RussRant: No “Insanity Defense” for US Obsession with Guns - WhoWhatWhy

RussRant: No “Insanity Defense” for US Obsession with Guns

Dylann Storm Roof
Dylann Storm Roof wore apartheid-era badges and announced his intentions on social media. Photo Credit: Facebook
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The NRA had nothing to say about the nine people gunned down in a South Carolina church. But one of the group’s board members was happy to be its verbal hitman.

Charles L. Cotton blamed the deaths on the pastor, Clem Pinckney, who also served as a state legislator. Cotton said of him:

“And he voted against concealed-carry. Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”

The media dwelled more on the human anguish than the avoidable cause, featuring the astounding forgiveness of some of the victims’ families toward the perpetrator.

As he frequently does, the president spoke up boldly on the need to “do something” about the bloody madness that is America on a daily basis, but, as he also frequently does, conceded he could do nothing.

I get the point about wanting a gun to protect yourself and your family from criminals or psychos or maybe a government turned tyrannous. But honestly, how’s that going—or likely to go? As far as protecting yourself from tanks, drones, black helicopters, missiles, and body-armored troops with superior firepower, none of us will measure up to Clint Eastwood.

In fact, the likelihood that you will end up in a situation where you successfully protect yourself or your family with a firearm is incredibly remote, compared to the probability that you will be offed by someone with a gun, for any number of reasons. These reasons range from a “stand your ground” incident to  insanity, ill temper, road rage, jealousy, pride after feeling “disrespected,” some tragic misunderstanding, or an accident after the child of someone you know pulls a gun out of a drawer and shoots you. A Mother Jones investigation showed that even in states permitting people to carry concealed weapons, that almost never prevented mass shooting deaths.

What all the evidence suggests is that if you really want to keep yourself and your loved ones from violent harm, your safest bet is to support sane gun laws.

Yet this country is getting more disturbed and more irrational by the day. Guns are just one piece of the “protect-myself-no-matter-the-consequences-illogical-derangement” syndrome. They are part of a larger fallacy, involving the notion of protection. For example, a big chunk of the American public has stated a willingness to give up civil liberties, privacy and the like, in return for “protection” provided by the state.

And what are we being protected from? The numbers show that you are—depending on whether you consider the singular 9/11 attacks anomalous—somewhere from 100 to 100,000 times less likely to be the victim of a terrorist attack than of another American with a gun.

As for the fantasy that those of us with guns will be able to out-duel the bad guys, not harm bystanders, and never, never make a mistake or lose our cool under fire, that is equally ridiculous. I’ll grant that there are some people in our society who could be trusted to properly secure their weapons and only discharge them with impeccable and defensible accuracy. But who? Your brother who sure likes his Jim Beam? Your uncle with his faulty vision and hair-trigger temper? Without any meaningful quality control, we’re all at each others’ mercy.

That’s what the Brits, against whom we “took up arms” for our freedom, understand. That’s why they put even (or especially) the police through the most rigorous, and lengthy, assessment, training and testing before they let them have firearms. When compared to the US, the rate of firearm ownership outside of the police force is very low. In the US, there are an estimated 88.8 firearms per 100 people. In the UK, that number is 6.7 per 100 people.

Now, it’s true that America is much more violent, but why is that? And is the solution to let guns wildly proliferate at all levels of our society, from gifting a gun to a 21-year-old on his birthday to helping granny defend her roost?


For those who think the guns issue is a disagreement between two extreme camps—those who would disarm and therefore render powerless good-guy Americans who might be threatened by the bad guys, and those who would unleash every nutjob in every bar and college and church to pack heat—there may be a third way: You want a gun? You think you need a gun? Prove to the rest of us that we can trust you with it. Which is why sane gun laws are the sane response.

After all, the Second Amendment, the bulwark of the gun lobby, begins with the words, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state…” [emphasis added]: “Well regulated” being the operative phrase. Otherwise, let’s just turn the whole country into the good old Wild, Wild West—and everybody, take cover.

