Standing By

soapboxpileThere are times when the world seems to be a terrible place doesn’t it? For those of us who have soapboxes we climb on, sometimes those ladders get a bit shaky we fall on our asses more often than we would like. Those of us who follow the world of dreadful and ghastly, from the halls of the Hill to the streets of any city USA, sometimes we grow weary of the sheer volume of ugly. I know I do, it is my suspicion others do as well.

This morning as I was perusing the wise words of others, three wonderful bloggers poked my soul, my conscious and my self-respect. I am reminded constantly why I am grateful for all the friends I have made in the blogosphere these women are brilliant!

For very different reasons these three entries into my morning touched off my thinking about what I have been doing lately. Why I have been remiss in talking about what bothers me about the world we live in. It isn’t I haven’t had time, I have had more than enough time; truthfully I have had more time than I would like. It isn’t that I can’t, I of course can if I choose to do so; my problem is I have become unwilling to face the storm. This leads to fear, I have become afraid of what others think and of conflict, my ability to withstand the conflict is much lower these days than it has been in the past.

This feeling of dispiritedness, it doesn’t bode well for our nation. So many of us feel this way as we stare into the future and consider our options and the world our children will inherit if we do not move our asses. What do I mean by this? I don’t know that I can fully answer my own question, what I do know is I will not give in to fear or apathy, that road leads to dead ends, obstructionist governments and failures. This is what I believe; I have been failing myself lately. I have, as my friend Red pointed out so well been saying, “I can’t” not because “I can’t” but because I was afraid, maybe I will explore this one with you all in a later post.

This is what I know, I have to stop being afraid, apathetic and foolish. With this thinking in mind, I am going to pick my mantle back up, drape it around my shoulders and start to talk about the things that matter. Maybe some of these things won’t matter to you, they matter to me though and so I am going to talk about them. I am going to stomp my feet and raise my fist and stop being afraid I might offend you or others, I hope I don’t offend you, I hope you will talk back, tell me why you disagree or spread the word if you do agree. Either way, I am going to put my boots back on and return to my roots as a wonk, an activist and someone who actually gives two shits about what happens in the world.

Today, the thing I want to talk about is one of the things that troubles me the most about this country, this is not the only thing that deeply troubles me, there are many more. Nevertheless, this is one close to my heart that plunders my spirit, so let’s talk about Guns –

Yes, I could talk about the Constitution and how most people stomping around waving it as their justification for their personal arsenals have it wrong. I am not going to do that today; I have been down that road and it isn’t necessary to repeat myself I hope. What I am going to do is talk about just one aspect of our deep love affair with violence and guns, the increase in mass murder and spree shooting. What this means for us, how we are becoming increasingly unsafe, how our children are becoming increasingly less safe:

Thirty-one years of killing. Mass murders and spree killing.

Thirty-one years of killing. Mass murders and spree killing.

Look at those numbers in the past thirty-one years. What does that mean? I don’t know, beyond the idea the more easily accessible high-powered guns are, the greater capacity of rounds the more damage and the more likely the body count.

Some of the leading pro-gun lobbyists’ and spokespeople say it is just crazy people doing all this damage, committing all these terrible crimes. Look at this next graph though, it tells a very different story.


The known mental health of individual, whether their weapons were purchased legally and how many weapons were used during the commission of their mass / spree killing. This graph is telling, here are a couple of important facts to take away:

• Out of the 149 guns used in the mass murders and spree killings of the past thirty-one years, 23% were obtained illegally.

• Out of the 149 guns used in the mass murders and spree killings of the past thirty-one years, 52% were purchased legally by persons with known mental health disorders.

Finally, there is an issue of gender and race; yes, this is important because we should understand who is committing these crimes so we can begin build an accurate profile of the mass murder and spree killer. Maybe with this profile we can identify them before they kill rather than after.


