One Way to Start to Combat Gun Violence: Voting

I'm NRA and I Vote!You can’t be connected enough to read this blog and not have heard about the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College. I don’t think I’m at all alone in feeling like I’m suffering from learned helplessness. It’s not this particular shooting, which mightn’t have been changed by anything. But clearly, our guns laws do need to be changed. Yet we don’t do anything. Or rather, the political environment is such that the most reasonable steps to making guns less of a threat in our society are met with hysteria by the pro-gun nuts.

I know people who are gun fanciers. Most of them do not have any problem with any of the gun regulations that have been proposed in the last ten years. Yet when it comes to voting, they don’t dive into the policies. They just see who the NRA says is “evil” and who is “good,” and they vote based upon that. It doesn’t matter in the least that the “evil” candidate probably agrees with them more than the “good” candidate.

And, of course, there is the problem of voters. I’ve been seeing the “I’m NRA and I Vote!” bumper stickers since I was a kid, and it’s very true. The same thing can be said of conservatives generally. There are a lot of people who are outraged by these kinds of attacks. They answer the pollsters’ questions about common sense gun regulations. And then on election day, they don’t show up to the polls. During the Colorado recall, state senator John Morse was recalled by just 319 votes for the crime of passing hugely popular legislation.

Again: this is not about mass shootings. The mass shootings are just a reminder. There are roughly 11,000 gun homicides each year in the US. That’s 30 per day. Suicides are even worse. Over at Vox, Zack Beauchamp put together, Deaths From Gun Violence vs Deaths From Terrorism, in One Chart. It’s a boring chart. In 2001, there were four times as many Americans murdered with guns as were murdered by terrorism. But the rest of the years since have been pretty much like the last year of data (2011): 653 times as many people murdered with guns as by terrorism. Maybe that’s not a fair comparison. But if you look at firearm related death rates, the only countries worse than the US are places like Colombia and Swaziland. The closest advanced economy is Finland, with a rate of one-third ours. Ours is almost five times that of the most obvious comparison, Canada.

The question remains the same: what are we going to do about this? And, sadly, the answer is the same: nothing. There are lots of problems in America. Far more people die because of economic inequality and all the things that go along with it. People die in wars — and many other things that conservatives are far more keen on. The answer to all these things is the same: voting. If people voted as much in off-year (and off off-year) elections as they do in presidential elections, this country would be in far better shape. And it would make the Republican Party far more reasonable. We can’t be like the people in The Daily Show segment: non-voters who are slightly embarrassed with a self-deprecating chuckle. Those people should have been crimson in their public shame. (In fairness, the one guy got pretty close to crimson.)

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

46 thoughts on “One Way to Start to Combat Gun Violence: Voting

  1. I received a survey from the NRA when I ran for Congress, I handed it to a friend who is a fan of guns and he said that you would have to be very careful on how you answer this. I refused to answer any of the loaded questions and got an F- from the NRA. Not too shabby from that manipulative organization.

    The NRA (and other groups who donate or run candidates) are only interested in making money for the gun corporations. Telling this to people who like guns is rather difficult because they like to believe they are immune to marketing. But it is pretty much true and they will keep going after office holders who do anything about the enormous amount of gun violence like they did for the woman who voted against allowing guns on school campuses despite her being super duper supporter of guns everywhere else. To them, anywhere anytime any person or else.

    • Absolutely! I’ve found that people who say that marketing doesn’t affect them are those who are most prone its effects. Somehow, they think it doesn’t affect them because after seeing an ad for a particular gun (or ice cream or whatever) they don’t run out and buy it.

      My Representative is a pro-gun nut as far as I’m concerned, and he has a C+ rating with the NRA. I would wear that F- proudly!

    • I would love to see that NRA questionnaire. We should post it somewhere to see what they ask politicians and then read between the lines to see what answers they expect.

      • I would love to give it to you but it was 11 years ago so I don’t have it any more. I could ask some of my political friends if they have a copy though.

