We're a little crazy, about science!

The mental illness monster

Fun fact those of us who suffer from mental illness are more likely to harm ourselves than others. That isn’t to say it doesn’t happen, but the rate of violent behavior among people who have mental illness is no higher than the average. So when a politician, who isn’t even qualified to speak on the topic, much less give an option, blames mental health for…. oh I don’t know someone shooting a school, it makes me angry. Being an asshole isn’t a mental illness and going on a murder spree doesn’t qualify as a mental illness. The problem isn’t mental illness, it’s access to firearms. Yes, I’m am a monster, but the only one in danger is me.

It’s been a few days since the last major school shooting, I’m not even sure how many other shootings have occured since. I know someone recently got caught before it happened, I think? It’s hard to keep up with the news when we have so many mass shootings that you can’t be sure which one everyone is talking about. Like we just had three in three different states all on the same day, that was confusing and more importantly terrifying.

We live in a country where access to firearms is easier than access to healthcare and we call that freedom. All because a few hundred years ago a group of slave owners decided the right to arms should be enshrined in the constitution that our country is founded on. We are so ignorant that we just assume what held true then should hold true today, like weapons haven’t evolved beyond the imaginings of the people who wrote the constitution in the brief time our country has existed.

I’m angry and I think most people who actually give a shit about others are angry too. We have a system in place that doesn’t give a shit how much blood is spilled as long as the gears keep turning and the rich keep getting paid. We were born into that system and a not insignificant amount of us are okay with that system even when they are the ones being stepped on personally by that system. We’ve been lied to and the propaganda machine is alive and churning out “new” (old) conspiracy theories about what the problem is everytime someone dies.

When COVID came on the scene the propaganda machine pumped out nothing but vile racist tropes about blaming China for the problem and claiming it was manmade. The same machine pumps out disinformation about the vaccine that was developed to help solve the problem and the people who are buying into it are literally the same people who are defending this pipeline to their literal dying breaths. For some, only on their literal deathbeds does the realization that they have been lied to set in.

So when we have yet another school shooting, or a church shooting, or a shooting at a store, nightclub, basically everywhere, the propaganda machine pumps out tons of disinformation to prevent anything from changing. First it was the whole, “the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is good guys with guns” lie.

First, that has never been the case. No one is safer around firearms and if you’re non-white even something remotely firearm shaped like say a candy bar is grounds for being shot. Yet in this semi-latest incident even that lie was so blatantly false they couldn’t use it. So we get people blaming architecture, too many doors? Or we get people arguing that we need “Home Alone” style boobytraps to defend schools with tripwires and it just blows my mind that anyone would believe it much less that people would actually say things like that.

Out of all the egregious lies that make me angry, the one blaming mental health is especially infuriating. Because we know that’s not the case. It’s been studied, over and over again. In the end mental health is not an indicator of violent behavior to others. In fact, we’re more likely to self harm than harm others. Those who are convicted of violence against others who actually do suffer from mental health issues often do so, not because they are inherently violent, but because they literally don’t have a connection with reality. Like the story I told about my friend who lost an eye to a schizophrenic brother (here).

The problem is the system. When I hear someone blaming mental health for mass shootings I get angry because while we need better mental health care here in the US, the access to firearms is the goddamned problem! Laws requiring mental health screenings before you can purchase a firearm have been struck down. The same people who argue that the problem is mental health are the same people who reject budgets that have funding to provide better mental health support to people.

Here’s the cold hard truth. The people in power want nothing to change because the system as it is now is the only reason they are in power.

Being crazy is already a crime. People get shot and killed, by police no less, over mental health crises all the time. Like this story about police officers shooting a man 21 times to … reads story… prevent him from harming himself (here). Oh and they were reinstated for that (not so fun fact). “Welfare” checks on people who have mental health issues are often carried out by police, which only causes serious problems to start with, because the last thing you need when dealing with a mental health crisis is someone who’s all too excited to use a firearm.

The point being that mass shootings like this are overwhelmingly the symptom of lax gun laws here in the US. Or as the Onion puts it…

There are two very frustrating things in play here. First is that we definitely need better gun laws, but we have organizations (the NRA) who are literally buying politicians to prevent that from happening. The second is we definitely need better access to mental health care and frankly healthcare in general.

It’s easier for me to go out and buy a firearm than it is to get the care I need and that shouldn’t be the case. Plus I’m a veteran so I already have access to the crappiest free care the government can provide. Which is to say, not really healthcare as it is a slow moving slaughterhouse. But again that’s the system at work, it’s working as designed, so why change it? We have veterans killing themselves in the VA parking lots to highlight the need for better mental health care and no one is paying attention… because the system is working exactly as it should be.

