Hard numbers
March 8, 2013 11:25 AM   Subscribe

Wow, that is totally surreal to see a friend's name in a random article about guns. Hi Roger!
posted by carsonb at 11:30 AM on March 8, 2013

You see the rest of America taking on something that urban America has already been forced to deal with. Maybe not a mass shooting, but if 30 people in your community, in a few square blocks, get shot in a year, you know?

Sometimes I feel that the only people that can relate to us are soldiers, people who’ve been in a war. You talk about post-traumatic stress disorder and things like that; I think a lot of that goes undiagnosed in places like Washington, D.C.; Chicago; L.A

That's entire families being wiped out, leaving behind traumatized friends and relatives.

posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:34 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

posted by rtha at 11:35 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

posted by Fizz at 11:36 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

At first I interpreted 'shot' to mean someone that I knew who had been shot, but survived.

And then I thought "Ha! Zero! I live a sheltered life!"

And then I started reading the stories and I remembered that my first grade teacher had been shot to death in a murder-suicide by her husband.

And then I remembered that the kid across the street killed himself a few years ago, and also another neighbor who grew up to be a Sheriff's Deputy.

All those people were in the bland, sheltered exurb where I grew up. I imagine that if I had different friends or lived in a different neighborhood in my current city the total would be much higher.
posted by Alison at 11:39 AM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm Canadian and my number is still higher than it should be at 2.

I think this question is the right kind of 'hard question'. Great concept for an article.
posted by empatterson at 11:41 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

This depends a bit on what you mean by "been shot" and what you mean by "knew." I was a nodding acquaintance (she lived across the street) of one person who was shot by her husband in a jealous rage. I knew someone pretty well who committed suicide with a shotgun. And I've certainly lived a very sheltered and privileged life.
posted by yoink at 11:45 AM on March 8, 2013

I was about to say that I consider myself very lucky not to know anyone who's been shot, but right before I posted I remembered that I have an uncle who was shot and wounded in circumstances I'd rather not discuss.

I don't think we can have an honest conversation about gun violence in the US until we can honestly process the issue in our own heads.
posted by compartment at 11:46 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

1, childhood friend, suicide.

posted by dabug at 11:47 AM on March 8, 2013

I know a bunch; all but one in the military. I've been shot AT, but not hit.
posted by blaneyphoto at 11:48 AM on March 8, 2013

My personal number is, fortunately, zero. However, I teach at a major Canadian university, and I know that many of my students would report significantly higher numbers.
posted by sfred at 11:49 AM on March 8, 2013

I'm still at 1, luckily. It was someone my father's age in my neighborhood in the 1960s. He was shot by a gunman hired by his own son. We lived in a quiet neighborhood full of houses built for returning WWII veterans, but all that meant was the anger and violence were hidden most of time.
posted by tommasz at 11:51 AM on March 8, 2013

1 suicide. 1 shot to death by police.
posted by SPrintF at 11:51 AM on March 8, 2013

1. John Palermo, our family's insurance agent, who was also a parttime sheriff's deputy who was killed by a mental patient he was trying to pick up and deliver to a mental hospital.
2. Bill Schroeder, ROTC cadet at Kent State, shot in the back while walking through a parking lot.
I keep thinking there are more but am coming up blank.
posted by etaoin at 11:53 AM on March 8, 2013

Yeah, 1 suicide, in suburban Newfoundland.
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:54 AM on March 8, 2013

I was going to say zero, but now I realize it's one -- a guy I mountainbiked with once, shot dead by his father-in-law over a custody dispute.
posted by unSane at 11:56 AM on March 8, 2013

At least half a dozen, probably more.

Including this - those were friends and acquaintances there.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:57 AM on March 8, 2013

compartment, good point.

I started out thinking it was zero.

No, wait, 1. (Former colleague who shot himself a few months ago.)

No, actually, 3. (Family friend during my childhood who shot his girlfriend and then himself. She died, he lived but lost his sight.)

There are probably more I haven't remembered yet, but I'm just not used to thinking in those terms.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 11:57 AM on March 8, 2013

One. My aunt's boyfriend was murdered in a road-rage incident.
posted by lucasks at 12:00 PM on March 8, 2013

I was sure it was zero until I remembered that kid I knew in grade school. So at least one. And now I don't know how big that number actually is.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:02 PM on March 8, 2013

I don't know the exact answer to this question, but I'm glad to see it being asked. Thanks unSane.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:06 PM on March 8, 2013

1 - Edison Glenn, suicide, in high school
posted by carsonb at 12:06 PM on March 8, 2013

The National Safety Council puts the odds of dying as a result of a firearm assault as 1 in 321, and "intentional self-harm" as 1 in 109, and we know many, many of those will be by firearm.

I have 546 Facebook friends.

Too bad I don't get to choose which one, because I have my eye on this one jerk from high school...

Seriously, that stat is nuts. It's worse odds that dying in a car accident, and you can't get away from the damn "click it or ticket" PSAs. Similarly, I'm more likely to die as the result of a poison, but you never hear anything about that.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:06 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

Jesus Christ, this thread is hard to read. *Hugs everyone*
posted by schmod at 12:12 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Personally--at least 2, both suicides.
Professionally--dozens, all casualties of gang violence and the drug trade. It's depressingly common for me to be taking a medical history on a man of a certain age and discover that he'd been shot at some point.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 12:13 PM on March 8, 2013

I think my number is 5 -- 2 of whom were cousins -- but I don't want to think too hard about it.
posted by lord_wolf at 12:17 PM on March 8, 2013

One. A nurse friend. She shot herself in the head.

No, make that two. When I was in elementary school, one of the other students-same grade, different class-was shot and killed on the way home from school. He and a classmate had taken shelter in an abandoned house when it started raining, and a man shot him. For no reason whatsoever.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:18 PM on March 8, 2013

Americans worry more about gun violence than losing their jobs
...Americans worry more about being a victim of gun violence than they do about losing a job or being unable to pay their mortgage.

The poll also breaks down those who worry about gun violence by demographics. Hispanics are the most likely to be personally worried about gun violence, followed by African Americans and then those who have a household income below $40,000. Who is least likely to be worried about gun violence? Those who live in a gun-owning household.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:18 PM on March 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

Man. Agreed that thinking too hard is rough, but the immediate one is my swim team buddy's little brother. He was about ten the last time I saw him. He never graduated high school.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:20 PM on March 8, 2013

Off the top of my head, 6: Both parents (shot at), Dad's ex-partner, best friend (stray bullet during the LA Riots), close friend from high school was killed by her ex-boyfriend, kid i used to babysit was recently killed.

There are almost certainly more than that, but my mom used to know all that stuff and I don't keep in touch/keep up with people.
posted by ApathyGirl at 12:20 PM on March 8, 2013

I'm always struck by murder-as-crime-of-passion stories. They usually go something like "Girl breaks up with guy. Guy reaches into trunk/glove compartment/pocket, pulls out a gun, murders girl, then kills himself."

I guess the inevitable suicide part really strikes me for some reason. They realize, after it's all over, that their lives are fundamentally finished, so they take the easy way out. I don't understand why they couldn't have put that much foresight into their actions beforehand -- nor do I understand the kind of blinding rage that would cause someone to shoot another human being dead.

I feel like these sorts of crimes (Man gets fired from job, man returns to jobsite and kills his boss, then himself) would be far less likely if guns were less available.

That is probably not going to change without a major constitutional amendment, however.
posted by Avenger at 12:24 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Around 5 or 6. Suicide, murder, attempted murder, at least one accident. A childhood playmate who committed suicide after he had barricaded himself in his house and was surrounded. A high school classmate who was shot and who's case remains I solved. So, like the Reverend said, too many.
posted by jonmc at 12:29 PM on March 8, 2013

Four, two survived.

This one hurts the most. We grew up in the same projects, our families lived next door to each other for over ten years, I knew his siblings when they were tiny little babies toddling around in diapers and I helped him learn how to ride a bike. Now he is dead because someone shot him, and the person who shot him is walking free.

God bless America.
posted by divined by radio at 12:29 PM on March 8, 2013

You see the rest of America taking on something that urban America has already been forced to deal with. Maybe not a mass shooting, but if 30 people in your community, in a few square blocks, get shot in a year, you know?

This is what the War on Drugs is doing.

