Gun Violence and the ‘General Welfare’

A number of my friends shared an interesting article on Facebook this morning about gun violence. It is a good article.


It, like many others I have read, treats the issue of gun violence as if data and information were the missing piece.

It offers helpful maps, statistics, and other information.


But we don’t need more information, or maps, or statistics to know that guns do, indeed, kill people.

When congress was unwilling to pass any (and I mean any) meaningful assault weapon ban after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, it began to dawn on me that this wasn’t just because the NRA is a powerful lobby, which they are.

We’ve had 8 school shootings in 2014, and we’re still in January. (In the time I wrote this post, there was another one. So let’s tally that up to 9 school shootings in January. So far. Sigh. And if you read this article, the tally is 11 shootings in January. However you add it up–too damn many.)

Clearly, we aren’t lacking data.

We’re lacking a narrative that would allow us to change our culture.

We, as a culture, have decided that individual liberties are more sacred and valuable than any other cultural prerogative.

And I know and love many gun people. I’m not trying to demonize people who own guns.

But I’d like us to acknowledge we, as a nation, have decided their “right” to own those guns, and military style assault rifles, and huge clips of ammunition, are more important than our collective desire to have a safe and sane society.—gun-control-s-aftermath

Please watch this video from the Daily Show this past year about how Australia enacted gun reform after a massacre. It illustrates what a country can do when they decide to change the narrative that defines their life.

We, as a culture, have decided that individual liberties are more sacred and valuable than any other cultural prerogative.

It isn’t only visible in the gun debate, although with the huge number of shootings last week and the collective “yawn” from the nation, it is the one angering me the most right now.

You can also see the way we have replaced “the common good” with “individual freedoms” in the debate about food assistance to the poor, the tax system, access to medical care, funding for public education, and spending on clean air, water, and other environmental issues.

One place, of course, that individual freedoms have NOT been supported in recent legislation, is women’s reproductive health. I am angered and saddened about the story of the poor woman who died in Texas and was held on life support, against the wishes of everyone who knew and loved her, just to allow her dead body to serve as an incubator for a 14 week fetus….. But women’s agency over their own bodies is a post for another day.

You may be just fine with individual liberties being more important than the common good.

But I’m not.

And we can keep posting articles with data about what would make us safe.

Or we can start reclaiming a narrative that runs deep in American culture–where we are willing to sacrifice individual goals at all cost if it means we build a better society for everyone.

The narrative is in the Preamble to the Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

How well do our laws “promote the general welfare”?

This other narrative is also in Scripture.The gospel lesson this week is Matthew’s account of the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”. (Matt 5:9)

We share this narrative in the stories we tell, in the votes we cast, in the way we spend our time and talents, and in the energy we give to share a better vision for this world in which we live.

Who are we? Who do we want to be? How are we willing to make changes to get there?


21 thoughts on “Gun Violence and the ‘General Welfare’

  1. Okay…let’s put aside the fact that correlation does not equal causation (more guns doesn’t necessarily mean more violence), Let’s put aside the fact that the CDC in their 2002 report found insufficient data to show any gun law or combination of gun law reduced violence.

    Let’s put aside the fact that Mexico has very strict gun laws (only 1 legal gun store in the country).

    What laws do you want to enact that will make a difference?
    What laws will allow individuals to protect themselves and yet will prevent those tools of protection from being used in crimes?
    Or do you think people shouldn’t be allowed to protect themselves?

    What suggestions do you have on how we move forward?


    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m to a point where I do not believe the game of competing reports and studies is going to help us move forward. I would present one side and you would counter with another.
      I just want us to acknowledge the story we have decided to tell the world about us as a nation. And that is a story where there is no impetus to change gun laws because we are willing to continue to pay the price of innocent dead so people can have untrammeled access to guns.
      In terms of moving forward, we need to stop fighting over competing studies, for one. Causation is not correlation, but NINE school shootings in less than a month! We need to decide, as a nation, that we’re ready to make changes to how we live together.


  2. And any comments will be deleted that 1. threaten violence, 2. come from a blog that condones or advocates using gun violence to make their point, and/or 3. tries to offer further “data” on one side or the other. As I said in the post, this is about the narrative we are creating as a nation. You will not change my mind with your “data”. Not interested in changing your mind or watching you try to change mine.


    • Should the narrative we are crafting as a nation be based on fact? On actual data?
      Or is this a case of emotion over all else?