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33 responses to “RussRant: No “Insanity Defense” for US Obsession with Guns”

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  3. Avatar Happyfeeling says:

    The statement in the article we are responding to, “prove to the rest of us we can trust you with it”. Now that is a scary statement and is one of the many reasons gun owners will not give an inch. If that is how you think, then whoever has the power will wield it as he sees fit. We all know how that goes in every issue in America. Example: downfall of some corporations in America was because friends and relatives were hired in replacement of employees with qualifications. Your father or uncle was the boss. In the end it was about going overseas for tax shelter and paying employees less. However, companies in America in the late 1900s paid good salaries and had a bunch of clowns for employees.

  4. Avatar Alan Davis says:

    Constitutional right to own a gun: why did our forefathers think that we needed that right?
    I served 3 years in the U.S. Army, 1968-71. I grew up using guns to hunt, and to do away with vermin trying to get at our chickens and other livestock. The army also taught me the finer points of how to kill my fellow-man, with more than just guns.
    Nowadays, for various reasons, everyone wants to take away our gun rights. Some are worthy, most are not. I can no longer own a gun due to my felony conviction. I know a gun won’t do much to stop a tank, which our police departments now have, but I’d like to think that I at least tried to protect my family. I don’t think that harsh language is gonna get that done.

  5. Avatar icthelite says:

    You know, I read somewhere that every citizen in Sweden owns a fire arm, it’s mandatory. Anybody have any statistics on the number of deaths from gun shots is there?
    I don’t think enough of our citizenry are owners of guns. If the thugs in Chicago, owning illegal weapons, knew there were folks carrying what they needed for protection themselves they might think twice about shooting at someone they now know is unable to defend themselves.

  6. Avatar John Cathy says:

    What is this site called? Accept the government . These events are all staged to a certain degree and all aimed a a one world government. Removing the guns from the citizens is a primary goal.

  7. Avatar Happyfeeling says:

    I took a course before I applied for a concealed gun permit. The instructor, who has since passed away, was a small town Police Chief. He was pro gun and felt all citizens should be armed. They should all be taught to respect a weapon and defend themselves if need be. He stated that we cannot always depend on the police to come to our homes to defend our families, when called. They maybe at another situation that prevents them from coming. Therefore citizens should be able to defend there families at all times, in all situations. During the classes he had scores of stories to tell us students of people who used weapons for self defense because there was no one else to protect them and it turned out to be a good ending.
    If the media would equal the playing field and report the good and the bad stories of gun ownership than maybe there would not be this fear. The reporting is all one sided. It sells. Just like boogy man stories.
    When the Charlestown murderer was cornered by police pointing there weapons at him he did not come out shooting. He was passive. The cowards look for places where they can knock people off with no fear of retailiation.
    Also if it is proven his father bought him the gun then the father should be prosecuted. He is as guilty.

  8. Avatar David says:

    Does all of humanity have a “Right” to self defense? A Right that is part of the design of the universe. Some argue that there is no “creator” or design. The scientific method, has shown itself to be a useful way of determining what is real, what is truth. Many working at the highest levels of “science” point to the evidence gained through the application of the scientific method that our Universe is a construct, a creation. Are they “nuts”? The gun problem really boils down to a truth problem. Are we free distinct individuals given free will or not? Are we part of a creation which allows our conciousness to experience this reality and learn by making choices? I would submit that by ignoring your universal Right to defence, knowing how people can and do behave, you would be putting your physical life, and those whom you care for, in jeaprody. As of this time it is evident that the powers that be do not respect the rights of the individual and are doing their best to suppress it. I am responsible for my actions and I will not knowingly violate the Rights of another human. Violence is not an option. Force in response to violence is. I will play by the Laws of the Universe.

    • Avatar russbaker says:

      If your purpose is to credibly resist a powerful oppressive force, such as an army with advanced weaponry, isn’t firing a pistol at them suicidal? You really need to think bigger: tanks, antiaircraft, drones, explosives. (NOTICE: this is satire, but for a point.)

