At our best.

Phrases I don’t want to hear anymore:

Shocked and saddened.

Thoughts and prayers.

Our hearts go out to…

I know, I know — not everyone is gifted with the language, and these phrases are simply what we say in particular situations, like “pleased to meet you” and “I’ve had a lovely time.” But let’s at least admit that they mean nothing anymore. Not when you see them in places where they don’t belong, at a time when the only sane response is silence, or, failing that, a full-throated scream.

Someone in Newt Gingrich’s office, in Sarah Palin’s office, thought something needed to be said, and so they said that. My advice would have been to keep their yaps shut. But here I am, yapping, so what the hell. It’s a free country.

For whatever it’s worth, I don’t know that I have anything to add, other than to note some things you should read, if you haven’t. A lot of these have been widely linked, but what the hell, not everybody lives on the internet these days:

Garry Wills, “Our Moloch.” Elegant, spare and as incisive as a shiv:

The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?

“It is an object of reverence.” You got that right.

The most complete and concise single account of what happened in those 10 minutes that I’ve yet seen, from the Hartford Courant. A very tough read. This was the worst of it:

Lanza next arrived at teacher Victoria Soto’s classroom. Soto is believed to have hidden her 6- and 7-year old students in a classroom closet. When Lanza demanded to know where the children were, Soto tried to divert him to the other end of the school by saying that her students were in the auditorium.

But six of Soto’s students tried to flee. Lanza shot them, Soto and another teacher who was in the room. Later, in their search for survivors, police found the remaining seven of Soto’s students still hiding in the closet. They told the police what had happened.

…Police investigators were still stunned Saturday by the scene they encountered at the school a day earlier, in particular by the seven surviving — but shocked — children hiding silently in the closet in Soto’s classroom.

“Finally, they opened that door and there were seven sets of eyes looking at them,” a law enforcement officer familiar with the events said Saturday. “She tried to save her class” he said of Victoria Soto.

And I’m sure nearly everyone has seen this by now, “Thinking the Unthinkable,” another very tough read by a mother of a boy who sounds very much like Adam Lanza.

I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am Jason Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

And finally, we should end on a note of at least something resembling our better angels. The president’s speech Friday:

“This evening, Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter, and we’ll tell them that we love them, and we’ll remind each other how deeply we love one another. But there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight, and they need all of us right now. In the hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans, and I will do everything in my power as president to help, because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need, to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories, but also in ours.”

We need to be at our best as Americans. So let’s see if we do that.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events |

78 responses to “At our best.”

  1. coozledad said on December 17, 2012 at 1:20 am

    BigHank53 helpfully described this a few days ago, in a response to a question about the nature of depression.
    Rivers of ink have been spilled trying to describe clinical depression. The best one I’ve heard so far was this, more or less:

    Imagine somebody has taken out your brain and replaced it with five pounds of roofing tar. You can still think of anything you like…as long as it’s heavy, black, and sticky.

    And it’s never, ever going to come off.

    Of course, in our case, it will come off. Much sooner than it should. And some people will fake it as best they can, which is none too good, because they are lost.

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  2. Sherri said on December 17, 2012 at 1:59 am

    The first chart in this post is a very compelling reminder of just how different the US is when it comes to guns:

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  3. Brandon said on December 17, 2012 at 4:51 am

    And stop always referring to these events as tragedies. Call them catastrophes, disasters, etc. but tragedies is overused. Also, the obligatory sad piano music, a.k.a. music to tinkle by.

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  4. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 17, 2012 at 6:46 am

    Sherri, I was particularly taken by #4 and his discussion of the social construction of mental illness. I keep groping for the right way to talk about the fact that all of these mass killers are, in retrospect, mentally ill, but that’s not the same as saying we could identify each of them in advance and prevent their actions just by deploying more of the current mental health tools we currently use. They all have played large amounts of first-person-shooter violent video games, but not all heavy players shoot people; they all have an inability to empathize with the pain of others, but not all poorly empathetic juveniles & young adults hurt others, and so on. There’s an undercurrent of “we could have picked these people out of a crowd if…” in the current conversation, and it’s both not true, and I fear distracts from the real issues. If we understand they can’t be plucked from their cohorts as the almost certain candidates for killerhood, we would then know how restrictions on the availability of these weapons of mass devastation are necessary, that everyone needs to respond differently to the presence in their homes of video games where trigger pulling is the primary “activity,” as well as reducing stigma and increasing access to maintenance level mental health treatment.

    But I’m quite certain that any profile of the Newtown shooter from three months ago would lead you to involuntary committal, if we went back to that (as I’ve heard and read bemoaned as the problem, that we don’t do that anymore), of hundreds of thousands across the country. And you still won’t know how to treat them with current knowledge in a way that would then give you solid confidence in returning them home in less than a year. You might as well just say young white males from age 18 should be in confinement until age 30 (or 35) when the curves on all kinds of issues, from schizophrenia to borderline PD suddenly bend down.

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  5. Dorothy said on December 17, 2012 at 7:52 am

    I will look at some of your links later when I get back from physical therapy. But I’m right there with you on those mundane, over-used phrases. Much like the use of the word “awesome”, they make me feel almost physically constricted each and every time I hear them. I can’t count how many times my eyes have welled up since hearing about what happened. On Friday we were having our departmental holiday party and I was picking up my purse to depart and head back to the office when I checked my phone, and saw the breaking news headline in an email about how many were killed. That was the first time I had watery eyes. The beginning of Saturday Night Live, which I assumed was going to be a re-run…and Mass yesterday was tough, too. Last night when I watched the President speak that might have been the 7th or 8th time, who knows? I just want someone to make it all stop.