It would be even worse if I wasn’t a veteran. I mean crappy care is still better than no care, right? At least that’s what I keep telling myself. I at least don’t have to worry about going into seriously large amounts of debt if I have to go to the emergency room. I may die from it or be treated like crap, but I won’t be in so much debt that I could never get out. Most people aren’t even that lucky.

So while I agree that we need better healthcare (and mental health care), the problem is the fucking guns. We’ve studied this, over and over (like here for example)(or this article discussing findings like this). At the end of the day I doubt anything will change, because if I haven’t made it clear enough yet, the system is working exactly as it was designed. But being quiet about it isn’t the answer either.

I’m just one person. One person is easy to ignore, but ten, one hundred, one thousand, ten thousand people, that’s not so easy to ignore. Maybe we just need to be a little louder if we want something to change, because at the end of the day the politicians aren’t going to save us, so it’s up to us to save ourselves.

We didn’t build this system, but that doesn’t mean we have to live with it.


18 responses

  1. Maybe you have a monster, but I don’t think you are one, even of the not-hazardous variety. I have a mental sketch of your nature from the things you write here, and the way it appears to me – quite naturally! without effort on my part! – does not go anywhere near “monster.” Quite the opposite, really.

    All the recent chatter about “mental health” does hit different now that I have a friend who’s mentally ill. It’s not fair; they’ve got no call to talk about you like this, to casually lump you in with people who are so angry at the world that they’ll kill children. It’s also weird to hear commentators talk about “addressing mental health” like that’s the easy solution, like a substantial number of mass shooters could be fixed if we just got them the right medicine, or made therapy cheaper. Even if someone insists on calling hatred or narcissism “mental illnesses,” there wasn’t a pill for getting rid of them, last time I checked. Therapy might help with that or it might not, depending on whether the person wants to change.

    The reason mental health screenings before firearm purchase have been struck down – well, the paranoia I hear from the pro-gun side is that these will be used to prevent people with “undesirable” opinions from buying a gun, because the tyrannical government will find a way to declare anyone it doesn’t like to be mentally ill. Some act like they’d rather give guns to the most deranged person out there than take a chance on this hypothetical. At least, that’s the public opinion reason. I hadn’t considered the possibility that, on the government system side, firearm access offers a way to passively dispose of people. Just make suicide easy, and maybe they’ll quietly disappear and use no more resources. Who knows if that’s a conscious thought in anyone’s head, but if it were that would be sick.

    The other thing that’s felt a little surreal, is seeing the Ukrainian politicians that I follow on Twitter send us condolences for our terrible school shooting. If a country that’s still enduring a full-scale foreign invasion feels sorry for us, maybe it’s time we admitted we have a problem.

    I grew up in a family that owned guns, so I’ve heard the pro-gun arguments all my life, and used to believe them. Over time, though, the purist versions of those arguments started to sound really shallow. The last one to collapse was the “we need citizens with military-grade arms to defend the Republic” argument. The people who love guns the most, and probably own most of those military-grade arms, are no longer people I particularly trust to defend the Republic. Not after January 6 2021. But the opinions are still getting settled in my mind, I guess, and that’s one reason I’m not very loud when it comes to this issue.

    As always, take care of yourself, and don’t give in to anybody who would rather see you dead.

    Liked by 1 person

    May 28, 2022 at 7:57 pm

    • I grew up in a gun owning family, shot my first firearm when I was like 5ish. There’s a photo floating around somewhere, but I can’t tell how old I am in it and I don’t have family I can ask. Then almost everyone in my family, from my grandfather, father, and me has served in the military. So lots of exposure to firearms.

      People like to compare the war in Iraq to a possible overthrowing of the government here in the US, but it negates the fact that Iraq and middle eastern countries have been at war for literally hundreds of years, where the last major war between US citizens was arguably the civil war. I think because we don’t have that sort of active war zone issue here people tend to glamorize what they would do. Sort of like everyone would kill Hitler if they had the chance, yet somehow he came into power while there were plenty of people who had the opportunity to stop him.

      In any case, I really do think the system is skewed to just keep us exhausted, which in turn keeps us compliant. We can’t fight the system effectively when we’re fighting just to live. The only real evidence I can offer to support this is the expanded COVID benefits (unemployment, healthcare, etc.) and how quickly they were taken away when people started fighting for better working conditions. I believe that the constant onslaught of gun violence is part of that system and just another check to keep us barely surviving.

      Thank you! I plan to live a long life, mostly out of spite. haha

      Liked by 1 person

      May 29, 2022 at 11:08 am

  2. Blaming access to firearms is as overly simplistic, and incorrect, as blaming mental health. Access was easier prior to 1968, and yet this wasn’t the problem we have today. You could mail order machine guns in the 60s and purchase newly manufactured automatic weapons until the 1980s.

