we need to talk about violence

Like everyone else, I've spent much of the last few days thinking about what happened this past Friday in Aurora, Colorado. I have read countless essays, tweets, articles, many of which point the same fingers at the same people, laws. And as they should, sure. Anyone who has read here knows my stance on gun control. On killing no matter HOW "deserved". I am against it no matter what. NO MATTER WHAT.

But I find the oversimplification in this case unfortunate and the lack of personal reflection disturbing. This is MORE than a gun control issue. It's a violence (out of) control issue.

Do I think we have major issues to address in terms of gun control? Absolutely. Do I think our handling on mental illness is asinine? Without a doubt. But I also think we live in a society obsessed with violence and worse? A society who accepts it as status quo.

And every time I read of a tragedy such as what took place Friday I wait for the discussion to go beyond the "gun control" debate... to the root of WHY people think they need guns in the first place. Why, in 2012, there's a huge percentage of people who believe "we" must defend ourselves.

From what? From whom? 

Where does this need come from? To protect ourselves. To defend ourselves. To carry weapons like our favorite TV badasses. 

THAT is what we should be talking about. We should be talking about how many shows we watch and stories we read and movies we watch and video games we play and how many "horror" stories we click on and what it's doing to us. 

Because behind the gun there is a man and behind the man there are many, many MANY many guns. Guns loaded with blanks but loaded nonetheless. Loaded and going off in our ears round after round after round. Day after day after day. Every time we turn on our TVs. Pull our car onto roads trimmed with billboards. Turn up the music... 

And we're conditioned to think we're enjoying watching what is force fed to us by networks and studios and media outlets. That these are stories we HAVE to see and read about. That without them we have no content on our blogs, no books on our shelves, no Emmy award winning television in our DVR.  We think it's perfectly normal that we fear "bad guys". 

Since the beginning of time, humanity has entertained itself with violence but we live in a far more technologically advanced time. And what is real and what is make believe can confuse. And what is available now is everything. EVERYTHING is at everyone's fingertips. NEVER has that been the case. Besides, violence isn't something our day to day survival depends on like it did once upon a time. The only "hunting" we do is for parking spots at Whole Foods. 

We're being advertised violence like toothpaste. And we can't buy it fast enough. We can't buy it for our children fast enough. (When you can't take your kids to a G rated movie without seeing a torture scene and semi-automatic weapons? Something's not right. When the hottest teen fiction involves children killing each other and everyone seems to accept it because OF COURSE! TEENAGERS KILLING EACH OTHER IS WHERE IT'S AT, YO! We need to talk.)

And I don't care if we all know it's make-believe. Because the blood? Doesn't look like ketchup anymore. The weapons? Are all for sale. So are the costumes on the backs of our favorite characters. 

We live in a world where violence is our most bankable source of entertainment. Where war is our most profitable business. And whether we curse or embrace this fact, we're all HERE. We're all here.

"A hero is someone who kills a bad guy," my son recently told me.

"But how do you know if a guy is bad?"

"You just do."

"But what if you don't?"

But what if you don't. 

I realized I can't shelter him from violence so I stopped trying. In the same way I stopped trying to shelter myself. Because I'd rather him watch Star Wars  so we can talk about it. I'd rather he experiment with his own darkness because we all have darkness. We all like to pretend to be the bad guy... Even the most empathetic and sensitive seven year olds. I acknowledge this because there is no alternative. We are raising our children in a violent society that has ALWAYS been violent. Always.

So why is it so difficult for us to admit that we have a serious problem? Because we do, don't we? Is this not a serious problem? We call these shows, films, video games our "escape" and yet from them, we cannot. We cannot escape. 

(I dare us to try.)

We can't escape the violence nor do we seem to want to. We NEED it. We need it in our eyes and in our ears and in our thoughts. But can we at the very least acknowledge that calling horror movies entertainment and the news "horrific" is an irony we seem to collectively ignore? Is pretend violence not violence? Does it not have ramifications? Because whether it's the news at 11 or the midnight showing of The Dark Knight we are ALL watching. We are paying good money to watch violent acts take place, torturous, horrendous things that look pretty damn real. CRAZY real. And that affects us. It affects every single one of us. "Bad guys", "good guys" and everyone in between.

So, yes, guns kill people. Guns kill people and people kill people. But so do the people behind the guns behind the people behind the guns behind the people. And we should be talking about them as well. We should be talking about us.  



Zan | 8:28 AM

I think the biggest problem that the Colorado shooting raises, and one which is unfortunately almost entirely absent from the discussion, is the fact that mental health care is extremely inaccessible for most people but guns are very easily accessed. I totally agree with you on violence, but I wish people would talk about the mental illness component more. Debates around gun control, etc, always seem to revolve around the idea that criminals will find a way to get guns no matter what -- and maybe so -- but what about the sick, angry and vulnerable among us?

Adrianne | 8:35 AM

THANK YOU! I've been thinking non-stop about this all weekend. I wrote on my FB that I hate guns and wish they didn't exist and of course got the response that "that's not an option." Ok, fine. It's not an option, but can we at least PLEASE talk about why people are so obsessed with guns and like you said, why sooo many people feel like they NEED to have one (probably more)?!

I have so much to say on this topic, but am having a really hard time formulating my thoughts into coherent sentences that others could actually read and understand, so for now, just thank you.


@Zan Mental illness is INDEED an issue. My question is, where does all this sickness and anger come from? Chemical imbalance, yes. But there's more...

CP | 8:54 AM

I have a very different feeling about guns then probably a lot of mothers because I was raised in a home that had them, but they were stored responsibly and used for hunting. I have no problem with guns because I think there are many reasons a person may want to own a gun that isn't based upon fear - probably not a popular opinion. I do believe in education about guns, about storing them safely and about what is involved in someone attaining a gun.
As far as mental illness, my opinion is that there are a lot of factors involved and I think food may be one big one. We are no longer as a society nourished with food that supports our body function including our brains.
And as a response to violence, I watched my toddler have violence inflicted upon her by a friend this past weekend and the parents only response was how does that make everyone feel? No consequences, no strong message that violence is not tolerated - just so long as the words "sorry" are spoken anything before that word is ok behavior. This, to me, seems to create violence all in the name of "non-violent" parenting. I don't believe in raising a hand to my kids, but I do believe in consequences and a firm, stern, talking to.
So here is my, likely, very unpopular comment.

Red Stethoscope | 8:56 AM

Very well said. I agree completely.

Lane | 8:56 AM

It is so absent MH is often so silenced that strange behavior ignored. I work in MH and it is sad that this individual was so clearly sick. The cultural context of his symptoms are tragic and are spot on Rebecca but make sure you don't leave out that to be parinoid and booby trap your home is not what a person does and that aspect is missing.


@Lane Agreed. But what happens when mental health MIX with all the other variables. That's my point. I don't have enough experience working in that department to make a statement about mental health which is why this post mentioned but did not delve into that aspect which is SURELY (and undeniably) a factor here.


@CP I actually LOVE your comment and think you have a lot of valid points. I also agree with you that children aren't being adequately disciplined. The, "how do you think hitting your friend across the face feels?" is just... COME ON. When a child hits another child you RESPOND. I'm WITH YOU. Consequences to actions are INCREDIBLY important when dealing with kids. Getting angry is not a bad thing. Thank you again for your comment! GOOD STUFF.

Arnebya | 9:06 AM

There is definitely more than mental instability at work in this particular instance. I can't help but honestly believe this individual is not insane. Not all there, sure, but I get the distinct impression that this was for notoriety, this was for fame. And he's getting it in bucket loads, no?

I am petrified that DC will have its gun laws repealed. I'm already afraid that everyone has a gun. If someone I don't know is coming down the street as I'm going to my car, I turn back to the house (because that person has a gun and will robe, shoot, and kill me, of course). This situation has done nothing for my paranoia and general distrust of people. It's unfortunate.

Deep down I don't think guns will eradicate this kind of violence. There is something more, just as you've said. It's our shoot 'em up movies, the bigger the better. It's our shoot 'em up video games, toy guns, laser tag. While I don't think these things can necessarily lead to a person becoming so deranged to get off on wanting to, then actually acting on the desire to cause such devastation, I do believe that they are a small cog in the wheel of what can happen when people don't get help.

I am rambling, I'm sorry. There is so much in my mind about this, in my heart, that I feel like I'm going in too many directions to make sense.


@Arnebya You make perfect sense. This post isn't about Friday per se but what is happening... an epidemic. I think anyone who commits mass murder is a crazy person. CLEARLY. But I also think, as you say, our demand for attention has never been so high. Combine that with all the other factors and there you go. In the end, my kid would rather dress up as Darth Vader than Luke Skywalker. Multiply that by a billion and what do you have? We are FAR more vulnerable, I think, than we let on. And we should at the very least, be aware.

Laura June | 9:27 AM

There is a pervasive insecurity in our culture based on a culture of blame. People are less likely to look inside of themselves to solve a problem than they are to point the finger at someone else. If we could learn to culturally take personal responsibility for our lives, everyone around us would benefit. Therapy for the masses!

Isabelle | 9:28 AM

I totally agree with CP about guns. I too was raised with guns and hunting and think there are valid reasons to own them. I am curious if those who think fear/self defense are not good reasons to own guns live where police can respond within a very short amount of time. There are vast (less populated) portions of this country in which that is not true and defending yourself becomes very real. Not that this is really relevant to the Aurora shooting but interesting to think about.
Obviously the mental health system has numerous issues which are heartbreaking. I don't think we can expect the mental health system to prevent mentally ill people from harming others. Maybe if everyone had mental health checkups along with their physicals we could prevent a few more disasters. Maybe now gun range owners will be more likely to alert authorities to people they feel concerned about just like flight schools are post 9/11. Thanks for writing about this.

cd | 9:28 AM

So with you on the Cars 2 reference. My kid liked Cars, so I bought Cars 2. Granted, I knew I should preview any media before sharing it with her, but I assumed Cars 2 would be like Cars. Mostly harmless. Good heart.

When, in the first 5 min, a car plummets to its presumed death and my wee one says "oooh, what's happening!" in an alarmed fashion. Oh, you god problems, Disney, MPAA, et al.

Though I will disagree a bit on putting Hunger Games in the same sort of box because I think its aimed at a more appropriate age group successfully (than was Cars 2 to Cars type fans) and I think the implications of science fiction style ruminations on violence at least hold the potential to encourage frank discussions on violence, freedom, media, control, etc. Cars 2 wasn't sending a bigger message. Neither do most shoot-em-'ups. And Hunger Games is flawed, to be sure (and the movie, frankly, by losing some of the violence of the books actually ends up seeming to condone more than question the violence).

But you're right, everyone just snaps out their usually "see, now they'll take the guns!" vs "see, now we should take the guns!" reactions and in two months, we'll go back to just being glad we can get into the violent movies again and the sex remains hidden from view.

(p.s. if you haven't seen it, the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated - it's great. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0493459/)

Unknown | 9:35 AM

YES. YES. YES. I wholeheartedly agree with this, especially the pondering of "what do we need to protect ourselves from?" If we as a whole could follow laws and just treat each other as we want to be treated, no one would need to resort to violence. I understand that's a perfect-world scenario, and we don't live in a perfect world. There are dangerous parts of the country where even I wish sometimes I at least had a can of mace in my pocket. But what is going to happen to our children's generation when having a gun (A GUN!!!!) in your pocket is the norm? It's a gun! (can you hear me screaming it?) Surely there can't be only a handful of us who are freaked out by this notion?? And I totally agree with your stance on mental health care as well. We need children to be given stability throughout their whole life to make sure they grow into healthy adults. I myself went to elementary and high school with a young man who was brutally abused by his family his whole life, and went on to kill his girlfriend when he was only 21. My principal fought tooth and nail to have him removed from his household, and was hit with every excuse in the book about why this young man was allowed to remain in such an unhealthy environment. (never mind that he was 50 lbs underweight, had holes in his shoes, and smelled worse than you can imagine...not to mention the black eyes and bruises on his body) Makes me ill that people overlook how much we mold children, how fragile their hearts and minds are, and how mental health is just as important (if not more than) physical health. When is society going to learn? *end rant, and tip of my hat to you*

Angela | 9:35 AM

@CP - I also grew up in a home where guns were kept responsibly and used for hunting (I ate pretty much exclusively "free range" venison as a kid before it was cool to eat food the way nature intended.) I wholeheartedly agree with your comment. I have four children, and discipline is hard; enforcing consequences that are usually more of an inconvenience to me than my kiddos sucks. But learning acceptable ways to manage your anger is a necessary life skill.

eliseandpaul | 9:41 AM

Thank you for putting into words, what I can not seem to, once again. You are so right, that the root of our problems stem far below the issue of guns that is being discussed heatedly in response to this tragic event. No one would dare blame the movies, or the media when all they can see is the gun that took lives, hell they hardly even look at the man, they just cast him off as another mental illness...and back to the gun. I don't know where or how the change begins, but for now I try with all my being to figure out how to raise my children without the addiction to violence that our country and other countries have.