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  6. Andrea said on December 17, 2012 at 8:43 am

    Dorothy, I feel the same way. I’ve been weepy all weekend, starting with the President’s words on Friday afternoon, pulling into the parking lot at the middle school on Saturday morning for my 10-year-old’s basketball game and seeing a staff member lowering the flag to half-staff, and then my niece’s high school holiday music concert on Sunday. Viewed through the lens of Friday’s events, I cried on and off through the whole program, starting with the moment of silence at the beginning and then midway through, when a soloist performed “My Grown Up Christmas List,” usually an overly sentimental Christmas song I’ve never paid much attention to, but I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house when she was finished.

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  7. Deborah said on December 17, 2012 at 8:53 am

    This is good, David Gergen at CNN,

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  8. Danny said on December 17, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Dorothy, I was in a meeting late Friday morning and towards the end of the meeting, one of my colleagues checked her phone, put her hand to her mouth and quietly said “oh, no.” When she looked up, her eyes were already brimming with tears. Apparently, she had just then looked at the news for the first time that day.

    This woman is being groomed for upper management. She is very polished and poised and I have a lot of respect for her and after seeing the unveiled humanity of her reaction, I have even more respect for her. I know that in all of this, it sounds a little odd, but I couldn’t help thinking at that moment that this is the type of person who I want running the ship around here. A smart person with a heart. I am proud to call her a friend too.

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  9. Deborah said on December 17, 2012 at 9:03 am

    Another good one,

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  10. Sue said on December 17, 2012 at 9:13 am

    MMJeff, I also note that in the national discussion curve, the mental health – public health discussion is just starting in relation to the several recent massacres, but that discussion hasn’t gotten to the point that is going to bring everyone up short.
    People who think those without health insurance are ‘leeches’ who don’t deserve health care if they can’t pay for it are going to have a hell of a time wrapping their heads around the idea that we as a country should fund mental health care as a public health and safety issue.

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  11. coozledad said on December 17, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Sue: Here’s a digest of what they’re likely being spoonfed as a response. This is from the comment thread at Roy’s Village Voice post today:

    The ONLY thing that MURDERS people is intent. And the only way any Proggie wet dream of gun control would be fair is to have a world without guns.

    Until that dubious day, it is classist, racist, and elitist to deny to any human the dignity of self-protection. Self-protection is the very definition of human dignity.

    But the real agenda of the Left is control. Layers and layers of agency and satraps between you and where the blood is. So some piss-panted Prog can sleep in relative guilt-free fantasy. Even your kids know better.

    Jake Tapper, the ghoul, has mawkishly tweeted something so hackneyed I swear he got it from a country music song. This, after he slow-jammed the kids’ names and ages on Twitter, like some ghastly performance art. It’s all well and good to gin up emotion, but every Prog with a kid in public school will lie to their child and say, “it’s okay honey, you’ll be safe, no monsters here.” But you’ll feel bad about that and tweet wistfully about precious feelings.

    Kids already know that there are monsters. They figure that out when quite young. Even kids in peaceful quiet homes innately know. It’s in our DNA. That knowledge is there to protect us more surely than any Disneyland fantasy of unicorns and world peace. Want your kids to sleep peacefully? Want to tell them the truth? Want to give them a real sense of their worth? Tell them that you love them and you are prepared in a very real way to protect them by any means at your disposal, up to and including laying down your selfish, proggie “feelings” about what safety looks like. Those kids in Israel KNOW they are precious. Kids in some Texas schools know that they really are loved. Hell, the gold in Fort Knox knows it is loved.

    Afford every child the dignity and worth that Obama’s girls enjoy.

    When is a deep loathing for these people an improper reaction, I ask you.

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  12. Mark P said on December 17, 2012 at 9:28 am

    It’s unfortunate that it takes something like this to get people thinking of gun control and providing mental health services. Somehow the thousands of other gun deaths every year aren’t quite doing the job.

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  13. Danny said on December 17, 2012 at 9:37 am

    When I first heard the news, two Biblical reference points came to mind: Moloch, who was mentioned in the Garry Willis piece and the Slaughter of the Innocents from the New Testament.

    For those of you not familiar, Moloch was an ancient god of the Ammonites where the ritualistic practice was to sacrifice children by fire… by some accounts, in the arms of the statue of the deity. This practice was forbidden by Mosaic law.

    And the Slaughter of the Innocents is detailed in Matthew, chapter 2. With his political power threatened, Herod the Great was searching for the child Messiah so that he could have him killed. When the Magi did not return to him with the sought after information, he decreed that all of the male children in Bethlehem, 2 years and younger, be put to death.

    The Bible does not pull any punches when referring to the evils that have been part of mankind’s history since the beginning. Indeed, the scriptural accounts of the lives of the patriarchs are very much a warts-and-all deal.

    In times like these, I often find myself thinking nostalgically back to some fanciful “better time” when we could let our children play in the streets, undaunted by the specter of danger, and where everyone was just swell and nice. Truth be told, this time never existed. It is just that really apparent, in-your-face evil waxes and wanes in visibility throughout our history.