It's really a war. It started out as hyperbole, but it's turned into an actual shooting war.
posted by Malor at 12:30 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

It's worse odds that dying in a car accident, and you can't get away from the damn "click it or ticket" PSAs.

Give a hoot. Don't shoot.

Also: 1 (me)
posted by hal9k at 12:34 PM on March 8, 2013

Well, I'm from Newtown originally, but putting that aside, two others that I can think of right now.

President of my college (survived), assailant unknown.

Ex-high school girlfriend, suicide.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:34 PM on March 8, 2013

Sean McCutcheon, an officer in the Lloyd, N.Y., police department and a school resource officer for Highland Central School District, accidentally discharged his gun at 1:38 p.m. Tuesday in the hallway of Highland High School here, the school district and police said.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of school children and estranged lovers.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:35 PM on March 8, 2013 [8 favorites]

I have a lot of friends & family who own guns, but I don't know anyone who (to my knowledge) has been shot. Had a grandpa who got hit by mortar shrapnel in WWII, though.
posted by BurntHombre at 12:38 PM on March 8, 2013

2, although one of them I barely knew, both from high school. One was an acquaintance of mine from an art class who worked as a night security guard at a self-storage place and was shot and killed on the job. The other was a girl in my high school who was shot by her ex-boyfriend and killed. There's probably a bunch more that I just don't know about.
posted by LionIndex at 12:39 PM on March 8, 2013

Too many.

The shooter, who I met as a kid when his mother (shot, brutally) gave me French lessons at her home so I could take the French AP test, which otherwise wasn't offered by our high school.

His father too (shot).

His sister, not shot (but affected, obviously), who was in the same classes as me; we also started out at the same university and greeted each other on the field, where she was a cheerleader and I was a tenor sax player in the marching band.

All of the kids at the high school who were shot (2 dead, dozens wounded).

The man whose gun was stolen (a neighbor).

The kid who sold him the stolen gun.

The kids who tackled him.

The first teacher on the scene, who always got there earlier than he needed to because he knew kids in the cafeteria needed someone to look out for them in the early mornings.

A few of the cops who arrested him.

too goddamned many
posted by fraula at 12:40 PM on March 8, 2013

Who didn't have a grandpa hit by shrapnel in WWII?
posted by C.A.S. at 12:41 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yes, my husband and I were talking the other day about this -- we were friends in high school with a woman who was a victim of a spree killer (disgruntled grad student) and we both lived in the same block as a whole family murdered by another disgruntled grad student. We grew up in small town Iowa.
posted by Malla at 12:44 PM on March 8, 2013

A bunch, from elementary school on up, and AFAIK all of them were shot by guns owned by themselves or their family members.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:46 PM on March 8, 2013

3 including me. One was an accident, one was the result of misunderstanding (shooter thought it was a home invasion burglar thing), one was self-inflicted as a depressed teenager.
posted by ifjuly at 12:47 PM on March 8, 2013

how many known 1, Brian Beutler of TPM my old next door neighbor. Persons seen shot? 1. Did not know him. But it was 3 feet away.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:50 PM on March 8, 2013

Yes, my husband and I were talking the other day about this -- we were friends in high school with a woman who was a victim of a spree killer (disgruntled grad student) and we both lived in the same block as a whole family murdered by another disgruntled grad student. We grew up in small town Iowa.

Gang Lu?
posted by Ironmouth at 12:51 PM on March 8, 2013

0. Yay.
posted by Justinian at 12:52 PM on March 8, 2013

posted by fimbulvetr at 12:54 PM on March 8, 2013

0 or 1. A guy I knew in high school killed himself and I think he used a gun, but I am not certain.

However, like others have noted, there could certainly be many others that I am just not aware of.
posted by nolnacs at 12:54 PM on March 8, 2013

2, possibly 3. all suicides (last one never made public the cause of death). all men.
all with depression.

We have a depression epidemic and a drug war epidemic. Both with difference causes and solutions but I feel they get confused in the press and in politics.

Stop the drug war, use that money for universal health care, esp. early mental illness support.

Win Win.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 12:54 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

I had jury duty recently and the case that we were chosen to hear involved a non-fatal shooting of a police officer. During voir dire, the lawyers asked everyone who had known someone who was a victim of gun violence to stand. In a room of 30 or so people, there were significantly less people sitting than standing. There was a moment where the sitting people looked around and their eyes got wide. Then there was the moment after when I realized that not one of the African American jury candidates was sitting.

I myself was standing for 3 people.
Andrew Polklemba, murder.
Mike Query, suicide attempt
Christopher Smith, suicide.
posted by teleri025 at 12:54 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

One, shot in the stomach, survived. He is an utterly crazy menace who sneaks around in people's yards at night, and I wish he wasn't my neighbor.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:55 PM on March 8, 2013

Strange. I can remember each and every person I know that died of AIDS, their names, their faces, the year. At first, I couldn't think of any gun shot victims, then they started creeping back into my memory one by one. At least three I can think of and I am sure more.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:59 PM on March 8, 2013

At least six, excluding people in the armed services. Again, not something I wish to dwell on long enough to come up with a hard number. Surely, that is part of the problem.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:03 PM on March 8, 2013

Ironmouth, yes. Our friend was Miya Rudolfo-Siosin, who was completely paralyzed by her injuries. She died a few years ago.
posted by Malla at 1:03 PM on March 8, 2013

Eight, if you count twice the guy that was shot twice in two different incidents a year apart. Five of those were fatal: Two murders (one during an armed robbery, the other a premeditated murder by a jealous ex-girlfriend), three suicides, two random drivebys (that was the double victim, who survived both shootings), and one carjacking. All men, incidentally, and the known shooters were also all men except for the domestic case.
posted by deadmessenger at 1:03 PM on March 8, 2013

0, and boy do I feel lucky.

Man oh man.
posted by dry white toast at 1:05 PM on March 8, 2013

2, that I can immediately think of offhand.

The first--which still affects my family, especially my sister--was her best friend getting shot by her boyfriend right in front of her and a swimming pool full of kids (he'd tracked her down to her lifeguard job) and then shot himself in the same place. They both died. She's got what I would term PTSD from the incident, but refuses to discuss it with us except in the most oblique way. She's now 35; she was 17 at the time. It made the news pretty big at the time but I don't want to hunt down any link--even if I could find it--because it will just make me cry.

The second is a good friend of mine losing her brother in Florida to what was termed "suicide by police."

It's the first that I still think about. This was a girl whom I used to tease because she and my sister were just so bratty. She was a good kid. Her funeral was the first I'd ever gone to and it was so so hard.

posted by Kitteh at 1:11 PM on March 8, 2013

I was going to say zero.

And then I remembered that a few years ago, one of my former students was shot and killed by her father. He also killed her sister, her mother, and then himself.

She was one of my students in the first class I ever TAed in grad school. She should be graduating this year.

posted by pemberkins at 1:12 PM on March 8, 2013

When I first started reading the article, I thought I was at 0. Then I started thinking of people.

5, and counting.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:15 PM on March 8, 2013

Related: If you haven't heard it yet, This American Life recently aired a two-part episode on Harper High School on the South Side of Chicago. 29 students or former students of Harper High were shot during the 2011/2012 school year. The episodes document the reports of 3 journalists who reported on the first five months of the current school year at Harper as they dealt with moving forward after the shootings.

It paints a breathtaking and heartbreaking picture of how gun violence affects young (mostly Black) Americans in low income areas. Can't recommend it enough.

Part One
Part Two
posted by dry white toast at 1:16 PM on March 8, 2013 [11 favorites]

Two. One was the brother of a classmate from elementary school (brother was junior-high age) who was shot and killed while playing with a gun. The second was shot by police officers during some sort of undercover drug bust in the parking lot of the small town club we were at; the guy was in his car with the officer, and we heard the shot from upstairs. He had not been armed himself, and he did survive.
posted by bizzyb at 1:17 PM on March 8, 2013

I guess I lead a more sheltered life than I thought. 0, and I don't even know anyone who owns a gun, as far as I know.
posted by dmd at 1:20 PM on March 8, 2013

Wait -- one more. My uncle was shot and killed by his ex-wife, in the middle of her experiencing some psychiatric issues. He was in his mid-20s and died, with two young children left behind. This all happened before I was born, so it's not always something I remember. I have a feeling, like some other posters, that more would come to me if I sat down and thought about it.