Mandy S. | 9:47 AM

I believe it was this documentary (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0493459/) that made me really think about violence and ratings- and the weirdness that is how we'll shelter our kids from S-E-X (which is totally natural and normal) but not from violence.


My late uncle was also a hunter. Killed every holiday family meal (although I didn't partake) and was an amazing man. He collected guns, was a card carrying member of the NRA, had his weapons locked in a safe in the house. He was responsible and smart and sober.

That being said I mourned the passing of two young friends c/o accidental death because of improperly stored firearms. TWO. Because they were accessible.

Proper storage of firearms CANNOT be monitored. And so...

Amy | 9:49 AM

This is a flameworthy comment, but I can't help but feel that if the US education system improved drastically (like, our public was educated as well as the citizens of other First and even Second World countries), the "patriotic" chest thumping over 2nd Amendment rights and gun culture would decrease dramatically.

Kim | 9:50 AM

I could not have said it better myself.


@MandyS I've written about sex vs violence quite a bit actually which is why I didn't write about it here. But yes. YES YES YES.


Margaret | 10:07 AM

You have easily demonstrated the number one reason that I am a Christian amd have faith. I don't mean that in a trite way, either. We americans igbore this dark part of ourselves and if we're agnostic think we're generally good people. But the bible says that we aren't, that the whole world is obsessed with violence, destruction becayse we've been separated from God. You ask why noone's talking about it? We are! I talk about it with my fellowmoms whenever I see a hint of fury in my toddler's eyes and I talk about it when A friend tells me her marriage is falling apart. There's something wrong here. I don't say this to proselytize your blog (which I love and have read for years!). But people are talking about it, I know that!

Stef | 10:23 AM

I agree with everyone who said this is largely a mental health issue. We pretty much leave people with such issues to their own devices in this culture today. I know in the past, people could be committed against their will much more easily than today, and that the "treatments" for mental issues were often horrible, so I see why we moved away from that model, but there seems to be a gaping void left in its place. I don't know what the solution is.

I also agree with you, Rebecca, that there is a glorification of violence in our culture that is a cultural sickness. I eschew so much popular culture because it seems to promote so many of the more negative aspects of human behavior. I can tell a difference when I consume lots of media for a stretch; I start feeling depressed. I personally think all humans have the potential for violence if certain variables are present (the variables vary), but I also think most individuals would and do generally practice non-violence. I wish we could hold non-violence up as a virtue more than we do now and promote the higher aspects of humanity.

Having said that...I must echo those who believe that guns are not the main issue here. Guns can cause tons of damage in a short period of time, as we saw with the Aurora incident, but to a person who is jumped by a gang armed with knives and crowbars, beaten, maimed, paralyzed, maybe even killed, the destruction wrought is just as terrible, no matter the implement used. Plus, most guns in existence are never used like what happened this weekend. It is so shocking in part because it is so rare.

I hate guns because of their potential for destruction, and truly wish they never existed in this world, but I have to face that they do exist, and they probably always will. My husband carries a gun everywhere. If you wonder why people feel a need to carry guns, look no further than the Aurora massacre. My husband got his revolver after the VA Tech shootings. He knows that such shootings are rare and that he will probably never have to use his gun, but I suppose his protective instinct and desire for preparedness prompted him to start carry one. He doesn't excessively fret or worry and isn't obsessed with it; he is simply aware of the tiny potential of violence meeting us, and the gun has simply been incorporated into his regular routine and is with him always. I do have to wonder what could have happened if a few people in that theater were able to try to fight back. Of course, we will never know, and can never know how any particular situation will play out, but if I'm going to be slaughtered, I see the appeal in trying to do something about it if I can.

Lastly, to say the only hunting we do is for a parking space at Whole Foods...I mean, I'm sure you don't actually believe that, right? Maybe not in LA, but people do still hunt. Lots of people. I don't eat meat, but my feeling is that a responsible hunter is obtaining meat from an animal that at least was not raised in horrific conditions on some factory farm. Plus, hunters are often big proponents of nature preservation.

Anyway, thanks for opening this needed discussion, Rebecca. And hugs to all. Things like this scar us all, in a way.

Lola | 10:29 AM

I'm in the UK, so for me the idea of an individual needing to own a gun is totally alien. But the violence everywhere is, well, an issue everywhere, and I totally agree. And so does Jack Johnson - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66jpwLSxZrw

toni9jean | 10:42 AM

As the most militant country in the world, our nation has used guns to get what we want since our formation. That's not a policy, it's a paradigm. Perhaps the next question to ask is how will we help people to begin to question their entitlement to power?

Anonymous | 10:53 AM

This is exactly what I was saying to my husband this weekend. A huge part of the problem with society today is that this man could walk into a theater in full body armor, and seem natural because many people were in costumes emulating these characters, the fact that what occurred could be a scene straight out of innumerable movies, tv shows and video games. Easy access to guns is clearly a problem , but breeding this unhealthy love of violence is the root of the danger.

emily | 10:56 AM

First of all, thank you for starting this discussion!!

Here is something interesting I found posted on Psychology Today called "What We Have Learned About Rampage Killings"


I feel it is really important to be asking lots of questions to try to understand why something like this happens (never by any means to justify the crime) in order to prevent future events. My opinion is that there has always been violence in our history just the crimes now look different.

Anonymous | 11:01 AM

I have heard it argued that we are living in the most peaceful time in human history, particularly for those of us living in the "First World", where our food/shelter/safety needs are met to a level never before and we have recourse, through established social and legal justice systems to right wrongs. To me, that is what makes senseless violence, no matter the scale, so saddening.

We're lived in better circumstances these last 20 years than ever before in the entire history of humanity, and yet the senselessness of our tragedies (whether it be killing ourselves with processed, modified foods, mass shooters, or responding to the unprecedented number of soldiers committing suicide) seem to be growing.

nmg915 | 11:02 AM

This is such a difficult topic, you tackled it well (as usual).

What frustrates me to no end is the idea that it is somehow disrespectful to talk about gun control in the aftermath of the mass shootings. Can I just say, for the record, if I am ever killed in such a display of violence I would not consider it disrespectful at all to have a dialogue about why that happened. In fact, I would very much prefer my death to provoke conversation about what might be done to prevent it from happening again.

I find it strange that we are so willing to point to fashion magazines with their unrealistic body images as poisonous to young women, but don't extend that critical eye to violence in media.

Anonymous | 11:10 AM

You state what I've been thinking. The obvious tragedy, for so so so many people and on all sides of the story so much pain.. And, also what has the media done with the coverage, some is facts and some is speculation. As a species, we tend to speculate on our own--add the media frenzy and it multiples.
There are so many interesting articles about kids and violence and why so many are attracted to monsters and killing and the like, many proclaim because for kids it isn't real, and I think back when weapons were only sticks and the images were only imagined, perhaps...but now, does it all seem real?
I wonder about my own children, and I know I have been judged when my youngest son proclaims "but, I like violence" and I want to understand why he says this and I also want to know when is it more than pretend? Is it always more?
Then finally a reaction happens because of this horrific violence and tragic event, and we want to know how did people miss his mental health issues or his obsessions, how did his parents not know? And, we want to judge the victims before we empathize and there is the irony again....the cycle.

Anonymous | 11:10 AM

Nearly anyone, over the age of 16, and with minimal testing, can get a driver's license. There are laws in place that are meant to protect us, such as stop signs, red lights, speed limits, etc. And yet, some people will run red lights, drive 25 miles over the speed limit, and drive drunk/high, or text while driving. Shall we have further driver's license control because some people are careless, or mentally unstable, or just don't care, and therefore, people die DAILY, everywhere, from car accidents?

With every freedom, there is a responsibility to use it wisely. You can only do so much, before you've taken them away from people on the chance that someone will misuse that freedom and fail to be responsible.

Alt-Mama | 11:12 AM

"But I also think we live in a society obsessed with violence and worse? A society who accepts it as status quo." Completely agree, with all you've said.

We stream Netflix instead of watching regular television/cable, and my son is too long, at two, to go to other kids' houses without me, so I've not yet had to worry about his exposure to video games, movies, etc. But, when we were recently on vacation, I found myself flipping through cable channels one evening (once said son was in bed), and was amazed at how many people I'd seen "shot" and "killed" in the span of about five minutes. I've become re-sensitized, since I'm not seeing this stuff all the time, and was amazed and aghast at how comfortable we are, as a culture, with watching violence. How we crave it. It's bizarre. I love that my son is a person who has not yet 'seen' others shot and killed, maimed, harmed, even hit by others. I hate knowing that one day soon, he'll see this stuff and it'll become semi-normal for him, too. I'm holding that day off for as long as I can.

It saddens me that this is our world now. That a bunch of people went to a movie (to watch a bunch of pretend violence, but that's actually beside the point) and ended up in the midst of very real, very terrible violence. And that anyone's response has been that someone in the audience should have been armed and shot back. Ugh. I live in Texas now, after being born and raised on the East Coast, and this whole mentality about guns killing people, rather than people killing people, pissed me off beyond words. How people can ignore the obvious relationship between the two is beyond me. Thanks for pointing it out, and bringing your thoughtful perspective to the entire issue.


Anon 11:10 - I see where you're going with your argument but it quickly falls moot when you recognize that a car is built to "transport" not to "kill".


Anon (11:10, the first!) Great points.


@nmg915 - AMEN. We LOVE to talk about beauty standards because fashion magazines and "beauty standards" are detrimental to our physical selves but we seldom discuss all of the things the media hoists upon us that are destroying us from the inside. If ever.


Anon 10:53, I wish you included your email address so I could thank you for your words. EXACTLY. EXACTLY EXACTLY INFINITY EXACTY.

threewildthings | 12:03 PM

Well said. I also think there’s one glaringly obvious common denominator here: men. We usually don't hear about women committing mass murder. In fact, I can't think of one example. If so, it would be an anomaly. Generally speaking, you don't see little girls becoming obsessed with guns or violent video games. I think there are a combination of variables and factors at play, starting with boys having an inherent predisposition for expressing violence that far outweighs that of girls. Not sure if it's simply testosterone, but it starts early.

I was at a party recently with my boys and a mixed group of other 6-year-old boys and girls. The father of the house provided Nerf guns (complete with red, infrared targets) and while the girls played fairy princesses and baby dolls, the boys went berserk with their access to the fake guns, targeting people and "shooting" the parents. It quickly devolved into a Lord of the Flies scenario and the boys were flush with power. These are sweet, compassionate boys with progressive parents who probably aren't allowing toy guns in their own homes. And yet, they went wild.

You tapped into society's obsession with violence and I would take it further. I think it's overall boys and men's obsession with violence. Add to that other variables and you have a possibly lethal combination. Millions of boys and men are playing violent video games and watching violent content but they aren't all committing heinous acts. Add mental illness to that equation, or a social misfit or outcast who starts building up resentment toward society because he's been rejected or shamed or life hasn't turned out the way he planned or he's "forgettable" to most, which is a description you often hear when those who knew these "types" are interviewed. Put a gun into the hands of a marginalized man who feels powerless in all aspects of his life and all of a sudden he feels powerful. The ultimate power. Those are the men I fear.

