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Posted on Monday, January 10th, 2011

Dave!And so, as promised, here I am commenting on the tragedy in Arizona after a day off from thinking about anything. I suppose I should preface this entry with a disclaimer in the hopes that my comments and email inbox won't explode with hate, which is about the last thing I need right now...

This blog post is in no way an attempt to tell people what to think. I am not trying to change anybody's mind. I'm not trying to get people riled up. I'm not trying to send a political message. I'm not trying to do anything except write down my thoughts in the hope that it will help me to move past this dreadful act of violence that has broken my heart and put me in a state of despair that I haven't felt in quite a while. I ache inside when I think of a little nine-year old girl being gunned down before she's even had a chance at life. I know that this isn't new... I know that unspeakable violence against children happens all over the world every day. But every once in a while an event like this brings all the pain forward and suddenly you're overwhelmed by something you try to forget... something you try to deny even exists. Then the reality of it all beats you down until you don't want to exist in a world where something so senseless and stupid can happen to somebody so innocent...

Christina Taylor Green

The shooter, Jared Lee Whatever, is clearly a seriously disturbed individual. Even a cursory look at his writings and YouTube videos reveal that he is mentally unstable with a tenuous grip on reality, perhaps even full-on schizophrenia, (as if gunning down a child wasn't proof enough that something is wrong). It's not in the scope of a simple blog entry to go into the peticulars of mental illness and my experience with those inflicted by it... except to say that trying to explain why they do the things they do and what causes them to do the things they do will make you crazy. I don't pretend to know what punishment is fitting for someone so clearly disturbed but, thankfully, it's not my job to decide that.


A lot has been written blaming Sarah Palin's "target list" (which clearly names Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords as a political enemy) as a contributing factor to what happened...

Sarah Pac Target List

Coupled with her Twitter comments telling her followers "Don't retreat, RELOAD!" it understandably paints her in a bad light. And, since everybody is always looking for a villain whenever something terrible happens, she's a very easy person to blame.


Except... I don't for a single second believe that Sarah Palin honestly wished that somebody would pick up a gun and kill these people. Like me, she comes from a place and a culture where guns and gun terminology are just a way of life. I know this because I have been around guns all my life. Many, many people where I live own guns for hunting, for sport, and for protection (yes, we have a police department, but that's not going to be much help if you live ten miles up a canyon somewhere and somebody is breaking into your home or you're being attacked by a bear). When I was young I got my firearm safety card. I know how to use a gun. I've shot guns in the past. And even though my beliefs forbid me from handling a gun today, I could certainly do so if I had to. It's just part of the culture where I live and grew up.

As is the gun-based terminology that Sarah Palin is currently being crucified for.

But I'll get back to that in a minute.

First I want to go a bit deeper into "gun culture" and what that actually means. Because, whether or not it's prevalent in the area you're at, if you live in the United States of America, you're a part of it. And it starts from an early age.

If you're anything like me, a very early age...

This is the kind of stuff I grew up watching. If you're my age (or Sarah Palin's age) odds are, you did too. And for me to say that it affected her and not me would be pretty hypocritical. Here is a panel from a DaveToon from 2004...

Car Shot

And here's a full DaveToon strip from 2006...

Broadcast Flag

Broadcast Flag

Broadcast Flag

Another from 2005...




And, just to show that I'm not above gun violence to myself...




Heck, I use guns ALL THE TIME in my DaveToons. And it's not always Daffy-Duck-style blasts to the face either. In a DaveToon from two years ago there were actual bullets involved...

I'd like a veggie burger! Sorry, we're out of veggie burgers.

Are you sure (gun to head). Uhhh... yes?


Blam (shoots off hat off waiter)

Now, granted, the vast majority of times nobody actually gets hurt in my DaveToons. Just like with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoons, in context the guns are used for comedic effect, not to actually kill somebody. Even when I finally used bullets in my gun, the worst I could manage would be to shoot off somebody's hat. And yet, I have occasionally shown somebody riddled with bullet-holes. Like the time I tried to show the results of somebody "Happy Slapping" a random person in Britain vs. somebody "Happy Slapping" a random person in the USA...



And, of course, registering my displeasure with George Lucas over his stupid Star Wars prequels and screwing up the Indiana Jones franchise...


In context things like this are mere fantasy ramblings. Even though I don't use guns in real life and think that the world would be better off without them, I'm not above using them for entertainment in a cartoon on a blog meant for adults. Or enjoying them for entertainment value either. I regularly watch all kinds of action movies where people are getting shot left and right. In the context of entertainment, I don't find anything wrong with that. And neither should George Lucas... he has "Indiana Jones" shoot a lot of people in his movies. Heck, he even massacred a bunch of kids in Revenge of the Sith!

All that being said, I'm not against people owning guns in our gun-based culture. That ship has sailed. In the USA the guns are here and they're here to stay. If we were to all of a sudden ban guns, it would have very little net effect. Since the majority of people mis-using guns are criminals anyway, you'd be removing the ability for non-criminals to protect themselves against them. For better or worse, we have a gun culture and that isn't going to change.

But, given the seemingly never-ending tragedy involving insane people with guns, it's not like we shouldn't at least attempt to figure out a way to keep things like this from happening. The problem is that nothing we try seems to work. Things like "waiting periods" and "background checks" may stop some senseless tragedies from happening where they exist, but the shootings are still going on. Because the crazy people always seem to find a way. Just like when an alcoholic gets behind the wheel of a car while drunk and ends up mowing down innocent people in a sidewalk somewhere. It's illegal, we have laws against it, we have court-mandated rehab to try and prevent it, and yet it keeps happening. This doesn't mean we shouldn't keep trying, but there doesn't seem to be a foolproof solution at hand. At least not here in the United States where guns are everywhere. Just like prohibition with alcohol, there will always be a way for people to get their hands on something... even when it's been made illegal.

