You killed me.

Our gun culture kills children

Years ago, my parents were still alive and living in Albany, New York. I had arranged a lunch with some colleagues at their house. I do not recall why exactly, but that is what I did.

In the house lived my parents Joe and Betty, Grandma (dad’s mother) and Great Aunt Tillie (mom’s stepfather’s sister). Grandma and Tillie were very old so they took lots of medicine. Also, they were very old and therefore had a special dispensation from the pharmacy, allowing them to get the medicine in non-child proof bottles.

So the colleagues came over, and that included a woman with her young son, older than toddler age but not much. During our lunch, he was off in the kitchen or someplace amusing himself with a coloring book or something.

But then the child walked into the room and we could see that his face, mainly around his mouth, was covered with azure blue substance, as were his hands. Just as realization of what this blue substance was dawned on his mother, I, the others, Great Aunt Tillie, who had just walked into her bedroom (she had been in Grandma’s bedroom watching soaps), exclaimed, “My medicine!!!!”

If you drive out of the driveway of that house on Hackett and swing around the Boulevard in the middle of the road, you go through a red light no matter what (because it is always red in one direction). Then you can drive down the street and encounter one more red light, then at the corner of S. Manning, there is another, then you can turn right then left and swing directly into the emergency room entrance of St. Peter’s hospital. In other words, it is about a 300 second drive if you ignore the lights. The mother of the child with the blue face, who had clearly just eaten an entire bottle of Great Aunt Tillie’s blood pressure medicine, did so. Meanwhile, the bottle, now empty, was gathered up, and a call to the hospital was made. By the time the young boy was being taken out of the car and shuffled into the hospital, the ER staff was ready and they pumped his stomach. He was not made critically ill, he lived. The blue dye took a while to get off.

He was lucky. That could have been a gun.

One day I was standing in the dining room in the home of my then mother-in-law, Ardith. It was Thanksgiving morning. Ardith was about to set the table with my help, and she asked me go into the drawer of the Prairie Style built-in cabinet at one end of the dining room, and pull out the place mats. I opened the wrong drawer, and instead of seeing place mats, I saw folded up table cloths. Not yet realizing that I had the wrong drawer, I pulled up the corner of the table cloths, expecting to find a layer of place mats underneath.

There were no place mats, but there was a .32 caliber Smith and Wesson pearl handled revolver. No holster, loaded.

“What’s this, a gun?” I said, lamely.

My mother-in-law was at first very surprised to see this, had no idea what it was. Then, she remembered. That pistol had been under those never-used table cloths for years. It was her brother’s, or something. Something she always meant to get rid of. Had no idea why she hadn’t yet. So then, she did. She got rid of it. I don’t remember how. Good thing I found it and not some blue-faced kid.

I know of a young girl who tried to commit suicide, but was rescued and went through treatment. Not long after the event her home was invaded by a sexual predator. She and her mother got rid of him, but it was a bit traumatic. So, mom bought a gun, found a place to keep it, and told her daughter, who was still very much in suicidal mode, where the gun was kept. I’ll tell you how that story ended in a moment.

A few years ago I was helping people to manage the materials of a medium size middle class suburban estate. The owner had died and we were sorting everything into categories. Stuff individuals wanted. Stuff to give to the veterans. Stuff to give to Goodwill. Stuff for the estate sale. Stuff for Craig’s List. All that. Also, stuff for the dumpster. It was an enormous amount of work. A lot of stuff fell through the cracks, most likely, and even though I personally had my hands on pretty much every item in this estate, if you asked me where a particular item ended up, in many cases I couldn’t tell you. It was all happening very fast, it was a hot summer, there was a lot of sweat and toil and confusion.

Among the items was a revolver, unloaded but with a box of bullets, in a cardboard box. It could have gone to any one of these places. As it turns out, the family decided to include it in the estate sale — estate sale managers know what to do with firearms because many, many estates have these long forgotten random guns. But it could easily have ended up in a box of junk somewhere, a box of stuff we never had time to really look through. Hell, it could have ended up at Goodwill or inside a box of other stuff that someone picked up via Craig’s list.