    • Too many cowards in Congress. The brave ones are on the outside looking in.

      How about this for a bumper sticker? “I’m a liberal and I vote. And sometimes my vote gets counted.”

  2. Very interesting article on a sheriff in Roseburg, OR:

    http://www.thenation.com/article/the-oregon-sheriffs-position-on-gun-control-is-more-radical-than-we-think/

    Also illustrates the problem of analyzing a problem from a distance, which all of us have done. The article mentions how locals resent the federal government shutting down logging because of spotted owls. Locals may well still resent that, but it happened around 1990, after logging companies had long since denuded the forests of most old-growth trees. Logging companies killed the Oregon logging industry, not the EPA. Logging companies wanted access to the few areas they hadn’t strip-mined already. If they’d gotten it, they would have fled a few years later. And the article says Roseburg’s unemployment level is 8%. That’s actually quite an improvement from the 1990s.

    Hope things get better for the area. It’s lovely.

    • All the government did was stop leasing logging rights to certain areas — which they had always done way below market level. And then the logging companies told the workers, “It’s not our fault! Blame the government!” And they did. Conservatives like to complain that the government is inefficient? Well, this kind of thing is a great example of it. But conservatives instead want the government to just give away resources — as long as the beneficiaries are rich.

      In general, people in law enforcement aren’t that into all this gun rights absolutism. I think the gun freaks are more like the rent-a-cops. A lot of them imagine themselves fighting in the war to come. Look at John Milius and his conservative cinematic fantasy Red Dawn. They are no different from these guys who fly to Syria to fight with ISIS — or the Kurds for that matter.

      • Great story — I met a guy who’d been sheriff of Harney County for 20 years (it’s down in SE Oregon.) And he said he never carried a gun. There were guns at the station, and he would sometimes threaten to go get them, but it was his belief that cops being armed just exacerbated the tension of tough situations.

        You can’t get any more rural redneck that Harney County. And here was a cop arguing for disarming the police! The guy was great.

        • I think the fact that our police always carry guns is more a symptom of our cultural dysfunction. Given that people do not in general walk around with guns, why do the police need to be constantly in possession of them? It speaks to a culture that is terribly afraid and thinks that guns make them safe. It’s pathetic.

          • Yeah, if I met the sheriff now, I’d ask him for a quote and write about him somewhere. But this was the early 90s and I had no idea you could write unreadable things and get them posted in places.

            Convenience store was pretty much a rotten job, but you did meet some interesting characters who showed up at odd hours and wanted to talk about their experiences. That sheriff. People from psychic conventions. A Portland Trailblazer who wanted me to admire his car. Some odd birds at 4 AM . . .

            • I worked graveyard at a gas station only 8 years ago. I liked the people. But I didn’t last that long. I’m not good at sleeping during the day.

              • I’ve never had a problem sleeping during the day. Me and the sun are not friends. (I actually preferred baseball when the Twins played indoors! Although games on overcast days are fine outside.)

                What I couldn’t stand was the busywork for selling crap. Cleaning the hot dog machine, say, or the slurpee machine. Since I don’t think anyone should ever buy those items, I loathed prepping them for sales to customers.

                And God did I hate going in the cooler to restock beer/soda/juice. It’s cold in there!

                You also meet a lot of shitheads. Customers who act like because you wear a uniform, you’re a lesser being. One thing I noticed immediately in Denmark was that clerks at grocery stores have stools to sit on. Unimaginable here. Service economy workers have to be standing at all times, basically snapping to attention when a customer addresses them. It’s nonsense. We confuse customer service with worker debasement.

                (As much as I hated the cooler, I did figure out that stocking the milk first thing on my shift gave me several empty milk crates I could stack together and sit on, then put back in the cooler just before my boss came in for the morning.)

                Aah, memories, memories, I could go on but won’t. Some of the customers were great, though. I remember one who saw the morning paper and asked, “why is it when unemployment goes up, the stock market surges?” That was a pretty major element of my education, that simple comment right there.