I'm raising three boys myself and I don't know the answers. We have a total ban on violent materials and video games in our house -- we don't even kill spiders -- but I wonder if that's the answer. Because complete bans usually cause people to go underground, to find a way to get to the material with more fervor. My boys are still young, but I’m nervous about what will attract them when they're older, when I have less control over their choices.

Guns are designed to kill animals or people, period. I wish they didn’t exist. We all know that boys will instinctively make guns out of anything -- LEGOS, blocks, a banana -- and it’s mostly harmless. I think the real problem is getting to those boys and young men who feel powerless early on, those who are lost, who are brewing resentment toward society and a hatred for humanity so deep, they'll find a way to maim, regardless of the weapon.

Danielle | 12:10 PM

I do not have a problem with guns either. You asked about the need for protection "from what? from whom?". My family and I frequently take hikes and camp in the woods in a part of the country where coyotes and black bears have lost their fear of humans and are quite fond of making a meal of domesticated animals. In my case anyway, that is what we need protection from. My husband is also an avid hunter. We own a shotgun and a pistol for these reasons. The shotgun has a trigger lock that remains on it at all times; the pistol, ammunition, and key for the shotgun are all stored in a fingerprint activated safe beside our bed. No one is able to access that safe other than my husband and me. It's about being responsible. No matter how much you control access to arms and ammunition, if someone wants it bad enough- they WILL find a way. Just as a drug addict will find their fix. I can't say that I have an alternative answer to prevent such senseless acts of violence, I don't. There are too many possible factors that contribute to deranged mentalities, I wouldn't know where to even start. I don't think it's fair to punish the whole for the actions of a few (relatively speaking.) It would be like banning alcohol as a result of drunk driving accidents (which, by the way, contribute to far more deaths than those caused by guns.) Not to mention all the domestic abuse, child neglect, and overdose it is also associated with. In my opinion, I don't see the difference. Alcohol serves absolutely no useful purpose whatsoever, at least guns serve a reasonable purpose for many.


Rachel | 12:29 PM

I couldn't agree more. I think media and everything violence and goodness just everything everywhere desensitizes. It's not good and the debate of bad games and bad shows and bad media causes or does not cause cant argue that it makes it seem "ok". That more exposure isn't good it desensitizes everyone...it just does period. I loathe guns and do not understand the "need" for them I just don't....
It's a mess every last bit of it.


@ThreeWildThings Wow. So much here. SO MUCH. I'm a pacifist to be sure. We don't kill spiders either. We take them outside and Fable names them all "fluffy". But beyond that, I recently changed my stance on gunplay because I do not want to forbid my children to play... I don't want him to think he has to "hide" it from me. He told me straight up that he enjoys pretending to be a bad guy sometimes. I WANT him to feel comfortable talking about all of those things. I want him to make believe whatever he wants to make believe. I also want him to understand the characters he is "playing" with and why "bad" is "bad" and what it means to "kill" and "fight" and human nature etc etc etc... But I also want him to feel okay about experimenting with feeling and character and ideas... Kids need to work these things out, I think.

Great insights, lady. Thank you for sharing them.

Lauren | 12:31 PM

I really liked the points you make --they made me stop and think. I grew up in south Texas where guns were introduced to us at a very young age and I have never really thought twice about owning one. Of course, I've only used mine against rattle snakes and bobcats BUT, other than the wilderness, do I really need one?...I might need to rethink owning so man

KJS | 12:53 PM

Curious, I went back and read one of the links above, and I know you reference here that now Archer knows Star Wars, but I was wondering about how you choose to deal with super heroes? Or video games? I remember my older son had no interest in super heroes, even with all the other preschoolers and their backpacks, lunch boxes, t-shirts, no interest until he did and then he did, BUT he could talk about it...he likes the super hero encyclopedia and mummies and monsters and mythological beasts, all things fantasy...and now his brother, younger, and more exposed, and humbling because he just likes the stuff and can't or won't discuss it, and I'll admit I find it concerning. But, I dont want it to create this distance or place where we don't get each other, or where he feels judged, and while part of me, a BIG part, would love to and tries to eliminate it, it's there and he sees it...so do you avoid or discuss? And yet I can't understand it--guns, violence, for any reason.

C | 12:56 PM

Can I ask a stupid question?

Is this truly a new "epidemic"? Or are we becoming more aware of these events because, as you stated, information is so readily available?

There have been serial killers since the beginning of time. And mass killers who commit murder in the name of leaders, presidents, gangs and mafias (and still do) all over the world. Is this really new? Or is our awareness simply heightened due to the extreme availability of information today?

Does everyone truly believe that prior to 20 years ago, this stuff didn't occur? It did. Do some research. It's just the media tells us all about everything all the time every day.

I'm not saying that violence isn't an issue. I agree that RANDOM violence is becoming more and more prevalent.

I personally believe that a bigger portion of this issue is that death is now an abstract idea. A hundred (heck even 50 and less years) ago, many more people raised and killed their own food either on a farm or through hunting. Death was not an abstract, it was a daily fact of life. When you witness death, human or animal, you understand the finality of it. The reality of it. I think it forever cements in your mind that to cause death is not anything glorious or glamorous.

I'm sure this will be an incredibly unpopular comment, but as a farm girl, that's my 2 cents.


@C I love this comment as well! (You guys keep claiming unpopular comments and then throwing super important wisdom down. STOP THAT! Every comment is valid and helpful!)

Ciara | 1:15 PM

I agree very strongly on this, I live in Ireland,where the private possession of guns is illegal.
The closest I have come to gun is my uncle's shotgun for hunting, that he had to get a special license for that is renewed regularly(he lives on a farm).
I know that I'm lucky that I can feel safe in my house and when I go out. I feel that there are enough bad things in the world today without guns being available to the public readily.
I think violence in any form is horrific and that it is condoned by the media. Why does it take tragedies to make people stand up and pay attention?
Maybe i'm ridiculously naive(I am only a teenager), but I dont think it should be this way!

PJ | 2:08 PM

IMO, media focus is a huge, huge part of why we feel so anxious about violence. A super interesting read is Steven Pinker's book "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined".

Human kind on the whole is exponentially less violent than it ever has been. Ever. And even though it doesn't always seem like it, we are moving away from violence towards peaceful co-existence at a very rapid clip. Doesn't mean we'll see utopia in our lifetime necessarily, but I like to think about this fact when I'm overwhelmed by the images on TV, billboards, etc.

Check out this article for more info: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44999572/ns/world_news/#.UA27yUQjgnU

The WEB We Make | 2:23 PM

Loved this. Me & the Hubs were just talking about this. The one thing that came up in our convo is the jail system here. People who are mentally ill and carry out acts of violence usually get thrown in jail where they continue to kill, instead of getting treatment. Jails are filled with mentally ill people & I don't really know a sloution to this... BUT then we started talking about the jails in other countries.

In other countries people are scared to death to go to jail because they most likely won't eat, have proper clothing, or be sheltered. Whereas here in the United States, you are give meals, exercise, tv, and can take up quilting. Bogus.

Little Gray Pixel | 2:28 PM

Great post, and the comments are very respectful and interesting. Something that stunned me on Friday morning as I was hearing about the shootings on national TV was this comment by a supposed reporter (slightly paraphrased because I didn't take notes):

"Just like everyone else, I've been captivated by the killings. I can't stop checking Twitter and Facebook and I'm constantly refreshing my news feed."

CAPTIVATED? Really? It saddens me that anyone is captivated by violence, whether it be a movie or an event in real life.

Then again, I'm the one who is always telling my husband to stop playing "Call of Duty," and never around our daughter.

Anonymous | 2:36 PM

Here is a crazy thought...perhaps our shooter was selected by the Illuminati using mind control to perform this heinous crime in order to create a sense panic and fear in the population. All the fighting that is going on surely divides us and since we are gearing up for an election which is the ultimate in division of the people, what better way to get people primed then to start them fighting about gun laws and ultimately everything else. Everything in our society today is meant to divide us; the mommy wars, professional sports, politics….the list goes on and on. The powers that be want us to raise our children on violence and gratuitous sex, which creates a bunch of heathens. We are selling our souls every day to live in this capitalist society.

This site will give you much food for thought: http://www.arrivals.technocrazed.com/
Specifically check out episode 13, 14, and 15 as it pertains to this topic but all episodes are worth watching.

And for the record, I am not religious.

Kerrie @ Family Food and Travel | 2:38 PM

A thought provoking post. Very well written and insightful.

cora d | 2:39 PM

Thank you for bringing this up. As a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, I've had this debate with myself for a while - is it fear mongering? Entertainment? Both? Neither?

What bothers me about some of the shows my girls watch is the portrayal of good vs evil. That the good is ALWAYS good and the evil is ALWAYS evil. Which is never the case in real life. I prefer they understand that, the humanity in all of us, and how some people choose to express their humanity. Some with violence; some not.

Also, my almost 3 year old has been telling me lately that I "make" her cry or "make" her angry. I reply that I do no such thing - that I can't "make" her do anything. And that's important too - just because you see violence, experience violence, that doesn't make you do it. It sure introduces violence as a viable possibility, but you choose to do it, sometimes conscioulsy, most of the time unconsciously.

And do you also get creeped out by natural violent shows - i.e., shark attacks, predators prowling, etc.

Nana | 2:39 PM

We were all too busy gardening this weekend when I was up there to really discuss this at the dinner table when the subject came up so there wasn't time for me to say what I thought. First that I totally agree with you there is too much media, movie, and video game violence, as was not so when i was a child. In the 1930's when I was Archer's age and beyond, movie bad guys were wild West bandits and in real life they were Hitler and his scary Nazis. I wonder if this dark side of violence in the human race doesn't go back to what Carl Sagan called "the Limbic Brain". He said this primitive brain all about kill or be killed is still in us and came down to us from the Age of the Dinosaurs. I would like to think we will eventually mutate and evolve into higher beings. A few of those higher beings may already exist among us.

Anonymous | 2:45 PM

I moved from a big city to a rural area. My new neighbors are all armed to the teeth, yet there are no murders here.

There are few break-ins because criminals here know everyone has a gun here. The very rare break-ins that occur have been empty houses.

It was a culture shock for me to see a photo in the local newspaper of a 10-year-old boy pictured with the deer he had just killed. The photo caption said "His family will never go hungry with such a skilled hunter in the house."

Yes, some people here will go hungry without a deer in the freezer.

A wildlife biologist who lives in the area educates former city-dwellers about the reality of deer hunting. The natural predators of deer no longer exist. Nature itself originally killed deer as part of the eco-system. Without a hunting season, the deer overpopulate and become disease-ridden. This can result in a long painful death.

I can't relate to gun control living in this area with practically no crime. There are rarely gun accidents here because guns are considered a necessary tool and children are trained on gun safety at young ages. I don't recall any accidents involving young children here.

Oh, we have coyotes and bears too. People with livestock have to protect them from predators.

What I see with the shooting in Colorado, is a mentally ill person. Have you seen his photo? His eyes are crazy.

My understanding is that countries that have banned guns have a lot more violence with knives. Criminals don't just go away; they find other means.

We need real help for the mentally ill and of course our culture needs to grow up and not celebrate gratuitous violence.

My own grandfather once used a gun to protect a neighbor whose husband was chasing her. He prevented the husband from catching her and beating her up by holding him off with a gun. He may have saved her life.

There are people who defend themselves and their loved ones from murder, rape, and assault on a regular basis, and it's not reported in the news.

BTW, the second amendment was mainly to protect us from our own government in case it got out of control and became oppressive. The founding fathers were very familiar with oppressive governments. They wanted the citizens to be able to protect themselves from their own government if need be.

It is surprising that the reason for the 2nd Amendment is not more well known.