A few days ago, a family with I think five kids had the chance to buy a hover board for one of the kids, used, via something like Craig’s List or at a garage sale, or something. So they did. They took the box home but did not get around to opening it. Everybody was busy with school and stuff. It could wait for later.

Two days ago, the kids were all home and playing outside, with some friends. One of the kids, an 8 year old boy, went inside the house, quite possibly to dig out the hover board to play with. In the process of doing so, he found a pistol that had been tossed in the box. He assumed, I’ll guess, it was a toy. But it was a loaded gun. Within a minute or so after discovering the gun, he was dead.

Only a few people are killed in the US each year because somebody treated a handgun like just another piece of stuff we keep in a drawer or a box. Tens of thousands of people are killed each year by guns in the US, though, because of a lot of different scenarios. This is only one of them.

But all these things are related. Mass shootings, including mass shootings in schools, criminal activity that results in shootings, suicides, accidental shootings of all kinds, are all related in America, because we have a pro-gun culture which sees treating guns as dangerous items as somehow unfair, or unconstitutional. (See this for further discussion on the links.) And, because this pr-gun culture results in there simply being a gazillion guns. Guns are everywhere, even in random places kids can stumble into.

Gun deaths are so common for a lot of reasons related to this gun culture, but almost all the reasons can be distilled down to two:

1) People are stupid about and careless with guns; and

2) A small number of people are so into having guns as toys (and extensions of their personalities, etc.) that we have a plethora of guns and they are pretty much out of control.

You are responsible for the guns in your life, including the guns that show up and volunteer to be part of your life. You need to keep the guns unloaded and locked up, the ammo separate.

Some of you will say, “yeah but…” then produce some lame excuse about someone invading your home. For you, I have special instructions.

1) Make your home hard to invade. They have these things called locks. They make it hard to open a door or window. Get locks;

2) Make your home noisy to invade, so if someone is invading your home, you get warning before they are there. They make easy to use inexpensive alarms for that purpose, or you can do something more professional. Or just tie a tin can to your doorknob;

3) When the home invasion starts to happen, you will have several minutes to call 911, unlock your gun, load it, and search around for the invader;

4) But be careful, because in scenarios like this, the home owner with the gun actually has a higher chance of injury or death because they are armed. You may not believe or understand that. Fine. The fact that you do not understand how that happens is precisely why it has a good chance of happening. I can’t help you with that; and

5) Try not to shoot anyone innocent, like the relative coming home late or the drunk neighbor who got confused, or the cop that came to help you.

What happened in the case of the young woman who was suicidal, who’s mother brought the gun home and told her where it was? Well, having been to some therapy already, she had more than a little clue about what to do. She told her mother to that getting a firearm and, essentially, handing it to her suicidal daughter, was not OK. So the gun was hidden better, but I suspect their relationship was never quite the same after that.

Put your gun in a gun safe. . Maybe use a trigger lock. Keep your ammo locked up. And if all else fails, have one of these handy.

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41 thoughts on “Our gun culture kills children

  1. Greg, I do not wish to detract from your excellent importnat points, but I have to tell you it was a real treat to be brought back to your parents’ house and Grandma and Aunt Tillie after so many years; I remember them.

    1. Yes, that was a long time ago! They would be well along in their second century by now…. I have fond memories of those days and your visits.

  2. Trigger locks are not a good idea. Cops have a (relatively) high likelihood to be shot with their own gun, and they generally demand exceptions to trigger lock requirements when governments pass them.

    1. Trigger locks are a great idea generally. Most guns are not carried by cops (obviously!). Cops should not use trigger locks.

      But trigger locks are generally a great idea. A trigger lock would have saved this little boy. Has nothing whatsoever to do with cops.

    2. Why shouldn’t cops use trigger locks when they are most at risk of being shot with their own gun?

  3. In yesterday’s Texas shooting, the killer apparently had been bullied. Reptilian behavior by his tormentors triggered or led up to reptilian behavior in the killer, no?

    The other day I saw an elderly woman in a wheel chair cruelly bully another patient, a woman, at her convalescent home.

    1. Maybe. I’m not sure of the extent of the bullying yet. Might have been about average. Or may be it was materially important. We’ll see!

      But regardless, bullying in general has a huge social cost and we need to redouble our efforts to fight it.

