Newtown Reflections, II: An American God

Part I here.

When I wrote a story for Eric J. Guignard’s Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations anthology, I selected the ancient city of Hatra as my subject, specifically one of the goddesses they worshipped, named Atargatis (aka Atar’atha). As I researched, I followed the stories of Atar’atha across cultures, from Ishtar of the Babylonians, to Astarte of the Phoenicians, to Aphrodite of the Greeks and Venus of the Romans, perhaps even the Egyptian goddess Isis. Not all of these are explicitly the same deity, but even when they aren’t, it seems clear that their legends and stories influenced each other. In a sense, the goddess changed forms, adapting to new cultures across the centuries and millennia.

If Eric J. Guignard ever compiles a sequel to Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations, I will write a story of the god Moloch.

Here’s what the Bible has to say about Moloch (rendered here as Molek), in Leviticus Chapter 20:

The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing in Israel who sacrifices any of his children to Molek is to be put to death. The members of the community are to stone him. 3 I myself will set my face against him and will cut him off from his people; for by sacrificing his children to Molek, he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name. 4 If the members of the community close their eyes when that man sacrifices one of his children to Molek and if they fail to put him to death, 5 I myself will set my face against him and his family and will cut them off from their people together with all who follow him in prostituting themselves to Molek.

Okay, now Leviticus is not exactly the most up-to-date of Biblical texts, as anyone who’s been involved in the fight for gay rights knows quite well. But in this case it would seem Leviticus has a point. Child sacrifice? That, if anything, is surely worthy of such punishment.

The sacrifice of living children, particularly through fire, as depicted above, was Moloch’s calling card. It was practiced in many ancient cultures, from Canaan to Carthage. In fact, when the Romans destroyed Carthage, one of their justifications was the brutal child sacrifice that happened there, sometimes, according to history, dozens or even hundreds of children at a time.

But has Moloch stayed with us over the centuries? Like Atar’atha, has he adapted forms, changed guise and name as civilizations rise and fall?

Today, a friend sent me this article from the New York Review, which points out some fairly obvious parallels between Moloch and gun culture in modern-day America. I won’t recap the entire article; it argues its point better than I could, so please go read it for yourself. But its gist is this: the deaths in Sandy Hook; the deaths in Aurora; in Clackamas; at Cafe Racer in Seattle; at Virginia Tech and Fort Hood and Columbine; on the streets of Chicago and New York and D.C. and every other city where gun-fueled urban violence proliferates; they are our sacrifices to this modern-day Moloch. The Second Amendment, originally meant to allow for the maintenance of a militia, has been warped and twisted, used much like fundamentalists use the Bible: as a way to shut down any discussion or debate of their religion. Do not question the Word, for it is infallible.

Here in America, we desperately need to have a conversation on stemming gun violence. For a moment, in the wake of Newtown, it seemed that such a moment might have finally arrived. Over the past few days, I’ve engaged both friends and strangers across social media, trying to discuss some of the ways we could combat gun control. But in the course of things, I’ve found myself arguing points that are so distanced from the problem, or points that are so utterly, blatantly self-obvious, that I begin to realize: even in the wake of twenty dead children and six dead teachers, rational discussion is impossible. I am arguing with zealots, who will not cede the slightest bit of ground, for fear that someone will knock on the door and take away their godsguns. For example:

  • A couple days ago, someone on Twitter refused to concede that a soldier with an M-16 is more deadly than a soldier with a wooden spear.
  • Today, I was mocked for stating that people should not have to carry concealed lethal weapons everywhere they go in order to feel safe.
  • When I suggested technological innovations (better non-lethal self-defense weapons, for example), the discussion degenerated into a debate on minutiae about Tasers.
  • When I suggested more focus on trigger locks and secured storage of assault rifles and semi-automatic handguns (offering revolvers as a concession for emergency defense), the discussion degenerated into a debate on revolver speedloaders. Again, thoughts of saving lives? Lost in minutiae.

Over and over again, across multiple people, I’ve seen this pattern. A refusal to acknowledge the obvious, and to pick fights over details for the sake of picking fights. A determination that if they can poke a single hole in your argument, find a single loophole that might exist, then it’s useless. It’s so maddeningly similar to the pattern I see with religious fundamentalists: if science can’t explain everything, then clearly God is a better answer! Except for gun fundamentalists, the argument is that if gun control isn’t perfect, or if there’s one conceivable way that a bad guy could still get a gun, then the only potential fix is more guns.