"What bothers me about some of the shows my girls watch is the portrayal of good vs evil. That the good is ALWAYS good and the evil is ALWAYS evil. Which is never the case in real life. I prefer they understand that, the humanity in all of us, and how some people choose to express their humanity." -@CoraD

THIS. Brilliant.

And @Nana, I love you.

I think "the dark side" is something we seem to fear in EVERYBODY but ourselves. "We're good, they're bad. We're right, they're wrong, etc."

We're ALL good and bad. We're ALL right and wrong. Even the VERY BEST people. Even the very worst.


I also want to reiterate how AWESOME you guys are. So many interesting perspectives and points of view and EVERYONE has been incredibly respectful. I'm so incredibly lucky to be a part of this forum and I thank you all so much for sharing your insight and participating in this discussion. You rock. Love to all.

Jessi | 3:42 PM

I grew up with a father who was a police officer. We had a gun in the house. We were taught gun safety at a very early age and he stored it responsibly.

Even in places that aren't force fed violence like we are, who have more stringent gun laws than we do, and have better health care, have these types of incidents. (hello Netherlands anniversary)

I'm not saying our mental health care is awesome, it's not.. it sucks big donkey balls.

We are founded on war. We have such loose control over guns, be it legal or illegal, that saying no gun for you simply means that the people who SHOULDN'T have guns, still will.

Until we can stop the gun trafficking, it's a moot point IMO.

This tragedy happened because someone who appears to be a sociopath decided to go kill some people. Is he a sociopath because he watched John Wayne take down the bank robbers or take land from hostile indians? Probably not.

Good guys give kids a sense of right in the world. Bad things happen but they have a fantasy that the hero swoops in to save the day. That isn't always death.

We have an increase in mass killings around the same time that the parents stopped being real with their kids. You can't do it all, you don't get a trophy for losing, and I don't care how you feel, go do as I say. When kids lose the reality and can no longer cope with not being center of the universe, because the real world doesn't care, they have issues.

I think the answer isn't gun control, it isn't putting flowers and kitties on tv, it's having parents do what needs doing. I'm not saying beat your kids, I never hit my children, but set limits, be real, and teach them to live in the confines of reality.

You want your child to be a contributing member of society, then you have to give them the skills. That means a way to make a living without turning to illegal things, and strong enough to say no to drugs. And I say that as a sibling of someone who had a meth habit. My parents were very much at fault for it IMO. Did they put it up his nose? No, but they may as well have.

I'm sure a million people disagree with me, but that's how I see it. I have 4 children, the oldest of which are 11 and they are responsible and know how to cope with the emotions life throws at you. I have friends with similar aged kids who believe in hugging everything out... they still have tantrums when they don't get what they want for dinner.

Jessi | 3:46 PM

well, that was more disjointed than I had intended. :(

Germerican | 4:07 PM

I'm sorry, this might be slightly inflammatory: I am somewhat confused by the argument that people hunt and therefore owning guns are ok. I don't think this man went into the theater with a hunting rifle. I do not understand how Americans (and others) have such easy access to all different kinds of weapons, and so many of them. I'm all for restriction to hunting weapons and that these have to be stored correctly, and that licenses have to be renewed at intervals. Why on earth does a normal civilian need a weapon?

That being said, I also feel that America has a strong history of violent crimes, mass murders, violence of all shades, that is somehow related to... huh. The repression of normal sexuality, the glorification of killers, the love of war, a weird concept of how children learn how to deal with legal drugs (alcohol)... ???... !!! I wish I knew. When we moved here from Germany, I had to learn to calm down and release my anxiety. I was (still am, but less so) afraid of a B&E, of strangers at my door, of so many things. Because the statistics tell me to be afraid. And the comparison to the German statistics scared me even more.

I would like to add that Germany has also had shooters (one in a school in Erfurt). I am not saying these things never happen in other coutries (poor Norway last year, for instance). But America seems to have a stronger strain of violence.

I really would like to have some of the commenters over for a wine and discussion on this, I love the insight!

Nana | 4:09 PM

I can relate to what Jessi said since I spent my teens here in America on a Pennsylvania farm and there were two shotguns in our house. My brother learned to shoot at an early age and he was an excellent shot. The rabbits, pheasant, and pigeons he brought home were part of our family's regular diet. No one thought it was wrong for John to have a gun. Also, re: the definition of "hero". Here is what the dictionary says:
"HERO:A man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. A person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal: For example “He was a local hero when he saved the drowning child.” The principal male character in a story, play, movie, etc. In classical mythology, a being of godlike prowess and beneficence who often came to be honored as a divinity. In early times a hero was warrior-chieftain of special strength, courage, or ability. Later heros were immortal beings or demigods." There is no mention of killing, so I think Archer got his definition from what he sees in movies.

Anonymous | 4:33 PM

I live in Australia where guns are not owned for personal use. I know some farmers have them and there are some people who hunt in very remote areas, and they all have licences for these and the conditions are incredibly strict.

Honestly America's concealed carry laws FRIGHTEN me. I would almost consider never visiting the states that allow concealed carry. These people are nothing but vigilantes-in-waiting. Developed, first world countries have functioning police forces. These people go through rigourous training for a very long period of time in order to be able to implement the LAW and deal out levels of justice, including using their extensive training to decide when it's OK or not OK to shoot someone - and it would be a rare circumstance when they shoot to kill. If there had been people with concealed guns in the Aurora theatre, I truly believe the death toll would have been even higher.

The thing that gets me about anything I read in the US pro vs anti gun debate is that the pro-gun people see everything so black and white. It's gun or nothing. Don't they realise that most things they can do with a gun, they could actually do WITHOUT a gun? Things like defending your property (good fences, trained dogs, a family safety plan, cameras, locks, security grilles on windows - these are all non-gun ways to defend your property), defending personal safety on the street (evasion is what comes to my mind rather than pulling out a gun and shooting who they assume to be the suspect - let the police catch him/her and let a JUDGE decide their punishment), even hunting can be done without a gun (indigenous Australians have hunted without a gun for centuries).

That's not to say that we don't have problems here in Australia, but when guns are much harder to come by, less people die.

Rebecca I do agree that violence in media is a big issue - it is gratuitous and unnecessary - and mental health systems around the world are notouriously not meeting society's needs.

But I just wanted to say there is nothing DEFENDING about guns - guns are all about attack. If ppl are serious about self defence, then they wouldn't be using guns.

Bonnie | 4:52 PM

I sort of really resent this post. I live in Denver, right next to Aurora where my entire family lives and where I was raised. Century 16 theater is the theater I grew up going to. It's the theater I took my son to in May, so that we could watch Avengers on opening night, at midnight. Where I would have taken him this past Friday had it not been his dads time to have him. I have friends, that thank the good Lord, were in the one theater that was not shot up and got to safely evacuate. And honestly, I really am over reading about mental illness and gun control since this horrible man killed 12 innocent people. As wrong as this is to say, I really am over it. This is a man who was enrolled in one of our local universities studying neuroscience and working towards his PhD. If he was crazy, if he was mentally ill, honestly how the fuck was anyone supposed to know? He lived away from his family and was mostly a loner, so they say. Obviously he was not mentally challenged or retarded. Or at least not enough to where it stopped him from STUDYING NEUROSCIENCE. There are some things that just happen and do not make sense. I almost feel as if the media has really made this mass murder about something else. And "protect ourselves from what", seriously?? Um, from bad people that do bad things!! Unfortunately, nobody in that theater shot this fucker first. And anyone who thinks otherwise hasn't had something this horrible hit close to home yet.

Anonymous | 5:11 PM

Anon in Australia,

The majority of states in the U.S. have "Open Carry" laws. There are only a handful of states that heavily restrict guns. If that would prevent you visiting those states, there would be hardly any states for you to visit.

Also, I personally don't want to own guard dogs or put grills on my windows. I rent and have no control over how the house is set up.

Lets not forget, you can shoot to wound rather than kill. If someone broke in and wanted to rape, assault, or kill my child, they are going down before my child does.

There was a story recently about a woman who lived in a medium-sized city in a neighboring state. Her family owned a shop and she was there alone one night closing up. She used the back door exit and got into her car. Then she realized she forgot something in the store and went back inside. When she came out, two thugs were standing there. They backed her up against the shop door and told her to get back inside. And they lifted her shirt and tried to remove her bra. She had tucked a gun into her back pocket and forgotten about it, because she had never done that before. When they pushed her against the door, she felt the gun in her pocket and whipped it out and shot it in the air. The two thugs said "Oh hell no" and ran away.

The police think these two guys are behind a string of rapes and robberies.

Worked for her. She was not raped and not robbed.

jlo | 5:17 PM

Mental health is the real issue here, but everyone avoids that topic as is the most uncomfortable to deal with. Blame guns, or the media, or solar flares or whatever you want, but the fact of the matter is that there are a significant number of mentally ill people out there who are not going to voluntarily seek help, and they are a ticking time bomb no matter how much we violate the 1st or 2nd Amendment. Almost everyone knows someone who probably should be committed, but what can be done about it until they commit a crime? You say there is more than a chemical imbalance, but I promise you there is not. I have family members with mental illness, and it has nothing to do with what they saw on tv or in society, they were born that way. Born with a broken mind. Sad, but it is what it is.

chesapeake | 5:28 PM

My thoughts are buzzing here, I'll try to pull some down. Something that always strikes me: the Founding Fathers didn't have or even know about automatic weapons (because they hadn't been invented yet) when they wrote the 2nd amendment. What the hell kind of situation does a civilian find themselves in that requires a fucking automatic weapon? Sigh.

Mental illness: yes. This needs to be a part of the discussion.

Batman: famously anti-guns, just for the record. :-) I don't see TDKR as a movie *promoting* violence. But maybe it is.

Hunger Games: my first thought was "Wait a minute, the part that the movie portrayed so much better than the books was the awfulness of the fact that the terrible violence was entertainment to the adults of the Capitol." There's a lesson there, right? And then I thought: "Then what of me sitting in a theater being entertained (not really the right word; I felt sickened by much of it) by this story line of adults being entertained by kids killing each other?" And your point is made there. Except the thought of a blanket eradication of all movies/books/shows that include violence doesn't sit well with me. Because often violence is made to paint a point, a lesson, etc. Is this positive message always brought across to people? I think more than 9 times out of 10 it is. I have that much faith in the intelligence of all of us. More questions here: what responsibilities do artists have to their audiences? Does a song by Foster the People cause kids to shoot up high schools? Or is it just a way of opening up dialogue? Does the song merely entertain the rest of us? If it does, then what does that say *about* the rest of us?

I get not having "violence for sale" but is eradicating it entirely within works of art (for lack of a better phrase) akin to not acknowledging our dark tendencies? Do violent movies cause people to do violent things? I don't have answers to these questions. But I thank you for opening up the dialogue.

Final thought: My husband and I went to see TDKR on Friday night and someone walked into the movie theater late and sat down next to us. Our first reaction was to cringe and hold our breath. It should have been hand shakes and smiles. Really. I was in London during the 2005 bombings and what it taught me was that terrorism is random and chaotic and that order and kindness always prevail if we don't fall prey to the fear engendered by such random, rare, tragic events as what happened in Aurora.

Anonymous | 5:38 PM

Here's the thing, the shooter went into the theater with a high power assault rifle, not a shotgun, hunting rifle or a handgun. An assault rifle that was legally obtained with clips that contained around 100 bullets. What on God's green earth does anyone who is not in the military need this level of weaponry for? Is it all or nothing? Should anyone be able to have this sort of thing just because they want it?

If we take away all the media, all the visual violence but leave these sorts of guns legal do you really think this sort of thing would never happen again? True the American mental health system, or lack thereof, is also to blame but what about this deeply and uniquely American paranoia that some people feel. "They're coming to take our guns.". Who are they? Unfettered capitalism as well is to blame. Violence in media and bigger than necessary guns are made for one reason and it isn't for a concern for society's greater good. There isn't any money to be made in recognizing and treating mental health. Follow the money.