I do know hundreds of people who own guns, having been brought up in a hunting family in southeast Georgia. Most people I know closely, though, do take the recommended precautions with their guns.
posted by bizzyb at 1:22 PM on March 8, 2013

None of which I'm aware, but I have a small family and few friends. If I were more social and actually talked to people, I'm sure that number would be higher.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:28 PM on March 8, 2013

Zero, and may it stay that way for the rest of my goddamn life.
posted by KathrynT at 1:30 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

1. Death by suicide.
posted by All Out of Lulz at 1:36 PM on March 8, 2013

I used to do this to people except about death by automobile. My numbers were 1 relative, 1 friend, and 4 acquaintances when I was in my early thirties. I am not aware of increases since then.

It is brutally effective way of putting abstract statistics into an understandable feeling.
posted by srboisvert at 1:38 PM on March 8, 2013

Two, without thinking about it too hard or dredging.

My sister was friends with one of the people killed at the Georgetown Starbucks in 1997. I had seen him 4 days earlier.

And Dirk Smiler.

I imagine quite a few people I went to high school with in D.C. had been shot at non-fatally, but we didn't talk about it in those terms.
posted by feckless at 1:39 PM on March 8, 2013

2 that I can think of. 1 murder and 1 suicide. Jesus

posted by Uncle at 1:40 PM on March 8, 2013

One great-uncle (suicide), a friend in high school (suicide), an acquaintance (murdered), an elementary school-mate later turned spree-criminal (shot at police, killed by police).

I agree that it's a challenge to remember them. I'm sure I'm missing some.
posted by empyrean at 1:41 PM on March 8, 2013

None. My expectation would be that nearly everyone I know would also answer zero. But then I'm British. An interesting way to frame the impacts of violence and the potential for violence furnished by virtually unfettered access to guns.
posted by biffa at 1:47 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

At least two - one in a street mugging (shooter was about 14), one died at Va. Tech.
posted by thelonius at 1:49 PM on March 8, 2013

Was going to write zero, but then i remembered a high school classmate who was pretty heavily into various forms of petty crime. He was shot. With an mp5 no less (in Norway).

Hard to read all these stories.
posted by flippant at 1:49 PM on March 8, 2013

Dirk, who died. Rex, who did not. I think that's all, but I'm never sure.

Of course, several of the kids I represented while working in juvenile defense had been shot or shot at. I had an adult client who had been shot. Neither friends, nor colleagues, but people I knew in some context.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:54 PM on March 8, 2013

When I was in fourth grade, the eighth grade brother of one of my classmates did bring a gun to school, and threaten the teacher, the other students, and eventually himself.

I don't think anyone was killed that day. One of the other kids got the gun away from him. And I was totally unaware of it as it unfolded, in a different classroom down the hall. But I remember the news coverage after it pretty vividly. The kid's name was Luke, and his brothers were Matthew, Mark, and John. It was a Catholic school. The teachers initially thought the gun was a prop for the eighth-grade play.

Anyway, I'm not aware of anyone I know having been shot, but I feel like guns made an impression on my childhood all the same. There was another day when the school I went to was under "lock-down" and my parents couldn't pick me up, because of a violent incident nearby. And then, I mean, I lived in Littleton, Colorado (though we moved before Columbine) and my parents live in Aurora now. Guns have always felt like this impersonal but omnipresent menace to me, like the specter of nuclear war, back before the end of the cold war.

But I guess that means I'm really lucky, looking at these stories. "Impersonal" and "omnipresent" beats the hell out of personal and specific any day.
posted by OnceUponATime at 1:54 PM on March 8, 2013

Eight, if you count twice the guy that was shot twice in two different incidents a year apart.

I've had a few minutes to think about this. I'm now up to eleven. Added to my list are another suicide, a failed suicide attempt, and a police officer shot in the line of duty. Fuck.
posted by deadmessenger at 2:01 PM on March 8, 2013


First, a marine who returned from two tours in Iraq unscathed, only to be shot outside his home.

Second, a friend's mother who was enjoying an afternoon on their sailboat when she was hit with a bullet out of the clear blue sky. Some idiot had been expressing his excitement by randomly firing into the air, and she had the misfortune to be hit.

Both survived.
posted by apparently at 2:05 PM on March 8, 2013

1 - shot at VA tech.

My sister's also been robbed with a gun physically on her skull. I've known someone who was suicidal and threatened to shoot himself. He's since sold back all his guns, and seems to be doing ok for now - or at least better.
posted by raztaj at 2:07 PM on March 8, 2013

I guess I'm the opposite of many people here, that in the process of thinking it over I had to revise my number downward.

My initial thought was one person I knew, not well, who was murdered about five years ago.

After some additional thought I recalled a high school classmate who was murdered nearly twenty years ago—again, not one I knew well, and some years after I had lost touch with most of my high school class, which is why I didn't immediately recall it. So, two, I thought.

Then I began looking up details on those two. Turns out they were both murdered, but neither by gun. So, zero. That I'm aware of. For now.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:14 PM on March 8, 2013

At least nine. One survived.

I grew up in DC in the 80s. My number is miraculously low.
posted by toxic at 2:14 PM on March 8, 2013

One uncle, my namesake, suicide. Several other acquaintances, also suicides, I never heard how but my guess is, guns were used in most.
posted by Rash at 2:14 PM on March 8, 2013

I have lived, nearly all my life, in various rural locations. I suspect there's a big difference between the average "number" of people like me, and the "numbers" of urban dwellers such as those in the story. The only people I can think of are two high school classmates killed in Vietnam (possibly by means other than shooting). And I did know two other people who were murdered, but not with guns.
posted by beagle at 2:21 PM on March 8, 2013

I came up with 3 immediately; 2 fatal. With a little more thought I came up with 3 more. I don't want to think about it any more.

While typing this I came up with one more, for seven so far. 2 suicides, 2 hunting accidents, 2 biker shenanigans, and 1 brothers tussling over a loaded shotgun. I'm sure there are more, and if I include shootings where I only know the victims second-hand the number grows quickly (I can think of 3 childhood friends whose fathers shot themselves before I met them, just off the top of my head).

Shit, thought of another suicide while typing this.

I'm going to go cook dinner before I get too depressed.
posted by TedW at 2:25 PM on March 8, 2013

At least 4. Suicide, Attempted suicide, One went crazy and was shot by the cops. All three of those were in the Seattle area.
One was murdered by tweekers in SoCal.

There is more, too. One guy after high school had his windows shot out in some nonsense, my building was shot up a few months back.

Probably a lot more if I kept up with my home town a bit more.
posted by lkc at 2:29 PM on March 8, 2013


But I'd say that's the norm for Australians. Not gun crazed.
posted by postagepaid at 2:41 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I knew two people who murdered others. Not terribly well, but well enough that I thought they weren't, y'know ax-murderers or anything. Turns out they kinda were. Both used a gun, one murdered multiple people. And a guy I went to high school and knew fairly well as a teen with kidnapped a woman and had a spectacular police standoff. I always thought he was a little off but not dangerous. None of the "reasons" will ever make sense.

I don't leave my doors unlocked ever anymore
posted by fshgrl at 2:43 PM on March 8, 2013

Two. They had conspired to kill a rival gang member, and then afterwards carried out a murder-suicide pact. They were 17 years old. I also know the guy who's in prison for the actual shooting of the rival gang member. He was 16.
posted by altopower at 2:49 PM on March 8, 2013

At least 6 total.

In the little town I grew up in:
  • A twenty-something man who committed suicide. He was several years older than me, but we were acquaintances and I used to wait on him at the store I worked at.
  • A former classmate & friend who was killed in Iraq.
  • A middle-aged man who committed suicide. He was my dad's friend/coworker, also a customer at the store.
  • A woman who was murdered by her ex-cop boyfriend. She was my sister's friend's mom, also a customer at the store.

    Almost certainly more from that time of my life: I do not know the detailed stories of the war veterans I used to wait on in the store, and there are probably suicides I'm forgetting about.

    Since I've moved to more populated environs:
  • A man shot in a gang dispute, survived (paralyzed). He is a former friend of my sister.
  • A woman shot by police* while covering a protest as a student journalist. She is a friend of a friend.

    *They were using "less lethal" ammo (a.k.a. rubber bullets), which are not nearly as benign as you might think, penetrated her flesh but not organs. My understanding is surgery was required to remove them and she was left with nasty scars.

