The only way to kick the gun death problem is by dismissing the culture of fear that fuels it

As the media reported on the “latest mass shooting” by Elliot Rodger, the only real talk of gun control came from a grieving victim’s father. Richard Martinez vented his frustration at “craven, irresponsible” politicians and the National Rifle Association.

After Congress failed to pass basic background checks, Mr. Martinez’s anger was directed at the right place. Background checks on the mentally ill might have indeed saved his son. We’ll never really know for sure.

While background checks might reduce the number of mass shootings in America, it will do little to reduce the number of overall gun deaths the country sees every year. Aside from a spike in the early nineteen-nineties, the amount of gun deaths in America has remained pretty steady at slightly above thirty thousand a year for the last forty years. Including roughly ten thousand gun homicides.

One, if not the greatest contributor to these numbers is America’s culture of fear. I’m not talking about the fear of the NRA, which only seems to affect our politicians. I’m talking about America’s fear of everything.

This fear comes from all facets of American society and it drives people to buy arms for protection whether they need it or not. This culture of fear is uniquely American which is why the number of gun death each year is also distinctively American.

Some of this fear comes from the government, who have used fear over the years to control the population, pit its citizens against one and other and influenced them to buy a mass amount of weapons. Nowhere is this more evident than the fear they introduced with the threat of communism, terrorism, drugs, you name it.

Go back even further and you’ll find the American Government instilling the fear of the British, black people, Native Americans and so on. Throughout American History, the government has made its people afraid of something.

Note that these things we’ve been told to fear are also the same things we’ve declared war on over the years. It is proof that fear leads to a lack of rational thought and understanding while at the same time can lead to irrational actions.

The fear that comes from the government, ironically breeds fear of the government. When you’re told to be afraid of everything, it’s only natural to become afraid of the hand that feeds the fear. Only in this case, they get a little help.

American politicians consistently use fear as a weapon for their own political gain. The weapon of choice here is freedom or the lack there of, but it doesn’t stop there. Any legislation we try and pass is always countered with the fear of something. Death panels anyone?

Lately, the fear projected on to the American people has come primarily from the Republican Party who tried desperately to scare the voting public away from re-electing a black president. While the fear-mongering has subsided a little, the damage is done and can be seen in the militia movement once again plaguing the country.

The government and its employees are not the only ones complicit in this culture of fear. Another group responsible can be seen as their mouthpieces. Of course I’m talking about the media. Nothing boosts ratings like a little fear.

It’s hard to watch American news, regardless of the channel, and not become afraid of something. Home invaders, terrorists, black criminals, drug gangs, child molesters, rapists, traffic accidents, airplane crashes. I often wonder why more Americans don’t suffer from agoraphobia.

While the public sometimes needs to be aware of some of these, over reporting them can do more harm than good. If you show the same horrible situation often enough, that awareness quickly turns to fear, and for no good reason.

The chances of being a victim of a home invasion or a terrorist attack are slim to none, but that doesn’t stop the media from showing it repeatedly. Nor does it stop the NRA from capitalizing on the fear they bestow upon us by ratcheting up the fear another notch themselves.

The media has done a great job of making us afraid of the things we shouldn’t fear while at the same time ignoring the things we should be scared of. Fear is an effective tool at getting things done in this country, it’s just been misused too often, especially lately.

When the AIDS epidemic broke out, the incredible amount of fear that came from it actually helped to reduce its spread and sped up viable treatments for it. The same could be said about our disappearing ozone layer back in the day. We got afraid, we acted.

Of course our media was different back then, but it does go to show that fear-mongering can work for good. Makes you wish global warming got the proper media attention it deserves. Unfortunately, its effectiveness is also why our government, politicians and their lobby friends rely on it so much for their own means.

As my readers know, I am a Canadian. Every time I write an article about the gun problem in the US, people tell me I know nothing about guns or gun control because we don’t have a problem with it. Fair enough, but that’s precisely the reason we know a thing or two.

Our two cultures are almost identical in every way. We watch the same movies, the same TV shows, we play the same video games, etc. etc. The main exception I see is the culture of fear south of the border.

I’m not afraid to leave my front door unlocked, I don’t get alarmed when I see a black man walking toward me and I’m certainly not afraid of a terrorist attack even with three foiled attempts. Compare this with the image of the American man who goes to sleep with a gun under his pillow and three locks on his door. If you want an actual example of how the culture of fear can affect fairly normal Americans, look what happened to Walt Wawra.