                • I believe any manager/head honcho should be required by law to work as a peon at the bottom for at least a month before they become the head honcho.

                  I worked customer service so as far as I was concerned, when someone treated my clerks poorly enough for them to report it to me, that person was told in no uncertain terms what would happen if they did not apologize. One woman was so bad I actually started the paperwork (ugh) to hold her in formal contempt before she backed down and wrote letters of apology to the clerks she was so horrible to.

                  But if the bossman had to deal with the rudeness of people, the rudeness would go down and it would be less likely that staff would be forced to endure such poor treatment.

                • To be clear: I don’t like the sun either. I just couldn’t get my internal clock to work that way. The best shift for me would be swing, which is what I work now as a freelancer.

                  I mostly had to do cleaning at that job. I remember a lot of sweeping and mopping. I had forgotten about the cooler until you mentioned it. But waste of both our talents, I’m afraid.

  3. Wow, “The Nation” is killing it right now. Here’s a terrific piece on trained professionals talking about how gunfights work:

    http://www.thenation.com/article/combat-vets-destroy-the-nras-heroic-gunslinger-fantasy/

    The FBI looked at a large number of mass shootings. About 20% had people disarming the shooter, by tackling him. (Our football obsession hasn’t gone completely to waste!) In exactly one instance did others with guns stop the gunman, and that involved off-duty armed personnel. Basically unless you’ve had extensive training and lots of experience in gunfights, your having a gun is going to make the situation worse. You’re more likely to shoot the wrong person.

    Common sense, really. Owning a gun is terrifying. I did for about six months and it freaked the hell out of me. Why on Earth would you bring it anywhere? Explicitly to shoot someone, and that’s insane.

    Things I did enjoy with guns:

    1) Riding a motorcycle through a posh section of Eugene at 7 AM and shooting a gun into the air. Really stupid and antisocial, but seemed like a good idea at the time. OMG I have avoided so much prison time by being Caucasian.
    2) As certifiable white-trash kids, we’d go dumpster-diving for broken appliances, take them in the woods, and shoot them. I wouldn’t do this now, as it’s polluting the woods. It is however fun to blow up stuff by shooting at it. Computer keyboards are great, the keys fly everywhere. If you throw a VHS tape in the air and hit it just right with a shotgun, the tape spools out like a Broadway parade. And if you ever find yourself in post-apocalyptic “Mad Max” hellworld, use the back plate of a microwave as a bulletproof vest. Nothing shoots through those plates!

    Incidentally shooting stuff in the woods, we’d often compete with off-duty cops shooting stuff. I usually was better! Up until they used .45s. That’s like shooting a cannon blindfolded.

    In sane countries, all handguns are banned except for target shooting at athletic clubs. Which is cool, and we should allow it! Aside from that, though, it should be deer rifles & shotguns, nothing else. Ban the sales of other ammunition already. This isn’t complicated.

    • The things I missed by being a city girl from the poor side of town.

      I have never understood why people think they can do a great job at defending their family when they are awoken by a thief in the middle of the night or when someone suddenly comes out of nowhere to shoot up the place.

    • I’ll check out the article. There have been a lot of studies about this kind of thing, and people are in general hopeless — for very good reasons.

      I’m glad you were shooting appliances instead of animals. Right now, there is a mouse living in my house and I’m trying to figure out what to do with her. If she were making a mess and bringing friends over, I’d just kill her. But right now, I’m inclined to relocated her to the backyard — if possible.

      You should check out Jim Jefferies gun routine. It’s great.

      • I have seen Jefferies twice in person. As a feminist I spent much of time cringing at his routine but he certainly nailed it on the gun culture.

        • I’m only vaguely aware of who he is. Although it is probably his “real man” type that makes this routine work so well. It’s long seemed to me that most “real men” in America are compensating. Leave it to a “real man” from Australia to rip that pretense away.

          • I could see it being about masculinity. Many of the people who do the open carry do not strike me as the kind of men who are comfortable in their skin as men. Our society also really has kind of stripped away what it means to be a man from what I see on the outside as a woman so guns are an easy substitute to show how manly you are.