Make It Up As We Go Along | 5:43 PM

Perhaps someone already mentioned this, I didn't read through the massive # of comments, and maybe this one will be too buried for you, too.

I'm only a fraction of the way through it, but I suspect a reading of Infinite Jest will give some very insightful theories to the American way as a whole. If you ever tackle the behemoth, I'm sure you could get quite a club going with all your readers.

Anonymous | 5:48 PM

I grew up in a hunting culture, we don't have kids right now but there is a glock next to the bed. We live in a big city where as a kid, I've hid with my mom and sibling in a closet when there were thieves in the upstairs floor (several times). Of the dozens of families in our social circles, even in extreme circumstances, nobody has ever fired at another person despite the easy access to loaded weapons and the training to use them. I think a lot of our approach to these weapons is how we are raised with them. We were taught to respect guns and never take them lightly. But gang members for example, may have only seen them used to kill people. And people who have witnessed others kill with guns have a higher chance of using a gun in this manner. I think the subcultures around the guns have more to do with gun violence than access to the weapons.

Brianna | 6:20 PM

I have a mentally ill brother whom my family tried to get help for. When he assaulted my father my parents finally pressed charges...trying to make someone do an evaluation on him to try to get him help. But all it did was put him in jail for a month. He's "normal" enough that they couldn't do anything...he wasn't crazy enough. But he's not normal. It's scary that no matter what you do you can't get help or make someone get help for themselves. It took him threatening my parent's friends and my parents to get him arrested. And in the end it accomplished nothing because he's an adult. No matter that family members did not feel safe.
There needs to be something that we can do. If it's not a gun (I agree assault weapons are just ridiculous, though I do not believe in banning guns)I truly believe this psycho would've just done something else. Bomb, whatever. I think his illness and the lack of ability for even family members that know that something is wrong (and obviously his mom knew something was wrong) to be able to get help is just scary. I've seen it with my religious obsessed, black and white thinking brother. I hope that as a society we can come up with something. I'm at a loss.

S i a c í | 7:40 PM

I love you for this. I do. Thank you.

Anonymous | 7:44 PM

bravo. seriously.

Sarah | 7:46 PM

@Adrianne and @Girls Gone Child. For my family in the South guns are used for hunting animals. I would like people who are "anti-hunting" to think long and hard about casting that stone if they eat any meat from grocery stores, farmer's markets, etc. All the animals killed are consumed, treated with dignity and not allowed to suffer, and killed with proper licenses and within quotas. Guns do serve a purpose in the US. Possibly not in your section of the US, but in plenty of other areas they allow people to provide food for their families. So please do not cast wide nets of judgment on gun owners.

Lily | 7:57 PM

Thank you! This is totally validating to how I live. I'm 16 and I hate watching violence in television and movies. I refuse to watch horror films or super action-y movies. I opted out of watching the war movies in history class and everyone thought I was a wimp or had strict parents but it's not that. I just hate to see people mangled. Everyone else just soaks it up but I still feel my stomach get all knotted when I see fights on TV. And I think that's actually something to be proud of and to protect. I have not been desensitized to violence and I'm GLAD. But I appreciate this post so much because I feel like no one agrees with me.

Unknown | 8:08 PM

This is exactly the conversation I TRY to start with my juniors in my rhetoric and comp class each fall. You are so right that this is a conversation that needs to be happening and that there are so many layers to it. We read Geoffrey Canada's memoir, Fist Stick Knife Gun and passages on human nature from Aldous Huxley as the anchors of our discussion - to look at how the perspectives have changed - and not changed - on what drives humans to violence. I will add your writing here to my unit as well. Thanks, as always, for writing so clearly and hitting on such important issues.

The WEB We Make | 8:12 PM

I've subscribed to these comments & have been reading most. I'm actually very very surprised no one has brought up what "alternative" press has been reporting on this event. This really interests me, not because of the horrible horrible event that happened, but because of the suspect and the equipment he had.

He was an UNEMPLOYED med student. The equipment he had was elite military tactical gear that was purchased over THREE months at an estimated worth of 20 GRAND. THINK. He has no record, no history of mental illness, and all acquaintances would have never suspected this from him...

I've heard a FB friend mention theres a weapon treaty with the UN being voted on in a few days, another friend said gov't agencies have had instances of somehow "forcing" people to do this...

All the topics that have been brought up here are valid; gun control, mental illness, TV violence... I guess the point I'm trying to make is to listen, think, look at different angles, research. I am in no way condoning what was done. I think it is horrific and there was definitely something wrong with the suspect (did you see his pic in court?!) BUT we are jumping on what everyone expects; violence, guns, mental illness.

Anonymous | 8:13 PM

Amen, brava and yes! This is exactly what I was thinking after hearing about the event. There is too much violence around us and that HAS to do something to our psyches. As you mentioned, there are many issues that come up because of this rampage, #1 being (in my opinion) mental illness. Mental illness mixed with unlimited gun/ammo is a deadly combination.

Let us work to ease the constant, violent images....


Unknown | 8:47 PM

Yes. Unlike other commenters here, I don't feel you are casting a wide net of gun owners in this article. This guy wasn't a hunter or competetive marksman, he was a psycho with to easy of access to weapons. Everyone has too easy of access. The gun culture is way more casually sprinkled into society than reason, history, and necessity suggest. The obsession and romanticized violent fantasies that are played out every day are appalling to someone like me and so many others out there who have never felt the need or desire for a firearm.

Pro-gun gets so defensive and stops listening to this conversation, and anti-gun just plays the blame game. I fall into neither camp, I don't think about them and don't care about them but I don't want them near my kids. Just like any relationship with problems, both sides need to drop the bullsht and have a frank conversation and come up with a better solution, because giving everyone an all access pass is not the answer and never has been. (omit rant about husband's staunch pro gun views and propaganda...ugh)

Caroline | 9:22 PM

I believe another important fact to consider is that someone was able to plan and execute all those booby traps throughout their home without another human knowing or noticing. A home that was located within a complex of other homes in very close proximity to one another. As a society we've not only accepted this violence, but we've accepted a distance from one another. In all the interviews so far, what continues to be a theme is that NO ONE knew this guy. They can't seem to locate a single friend. Additionally, the more that tragedies and scandals occur, the more wary we become of one another. Just as you speak of letting your son step beyond the shelter, I believe that we must also step beyond what feels safe to us and get to know others. With discernment and wisdom, we must be involved in one another's lives. Will it be messy? Will we see dark spots in others and find and rediscover some of our own? Yes, yes, and yes. And just as you also spoke of wanting to hear and talk with your son, I think we absolutely must listen and talk more with one another. To know people and be known by others brings about the most terrifying, life changing joy imaginable.

Catherine | 9:28 PM

I'm not going to go here nor there regarding guns. Sometimes I wish we had one in our rather urban and sometimes scary neighborhood. My husband and I tentatively dance around the thought of one in our home. Under the same roof as our three very small children. But we aren't there yet.
As an anthropologist I can assure you that the fascination with violence stems back to our very earliest beginnings. At one point, it was a part of our every day lives. And for many many people, it still is. I'm not sure why this is. And I always ask myself the question, "Are people inherently good and capable of bad things?" or "Are people inherently bad and society has made it so we don't act on our impulses, etc". I agree that we all have a little dark in us. I know that I wouldn't hesitate to fight, or even kill without remorse if someone hurt one of my children. That is clear to me. Yet I know (feel? hope?) that I am a good person. But I hope every day that I never am tested like that.
Of course the issue of mental illness is a huge factor in crimes like this. It's sad and tragic, but it's nothing new and it's not the last time and if that comes across as sounding blasé, I don't want it to, but I cannot see how it could possibly change. When you dive deep, history does not change very much.

Joanna | 9:29 PM

Great post! I think the scariest thing in all of this, is how our children react to stories like this. I have a 17, 14, and 12 year old, and although they expressed sadness over those that were hurt or killed, they were not at all surprised by the violence. Unfortunately kids today, see so much of this, that I think it's almost normal to them. It's quite scary.

Nana | 9:55 PM

I'm with you Lily. You are 16, I am 83, but I've felt exactly as you described your own feelings ever since I was old enough to read a book or see a movie.

Pretzel Thief | 10:19 PM

Thank you, Rebecca. I was hoping you would write something about this, and your eloquence in discussing the matter didn't disappoint.

(Er, DUH! How could it, you're awesome!)

As @S i a c í said, "I love you for this. I do."

My story is an interesting one, one with violence entrenched in the quotidian. I grew up in the former Yugoslavia and went through the civil war(s) of the 1990s, immigrating to Australia a year shy of the war ending. (I just recently started sharing some pieces I've written about the war on my blog.) During the war, violence (the violence of shelling and bombs) became the norm. And it's not so much that you become desensitised to the inherent violence as you become desensitised to the status quo of war that has been inflicted upon you. The status quo of living life according to the sickening random wail of the emergency town siren and subsequent shelling that forces you to spend days in a bomb shelter.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

My beautiful father was an innocent civilian casualty of the war. He went to work on Sept 13th, 1993 and was wounded by shrapnel which went through his nose and into his brain. On Nov 1st he died after being diagnosed with meningitis and lapsing into a coma (they had removed the shrapnel almost immediately after he was wounded, but obviously the damage had been done).

And so, because of large-scale warfare and violence, my father -- my pacifist, loving, brilliant and loving father -- died. And why? Because of bullshit politicking and agendas and power trips; because, a lot of the time, governments ultimately don't give a shit about the people they purport to protect. Because a lot of the time war is the default option. They say they give a shit, sure, but they say a lot of things. Even in the First World.

And it's not just wars (although Dubya's stupidity, for instance, in illegally attacking and invading Afghanistan and Iraq is one of the most recent examples of unnecessary warfare/violence on a mass scale): one has to wonder why the American government refuses to (time and time again) implement some gun restrictions. They don't have to ban ALL guns outright but who the hell needs to own shotguns and assault weapons?! After multiple mass shootings in Australia between 1984 and 1996, the Port Arthur massacre happened in 1996 (35 killed), following which the prime minister implemented sweeping gun restrictions (you can still get licences for hunting, target shooting, etc, but it's heavily regulated and even for those things there are thorough and strict background checks). Since the 1996 massacre, we've only had one other mass shooting in 2002 when two people were shot dead (and even just that one shooting was one too many). ONE PUBLIC SHOOTING in 12 years. That’s very telling.

Australia's example shows that if you make it harder for lunatics to get their hands on weapons intended for killing innocents, shootings will almost never happen.

And so, getting back to my cynical "governments don't give a shit" notion, in this case, the US government is showing, inadvertently, that it would much rather protect citizens' "rights to bear arms", irrespective of the fact there are deranged maniacs amongst those citizens who can then get a gun willy-nilly and just shoot and kill innocent citizens going to the movies. Because, hell, apparently it's MUCH more important to accept such a horrendous risk as a fact of life (even after so many mass shootings) than to protect people who didn't deserve to die when they went to the goddamn cinema.

I mean, I just don't get it.

Also, you may have read this article from The New Yorker (which I referenced in my own blog post about the shootings), but if not: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/07/aurora-movie-shooting-one-more-massacre.html

Brilliant piece of writing, just like yours!

Anonymous | 10:58 PM

I attended school in a part of the country where many people hunted and gun safety was a mandatory unit in 10th grade phys ed. We used BB guns; and it probably seems like a bad idea to mix high school sophomores and weapons, but the point was to teach us to be respectful of them--and it worked. After college I moved to an urban area. Kids here, who are the same age as I was when I was taking gun safety, will brandish weapons as a sign of defiance or power. They kill and get killed, so the schools have metal detectors. My school system at home still has never needed to install metal detectors.

Like some of the other commenters have noted, there is a huge cultural divide between people who are raised with guns as tools (even tools of self-defense) and people who know them only as weapons. That’s why I think it’s difficult to have any meaningful debate when a crime like the Aurora attack occurs. Where is someone who has gone through the training and background checks required to earn a concealed carry permit going to find common ground with someone whose knowledge of guns is limited to crime reports and Hollywood? And what do either of those groups have in common with criminals who don’t care how many gun control laws are passed?