    The problem is that people have decided to draw up sides and devalue life. People are killing people not because of an object, they’re killing people because there’s something fundamentally wrong with how we see each other.

    While homicides and aggravated assault rates are down, we still have so much dehumanizing rhetoric, turning people into nothing but idols or targets, and sadly the interconnected nature of modern living provides any person to find others who support their hate, and they’re all quick to point out who’s to blame.

    I’ve studied plenty of hate groups, seen what people do to each other with knives and bombs, and the ineffectiveness of removing legal weapons channels. The IRA did just fine with illegal weapons and home-built mortars, and certainly the organizations that bring drugs into the US have more than enough access to weapons to sell.

    Meanwhile, I sold weapons for over a decade. Cops, hunters, sport shooters, anyone the FBI said was okay. Never had law enforcement come in asking about a weapon used in a crime. Never once in thirteen years. I did, however, stop a couple sales that seemed suspicious, as that was a major part of our job. And there are mental health checks. One customer was suicidal when his wife left him and voluntarily checked himself in overnight. For doing the right thing, the FBI flagged him for life.

    Treating firearms as the problem ignores the actual factors that cause people to choose violence, creates yet another way we’re turned against our own fellow citizens for just a few more votes, and would close thousands of businesses, laying off hundreds of thousands of people. If we’re going to harm that many people, it needs to be in the name of taking out a root cause of the violence.

    I’m not telling you not to be concerned by the violence. I’m not telling you it’s about mental health. What I’m saying is you’re taking a complex issue, then trying to fix a single mechanism of action instead of trying to discover the root causes, and in all of this making me into a monster. Dehumanizing me and all my co-workers who just wanted to provide for their families. We are not the problem. The problem is someone who wakes up in the morning, justifies their hate, and takes unilateral action that costs innocents their lives. Every day the world proves that doesn’t require a gun.


    May 29, 2022 at 1:24 am

    • I think I’m the moderate in the room here, so I’m tempted to play peacemaker. But I can’t decide whether it would be better for me to try that, or avoid getting involved in an argument that isn’t mine (yet). So I’m asking you two. Do you want my input on this branch of the conversation or not?

      For now, I’m just going to coax everybody to … assume good intent and not overreact. I already watched a couple of my Twitter followers get in a tiff about Russia-Ukraine and one block the other. I would rather not watch a repeat.

      Liked by 1 person

      May 29, 2022 at 3:57 am

      • I mean I’m okay, I obviously can’t speak for Michael, but I’m not offended by his opinion or anything. As far as I’m concerned we’re just sharing viewpoints, but you can feel free to toss your hat in too. The more opinions the better in my opinion anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

        May 29, 2022 at 10:57 am

      • My answer is pretty similar. I doubt we’ll convince each other of anything (note: I haven’t read his reply yet) and I respect his position. If I didn’t say something, I’d be at risk of not saying anything and allowing the narrative to continue unopposed. And that cuts both ways, the discussion is important on a meta level, particularly in public where third parties may see it. It’s just important to remember that all of those affected are people, and that unintended consequences occur.

        So, if you have thoughts, I am entirely willing to hear them, but this doesn’t affect my opinion of anyone. It’s a tough, and often very personal topic. I present the situation on the ground as I understand it, and respect how others see it. That’s hoe democracy works, and at the end of the day, I can always be wrong.

        Liked by 1 person

        May 29, 2022 at 1:41 pm

      • Okay. This was me being nervous again (have you noticed I’m good at that?). Michael, the “you’re dehumanizing me” line was what freaked me out to be honest. It made you sound very upset.

        Liked by 1 person

        May 29, 2022 at 2:55 pm

      • I worry at a professional level. I appreciate your efforts to do the same. 😉

        I’m angry at the general normalization of it, certainly not the people involved. I wouldn’t discuss the issue if I didn’t respect everyone involved. The problem, as I see it, is that people seem to make a lot of excuses for their own hatreds. Again, in general, we’re all good here.

        I see people blaming Liberals, Conservatives, Whites, minorities, straight people, LGBT folk, Heartlanders, Coast Dwellers, or whatever as the root to all their problems. Of course it’s all nonsense, but that doesn’t excuse people saying “They did it first,” or worse, “They deserve it.”

        I knew a merc once who said “The most fundamental decision a society ever makes is who is and is not a member.” He saw the fall of Rhodesia with his own two eyes, so I believe him. By placing someone as “the other,” it places them outside of society; outside of the niceties and protections of civilization.

