business news in context, analysis with attitude

Last week, we reported that there was a mass shooting at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, last night, which resulted in six fatalities.  The killer, who committed suicide, was a an overnight supervisor at the store.  The six people who were murdered were all employees.

I commented:

This is madness.

I'm sure there will be people who will offer "thoughts and prayers," but that is not enough.  Not even close.

When I write about these stories, I'm always careful to explain that I do not come from a gun culture, so I do not have any sort of emotional connection to the ownership and use of firearms.  But I'm tired of offering that caveat.

I'm sure I will get criticized for saying this, but I don't much care.  There are mass shootings in churches and schools and clubs and stores, and all I can think is that there are way too many guns out there.  I have no idea if the Walmart shooter got his guns legally or not, but I don't much care.  It just seems to me that there is something deeply flawed in the American psyche that we allow this to happen, and that we've gotten so used to it happening.

Retailers and schools and churches and clubs are going to have to turn themselves into armed camps in order to defend their people, and I think there is something deeply flawed in a culture that somehow thinks that this is permissible.

To be clear, I have no solution.  But there has to be a middle ground on which reasonable people can agree that will allow for the continued enshrinement of "the right to bear arms" and yet create an environment in which only qualified people can get them.  And I do wonder what the tipping point will be, and wonder why we haven't reached it yet.

There were two more shootings at Walmarts in different parts of the country subsequently, which led me to comment:

Three Walmart shooting in less than a week?  Jeez.

In September 2019, responding to a series of recent mass shootings - including one in an El Paso Walmart store that resulted in 22 deaths - CEO Doug McMillon wrote, "We want what’s best for our customers, our associates and our communities. In a complex situation lacking a simple solution, we are trying to take constructive steps to reduce the risk that events like these will happen again. The status quo is unacceptable."

I have no doubt of McMillon's sincerity.  But I also have no doubt that the status quo remains firmly in place, that people continue to die, that politics and culture seem unwilling and unable to deal with current realities, and that one of the hallmarks of American exceptionalism seems to be that America can be an exceptionally brutal place to live, to be educated, to worship, and to shop.

Not surprisingly, there was email.

One MNB reader responded:

KC, I’m quite certain no one can predict how they will react when faced with an active shooter situation till it happens. However, the frequency of these stories has me considering that I should conceal carry.   

I have a small pistol perfect for concealed carry and I’m practiced and proficient with it, but out of sheer laziness rarely if ever carry.   

Given you’re view on guns.  I’m not sure this is the reaction you are looking for or if you’d even feel safer knowing more Sheepdogs are out there? 

I’ve actually spoken with several local officers about their thoughts on concealed carry and to my surprise were are all for it.  “We can’t be everywhere all the time” was the sentiment.  Rather than being concerned about more guns they seemed to welcome it as added backup.  

I’ve heard you mention that you did not grow up in a “gun culture,” but as I own several guns, I presume you would place me in that category.  So let me explain, I grew up in the suburbs and started deer and turkey hunting at age 13 because my uncle, a retired cop, thought it would be a good idea.  Until recently I owned a deer rifle and shotgun.  Funny thing is I started bow hunting and now hunt more today with bow and arrow than a gun just for the challenge.  I purchased my first handgun 10 years ago for home protection as it was cheaper than an alarm system.  I’m not a gun nut, each of my weapons has a purpose for either hunting or home protection.  I did purchase a second handgun recently for home protection because it would accept larger capacity magazines because you never know how many bad guys there might be.  And I’m considering an AR-15 to add to my tool kit because I remember the incident in St. Louis where a lawyer defended his property with an AR-15 as angry protestors threatened to burn his house down.  He and his wife were unharmed, and his show of force prevented it from happening.  The weapons I currently own are insufficient for a mob scenario.   

There are more than just good guys and bad guys.  There are Wolves (bad guys), Sheep (defenseless good guys) and Sheepdogs (prepared/armed good guys).  Cops are in the Sheepdog category defending the flock from the Wolves, and I plan to be a Sheepdog also.  You’re welcome! 

I acknowledge your perspective.  But just for the record, I didn't say, "Thank you."  I just want to be clear about that.

From another MNB reader:

I don't generally engage in this type of forum though I have been reading your blog for years.