Guns are the new American religion.

Seriously, go read that New York Review article. Tell me they don’t have a point. Reassure me that despite my own experience, a rational discussion focused on plausible solutions and improvements is possible.

Because when I read, for example, this article by Megan McArdle, which ends with her suggesting as an actual fix that we train kids to rush shooters in the hopes that they can overwhelm him, I kind of lose hope. If we have to debate why training kids to bum rush school shooters is a bad idea, how are we ever going to have a serious discussion on effective gun control?

Okay, so you want a starting point for actual solutions, rather than just whining?

  • A strengthened version of the assault weapons ban, one that focuses more on purpose, ammo caliber, and potential rate of fire than cosmetics– in other words, an improved version of the 1994 law. (Gun advocates will often point to the failure of a particular gun control law and cite that as a failure of all gun control laws. We can, and must do better.)
  • Strengthened laws governing the storage of guns, particularly semiautomatic weapons of all kinds.
  • Banning of high-capacity magazines.
  • Closing of the federal gun show loophole.
  • Require registration and background checks for all firearms, and mandatory safety/training courses, much like we do for issuing drivers’ licenses today.
  • Take a page from Australia’s extremely effective gun control, and do background checks on folks who reside with the potential gun owner.
  • Government grants for technology research: for example, if we can put biometric locks and electronic codes on cell phones, we should be able to put them on guns.
  • In the same vein, come up with improved non-lethal defense weapons to reduce the need for guns. Don’t tell me it’s impossible because current technology sucks; we could totally come up with better technologies.
  • Restrictions on gun advertisements. Gun culture needs to change, and the first step is regulating how the gun industry markets itself, much like we already do with the cigarette industry. The screenshot below is from a campaign run by Bushmaster, manufacturer of the Newtown shooter’s AR-15. I wonder if he saw it.

That’s just a few starting points, most of them fairly independent of each other, which I’ve seen discussed (to very little positive reception) over the past several days. Now, do I really think that discussions on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs will be the catalyst for long-term change in American gun policy? Not really, but maybe. Maybe if enough people chime in, things will start to shift, and we’ll be able to save lives.

As I mentioned in my first Newtown blog post, there’s other fixes that need to be made, too. Our nation’s mental health care system is shattered, and it needs to be rebuilt. But the political willpower for that sort of spending seems even more unlikely. Health care, spending, and taxes are governed by their own sort of religion in America.

The last few days have made me pretty discouraged. It’s been less than a week since the shooting, but already the old lines are hardening. Names like Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, and Grace McDonnell, having been mourned by the country for an appropriate period of time, are already being less mentioned as the status quo reasserts with a vengeance, and the debate gets lost in hypotheticals and little details. School shootings are tragic, but make changes? Even if we could save thousands of lives, or just make some noticeable dent in the 30,000+ Americans killed by firearms every year? Impossible! Unthinkable!

All hail Moloch.

17 thoughts on “Newtown Reflections, II: An American God

  1. Andrew: A thumbs up! As a Marine I had to carry a weapon. I refuse to do so now. The number of “defense” use of guns is minuscule in comparison to the horror of Newtown. We as a nation need to address this issue and protect our future generations.

  2. Great idea! “Government grants for technology research: for example, if we can put biometric locks and electronic codes on cell phones, we should be able to put them on guns.”

  3. Hear, hear. Andrew, you have some great ideas here, and your post makes me want to start work on advocating for the changes! I agree with you about restricting advertisements. I think that Jackson Katz, an anti-violence educator, has some great things to say about this topic from a different angle. We need to stop culturally teaching men that to be a “man” they have to enact a “tough guise”. Guns are seen as a prop for many men to enact masculinity, and we need changes in the media, as well.

