is the horrible tragedy that finally gets us to clamp down on gun violence.”

The day before, also in Orlando, Christina Grimmie, a young singer who was on the television show The Voice was shot and killed while signing autographs. I heard that small voice then too. And then I thought, “She’s probably not famous enough. It would have to be a major rock star.”

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John Lennon shot four times on December 8, 1980

Oh yeah. That did not do it. If someone can shoot and kill a Beatle, a dead rock star isn’t going to do it. Maybe if it was someone important. Someone powerful. A leader of some sort.

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John F. Kennedy shot and killed November 22, 1963

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shot and killed April 4, 1968

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Robert F. Kennedy shot and killed June 6, 1968

Wow. Clearly the death of one person is not enough to galvanize the American people to demand common sense gun control. You know what works on the news? Blonde girls. That gets people all upset for some reason. A blonde girl goes missing and everyone is up in arms and the 24-hour news channels cover it for weeks. What if a blonde reporter got shot live on television? Would that wake people up enough to do something about guns and gun control?

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Alison Parker shot and killed on live television August 26, 2015

Okay. I get it. One person whether they are an attractive blonde girl, the biggest rock star in the world, or President of the United States is not enough to make people rethink our policies on guns and gun control.

What about numbers? Statistics like the fact that more people died last year from gunshot wounds than from car accidents do not work either because they’re just numbers.

The kind of tragedy we need to wake people up to the horrible damage easy gun access has caused is something like a school shooting. Maybe that would work.

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Fifteen people shot and killed including two teenage gunmen on April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School

Oh. That didn’t cause people to change their minds about guns either. Well, it’s high school. High school can be rough for some people. Hell, who didn’t want to kill someone in high school?

You know what no one could ignore? You know what would really get everyone ready to give up their guns voluntarily just at the sheer horror of it all? If someone shot up an elementary school even the most hard core gun nut would have to pause and think we need some sensible gun control laws. That maybe we should make getting guns at least as hard as it is to get a car. That would do it.

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Twenty-Six shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 12, 2012

Twenty-six dead. Twenty under the age of eight. And that was not enough to really enact change. And so I wake up this morning to the news that over 100 people have been shot and half of them are dead due to a gunman. And a tiny voice wonders if we will do anything at all about the easy access to guns in this country. But that voice has become barely more than a whisper because I know the truth. We will do nothing.

We sacrifice over 30,000 American lives every year and pay for the freedom to own guns with their blood. The Aztecs sacrificed lives to their Gods. Experts say they sacrificed as many as 20,000 people a year. We have them beat. We sacrifice so we can own weapons. We do not ask for volunteers. People are chosen at random and while most are poor, no matter who you are, you could be next. The fact that you have not been chosen is the only reason you still allow this to go on. Today, far too many will hear of a massacre in a gay nightclub in Florida and incorrectly think, “I don’t go to gay nightclubs in Florida and so I must be safe.”

Last night over 50 people unwillingly sacrificed their lives for your freedom to own guns. By next week you won’t remember any of their names and be just as shocked as you are right now the next time a mass unwilling sacrifice is made. And you will do just as little as you always have to stop gun violence and the easy access to guns because this is America.

– Jack Cameron

Why We Don’t Need Guns

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I read this article about guns. It wasn’t for or against gun control. Instead it was focused on why people want guns. This is a good question. Unsurprisingly the most common reason people say they have guns is for protection.

It may seem incredibly reasonable that in a country full of guns you may want to have one of your own to protect yourself from guns. However, it’s not very realistic. For starters, the odds of you being a victim of gun related violence are exceptionally low. According to the national safety council your odds of being shot and killed by a gun discharge are 1 in 6,699. And since we know that two out of three of all gun deaths are suicides, getting shot and killed by someone else it’s more like 1 in 20,097 or roughly the same odds as you dying in a plane crash.

 

Even if you defy the odds and end up in a life and death situation where someone is pointing a gun at you, you’re not likely to be in a situation where your gun is loaded and you’re prepared to shoot. If you look at the numbers for every person shot and killed in self-defense there are 34 deaths that aren’t. You also find that owning a gun dramatically increases your odds of suicide. And if you’re a woman there’s a 93% chance that you’ll know your killer. Owning a gun for protection from strangers with guns may seem like a reasonable choice, but as I said, it’s not realistic and actually puts you in more danger rather than less.