There are tens of millions gun owners in the United States who abide by the laws and are respectful of the power of their weapons. Other people are fearful of guns, choose to avoid them entirely and don’t want anyone to own them. If we’re going to have a debate about gun control, however, we can’t pretend that both groups bring an equal level of knowledge to the table. And whether it’s airline security, or pitbulls, or guns, our society seems to be driven more by fear and a compulsion to eliminate all threats, than motivated to make the country smarter and stronger.

Lilybett | 5:30 AM

I have a PhD from studying communication and things like media effects and there are problems with blaming music and movies and TV shows for a culture of violence. It's more complex than that. If you blame movies, you also have to blame the news. If you blame video games you also have to blame the valorisation of the military. If you blame cartoons you also have to blame professional sports.

There are many forms of violence that people in the US find perfectly acceptable but are happy to ignore in order to demonise the media and fictional entertainment. In most studies of media effects violence (those that aren't paid for by 'family' lobby groups) it's not just the media that needs to be present for a person to become violent... there also has to be a confluence of other factors such as upbringing and exposure to rewards for violent behaviour. And violence doesn't just mean shooting guns - it starts with pushing, shoving, hitting, punching, name calling, etc.

Now have a look at a family that watches professional football.

It's deeply embedded in the culture - not just in the TV screen.

Katherine Vargas | 8:04 AM
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katherine Vargas | 8:07 AM

oh soot, I messed up my last comment. here it is again:

my husband & I don't have a TV & this, this love of violence as a form of entertainment, this is one of the big reasons why. I didn't read all the comments for this post, but I glanced through the top maybe 1/4 & saw one lady talk about her faith. I'm also a christian & that also is a big reason why I don't understand why violence is entertainment. there was a song we used to sing in church when I was little that went "be careful little eyes what you see/ears what you hear/mouth what you say" that casting crowns made into a new song - I won't post all the lyrics, but here is a link to them if you're interested in reading them:

and I think that they are SO true. What we take in is what we put out. if we, as a culture, are immersed in violence (as entertainment! how is this entertaining?) & abuse & all these terrible things & it is what is watched & read & played on video games & the computer & parents are not teaching their children what is proper & true & correct - how are they supposed to grow up knowing any better than what they learned when they were young?

he still watches movies on our laptop via netflix, though, and they are almost always violent war movies or something along those lines. I've been trying to lobby for my pov to convice him & I think I might have started being successful as he told me the other day that he's been watching a "family firendly tv series" recently & that it didn't have all the violence in it.

I'm not opposed to using movies/documentaries/tv shows/etc which have violent content in them as a learning tool & discussing why things happened the way they did or why a person made the choices they made, but I don't see the need for the violence to be explicit (why do people want to see these explicit scenes? do you really want that in your head for the rest of your life? is it not enough to know that a person died or was maimed or badly hurt without seeing exactly what & how it happened?) & I definitely don't think that it should be entertainment.

we do have guns in our household. my husband is a hunter & only hunts for food. we eat what he kills & think that trophy hunting is abhorrent. we also believe, though, that god put us here to be good stewards of the earth, as per the bible, & I do no believe that factory farming & cutting off pigs' tails & chickens' beaks & having cows wallowing in feet of their own filth is acceptable or right, so we (he) hunts, though I'll be joining him this year. our children will grow up hunting & knowing proper gun safety & that the meat that we eat is something to be thankful for & something to be treated with respect & gratitude because they will have participated in the process of bringing it home in some way or another.

I feel like I've rambled & that this is extremely long, but I'm neither eloquent nor concise, so I hope that I've adequately communicated what I think.

Unknown | 8:19 AM

We hold aggression above all other emotional outlets. We exonerate violent sports and say "America, Fuck Yeah!" when spoofs glorifying violence are offered as 'art'. Our entire concept of civilization is responsible for this.

Kimberly Smith | 8:28 AM

Of all the comments on message boards and Facebook threads, the ones that bother me the most are
"Lock him up, no trial", "No way he's insane, he is very smart, he planned this out for weeks", "Just kill him now, why waste tax payer money"

We live in America where everyone, EVERY! ONE! gets a trial (I actually typed "fair trial", then delted that becuase I think as much as people may try to be fair, we are only human, even jurors)

"Insane" does not equal stupid. Some of our most brilliant minds have suffered from mental illness. Some of these mental illnesses can make you believe in a fantasy for so long that you are able to make elaborate plans for weeks. Being smart doesn't make you any less ill.

As for guns...I'm born and raised in teh south from a long line of people also born and raised in the south. I can remember being around 8 or 9 yrs old and going out back and learning to shoot my dad's rifle. Hunting is still very big down here. So is sport shooting. I personally own a gun, legally registered and my prints are on file at the courthouse as the law demands. The most "action" my guns sees is at the range. I probably wouldn't even be able to use it for personal protection if I had to since the gun is locked up in one location and the ammo is in another. That being said, I don't believe we need to 'arm every citizen" either. I don't think "if just one other person had a gun in that theater" things would have turned out better. In fact, I think it would have been much much worse.

Anonymous | 8:30 AM

OK. There is one thing I want to add, which I KNOW will be unpopular but I feel it needs to be said.

Everyone keeps asking "why do people need to own guns? What are they afraid of? We are in America!"

But honestly, with the growth of the federal government and some very scary laws that have been passed in the last 20 years, I no longer feel "safe" from my own government.

Did you know that our president could declare martial law even in times of peace? That means he becomes the lone controller of everything. Food, water, power, military... everything.

Is no one else mildly terrified by the thought that one man could, at a whim, even in time of peace, declare martial law and choose to act against his own citizens? And he has the legal grounds to do so?

I know, you're saying "our president would NEVER do that."

Adolf Hitler? Putin? Taliban? Hussein? There are many recent examples of this kind of action. And as everyone has discussed here, there is darkness in everyone. We just have to hope our own president is more "good" than "evil".

We are not immune. The doors are open... and that scares me enough to say I want my 2nd amendment rights because there COULD be a day when I DO need to protect myself from my own government.

Yes, I sound like I drank the "anti-Obama" koolaid, but it's not just Obama, it was Clinton and Bush too. Would the liberal bunch have wanted Bush to act upon that law? The size and scope of our federal government is getting scarier every day.

Katherine Vargas | 9:38 AM

@Caroline | 9:22 PM
yes! I love this.

it's a terrible cycle. we don't know our neighbors & see all these bad things happening on the news. and the neighbors of the people doing the bad things didn't know them, but thank god for that because look, he was crazy & we don't want to be associated with crazy b/c what does that say about us or if we had known him, what could have happened to us? and then we close ourselves off even more from the people who live around us out of fear.

I think that this thing called the internet has contributed quite a bit to helping some people to close themselves off. I know there are other things, too, but being able to find such large groups of like minded people at your fingertips has ramifications that are both good (this discussion) & bad (contributing to people not interacting with one another IRL). I know this sounds extreme, but in my life I know a handful of people that do this & don't have any meaningful interaction with anyone that they don't agree with because they're able to talk to so many people all over the world who have the same views as them.

if we would get outside of our houses & talk to our neighbors, have bbqs, go say hello when someone new moves in & be welcoming- do these things that used to be rote before technology became such a big part of our day-to-day existence, I think that our lives would be so much richer & that it would help
1. to be more accepting of others.
and 2. maybe it would help these people out who do things like this? maybe if they were actually part of a community of people who accepted them in spite of them being odd or off or weird or whatever, it would help some of this? I mean, I know that it's not something that would "fix" things, for sure. but I wonder if it wouldn't help.

man, I'm talky today

MarieC | 10:00 AM

To Anonymous (4:33PM) who listed a number of ways to defend ones and property and self. I live in a gated community; we have six foot concrete brick perimeter fence with an even taller locked metal RV gates on one side of our home. I have an alarm system and two dogs. I work out of my home, my husband had left to go out and pick up lunch. He had been gone about five minutes when there was a knock on the door, of which I ignored. I looked through the peep hole, didn’t recognize the young man. He continued to knock, peered through the window and left and I went back to work. I was then shocked to first hear and then see the same young man at my rear patio door attempting to kick through the glass. All this with my six foot fence, my security alarm stickers on the windows, my two dogs barking on the inside of the glass door and at around 11:30 AM. The fear that entered my body that day changed my feelings on responsible gun ownership for the purpose of defending myself, my family and my home.

I am a Canadian that has lived in the US for almost two decades. Up until this incident, I was 100% anti-gun ownership. I looked at my other options, a self-defense course, better security? I didn’t feel these options provided me any sense of security in the ability to further protect myself from someone who was determined to break into my home. It took me a month or so to decide that the best option was to own and be trained in operating a firearm. This was a HUGE decision for both me and my husband. I can’t tell you the fear I had in firing a gun for the first time. There is no enjoyment in it; I get no thrill in being a handgun owner. I would certainly go back to the days of naively believing that I would ever need to protect myself in my own home. In a perfect world, someone wouldn’t have entered my gated community, scaled my locked gate and proceeded to break into my home. I can no longer have my rear patio door left open to enjoy a crisp morning or evening. I verify that there is indeed a UPS or FedEx truck parked outside when one of their driver’s rings my doorbell.

While I agree that there may be some sort of mental instability with many of these cases, I am tired of people throwing that out there when something like this happens. I think it is easier to come to this conclusion that there has to be something wrong with a person who does this sort of thing instead of looking at the other issues that may lead someone down this path. That is the easy way out, IMO. I think today’s society is the level of acceptable violence and a sense of entitlement is ridiculous. There is no need for a civilian to own and possess an assault weapon…period! As many people have mentioned, he had no record and outside of being a loner - his family and friends have not indicated a history of mental issues, depression, strange behaviors etc.

As far as shooting to injure over killing, this involves extensive training. In all of the training that I have done there is no discussion on aiming for an arm or a leg. They train you to shoot at center mass as it is the largest surface area. As someone who doesn’t have many years of practice, I assume that my shot isn’t going to win any marksmanship contests. You do have to consider what is on the other side of the person if you miss shooting them in the arm or leg as the bullet you shoot will continue to go until something stops it. I respect the damage that I can do with a gun and think about it often. Do I want to shoot someone to kill them – certainly not but if the alternative is losing my own life in my own home then I am OK with that prospect. This point was the main hurdle in making the decision to bring a gun into my home.

Great discussion with no easy or correct answer.

Jessica Peck | 10:04 AM

To me, violence is so on par with this.


It is people trying to break through the noise in all of the ALL of our media by more extreme means, over and over. And it just gets worse because what was once shocking is now acceptable. Then we have to go further. All of this saturation of media has an effect on us, our parenting, what becomes acceptable, etc. We need to have strong values and DISCUSS them and be FIRM on them in a NO MATTER WHAT kind of way. Our children aren't always around us to be able to break through that noise for them. It's scary.

Melissa | 10:07 AM

Initially, I wasn't going to leave a comment and rather just observe the different respectful points of view everyone has been posting. However, I just wanted to add that I am in complete agreement with @Caroline's comment from 9:22pm.

In all of the coverage of this event, that is what struck me as the oddest. No one knew this guy. We couldn't receive news of this tragedy fast enough via Twitter and other news sources, but in a time of social media and rampant narcissism...this guy didn't even seem to have an online presence and all of the reports said he was just a quiet guy. I wonder at what point did what seems to be a total loss of human connection affect him so much that he resorted to something like this?

We live in a society where people don't get off their cell phone to order a coffee from their barista, and where people don't bother to thank a stranger for holding open a door. We can do everything online now - banking, grocery shopping, education - even all of our interactions with friends. At what point is keeping our families safe from violence and just staying in our own little bubbles affecting those around us so much that we begin to desperately crave that connection to other people? Or where we can't even recognize each other as people anymore?

Anonymous | 11:03 AM

I think this is THE best written article I've read in a long time. Thank you...and well done!