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  14. Peter said on December 17, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Sherri, that article was just beyond sad to me. For the US to be so far ahead in gun ownership than two countries (Switzerland and Finland) where it’s well known that your average citizen is packing heat is unbelievable. A close friend of one worked in Switzerland for several years; he said construction trailers had a gun rack like a mailbox where the workers would drop off their guns on the way in so they wouldn’t go off accidentally while they were working – yet that place has fewer guns per 100 that the US.

    I think what’s shocking is that this doesn’t happen more often.

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  15. velvet goldmine said on December 17, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Has anyone read this retort to the “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” essay? To me it reeks of outrage that someone else’s experience doesn’t mimic her own — and that, more importantly, someone else got some acclaim for writing a sensitive piece when she herself has had Stuff in her life, too, you know!

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  16. Peter said on December 17, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Cooz, that guy is right: the ONLY thing that MURDERS people is intent. But ain’t nothing like a gun to help you carry out that intent.

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  17. nancy said on December 17, 2012 at 9:41 am

    A link that didn’t make it because of autosave problems. First, Ezra Klein on the supposed gun Valhallas of Israel and Switzerland.

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  18. Julie Robinson said on December 17, 2012 at 9:51 am

    This is one time I’ll not be critical because I don’t know what to say myself. I can quote the Bible, poems, even Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics, but I have no original thoughts, just anguished prayers. All I know is to practice kindness.

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  19. Julie Robinson said on December 17, 2012 at 9:53 am

    And Danny, thank you. I agree completely.

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  20. Bitter Scribe said on December 17, 2012 at 10:17 am

    If the Constitution is a living document, the Second Amendment is its inflamed appendix.

    Take a pair of scissors to the Constitution. Cut out the Second Amendment, that goddamned useless, ambiguous, maddening jumble of words. Burn it. Grind the ashes into dust and throw them into Wayne LaPierre’s face.

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  21. coozledad said on December 17, 2012 at 10:19 am

    Scribe: Amen.

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  22. Charlotte said on December 17, 2012 at 10:43 am

    As the President read all those names last night, my beloved turned to me and said “why would *anyone* want that job?” Also, noted how glad we are to have a real human being in the job, not that automaton Mitt (and having lived and taught in Zion, I can imagine the Mormon-inflected sermon he would have given).

    Thought it was interesting that the President did not promise anything he can’t do — he promised to use his office to gather info, to lead on solutions, but made it pretty clear he can’t legislate anything.

    Then afterwards — the CBS guy — we were struck by the change in tone. He avoided most of the mealy-mouthed language you cite above. He called it a “massacre” and referred to the “murdered” children and teachers. The guy was also clearly exhausted, and fed up, and had been on camera most of the weekend. Angry in a good way. Who knows? Perhaps some of the rhetoric will change? shift at least? Away from this fever-dream that more guns make us “safer” — from what I’ve read, Adam Lanza’s mother was one of those, and look how well that worked out for her?

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  23. Prospero said on December 17, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Scribe@20: Well put, although if the Scalito gang would just acknowledge that pesky introductory clause, it would go a long way toward providing some measure of sanity in response to the American gun pandemic. What conceivable rational use fo AR-15 Bushmasters have in the lives of ordinary Americans? Anti-siege protection? Or shooting all the children before setting the Branch Davidian compound on fire to cover up the brazen murders?

    Where it all started to go to shit:

    Would the author of those “signatures” be able to get a CCP? Scary.

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  24. Catherine said on December 17, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Sherri @2, that is an great link and I urge everyone who hasn’t followed it to go there and read every word. The US is really breaking the curve, and not in a good way.

    Journos here: Why aren’t there infographics like those next to every news report about this massacre? They are easily understandable and highly factual (with the added bonus of no trite, overused expressions).

    One more thing on gun homicides in the US (sorry if someone else already linked to this). The WSJ investigated gun homicide stats in the US. We’ve all been told that the numbers are going down, due to better community policing and an aging populace. Turns out, no. Fewer people are *dying* of GSWs, but there are actually 50% MORE GSW victims just IN THE PAST 10 YEARS. So the homicide number is going down but number of GSW victims is going UP. What’s making the homicide rate drop is better ER medicine, invented and practiced on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, which right there is a pretty sad commentary on this country’s priorities.

    I’m not going to even start on the income inequality thing in Sherri’s link because I will GO OFF.

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  25. Jeff said on December 17, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Ted Strickland says “hi!” to y’all. We’re sitting in the Ohio Senate chamber as the Electoral College convenes to actually vote for POTUS & VPOTUS.

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  26. Judybusy said on December 17, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Thanks to Sherri and Deborah for the great articles.

    I saw two friends yesterday, a pretty liberal couple who are also gun owners. On Saturday, they spent the day making space in their garage for a heavy-duty gun locker, as the case they have in the house is “easily broken into.” They don’t want their guns used for anything terrible. I don’t know why they just don’t get rid of the damn things. At least they are super-responsible, have taken multiple gun-training courses, etc. Here is a follow-up story about the grandfather shooting his granddaughter I had linked ot last week. This was the statement that makes nonsense of the “well-armed citizenry is a safe citiznery” argument: “Even if you have a plan for an emergency, you don’t know what you’ll do out of fear,’ Wilkinson said in a brief phone interview Thursday. ‘You get so frightened and something happens like that so, everything happens so quick … you just don’t know what you’ll do when, out of fear you do things that you wish you hadn’t ever done.'”