      You want to talk but create a set of rules designed to only allow your view point.

      Again I ask — what laws, proposals or ideas do you have that will address the issue?


      • There is plenty of fact and data out there. Again, I sense from you, by reading your blog, that you are waiting for any of my solutions so you can counter with your own data to shoot it down. Not going to play that game.

        As I have already said, we need to at least acknowledge, as a nation, that the guns you hold so dear are more important than attempting anything that would reduce the presence of guns in our society. If you are happy with that narrative, as your blog suggests, then go and live it out.

        I’m seeking something else. Blessings to us all.


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    • I keep deleting your comments because you keep refusing to hear my response. There is data out there aplenty on both sides. Other people can traffic in that and build policy decisions. My entire point is that we, as a nation, either need to enact some sort of meaningful gun control legislation, because people are dying every day. OR we need to acknowledge we love the individual liberty to own guns more than we care about the safety of the community.

      You clearly come down on the side of caring more about your liberty to own guns. Good for you.

      I’m not sure what “debate” you think we should be having. You are more than set in your ways and picking fights online is not worth my time.

      And you didn’t have the privilege I had of reading the deleted comments by other bloggers who threatened me with the guns they love so much. So don’t presume my comment was directed at you.

      I stopped posting your comments because you refuse to consider mine.

      Blessings to you. Really. I’m glad for you that you are so confident in your beliefs.


      • Ma’am,

        How have I not considered your comments? You want to have a narrative about where we go. I’m asking how we do that?

        You want to reduce the presence of guns in our society….seems like you are not the one willing to consider our view point. Guns aren’t the problem, the people are. And very few of the people at that.

        So again and again. I’ll ask — what are your ideas?


      • Yes, the people are the problem. People who believe that the right to own guns at all costs is more important than the right to a safe and sane society.
        And, again, I wish you well. Go enjoy your guns.


  4. Translation: It really doesn’t matter what the facts prove, it’s all a bout feelings.

    Hmm…Feelings…no facts or data.


    I feel that the reason you don’t want to debate the facts and data is because they’re not on your side and you know it.

    I feel that there is no such thing as “the common good”, only individual needs and desires. I feel that many people who cite “the common good” are doing nothing more than using the term to rationalize their own desire to dictate how others should live their lives.

    I feel that if you see something that needs to be done “for the common good”, like, for example, feeding the poor or educating the ignorant, it’s not your job to point at the problem and expect someone else to take care of it, it’s your responsibility to “Just do it” (with apologies to Nike). I feel that this view is supported by the bible that you cite and cannot recall a single instance in that bible where Jesus entreats his followers to get the government to fix a problem that they see, to take someone else’s money to give to the poor, to confiscate other people’s effort to support their causes.

    I feel that, even if giving up freedom would guarantee safety and prosperity (which it doesn’t, in fact the opposite is true), it is more important to be free than to be safe and prosperous.

    I feel that an unborn child has as much right to life, safety and health as the mother who’s carrying it.

    In order to proactively respond to the charge that is inevitably coming…I feel that fathers and potential fathers have as much right to speak and opine about the rights of unborn children as any mother…because contrary to the narcissistic female view, the debate is not about the mother, it’s about the child.

    I feel that you have the right to live your life any way you want as long as you’re not violating the same right for others.

    I feel that I have the same right and that if you advocate for laws that would violate my right to live my life as I see fit…that would dictate that I live my life the way YOU choose…I will fight against those laws to my last breath with every legal means available.

    I feel that I don’t give a flying rat’s petootie about what “narrative” the rest of the world sees us by. I feel that we should not be so insecure as to need the approval of other cultures and couldn’t possibly care less what some xenophobic twits in some other country thinks about the culture in the US. If they don’t like our culture, they can stay right where they are. Incidentally, nor do I think that they should be overly concerned about what we think of their culture.

    I feel that there is a very slim chance that this comment will actually be published.

    That’s what I feel.


  5. “We, as a culture, have decided that individual liberties are more sacred and valuable than any other cultural prerogative.”

    Yup. And I heartily endorse same.

    Because any other road ultimately leads to tyranny. See, tyranny is what governments do. It’s in their DNA, it’s the nature of the beast. Left without restraints, without restrictions, left to their own devices, government will ALWAYS trend toward tyranny.