The perils of people having of guns is an issue that requires a lot more thought. And I'm not going to claim to know how that chestnut can be cracked.

But what about the perils of people talking guns in their language, communication, and entertainment?

Is somebody like me who draws cartoons glorifying gun violence for entertainment partly responsible for escalating gun-based violence in this country? What about cartoons, video games, television shows, comic books, movies, YouTube videos, websites, and all the rest?


And yet... not really.

Taken in context, someone would have to be insane to look at one of my DaveToon rants or a Daffy Duck cartoon and think that they're being instructed to go get a gun and shoot somebody.

Unfortunately, as we are sadly aware, these people actually exist.

So, like I said... probably.

And yet... not really.

Even though I loathe Sarah Palin, abhor her politics, despise her lies, deplore her half-truths, and find her messages of hate and bigotry to be disgusting on every possible level... even though I find her partisan hackery and unfounded attacks to be reprehensible... even though I think she has a lot to answer for when it comes to her irresponsible manipulation of people with fear, uncertainty, and doubt... even though she is one of the most useless, incomprehensibly stupid people I have ever seen in the political arena... even though she disgusts me in ways I can barely enunciate... her saying "Don't retreat, RELOAD" and drawing targets on her political rivals is just a part of our gun-based culture. Sarah Palin is being strung up for something most of us are guilty of in some way.

Even Daffy Duck.

Even me.


When I was in high school I remember a pep rally poster where gun targets were painted over drawings of mascots from other school's sports teams. Above that, something like "WE'VE GOT YOU IN OUR SIGHTS" was painted. Did our school literally want to hunt down rival schools with guns? Of course not. Was our intent to incite others to hunt down these rival schools with guns? Of course not. But that's the culture where I come from. No sane person would attach heinous acts of violence to something like this because In context it's simply communicating team spirit in words and images everybody here understands.

In the wilds of Alaska where Sarah Palin is off shooting moose and clubbing fish, I'm sure it's much the same. Words like "RELOAD" are just colloquial parts of speech where she comes from, and a means of expressing her seriousness in the idea of confronting opposition head-on. I totally get that. The USA is filled with violent imagery just about everywhere you look, and she's just latching onto that as a way of stating her opinions. In that respect, she's no different than Quentin Tarantino making violent films like Reservoir Dogs or the people at Rockstar Games who make the Grand Theft Auto video games.


Except... as a political leader, Sarah Palin should know better. She should act better. She should be a better example. She should inspire better. And she should lead by a higher standard. But she never has, and I don't expect her to start now. When your message is one of division and hatred, there's very little room to maneuver. Sudden pleas for respectful debate and intelligent compromise would be seen as a huge weakness by her fan-base, and an implausible reversal by everybody else. She's trapped in a prison of her own making, and though she may temporarily tone down her rhetoric, it's only a matter of time before she's back to form or else she knows that she's finished.

And that means we ALL have a problem.

Because while I have every confidence that Sarah Palin never in a million years intended for anybody to be shot because of her gun-speak and infographics... when taken in context she should not be the least bit surprise that the accusations are being laid at her doorstep. You can't viciously attack your political rivals with such unbridled vitriol and expect nobody is going to take your extremes to an extreme.

Whether that's what happened here, we may never know. As I said, trying to understand the mindset of a disturbed person like Jared Lee Loughner will drive you crazy. But... so long as Sarah Palin continues down the road she's on, she should expect to be taking more heat down the line.

Hopefully you can now understand why I choose to forgive... even defend... Sarah Palin using language and imagery that's a part of America's gun culture to communicate. It would be hypocritical of me not to.

But I hope you can also understand why I choose to believe that context is everything when it comes to something like this, and hers is hardly a message or method I can support. Respectful debate has been replaced with vicious attacks when it comes to political discourse in this country... on both sides of the political spectrum. That this will lead to violence is not surprising. That people in this country will stand for it is surprising.

Or not. I mean, you've got kids watching Elmer Fudd blow off Daffy Duck's head seventeen times for heaven's sake.


  1. Hilly Sue says:

    Like you said, when we were kids, we watched Elmer Fudd and his damned rifle chase after that bunny day after day. The Road Runner was always up to no good with that damned coyote. And wow, Tom and Jerry were assholes to each other.

    We saw violence on TV growing up. Sure, today more kids and adults are saturated with it but still, how can you blame something like that for your actions? I see just as much violence from multi-media sources as your average gun-wielding psychopath yet you don’t see ME killing innocent people for no damned good reason.

    I think we blame the person who did it. We blame their parents. We blame their fucked up psyches. We don’t blame outside sources for sure.

    • Lisa says:

      @Hilly – I (respectfully) don’t agree with the statement that you blame the parents. We don’t know what they have gone through with this obviously disturbed person. Once your child reaches the age of majority it is exceedingly difficult to compell them against their will to seek treatment for mental illness. From what I’ve seen on the news, they are devastated. Without knowing the whole story it seems unfair to lay blame on their doorstep.

      • Hilly Sue says:

        I’m not saying that the parents are usually (or hardly ever) aware of what their teen shooters are up to. What I am saying is that sometimes, the sins of the parents affect a child so much that they turn into this mad creatures who find nothing wrong with shooting up schools, malls, etcetera.