    Also, on her FB page, my 19-year-old niece posted some nonsense from a libertarian site that argues teachers should be armed, and cites several instances of shootings that were interrupted by armed people in schools. She’s planning on being a middle school math teacher.

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  27. beb said on December 17, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    The cynic within me says that nothing will get passed by the Teap party dominated House but here is a list of useful gun safety legislation

    1. Close the gun show loophole for background checks.
    2. Archive all background check requests for ten years.
    3. Require a certificate from gun safety class before buying a gun
    4. Ban sales of arms to anyone on the Terrorist Watch list.
    5. Limit sales to one gun a month
    6. Outlaw the sale or possession of large capacity magazines.

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  28. Jeff said on December 17, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Good news, Obama got all 18 electoral votes! (So did Biden.)

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  29. Bitter Scribe said on December 17, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Attention Democrats in Washington: Submit a sound gun-control measure that incorporates some or all of beb’s points in #27. Force a vote on it. Make every one of those gun-sucking motherfuckers in the GOP go on record as opposing it. Then rub the vote in their faces in the next election.

    It’s not complicated.

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  30. Deborah said on December 17, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Bitter Scribe, I feel your frustration, but I don’t think it’s that simple. There are millions and millions out there now who would laud the GOP legislators that opposed such a bill. Don’t get me wrong, legislation is necessary but it won’t be simple to change the situation. A major cultural shift must take place and it will work much better if we do it together. That is going to be the hardest part.

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  31. Sherri said on December 17, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Raise the costs of gun licenses, gun dealer licenses, gun manufacturer licenses. The existence of all these guns, especially semi-automatic guns with high-capacity magazines, make all of us less safe, so let’s make the people responsible for these guns mitigate the cost.

    (And yes, I know what a semi-automatic gun is, and I’d ban them if I could.)

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  32. Scout said on December 17, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    I am “shocked and saddened…” wait, no what I really am is fucking pissed and fed up. It’s just not as socially acceptable to voice the latter in most places; here is not most places.

    If gun fucks want unlimited access to military grade weapons they should have to join the military to get it. There is no sane reason on earth for regular deal gun jerks to be walking around with that kind of fire power. It’s sick if it took twenty 6 and 7 year old kids being senselessly slaughtered like animals to enact some gun sanity in this country. It will be sicker still if nothing happens, yet again.

    On another note, I got home on Friday after listening to all day reports on the massacre and opened up a Christmas card from a former student of mine. It was a picture of her, her husband and two children (ages 6 and 9) sitting in the desert surrounded by survivalist gear, including some kind of automatic rifle. There was a reference to the end of the Maya calendar and the ‘end of the world as we know it.’ I dropped that card like it contained a snake, it was so jarring in light of what I had been listening to all day. My former student is a 2nd grade teacher, her husband an airline pilot. They are not what most would consider hicks. I know it was meant to be funny, and set up way before this happened, but man, it reeked of poor taste.

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  33. Sue said on December 17, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Mike Huckabee, please be quiet.

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  34. brian stouder said on December 17, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Let me just say, I love this website; between the great links (especially the Wills one) and the sane commentary, it has been a genuine sanctuary. And I didn’t even mention the blogging of our proprietress, which I simply take for granted will be spot-on and in touch with reality, as it is again today (as always)

    Our 8 year old had lots of questions as the weekend progressed, and lots of commentary (go figure, eh?). We gave direct answers to specific questions, and moved forward; and we abandoned TV news, but the Saturday and Sunday papers had lots of wrenching photographs and so on, and we had more conversations.

    And our 14 year old joined me in watching the president’s remarks last evening, while the 17 year old watched the (seemingly endless) Sandy rock concert/fundraiser, which he had DVR’d….but he, too, joined the sporadic conversations.

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  35. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    beb, a page from Canada’s playbook that I think would fit into your proposals: there, to purchase a handgun, you need two notarized signatures of non-related non-probation status adults. If you can’t find two upstanding citizens to vouch for you (co-signing for your weaponized status, so to speak), then you can’t buy even your one gun that month. And it’s still a 28 day wait period.

    All that, plus I’d sign onto a general drug decriminalization (not legalization) to free up room, and then make it abundantly clear that use of an illegally obtained weapon by a person who has not had the certification class required to own or use (in any fashion) a weapon would result in severe penalties, including jail time. That wouldn’t stop a Newtown or Aurora shooter, but it’s part of reducing the atmosphere of free-floating, casually accepted guns-a-go-go.

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  36. Connie said on December 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    I am compelled to post this link due to its clown-ness. I remember there was once a sidebar link to scary clowns. There are plenty on Bad Art!

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  37. Connie said on December 17, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    EDIT: boob warning with link above.

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  38. DellaDash said on December 17, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Particulary like your link to ‘waiting for the good guys’ @9, Deborah. It does beg the question, do we have to wait for the President to figure out what action to take? If not, what to do? What to do…other than get choked up at the sight of every half-mast flag or come to this site and plug into the discussion…what do we, the grass roots people, do…to do our best?

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  39. Sherri said on December 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    I have a question for the gathered. Does anyone among us own a semi-automatic gun? If you own one, can you tell me why you own one, and what purpose you use it for? I mean this sincerely; I’m not looking to attack you. I’m trying to understand; we can’t come to any sensible place about gun control if we don’t at least understand where the two sides are coming from. It may not be possible to come to a sensible place anyway, but I’d like to at least attempt to understand.