  • posted by superna at 3:08 PM on March 8, 2013

    Two guys messing around with a pistol and it goes off, blinding one of them for life. Blame and guilt ensue for the next 40 years. I have a handful more, but those two are who I think about when the subject is guns.
    posted by bonefish at 3:11 PM on March 8, 2013

    One that I can think of. My year at school; we'd been in plays together, in dance class, in choir. I'd read his poetry in the school magazine.

    He danced. Did he ever dance.

    On graduation day, in the Cathedral, there were strict rules dictating how serious you had to be when it was your turn to go up and get your diploma from the headmaster. Various schemes to contravene those rules were, of course, made. His was to step softly, demurely, up to the Headmaster, get the paper, shake his hand-- and then, on his way back across the Crossing, he let the tap shoes ring out. On the stone floor. Danced his way back to his seat and sat down to a round of strictly forbidden applause.

    In college, we heard he was still dancing. He had an apprenticeship with a major company lined up--

    Shot and killed in a mugging in Berkeley.
    posted by Pallas Athena at 3:12 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

    A brother's former wife, shot and killed in a robbery. A good friend who shot himself with a 22 rifle because he was tired of battling depression. A co-worker shot in the head during a mugging (he survived). I'm sure there are more.

    It's repugnant and chilling.
    posted by maxwelton at 3:13 PM on March 8, 2013

    3 that I can think of.

    The first was a boy I went to camp with. He was accidentally shot by an uncle when they were hunting and liked to show the scar
    The second was Pamela Waechter, a friend of my family from childhood. She was in the Seattle Jewish Federation on July 28, 2006, when Naveed Afzal Haq shot six women in the center. He shot Pam in the chest, and then chased her down and shot her in the head, killing her.
    The third was an editor I worked with for a year and a half in Omaha who moved to New York and then shot himself.

    There have been a few suicides with undisclosed causes. I have a feeling a few of those might be gunshots as well.
    posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:13 PM on March 8, 2013

    (Pallas, my co-worker's mugging was also in Berkeley. Odd. In his case, he did all the "right" things, gave up his wallet freely, was non-confrontational, etc., and still got shot.)
    posted by maxwelton at 3:15 PM on March 8, 2013

    I also thought 0 initially, then remembered a family friend whose suicide I think was by gunshot. I've met one of the Virginia Tech survivors, though only briefly - we have a mutual friend.
    posted by naoko at 3:39 PM on March 8, 2013

    two. One was my wife's old boss, who was in late stages of AIDS back in '95. Killed himself.

    Second was a guy I only met a few times, but I knew his girlfriend who used to work for my wife. Someone broke into their apartment late at night. It was the classic case of "hey, did you hear something?" She's said they didn't think it was an intruder, but some weird noise in their enclosed porch, screen door left open or something. He was shot dead before he ever turned the light on, and the culprit was never caught.
    posted by jeff-o-matic at 3:43 PM on March 8, 2013

    I throw the curve, being in the UK, but from a posh/rural background where many people have shotguns to shoot for sport. I've owned three guns myself, though none now.

    So: I don't know anyone who's been shot by someone else, but I do know four people who have killed themselves with a shotgun. (Not the same shotgun.)
    posted by Hogshead at 3:44 PM on March 8, 2013

    Two that I can quickly think of -- one survived (minus an eye) and the other died (suicide). But I wonder how many people I know now who were shot and survived before I met them and we've never discussed it, and how many childhood friends I lost touch with who've since been shot.
    posted by The corpse in the library at 3:45 PM on March 8, 2013

    From New Zealand. I don't think I know anyone who has been shot. I know several people who've been threatened with guns - mostly in store robberies, but my father was once robbed at gunpoint when collecting rent.

    The brother of a friend committed suicide, and as he was a soldier he might have used a firearm, but I don't know if he did, and I'm not even sure I ever met him. My grandfather was certainly shot at, in WW2.
    posted by Infinite Jest at 4:05 PM on March 8, 2013

    Come to think of it -- it's the asking that's important, I think, for this exercise. I bet if I actually asked people I knew if they'd been shot, a few would turn out to have been at some point. Much like if you go around asking women if they've had an abortion (not that I recommend doing that) -- a much higher percentage will have done so than you might think.
    posted by The corpse in the library at 4:08 PM on March 8, 2013

    I know for a fact that my number is higher than 1, but I always get stuck on the 1. My aunt was shot and killed in a workplace shooting in May 1997 along with her boss.

    I know it's more than one, but even one is too many.
    posted by bibliogrrl at 4:15 PM on March 8, 2013

    posted by fizzix at 4:22 PM on March 8, 2013

    not counting those in the military.
    posted by fizzix at 4:25 PM on March 8, 2013

    4 and counting. 2 suicides, one mugging and one shot by significant other.

    Coincidentally while I was reading through this, news broke that there had been a murder / suicide in the tiny town I grew up in.
    posted by Duffington at 4:33 PM on March 8, 2013

    This summer it will have been 20 years since my fiance was shot in the face -- he died at the scene. As far as I know, no one was ever arrested or charged.
    posted by Annabelle74 at 4:37 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

    I know of one for sure, and that was a suicide. It was a boy from my freshman year HS French class. I ended up at a different high school after my sophomore year, and I learned that he killed himself during my junior year by shooting himself in the head.

    The cousin I grew up with tried to give me a Glock 20 when I moved to NYC after graduating uni. I didn't accept it. I think he thought NYC was still wild like it was in the 70s. I don't doubt he used guns on people, because for a while he was always in criminal trouble and he was friends with some of the boys on my (scary, poor) block as a kid. I wouldn't be shocked to learn that any of the kids who lived there had been shot or killed or that they shot or killed someone. There were gangs aplenty around my way when I was a teenager.
    posted by droplet at 4:38 PM on March 8, 2013

    Jesus Christ. I have several friends in the military and I'm doing a clinical rotation at an inner-city hospital, after going to inner-city public schools all my life. I guess I'd never really considered the possibility that you could go through life in modern times without knowing someone who'd been shot, because the first "zero" really surprised me. And examining that surprise has made me really, really sad.
    posted by a hat out of hell at 4:41 PM on March 8, 2013 [9 favorites]

    1, my grandfather, IRA ambushed his RUC patrol, he lived.

    This is the quote that got me: "it’s the kind of sorrow that quite literally settles into your bones. And it never goes away. And nothing is ever the same."

    posted by arcticseal at 4:55 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

    3. 1 suicide, 1 murder. 1 shot 8 times by the father of his internet "girlfriend". He lived.
    posted by vibrotronica at 5:13 PM on March 8, 2013

    At least four, all suicides.*

    I wish someone would interview members of Congress with this question. While the obvious leap to mind (Gabby Giffords, Carolyn McCarthy) there are others. Every time the media mentions that Dianne Feinstein is behind the draft gun safety legislation, I wish it would explain about George Moscone and Harvey Milk. Too often they just vaguely say "California Senator blah blah blah" leaving room for the viewer to infer "San Francisco values"-- I wish they would remind people why Senator Feinstein is not going to drop this. Also Rep. Jackie Speier, who was shot and pretended to be dead when she was a staffer for Rep. Leo Ryan. And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

    * One of which was a 14 year old boy, which breaks my heart every time I think about him, nearly 30 years later.

    posted by ambrosia at 5:23 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

    I just linked this in another thread, but it seems relevant here, too. Re guns and suicide, a good little piece in the NYT today: Suicide with no warning.

    According to the piece, "more than 60 percent of gun-related deaths in the United States are suicides."
    posted by yoink at 5:25 PM on March 8, 2013

    0 civilians, 4 military.

    Please forgive the derail, but here's a little war story...two of the military guys were pretty high ranking, a Sgt Major and a Lt. Col. They were souvenir hunting, taking stuff from dead Iraqi soldiers in an area that hadn't really been cleared yet. It was "still smokin'". After they loaded up their CUCV (Chevy Blazer) with AK-47s, commo gear and shit, they turned around and headed back towards me a couple hundred yards down a trail. Just after they turned around they were each hit in the backs of their heads by a sniper. The sniper must have been pretty far off because he nailed the upright spare tire too. I'm only writing this to vent, because I'm still pissed that I had to clean up their brains and that they were assholes for being so stupid. (No we didn't put the truck back into service, it was canibalized to fix other trucks.)