The point is, fear does not always allow us to think rationally. Fear often comes from a lack of understanding and it leads all too often to needless confrontation and death. The only way Americans will kick the gun death problem is by dismissing the culture of fear that fuels it.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – Franklin D. Roosevelt


  1. You have described exactly the average gun owner … that is defined by liberals. Liberals want everyone to believe this but it is not true. It is propaganda. Gun owners are not fearful precisely because they are armed and can defend themselves. The last thing we need or want is someone telling us how to live or what to think. Our entire country and history is based on individualism and personal freedoms and rights. We are not a fearful nation ….. we are a nation cautious of government trying to take those liberties away.

    • PLEASE, tell me EXACTLY what Freedoms you have lost under Obama or any Democrat (not counting those lost under Bush’s ‘Patriot’ Act!!) Also, how is your FEAR over the mythical “Government boogieman” .. Not unreasonable FEAR??? Do you have NO Faith in your Constitution??? Or do you FEAR the Current TeaPublican dominated Supreme Court which seems set on limiting your freedoms and selling it to the Corporate 1%???

      • Oh the freedom to choose if i want health care insurance or not for one. That’s Kind a biggie. There have been things passed hidden in bills people don’t know about. But thankfully for the past few years we have had a senate that has blocked a bunch of other BS they have tried to pass.

        • You still have that freedom… You can still chose to have NO health care… you just get to pay a penalty if you don’t… cause Why should I pay for YOUR Ignorance when you get sick??? That “Biggie” is total BS… and personally having Universal Health care where I am now living, I understand totally how Brainwashed you are, if you think that the ACA will cost you More then the Republican Non-health care plan… I guess You like being ripped off by Insurance Companies, being forced into bankruptcy, being denied insurance due to a “pre-existing condition”, insurance company bureaucrats deciding on, and limiting your treatment plan instead of a doctor, and dieing for Lack off care! Those are the TeaPublican Death panels you prefer!!!

          “… things passed hidden in bills that you don’t know about” …. Then How do YOU know about them??? Or do you have some hidden power that the rest of us are all lacking???? Shouldn’t you try getting your News from sources other then FOX ???

          And what has the senate Blocked that was so restrictive of YOUR freedoms??? Better yet, WHAT has the House passed that has been constructive to anything that is relevant in tyhe USA today???

          WHAT is YOUR Problem???? Are you a Loyal Patriot looking to Build the USA and Help your fellow citizens… or a Traitor looking to destroy everything and sell it to the highest Bidder??? Do you enjoy watching Bridges fall down from disrepair, or students unable to form a proper sentence???

          YOU ARE the “American Taliban”… You prefer your form of Mythical Sharia Law rather then the ones set out in the Constitution!

          • Um yea i dont get sick, and when i do i have money saved so i can pay for it, i know saving money for emergencies is such a foreign concept. And i will not pay a penalty for not purchasing a product that is not necessary for me to buy. And im sure you think universal government health care is super swell. Though i wouldn’t go telling that to people at the VA. Im sorry i prefer to live my life with little to no interaction with the government at all, and that such a lifestyle is such a hard concept to you. and what restrictions have been blocked? well every time the silly liberals thought they could get a new gun control bill passed for one, I’m pretty happy with my senator Mr. Rand Paul for that.

            And i said there are many things passed in bills that many people don’t know about. the reason for that is because they are hidden within the bill and it takes some significant reading through seemingly harmless bills to find them.

            I enjoy having a government do what it is supposed to do and nothing more. Bridges and funding public schools are what they are supposed to do(and even then thats more of a state issue than a federal), forcing people to buy health care is not.

            I am an American who thinks the government has gotten far to powerful and no amount of good intentions is warranting of it. So yes when we go from having 400 and some bills passed in congress to less than 100 thanks to people like Rand Paul i am very very happy.

      • Dude, you just accused people of having an “unreasonable fear” of the government taking away their rights while pointing out how the Patriot Act and a bias in the Supreme Court is……taking away people’s rights.
        This is the logical equivalent of doing somersaults with your head up your ass.

        You are aware that among other things Obama extended the Patriot Act, right? Not everybody who dislikes the current administration is a “tea party, republican, Bush lover blah, blah”. You might want to stop using such a broad brush on everybody.

        Both parties, if left unchecked would stomp all over our rights.
        And we haven’t lost our arms because of their lack of trying.

        Paul Joe G

        • “DUD” ….. There is a HUGE difference between “the Government”, and the GOP/TeaPublican parties…. No ONE party is “The Government” unless they have total control of all branches, Legislative, Executive AND Judiciary! At this time (I only saw your comment today) The Democrats are losing all power aside from the Executive! There is no argument amongst Educated Progressive people that the dysfunction in the “Government” has been created in those areas Not controlled by the Democrats!