        Now, communities within communities. There’s no harm in saying “I value my family more than a stranger in my city,” but making someone the “other” and assigning blame leads to horrible reactions. In 2012 we had a shooting at a Sikh temple. White supremacist who happened to be an Army vet. We can’t ask him his motivations, he didn’t survive, but it’s likely like a lot of supremacists he couldn’t tell a Sikh from a Muslim had just had so much hate for anyone other than “his people.” It’s despicable. ATF Agent who took the gun from his dead hand is a friend of mine.

        My father was a judge, and boy howdy did he see the worst of Humanity. One of his fellows called a defendant an “animal” once. He took the judge aside after the case and told him you never call anyone an animal. They may be terrible human beings, but they’re human. He called people “a parent’s worst nightmare” and never sugar coated his feelings, but every person was a person. He said the hardest part was “fifteen years” and “sixteen years” rolls of the tongue exactly the same, but that was a year of their life they’d have to serve.

        On the one hand, I feel this is a primary topic that can lead to a reduction in violent crime.

        On the other, there are two types of reactions to being confronted by dismissing people’s humanity. First is the though that “that was never my intent” and a reexamination that may or may not change an opinion. The second is doubling down, which is a good enough reason to walk away from a conversation.

        It happens to us all. I have little respect for violent gang members, 1% bikers, and other very predatory types of criminals, but they’re still people, and even the worst of them is a product of the life they lived with a chance to redeem themselves, and I, very often, don’t care. It’s just something I have to take case by case and day by day.

        But I find it the best place to start.

        Liked by 1 person

        May 29, 2022 at 4:29 pm

    • I mean I agree with like 98% of what you’re saying and I’m not arguing that all firearms should be banned. What I am saying is that the common theme is that people who don’t value others lives have easy access to firearms when there should be enough checks in place to keep that from happening, at least in the broad scheme.

      Airbags for example aren’t 100% safe, we know this, but we still use them. I don’t think that we can pass enough checks to drive gun violence to zero, but clearly the system is skewed to overly accessible and as such people, like the recent shooting, are going in and buying these same day.

      Texas for example has no mental health check and some of the loosest gun laws in the US. The Texas Tribune did a great job highlighting a lot of the reactions to mass shootings and what ended up happening (spoiler firearm laws got less strict):

      I mean you’re right it’s a multifaceted issue and it will take a lot to address it, but it’s a lot like drinking. In the US we have a somewhat strange and unique culture of binge drinking. Something you don’t see in other countries. As such the laws around drinking are stricter here than other countries. But even that is a bad comparison because you still need a license, insurance, pass a driving test, etc. to own a vehicle and not all states require even basic safety training to purchase a firearm.

      I mean I’m glad you’re responsible as someone who sold firearms (I did not know this until now) and I agree that people will find a way to hurt others if that’s what they want to do, but I don’t think we should make it easy for them for the sake of convenience for responsible gun owners. I mean look at all the accidental babies shooting people instances (a uniquely american thing).

      One last example, Texas now allows permitless carry (or it will go into effect soon, I’m not 100% sure). That’s going to be very dangerous for anyone who doesn’t have any firearms training because the lack a respect for the weapon, although frankly I think some who do get the training lack that respect too, but again it’s not a 100% foolproof thing, so I would rather people at least get the training and be mildly inconvenienced than not and see innocent people hurt because someone is being dumb or worse, intentionally trying to be harmful. The more hoops someone has to jump through to harm others, the less likely they will be to follow through with it.

      Liked by 1 person

      May 29, 2022 at 11:39 am

      • I generally play my work history close to the vest. Some people have very strong reactions.

        I’m sure you’ve heard all the slippery slope and unintended consequences arguments and examples, so I’ll spare you those. The current regulations are intended to infringe on rights as little as possible and do tend to error on the side of leniency, much the way courts assume innocence until proof of guilt. I prefer that, but I can see the appeal of the Napoleonic Code or, to wipe away the metaphor, a more restricted view of who is able to purchase a weapon. I don’t agree, but I see the appeal.

        And living in Wisconsin, I’ve used your argument many times. We have a huge drinking problem, and a huge drinking and driving problem. It’s a combination of culture, access, and poor interdiction. We have a fundamental and unsolved problem, and restrictions would simply breed more stills. (although maybe they’d drink at home then, so . . . win?)

        However, one of my father’s oldest friends had a kid who drove drunk. Not sure if he was ever caught or even drove before, but he killed someone through his negligence, and now he, and the victim’s family, live with that forever. He’s a felon now and spent years in jail, he made a bad decision and has to live with that forever.