    Thanks for listening and my deepest condolences for everyone in this thread who has suffered loss or has had to witness. Regardless of circumstance, it really is a goddamn horrid affair.
    posted by snsranch at 5:49 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

    My number keeps on going up. There's a lot that's hidden in the corners of my mind, apparently. I usually think about the ones that died from it. There's the kid who killed himself with his mother's gun over a bad grade. There's a friend of mine from junior high, and her brother, and her godsister. Another friend, and her father. My dance partner died, my grandpa didn't.

    So, I guess eight? Not counting military, because that's a lot more. I grew up in an area where you couldn't help but notice that there were some horrible things going on, but didn't have to deal with them every day. I spend a lot of time thinking mine's pretty low. But then I'll mention to other people about how I don't like guns because I've known too many people who've been shot, and shit gets uncomfortable right then.
    posted by dinty_moore at 6:14 PM on March 8, 2013

    Personally, none.

    Professionally, I keep a spreadsheet.
    posted by Renoroc at 6:20 PM on March 8, 2013

    Six or seven--I assume my great-uncle's suicide was by gun, but I don't think I'll ever want to ask.

    When I was growing up, we never could be sure if the loud pops going off in our neighborhood were backfires, M-80s, or guns, but my brother and I were taught to stay away from windows when we heard them.
    posted by hydrophonic at 6:25 PM on March 8, 2013

    None, and this thread is reminding me how grateful I am for that. Even all my friends who went into the military made it unscathed. One close call: my cousin was cleaning a rifle without making sure the chamber was clear; fortunately the gun was aimed the other way.
    posted by junco at 6:36 PM on March 8, 2013

    zero, and I feel incredibly lucky, and sadly alone. More and more, I am growing comfortable living in a culture without guns, and each time I go back to the States, I feel less comfortable, less 'at home', less safe.

    A friend here is a hunter. He had to go through roughly a year of licensing to get a permit to own a shotgun, and there are yearly requirements to keeping it. A pysch evaluation was part of the process. He is very, very careful with his shotgun, and follows the laws to the letter. When I went boar hunting with him, his other friend was not so meticulous, offering up his gun for anyone who wanted to hold it aim it, which is very, very much against the law here.

    And, to everyone who's lost someone, sincerely, my condolences.
    posted by Ghidorah at 7:04 PM on March 8, 2013

    Zero. I'm also Australian.

    My heart broke a little, reading the article, and is breaking even more reading this thread. My father died of natural causes when I was a child and it messed me up so much. I can't imagine how devastating it must be to lose a loved one to violence.

    I'm so sorry that human beings do this to each other.
    posted by Georgina at 7:20 PM on March 8, 2013

    Up to 5 now. Roommate of a good friend shot in the chest in front of their apartment in Berkeley and another in the mass shooting at the Hotel Durant that year.

    6 if you count the barista at the Georgetown Starbucks mentioned upthread. Totally forgot about that but it freaked my shit out because I lived two blocks away and there was nowhere else to get coffee, because, you know, DC sucks.

    What's crazy is that 5/6 were essentially acts of random violence by deranged people that never would have killed if they didn't have easy access to firearms.

    So yeah, I'm not opposed to private gun ownership, but for blocking every attempt to regulate and limit access, fuck you very much NRA.
    posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:47 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

    Four neighbors in two incidents. One my wife and I heard during our Friday date night. Couldn't afford to move for four years.
    posted by infinitewindow at 8:05 PM on March 8, 2013

    I jumped from the pictures of Tohoku and all the nightmares that I experienced from that day and the following days to this post. And while I lost only one acquaintance in the Tohoku quake, I was so aware of so many people losing their lives all at once, in the span of minutes.

    Then I came to this post and started counting up and realized it's much like boiling the frog, I've become desensitized to how many gun deaths have occurred among friends and family over the years. If you'd asked me cold, without giving thought, I'd have said two. But when I really started counting in earnest, I hit TWENTY lives in less than three minutes of thought. And I don't live a really reckless life, in bad neighborhoods, for any American.

    Goddamnit, this has to stop. The genie is NOT out of the bottle. The rest of us are letting some fucking kooks lead us around by the nose on this issue. And before you tag me as some hippy flower freak, I own guns. They sit in a safe, unloaded, with the ammo in another locked case. Please, please, let us start taking ownership of the innocent lives lost to Second Amendment bullshit and recognize that the Second Amendment must go.
    posted by Purposeful Grimace at 8:06 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


    Three suicides, two homicides, two shot but survived.

    It's crazy and scary to think about them all as an aggregate number like that, rather than each individual person/event.
    posted by rollbiz at 8:08 PM on March 8, 2013

    people you’ve talked to

    Narrows it down a lot....
    Still, probably easier to list the people I know who haven't been shot.
    posted by Smedleyman at 8:35 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

    ambrosia: "Every time the media mentions that Dianne Feinstein is behind the draft gun safety legislation, I wish it would explain about George Moscone and Harvey Milk. "

    She was close by when the shootings happened, and was arguably the first to realize what had happened. Her press conference informing the unsuspecting and shocked public of what had happened sends chills down my spine every time I watch it.
    posted by schmod at 8:37 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

    Potentially one - childhood friend, suicide.

    Considering that most of my childhood friends own guns (for hunting), this is impressively low and I hope it stays that way.
    posted by sonika at 8:46 PM on March 8, 2013

    One, sort of.

    I think I was a freshman or sophomore in high school. She was the older sister of a girl I hardly knew. I didn't enjoy their company and never really spoke to either of them. I remember hearing about it after the fact, that there was some sort of argument or confrontation or some damned thing happening at their house when a .22 went off and hit her in the head. I just looked her up - she died in the hospital twelve hours later.

    I remember hearing about it the next day and being unsurprised. Not in that "she had it coming to her" kind of way, but more like "well, is this really that outlandish?"

    What does that say about... man, I dunno, people when that kind of tenuous probability comes into your head for the first time one day? What about when it's proven?

    Jesus Christ. I'm 24 now. That was and wasn't so long ago; so much has happened since then.

    posted by Chutzler at 9:08 PM on March 8, 2013

    I spent two years living and traveling extensively in some of the Southeast DC neighborhoods described in the article.

    One of my roommates started acting as a mentor to an older teenage boy in the neighborhood, A. A got himself into a beef with" an older guy nearby, who threatened violence including shooting. Roommate frequently harbored A in the house or let him cut through the backyard to stay out of older guy's sight. No one was ever harmed in that mess, THANK GOD, but the constant threat of violence was one of the things that drove me to move out of that house, out of the city entirely.

    I rode the bus route where this shooting (linked from article) happened occasionally, and used to volunteer right near the intersection where the shooting happened.

    This chain of shootings started at a party two blocks north of my house, and culminated in the massive drive-by about a mile south. The first shooting started from a dispute over a fake gold bracelet. A BRACELET, for fuck's sake.

    I'm a zero, and I cried at this article because I know these places, and I know it could have been higher so easily.
    posted by ActionPopulated at 9:54 PM on March 8, 2013

    Four. A coworker shot by an abductor years ago. The worst one, a neighbor who shot himself in front of his young son. ("Daddy pointed the gun at his head and the bullet came out.") A family member with AIDS shot himself. Another coworker committed suicide.
    posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:13 PM on March 8, 2013

    Zero. I'm also Australian, and reminded yet again how very grateful I am for our gun laws.
    For all those tragic losses.
    posted by Jubey at 10:39 PM on March 8, 2013

    I teach HS in NYC and I can think of three immediately shot AND killed- two both 14 or 15 shot for no reason, wrong street at wrong time, wrong basketball court at wrong time. The other one shot after he left my school. Those are the ones I've heard about anyway.
    posted by bquarters at 10:46 PM on March 8, 2013

    0. As far as I know, no kids were shot in any schools every in any city I was in. But I grew up mainly in Canada.

    I really don't think these gun threads are good for anyone's mental health. I frankly feel Americans would be better off if they suppressed all these memories and never thought of them.