  4. That’s a great analogy.
    The whole gun culture is based on worshiping guns like they’re some kind of totems that keep you safe. They speak to people’s fear of uncertainty and unknown. After last week, the gun stores flooded with new customers. It’s easy to understand why the solution to gun violence is “more guns”, because that’s their personal solution. The more fear, the more violence, the more guns that are needed. It’s like a god that needs to be feed ever more ammunition and higher calibers. It’s a snake eating it’s own tail.
    That’s why we’ll never get of them, because you’d be defiling the temples of the gods. It’s sacrilege. It’s their god-given right, and in fact, duty.
    Except if we didn’t have these guns there wouldn’t be all this fear, and we wouldn’t have to sacrifice on the altar of weaponry. Or literally sacrifice our children and neighbors so we can all feel safe.

  5. “If we didn’t have these guns”…but we DO have these guns. There are literally millions of unregistered (because they are not required to be registered), legally owned and obtained guns in the United States, and a significant number of illegally owned and obtained guns as well, realistically. Additionally, we have the constitutional right to bear arms, which pretty much means that Australia/UK/etc style gun control would probably require a constitutional amendment.

    I don’t necessarily oppose the idea of mandating gun safety classes, as long as they don’t pose an undue burden…keep them inexpensive, for one thing. Keep in mind when using the car analogy that driving is a privilege and bearing arms is a constitutional right that comes right after freedom of speech, religion, press, etc. But in that spirit, I don’t oppose people having to pass a written gun safety test to receive a permit to purchase a handgun. Keep in mind though that mandatory drivers testing and licensing (1) does not really prevent unlicensed people who don’t care about the law from buying a car and driving it anyway, and (2) about 115 people die in car accidents every day in the US.

    We already have background checks (and yes, the gun show background check loophole should absolutely be closed where it exists. In NC when you go to the gun show, you still have to provide either a permit to purchase a handgun for each handgun, or you have to show your concealed carry permit. Either one of these means you’ve been background checked). In any case, the Oregon mall shooter had no criminal record or known history of violence to show up on a background check, nor did Adam Lanza.

    Fully automatic weapons are rarely if ever used in mass shootings, mainly because you cannot just walk into a store and walk out again with an automatic Uzi or M16. For a civilian to obtain true assault rifles/fully automatic pistols, you have to go through a very lengthy and very expensive process to obtain a Class 3 Firearms license. As one of the conditions, you have to consent to allow your collection to be inspected by the ATF at any time.

    I haven’t read anything (yet) about how the owners of the firearms used in these mass shootings stored their weapons, so I’ll reserve judgment on that until I hear about it.

    I myself am a gun owner, and a concealed carry permit holder. My personal guns are a Springfield XD-9 subcompact and a Smith & Wesson 15-22 semiautomatic rifle (which qualifies as an “assault weapon” by the definition of the previous ban). Also, I have a Taurus Raging Judge Magnum revolver that shoots .410 shotgun shells, .45LC, and .454 Casull. I’ve never shot anything more alive than produce from the Wal-Mart, and I sincerely hope that trend continues. I like the higher caliber guns because it takes more skill to shoot them accurately than it does to shoot my husband’s Ruger Mark 3 .22 caliber target pistol. I prefer higher capacity magazines not because I want to go on a rampage, but because it gives me more opportunities to test my skill before stopping and reloading. Next time you’re in NC, come down to the house and I’ll show you what I mean.

    I also have a history of depression and anxiety and am on medication (Lexapro) for that and ADD (Adderall). I can honestly say I’ve never had a real homicidal urge in my life. Suicidal, yeah, albeit not recently, and believe me, I did some soul searching before I made the decision to become a gun owner.

    I think one of the reasons the Sandy Hook shooting has generated so much controversy (aside from the number and ages of the victims) is because there is nobody left over to blame. Adam Lanza killed himself. He also killed his mother, the owner of the guns. Blaming them doesn’t satisfy, so we turn to the two best scapegoats: atheists and the NRA/gun owners. If atheists weren’t so selfish and hadn’t insisted on their First Amendment rights and just shut the hell up while teachers led the classes in Christian prayer, this never would’ve happened. If gun owners weren’t so selfish and hadn’t insisted on their Second Amendment rights and just shut the hell up while we banned (or de facto banned) everything above a BB gun, this never would’ve happened.

    (As both an atheist and a gun owner, I’m getting it from both ends, and let me tell you, it sucks to hear how this is All My Fault in two different ways).