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  40. Jolene said on December 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Have you seen the quote from Mr. Rogers that’s been making the rounds this weekend? There’s a sweet story about the accompanying picture published on one of the WaPo blogs.

    Unlike LAMary, I’ve had few brushes with fame, but, during my years as a Pittsburgher, I did once see Fred Rogers in the grocery store.

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  41. Jolene said on December 17, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    I am often irritated by how damn stupid we are in this country in our sense of ourselves as superior to all other countries and our unwillingness to look to other countries to learn anything about how to govern ourselves. I have been most exercised on this point w/ regard to healtcare, a domain in which we pay more than any other country and obtain only middling results. But the reading I’ve been doing this weekend, some of which I posted in Friday’s comments, has heightened my embarrassment re our country’s status in terms of gun ownership, gun violence, and how the rest of the world sees us in terms of these issues.

    Am going to post some relevant links here, just because, well, I want people to see them.

    What makes America’s gun culture totally unique in the world, in four charts

    Chart: The U.S. has far more gun-related killings than any other developed country

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  42. Jolene said on December 17, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    The World Reacts to Sandy Hook: A collection of photos of front pages of newspapers around the world

    China Watches Newtown: Guns an American Credibility
    A short article about how the violence in our culture is seen in China and, especially, how it undermines our claim to stand for human rights in the international arena

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  43. Jolene said on December 17, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Mourning in Newtown
    A collection of photos from The Atlantic, mostly domestic but also including pictures of makeshift memorials in Moscow, Brazil, and India

    Our Hearts Are Broken
    Another photo gallery. Again, most are local, but one is from Pakistan. Pakistan!

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  44. Jolene said on December 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    Forgot the link for this one: Mourning in Newtown
    A collection of photos from The Atlantic, mostly domestic but also including pictures of makeshift memorials in Moscow, Brazil, and India

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  45. brian stouder said on December 17, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Jolene – you GO, girl! I look forward to clicking your links.

    (Big Bopper mode ON) – And Connie, you knooooow what I LIKE! Big Bopper boob alert awaits, too…

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  46. BigHank53 said on December 17, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Sherri: I own a semiautomatic rifle. It’s a Ruger 10/22. I use it for (a) target shooting, (b) as a training tool for friends who want to try shooting, and very distantly, (c) pest control, should we ever wind up getting that place in the country with a giant garden plot. A .22 rimfire isn’t suitable for killing anything larger than a woodchuck or a raccoon, anyway.

    They’re significantly cheaper to shoot than any centerfire rifle; 3-4 cents per shot versus 50 cents to well over a dollar. Military surplus ammunition used to be a bargain; with the US heavily involved in a couple hot conflicts there isn’t any surplus anymore. Should we successfully extract ourselves from Afghanistan in 2014, .223 and 7.62×39 will probably drop to 20 cents a round.

    Um. I digress. I have the Ruger because it’s one of the most popular .22 rifles ever made. It’s simple, reliable, and easy to get parts for. It holds ten rounds, a handy quantity for target shooting. Since they’re popular, they’re also easy to resell, and they hold their value.

    If and when I was in the market for a deer rifle, I doubt I’d get a semi-auto. I’ve moved to airguns for target shooting; they’re nearly free to shoot, hardly ever need to be cleaned, and they’re quiet enough that you can use them in your own basement.

    Coozledad: glad the description stuck in your mind; I just wish you didn’t have an occasion to recall it.

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  47. Danny said on December 17, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    All that, plus I’d sign onto a general drug decriminalization (not legalization) to free up room…

    What he said.

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  48. coozledad said on December 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    Sherri: I bought a .22 longrifle target pistol when we were overrun by our neighbor’s livestock-devouring dogs. Technically, you should be able to fire it as quickly as each bullet is spring fed from the clip (after the first bullet is in the breech). I believe a spring action dislodges the spent casing. I’m sorry I can’t tell you more about it despite having taken it apart and reassembled it twice for cleaning. I’ve only fired it on two separate occasions, the target in both instances being an old elm stump in the front yard. Shortly after I purchased it and noticed it had an alarming tendency to twist the projectile apart from the casing and partially dislodge it from the breech, I googled the make and serial number and found out it is a dangerous piece of junk that is highly likely to explode in your hand or face or both. In fact the last time I fired it, it fired two bullets before jamming the broken third bullet in the breech, causing me to put it down and go look at it from behind a wall about fifteen yards away, until I was satisfied it wasn’t, in essence, a sort of live grenade.

    I wanted to take it to a pawn shop and trade it for a ukelele, but I’m afraid someone would come to grief with it.

    It’s on top of the wardrobe with a box of bullets which will probably start to go off if our old lightwood house catches fire.

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  49. Danny said on December 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    (Big Bopper mode ON) – And Connie, you knooooow what I LIKE! Big Bopper boob alert awaits, too…

    That was funny!

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  50. Sherri said on December 17, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Thanks, BigHank and Cooz.

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  51. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    All the schmucks with Glocks in this town leave me thinking about the friend of Rabbit’s in “8 Mile” who has an . . . accident while repositioning it in the waistband of his unaccountably pulled up pants.