    They will always have a good reason. It’s “for the children,” after all. But the road to hell, or tyranny, as the case may be, is paved with good reason. The good little spies at the NSA are there to “keep us safe” (so they say). Given the current administration’s ongoing politicization of every part of government, its use of the Justice Department and the IRS to retaliate against its political enemies, do we trust them to just “keep us safe?” Should we?

    No, I’ll take that “We, as a culture, have decided that individual liberties are more sacred and valuable than any other cultural prerogative,” and I’ll wear it proudly. It’s the only value ultimately worth fighting for. Everything else of value – our productive capacities, our families, our very lives – flows from it. If it is lost, we’ve lost it all.

    There’s H.l. Menken who says it better than I could:
    “Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”
    – In Defense of Women, 1918

    And of course there’s Ben Franklin: “They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. ”

    I’ll wish you well, and continue to carry a 1911 daily. Just in case.


  6. And one other thing: A policy built on “feelings,” on “narrative,” is pointless and destined to fail. We can “feel” any way we like. But we make policy based upon facts, not feelings.


    • Thanks for reading my post.
      I’m all about facts, data, and information. And if you’d read my post, you’d note that what I said is that more data is not what this debate is missing. The articles I linked to have plenty of it. You and other commenters have offered other data. There is data aplenty. And yet, we are light years away from agreement on what to do with the data.
      It is kind of funny to read all of these people accusing me of being all about feelings. If you actually knew me, you’d know I’m actually much more comfortable in facts and details than I am with feelings. But this is a blog comment stream, so we can’t get to know each other here.
      Narrative is actually not at all about feelings.
      Narrative is about looking at the data around us and determining what that says about who we are and how we choose to live our lives. We all have a narrative. Some of us are victims who see the world against us. Some of us are hopeless optimists who believe the best days are ahead. Some of us are fearful and live dominated by fear. We all have narratives, whether we spend any time pondering them or not.
      We’ve already built our national policies on a narrative, and I think that is the problem.
      Blessings to you.


      • And doesn’t discussing the data and our beliefs based on that data come under the heading of the narrative?
        If you choose to disbelief the number of defensive gun uses per year based on a survey, that is one thing. If you choose to not count the information regarding who is committing crimes — based on actual criminal records — it is completely different thing.

        How people react to the data, to examining their beliefs in light of information they may or may not have had helps determine the course of the narrative.

        You say you have competing data — great, I’m willing to look at it. Yes, I do refute much because much of the ‘data’ the gun control advocates use is not accurate or factual. Or is twisted — like counting 18 and 19 year old adults as ‘children’.

        Some of us are fearful and live dominated by fear.

        Fear is a great topic. I’ve been accused of being fearful because I carry a firearm. Evaluating the odds, the consequences of being a passive victim of criminals lead me to my decision. Yet because of that, I’m accused of rejecting data and acting out of fear.

        But the people who won’t trust me, my friends, my family, my neighbors with carrying firearms in public — well they aren’t fearful at all….despite the repeated claims they fear a gun owner will cause a crime or kill someone.


        But this is a blog comment stream, so we can’t get to know each other here.

        If we can’t get to know each other here — then where?

        Though out history the narrative of life has been crafted through conversations just like this. Letters exchanged though mail. Articles written and published, responded to — consider the history of our country and how different it would be without the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers.

        Time and time again I’ve seen ‘let’s have a discussion’ — only to be told — NOPE don’t want you talking here.

        Again– I’ll ask – what ideas do you have ? Let’s get them out and have a discussion.


      • “I’m all about facts, data, and information.”

        And yet you’re clearly not. The facts, data, and information is, frankly, pretty clear, and it says that at the very least that in the US there is no positive correlation between firearms ownership and carry, and violent crime rates, and further there is some substantial evidence of a negative correlation – in other words, there is no evidence that higher gun ownership or carry rates are related to higher rates of violent crime, and there is some evidence that higher ownership/carry is related to lower rates of violent crime.

        It’s not clear that there’s a causal relationship, true enough, but the inverse of the old “correlation does not equal causation” is that causation will ALWAYS have correlation. In short, there is no evidence whatsoever that higher rates of gun ownership/carry contribute to higher rates of violent crime, and some evidence that it contributes to LOWER rates.