  4. Guns are an incredibly destructive manufactured product that frequently produce catastrophic unintended results. Our culture has severely blinded itself about that.

    1. SteveP:

      That is true.

      But it is also true of vehicles – isn’t it?

      I think the death toll from vehicle accidents is higher than for guns – right?

      You don’t hear many people trying to ban vehicles.

      I am guessing it is psychological and due to the fact that guns are designed to kill (among other things), while cars are not.

      Yet you don’t see the same reaction to knives – which are also designed to kill (and cut food).

      Well except for in London.

      Lots of things are dangerous and can kill if used for an improper purpose.

      Even cars and trucks can and have been used for mass murder.

      I would no more ban guns than I would cars and trucks.

      You just cannot stop crazy – you just have to live with it.

  5. RickA – Have you had your blood lead level checked recently? You really should, you know. You responded to my post with a rather impulsive tirade about banning things. Lead poisoning tends to effect impulse control and I know you like to shoot. Lead poisoning is a killer of brain cells and shooters are being kept ignorant of the effects of lead by the gun and ammo industry. I didn’t write anything about banning anything today, and yet you launched right into a defensive posture as if I were threatening to take away your guns. Very impulsive.

    That being said, vehicles are necessary for modern human survival at the moment, and the over abundant supply of guns in the US is really not. Most people in the US interact with vehicles for a large percentage of their lives, but only cops, criminals, and gun lovers interact with them much above trace levels in normal modern living. The level of car deaths has dropped over the years as people demanded that safety technology be applied to vehicles, and now, in the US, guns are killing more people than cars in many states of the US!

    But worse, it looks like the lives of children are being negatively impacted by living in a culture that worships guns. Fear does not help foster a good educational experience. Fear, in fact tends to impair higher neurological functioning. Fear causes the release of stress hormones that can shut down higher functions necessary for productive learning.

    By the way, your statement that “you just cannot stop crazy-you just have to live with it” is a remarkably uninformed thing to say. It has been known for decades that severe vitamin deficiencies can cause psychosis and a whole host of neurological and behavioral disorders. The modern pharmacopeia can stop a whole host of mental diseases commonly known as “crazy”. Preventing exposure to toxins like lead can prevent neurological dysfunction. Education can stop a whole host of “crazy”. Training people to act like civilized beings instead of like selfish reptiles prevents a whole host of “crazy”. Educating people about methods of thinking that help fend off the damage of verbal or social attack can prevent a lot of “crazy”. Human sympathy and empathy prevent a lot of “crazy”. So no, RickA. You don’t have to live with “it”. Huge amounts of progress have been made in the arts and sciences of human behavior over the past decades and passively living with disease is not an acceptable option to civilized people, in my opinion.

    And again, you should really get your blood lead level checked. The ability to detect lead in blood has advanced greatly in recent decades, and it might be very telling to get a blood test done. It might even save your life if you have high blood pressure. And, really, please don’t do anything as stupid as eat machine gun bacon. Just like you wouldn’t risk arsenic or food poisoning, you would be stupid to passively accept the risk of easily preventable lead poisoning. Of course, if you already have lead poisoning, you might be too addled to know it. Sad.

    1. It’s not his blood lead level — it’s his complete lack of honesty, integrity, morality, coupled with his belief that anyone who isn’t well off and white doesn’t matter.

    2. The U.S. Secret Service is famed for its dedication to skill with firearms. Obviously agent’s constant training must have increased their blood lead levels to dangerous levels, clearly impeding their emotional stability and cognition.

      How dangerous is it then to have such impaired individuals, armed to the teeth, in close proximity to current and former Presidents and their families?

      Would you therefore call for the protective detail for former President Obama to be immediately disarmed?

    3. And speaking of Presidents, if you are really concerned about blood lead levels, the 2004 election would have presented an obviously correct choice.

      As a member of the “Brown Water Navy”, candidate John Kerry would have been exposed during training to massive amounts of lead contamination from the various heavy caliber machine guns festooning his patrol boat.

      Other the other hand, as a jet pilot, candidate George W. Bush would have been breathing his own, uncontaminated, self-contained air supply in his aircraft.

      Clearly then, you must have been appalled at the prospect of the emotionally unstable, cognitively impaired, lead poisoned John Kerry becoming President or even Secretary of State.

