We’re Perfectly Positioned

Reading time – 4:05; Viewing time – 5:41  .  .  .

Her husband was killed by a street shooter. Later, one of her sons was shot and killed. Relating this to the small audience brought her to tears – again. The mother’s pain she bears will never go away.

When she was able to function again she started a support group for mothers who have lost family members to street violence. There are currently about 75 members of “Sisterhood.” There could be 750,000 members because we shoot someone’s son or daughter or husband or daddy over 100 times per day, every day.

Some of the violence is due to random drive-by shootings; some is done by warring gangs; some is done by angry young people or disgruntled workers. All of it is due to something way beyond wrong.

Another presenter spoke to the audience about his family of origin. Seven kids, Mom and an abusive step-father who hit with chairs, a vacuum cleaner, whatever was handy. The presenter grew up thinking that’s just the way things were – until the night his little sister went into the bathroom to avoid their step-father’s violence and quietly hung herself with the cord of a hair dryer. That’s what random violence can do to people. The presenter now works with at risk kids, people who grew up as he did, assuming that violence was just the way people deal with their anger. Most of it isn’t done by an electrical cord. Most is by gun.

As always, the grassroots efforts are driven by people who have lived the pain and they’re doing wonderful, critically needed work to help others, holding hands and hugging to soothe the sufferers and to counsel people away from violence before they commit it and that’s good. It’s one piece of the horrific puzzle and it isn’t enough.

The cover picture of this puzzle of over 30,000 gun killings per year shows:

The lack of proper education of our kids for a successful life

Lack of employment opportunities where they are most needed

Our refusal to enact meaningful, national gun safety legislation

Our cultural idealizing and reverence for tough, macho guys (think: Charlton Heston’s “cold, dead hands” speech)

Our slavish belief in the Second Amendment as a holy thing and meaning something other than what was intended by the Founders

A political system that rewards the biggest donors instead of We the People

Our limp-wristed way of dealing with mental health

The ease with which we are distracted by the next bright, shiny object

You can likely add to this list. The point is that there are many contributing factors to our gun violence problem and no one thing is going to cure our addiction to pointless death. Still, some useful things are obvious.

Guns are the perfect tool to kill lots of people quickly. Knives kill, but imagine the killer at Marjorie Stoneman Douglass High School last year with knives instead of guns. He could have killed some kids, but there’s no way he could have killed 17 of them with knives or an axe or any other hand weapon. Getting guns out of the hands of those who should never have one will be a major step toward solving our problem. Refusing to do that enables our truly angry, hate-filled people to carry out their horrible plans.

Three years ago the FBI arrested two men who were planning a race war, expecting to bomb Black churches and Jewish synagogues. Last week they arrested a white nationalist who proclaimed, “I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on earth,” and he was prepared to attack using his armory of assault weapons if President Trump is impeached. He planned to pump himself up with steroids and opioids so he would be ready to unleash continuing carnage. The authorities managed to stop these two nut cases.

But we’ll never run out of angry men who want to do violence and stopping all of them is unlikely to happen. The question we must answer is whether we are willing to do what is necessary to stop them before they start. If we continue to make it easy to assemble an arsenal of weapons of war, if we continue to make it easy for nearly anyone with a few bucks in their pocket to buy a handgun and some ammunition, we will continue to kill the likes of the little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, high school kids at Columbine and Douglass, movie goers in Aurora, CO, factory workers in Aurora, IL, people at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, concert attendees in Las Vegas and thousands on the streets.

By February 17 there were already 43 mass shootings in the US this year. There were 5 last weekend alone. That can feel dreadful and even horrifying but might not be motivating because most it happens at a distance. That’s just how it was for that mom until her husband and son were killed. It’s up close and real personal for her now. That’s the way it always is for victims and their loved ones.

We’re perfectly positioned to get exactly the horrific results we’re getting right now. The only way to get different, better results is to do something about it.


Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,


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3 Responses to We’re Perfectly Positioned
  1. Allan Shuman Reply

    I am intrigued by the (recent, I believe) increased usage of the word “concerning” as an adjective. Typically, the word has meant “with regard to” or “about;” lately it is employed to describe a response to some sort of goings-on, and comes across (to me) as “interesting, with a modicum of worry,” but not enough to get upset about. The applications I have seen say to me “that’s bad as I think about it, but I want to keep my emotional distance from it.” Sort of a step below worrisome. (By the way, this is the first time I’ve ever seen you use the word in this context.)

    I do not find the gun issue concerning. I find the slaughter and mayhem horrifying, the cowardice in Congress, especially among Republicans disgusting, the NRA sickening and the excuses the height of dishonesty or abysmal stupidity. The best (worst) of the popular defenses is the argument that thousands die in car crashes so by analogy cars should be banned. This one actually makes the opposite point from the gun defenders’ intent. The most obvious distinction, i.e., that guns are designed to kill while what happens in cars are accidents, points also to the fact that every state has rules setting the qualifications that a potential driver must satisfy in order be granted the privilege of owning a driver’s license.

    When does the situation stop being concerning and start being intolerable? Did the Valentine’s Day massacre of 2018, carried on at a high school 15 miles from my home … did that do it? How about the slaughter of a ten-year-old brother and sister by a bipolar father who had a psychotic break … an event from which part of my family may never fully recover?

    Concern ain’t good enough.

    • Jack Altschuler Reply

      Thanks for your comments and, specifically, for your critique of my use of the word “concerning” in the second sentence in the next-to-last paragraph. I’ve changed it to “horrifying” because you’re right.

  2. Paul Reply

    Hi Jack

    This post makes a lot of sense.

    We need to do something about it. The question is what?

    The likelihood of a radical shift in politics that would lead to the repeal of the second amendment is not even imaginable. So beating the drum about that won t work and probably is counter-productive.

    It seems to me a radical shift in politics did occur in 2018. The ‘first step act’. In the current political climate, it amazes me that this legislation passed in a strongly bi-partisan way. The effects of this legislation needs to be screamed from the roof tops. It provides hope. It also may offer a path to ‘the something’ we need to do.

    Studying and copying how this legislation was conceived, presented and ultimately passed could help pass other types of legislation which deal with aspects of violence born of mental illness and amplified by the US gun culture.

    Such a path would avoid polarization, we need more of that.