    Also, just FYI, a revolver has similar capacity to many small semiautos designed for concealed carry (5 or 6 on a revolver vs 6 to 8 on a medium-to-large caliber concealed carry semiautomatic) , they almost never fail to fire unless the bullet is bad (unlike semiautos which occasionally feed wrong or jam), and they almost never have a safety. Not really a good idea to keep one under your pillow, as you previously suggested I should do.

    That’s all I’ve got for now.

    • Guns are not illegal in Australia, just highly regulated. The reason there’s no willpower for that kind of regulation, though, is because the modern interpretation of the 2nd Amendment has been turned into scripture by the gun lobby and modern gun culture.

      “Undue burden?” Really? Thousands of deaths every year (suicides, urban violence, mass shooting), and you’re worried about putting an undue burden of people through gun safety classes? This is exactly what I’m talking about!

      As I told someone else, your convenience while practicing does not necessitate high-capacity magazines or higher-caliber ammunition. Again, this is my point: even reasonable measures to limit the power of these killing machines are shot down because they’re “inconvienent” or limit hobbyists’ fun. The Second Amendment wasn’t meant for hobbyists. It was meant for members of a militia.

      And for the love of pete, I’m not suggesting banning all guns above a BB gun. Do you even read what I write? You’re so invested in making strawmen to knock down that you’re making up things I wouldn’t in a million years actually suggest.

      As for cars– over the past fifty years, they’ve gotten a hell of a lot safer in their design. Seat belts in the back seat, better air bags, much-improved frame construction and crumple zones. Laws have changed, too. Mandated car seats for children. Increased stringency on drunk driving laws. Just because those laws get broken occasionally, does that mean they’re worthless and should be repealed?

      In the meantime, how have guns gotten safer? They haven’t. Not by a lick– as you pointed out, some guns still don’t even have safeties! Hence my comment on improved technology. And on reforming the gun culture. It’s time to stop marketing guns as some macho thing. They’re not. They’re deadly weapons, and they should be treated and regulated as such. I haven’t heard a thing from you (or any other gun owner) on that angle.

      And you won’t even concede that it’s a good idea to encourage trigger locks and gun safes, or propose some other way of safely storing guns– Sandy Hook aside, surely we should be able to agree on that!

      You’re angry because I’m questioning your religion, and you’re picking nits over details rather than admitting that maybe, just maybe, having unrestricted freedom to guns is not worth the thousands of innocent people who die every year. It’s your sacrifice to Moloch. I’m sorry you can’t see it.

  6. Dude, I SELL gun safes (and trigger locks, for that matter), I absolutely encourage them! And did I not just tell you the other day that I thought integrated biometrics has potential? Speaking of misrepresentation, I said the other day that current consumer biometrics are in the “available but crappy” stage, I never said that improving them to where they actually work reliably is impossible!!!

    Guns HAVE gotten safer, believe it or not. Many guns (my XD-9 included) have multiple safeties to lessen the chance of accidental discharge. My first gun, a Bersa Thunder .380, even had an integrated trigger lock (built into the actual gun which made it California-legal). The fact is, you don’t really know very much about guns, as evidenced by your suggestion that I should sleep with a revolver under my pillow instead of a semi-automatic. For the record, I don’t sleep with ANY gun under my pillow, it’s not safe. Duh. Where the hell would the muzzle point that’s not at me, my husband, or a cinderblock wall just mere feet away (helloooooo potential ricochet!)? Rule 2) Never let the muzzle cover anything you’re not willing to kill or destroy. (right after Rule 1) All guns are always loaded.) This is why us “gun worshipers” don’t want people who don’t actually know anything about guns or gun safety making the laws.

    I never said let’s repeal all gun laws. How about we enforce the ones we have? And god yes, if there is a “gun show loophole”, let it be closed!

    Believe me, if the “well-regulated militia” became necessary, you’d want them to be armed with something better than .22 caliber 5-shot revolvers.

    As I said before, there are millions of legally-owned, unregistered guns “out there” in the USA. How do you propose we deal with that?

    Also, again, as far as we know, neither the mall shooter nor Adam Lanza had a prior criminal record or other record of violence. How were we as a society supposed to “should have known” that this would happen? Also, they both stole their guns, they didn’t buy them, and we don’t know how the owners stored them.

    I would like to know how many fatal preventable car crashes vs fatal (accidental and/or nondefensive) gunshots for licensed drivers vs legal gun owners, respectively, in the USA.