Another reason the article listed was recreation. Some people like to target shoot. Some people like to hunt. (P.J. O’Rourke once said that “Hunting is a replacement for murder.”) Target shooting is something that need not be done with a deadly weapon. Pellet guns hit targets as well as bullets do. As for hunting, there’s nothing sporting about taking a weapon developed by the smartest creature on the planet to kill and using it to kill things with brains smaller than a baseball. I get that some people enjoy hunting. But there’s no reason for it in modern society. And when on average one toddler a week shoots someone, I think recreation is a fairly week excuse for having guns.

A recent study says that your average gun owner has eight guns. It’s also worth noting that gun ownership overall has gone down over the years. In other words less and less people are buying more and more guns. Owning a gun when you look at the realities in present day America isn’t a very rational choice. Unfortunately, this means that reasoning our way into disarming the country probably isn’t going to work.

– Jack Cameron

15 Minute Story #27: Gun

Gun 27

Hello. I’m a gun. They say I don’t kill people and it’s true. Without a bullet being loaded into me and someone pulling the trigger, I’m not able to hurt anyone. Then again, no one buys a gun to never load it or never pull the trigger. Sure, I don’t kill people. People who use me sometimes kill people.

If I’m bought legally, the most likely thing that will happen is that I’ll be taken home and occasionally used from time to time to put holes in two-dimensional targets at shooting ranges. I’ll spend the vast majority of my life locked up and not used at all.

If I am used to shoot someone, the most likely person I’m going to shoot is the person who is handling me. When it comes to gun deaths, I’m literally more than twice as likely to be used in a suicide than a homicide. If someone does use me to take someone else’s life, the odds show that it’s almost certainly someone who lives in the house. Next up after that is being used in an accidental shooting. The next most likely thing is for me to be used in a homicide. The least likely scenario in which I might be used to take a life is to save the life of the person who bought me.

Despite all of this, people still buy me and others like me thinking that having me will provide them protection. This is thanks to an incredibly good marketing campaign the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the height of Big Tobacco. Fear sells. Nevermind that in the unlikely event of a mugging or a home invasion or a terrorist attack you’ll likely not even have time to get me, load me, and use me. Nevermind that I kill 30,000 Americans every year. None of that matters thanks to a campaign that says both that the bad guys are coming and that the authorities are coming for your guns. For whatever reason far too many people are suckers for this sort of advertising.

The same people behind these campaigns do an equally good job stifling any attempt to regulate, license, or register me as well as stopping any campaigns to require background checks before someone purchases me or require training for someone who’s never used something like me before.

So yes, I’m a gun, and no, I don’t kill people. I just make it a lot easier for people to kill people.

Words by Jack Cameron
Illustration by Ossaín Ávila Cárdenas

About 15 Minute Stories
It’s good for writers to write every day, but it’s easy for life to get in the way of that. One solution I read about recently was to write a 15 minute piece of short fiction every single day for a month. You may not have time to do NaNoWriMo every month, but if you like writing, you can always find 15 minutes.

So for the month of January, I’ll be writing and posting pieces of very short fiction that I took 15 minutes to write. I’ve asked that my friend, Ossaín Ávila Cárdenas join me by taking 15 minutes to draw an accompanying image for each story.  Ossaín is one of the owners of a local zine shop in Tacoma called The Nearsighted Narwhal

This story and others are collected in 15 Minute Stories available at Amazon.com

Vote Yes on I-594

yes594Here in Washington State we have two Initiatives regarding gun control on the ballot. These initiatives are the result of massive campaigns that acquired enough signatures from registered voters to be eligible to be on the ballot for a vote of the people. It’s pretty much the only kind of gun control even a liberal state like Washington can manage because most politicians are too cowardly to go up against the gun lobby’s NRA.

The first initiative is I-591. It does it’s level best to weaken what background check and gun control laws we have because, y’know, FREEDOM. I’m more than a bit biased about this but seriously, is there even one example of some guy who died because he was unable to get a gun that would have saved him because of a background check? More people have died from Ebola in this country than have died due to a background check on a gun. Voting against this gun-lobby endorsed piece of garbage wannabe legislation only takes the ability to rub two brain cells together.