        Which is why I actually support training. Not School of Infantry style stuff, but I support hunter safety as a mandatory course in high school, much like how driver’s ed is offered, but as a mandatory. Firearms aren’t going away, and people will run into them, as children or adults. People who grow up around firearms tend to respect them, but a lot of people grow up, for one reason or another, without any familiarity outside of toys. Spending just a week teaching kids the four rules would be a huge benefit. Mr. Baldwin’s on-set accident would’ve been just a scary story if he kept the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. As someone who’s handled more firearms than I can recall, I am incredibly anal retentive about where my weapon is pointed and trigger discipline, even with airsoft or dummy weapons.

        So on that I think we agree. There are many people who need to treat weapons with more respect and an eye to safety. Maybe that would prevent mass shootings, maybe not. Some would argue it may cause their effectiveness to increase. But it would absolutely reduce accidents, and I’m entirely in favor of that.

        As far as permitless carry, I’m in the air. On the one hand, I’m firmly in the camp of the Constitution providing a right to bear arms and permits being an infringement of that. However, as a practical matter, use of force is a major thing, and not explaining the legality and mechanics of a firearm in a built-up area is asking for trouble. Similarly, requiring a permit with at least a background check during issue/renewal means that people caught carrying a weapon when they’re not allowed to increases their legal risk and hopefully dissuades violence adjunct to crimes or gang activity. (Yeah, that’s wishful thinking.)

        But then am I using the laws maliciously to further punish groups of people? What are the false positives? I think my motives are pure, but that doesn’t make me infallible.

        End of the day, I’m also not a fan of “Constitutional Carry,” but see why it has appeal.

        But my concern is efficacy versus punishing 30-80 million people for single digits of bad actors. Mandatory training free of charge? No downside, many upsides. Getting a will-issue permit to carry a weapon? Very reasonable. But making a legal standard for morality or competency is a near impossible task, which is why I’m always very leery of broad stroke solutions.

        Also, I’m sorry that Texas does really seem to be taking the brunt of this. It’s horrific and I know that I’m desensitized to this kind of thing in general, so I just wanted to say I’m sorry this is a close to home issue.


        May 29, 2022 at 2:15 pm

      • I mean again I mostly agree. I just think people forget the well regulated part of well regulated militia. Plus we’ve tried doing nothing,maybe we should try something else. I know people are afraid of the slide to a total ban will start with the first regulation, but as we’ve seen even getting minor changes passed is hard.

        Mandatory free training and a small waiting period would be ideal I think. Background checks and permits (probably provided after the free training) would be great as well, not all states require background checks and that seems fast and easy to do, we do them all the time when you get hired for work, so not a big deal. None of those are major roadblocks, but enough for someone to rethink their actions. It’s easier to do this sort of thing in the heat of the moment than it is to sit and think about it, generally speaking of course, there’s always exceptions to every rule.

        I mean I enjoy shooting as much as any full on firearms collector, maybe even more, but I just wish people had respect for the danger. I see photos of people doing dumb shit with firearms all the time and it just makes me angry that it’s becoming “cool” or “badass” to be stupid while handling a weapon. It’s a cultural issue for sure, but no one will learn different if we don’t make it mandatory to learn, if that makes sense.

        Thanks, yeah Texas does seem to be getting a lot of this. It’s all happening so fast it’s hard to keep up with the latest news, we just had another shooting since writing this post in fact. Although it was a “mass shooting” and not a “mass killing” which I guess is better… sort of?


        May 30, 2022 at 9:59 am

      • So, I think I’ve failed a basic task here. I’ll get to that in a second. I just want to agree with you again, people need to stop doing dumb shit. I’m not blaming, say, Taken and John Wick for violence or glamorization, but it does give a very lax public image to firearm usage. I only question people like Neeson and Walberg for being against private gun ownership, then fetishizing them on-screen. I respect conviction, but that’s just working against their own ideals.

        Anyway, I’ve had a lot of people locally start claiming we need specific “reasonable” gun control and very often I tell them that exact law is already in place, and they only say “I didn’t know that,” and then move the goalposts. Actually, nobody likes that guy for other reasons. He’s a walking in person Internet argument. Seriously, someone once said they hated wasabi and he said “Actually, no you don’t.”

        I’m sorry, I’m on some wild tangent. Point is, I have failed to appreciate that my knowledge of gun control laws is better than the general population. I’m going to table firearm classification law (except to note that fully-automatic weapons are rarer than hen’s teeth, require a year or more of ATF investigation, and start at $12,000 for a worn out piece of garbage) and focus on a single purchase.

        First, I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice. Second, my interactions with the FBI were at the ground level, so I can’t speak to their actual process, and the ATF was strongly supportive of my bookkeeping during our audit, but my direct interactions were minimal.

        I will note what’s specific to Wisconsin, the remainder of this is Federal law that applies without fail to all states unless they have a stricter law on the books. This is accurate to my memory for the time it occurred.

        Have I hedged enough? Let’s buy a virtual gun.