    Perhaps all cars sold in the USA should be fitted with ignition interlock Breathalyzers, should all be fitted with speed governors to keep them from exceeding 55 mph, and we should have to submit to background checks and be issued permits in order to purchase a car, to prevent people with multiple at-fault accidents, DUIs, etc from even owning one. I mean, it would be expensive and inconvenient, but you have to admit it would save a lot of lives. And driving isn’t even a Constitutional right. Hell, if you’ve ever driven in Greenville, NC, you’d probably support psychological evaluations for buying a car, too! 😉

    ::sigh:: How about I refine “undue burden” to “undue financial burden”, which is really what I meant. I think you knew that, though. Remember, the right to bear arms is still a Constitutional right, and the last time they tried to fee our rights to death (see “poll tax”) it got struck down.

    • Copying from our Facebook conversation, when I suggested trigger locks and gun safes, you said, “trigger locks are sort of counterproductive when it comes to keeping a weapon for personal defense. safes are a good idea in theory, but as somebody who actually sells gun safes, I can tell ya they are kind of a mixed bag.” Which, again, is what’s driving me nuts. If an idea is potentially flawed, pro-gun folks will always focus on the potential flaw instead of the upside, whereas the very real flaw of the status quo is THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE DYING.

      As for “sleep with a gun under your pillow,” I didn’t necessarily mean that literally. I meant folks who sleep with a gun close at hand for emergency self-defense. Don’t tell me you’ve never heard that phrase before– all I have to do is google “sleep with a gun under your pillow” to find lots of examples of it. But hey, again, look at us arguing minutiae instead of the actual goddamn point.

      I’m not a gun expert by any means, but my life (and the life of folks I care about) can still be taken away by them. Therefore, I completely have the right to argue for laws to restrict them, and if you and other gun owners want a say in what those laws are, then suggest them for yourself. Use your knowledge to suggest some actual meaningful reforms, instead of crying “woe is me” and “oh my god stop trying to take away my guns.”

      We license folks to own cars. We don’t license folks to own guns, except in certain cases, like concealed carry, and it’s pretty easy to bypass the background checks via private sales. You can have your license to drive revoked, whereas for felons it’s usually easier to get for them to get their gun rights back than their voting rights! Thanks for making us all safer, NRA! Also, as far as “undue burden,” well, we’re back to semantics. No, I didn’t know that was what you meant, but my point still stands. It costs money to buy a gun– if that’s not an unreasonable burden, why would gun safety classes be?

      And this is another point that I see as self-obvious, that no pro-gun person will seemingly ever acknowledge: cars are crucial for modern-day freedom (and didn’t even exist when our country was founded). People use their cars every single days and most Americans are extremely dependent on them. In 21st century America, revoking your Driver’s License inhibits your day-to-day freedom considerably more than revoking your right to bear arms– so from that perspective, gun/car analogies are flawed anyway (but we make them, because it’s the best we can come up with). If you don’t want your guns taken away, stop fighting reasonable regulations.

      Look, I understand it’s a sensitive subject. And you probably see attempts to limit the 2nd Amendment like I see attempts to limit the 1st Amendment (i.e. “pornography should be banned”), in that no ground whatsoever should be given. But the 1st Amendment doesn’t cost tens of thousands of lives a year (despite what certain crazy fundamentalists will tell you). The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness isn’t in the Constitution, but it is in the Declaration of Independence, and too many people are being deprived of it.

      I generally think of myself as a civil/social libertarian, so it pains me to argue this. But some freedoms just aren’t worth the price– and the unrestricted ownership of firearms is one of those freedoms. I thought differently once. But if we can put reasonable regulations on that freedom, and save thousands of lives, that to me is worth it. Especially in the wake of Sandy Hook.

      Did you know Columbine High School had an armed and uniformed resource officer who traded shots with one of the shooters, just like the NRA proposed today? More guns won’t solve the problem. Only less.

  7. Andrew – I have really come to respect and appreciate your opinions. We want simple solutions to complex problems. Prayer in school – great idea but if you allow Christianity you have to allow other faiths, including Scientology and Reverend Jim Moon followers, two widely derided religions or cults depending on your opinion. Is that okay to the pro-prayer group? Probably not but that is what you have to do to make this happen. My honest and truthful question to those same people (but yet not worth the firestorm it would bring about is) are you not a Christian the other 16 hours a day? Are Christians not allowed in school? So at the end of the day a “simple” solution “solves” a problem but creates others.

