Tag Archives: Guns

A Response To Trump’s Anti-Gun Control Talking Points

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So NBC got their hands on Donald Trump’s talking points for his visit to Las Vegas in the wake of the worst mass shooting in America this century. They read like a Greatest Hits of pro-gun bullshit. These are the arguments you see again and again from gun fetishists. And since they are so common and I encounter these so often, I figured I would do myself the favor of countering these all right here so I can just refer the next gun enthusiast who regurgitates this stuff to this page where they can find the appropriate piece of propaganda and see my response to it without me having to type the same thing over and over again.

“Let’s gather the facts before we make sweeping policy arguments for curtailing the Second Amendment. The investigation is still in its earliest stages.”

This is a classic trope. We don’t know enough. It just happened. Have some respect. The investigation is just beginning. Of course none of this actually matters. It could turn out that the guy was from ISIS, obtained his guns illegally, and that no amount of gun laws or regulations would have ever stopped him from his attack. So what. Does a recent mass shooting somehow negate what we already know about gun violence? Of course not. Anyone who wants gun control doesn’t want it because of one incident. They want it because they’re aware that over 120,000 people are killed or wounded by guns every single year in America. I get that 558 of those are in the news right now, but again, even if it turned out that attack could not possibly be stopped by gun control, there are still the other 100,000+ shootings that may very well be cut down by gun control. By pretending that our conversation on gun control hinges on this one incident is to ignore all of the other victims of gun violence.

“The Second Amendment has endured for more than two centuries for a reason: it is a key constitutional right that is meant to protect people’s freedoms, and the President understands that.”

It’s cute how they say ‘the President understands that’. This is the only point at which they say that. Does that imply he does NOT understand the other points? They are correct that the Second Amendment has endured for more than two centuries, but for the most part it wasn’t used to defend the private ownership of guns until very recently. It wasn’t until 2008 in District of Columbia v Heller that the Supreme Court used the second amendment to justify ownership of guns.

I suppose it could be argued that the second amendment is a ‘key constitutional right’, but it’s less clear that it is or was meant to ‘protect people’s freedoms’. People have been arguing about the intention of the second amendment practically since its founding.

“The President believes that our founding principles, like freedom of speech, freedom of religions and the right to bear arms must be protected while maintaining public safety.”

Well that’s great, except that he doesn’t. His administration’s Justice Department is looking into Facebook pages that are anti-Trump with in an effort to identify dissenters. That doesn’t sound like believing in free speech. His Muslim ban makes it clear that if he does believe in freedom of religions, it’s certainly not all religions. And the fact that there are over 100,000 people shot in America every year shows that public safety is NOT being maintained.

“We welcome a reasoned and well-informed debate on public safety and our constitutional freedoms, but we reject the false choice that we can’t have both.”

No, they don’t. If they welcomed a well-informed debate they’d allow and fund research on gun violence. Instead they fight against it. It’s also worth noting that we have quite a few gun laws on the books right now that are not considered even by Trump’s administration to infringe on our constitutional freedoms. Arguing that any new gun control legislation automatically must being infringing on our constitutional freedoms is like saying whatever I’m planning on making in the kitchen must be poison. Until you hear the plans, there’s no way to know if that’s true or not.

“And when it comes to gun control, let’s be clear: new laws won’t stop a mad man committed to harming innocent people. They will curtail freedoms of law abiding citizens.”

Stephen Paddock was a law abiding citizen…until he opened fire on a crowd of 22,000 people and killed or wounded over 500 people. There is this myth trotted out by gun enthusiasts that somehow law abiding citizens and criminals are entirely separate kinds of people and one can never change into the other. It is, of course, like so many of their arguments complete bullshit.

That said, this particular talking point does have some truth to it. A mad man committed to harming innocent people will not likely be stopped by new gun laws. A mad man committed to breaking into your house isn’t likely to be stopped by locks no matter how many you put on your door, but that doesn’t mean you leave your doors unlocked, does it?

New gun laws will not make mass shootings in America a thing of the past, but it could mean less people die. Sure, the new laws won’t stop some determined people, but it will stop others. Just like a locked door stops some burglars but does not stop others.

 “We’ve seen terrorist attacks with knives, by people driving cars into crowds, by hijacking airplanes”

First off, since these are Presidential talking points, does this mean that the Trump administration is finally willing to admit that the Nazi march in Charlottesville was a terrorist attack? About damn time.

Secondly, yes, people have been attacked using knives, cars, and hijacking planes, but that does not somehow negate the 120,000 people who are shot every year. This is like insisting you don’t have a problem with heroin because other people are addicted to cocaine and meth. It makes no logical sense the moment you think about it for a moment.

“Some of the cities with the strictest gun laws have the highest rates of gun violence.”

“This shows that more laws on the books may not work. The problems in these cities and many others isn’t too few gun laws.”

It’s true that the problem in these cities is not too few gun laws. The problem is being surrounded by areas that have too few gun laws. Most of the guns in Chicago come from surrounding areas where the gun laws are lax and thanks to strict gun laws in Chicago, mostly criminals have guns. This is not showing that gun laws do not work. It’s showing that in order for gun control to work in America, it needs to be on a national level. Otherwise you get places like Chicago and Baltimore. Essentially, the Trump administration and many gun enthusiasts simply draw the wrong conclusion about gun violence in cities like Chicago. Whether they do this because they don’t know what they’re talking about or that they assume we don’t know what they’re talking about doesn’t really matter. The fact is that they are wrong.