The first initiative is I-594. It basically required background checks for people who want to purchase firearms in this state and specifically eliminates the .gun show loophole’. It also scares the hell out of some gun owners because they’re under the impression that if they’re at the range and they let their buddy shoot off a few rounds they’re suddenly going to be arrested because their buddy didn’t submit to a background check. To their credit, I-594 isn’t the best written initiative that I’ve ever seen and it does have its flaws. However, I don’t see a lot of otherwise law abiding citizens getting locked up for gun violations anywhere in the entire country. Not even in places like Chicago or Washington DC where gun control laws are extremely strict.

I understand that people who want to vote against I-594 are doing so out of fear, but it’s fear of stuff that hasn’t happened and isn’t happening anywhere else. Whereas people all over the country are getting their hands on guns that they wouldn’t otherwise have if they simply had to go through a background check.

There are 30,000 gun deaths in America every single year. No amount of gun control legislation will stop all of those deaths and not even the biggest proponent of gun control thinks that it will. We can’t stop all of the deaths. But we can stop some. And we don’t stop them by having a ‘good guy with a gun’. Two thirds of those gun deaths are suicides. So I’m a bit lost as to what I’m supposed to do as a good guy with a gun against a guy who’s going to shoot himself. (“Don’t shoot yourself….or I’ll shoot you.”?) Background checks can stop some (again, it’s not going to stop all) of those deaths. As for the others, the truth is that it’s exceedingly rare for a ‘good guy with a gun’ to stop a ‘bad guy with a gun’ and this is despite the fact that we have a bunch of good guys with guns throughout the country. We have many more accidental gun deaths than we do justified gun homicides. So either the good guy with a gun thing is a myth or gun owners are slacking on the job.

I happily voted down I-591 and voted for I-594. I-594 is like a lot of things we end up voting for. It’s far from perfect, but it’s better than what we have.

– Jack Cameron

In Marysville Today No One Got Ebola

Obama hasn’t had much to say about gun violence despite an overwhelming amount of deaths compared to Ebola

Today, Paul Allen announced that he’s donating at least one hundred million dollars to Ebola research. President Obama has appointed an Ebola Czar and today he hugged the brave and heroic nurse who contracted Ebola but is now cured. The world over people are remarking that we are treating Ebola the way we should have treated AIDS in the 1980s. Despite the media’s absolute paranoia about Ebola, it is somewhat inspiring to watch as various governments, individuals, and organizations come together to stop a global problem from becoming worse.

Since 1976 there have been 7,842 known cases of people getting an Ebola related virus. Of those, 4,494 people have died from it. Over half of those deaths have been since March of this year. The Ebola virus while not nearly the pandemic that some reports would have you believe is most definitely an increasing danger that we need to put our various resources towards stopping in its tracks. And let me be clear that I’m glad we are making these efforts to contain and eradicate the Ebola virus.

Today in Marysville, Washington a young man walked into his high school and shot five people, killing at least one and critically injuring others before turning the gun on himself. Unfortunately, such an event is nothing new. We average four of five school shootings a month these days. And school shootings account for an incredibly small percentage of gun violence overall. We hear more about school shootings because they are considered more tragic and more frightening as they strike at the youngest among us and those we care for the most. Our children are precious and the idea that they are becoming used to the schools we drop them off at going into lockdown is a tragedy in and of itself.

Every year 30,000 people in America alone are killed by people using guns. Guns are so easy to get in America that even Mexican drug cartels come north to get their weapons. Two out of three of these gun deaths involve only one person. The amount of suicides committed using a firearm is staggering.

Almost three times as many people shoot themselves every single year as have ever been infected with the Ebola virus in the last 38 years. Even our yearly gun deaths from homicides outnumber the number of people worldwide infected by the Ebola virus. More people were shot and killed today in Marysville than have been killed by the Ebola virus in America.

And yet absolutely no one expect President Obama to appoint a Gun Control or Mental Health Czar. No billionaire is going to spend one hundred million dollars to help curb the epidemic of gun violence in this country. Paul Allen, who is an amazing philanthropist has put $500,000 towards local gun background check Initiative 594. Or to put it another way, he’s given .05% as much towards gun control as he’s giving to stop Ebola.

