Are Mormons too trusting? Should youth leaders be teaching them to be more vigilant? Are Church activities safe in the current cultural environment?
There was a story recently shared in a private online forum about a group of young men playing basketball at the Church who were humiliated and chased off by a Church leader who didn’t know that the young men were less active members of the ward. He saw people of color playing basketball and immediately assumed “danger” and “intruder.” In that locale, apparently visitors (of different races) are not welcome, unlike the sign we post outside our churches. The Church leader cited “safety” as his concern, but what he meant was that people who aren’t white are dangerous. He saw his job to protect the space from danger, a protective instinct that turned against kids he didn’t personally recognize as worthy of his protection.
There was an incident that occurred on November 9 in Blackfoot, Idaho that also illustrates the dangers of living in our increasingly distrustful society. A group of Young Women, under the supervision of their leader, were posting “thankful turkeys” with notes of gratitude on doors in their neighborhood. They tacked a turkey cutout with handwritten encouragement on it on the door, rang the bell, then ran off, leaving the home owner to find the anonymous act of kindness. This went horribly awry when one home owner (also a sheriff) told his wife to get his gun, then threatened the frightened girls and their leader at gunpoint, pulling the leader from her vehicle by her hair while she repeatedly identified herself as someone he had known for three decades as a neighbor and family friend. This story can be found here, here, and here.
As it happens, there was a racist component to this story as well, but not one that easily explains threatening a carful of quaking young girls at gunpoint. In Sheriff Rowland’s words:
“I have been doing this job for 36 years,” Rowland said. “I have had drunk Indians drive down my cul-de-sac. I’ve had drunk Indians come to my door. I live just off the reservation, we have a lot of reservation people around us that are not good people.”https://www.eastidahonews.com/2021/12/sheriff-charged-with-felony-aggravated-assault-after-allegedly-threatening-youth-group-with-gun/?fbclid=IwAR0Aj0FPb4Gg9Z5HPgfRbdkJVTmqkfVxouwOui_jkZ_Yy_6rzb-Xr1onu7I
The Sheriff also explained that he had one alcoholic drink that evening, and he is described as exiting the house wearing long johns (*wink*), a tee shirt and socks, to chase the girls down. The Church downplayed the incident to the dismay of parents:
The parent expressed disappointment in statements given to media from local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint communication officials Dan Cravens and Ray Matsuura, who said this situation was “most likely a misunderstanding.”ibid
In the wake of the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict, there have been a lot of questions about whether it is acceptable and legal to allow citizens to behave as vigilantes, policing the actions of other citizens, even using violence if necessary. The Ahmaud Arbery trial showed that this approach has limits and doesn’t work in all situations, or at least is not universally embraced by all juries. One commenter suggested that the difference between these two verdicts is that people in Georgia know they have a racism problem, and they want to distance themselves from racist acts. People in Wisconsin and the north are less likely to admit they have a problem with racism. Racism is a sin of the Southeastern US, the former slave states, or so they think. They can convince themselves that racist motives are not a problem in either vigilantism or policing.
Racism aside, another problematic element in both these cases (all four, really) is that individuals, including the police, don’t always accurately assess danger, and their actions increase rather than defuse the danger of a situation, adding conflict, aggression and violence where they don’t need to exist. Sometimes it’s assuming threat where none exists (the two Mormon stories above and the Ahmaud Arbery case), sometimes it’s an accident (the officer who thought she was using a taser, but fired a round pointblank into a suspect’s chest instead), sometimes it’s just throwing gasoline on a fire (Rittenhouse’s choice to insert himself, and his illegally obtained assault rifle, into an already tense and potentially violent protest).
There’s a trend toward police brutality, brutality by citizens, gun violence and hyper-vigilance. These aren’t the ingredients for peace on earth, goodwill toward men. All this violence is liable to awaken the slumbering baby Jesus.
As to how we got here, I wonder if it was inevitable or if we could have made other choices as a society, creating different norms for behavior. There was an interesting story about “secret” recordings of an NRA meeting in the wake of Columbine that showed leadership of the NRA grappling with how to respond to that tragedy. Different options were considered: putting together a fund for victims, apologizing, canceling their upcoming gun show that was near Columbine where (as they said) “kids would be fondling firearms,” or doubling down on their rhetoric, showing strength against critics by refusing to give any air to gun control advocates. Some NRA leadership denigrated members of their organization during this secret meeting, referring to them as wackos, hillbillies, fruitcakes and idiots. They knew that controlling these individuals was unlikely, so their strategy had to include the actions of these folks.
Behind the scenes, Republican lawmakers reached out to the NRA to get “talking points” so that they would stay on message with the pro-gun constituents. Ultimately, the response they chose was to distract the public from any narratives that put the NRA or its members in a negative light, instead proactively point to “culture” as the cause, not gun owners. Red herrings they threw out included the newly released Matrix movie, Marilyn Manson, and (ta-da) “violent video games.” Those of us who were adults at the time may recall the role of violent video games in mass shooting events as a question being debated at the time.
The release of these recordings opens up almost as many questions as it opens. Even though it was a deliberate strategy to use “culture” and “society” as a screen for gun owners to avoid blame, culture has certainly followed, and as they rightly identified, some gun owners are ungovernable and off script. If the NRA can’t rein them in, do we actually think government can? If so, how? (I’m already on record with my own opinion that if your gun is used in a violent crime, the owner should always be charged with negligence at minimum, possibly up to manslaughter. We are finally seeing this approach with the incredibly problematic parents in the Michigan school shooting earlier this month).
Conservative Christians in particular are often big on gun rights and things like Stand Your Ground laws that protect those who kill others for trespassing and other offenses. Some Mormons take this stance as well, although not all. When students at the high school did a walk out protest after the Parkland shootings, one girl from the ward wore an NRA hat to school to protest the protest. I don’t think she was the norm at Church, but maybe she actually is more the norm than my daughter who walked out with her fellow students, protesting gun violence.
- When fellow citizens are posing danger due to their own increasing violence toward others, what is the right approach to keeping the peace?
- How should we be teaching our youth to trust others, but also to avoid getting shot or assaulted?
- What’s the right balance between a distrustful society and not letting fear take over? How do we take the temperature down?
- Have you ever felt physically unsafe at a Church activity? Do measures taken by the Church to ensure safety improve or worsen the situation?