            • Yeah, I see that too. I see a lot of men flailing around for meaning. I’m a mess myself, but not about that kind of thing. I think men have this idea that “men” are one thing. But traditionally, there’s been endless variety. In fact, if you go way back, it appears that gender roles are more a function of culture. Individual hunter-gatherers tended to go in whatever direction appealed to them. We are humans, not lions.

              • Yeah but that requires learning about other cultures and Real Americans (TM) never do that. Might make them weak or something. Which now makes me think of Finn’s reaction to the clown nurses on Adventure Time.

                Anyway, the sad thing is that it both makes them act rather stupid when it comes to guns (and makes them cling all the harder as it means you are taking a powerful symbol away if you want to remove their access) while also taking away the joy of learning new things. Then again, the group most obviously running around with guns-the Texas Open Carry group-is also closely associated with the Republican Party of that state which had a 2012 platform and this appalling statement:
                Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

                So learning and thinking is not something they particularly want to do.

                • Don’t take away our dogma! These people will not be happy until all of civilization has been rolled back. Of course we also know from pre-neolithic encampments that we’ve always done the things that they are rebelling against. Humans survive because we help each other. I think the behavior of these kind of people is more an indication that they know what more normal Americans have not realized: we are dying empire.

                  • You are correct in that we rebel against anything as humans.

                    I rebel against having proper meals for instance even though I am an excellent cook.

                    • Ah, I am in the middle of making chicken ala king right now. I love cooking, but these days, I feel so rushed with other things, I’m just cooking as quickly as possible.

                  • I don’t have anyone to cook for because what is the point of throwing stuff into a pot/oven if you cannot show off your ability to craft an excellent meal?

                    • It does suck. I used to cook just for myself, and I think I put on 50 pounds beside!

      • How could you ever kill a mouse? Nah, I don’t think you would.

        That was a terrific Jeffries bit. I love it when anyone uses “fucking” in a vivid way. It can be such a boring word.

          • That is so gross! If it’s really a trend in London, maybe it’s high time Doctor Who stop saving Brits from deadly aliens.

            • I think it’s cool! That was the only thing I really liked about Dinner for Schmucks. You would just have to wait for them to die, however. Or kill them in a gentle way — which would probably be more painful. But the idea that people do taxidermy on mice is cool. I wonder how many mice you can do with a single kit?

              • I love Firebox, they have the neatest things. I am not a big fan of mice but then if I don’t see it, they don’t exist. You should probably order the kit and let us know.

                • It looks like a lot of work. Just the same, the mouse reading the paper is pretty cool. I sent it to my friend Andrea who thinks they need to be dressed in little close — which is what she does. But she doesn’t seem to be interested in dealing with dead mice. It’s a great loss to our culture.

                  • My first reaction is “ick” so I am not surprised another woman would think that. I always thought taxidermy is a masculine activity.

                    • Well, not necessarily! There are tons of women biologists, and studying any species’ health involves taking apart dead ones.

                      But amateur taxidermy? That’s probably a male thing. I’m rather sentimental about death, so it’s not for me. But I enjoy taking apart dead machines to see what’s broken, it’s mostly the same thing.

                    • If you do it for studying or for work (dissection or reconstruction) it is different then doing so just for funsies. Women are no strangers to blood, bodily fluids and death but it is not the same thing to do preservation.

        • I was involved in a war against mice. I didn’t think I would be drawn in, but they attacked mercilessly each month. I will never live in the country again.

          I’m going to see if I can capture this little mouse. I know that she just happened into the house and got stuck.

          • If you can find a humane trap of some kind (afraid I can’t help there) you know what makes great bait? Beer grains! My friend (who alas, wanted the mice dead) used peanut butter and beer grains, and mice loved the stuff.

            • I will remember that. At the moment, I’m not doing anything. She’s been such a good guest. But if I could transport her outside, it would be good — for both of us.

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