    A plurality of Americans believe that these deaths are sad, but a necessary cost for the Freedom to own your guns and all the benefits that guns bring to America. Both political parties basically agree on this matter, as they do about so many other things - the only tiny difference is on things like assault rifles but only a tiny portion of the gun killings each year are committed with such weapons, so no matter what, nothing will really change (and of course, voting for a third party is almost universally believed to be pointless and ineffectual). And American entertainment is chock-full of people being shot in every possible way. This is what you like - perhaps not you as an individual but certainly you, plural, as in "Americans."

    So why do you do this to yourselves? What's the point? Do you like feeling bad? All this feeling bad isn't going to change one thing.
    posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:02 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

    Four paragraphs in, I said "NOPE NOPE NOPE" to this article.
    I know 2 people who have been shot, one by himself in a drunken accident (He survived, but still has trouble walking), another was by a family member, also in an (apparent) accident. I haven't been shot myself, but I've had guns pointed in my face on two separate occasions, and what it made me realize was that, by the time I understood what was happening, having had a gun on me would have been a worse thing than having the mental faculties to talk my way out of it...
    posted by KGMoney at 11:09 PM on March 8, 2013

    Zero. I'm from the UK.

    If I'd had US-style access to guns when I was depressed, I'd be a number.
    posted by jack_mo at 2:14 AM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

    So why do you do this to yourselves? What's the point? Do you like feeling bad? All this feeling bad isn't going to change one thing.

    I read the article and the thread and, like everyone else here, began a tally of gunshot deaths. The overwhelming feeling I had, besides of course the sad and depressing fact of the actual deaths, was surprise and a little bit of shock. Why? My list kept growing. Evidently I had filed some of these incidents under the "that's part of life" category. I found my acceptance disturbing.

    So, for me, the article and thread are a wake up call to realize how the gun culture in this country, and the resulting deaths, are just taken for granted. As a given. Part of life.

    And just to be clear, of course the mass shootings are a wake up call for some of us, but the point of this thread is much more personal. It's an opportunity to widen consciousness on a different level.

    Other people in other countries don't accept this type of thing. Why should we?

    - Neighbor. Robbed and murdered on a business trip. He was a very decent man.

    - Neighbor. Chased his wife and daughters out of the house with a gun then committed suicide.

    - Cousin. Suicide. He was in his early twenties.

    - Sister's friend. Suicide. Sixteen year old boy.

    - Sister's best friend from high school. Murdered by ex-boyfriend when she was twenty years old.

    - Cousin's in-law. Found shot to death on a street far from his home. How he got there? Unknown. Assailant and motive? Unknown. I had a long conversation with him at a dinner just a week before he was killed.

    - Personal friend. Shot in the chest with a deer rifle over an argument about money. He survived.

    - Family member. Shooter. Killed a young man in his mid-twenties during an actual gunfight. They both drew guns at the same time. Family member received a twenty-two year sentence. Note: The young man who was killed had been making threats against said family member for quite awhile. Other details hazy.

    - Grandfather. Shot. Battle of the Bulge. Survived.
    posted by TrolleyOffTheTracks at 3:36 AM on March 9, 2013

    2 who were killed, 12 who were injured, and another 10 or so of us who escaped.
    Funny, since that hapened I've been in the military three and a half years and have met zero people who've been shot. At least here there is discipline and respect and safety when it comes to firearms.
    posted by alona at 5:01 AM on March 9, 2013


    But then I'm Australian.

    Six years ago an American friend of a friend of a friend came to live with us for a year whilst he studied.

    We soon discovered he was a Republican-voting, anti-abortion, pro-gun, church attendee. WTF? But to our surprise we got along famously.

    When he went home a year later we hadn't been able to alter his position on the Republicans, abortion or religion.

    But he came to love the freedom of being able to abuse a driver who'd cut him off without fearing he'd be shot, and he completely changed his position on guns.

    Be interesting to know how he feels ten years later, and whether he simply got used to a gun culture again or not. I must ask him…
    posted by puffmoike at 5:04 AM on March 9, 2013

    One. Teenaged brother of the little girl who was my daughter's best friend in elementary school.

    The thing I kept thinking about, reading this thread, is how far out the pain and loss and horror travels. I never met this kid once; I knew and loved his little sis, I was on friendly terms with his parents but we weren't close. His death completely devastated his family, I mean utterly, and several years later my heart still hurts so badly for Perry, his parents, and his poor little sis.

    So many of the stories here are about people equally or even more removed from the center of one's life--some are of familiar-stranger type--but the sadness and loss and rupture are still vivid.

    As a practicing optimist, I want to suggest that we take away from this conversation a second thought, that each of us is as valued, important, impactful right now, in our own lives, as the people who are memorialized here. There are so many questions on the green from people struggling with feeling lonely and unloved... Maybe this kind of discussion can help people realize that each and every person is part of the human community, is seen and known and matters, is cared for, for no other reason except that they are here. Gentle reader, present company included.
    posted by Sublimity at 5:43 AM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


    Not counting about 200 murders I covered as a newspaper reporter in Philly.
    posted by sixpack at 6:23 AM on March 9, 2013

    Two. Both American.
    posted by Decani at 7:14 AM on March 9, 2013

    So why do you do this to yourselves? What's the point? Do you like feeling bad? All this feeling bad isn't going to change one thing.

    Baby steps. It sounds like horseshit, but I think it's a good way to describe the sea change that's beginning to take place following the Newton shootings. Before that, I feel like a large part of the collective consciousness in the US had been preoccupied with other stuff (go as far back as you like and pick something), and that for the public at large, actually engaging and dealing with gun violence as gun violence was always something to be done later. But I think that's beginning to change, and I think this article is a sign of that.

    The situation at large isn't going to change by tomorrow (median social values take decades or longer to change), and you can let that frustrate you or you can examine it, connect what dots you can, and try to be productive about it.
    posted by Chutzler at 8:03 AM on March 9, 2013

    A lot of us (at least Americans raised in relatively peaceful environments) say none, at first.

    And then I remembered my beautiful young artist friend who shot herself in the alley behind her apartment thirty year ago. And then I remembered the class clown I taught in high school twenty years ago who threw sticks at someone's car, and that someone came back with a TEC-9 that belonged to his mother's cop boyfriend (this was a white-on-black crime), and then I remembered another kid whose desk was empty one Monday morning, and then I remembered the mother of the first boy to kiss my daughter, ambushed by the boy's cop father as she sat in a van with another man...I'm not sure many of us can say zero.
    posted by kozad at 8:25 AM on March 9, 2013

    I really don't think these gun threads are good for anyone's mental health. I frankly feel Americans would be better off if they suppressed all these memories and never thought of them.

    How do we make change if we don't even admit there's a problem? Gun violence isn't a thing that just happens "over there" to other people. It happens to "us" in very concrete and immediate ways.

    There are more than a few people in this thread who acknowledge that at first they assumed their number was zero, but then realized that it was not.

    Denial is not going to solve this problem we have.
    posted by rtha at 8:47 AM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

    I really don't think these gun threads are good for anyone's mental health. I frankly feel Americans would be better off if they suppressed all these memories and never thought of them.

    Like many other USians in this thread, I never did consciously reflect on how gun violence touched my life. The gun mythology, good and bad, is something that largely exists on TV. Most of our experience of murder is on TV. News stories about gang shootings, movies, cop shows. Some mysterious outside force is going to come into our home to get us and the only way to prevent it is to have my own gun. I'm going to start going to gun shows and fetishing guns, because guns are power. The more guns I have and the more I let people know about my guns, the more power I have. Fuckers are always trying to take my power away.

    Once you put the discussion of guns back in the real world, the tone is very different. Most of us put the gun deaths in our lives out of our heads, because they *are* horrible, and for most of us, rare events. But we need to bring the discussion back to reality. "The government wants to take our guns away to suppress our militias and squash dissent" is fantasy. "You know my cousin Earl never was quite right in the head and maybe we could have done something to limit his access to firepower before he shot his family up" is reality.

    I also have to say, the difference between US vs non-US in this thread is striking.
    posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:22 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

    So why do you do this to yourselves? What's the point? Do you like feeling bad? All this feeling bad isn't going to change one thing.

    Smoking has plummeted in the West because people slowly realized it was a stupid idea.

    Changing the public perception of guns is a key part of reducing gun violence and deaths.
    posted by unSane at 9:35 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

    I know three people, and I grew up a middle-class white guy from a small city in the Midwest.