 If you can’t recognize a neighbor of three decades after one measly drink, that makes you a lightweight, sir.
And what of the thousands that are getting gunned down in our inner cities?
Your post is more biased than a Joan Baez song.
Previews for new TV “action” shows inevitably feature people chasing other people with guns. It is ubiquitous, we can’t seem to get enough – a subject ripe for study – not only “how the hell did we get here?” but, given our American Problem, “why do we STAY here?”
Hawk Girl has raised an important issue. The modern Church activity can be fraught with peril. Let us examine the causes.
The first cause is perfectly shown by the example of this drunken sheriff. Sadly, alcohol use is proliferating in modern society (even among less diligent members, as Hawk Girl seems to imply that the sheriff is). This leads to terrible interactions between young girls and intoxicated buffoons who cause clear safety concerns.
But a more common danger is the threat to spiritual safety. Youth leaders have become lax and have let modern entertainment seep into many youth activities. Many activities take place with Post Malone music blaring in the background, and some even center around watching movies with language so foul they would s be a nun into cardiac arrest.
In short, I join Hawk Girl in condemning the substance abuse and lack of moral diligence that is putting the youth of the Church in danger. It is time for clear reformation.
An anecdote that further illustrates your point: a few years ago when we were decorating the cultural hall for my son’s wedding reception the night before his wedding, a group of folks showed up to use the same space for dance lessons, unaware that it had been reserved. The entire decorating crew (myself included I’m sorry to say) questioned their presence in the building and their claim that they normally held these lessons on this weeknight. Finally someone called the bishop and he affirmed that they were there with approval for the purpose stated.
It occurred to me after a bit of reflection that if these had not been people of color, showing up with a sound system and claiming to be there for dance lessons would probably have been taken at face value. Instead, it alarmed us to the point of calling the bishop. When I shared this thought with the others, they were offended and denied that color/race had anything to do with our reaction. I guess in fairness I can’t speak for them, but I’m pretty sure I would have reacted differently to a group of clean-cut white youth.
Reformation is more-or-less what this blog is all about John C, tho not sure the angry nun “moral diligence” approach gonna fly. That leads to its own set of problems. BTW I upvoted your comment as a gesture of good will. Happy New Year!
Interesting post. I’ve noticed different levels of mistrust/vigilance between my husband and I, due a lot to how we were raised. I was raised in Utah, to parents who were also raised in Utah, who mostly didn’t worry about what I was doing or what could be happening to me. My husband grew up in California, to parents who were raised in California, who taught their kids to fear everything and that everyone was out to get them. I think probably there has to be a balance, and it’s somewhere in the middle, though the proliferation of guns and sexual abuse makes me lean more toward the cautious/borderline paranoid than I would otherwise.
Also, for what it’s worth, I think you probably meant Ahmaud Arbery.
I have no idea how to answer your questions above but here’s one bit of advice I’ve given my four kids (three of whom are adults): NEVER EVER flip someone off in traffic due to road rage because that is often seen as a sign of aggression that should be met by physical violence. If the guy cuts you off, etc. just let it go.
The questions you pose are nearly impossible to navigate with members of a church that believes in personal revelation. We share stories of times when “something felt off,” or the Spirit encourages a seemingly uninformed urge to hesitate or question oneself, only for the storyteller to find that they narrowly escaped harm by following these promptings. We hardly ever tell the stories of times when the promptings are dead wrong.
An example: my high school girlfriend’s mother was extremely conservative even by Utah LDS standards, and always watched me with a wary eye. One late evening, she woke her sons and husband in a righteous panic: she had gone to check on us in her apartment’s lobby (where we had been studying for a test), not seen us there, and then the Spirit had confirmed to her that I was in that very moment depriving her daughter of her virtue, so to speak. She demanded that they search for her daughter and rescue her from this debauchery. This was before cell phones, so no way to call us or locate us.
Thing is, we’d gotten hungry and I had suggested we go to Taco Bell. Boy were we surprised when we came back to her place and found her mother freaking out. This all unfolded over the space of around 30 minutes. We had a good (read: awkward and nervous) laugh about it and her mother told us to go back and study.
Months later, my gf and I did fool around a little bit. (Nothing irreversible but definitely went past FTSOY boundaries.) And of course the Spirit didn’t say anything to her mother on that night. Here’s the really interesting part: when I asked my gf why her mother’s Spirit radar went off on a night when nothing happened, but was silent when something did, she said, “I think my mom was trying to warn us through the Spirit on that other night.”
Um, what? This is the resulting interpretation when you encourage divinely-inspired vigilance over people you believe you have authority over. This is how you get stories like Hawkgrrl told without anyone in an LDS meeting/class standing up and saying “Hey, those folks weren’t actually feeling the spirit communicate, they were expressing their own unconscious biases and fears!”
How do you address that wirh nuance and care if you’re still going to teach the plaintext validity of Nephi slaying Laban or Abraham nearly sacrificing Isaac?
Jo, I appreciate your comment and understand. The first step in overcoming raciism and nationalism is to recognize our own subconscious biased. We all have them. Once you recognize a bias toward a certain negative thought pattern, you are better equipped to identify and reframe such thoughts when they occur and adjust behavior accordingly. It requires a level of mindfulness and self awareness that most people are unwillingness to engage with.
Conversations on the breakdown of trust often emphasize the increasing distrust of the right-wing towards liberals. I can assure you as a liberal that there has been a significant breakdown of trust among liberals towards conservatives. There was a time where it seemed that liberal-minded folks generally trusted conservatives to uphold basic values and make important progress on a number of fronts even if they disagreed on a number of issues. Those times are gone. If I know that a church leader is an ardent conservative, a fan of gun culture, a fan of Trump, or has cracked so much as a soft racist-sounding joke, I do not trust that person, period. I did not trust that that person can make rational choices, can be a person I feel comfortable around in even apolitical conversations, and is a person that could be inspiring on any level. I wouldn’t trust them to treat people of color with the dignity that they are owed. I wouldn’t trust them as mission presidents in foreign missions. I simply would ostracize that person from my life.
@bro jones, totally agree, and of course the trusting the spirit problem is compounded when people feel discomfort around people and situations they have unconscious bias around (like people of color, gay couples, etc). So it only compounds the bias problem and adds a divine stamp of approval onto it. We have GOT to get away from that idea but I don’t know how to fix it.