We have to stop turning away from the issue of violence on our streets. We must stop pretending it isn’t real, isn’t dangerous and isn’t affecting our quality of life. Every single bullet has a dollar sign engraved in it. Every single American citizen buried due to gun violence is money in the pockets of the NRA, munitions manufacturers and legislatures with their hands out for more. We are as guilty as they are if we continue to passively stand by and accept the excuse, “nothing can be done”.

Something can be done, we can do something; we can refuse to stand by a watch more of our citizens die.



Other interesting sources, including the source of the data for the graphes.


  1. It’s sickly to see gun violence increasing… Some days I don’t want to leave home…

    • Somedays I don’t want to either. Somedays the level of violence we seem to find acceptable is frightening Christy. Those who say ignorant things such as “good people with guns are the only answer to bad people with guns”, should be in the line of fire one day. I suspect they might not feel this way after being shot randomly. Perhaps they might even feel differently after they are unable to respond in hero like fashion.

  2. BTW, I’ve always followed your blog but just realized I’m not. ??? I just resubscribed. =)

  3. I would never use the word “afraid” when I think about you, Valentine.

    Guns and mental illness are a terrible combination, and unfortunately, there’s too much of both in our country. I love reading your brave words, so keep writing them.

    • Yet Stacie, we are all afraid sometimes. Certainly, I am sometimes afraid and my fear paralyses me at times. The idea we are a nation moving closer to heartlessness, leaves me breathless and in tears. The thought my grandson may one day attend a public school where his life will be at risk, this leaves me with a heart that stands absolutely still.

      Yes, mental illness is terrible. Our lack of care for those suffering, this is also terrible. Worse though, is this horrifying idea anyone and everyone should have access to weapons that can kill with a single pull of a trigger.

      I will continue to write, I am emerging from my silence. Thank you for your encouragement.

  4. Such an important post, Val. I was just thinking about the current gun debate and how so many Americans treat the constitution as if it were a sacred text. Good God, human being wrote it, and they wrote it hundreds of years ago, when one could only shoot a single bullet before reloading. I don’t understand. I really don’t. Thank you for this post!

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    • Kathy, I don’t understand either. The problem? They only treat those parts of the Constitution that are convenient, parts like the Amendment 14, Section: Validity of Public Debt which many argue makes illegal this entire issue of bringing the government to a halt or refusing to pay our debt.

      These Anarchists who have taken over our government, along with their henchment the Corporatists cause me to hang my head in shame. These ugly, sociopathic horror shows are the product of my generation. They simply make me want to say over and over again, WHAT IN THE HELL HAPPENED.

      More to come Kathy, more to come. We simply cannot have this, we cannot allow this to continue.


  5. I have no poignant rhetoric other than to say that as a nation we are committing “suicide” by not attempting with all our fervor to ban these assault weapons. We must continue the discussions and remember these are “crimes against humanity” our very existence as Americans is at stake. Thank you for reawakening my conscience!

    • We are committing suicide by not doing all possible to create gun sanity, it is that simple. I don’t believe we will achieve a ban anytime in the near future but what we can and should be working toward is sanity. Registration, closing loopholes. Reminding ourselves of what we once stood for, it isn’t this it truly isn’t this. Children dying in their classrooms. Adults dying in their workplaces. It isn’t this love of violence we are supposed to embrace.

  6. Guns are becoming as common as iPhones. I don’t get where they are all come from. Guns don’t kill, people do. Such an innocent statement which doesn’t solve anything. Not only is the question where do you start but who is finally going to realize all the stats can no longer be tossed under the carpet or ignored..

  7. My thing is this – in most states it’s illegal to carry a blade larger than a raccoon’s penis, yet you can carry, AND CONCEAL, a weapon that can kill with one shot. True, a skilled knife-thrower could take out a target well enough, but my point is, why is one deemed deadlier than the other?