        I wasn’t saying that it is always the case but we all know that our parents can fuck us up in ways that eat at our souls and we never really learn to get over it and man-up until we are adults.

        So yeah, that is what I meant by that.

        • Dave2 says:

          And sometimes it’s not the ACTIONS of parents that are the problem, but the INACTION.


          There’s an even bigger problem. Parents who are observant enough to know that something is wrong with their child often have nowhere to turn to for help. Mental illness is so horribly misunderstood and disregarded by our society that even the best parents in the world may be helpless in dealing with their kid’s problems.

          That being said, I am shocked beyond my ability to express at just how detached some parents are from the lives of their offspring. I would like to think that parents have a responsibility for raising their children properly, but too many of them don’t even know who their kids are.

          Can better parenting help to prevent things like this from happening? Absolutely. But we also need to be doing better as a society to help those parents once they’ve determined that their child is afflicted… and do a better job of educating them so they know when they are afflicted.

  2. Howard says:

    I’m like you. We watched Elmer shoot many, many things and nothing was funnier than Daffy’s face just to see where his bill would end up.

    I’m all for people being able to own guns and I know that the majority of gun owners are responsible about them. But do we really need to own semi-automatic ones like the one that showered a Safeway parking lot one Saturday morning?

    • Dave2 says:

      I’d say no. But there are those who say that if such weapons are only in the hands of our military, the military would be in a position to stand against the people they’re supposed to be protecting and could stage some kind of coup with their advantage.

      Now, I don’t believe that for a second, mind you… but there really ARE arguments to all sides of this issue. 🙁

  3. Avitable says:

    I definitely think that as a leader of a group of people who have already shown that they’re full of hatred and blinded by stereotypes and xenophobic tendencies, and demonstrated their ability to take political rhetoric to an extreme (the rally where McCain had to calm down the crowd with regards to hate speech regarding Obama comes to mind), she has a responsibility to avoid saying things like “reload” and using targets in such a manner. Certainly, the person who chose to shoot is responsible, but excusing Palin’s actions because gun culture is prevalent where she’s from is no excuse. She’s not talking to a local group – she’s speaking nationally, and that requires a bit more due diligence.

    I think this goes for both parties, but in this case, I really think her words, actions, and campaign was significantly structured for someone to interpret that as a call to violence.

    • Dave2 says:

      It’s difficult to feel otherwise when you have so many of the Tea Party constituency tossing around inflammatory rhetoric involving “refreshing the tree of liberty from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” and such.


      And yet… on BOTH political sides, they act as if that is only important when it supports their political views. If a president somebody LIKES is in office, anything they do is democracy in action. If a president somebody DOESN’T LIKE is in office, then anything they do is oppression and anti-American. Some things never, ever, change. They just get more hysterical, abusive, and violent.

  4. Tiffany says:

    Excellently said, Dave. I live in Chandler Arizona and was deeply saddened by everything that happened last weekend, but I am frustrated by the reactionary response the events generated; people pointing blame where none is due, people blaming problems that weren’t the cause, and the media circus that has ensued. It took no time at all for everyone’s eye to come OFF the ball and onto whatever sensationalism attracted their attention. To boil it down – good, innocent people died; more good, innocent people were hurt; and a sadly unstable man was allowed to follow through with a plan that NO ONE could have foreseen. As for blaming this on Sarah Palin, that reaches levels of nonsense never before seen in the history of the planet. I can’t believe anyone took that suggestion seriously at all. I’m not fond of the woman or her politics but I can remain level headed enough to know that she didn’t have anything to do with this whatsoever.

    • While Sarah Palin cannot be held directly responsible, crosshairs and “…don’t retreat, reload” comments aren’t altogether helpful or responsible.

      • Dave2 says:

        Agreed. Absolutely. But I also feel that drawing a straight line from Sarah Palin to Jared Lee Loughner is unjustified when so many other factors are at play. Primary of which being that Jared Lee Loughner is probably insane.

        As I said, we should expect better from our leaders when it comes to expressing themselves. Inciting violent rhetoric as a political position is reprehensible. Respectful, mature, civil debate on the issues should always be the driving force of any political endeavor. But, alas, I wouldn’t expect that out of Sarah Palin any time soon. She won’t even hold a press conference any more… she posts videos to her Facebook account like an angst-ridden teenager, for heavens sake!

  5. Lisa says:

    Exactly and very well said, much better than I could have said myself. Shouting for gun control and pointing fingers doesn’t help. I do think that public figures have a responsibility to consider what they put out in the world more carefully if they want to be held as an example to others. They need to take responsiblity and own their words. While I don’t think she was the force that compelled a madman to action, I can’t help hoping that the backlash from this is enough to take her out of the public eye and destroy her future leadership possibilities. It’s wishful thinking, but a girl can dream.

    • Dave2 says:

      One can only hope.

      And I mean that from the bottom of my heart. From the bottom of my soul.

      Sarah Palin is just entirely too stupid and uninformed to be a political leader. Every time she gets interviewed by anybody with even a shred of journalistic skill, she stumbles all over herself, says something stupid, then blames the “lamestream media” for HER gaff. Now she doesn’t even try to engage any criticism or even a hint of debate. She refuses to appear in interviews except by “friendly” sources like FOX News. She communicates via videos on Facebook and tweets on Twitter, but removes or revises them at will. She paints herself as the victim in every single situation, even though she never allows herself to be victimized. That she has any followers at all is a shocking glimpse at the future of politics in this country. It’s all so sad, really.