Lindserannie | 11:06 AM

@Anonymous 8:30AM

You said

"We are not immune. The doors are open... and that scares me enough to say I want my 2nd amendment rights because there COULD be a day when I DO need to protect myself from my own government"

I'm a pretty liberal person and while I think the size of our government is (currently) necessary I am open to other ways of making our country work because yeah, the size & scope of the government occasionally freaks me out too.

Here's the thing: the government has serious weapons & firepower that no civilian could ever hope to get their hands on, at least not on par with how much the military has. There is no way any band of civilians or "militia" could defend itself from the government if they decided to take over using military forces (which, for the record, I do not believe would ever happen).

I think the "defend myself from the government" is the weakest argument for gun ownership because no matter how big of a stockpile of machine guns a group might have in however many well hidden bunkers, the military could discover them & destroy them in one fell swoop and no one would see it coming. I imagine this scares you all the more...it doesn't scare me because as I said before, I think the government would never "stage a coup", if you will. All of those people you referenced were dictators or worse - America is set up in such a way that no one person has that much control or power. The president may be "the most powerful man in the world", but if he could do whatever he wanted without impunity, he would...and that is clearly not the case.

Anyway, blah blah blah...I don't feel like I'm contributing much to the heart of the conversation here - I just wanted to address that one point since someone brought it up: it's not possible for a "well armed militia" to defend itself via force from the American government. They have aerial drones, giant missiles and nuclear weapons for goodness sake.

findingmagnolia | 11:41 AM

I saw the photo of the shooter on the front page of the newspaper while I waited in line for coffee this morning, and all I could think was, "He's just a guy. How does this happen? He just looks small and confused." Plus, lately I have these thoughts of everyone being someone's baby, and it makes everything so much more complicated. I am so glad that you wrote this. I feel the same way.

Zinashi recently became obsessed with people who use guns (in the same way she has become obsessed with people who smoke), and it is so tricky to navigate because violence is everywhere, and while I can keep a close eye on what she take in while we are at home, the moment someone else is taking care of her, I lose that. I am glad that others are out there having the same tough conversations with their children, working on it, and talking about it to the rest of us. Well done.

Unknown | 12:07 PM

Thanks for your eloquent post. I've linked to this post on my blog! You are awesome!


Anonymous | 12:24 PM

Using blanket terms like "crazy" or "insane" seriously discredits any words that follow.

If you want a glimpse at a society's dominant hegemony you can take a look at their film ratings.

Example: If a film is bloody/gory/violent in the US it will have a "PG-PG13" rating while in peace-loving Sweden it will be rated higher. However, if a nipple or an innuendo of sex is in a US film the rating will be "R" while in Sweden it will be as low as "Barn" (safe for kids, a US "G").

Nana | 12:38 PM

The power of the mind is greater than many people imagine. Does anyone here believe in the power of positive thinking? If things generally go better when we think positively, don’t they also go worse when we think negatively? Has it occurred to anyone that when people concentrate on violence and negative images, even as entertainment, this could be a sort of “prayer” powerful enough to attract the imagined events to occur in real life? It seems to me that this event in Colorado is a perfect example of “the power of negative thinking” in action. Everyone’s concentrating on an act of mass violence so it happens.
If there is any truth to this, what is the solution? Banning or censoring won’t work because we have freedom of speech. Laws regulating guns, violent games, and crazy people won’t do it either because as this very discussion shows even intelligent people disagree on the best plan of action, thus causing conflict and division between us. Religion is not the answer either, since each religion thinks it has the answer, that it knows the only truth and all the other religions are wrong. The result is war and strife as we see today in the Middle East.
The only real solution is to raise the consciousness of all human beings. The human brain is a useful tool, but left unguided it acts like a monkey— active and playful, often destructive, jumping about, picking up one topic after another, excited by the negative, and dictating what we think. Meditation is the key to taming the mind, making it obey us instead of vice versa, and tuning into higher consciousness. The wise person tames his or her mind through meditation, quietly observing it like a cat watches a mouse until it quiets down and higher consciousness takes over. As more human beings adopt this individual path, the mass consciousness will rise to a higher level.


@Melissa and @Caroline. YES! I agree SO MUCH with this.

"We live in a society where people don't get off their cell phone to order a coffee from their barista, and where people don't bother to thank a stranger for holding open a door. We can do everything online now - banking, grocery shopping, education - even all of our interactions with friends. At what point is keeping our families safe from violence and just staying in our own little bubbles affecting those around us so much that we begin to desperately crave that connection to other people? Or where we can't even recognize each other as people anymore?"

I always think of this when I am in a gated community. For whatever reason, there is NOWHERE I feel more unsafe. Cages are for breaking out of and into. And that's all I think about when I'm inside (or outside) their walls, guarded by men and codes.

We are a fear-based society. A Fearocracy.


@Nana I love that you're so involved in this conversation. Thank you, I love you.


@KatherineVargas AGAIN, YES! I should have included your name in earlier response! THIS is what I meant by WE need to take some responsibility and stop pretending like we're all innocent bystanders. We are not. We are all part of the cycle. It is our responsibility to take care of one another, to associate with each other in positive ways, to be GOOD SAMARITANS. To empathize instead of ignore.

Hal and I were talking about this the other day because I'm so upset about all of the wonderful houses in our neighborhood (historical, beautiful, original homes) being knocked down to build terrible HIDEOUS box houses. All the same.) Consumerism has turned us into Replacists in a Replacist society. (I just made that word up but I don't care). Where we don't give a shit about our neighbors, just ourselves. We don't care that our giant house is blocking the view of our neighbors and detracting from the history and beauty of the area. We just want to do WHAT WE WANT ON MY LAND!

The "It's a free country" mentality. The "get off my lawn" mentality. The ENTITLEMENT. It's staggering to me and you're right, we should be talking about these things as well. Thank you.


That last comment was totally disjointed. Apologies. I wanted to define "replacist" as people who, instead of working to "restore" write people, houses, relationships off.

We should only REPLACE as a last resort, not a first one.


And by people I mean "we" because we're all guilty of it. Because it's easier to throw things away and replace them then it is to work to repair them.

I'm going to write about this more in depth soon... mainly because I've recently become passionate about home restoration in a neighborhood where people's (incredible! interesting! historical!) homes are being bought from under them to be torn down.

Anyway. That's for a different day.

Anonymous | 4:23 PM

Sure, "guns don't kill people, people kill people" is one of the biggest arguments I hear. I'm not saying the statement is wrong, but the guns certainly help!

I'm training for a career that will require me to carry a weapon, and yet, I (someone who is exceptionally trained in how to handle firearms) refuse to keep handguns in my home at any point, for any reason.

I understand shotguns when used for hunting purposes, but those can be easily stored away from living areas, unloaded, with the ammunition elsewhere because a deer isn't going to wander into my bedroom. But keeping a handgun in the house -- the only intention there is to be able to shoot at a human being. Anyone who argues otherwise is naive.

Plus, keeping loaded weapons in the home (because an unloaded one won't help you much if an intruder is standing over you in the night) actually puts you at more risk of said intruder finding and using your weapon against you.

Gun ownership needs to be a heck of a lot more responsible, because the American constitutional right to "bear arms" was in reference to muskets, not semi-automatic weapons capable of firing over 100 rounds per minute in a movie theatre full of innocent people.

AndreaWasson831 | 4:44 PM

Guns are necessary in order to keep peace. Criminals don't follow gun laws, which is why they are criminals. By taking guns/weapons from the hands of citizens, you are, in effect, arming the criminals. I believe that the government already is WAY too entrenched in our day-to-day lives, telling us how to live, what to drive, what to eat, supporting those who won't work....don't even get me started....I'm getting off topic...

I am a card carrying member of the NRA because I believe in my right as a human being to defend myself and my family against those who wish to do us harm....and there are PLENTY and it's only getting worse. We live in California and with the prison releasing thousands of inmates in the next year, it's going to get way worse. I have five children who have grown up with guns in the home, hunting and target shooting very early on. My youngest is now 14 and shoots a gun almost every day. They have a respect for guns and it's important that children KNOW about guns and what to do when in contact with one. It's curiousity (most of the time) that get kids in trouble with guns.

My husband is a police officer and believes in an armed citizenry. These officers can't be everywhere and people need to be able to defend themselves. If there were people in that theater with concealed weapons permits, I would almost guarantee that maniac wouldn't have killed or injured so many people.

As far as mental health goes, this guy is obviously a nutjob. We can't go around blaming his access to guns as the 'reason' he did this. There are millions of gun owners in the U.S. who didn't go on shooting rampages yesterday...this was a horrible act committed by a guy who was a straight-up evil/maniac/psycho who would have used a knife had guns not been available...he was still going to do it. Stricter gun control laws only hurt law-abiding people, not criminals.

I am a teacher, so I feel I can comment - as far as children go, we are raising a generation of entitled, spoiled babies who can't EVER be criticized or disciplined and that is a huge problem. These parents who won't make their kids feel bad, won't hurt their 'self esteem', won't let them do ANYTHING alone - go outside, play, explore, get dirty....it truly is a sad state. These helicopter parents are just a disaster! Back off and get a life, parents!

AndreaWasson831 | 4:48 PM

"Yes, I sound like I drank the "anti-Obama" koolaid, but it's not just Obama, it was Clinton and Bush too. Would the liberal bunch have wanted Bush to act upon that law? The size and scope of our federal government is getting scarier every day."

I couldn't agree with this statement more. The size of government and it's intrusion and control over our daily lives is downright terrifying.

Abbe | 5:08 PM

There are so many comments here, I may have missed any about types of guns. So pro-gun people want to have the right to bear guns for protection, hunting, whatever. Do you need to hunt or protect yourself with a semi automatic war weapon!? I doubt you could eat a deer shot with something like that. And yes, many families and people with guns have safe neighborhood and no accidents and that's all wonderful. But it seems the crazy quotient keeps going up and up in our world and those people don't or can't understand safe and smart gun ownership. And so this one guy in Aurora went through the proper legal channels and checked out ok in the background checks to buy guns but then went online to buy 6000 rounds of ammunition and ALL was available to him easily and with minimal barriers. And it simply is not right.

Lashley | 5:49 PM

So this is pretty minor considering the BIGness of this whole conversation, but just wanted to point out that the "light and snappy" song posted today isn't really.
"The next time you see me, ignore me
Pretend you don't know me
Pretend I don't exist...
I prefer hell to purgatory"
Like I said, not really significant in the big picture (silly heartbreak song etc etc), but seems a little out of place considering the side of the conversation advocating being a good neighbor and caring for our community.


@Lashley Ha! I see your point. But a couple smiling and snapping while singing about breakup hell, to me is making "light". x

JS | 6:49 PM

Excellent post and so many thought provoking comments. Just to add another perspective on gun ownership, not all people use guns for hunting or protective purposes. My husband's family has an arsenal of all weapon classes and eras. They are firearm enthusiasts who enjoy the history and engineering of weapons, but don't have a violent bone in their bodies. In fact, my husband mopes for days if he so much as hits a squirrel in the road with his car.

To some people, guns are just a hobby used for friendly target competition and collection. These guys are not aggressive, testosterone-fueled manly-men with an underlying desire to inflict harm on people or animals. It's just an activity they've enjoyed since they were kids.

Again, I've really enjoyed reading everyones thoughts on the subject, despite the tragic way this conversation came about.

Unknown | 7:38 PM

Great blog post, as usual! And really enlightening discussion, I feel like I have learned a lot and will continue to think about things that you all have posted.

I did want to bring up one thing that has been kind of danced around but not pin pointed. In regards to mental health in the US, yes coverage sucks and it's difficult to continue care, continue therapy, continue meds without harrasment or large expense, but what about the stigma? What does it do to our society when people that do have diagnosed illnesses don't feel like they can confide in anyone for fear of rejection or outcast? Or people fear to seek treatment because they are afraid of being abnormal?