    One was a native American teenager I met through my younger brother when I was in college. Blessed with a great sense of humor and an electric smile, he easily made friends and everyone liked him. He was killed in a Minneapolis back alley while looking to score in 1970.

    Another was a college friend, a back-to-the-land hippie who lived on an eastern South Dakota farm and grew marijuana crops. He shot his own little toe off to escape the Vietnam era draft.

    The third was a personable young man, the son of my neighbors, who cut my lawn as a teenager. He always stopped by to chat with me, back when did the lawn work as well as on return visits after he moved away. As an adult, he became depressed and a severe alcoholic and blew his own brains out one day.
    posted by Mental Wimp at 10:16 AM on March 9, 2013

    Chutzler, rtha: I was in Guatemala about seven years ago and for a while we were in a group with an older American woman. I was pretty sympathetic with her political beliefs but she went on and on about how well the environmental movement was doing. I finally had to say, "I can't see why you keep claiming this - by any standards the last 20 years have been an environmental disaster for the planet," and she replied, "Yes, but awareness of the issues have increased."

    (I didn't go on with it - I didn't want to rain on her parade. I frankly wish I could convince myself that people were going to catch on in time...)

    We just had a major school shooting, and the result was the President of the nominally less pro-gun party released photos of him pretending(*) to shoot a gun. No one from either party has talked about anything except the usual assault rifle ban. It seems to me somewhat unlikely that this will take effect, but even if it does, considering the tiny number of assault rifle deaths each year, the result will be irrelevant.

    > How do we make change if we don't even admit there's a problem?
    > Denial is not going to solve this problem we have.
    > But we need to bring the discussion back to reality.
    > Changing the public perception of guns is a key part of reducing gun violence and deaths.

    The reality is that you aren't going to make significant change, whether or not you admit there's a problem. Both political parties at least act as if they're pro-gun, and gun rights are enshrined in the Constitution. And at least a plurality of Americans think that the way things are now are good, and the gun deaths are a small price to pay for freedom.

    Gun control in particular is something that cannot be accomplished by individuals - it MUST be done at a legislative level. But why would any rational politician give more than token support to gun control? Republicans know that any softening whatsoever on their hardline stance would inevitably result in a complete loss of support for them and a loss of their seat; whereas Democrats know that progressives and their base will vote for them regardless of how badly they are treated, and so rationally they cannot profit from taking strong positions on gun control that might alienate "the undecided voters in the middle".

    Now, anyone who's read me here probably has a pretty good idea what my personal ideas on gun control are like - basically strong enough that I would never live anywhere that doesn't have strong gun control. And I used to think that it was a vital issue that I needed to expend energy on.

    After a few decades, I noticed that, like reproductive choice, there was a tremendous amount of sound and fury expended on the issue, but the actual changes were minuscule - a tiny move one way for a few years and then a tiny move back for a few more years. And I came to understand that both parties loved these issues of gun control and and birth control because they could rally their respective bases and distract them from the fact that when it comes to the truly important issues of our times, there is no light between the R and the D.

    I try to sometimes think about today through the eyes of history - I think it's an important thing that all responsible adults should do sometimes. When people come to write the history of this era, historians aren't going to remember how we allowed gays in the military or banned assault rifles.

    They're going to say, "During this period, America destroyed its economy, its infrastructure and its social system due to an endless series of expensive and unprofitable wars, and looting by a tiny number of psychopaths who became rich beyond any humans in history before or since. The country spent vast sums of money spying on its own citizens while ignoring the fact that the middle class jobs that had led to an affluent society for generations were being destroyed and replaced by nothing, leading to a large underclass of the permanently unemployed.

    "As a result, America was completely unprepared when climate change and resource exhaustion permanently changed the face of the world forever - when the music stopped there were a hundred million Americans with no employable skills living in suburban communities which were almost pathologically energy intensive, a polluted water table, and an almost pathological xenophobia. The periodic shutdowns of government that had started in the twentieth century and steadily grown became permanent and the country split apart into the impoverished, warring factions that are today jocularly called The Disunited States.

    "Historians aren't exactly sure how the United States in its dying throes managed to avoid using the thousands of nuclear weapons it had constructed over the years, and some attribute it to a Narrator who found it necessary to be hopeful rather than realistic."

    So why not channel your energy into something that might have a historic effect? Work against climate change. Work against the military! Heck, how do you expect guns to be uncool when the military is ultra-cool? If you changed people's minds about the military, perhaps then you could change their minds on guns.


    (* - Oh, I don't doubt that he did actually fire bullets from a gun, but man, even to my non-gun-expert eyes, did he look unconvincing.)
    posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:35 AM on March 9, 2013


    How do you get from here:

    The reality is that you aren't going to make significant change, whether or not you admit there's a problem. Both political parties at least act as if they're pro-gun, and gun rights are enshrined in the Constitution. And at least a plurality of Americans think that the way things are now are good, and the gun deaths are a small price to pay for freedom.

    to here:

    So why not channel your energy into something that might have a historic effect? Work against climate change. Work against the military! Heck, how do you expect guns to be uncool when the military is ultra-cool? If you changed people's minds about the military, perhaps then you could change their minds on guns.

    It's like your saying, "These issues are windmills. Therefore, don't waste your time tilting for a small windmill. Go for the big ones."

    At this point in time, there is a better chance for gun control legislation in America than for climate change legislation or changing attitudes about the US Armed Forces.

    First, the recent mass shootings, particularly Newtown, has gotten regular folks talking and thinking about gun control like they never have before in my memory. It's personal. It's quality of life. "Do I want to live in a country where this type of insane gun violence is allowed?" Climate change and the military hasn't made a dent yet in people's lives. It hasn't influenced them on a fundamental level. Easy civilian access to guns definitely has.

    Second, while the gun lobby has a lot of money to throw around, corporations and the entire financial structure of this country have a much more vested interest in seeing that there is no effective climate change legislation. It would hurt business. Hell, a significant attitude change towards the military would hurt business.

    As far as historic effect, significant gun control measures in the US would be historic in my book.
    posted by TrolleyOffTheTracks at 11:51 AM on March 9, 2013

    Nota bene: Windmills in the sense of impossible problems to deal with, not that they are fantasies. I hope that comes across.
    posted by TrolleyOffTheTracks at 12:11 PM on March 9, 2013

    > At this point in time, there is a better chance for gun control legislation in America

    There is zero chance for effective gun control legislation in America given the current political system, as I argued in some detail above.

    They might or might not ban some small class of guns, conceivably introduce waiting periods, but I frankly believe there will never be a day when an adult without a criminal/psychiatric record will ever have any trouble getting a handgun or a long gun in most of America. I mean, it's written into the Constitution, and if they can't pass the ERA when half of the population is female, it's inconceivable that they'd repeal the Second Amendment.

    > Climate change and the military hasn't made a dent yet in people's lives.

    I agree that people haven't yet caught on to climate change, despite the summer's drought and Sandy, but it's only a matter of time.

    As for the military, I would say quite the reverse - I'd say the increased militarism in America has affected each and every American in some way, and you're simply unaware of it in the same way that a fish is unaware of water. If you spent any time in a country where people were skeptical about warfare, you'd quickly understand what I meant.

    People will also catch on to that fast - once the money runs out.

    > It's like your saying, "These issues are windmills. Therefore, don't waste your time tilting for a small windmill. Go for the big ones."

    Not a bad summing up, really - except that I also perceive that the smaller windmill is a more difficult target. I really do think you'd have better chance of creating a viable third political party than repealing the Second Amendment.
    posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:16 PM on March 9, 2013

    Fair enough. I'll agree to disagree.

    I'm quite aware of the effect the military has had on the US. However, despite the hagiography and the chants of "USA! USA!," underneath the real prayer of most Americans to the Armed Forces is "Please protect us from other greedy power seeking bipeds." They won't budge on that.

    Also, "once the money runs out," people won't blame the military. That's practically a guarantee. ( Me having spent so much time in this country.)

    But, like I said, I'll agree to disagree on which issues are more difficult to tackle at this point.
    posted by TrolleyOffTheTracks at 12:50 PM on March 9, 2013

    Reflecting more on my count of 6, I started to think about what law changes could have prevented them.
  • The shooting in a war zone: nothing short of abolishing guns worldwide.
  • The two shootings by police/ex-police: could be prevented if police were not allowed to have guns.
  • The two suicides, committed with hunting rifles by people not known to be mentally ill: could possibly have been prevented if private ownership of guns not allowed, or they may simply have chosen another method like overdose.
  • The one gang shooting, presumably already an illegally obtained weapon: could possibly have been prevented by dramatically reducing the number of illegal guns in circulation.