  6. bo says:

    Well done. Thanks for taking the time to put thought into it and to share those thoughts.

  7. As someone who has personally been a victim of gun violence, I blamed the shooter… PERIOD! All the cartoons, parents, TV, Political candidates, etc don’t make someone pick up a gun and commit violence. The jackhole picking up the gun to shoot someone commits the violence. Staring down the barrel of that gun, it became crystal clear. Man with gun wants to shoot me. The end. I wasn’t thinking, “Oh, I bet him seeing gun violence on TV convinced him this is ok.” I was actually thinking, “Oh God, let me and my kids survive.”

    Guns don’t kill people….. crazy fuckers kill people. And they don’t need a gun to do it most times, they will find whatever means they can.

    • Dave2 says:

      Which is absolutely true. Though it would be nice if we could come up with a way to make it as difficult as possible for them to do so… no matter what their weapon of choice.

  8. Heather says:

    Spot on David. While I do not blame Sarah Palin, I was disgusted be her response. In a tragedy such as this you do not spin cross hairs as markings on a map. Her statement began well and sincere and finished with political spin. She could have been honest or not end her statement without a lie.

  9. TheQueen says:

    Yes, but…
    If the veggie-burger server at Johnny Rocket’s ended up shot to death by a customer (on CNN), wouldn’t you show cringe every time you saw that comic? That’s my complaint. Sarah Palin isn’t cringing, she’s sending out an aide to say they are surveyor symbols, not crosshairs. I want her to come on Fax and say, “Yep! Those are crosshairs! Awkward!”

    • Dave2 says:

      No. No I would not.

      My cartoon shows the waiter getting his HAT shot off before fainting. Just like in a Daffy Duck cartoon, nobody ended up dead. If somebody is going to interpret that as killing somebody, then obviously they have serious problems far beyond anything a cartoon on a blog can change, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

      However… for Sarah Palin HERSELF referred to those target marks as crosshairs (or something like that), so you are absolutely right… she should totally own up to it. In some ways, she DID though… she removed that graphic from her page (or so I understand). It’s just being responsible.

      And I’ve done the exact same thing.

      When I was making my Blogography Playing Cards, they were loaded with blood and violence. But then somebody mentioned that they would be buying them for their kids, and so I changed them. I was making them for adults, but I thought it was responsible to change them in case kids got them anyway. I’ve done that with my DaveToons too. While I have no plans of changing the way I express myself, I try to at least be responsible in a Daffy Duck kind of way to be sure blood and guts aren’t seen as fun times for kids. If somebody interprets otherwise, then they probably would have done so with or without any help from me.

  10. martymankins says:

    So very well stated on this very sensitive subject.

    I’m sure some of Sarah’s fan base will chime in here with their words of defense, but this has been done with all walks of political types over the years (Obama, Daily Kos), so while she’s not the only one that’s dropped a gun reference (or 20), the heat she is taking for actually mentioning Rep Giffords is deserved. As you said, she should be better than that. But then again, it’s her trademark rally call to others that embrace all things firearm.

    As I blogged about this on Sunday (although I admit not in as much detail as you did), I also mentioned that while I have no issues with people owning guns, I think the types of guns we let anyone have access to should be controlled. I can personally never see ANY need for an average citizen to own something that unloads 30 rounds with a single trigger pull.

    I’m hoping that all of this brings about a change to how much unrest we see in political discussions today. While the times of slavery, civil rights and many other heated times of this country were very vitriolic, I would have liked to have seen us move forward instead of staying in the same biased positions.

    • Dave2 says:

      My biggest fear is that things will only continue to escalate, as people don’t seem to react to anything except extremist voices any more. Your only hope to get ahead is to be more outrageous than your opponent… all without crossing some imaginary line that’s deemed “too far.”

      Unfortunately, that line just keeps fading in the distance.

  11. James Bow says:

    I agree with you that Sarah Palin is being metaphorically hung on an unfortunate coincidence. She wasn’t saying, even metaphorically, that Giffords should be killed. However, the issue of the gun culture aside, she is at the end of a spectrum of eliminationist rhetoric where we have political pundits talking about their opponents in terms reminiscent of being in a civil war. People like Limbaugh and Coulter have actually spoken about killing liberals. They claim they’re joking afterward, but they should not be surprised if they are held in scorn and contempt if the mentally unstable among us act on that hateful rhetoric and we find ourselves with corpses at our feet.

    Crosshairs on a map and calls to “Reload” are one thing — what about “joke” posters advertising “liberal hunting permits”?

    I agree with you that, at some point, we need to stop looking at our political opponents as enemies, and we should not, ever, wish death upon anybody.

    Within Christianity, there is a statement attributed to Jesus which says that if we ever hate someone to such an extent that we wish them dead in our heads, it’s as bad as if we killed them with our hands. Unfortunately far too many Christians fail to live up to this tenant of their religion. This is probably the debate we should be having.

    • Dave2 says:

      And I’m sure the debate will continue as the bodies keep piling up. I just find it incredibly sad that it takes the death of a nine-year-old girl in order for people to say “maybe we should take a look at this.” Would Sarah Palin have EVER made a half-hearted, self-serving statement against violence if she HADN’T been linked to the shooting? Will she back up her statement with actions? Does she even know what her statement means? One has to wonder. I find it horrifying that Sarah Palin is in a position to influence so many people when she’s obviously in no position to do so with any measure of intelligence or reason.

  12. Walt says:

    I respect your position on responsibility and agree. But I also feel there’s a bigger mutual responsibility that would serve us all better in dealing with those not as mentally together. As you point out, most people form some understanding of respect and responsibility. For those that don’t, we end up with these individuals solving frustrations with weapons. The solution seems to me to be a more open and helpful mental and physical health system.

