The Cultural Context required to understand US Gun Culture

It becomes readily apparent to people outside of the United States that people within the US have quite a different take on the issue of gun control (even as we read today of the 29th mass shooting in the US in the first 6 weeks of 2018 -18 of which have taken place in schools). To people outside of the US, this is pure insanity, and the obvious solution is gun control. 

For example, Australia had a similar issue (though in a much lesser degree). 

In April 1996, a man armed with semi-automatic rifles entered a cafe in the town of Port Arthur, and shot and killed 35 people. It was the worst mass shooting in Australian history. The day after the massacre, the country’s prime minister, John Howard, started to put together the most sweeping gun control reforms ever contemplated by any Australian government. The country passed the National Firearms Agreement, which banned automatic, semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns and introduced a stricter system for licensing and owning guns. The agreement is considered one of the strictest gun laws in the world. Furthermore, a national gun buy back scheme saw more than 640,000 weapons turned in to authorities. The guns were collected and destroyed. It took just 14 days after the Port Arthur massacre for gun laws to be proposed and then passed by the Australian government.

In the decades before the Port Arthur killings, there were 13 mass shootings in Australia (defined by academics as the killing of five or more people, not including the shooter). Since the gun reform, Australia has not had another mass shooting. (details paraphrased from a news article Oct 4, 2017 Global News)

So, we have international precedent, we have results. What's the problem in the US? 

In just one of 100's of examples, a 2016 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll (after the Orlando shooting), fifty percent of voters said that they were concerned that the government will go too far in restricting the rights of citizens to own guns, while 47 percent said they were more concerned that authorities would not do enough to regulate access to firearms. The widely interpreted 2nd amendment of the Constitution seems to be the primary and uniquely American issue that hinders progress on gun control. I don't think I would find too much resistance to the idea that it is the foundation of modern gun culture in the US.

The Second Amendment to the US Constitution was designed to protect the right of the people to keep and bear arms and was adopted on December 15, 1791, as part of the Bill of Rights. Despite being written in 1791 in the era of muskets, recent legal interpretations such as Caetano v. Massachusetts (2016) have seen the Court rule that the Second Amendment extends to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding, and that this Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the States. So, fully automatic military weapons are fine for home use. The US has an unhealthy gun culture.

America's gun culture in 10 charts (Feb 15, 2018) nicely summarizes the issue.  Mass shootings aren't the only problem.

The sociology of U.S. gun culture (D. Yamane, 2017), is a look at the history of the issue.

In this study, a couple of earlier studies are mentioned citing the “citizen soldier” - male gun carriers as citizen-protectors who are seen as morally upstanding citizens exercising their historically masculine duty to protect their families while female gun carriers emphasized a need to protect themselves (rather than their families) and felt empowered to do so because guns are “equalizers”. Both males and females seem to embrace of a cultural ideal of personal responsibility that requires guns. 

It is difficult for someone outside of this gun culture to understand this as being remotely logical (and roughly half of those within it aren't buying it either). 

The solution to the US problem lies within the US. We on the outside can wag our fingers and shake our heads in disbelief but external negative opinions will never change this. I would suggest this requires legislation, a change in legal rulings regarding the interpretation of what is allowed under the 2nd amendment, and a ton of education starting in kindergarten to counter this embedded gun culture.







The theory of everything discussed over breakfast

Is this normal breakfast conversation in your household?

Inspired by a recent NOVA show on blackholes, we started with it must be wrong, black holes cannot have a linear plane because gravity is omnidirectional, so a black hole must be a circle pulling from all directions.

Then popped up magnetic fields and how blackholes must have them and if that is true they have an electric current as well (rotating magnets), so the gravitational wave recently recorded (and mentioned in said NOVA program) may in fact have been an electro-magnetic pulse.

From there we discussed the purpose of black holes, which led of course to the origin of the universe, and whether in fact we have multiverses and we can only perceive our universe (much debate why) and then to infinity which no one really understands and yet came up with a conclusion.

The universe is finite, not infinite and exists in NOTHING (no matter/no time/no energy/no borders/no anything – THAT is infinity). Pass the bread please.

The universe is (or multiverses are) something and anything, the rest is nothing. I’m good with that.

So the origin of the universe, the creator if you will, is when the source of everything, the original something became aware (logic) that it was NOT nothing and became everything (big bang).

All religions are based on the idea of a unity with the creator (god) and we are part of this creation. Physically this is true, we are all created from atoms of the original singularity, and when the universe (or multiverses) finally collapse and again coalesce into a singularity again (what black holes likely are for), we return to our “maker”. Then we repeat over and over again, forever.

There were also discussion of the binary nature of everything, logical yes/no and electrical plus & minus, and how these are innate properties of the universe which you will have to insert into the discussion somewhere.

We ate fresh bread from Cob’s bakery, with smoked meat, double smoked bacon, aged gouda, and assorted other things and had coffee.

How was your breakfast?

We're doing it wrong : Renewable energy planning (or lack thereof)

A summary of a discussion with our resident environmental engineer Anna after her return from a meeting with people allegedly concerned with alternative energy:

  • There seems to be no awareness that renewable energy sources are made in factories using fossil fuels.
  • There seems to be no “plan” for renewal energy sector growth, the same mistakes as with fossil fuels are being repeated. There a “just use it” mentality without thoughts of the long-term environmental implications of their use (reallocation of global energy). What we take in wind and sun energy is lost elsewhere – we aren’t MAKING energy we are capturing and using it. We use it, something else loses it.
  • There is no coordination between projects concerned with the same issues, but if their windfarm is immediately upwind of yours, you have no wind for your farm - like a hydro electric facility built just upstream of yours cutting your flow. The atmosphere is like a river.
  • Windfarms and large scale solar projects affect the atmosphere (turbulence, heat island effect of solar arrays, etc.), and this can change the weather which cumulatively is called climate.
  • There is no plan for disposing dead batteries used to store wind/sun energy just like there is no plan for disposing nuclear waste. Many nasty chemicals mined (environmental disaster) and disposed of (yet another one).

And so on.

We need a coordinated National plan for the renewable energy sector (we actually need a Global plan, but that will be a cumulative series of National plans I think, politics being what they are). If we totally bugger up the atmospheric flow (which distributes the climate we end up having), we can’t fix it.


or Climate Change and what it means to new social order by Anna Frank

“We must go down to the lowest depths before we can touch bottom and rise again.” [1]

When there is talk about the climate change one cannot avoid talking about people. It is quite clear now that people and nature are part of one unity. There is only ONE world and we all have to share it with all living creatures. With every breath we take, we influence what that world will become. Most discussions about the climate change are about the human role in it. There is a huge effort to prove that no matter what humans do, our actions are independent of nature. So, where does that leave us?


What Humans Want and How They Decide

Comment on “Remodeling Education for an Emergent Future” by Lalith Ananda Gunaratne, Ottawa by Anna Frank

“Of all knowledge first we need to gain is about self-first, our own nature, interconnectedness with the natural environment and uncertainty of everything. Next is to build up complement academic knowledge.” [1] Since the dawn of humanity, we wanted to know, and we had to know to survive. So, what and when did it all go wrong?