    I'm probably going to (metaphorically) be torn limb from limb for this, but I'm just not seeing where the various bits of gun control legislation being proposed would do anything for cases like these, except possibly the gang shooting. Maybe it's like asking a fish about water and I'm just too immersed in gun culture to see it.

  • posted by superna at 2:57 PM on March 9, 2013

    Wow, this is a powerful thread - I extend hugs and sympathy to those who have experienced or been touched by gun violence. The stories are chilling and sad.

    I can think of 4 people I knew who were wounded or killed by guns. Like others here, at first I only thought of one, but the others came back to me while reading this thread.

    When I was a young teen, I babysat for the kids of a state cop & his wife. I idolized her, she seemed so glamorous and exotic to me, with her beehive hairdo and high-heeled sandals. Once, when sitting with her and the kids in her yard on a hot day, she had on a blouse that exposed her midriff. She had a prominent and horribly ugly twisted knot of a scar that I guess I was staring at .., she said "That is my scar from the time I got shot." I didn't have the nerve to ask about it so I never learned more - and I was always a little uneasy babysitting after that wondering if whoever shot her might come back.

    The next happened when I was a kid - a man chased his wife and gunned her down with a shotgun on a street in our neighborhood. As she was running, she passed two teenage boys, my brother's friends, and had begged them to get her help. The boys saw the shooting and were with her when she died. My parents tried to shield us kids from some of this but that was impossible - it traumatized the whole neighborhood.

    A number of years later, a friend of the family's was shot and killed when the liquor store he owned was robbed.

    About a dozen years ago, I had just moved in to a new apartment complex and had exchanged a few chats with the lady downstairs - I didn't know her well but she seemed nice, she was a nurse. I came home one night to find a half dozen police cruisers surrounding her car - she had been shot in the head by her ex. He lived out of state but tracked her down on the day their divorce was final.

    I had one no-injury experience that I recall, too. When I was a counselor in a shelter, we had a pair of crazy brothers who came in one day with a shotgun and they pointed it at me. It wasn't loaded but I didn't know that at the time - they said they were "just joking." One of the male staffers got it away from them and he was brave to do so.
    posted by madamjujujive at 4:03 PM on March 9, 2013

    1 suicide, 1 attempted suicide with miraculous survival (bullet ricocheted around his skull and out, missed brain).
    posted by emjaybee at 7:07 PM on March 9, 2013

    1 (too many).
    posted by threeants at 8:00 PM on March 9, 2013

    Zer- wait. No. There was that co-worker. Suicide.

    And now that I think about it, when I was a child at summer camp, I was at the nurse station when a younger child came in to get the bandage changed on what he claimed was a bullet wound. I didn't believe him at the time, but I tended not to believe anything anybody said when I was that age. Thinking back, I don't have a particular reason to disbelieve him now.

    So, probably two. That I know of.
    posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 8:38 PM on March 9, 2013

    None, that I know of. There are probably ones that nobody's told me about, but I have spent my life in the sheltered 'burbs, and the folks I know with guns haven't actually shot any humans to my knowledge.

    Makes me feel like an asshole to say that.
    posted by jenfullmoon at 9:04 PM on March 9, 2013

    1 or 2.

    A friend's cousin was shot by gang members and survived.

    I just found out a friend from middle school and high school's little brother committed suicide. I do not know if it was a gun. I can remember playing Mike Tyson's Punch Out at their house like 25 years ago. A nice family, but I could really feel the pain from their parent's divorce. His brother was already very into drugs in high school.

    Great post. This is such a better way to discuss guns than the recent few GunFilter installments. Maybe there is some chance gun culture could decline similar to the way smoking has declined.
    posted by Golden Eternity at 9:51 PM on March 9, 2013

    I guess it would also be interesting to know how many people know someone whose life was saved, or who foiled violent crime etc, with a gun.
    posted by unSane at 4:37 AM on March 10, 2013

    I guess it would also be interesting to know how many people know someone whose life was saved, or who foiled violent crime etc, with a gun.

    That seems like a much harder question to answer. I mean, I know police officers, they've obviously stopped violent crimes before while having a gun on them. They don't draw their weapons that often, but maybe once or twice. But who knows if there are a lot of mitigating factors there.

    Has someone been shot: yes/no, is a much more concrete answer. We don't know if any of these people would have been otherwise hurt if they didn't have access to guns. We can conjecture, but we don't have an alternate universe to compare it with.

    I don't know anyone whose life was saved by a civilian with a gun. I know someone who was shot and killed by someone who thought they were stopping a burglary attempt (the victim was drunk and left his keys at home so he wouldn't drive, climbed in the wrong apartment window, his neighbor shot him). Maybe his neighbor would have killed him with a frying pan if he didn't have a gun, who knows. I still think it's screwed up that his neighbor's thought process was 'there's a stranger in my house, I need to kill him or he might take my things'. This thought process is fed into by rhetoric about needing guns to protect yourself or your property.

    Gun violence is complex: it's not just about how many guns are floating around, it's not just about systemic poverty and routine violence, it's not just about the state of mental health care in this country, it's not just about the fucked up thinking that leads people to believe that you have the right to kill anyone who trespasses on your property. It's about all of these things to varying degrees and more. But a lot of it does have to do with our gun culture.
    posted by dinty_moore at 7:34 AM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

    Oh shit. I was going to say 0, and that I felt so lucky, but then it struck me - I went to high school with Gabrielle Giffords. So yeah.

    And I was walking past the med school as the police just started to arrive after the College of Nursing shooting here. I didn't know the nursing professors, but I work directly with students and faculty and it was a heart-rending day.
    posted by Squeak Attack at 9:01 AM on March 10, 2013

    I guess it would also be interesting to know how many people know someone whose life was saved, or who foiled violent crime etc, with a gun

    I asked that on Facebook a few months ago, excluding time in the military, and none of my friends said they had been as far as they knew (one person said he presumed he had been at some point). Which isn't scientific at all, but was interesting.
    posted by The corpse in the library at 9:51 AM on March 10, 2013

    Well, here's a story on NPR about how one guy tried. It really didn't go well.
    posted by jenfullmoon at 9:54 AM on March 10, 2013

    Jesus. Zero for me, although the husband of a friend did take his own life this way -- I never met him, though. I am Canadian, however, and so far as I know, the only friends I have who even own firearms are all current or former members of the armed forces or the RCMP.

    So far as I know, no acquaintance of mine has even been shot at save for a great uncle in WWII, but I suppose that was part and parcel of being at Normandy.
    posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:27 AM on March 10, 2013

    posted by homunculus at 6:14 PM on March 10, 2013

    I guess it would also be interesting to know how many people know someone whose life was saved, or who foiled violent crime etc, with a gun.

    All attempts so far have involved self-reported incidents (e.g., this article). Of course, this method is heavily contaminated with the recall bias of swaggering NRA types who have many tales of scaring off bad guys with their mighty guns blazing. In addition, the conclusion that one can protect ones self and family by being armed flies in the face of the copious peer-reviewed literature that concludes having a gun in the household leads to higher risk of a member being shot.
    posted by Mental Wimp at 8:24 AM on March 11, 2013

    One. My half brother. I was 25 at the time, just found out I had an older half brother and my birth mom. Called my birth mom and she informed me I have an older 1/2 brother---who was shot at work. He was a paramedic, dropped off a patient with his partner, shooting the breeze with the nurses and a 72 year old woman came out with a gun and shot him five times.

    She got off during the criminal trial. Why? She was 72 and the drugs she was on for her hysterectomy made her "insane". Civil case--he got some money.

    He wound up with severe PTSD and gave up a stable job he absolutely loved. Lost his marriage. And now picks up the pieces trying to do video work while holding down a full time job as a delivery driver in really bad neighborhoods in AZ.

    He wont' even go to a swimming pool due to the embarassment and PTSD it brings if someone asks 'what happened man with all of those scars."
    posted by stormpooper at 10:00 AM on March 11, 2013

    The Gun Report: March 13, 2013
    posted by homunculus at 7:25 PM on March 13, 2013

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