(Was going to add – you saw the same thing was some of the human trafficking hysteria that was going on last year, with people posting stories on social media of situations where they or their children were “almost” trafficked. And of course the would-be traffickers were people of color, and of course the evidence of almost-trafficking was generally a “weird” feeling. Anyway it was a very troubling phenomenon.)
I have a bit of a different perspective on a lot of these questions, for several reasons. First, I am “professionally paranoid”, having a Masters in Cybersecurity and working in information security for a company that really does have people out to get it. I deal with risk management on a daily basis in my professional life. Second, on a personal level, I am a strong advocate for gun rights and have carried a sidearm in my daily life due to specific, credible threats I’ve received against myself an my family. I have taught gun safety to others, and regularly advocate for responsible gun ownership (but oppose government restrictions on the same). I am a life member of the NRA, but I also have been working to oppose the current leadership of the NRA as they have been working to leverage the organization for their own personal enrichment.
The juries got the answer right in both the Rittenhouse and the Arbery cases. The former is a classic example of justified self-defense while the latter is vigilantism. (The difference is that Rittenhouse wasn’t using his gun to threaten others when he was attacked and wasn’t attempting to enforce the law without authority. He happened to be armed and was putting out fires and providing first aid care to people when he was attacked. The McMichaels and William Bryan, on the other hand, were using their weapons to threaten Arbery when Arbery tried to escape and then sought to defend himself.)
As I said, I’ve carried a gun regularly in my daily life because I’ve had specific threats of violence against me and my family (an ex-wife who has a fascination with knives). I’ve also had bounty hunters trying to break my door down at 1 in the morning (the week after I bought a new house, they were looking for one of the previous occupants), and had drug dealers stash their product in my back yard (found by our dog and immediately handed over to the police). Based on my experiences and in the context of my risk management background, I tend to maintain a high level of alertness when I am out in public, monitoring for potential threats.
At the same time, I constantly remind myself that most people are good, and I try to treat others with respect and kindness. In my neighborhood, I have consistently encouraged people to get to know their neighbors as a way to reduce conflicts, rather than demanding that the HOA or police get involved to mediate disputes. (I am constantly asking people “WWMRD: What would Mr Rogers do?”) When I teach gun safety, I encourage people to be aware of potential dangers, but to not be ruled by them until and unless they have a specific threat that is focused on them. The analogy I like to use is defensive driving: you should be ready for another car to cut you off, but that doesn’t mean that you should expect every car to do so.
As an old Boy Scout (and current Scout leader), I try to Be Prepared like the Scout Motto says, while also being “helpful, friendly courteous, kind, … [and] cheerful” like the Scout Law teaches. It can be a hard balance to maintain, but it’s really the best course.
John W: There’s definitely a partisan trust problem right now that is very heightened, maybe insurmountable even. A former ward member I would have said at one time was one of the most trustworthy people I knew, someone with generally good moral judgment, voted for Trump in 2016. I was alarmed, and he attempted to assuage me by saying “It’s ALL about the Supreme Court,” which immediately eroded my trust in his moral judgment to the point that I have never again been able to consider him a person with values worth emulating. I don’t really know how to get past that because what he sees as morally imperative, I see as truly evil and misjudged. My most generous assessment of him at this point is that he’s foolish, which also makes him untrustworthy. My less generous, but plausible assessment is that he doesn’t have a lot of empathy for women and poor people despite being a doctor, and despite being a ward leader, he doesn’t understand the Church’s actual stance on abortion, nor the widening gap between that and what the GOP is doing. Further, he demonstrates a lack of understanding of the slippery slope about “religious freedom” which (post-Covid) has been expanded to mean anything any individual claims to believe, even without a coherent religious doctrine to back it up, is sacrosanct under the umbrella of “religious freedom.” That’s an outcome that was easily predicted back when homophobes refused to bake cakes and conservatives lined up to protect bigotry as “religious freedom,” regardless the actual tenets of churches involved and regardless the purview in which the bigotry occurred (in the public sphere in this case).
Observer: I know some people who are gun rights advocates without being what the NRA tapes called “idiots” or “wackos.” There are folks such as yourself with a security background, former police officers, etc., who aren’t just looking for excuses to murder people they don’t like under the veneer of personal property. I am particularly aware that people living in poverty and those who have survived domestic abuse may have a gun due to very real threats, although I can wring my hands in my comfortably middle class neighborhood that one’s gun is more likely to be used against oneself or loved ones than in protection of the owner (I would not have one in my house for a few reasons: 1) I’m not willing to kill another person in self defense and I’m not in a high crime area, 2) suicide by gun can’t happen if no gun and depression is a real threat for some of my loved ones, and 3) domestic violence is more of a threat with a gun, although I am not living in such a situation, but what if one of my adult children dated someone like that?). My dad had a handgun as well as some hunting rifles, and I often dreamed that he’d go crazy and kill us all. That’s probably a byproduct of the DeFeo murders in The Amityville Horror, but it left an impression on my young brain. I love your advice to think “WWMRD?” It’s great advice whether related to guns or not.
EDIT alert: I meant to say “could”, not “should”, in my post above. I’m sorry for the misunderstanding. I’m surprised I got any thumbs up with “should”.
A very touchy subject. For Mormons, we all ought to remember that Joseph Smith and Parley P. Pratt were both killed by vigilante groups — acting outside the law but eager to portray themselves as dishing out violence against “someone who deserved it.” That’s the problem with vigilantes: they are not equipped to properly distinguish good guys from bad guys (they are acting on impulse and emotion and prejudice and grudges) and are unwilling to accord any suspected person the legal rights they deserve. Mormons ought to be 100% against vigilante action and 100% for protecting legal rights. Yes, that includes the right to self-defense when there is a bona fide and legitimate threat of serious bodily harm to oneself, but most of the time legal rights are to protect those suspected or accused so that innocent suspects don’t get railroaded or simply killed.