    In COMPLETE agreement on the mental health issues and the access of those who have been diagnosed and treated for such is astonishing. They say the DC gunman wasn’t ever treated for any mental health issues, but how do they know he was suffering from PTSD? How do they know he was hearing voices? Also, we need a more proactive system where those with these issues get help, and loved ones who suspect those with such issues also get help on how to deal with them. I’m not advocating the ability for people to report at will, as that would be a shitstorm of possibilities no one wants, yet there should be a way for those who are suffering to seek help without the fear of being locked away, and for there to be financial assistance for those individuals to continue treatment. So many of these folks who seek help (like the DC gunman) are faced with a bunch of red tape from the VA and the mental health field they end up just trying to deal on their own.

    • The issues surrounding our Mental Health support today are astounding today. Reagan dismantled California mental health institutions when he was govenor and the country followed suit when he became president. Whether for veterans or private citizens, if you don’t have money you won’t get help. The secondary issue is when it is known there is a mental health issue, reporting it so a person doesn’t have access to dangerous weapons. This is an issue whether to save their life or the lives of others. I agree, we cannot encourage or allow simply anyone to report however, there must be some means to help those who need it.

      Your point on knifes versus guns is well taken. We have gone so far afield these days. I guess knife manufactures either have better sense or they simply don’t have a body politic like the NRA to represent their deadly intent.

  8. Reblogged this on The Arkside of Thought and commented:
    Food for thought. Consume it.

  9. As you well know, you have my respect, and while you and I may not always agree, I appreciate your word and your strength.

    That said, RIGHT ON! You, my friend, are the enemy of nails everywhere.

    I’m paying lots of attention to this issue, mostly because I’m afraid of being shot (though I’m more afraid of “accidentally” being shot by a police officer than I am of being murdered in a mass killing).

    I made my decision to stay far away from guns as I could when I was in the Air Force. There was a moment in Basic Training when I was so stressed, so angry (mostly at the members of my flight), that one day, on the gun range, I considered how effective an M-16 was, how easily one could take a bunch of people out before he or she was stopped.

    Luckily, I still have a sense of self-preservation and morality. But that’s just the thing: people go out of their way to justify why normal citizens should be allowed to own weapons suitable for warfare. I know first hand that an M-16 is not for defense. Neither is an AR-15 or a an AK. A 9mm, however, is great for defense, but only if you’re actually trained in how to use it and safely store it. Even the military doesn’t just give people guns. If you can’t pass a psyche eval, at least in the US Air Force, they’re not going to let you anywhere near guns or other armaments. I knew a troop who had to leave the Security Forces Squadron and go into the Communications Squadron simply because they were diagnosed with depression. They wouldn’t let this individual, who loved their job as what amounted to being a military police officer, stay in the Squadron just because of that. That we, in the civlian world, cannot prevent the falling of guns into the hands of people who have been diagnosed as mentally ill or have been convicted of violent crimes in the past is a bit lame.

    Forgive my long-wind.

    Strong points, all, Valentine.

    • When I speak in Victim Impact, to the Juveniles I am nearly always asked if it hurt to be shot. I realize these young people have no real concept, they don’t understand what it means to feel a burning projectile enter your body. They have nothing more than movies and video games to rely on, not the real thing. I always have to remind myself of this before I answer this simple question, then I answer.

      “Yes, it hurts. It is shocking and it is betrayal. It burns going through skin and muscle. It it shatters bone you feel it. It hurts, don’t believe what you see in movies or in your games, those aren’t real. It is the hardest thing ever if you have to stand up again to save your own life.”

      Each of us must decide for ourselves what is right, what is moral. I decided for myself it is immoral to stand aside while others die. This nation, it is immoral while it turns its back on the violence played out on our streets every single day, with the loss of life. It is immoral when some life means more than other life, thus the name of this post. That our military remains aware of the need to continually monitor for mental health is good (I believe all branches do this), so what I want to know is why can’t we do this in civilian life?