        Customer walks into my shop, usually we chat and there’s a light casual investigation. Part of this is good salesmanship, know the customer’s needs, but another is if they seem unhinged, off they go. (Side note: I always joke that you haven’t done customer service until you’ve done it when everyone in the room is armed)

        They say they want to buy a weapon. Great. They give me the money and they’ve purchased it. But they don’t have possession of it. This is a very important legal distinction. If they are trying to buy for someone else (a straw purchase, I caught a few) or they aren’t allowed to have a weapon, then they didn’t “attempt” to buy a weapon, they did illegally buy a weapon. Huge sentencing difference. There is no “let’s see if you can pass” they, forgive the pun, need to pull the trigger before the background check.

        We see a state ID, copy down the information, have the customer fill out the form 4473, including name, address, any previous names, SSN “optional” but highly recommended, and a battery of questions. I can’t answer questions about what the answers are, the instructions are on the page. More on the content of those questions in a tic.

        We had a shirt in the window that said “In God we trust: Everyone else gets run through NICS.” The FBI’s National Instant Check System gets called every time (unless there’s a state agency, more on that later). Every. Single. Time. If you have a Federal Firearms License (FFL) you call in for a check every time, even if you’re selling to your best friend or family. If it’s a corporate license, you need someone else on the license to call in for you. Exceptions for Law Enforcement Agencies exist, but never for individuals unless they, too have an FFL. FFLs require pretty frequent investigations and audits.

        So the FBI is called. Information is relayed. They check their database and the state databases. There are a number of options from here. Proceeed is the desired outcome, but usually only occurs for repeat buyers. They don’t amass the required information until someone’s called in the first time, apparently. Often they’ll say it needs further consideration, and either kick it up to a special agent while I’m on the line or call me back. Delayed means they have to investigate for up to (I believe) seven days with options for extensions. This does happen, but rarely. Even when they need to wait until a local agency can get them information, it’s typically still pending, but I just check the box and note the time, who I spoke to, and some confirmation numbers. Denied is denied. I check the box, deny you the weapon, and what happens next is entirely up to the FBI. I’m not law enforcement, but they’re well aware of who you are and what you did.

        On a proceed, the weapon is provided to you (with waiting periods based on state law, from now to a week) and your information is stored in our bound books as the recipient of that weapon. These books are never disposed of, and are retained for the life of the business. When the business closes, they are provided to the ATF for permanent storage. The laws regarding them are so strict that digital systems rarely meet requirements for permanence and immutability, so bound books are still the standard.

        For the recordkeeping crowd, that means the 4473s and bound books both have parallel but permanent chains of custody, and they reach from the manufacturer to the end user.

        Anyone who sells firearms for a profit needs an FFL. Whoever has an FFL follows these regulations without fail or they risk visiting Leavenworth for a while. Private sales don’t need to go through an FFL, but transfers are a service FFLs provide. The ATF trawls gun shows in plain clothes. If they see you too often or with a large number of weapons, then you’re selling for profit. If you don’t have an FFL, get one or stop. They’ll follow up. Private transfers are meant for gifts, inheritances, and general “I don’t use this anymore” purposes, not for profit. Profit = FFL.

        Before I get into state stuff, I have a 4473 in front of me. The ATF finally published it online. It’s a good read. This is the list of things they ask, paraphrased, and you can probably guess the answers they want. NICS asks us to verify these every single time. Are you the buyer? Are you under indictment for a felony or facing a general court martial? Have you ever been convicted of a crime that could have had a sentence of a year or more? Are you a fugitive from justice? Are you an unlawful user of any controlled substance (with a big warning that pot is illegal under Federal law, regardless of state law)? Have you been adjudicated as a mental defective or been committed to an institution (previous revisions also asked if you were found not guilty of a crime by virtue of mental defect, likely this provision still applies)? Have you been dishonorably discharged? Are you subject to a restraining order? Have you ever been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence? Have you ever renounced your citizenship? Are you in the nation illegally? Are you on a non-immigrant visa (conditional question: Are you explicitly authorized to have a weapon for
        eg. hunting)?

        Okay, state stuff. Wisconsin has a grandfathered service called Handgun Hotline. The standards were stricter and it predated the current NICS system, so it stands separately. The standards are now aligned (mostly the domestic violence provision) although we still have a self-selected 48 hour waiting period on handguns. Other states have various oddities, from state agencies to waiting periods, but these are the minimum Federal standards, and every FFL is required to do these checks as a minimum.