Whether you want to blame lack of gun control or lack of mental health care (and I really don’t understand those who aren’t capable of blaming both), practically nothing whatsoever is being done by politicians, billionaires, or organizations to stop your child’s school from being the next place a disturbed person chooses to start firing his gun. But don’t worry, they probably won’t get Ebola.

– Jack Cameron

The Pitchfork And The Brick

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A while back I watched a video of David Simon from the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. (How cool is it that such a thing exists?) David Simon is the creator of The Wire. He also created Treme. He makes it his business to study urban and economic development in order to write compelling dramas about them. So when he talks about income inequality and where he thinks it’s headed, I listen. He got to a point in the hour long talk where he’s thinking about where things are going and he says this:

“We’re either going to do that in some practical way when things get bad enough or we’re going to keep going the way we’re going, at which point there’s going to be enough people standing on the outside of this mess that somebody’s going to pick up a brick, because you know when people get to the end there’s always the brick. I hope we go for the first option but I’m losing faith.”

This week I found an open letter by billionaire Nick Hanauer called “The Pitchforks Are Coming…For Us Plutocrats”. It’s a scathing letter explaining in detail why the middle class must be rebuilt by paying workers more money. In words that eerily echo David Simon’s he says:

“If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.”
These are smart men who know what they’re talking about and I don’t see a lot of compelling arguments going that refute their claims. More to the point, if you’re looking for it, I can see evidence of this war happening already.

Anyone who is paying attention can see that we have an increasingly militarized police force. Recently a Massachusetts SWAT team when asked for records of their activities claimed to be a corporation or a private mercenary force. This isn’t a promising sign when you have SWAT teams in other parts of the country injuring 2-year-olds.

When people aren’t getting injured or killed by the police, they’re getting arrested and imprisoned. In America we have 5% of the population and yet we have 25% of the world’s prisoners. We are incarcerating humans at a rate never before seen in human history. We are then taking those prisoners and forcing them to work for little to no pay often to increase the profits of private companies running state prisons. This is the legal slave trade of America. And you’ll find no millionaires among their ranks. Most prisoners aren’t white. Most of them are poor. All of them will have a difficult time finding a job if and when they are released increasing the likelihood that they will resort to crime resulting in more prison time.

Of course this isn’t the only problem. These days we have an increasingly large group of people who feel it is necessary to arm themselves with guns. Many of these people are anti-government. Many are poor. And thanks to gun laws so lax that even Mexican gangsters come to our country to get guns because it’s easier many of them are exactly the sort of people who shouldn’t have guns. Despite an annual death count that is nearly equal with car accidents, instead of increasing gun control laws, we have made guns even easier to get and easier to fire legally.

The combination of open carry laws and stand your ground laws make it possible for two people to openly carry guns, feel fearful of the other one and shoot each other without any law being broken. This isn’t the Wild West. It’s worse.

So we have unparalleled income inequality. We have unparalleled militarized police. We have unparalleled imprisonment. We have unparalleled private citizen armament. What we have is a class war being waged and it’s only just beginning.

If I were a billionaire, I’d probably do everything to erase my public existence, buy a fortified yacht, and hide out in the South Pacific until it’s all over.

Unfortunately, I’m a few billion dollars short of being a billionaire. Like most of you I’m living paycheck to paycheck at a pay rate closer to minimum wage than it is to the average CEO’s. I think it’s safe to say that the war is here and it’s going to get A LOT worse before it gets better. I’m talking Mad Fucking Max worse.

It could be that David Simon and Nick Hanauer and I are all wrong about this and it’s going to be fine. I accept that and I don’t have any questions about it.

What I don’t know is what should we do if we’re right? What do the people in the rapidly shrinking middle who don’t want to throw bricks or raise pitchforks do to prepare for war? How do we increase our chances of survival? Arming ourselves and stalking up on food doesn’t seem like a good choice because you don’t know how much food or ammunition you’re going to need and the best gun in the world doesn’t make you bulletproof. Is it as simple as drastic relocation? Should those of us who see this thing coming just get out of the country and try to find a safe place? (Though what place is safe from what seems to be a global class war?) These are questions I genuinely don’t know the answers to and I’m curious what others think about all of this.