    We as a society tend to function in a “prisoner of the moment” mentality which usually results in an overreaction to a problem. We see a gun was used and want to ban all guns. We hear that the shooter had a history of mental illness and want to blame autism without verifying information. Now any quirk or inconsistency is going to result in a hyper-reactive response that the person could be a shooter. It was similar to the 9/11 attacks, government built up security at airports in response to the public’s outcry for more security but yet at the end of the day I bet most people think it is more hassle than it’s worth.

    Since I work at a movie theatre the Colorado shooting of course hit home – however we have to remember that this is the only time in American history that an event of this magnitude has happened, percentage-wise it is beyond minute. One of the latest trends in business is Six Sigma is removal of errors in processes down to 3.4 defects per million or something like 99.99996% effectiveness. So in a statistical analysis this shooting falls within that area that cannot be controlled by nature. We cannot control everything and have to understand that these things happen and while they are terrible tragedies the response to try to prevent it from happening again may not be worth the cost.

    I agree with the comment about discussion in this country – we are so afraid to offend people that we offend people. One of my friends commented today that at work (she works at a supermarket) that she said Happy Holidays to a customer and was “corrected” to “It’s Merry Christmas!”….way to show that good Christian spirit! We don’t wear our religions on our sleeves so sometimes it is hard to guess which faith someone might be. As for discussions there tends to be a mentality of “I will debate with you as long as you understand that I am right”. That does no good. One of my coworkers is a die-hard Republican and the night of the election we had a great discussion about politics – I saw some of his points and he saw some of mine. I gained a lot more respect for him because of this. We as a society tend to think that all of a group are good/bad and again statistically that is not possible.

    Sorry for the long-winded post but your discuss was eloquently stated and I really wanted to reply.

    • Hi Daniel– thanks for reading my post, and thanks for your reply. But I’m not sure what you mean by “this is the only time in American history an event of this magnitude has happened.” Because we have mass shootings all the time. 12 dead and 71 injured in Aurora, 26 dead at Sandy Hook, 4 dead in Pennsylvania this morning right as the NRA was giving their press conference. Columbine, Virginia Tech, and on and on. And it’s not just mass shootings. As I write this, the front page of the Huffington Post contains a list of news articles about recent firearms deaths. It’s very long. Overall, between suicides, accidents, and homicides, firearms kill 30,000+ Americans every year.

      That’s not an anomaly. That’s a statistically significant percentage. And while only a tiny minority of those people die in events like Aurora and Sandy Hook, it’s still too large a number to be ignored. What is the price of reducing the likelihood and probability of these events? Changing gun culture? Banning 100-round ammo drums, like were used in Aurora? Can you really tell me that the price of some additional regulation outweighs even the possibility of blunting these sort of tragedies in the future? That action is complex and difficult, therefore we shouldn’t try? Because I completely and absolutely refuse to accept that.

      The Sandy Hook shooting is a catalyst for my action, but it’s not the sole source of my motivation. This is a window for change, and I– and a lot of other folks like me– intend to use it to push what change we can.

      No one’s talking about banning guns– although I think banning assault rifles would be a positive step. Improved regulation, closing the gun show loophole, improved safety, technological solutions– none of that’s too difficult or complex, except to the extent that we have to fight the gun lobby to implement any of it.

      But don’t tell me that it can’t be done, because that’s just make me gonna try even harder.

  8. I meant to the Colorado theatre shooting….it is the only case of that type of event happening. There were rumors of people clamoring for metal detectors and all sorts of security….the same people who would then complain when the ticket went from $9.75 to $15. This goes along to people (like the NRA) wanting armed guards in school. People will enjoy it for a little while then it will get annoying and become more harm than good.

    We tend to have a knee jerk reaction to events and want major changes to cultural issues. Gun reform laws should be enacted but it will take time. However we also need to look at reforming and fixing mental health issues as well. Yes he used a gun to kill the children but if mental health services had been better maybe he could have gotten the help before carrying out this event. Culturally mental health issues are seen as “unmanly” and “what’s wrong with him”. That needs to change as well. However being hyper-reactive to any oddity of human behavior will cause more problems then it solves.