      Thank you for the reblog and the comment

      • Wait… People – kids – have to really be told that getting shot hurts? Is physics still being taught in school? Okay…that was probably wrong of me. It’s just disappointing…to know that we have come so far yet our young people lack the appropriate…context for pain. I’ve never been shot, and I’m sure I don’t want to be…

        What the military has over the civilian world is structure (most cases). We’ve had certain problems, mostly on the…misogynist front, men treating women as lesser, reflecting the societal norm we seem to thrive on, but, punishments are harsh when the military decides enough is enough.

        At risk of sounding like a tyrant, sometimes I truly believe an iron fist is necessary. Something like military rule. Sometimes, society has to be forced in a direction. Hopefully it won’t have to come with that. I like my freedoms.

        The reblog was my pleasure. 😀

  10. I’ve followed Piers Morgan on CNN and the series of talks he hosted on gun control. Some of the views held by pro-gun ownership advocates are simply amazing and scary

    • The idea Eric that the right to gun ownership, to conceal and carry, to building private arsenals to all of this is greater than any other right in the Constitution is indeed scary. When I say to some of the Pro-Gun advocates, “what about my right to be safe in public”, the answer is always the same – buy a gun and use it. I find this response unbelievable. I have explained more than one time, I have considered this issue and understand myself well enough to know I could not live with the consequences of taking another persons life. I understand my own humanity.

      These cowboy’s come lately do not truly understand the consequences.

  11. I’ve just finished reading another blog that dealt with much the same subject. Their conclusion was that the person behind the gun was the issue. while I agree that limiting access to guns may prevent some of the statistics, national borders around the world are so porous now that somehow those guns will make their way into the hands of people who want them. So I’m more concerned about the person behind the gun too. What causes people to want to kill people? I think that’s a rather urgent matter for us to deal with along with plans to try and prevent evil people from using them. At the risk of being considered a prude I think Hollywood and those who invent the kind of games available in our shops de-sensitize our youth in their impressionable ages so that they fail to distinguish between whacking bodies all over the place on video and film and whacking them in real time. I’d be interested in your comment.

    • The problem with that analysis Ian, other countries with much higher spend rates on those games and films have much lower murder rates, whether by guns or other weapons. It is easy to point to all sorts of other problems, the problem is in this nation and our love affair with violence and guns. Other nations, nations with just as much access to video games, to film and other forms of ‘entertainment’ do not have the same outcomes we have.

      Other nations do not have children dying in the classroom. Other nations do not have workplace slaughters. Other nations do not have the body counts we have each and every year.

      • Unfortunately we are seeing an increasing number of stabbings, cyber bullying, bashings and even the occasional gun among school children in this country. There are some terrible things reported from the UK too. That is what is reported in the English speaking world. I would guess we don’t get the full reporting from non English speaking countries. Obviously there is some change in the mentality of our children for that to happen.

  12. I am very proud to be part of the impetus. ❤ xxx

  13. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    I haven’t read the posts yet, but just opened each in a new tab. Will read, & see what’s caused you thought today.

    Re what you wrote, I was at the lights in my car last week & saw a sign DEAD FISH SWIM WITH THE TIDE. I contemplated it a lot. I firstly thought it was about us polluting waters & all these dead fish having to flow through, but then I thought – and more – that it’s about apathy. We’ve just had an election & I deliberately didn’t vote for either party as neither was, to my mind, worth it, but now has been elected as PM Tony Abbott, & he has made himself Minister for Women’s Interests (or something like that) and he has made various comments in his political career which demonstrate he thinks women are less capable human beings intellectually. I am SORRY this guy was voted in…. but still I would not have voted the other.

    So re apathy, Valentine, you say it well. And I can’t help but also highlight that dead fish swim with the tide. So if we’re no longer inspired in our hearts & mind to bring change, we’re just going to flow all the way down where the ‘leaders’ (good/bad) go.

    Great post.

    • That is exactly it, exactly. What a perfect saying and I think I might have to adopt it in a later post.