    • Avatar zcopley says:

      Russ, you dismiss the idea our guns protect us against tyranny way too quickly. Are you imagining an open battle between resistance fighters armed with hunting rifles and the “shock and awe” of the 1st Infantry? That’s naive. If you want an example of what can happen when an armed populace decides its government is operating against its interests, look at Northern Ireland during the 1960s-1990s. At the time, the British had one of the most modern armies in the world with all the bells and whistles, but that was a long, demoralizing, bloody fight for them. Occupying forces must operate in the context of the community they occupy. Black Helicopters must land, get refueled and be repaired. Drones are flown by personnel on the ground. Troops have to be housed, fed and supplied. Good luck with any of those things when the natives have the means to thwart and kill you. Just the threat of that type of military conundrum is a powerful deterrent to anyone considering using troops against the US population.

  9. Avatar Kevin says:

    Also Russ, you wrote “Your brother who sure likes his Jim Beam? Your uncle with his faulty vision and hair-trigger temper?”

    Okay but how come you don’t mention psychiatric drugs and their role in mass shootings? (See podcast directly below)


    Also, what about the argument that the only people who would voluntarily give up their weapons are the law abiding citizens (as it’s far-fetched to think that those who would commit gun crimes are going to obey).

    And how about the case of Chicago:


    Since Illinois started granting concealed carry permits this year, the number of robberies that have led to arrests in Chicago
    has declined 20 percent from last year, according to police department
    statistics. Reports of burglary and motor vehicle theft are down 20
    percent and 26 percent, respectively. In the first quarter, the city’s
    homicide rate was at a 56-year low.

    “It isn’t any coincidence
    crime rates started to go down when concealed carry was permitted. Just
    the idea that the criminals don’t know who’s armed and who isn’t has a
    deterrence effect,” said Richard Pearson,
    executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association. “The police
    department hasn’t changed a single tactic — they haven’t announced a
    shift in policy or of course — and yet you have these incredible

    As of July 29 the state had 83,183 applications for concealed carry and had issued 68,549 licenses. By the end of the year, Mr. Pearson
    estimates, 100,000 Illinois citizens will be packing. When Illinois
    began processing requests in January, gun training and shooting classes —
    which are required for the application — were filling up before the
    rifle association was able to schedule them, Mr. Pearson said.

    • Avatar russbaker says:

      Invariably, if most people aren’t supposed to have guns, it would be easier to also prevent their proliferation…hence everyone’s access, including the bad guys. And besides, many of those who use guns in homicides were never previously known to be problematical.

  10. Avatar Kevin says:

    Also to those who say “regulate”, I would say to be very careful about that type of sentiment. Remember, if they make people register guns, TPTB know exactly who has them (and thus who to take them away from). If you have “mental health checks” (which sounds reasonable), then government can just accuse anyone they want of being mentally unstable.

    I encourage people to listen to the 2 podcasts below to see how psychiatry can be twisted to serve governmental aims.


    Peter B Collins’ (who I believe is associated w/ WhoWhatWhy) interviews Dr Jeffrey Kaye (a practicing psychologist and former member of the APA), who details his 10-year effort to expose collusion between the American Psychological Association and the CIA torture programs.
    “Psychiatry as an Arm of the State”

  11. Avatar Suze O says:

    The Wild, Wild West actually wasn’t all that wild. There were countless towns where, if you were carrying a gun, you had to stop at the sheriff’s and hand them over to his safekeeping until you left. We get the “Wild, Wild West” from movies, which was out for selling entertainment, not teaching history.

    • Avatar Kevin says:

      We get the “Wild, Wild West” from movies, which was out for selling entertainment, not teaching history.

      Or for propaganda.

  12. Avatar Kevin says:

    I agree w/ ZCopley. You’re good on other issues Russ but I strongly disagree w/ you on guns. Mind you, I don’t own one and never have but I’d much rather live in a country where people are armed because it gives pause to potentially tyrannical despots. While I agree that we are fast approaching a crazy age w/ robot police/drones/etc but let’s not forget that people have access to technology as well (e.g. drones, 3D printers etc). But my feeling is that we should not voluntarily give up our rights for, as they say, “without the 2nd amendment, there’s no 1st amendment”.