So, to provide a little background - I grew up hunting with my dad and brothers in law in rural Michigan.  I still own guns.  So, I guess by your definition, I would be someone that does come from a "gun culture."

I also am extremely frustrated and concerned about all of the mass shootings.  It makes me want to carry all the time for protection.  (Which I don't believe is a perfect solution - but may be the best for a lot of people at this time)  We do have the ability to conceal carry in Michigan, but I am not a permit holder..... yet.....

It is an extremely complicated issue.  I believe a very high percentage of these mass shooters are young white men.  Personally, I believe the cause is not guns or a gun culture.  I believe it is the breakdown of human relationships.  I think this is partially caused by the destruction of the family structure.  A lot of young men spend all of their time locked in their bedrooms playing video games 16-18 hours a day.  Though I don't blame it on video games directly, I think it is causing incredible disconnection from human relationships.  Dads are often not in the picture.  If dads are around usually both parents are working full time.  Kids are simply not nurtured the way they were 30-40 years ago.  These kids do not have the human connections that we had when we were young.  I don't know how to fix that.  "The horses are out of the barn" and I am not sure we will ever be able to put them back.  I actually think this explains the problems with drugs in our society as well.

I am open to more restrictions on guns.  I think most people are.  But, what does that truly mean?  Buy backs?  More background checks?  Have those things worked?  Outright outlawing guns?  Not realistic and Not constitutional......  

It is complicated and frustrating.  I guess I just wanted to tell you that I feel your pain on this subject even though I probably come from a very different perspective.

Have a great Thanksgiving.  Love your blog - I appreciate it.

From another MNB reader:

Couldn’t agree with you more.  As a mother of two kids, 4 & 6, I fear what this country will be like for them in 10 years.  It terrifies me to my core.  We went to the Bentonville square earlier this week for the lighting of the square, half of the time I was only thinking about how I would protect both kids if something starts happening.  All I should have been thinking about is how much fun they were having.  What will I do when they are teens and I can no longer use my small 5’1 frame to cover their bodies?  I’m so tired of thoughts and prayers with zero action.  You are so spot on with your comments.

And I do wonder what the tipping point will be, and wonder why we haven't reached it yet.  How have we not reached it yet?  If we haven’t by now, there is most likely nothing that can be done because no one who can make a difference actually cares.  This is beyond tragic.

MNB reader Steven Ritchey wrote:

First off, I totally agree with you on guns and gun legislation.  I'm not sure what all the steps we need to take are, but what we're doing now obviously isn't working.

One example I use that gun activists say has no bearing, but I think that's because they want unfettered access to guns is automobiles, trucks and cars.

I have to register both of my vehicles for them to be legal to drive, both have to have current safety inspections.  To have a drivers license, I had to pass a written test and a road test.  Hard to believe that's been almost 50 years ago now.

Now, every so often, when it's time to renew my drivers license I have to go to a DMV office and take a vision test, you know to make sure I still see well enough to drive.  In some states I'm at an age where I may be required to take a road test.  That's for a car or truck whose sole purpose is to get from point A to point B, it's reason for being is for transportation.

Now, I know lots of people drive poorly, horribly, we have lots of auto accidents, sometimes people die.  It's a consequence of when we drive poorly or make bad decisions, but killing isn't the purpose of a vehicle.

However, a firearm has only one purpose, to kill.  Doesn't it make sense we would have stringent background checks for owning one.  Doesn't it make sense we might even have some restrictions on what kind of guns people like you and I might purchase.  I mean, if I drove a large truck or bus, I'd need a commercial license.

I know the gun lobby says that they have a right to own a gun, or a hundred.  Every right we have, has limits.  We have a right to a free press, but, news media still can't deliberately, knowingly make false statements about someone.

There are vehicles made in other countries that can't be legally sold here, because they don't meet standards in one way or another.  So then, why can't we have a law that says automatic weapons, and large capacity magazines cannot be sold except to law enforcement or for military use.  Don't try to to tell me a rifle that's automatic fire with a 30 round clip is a hunting rifle.

The elephant in the room I've not brought up is politics, because I know yours is not a political site.

Anyway, just my two cents worth, for what it's worth.