        Those are facts, not feelings, not “narrative” (whatever that is). You can do the research; it’s not hard to find all over the interwebs. The Government’s own researchers reached that conclusion. You’ll have to avoid the gun control sites, because quite frankly they’re simply not honest. Some of the gun rights sites aren’t as well, but on balance, they are better about it. You see, we argue facts, because facts are on our side. The gun control folks are all about “feelings.” That’s all they got.

        And we built our national policies (i.e., in the context here, the 2nd Amendment) on the understanding, based on long experience in human history, that governments are inherently untrustworthy and must be held in check. The 2nd Am. is the ultimate check on tyrannical government. Don’t take my word for it – as usual, others said it better, here Judge Kozinski of the 9th Circuit:
        • “The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed – where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.” -Judge Alex Kozinski


  7. So this is to be about feelings.
    I feel that your stance on firearm ownership is morally and ethically wrong. I feel that you are giving criminals license to rape women. I feel that you are giving criminals license to murder little old ladies for their pension checks. I feel that you and the people like you that are using this mythology that taking away firearms from honest and law abiding citizens will somehow make them safer is the same thing as the inhumane cruelty of declawing cats to keep them from fighting. The only thing that accomplishes is to make the cat live in fear of absolutely every other animal it encounters.

    i feel that you are arguing your points based upon ignorance and a phobia of a piece of hardware. I feel that your phobia of firearms is so great that you are actually practicing the heresy of deodandism. You somehow correlate a criminal using a piece of equipment to commit a crime with _that equipment_ having the will to do bad things.

    The criminal individual was the driving force in all of the shootings you talked about. Controlling or eliminating one type of equipment will not control the criminal. The criminal will use other equipment to further his or her agenda and accomplish what he or she wants. If the victim of the crime is disarmed, all the criminal will have to use is his strong hands or a slightly larger group of criminals to hurt that person.

    As it is right now, my daughter is about 5’1″ tall and she weighs about 125 pounds. She is a gentle creature and doesn’t want to hurt anyone. She has refused to take martial arts because she doesn’t want to fight. If people like you have your way, she will be at the mercy of any man or any woman stronger than her anywhere she goes. She could be raped, she could be carjacked and left on the side of the road in a bad storm and die from exposure, she could be killed by an idiot criminal in the commission of a simple mugging.

    She is ok with learning to shoot a pistol, because she has seen me scare away a pair of carjackers with my pistol. I didn’t have to shoot anyone and we went on our way after talking to the police for a half hour. Much better outcome than if the carjackers had stolen my truck and left us stranded 700 miles away from home in the middle of the night with no money or cellphones or anything.

    If I have my way, she can draw a small pistol and point it at the criminal and he will either go away or be shot. If he is shot, he bought that bit of trouble by his action, and he will suffer the consequences. if he goes away, no one is hurt and no crime was committed. Maybe my daughter having a gun will be the sign that individual needed to stop following his criminal path and do better in his life.

    How exactly does your stance make my little girl safer from rapists and carjackers when she has to go to night classes at her nursing school?

    i met a hero the a few months ago at the shooting range. She is dying of cancer. it is inoperable, but she is a fighter. She is confined to a wheelchair because her legs don’t always have the strength to carry her. She was in the firing rang in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank and a cannula going to her nose. She helps out with deliveries of medical supplies and equipment to people who are in home hospice or in nursing homes. It is volunteer work. These people are dying as well but are in worse shape than she is right now. She can ride in the van and help with small deliveries and the like. The van was broken into while she and her partner were delivering a load of stuff to a nursing home. When they got back to the van to go to the next spot, the bad guy was still in the van. He stole their phones and her purse and all of their personal possessions.
    HE had a gun.

    So now SHE has a gun. She will use it to defend herself and her partner if she is attacked again. She was at the range in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank and still wants to live her life the way she chooses and not be limited by the actions of criminals.

    These are the people you want to take firearms away from.


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  9. Your highlighting the idea that facts and data do not drive policy decisions ~ nor necessarily constructive conversation among people ~ is refreshing. I’ve been an environmental activist in this state for years and I can certainly attest to the idea that policy-makers are more moved by constituent values-judgments, and in particular *a desire to put out proverbial fires*, than any amount or degree of facts and data has ever contributed to. It’s apples and oranges, and folk who adhere to the suggestion that facts will move paradigm can be quite naive in the idea.

    It seems that many of the comments tend to believe that you are suggesting that facts and data are irrelevant – this is clearly not the case. Facts and data = ammunition ~ the value judgements dictate where you aim the gun.


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