      Can you provide any evidence that you opposed John Kerry becoming either President or Secretary of State?

    4. SteveP:

      I thank you for your concern for my health.

      I live in a world where I have no control over school shooters and therefore have to “live with it”.

      You apparently live in a world where you do not have to “live with it”.

      Problem solved – thank you.

      I am glad I will not have to read about another tragedy caused by a crazy person.

      However, should another tragedy occur – you may want to seek medical attention yourself. Because then reality will have shown you that you do have to “live with it” and are apparently living in a fantasy world and have lost touch with reality. Because just wishing for something doesn’t stop bad things from happening.

      Hopefully you are correct and merely wishing very strongly for something will control other crazy people’s actions.

      I am not optimistic however.

  6. Blood lead level does decrease somewhat with time, provided that you are lucky enough to stop adding it to your body. However, for people like cops and soldiers, that option is not always available. And some of the lead never leaves your body.

    The correlation between the exposure to lead and brain damage are clear. How many IQ points can you afford to lose? It’s your brain. But if shooting makes you feel safe and manly, and you don’t mind accelerating the gradual slide into dementia and Parkinson’s disease with age, then you will probably keep doing it. You will probably keep shooting in poorly designed shooting ranges, and keep eating machine gun bacon to impress your buddies, and you won’t bother to wash your hands after cleaning your gun. And we know that all the boys and girls at the range will laugh at you if you wear a respirator in addition to your ear protection, so you probably won’t do that either.

    It is definitely interesting that all these school and other mass murderers are gun lovers, that is, they are people who like to shoot guns and who quite likely have elevated blood lead levels.

    It is also interesting that 50% of the 44,000 suicides in the US in 2015 were by gun lovers! I guess that gun ownership leads to a lot more unhappiness than people seem to realize.

    It is also very sad that so many military veterans commit suicide. About 22 a day or so.

    Shooting is a destructive pastime. It is toxic, murderous, self deceptive, and self destructive activity on many levels.

    We could probably prevent a lot of untimely deaths and suffering if we applied more science to the study of the problems of gun violence, but don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen. People are all too willing to risk the lives of themselves and others rather than to help enact sensible gun restrictions.

    And it is just wrong and stupid that the the people with the highest blood lead levels are controlling so much of our legislation. This is not a situation that ends well based on its current trajectory.

    1. Um, so you told everyone to vote for George W. Bush?

      How ’bout disarming Obama’s security detail?

  7. “…they are people who like to shoot guns and who quite likely have elevated blood lead levels. ”

    Gee, you’d think something like that would show up in the autopsies?

  8. Gosh, I hope you grew up Amish otherwise you’ve most likely been cognitively impaired by leaded gasoline during your childhood.

    Logic fail, lead contamination from firing guns would be in addition to any supposed exposure to leaded petrol fumes.

    Other [sic – the revenge of OAS perhaps] the other hand, as a jet pilot, candidate George W. Bush would have been breathing his own, uncontaminated, self-contained air supply in his aircraft.

    Well you have to admit that when it came to expressing ideas GW was not the sharpest knife in the box and his reputation as a fighter pilot has been questioned:

    While the authenticity of the memos is disputed, what is not is the fact that, From most accounts, Bush appears to have received preferential treatment to get into the Air National Guard and avoid the draft after he graduated from Yale University in 1968. He was initially regarded as a good pilot, but his performance faded over his final two years in the Guard and he was suspended from flight status. He did not fly for the remaining 18 months he served in the Guard, though he was obligated to do so.

    And for significant chunks of time, Bush did not report for duty at all. His superiors took no action, and he was honorably discharged in 1973, six months before he should have been. [13].

    1. Science fail. Why would you assume that lead exposure caused by cars would be uniform for everyone across the country?

  9. Also:

    Other the other hand, as a jet pilot, candidate George W. Bush would have been breathing his own, uncontaminated, self-contained air supply in his aircraft.

    So, in other words you have no clue as to how fighter aircraft produce the cockpit atmosphere.

    1. And apparently our resident naval aviation expert failed to notice that jet aircraft fire high explosive cannon shells constructed from steel and copper and not lead bullets.