As for the unfortunate incident with the LDS youth group in Idaho, led by grown-ups who should know better — maybe US culture and society has moved past some of the anonymous-things-left-at-the-doorstep kind of activities that Mormons seem to still embrace. We have seen bombs delivered at people’s doorsteps disguised as packages (by Mark Hoffman, a Mormon). We hear warnings in the airport about unattended luggage or backpacks. We are warned against opening attachments to emails from a sender we don’t recognize and trust. In so many ways, we as individuals are taught to be rather cautious about these sort of things, and (sadly, perhaps) justifiably so. The sort of naive defense most Mormons would offer, “hey we were just trying to be nice,” just seems insufficient here. Knock on the door and deliver a plate of cookies when someone answers the door, that’s okay. But in 2021, it’s time to give up the “knock and run away, leaving something on the doorstep” activity. IT OBVIOUSLY PUTS KIDS AT RISK, which ought to be enough for the Church to immediately advise youth leaders to abandon that sort of thing.
Last time we were in America was during the Obama election and we felt less safe than at home. You can feel the difference. Though South Africa is much worse. I have trouble imagining how it is now.
A daughter is a federal police officer. She is not allowed to bring her gun home. She also said a taser is mounted on the opposite side and higher up, and the hand grip is different, so there can be no possibility of confusing them.
Agree that it is difficult to respect/trust right wing nut jobs. There are more in the church than in general society here, because many members think being a republican is part of being a good member.
JCW. Alcohol consumption among the under 25s is falling and is less than it was in their parents day.
The NRA should be labeled a terrorist organization, it has contributed to more deaths than any other terrorist group. US Murder rate 5 time Aus .
@Dave B – Isn’t that a rather sad comment that it’s no longer safe to leave things on doorsteps? But I do get it. There is no turning back in the US on the proliferation of guns. It’s a whole stinking quagmire. So many news accounts of shootings with guns just purchased days before. There simply isn’t enough controls and accountability on buying guns – seems anyone can just go in and get one without any oversight. This just wouldn’t happen in Canada thank God. I have two sons who enjoy to hunt and there’s a lot of hoops to jump through – courses to take and background checks before you can even get a gun license. And then very strict controls on how they must be stored. Unfortunately the problem isn’t just guns. Too many people just seem angry these days 😕
Not answering any of your questions, but this post reminds me of John Cena’s character Peacemaker in the ultraviolent Suicide Squad. “I cherish peace with all of my heart. I don’t care how many men, women and children I kill to get it.“ I fear many members of the GOP, the LDS Church, and the Evangelical movement feel this way.
Observer, your reason to carry a gun sounds legitimate. I support gun ownership (ideally, I would like to ban all guns, but that obviously is far beyond the realm of any practicality or possibility), especially if there are credible threats against you. I don’t envy the position you’re in. I can only deal with the stress of possible lawsuits against me, I can’t fathom dealing with the stress of looming physical violence against me. But there is a certain kind of gun culture that is just annoying, in-your-face, and just plain dangerous. That I don’t support. You’re right that the NRA profiteers. Kudos to you for taking a stand against that.
I think it’s also a question of values. For every passage about turning the other cheek in our scriptures, there’s a story about Captain Moroni or some other action hero opening a can of whoopass on an army of faceless heathens. Clearly we value violence, both western civ as a whole and Mormons in particular. Our scriptures are just as full of violent power fantasies as Hollywood movies and video games are. We sing about peace on earth, sure, but that’s something God Himself will cause to happen by way of apocalyptic chaos and war. We’re not interested in bringing about peace on earth by ourselves.
I don’t think society is more violent today than it was in previous eras. On the contrary, war is trending down statistically. But there’s also just so. many. people. in the world now that there’s more of everything. And the social media machine has fed us all a steady diet of confirmation bias for so long and built us our own ad-infested luxury echo chambers so of course we’re all getting wedged further apart.
I think leaders—both of church and state—could do a lot to dissipate the climate of tension and hostility by focusing on our shared values of peace and “soft answers turning away wrath.” But it’s hard to sell that in between renditions of Battle Hymn of the Republic. Glory hallelujah, John Wick’s got nothing on the “fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword.” ‘Murica.
Some time in the 90’s, maybe earlier, the NRA stopped being an advocate for gun safety and morphed into an advocate for gun manufacturers and distributors, because $$$.
I fully support holding the gun industry liable for monetary damages anytime a gun is used unlawfully. Maybe then they would get on board with policies that reduce that risk.
As for the MAGA crowd, anybody who is an open supporter is either cruel or stupid, either of which scratches them off of my list of people I would want to associate with.
Angela C, the vast majority of gun owners are more like me than the “wackos” or “idiots”. (Of course, there are many out there who would identify me as a “wacko” if they knew how big my collection is, and some of it is definitely a collection.) Most people, including most gun owners, are simply good people. They aren’t looking to murder someone else any more than the average person. In fact, within the gun enthusiast community, I have met the most helpful and courteous people you could imagine. It’s a rare trip to the range that doesn’t end up with comments like “here, try this one” or experienced shooters taking time to help newcomers. It’s a community that is often stereotyped as OFWGs (Old Fat White Guys), but actually has an incredible amount of diversity that crosses racial, gender, economic, and even political lines. Most shooters are willing to take the time to teach and challenge others to do better. You would be hard pressed to find a more courteous place than a shooting range (where many people hold to the old Robert Heinlein quote that “An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.”).
Geoff-Aus, the NRA is not a terrorist organization any more than any other advocacy organization is. It has power not because of money (it spends far less than gun control advocates do), but because it has millions of members (4-5 million last I checked) who are passionate about protecting one of our rights that is explicitly enumerated in the Constitution. If the NRA is a terrorist organization, then you are in effect labelling me and the other millions of members as terrorists as well (as I stated before, I am a Life member of the NRA). It is, in fact, the oldest civil rights organization in the US, having been established in 1871. It is still the gold standard for firearm safety training, and runs a robust competition organization that has led to international acclaim. The politics you disagree with are only one part of the organization (albeit the most public part).
Saying the NRA is a terrorist organization because it advocates for gun rights is like saying the ACLU is a terrorist organization because they have advocated for the due process rights of accused (and even convicted) criminals, or the ACLU is a racist organization for defending the free speech rights of Nazis. I suspect you would argue that the ACLU takes principled stands on their issues, but you would not give a similar benefit of the doubt to the NRA for taking a principled stand on gun rights, because you disagree with their interpretation of the Second Amendment. That is simply a way to try and delegitimize and even dehumanize your political opponents rather than engaging with their actual arguments.