    Anyone that has been lucky enough to recognize mental health issues in a loved one can attest to the lack of structure and eagerness of the industry to simply suck funds with little results, along with a push for 24/7 lock down care, sometimes even before testing for physical causes.

    A person with common sense would not hold Palin to her obviously distasteful comments but that appears to me to be a distraction from the real problem that our healthcare system is failing mental and physical health patients. If costs weren’t such an important part of our culture maybe we’d be more eager to call an ambulance or a social service for someone that is acting out of sorts. This man was thrown out of classes at a university from what I have read, for being disruptive. Maybe if that professor had concern and open freedom to do so, he/she would have been more likely to notify university staff of some helpful programs and possibly an evaluation. Maybe family and friends would have done the same but what happens is most of these folks become the loner, causing detection problems.

    But all the same, this man was open as a threat but our lack of legally getting involved until tragedy happens is how our mental health system works. Once they strike then act and that’s totally opposite from what someone with a mental or physical illness needs for healing. For all we know this man could have a physical illness that could be simply controlled with medication.

    It’s a very complex situation from all sides. I am very sad that his illness, as obvious as it is, ended the life of so many. And this attention to Palin’s comments is getting so much press. She’s never been news, I think the media once again is missing the importance of the situation.

    • Dave2 says:

      Oh heavens yes. Even now the plight of how we should care for those with mental problems is quietly swept under the rug. As somebody who has seen mental illness first-hand, it’s really shocking how little effort goes into understanding, diagnosing, treating, and dealing with those who have potentially dangerous mental health issues. It seems that people afflicted are either ignored when harmless or treated as criminals when they’re not, and our society is perfectly happy to keep it that way with no middle ground. And then everybody is all shocked and horrified when the inevitable happens… even though the underlying illness behind it all may have been treated (or even contained) had anybody bothered to pay attention in the first place.

      Given the horrible consequences that can come from not offering assistance to persons (or family and friends of persons) who require help with mental illness… you’d think something would be done. But it never seems to even be considered until its too late.

  13. B.E. Earl says:

    The gun violence and political rhetoric (on both sides) that goes on in this country sickens me. I really don’t know what to make of it all.

    • Dave2 says:

      Unfortunately, nobody does. And there aren’t enough clear heads or any willingness to compromise, so that’s not going to change any time soon. My mind boggles at will have to happen before we’ll finally see any meaningful progress in getting it all figured out.

  14. RW says:

    On the one hand I certainly feel that the actions of a troubled person should not have undue impact on freedom of speech in general. I would be a bigger hypocrite if, after all I’ve said and done and told all what I believe in, I was stridently for abridging creative discourse.

    On the other hand the mythology of the holy gun is so very prevalent on the Right it can’t help but feed a certain type of listener.

    So I’m torn.

    It needs to be said, though, that politics ain’t beanbag and politicians aren’t cartoons. Mixed up with the heavy gun metaphors that emanate from the Right, including calls to arrive at rallies armed and holding signs that say “next time we’ll be armed,” is not exactly the further adventures of Bugs Bunny.

    • Dave2 says:

      And we’re worse off because of it, because such things are ridiculous enough that they deserve to only be seen in cartoons.

      Then again, those who live by the sword, die by the sword… I just hope too many of us on the sidelines aren’t made casualties when the chickens come home to roost.

  15. claire says:

    Hmm. I think it’s worth saying that not all mentally ill people are violent. Making violent behavior a mental illness across the board is too simple. Or maybe it is that simple, but we are horribly unready to address it as such.

    We do live in a gun culture, but I think we’re long past due to learn better ways to express frustration in media. If the past decade or so has taught us anything about media, it’s that there’s a lot of impressionable people out there. What impression do we want to make?

    • Dave2 says:

      I don’t think that any rational person automatically links mental illness to violent behavior. Nor do I feel that violence is regarded as something solely in the domain of the mentally ill. If that’s how this post was interpreted, I assure you it’s not what I was trying to say.

      Jared Lee Loughner has obvious mental problems that were, in all likelihood, responsible for his actions. My belief is that somebody would pretty much have to be mentally ill to gun down a nine-year-old little girl. It wasn’t my intention to go beyond that… at least I tried not to. As you say, nobody is in a position to make a statement like that. And nobody ever will be if we continue to either ignore or criminalize those who are afflicted with mental illness.

  16. Dad says:

    My son this is very well written. As you know I am not a hunter, but love the shooting sports, both rifle and pistol. This is a sad day for all of us who love shooting. John Lennon’s song Imagine comes to mind at this time.

  17. Barnmaven says:

    Its such an enormously complicated issue, and you’ve done a beautiful job of tying all of those ends into a post REALLY worth reading.

    I too grew up watching Elmer shoot everything in sight. Watching violent cartoon imagery in almost everything we were allowed to see on television…and my dad had guns, and my brother and I did a ton of target shooting, and there is a handgun locked away in my home, not for defense but for sport.

    Sarah Palin is only one among a large group of politicians and talking head who has used violent imagery (and God only knows I’m no fan of hers), but she has taken more heat than any of them, which I think is really unfortunate because it detracts from the greater debate. I agree entirely with @TheQueen’s statement above — I would like it better if she would just own the comments and move on, it would help everyone else do the same and as a person who wants to be a leader and who has a large following, its a responsibility of hers to be the bigger person. But all the focus on her alone is a distraction from a lot of other, more real and more relevant issues that impact gun violence in this country. High unemployment, global warming, poor access to medical and mental health facilities, a thousand frustrations and uncertainty of where we are going as a country, as a world — is it any wonder people are going off the deep end? We are tugging on the string end of an enormous ball of thread…and I can’t see the end of it yet but I have a feeling its not good. Not by a long shot.