          The ‘Rights’ being taken away by the TeaPublican dominated Supreme Court, can not be Blamed on “the Government”… the Unconstitutional Rights Awarded by the Supreme Court, re the 2nd Amendment, Citizens United, Hobby Lobby, etc. are also not a reflection of the Government, but due to the Blatant perversions of constitutional interpretation by SCOTUS alone, driven by the Kochs and other villains of the 1%!

          Obama is far from the Saint of Progressive Liberals… and YES, he did reauthorize the Patriot Act, and is over zealously applying it in areas of Free-speech and privacy… and that will also be part of his legacy! But the one Right he has Done NOTHING about, against the wishes of His base, are Gun Wrongs!!! And this will be part of his Legacy too….

          But to accuse either Obama or the “Government” of coming after anyone’s guns….. Only a truly close-minded NRA brainwashed nincompoop can believe this utter claptrap hogwash!!!!

          • CORRECTION >> “There is a HUGE difference between “the Government”, and the GOP/TeaPublican parties…. ” Should read >>> “There is a HUGE difference between “the Government”, and the Democrat or GOP/TeaPublican parties…. “

      • Well, let’s see, there isn’t room for an exhaustive list, but let’s start with violation of our Fourth Amendment right to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures in the absence of probable cause of wrongdoing represented by the interrogation under penalty of perjury compelled as a precondition to receiving (or being denied) permission to exercise the right to keep and bear arms when an attempt is made to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer. Let’s continue from there to the violation of the same right represented by the NICS search of the purchaser’s papers and effects. Let’s mention the violation of rights represented by the lack of due process in the above procedure, i.e., arrest, indictment, trial, conviction, required by our Fifth Amendment guaranteed right to due process before rights can be taken away. And then there is the a priori restraint on the Second Amendment-guaranteed right to keep and bear arms represented by the above procedure. Of course, there is also the Tenth Amendment guaranteed right to a federal government that exercises only those powers delegated to it by the Consent of the Governed as conveyed by the Constitution of the United. And then there is also the Tenth Amendment right to be secure from the State exercise of powers prohibited to the States by the Constitution, such as State violations of our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Let’s talk about the violations of our rights represented by the Assault Weapon Ban of 1994, which for ten years prohibited the possession of certain military-pattern (but semi-auto) rifles suitable for possession by State militia, and which was finally allowed to sunset because it was the dumbest idea Marxist-grade Democrats had ever come up with if their objective was to reduce violent crime (which it was not).
        We could talk about the Gun Control Act of 1968, that required the aforementioned unconstitutional and therefore illegal background checks. We could talk about the 20,000-plus “gun control laws” on the books at the federal and State levels all around our nation, not a single one of which is legal or Constitutional. Now, this has been a not very exhaustive list of violations of our right to keep and bear arms, and I haven’t even gotten into violations of our right to do as we wish on our own property without the interference of the Environmental Protection Agency, or our Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights routinely violated by the National Security Agency and the Transportation Security Administration.
        I think unconstitutional (color of) laws should be rescinded and those who legislate them should be prosecuted and incarcerated the first time and exiled from the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave the second time, the way Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Beria, Pol Pot, and every other tin put dictator should have been.
        You want to look for mental illness before you let someone have a gun? Look for tyrant-wannabe illness before you let a tin pot dictator take an office of public trust under the U.S. Constitution, and leave the private citizens alone.

        • All your inane ramblings are an attempt to justify the Historically misinterpreted and Grammatically confusing 2nd amendment… Your ridiculous attempts to muddy the waters with references to other Amendments, notwithstanding!!

          As any SANE, independently-thinking, person understands…. You are pretty much Full of Cow-Dung!!!

          There is no point in attempting to argue or debate with you, as you truly have your Head firmly up the NRA rectum!!!

          • and any person who can read knows the same about you. There is no point in debating with a simple minded stateist with his head firmly up the feds arse.