JLM, the NRA does not represent gun manufacturers and distributors. It represents gun owners, which often entails working with manufacturers and distributors towards common goals. Manufacturers and distributors have their own organization, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). The NSSF has actually been located in Newtown, Connecticut (3 miles from Sandy Hook Elementary) since 1961.
And there is no legal justification for holding the manufacturer of a legal product liable for illegal uses of their product. Car manufacturers aren’t responsible for drunk drivers’ or getaway drivers’ criminal acts, even through their products are integral parts of those crimes. Sporting good companies aren’t liable if someone uses a baseball bat or hockey stick illegally. Firearms are no different. They are a legal product used millions of times every year for a large variety of legal purposes, including collecting, entertainment, to competition, and self defense. Gun manufacturers market them for those purposes, not for criminal uses. They have and deserve the same sort of legal protections as any other legal products receive. (They are also liable under consumer safety laws just like other products in the case of design defects. They aren’t liable under those laws for criminal misuse of their products, which is the same standard as other industries.)
We know what guns were designed for: violence. Those who organize to protect their universal use facilitate violence. Cars are for transportation. Baseball bats and hockey sticks were designed to play baseball and hockey. Do they get used violently? Sure. Surely you see the difference though.
Observer: Yes, I agree that most gun owners aren’t murder-happy wackos. I thought my comment clarified that. There is definitely a rising trend in gun-rights activism for whatever reason that is happening in parallel with a rise in mass shootings and vigilantism. That’s an alarming trend.
It’s time for another periodic service reminder for readers to search ‘john charity spring’ for information about the form of sock puppet used by our esteemed commenter. Sometimes Johnny almost persuades me to take him seriously, but not today.
There are many comments about our American gun problem, some quite good. I like the idea of gun owners bearing a measure of accountability when their gun is used in a crime to the degree that their negligence can be demonstrated. I would love to see controls on gun ownership, at least as much as is required for driver’s licenses or voting, and even more limits for automatic weapons. I know many responsible, perfectly sane gun owners. But for several decades any proposed restrictions have been shouted down as violations of the second amendment, and gun sales/ownership are so poorly restrained that we are awash in every kind of firearm. More than any other nation. (Please fact check and prove me wrong) I worry about someone less sane than the gun owners cited above, having an episode and using an opportune weapon to destroy some part of my life.
There aren’t as many comments about the racism, elitism, or entitlement that factor into our deteriorating civility. I’m melancholy to see the reports this week, that Deseret Book, and by extension, the church, contracted with a Black member to create a curriculum for church members to increase their racial sensitivity, and then cancelled when the guy presented such excellent work that it made all the yt folks uncomfortable, including top leaders. What a wasted opportunity.
My hope to fix our problems without tragedy and violence is dwindling.
ushallbcot: Violence itself is neither good nor bad. It is the use to which that violence is put that takes a moral side. For example, as I mentioned earlier I carry a gun when I am legally able to because I have received specific threats of violence against me and my family. If someone acts to do violence upon you, often it is only through the judicious application of force that such a person can be stopped. I can’t carry a cop on my belt, and the cops do not have a legal obligation to protect me in any case (see Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 2005). Where I used to live, the average police response time for a priority 1 call was over 6 minutes. My ability to do violence if the need arises may be what makes the difference between life and death not only for myself, but also for my wife and children. I do not seek to do violence to others, but I sincerely believe that I have not only a right, but also a sacred obligation to protect my family, even if it involves using violence (see Alma 43:47). Remember, even Joseph Smith was armed and returned fire at the mob at Carthage jail.
Angela C: If you look at the statistics, while the perception of mass shootings is increasing, the historical trend for violent crime in general has been decreasing steadily as gun rights activism has increased since the 1980. The US’s mass shootings have actually been fairly constant on a per capita basis for the last several decades. As for vigilantism being on the rise, that depends greatly on how you define vigilantism. The trend towards gun ownership for self defense has been increasing since the Supreme Court ruled that the police don’t have a duty to protect individuals from harm, and has only accelerated as police departments have downsized in recent years. One of my coworkers who used to be very anti-gun bought her first gun because she no longer felt safe in her neighborhood last year when the CHAZ was established in Seattle less than a mile from her home, shutting down easy access to police services in her neighborhood.
But self defense is not vigilantism. Vigilantism is where you seek out to enforce the law, whereas in self defense you are responding to an illegal attack on yourself or others. Rittenhouse wasn’t vigilantism, no matter how much some people want to portray his actions as such, because he wasn’t there trying to enforce the law. He was providing medical support and helping to put out fires. He didn’t seek out to attack anyone, but did respond with lethal force when he was attacked. That’s why he was unanimously acquitted of all charges by the jury.
Simply being armed doesn’t make someone a vigilante, nor does the use of lethal force in and of itself. The prosecutor in the Rittenhouse case tried to make that argument and failed, because that’s simply not what the law says. Even “Stand Your Ground”, which is the law by statute or by judicial decision in 38 states, simply means that you don’t have a duty to retreat when you are attacked if you are in a place where you are legally allowed to be. It’s not a license to hunt others down or attack others. Even states that impose a duty to retreat only do so if you can retreat with absolute safety. No states require you to retreat if you are in your own home (also known as the Castle Doctrine), unless you are defending against another occupant of your home. None of that is vigilantism. It’s simple self defense as has been part of the English Common Law for hundreds of years, and was incorporated into out legal system from the very beginning.
(As you can probably tell, I did a lot of research and soul searching before I chose to carry a gun for self defense. It’s not a decision to make lightly, nor should others judge that decision lightly.)
MDearest: I hope your “John Charity Spring” comment isn’t directed at me. I’ve been commenting at this and other LDS blogs under this name (and only this name) for quite a long time. I am no one’s sock puppet.
And the reason that most gun restrictions have been “shouted down” is that they are offered as a “compromise” that doesn’t actually compromise on anything. Every tragedy is used as an excuse to push the same restrictions that haven’t worked in the past. For example, California has required universal background checks for decades on all firearm purchases, and it hasn’t stopped any mass shootings there. Illinois requires gun owners to undergo a background check and have a FOID card, but that doesn’t stop gang-related shootings in Chicago. Shooters either get the guns after passing a background check, because there’s no legal basis to deny them, or they go outside the law to get them. More laws don’t fix either of those problems, especially when those new laws don’t offer gun rights supporters anything that they want in the process.