    • Dave2 says:

      And THAT’S the problem. As I have said repeatedly, Sarah Palin would be a lot more sympathetic when playing the victim card if she would JUST OWN UP TO HER MISTAKES! Make a goof on Twitter? Just come out and say “Oops, I goofed… I meant ‘repudiate.’ Sorry about that, but expressing complete thoughts in 140 characters or less is sometimes a challenge!” EVERYBODY can relate to stuff like that. EVERYBODY makes mistakes. EVERYBODY is only human! Even her harshest critics (me included) would say “Ha! I’ve done that before!” and forget about it.

      But does she EVER own up to a mistake? No. She rationalizes, justifies, spins, or outright lies… even going so far as to pretend it doesn’t happen. THEN she plays the victim, and claims everybody is ganging up and attacking her. WHICH THEY ARE because she is MONUMENTALLY STUPID!!

      They were GUN TARGETS. Her OWN WORDS confirm this. Her OWN ACTIONS confirm this. But can she just come forward and say “While I feel it is unfair to pass blame on anybody but the person responsible, I admit that perhaps my words and imagery go too far, and people interpret this as something I never intended. I firmly believe in peaceful, respectful debate, and will try to do better to express this in the future. I have removed the offending graphic on my Facebook page, and want to be very clear that violence is never the answer when it comes to political debate and democracy in this great nation. My thoughts and heart are with the families of those affected by this tragedy, and I can only hope we can come together as a nation during this time of mourning.”??? OF COURSE NOT! She’s Sarah Palin! So she has to turn it all around and play the victim… AGAIN! This isn’t about a nine-year-old girl getting killed… it’s all about HER and how PEOPLE KEEP UNJUSTLY ATTACKING HER IN THE LAMESTREAM MEDIA!!

      It is, of course, bullshit. But she seems to think she’s exempt from criticism, and there are many people who are happy to maintain that bubble of unreality around her. I can only hope they wake up before even more damage is done.

  18. Tracie says:

    Very well said, Dave.

    • Dave2 says:

      Thanks. Though there are so many other voices who would be far more effective than mine if they would only put aside polarizing rhetoric and say what needs to be said.

  19. delmer says:

    I didn’t get worked up about Palin’s over this until one of her spokeswomen said they were never meant to be crosshairs like you’d have on a gun sight and that they were just marks like you’d find on any map.

    That is just a lie. They were gun sights.

    Saying nothing about that fact and just issuing a message of condolence would have been a million times better than lying about what the crosshairs were supposed to be.

    • Dave2 says:

      Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. As I said to @Barnmaven, Sarah Palin would be far, FAR, more sympathetic if she would only own up to her mistakes. When she doesn’t, everything she says is seen as political maneuvering, grandstanding, and playing the victim card. Which, of course, is all true. It’s all she seems to know how to do.

  20. diane says:

    Dave, in the wake of the Arizona shooting, I have been desperately seeking intelligent writings on the matter. And if I weren’t at work right now, I would have stood up and applauded you after reading this.

    • Dave2 says:

      I appreciate that, truly. I am not the best writer by any stretch of the imagination. Expressing my thoughts clearly in words is often difficult, as I am a much more visual person. I’m happy to know there are people who can appreciate the struggle. 🙂

  21. Kyra says:

    I personally feel that the whole Palin issue should be set aside. Did she live up to her moral responsibility as a public figure with reach and influence? No. But as you have said, she never has, and she is pretty much worthless in my opinion (or really, detrimental in all respects)

    The real issue that everyone is going through is the reflection over what could have been done. The horrible coming to terms with the fact that we can’t turn back the clock like superman and save everyone. So, blaming someone makes everyone feel better, or think that they do.
    The real discussion is about mental illness, and how to manage that in our society. Unfortunately, there is no real way to prevent this sort of thing (without getting into a huge discussion over basic human rights and myriad illnesses and their variants).

    That is the hardest part, knowing that sometimes these horrors will happen, knowing we really can’t stop it, and knowing we can do little more than to pick up the pieces afterward. Should we stop trying to prevent these things? No. But we should be realistic about why they happened too.

    • Dave2 says:

      And a healthy dose of reality never hurts. Unfortunately, too many people are entirely too happy to dismiss reality entirely to get their views across. I honestly believe that Sarah Palin is one of these people. Deserved or not, she is at the epicenter of this storm. If only she had a clear, reality-based center to draw upon, she might actually be able to make something good come out of this horrific tragedy. Unfortunately, history has shown this to not be the case. She is insulating herself from any negative feedback more and more every day. There’s nothing constructive to be found in such an unrealistic existence, and she shows no sign of trying to escape it. For the sake of the many, many people who follow her as a political leader, I hope this will change. It really has to.

  22. whitenoise says:

    I love America. I’m in America right now. And, America is not just a neighbour, you’re family. Many people in my country hold dual citizenship and our ancestors have lived on both sides of the border.

    Yet, whenever somebody from another county points out the obvious- Americans get VERY defensive and twist themselves in knots trying to dispute the obvious.

    You can’t ban crazy people. You probably can’t ban guns. BUT- you can make it more difficult for crazy people to get a gun. Not impossible. That still happens in Canada, the UK, Scandinavia, etc, etc., but you can reduce the chance that there will be crazy people walking through your neighbourhood WITH GUNS.