    Glock 19s are all over the place here, and it’s purely a fashion statement. I’m not sure how many of them could reload them in a pinch. There’s a viburnum outside of the courthouse that the deputies check on hearing day, because probationers having to come into the building often spot the location and have the brilliant flash that no one else would have stupidly thought, in their last fifty feet before entering the security doors of the courthouse, to secret away their lovely precious in some leaves in the crux of the stems.

    The find two or three a month there, take them carefully in to check them, and print them, and often can arrest the goober before he (it’s always a he) leaves Courtroom #2. I’m really not supposed to print that in a column, but what are the odds of felony probation idiots reading this blog? (Sorry, Nancy.)

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  52. David C. said on December 17, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    The gun nuts at work were in full throated blame the teachers for not being armed mode. When I mentioned the murderer’s mother was a gun nut and it didn’t do her a God-damned bit of good, I was told to fuck off. I felt good about that. If they couldn’t even ralph up a memorized gun nut talking point then they had nothing.

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  53. Deborah said on December 17, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Della, we can all be our best by being civil to one another no matter how pissing mad we are. I am guilty of ranting and raving for about 2 days and I’m sorry for it. I’m not sure that ranting and raving does any good. Sure it brings attention but it makes everyone’s defenses go up, and people tend to dig in when that happens.

    The LGBT community did a really good job of changing minds. It took way longer than any one wanted it to, and there’s still a long way to go before equality. It seemed to me be a combo of politics and community involvement and judicial activism, and just plain letting people get to know each other and trust each other.

    Again, when I was reminded of Obama’s appeal to us to work together for meaningful action it gave me pause. Together is the only way it can happen. And by together I mean Dems and Repubs, conservatives, progressives and moderates. We the people.

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  54. Prospero said on December 17, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    Those gun nuts in blame the teachers for not being armed mode are the very same assholes that think W served his responsibility and Kerry didn’t. These are not remotely serious human beings, they are assholes en flagrante.

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  55. Prospero said on December 17, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Know why the hard-core GOPersreally hate Kerry. Kerry proved Raygun was a corrupt piece o’ shit. Swallow it and dream you aholes. Iran-Contra made Nixon look like a fucking piker. Iran -Contra wasmurdering and raping nuns, and murdering Jesuit priests. and Raygun was in it up to his obscene eyeballs. But that was OK, only Catholics. Bastard was the bloodthirsty Pres ever, and Kerry exposed his red ass for being a war criminal.

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  56. Prospero said on December 17, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    So, get off the most shots in the fewest seconds? Why the fuck would anyone want to do that. The UN isn’t coming for your guns fool. You are not remotely that important. Obama doesn’t know your scrawny ass exists, he’s not coming for your guns. You are grossly inflating your importance.

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  57. Suzanne said on December 17, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    This is long, but, I thought, assessed the situation well. It’s a comment from this article:

    “Aside from guns and even aside from mental illness, i think America has a very large cultural problem right now. People are falling through the cracks because our system is designed to have some people fail while others prosper. We have a culture of “winners” and “losers” and as a very individualist culture, no one wants to help because we’re taught that any failure is an individual’s failure. They just didn’t try hard enough.

    We live in a culture that repeatedly kicks us when we’re down, allows us to spiral further and further into debt and uses every past indiscretion against us. We have to hide from our employers, our insurance companies and even our families, lest we risk becoming a social pariah.

    Some people are not born mentally equipped to live in this kind of society. Some people are not born able to keep up, not able to compete and our way of dealing with these people is a swift kick in the ass and a “try harder next time.”

    A person who is mentally ill in this scenario can reach the point of no return in terms of anger, frustration and desperation. Facing a life of complete irrelevance (which the media teaches us is the WORST THING POSSIBLE), these people lash out with one last attempt and being remembered… even if it’s for the wrong reasons.”

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  58. baldheadeddork said on December 17, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    @Big Hank – You’d be surprised about the lethality of the .22 on larger creatures. Ms. Lippman’s husband wrote this on the subject of small caliber rounds in Homicide:

    “Out on the street, the big guns – the .38s, .44s and .45s – still get the greatest respect but the lowly .22 pistol has acquired a reputation all its own. Any West Baltimore homeboy can tell you that when a .22 roundnose gets under a man’s skin, it bounces around like a pinball. And every pathologist seems to have a story about a .22 slug that entered the lower back, clipped both lungs, the aorta and the liver, then cracked an upper rib or two before finding its way out the upper left shoulder. It’s true that a man who gets hit with a .45 bullet has to worry about a larger piece of lead cleaving through him, but with a good .22 round, he has to worry that the little bugger is there for the grand tour.”

    Feels kinda dirty to admire the great writing in that passage after last Friday…

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    • nancy said on December 17, 2012 at 6:27 pm

      I recall reading somewhere that .22 pistols were the preferred weapon of Mafia hit men, for just that reason and because two behind the ear could get the job done with no more noise than a stick cracking. Not sure if that’s true or just crime-novel b.s., but there you are.

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  59. alex said on December 17, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    I’m not sure that ranting and raving does any good. Sure it brings attention but it makes everyone’s defenses go up, and people tend to dig in when that happens.

    When it comes to gun nuts, they get their hackles up when you simply disagree with them, no ranting or raving necessary. A conversation comes to mind from the other day, before the massacre, when I simply responded to the usual NRA talking point “if everyone was armed” by saying “I’ve never bought that argument.” You can’t have rational discourse with irrational people, and it’s unfortunate but no amount of murder and mayhem is going to make some of these dolts get introspective about their masculinity problems. I take it as a positive sign, however, that some people who are ordinarily contrarian jerkoffs have shed the official party line and are amenable to the gun control discussion for the first time ever.

