Boots & Sabers

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0849, 13 Aug 19

Ending the carnage

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print!

Another spate of senseless mass killings have left Americans reeling. Our natural and justifiable instinct is to do something — anything – to stop the madness. While the usual opportunists are pouncing on the latest tragedies to advance their political careers or raise money for their interest groups, there seems to be an evolution in the national discussion this time.

First, we must identify the problem. Mass killings are still rare. Far more people are killed by drug overdoses, crime, distracted driving, medical errors, suicide, and other unnatural causes. But mass killings are sensational, and that is part of the problem.

There have been mass killings for centuries. In our modern interconnected and instant media age, mass killings take on a life of their own. Often before a mass killing is even reported, there are live pictures and video streaming onto social media platforms. The carnage and chaos that can be replayed over and over again eats into the mind of the next killer as he (usually he) plans his virtual immortality. The internet and social media enable a kind of gamification of death where one mass killer tries to outdo the previous one.

But the internet and media do not cause mass killings. They are one facet of a complex issue. The same can be said for guns and gun laws. In most cases, a gun is the instrument used by a mass killer for the simple reason that a gun is a cheap and efficient means of inflicting harm. The United States already bans several of the most deadly kinds of guns and prevents the legal sale of guns to people who have previously committed a heinous crime. Do we need to do more? Can we do more and remain within the confines of the Constitution? Should we?

So far, the proponents of more gun control have centered on two ideas. The first is to implement so-called “red flag” laws. These are laws that allow the government to confiscate a person’s guns if they exhibit “red flags” that indicate that they might be about to commit a crime. Would such laws help? Maybe a little. Is it possible to craft a law that works while still upholding an American’s individual rights protected by the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, and Seventh Amendments? Doubtful.

The second new law proponents advocate is for more rigorous and “universal” background checks. What they mean by that is background checks for when an individual sells or gives a gun to another individual. The vast majority of mass killers obtained their guns legally, so there is little to indicate that expanding background checks would have any impact on abating mass killings. This is simply a reflexive measure designed to give politicians the veneer of “doing something.”

Another serious aspect in the discussion of mass killings is how we treat and help the mentally ill. Here again, do we need to do more? Can we do more and remain within the confines of the Constitution? Should we? Much like the vast majority of gun owners never kill anyone, the vast majority of mentally ill people never kill anyone. And while it is easy for people to assume that anyone who commits mass murder is mentally ill, the truth is that many, or even most, are not. They are evil, but not insane. The mainstreaming of the mentally ill into our society has not done them or our society any favors, but a process started sixty years ago is not responsible for 20-somethings committing mass murder today.

There isn’t a single law or policy that we can implement that will prevent mass killings. Nor, short of a complete police state, will we end them completely. There is a price to be paid for living in a free society that is not always paid on a distant battlefield. The root of the problem lies in our culture; in our homes; on our streets; and on our computers.

According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, “The characteristics [of mass killers] that most frequently occur are males, often hopeless and harboring grievances that are frequently related to work, school, finances or interpersonal relationships; feeling victimized and sympathizing with others who they perceive to be similarly mistreated; indifference to life.” We do not have a deficiency in our laws. We have a deficiency in our culture that leaves people in such isolation and hopelessness.

Passing another law will not deter people in this state of mind, but kindness might. A hand extended in friendship and fellowship might. An invitation to a bowling league, summer community event, or to attend church might. Faith in God and salvation will. It is difficult to feel hopeless and indifferent to life when you are enveloped in the full panoply of human relationships.

Mass killings will never be stopped by a government that respects individual liberty, but they can be stopped by a trillion simple acts of kindness. Love one another.


0849, 13 August 2019


  1. Mike

    Quit using misleading terminology on “universal background checks”. These bills are written specifically to criminalize as many firearm owners as possible.

    The problem with this is that they talk about gun purchases or gun sales (change of OWNERSHIP) but write the bills to apply to change of POSSESSION. this criminalizes common activities as loaning your friend a gun at the range, loaning a gun to a new hunter, and temporarily keeping a friend or relative’s firearms. Previous bills proposed in Wisconsin would have made a criminal of a spouse if their SO went out of town more than 2 weeks. Have a roommate? leave the house and you have effectively transferred possession to him.