I know it sounds a bit paranoid and most of us think that something else will happen before the pitchforks and bricks, but it’s a situation where we should start thinking about contingency plans before it’s too late.

I’m interested in what you think. Go ahead and comment below if you have anything you’d like to contribute to the conversation.

–       Jack Cameron

An Open Letter To American Gun Owners

gunsAmerican Gun Owners,

Let me start off by saying that I know the vast majority of you are responsible law abiding citizens who are trained in the use of your weapons and would likely never shoot another human being without other lives being in imminent danger. You’re also likely not someone who is brandishing your weapons around supermarkets, department stores, and restaurants trying just to antagonize anti-gun people. Your gun likely sits in a gun case somewhere until you feel like going out to the range to target shoot or perhaps when you go hunting. Despite what many liberals might believe, most of you are entirely rational, educated individuals who are well aware of the power and responsibility inherent in owning a gun. You need not convince me of this as I already know it to be true.

Now having said that, let me also state that I don’t expect that this letter is going to change your mind about guns in the slightest. When it comes to the seemingly endless and toothless gun debate here in America, most of us have chosen our sides, dug in our heels, and will not be changing our minds anytime soon. I get that. I’ll even acknowledge that such a description likely fits me as well. We all have our reasons and our pet studies that will help back up what we already believe about guns, gun violence, and what can or should be done about it.

I’m aware that no amount of sources, studies, evidence, or data is going to result in a sudden shift in viewpoint. I’m equally aware that what I’m going to ask will likely fall on deaf ears. So before I get to that point, let me ask one quick and easy favor. For the duration of this letter, let’s step out of our fox holes for a few moments. I will not attack you with anything and you will allow if only for a moment the idea that just maybe we could do this. Can we make that deal just for the length of this post?

Every year a gun is used to kill 30,000 Americans. 20,000 of these are suicides. 10,000 are homicides. If rates continue as they are, more people will be killed yearly using guns than will be killed in automobile accidents. And despite what many in the gun lobby have told us, liberals and Obama are doing absolutely nothing to take your guns away. If nothing else, you can rest secure in the iron-clad fact that Obama is not coming for your guns.

Okay. Now let me ask you this. What if there was a way to make 100% sure that your gun was never used for a homicide or a suicide? Sure, you may have your gun locked up. You may have various methods of security to keep your gun from being used to harm other law abiding citizens, but each of these can be circumvented. Locks can be broken. Guns can be stolen or lost. It’s one of those things we think will never happen to us until it does. So I ask you to open your mind. I ask you to let in one incredibly simple idea.

The one sure-fire way to make sure that no one ever uses your guns to kill anyone else and every law abiding citizen is safe from any harm your guns might do is to simply get rid of your guns.

I know you’re already immediately dismissing this concept. I know that in some cases it’s a part of who you are. In other cases, you simply can’t imagine a circumstance in which your gun might be used to harm others. You’re probably right about that.

However, if you’re able to, I’d like you to imagine a scenario in which you’re wrong. Imagine that someone with ill intent did get their hands on your gun. Imagine they used it to take their own life. Or imagine they used it to kill someone. Imagine how that might make you feel and imagine how different it might be if you simply didn’t have the gun in the first place. Are you not afraid of that feeling and if not, why not? Isn’t that just as big of a fear as you might have of someone breaking into your house while you’re unarmed? It should be. It’s much more likely that a gun will be used to shoot the person holding it or used in a homicide than it is to be used to defend against a home invasion.

Home invasions are incredibly rare despite how popular such instances are on the news. And defending yourself from a home invasion with a gun is rarer still. Our government has drones and missiles. If they chose to be oppressive, your guns would not stop them. Most of the situations in which you might need a gun are incredibly unlikely. Truth be told, it’s also unlikely that your gun will ever be used for anything beyond target shooting. But why leave even a small chance that it could be?

You can bring your gun in to any local police station. You do not need it. Getting rid of it may save lives. It may even save the lives of the people in your home or yourself. You want to make sure your gun never takes an innocent person’s life under any circumstances? Join us and be good without guns.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I realize that you’re not likely going to get rid of your guns. But I do appreciate your willingness to imagine it with me for a while.

–          Jack Cameron

#GoodWithoutGuns