      There are times in elections or other pushes for change we truly don’t have great choices, but we have “better than” choices. This I think is part of what causes our apathy. Soon we need to do more, do better. We must stop the picking from the worst and start finding a way to raise the bar, at least I think so.

      Thank you for reading my thoughts.

  14. It must have something to do with the change of seasons, the fall of summer into autumn. I had a similar conversation with myself in the shower this morning. I am very vocal in FaceBook about my concerns for the world in which we live. I do not fear offending folks and started off my FB post regarding the Navy Yard shootings by saying, I do not want to hear blah, blah, blah… Sick individuals, people with anger management issues, people with no frigging right–legal or not–to own guns have them. Two people in my own family who ought not own them because of drug abuse, anger mgt. issues, and mental illnesses legally own guns, plural. And I cannot do anything about them owning guns… But I digress from my point, which has to do with taking action.

    I am very adept at making my thoughts, feelings, opinions, knowledge…known on FB. I send email messages, multiple messages to my legislators–state and federal, the office of the president of the US (never sure who, if anyone reads them). I sign online petitions, make pledges, and take oaths to do/or not do certain things… This morning I decided to take an extra step, to start writing letters, honest to goodness paper and jet ink letters to those legislating hunger and sickness to the youngest, poorest, sickest in the US of America. I can no longer bear the hypocrisy of concern for children dying in Syria while slowly killing children here by starvation, lack of health insurance which equals lack of health care, and privitizaton and corporatization of education for all but the children of the very wealthy.

    So write away about what most concerns you, while I add another step to the things that matter to me. Brava!!

    • Like you, I am back to the engagement. Letters, email and snail mail. Blogs and tweets. Facebook and whatever else is required of me. Guns are not my only concern, it is just the first thing I am taking on. All of us, every last one of us that care will have to find more of us and prod them to stand up. Good for you and thank you.

  15., I am finding the wake-up a bit harsh.

    Your arguments are so well framed, Val. And the numbers don’t lie. How can folks kid themselves that there is no problem, or that arms in everyone’s hands is the answer. We have become a nation of willfully ignorant folks in so very many ways. And it does seem that the same people who advocate for guns also argue against education and healthcare and taking care of the less fortunate. There is a distinct pattern to our stupidity.

    Thanks for the shout-out. Keep up the fight. But you are allowed an occasional break, you know. We all need them from time to time!

    • A distinct pattern to our stupidity is exactly correct. It is true and accurate, only those of us willing to point it out and stand up against the wave of ignorance coming down on us can change it. The apathy I see does not bode will for the upcoming elections though, we have to change this first.

  16. I can only imagine how ridiculous we must look to other countries—Gun violence increasing? Say, here’s the solution: more guns all around! It’s crazy. I feel your frustration. And thanks for backing up your words with tables. Always a bit jaw dropping to see the data.

    • This is only one aspect of the issue Carrie, the rest of the data is even more jaw dropping. I wanted to take just one slice in light of the most recent workplace violence, spree killing at the Navy Shipyard in DC. The next will be even more horrifying. Though I will never be able to entirely take the emotion out of it, I think it requires a pragmatic view.

      You are right though, if you look at some of the work MJ has done it is amazing. We are ridiculous in the eyes of the world.

      • I am from the rest of the world and I can confirm that view: the States are one of the more dangerous countries in the world in a lot of people’s minds. And if you see the stats of killings (accidental or otherwise) you can see why. When the stats came out about 120 kids being killed (accidentally or otherwise) in the last 6 months, I was dumbfounded! Why would anyone condone guns in ppl’s houses, in supermarkets, in cars, on the streets, in schools? Being Dutch, I just don’t get it. I guess because we don’t have an NRA to come up with good reasons?


  1. […] she wrote the most potent post, Standing By, touching on the issue of gun violence in the US.  This post is one part affirmation, one part […]

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