  2. Owen

    Completely agree. For the sake of space, I used the commonly understood nomenclature to address a relatively minor part of the thesis.

  3. Merlin

    Take a good, long look at the deranged activists leading the American Left today and tell me that letting these people anywhere near discussions of public policy regarding mental health is a good idea. They couldn’t care less about mental health for the sake of mental health.
    Their long game here is the eventual requirement that anyone who wants to own a gun undergo a mental health evaluation as a condition of gun ownership. Toady liberal bureaucrats will be making those determinations, not mental health professionals. Not only will new gun sales dry up, but you’ll be giving them a mechanism for existing gun confiscation. Letting these folks get even a toe in the door is a very bad idea.

  4. jjf

    Merlin, leaving the lefty boogeymen and -women aside for a moment, what proper determinations made by a proper mental health professional would justify prohibiting a gun sale or to take away someone’s gun?

  5. dad29

    As usual, Jiffy throws foofoo dust around the room hoping to disguise the issue.

    Any “mental health professional” can find “justification” for prohibiting a gun sale or for taking property.  Stalin employed several thousand of those “professionals” who “justified” confinements.

    Here’s a question for you, Jiffy:  if he/she can’t have a gun, can they have a knife?  Axe?  Car?  Chainsaw?  Baseball bat?  Gasoline and bottles?  Why or why not?  Please document your response and limit it to less than 1,000 words.  ONLY when you answer those questions do you get to ask another one.

    In the State of Wisconsin, the law does allow involuntary 3-day detention for mental examination.  Check those stats, Jiffy.

  6. jjf

    Dad29, follow along.  Merlin suggested “mental health professionals” should be making the determinations.  I simply asked for an example of how they’d do that.

    You get an axe, I get an AR-15.  Who wins?

    You know who admires Stalin and Putin?

  7. Mark Hoefert

    Patrick Crusius, the El Paso shooter, was raised by a mental health professional. Who did not see this coming.

    Crusius’ dad is a mental health counselor who once advocated for a victim of gun violence.
    Patrick Crusius’ parents issued a statement Tuesday condemning their son’s actions and saying he must have been influenced by people they do not know. The statement was read by their lawyer.
    “Patrick’s actions were apparently influenced and informed by people we do not know, and from ideas and beliefs we do not accept or condone. He was raised in a family that taught love, kindness, respect, and tolerance—rejecting all forms of racism, prejudice, hatred, and violence.”



  8. Mike

    Quit looking at the tools and look at the person. We already have a whole chapter of statutes to do just that. Chapter 51 of the Wi statutes has methods and procedures for emergency detention and mental observations, complete with a court hearing to determine what further action is needed.

  9. Jason

    The only thing I can think of is for red flag laws is some type of open and transparent peer review, almost like a trial by jury.   I don’t know how sustainable that process would be, would there need to be lawyers (certainly in my opinion), public defenders, jury pools, appeals processes, parole boards for getting off a red-flag list.  Intriguing rabbit hole, no doubt.

  10. Merlin

    My point was that if the lefties have their way mental health folks will not have an opportunity to make case-by-case decisions and due process will not be a factor in denying gun ownership. Effecting even a defacto gun ban would require the absence of all subjectivity.

  11. Jason

    I agree with you Merli, and history proves your assumption is accurate.

  12. Mike

    The only thing I can think of is for red flag laws is some type of open and transparent peer review, almost like a trial by jury

    We already have judicial oversight for these cases. Look up Chapter 51

    A detailed process for handling suspected mentally ill persons.

  13. jjf

    Fifteen long guns, ten pistols, 10,000 rounds… just some afternoon fun, talking smack about ATF agents, right?

  14. Jason

    Got anything that was breaking any laws in that nonsense you took the time to type out jif?

  15. jjf

    I know I’m supposed to join the chorus that golly there’s nothing we can do, and let me guess, the next verse says we all know a few guys like that?

  16. dad29

    No, Jiffy.  Apparently this is all too complicated for you since 40 years of marijuana has taken its toll.

    When we drag your sorry ass in, we will take EVERYTHING you own which could be a weapon, including matches and your childhood baseball bat.

    Progressives admire Stalin and Mao, too!!  Ask the NYTimes about that.

  17. dad29

    And you still can’t answer my question, Jiffy.  You should think about retiring from being the court jester.  LeeeeeeeeeeeeeRoy wants a crack at it.