    Gun conrol laws work. The statistics on violent crime prove it. Americans can talk as many circles around this as they want, but they can’t change that fact.

    • Dave2 says:

      Of course stricter gun control laws aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of people who should not have them would contribute to decreasing the number of gun-related crimes. This is not some revolutionary idea that never occurred to anybody in the USA, which is why most States have gun control legislation of some kind. 🙂

      But “gun control” is a term which is very non-specific, and the trick is coming up with laws which don’t conflict with the Second Amendment of The Bill of Rights of The Constitution of the United States of America. Personally, I feel that the Second Amendment was not meant to be an open-ended free-for-all when it comes to gun ownership (our Founding Fathers couldn’t possibly anticipate the weapons we have available today, and so it is common sense to revisit these “ancient laws” from time to time). But for every argument I could make to that point, there is somebody here who would disagree. Mostly because it’s so bloody difficult to know where to draw that line.

      Is asking somebody to wait a period of time for a background check before they can purchase a gun infringing on their Second Amendment rights? A woman who has been attacked by her abusive spouse and threatened with death might think so. If she can’t run to a store and get a gun to protect herself immediately, what good is the Second Amendment to her? It goes on and on and on. These kinds of questions are debated endlessly here. So while it may be obvious to you, it’s not obvious to me at all… and I not only live here, I despise guns!

      As for statistics, I guarantee you that for every statistic you could provide, there are statistics or interpretations of statistics which are contrary to the point you are trying to prove with them when it comes to gun ownership. The reason I know this is because it comes up in the news every single time there is an incident of gun-related violence. And, unexpectedly (to me at least!), these are not always fit-your-agenda statistics pulled out of somebody’s ass… they are more often than not extremely compelling figures. Statistics are easy to pick and choose to form an argument, but if you look at the entire picture on both sides, it just isn’t that cut-and-dry. That’s the only true fact I’ve managed to come up with over the many years this has been debated in this country.

      “If there were NO guns in the USA, there would be NO gun-related crimes!” This seems to be the basis for most arguments when it comes to gun violence. But this logic could be applied to absolutely anything. Like, say… “If there was NO water in the USA, there would be NO water-related drownings!” And while I love the idea of a utopian society where guns don’t exist, this is simply not not an option here unless The Constitution is changed AND you confiscate every single gun in existence in this country. I dare say that IS impossible. So if the outright banning of guns is an impossible form of gun control, everything else is a matter of degrees and drawing lines.

      And yet, just like water, guns are already here and they are everywhere. Nothing we can ever do is going to change that… even if gun ownership was banned tomorrow. So what to do? How about registration? Even when setting aside the dilemma of what to do about the millions of unregistered guns already out there, let’s say that all new guns had to be registered. This is a form of “gun control” I simply do not understand. Let’s say I decide to murder somebody. And I don’t like blood getting on my shoes, so instead of a knife I decide to shoot them. So I go buy a gun and somebody writes my name and the gun’s serial number down somewhere. How is that going to prevent me from killing somebody? Bullets aren’t registered, so you couldn’t even pin the murder on my gun unless I was stupid enough to leave it at the scene of the crime! And let’s say I lock my gun in my safe. But somebody breaks into my house while I’m vacationing in France, drills out the lock on my safe, takes my gun, kills somebody with it, then leaves the gun at the scene. Even though I was in France, took precautions to keep my gun out of reach, and didn’t actually kill anybody… should I be arrested for murder when I get back to the USA?

      So we allow gun ownership to ensure Second Amendment rights, require registration in the off-chance it may be useful in solving a crime since it has little effect on preventing them, and then decide to ignore the millions of guns floating around out there and start initiating stricter gun control over NEW gun sales. But where do those restrictions start?

      A criminal record? This is a given. Well, not really, because how do you decide which crimes are worthy of being denied a gun? Shoplifting? Probably not. Drunk driving? Maybe. Assault? Heavens yes. A person with a violent criminal history shouldn’t be allowed to buy a gun. At least not legally. But these are criminals, so they’re just buy a gun illegally or steal one.

      Mental illness? This is also a given. If a person doesn’t have the mental faculties to understand the consequences of shooting somebody with a gun, they shouldn’t own one. But who determines whether somebody is mentally fit? If I want a gun do I have to go get a note from a mental health professional? Do gun shop owners have to be trained psychologists now? Do people who can control their mental illness with medication get to buy a gun? What if somebody falls down and hits their head? Do we take away their guns until we can be sure their brain wasn’t damaged? Some dumbasses consider homosexuality to be a mental illness, should we not allow gays to purchase a gun just to be on the safe side? I draw cartoons with guns on my blog… does this predispose me to gun violence? Should I be denied the right to buy a gun just to be sure? Who decides these things? People can develop mental illness over time. Who monitors all gun owners to determine their mental health status and decide if they get to keep their guns? What is “mentally healthy” anyway? Is anybody TRULY sane?

      I could come up with what-if scenarios all day long here. And I don’t think that this means I am being VERY defensive and twisting myself into knots… because, as I said, to me the solution is NOT obvious.