    As for guns preventing violence, I encourage you to read this article (of which I pasted an important paragraph):


    I spoke with Lott after the Newtown shooting, and he confirmed that
    nothing has changed to alter his findings. He noted that the Aurora
    shooter, who killed twelve people earlier this year, had a choice of
    seven movie theaters that were showing the Batman movie he was obsessed
    with. All were within a 20-minute drive of his home. The Cinemark
    Theater the killer ultimately chose wasn’t the closest, but it was the
    only one that posted signs saying it banned concealed handguns carried
    by law-abiding individuals. All of the other theaters allowed the
    approximately 4 percent of Colorado adults who have a concealed-handgun
    permit to enter with their weapons.

  13. Avatar daniel wilson says:

    show me the bodies.

  14. Avatar snoopy squeaks says:

    People can’t understand that you are not talking about outlawing guns but “regulating” the use of. My only beef on this article is comparing us to UK. That place is such a mess, including the people, and we don’t need more crazy here.

    • Avatar Jonn Mero says:

      Quite right, the US is saturated with crazy! And the loonies are all armed. You just have to go north to Canada, and suddenly you are on a different, totally sane planet.

    • Avatar snoopy squeaks says:

      Canada has problems too.

  15. Avatar zcopley says:

    You’re so good on every other issue but guns, Russ.

  16. Avatar QuestionsRemain says:

    The anomaly or difference in this most recent mass shooting is that it was race based. The other mass shootings were mentally disturbed crazed gunman, most if not all on pharmaceuticals with access to guns.

  17. Avatar Rick Sander says:

    Russ, do you really think that the two most common positions are “no meaningful restrictions” and “universal disarmament”?

    • Avatar Steve Sperdacion says:

      I think those are the only things worth comparing. people that are anti gun control correctly point out that with gun regulation, criminals will still get guns. What we have right now is somewhere in the middle, there are meaningful restrictions but not universal disarmament.

    • Avatar Rick Sander says:

      Totally agreed, Steve. I guess what I’m pointing out is the author, Russ draws a double straw man argument that people who don’t want “universal disarmament” will only accept “no meaningful restrictions” (and the inverse argument) and that’s not the case. He bases a thousand words or so on his own false premise to come up with a third position that still leaves the issue unaddressed. With the exception of the John Muhammad , who was a serial and not a mass murderer and the Fort Hood Jihadist who was, every case of mass murder in the US was committed by someone under Psychiatric care generously loaded up with psychotropic drugs. The vast increases in Veteran suicides is not caused by Bush’s war policy as was suggested but because 60% of vets under VA care are prescribed meds that according to their labels warn against suicidal thoughts. This is a drug issue, not a gun issue. With drunk driving, the restrictions are placed on the drinker – not the car.

    • Avatar russbaker says:

      The vast majority of gun deaths are not these dramatic mass killings. They do not involve individuals known to have been medicated. That’s a different issue, albeit an interesting one.

    • Avatar Rick Sander says:

      Hey Russ, very good points. Thank you for bringing it up. You’re absolutely correct.

  18. Avatar rms says:

    I’m in favour of more effective gun control legislation … but we will not have nirvana when that happens. You use the UK as example. It is an excellent example, but not nirvana. People in UK are still murdered but perhaps not as efficiently. They use knives, fists, somtimes guns, and … dare I say … swords to be-head.

    • Avatar zcopley says:

      And of course, then the solution is to take away everyone’s knives. see:

    • Avatar Kevin says:

      Would be interested to hear Russ’ take on this.

    • Avatar Jonn Mero says:

      But the rate compared to US violence and murder is almost negligible, like in most of the Western countries. US Americans seem to have as speciality to solve all problems with weapons, from a perceived position of strength, rather than by diplomatic means. And you wonder why you never get much right when it comes to peace-keeping and good-will?