Fully-automatic weapons already require federal background checks to transfer are incredibly expensive, and new ones (made after 1986) are already illegal for private individuals to own. Only 2 legally-owned fully-automatic guns have been used in crimes in the past 85 years, and one of those was by a police officer. What additional limits are needed there?
When you look at the details of polling that accurately describe gun laws as they are today (such as requiring background checks to buy from a dealer), the majority of people say that the laws are about right. That’s why a lot of gun control ballot measures fail or (if they do pass) do so on fairly thin margins.
“Violence itself is neither good nor bad.”
That is an incorrect moral judgment. Violence is bad. The fact that violence is sometimes necessary does not make it something other than bad.
We are right to regulate the means of doing bad things, including bad things that are sometimes justifiable. As another commenter noted above, guns are highly unusual products because violence is their reason for being. Regulating guns is the morally sensible thing to do. As a society, we can have a debate about the appropriate limits of gun regulation, but it’s harder to have a productive debate when some interests try to question the immorality of violence itself. That’s a morally degrading position.
Was going to say what Loursat said.
“Violence: behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.“
“Violence is neither good nor bad” is flat out wrong. Violence may be *justified* at times, like if you are literally protecting your family from harm, but that doesn’t make it “good”. That you had to respond to someone else’s (wrong) violence doesn’t make it good. I’ve refrained from commenting on your comments because I don’t want to get into a gun debate, no energy for that, but that particular statement just went way too far.
Violence is not neutral and it’s not good. I think one of Jesus’s literal missions on earth was to teach us victory and peace through non-violence and justice (his way) as opposed to violence and oppression (the Roman way).
I understand your reasons for carrying a gun. I also think if no one could own guns no one would need to carry and we would all be the better for it. I realize that’s a fantasy world but a girl can dream.
In taking the stance of “regularly advocat[ing] for responsible gun ownership (but oppos[ing] government restrictions on the same)”, what sort of accountability is there for irresponsible gun ownership?
No laws = no liability.
Observer: We will definitely not agree on Kyle Rittenhouse. You said: “he wasn’t there trying to enforce the law. He was providing medical support and helping to put out fires” BULLSHIT. He could do those things without being armed, like most of the other people who were there. Also, he was a 17 year old kid, not an actual medic (like he claimed). As for your conclusion: “That’s why he was unanimously acquitted of all charges by the jury.” He was acquitted because the law in Wisconsin says that it’s self-defense if you feel threatened, and your feeling is credible to the jury. That’s all. The threat from the first person he killed was that the guy might get his gun from him and use it to shoot him, but that guy was not armed and was having a psychotic episode. Kyle escalated problems by being there. The Arbry case was the case of vigilantism I was thinking of primarily, but you could also call the off-duty one-drink sheriff yanking a woman from her car by the hair as another instance of vigilantism. And Kyle Rittenhouse’s situation was vigilantism in that he thought he as a 17 year old kid could do things that the experts who are paid to do those things could not. He isn’t a cop or a medic, therefore, he’s a vigilante, exhibiting a lack of faith in law enforcement’s ability or willingness to protect property without his help. That’s vigilantism. I didn’t say he was a hit man or an assassin. The distrust of institutions to maintain law and order is behind his actions, and I’m not even saying they were maintaining it. There clearly was rioting after hours and there were bad actors. When I go to a protest, I go home when it gets dark. So does the holy ghost.
I’m a bit late to the party and it seems like the thread has turned into a debate about guns, self-defense, etc. I don’t have much to add except I do appreciate Observer sharing their thoughts on the blog, even though I disagree with most of the views they express, though I will say that mass shootings, while attention-grabbing for obvious and tragic reasons, should not eclipse other kinds of gun violence, such as intimate partner lethal violence. As someone who is now a liberal who believes that we should have more strict gun laws, I was also raised around guns, know how to use them and was taught gun safety, to respect guns, etc. Many of the people I used to go shooting with were pretty stand up folks who took gun safety extremely seriously, so I don’t have any kind of phobia about guns. Having said that, I agree with several of the posters who have made points about violence: it’s never a good thing, which I think Jesus is pretty clear on (and yes, I know he drove the money changers out of the temple, but his teachings towards his disciples were pretty consistently pacifistic).
One thing no one has brought up yet (I don’t think) has been the thing that does freak me out about guns, and that’s the concept of open carry. I don’t trust the people at 5 Guys to cook my burger properly most of the time, so there is no possible way that I’m going to trust random strangers who carry a lethal weapon to use common sense (which isn’t so common these days) and be committed to gun safety and never draw their weapon in anger. That’s a kind of trust that I simply cannot extend to anyone I don’t know. And I especially cannot extend that kind of trust to people who are delusional. And people who think that Trump won in 2020, or think Trump is God’s anointed, or who think COVID is a hoax or that vaccinations contain microchips are obviously delusional and therefore cannot be trusted to make rational decisions about much of anything, never mind how, when and where to use a gun.
I grew up using and enjoying firearms. I was trained by wartime veterans to shoot accurately and safely. I still enjoy shooting. But I do so now only with family. Why?
Something strange had happened among the shooting public which has alarmed me. The majority of shooters possess an apocalyptic perspective. They are laden with fears and resentment…. of government, of corporations, of the media, of science… of an existential variety. Xenophobia is common. Sportsmanship has waned. This was NOT true when I was growing up, and this saddens me greatly.
This is not a gun problem. This is a social, cultural and political issue. It is not a problem which can be resolved by gun legislation.
Amen @angela. I’m not going to opine on the appropriateness of acquittal because I didn’t watch all the testimony and I’m not familiar enough with Wisconsin law, but agree that characterizing him as a medic and a supporter is a massive stretch and frankly a dangerous attitude. We do NOT need or want that kind of aid at protests. Period. He was a vigilante.
Old Man, I agree. Well, I think there is a gun problem too, but I am really concerned about people’s judgment and mental state and the overlap between conspiracy theorist / preppers / apocalyptic thinkers and gun enthusiasts. There doesn’t need to be that kind of overlap but there is and that is troubling.