      Look, I am not in any way disputing that Jared Lee Loughner should have NEVER been sold a weapon. I am absolutely not trying to deny that some form of gun control could be helpful in preventing gun violence. People with serious mental problems or a history of violence should not own guns. Period. I agree 110% You’ll get no argument from me. But I do think it’s important to say that just screaming “GUN CONTROL” at the USA every time something like this horrible tragedy occurs is not the end-all be-all ultimate quick-and-easy solution that people make it out to be. We have a Constitution which is very strong on gun ownership and there are tons and tons of guns floating around our country already. These facts alone are a huge stumbling block towards any kind of realistic gun control. But even if that COULD all be sorted, what’s the next step? Where are the lines drawn? Where does responsibility lie? Who qualifies for gun ownership under our laws? These are not easy questions to answer. And, whether anybody chooses to believe it or not, people of this country have been trying to figure it out since the USA was founded. The solution, so far, has eluded us… but tragic incidents like what just happened in Arizona will forever keep us searching.

      • whitenoise says:

        With all respect, Dave, you’re making it more complicated than it needs to be. If you want to reduce the amount of gun violence, you reduce the availability of guns.

        In most countries would-be gun owners have to prove a need and then be approved by a process that includes the local police and a lengthy background check. Who decides how the process works? Society. Just like society decides who should form their government, what laws are appropriate, if there should be universal health care and whether gay people should marry. That’s why we elect people.

        Any criminal history or mental health issues would likely preclude an applicant. Yes, that infringes somewhat on upon your right to bear arms, but no- an abused (and therefore emotional woman) should not need a gun to protect herself-that’s what police, restraining orders and ultimately locks are for.

        In my country it would be difficult for me to purchase a gun- legally or otherwise. However, it would be MUCH more difficult for an unstable person to buy that same gun. It’s not a perfect system, but it works better than yours. Everything that’s worthwhile has its own price.

        • Dave2 says:

          And, with all due respect, you are simplifying a much more complex issue, and don’t seem to be addressing any of my points from a perspective unique to this country. This is not Canada or any other nation… you can’t equate apples to oranges and posit that as a solution. All of the points you are making were addressed in my reply… yet you pick and choose bits and pieces without addressing the overall gun culture which permeates this country to its very core. Americans love their guns. Despite all the tragedy, all the horror, all the violence… AMERICANS LOVE THEIR GUNS. If there’s anything uncomplicated in this entire debate, THAT would be it. You think the violence is bad NOW? Try taking away the guns. And, make no mistake, any new legislation heavily restricting gun access would be categorically absurd if you didn’t address the millions upon millions of guns already floating around out there (which you apparently are). Go ahead and mobilize the military to confiscate all the guns so we can start over with scratch with more restrictive laws… just try it. The ensuing bloodbath would be horrific.

          Yes, I 100% agree that if our society woke up tomorrow and everybody held hands and sang songs and decided that we should heavily restrict access to firearms, confiscate the millions upon millions of guns already out there, then went skipping into the sunset, there would a lot less gun violence. But this is fantasy. Sheer fantasy. The majority of citizens here continue to support the right to bear arms. Maybe that will change one day. Maybe continuing violence will change opinions even though it always seems to do the exact opposite. I don’t know. But it’s not going to change any time soon because the majority of attitudes here are so entrenched in our gun culture. Not only that, but legal interpretations (including those by our Supreme Court) have consistently upheld our gun culture when it comes to ownership.

          In any event, the big picture is really not so easy to see, much as I wish it was. You are completely ignoring the fact that many crimes are foiled here because of people owning guns. Just like you choose to ignore that our police simply cannot provide 24-hour bodyguard protection to every person who has ever been threatened (nor can they be everywhere at once). Just like you choose to believe that an abused woman couldn’t possibly be rational and sound-minded in her desire to protect herself. Just like you apparently believe that restraining orders are never violated and locks are never broken. All that may be true in Canada, but it is unrealistic here… no matter how worthwhile… specifically because USAsians would say YOUR price is too high.

          As I said, repeatedly, I am all for keeping the guns out of the hands of mentally unstable people and criminals. This is not even a debate, as any sane, law-abiding person here would certainly agree. But, as I also said, it’s not easy to decide where the line should be drawn when it comes to what constitutes a criminal or somebody who is mentally unstable (I gave numerous examples, none of which you responded to). It also doesn’t acknowledge that illegal guns are easy to come by. Or that people could get guns while sane and law-abiding, then BECOME mentally unstable or a violent criminal.

          You say it’s simple, but that’s easy to do when you ignore huge chunks of the issue and dismiss our culture, laws, and Constitution for the sake of simplification.

          Remember… I don’t like guns. I won’t own one. I wish nobody had them. You are preaching to the choir when it comes to gun violence. But do I think the rights of law abiding citizens under our Second Amendment should be dictated by the terrible actions of criminals and insanity? No I do not. Unlike you, I don’t casually dismiss one of the founding concepts of this country just because I find it inconvenient to my argument. But, then again, I’m probably a little more attached to the laws of this land since I’m a citizen here.

          You say your laws work better than ours. But you are in an entirely different situation under entirely different circumstances than we are. So long as you continue to dismiss that basic fact, you can’t really convince me that what works for your country will unilaterally work for ours.

          Much as I might wish it could.

  23. Thank you so much for voicing your stance about guns. I think many city-dwellers forget what an indispensable tool a firearm can be when you’re out camping in the boonies or living on the edge of civilization.

  24. Whit says:

    Well said. I’ll admit that I ran w/the Palin blame thing for a good hour after the shootings, mainly because the news coming in was spinning the shooter as some Tea Party nut, and I wanted to point a finger at someone. Anyone.

    As things settled down I obviously saw the error of my thinking, but you know, I didn’t regret it. Blood libel, my ass.

  25. Justin Scott says:

    What a great post. Thanks for mixing the fun with the serious so effortlessly, as usual.

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