        And this is why I’m always baffled when people say nothing is done or that there’s no mental health provision. These are the minimum published standards and they cover the majority of cases people think should be covered. Restraining orders, domestic violence, and those with a mental defect? Barred. Convicted of paraphernalia twice in 12 months? Even if pled down? Barred. Dishonorable discharge? Barred. Every weapon accounted for from manufacture to legal end user. If the end user transfers it illegally, that’s on them. Otherwise I’d have to go to an FFL to loan my child a weapon to go hunting (not that I have a child). A transfer is a transfer. I can’t even keep a weapon overnight to do gunsmithing without a license.

        I post this mostly because I’ve been a crappy SME for assuming this is common knowledge. Even people who routinely purchase firearms have less than half the story.

        Anyway, if you have any clarifying questions, please ask, but bear in mind I am not a lawyer, I do not work for the FBI’s NICS, and my rulebooks (plural, around 800 pages) are a decade out of date.


        May 30, 2022 at 12:51 pm

    • Okay. I guess I’ll start by saying that the basic argument you’re making here sounds like one of the ones I’ve heard all my life. Given your experience, with enough time you could probably write something better than the soundbite version, but the basic form is familiar to me: “We don’t have a gun problem, we have an [evil, sin, hatred, culture] problem.”

      On some level I quite agree with this. A gun isn’t the One Ring; it won’t corrupt somebody if you put it in their hand. And if the American people were completely virtuous and loving, you could carpet the ground with guns and it wouldn’t be an issue. I can’t say I’ve run into anybody on the anti-gun side who thinks otherwise. Violence comes from human agency; nobody believes the guns are originating it.

      But here’s my difficulty. Again, I’ve been hearing all my life (so about three decades) “We don’t have a gun problem, we have an [evil, sin, hatred, culture] problem.” I’ll presume that most people made that argument in good faith, and were interested in solving the evil/sin/hatred/culture problem. And as far as I can tell, they have not solved it. So I am building a lot of sympathy for those who are tired of watching innocents die. If we can’t pull up the root of this weed, I’ll settle for clipping the leaves off until the root withers.

      When I hear people say, “Let’s ban certain types of equipment” or “let’s have background checks” or “let’s have mandatory training and licensing,” those at least are actionable plans, we could try them. The list of plans for purging evil from the human heart is comparatively thin, and the pro-gun side generally gives me nothing better than “those kids had to die, it’s an inevitable fact of the universe.” This “we have to address mental health” business is almost a better attempt than usual, albeit it’s either poorly communicated or barking up the wrong tree.

      To steel man this, I can try to think of some solutions to the “motive for violence” problem myself. Investing in neighborhoods to pull them out of poverty might reduce gang activity. (Can we get the money?) And perhaps we could … uh … set up a task force dedicated to deradicalizing people? It would be a noble effort, but how well it would work and how to even do it I’m not sure. I would, however, like us to do something. Not just sit in acceptance, or do some hand-waving about “improving the culture” (which won’t get done, because it’s everyone’s responsibility and therefore no one’s).

      Lastly, I don’t think that advocating for reduced (or no) gun access is tantamount to implying that gun sellers are monsters. Selling guns isn’t an inevitable identity or attribute; it’s a behavior, a choice, a thing you did rather than a thing you are. It is possible to criticize a behavior and regard it as a mistake without dehumanizing the person who did it or denouncing their whole character. I’m sure that some go overboard … but “guns are a problem and shouldn’t be sold,” by itself, is not a statement that I can parse as a personal attack on anyone.


      May 29, 2022 at 4:36 pm

      • You’ve made the correct point in that I didn’t use specifics. The wall of text would be astounding. And you’re also very correct that any claimed solution without a path forward is problematic. And that this particular discussion is far less personally vitriolic than 99% of debates on the subject.

        So, except the vitriol part, which I prefer, allow me to use specifics for my stance.

        The elephant in the room, mechanically, is the AR-15. The Mini-14/30, M1 Carbine, AK platforms and many others have similar performance profiles, but the AR-15 is the most sold firearm in the US last time I checked, and is light weight and beginner friendly. It is present in many high profile shootings, as well as one of the causes for the ATF’s engagement in Waco. People have argued it’s unique, unsuited for hunting, etc. and unless it’s worthwhile to go into the weeds, I’d like to simply stipulate it’s a prime example of a class of weapon that is capable of being easily misused.

        However, even if 100% of firearm deaths by rifle were caused by these weapons, that’s 5% of the deaths caused by handguns. Thus any attempt to restrict these weapons, as seen during the “assault weapon ban” is a solution designed not to save lives, but to feel good. Columbine did not involve any of these classes of weapons, and involved the use of explosives. The school shooting prior to that used hunting weapons.

        The age restriction for handguns (which I support) and the banning of weapons in certain metropolitan areas (which I don’t) has not mitigated this violence. In areas like D.C., where carry or even possession of a handgun can be very illegal, the firearm-related crime rate continues to soar. This is a strong indicator that these restrictions have very little effect on the crime rate.