Violence is not inherently good or bad. That is a fact. To say that violence is inherently bad is to say that God has at times ordered acts that are inherently wrong. It is simply the application of force in a way that can injure or destroy something else.
Nature is a constant cycle of violence. A lion killing a gazelle is a violent act, but it is not wrong or immoral. A surgeon cutting into a person is also a violent act, even if its goal is to correct a problem and save a life. In many cases it would be immoral for a surgeon to refuse to use violence to save a life. A forest fire is violent, but it is also necessary to release the nutrients that allow many plants to properly reproduce in the long run.
If violence were inherently wrong, then God would specifically command us to be pacifists. And yet, He hasn’t. The Lord has specifically said that “Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed.” (Alma 43:47). That is a commandment to protect your family even through the use of violent means. While some people may be guided by the Spirit to choose pacifism (such as the Anti-Nephi-Lehis), pacifism is not a general commandment to everyone.
Instead violence is a tool, the morality of which depends on the use to which it is put. Some uses are good and righteous (the surgeon example above, self defense, etc). Some uses are neutral (the lion eating the gazelle, a forest fire, etc). Still others are wrong or immoral (unprovoked assaults, murder, etc).
Angela C: If “distrust of institutions to maintain law and order” is the criteria to make someone a vigilante, then by your definition I am one, too. As I stated before, at my old house the average police response time for a priority 1 call (such as a home invasion, shots fired, etc) was a little over 6 minutes from the time the dispatcher called for a response. That meant that I couldn’t trust them to be there for immediately when I needed them. Last year I had to commute into Seattle for work during the CHAZ occupation, which was not far from my office. In that case the Seattle police completely evacuated their Capitol Hill precinct offices, and they barricaded their South Lake Union precinct across the street from my office. You better believe that I was armed when I had to go into the office, even if I had to leave my sidearm secured in my car while I was at work. By their actions and their own statements at the time I could see that law enforcement couldn’t be trusted to maintain law and order. There were several times when I was trapped in my office building because the police retreated to their barricaded precinct – literally across the street – in the face of a riotous mob. Until you have been in such a situation, you really have no room to judge others who have been affected by such things.
I’m not a trained EMT, but I am an Eagle Scout and have had basic First Aid training. I carry a First Aid kit on my work backpack, and have used it to help others when situations have arisen (such as a woman who fell into the street near the train station one day). Does that mean that I’m a vigilante because I have at least some training and supplies on hand, and have helped people when EMTs weren’t on site?
Your definition of a vigilante is incomplete. Miriam Webster defines a vigilante as “a member of a volunteer committee organized to suppress and punish crime summarily (as when the processes of law are viewed as inadequate)”. Rittenhouse wasn’t there to “suppress and punish crime summarily” even if he did have a “distrust of institutions to maintain law and order”. He was offering First Aid (of the kind that any 12-year-old in Boy Scouts could have offered) and helping to put out fires using fire extinguishers (like my 8-year-old son has learned to do). He was armed, yes, but not in an offensive fashion to go after looters or arsonists, but in a defensive fashion, to protect himself. His only use of the gun was in legitimate self defense, as ruled by a jury of 12 peers who got to look at all of the evidence presented.
Brother Sky: I’ve never understood the idea that open carry is more dangerous or scary than concealed carry. In general, it’s not the people who have a holstered firearm (either open or concealed) that you need to worry about. Open carriers in particular know that they will receive extra scrutiny on their actions because their gun is visible, and generally behave better because of it. If anything, it’s the people who carry concealed without a holster (such as in movies when you see people tuck a gun into their waistband) that are a danger. A holster helps protect the trigger from catching on things and causing negligent discharges, and criminals who might need to ditch a gun when running from the cops don’t want a holster to serve as evidence that makes it harder to deny they were illegally carrying a gun. Fear of open carry generally boils down to an emotional reaction of “I don’t like guns” and not a rational evaluation of the actual risks involved.
And what’s with the lionization of Kyle Rittenhouse?
I find it ironic that an “Observer” apparently doesn’t know how to use dictionaries or doesn’t put any credence in their definitions. For example, violence (vì´e-lens), a noun, means:
1. Physical force exerted for the purpose of violating, damaging, or abusing: *crimes of violence*.
2. The act or an instance of violent action or behavior.
3. Intensity or severity, as in natural phenomena; untamed force: *the violence of a hurricane*.
4. Abusive or unjust exercise of power.
5. Abuse or injury to meaning, content, or intent: *do violence to a text*.
6. Vehemence of feeling or expression; fervor.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition copyright © 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
In a sense, the “Observer” is using violence here. In essence, Observer is abusing and injuring meanings, contents, or intentions and is doing violence to many of the texts in either the OP and/or the comments, including, in particular, responses to him.
How should one trust a commenter who ignores basic definitions like that? Of course, he should comment. He should also read, contemplate, and learn.
@observer, you are ignoring / changing the actual definitions of words to prove a point. It’s not working. Those are not “facts.”
(1) Lions killing gazelles isn’t “violence”: The definition of violence I posted requires “intent” and lions can’t have “intent” to kill because they are animals (see, eg, my entire semester of criminal law in law school for definition of intent). Setting aside that technicality, ordinary people simply wouldn’t characterize animals killing other animals as “violent.” That’s just not what that word means. Otherwise Disney Nature shows would all have to be rated TV-MA.
(2) Surgery isn’t violence per the definition above because it is plainly not for the intent to harm or kill but to help and heal. Again, that is simply not a reasonable use of the word violence.
(3) I don’t believe God ever commanded violence and any scriptures that purport otherwise I would likely either disagree on the interpretation or argue that they simply didn’t come from God but came from humans. That said, even if I agreed that there are times that God *gave permission* for people to defend themselves, that doesn’t make violence “neutral.” It just justifies an otherwise bad thing because of a specific circumstance. The lesser of two evils.
As for vigilantism, also have to disagree there but haven’t the energy for it. I think people have given you a lot of leeway on your personal opinions and actions about gun use out of respect for your personal circumstances. The further you go with these fringe violence and vigilantism opinions the less credibility you have on your earlier statements TBH.
“ In the United States, suicides outnumber homicides almost two to one. Perhaps the real tragedy behind suicide deaths—about 30,000 a year, one for every 45 attempts—is that so many could be prevented. Research shows that whether attempters live or die depends in large part on the ready availability of highly lethal means, especially firearms.”