    I have a feeling that what we witnessed in this last presidential election and what we’re seeing now is that there’s a huge disconnect between what lobbyists are advocating and what the public actually wants. Sure sucks to be Grover Norquist or Wayne LaPierre right now.

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  60. Deborah said on December 17, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Alex, I hear you, how can we come together if the “other side” won’t budge. I don’t know what the answer is but I think we’ve barely begun to try.

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  61. Charlotte said on December 17, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    My brother had a handgun, I think it was a Glock but I’m not sure because it always terrified me. We were roommates when he first bought it, and he tried to show me how it worked, under the guise of safety, in case I ever needed to use it, but it viscerally freaked me out. I grew up around guns, it wasn’t that, but that handgun, it had only one purpose, to shoot a person. So I ignored it.

    In the weeks before he died (single car crash, late at night, drunk) he’d been waging a valiant battle with depression. One morning he was late coming by to pick up the dogs and I called to see if he was okay. And I asked him to bring the guns over to my house. He assured me he was okay. Several weeks later, when we were cleaning out his apartment, I asked our friend Bill to deal with the handgun. It was in a box by his bed. Bill was a war correspondent for a long time, and is reasonably handy with a gun, but at one point he barked at us all to get out of the room because he thought there was a bullet in the chamber and he wasn’t entirely sure how to disarm it. It was clear that P. had been fooling around with that gun in the dead of night.

    I wanted to go throw it in the Yellowstone, but wound up selling it with those few of his shotguns that were worth anything. I still have the little pump action shotgun our dad gave him when he was 12, and regular old long guns (of which we see many, in casual situations around here, especially during hunting season) don’t freak me out — but handguns. They still just fricking scare me.

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  62. Catherine said on December 17, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Charlotte, I feel freaked by my husband’s shotgun, also from his youth, and have reacted by ignoring it. He has it stored safely, and the ammunition elsewhere. It dawned on me today that I need to stop ignoring it. He needs to get rid of it, or we all need to learn how to use it safely.

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  63. DellaDash said on December 17, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Deborah – no apologies or back-pedaling about ranting and raving and getting pissed off. Your hissy fit was prophetic, unfortunately.

    I don’t really subscribe to the ‘being civil’ suggestion though. As Alex says, this is not an issue that invokes rationality. Furthermore, being civil with one another is too passive and abstract. Something actionable will emerge for us to coalesce around…I’m sure of it. Mental illness is tricky, more slippery, but gun control looks to be much more straightforward. The bullies are the ones with the guns, and the hardcore won’t be giving them up without an ugly fight.

    Once again, I’m appreciating Coozeldad’s bottomless pit of outrage, Scribe’s eloquent bitterness, as well as all the other regular voices around here.

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  64. basset said on December 17, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    I have a .22 rimfire target pistol, use it for shooting targets and the occasional squirrel… deer rifles are a muzzleloader and a lever-action. Any of them can be lethal, which is why I keep them locked up and handle them carefully.

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  65. basset said on December 17, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    Meanwhile, we have this from Florida today – a dispute over a parking ticket:

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  66. Sue said on December 17, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    The only guns we have are hidden in our garage attic. They do not belong to us. A friend asked us to take them when things with her husband were getting scary. They’re still together and her husband is still scary. She never asked for them back.
    I assume he has more guns now.

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  67. Sherri said on December 17, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    I had no doubt that you took care of your guns, basset.

    I understand the appeal of target shooting; I’ve done it myself, once upon a time. And when you live in a rural enough area, varmints are a problem; my dad used my grandfather’s old rifle to shoot a skunk that wouldn’t stay away a couple of years ago.

    Anybody here in the handgun for self-defense crowd?

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  68. Jolene said on December 17, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    The variation in forms of stupidity in this world is truly amazing.

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  69. Minnie said on December 17, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    I have a handgun. It’s a .38 police special snub nose inherited from my mother. I’ve gone target shooting with it but never aimed at another living creature. Could I? I don’t know.

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  70. Crazycatlady said on December 18, 2012 at 12:21 am

    What upsets me most are the preachers blaming it on godless schools, lack of school prayer, the teaching of evolution, gay marriage, abortion and anti-gun laws. I believe they want to take the blame from bad people and prove their Angry, Hateful God did this because we are such horrible creations we deserve it. Such nonsense.

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  71. Prospero said on December 18, 2012 at 12:24 am

    Sanity in the snakepit: Bill Moyers on guns:

    More American settlers died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds on the Oregon trail than were killed by Indians, who sure as shit had every reason to kill the usurping bastards.

    AR-15s have one purpose. Kill lots of people quickly. Other than that, they might serve as defense if jackbooted ATF thugs show up to storm your compound to try to take your guns away. If that’s your thinking, you shouldn’t have access to any guns in the first place, because you are paranoid and suffering from borderline personality disorder. Better for everybody if you sick to play-doh and bluny-tipped scisscors.