“Also, we’ve had examples where concealed carry has allowed people to protect themselves and stop a mass shooting in its tracks, such as last month in a church in Texas.”

A recent study shows that for every time a gun is used in self-defense, 34 innocent people die. The fantasy of some John Wayne-type law abiding citizen stopping a gunman intent on committing harm is just that, a fantasy. It hardly ever happens. In fact, if you own a gun and you fire it killing someone, the odds are 2 to 1 that you shot yourself as suicide accounts for 2 out of 3 gun deaths.

“Again, we welcome this debates, but in the wake of Sunday night’s tragedy, we shouldn’t rush toward compromising our freedoms before we have all the facts.”

They do not welcome this debate. Trump has no interest in debating gun control. There has never been a time that he wanted to talk gun control.

As for ‘compromising our freedoms’, it’s worth noting that gun control laws already on the books are not considered by the Supreme Court to be compromising our freedoms. And without talking about specific gun control proposals any allegation that any new gun control law automatically compromises our freedoms can be dismissed as paranoid nonsense.

Finally, let’s put to bed the idea that we are ‘rushing’ to do anything at all about gun control. It has been 18,693  days since 15 people were killed by a gunman at the University of Texas-Austin. It has been 12,132 days since 21 people were killed by a gunman at a McDonalds in San Ysidro, California. It has been 11,369 days since 14 people were killed in Edmond, Oklahoma. It has been 9,486 days since a man drove a car into a restaurant in Killeen, Texas and shot and killed 23 people. It has been 6,743 days since the mass shooting at Columbine where 13 people were killed. It has been 3,825 days since a man at Virginia Tech shot and killed 32 people. It has been 2,887 days since the mass shooting at Fort Hood where 13 people were killed. It has been 1,756 days since the Sandy Hook massacre. It has been 673 days since San Bernardino where 14 people were killed. It has been 480 days since a man went into a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida and murdered 49 people.

The LAST thing we are doing is ‘rushing’ to solve the gun problem in America.

– Jack Cameron

 

 

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If Only We Really Gave A Damn About Gun Violence in America

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I spent nearly ten years reading studies, articles, and books while talking to people I agree with, people I disagree with, and people who are just a lot smarter than I am about guns, gun control, and gun violence. I would stop short of calling myself an expert, but I know a thing or two about a thing or two when it comes to guns in America. In the last year or two I’ve cut down on my research because I arrived at certain conclusions that made any further research on my part largely irrelevant.

  1. Most of America agrees that universal background checks and required training on the use and safe storage of any gun that is purchased is common sense gun control. People are less in agreement when it comes to requiring registration and liability insurance but most people like that too.
  2. That said, it’s worth noting that while most of America agrees, also most of America doesn’t care too much about it. We don’t see protesters supporting gun control doing marches, confronting prominent politicians, or doing much of anything really beyond online petitions and lip service towards the concept of gun control.
  3. What we in America have decided collectively is that we’re probably not going to get shot and 30,000 abstract dead Americans every year is a fine price to pay for easy access to guns. We don’t even pay attention to the 80,000 wounded every year from gunfire.
  4. There is a small but vocal population of gun owners who are nearly sexually aroused by the idea of the government coming for their guns or some home intruder breaking into their house despite the odds of such things happening being astronomically low. These are people who will shoot their fellow Americans regardless of what uniform they are wearing before they will relinquish their guns.
  5. Given points 2, 3, and 4, I have nearly zero expectation of any meaningful national gun control laws in the United States.

Now you may want to argue any of these points, and you may go right ahead and do so, but as I said, I did not arrive at these conclusions in any uninformed way. I recognize that America, like the Aztecs is a society in which human sacrifice is part of the culture. We just do it with guns rather than rolling people off of pyramids. And like the Aztec human sacrifices, it is not a practical thing, but a religious thing. Talk to any avid gun enthusiast and you’ll see they have every bit the zeal of the most passionate evangelist. As an atheist, I am well aware that when it comes to religion, no amount of common sense, statistics, studies, or facts will sway a believer from their belief.

Most of us are not gun owners. Most of us do not fetishize guns. Most of us do not hold the beliefs of a religious zealot. But, despite these gun fetishists following a belief system that kills ten times the amount of people who died on 9/11 every year, we do not treat these people the same as we might a member of a ISIS or a Nazi. I don’t see that changing any time soon either. Instead, we are tolerant or indifferent to their deadly religion.

When it comes to guns, people often look to politics, but really modern politics about gun control is all about getting out of the way of the gun lobby. The NRA is a domestic terrorist organization that works as the propaganda arm of gun manufacturers under the guise of representing American gun owners. They spend millions on members of both parties to make sure none of them do anything to mess up the sales of guns and ammunition to any American who might want them. I remain convinced that if enough people cared, protested, made calls, and voted out anyone who takes a dime from the gun lobby we might get somewhere on gun control, but I also remain equally convinced that won’t happen because most people, including you and me, simply do not truly give a shit. Not really.

– Jack Cameron

A Note About Comments: All comments are moderated. Feel free to comment if you have something beyond insults and something involving evidence to back up whatever it is you want want say. Comments with insults, unrelated or bad links, or off topic will be deleted.

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

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