    I don’t disagree that gun reform issues need to happen. While I do not own a gun or care to, I do feel that assault rifles and high capacity ammo drums are not needed. I know your focus is on gun control however there are other issues as well such as mental health care, media sensationalism, and even how religion plays into this that need to be considered as well…I know you have spoken of the mental illness aspect but we as a society tend to want a simple solution to a complex problem (see the economy).

    Hopefully the Sandy Hook shooting is the catalyst for change but it is not going to be quick and easy like people want. It is going to take real discussion and action, and sadly I do not know if society has the focus for it. I truly hope I am wrong in this regard.

  9. Interesting thoughts, as usual.

    But it’s fascinating to me to see you write about Moloch and explain the historical significance of his worshipers and child sacrifice, and then correlate that to the US without mentioning that we, too, literally engage in the same thing.

    With an average of 1.2 MILLION abortions in the US every year, we can conservatively estimate that about 3,000 babies were massacred on that same day as the Sandy Hook shooting.


    By people who were PAID to do it, and whose salaries I am FORCED against my conscience to help pay.

    A tiny percentage were probably devastating losses to mothers whose lives were at risk.

    But the vast majority were sacrificed on the altar of independence, sexual “freedom”, and the American dream.

    As evidence, I offer the fact that 3/4 of those surveyed in Seattle, who have had an abortion, say that they would consider abortion to be their primary method of birth control.

    Moloch is far more powerful in the hearts and minds of America than any discussion about gun policy can reveal.

    • Hey Zack, thanks for reading and for your reply. I’ll be honest, I only have the stomach for one contentious debate at a time– for now, I see a unique window to address gun control and firearms violence, so that’s what I’m focusing on. That said, I’ll offer one response. But I’m not interested in precipitating this debate further. If you feel an absolute, dire, need to follow up, feel free to e-mail me. Any further comments on abortion/choice from either side will get deleted. (It’s good to be the moderator.)

      I don’t want to make assumptions about your beliefs, but if you want to know my stance on abortion, here it is: it’s tragic, and often the result of desperation, or lack of resources, or fear, or even rape. I don’t think many folks have an abortion because they’re lazy– that’s silly. (Because they’re uneducated, perhaps, but the solution there is better education.) And I don’t believe your statistics on Seattle– they wreak of the deceptive BS that gets spun by people more interested in dogma than debate (lies, damn lies, statistics). I know you have this picture of Seattle as a degenerate hippy liberal haven (well, okay, it kind of is), but we don’t actually have abortion clinics on every corner where women line up to abort their recent mistakes after crazy nights. Women here, by and large, are educated, and smart enough to use actual birth control.

      I think reducing the number of abortions is a noble goal, but I think it should be done via ensuring that (1)women have access to birth control, (2)kids are taught comprehensive sex ed in school, including how to use a condom, and most importantly (3)young women (and underprivileged folks in general) have easy access to the resources they need, and don’t resort to abortions because they feel like they can’t support their child. By and large, the same folks who are so avidly anti-abortion will also cut welfare programs, school lunch programs, funds for child health care, etc. etc. at the drop of a hat.

      Until that changes, all I see in the pro-life movement is folks using abortion as a political tool to drive us closer to a theocracy, in which your personal moral beliefs and priorities are the law of the land. And those beliefs and priorities were mostly shaped by men– particularly Jerry Falwell– not God. Prior to Falwell and Roe v. Wade, even the Southern Baptist Convention was somewhat pro-choice.

      So despite your contention that fertilized eggs and tiny clusters of cells (as is the case with early abortions), should be mourned as deeply as living human beings with lives and families, like Jessica Redfield, Victoria Soto, and Daniel Barden, I disagree. I firmly believe that human beings consist of more than whatever tiny essence might or might not be granted them at conception, and our disagreement here is a matter of belief, not facts.

      As for taxes going to support things you don’t like? Every anti-war activist and religious pacifist in the history of the country has paid taxes to support new and better weapons, and wars in which millions of people have died. My tax money is going to support tax breaks for oil companies and banks, and in the past, has gone to support faith-based charities which I don’t support. Churches across the country get a tax-free ride on America’s dime. So no, I’m not sad that your taxes are going to women’s health care. Honestly, I wish more of our taxes were directed there, in the form of a single-payer system (in Canada, the abortion rate is considerably lower than in the U.S.)