Words like nutjob and psycho are thrown around (not just in regards to Aurora), but how would you feel if the shooter is not diagnosed with a mental illness? Why is it ok to use these terms for people that cannot control their illness any more that someone with Thyroid disease or cancer? I think if we work towards inclusion of our friends, neighbors, and family, no matter their mental health, maybe we will all be more confident in who we are, and less tragic events will occur.

Rebecca | 8:12 PM


I am totally on the same page as you. I am sorry you experienced something so terrifying.

I have lived in Oakland for 10 years now and LOVE this town. I have so much pride in this incredible underdog which is often perceived as existing in San Francisco's shadow.

We have 18 police officers per 10,000 residents -- TOTALLY understaffed compared to the rest of the top 12 metro areas in the US. A year ago, I bought a house in the Oakland hills. I joined the neighborhood Listserv. Reading those emails roll in every day, I realized that I could no longer live in ignorance of the vast amounts of brazen, violent crime happening -- even in the hills. And the cops? Well, they often wouldn't show up until hours later. We bought a fantastic security system and replaced all of our doors. I REFUSED to get a gun. I thought my husband was foolish to think he could be some kind of "hero", shooting bad guys and such. But when I realized he was going out of town, and the cops might not show up for an hour after calling 911, I realized I need to protect myself. We took a day long gun safety class, where I learned to strip and shoot a Glock 35 mm.

Shooting that gun was TERRIFYING to me. I shot 5 rounds and put the gun away. The rest of the class continued, trying to improve their aim, but I found no pleasure in it. The sheer explosiveness of it - it was frightening.

This is all to say that I have mixed feelings about gun ownership. I want to feel safe in my home and trust that my beloved city's police department will protect me, but I'm not so sure I can do that. I'm too scared of the gun to effectively use it, so it's locked away in its case. I may, however, learn to use it.

Lauren Knight | 8:20 PM

I think our society is extremely sick. We place value on all the wrong things and it scares the daylights out of me. I have three little boys who I wish I could protect from all of it.

Thank you for writing about this. Such a crazy time.

Tanna | 8:23 PM

I agree on some points, but ultimately we should not take away the right to own a weapon. Education is key and calming the violence in entertainment. Our whole society is becoming desensitized in all areas, not just violence. We need to take a step back and be more strict with everything, violence, sex, language, etc.

Molly | 11:16 PM
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Molly | 11:24 PM

You're right to ask where this violent urge comes from, but it's time to look at reality, not fiction. The entertainment industry is a reflection of this, not the cause (that doesn't mean we don't need to think long and hard about things like the ratings system and what we ask of our film and TV industry). This country has been constantly engaged in war for decades now. From its beginnings, "freedom" in the U.S. stood alongside violent, brutal slavery inflicted by the very people we call our founding fathers. When we kill children every day in our nation's name in Afghanistan and Iraq, how can we think that that won't create a culture of killing and violence at home?

Also, by the way, all this big picture talk kind of gets in the way of some sensible policy issues that need to get slammed back on the table. A ban on assault weapons. A ban on stockpiling ammunition over the internet. A law banning clips that hold more than ten rounds (see NJ Sen. Lautenberg). It's actually not that big a conversation, it's a fairly simple one. These are reasonable regulations--some of which actually used to be in place before 1986. And studies show that fewer guns lead to fewer gun deaths (whoodda thunk). Soul-search, fine, but let's get to work on some basics any reasonable person can agree on today, eh?

lour29 | 3:15 AM

I live in the UK. I cannot comprehend the thought of my daughter walking down a street where every man or woman could quite easily be armed.
As Rebecca already stated - the invention of guns was to kill things quickly. Yes, I could do some damage with a knife, fork or a spoon but I would have to be thinking about it while I did it. The decision to shoot a gun to kill can be made in a snap. We can all admit to snapping occasionally - throwing something - hitting something - lashing out, imagine that 'snap' with a gun in your hand. It must follow that to reduce the number of accessible guns would reduce the number of gunshots fired?

MarieC | 7:28 AM

@Rebecca. Thanks, I am glad that you are being proactive and realistic to your own personal circumstances. Previously, I never gave any serious thought about what I would do if I was home alone and someone was breaking into my home. My husband travels for work, so it became a realistic question and I am glad the option was there for me. If I still lived in the Bay Area I would come out to a range with you. I took the day long class and felt exactly the same as you do now. I then went back and took a private lesson and then another with someone who better understood my specific needs of gun ownership. The range that I do go to offers a woman’s only time one day of the week, which is when I usually go. I maybe go once every few months to keep my comfort level up and to strip and reassemble prior to storage.

@ Girls Gone Child - Gated communities are very common where I live. With entry prices from the low $100s it is a far cry from the celebrity-inhabited gated communities in Southern CA where owners are likely searching for separation from the general public. I didn’t go searching for a gated community out of fear or to live in a false bubble of security. I actually followed someone into this very gated community before we purchased this home to look around the neighborhood, so there was no delusion of a higher level of security. This community offered certain criteria we wanted in a home/neighborhood that others (gated or not) didn’t, reasons that aren’t really relevant to the current topic. I certainly have never felt caged and happen to know most of my neighbors. We even have community-based events; kids set up lemonade stands to raise money for cancer, people wave at each other when they walk or drive by…what I would hope to find in any neighborhood.

Melissa | 8:32 AM

My husband and I were having this conversation after the shootings... And our reactions to things were so different that I needed to share.His reaction to this is to get more information. To stay on top of it. To try to figure it out, in a way, I guess. I'm in duck and cover mode at the moment. It's not as if I don't know what's happening. It's all over the place. But I don't want to know, I can't process it just yet. It's too much. I guess part of it is having grown up in a kind of abusive environment, and I have a crazy family... not all in a bad way, but it is unpredictable. In large part it just made me want to protect my daughter and know it's not entirely possible. That being said, I think that entertainment violence is more indicative of our violence as a society and as a world than the other way around. In certain ways, however, I think that it opens up doors to conversation - in a safe spot ... though it makes me sad.

Laura | 11:40 AM

The amount of violence in TV/movies really saddens me. For the most part, I think a little bit here and there is fine and harmless, but I've noticed a pattern with TV shows lately: Run out of plot ideas and slowly gravitate towards more shoot em up style violence. For example, the first season of Sons of Anarchy was pretty tame for the most part, and the plot lines and family drama was enough to draw me in and keep me entertained. They even based their "club" on a non violent approach. That was out the window in season 2-3 and I'm finding myself less and less interested in watching. The violence just makes me sad and uncomfortable. This story sounds lame as I type it out, but my basic point is that I really wish media didn't have to reduce itself to violence to get ratings. Sigh...

Anonymous | 11:55 AM

I've been thinking about this thread for a while now and even had a few discussions about it with my husband. It's changed how I approach gun ownership. I used to think, "well, we come from a hunting community" but now I've rephrased it: "I come from a hunting community but I don't agree with arsenals of weapons nor automatics". This is a broader issue and as a gun owner, I do have a greater responsibility beyond locking my weapon up. Great discussion on here.


Thanks for your comment, Anon 11:55. Lots of good important stuff in here. Thank you for being a part of it. xo

Anonymous | 12:00 AM

Rebecca's Nana, you are absolutely stunning. Higher beings among us, indeed. You are one. Respect, peace and love, Christa

Anonymous | 2:16 AM

"I just wanted to address that one point since someone brought it up: it's not possible for a "well armed militia" to defend itself via force from the American government. They have aerial drones, giant missiles and nuclear weapons for goodness sake."

Take away the citizen's guns and you give the gov't all the advantage. We can at least resist. We can make it as difficult as possible. Heck, maybe it's an argument for stockpiling and automatic weapons if you want to make the fight fairer!

I certainly wouldn't just throw up my hands and give up.

Sorry, but the 2nd amendment was given to the people as a right. People who want to take away that right scare the hell out of me.

And thinking the gov't isn't capable of attacking us is naive. We don't know what the future holds if push comes to shove.

The founding fathers were looking at hundreds of years of history. They were not so trusting.

Lindserannie | 9:35 AM

I didn't say that I think citizen's guns should be taken away - I don't think that. I'm for much stricter regulation and a ban on certain types of guns, but not for banning all guns for all people. I don't equate "gun control" with "no guns for anyone" - I sincerely don't believe that would ever happen and without trying to sound like an asshole (meaning me), I think that line of thought is pretty close to paranoia. Skepticism & a healthy involvement in government is good - being afraid of the government to the point that you think they may actually be that oppressive is kind of extreme (I think-clearly I can't be in anyone's head and understand why they feel the way they do).

I also didn't say that the government wasn't capable of "attacking us" - clearly they are...I just don't believe they will.

Anonymous | 2:40 PM

Gun control doesn't have to be all or nothing.
Put a ban on automatic weapons and large capacity magazines (what holds the bullets) and a mass killing such as this would be a whole lot harder.
No "average citizen" has any need for assault rifles with 100 rounds.

Anonymous | 2:44 PM

I also wanted to add, I can't remember seeing any violence as a kid.
My parents closely monitored what we viewed.
I thought on it long and hard and the first violence that stands out in my mind was when I was reading The Call of the Wild (horrific wolf fight).

Katie | 9:43 PM

I just feel the need to ask why banning personal gun ownership in America is not an option?

I am from the UK and currently living in Japan. In both of these countries and many European countries gun ownership is highly restricted and the common man cannot own one just because he wants to or wants to protect himself with this weapon.
Many countries around the world survive just well without having to own guns, why is America so different? Of course in the UK we do have our own problems (knife crime and illegal gun crime) but we manage to get through disputes, confrontations and protecting ourself without resorting to firearms.

I have read a few comments here and from living in Colorado many years back, understand the reasoning behind the ownership of hunting-associated firearms for those reasons. However the act of selling military level guns to a 24year old student is, in my mind, totally absurd.

Without getting much into the argument of blame in this situation, I do believe we are highly oversensitized to gun use and violence through media. In the mind of someone who may be suffering from any range of mental illnesses, what is the difference between playing a first-person shooter video game and being the first person shooter in his own game.

I apologize if this comment comes across as caustic or accusatory, it isn't meant in that way. All of us here are on the same side, appalled at this senseless tragedy. I am just asking as a person from a country mostly void of guns, why they hold such an importance in the American lifestyle?

Nana | 11:41 PM

Dear "Anonymous" (Christa): Your comment warmed my heart. Thank you!

Mary Thomas | 6:30 PM

Loved this. The point you made about horror movies being entertainment and the news being "horrific" absolutely awesome. Never thought of it in that simple of terms before.

Unknown | 8:29 AM

I don't know. It seems like you're trying to blame violence on entertainment -- which is something that irks me. A TV show or movie does not make a person violent. There is already something violent in that person. I've been watching horror movies since I was a little kid and you know what? I still cry EVERY TIME Bambi's mother dies. I melt when I see a baby smile. The thought of hurting anyone for any reason other than to protect myself makes me sick. But I love movies, comics, books, and TV shows -- especially the gritty ones that contain bad things that happen in real life. Does that make me a bad person who is going to shoot up a theater? Nope -- same way that listening to heavy metal doesn't make me a bad person who is going to shoot up a university.

I also have a hard time blaming this on mental illness. This guy carefully planned everything. His methods are not signs of someone who is unstable. He wanted to be caught, and he wanted police to search his home (which was booby-trapped from top to bottom). This is a person who wanted attention, and even now -- in court and in jail -- is still garnering attention.

I don't want to give him and his violence any more attention. I want to mourn the people who were just trying to have a good time that night.

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Kate | 7:31 PM

From someone who lives in the murder capital of the United States, in an area that the average home costs $400,000 but there have been 2 armed robberies, 3 carjackings and 2 home invasions within .5 a mile of me in the last 3 weeks, I'm glad to have a gun that I know how to shoot that stays in my house. There are real things to fear, like children with guns who don't know they can have real futures because no one has ever tried to help them be better. I'm sorry but the world is a scary place and I love New Orleans with all of me but you can't turn a blind eye to what's happening outside your door.