The uptick in crime during Prohibition resulted in Roosevelt to include gun control as a feature of the New Deal. The NRA continued to support gun control for the next years.
“The NRA assisted Roosevelt in drafting the 1938 Gun Control Act, the first federal gun control laws.”
Things changed in the 1970’s when the NRA started viewing gun control as a threat to the 2nd Amendment.
Observer. My JCS comment pretty clearly addressed him by moniker. Not sure why you thought it may have addressed you. No one thinks you’re anyone’s sock puppet.
I don’t want to engage in more gun-rights-and-control rhetorical gamesmanship, and I definitely don’t want to generate any more unsupported claims of “fact.” Gun issues are a political football used to leverage political gain. If our elected legislators weren’t manipulative cowards pandering to our fears to gain their advantage, they’d do their damn job and protect public safety from gun violence. Which is always a bad thing. To be avoided and restrained. Such things have no place on a ballot.
I’d rather discuss the attitudes behind the unraveling of civility. Sigh.
“To say that violence is inherently bad is to say that God has at times ordered acts that are inherently wrong.”
This is true, Observer, but you’re drawing the wrong conclusion from it. Yes God is described as commanding violence in the scriptures but that doesn’t mean violence is good, it means that the scriptures don’t tell the literal truth about a benevolent God. Instead, the god of the OT is a vengeful, sadistic, partisan, inherently immoral being. And the fact that we, as a people, try to harmonize that being’s character and behavior with a loving Father in Heaven means we end up with, well…. We hold violence as a sacred value to be deployed as a virtuous act when the spirit directs (which you illustrate very clearly in your defense of it).
Worshipping a violent god is not going to bring us any closer to Peace on Earth. MDearest, you wanted to talk about the attitudes behind the unraveling of society, this is the big one IMO.
I agree with MDearest that we’ve taken a side route on gun control about as far as we can when the discussion started as (more broadly) threats and perceived threats being on the rise. I was listening to a podcast about the increase in threats toward election officials and the difficulty of prosecuting those threats because some of them are deemed “threats” and some are deemed “protected speech.” If you receive a voice mail where an angry man is yelling, “I will f***king kill you!” that’s a threat (which incidentally is what Sheriff Rowland screamed at the woman he was dragging from her car by her hair in front of her quaking young women, while he had a gun, an incident that the Church deemed “a misunderstanding.”) If you receive a voice mail where an angry man is yelling, “I know what you did, and you should be shot,” that’s protected speech. But there are also statements in between like when Trump said that the second amendment people should take care of his opponent Hillary Clinton or when he said the Proud Boys should stand back and stand by, which they did, until his command to storm the Capital which they did with relish. Unfortunately, even though these things happened in plain sight, most Republicans refuse to believe their eyes and ears about these threats, and when we have two sets of facts, it’s hard to convict the guilty. Other statements that are in between are things like “We have your address, and you are risking your family’s lives if you don’t overturn this election.” Is that a threat? Is it protected speech?
For whatever reason, the escalation in violence and threats is real right now. I’ve been wondering if this is a byproduct of the Southern Strategy in which the Republican party won the votes of white Southern Evangelicals who used to vote Democrat. They made their interests front and center in the party, which has radically changed the Republican party (and the Democrats, undoubtedly). You can’t take a trip through the South without encountering people who claim that the Civil War was not really about slavery, that racism doesn’t really exist, and that the South will rise again. The party has courted traitors, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that we are getting actions right out of the traitors’ playbook. I was alarmed last month when we were driving down the I-17, just north of Phoenix, and we passed two militia groups doing drills to the west of the freeway. I know actual Church members who have said they will kill others if their candidates don’t win (I’m unaware of them having done so despite their losses, but this is what they are willing to publicly say).
Thanks for affirming the OP. I know our discussion has run its course, so I’ll [try to] be brief.
The acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, and the subsequent celebration and glorifying of his reputation brought me a chilling, fearful feeling in my soul. The ongoing insistence that the 2020 election was fraudulent, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, is discouraging to the point of fear. There are regular demonstrations for election fraud “reform” in my neighborhood, a very short walk from my house. This week I anticipate the one-year anniversary of a literal attempted armed overthrow of our government in the halls of Congress, with more anxiety than hope for telling the truth about it. If those criminals and traitors had less incompetent leadership, I hate to imagine what the outcome could have been. And the news of local “militias” in training kindles my fear for the next transitions of power. I’m not an exemplary activist, but I have signed up to be a poll worker in future elections, and I get the feeling that it’s going to require more courage of me than I originally thought I’d need. Real threats are escalating.
Sorry for the negativity overload, but this is where we are. (despite the positives that I could list. Maybe that’s another post. )
Happy New Year everyone
MDearest: The other thing that I can’t help but think about Kyle Rittenhouse is that he was a minor when he did this. Those who are lionizing his actions are not being responsible toward his development into adulthood. He could go either way in the wake of his actions: either toward remorse and personal growth or toward embracing more violence, self-justification and more partisan division. His life is also a casualty here, and given how many people are trying to turn him into an idol for the far right, what chance will he have to become a decent person? (There have been protests on the left as well, e.g. ASU students not wanting him to attend school there, but if he were allowed to be the traumatized child he was, capable of newfound empathy in the wake of this tragedy, that type of protest might not be deemed necessary. Students seemed to be protesting the doubling down on the idea that murdering people is good, so long as they are ideologically to the left.
Rittenhouse was 17 years old and at the end of summer should have been at home getting ready for the school year.
Sad times we live in. I feel sorry for younger generations who haven’t experienced past times when our leaders could disagree, but worked together to find common ground. Where people were grounded in mostly reliable, factual news sources.
Pew recently put out an interesting report on political views. (It is sad when the more religious groups are some of Trump’s biggest supporters)
Another sad statistic I saw was that accidental gun deaths and injuries of children in the home has increased 31%.
I think one of the few times I was nervous about going to church was during the Rodney King riots when we lived in LA County. (However, I was somewhat comforted by the fact that our Bishop at the time was a high ranking police officer).
(For a time in our current wardnot in LA county—the most common professions among the men were Highway Patrol officers and dentists). We still have the dentists but not as many CHP).