      That’s the final word. I sincerely do wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2013, free of whatever tragedies you most fear.

      • Thanks Andrew,

        I wish you a merry Christmas and Happy 2013 as well!

        It was not my intention to launch or instigate a contentious debate.

        Rather, I hoped to point out that your use “Moloch” is quite appropriate, and even more so than your post indicates.

        As a point of clarification: I think your response is somewhat unfair to my comment and – more significantly – to the “pro life movement” as a whole.

        You paint with a very broad brush, which is unfortunate.

        Not everyone who would wear the “pro choice” label hates babies and wants to kill them by the truckload.

        And not everyone who wears the “pro life” label is an ignorant religious bigot who follows the teachings of Jerry Falwell.

        Most leaders of the evangelical church today would not gladly defend many of Falwell’s teachings, including his own son, who happens to be good friends with the pastor of the fastest-growing church in America – located (gasp!) where?

        In Seattle (darn you, pot-smoking hippies!)

        In fact (brace yourself), many of us would not readily overturn Roe v Wade given the opportunity. The battle (in my view) is for human souls (those of the babies AND their parents) – not legislation.

        I respect your wish not to make this post a discussion about abortion.

        I just hope to clear up any misunderstanding about what I hoped to communicate in my comment.

        I’ll gladly refrain from commenting on your posts in the future, if you wish.

        Best of luck!

  10. You’re right, Andrew.
    I’ve noticed this is other threads I’ve been on.
    People refuse to talk about the issue of Gun Violence.
    What about religion? Abortion? The Constitution? Videos games? Mental Illness?
    No one actually wants to talk about Gun Violence. Someone takes a gun, aims it a person, and squeezes the trigger. There are three components to that. A gun, a shooter, and a victim. If there were no guns, there wouldn’t be any shootings, because I’m pretty sure we’ll never be able to get rid of person A wanting to kill person B. But so many gun supporters want to focus on that instead: Don’t blame the gun part of the equation. It’s just an innocent bystander, like the pedestrians in NYC who were gunned down during a police shootout. Let’s just focus on person A and make him not want to kill. Do you really think that’s going to happen? Do you think we’re going to somehow change society into a blissful paradise where no one ever wants to shoot up their former co-workers or their schoolmates or their parents?
    We all get religion, or somehow “fix” our morals? Our movies are reduced to Disney animations and our video games are Tetris? And you want to see desperation and increased violence, just let a shit-ton of unwanted babies into the world that can’t be fed or clothed.
    Mental illness is so convenient, as if they have it and we don’t. We portray these killers as nutjobs but how many of us have gotten close to just saying “Fuck it, I’m just going to off these assholes.”
    Look at the front page of and tell me that that’s acceptable, or that’s just a statistical anomaly.
    Andrew’s right. Gun supporters will deflect til the end of time, poring over minutia or providing counter-examples like the one time having a guard worked (like in Columbine?).
    As far as “knee-jerk” reactions, um, really? Suddenly we’re aware of mass shootings? I’ve been against this gun-culture macho bullshit as long as I can remember. There are too many guns, too much ammo, and a lot of it is in or near the hands of those who shouldn’t have whether they’re mentally ill or just assholes.
    And it seems that the NRA’s sole purpose is to make sure it all stays nice and legal.
    Good luck trying to get people to change. Take away the guns, and they’ll have nothing to shoot with. Period. Keep the guns, add more, and welcome to the Wild West where we all carry and shootings skyrocket.

    • Yep, I agree. Ultimately, you only have to look at other countries to see that the root cause of America’s astronomically high firearms death rate isn’t mental illness, or violent video games, or evil people, or lack of religion. America has no monopoly on those things in comparison to other first-world countries. The difference– the only difference– is the easy access and availability of guns.

  11. Andrew R. – If you are referring to me with the “knee jerk” comment I meant it more in the context of we tend to be “prisoners of the moment” and respond emotionally to events instead of taking a step back, cooling off and realizing it is not a cut and dried issue. I did not mean that this has been a new occurrence. I just feel that the the cause of the events at Sandy Hook were more complex than just guns but also understand Andrew is simply just focusing on that one issue.

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