  10. “CDC recognizes blood lead levels (BLLs) of >25 µg/dL ( equivalent to 250 parts per billion) in adults and >10 µg/dL ( equivalent to 100 parts per billion) in children aged <6 years as levels of concern; no similar level has been set for older children and adolescents (1,2). During 2002–2004, the Alaska Environmental Public Health Program (EPHP) conducted lead-exposure assessments of school-based indoor shooting teams in the state, after a BLL of 44 µg/dL (equivalent to 440 parts per billion) was reported in a man aged 62 years who coached a high school shooting team in central Alaska."

    Lead levels of the adolescent shooters were on average 208 parts per billion higher than non shooting siblings in their families. Wow.

    Regarding the autopsy comment- typically only suspicious deaths are autopsied. If someone had symptoms of lead poisoning, they might get a BLL (blood lead level) on autopsy, but otherwise, the test for lead is not typically performed. So when a mass shooter is autopsied after the cops blow his head off, what would be the point of performing a BLL test? The ballistic lead that killed the killer is probably embedded in a wall. And remaining lead bullet fragments in the blood might give a false high blood lead level under the right circumstances. BTW, in the not too distant past, the detection limit for blood lead was ten or a hundred times higher than it is today, so unless the deceased presented some obvious evidence of lethal lead poisoning, suggesting that they might have a detectable level of lead in their blood, a blood test be very unlikely to be performed.

    Do surviving mass shooters have their blood lead level checked? Again, highly unlikely. Who would do it and why? Are you going to check for pesticide levels too? Cadmium? Mercury? A defense lawyer might do a thorough and expensive screening of all the known relevant neurotoxins in an attempt to make a case for neurological impairment of the accused. But, I suspect, only if they had an unlimited budget and thought that it would accomplish something, or that positive results were likely.

    There is no doubt in my mind that sports shooters are all suffering from elevated blood lead levels. Depending on differences in their individual chemistry, things like phosphate and calcium blood levels, and genetic differences in proteins effected by lead, the results of individual lead exposure will, as they say, vary.

    And here is another thing. I also think that shooting has a lot in common with behaviors that we consider addictive. Smoking tobacco, for instances, imbalances a person's biochemistry, requiring more nicotine to re-establish a normal balance. So tell us, shooters, how long can you go without a target practice before you miss the sweet smell of leaded nitrocellulose smoke? How long before you start getting irritable or nervous?

    And sure, you can still function with a high blood level. Just look at, say, Ted Nugent trying to act normal, or corpse-like Wayne Pierre, or woman-who-looks-like-she-would-ax-murder- you-in-your-sleep, Dana Loesch. Are these people behaving in a way that you would consider normal? IMO, these folks are giving lots of evidence of neurological impairment. And, in general, shooters, you are all making less and less sense.

    Have a nice day.

    1. You’re the one trying to draw a link between shooting, lead levels and mass killers. If the authorities aren’t testing for lead, is it because experts don’t take your theory seriously?

      Almost all of the civilian gun ranges in my area are outdoors. Law enforcement on the other hand often uses indoor ranges so that weather is not a factor. So, wouldn’t this imply that responsible, armed citizens are safer to society than lead-poisoned law enforcement?

      “And here is another thing. I also think that shooting has a lot in common with behaviors that we consider addictive.”

      Do you have ANY evidence to support this claim?

      “IMO, these folks are giving lots of evidence of neurological impairment.”

      Pure ad hominem.

      Have a crappy day.

  11. And apparently our resident naval aviation expert failed to notice that jet aircraft fire high explosive cannon shells constructed from steel and copper and not lead bullets.

    That is an imaginative leap from that which I actually wrote and it represents another dishonest attempt at mockery, which fails because I am indeed a ‘naval aviation expert’ and familiar with munitions and the engineering.

    Have a nice day hagfish.

  12. Pure ad hominem.

    It would appear that you do nor know when it is appropriate to use that term, but I guess it is the pain of the cognitive dissonance you show signs of that leads you to misuse language so.

    This chimes with you difficulty in comprehending the message in posts that you respond too with silly or inappropriate questions.

    1. “This chimes with you difficulty in comprehending the message…”

      “you difficulty” ???