  2. Cliffnotes: “I’ve made the assumption that some Americans have guns because they are afraid. I think we should have the government come disarm these people so the rest of us can feel safe and no longer have to live in fear of these people that supposedly live in fear”.
    Paul Joe G

    • Which is proof assumptions on insufficient data make an ass out of you. Would you rather feel safe or be safe? Would you rather be wrapped in cotton batting and told every step of what you may do and may not do, lest you get into a situation in which you might hurt yourself, or hurt someone’s feelings, or make a decision about where to live or where to work or what to buy with your wages? Or would you rather live a life of liberty in which you make your own decisions and accept responsibility for the consequences? Having a gun doesn’t make anyone brave, Paul Joe G. But having a gun when you a brave enough to stop evil from murdering innocents means your bravery may accomplish something and save lives instead of getting you killed and then allowing the evil to proceed to kill everyone else in sight.
      All that being said, Paul Joe G., know this: The fact you are a coward does not compel any specific performance from me, and the especially pertains to my fundamental natural rights our nation was founded to preserve and protect. If you haven’t got the simple human courage to do what needs to be done when evil visits, then get the hell out of the way and let men and women who understand liberty and its responsibilities do it.

        • oh my, i think he just made the assertion that all of our law enforcement and military are cowards. though i am certainly inclined to agree with you.

          We need to go back to swords and axes!!!

          • And when you go back to swords and axes, the strong, powerful, who practice combat daily, will run your life. Women, for example, will be forced to return to the feudal idea that her only chance of survival in the real world is to be owned by a man. You sure you want such a world?

            The purpose of firearms is to level the field and give the defender against an assault the advantage.

            • well my comment was mostly sarcastic, but i do love swords and the like.

              your statement is not entirely true however, in my native Celtic culture women were many times warriors as much as the men were. In fact the culture was generally matriarchal rather than patriarchal. Recent discoveries suggest that even more skeletons they found with their weapons were women than previously assumed(mainly based on our own biases)

              The role of women has more to do with culture than anything, women can wield an axe or a sword just as well as a man. And you assumption that somehow they are incapable of doing so is actually kind of offensive.

              That being said, i agree with the most of your sentiment.

              • And I applaud the ladies for that, just as I applaud the Afghan lady and her sister and sister-in-law who just killed 25 Taliban fighters and would five more in a seven-hour firefight because they murdered her son. Note: Afghan family have a right to fully-automatic firearms for self-defense, while we, the nation with a fundamental guarantee of our right to keep and bear arms, are deprived that right by illegal color of law.

                All THAT being said, competence with edged weapons and the physical prowess to use them takes years to accomplish and maintain. Competence with firearms takes a few weeks and can be mastered even by the handicapped. And there is the old saw about “Never bring a knife to a gunfight.”

  3. When my grandmother was a kid children in most places could bring their rifle to school with no incident. when my Aunt was a kid She was on her schools rifle team. I believe you are right about fear, though perhaps misguided on who is afraid and of what.

  4. On point. You put together a great piece on this. Some Americans (Open Carry Texas) have stooped as low as toting assault rifles in public and attempting to occupy public restaurants with these loaded weapons. It’s pure insanity these days. I am absolutely convinced we’re reaching the breaking point here.

    • “I am absolutely convinced we’re reaching the breaking point here.” Really? Speak for yourself if you are so frightened of people peacefully exercising their rights in public that you are “reaching the breaking point here.” What are you going to do when you reach your “breaking point”? Go shoot up a school or something? Maybe you are the one mentally ill, since you can’t tolerate Americans exercising the rights our nation was founded to preserve and protect. Or maybe you are just a coward, fearful of inanimate objects peacefully carried by citizens going about their business. At the very least you need a broader education on the real world, Eric Lazarus. You can start by reading “Raging Against Self Defense,” a professional determination of mental illness by Sarah Thompson, M.D. at Then I commend to you the feature-length video “MOLON LABE – How the Second Amendment Guarantees America’s Freedom” at Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. No book has so influenced my thinking about the dangers of fear becoming inculcated in a society or a culture as Erich Fromm’s “Escape from Freedom.” I first read it as a graduate student at Emory in the early 1970’s (and it was old even then) and still occasionally pull my copy out to check sources, etc. It is, simply put, Fromm’s analysis of how/why the German people fell under the spell of the Third Reich.

    On a large-scale, it also makes the case for what I have observed in clients/students over the years per an individual scale: Fear is most often a magnet that attracts the very thing one fears the most.

  6. Excellent…. Fear trumps all in the USA…. If not for FEAR there would have been no “Patriot Act” to reduce Constitutional Rights, and legitimize the Police State mentality now prevalent…. There would have been No Iraq War…. No Overcrowded prisons… and there would be Universal Health Care!

    Personally, I was prepared to Fly anywhere on 9/12 !

    the Biggest problem is that the Media has been lobotomized by the Corporate Culture that now Rules in the USA. They have shirked their traditional job of providing Oversight and Balance to Government and corporate overreach… they have allowed Truth & Facts to be buried by Fear!

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