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  72. Prospero said on December 18, 2012 at 12:34 am

    Crazycatlady@70: And so the nutcases from the Phelps band (and if somebody wants to shoot a bunch of folks quick, might I suggest…) want to express their praise and glorification of the lord for killing those children in Newtown to express Her Immortal displeasure with Teh Gay. All reminds me of my favorite song by Mark Mothersbaugh and Devo

    or, the smarkest monkeys:

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  73. Prospero said on December 18, 2012 at 12:52 am

    Just remember the Bushmaster motto:

    If it’s good enough for the professional, it’s good enough for you. Sure sounds all Stuart Smalley to me.

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  74. basset said on December 18, 2012 at 7:32 am

    >>and the .223-caliber ammo in Lanza’s rifle is banned for deer hunting in some states on the grounds that it’s too weak.

    >>Ah yes, the ammo is too weak. (Never mind that an adult deer weighs around 250 pounds and a child around 40.)

    The .223 has been the US’s standard military round since, IIRC, the early Sixties… around Vietnam time, anyway. Relatively small, relatively light bullet compared to the 30-caliber used in WW2 and Korea, but much faster.

    And I don’t know what it’s like where everyone else lives, but around here a 250-pound deer is an unusually large one.

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  75. Mark P said on December 18, 2012 at 10:17 am

    I’m 62. I grew up with rifles around the house. My father used to take my brother and me shooting down on the railroad tracks, along the creek and at the river where he played as a kid. Our first rifles were single-shot, bolt-action rifles. That was so we could learn without wasting bullets. We shot tin cans mostly. It was a good excuse for a father-son outing. Later, after our father trusted us, we got multi-shot lever-action rifles. Sometimes we rode our bicycles to the railroad tracks with our rifles across the handlebars.No one gave it a second look, or a second thought. Owning and shooting a .22 rifle in those days was about as innocent a thing as playing setback in the street. (Setback was sort of a football punting game where the ball progressed one way or the other as each side took a turn kicking it.) In those days, a friend who was in JROTC in the Atlanta area took his rifle to school on certain days and kept it in his locker until his JROTC class. Now it seems like it was on a different planet.

    Today I have a couple of rifles, including the one I got for Christmas as a kid. It is a lever-action Marlin Golden 39-A. I love it, mainly because of the memories it carries. I also have a couple of pistols, including two semi-automatics. I have them for essentially the same reason we had rifles as kids, for target shooting. But in fact I haven’t fired any of them in several years. No large-caliber, semi-automatics with high-capacity magazines. No use for them.

    Despite my history and current gun ownership status, I believe there is no way this country should continue with its insane gun policy. Guns should be harder to get, owners should be trained, ownership should require licensing, and there should be limits on the kinds and amount of guns anyone can buy and own. We should also spend a little money on mental health to try to help the people who end up doing these things.

    I heard a moron on Atlanta TV saying that Mexico has very strict gun ownership laws but look at the troubles they have right now. I reminded the television that Mexico is right next door to a country where you can buy semi-auto rifles at a Wal-Mart.

    A sociologist/criminologist on NPR said a couple of interesting things. First, mass killers do not just “break”. They plan ahead, sometimes for many months. They know exactly what they will do, and how. The ones who shoot strangers, like in shopping malls, think everyone is against them, so they are probably psychotic. Others suffer from a variety of mental problems just like thousands of others who never kill anyone. If we spent some money trying to help these people (like including mental health treatments in insurance policies), it might be possible to prevent at least some of these events.

    And, by the way, Nancy, a .22, especially a pistol, makes a respectable bang, at least with long rifle ammunition. It is definitely much louder than a limb snapping. Maybe .22 shorts are that quiet.

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  76. baldheadeddork said on December 18, 2012 at 11:19 am

    One last note on the lethality of the .223, for deer or anything else:

    When the round was invented in the 50’s it was kind of a revolution in ammo design. Before the thinking had been to use the largest caliber that could be fired accurately. The standard issue ammo for US troops during WWII was a .45 caliber for sidearms and light machine guns and the standard long rifle round was a .30 caliber.

    The .223 turned that upside down. Ballistics scientists decided that a smaller round traveling at a much higher speed could be more lethal than a slower, larger round at the kind of distance seen in combat. In fighting an infantryman will hardly ever shoot at anything more than 100-150 yards away, and at that range the .223 was more accurate and more lethal than the larger .30 caliber rounds. The same thinking eventually worked down to side arms, with the 9mm replacing the classic .45 Colt.

    So why do most states prohibit using the .223 for deer hunting? Because the lethality and accuracy of the .223 falls off quickly after 200 yards. If you’re going to use a rifle for deer hunting instead of a shotgun, it’s because the chances of getting within 200 yards of a deer, antelope or elk are very small. States where the typical space to hunt is smaller, like on farms in the midwest, don’t allow rifle hunting because you can get closer and rifle rounds that can be lethal at a half mile puts bystanders at risk.

    But within 100 yards, or 100 inches like we saw at Aurora and Newtown, the .223 is incredibly lethal to humans, deer or anything else in its path. Fast, close range shots against multiple targets is exactly what the round was created for.

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  77. basset said on December 18, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    Exactly… have to use a shotgun in Indiana and roughly the southern third of lower Michigan for just that reason. Wouldn’t say, though, that the “chances of getting within 200 yards of a deer… are very small,” though, don’t believe I’ve ever shot one much past 100 and I’m not exactly an expert. Use a 30-30 lever action for my deer rifle, modern 50-caliber in muzzleloader season.

    Elk and antelope, though, I understand they can be quite a bit more difficult in open country.

    Meanwhile, Uncle Ted is outa there on Discovery Channel:

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