        If these measures have not worked when implemented locally, there’s little benefit to attempting them nation-wide. As each state operates as a sort of testing ground for laws, it’s clear that these restrictions have not had the desired effect. Also, as culture is not uniform across the nation, or even within a state, it’s problematic to try to make a universal solution. In Wisconsin, even the school year revolves around hunting. Alaska is a special case in general. D.C.? Yeah, probably not much hunting.

        By keeping these laws at the state or local level, a better comparison of effectiveness can be obtained. As it stands, virtually no restrictions have had a marked positive effect.

        I believe the universal education discussed elsewhere counts as a “good solution to try” but there’s no clear way to “fix” a culture problem. Do rap and violent video games cause violence? Maybe, but probably not. Does allowing people with violent ideas to congregate online radicalize people? Probably. Should we police all online interactions? Probably not.

        Some of these ideas are very strongly entrenched and have a positive feedback loop. People who feel unprotected and unrepresented by their society find a new one that can protect them. Makes sense. But when the police, the representatives of the law, become the enemy, then they’re treated as such. Then a cop is killed and they all do the “thin blue line” speech and life gets worse for those in the counterculture. Which causes more resentment and violence towards the police . . .

        The community policing concept was a good idea, but I don’t know if that’d work this time. As a whole, the divide is so deep, and the bad actors continue to make life dangerous for the good ones.

        Why is this important to gun violence? Each and every one of these spree killers, as far as I can tell, do so because they don’t feel like part of the community and see people as “the other.” Sometimes they have their own community, sometimes they feel alone, but they find someone to blame for their pain and go off to share it.

        Sometimes, it’s just a situation that’s out of control. Cop named Peterson up in Forest County killed a bunch of kids out of spite, 14-18 if I recall. I think one was his ex girlfriend? He was 20 years old.

        So how do you mitigate it? Can’t just put people together and hope for the best, that doesn’t work. But we can try to stop people from radicalizing by taking a hard-line stand and declaring that a certain type of people are to blame for all their problems. That never works out.

        I get that it’s not a definitive solution, or even much of a direct action at all, but if your brakes fail, your first action is to take your foot off the accelerator.


        May 29, 2022 at 5:17 pm

      • I have to say I really like the idea of investing in low income neighborhoods. If I had power like that, I would jump on the idea.

        Back in the 90’s I think they pushed a very similar idea in California (LA). There were news reports of ending gang wars and there were leaders from rival gangs all shaking hands, it was going to be a model for the rest of the country. The state was going to invest in low income areas, provide education, and bring companies into the area to help promote jobs and community growth. Unfortunately the money never came, the state never bothered to follow through with the promise. There’s a lot of potential to make the US (and frankly the world) a better place, but there doesn’t seem to be a drive to follow through. There’s a quote from the simpsons I believe, “but we’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas.” It’s sad that a cartoon can so succinctly capture the problem.

        Ah a quick google search found an article covering the history I was just talking about:

        My jaded viewpoint of the “system is working how it’s supposed to,” is largely colored by stories like this. The promise to make meaningful change is never acted on. Which is why I think it’s called the American dream, because no matter how detailed they are, dreams aren’t real.

        Liked by 1 person

        May 30, 2022 at 10:15 am

      • I’m tempted to categorize this as another failure to invest in our infrastructure. I’ve expressed my concern over dams and highways being dangerously neglected, and the effects of building something and failing to support it is often worse than simply not doing the thing in the first place.

        The Projects in Chicago are a pretty solid example of best intentions with little follow-up support. Granted they’re attempting to revamp the program, but it seems they’re failing pretty miserably at their core goal and mismanagement runs rampant.

        But it warms my heart that the gang truce had the success it did. Not just that I get to continue my debate about the reason gangs exist with a certain Cali lawyer, but also that if the gangs are reactions to societal problems then there’s the possibility of working on those problems to make the primary causes of gangs, protection (including protection from poverty and starvation) and community, less of an issue.

        Of course if they can’t trust the promises made, I have no argument for why they should listen. The people with the resources don’t have the desire, and those with the desire can only hold back the tides for so long without support.

        Liked by 1 person

        May 30, 2022 at 11:52 am

      • I had never heard about any of that (the temporary gang truce in LA and the failure to do anything good with it). That’s so sad.

        Liked by 1 person

        May 30, 2022 at 10:55 am

      • Yeah it’s scary how we don’t learn our own history, I mean that was practically part of the current events for when we were in school. What’s really sad is the truce didn’t fall apart right away. Even after nothing came of it they held onto hope for years.

        Liked by 1 person

        May 30, 2022 at 11:02 am

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