  13. Chronic vs Acute Toxicity.

    All of the mass shooters are, well, shooters. Therefore, they all have elevated lead levels in their bodies. There is no doubt about that. And here is a study at Duke…. “The study found that for each 5-microgram increase in blood lead, a person lost about 1.5 IQ points. The mean blood lead level of the children at age 11 was 10.99 micrograms per deciliter of blood, slightly higher than the historical “level of concern” for lead exposure.” So you can draw your own conclusion about lead and IQ and the tendency to make really really bad decisions.

    I’ve read elsewhere that lead effects the part of the brain that deals with impulse control particularly severely. Think about that. If you are a borderline crazy person, what does adding a daily dose of lead do to your thinking?

    And when your blood lead level is higher than the safe drinking level for water, you are in some serious neurological trouble.

    You wouldn’t drink Dioxin contaminated water, would you? Why would you knowingly let yourself ingest/inhale toxic lead compounds? There is an easy and rude answer but let’s no go there. I think that shooters ingest/inhale lead because they don’t know better, and/or because they don’t care about taking care of their brains, and/or because they are trapped in an addiction-like behavior, that they live in a gun culture, and/or they can’t give up their guns or shootings because it would be like giving up their manhood, and/or their livelihood requires them to be shooters in the case of people like cops, criminals, and soldiers.

    So we are locked into a known hazard, but, because of all the jobs that depend on providing idiots with guns and bullets, and because of all the money paid to buy politicians, it is politically correct to ignore the obvious hazard of lead poisoning from guns.

    So go run along and do some shooting like a good, obedient Republican lead consumer. After all, what is a little bit of your brain’s health compared to the economy’s well being? The investors thank you. Have a nice day. Thanks.

    1. SteveP:

      Your hypothesis is reasonable.

      You should do a study.

      What is the BLL of the last 10 school shooters?

      Some are alive, and so we can obtain their BLL.

      The ones who killed themselves surely had an autopsy, so there must be blood samples – right?

      We should be able to figure out if your hypothesis is correct (or not).

      Hopefully someone will do such as study and let us know if you are correct or not.

  14. MieN: “Why shouldn’t cops use trigger locks when they are most at risk of being shot with their own gun?”

    Mainly, there is a distinct difference between gun use and safety among cops vs. among private citizens. Trigger locks on a gun that is laying around in someone’s house is an extraordinarily different thing from trigger locks on the gun of a professional law enforcement officer.

    But I’m sure you knew that …

    1. dean.

      Not allot will come of it given ‘official’ idiocy on this:

      After blaming everything he could think of except guns the Lt. Gov. resorts to more stupid, the same sort of ‘ignorant blathering’ seen from your usual suspects:

      The lieutenant governor also said more armed teachers would help avert school massacres.

      “We have to arm our teachers,” he said. “If another person has a gun, the best way to stop that person is with another person with a gun. But an even better way is four people with a gun to stop that person.”

      Way to go to increase the number of casualties.

    2. In the “Bloviating Morons” thread, Dean claimed,

      “locus has a long history of bigotry, racism, and flat out dishonesty on several blogs. Looking for rationality from him is as big a waste of time as looking for art in watery dog shit.”

      Those are some serious accusations. Where’s the evidence of my alleged “bigotry” or “racism”?

  15. I agree the “arm teachers” thing is simply fodder for the ignorant and terminally stupid.

    I think now that the 25 minute gunfire exchange is known to have happened it will be hard to cover any up what happened: if there is any evidence that a student or teacher was hit by police fire it will come out (I hope the anti-police loons don’t jump on the conspiracy/bullcrap train the way the “this is another fake event” loons jump on all of these shootings).

    The “response” from felon and traitor Oliver North was as bad as that of the Lt gov: terrorist lover north blamed the shooting on ritalin. Of course he wasn’t as opposed to drugs when he was carrying out reagan’s order to allow the central american terrorists to move massive amounts of cocaine into the country in the 80s.

    1. “Of course he wasn’t as opposed to drugs when he was carrying out reagan’s order to allow the central american terrorists to move massive amounts of cocaine into the country in the 80s.”

      So, Dean is an Alex Jones follower.

      How do you feel about the government turning the damn frogs gay?

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