And from another reader:

As a nation there have been 600+ mass shootings this year-to-date. Over the years we have seen mass shootings at thousands of schools, churches, Walmarts, workplaces, nightclubs, restaurants, etc. It seems that Americans are simply fine with deranged individuals, often no more than children,  buying military weapons and using them to murder fellow Americans.  

What will it take for reasonable Americans to say enough is enough. Thoughts and prayers clearly are not working. 

And from yet another:

Bravo on your statement about our ridiculous gun culture. The Repugs lost me after Sandy Hook. Uvalde sadly continued the tradition. If right wingers can't muster enough compassion to take action after the massacres of first graders they are truly lost souls.

MNB reader Barb Grondin Francella wrote:

I appreciate you speaking up and calling out the madness surrounding this country's gun culture.

It's horrifying  -- and very few have the courage to take a stand.

MNB reader Patrick Smith wrote:

I share a non-firearm background with you, but am supportive of all constitutional rights. I would attempt a parallel with the right to vote. I live in a state with primaries run by parties. To vote for a party member one must be registered to vote in that party and you may only vote for your parties’ candidates. For those who live in walk in voting states you are told when you can vote, only during specific hours for your state, at which precinct you must cast your vote and you only get to vote once. Nothing free and unfettered about voting rights. They are quite specific, yet there is a portion that attempts to curtail voting rights by closing some precincts, shortening hours and the removal of some drop boxes in mail in states. Yet some gun owners expect their rights to be free and unfettered. There will be those who posit that no law will work as criminals will simply pay no attention. By that reasoning we need no laws at all as almost every law is occasionally broken. Reasonable gun safety laws, while protecting the rights of legitimate ownership, should be the focus of all. Clearly thoughts and prayer may offer comfort, but they bring no solution.

MNB reader Paul Gibbons wrote:

As I’m sure you know, it’s all about gun SALES.  Gun makers sell more guns and pay lobbyists to disperse a message of “2nd Amendment” and “tyrannical government”.  It’s all bull, and constituents of lawmakers “on the take” eat it up.  Whenever I get into a debate with someone on this (which is usually futile), I always state the following: If big tobacco had used the same playbook as gun manufactures, there would still be ash tray cans at the end of every aisle in the grocery store.

MNB reader Rich Heiland wrote:

To their credit, somewhat, Walmart did in 2020 announce it would stop selling guns in what amounted to half its stores. Not sure what the criteria was for deciding which stores were exempt. But it would strike me as a horrible irony that a Walmart employee could be shot with a gun he or she sold to the shooter. As long as Walmart profits from guns and ammo I take any comments about dealing with violence in its stores with a grain of salt.

And finally, from MNB reader (and one of our faves) Beatrice Orlandini:

A few days ago I went to an event for international people (mainly women) in Como, Italy.

I ended up chatting most of the evening with an American lady from Chicago who moved here a couple of years ago with her Italian husband and two pre-teenage boys.
I was very curious about her experience and the sons' as well.

She said they loved it and enjoyed the freedom of walking to school and feeling safe.

No active shooter drills at school, none of the threats that families are facing everyday in the US.

I had never thought of here as "safe", there are safer places no doubt, but - so far - yes, we can still do everyday very mundane things feeling relatively "safe".  That's a lot.

I hope we can go on that way.

Hate to say it, but I am reasonably sure that the US is culturally and politically incapable of resolving this issue in a way that will reduce the number of mass shootings here in any appreciable way.  The fact is that any resolution will mean that everybody will have to be a little bit unhappy with the solution, but will live with it in the interests of saving people's lives.

To reference the Warren Zevon song, there are way too many lawyers, guns and money, all of them working against any sort of nuanced solution.

I'm also very sure that we're never going to resolve the issue here on MNB.  (Much as I'd like to.)

Which leaves me conflicted about how much time and space to dedicate to the conversation.  I'm in the business of content moderation, and I don't want to go down a rabbit hole from which there is no escape, with the conversation becoming toxic.  But, I also recognise that this is a relevant issue for the MNB constituency - when mass murders take place in retail environments, it means that the issue has come to the MNB community's front door.  Ignoring it is not an option, even if my take on the problem leaves some people unhappy with me.

So I'm going to try to be both measured and vigilant about the conversation, allowing for different points of view without letting the topic overwhelm us in a way that is counter-productive.  That's what makes sense to me, and I hope it makes sense to you.