  18. jsr

    Hey jjf!

    Fifteen long guns, ten pistols, 10,000 rounds?  That’s not a lot.

    How about “The largest privately-held firearms collection in the WORLD”?

    Over 12,000 firearms.  It even includes a tank.

    J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum

    What a country!

  19. jjf

    Sorry to deflate your fantasies, Dad29, but I don’t smoke anything.

    I did answer your question when I suggested we duel where you get an axe and I get your AR-15.

  20. Le Roi du Nord

    Sorry dud, but you won’t get far on that nonsense.  I own a number of long arms and handguns, and know how to use all of them quite well.  Have been a hunter and competitive shooter for years.  And I was a 30 year member of the NRA, but resigned when they started throwing my membership $$ at political posers that were anti-science and anti-habitat,  and as a result were without question anti-hunting. Now they are just another bunch of crooks and RWNJs.

    Personally I don’t know how to manage the mass shooting issue.  Better education, more respect for human life, better background checks?  You are the smart guy so you tell us.  But I’m not afraid of anybody coming to take my guns.  All the so-called “conservatives” said that would happen when Obama was elected and all that happened was that hoarders went crazy and the arms and ammo manufacturers made a gazillion bucks.

    So keep on spouting your silliness.

  21. Jason

    >Fifteen long guns, ten pistols, 10,000 rounds… just some afternoon fun, talking smack about ATF agents, right?

    Lets see….  more people die in Automobile Accidents.   Are you thinking that Jay Leno is a psycho nut job for owning as many cars as he does?   Do you correlate ownership with “wrong-ness”?  You continue to prove your idiocy, jif.

  22. jjf

    Just another fun afternoon, right Jason?

  23. dad29

    if he/she can’t have a gun, can they have a knife?  Axe?  Car?  Chainsaw?  Baseball bat?  Gasoline and bottles?  If so, why or why not?

    Cognitive problems, Jiffy?  You take the AR and I’ll take the car.  I’ll win.  For that matter, you take the AR and I’ll take a knife.  We’ll start from 5 yards apart.  It will be a tie.

    I’ll try to make the question REALLY simple just for you:  why is someone who is ‘a danger to self or others’ permitted to have ANY deadly weapons?

  24. jjf

    I recognize your point.  If I did it, you’d call it “foo foo dust.”

    You have a fantasy to win in a car against an AR?  Can I dress up as Bugs Bunny if you dress as Elmer Fudd?

    If there were many cases of mass murder involving an axe or chainsaw, I bet there would be greater scrutiny of them, too.

    Why does the law take away guns and ammo from felons but not cars?

    Why do they take guns from those who commit domestic violence?  Is Stalin behind that, too?


  25. Jason

    >Why does the law take away guns and ammo from felons but not cars?

    Democrat led House of Reps, Democrat led Senate, Democrat president.  Knee jerk, heart string tugging feel good legislation at it’s finest.  Thanks for the history lesson on how the Left are terrible.

  26. jjf

    And they took away your bombs and grenades, too.

    Not sure which party should be blamed for taking away your atomic weapons.

    How will you ever overthrow any oppressive tyranny on your cul-de-sac?

  27. Jason

    And were off to red herrings and non-sequtors. Way to class it up after complaining to the proprietor on the lack of good content. Irony is lost on you with your self centered view point.

  28. jjf

    The gamut of possible deadly weapons was raised by Dad29, not me.

  29. dad29

    Yup.  And you won’t answer the question–largely because you can’t.  Facts make you look foolish, Jiffy.

    And LeeeeeeeeeeeeRoy—I’m in the NRA, too, but only so I can look at the pictures in the magazine.  Their sellout on machine guns was a horrible mistake.  And now, 30 years later, they are probably going down.

  30. jjf

    Dad29, I bet they can remove all sorts of dangerous items from the home of someone who has been declared mentally incompetent.  For some crazy reason, they think guns are too easily dangerous, more of a clear and immediate danger than other items that might also be used to inflict harm.

  31. dad29

    Still not answering the question, Jiffy.  This pertains to “red flag” laws which specify removal of ONLY the guns.  And “mental incompetence” is not the criterion in “red flag” laws, either.

    But in your galaxy, things may be different.

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